Chronicles of Gnokisios
The Chronicles of Gnokisios, Grand Sage of the Court of the Eternal Empire of the Sun
Time of the Elves and Dwarves
How long the Elves and Dwarves lived in the Great South is not known by even the wisest of human sages. Even the Spruce and Sun elves do not know their past, the w only being held by the High Elves of the West. For eons the Elves dwelt in the southern lands, wandering in the great forests and fields. While the Dwarves claim otherwise, those with truth know that the Dwarves came some time later to the lands. The Dwarves dwelt in the mountains and hills, always quarrying and creating.
Untold wars were fought as the Elves banished ancient evils from the land, and occasionally fought each other and Dwarves. In time, most of the great evil primordial demons were destroyed, and Orcs, Goblins, Dragons, and other foul beasts hid for fear of the Elves.
Even in this time distinctions arose among the kids of Elves. The High Elves were the longest lived and most civilized, ruling over their brethren from ancient forests in the west. They were the most skilled in magic and craft, and created many beautiful and powerful artifacts. They possessed crafts of all manner, not since replicated.
The Spruce Elves eschewed the fine living and refined ways of the High Elves for the cold reaches of the south of the Great South. They lived wild ways and became great hunters. Some are said to have even penetrated the great Ice Wall in the farthest south.
The Sun Elves lived in the hot north, which is closer to the sun, and where the sun burns with unbelievable ferocity. While more civilized than the Spruce Elves, they could not attain the craft or skill of the High Elves. But they were able to use powerful sorcery in their quest to live in the hostile deserts of the north.
The coming of man
Where they came from is not known. Some say from the air, the sea, or over vast mountains. Regardless, wild barbarian men came and settled in the land. They did not possess craft or skill to speak of, and could not comprehend the beauty of the Elves when encountered. They treated the Elves as animals, while the Elves viewed the encroaching humans as the savage barbarians they were. War ensued. The Elves possessed powerful craft and magic, while the humans possessed a vitality only available to those whose lives burn a mere short 80 years at most. After many long years of fighting a peace of sorts came about. The wandering hordes started to settle down and form petty fiefs. Most Elves and humans accepted the peace and relations began to thaw.
The first kingdoms
In time petty fiefs grew into kingdoms. Some in the new generations of humans began to learn from the Elves all manner of craft – metal working, arts, music, math, and magic, to name a few. This elven-knowledge enabled certain elf-friendly small kingdoms to become into great kingdoms through growth and war. The greatest of these started with a tribe called the Byzaks. Their chieftain, Constans I, united the formerly loosely associated clans into a cohesive politician system. This allowed them to not only defeat the neighboring tribes, but also to prosper economically. His son, Constans II, continued the process of hegemony and was crowned the first Emperor of the Eternal Empire of the Sun. The Eternal Empire of the Sun either conquered or received the submission of all the human lands in the Great South. Good relations where also formed with the Elven and Dwarven kindgoms, and with the other non-human settlements which were mixed among the humans (i.e. Hobbits and Gnomes).
The Golden Age of the Eternal Empire of the Sun
The rule of Constans II ushered in a Golden Age for the Great South. The Golden Age brought unprecedented economic activity and growth. The great southern sea was alive with merchant upon merchant and goods of all manner flowed. Good relations were formed with the Sea Goblins of the west which brought exotic goods and spices. Ores and gems of many kinds came from dwarven mines. Spruce elves and the Southmen traded lumber, furs, and other goods. Peace settled over the whole of the land. Monsters of various types were either exterminated or pushed to desolate parts. Vast legions guarded the boarders from barbarians within, kept peace within, and ensured that tribute flowed to the Empire.
Large cities were founded across the empire. Nikephoros I, son of Constans II, founded the imperial capital of Eternal City of the Sun and was the one who renamed the Byzak empire the name by which we know it now. He also founded other large cities, including the Silver City by the Sea in the east. The Byzaks excelled in many arts and crafts, often copying from Elven forms. These included fine arts, music, literature, metallurgy, warcraft, science, sword making, navigation, weaving and dying, pottery, and others. The craftsman of the empire became the most renowned among all humans, but in all of these they did not surpass the elves.
There was one craft in which the Empire did surpass their Elven teachers – magic-craft. Elves value life and contentment, and do not take horrible risks for vain ambitions. The magicians of the empire, however, took horrible risks in their ambitions to continually gain power. Many were mutilated or died horrible painful deaths in their never-ending quest magical power. But many also succeeded in finding new magics and became wizards the likes of whom had never been seen before. They enchanted magical items most wondrous, created powerful weapons, could lay low the most powerful warrior with a single word, and venture into other strange worlds. Some even ventured where they should not go, exploring the lands between life and death. This would prove to be the beginning of later evils.
The Empire in decline and the coming of the Black Horde
The Golden Age lasted hundreds and hundreds of years. But eventually, the Empire lost its vigor and decay crept into all institutions. The Imperial bureaucracy became bloated and ineffectual. By the time of the sixth dynasty, the army ceased to be a protective force for the Empire, but instead a tool for the political aspirations of power hungry generals. And powerful special interests (large land owners, generals, the religious orders, magic orders, merchants, etc.) prevented any meaningful reform.
It was this fat, rich corpse of an empire that attracted the Black Horde. The orcs had been known to live far off, over the eastern mountains, ever since the beginning of the empire. They came occasionally to trade, traveling even into the heart of the empire. But in PC (Pre-catasrophe) 25 they came to conquer. They became known as the Black Horde, and came over the mountains in numbers untold. Within 5 years they had pressed deep into Empire and even threatened The Eternal City of the Sun. Need necessitated action, and the capable general and later emperor Phokas I stopped the Black Horde outside of the great capital in the Battle of the Plains of Tziki. Yet times were still dark and about to get darker. Several vassal states used the weakened state of the Empire to rebel and throw off the years of subjugation, in particular the Avars and the Southmen. The Southmen, greedy for renown, were not just content to gain their own freedom, but pushed north into the lands of the empire proper. They sought to ally with the Black Horde and split the Empire in two, but were betrayed and one of their armies slaughtered by the Orcs.
The rise of the Witch Kings
Phokas I seized the throne in 5 PC and began radical reforms. These were largely successful. Yet there were not enough new recruits could be found to fight off both the Black Horde and the Southmen. Into this dark situation came the necromancers. These black wizards of various orders and schools had long toyed in forbidden experiments with the dead. “Why raise a new army, when you can raise your old army?” they advised Phokas. In desperation Phokas agreed. The necromancers traveled to the Plains of Tziki. There, in unholy rites, they raised a skeletal army from Phokas’s dead soldiers. The Skeletal Army knew no fear, needed no food, and cared for naught. They simply obeyed the orders of their masters. The 9,000 strong Skeletal Army marched 160 leagues to the Forested lands of Krymean, where a massive Southmen army was encamped. Without warning the Skeletal Army attacked the Southmen camp. The Southmen fled in terror from this never before seen foe. While the Skeletal Army suffered heavy damages, the Southmen army was utterly annihilated, with some 30,000 Southmen and allies dead. This spot became known as the Forest of Death.
From the casualties the necromancers doubled down on their deal with death, and created another, horrible army – the Zombie Army. While the remains of the Skeletal Army pursued the Southmen, the Zombie Army marched north to the Black Horde. The main army of the Black Horde suffered a similar defeat, fleeing at the sight of the undead army of raised Southmen under the control of Imperial necromancers, with most of the Black Horde destroyed.
The destruction of its two main enemies should have ushered in a period of peace and security in the Empire. But the evil that saved the Empire soon turned inwards. The necromancers were not motivated by patriotic virtue, but by a lust for esoteric power. Unbeknownst to many, the necromancers had for some time been creating even more powerful undead, and even aspiring to enter into a state of undead immortality themselves. Their new power only increased their resources for magical experimentation. They began making larger and larger demands of Phokas. Phokas tried to meet the necromancer’s demands, but quickly regretted his decision.
A period of 3 months passed between the necromancers’ first public offer of “help”, and the destruction of the Black Horde. In this time numerous voices of protest arose from religious orders, other magical schools, and the Imperial Guard. The undead armies were decried as “unholy” and a “perversion” of life. Out of these voices came the seven good men, a group of seven soldiers, priests, and wizards who were fanatically opposed to the creation of undead and saw the threat posed by large undead armies commanded by a few corrupt necromancers. They rushed to Phokas’s side when Phokas declared, “Now that the threat of outside invasion has passed, the Committee of Emergency Wizards is hereby ordered to disband and destroy the Skeletal Army, the Zombie Army, and all other undead creations, giving their souls rest now that a good service has been performed.” Upon the Decree of Destruction, as it came to be known, the necromancers rebelled. They carved up domains for themselves and came to be known as the Witch Kings.
Prelude to the Catastrophe – Liches and The battle of the Seven Fens
The Witch Kings were composed of the Terrible Six, necromancers of horrible power. An independent and proud lot, they were nonetheless led by Sark the Fearsome. The six aspired to enter the undead themselves as mighty never before seen liches, immortal beings of immense power. After rebelling they consolidated their territories and retreated to the Northeast of the Empire. Beyond the Iron mountains. Hain, one of the six, was the first to attempt undead immortality. He drunk the potion of the necromancers, but was not able to make the transition, and instead endured a most horrific death. Sark the Fearsome was the first to successfully make the switch from living to undead.
Sark, now with no fear and thinking himself invincible, marched a combined undead army to the Core Lands of the Empire surrounding the Eternal City of the Sun. Each of the remaining Witch Lords followed with their own, smaller force. No demands or terms were offered…they came only to slay and conquer. Phokas raised an army to meet the undead menece, and was aided by the Seven Good Men, notably Nikolas. An army was raised, but Phokas increasingly lost his nerve amid the threat. Nikolas quickly became the de facto leader, and initiated a series of delaying tactics on Sark’s army. Nikolas’s army had come to see that the skeletons and zombies were not immortal and could be destroyed. Sark’s army made a number of counter moves that pushed the two armies together in a swampy area known as the 7 Fens.
The Imperial Army was strengthened by the words of the cleric Nikephoros the Good. Furthermore, Artabasdos the Upright and Michael the wise had created several weapons of power, which themselves sought out the undead with a lust for annihilation. The marshy area prevented a large cavalry charge, which hampered the Imperial Army. Instead the battle was largely fought on foot.
Sark sought out Phokas in the battle. The Imperial Guard was brave, but was quickly destroyed by Sark, their weapons seeming to do no harm. Thinking Phokas was the key to victory, Sark killed him with a single word, “die.”
Seeing the Emperor killed drove the Imperial Army to panic. But this was quickly reversed by the work of Basil the Firebrand. Basil summoned an enormous fireball from the sky, and with it destroyed the majority of the Zombie host. The Imperial army rallied, and pressed the advantage.
In the meanwhile, Nikolas and most of the other Seven, charged Sark and his Zombie monster guard. These Zombies were no ordinary undead humans, but all manner of undead Ogres, Giants, Bullbugs, and other creatures that Sark had first killed, then raised. They were fearsome indeed, but with a simple prayer Artabasdos forced the majority to flee in fear. The rest were set upon by St. Julius the Humble and Mikelos the Avenger. Their attack opened a way for Nikolas and Nikephoros the Good to attack Sark. Sark was undaunted and the battle between these three was fierce. Nikephoros was driven back by a powerful spell and fell unconscious. This only inflamed Nikolas’s upright rage, and with a mighty blow from his magic sword destroyed Sark’s body.
The Imperial Army pressed their advantage and destroyed the remainder of the original zombie army, but were too spent to pursue the other Witch kings. Both sides regrouped after the Battle of the Seven Fens. Nikolas took command, but did not take on the imperial orb or scepter. He marched the army back to the Eternal City of the Sun. But the remaining Witch Kings followed suit and within a year marched on the capitol.
In those days the Eternal City of the Sun was mightier than any that has ever existed. The number of people numbered over one thousand one thousands, and the city was surrounded by 5 walls. Nikolas the Lich Slayer marched his army out to meet the remaining four Witch Kings. The Witch Kings had a motley army. The majority was skeletons and a lesser number of zombies. But other evil creatures had joined in – ogres, kobolds, bullywags, evil giants, human barbarians, and others. Bands of Orcs even fought in Nikolas the Bad’s army. Lesser mages acted as captains.
Again Nikolas the Lich Slayer sought personal combat with the Witch Kings and their guards with the help of the other Good Men. Irene the Unsteady, who had not yet become a Lich, fled Nikolas the Lich Slayer. But to his horror, Nikolas and St. Julius saw Sark the Fearsome in a new body. Leo the Dark was at his side, now as a lich also. The magic of the phylactery was at that time unknown. Nikolas and St. Julius girded their courage, and after a fearsome battle destroyed Sark’s body again. The rest of the events are unclear, but Nikolas and St. Julius beside him could not withstand both the fierce battle and magics of Leo the Dark. Both were struck down by him and died there.
Mikelos the Avenger and Nikephoros the Good saw these two Good Men fall and were filled with rage. They left off with their opponents and charged Leo and his retinue. Nikephoros, though fighting bravely, was no match for Leo. Leo used horrible magics to destroy Nikephoros. But then Mikelos the Avenger struck down Leo in a mightly blow.
But this was a Pyrrhic victory. Though all armies were mostly destroyed, the living got the worst of the deal. The entire population of the capital either fled or were killed by the rampaging armies. The Eternal City of the Sun was destroyed and left in ruins.
The aftermath of the Catastrophe
Mikelos and several others survived the battle. Mikelos gathered what remained of the living armies and marched south out of the Core Lands and away from the now destroyed capitol. All the while he guided and protected what refugees he could. He sailed for the Silver City by the Sea, the Empire’s second city. There he took the orb and scepter of the Empire, and gathered a new army.
In the meanwhile, Basil the Firebrand, Artabasdos the Upright, and Michael the Wise gathered several other heroes with them, and journeyed to the heart of the Witch Kings strongholds. There they fought bravely, but were able to defeat the Witch Kings rear guards while the Witch Kings were still rampaging throughout the Core Lands. They found and destroyed they phylacteries of Sark the Fearsome and Leo the Dark, thereby forever destroying them. They also set fire to their stronghold and destroyed many instruments of the dark arts. They also burned whatever bodies they could find using Basil’s magic fires, to prevent them from being raised to the undead.
On hearing the invasion of their strongholds, most of the organized armies of the Witch Kings returned home. Many bands were destroyed by Mikelos’s new army, but by this time the Core Lands of the Empire, those regions surrounded the capitol, became desecrated and fouled. The Core Lands became depopulated, and even today none live there. Mikelos began to reorganize the prefectures surrounding the Core Lands, but soon other matters forced him to return to the Silver City.
The remaining Orc armies heard about the havoc and formed a new Black Horde and marched to the Sliver City by the Sea. A force of 70,000 Orcs laid seige to the Silver City for three months but was not able to penetrate the tall walls. Mikelos was finally able to come to the relief. Outside of the city Mikelos gave the Black Horde a decisive defeat in 5 AC (after Catastrophe). Those few who were not killed in the battle were pursued over a hundreds of miles north to the Orc lands.
From the ashes
The entire southern land lay in ruins after a period of 30 years, in what came to be known as the Catastrophe, after the climatic destruction of the Eternal City of the Sun. Mikelos sought to put the Empire back together after the defeat of the Black Horde. The west of the Empire was least effected by the many years of war, and was kept in order. The Core Lands remain desolate to this day, inhabited by bands of Orcs, infested with monsters, and desecrated by all manner of undead. No elf or civilized men live there. The Empire was too weak to regain direct control over the Southmen and Avars, and retained content with token tribute payments. The lands farthest from the Silver City, to the south, north, and west of the core had seen the most destruction. In what later became known as the Bartossa Princely States south of the core, small city states formed, either under the control of the populace or a war lord. They claimed slightly more than nominal allegiance to the Empire, but have remained autonomous to this day. The Burgundy Dukes paid allegiance to the Empire, but during the rule of Mikelos the II in 52 AC, declared themselves an Burgundy Kingdom A brief war was fought, in which the Emipre lost.
The Southmen and Avars Rebel
In 120 AC the proud Southmen finally tired of the hand of the empire. Constans IV had increased the tribute payments when the Southmen rebelled, followed by the more civilized Avars. The war lasted on and off for over 60 years, but was finally settled in the Peace of Glenmorloch. This peace, brokered by the Spruce Elves, affirmed the independence of the Southmen and Avars, In exchange, the Southmen returned some of the lands of the Empire proper conquered over the long course of fighting, and also agreed to assist the Empire against the Orc threat.
After the Peace of Glenmorloch
After the Peace of Glenmorloch trade in teh Great Southern Ocean slowly resumed. Timber, amber, and syrup flowed from the Realms of the Spruce elves, grain and wine from the Burgundy Kingdom and the Bartossa Princely States, ores and precious stones from the Dwarven kingdoms, wool and livestock from the Southmen earls, leather, gold and all manner of manufactured goods from the Empire, and even exotic spices traded by the Sea Goblins. All the people prospered.
Trade flowed richly after some time and was done in most places, but on more than in the great cities of the Empire. The chief merchants were the Princely States, who had grown proficient in the two crafts required – trading and seacraft. The great merchant houses of the Princely States traded all manner of goods across the Great southern Ocean. Other peoples, though, engaged in the lucrative trade. Spruce elves floated barges down the wide rivers of their domains, then north to the Silver City by the Sea. The Southmen traders also journeyed far and wide, but after some time found the Empire markets the best. The Sea Goblins also made much trade, but few dared venture as far as the Silver City, for fear of the Southmen who hate Goblins. Most of the Sea Goblins were content to trade in the Princely States.
In each land preference was given to their own merchants. Merchants from other lands were forced to either pay higher taxes and fees, or resort the dangerous business of smuggling. Most of the Princely States still paid allegiance to the Empire and were given “native” status. The situation was tolerated as everyone still made money.
In 285 AC Heraclius the Restorer came to the Throne of the Empire. Heraclius burned for the complete restoration of the Empire to its former glory. Heraclius immediatly instituted reforms and strengthed the army and navy. He undertook aggressive campaigns against the Black Horde in the east and was sucessful in reclaiming the Line of Karkas from the Orc hordes.
He also began a subtler stratagem in the west. Heraclius revoked trade privliages as a way of assertin the Empire’s dominance. All polities that did not swear the same allegiance as in teh time of the Golden Age were forbidden to trade in the Empire’s ports. Former parts of the Empire were again forced to sear allegiance, and former vassal states were again required to pay tribute. even the Elven and Dwarven lands were required to awknowledge the Empire of the Eternal Sun as the rightful ruler of all humans. Furthemore, those lands that professed suzerainty were required to follow the same policy, so that even the ports of the Princely States were not free.
The Monopoly Wars
Small disturbances broke out in the Empire’s ports when the policy was enacted in 287 AC. The Southmen Earls were particularly incensed and viewed the policy as a breach of the Peace of Glenmorloch. They forced their was into some smaller ports and launched raids into the Western Enclaves. The Spruce Elves were also heavily affected and affronted, and viewed the policy as a breach of long standing trust. Even the Empire was negatively affected. While some merchants made a fortune, prices rose in the Empire for foreign goods. In response corruption and smuggling grew, despite Heraclius’s reform efforts. Vast networks and black markets quickly grew.
After 5 years of simmering, the conflict accelerated. In 292 AC and Imperial fleet approached the Avar city of Batra, which had expelled Empire and Princely state merchants the year before in retaliation for the monopoly policy. The fleet, together with several mercenary companies, burned and pillaged the city.
All out war was soon declared, with a free alliance of Avars, Southmen, Spruce Elves, and Burgundians versus the Empire and several Princely States. The alliance was primarily composed of Southmen and Spruce Elves. The war ranged for 10 years, with various back and forth campaigns. Although not in league with the alliance, the Orcs and lesser Witch Lords pressed the Empire in the north and east.
The war culminated in a seige of the Silver City. A great pitched battle was fought outside of the Silver City. This time, unlike the events of almost 300 years earlier, the Empire was not victorious. An army of Spruce Elves and Southmen defeated Heraclius’s forces, and Heraclius himself was killed. Oddly, before the battle, assasins had crept into the Spruce Elf camp and tried unsuceffuly to kill the Spruce Elf King.
After the battle Heraclius’s son, Heraclius II, concluded a peace treaty. The Empire kept monopolies on the trade in spices, magical items, and several other items. But the trade in most items was returned to the same condition as before the war, and independence of the Southmen was affirmed.
Joy turns to sadness
A week’s worth of feasting occurred after the battle on the plains outside of the Silver City by the Sea. But on the last night assassins were this time successful in killing the Spruce Elf King. Reports disputed the identity of the assassins. Some said they were Imperial, others said they were Southmen, still others claimed Orcs. Whatever their true identity, the Spruce Elves were convinced that they were Southmen. A small bloodbath ensued, and only some desperate efforts prevented an all out war between the victorious armies.
Miscellaneous Events to the Present day
(Player Note: Start of campaign is 352 AC)