The House of Thorne built an Empire, this is true. But have they ever truly ruled it?
- The First Twelve Emperors, by Elestis Brin
The Empire is the largest single nation in all of Yaril. Dominating the southern continent, the Empire stretches from the edges of the impenetrable forests of Kath to the great empty expanses of Kalothim.
The history of the Empire begins almost eight centuries ago. The area was once known as the Southern Kingdoms. But through war and diplomacy, the venerated and deified Eramus the Conqueror unified the kingdoms under a single throne.
While he is most revered for his martial prowess, the true secret to the creation of the Empire was the incorporation of the noble houses into it. Under the structure set down by Eramus, or more accurately by his cunning advisors, the noble houses enjoyed a great amount of freedom to rule and administrate their ancestral holdings in the name of the Emperor. This freedom was not without a cost in the long term, as it lead to some political instability and rebellion over the centuries, especially the present War of the Throne.
At its heart, the Empire is a feudal state. The Emperor grants lands to the High Houses to their lands, and the High Houses give the Lesser Houses grants to portions of their lands, and many Lesser Houses are served by other houses, minor noble lines and hedge knights in exchange for lands of their own. In exchange, each house swears to uphold the proclamations of the Emperor, and to fight for their liege lords.
The High Houses of the Empire are those noble houses which hold a seat on the Grand Council. These noble lineages are either were kings who surrendered and signed an accord with Eramus during the formation of the Empire, or ones that were elevated by the Emperor to take the place of another – usually an rebellious house or one that did not surrender during the formation of the Empire. Noble lines who do not hold a seat on the Grand Council are known as Lower Houses, and are sworn to a High House or another Lower House.
During the centuries, the Imperial House of Thorne intermarried with the High Houses frequently, leading to many remote possible claimants to the throne. However, this problem of succession was often solved by clearly designated successor and a robust bloodline. However, Emperor Laton the Fourth was not able to produce an heir before his murder, and no clear successor was named.
As a result, a state of bloody civil war has gripped the Empire for the last seven years. Every one of the High Houses and even confederations of Lesser Houses have attempted to place their chosen heir onto the throne through force. Several noble lineages and houses has been massacred by rival factions in an effort to settle the matter. The countryside is decimated by the forces of war, and banditry by deserting fighters and other miscreants is rampant.
The center of the Empire is verdant rolling grasslands and farmlands, key to supporting the Empire’s population. Though there are small forests and rocky areas throughout, the land is ideal for farming and agriculture, and crossed by a series of paved roads built over the centuries between the great cities and important citadels. The War for the Throne has led to widespread destruction of these areas.
The Stony Barrows are rocky hills and marshes that go from Grimfen to the Forgotten Coast. While some dwarven settlers and quarry workers make their home in the Stony Barrows, it effectively marks the southeastern edge of the Empire. South of the Stony Barrows, the Dark Bogs begin, a tepid swamp that stretches almost to the deserts of Macia.
The Western Forests are geographically and culturally dissimilar to the central region. Originally settled by the Ice Lords of Lothgier, both their accents, architecture and outlook show signs of Iceborn influence. However, centuries of assimilation by both the Southern Kingdoms and the Empire have not made the land completely alien. Further west, the forest becomes darker, and more primordial, as one grows closer to Kath. To the north, the rocky and inhospitable islands called Barakar’s Teeth spread out, a notorious haven for pirates and dark races.
To the east, the Eastern Stand stretches to the coast. It is a forested region, but far more tame than the Western Forests. The east also holds the Dragon’s Spire Mountains, where the grim visage of Hollowmount lies. Besides some expeditions out of Windy Vale against bandits, goblins and orcs, the Empire does not go far into the mountains.
There are ten great cities in the Empire. All but one is ostensibly the domain of a High House, though many of them make their home in ancestral castles or other keeps nearby rather than living in the city proper. The largest city in the Empire, and most likely the entire world, is the Imperial City, seat of the Emperor.
- Green Stand
- Grey Steppe
- Imperial City
- Killen’s Sight
- Water’s Edge
- Wild Watch
- Windy Vale