Fireborn: Dark Phoenix
[Map Key: Yellow Borders; Allies are NUMBERED, provinces are marked with ‘S’]
It is widely acknowledged that the second great flowering of Uruk culture, globally, came about because of the formation of the Sacred Empire – the official formation of which, in the year 0 Era Imperium (EI), now demarcates the world’s unified calendar; even the Elves have adopted it, labelling other years backwards as Imperium Prioram (IP). The military genius of the First Emperor, Bartus of House Augustin, helped carve out a safe niche within which to begin turning the nomadic and militaristic horse-tribes into armies, towns and city-states; and the economic vision of the merchant-prince Talras Guilder enriched the nascent Empire beyond all expectations. Both men were deified by the priests of Urakan (as indeed many were in the Nomadic tradition); but in these two mens’ cases, the mighty Overdeity himself agreed, making both into incarnate deities in their own right. The God-Emperor Bartus still resides in the Imperial Capitol (though he attempts to abstain from politics where possible, only ruling as Regent when the heirs to the throne are incapable of ruling effectively); and the God of Wealth Talras is worshipped throughout Imperial and other lands, his Church’s riches utterly legendary, and his favour worth – literally – a King’s ransom.
The first truly significant nations outside the Empire began life as Imperial colonies, usually established by the Talras Trading Company in its heyday to support trade routes to new and distant lands. In those early days, oceangoing ships were rare and the Empire could spare few naval resources; colonial governors in their small towns and plantations, quickly realised that paying taxes to a distant Emperor was pointless when they neither gained from doing so, nor ran much risk by refusing to; a wave of independence declarations occurred throughout the 3rd century, long before seafaring was commonplace and reliable enough for entire armies to be sent on overseas campaigns with an expectation of victory. The key upshot of this is that many major nations share similar cultural roots, even though the divergences are large and growing.
Approaching 2,000 years old, the Empire in 1932EI is a large and bloated entity; there are hundreds of regional governors and layers of bureaucracy that slow the legal processes down to a crawl; corruption outside the Imperial heartlands is endemic; there remains much undeveloped land and hugely unequal wealth distribution; and there are growing ethnic and religious tensions internally. Industrialisation has wreaked havoc on traditional social structures and brought great wealth to some (including many outside the ‘normal’ social spectrum), and but also brought great poverty (including to some prominent provinces and families).
The Empire has coped better than some nations at dealing with the consequences of technological advancement, having been forewarned by the massive scale of social disintegration in the Cyraean Duchies (where industrialisation began); policies to restrict Dragonborn populations without the divisive spectre of mandatory euthanasia were drafted, social projects to build infrastructure and provide state welfare to unemployed workers were enacted, and political dialogue was deliberately and subtly tilted to be more open and inclusive. Efforts were made to resolve the growing problem of Dragonborn criminal gangs, the ‘sewer rats’ of freedmen hiding in the shadows of most major cities beyond the easy reach of the law; but they remain a major problem and a major force in many urbanised regions.
However, this level of upheaval did cause sufficient worry and instability that for well over a century now, the Empire’s gradual conquests and assimilations of minor nations have stalled dramatically. Such periods have come before; but this one may not yet be close to ending, since the Empire remains unstable. Their major rival, the Cyraean Republic, is actively pushing its advantages in this respect; their grand social projects resonate with the dispossessed working classes of the world, and their military is large and techologically advanced. They might win a war against the Empire in its current state; but they fear to act in case the threat forces unity amongst the Empire’s factions, for a united Empire moving back to a war economy would be a force beyond their power to stop, in the long term. But the Empire fears being the instigator of any such conflict despite their potential advantages, for fear that partisan divisions amongst rival bureaucracies and provinces would derail the war effort and hand victory to their enemies – which would be a death knell for the Empire.
Dragonborn can legally be free in the Empire, but such hefty taxes are levied on freedmen Dragonborn that many are forced into debt – and hence back into slavery. They have few legal protections and are decisively third-class citizens; but by the same token, a few wily Dragonborn are able to make significant amounts of money, and money can buy protections that the law does not grant to second-class citizens.