The Ilostrian Empire
The civilization that eventually rose to power as the undisputed rulers of Phasis had its humble beginnings in the city-state of Ilium. Surrounded by the protective embrace of five hills and situated on the confluence of three separate rivers to the West and the bounty of the Ilonian Sea to the East, Ilium was well-situated for a great boom in population and was in a prime location to absorb the culture of the other nearby civilizations in Akkad, Nebka, and Outremer.
Perhaps one of the first truly cosmopolitan cities in all of Phasis, the thriving city-state soon came to dominate its neighbors economically and culturally, and after forming a military alliance with the strongest of these neighbors, the newly born Ilostrian nation rapidly asserted military control over the entire Ilostrian Peninsula.
Ilos came into conflict with its overseas neighbors almost as soon as the fledgeling nation began asserting its dominance over the nearby islands and waters surrounding the peninsula. Its first true opponent was Cagethi, a prosperous confederacy of dark-skinned humans led by a Chieftan elected from among its client city states. Skilled and experienced seafarers, the Kingdom of Ilos suffered numerous military setbacks at the hands of Cagethi warships. After almost 100 years of on-and-off conflict, an 18-year-old King Gaius Severnus ascended to the throne of Ilium, and brought with him an uncommonly sharp and inquisitive mind. He completely revamped the tax system of Ilos, began enforcing a stricter draft system from both urban and rural areas of Ilos, and most importantly invented a new type of weapon for use on the high seas – Ilostrian Fire.
In the face of a newly invigorated Ilostrian military, and the fearsome fleets of flame-belching Dragon Ships of Ilium, Cagethi found itself utterly outclassed in the only theater it once dominated. After only a year on the throne, King Gaius Severnus had broken the back of the Cagethi navy and landed a dozen Ilostrian legions on its shores. It was only a month before the Cagethi Chieftan capitulated, signing over control of all of Cagethi to Ilium in the Treaty of Mardauk on Eighth Moon 18, now Founding Day. Emperor Gaius Bacelius il Magnus declared the following year Year 1 of the Imperial Calendar.
Emperor Gaius Severnus il Magnus’ next conquest was the Dwarven-held lowlands to the west and North of the Akkadian Mountains. It was during this short, intense war that the Dwarves learned to respect the power and tenacity of the fledgeling Empire. A short time later he began expanding the Empire northwards into the Kernlaendern, whose largely disorganized tribes of orc and human barbarians fell easily to Ilium’s elite professional armies.
Once the legions of Kernlaendern and Transoxania united, Emperor Gaius organized the largest-scale invasion the world had ever seen, personally leading his northern legions to war against Lumeria while the southern legions marched across the peninsula of Gallaeca. Seven years later both legions met in Morovia where the Thousand Year Peace was signed.
After ten years of building infrastructure and stable government, Emperor Gaius set his sights on Outremer, an area populated by numerous human tribes long chafing under the heel of Elven Nebka. Taking the lead in his largest military undertaking yet, Emperor Gaius led nearly all of the Imperial Legions across the Phasian Sea in a surprise attack that sent Nebka reeling from its sudden intensity. However, this initial success was short-lived, and the ancient elven Empire quickly regained its composure, deploying its own massive force against the invading humans. Masters of mixed-unit tactics, the armies of Nebka challenged the Imperial Legion unlike any foe previously, and for half a decade the fighting was inconclusive at best, with Gaius Severnus at times only barely holding onto the initial foothold obtained at landfall. It was in one of these struggles that the founder of the Ilostrian Empire met his end – it is said that while defending the strategically important Fort Tabun atop the eponymous mountain, Imperial forces were overwhelmed by an Elven army that outnumbered them 100 to 1. With Emperor Gaius Severnus il Magnus at the fore, the Legion nonetheless held the mountain pass for forty straight days, time enough to implement the Emperor’s last, desperate plan. His son, Marcus Portus Severnus, recalled the entire remainder of Imperial forces back to the warships.
In a move that shocked and destabilized the Elven nation, Marcus led nearly a thousand warships each loaded to the brim with Imperial Legionnaires up the Iteru river and directly into the capitol elven capitol of Nekhen. The move caught the elves completely flatfooted, and as their ancient capitol city burned, the Immortal Sovereign was forced emerge from the Sacred Manse to meet personally with the Imperial Prince to discuss the terms of their peace.
The celebration of peace was short-lived, however. Upon learning of the death of their beloved founder, the entire empire was thrown into a state of mourning. Imperial Prince Marcus returned to Fort Tabun, declaring it a sacred place, as well as the final resting place of his father, the Emperor. In a solemn ceremony, Emperor Gaius Severnus il Magnus was laid to rest in the newly renamed Temple of the Mount, and a contingent of the Emperor’s most faithful guards, designated the Tomb Wardens, were ordered to stand eternal watch over his body. Only then, with Emperor Gaius laid safely to rest in the newly liberated Outremer, did his son Marcus assume the title of Emperor. Returning to Ilos a victorious commander and the scion of the Empire’s greatest hero, Emperor Marcus Portus set out to fill the enormous footprints his father had left behind.
Over the course of the next several hundred years, the Severnus line ruled wisely and well, and Ilium became known as the greatest city in the world, renowned for its art and architecture, its institutions of learning, and its thriving cosmopolitan culture. Though a few attempts were made by more ambitious sons of the Severnus line to conquer more territory for the empire, Frosfjell proved an impossible nut to crack with little to offer the already prosperous nation, while the campaign into the Isles-il-Picti is widely regarded as one of the greatest military disasters the Empire ever suffered. Finally, the steppes of Volga saw its share of legionnaires freeze to death in the harsh winters before Severnus Emperors learned their lesson there.
Rather than military power, many Emperors projected economic power across the face of the continent. Despite the bitter nature of the Imperial victory over Nebka and the long memories of the long-lived elves, money won out over petty nationalism and the Ilostrian Empire established thriving trade ties with Akkad, Nebka, Volga, and at the apex of its economic might, even helped establish a trade route called the Silk Road that stretched over the Pontic Mountains and all the way to the golden cities of Ikima. These years were prosporous and the empire flourished greatly
In Year 899 of the Imperial Calendar, the Golden Horde arrived on the far outer reaches of Outremer. A vast force of terrible monsters hailing from the furthest Eastern corners of the continent, rumors of their heinous depredations had reached Ilium from travelers along the Silk Road many years in advance. Nobody in the Empire, however, was prepared for the monstrous swarm that flooded across the Pontic mountains. Though the Imperial Legions of Outremer were able to hold the Golden Horde at bay for many months, their defenses were failing and the sheer number of terrible, powerful creatures that composed the Horde was winning the war of attrition. Fearing the utter destruction of the entire Empire, the Emperor at that time, Portus Augustus Severnus IX, sent envoys to Akkad and Nebka, begging for military aid. In the face of such an invasion, aid came quickly, and in the following three decades the Humans, Elves, and Dwarves became fast friends in a time of great crisis.
Delayed at Outremer, parts of the Golden Horde traveled northward instead, thundering across the steppes of Volga. Though the boyars of Volga were experienced and skilled warriors, adept at dealing with the more terrifying creatures from beyond the Western Steppe, the sheer scale of the Golden Horde was unprecedented, their ferocity unmatched since the beginning of history. Just like in the stories of the fall of Ikima before it, men, women, and children alike were butchered, their blood and bones sewn into the pillaged crops. Some were captured and dragged off to be made chattel or worse, others were devoured on the spot. Villages disappeared off the map, and cities were turned to smoking ruins.
Portus Augustus, fearing the Golden Horde would break into Transoxania, was forced to withdraw a great number of troops from Outremer and Cagethi to come to the defense of the Imperial mainland. It was a move regarded as a grave betrayal by the dwarves and elves, to say nothing for the Imperial citizens of those regions, all of whom had already sacrified tens of thousands of souls to the defense of the Imperial holdings. Only the Tomb Wardens remained behind, and the epic story of their ten-year defense of the Temple of the Mount has been echoed across all of Phasis ever since.
As he traveled across Kernlaendern to the aid of Transoxania, Emperor Portus inadvertently began to sow the seeds of resentment among the Dukes of that region. Believing his legions to be too few in number, he ordered the forced conscription of every single able-bodied man into the ranks, leaving hundreds of villages and cities without men to work during the coming harvest season. He looted food stores and pillaged crops, all to feed his ever-expanding army. Though the move was hugely unpopular and for the first time in nearly a thousand years there was talk of revolt among Kernlaendern’s Dukes, it may have been the only thing that saved all of Phasis from annihilation by the monstrous host. Portus arrived at Blackraven Spire commanding a force of over one million men, and only days later began a battle with the Golden Horde that would last twenty years. Portus, like his Imperial scion almost a millennium ago, fell in battle against the Horde, as would his son and nephew in the years following.
History suggests the Ilostrian Empire alone sacrificed three million men to the defense of Transoxania, to say nothing for the hundreds of thousands of Dwarves, Elves, and even Orcs who came to their aid. There was no grand final battle. There was no great Chieftan whose defeat would scatter the monstrous forces to the four winds. There was only a long, bloody, and cruel war of attrition, and in the end the Golden Horde simply lost the will to keep fighting, its disparate groups falling to petty squabbling and infighting in the face of their stalled offensive. The greatest military crisis the Empire ever faced had ended with a whimper. Its veterans returned from the Transoxanian steppes broken, bloody, haunted by the inhuman cruelty they had witnessed, and the human cruelty they had inflicted in return.
Emperor Caius Portus Severnus II, the twelve-year-old grandson of Emperor Marcus Portus Severnus IX, thus inherited the next great crisis of the Empire – almost utter economic destabilization and its resultant series of social upheavals. A virtually powerless young Emperor, he began to cede Imperial power to the Dukes of the Imperial Holdings in order to prevent open civil war. The Legion was only a shadow of its former self after the war, even unable to defend Cagethi against later encroachments by tribes of goblins splintered from the Golden Horde after their defeat. Only the first in a line of politically weak and unpopular Emperors, Caius nonetheless set the standard for an Imperial head of state being bullied by his client Dukes and later even by the Patriarch of Ilium. Though the Ilostrian economy eventually recovered and the Dukes were satisfied with their steadily increasing autonomy from Imperial dictate, the Imperial Legion never truly recovered, nor did relations with Akkad and Nebka.
It is in this greatly diminished state the Ilostrian Empire finds itself today.
System of Government
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