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The End of Empires in Brunby Andrés Piquer Otero
The following is a conference given at the Oniric Academy of Wendar City. It is in character, pronounced by my favourite PC, Annecians de Skie, Alphatian Mage (and theoretically King) in exile:
THE END OF THE EMPIRES IN BRUN: A SURVEY ON THE POLITICAL SCENE FOLLOWING THE VANISHING OF ALPHATIA.
1 Ambyrmont, 1015 AC 2015 AY
This land which bears us, both people made from it and people arrived from far away in the Void, has lived the stages of its political soul which shaped its history as rivers, mountains and oceans shape its body, following the evolution and rule of empires. Before Alphatia and Thyatis, I have been able to delve into history via a quite unbelievable way and, after centuries of darkness, confirmed the existence of a great empire, Nithia, whose only remains are now the Kingdom of Thothia. For more details, you may refer to my essay "A Commentary on "Claransa's Travels" and its insights on Ancient History". For now, it is enough to make clear that many other ruins buried below sand, sea or swamp, many other people who now strive to live, isolated or oppressed, like Oltecs, Milenians or -although it might seem insulting to the defenders of the enlightened Kingdom of Karameikos- Traladarans, are the remains of cultures which swept the land with armies and civilisation, covering vast expanses of our continent, or even substantial percentages of Mystara. Some empires had already fell into utter oblivion when we Alphatians made Landfall more than two thousand years ago. As time came, both power and chance brought our country to the place of one of such empires; years later, that was Thyatis' privilege, too and, for one millennium, the lands of the Old World, the Sea of Dawn and Norwold, were our own private arena. It would be a distorted nonsense to negate that both countries strove to amass power, in the form of land, resources and workforce, at the expenses of their rival or lesser lands suffering, but it would be also inaccurate to reduce History to that chain of -hoping that no Darokinians get offended- industrial exploits: On the contrary, both Alphatia and Thyatis developed and spread a spirit, an ideology which could and was mirrored both by individuals and states all over the Old World. Their colonisation and the fame or infamy of their clashes did not only bring about language, titles, literature and legends; they also forged a concept, a living portrait of two conceptions of Man, both as an individual and as a member of society. Concepts, ideas, shining and pure, but also subject to endless degrees of paradox and contradiction, much as the soul which each of us treasure inside. These spirits of the world were as contradictory as the armies of each empire, but, at the same time, they complemented each other. So, I will continue with an outline on both of these spirits of history and I will begin, for chronology's sake, with my departed Alphatia:
Alphatia, in the opinion of one who could have ruled, but who decided to depart to better analyse the world and himself, signified the power built by collectively. Its paradox was that that power of collectively rested upon individuals who, in the end, became the paradigm of selfishness and discoordination, so bringing about Chaos and injustice: In Alphatia mages ruled. As shining Sundsvall represented, the whole of the Empire was, in a sense, built by magic: forsaken Islands, like the Alatians, could be made fertile by magic; food could be transported (1)... How else could a reduced number of colonisers from other world have gained mastery over a new and extensive land? Unfortunately, our race had changed. Not everyone was able to wield the Art, so society become what, from the moral point of view of the individual may be seen as tyrannical, but, from a social analysis is just specialised: those with power would rule; those without it would use the talent of their bodies to labour. Ideally, it was a social contract. In reality, it opened the door to the despotic domination of aristocracy as exemplified in the two Alphatian codes of law. Perhaps the truth of everyday life was more complex, but at least this was the image that Alphatia cast over the world: the State created structure (ruling through magic) and the individual rulers subverted it.
Thyatis falls on the opposite plate of the scales: individuals make (or made) the Empire: personal projects, ambitions and desires -those of powerful or charismatic heroes in particular- brought about a sense of identity and universal purpose. Take, for instance, that Thyatis originated as a conglomerate of three very different tribes (Thyatians, Kerendans and Hattians), not to mention the dependence of the Empire's own origin -and its ulterior waxing or waning- from the greatness of a handful of leaders. This feeling made the way for the particular proceedings of Thyatian expansion: their giving of imperial nationality and rights to conquered lands. Every people, every religion was not simply absorbed by the Empire, they built it at the same time. Of course, that was not a benign procedure, it was not even a conscious one. We cannot blind our eyes to incompetent dynasties of nobles only kept aloof by birth rights, oppressed colonies, mistreated commoners or conspiration against the common interest. The point is just that Thyatian history portrays this: heroicity, personal ambition and competence from the individuals get summed up to build the State. This is the Thyatian paradox, inverse to the Alphatian one: treachery, conspiration and ambition, selfish qualities, made possible (even with irregularities) the existence and expansion of Thyatis; it was like a process of natural selection: growth through competence and conflict.
These are the two systems we have known, the two spheres which inspired political thought in our lands. Countries could align themselves with either Empire or remain away and neutral, but what they could not help was to receive this influence of dialectics: How to understand the notion of State, how to set in order the individuals' wishes and choice with the interest and greatness of a nation? Through the mainland, we mostly speak one or another form of Thyatian; in the archipelagos, Alphatian is the usual tongue. But no the Empires are no more; Alphatia is departed and Thyatis has fallen from its former glory: from a country of conquerors, it has changed into a country of survivors; it has no longer the authority to shine as a model of virtue and vice and, if we made a survey over the continent, no land is ready to take the place of either. Empires there are, of course: the Master of Hule is making himself ready to sweep the earth and the evils brewing in Denagoth cannot and will not sit idly within their borders, for we have seen them pour out before, but there is a striking difference: these sinister powers have their view of authority and domination sprung out from religion and the inspiration of an Immortal or church which, by their very nature, are exclusive to them: they cannot produce a spirit of Empire, only subjugation by force. Alphatia and Thyatis had their political concepts drawn without a dependence from religion; they did not close their eyes to the Immortals, but were not conditioned to them; their views could be borrowed by peoples with different worship and traditions. The imperialistic lands of today don't fit the role of models, dialectical heralds of History and ideas, they can only be seen as menaces.
And for the other countries, those who have lived for centuries under the shadow of the empires, they are just a band of survivors: some roguish, some clean and efficient as bureaucrats, some open to innovation, some closed in isolation. Take Karameikos, the first land which first received me after leaving Alphatia: its "enlightened ruler", King Stefan, has picked and chosen from Thyatian ideals only to make them fit into his reduced boundaries; to put it in simple terms, he has debased noble ideas in order to become a big fish in a small pond. All his politics, expeditions and foreign meddling are just focused to bring stability to a handful of towns and farms. The School of Magecraft... an effort which, although promising, denotes desires of independence and autarchy, in this case from the magical authority of Glantri in the continent. Take Ylaruam, a nation closed in a dream, to the point of closing itself to the world and its teachings. Of all the countries I might survey, I only find some glimmers of dynamical politics in Heldann and Glantri, though both of them are presently far away from the chances of shining as ideals: the former don't make their ideals grow, the just force others to eat them raw, the later, interestingly enough, have managed to blend the worst aspects of the Thyatian and Alphatian paradigms: they organise a confederation based on magic and excellence only to surrender it to selfishness, bickering and conspiration with that madness of Parliament voting. And for the newborn NACE... well, it is the essence of our new paradigm: no empires, no model, only a patchwork of nations and identities which must seek their own fates themselves, only touching, aiding and opposing each other in the measure which it will aid their temporal and material needs and interests. Our political map has been doomed by the Wrath of the Immortals to live on without big ideals: now we have the petty desires and models of barons and kings, various and confusing; the two shining beacons which shone from afar and inspired the destinies of nations and individuals have sunk forever; only Time shall compose their equals.
(1) OOC: for those of you who have asked, DotE mentions in a couple of passages the less importance that factors like distance or climate have in Alphatia, as magic can promptly provide production or transport of goods when needed. The Empire cared (out of structure interest, not charity), although individual rulers were selfish or reckless.