Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Western Baronies of Marikuhl: History of the Empire


Eight hundred years ago, the empires of the continent of Ovidium[1] were strong and confident in their power. They held ancient rivalries and passed down grudges from one generation to the next. Many wars had come and gone on Ovidium, leaving regions of the continent with blood-soaked histories dating back centuries. Finally, however, the wars had paused long enough that several of the empires began to look beyond their own borders to lands that had been hinted of by scholars in old times—the legendary Western Lands.

A dozen unsuccessful naval expeditions across the Atlantean Ocean[2] left a bitter taste in the mouths of many governments, but others kept trying. After years of trying, one such expedition took root on the eastern shores of a continent that its discoverers named Galatea[3]. This land quickly became known by its nickname, though: Nova Mundi, the New World. The success of one colony inspired the launch of dozens more, many of which were modestly successful. After fifty years of colonization, almost twenty self-sufficient tributary colonies had been established along Galatea’s green and prosperous coast.

With the passing of decades, the Galatean colonies grew and encroached inward on the continent, pushing back the native peoples, the Ko’Manna[4]. While early contact with the Ko’Manna had been peaceful, colonial expansion and greed caused tension with them in less than a generation. The Ko’Manna lost much territory but gained a new innovation: horses. Fleeing west, the Ko’Manna became horse nomads, many tribes giving up their traditional homes rather than have to face the foreigners in open warfare. Several tribes of Ko’Manna actually integrated with the colonials, becoming a valued and vibrant part of life in a number of the colonies.

Communication with the Old World became more sporadic as tensions among the old empires increased. The colonies reflected these attitudes at first, acting toward one another with hostility and spite. Gradually, however, the colonial citizens came to realize that they had more in common with one another than with their originators back home. Many colonies had become so thoroughly dependent on one another for trade and economy that the rivalries of their empires could not be practically pursued in any fashion.

Finally, as had long been expected, war broke out once more in Ovidium and the many empires of the Old World demanded that their colonies follow suit. Orders for colonial food, soldiers, weapons, crafts, and aid of all sorts passed down to the regional governors, who then had to face the rancor of their people. The overburdened colonies groaned beneath the weight of their own needs added to the demands of their distant masters. Many regions faced deprivation, while others had to deal with insurrections against the local government.

At last, a leader emerged to take command in this time of strife. His name was Marik d’Amici[5], and he was a nobleman who had long been a staunch supporter of greater freedoms for the colonies. As civil unrest became more common, Lord Marik led a delegation of nobles from all of the colonies to make certain decisions for their people’s well being. Seeking to insure their own livelihood and the survival of their people, Lord Marik’s council came to the inevitable and difficult conclusion: to stand against the commands of their empires, they would have to be united, and they would have to cut all ties to their original homelands.

It took surprisingly little effort to unite the colonies beneath Lord Marik’s banner, and the brief skirmishes needed to expel imperial military forces were hardly worth the appellation of “war.” Busy with their own affairs and wars, the various empires of the Old World put aside their desire to punish their wayward children until they were finished with the matters at hand. It became an unspoken condition of the war that whichever empire triumphed would have first pick of the colonies when the time came to recapture them.

In a matter of scant months, the Galatean colonies had gone from territorial holdings to a single nation, united in spirit if not in origin. The many races and nationalities of the colonies celebrated their new freedom from distant masters and lauded their noble lords with praise. Lord Marik’s council was elevated to the status of rulers, and Marik himself was crowned Marik I, first emperor of the Empire of Marikuhl[6].

From these twenty-one families rose the ruling caste of Marikuhl, each family holding sway over one of the former colonies, now provinces, plus an additional region now set aside as the personal demesne of the imperial family. Each ruling family set up subsidiary noble families to keep account of their holdings and to administrate the daily goings-on of the provinces.


[1] I called the "old world" Ovidium because it was evocative of Ovid, a Roman historian and poet, which set the tone for the old world as being "classical" and ancient.

[2] This is to tie the "new world" into the real-world myths of Atlantis, as well as to keep a touchstone with actual history. The Atlantic Ocean is also named for Atlantis.

[3] Galatea is the woman created from a statue by Pygmalion. The imagery I was trying to evoke here was of a new world made from the efforts of explorers, embodying it as a woman who came to life by the will and desire of her creator. It also continues the Greco-Roman theme of the old world.

[4] For the native peoples, I was looking for a world that included "mana" (magical energy or life force), so I shortened "cooperating-with-mana" and redubbed it a bit to make it look exotic. As a note, the Ko'Manna are human; there are no non-human PCs in the setting.

[5] Again, the naming is to emphasize the Romanesque sense of the old world. Also, it's a setup for the eventual name of the empire.

[6] Take "America," slur it to "'mericuh" and conflate it with "miracle." You get "mahr-ih-KOOL."

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