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The Fall of the First Empire
Once, there were no curses, and the Plague Lands flourished under some other name. The land beyond the plague was once connected to the lands of Saloondria, and great nations lost to our histories dealt with us, sharing technologies and culture. In the Plague lands themselves, farmers reaped bountiful harvests from healthy soil. Forests and rivers, plentiful wildlife, a paradise in a different world. The Cursed King changed this. And in doing so, changed our world forever.
While most information on the Great Collapse is obscured by the countless libraries and cities consumed by the Plagued Lands, the city of Hatbrim was one of the few survivors. And to some degree, we believe that this city might be indicative of why the larger empire fell.
And even then, the city of Hatbrim had barely survived, having ignited a great flood to insulate itself from the carnage abroad. The following infighting left much of its surviving legacy a shattered echo of its former strength.
Drowning the City
It is estimated that the flourishing city of Hatbrim approached a population of half a million at the height of its empire, a city that would dwarf the largest in the modern world. So many people that just by sheer chance you would create such art and wealth that the world today could never dream of.
Great architects constructed ancient wonders, the nation-built roads, aqueducts, they drained what is now Hatbrim Bay and held back the sea with seawalls the size of dragon lairs. To think this was lost with the actions of so few...
Not just the people, but the body of work they collectively would create, the value they had and would add to our world-- there has been no greater tragedy.
The fall began with semantics, with hubris and with pride. The greatest knights, those who had won their riches through the conquest of the outer cities and the savage countries, they were old and their children were pampered. They changed their names in search of greater and greater wealth and prestige, because in the old First Empire, and indeed in Hatbrim still today, there is more in a name than in an action, more in a name than a place or a person. So the powerful families, the Millers, the Stones, the Honeypots, the Beavertons, and the Swordcrafts, they changed. It was no longer enough to have provided with empire with a trade, a commodity, no. Your family had to be better off than that if you wanted anything out of it. Better off than was possible to be.
And as the families grew more powerful, the laws grew harsher. For falsely accusing a well standing person of standing less well than their name would imply, the punishment was lifetime imprisonment. For slandering a name while safely living inside governmentally funded prison walls, the punishment was death. Naturally, this did not sit well with the commoners, those who could not afford to change their name frequently enough to climb the social ladder and escape their caste. Disgruntled became unhappy which became upset and then finally restless. Revolution was brewing in the heart of Hatbrim.
Although, it would be a foreign catalyst to start the war. Because hundreds of miles away, on the edge of the empire, a far more apocalyptic threat was oozing like tar out of a certain dark forest in a certain haunted town forgotten by the empire the day after its conquest, when it had been turned over to a local feudal lord.
His Last Order, 13 P.P.
An illustration of final moments of Duke Great VII, stabbed from behind.
Wizards were summoned to the courts, and when none could explain the phenomenon, the Duke turned to sages and shamans and even warlocks. The battlemages, those knights which dealt in magic rather than with steel, were deployed to the encroaching warzone to hold off the monsters now entering freely into the Empire.
Overnight the revolution began. Now that the battlemages had left the city, there was none that could stand against the numbers of enraged commoners. Because while the Duke had dealt with the ailments of the outskirts, he had ignored the disease taking over his own heart. With the support of the upper middle class, the castles were bombarded from the lower city, with their own cannons stolen from the armory. The government knights clashed with the squires and too with those knights loyal to the commoner plight. Hundreds died the first night. Thousands would die in the following week before the battlemages returned.
Finally, a letter was sent to the nobles of the city. “Make your way to Hatbrim Palace before Sunday to receive your rations and accommodations.”
“I sometimes wish the Duke had gotten what he wanted, that the revolution had been quelled, that the Duchy of Saloondria had lived on for a little while longer. It would have been preferrable to what actually happened.” On the morning of the sixteenth day of the Revolution of Hatbrim, the people of the burning city awoke to the sounds of the fires being put out. Put out not by buckets of water or wagons of sand, but by a single wave, 40 feet tall, the ocean taking back the lower city after breaching the magical seawalls. A city of half a million people reduced to a handful of thousands, those lucky enough to be out of the lower city or contained within Hatbrim fortress’s walls.
The Duke was finally alone, devoid of true power, but he didn’t yet know it. He ordered his remaining knights to round up the surviving rebels of our remaining city. Fifty feet of water between them and their cousins, their friends. Three hundred thousand dead or missing in a matter of minutes. What was three, four, five dozen more? A drop in an endless sea.
It was another noble of low standing who cared, who valued that drop. Sir Ivan Verywellindeed, who no longer found pride in his name, nor who had the energy to be amused by it. Dressed only in plain clothes, too disgusted to wear his noble garb, and a jagged dagger hidden among the folds. The execution began, but instead of fifty bodies of commoner heroes dumped into the river that day, there were only two. The pompous Duke who had genocided his own people, and the only man brave enough to say enough was enough. Ivan was cut down by the Duke’s royal guard, but not before he’d gotten in half a dozen cuts, crunched into and broken the brittle bones beneath the expensive fabric.
Nobody knows what exactly ended the First Empire. None alive today by natural means have personal stock in the tragedy. But we do know how a revolution came and went in the city of Hatbrim. And perhaps the Cursed King was merely another rebel in the vast empire, with the Plagued Lands emerging as a wave of self-destruction meant to stop him from succeeding.
This preserved letter is among the most important artifacts of Hatbrim’s collapse. It was privately delivered to upper class families in the city of Hatbrim. Most households did not care to to bring most of their servants, serfs, and employees in order to secure more of the promised payment for themselves Little did they know that this would mean the death of everyone left behind.
Hatbrim was home to a budding impressionism movement. This meant that some artists would paint with an emphasis on brush strokes over lines and contours. Famous early impressionists would paint subjects from unusual angles, or emphasize transient moments of sunlight en plein air. The movement was extremely controversial among the art community as lazy and unrefined. However, as time went on, it was seen as an exciting new art style that could vividly paint the “impression” of a fleeting moment.
Impression of Hatbrim's Fall, painted in xx/xx/xx
When the city of Hatbrim burst into flames, one lesser known artist decided to implement this style in capturing the moment. In a stroke of genius, he decided to ride his pegasus to paint the city from the same angle he used in an earlier study. Not only was he lucky in capturing the exact moment of waves tumbling through his city, but he was lucky to escape with his art and life in tact. On the right is a modern day interpretation of the artist’s work, juxtaposing its modern appearance with its dark beginnings.
This preserved letter is among the most important artifacts of Hatbrim’s collapse. It was privately delivered to upper class families in the city of Hatbrim. Most households did not care to to bring most of their servants, serfs, and employees in order to secure more of the promised payment for themselves. Little did they know that this would mean the death of everyone left behind.
The crest above represents the Great family, the heads of Saloondria from 419 B.P. to 1 B.P. While you may now recognize it as a common opium brand or an ultranationalist symbol, it actually has its roots in Saloondrian history.