Author Topic: The history of The Empire  (Read 1657 times)

Offline rufus sparkfire

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The history of The Empire
« on: January 30, 2013, 02:52:54 PM »
The Empire in 2217

A brief guide to the recent and more distant history of Sigmar’s Glorious Empire, in the dark days of civil war and fratricidal hatred

A revised and accurate edition of the original works by Ruprecht Breytenbach of Bechafen and Jacobus van der Tricht of Marienburg, prepared by Alexios Vement for the Averheim University Press in the year of Holy Sigmar 2419

The Empire, our mighty state forged at the dawn of history by Holy Sigmar from the twelve tribes of man, was never destined to last. For while Sigmar himself was able to control the tribal chiefs who would one day be known as Elector Counts, future Emperors were to find the task next to impossible. For centuries, Sigmar's Empire endured as a collection of independent (and often warring) territories, watched over by a mostly impotent Emperor.

But even this situation could not continue forever. Electoral and religious disputes led to war on a scale that had not been seen before, and to the foundation of first two, then three, then finally four, separate and antagonistic Empires. Only with the coming of the Blessed Magnus, at our darkest hour, would The Empire be restored. Yet in the times I write of the people had no knowledge of what was to come, and for many hundreds of lifetimes they saw the false Emperors make war, and so despaired.

On Empires and Emperors

Each of these Emperors claimed to be only legitimate heir to the throne of Sigmar. To each, their rival claimants were variously traitors and heretics. Yet as none of the 'Emperors' had been both elected by free and fair decision of their peers and crowned by the serving High Priest of Ulric or Sigmar, not one of them possessed even the shadow of a true claim. In the eyes of Holy Sigmar and Father Ulric, the Imperial Throne stood vacant.

Thus, in describing them, I could fairly call each claimant 'Emperor,' and the lands they ruled 'The Empire.' I have therefore retained the following naming conventions:

- The Emperor in Talabheim is the Otillia or the Otillian Emperor, and rules the Otillian Empire.

- The Emperor in Middenheim is the Emperor of Middenland or the Wolf-Emperor, and rules the Empire of Middenland or the Empire of Wolves.

- The Emperor in Marienburg is at times the Emperor of Marienburg, and at others the Emperor of Averland and Marienburg, with an empire named likewise.

- The Emperor in Altdorf is called the Sigmarite Emperor, and the empire named likewise.

The False God and the Wolf: The Otillian Empire, Ostermark and the Kislev connection

First to claim the title of Emperor without election was the Countess Otillia of Talabecland. A series of bitter wars had resulted in a feud between the states of Stirland and Talabecland, and Stirland's victory in the Imperial election of 1359 was the final insult. Small wonder that Otillia was so receptive to the Ar-Ulric, when he came to her with his fabricated evidence.

The Ar-Ulric had discovered proof that the Cult of Sigmar had been created by liars and demon-worshippers. The founder of the Cult was a man who later admitted (or so the Ar-Ulric's documents claimed) to have been a demonologist and a heretic. Here, at last, was a weapon for the resentful Ulrican clergy to use against the upstart Cult of the First Emperor. Here also was the excuse Otillia needed. Backed by the Ar-Ulric, she declared herself the rightful Empress, under Ulric the Father of All, and in so doing removed her province of Talabecland from Sigmar's Empire. Talabheim became the new headquarters of the Cult of Ulric.

In Otillia's domain, the Cult of Sigmar was suppressed with a determination that was as stubborn as it was bloody. Otillia's soldiers, under the direction of Ulrican priests, tortured and executed thousands of Sigmar's faithful, at times burning entire villages to the ground. In response, The Grand Theogonist of the Cult of Sigmar called for crusade against Talabecland. War after war followed.

So it continued. Otillia died and was succeeded by her daughter - who assumed the name Otillia as a mark of respect. Over time, passing by hereditary succession with female heirs taking precedence, this became the title carried by the Emperor of Talabecland and Talabheim: the Otillian Empire. In 1547, the Ar-Ulric moved the centre of Ulric’s Cult back to Middenheim, and at the same time the Elector of Middenland declared himself Emperor. The Age of Three Emperors had begun. The Otillian Empire waxed and waned in size over the years, yet it prospered and endured.

In 2146, the Otillian Empire became involved in the brief but bloody struggle over ownership of the province of Ostermark. Under the able command of Marshall Huppert Gernot, the Otillians secured the capital city of Bechafen and much of the surrounding area. With Stirland routed and the Middenlanders withdrawing upon the sudden death of Severin I to elect their new Emperor, only Kniaz Makari's Kislevites remained a serious challenge to Otillian domination.

The Otillia’s Ostermark campaign was more successful than she could have hoped. And yet, despite the pleas of her advisors, she could not tolerate the presence of large numbers of Sigmarites in her new possession. Empress Reinhilde sent Inquisitor-General Treitzsaur to Ostermark, with a mandate to convert every Sigmarite by one means or another. When his efforts were frustrated by Gernot, she recalled the Marshall under the pretext of defending the border with Middenland.

These actions were to cost the Otillia dearly. Treitzaur’s ‘spiritual crusade’ cost thousands of lives: not only those who were executed by the inquisition, but also those who were killed in the violent uprising that followed, and the many more who died from hunger and exposure during that terrible winter after they were forced from their homes. For weeks, Reinhilde refused to concede, spending yet more lives for the sake of her dignity. But at last she was forced to meet with the rebels, and at the so-called Diet of Bechafen in 2148 agreed to crown the Gräfin Helena as Elector Countess of Ostermark. Shortly afterward, Tzarina Tamara of Kislev persuaded the Otillia to allow Makari and Helena to marry, thus creating an understanding between Kislev and the Otillian Empire that remains strong to this day.

The terms of the agreement with the rebels also guaranteed the right of free worship for the Ostermarkers, and it was this concession that cut the Otillia most deeply. Even though Ostermark remained a vassal state of the Otillian Empire, Reinhilde could not view the situation as anything but a failure. When at last she died, in her bed at the age of eighty-three, her last words were to declare the toleration of the Sigmarite cult within her Empire to be the only regret of her long reign.

The Diet of Bechafen was to set in motion the eventual collapse of the Otillian state. Reinhilde's concessions in Ostermark weakened her iron grip on her own people. The demand for workers to aid in the reconstruction of Ostermark caused a manpower shortage in Talabecland, overcome only when a large number of Kislevites were encourage to immigrate. This change in the demographics of the population, together with the improved trading links with Kislev, brought new ideas to the Otillian Empire that overcame centuries of isolation. To begin with, this gradually increasing liberalisation came alongside military successes. Marshal Gernot's assault on the Empire of Middenland in 2152 increased Otillian holdings by nearly ten percent. In 2160, Otillian troops broke the Middenland forces in Nordland and helped to retake Salzenmund.

Yet by 2165 the tide had turned. Middenland, under yet another new Emperor, declared an end to its own toleration of the Cult of Sigmar. Buoyed up by new-found religious fervour, the Middenlanders retook their lost lands, swallowing up Hochland and Ostland in the process. As the power of the Otillian army waned, the Cult of Sigmar began to grow in Talabecland.

In 2190, the new Otillia declared a formal end to the persecution of Sigmarites. The announcement caused spontaneous rioting across the Otillian Empire. and resulted in the desertion of many of the most devoted Ulrican priests, knights and noblemen to the Empire of Middenland.

The Empire of Talabecland had been founded as an absolute monarchy, but the personality cult centred around Otillia herself was already in evidence when the first Empress died. Her crown was passed to her daughter, and thereafter, the Otillian throne was always the birthright of the eldest daughter, a unique example (in Sigmar's Empire at least) of female precedence. When the Ar-Ulricate retired from Talabheim to Middenheim in 1547, the Otillia assumed the title of 'Consort of Ulric,' and with it the primacy of the Cult of Ulric within Otillian lands. Thereafter, the Otillia was to be a focus of religious devotion, a living connection to Ulric, the Father of All.

By 2201, The Otillian Empire was a shadow of its former self. The Otillia ruled with the consent of an assembly of priests, guildmasters and lords that was similar in many ways to Marienburg’s ruling council. Emperor Marius V was both loved and hated by his subjects. Ostermark, ruled by Gabriela Steinhardt, the daughter of the Gräfin Helena, had become comparatively prosperous. Its workshops and foundries produced weapons for the Otillian armies, while its soldiers served alongside them as equals. Kislev, meanwhile, remained a collection of independent principalities under the nominal rule of Tzar Dmitri, a weak man who could do little to calm his squabbling nobles.

Winter's Dominion: The Empire of Middenland, Hochland and Ostland

The Imperial election in 1547 was to prove just as disastrous as that of 1359. The Grand Duke of Middenland had been led to believe that he would be the next Emperor, but instead found his life threatened by Sigmarist thugs when he attempted to cast his vote. Driven back to Middenheim, the enraged Grand Duke declared the holy elections a vile Sigmarite lie, and proclaimed himself the true and rightful Emperor.

Shortly afterward, the new Emperor of Middenland convinced the serving Ar-Ulric to depart from the Otillian Empire and renew Middenheim’s position as the centre of the Cult of Ulric. The Otillia replied by declaring herself the ‘Consort of Ulric,’ and excommunicating the Ar-Ulric and the entire Empire of Middenland.

The Emperor of Middenland was anxious to prove that he was no usurping tyrant, and to do so he instituted a new Electoral Assembly. To fifteen prominent nobles and clergymen of Middenland he granted electoral votes, held as proxies for the treacherous Elector Counts of the other provinces. These ‘Proxy-Electors’ immediately voted to legitimise the rule of the new Emperor.

Later Emperors used their powers to revise the Electoral Assembly, altering the weighting of the various proxy-votes, and even creating new Electors. In each case this was done to cement their own power, and to clear the way for their sons to succeed them on the throne. Yet these rampant displays of favouritism fed into the natural rivalries of the Middenland nobility. Again and again, the Empire of Middenland collapsed into brutal civil war.

In 2086, the young Emperor Severin I took the throne. He was a foolish and headstrong boy, and quite unable to control his new dominion. In 2100, he was almost killed by Otillian assassins during the Battle of Four Armies, and subsequently lay for many months in a deep sleep.

When he emerged from that sleep, Severin was a changed man. He reformed the Electoral system, removing the system of unequal weighting of votes and creating enough new Electors to balance the Electoral Assembly in a way that had never been achieved before. Under his leadership, the Empire of Middenland ceased to tear at its own body, and began at last to prosper.

In his last years, Severin’s mind drifted away from him. In 2146, he was steered into an alliance with the rogue prince Makari of Rahkov, and thence into war in Ostermark. Middenland’s attempt to gain control of Ostermark was ultimately a failure, giving lasting benefit only to their Kislevite allies. By 2148, Severin was dead. The Middenland Electors were unable to agree on a successor, and civil war began.

It was in 2151 that the former commander of the Middenland forces in Ostermark, Herzog Adalbert Richter, finally overcame his rivals and crowned himself Emperor Adalbert IV. The new Emperor was a cruel and petty man. His reign saw the end of Middenland’s long alliance with Nordland, and the commencement of a bitter war that still continues to this day. Middenland invaded Nordland, killing its Elector and seizing its Runefang at the third siege of Salzenmund. Adalbert’s assassination in 2157 brought a brief respite, but the next Emperor was to renew the attack. Salzenmund fell the following year.

In 2160, Nordland’s salvation arrived in the form of Otillian and Kislevite troops. The allied forces retook Salzenmund and drove the Middenlanders back. The defeat caused waves of panic to spread throughout Middenland. The belief in the invincibility of the Empire, forged during the reign of Severin the Great, disappeared: taking its place was a new-found religious fanaticism.

In 2165 the Emperor banned the Cult of Sigmar throughout his lands. That same year, Middenland soldiers ranged deep into Otillian territory, the standard of the White Wolf moving always before them. Hochland was absorbed by 2169, Ostland by 2175. The Empire of Middenland had become great once more.

2190 saw Emperor Marius V of the Otillian Empire proclaim an end to the persecution of the Cult of Sigmar within his lands. The result was an influx of devout Ulricans, especially priests and knights, into Middenland. First to take advantage of the situation was the young Proxy-Elector for Wissenland, Baron Titus of Delberz. Borrowing heavily from Marienburg’s merchant families, Titus assembled a large army of fervent Ulricanists. Swiftly gaining control of Middenheim, largely through bribery, the baron proclaimed himself Ulric’s chosen, appending the name of Middenheim’s legendary founder to his own. Emperor Titus-Artur I lost no time in creating twelve new Electors, all of them leading Ulrican priests. At the vote to confirm his office, thirty-four of the forty Electors gave Titus-Artur their support. Winter that year was fearful indeed: a sure sign of Ulric’s favour.

War with the North: Middenland and Norsca

Titus-Artur began a massive program of construction, regenerating the towns and cities of his empire with fine new public buildings (paying particular attention to Middenheim itself, and to Carroburg, home of his summer court). To fund this, he borrowed more and more money from Marienburg, and pushed for continual expansion of the Empire of Middenland into profitable new territories.

A fresh opportunity came from the north. The Norscans had always been a threat to the costal regions, especially to Marienburg. Now the Empire of Middenland had a substantial coast of its own, made up of land that had once belonged to Nordland. Several years of sporadic raiding led to a huge invasion in 2198 led by Thialfi Swiftaxe, uniter of the southern Norse. The Norse overcame two hastily-assembled armies sent against them, but were themselves defeated by an outnumbered army commanded by the Grandmaster of the Knights of the White Wolf, a brilliant general by the name of Lucius Wolfram. Wolfram himself slew the Norse Chieftan, thus delivering to Titus-Artur the overlordship of the southern Norscan tribes.

But Titus-Artur feared Wolfram's new-found fame and influence, and refused to reward him as was expected. Instead, he sent the Grandmaster to defend the Otillian border, appointing his most loyal courtiers as his liaisons to the Norse (appointments which would inevitably bring with them great riches).

This ungrateful move was a serious blow to the Emperor's popularity. A month later he had been poisoned, seemingly by Werner von Feuchtwangen, one of the new Electors he had himself created. Although Titus-Artur survived, he did so only at the cost of his physical strength. Thereafter, the Emperor trusted no one, commissioning an elite body of Norse Guardsmen to protect him at all times.

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Offline rufus sparkfire

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Re: The history of The Empire
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2013, 02:53:42 PM »
The Sinews of War: The Empire of Marienburg

Marienburg's history is both long and complex. Since its foundation upon the ruins of ancient elven and dwarfish settlements, its position at the mouth of the mighty River Reik has made it a source of considerable wealth. Over the centuries, the city has prospered and faltered, bringing forth Emperors and falling to conquerors.

Though the Norse have always been a serious threat to Marienburg, it was the Bretonnians of L’Anguille who succeeded in holding onto the city for the longest period. From 1597 until 1602, when the Empire of Middenland drove them out, the Duke of L’Anguille subjected Marienburg to an occupation that would be considered excessively violent and oppressive even in Bretonnia itself.

This incident was to have a tremendous impact on the social structure of Marienburg. Two years after the occupation ended, the Elector Count assembled a council of state from leading members of the city’s merchant families. Before long, deregulation of trade and abolition of many of the more restrictive taxes brought about a golden age for the merchants of Marienburg. They commissioned their own fleets, raised private armies, and steadily chipped away at the powers of the Elector and the aristocracy.

In 1979, the merchant families embarked on their boldest venture yet. Working together, they bribed enough of the remaining Imperial Electors to pledge their votes to Countess Magritta, the so-called Iron Woman of Marienburg. In effect, they had bought the Imperial throne itself. The Countess arrived for her coronation in Altdorf at the head of a vast procession, only to find the gates barred to her. A brief siege followed, climaxing in the Grand Theogonist throwing the imperial crown into the river and declaring that Sigmar’s Empire was at an end. Eventually, the Iron Woman retreated to Marienburg uncrowned. Yet she was Empress to her own people, and she passed on the title to her descendants.

The wars with the vampiric aristocracy of Sylvania touched Marienburg only a little. But in 2100, necessity forced the Emperor Helmut to join the alliance against Konrad von Carstein at the Battle of Four Armies. The battle is famous for the mutually-arranged assassinations of the Middenland and Otillian Emperors, and for Helmut’s own death at the hands of Konrad: a death that was at least in part caused by the treachery of Helmut‘s brother Philip. Helmut’s corpse was re-animated at the vampire’s command, and paraded around for a further twenty-one years until his son Helmar hunted down and slaughtered Konrad.

Helmar died childless, possibly due to an illness contracted from the vampire, and the throne passed to his uncle’s son. The emperor at the time of the Marienburg War in 2201, Philip III, was of this line. The Emperor ruled with the consent of Marienburg’s council, the great merchant families (the Winklers, Koopmans, van Onderzoekers, Stegers, Starkes and van Marnixes) sharing their power with belligerent guild leaders and all-to-worldly priests. Philip was a frustrated man, given to episodes of the deepest melancholy. It was often claimed that he was haunted by the ghost of Emperor Helmut in payment for the sins of his ancestor, and that he would lead the city of Marienburg to its doom.

The Hammer Denied: The Ruin of Stirland and the Birth of The Sigmarite Empire

If the failed election in 1979 seemed to be the end of the Sigmarite Church's hope of salvation, the destruction of Mordheim twenty years later confirmed it. Ghal Maraz, held at the cathedral in Altdorf, was surrounded with a cold, angry fire that scorched any who dared set their hands upon it while the Empire lay broken. Sigmar had turned away from His children.

Beset by enemies on all sides, not least by the vampires of Sylvania, the church looked everywhere for a new champion, an Emperor who could undo the damage of centuries. The final stages of the war with the vampires produced two great heroes: the Grand Theogonist Kurt III, who drove Mannfred von Carstein from Altdorf, and Graf Martin Volker of Stirland, who slew the vampire at Hel Fenn.

Martin's victory brought new hope for the followers of Sigmar, and new opportunities. The League of Ostermark, struggling to survive after the destruction of the Vampire Wars, quickly became the focus of a tremendous power struggle. Middenland and Talabecland both laid claim to the province, but the Sigmarite Church had produced what they claimed to be the true heir to the Electorship. The Grand Theogonist gave his blessing to Martin for a new crusade against the Ulricans, a crusade that would end with Ostermark's return to the arms of Sigmar. Lurking behind Kurt's words was the implicit offer of the Imperial crown if Martin was successful.

The invasion of Ostermark in 2146 was a terrible and humiliating failure for Stirland. Worse than that, it caused a loss of life and resources that the already-faltering province could simply not bear. Martin's army was routed, and the Graf himself died (exactly how is not known). In 2151, Martin's heir Graf Erik invaded Ostermark with a new army. His failure was even more drastic than Martin's, and by 2153 Stirland retired from Ostermark forever, its economy shattered and its people starving.

With Stirland lost, the church returned their attentions to their old favourite, the Grand Prince of Reikland. Money and favour flowed both ways between the wealthy province and the church. In 2197, the same year that the Volkers were deposed by the von Huttens in Stirland, the Grand Theogonist offered the Imperial Crown to the Grand Prince. There was no election and no true legitimacy to the coronation, but no shortage of ceremony and gaudy display.

 The new Sigmarite Emperor ruled over a lose confederation of states - Reikland, Wissenland, the church-controlled dominions of Altdorf and Nuln, and the remnant of Stirland. The following year, the Emperor's army invaded the Otillian Empire and gained control of  a huge portion of its western territories.

Profit in Death: The Marienburg Alliance

In 2150, a strange vessel sailed close to Marienburg, and was met by four warships. Soon after, the vessel chose to dock in the city. Those aboard were alien, unfriendly, arrogant and enormously wealthy. Within a year they had established a walled trading community in the heart of the city. The elves had returned to Marienburg.

The monopoly on trade with the elves increased the prosperity of the city by an amazing amount. As the years went by, Marienburg's merchants cornered the market on more and more commodities. Averland, the only other state to recognise the Marienburg Emperor’s claim, shared in this economic boom. It controlled the Black Fire Pass, and through it trade with the dwarfs and the Tileans. Averland’s leading families were Marienburg’s too, and in 2187 the Emperor Philip III married the daughter of Joachim II Sigmarus, the Grand Count of Averland.

In 2199, terrible weather and poor harvests meant that in many parts of The Empire, the people found themselves facing food shortages. Demand for imported food increased enormously. Suddenly, the merchants of Marienburg were in a position of unprecedented power. To begin with, they supplied food to the starving populations, only gradually increasing their prices as they made more and more journeys. But little time passed before they recognised the scale of the opportunity presented them.

Marienburg’s ruling council called together a meeting with the rulers of Averland and with every one of their main trading partners: Estalia, a patchwork of petty kingdoms, was dominated by the two great (though mutually antagonistic) cities of Magritta and Bilbali; Tilea, also a mess of perpetually warring states, comprised the Despotate of Remas, the Duchy of Miragliano, the Kingdom of Luccini, the Republic of Tobarro, and the Principality of Sartosa.

In partnership with the elves, this unwieldy collaboration of former enemies set out to blockade the Sea of Claws and thus gain complete control over all food imports to The Empire. In particular, they suppressed the activities of ports in Nordland and Kislev, who responded by forming the League of Free Traders. The following year, harvests were no better and the Marienburg Alliance was able to tighten its grip yet further.

Running the Blockade: Nordland and The League of Free Traders

Nordland’s many years of war with the Empire of Middenland had left it a tired fragment of its former self. The Otillian Empire had saved them, at least for the time being, but the cost was all but unbearable. Otillian troops were everywhere, acting as so-called ‘defensive garrisons.’ By 2197, Emperor Marius V was making overtures of marriage towards the young Grand Duchess of Nordland, the last surviving member of the old Electoral family. Nordland, had escaped Middenland only to fall by stealth to a self-proclaimed friend.

The events of 2199 threw everything into chaos again. As the harvests failed, ships from Nordland and Kislev raced to bring in imports from the fertile south of the Old World, only to find themselves blockaded by the Marienburg Alliance and attacked by its privateers. In response, the merchants and ship owners banded together to form what they called the League of Free Traders. The League was established with the aim of breaking the blockade, but the combined fleets of Nordland and Kislev, even backed by the troops and resources of the Otillian Empire and their Ostermarker allies, were simply not equal to the task.

In 2200, a bizarre metal fish surfaced in the harbour at Hargendorf and disgorged a small group of dwarfs. These dwarfs had travelled all the way from the sea hold of Barak Varr in the distant south, sailing under the blockading ships in their peculiar underwater craft. They brought a message from King Garazi Stroldreki: the dwarfs of Barak Varr would join the League of Free Traders in order to smash the commercial interests of their old enemies, the elves.

Some suspected the dwarfs of deeper motives, fearing that a terrible price would be owed in the end. Nevertheless, the League council had little choice but to agree. By the end of the year, a huge task force under Admiral Zan Nagnoli had arrived in the Sea of Claws.

The Traitor and Sigmar's Chosen: L'Anguille's pact with the Sigmarite Empire

The first Sigmarite Emperor died towards the end of 2198, during the aftermath of the invasion of Talabecland. An unfortunate lapse in communications caused the Emperor and his retinue, which included the Grand Count of Wissenland among its number, to ride into an area filled with patches of quicksand. Word of the disaster spread rapidly, and soon even the highest ranks of the church were whispering about Sigmar’s judgement on the unholy.

The Grand Theogonist, Fulmar IX Cruentus, counteracted the rumours of a curse with a stirring speech from the steps of the cathedral in Altdorf - and through the ministrations of his ever-vigilant legion of inquisitors. The Emperor’s heir, the thirteen-year-old Hermann, was more than ready to take the throne (or so Fulmar claimed), having been personally taught the art of statecraft by the Grand Theogonist himself. What was more, the young Emperor would immediately marry the Grand Countess Rosina von Orsbeck, widow of the Elector of Wissenland - though the marriage would of course remain unconsummated until Hermann reached the age of maturity.

Fulmar had succeeded in placing his puppet on the Imperial throne, and in binding Reikland, Altdorf and Wissenland together more closely than they had ever been before. His one remaining rival was the Arch-Lector of Nuln, an ecclesiastical inferior but in practical terms the ruler of a large city with a still larger artillery train.

The mass starvation of 2199 and 2200 hit the heavily-populated Sigmarite Empire harder than anywhere else. By 2200 the Emperor had reached the point of threatening war with Marienburg if it did not relent, but without access to the sea it seemed an empty threat.

In 2201 the King of Bretonnia sent out a call to all the knights in his realm to band together and rid the land of orcs forever. This declaration of war was met with massive enthusiasm everwhere but in the Duchy of L’Aguille, on the northern coast. Duke Henry Le Véloce, a devious, cruel man, saw the perfect opportunity to reassert his ‘rightful’ claim to the city of Marienburg without royal intervention. Dispatching a token force to join the Errantry War, the Duke offered an alliance to the Sigmarite Emperor: L’Anguille would supply a well-equipped war fleet to assail Marienburg by sea, while the Emperor would attack by land. The city itself would be divided between them.

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Offline rufus sparkfire

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Re: The history of The Empire
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2013, 02:54:19 PM »
Crisis in Marienburg: The War Begins

In 2201, three desperate, hungry groups of nations declared war on the Empire of Marienburg and her Averlander, Estalian, Tilean and Elvish allies. The dwarfs broke through the blockade and anchored their fleet in Hargendorf. Norse longships, flying Middenland colours, raided the Westerland coast. Bretonnian galleons swept gracefully between the lines of enemy ships, raking them with massed cannon fire.

On land, the armies of the Sigmarite Empire, the League of Free Traders and the Empire of Middenland assembled, ready to march on Marienburg. The war was swift and brutal, devastating the surrounding lands. The League broke the Marienburg Alliance at sea, while the armies of Middenland and the Sigmarite Empire broke through the city walls. The elves and many of the city’s ruling elite fled by sea, while others took refuge in the stronghold on Rijker's Isle. Emperor Phillip himself took refuge in Averland, where he remained until his eventual death many years later.

For the dwarfs of Barak Varr, there was no more purpose to the League of Free Traders. Before leaving, Nagnoli sent a message to the  League Council. The dwarf alliance with the humans was dissolved, and the former Fort Solace would remain dwarf territory in perpetuity. Furthermore, the message included a bill for dwarfish aid during the war: a vast sum that was to be paid over the next five years.

Even as they debated the dwarf issue, the League Council’s days were numbered. The Otillian Emperor, had Nordland firmly in his pocket. His marriage to the last surviving member of the Nordland Electoral family gave legitimacy to his rule, but in purely practical terms his armies were everywhere. Otillian troops outnumbered Nordlander, and before long Otillian officers replaced the civilian rulers in every town and city. Nordland was to become a part of the Otillian Empire in every sense except the geographical. The Council was disbanded, and the League of Free Traders was no more.

While the remaining members of the Marienburg Assembly - now reduced to a handful of squabbling merchants and generals - sat uselessly in their stronghold on Rijker's Isle, the rest of the city was racked by bitter street-fighting. The eastern side was ablaze almost everywhere: only in the sealed streets of the deserted Elf Ward was there any peace. The citizens of Marienburg themselves teamed up to drive out the invaders - fighting as guilds, or neighbours, or even tavern-mates. Alongside them were the remainder of the Alliance's soldiers and mercenaries, and supporting them from the Reik was the depleted but still-potent fleet.

Yet the enemy - the forces of the Middenland Emperor - were too numerous. The soldiers of Middenland were backed by huge numbers of Hochlanders and Ostlanders. The North and East Wards remained in Middenland's grip, unassailable while the Altdorf Gate was theirs also. Soon, even the Palace Ward was lost to the invaders.

As they retreated from the Palace Ward, the Alliance forces destroyed the Hightower Bridge, and with it the only means of crossing to the western side of the city. With the Rijkspoort and the Reik itself firmly in Marienburg's hands, and two thirds of the eastern walls theirs likewise, Middenland and Marienburg had reached an impasse.

Events in Titus-Artur’s own court soon changed the balance of power. A small force of Sigmarite troops crossed the Reik by night and set fire to the docks in Carroburg. The fire quickly took hold, and began to spread through the over-crowded poor quarters of the city. As the city descended into panic, Lucius Wolfram saw an opportunity. Leading his knights into the Summer Palace, he clashed with the Emperor’s Norse Guards in a protracted struggle that lasted for many hours. In the end, the Norse Guards had been slain to a man, and Titus-Artur himself had vanished. But Wolfram had also been killed.

For Hochland and Ostland, the power vacuum gave them the opportunity to break free of the Empire of Middenland. Individually weak, they banded together along with several towns that had previously been part of Middenland and Nordland to form what became known as the Northern League. And it was Marienburg that was the key to the Northern League’s existence. Their forces held the Northern and Eastern Wards, the Guildorveld half of the Palace Ward, and crucially, the Altdorf Gate. Middenland retained the Paleisbuurt, and the Altdorf Road. War seemed inevitable, especially after the Northern League made overtures to the leaders of the various factions that had once been the Marienburg Alliance.

In Middenland, the previous Emperor’s wife, Grand Duchess Duccia, had somehow assembled a large army of supporters and had claimed the Imperial Throne. Her ‘election’ was ratified by the electoral assembly within months. Empress Duccia proved a highly-skilled diplomat, and her first act was to make peace with the Northern League. Surrendering all claims to Marienburg and recognising the League’s independence was not popular with the nobles of Middenland, but the economic rewards were immense and enduring.

For the Sigmarite Empire, the oncoming winter promised only hunger and death. The lands they had gained around Marienburg were of little value, being poor to begin with and now much battered by the war. Worse still, their headquarters at Westen Kasteel had suffered some terrible but unknowable catastrophe that had somehow destroyed its entire garrison with neither sound nor resistance.

Yet Emperor Hermann still lived, and roused his armies for a last great assault on Marienburg. It took weeks of bloody and wasteful fighting, but at last the Sigmarites carried almost the entire western wall of the city, and surged into the South Wall Ward. To the north, they also secured Fort Reaver, one of the two citadels guarding the mouth of the Manannspoort.

In the slums of Kruiersmuur, the Sigmarites found large stocks of grain. At first, this seemed like a great blessing. Yet within days many of those who had eaten the grain fell ill with a virulent and unknown illness. The bridges to the ward were broken, but still the plague spread throughout the western side of the city, and throughout the Sigmarite army.

Though their army was forced to retreat in disarray and they had not captured the city, the Sigmarite Empire had not failed completely. Their control of half of Westerland and reduction of Marienburg’s walls, together with their possession of Fort Reaver, gave them considerable leverage with Marienburg’s new government. Trade was restored, and while the winter of 2201 saw vast numbers of deaths from disease and hunger, in later years the Empire grew strong again.

Hermann proved a strong Emperor, though not as fervent in his devotion to Sigmar as his father had been. Under Hermann, the Empire gradually became more secular. He appointed Arch-Lector Reyneke of Altdorf as the new Grand Theogonist, while Arch-Lector Echard of Nuln appointed himself to the same position. The two Grand Theogonists lost no time in excommunicating each other, and Altdorf and Nuln settled into a protracted and violent feud.

In Marienburg, a collection of the most powerful merchants, soldiers, guild-leaders and other leading citizens banded together with the leaders of the Northern League to form a new Marienburg Assembly. This council, assembled with the aim of reuniting the ravaged city and restoring trade links, came to a variety of arrangements with the various powers that now surrounded the city: the Sigmarite Empire, the Empire of Middenland, the Otillian Empire, the Barak Varr Dwarfs, and the Bretonnian Duchy of L’Anguille. In less than four years, even the Western Elves had returned to their old homes. Marienburg’s days as the Leech of the Old World were over. Its time as the gateway to The Empire had begun.

The Mercenary War

The alliance between the Tilean city-states had always been a tenuous one, and in the aftermath of the Marienburg War it quickly disintegrated. By 2202 four of the five largest states had hired vast armies of mercenaries and come to the brink of war. Yet none of them were prepared to take the final step. The following year the Reman Despot and the Duke of Miragliano were horribly murdered, each city blaming the other (though suspicion was later to fall upon the Prince of Sartosa). Even then, the Tilean states refused to declare war, and could no longer afford to pay their mercenary armies.

As a result the four mercenary great companies - the Golden Company, the Cerulean League, the Vermillion Legion, and the Tyrian Guild - renounced their contracts of service. Before long these mercenaries invaded Tilea and made war upon the Tileans and upon each other. The Mercenary War cost countless lives and destroyed much of Tilea. Prince Pietro of Sartosa died when the Tyrian Guild took his city. Despot Nikephorus fled Remas before it was sacked by the Cerulean League, and though he regained the city with the support of the Vermillion Legion he never regained his full power. Duchess Leonora of Miragliano and King Leonard of Luccini were assassinated in the final days of the war. Only the mad Doge Giacomo of Tobaro endured the conflict without loss, though even he was to die the following year. In the peace talks that ended the war in the winter of 2203, Tilea was divided between the mercenary companies. But the new states they established did not endure.

Later scholars have put forth the theory that the Mercenary War was in fact set in motion by the manipulations of a supernatural entity: indeed, there were many strange facts in the case of the murders of the duke and the despot, and strange and radical shifts in the characters of the Duchess of Miragliano and her advisor Count Galeazzo. Some have even connected these things with the mysterious vault below Westen Kasteel, citing certain documents found in Miragliano as evidence.

It may seem fantastical to put the blame for the actions of men onto ghosts or goblins: yet the peculiar change in the character of the Empress Duccia of Middenland, to which we will return soon, is equally impossible to explain by rational methods.
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Offline rufus sparkfire

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Re: The history of The Empire
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2013, 02:54:57 PM »
The Hammer Falls

In 2211 the cold war between the two Grand Theogonists turned hot. Reyneke of Altdorf and Echard of Nuln both issued holy summons to battle to the people of the Sigmarite Empire. Thousands responded. Emperor Hermann himself declared Reyneke the rightful Grand Theogonist, calling on the people to support him, but he took no direct action.

A series of inconclusive skirmishes culminated in the massive Battle of the Wagon south of Wurbad in Stirland. While the two armies were manoeuvring for position, Echard’s war wagon carrying the sacred jawbone once used by Sigmar broke its axle on the rocky ground and could not be moved. Echard made his stand around the stricken wagon, but he was surrounded by Reyneke’s army in open ground. Even so, the victory was costly. Echard was taken alive but executed after a peremptory battlefield trial.

Reyneke returned to Aldorf in triumph only to find the gates closed, and an Imperial Edict nailed to them accusing him of heresy. Reyneke refused to surrender to Emperor Hermann, declaring that the Emperor had no authority over him. The Grand Theogonist laid siege to the city for nearly two weeks before the arrival of an Imperial army from Nuln forced him to retreat. He assumed control of the town of Grunburg, remaining there in virtual exile for the next two years.

In 2213 the Emperor of Averland and Marienburg died of old age, with no surviving heir. The merchant council of Marienburg took the opportunity to name Francis, a distant cousin of Phillip III, as Emperor of Marienburg only, though the boy was illiterate and barely presentable (an ideal choice for the merchant council, since he would act as a figurehead only). Averland was left without a clear ruler until Emperor Hermann suggested his close friend Baron Rupert von Hohenstaufen, allegedly of the bloodline of a previous ruling family of Averland, as the new Grand Count. Rupert was accepted by the Averland nobility, and few were surprised when the Grand Count renounced all links to the Marienburg crown to swear support to Emperor Hermann instead.

With Averland's wealth and military strength at his command, the Emperor had captured Grunburg and executed the Grand Theogonist by late 2214. At a meeting of the Lectors of the Church of Sigmar, held in Altdorf at the end of the year, Emperor Hermann was proclaimed Defender of the Faith and Supreme Father of the Church of Sigmar: effectively, the office of Grand Theogonist had been suspended and the authority granted to the Emperor.

Hermann's wife, the Grand Countess of Wissenland, died of an illness the following year. She had not provided the Emperor with an heir. Grand Count Rupert offered his own sister in marriage, a match that Hermann was only too ready to agree to. Yet the Emperor was rumoured to spend little time with his new bride. His frequent visits to Rupert's palace in Averheim, away from the prying eyes of the Imperial court, quickly became the cause of the most sordid gossip.

The Long Tyranny

When in 2207 the Reman Despot died, his sister the Empress Duccia of Middenland took the throne. Precedent should have granted the despotate to Nikephorus's daughter Irene, but Duccia had the princess banished to a Shallyan convent. When the Empress returned to Middenheim with the crown of Remas, her character had changed remarkably. While she had come to the Wolf-Throne by deceit and murder, she had ruled with equity. Now she turned her every thought to conquest.

The reason for the Empress's sudden change in disposition has been the subject of scholarly debate for many years. Xenophobic scholars say that, as a Reman, she was predisposed towards autocracy and political violence, and her return home reminded her of her true nature. Fools claim that she was possessed by a demon or spirit. Others say that the sight of the glory of Remas, undiminished through the centuries, gave Duccia a vision of how The Empire itself could be: thus she sought to reunite it under her rule. The truth will never be known, unless the Empress's own journals come to light one day.

Middenland had lost much of its strength in the Marienburg war, but the acquisition of Remas brought new revenues into the Empress's coffers. The following year, Duccia sold the lands taken from Marienburg back to the resurgent city. At once she set about purchasing weapons and artillery, constructing fortresses and establishing knightly orders. By 2210 Middenland had a large and modern army at its disposal. Large numbers of soldiers were deployed along the border with the Northern League. Travellers and merchants from the League were subjected to humiliating searches and forced to pay heavy taxes. When at last the League Council issued an official protest, the Empress closed the border entirely.

The following year, the Empire of Middenland declared war on the Northern League. The announcement was made shortly after the Sigmarite Empire began its civil war between the rival Grand Theogonists, thus removing them as a potential threat to Middenland. However, the Empire of Averland and Marienburg, which had considerable business interests in common with the League, declared war on Middenland. The Otillians remained neutral, though it was later revealed that they provided secret logistical support to the Middenland amies.

Duccia's plan was to overwhelm the League by a single, massive strike against Wolfenburg. The invasion force made good progress, until it was brought to battle near Gruyden. The Grand Prince of Ostland and the Grand Baron of Hochland had assembled all the soldiers they could, including trappers from the deep forest and lancers from Kislev. They were able to isolate a part of the Middenland army and attack it from two directions at once. During the fighting, the war-wagon carrying the standard of the Middenland army was destroyed, which so demoralised the Middenlanders that their ranks collapsed. The Middenland army was force to flee all the way back to Krudenwald, on the border, where they fortified their position and waited for reinforcements. The first victory had gone to the League, though it had cost them heavily. The Grand Prince of Ostland died during the battle, as did a great many of the League's best soldiers.

In the south west, meanwhile, troops from Marienburg seized Calden. In the wake of these defeats, Empress Duccia found her own court in rebellion against her. In 2212, Grand Duke Conradin, the Elector Count of Middenland, emerged as the leader of a group of dissatisfied nobles who dared challenge the Empress's authority. Conradin and his fellow rebels, based around the city of Caroburg, withdrew from the wars with the League and the Empire of Averland and Marienburg, signing treaties with both. The rebels made attempt to begin military action against the Empire of Middenland, but it was clear that they were biding their time.

Duccia issued decrees stripping the rebels of their titles, as well as excommunicating them from the church of Ulric for good measure. She created her second cousin, Ludwig von Rusdorf, Grand Duke of Caroburg. The new Grand Duke was immediately sent to destroy the rebels, only to be defeated at the battles of Eldagsen and Suderberg. While he and his army retreated to Delburz, General Achatius von Tiefen gave the Empire of Middenland a victory at last: he and his troops recaptured Calden from Marienburg, and held it despite multiple attempts to retake it.

At much the same time, Emperor Joachim of Averland and Marienburg died of old age. His death effectively ended the union of Averland and Marienburg. Averland, under its new Grand Count, joined the Sigmarite Empire instead, while Marienburg (recovered from the devastation of the war ten years earlier) became independent again. Both withdrew from the war with Middenland, leaving Conradin's rebels in a difficult position.

Worse was to come. Baron Titus, the son of the late Emperor Titus-Augustus and Duccia came of age in 2213. Titus, now ruler of the town of Delberz, was a precocious boy with a keen sense of his own destiny. Yet he had always clashed with his mother, so had been a virtual exile from Middenheim society all his life. Now he saw a chance to grab power much as his father and mother had done before him. He assumed control of von Rusdorf’s defeated army, and began his own war against the rebels. In a string of brilliant victories he captured Suderberg, Eldagsen and Kutenholz before storming Caroburg itself. Conradin and the surviving rebel leaders were executed.

The young Titus was proclaimed Titus Augustus by his adoring army. By any reasonable standard, Duccia should have heaped honours on her son for his success. Yet she all but ignored him. During his triumphant visit to Middenheim she had him barred from the palace.

In the north, the war with the Northern League ground on with little progress for either side. League forces held the Middenland armies in check by a campaign of ambushes and night-time raids. But then in 2213 the infamous Grand Marshal Otto von Plauen assumed command of the Middenland armies. Under his direction, they pushed through to Wolfenburg and took it after a hellish artillery bombardment. Wolfenburg’s walls were torn down. The gruesome executions of the leading citizens have passed into folklore - indeed, many still claim that von Plauen openly ate the flesh of the dead.

With the fall of Wolfenburg, the League collapsed. By 2214 it was forced to surrender unconditionally. Duccia ceded part of the League territory to the Otillians in payment for their support, and sold some other portions to Kislevite nobles. The remainder was simply absorbed into the Empire of Middenland.

The Empire of Wolves

With the acquisition of these new lands, the Empire of Middenland had become more powerful than ever. Empress Duccia announced the immediate reformation of the electoral system, assigning electorships to towns in the former provinces of Hochland and Ostland so as to integrate them completely with her empire. She also ended the ancient and symbolic system of proxy-electorship. No longer would her electors cast votes in the name of provinces that lay within the other empires. The Empire of Wolves no longer needed such pretences to support its legitimacy.

The Duccian system called for eleven ‘primary’ electors, who would be eligible for election as Emperor, and sixteen ‘secondary’ electors who would be allowed voting rights only. Duccia mostly bestowed primary electorships on her most fervent supporters. Only her son openly opposed her. Unable to strip him of his vote, Duccia instead denied him the status of Imperial Successor.

While the Empire consolidated at home, its Norscan vassals announced their renunciation of Middenland rule. Lacking access to the sea, the Empire could do nothing. The following year, Empress Duccia began to prepare to invade Norsca. She first tried to strike a deal with Marienburg to provide the ships she needed, but the merchant city’s fees proved impossibly high. Duccia then entered negotiations with the Otillian Empire instead.

Meanwhile, the nobles of Middenland gathered their armies and hired mercenaries, in anticipation of the coming war. But in the autumn of 2217, those plans were cast aside. While taking a trip on the River Reik near Caroburg, Empress Duccia’s boat capsized and was lost with all hands. The Empress was dead, and without a named successor.

The news spread rapidly. In Middenheim, Ar-Ulric consulted the sacred flame of Ulric, and announced that an election would be held at midwinter that year. Of the eleven primary electors, no less than nine declared their intention of seeking the Wolf-throne. Only the aged von Plauen and the foreigner Riccardi declined.

So as the first snows fell on the Empire of Wolves, the nine candidates gathered their supporters. The election was to prove a traumatic event that would decide the future of Middenland.

Note: the text ends here. For an account of the election war, the reader is directed to the works of Jonas Franck of Middenheim.

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Offline GamesPoet

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Re: The history of The Empire
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2013, 10:28:31 PM »
Finally taking time to read this.  Good stuff! :eusa_clap: :::cheers:::
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