The Achaean Empire - often referred to simply as "the Empire," or less commonly as Imperia or the Imperium (the latter referring more specifically to its government) - is the most powerful nation west of the Jagged Edge, spanning the entirety of the lands known as Achaea, and beyond. Throughout its long history, its marching legions have trampled weaker nations and then rebuilt them in the Achaean image. Ruled by a single Emperor from the capital city of Coronaria, the Empire's borders stretch from the Southern deserts to the mountains of Northrim.
- 1 History
- 2 Geography
- 3 Government
- 4 Culture
- 5 Military
The Golden Age
The history of the Achaean Empire begins in the so-called Golden Age or Age of Heroes - the time of the revered heroes of Achaean culture, such as Akhilles and Herakles, when the world was full of demigods and monsters. The name 'Achaeans' comes from these tales, which are surrounded by myth and legend, long glorified as the true dawn of the Achaean culture, though the Empire itself did not truly arise until thousands of years later.
The Fourth Age: The Age of Bronze
The Imperial calendar begins here, at 1 AI (Anno Imperiorum), when the First Alliance was formed between the feuding city-states of Achaea. Led by Templaria, they united their armies to fight the rising threat posed by the Empire of Parsanshar to the south.
The Red War (130-200): Rivalries between Templaria and the Red City of Pyropolis resulted in the dissolution of the First Alliance. Pyropolis, the Red City, declared war on Templaria, starting a civil war known as the Red War. Eventually, the Red City and her allies achieved victory over the Templarian Alliance.
Around 30 years later, with Pyropolis and Templaria still relatively weak from the war, the city-state of Coria to the north took advantage. King Exar I of Coria sent his highly-disciplined Legions to unite all of Achaea under his rule.
Xandros the Conqueror
In 236 AI, King Exar I was assassinated, and his son Xandros took the throne at a young age. He declared himself Emperor of Achaea, creating the First Achaean Empire. He quickly led his armies to conquer Parsanshar to the south, then moved on to take Kemhet as well. He became known as Xandros the Conqueror.
But in 275, Xandros died of illness while on campaign. With no clear heir, his ruling council took control. The Empire soon fell apart. Xandros's army lost control of Parsanshar, allowing the twisted cult of Zharduvar to seize power there. Meanwhile, one of Xandros's generals, Basileus, declared himself Pharaoh of Kemhet, beginning the Basilean Dynasty there.
The Reign of Ildrius, the Mage Emperor
In the years following the Mage Wars, the people of the Achaean Empire grew suspicious of the Mage Advisors appointed to kings and other rulers. Many of these magi were foreigners from the new lands to the South, and they had gained increasing influence since the death of Xandros, who put great stock in their wisdom.
Fearing persecution, a cult of magi known only as The Hidden - possibly related to the Zharduvar - suddenly enacted a secret plan to overthrow the kings they had sworn to advise. Many Imperial nobles were killed or imprisoned.
The mages even overthrew the current Emperor, the weak and ineffective Valens II. He was slain by his own advisor, Archmage Ildrius, who then declared himself Emperor and trapped Valens's soul in a soulstone on his new crown. For thirty years, the Mage-Emperor Ildrius ruled Achaea with an iron grip, enslaving and experimenting upon his own subjects - the regular people of the Empire - with the help of his powerful Mage Lords.
In 333 AI, Ildrius was finally slain by Sir Durand du Vide, and rulership of the Empire passed to the Imperial Senate. They declared Durand the First Inquisitor, founding the Imperial Inquisition to hunt down the remaining Mage Lords and destroy them.
The Achaean Republic
For nearly five hundred years, from 333 to 870 AI, Achaea was ruled by the Senate and the Consuls, who swore that no Emperor would ever rise again to take control. At first, there was peace, but eventually the Senate became corrupt and weak, and turmoil began to rise throughout the Empire.
Much territory was lost, and in 866, the Senate sent General Albus Exarion to cross the Ilfarius River and destroy the Nordling tribes of the Northwestern Kingdom. He proved to be a military genius unlike the Empire had seen since the days of Xandros, and soon the only remaining Northwestern tribes were the Frost Ravens, the Forsaken, and a few tribes on the islands off the coast.
The Second Achaean Empire
In 870, General Exarion's ambitions grew too great, and the Senate relieved him of command. But he had no intention of giving up his position, and so he marched on Coria itself with his Legions. The Republic stood no chance against him, and he soon declared himself Emperor, founding the Second Achaean Empire. During his reign, Illikon and Artorius were founded, and Coldstone Wall was built to keep the barbarians out of the new Imperial lands.
Ten years later, supporters of the Republic assassinated Exarion, but his adopted ward quickly seized power, declaring himself Exarion II and stripping the Senate of nearly all power. Seeking to prove himself as capable as his predecessor, Exarion II sent General Elius Aquilus, the Black Eagle, to conquer Northrim. He seized control of Rimegard and declared the Imperial Kingdom of Northrim.
But he failed to push very far into Northrim, never reaching the Beawulf River, because an alliance of Nordlings called the First Vinatta under the leadership of Kundaric the Terrible ambushed and slew him in the great Battle of Blackforest. Kundaric cut off the great general's head and turned it into a golden drinking goblet. This ended Imperial ambitions for further expansion northward.
In 977, Emperor Antares I took the throne and converted to the increasingly popular Cult of Astra, adding Astra to the Imperial pantheon of gods and placing her star on the Imperial crown. He also ordered the Inquisition to stop killing mages and start capturing them alive, to study for a way to control or even cure them. He ordered the construction of a new fortress-prison for magi, Karak du Vide.
In 1073, a young knight and his comrades-in-arms overthrew the weak and corrupt Emperor Severus IV. This knight declared himself Emperor Doraius I, and his retinue became the Paladins, whom he gifted control of the mighty Stormcliff Keep. Doraius declared it his intention to bring law and order and peace to all the world by spreading the light of Astra and the Empire as far as possible.
The Ten Kingdoms
The Kingdom of Northrim - The newest kingdom of the Empire, actually comprising only a small section of Northrim north of Coldstone Wall. Its capital is Rimegard, with only one other major city: Arrowfall.
The Northwestern Kingdom - Another younger kingdom, located just south of Coldstone Wall. It is a wild land, dominated by the Plains of Illikon, the Shadowvale, and mountains to the north. Its capital is Illikon. Other major settlements include Gryphon Roost, Dragon's Lair, and Eloh.
The Riverlands - The kingdom south of Illikon's realm, ruled over by the city of Deltalund. Its territory stretches along the river, and much of it is covered in marshlands. Other cities include Pirgos, Caltha, Woodshadow Village, and Goodwater. This is also the location of Castle Greywatch, headquarters of the Venatori.
The Black Lands - A region east of the Riverlands, governed from Kyjovia. Named for its many black stones, since it rests at the feet of Vulcan's Forge, an enormous volcano in the Jagged Edge. Other major cities include Blackwall, Pikeston, and Vyzigord.
The White Lands - A wealthy and influential region ruled from Whitehorn, considered a land of high culture and fashionable younger noble families. Other major cities include Edrimark, Piera, and Appledale.
The Silver Shore - Sometimes called Old Achaea, this region is considered by some to be the birthplace of Achaean culture. It is ruled by the grand city of Templaria and also includes Krisa, Arcadia, Goldcrossing, and Starward Citadel, fortress of the Knights Templar.
The Golden Coast - Though officially ruled by its King in his seat at Emerita, the Gold Coast is considered a somewhat lawless land. The wealthiest and most influential city of the Gold Coast is Sevenxia, which is a republic that regularly elects a new Duke. Its other major city, Starfire Isle, also enjoys a great degree of independence as the home of the Knights Hospitaller.
Areas Outside Imperial Dominion
The Imperium does not govern quite all of Achaea. Some regions lie outside of its control.
Dwarven Territory - Some parts of the Empire are considered neutral territory under the control of the dwarves, primarily the Iron Pikes ruled by the Iron Gauntlet with their many banks and forges - and the Blackrock Foothills where Clan Sunder first inspired the tactics of the Imperial Legions.
The Emerald Wilds - A peninsula jutting out of the Achaean southwest, this untamed land is ruled by the uneasy Minoan Alliance, which is comprised mostly of beastfolk, Amazons, and Elves. Attempts by the Empire to conquer and tame it have proven unsuccessful, and they have actually lost territory here over the centuries.
The Black Marches - These wild lands on the eastern edge of the Northwestern Kingdom are comprised of the Shadowvale or Forest of Shadows, Rognosst Swamp, Wizard Peak, and the monstrous city of Dhuum and its surrounding mountains. Each of these locations is ruled by different peoples, most of them enemies of the Imperium.
The Rise - A desert waste of disputed territory separating the Empire from Kemhet to the south. Once home to a great kingdom destroyed long ago, possibly destroyed in the Mage Wars of Sinkarya or earlier. Its people, now scattered nomads, are called Riseri. Now, the only important inhabitants of the Rise are the Desert Dwarves at Ibesim.
The Achaean Empire is ruled by a single man, the Emperor, but it is also divided into several major regions called Kingdoms, each ruled by a semi-sovereign King or Queen who answers only to the Emperor. Each Kingdom is further divided into regions ruled by a Duke or Earl (the latter name being more popular in the younger northern kingdoms), which is again divided into Counties ruled by a Count, and then Baronies ruled by a Baron, etc.
Emperor/Empress - The sovereign ruler of all the Empire, who leads from the capital city of Coronaria, advised by his council of Senators and Delegates from the kingdoms under his rule. He answers to no one but himself, and is traditionally regarded as divinely blessed by the gods, not to be touched - though many Emperors have not enjoyed this level of respect. His personal retinue of knights are the Paladins, who act as his representatives in the field when he cannot be present. They are meant to be obeyed at all times and are allowed to do whatever they deem necessary to carry out his will.
Senator - The Senate is an ancient institution within the capital city of the Empire, its seats usually held by high-born Patricians still set in the old traditional ways. Once proud and intellectual, the Senate has waned in power and glory, now only a shell of its former self. Although Senators are usually wealthy and accorded a large degree of ceremonial respect, many now consider it merely a plaything of the Patricians in the Capital. The Senate is rarely called into session by the Emperor, and the Delegates of the Kings hold greater sway.
King/Queen - The most powerful title one can hold below Emperor. Practically independent, each King or Queen answers only to the Emperor himself, ruling over a vast portion of the Empire with a great degree of sovereignty.
Duke/Duchess (Earl) - Subordinate to a King, in charge a Duchy or Dukedom, which is further divided into Counties. Usually rules from a castle in a large city. In northern regions, specifically the Northwestern Kingdom and the Kingdom of Northrim, Dukes are called Earls instead - a word derived from the Nordling title of Jarl.
Count/Countess - Subordinate to a Duke, in charge of a County. Usually rules from a small city or town, or a freestanding castle.
Baron - Subordinate to a Count, in charge of a Barony. Usually rules from a small city, town, or fort.
Knight - A fighting nobleman who typically owns a manor on an estate. Male knights are addressed as "Sir" followed by their first name. Female knights, who are rare, are addressed as "Lady" or "Dame."
The people of the vast Achaean Empire vary widely by region, in both physical appearance and culture. Those of the older, southern kingdoms tend to have slightly darker complexion (though usually not as dark as men of the Southern Expanse), with olive skin and dark hair and eyes, while northern Imperials may have pale complexions, blond hair, and blue eyes. Southern Imperials regard themselves as more cultured and better educated. They often wear older styles of clothing including togas and construct building with older styles of architecture such as columns and domes. Northern Imperials prefer to wear tunics and often trousers (considered barbaric by southerners) and construct buildings with tall, slanted roofs for dealing with snow. They are considered rougher, more violent, and less educated, only slightly better than the barbarians of Northrim.
The main language of the Empire is Imperial Common, which it has made the standard throughout not only Achaea, but much of Northrim and even the South as well. Imperial nobles and priests also learn High Imperial, the old standard language of the Imperium and its government, in which all official documents are written. The most well-educated people in the Empire may also learn Old Achaean, a dead language from the very earliest days of Achaean history. It is now exclusively the language of scholars.
The patron deity of the current Empire is Astra Aeterna, whose four-pointed star symbol adorns many different things in the Empire, including the Crown itself. Yet most people, from common folk to old nobility, still prefer to worship the older gods: the Olympians. Most cities and/or kingdoms have their own patron god or goddess, such as Athena, patron goddess of Templaria and Illikon. There are also several minor "mystery cults" whose exact methods and subjects of worship are not always known. The Cult of Astra started as one of these before rising to power. Some mystery cults worship foreign gods, such as Isis.
The Imperial military is composed of the Imperial Legions, the Knights and Imperial Orders, local Royal Armies, and sometimes mercenary companies.
King Exar I was able to conquer all of Achaea not only because it was weak from civil war, but because of the discipline of his armies, which some say were inspired by the dwarven armies of the Blackrock Foothills near Coria. Whether this is true or not, the Imperial legions, with their strict discipline and heavily armored infantry with their impenetrable lines of tower shields, were essential in forging the vast Empire.
For information on the Legions, their organization, and more, please see the Imperial Legions article.
A special case within the Imperial military and nobility are the knights. They arose from the heavy cavalry of the Legions, which was often composed of nobles who owned their own horses and armor. This class of low nobility came to be known as the Ordo Equester, and later merely the Knights. They would lead the armies in battle and take newly-conquered lands for their own. They developed the practice of heraldry to identify knightly families and orders easily on the battlefield. They also developed a code of conduct called Chivalry, in which knights are held up to rigorous standards of moral conduct, but also are valued above all other soldiers. Militiamen and Legionaries are seen as expendable, but Knights, being noblemen, are more valuable. In wars between kingdoms, knights are usually captured instead of killed, so that they may be ransomed back to their home kingdom or family.
Despite their being nobility, it would be foolish to consider knights pampered and soft. At a very young age, those nobles (or sometimes simply wealthy individuals hoping to become nobles) looking to become knights must go to a castle and serve under a lord as a servant-boy or page. During this time, they are trained in loyalty and the basics of combat, until at age fourteen they may become a squire. Squires train personally under a knight, sometimes even riding into battle with him. Later, if deemed worthy, they may dubbed a knight themselves by a knight or other nobility. Sometimes those who did not undergo such training from a young age, such as members of the Legionary Cavalry, may be dubbed a knight for deeds of great loyalty or heroism. Most knights either live with their lord in the castle or are granted an estate and a manor of their own.
A group of knights may fight as a cavalry or an infantry unit, but most often cavalry. When fighting together, the highest-ranking noble present is assigned the role of Knight-Captain, or else they are led by a local lord or king.
While not actually part of the Imperial Military, these ancient Orders may sometimes be called upon by the Emperor if needed, even for serving a military purpose. But the true purpose of each one is to fight, and protect the Empire from, a very specific type of enemy that may be far beyond the expertise of a mere soldier.
The personal council of knights of the Emperor himself, the Paladins sit at his round table and serve as the enforcers of his will. When in the field, they are not to be questioned, and are given the authority to do whatever they deem necessary to carry out the Emperor's commands. Each Paladin also has his own retinue of knights, called Knights-Paladin.
The Imperial Inquisition is the ancient order founded to battle against magic. They investigate tales of magic disturbances and capture or kill the mage responsible, taking prisoners to their island fortress headquarters of Karak du Vide. Most Inquisitors wear black, magic-absorbing armor made of rare Void Iron. Others are channelers, their bodies covered in tattoos that allow them to absorb magic and redirect it.
The Knights Templar are the military arm of the priesthood, serving to enforce their will, settle disputes between temples, and if necessary, battle the enemies of all that is holy: demons and those who serve them. This often brings them into partnership - or conflict - with the Inquisition, who serve a similar role.
An ancient order created to hunt down and slay monsters that threaten the innocent, the Venatori are now a shadow of their former glory. Poorly funded and low on manpower, and lacking in respect since monster sightings are now so rare, what's left of the Venators now operate out of Castle Greywatch - their headquarters - as well as a few smaller, local Lodges.
A few kings choose to train professional armies of their own, outside of the Imperial Legions. These are sometimes called Royal Armies or Home Armies. They wear the colors of their kingdom and answer to the King rather than directly to the Emperor as the Legions are supposed to do. Usually limited in size so as not to cause suspicion from the Emperor, they are nonetheless a sign of a King's desire for independence.
Royal armies have different ranks than the legions. They are usually led by a knight or other noble, but occasionally an experienced commoner may take the role. He is then given the rank of Marshal. Leaders of individual units are called Captains, assisted by their Lieutenants.
More common than professional Royal Armies are militia. Drafted from the ranks of young men within a nobleman's domain, they are usually poorly trained and equipped. Still, they are used quite frequently, especially when a Legion cannot become involved in a battle for one reason or another. Unless drafted by a Legion desperate for reinforcements, they usually answer to their local lord rather than a legionary commander, and they are usually commanded on the field by knights, or captains from royal armies.
Increasingly common within the Empire as its borders grow, mercenary companies are hired by some lords in lieu of Royal Armies, Militias, or Legions - perhaps because these options have been used up, will not suffice, or refuse to perform a particular job. Some mercenary companies have thus become quite large and powerful in their own right, operating out of their own fortresses independent of any other leader. Others are independent warriors who may answer a call for hired blades when they find one. Mercenary bands are especially common in southwestern Achaea, where they are contacted to fight feudal battles between local lords, since the Legion refuses to get involved.
Most navies answer to a local king or duke instead of directly to the Emperor. Each ship is commanded by a Captain, and together several ships may be led by an Admiral. Although ships may be equipped with catapults or ballistae on board, most naval warfare is still fought by ramming and/or boarding the enemy vessels. Thus, ships serve mostly as transports. They may have their own crew of marines on board trained specifically for naval warfare, or they may carry other troops with their own commanders. There are a few Imperial Navies, however, which dock at Legionary Forts and carry Legionary troops exclusively.
The Issue of Leadership
Leadership is a fragile thing in the Imperial military. The legions, local militaries, mercenary companies, etc., all have their own command structures that may not precisely coincide. These are some of the major issues that plague Imperial leadership:
The Issue of Experience - A more experienced field commander, especially one from the Legions, may expect to take charge, the way that a senior centurion commands a cohort. But when working with local lords or knights, they may refuse to bow to his commands, mostly due to...
The Issue of Blood - Nobility hate to take orders from someone of "lower" birth. If a local lord, even one as low-ranked as a Baron, suddenly decides he would like to join in a war, he may expect to be given leadership due to his title, even if he has no military experience.
The Issue of Rank - Officers of the Emperor, like Legionary Legates or even one of the Emperor's own Paladins (who are supposed to be obeyed at all times), may have trouble controlling local armies. This is again mostly due to the issue of blood; a King does not like to take orders from anyone, even a Paladin, despite the risk of being declared a traitor to the Empire. The same issues arise with leaders of knightly orders like the Knights Templar.
The Issue of Domain - This problem is mostly unique to the Imperial Orders. Each one is meant to fight a particular type of enemy, but these enemies often coincide. If a beast-man mage summons a demon, then it falls into the domains of the Venatori, who fight beastmen; the Inquisition, who fight mages; and the Templars, who fight demons. Naturally, some disputes will erupt.
These problems have never been resolved, and sometimes a dispute over leadership of an Imperial army in a crisis may still come to blows.