Here follows an account of the Imperial Ambitions 2 Megagame which was held last Sunday. Huzzah!
|The Emperor's Opening Address|
The War of the Prophet began with a fire in Lothia. For years tensions in Othonia had been brewing, as two men, Godrey of Thallen and Osric of Vathia, claimed the mantle of Prophet of the Faithful. The realm was a powder keg, and the Duchess of Bergent set it off with her arson. Using her loyal merchants as cover, her people set fire to the wharf and its warehouses, at the same time causing a barfight with sailors from Gallenon and spreading false propaganda ostensibly showing that it was these foreigners that caused the fires. The Emperor Maximillian summoned the ambassador from Gallenon who categorically denied the allegations. Worried about his ability to control the Imperial Fleet and growing distrustful of his old ally in Bergen, the Emperor reached out to the Osilian city of Rosina, asking for shipbuilders. When this was denied them (as Rosina wanted no more Imperial ships built), the Emperor’s spymaster began a plot to kidnap them.
Fearing another foreign war caused by his own vassals, the Emperor asked the Diet for emergency powers to revoke titles from traitors and those who might entangle the empire in wars abroad. The Diet voted to pass this measure, with only Bergen and Appenia refusing them. While perhaps they could not know it, in the end it would be this vote that destroyed three of the Empire’s noble houses. Shortly after, the Emperor tried and failed to annex the floundering Duchy of Rancona via another vote.
|A flier from Bergen's "false flag" operation against Gallenon.|
While the Duchess of Bergen agitated for war with Gallenon as punishment for their supposed arson, the Empire would soon face a war on another front entirely. The Imperial Fleet left Bergen laden with troops from Bergen, Thallen and Essen, and headed south to Osilia. The force’s plan was to capture the island of Rosina, hoping for plunder in the rich merchant city as well as to obtain a base from which to strike at their enemies in Vathia. The invasion failed, as Rosina’s fleet was slightly superior to the Empire’s, and fought in its home waters for the defense of its own land. Several ships were lost along with their troops before Bergen’s general ordered a withdrawal from the Osilian Sea. With the battle, all Imperial assets in Rosina were seized and the plot to kidnap their shipbuilders was exposed.
|The Duchess of Bergen, with her General and Ambassador|
At the same time, the Duke of Appenia was hatching his own plans. For years Appenia had been planning its own rebellion, intending to break from the Empire and join their fellow Osilians in the Federation. Hoping to stoke a war between the Empire and Gallenon, the Duke gave orders to his general to raid their neighbor. Unfortunately, due to the poor maps used at the time, the General marched Appenia’s troops south instead of west, besieging the Osilian city of Torrecino, a city that had only reluctantly agreed to support Appenia’s entry into the Osilian Federation.
|The Duke of Appenia consults his team.|
The Ambassador from Rosina approached the Emperor in the name of the whole Federation. While the Emperor insisted that the actions against Osilia were the result of just a few rebels, specifically Thallen and Bergen, the ambassador pointed out that this was clearly a two-pronged invasion of Osilian lands, and reminded the Emperor of his treachery in the matter of the shipbuilders. The Emperor was horrified to hear the ambassador declare a state of war between the Empire and the Federation. Osilian armies began to move north, beginning with Provenzano’s invasion of Appenia. The Prophet and Duke of Vathia, Osric, sent his armies to Appenia’s aid, but they were defeated outside the walls of Goriza, Appenia’s capitol, suffering terrible losses.
Appenia meanwhile met with Torrecino’s ambassador, and apologized profusely for the misunderstanding. They promised to withdraw their troops and pay restitution for any losses suffered. As the invasion had thus far been bloodless, Torrecino agreed. The Osilians would withdraw from Appenia, but the trust between the duchy and the Federation was broken, forcing the Duke of Appenia to change his strategy. Instead of betraying the Empire, he would remain loyal to it.
|The War Map|
While Provenzano would withdraw from Appenia, lifting the siege on its capitol, the Vathian city of Fulci was not so lucky. Rosina, out for vengeance, landed a force outside the city, and blockaded it from the sea. Even when other Osilian Ambassadors agreed to a ceasefire with the Emperor, and all other Osilian armies withdrew, Rosina refused to leave without punishing the Empire. With Vathia’s forces decimated in Appenia, no one could save the city. It was sacked and plundered by Rosina’s forces, who then finally withdrew, leaving the Empire’s only southern port a smoldering ruin.
With that, the brief war with Osilia ended, but the real conflict was about to begin. Osilian diplomats, some still hoping for good relations with Appenia, reserved most of their ire for their old trade rivals in Bergen. The Emperor had warned the Dukes not to involve themselves in foreign affairs, and they had themselves passed the law making it treason to do so, allowing even for the revocation of their titles in such a condition. Armed with these emergency powers, the Emperor summoned the Duke of Thallen, Godfrey, to court. Arriving with an armed escort, the Duke met with the Emperor, advised by the Archbishop of Osten, his loyal ally who fully believed him to the be the True Prophet.
|Godfrey, the Prophet of Thallen (right), and his team|
The Emperor berated Godfrey, refusing to recognize his authority as prophet and reminding him that he was a Duke of the realm first, and moreover Marquis of the West, responsible for defending the border with Gallenon. He demanded to know why the Duke had left the border denuded of troops and attempted to invade Rosina. Godfrey explained that he was only trying to spread the message of God to heathens. The Emperor raged that the people of Rosina were part of the church, and not accepting Godfrey as a Prophet did not make them heathen. When Godfrey and his Archbishop could not give any further account of their reasons for going to war, the Emperor had him locked in a tower in a manner supporting his dignity as Duke. Godfrey’s men, seeing their Duke seized, were ready to act, but their lord bid them stand down. His ambassador to the court was not so lucky, and was thrown in a dungeon and tortured unsuccessfully for information.
News of their Prophet’s arrest sent shockwaves through the western lands of the Empire. In response, the Duke of Osten confirmed his allegiance to Godfrey, and formalized the arrangement by arranging a marriage alliance with Bergen. They began to plot the escape of Godfrey, as Maximillian in turn summoned the Duchess of Bergen to court. Fearing she would share her cousin’s fate, she refused the summons. The Emperor berated her ambassador for this, but hesitated to fire her as Master of Coin, perhaps still holding out hope that his family’s old allies in Bergen could be brought back into the fold.
One night, a cadre of brave men from Osten stole into the Imperial palace, and in a feat of daring, sprung their Prophet free from captivity. He was not missed until he had nearly reached Thallen’s army, which had begun to mass on the border of the Crownlands in case the plot failed. With that, there could be no denying it – the realm was locked in a civil war. The Mosslings were declared traitors to the crown, and the Duchy of Thallen promised to the Kreitels of Essen who had proved surprisingly loyal to the Emperor.
|The Emperor's ambassador meets with Osten's dignitaries|
Of course, the Kreitels had their own plans. Their Duchess had been raised a hostage at court after the treasons of the previous generation. She had made friends there, including with the Emperor’s own Ambassador, who ever since had occasionally slipped her information and even a fair amount of the Emperor’s funds. Yet there were darker plots afoot in Essen, plots that no one else suspected. Two Alchemists had been brought from Gruga in the south to their home, and given funds and space to counterfeit gold for the Kreitels, and to prepare for a more insidious plot to come. One of these alchemists, Lucio of Gruga, demanded space in the basement to work undisturbed. Seeing the results of his work enriching them, the Kreitels turned a blind eye to the peasant children that vanished from their cradles. Lucio, happy to at last be free to practice his dark experiments, worked tirelessly for his new masters, and from the east obtained the fresh corpse of a man afflicted by the Blood Plague which previously had only afflicted the isolated savages of the pagan east. Carefully bringing it to Othonia, Essen arranged for its spread into Trebonia and the Duchy of Imbros, both of which had territory Essen hoped to reclaim. All the while, the Kreitels seemed to serve the Emperor loyally.
While all of this trouble was brewing, the Duke of Imbros worked tirelessly to protect his assets, especially in Lothia. Despite the setback caused by the fire, he invested tremendous funds to improve the city’s defenses, both its walls and seaward defenses, including a strong harbor chain and catapult emplacements. His armies, along with the Emperor’s, moved to secure the city from any further aggression. It was just in time. An overwhelming large combined Bergen/Thallen force marched on the city, there to be met by the Master of Horse and Imperial Forces. A massive battle raged outside the walls of the colony, known after as the Battle of Lothia, a battle which began to turn the tide against the Thallen Prophet. When the sun set on the blood-drenched field, only one small group of troops loyal to Thallen were able to slink away from the carnage. It was a terrible reversal for the Prophet’s men. Additionally, the Duchess of Bergen narrowly survived an attempt on her life, originating from Essen but actually paid for by her very own Ambassador. Luckily for her, her paranoid nature led her to take precautions others might consider excessive, and she escaped the attempted poisoning.
|The army of Imbros marches to protect Lothia|
At the same time, the Duke of Osten moved his armies into neutral Rancona, burning and pillaging as they went, trying to show the people that they could not count on the Emperor’s protection. Shortly thereafter, what was left of the Diet approved the Emperor’s second request to absorb the Duchy. Or rather, what was left of it – Osten’s force took Rancona’s ancient castle of Etren. The Old Duke’s heart gave out during the assault, ending the ancient von Sulner line, and it is considered a mercy that he did not live to see captivity, nor the stones of his ancient castle torn down to their very foundations by Osten’s brutal army. When finished with the Etren, Osten’s army moved north to threaten the Crownlands themselves, but the Emperor’s forces, combined with those of victorious Imbros, marched south to meet them and set them to rout. With his enemies on the run, the Emperor summoned what remained of the Diet and demanded he be allowed to annex ravaged Rancona to the Crownlands. They unanimously approved.
Forced back into their homelands, the Dukes of Thallen, Bergen and Osten decided that a change was needed. They swore that the Old Empire was finished, and that a new realm must be created, a Holy Empire, led by their new King and Prophet Godfrey. The Prophet Godfrey raised his loyal Archbishop to the title of Matriarch of the Faithful, and in turn, she crowned him King of the new theocratic Kingdom of Westonia. Godfrey addressed his new nation, calling for a Holy War against the false Emperor and false prophet Osric. All Thallen, Bergen and Osten rejoiced, and fresh troops mustered to the new Kingdom’s capitol at Aarsthul in Thallen. The new “Army of the Faithful” was even larger that the forces destroyed by the loyalists in the Battles of Lothia and Rancona.
In response to this news, the Patriarch was forced to take a side. Petitioned by both Archbishops for years to choose between the two rivals, he had done nothing, attempting to avoid strengthening any potential rival to his religious authority. Cautious at first, he sent an emissary to the new Matriarch of Westonia to clarify her position. Would she subordinate herself to the Patriarch? She claimed full independence, desiring friendly relations with her “equal”, the Patriarch. Infuriated, the Patriarch gave his full support to Osric, who promised a public statement of subordination to the Patriarch and the Church Hierarchy, and offered both money and troops to the Emperor to help him put down this revolt.
|The backs of the Archbishop of Leros (left) and Osten (right)|
At the same time, Gallenon sought to take advantage of the situation as well. Initially, they had hoped to offer support to the Westonian King in exchange for the Duchy of Avresil, but by that time the Patriarch had made his position clear. Fearing more internal dissent, they offered a marriage alliance to the Emperor instead. This would give them an opportunity for plunder in Thallen, and perhaps if Westonia sufficiently weakened the Emperor, permanent holdings in the West. If not, an alliance would give them a free hand in Osilia in future years. The Emperor agreed, and Gallenic troops began to march into Western Thallen.
As massive armies marched towards the Crownlands, plague soon reached even the capitol. Suspicious wagons of sick people were stopped at the border of Osten, but when the authorities attempted to interrogate the drivers, they themselves caught the Blood Plague, spreading it into Osten. The Plague seemed to be nearly everywhere in the North, save only Essen, which had been careful to allow no one to cross their borders, and kept their castles sealed up tight. With all attention focused on the coming battle in the crownlands, no one noticed this. The south was thus far untouched as well. The disappearance of Essen’s children was beginning to be noticed however, and aldermen from the villages approached their Duchess with their concerns. They suspected the alchemists of black arts, and begged the Kreitels to be rid of them. Knowing that disaster awaited if they were exposed, the Kreitels decided to give up not Lucio, but another less useful alchemist, Alessandro. Before turning him over to their Archbishop, they had his eyes plucked out, his tongue cut out, his ears cut off, and his hands amputated, so that he could not communicate any of what he knew. The church received him, horrified at the Duchess’s claims of what the peasants had done to him in their rage. The Archbishop hesitated to burn the man, turning to Osric for judgement. “Mercy above all” he said, and allowed the mutilated (and innocent) man to live out what remained of his life in a monk’s cell. Meanwhile Lucio of Gruga toiled on with his dark work on behalf of Essen.
While the Duke of Imbros had been pouring money into improving Lothia, the Duchess of Bergen had invested in a University in Bergen, hoping to lure merchants and trade back to her city. This now became useful, as she directed the faculty to investigate a cure for the plague. Initial results brought little success, and the sickness continued to spread. Yet there was hope. Osric of Vathia similarly directed his own university toward a cure, but had no better luck.
Fresh armies marched on the crownlands, even as men sickened and died of the plague. Yet rather than on the battlefield it was a dramatic moment in the palace that nearly turned the day for the rebels. Reluctant to part with his Master of Coin, even if her sister was the rebel Duchess of Bergen, the Emperor refused his advisers’ calls to fire her. This proved to be a terrible error, as with her sister’s armies approaching the palace, she collected the Emperor’s tax as usual, and then fled the city with all the funds, including the salary of the Imperial Army. With Westonia’s massive army approaching, the Emperor’s unpaid army refused to fight against the overwhelming odds, and abandoned the capitol in its hour of need. The armies of Westonia surrounded the capitol with a huge force. Within the city a spy from Thallen managed to open the nearly undefended gates, letting the armies pour into the mighty city. As it happened, the Imperial spymaster had gotten wind of some kind of plot, but didn’t know the details, perhaps fearing a threat to the Imperial person rather than the city itself. Once inside the walls Bergen’s general tried to restrain his men, but they disobeyed him, pillaging the heart of the empire in an orgy of violence. It is perhaps for this reason that the Emperor was able to slip safely out of the city and make for his nearby citadel of Durstein. It was a near thing, and marked the high water mark of Westonia’s war effort.
Feeling flush with victory, the Westonian army gave chase, surrounding the citadel at Durstein. Much of the Imperial army, reinforced by the Imbrosian Master of Horse, was inside the mighty walls. Not wanting to give time for reinforcements from Vathia, Appenia and Essen to arrive to relieve them, the Westonians ordered an all out assault on Durstein’s high walls. Wave after wave tried to scale the ladders and were met with rocks, arrows, and burning pitch. The assault was a terrible failure, and the decimated army of Westonia, now gravely outnumbered by the loyalist forces, were forced to withdraw back to their own territories, bringing the plague with them into Thallen.
|Essen's armies on the march.|
Just as the plague arrived in Thallen, news came from Bergen’s university. The Matriarch had come to give her blessing to their efforts, along with the Prophet himself and his supporters. Together they prayed for the cure to this plague, and that very day, as if in a sign from heaven, the cure was found. It was announced to the world that the Prophet Godfrey had the ability to cure the plague. The cure was sent home to Thallen and Osten, but it was too late to save many.
The plague had spread further by then, as all sides tried to use the deadly disease for their own advantage. Westonia tried to use the plague in such a fashion as to infect not only the Prophet of Vathia, but the Patriarch himself Bergen ships brought it thus to Osilia and Vathia. Osric himself was approached by a victim of the plague (and secretly a fanatic partisan of Godfrey’s), begging for the Prophet to lay his hands upon him and make him whole. The Archbishop of Leros, recently raised to Cardinal for her good efforts on behalf of the Emperor and Patriarch, interceded, and begged Osric to allow her to lay hands instead, as surely his blessing was upon her. Allowing it, the Cardinal touched the man, and died only a few days later. The Patriarch, cloistered in his palace was unaffected, but Mora itself was struck, and several close to the Patriarch perished in great agony.
Around this time, the foreign forces arrived. Gallenon’s armies poured over the borders, laying siege to Thallen’s frontier castles and marching across neutral Avresil. The Patriarch’s army had sailed all the way from Mora, assisted by Rosina’s mighty fleet (eager no doubt for revenge on Bergen for it’s attempted invasion) and landed it outside the Free City of Bergen. They besieged the city while Rosina’s fleet blockaded the port. Only a handful of men were left to defend the proud city against the siege.
|Gallenon enters the war|
The Patriarch by this time had become terrified of his own mortality, and sent an emissary to beg the Duchess of Bergen for the cure to the Blood Plague. He offered her a promise that he would force the Emperor to confirm her in all her lands and issue a full pardon, if only she renounced Godfrey and the Westonian Church, giving the cure to Mora as a sign of their faith. The Duchess, unwilling to betray her cousin the Prophet, spat in the emissary’s face. In response the commander of Mora’s forces promised to burn the city to the ground around her.
True to his word, Bergen fell the next day, with His Holiness’ troops looting and pillaging the mighty city, and Rosina’s sailors looting the wharfs. In the confusion, three ships slipped the blockade, carrying the Visler family, the rulers of Bergen, out of the city with what remained of their personal wealth. They made for the sanctuary of Gruga, always distrustful of the Patriarch, where they hoped for a warm welcome. They sent a single man ashore in Thallen to inform their allies there.
|The Patriarch's forces sack the Free City of Bergen|
Thallen’s forces were by this time in full retreat, and the great castle of Beyfel in Osten was besieged by Imbros’ forces. With the Emperor’s forces and the Master of Horse hot on his tail, the Prophet found himself mobbed by faithful refugees. Among them was planted a number of assassins loyal to Essen. Overwhelming the Prophet’s bodyguards, they stabbed him to death in the midst of the crowds, giving their own lives in the process.
|Appenia's army occupies Kuttenberg, in Thallen|
News of the Prophet’s death demoralized the remaining Westonians. Desperate rumors circulated that the Prophet had risen after three days, but if these were true he failed to appear. Thallen’s castles in the West had fallen to Gallenon, Kuttenberg to the Appenians, and their last sanctuary, the Mossling’s old seat at Aarsthul, was surrounded, as was Beyfel. When Thallen’s general, the prophet’s younger brother, heard of his brother’s death, he ordered a full surrender, seeing the hopelessness of his situation. The Cassels of Osten soon followed their allies.
|The Emperor takes Aarsthul, the capitol of Thallen, ending the war|
During the surrender, some elements refused to stand down. In particular, Thallen’s spymaster refused his new Duke’s order to surrender peacefully (he hoped for clemency), instead giving his life to help the Matriarch escape the Emperor and flee to Gruga to join the Vislers. The Cassels of Osten were not so lucky. After being captured, they decided that their new accommodations simple would not do and they made a mass attempt to escape. Only one made it free, the young wife of their ambassador, heavy with child. Through her the Cassel line would live on, although the rest of the family would be beheaded by the Emperor for the attempt to flee.
As the war ended, the scholars of Vathia discovered the same cure as Bergen’s university, giving it to the Emperor and a grateful Patriarch. Many had died of the plague, including nearly half the DaCorso family of Appenia, who attempted to steal the cure from Bergen, only to accidently spread it to themselves. Now as the war ended, the plague receded as well.
But one last life had to be given before the blood could stop. The remaining partisans of the Thallen Prophet robbed Aarstul’s treasury on the night of the surrender, slipping out with the Matriarch herself. With her blessing, they made their way to Vathia. Appenian spies heard of them, and sent warning. Soldiers caught several at the border, and killed them, but others slipped through, hiding in the woods for days while they were hunted. A hundred left Aarsthul, but only five made it to the Emperor’s damaged palace, slipping through a hole made by a catapulted stone and into the compound. The Prophet Osric was meeting with the Emperor when it happened, along with the rest of his council. Screams were heard in the hall, and the men burst into the room, swords in hand. Guards cut down two of the men before being pushed back by two more, and one man, one last man, rushed towards Osric. Time seemed to slow as Osric’s face flashed from human fear to something else, something like peace. He opened his arms and gave himself to the blade. As he fell, it is said he forgave his murderer. The Emperor’s general, sword in hand, did not, and the man died even before Osric could. Slumped in his cousin Maximillian’s arms, the Prophet whispered “Mercy above all”, and perished.
|The Prophet Osric dies in the Emperor's arms, after accepting the blade of an assassin|
The War of the Prophets was over, and word of Osric’s martyrdom spread throughout war and disease ravaged Empire of Othonia. Mercy was indeed granted to the Mosslings, the Emperor allowing the family to join the Vislers in their exile. Thallen was granted to the Kreitels as a reward for their service, with a cadet branch of the family, founded by a marriage between a Kreitel (one rumored to be insane) and a Hartwin of Imbros becoming the new Dukes of Essen. The Hartwins were confirmed in their sole possession of Lothia, and the title of Margrave of the East. The Kreitels, formerly possessed of that title, accepted the position of Marquis of the West. Osten was given to some of the Emperor’s family, in particular his younger brother who had done so much of the fighting, and the strategic pass across the mountains passed to Appenia whose dukes for years had raided caravans passing through it. Now they would be charged with defending it.
The Patriarch’s force sailed from Bergen, and received news which displeased them, but about which they could do little. Essen’s force had attacked Trebonia and taken the castle Hasborn without anyone’s sanction, too quickly for anyone to stop them. With that, the Empire was made whole again. Against the Patriarch (and other Osilian Princes’) further protests, the marriage with Gallenon went forward, and after pillaging the frontier with the Emperor’s permission, their armies withdrew.
|Gallenon withdraws across the river after plundering the castle of Corday|
What would all of this mean for the Empire and the world? The War of the Prophet began a new age of centralization for Othonia, gradually turning it from a collection of feudal states into a mighty nation. With the Emperor’s lands tripled, and new legal precedents allowing for him to absorb defunct or weak titles, and those of traitors, Imperial Authority was higher than it had ever been, surpassing even the tremendous power of the early Emperors. With so much of the land held by great magnates, there would surely again be trouble and war (as the Kreitels are nothing if not ambitious), but the penalties for rebellion were now well established and all men learned to fear the Emperor’s power.
|The Emperor, with great sorrow, announces the assassination of the Prophet Osric to the Court|
The alliance with Gallenon would see a change in the politics of the continent of Eubora. With peace between the Empire and Gallenon, and the power of the eastern pagans broken, both nations looked south to expand their empires. The new age would be that of the Osilian Wars, proxy wars between the nominal allies, after Gallenon took the opportunity to seize Torrecino immediately following the War of the Prophet.
Within Osilia too, things would never be the same. Gruga had always verged on heresy, but it was soon aflame with the tales of the martyred Prophet Godfrey of Thallen. The Matriarch claimed that only he had fulfilled the prophesies, as while Osric had bowed before the established Church and Empire, Godfrey had build a new Holy Nation, however short lived. The prophesies and events of the war were soon reinterpreted to represent Westonia as a utopia, a brief heaven on earth where true justice reigned for all. Some said that the Prophet never meant it as a mortal, perishable nation, but a nation of Faith which included all who believed in him, and would only be seen by the eyes in the hereafter. The Republic of Gruga was the first to convert to this new faith, but others would follow them, and while the war was over the conflict would live on. Dukes, Princes and Kings would cynically use the minority faith to justify their wars, and some nourished the hope of bringing the faith to Othonia, especially to Thallen where the Prophet had been born, lived and died. A new Matriarch would follow the first, ruling from her seat in Gruga, and the Vislers, Mosslings, and Cassels were still to be found there for several hundred years, sitting as priests or merchants, helping to steer the Republic.
Through the War of the Prophet, the way was paved for a more unified Othonia. It would become a nation, rather than a collection of small states, though it would take many years. The Church of Mora would remain strong for a time, but the seeds of its slow weakening were sown in the war. The schism would be permanent, and while the Westonians were always a minority, their very existence of powerful nations to the North, meant that the days of the great Patriarchs had passed forever. The War of the Prophet would forever be remembered as one of the seminal events of Euboran history, the beginning of a new age.
|The Players and GMs|