Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Vala's Notes on the Fall of Fianna

Note to readers: Vala Softwhistle is a halfling from Nordest who's acutely interested in songs, stories, and poems from every culture. Tan Asil, a barbarian outcast from the Saline Basin beyond Nordest, became her fast friend during the end of the Elven War, when they both played a role in overthrowing Prime Minister Orestes. Since then, they have been travelling from university to university, and spent a lot of Autumn 1109 in Pezane, digging through its ancient and extremely disorganized archives.

Note to self--I dictated this journal entry to Tan, I figured he could use some practice writing quickly. I think he's got the hang of it now. Vala Softwhistle, third day of the third week of Fallow, halfling reckoning, archived

I've been doing some study on the fall of Fianna while I have free run of Pezane University. The troubles seem to be over for the moment, though it's never long between them, it seems. Anyway, I thought I'd get thoughts down on paper with my friend Tan Asil's help so I don't forget them--tomorrow I'm going to finally start looking for some old music and poetry on the subject.

Fianna's troubles started way before Emperor Martius' III's invasion. From the looks of things, they had been busy making their neighbors frosty for a long time. They'd angered the Brecan when they didn't intervene against the Boar King, people suspect that was around -400 ER. It had to have been at least 500 years after the Hillfolk (they used to live in Tintagel and the Brittanwood mostly) had made their peace, or no one would have been so mad. Anyway, about a century after that they brought Elven druidic magics into their groves and stopped taking in a lot of the supplies they'd been getting from Pezane, They still have a saying here I think, they call somebody who suddenly loses interest in doing business a "Grover". But that's beside the point.

Anyway, the groves themselves--that's Taliesen in the southwest, Arianrhod in the southeast, Olwen in the northwest, and Ceridwen in the northeast, and then the Dannan region under Daione rule. I hope we get a chance to go back to Daione someday, need to brush up on my elven before I dig through that library though. Not real sure how excited I am to be that close to a Spire again either...anyway, the groves got really independent, and the Archdruid didn't have any real power to speak of. They had skirmishes against each other on occasion over rites and territory and such, but nothing serious, they just didn't consider themselves one nation anymore. They'd meet every year where Caer is now at the turning of the year for a big ceremonial games. I've heard at that some of the grove circles, especially ones in Taliesin and Olwen, are starting to grumble about how Caer's right in the middle of Imperial territory now so they can't really have their ceremony, but Erinn is dead set on letting them have it, and not just to be nice. I'll never forget how she complained about people thinking she was cute! I have the same problem, but I can't really complain about it, it gets me in places I've got no business being, right?

So when the Nereneans--I suspect Senators Caphrius and Maxinius were probably the masterminds, but nobody knows for sure anymore--got Martius III's ear and started their program of investigating Elven Sedition, Martius had already been looking at a weakened Fianna as the next great frontier. Some people had been advocating an eastern passage to Nordest and thus access to trade with the eastern dwarven clans, but Fianna was rich with resources, magic no Imperial had ever seen, and it was just sitting there blocking the Eracian manifest destiny to rule the whole bloody continent. Except for inconvenient places you know, like the Grey Moor. Yes Tan, I'll get to the point, I'm sorry your hand hurts. No, you DON'T have to write all that down. So when Martius got it into his head to confine all the urban elven enclaves to certain areas and monitor their activity extensively, and then he sent Ambassador Aelethindra home (although she's back on the job now!) and broke off all diplomatic ties with the Elves before moving against Fianna. It was a wise move too, it kept the elves from being able to warn the Fiannans that there was an invasion coming. After that, Martius was just looking for an incident to hang a war on, and he got it when a trade delegation (which was larger than was legal, by the way) was waylaid during some very rowdy festivities in what's now Caer, and one wagon driver and a mercenary guard were killed. Martius found out those responsible were from Arianrhod Grove, north of the Centaur lands, and demanded absurd reparations from them. When they refused, he said he couldn't march through the Centaur lands and demanded permission to move troops through Taliesin Grove--which of course they absolutely refused to do. So the Legions attacked Taliesin.

The war was brutal, and even though it lasted a long time, it should have been over right away. All the Groves had to do was ally and turn back the invasion, but it didn't happen. They were too far separated, and none of them could agree on terms, despite the archdruid--a very, very old human named Ondessa--constantly pressing them to capitulate. Then HE died in Ceridwen, Olwen and Arianrhod blamed Ceridwen Grove for his death, and it took the Elders three years to find a half-elf to sit the Daione Chair. By then it was too late. The Eracians had burned down enough of Taliesin to destroy its ecology, forced a capitulation from Arianrhod that kept them AND the centaurs out of the war. And then they settled in for a long and bitter war, building Caer where it is now and using any violence against it as an excuse to move in more and more troops from around the empire. But even though they'd been willing to sacrifice Taliesin, they didn't want to touch the resources hiding in the northern forests, and though Olwen and Ceridwen were firm allies by this point, and were calling on troops from the Wold and the Dannan Sea islands, and even though Arianrhod was fighting as best they could, the Fiannans just couldn't hold back the tide. In 622 ER--right? Right--they forced the other groves to sign the Treaty of Taliesin, which put all of Fianna under Imperial rule, technically. It wasn't explicit in the treaty, but the Empire had no interest in holding on to anything north of the Dannan shore, and never really pushed for it. Which was probably a mistake, looking back.

Okay, yes, I'm done now! Tomorrow we're going to look for some songs from the time, from an Imperial perspective. Pezane was a major launching point for the first invasion, and was the main channel for troops coming by sea from the west for most of the war, so there should be SOME record of the songs they were singing, and what they thought of Fianna. Yes, I'm actually done!

Friday, December 4, 2015

A List of Organizations, Cabals, and Cults

Below is a brief list of organizations, big and small, which play important roles in the political landscape of the Eracian Empire and its neighbors. It is not comprehensive, but describes the most common types of government agencies, cults, and independent organizations.

 Imperial Corps: This secret group of agents is responsible for investigating and halting violence and disorder that results from the actions of monsters, supernatural creatures, and aggressive groups of humans and humanoids within the borders of the Empire. Their leader is Jacob VanNuys, a former member of the Hand who was "condemned" to his current post by Prime Minister Orestes after questioning the Elven War's methods and reasoning. VanNuys has transformed the agency, and runs it from Rorstad in Bevin and reports directly to the Emperor.

Imperial Hand: The Hand is the elite corps of spies, agents, and provocateurs who supply information back to the Imperial government. Since they have traditionally reported directly to the Prime Minister, and that office is vacant at the moment due to the ignominy brought upon it by Orestes, they are said to be without a leader at the moment. They are certainly acting like a body with no head. A number of agents have gone rogue, or are working at cross purposes to one another, though they still make a token effort to report to the emperor.

Imperial Protectors: This carefully constructed network of mages acts as defense and counsel to cities and towns all across the Empire and its Commonwealth territories. In full provinces, all Protectors must be graduates of the Imperial Arcane Academy in Eracia, but Protectors in satellite areas--such as Hohenshau or Emilia--can simply be competent mages. This network was famously exploited by the Nereneans, who infiltrated its ranks and used its privilege to very nearly bring the Empire to its knees. During the Elven War, the Protectors reported to the Prime Minister, but they now report to High Protector Magus Amisa, who reports to the Emperor and the Senate.

Imperial Academy of Arcane Magic: Floating over Eracia City, the Academy stood for centuries as a bastion of learning which provided Protectors, military mages, bards, and merchant mages to the Empire. During the violence at the end of the Elven War, it was damaged extensively by Nereneans and their giant allies. After the war, Magus Aerth, a former Protector who devoted much of his time to research and was instrumental in ending the war and discovering Prime Minister Orestes' role in it, was given the difficult task of rebuilding the Academy and setting a new course for the organization. Aerth has chosen research as his primary concern, and while the Academy itself is still being rebuilt he is sending his baccalaureate students out into the field to understand magic as it functions in the greater world. The Academy also works closely, as always, with the Protectors, and has been very meticulous in weeding Nerenean influences out of its texts and its faculty. Academy students and agents can be found anywhere there is a magical anomaly, and anywhere there is suspected Nerenean activity.

Nereneans: The secret society known as the Nereneans is composed of both the genetic and spiritual descendants of the cult that destroyed Aster Isle over eleven hundred years ago. They began as a cult that secretly revered the Titans, but soon began to see them as little more than a power source. After ripping Aster Isle asunder trying to harness the slumbering creatures' power, they fled to what is now the Baegnolian desert, where they manipulated the native gnomes into building an impressive city and network of roads for them, but were soon defeated by an army of elves who sought to end their influence and their blasphemies against nature. After being crushed militarily, the survivors fled west and insinuated themselves into the new Eracian Empire. Around five centuries ago they turned public opinion against both the elves and the Fiannans, neutralizing the nation that would likely have been their greatest foe. In 1109 ER, after orchestrating a long war against the elves and draining the Empire's resources, they hatched a plan to raise an immense army with the aid of the Titans' children, the giants, and overthrow the entire continent, but they were ultimately defeated by the Revenant Blades and their adventurer clients.

Revenant Blades: An organization founded by Sydney Morrow and most of the members of the once famous Blades of the Moor adventuring group, the Revenant Blades seeks to employ retired adventurers who have a hard time settling down in an ongoing effort to protect the Empire's (and more recently, the entire region's) citizens from monsters, sinister cabals, and the mistakes of its own government. They are essentially professional meddlers, and they often employ younger, more active adventurers into their service.

Libris Immortalis: The Libris Immortalis does not have a large membership, but it pervades the continent. A loose confederation of intellectuals bent on learning the secrets of immortality by any means necessary, they have members in universities and hospitals, and among lay people who are fascinated with death and its defeat. The name of their order is taken from a book which was said to sit in the Senatorial Library on Aster Island before its destruction at the hands of the Nereneans, and which was said to contain the secrets of eternal life.

Libris Mortis: The Libris Immortalis has spawned a number of splinter groups, but perhaps the most dangerous and prolific is the Libris Mortis. Based in the province of Emilia, and having a strong following in Pezane in particular, this group abhors the idea of immortality or even unnaturally long life, and they believe all creatures should adhere to the lifespans of humans and halflings. They caused a great deal of conflict in Pezane in Autumn of 1109 when they contributed to the death of the God-Emperor of the Lizardfolk.

The Holy Brotherhood: Founded a few decades ago by a visionary priest of Ahura, the Brotherhood is an ecumenical alliance of divine casters that spans the known world. Rather than worshiping a specific god, they plead for and receive spells from the gods they feel are the most appropriate for the task at hand. They focus on good works, and helping the destitute and imperiled, and have developed a vast network that spans the Aster Sea.

Fenians: Founded in the aftermath of Fianna's departure from the Empire, the Fenians were originally meant simply to replace departing Protectors and integrate those that wished to stay, as well as giving druids a larger role than wizards in less urban areas. Seeing an opportunity, Archdruidess Erinn has recruited heavily and expanded the group's mission. Now, in addition to protecting towns within Fianna, many members of the Fenians act as open agents and emissaries who help to gather intelligence, provide assistance to surrounding Commonwealth and independent provinces, and work to gain allies for the new Fiannan nation. The group was founded in Spring of 1109, and by late Autumn had succeeded in a number of endeavors, including but not limited to: preventing centaurs from destroying the city of Pezane, allying Fianna with several cities in Talar and the nation of Gora, and investigating the blight that affected Brecon's barley harvest.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

On Giant Hierarchies

"Dear Magus Amisa, we discovered this missive while searching through former Prime Minister Orestes' hidden files (which, by the way, were hidden in a ridiculously treacherous pocket plane--we haven't lost any of our staff yet, but we're thinking of requesting a shield defender or two for our next foray). It details the hierarchies among giants, which presumably would be useful in making allies of them during the end stages of the war. I hope you find it useful.

                                         --Cestus Pladius, head researcher, Academy department of concealed texts

To Orestes. May this serve you well. Ophearus. 1/14/08

I have spent several months on the Grey Moor, attempting to duplicate the research I conducted for you last year in the Dwarven Mountains. It seems that giant notions of hierarchy are uniform across their separate tribes--and that this notion of hierarchy extends deep into their worldview as a race.

Lowest among them are what I've come to refer to as "giantoids", which is the best I can do in the way of a translation from their varied and difficult to learn language. This comprises the ogres, ettins, firbolgs, verbeeg, and the like--large creatures which are clearly close relatives of the frost and storm giants of the world, but not possessing the power or elemental distinctions which so easily divide their superiors. One thing that is interesting to note is that the deformities of these creatures are looked down upon by the other races, while it is the very deformity of the fomorii which is venerated. Never expect a culture to make sense, my dear friend.

On the next level are hill giants, sand giants, and forest giants, and any other giants which are in not tied to the extremes of nature. While these are significantly larger and more powerful than their giantoid cousins, they lack the intellect of the higher orders. There is a distinction made between these two groups however when it comes to servitude, which I'll get to in a moment.

One order up from these are the giants which reside terrestrially, but in the extreme places of the world most associated with the elemental planes--in other words, frost giants, stone giants, and fire giants, though there are rumors of other more secretive races that may help to make up this rank. While stone giants seem to be characteristically resigned to their place within this hierarchy, both fire and frost giants have, as cultures, made it their business to strive toward the limits of their standing, which still resides somewhere below that of their favored masters. As a result, wars of dominance between these two tribes have often been brutal, especially since they are so vulnerable to one anothers' attacks. Today they largely live far apart, their border regions having been depopulated and reclaimed by other races.

Above these is the last sort of giants that can truly be considered giants--the storm and cloud giants. While immensely powerful, they also take pride in their ability to divorce themselves from the earth. They are the undisputed masters of the other giant races, both by power and by the honors bestowed upon them by the fomorii--or so tradition would have it. Unlike the other races, they take no slaves, but will happily obliterate any other giant who does not perform obeisance to them. Oddly, they are not malicious, but their tradition of god-given dominance gives them a dim view of the sovereignty of the lesser races.

And of course, at the top are the fomorii, who we know so very little about. The fomorii were once fairly numerous, if highly territorial and antisocial creatures, and were the first children of the Titans to walk the earth. They are marked by their dramatic deformities, and were masters of the seas and oceans. After the disastrous war against the gods which so happily littered our world with the tombs of the Titans, the fomorii were quite nearly eradicated. After the massacres which they had perpetrated, the elves allowed them to live but banished them to the deeps. Or so we've been told. We have, of course, failed to make contact with a fomorian as of yet, but we do have a lead or two.

Servitude is an interesting and surprisingly complex notion among giants, and seems to have been instituted at the very least several thousand years ago as a way to keep the hierarchies clear and provide labor and sacrifices for the higher orders. While any order may capture and enslave any sort of giant that is of a lower order, it is considered anathema to enslave a giant that is considered "on rank" with your tribe. This partially explains why the fire and frost giant wars were--at least according to very old legends--so deadly, as neither tribe was allowed morally to take prisoners. It is of course considered prestigious to enslave those giants only slightly less fortunate than your tribe, which is why one rarely finds an ogre toiling away in a cloud giant castle. And on that subject, it is oddly considered prestigious among cloud and storm giants to own fewer slaves. I'm not certain why this is, though in the particular case of the storm giant it may have much to do with their obsession with keeping their castles pristine. A gang of slovenly hill giants would ruin the beauty of their many-spired manses.

Well friend, that's all I have for now, but I'll keep you updated on our quest to find a fomorian to pull one over on. Maybe we'll find one with two asses to kiss so we can flatter him into a job. Good luck in all your endeavors, and may this land be named Neren before the new year.