By Jerrod Pithik, Tutor to Bellasara Mercurio
Upon this field where soldiers laid, letters home penned, last wishes prayed. Today has been the glory ground, Tomorrow will see an empire found.
These are the first recorded words of Myko Forte, close companion to Viscero Mercurio and the founding father of the Shiaran Bardic College. What we know of the time before the Mercurian Empire was founded is largely due to the philanthropic work of Myko and his first students, who traveled the perilous landscape of Rues a thousand years ago to collect stories, poems and plays. In his tradition, you will find this short history to be unbiased, a history not only of the glorious empire, but of the rest of Rues as well.
The earliest recorded history depicts a bleak picture of life on Rues; a fractured smattering of desperate peoples that I would hesitate to refer to as cultures, most of them starving or at war. It was the Age of Penance, and the divine punishment was deservedly harsh. Several kingdoms met their gruesome end during this time, and evidence of them has been lost to the ages. As though the kingdoms did not make enough war with each other, more than one skirmish created bitter blood between them and the nomadic peoples.
This unfortunate circumstance has made it difficult to come by a reliable history for the Mehrdahd’i, the Vascoll or the Wild Nation. One small fact that seems indisputable is that the Wild Nation was once composed of two separate peoples, one human and one elven, but by the time of the empire they had already united. Other reports indicate that the Vascoll still preferred to live upon the water, and the Mehrdahd’i came out of the desert only to trade.
The fell creatures that today are confined to the mountains ran amok in ancient times, with results that are not fit to see the printed page. Between the monsters and the growing numbers of undead, the plagues, famines and disasters, it was a rare soul that saw their fiftieth birthday. Lives were short, and comfort was scarce.
As every child knows, the Age of Penance came to an end with Mercurio's Vision in the year 300, when exalted Varys, Angel of Reason, came to Viscero Mercurio with a vision of a new world and a new age. The new world would be united, without hunger or strife, bathed in the light of the Genesori. Viscero gathered to him the wisest of priests, who came together in the Beatific Council. They cloistered themselves for six months, and when they emerged they introduced the Laws of Piety, dictating the path that the Purposed Races must follow to usher in Mercurio’s Vision. The new age had begun, and it was called the Age of Piety.
Following the Beatific Council, Viscero announced his plans to unify the kingdoms under the sign of the phoenix. Queen Elsutrah III of Anbara pledged her kingdom immediately afterward, becoming the first regent in the new empire. News of the Vision and the Laws of Piety were spread throughout the kingdoms, and Viscero called together the prominent figures from each area. Patriarch Geoffrey Dwyre of Inlyrico and King Paloracci Silvia of Shiara swore fealty to the empire and their support to the cause of unification. Together with Queen Elsutrah and Viscero Mercurio at Fort Firetol, those four leaders from tumultuous, humble countries saw the infancy of the glorious Mercurian Empire.
Only three kingdoms were reluctant to join the empire; Volbrecht, Drakkenspar and Aerithea. Along with the unfortunate nomadic peoples of Rues, they remained outside of the protection and divine favor granted to imperial subjects, and so they continued to struggle on. Plagues, wars and famines claimed many lives from these places in the following centuries. Perhaps because of this, the Mehrdahd’i and the Vascoll became more heavily involved in imperial life, increasing their trade and, for the Vascoll, occupying a seat on the Council of Regents.
An exception to the rule was the noble Selda’nire, located on the Shar’deen Archipelago off the coast of Volbrecht. Though they did not join the empire, they were spared the divine wrath because their way of life was mostly in keeping with the Laws of Piety. Then as now, the empire and the elven society were staunch allies, alike in our goals but disparate in our methods.
Within Aerithea, a faction began to form in the area known as Braeus. The faction grew, seceded from its mother country, and became a kingdom in its own right. Four hundred years after the formation of the empire, in 727, Braeus came into the light of Viscero’s Vision, bringing with them their ingenuity and the great University at Isou. Roughly in this same period, a second sentient race was discovered in the mountains. A far cry from the murky and reclusive Ereskial, the new race of Alved was curious and eager to contribute to the might of the empire.
There has been much speculation on the reasons that Aerithea, Drakkenspar and Volbrecht did not join the empire, and an equal amount of speculation on how many lives might have been spared if they had. In this author’s opinion, it boils down to arrogance. They took for granted the gifts and knowledge given them, and never found their way into the divine light.
Regardless of the cause, the tragic result is etched into the earth. In 947, the Aeritheans and Sparians brought their most powerful magics to bear against the imperial army. The precise nature of their attack is unknown, but it was rumored to be a monstrosity of Aerithean arcaneering combined with the raw force of Sparian spellswords. The result was countless corpses, and the reduction of the Sparian countryside to a desert even less hospitable than the Byse.
While there is none alive today who may testify to the blast, it was of such power that it robbed the world of more than a fertile kingdom. The wild source of power that had been used by the Sparians and Aeritheans, identified as arcane in the Isou library, was burned out. Feats of magic that had been in the hands of the Purposed Races disappeared from the world, and those who had been able to tap into this powerful resource suddenly found their powers quenched. Even after the empire had given up on an accurate death toll from the blast itself, they found themselves faced with large numbers of quenched arcanists who had ended their own lives in a fit of madness.
During the buildup and in the aftermath of the tragedy, our brothers the Selda’nire opened the doors to imperial refugees, primarily but not exclusively from Volbrecht. Even today, there is a sizable population of former imperial citizens who reside on the island of Ambra in the Shar’deen Archipelago. What remained of the Sparian and Aerithean nobility swiftly surrendered to the empire, their lands ceded over to Braeus or kept as imperial territory. If anything good can be said to have come out of the Great Tragedy of 947, it is that Rues was united at last. Following the obliteration of Drakkenspar, proimperial forces in Volbrecht won the day, and Volbrecht joined the empire at last in 955.
The new unified empire saw another few decades of incredible growth, as new ideas flowed into and out of Braeus and Volbrecht, until by 1110, the Mercurian Empire had truly reached maturity. The empire of a hundred years ago bears a striking resemblance to the empire of today.
Though the empire forms the bones and flesh of Rues, this author would be remiss if he did not return to our friends the nomadic peoples. While again, little is known of their histories, their contact with the empire has been constant and increasing. Many from these scattered tribes and groups have become citizens of the regencies, an integral part of the everyday life and function of the empire.
Today, we are well on our way to achieving the bliss that Viscero Mercurio was sent in a vision. A united empire, a brotherhood of the Purposed Races, a world redeemed of the sins of its past.