Ather Bronzesword and the Founding of the Empire
34 B.E. – 130 A.E.
History tells that the Atherian Empire’s origins lie in the actions of single dwarf – Ather Bronzesword. Originally a humble shipping merchant with respectable roots in the bustling port city of Sedoin, Ather was astonished in 34 B.E. to find himself visited one night in a vision by the goddess Erathis herself. Erathis, the goddess of civilization and law, told Ather that she had chosen him as her champion to forge a new empire—one establishing Sedoin as the capitol and heart of a new kingdom. She bestowed upon Ather both incredible cunning and might, and gave him servants to aid him in carrying out her wishes. For the next ten years, Ather worked tirelessly to expand his shipping trade, growing the business his grandfather had begun until it surpassed all others. By 24 B.E. Ather had been elected head of the mercantile guild that ruled Sedoin—the Seven—and began work to annex additional territories.
Realizing that not all surrounding city-states would agree to the annexation process, Ather convened a meeting with the Seven to secure permission to use city funds to begin crafting Sedoin into a military force to be reckoned with. Despite concern over Ather’s increasing power over the council, the Seven approved of his plan, and over the following months and years Ather led the army to many victories over the few foolish enough to oppose the nascent empire. Throughout all of this, Erathis guided Ather through dreams, visions, and messages. Despite his increasingly powerful role in world affairs, Ather managed to remain humble and never forgot to attribute his fortune to anything other than the goddess’ wisdom and guidance. With Erathis as the patron goddess of the growing empire, worship of the civilization goddess grew exponentially—by 4 B.E. practically all residents in the empire’s major cities were followers of Erathis or involved with the clergy in some manner.
In 1 A.E., Ather was officially granted the title of emperor, and the Atherian Empire was cemented with its capitol in the now immense city of Sedoin. For the rest of his life Ather would remain engaged in matters political and military, and he ruled as a just and benevolent leader over his immense empire. When he finally succumbed to illness in 130 A.E., his death was mourned throughout the territories for weeks, and even today the anniversary of Ather’s death is marked as a national day of mourning. Due to the absence of any successor, the rule of the Atherian Empire reverted to the Seven—descendents of the original Seven who had granted Ather so much of his power.
The Discovery of Polemonium and the Arcanist Wars
248 – 263 A.E.
For as long as anyone could remember, Polemonium flowers had dotted the landscape of the Atherian Empire—small, blue flowers with a sweet smell not unlike that of strawberries. However, in 248 A.E. a young human inventor by the name of Garrus Meshuk discovered that proper preparation of Polemonium flower petals enabled them to be smoked much like ordinary tobacco, and with a much more pleasant odor. More important than the odor, however, were the benefits bestowed unto the user who inhaled what became known as ‘dried Meshuk’. Users found themselves imbued with arcane energy – heretofore unknown in the Empire. Although Garrus himself was able to control the energies that suddenly coursed through his veins, many others were less fortunate. Driven mad by the powerful energies of the arcane, many of the first Meshuk users – dubbed Arcanists after the nature of their power – went on wild rampages, blasting apart homes and businesses with bolts of lightning or explosions of fire. In 249 A.E., in response to the inability of the military to contain the anarchy sweeping through the empire, the Seven empowered the church of Erathis to create a new corps of divine warriors.
These warriors, who would become known as the Erathi, were given the church and the empire’s full support and permitted to override local laws when necessary in order to hunt down Arcanists and either bring them to justice or execute them as necessary. The next few years were marked by the destruction wrought throughout the empire. Fights between Erathi and Arcanists frequently spilled out into the streets, resulting in huge collateral damage and the death of many innocents. In 255 A.E., Garrus Meshuk raised an army of his own to prevent what he saw as further injustices being perpetrated on him and those like him. Starting from the far reaches of the empire, Meshuk and his forces carved a bloody swath through the empire as his army marched on Sedoin. Battles between Meshuk’s armies and the divine corps of the Erathi tore apart the countryside between 256 and 263 A.E., when the war quite unexpectedly came to an end. One moment, Meshuk was towering above a legion of Erathi with his Arcanists at his back, and the next he was gone.
Though the disappearance of Meshuk at the battle of Letur has been discussed at great length by Atherian scholars, there is no true consensus on what actually happened to the man known as Garrus Meshuk. Eyewitness accounts describe him simply vanishing into thin air mid-shout, much to the surprise of all those watching. The remaining Arcanists at the battle of Letur were quickly apprehended or executed, and the final Erathi victory later that year effectively concluded the Arcanist wars. Rumors continue to abound as to the fate of Garrus Meshuk, but official records show there have been no verified sightings of him since the battle of Letur. In the wake of the defeat of Meshuk’s forces, the Seven elected not to disband the Erathi in the wake of the Arcanist wars—preferring instead to keep the specialized paramilitary organization intact lest Arcanist forces rise again. With the passage of the Polemonium Control Act in 264 A.E., the growth, preparation, and ingestion of Polemonium and dried Meshuk were outlawed, and the Erathi were appointed as enforcers. Today, the Erathi are an elite military and political organization dedicated to the pursuit and apprehension of those who use Polemonium, with members from all walks of life represented in its ranks.
Today the Atherian Empire sprawls for hundreds of miles, from the island town of Etenver to the landlocked fortress of Ranqua. Citizens of the empire are of a plethora of races: from humans, elves and dwarves to less common races like goliaths and shifters. Power remains centralized in Sedoin, with both the Seven and the holy cardinals of the Church of Erathis (who are responsible for the administration of the Erathi) located in the city. Commerce is dominated by intra-empire trade, with ore brought in from the cold mountainside town of Todan, spices from the windy city of Ialeo, and farm goods from the lands surrounding Osken. The outskirts of the empire are home to numerous tribes and nomads that the empire has trading arrangements with. Historically, these relationships have been defined by commerce and have not involved imperial impositions on tribal culture—however, rumors over Polemonium use in some of these tribes has forced the Erathi to begin a program of cultural integration that has been received with a lukewarm response, at best. The last few months in particular have been marked by clashes between the barbarian tribes to the north with Erathi forces, to the chagrin of imperial citizens in the nearby area.
The Church of Erathis
Primary Deity of the Atherian Empire
There is no presence in the Atherian Empire that is felt more constantly than that of the Erathisian Church. Goddess of civilization and empire, it was Erathis who guided Ather Bronzesword in his quest to cement Sedoin as the center of the known world. Today, the Church remains a major power player in world events, and is backed by the military might of the Erathi. Decisions about the direction of the Church are made by a congress of cardinals, with an elected archbishop appointed as an executive leader lasting for ten-year rotations. At present the dwarf Van Ingot is the archbishop, with his term due to expire in 295 A.E. The Erathi, the divine corps of the Church, are currently held responsible for maintaining order within the empire and have been granted permission to supersede local laws as necessary in the pursuit of Arcanists. Members of the Erathi come from all walks of life but are singular in their dedication to Erathis, civilization, law, and order. It is rumored that the Erathi contains some arcane magic users in its ranks who are absolutely dedicated to the pursuit and neutralization of other Arcanists. Whether these individuals elected to join the Erathi willingly is unknown.
Merchant Lords of Sedoin
The Seven is the council of merchant-lords that rule Sedoin and set all policy for the Atherian Empire. Representatives to the Seven’s council are chosen by secret ballot by the noble merchant houses in Sedoin. Although the individual houses spend much of their time jockeying for power and a greater representation on the council, the Seven tend to be an austere group who take their responsibilities seriously and do not let lesser distractions get in the way of ruling properly.
The Northern Tribes
Barbarian Trading Partners of the Empire
The northern reaches of the empire – where the forests leading into the Iceshard Mountains begin – are dominated by a handful of barbarian tribes that the Empire trades with. The largest of these are the Lortan, Umtan, and Oleri tribes. Members of the northern tribes tend to be stoic, primal people whose long exposure to the harsher elements has given them a strong resilience to change and its agents. The Erathisian Church has recently instructed the Erathi to investigate rumors of Polemonium use amongst these tribes.
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