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Empire of Zuyevo

by Adrian Mattias

Location: Known World, Continent of Brun, Yalu River Basin (For a map of the region by Christian Constantin)

Area: 470,000 sq. mi.

Population: 2,800,000 (all human).

Languages: The Zuyevans speak a language that shares a 45% commonality with Heldannic with a slight hint of Ethengarian influence.

Coinage: Dvina (gp), Vaska (sp), Kiven (cp).

Government Type: Autocratic Imperial Monarchy

Ruler: Tsar Andrei III

Industries: Agriculture, hunting, fur trading, logging, conquest, mining (gold, silver, tin, electrum, copper, iron), alcohol production.

Description: Zuyevo itself is a land of immense steppes and grasslands as well as vast forests. The land is bounded by major natural barriers - the Endworld Mountain Range to the west, the Yalu River to the east, dense forest to the north and Yalu Bay to the south. It is also a cold and bitter land, especially in the north, and the population works hard to extract a living from the soil. The north of the Empire is prone to heavy snowfalls, although the hunting is good in the birch, aspen and conifer forests of the north in the non-winter months as bear, deer and other wildlife are plentiful.

The land is most heavily settled along the Yalu River and its numerous tributaries - however, Zuyevan colonisation spreads far beyond these regions, although populations here tend to be much more sparse and clustered in defensible villages along internal routes of communication, and at sites of valuable resources like mines and good hunting regions.

The Zuyevans come from a mixed heritage. The most numerous, from a Yevo background) are largely of Antalian heritage, tall and of light complexion. The Talmavs who make up much of the remainder of the population are of Oltec stock and tend to be more swarthy and stocky. A significant proportion of the peasantry are serfs - bonded labourers - while there are also a small group of profitable and independent farmers: the kulaks. The merchant/middle classes tend to be relatively small as much of the export trade is dealt with by a handful of trading families. The nobility (the only precondition for entry being the amount of farming land owned) is quite large in comparison to most other dominions (especially ones like Karameikos and Thyatis).

Notable Sites: Zuyganev (pop. 55,000) is the capital city of the nation - a prosperous collection of stone and wooden buildings it is also a rambling and broad city surrounded by thick and strong stone walls. It is home to the principal Imperial Palace, as well as many other fine examples of the unusual Zuyevan architecture.

Kulikovo Fortress (5,000 soldiers) is an immense rambling fortification system built on the eastern side of the Yalu river. It features a sizeable wharf/dock area where riverboats ferry troops and supplies to the fortress from the eastern side of the river. The Fortress is the only major military instillation of note on the eastern side of the river, and is the point from which military expeditions are sent out against the vicious humanoids of the northern Yazak Steppes.

History: Zuyevo's distant beginnings lie in the reign of terror created in Norwold by the vast humanoid army of the Great King Loark. His assault on the Antalians of the area in 1722 BC was savage in the extreme. A large tribe of Antalians known as the Yevo managed to escape the slaughter by migrating west over the Icereach mountains. Ten years later, another migration begins this time by Ethengars of the Talmav tribe, driven from their country by the southward rampage of King Loark.

Over a period of 650 years the Talmav horde moved slowly westward warring as they did with various humanoid tribes. Around 1050 BC these Talmav tribesmen, having traversed the entire northern expanse of Brun, move south down the Yalu River. Skilled horse-archers, they maraud through the declining Yalu River Empire. That Empire is finally crushed in 1034 BC with the death in battle of the Emperor Dorfin. The Yalu River Empire splinters as various factions vie for whatever power and resources that they can secure. The Talmav settle around the area that is now Kharkav.

On a separate, and more northerly migration, the Yevo tribes enter the northern Yalu River valley from the Hyborean steppes around 550 BC. Finally finding a place safe from marauding humanoids, they settle in the steppes north of Severnaya Novay on the western bank of the Yalu River. Over a period of several hundred years the Yevo expand across the northern steppes. In the 2nd Century AC however, a considerable blow splinters their burgeoning civilisation. For several centuries the area was becoming increasingly inhospitable as weather patterns across the lower Hyborean tundra made the area colder and colder. In 175 AC freak snowstorms of bizarre intensity strike the region resulting in a blizzard that covered the whole region for more than a month. When the snow finally stopped, the Yevo emerged to find many of their kinsmen dead and their cropland devastated.

Seeing no other option, the Yevo packed their remaining possessions into longships, which they were now adept at sailing, and travel south down the Yalu River. After failing to find suitable landing sites, in 179 AC the Yevo find and quickly conquer the small but prosperous dominion of Vyatka. From this powerbase in the rich black earth plains, the fierce Yevo raiders, sweep over a number of surrounding tribes and villages during the following 200 years. Soon the Yevo find it more profitable to farm the region and grow rich on the tribute levied on subject tribes. They found their capital, Zuygano in 415 AC and build the city into both an impressive citadel and a centre for trade and the arts.

Their warlike nature does not abate however, and the Yevo continued to conquer surrounding peoples. Over a long period these tribes and kingdoms were gradually assimilated. In 502AC, Zuyevo as the kingdom had come to be called (literally "place of the Yevo") faced one of its bigger tests when it involved itself in a full scale war with the Visneskaya kingdom to the north. The war raged on and off for 15 years, before the Zuyevans, with the help of the former allies of Visneskaya (the Talmavs), finally crushed their opposition. The leader of the Zuyevans, a man known as Miska Gureyivich, had himself crowned Tsar - Emperor of the united Zuyevan and Visneskayan kingdoms - at Kirov, the site of his greatest victory over the Visneskayan forces.

The Zuyevan program of assimilation continued for a further 200 years until they were masters of the entire Yalu Steppes. Only a handful of unimportant tribes in the Tunguska River region remained outside the control of the Tsar. During this period, the Zuyevan nobility grew greatly, as nobility was based on land control, and warriors and others who had grown rich on the conquests of surrounding peoples soon began to acquire vast estates. This led to a growing class of peasants with no access to land. In 696AC, Tsar Alekseyev, later known as Alekseyev "the brutal" instituted a system of serfdom for landless peasants - a form of indenture, whereby these serfs worked hard on the lands of the nobility in return for the right to own and farm their own little plot in their "days off".

The dawning of the 8th Century AC saw a series of border skirmishes along the southern frontier of Zuyevo with the Yezchamenid Empire. Fast expansion of the Empire had stalled in the north, as the Zuyevans became bogged down in conflicts with the tribesmen of the Tunguska Forests. As a result, Zuyevan interests had turned south to the wide Koltenyi steppes. More critically though, Zuyevo desperately wanted an ice-free port at the mouth of the Yalu River. In 706 AC, concerned at the Zuyevan intransigence to its north, the Yezchamenid Empire sent an expeditionary force to teach the upstart Zuyevans a lesson. Tsar Alekseyev led Zuyevan forces to a monumental victory over the invaders at the battle of Akmolinsk. The Yezchamenid force was outmanoeuvred by the skilful Talmav Guard Cavalry and pulverised by the onslaught of wave after wave of Zuyevan infantry. Out of a force of 25,000 Yezchamenid troops, 13,000 were killed outright and the remainder surrendered. Alekseyev accepted their surrender, disarmed the soldiers and then massacred them.

Although Tsar Alekseyev had been a brilliant leader since his crowning in 687 AC, the Yezchamenid invasion appeared to trigger a complete personality change. He grew brutal, perceiving enemies at every turn. Alekseyev abandoned his plans to push the Zuyevan Empire to the brink of the Yalu Bay and instead turned inwards, conducting a campaign of terror within Zuyevo itself - killing all those who opposed him. A daring assassination attempt, with the connivance of some Zuyevan military officers finally ended his life in 716 AC.

For the remainder of the 8th and the whole of the 9th Centuries AC, the Zuyevan Empire pushed northwards into the Severnaya Novay (the new north). The catalyst for this expansion was the fur trade - on which the Empire grew rich. Furs and pelts of all kinds were traded to Douzbakjian and other countries of the Midlands as well as Hule, the Yezchamenid Empire and even Gombar and Suma'a. With Talmavs pushing deep into the Tunguska region, conflict with the local tribespeople was inevitable. However, the superior weapons and technology of the Talmavs proved far superior - and Tunguska tribes were quickly conquered. This was reinforced by the Tsar's armies, always plodding along behind the Talmav frontiersmen - enforcing the will of the Tsar through the force of arms and the building of stockaded forts and villages along the rivers and trade routes. The late 9th Century also saw the discovery of large veins of gold in the western mountains around Dubyshev. This led to the local nobility, and the Princes of Dubyshev in particular growing rich on the taxes levied on the miners.

The beginning of the 10th Century AC, saw the Zuyevan Empire again expanding southwards after easy gains had been made in the north. Zuyevan settlers overran the Koltenyi Steppes and armed conflict between Zuyevans and Yezchameni farmers were common. This increasing tension exploded in 913 AC when a group of Yezchameni slaughtered a camp of Zuyevans settlers including many women and children. Regardless of the fact that the Yezchameni were responding to the burning of their farms by militant Zuyevan settlers, Tsar Turgay declared war on the Yezchamenid Empire - sending his large serf armies southwards. The Yezchameni respond by sending a force of infantry and chariots to meet this threat. After a series of skirmishes the two forces meet in the battle of Dasht-i-Kavar. Bloody losses are sustained on both sides, but the sheer size of the Zuyevan army eventually tells, and the Yezchameni are routed. The Zuyevan war machine continues to rumble south until it is halted with heavy casualties at Qesun. A formal truce is negotiated within weeks that gives the northern two-thirds of the Koltenyi Steppes to the Zuyevans. Surprisingly, both sides observe the new borders in a peace that is destined to last 84 years.

The Zuyevans make the most of this peaceful situation to strengthen their foothold on the eastern side of the Yalu River. Constructing a string of fortresses that radiate out from the giant fortifications at Kulikovo, the Zuyevan army concentrates its efforts on subduing the humanoid tribes of the northern Yazak steppes. This policy is designed to remove the threat of humanoid invasion from the east as well as to open up the possibility of contesting with Hule for the mineral rich Bylot Hills, and even the Converted Lands.

The humanoids are driven further and further back after successful campaigns by Tsar Berezov the Great (935-967) and Tsar Andrei II (967-976). However, during the reign of Tsar Alekseyev II, the Zuyevan army suffers a series of reverses in the campaign of 979-981 AC. The humanoids have finally united under a strong leader - Vacek Jawbreaker - an orc of exceptional cunning. With dissension at home rising at these continued failures, Tsar Alekseyev II personally takes command of the war. This proves to be a disastrous step. The reverses continue and Vacek even succeeds in sacking Kulikovo's two satellite fortresses of Kustany and Aktynkidze in 983 AC. The blame for these losses falls squarely on the Tsar, where before it had been falling on his generals. After a series of riots in 984 AC, the Dubyshev Princes lead an uprising against the Tsar. Initially the rebel forces make considerable incursions into Imperial territory, assisted by military equipment and financial assistance from the Yezchamenid Empire. Vyamisgrad and Kirov fall to the rebels in 985, and in 986 rebel troops from Anzhero and Krasnavodsk capture holdout imperial forces in Archangelsk. Also in 986, Ryazan is sacked by rebel forces and even Kharkav falls under siege by rebel troops from Surgut and Dubyshev.

The summer of 987 sees a turning in the tide of the war however. Imperial forces under the leadership of one of the greatest Zuyevan generals of all time, Marshal Steyev, begin to beat back the Dubyshev forces. Kirov is liberated and the Imperial forces press north to break the siege at Kharkav. In so doing, they allow Talmav units to move southwards to assist the Imperial forces. With Dubyshev forces holding impenetrable positions in the Tashkent Khrebet, Imperial troops are forced to swing south along the Vyamis River. In 988 the rebellion is finally broken with the defeat of rebel forces at the epic battle of Vyamisgrad. The rebellion quickly falls apart as Imperial forces had clearly gained the upper hand. Rebel troops in Anzhero saw the way the war was turning and sided with Marshal Steyev. This support was critical, as Anzheran troops held the strategic Aska Pass - preventing rebel reinforcements from Archangelsk from reaching Dubyshev in time to save it from the Imperial Army.

Despite his victory, Tsar Alekseyev II was politically disgraced, and much of the Empire's economy was in ruins. The nobility forced his abdication in favour of his young son, Andrei III. While only a young man of 19, this was a most fortunate move for the Zuyevan Empire, for Andrei III was energetic and dynamic, and a gifted leader. Tsar Andrei revitalised the Empire, crushed internal dissent, and focused the Empire on expansion once again. This led to colonising drives to the south of the Empire - fortuitously establishing the town of Zybirsk in the south-western hinterlands. This is a particularly mineral rich area, and soon gold, silver, electrum and other metals were winging their way back to the centre of the Empire.

Of far more significance however, was Tsar Andrei's financing of insurgency within the Yezchamenid Empire, a technique he learnt from the Yezchameni themselves. With the death of Shah-an-Shah Mayzar Yezchamenid during 997 in a "hunting accident", and the crowning of his four year-old son, Andrei seized the chance to capture the Yalu River Delta. Launching a lightning attack, the Zuyevans seized a large swathe of Yezchameni territory, effectively cutting the zatrap of Dradze off from the rest of the Empire. Most importantly, the Zuyevans finally have access to the Yalu Bay. Tsar Andrei immediately founds the naval base of Kishinev at the mouth of the Yalu River, and establishes a bastion of forts around the Yalu River estuary. The zatrapy of Drazde becomes de-facto independent of the Yezchamenid Empire in 999, but the authorities in Dravya, the capital city, are divided between the supporters of Zuyevo and those still loyal to their old motherland and the now seven year old Shah-an-Shah.