Obdormio.com Unwasted Hours

28 May, 2012

Welcome to My World: Empire

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

For the previous posts in this series, see here.

The history of the world is the history of empires, and no empire has ever been greater or more prosperous than Arkhosia.

There are a variety of factors which influenced Arkhosian expansionist policies, but chief among them were overpopulation – Arkhosia had a surplus of dragonborn, and, more critically, of dragons. The years immediately following the creation of the empire were good ones, with excellent harvests and mild winters. Combined with the stability the new government created, this led to great population growth. When the string of good harvests ended and was followed by leaner years, the population surplus became unsustainable. This led both to the creation of the dual citizenship system, where the dragonborn became formally the preferred citizens, and to the empire’s expansion.

The surplus of dragons was perhaps the bigger problem. The peace imposed by the empire led to fewer opportunities for young dragons to advance at the expense of established territories. Expansion provided an elegant solution. An unestablished dragon was either given a new clan of dragonborn, or took over an existing one, and then left with them to found new settlements or assume ownership of existing cities. The dragon was thus guaranteed both territory, wealth, power, and a voice in the Council of Wyrms, with minimal risk to itself and the full might of the empire behind it – a very advantageous deal. At the same time, the empire could spread out its population, and claim more land and more revenue for the state.

As with all things Arkhosian, it began with the river. The first new settlements were along the Iorostakhi, further inland than the seven cities themselves. These cities in turn became bases of operation for further expanding the area of influence in Ezhvísi and towards the Iron Hills. The larger city of Akhír was founded at the edge of the Nummelweald, to tame that wilderness. Eventually, Tundarokar too became an Arkhosian holding, and all of the sacred river was under imperial control.

By this time, expansion was a policy in and of itself, beyond any immediate need to disperse population – it was a perpetual engine providing wealth for the centre, and order for the periphery. With rule consolidated in the riverlands, expansion continued in every direction – north, through Askarovor and into the frozen wastes beyond; east, across the Basin Plains and the Central Steppes to the Border Mountains; south, all the way to the endless jungles; and west, into the Sapphire Sea and the Spice Isles. It was, of course, not simply a matter of peaceful colonisation – war was often the means of expansion, and the Arkhosian military grew quite adept at subduing local populations. Askharovor was only won by bloody battles for every settlement taken, and throughout its history, the empire had skirmishes with the nomadic barbarians in the Basin Plains. It was in the expansion of the empire the militarisation of the dragonborn clans began, and where their ideology of honourable warfare developed.

This is Arkhosia’s golden age, the era that passed into legend. Iorotákher burned to the ground in 1022 BR, and the Golden King had it rebuilt as the true jewel of the empire. It’s seven shining towers are still remembered in song.

The expansionist phase of the empire ended when the eastward movement was finally halted by a nation that was organised and powerful enough to withstand Arkhosian advances – the empire of Myklafar. relations between these two great empires were tense from the first moment, not surprising considering they both desired to expand into the same territory. Nevertheless, a peace was brokered, and tentative relations established. Trade between the nations did not exactly flourish, but it flowed. There was never to be friendship between the two powers, however. Within Arkhosia, the desire for continued expansion to the east coast was never extinguished, and there was general scepticism and disapproval of the Myklafari culture. The leaders of the rival empire were gradually demonised in the Arkhosian conciousness.

When the nobility of Myklafar actually did make deals with devils and became tieflings, this triggered a sort of moral panic in the Arkhosian elite, and the relations soured considerably until the war finally broke out in 338 BR. The two empires remained at war with each other for the next 133 years – meaning that peace was never declared between them. The war consisted of three main campaigns, with gaps of ceasefire between them, each of them bloodier than the last. Dragonborn perished on the battlefields in the thousands, and dragons were blasted out of the sky by tiefling warlocks. The war resulted in a severe culling of the dragon population and put a final stop to Arkhosia’s expansion elsewhere. the wealth of the empire was now turned to fuelling the war machine for an increasingly bitter conflict of attrition. Myklafar suffered similar losses, and the war raged on with neither empire gaining much of an advantage.

The end of the war was also the end of the empire. The tieflings had managed to convince a dragon of the Council of Wyrms to aid them in assassinating the other members of the council – ostensibly to end the bloody conflict by removing the entrenched leadership of the empire. This betrayal nearly wiped out the remaining dragons of the empire, including the Golden King, and thereby also the ruling class. Without any leadership, Arkhosia collapsed, each of its provinces left to fend for itself and with the Myklafari forces posed to swallow the whole of the continent.

This would effectively end the Arkhosian empire by itself, but the betrayal was followed only a few short days later by the greatest cataclysm in recorded history – the great earthquake of 205 BR. Scholars hesitate to call it a natural disaster, because the scale of it is unlike any other natural earthquake, but if it was caused by some outside agent, no one knows who or what it was. Theories have ranged from a Myklafari doomsday spell gone wrong to divine intervention. What is certain is that the quake shook the whole of the continent to its foundations, destroying cities and settlements all over the known world. Myklafar was undoubtedly hit worst – the epicentre of the quake was within its borders – and great portions of its landmass, including its capital, simply broke off from the continent and sank into what is now the Micklesea.

In Arkhosia, cities were levelled and roads destroyed. The empire was lost beyond any recovery, and much of its knowledge and secrets were lost with it. The sources we have for its history today come mainly from the far peripheries – private libraries in the Spice Isles and recovered hoards from the far north. The great empires had crumbled into dust. Five hundred years of chaos and barbarity would follow.


  1. Some really neat turns of phrase here. “As with all things Arkhosian, it began with the river.”

    Did the betrayer dragon survive his assassinations and the following cataclysm?

    Comment by Loki — 28 May, 2012 @ 08:59

  2. Yes, he survived. He was broken and beaten and cursed, but he survived. That dragon is one of the elements I’ve lifted from the books, he has a write-up in the Draconomicon.

    Comment by Obdormio — 28 May, 2012 @ 11:45

  3. His treachery, then, was genuinely based in ideology and desperate optimism, not in vainglory and thirst of power? Did he ever enter into major historical records or events again?

    Myklafar seems intriguing. I get that detailed information on them would be beyond the scope of this Arkhosian series, but the tiny peeks under the veil you offer here do very much enthrall.

    I take it from this article that, while the Empire collapsed, the city states that had formed it more or less survived, and still each with its own head dragon? Is that the situation in Arkhosian “present-time”?

    Comment by Loki — 28 May, 2012 @ 11:54

  4. Not so much with its own head dragon – dragons ruling cities were also council members, and were taken out by the betrayal. The dragon population of the world in general was severely decreased in this war, and is far from recovering. The damage from the earthquake also destroyed several cities – many of them were rebuilt to at least some extent, but very few reclaimed their former power – many fell to warring with neighbours for resources enough to stay afloat.

    Lots of little baronies and city states did eventually rise from the ashes, but rarely with dragons in power – mostly it was dragonborn or the original inhabitants of the area rising to prominence again.

    As for the traitorous dragon – yes, his betrayal was genuinely motivated by a desperate desire to end the war – even if it was also completely mad and doomed to failure. He was cursed to never die of age or accident, only to be released from his now broken body in violent conflict, and has become something of a bogeyman lurking in the wildernesses of the world.

    I haven’t given Myklafar as much thought as Arkhosia, simply because present day Arkhosia was a setting I wrote up with the intention of using in a game that never got started. Modern Myklafar, on the other hand, doesn’t really exist. The titbits about Myklafar in here are generally the titbits from the books with little change. Maybe I’ll be inspired to think up something more around that later.

    Comment by Obdormio — 28 May, 2012 @ 12:03

  5. Thanks for a fantastically detailed response to my whim-question!

    Comment by Loki — 28 May, 2012 @ 12:29

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