The Lands of the Vreski Society
The Vreski Society was always a paradox, even to its rulers and subjects. Without doubt, at the height of its power (circa fs600-1250) the Vreski Empire had a single political structure and cultural milieu, both of which pivoted on the existence of a form of caste system where a person's position in society was largely determined by their birth.
At the time of the Imperial expansion into the south west quarter of Ewlah (starting around fs690, gt7), Vreski Society had become stratified into a number of major castes which rarely interacted with each other beyond formal occasions. People inherited their caste at birth, usually through the maternal line, and would remain part of that caste until their death. There was some separation of work between the castes - for instance lower order castes were not permitted to perform higher order caste work, and equally vice versa.
Co-operation between castes was formally controlled by Imperial edict, and informally controlled by cultural precedent. Marriage between castes was (surprisingly) permitted, but was not a common occurance. Thus the paradox: was the Vreski Empire a single Society, or was it several separate societies occupying the same space and time?
The Vreski Empire
(Dates in this section are Falah Standard: gt1200 = fs1883)
Stretching for 25 degrees of latitude south from the equator and another 25 degrees of longitude from the meridien, the Vreski Empire was one of the largest (by land area and population) and wealthiest civilisations to emerge on the continent of Falah. The Vreski homelands lay on the southern shores of Vreski bay - a huge, equatorial gulf on the northeastern side of the Reach Ocean; for many centuries the homelands had been one of a number of nation states in the area. This all changed with the rise of Erunt the Great (born fs562, ruled fs584-616) to absolute power; over the course of the next 60 orbits the Vreski Clades (armies) conquered many of the surrounding nations and established the laws and mores that would come to define the Vreski Empire.
The Vreski Empire in Falah, circa fs1100 (gt417)
conquered territories are shown in red; the modern coast is shown in outline
At its heart the Empire was a seafaring nation with its wealth and power built on trade across Vreski Bay and beyond. The peoples of Falah undoubtably knew of the existence of the continent of Ewlah, half a world away, but few had ever ventured to that land. This changed as the Vreski Empire developed, with expeditions to the 'Terrible Lands' known to have been commissioned in fs676 and 681. Evidence exists that seasonal settlements had been established in the areas around Stalhe and Petezbarre by the early fs700s. Navigation between the Empire and the Ewlah settlements was reasonably easy - they lay on the same latitude - though the voyages themselves were often fraught affairs taking many months to complete.
The Development of the Ewlah territories
(Dates in this section use the Grand Treaty calendar)
The early years of settlement were in no way planned. The official purpose of the Vreski settlements was to explore the lands of south-east Ewlah and extract raw materials in the form of precious metals; the mountain range now known as Zeesuuzh Vreskizhuush (also known at times as the Zeesash Loa Vreska, the Loa Vreska Mountains - geographical nomenclature could change on the whim of an Imperial edict) were particularly rich in copper, zinc and silver.
From the time of the first expeditions, the Imperial government had attempted to control access to the Ewlah territories, though the impact of those attempts was fairly minimal. In truth, anyone willing to risk the journey could arrive in the new world and make their mark. During those early years cultivations rapidly expanded: by the mid gt40s both Stalhe and Petezbarre were permanently inhabited and new plantations were being established further north at Hwaatiste and westwards around Louge. There's also evidence of significant attempts to establish cultivations away from the coastal lands, in particular across the Cuskesmikuu Vreskon.
Histories paint the years prior to the imposition of the Rule of the Governors as a lawless, raucous time. By gt70 the population of Stalhe was reputedly over 150,000 with the other nascent cities boasting of populations approaching 50,000. Many of the immigrants were not ethnic Vreski; rather they came from the conquered territories in Falah.
The Emperors Overseas: House Egrinta (gt62-173, 111 orbits)
In gt88 the Emperor Egrin I, who had fought a civil war to gain the Vreski throne a quarter of a century before, declared that the Ewlah posessions would become his own personal fiefdom. To enforce his decision he dispatched an army of 23 Clades (approximately 25,000 soldiers) across the globe to bring the new settlements and cities under his control - one of the most audacious military actions known to humanity.
The decision effectively stalled the nascent development of the Ewlah settlements and plantations. After successfully subjugating the cities the Emperor installed a system of governance forbidding native-born or non Vreski people from holding any substantive position in the new power structures. Fewer new cultivations were developed, with much of the resources of the local populations diverted to mining and processing the mineral wealth of the land.
Late in the reign of Moezgil I the policy of transporting convicts to the Ewlah posessions commenced; though short-lived (lasting no more than three decades), the new arrivals had a significant effect on the local populations. Land development and cultivation restarted as the population grew, and new regions were explored as the original mines and quarries were exhausted. It is also at this time that the position of Governor became hereditary with successive generations of the same family - still known as Dako the Bastard, his son Dako the Inept, and his grandson Dako the Tyrant - shipping over from Falah to take control of the posessions.
- Egrin I (gt62-95 (fs745-778), 33 orbits)
- Egrin II (gt95-119, 24 orbits)
- Solassir (gt119-123, 4 orbits)
- Egrin III (gt123-130, 7 orbits)
- Moezgil I (gt130-146, 16 orbits)
- Egrin IV (gt146-168, 22 orbits)
- Moezgil II (gt168-173, 5 orbits)
The Usurpers: House Tuskatte (gt173-207, 34 orbits)
Tuskat, then Commander of the 71st Imperial Clade, was originally sent to the Ewlah posessions with orders to conquer the Istran settlements on the eastern seaboard of the continent. The Ve Tiefe plantations have a good claim to being the oldest surviving cultivations on Ewlah, predating the first arrival of the Vreski explorers by at least five centuries. The reigns of Egrin IV and Moezgil II were a time of resumed expansion for the Vreski Empire, this time directed against the archipilagoes scattered across the Istran ocean north of the equator.
Ve Tiefe was occupied in gt165, and administered directly by the Clades. The plantations in the region were all well-established and more productive than the Vreski plantations of the time, and the captured populations were a significant new source of labour. When the Imperial Governor attempted to bring the region under his direct control the conquering Clades resisted, believing that the Emperor had other plans for the new territory. The Emperor chose to back the Governor, ordering Tuskat and the Clades back to Falah for trial.
By all accounts Tuskat's rebellion was both protracted and nasty, culminating in the destruction of a number of Vreski settlements and a widespread famine. By the time the rebels took control of Petezbarre in gt175 - the last city to remain loyal to the Emperor and his Governor - more than 15 per cent of the population were dead, and a further 10 per cent would die in the famines and plagues that wracked that quarter of the continent for a further five orbits.
The task of restoring order and peace in the now independent 'Second Vreski Empire' was left to Tuskat's successor, Moezgil III - who, as Commander of the 22nd Imperial Clade, had at first opposed the rebellion before changing sides in gt175, when he killed the last Governor, Dako the Tyrant, and opened the city of Stal to the rebel forces.
- Tuskat (gt173-182, 9 orbits)
- Moezgil III (gt182-190, 8 orbits)
- Voinder (gt190-201, 11 orbits)
- Vailynt I (gt201-207, 6 orbits)
The Vreski Theocracy
The Nations and Societies of the northwestern regions of Falah were known for their adherence to variations of a monotheistic religion; theological disputes between neighbouring states was a major driver of regional politics for many centuries. Over time the religious practices in the Vreski Empire adapted to meet the needs of the ruling classes, though the Imperial religion appears to have been in a stable phase in the fs7-8th centuries (ie the mid-first to third centuries gt).
Although religion was apparently an important part of the daily lives of both the local and transient populations in the Ewlah posessions, the religious orders and hierarchies that formed the structure of the Imperial religion had played a minimal role in the colonisation; few temples were built beyond the main cities, and the spiritual needs of most natives and convicts was met mainly by groups of priests travelling from settlement to settlement. Literacy levels across the posessions were very poor, which some scholars have argued led to the development of a more oral religious culture than had been known in Falah.
The times during and following the Tuskatti revolt were particularly harsh across the Ewlah posessions. It was in the midst of these troubles that a new variant of theological thought first developed and then rapidly spread through the local population, eventually finding converts among the Clade troops that remained in Ewlah following the establishment of the Second Empire. These people saw their God as an agent of retribution; their lives were a form of punishment and atonement for the sins of their predecessors.
The Vreski Theocracy: House Nabinta (gt207-420, 213 orbits)
The first four emperors of the Second Empire were not related to each other; each had been a Commander high in the hierarchy of the Clades before being elevated to the throne. When the fourth Emperor, Vailynt I, was killed during a typhoon (such storms regularly hit the southern and eastern seaboards of Ewlah, and have been responsible for changing the course of history on a number of occassions) he left no obvious successor.
By this time (start of the 3rd century gt) the new religionists - now remembered as the Penitent Brotherhood, though there's no indication that they formed a single, coherent body at that time - had gained a significant following throughout the ranks of the Clades. Following the death of Vailynt I a faction coalesced around the candidacy of a Clan Commander called Nabin, who could trace his lineage directly back to the second son of Egrin III. By all accounts Nabin was a weak leader who had gained his command by marrying one of Vailynt's daughters. Nevertheless, his candidature succeeded and he was declared Emperor within weeks.
For the next two centuries, the Vreski Theocracy dominated the Second Empire. While the Emperors remained the nominal fount of all powers spiritual and temporal, in practice the governance of the Empire was controlled by the Temples and almost all senior officials were drawn from the ranks of the Penitent Brotherhood. When Nabin died he was succeeded by his eldest son Vailynt II, restoring the concept of primogeniture to the inheritence of the throne.
The time of the Theocracy is remembered as a time of both stability and stagnation: total population numbers slowly increased during the third and fourth centuries while city populations slowly declined. The mining and processing of minerals ceased to be a significant part of the economy as all contact with the Empire in Falah and with other Societies such as the Istrans and the Teliks (newly arrived on Ewlah and busy establishing settlements on the southern and western coasts of the continent) were discouraged. Existing cultivations were extended, and new cultivations developed in the Cuskounuu Vreskon and the Cuskuu Laeyomon to keep pace with the rural population growth - which in turn led to the establishment of new cities: Leya-Makese was established in the late gt280s, with Twhefile following in the gt320s and Towes Hwhate a decade later.
It was also during this time that the Caste system, which had never been as robustly applied in Ewlah as it was in Falah, strengthened and deepened to become a dominant societal structure across the region. There is some evidence to suggest that settlements started to specialise in various artisan trades and activities which led later to the development of new trade-based castes.
There is also good evidence showing that technical innovations and expertise declined during this period, for instance there is a decline in the quality of art and literature, while architecture became more workmanlike and less able to withstand catastrophes such as earthquakes and storm surges. Socially, people became less mobile, both in status and in fact: prior to the Theocracy the Imperial Clades had built and maintained a network of paved roads connecting all the cities and larger settlements; within two centuries much of this network had been lost and what remained was in poor condition.
Beyond the annual toll of typhoons, there were few disasters of note during the Theocracy. A major epidemic of unknown origin - some suspect typhus - broke out in the Ve Tiefe plantation in gt327, leading to a significant depopulation of that area lasting several decades. There are also reports of apparently epidemic soil sourings in the Cuskesmikuu Vreskon during the mid gt390s.
- Nabin I (gt207-219, 12 orbits)
- Vailynt II (gt19-228, 9 orbits)
- Nabin II (gt228-245, 17 orbits)
- Rebossan (gt245-298, 53 orbits)
- Yidakan I (gt298-324, 26 orbits)
- Yidakan II (gt324-329, 5 orbits)
- Yidakan III (gt329-346, 17 orbits)
- Yidakan IV (gt346-372, 26 orbits)
- Nabin III (gt372-389, 17 orbits)
- Yidakan V (gt389-390, 1 orbit)
- Zuenniskas I (gt390-402, 12 orbits)
- Zuenniskas II (gt402-416, 12 orbits)
- Yidakan VI (gt416-420, 4 orbits)
The New Empire
The new Empire was born out of the sclerosis of the Second Empire. For more than a century before the accession of Loreis to the throne, appointments to the temple - and thus to the power structures governing the Empire - had been restricted to the families of the Religious castes. By the time of the Emperor Zuenniskas II it was apparent to many that the calibre of the governing classes was beginning to endanger the stability of the Empire.
The Great Emperors: House Loreista (gt420-490, 70 orbits)
It can be argued that Loreis (the Wily) was one of the most perceptive and able men ever to become Emperor. His political skills were evident from an early age: by the time he was seventeen he had managed to pursuade Zuenniskas II, his maternal grandfather, to declare him second in line to the throne after the Emperor's (half-wit) son, Yidakan VI, a feat achieved despite strong resistance from entrenched elements in the Temples. It is also rumoured that he played a role in the deaths of Yidakan's two young sons, and Yidakan's own early death, though no documentary evidence survives to support these allegations.
Loreis was 27 orbits old when he became Emperor. From that moment he waged a continuous war with the Temples to wrest the governance of the Empire away from them, though this war was fought through the channels of diplomacy, politics and economic innovation. By gt430 he had introduced economic reforms that transformed trading activities across the Empire; by gt440 he had managed to resurrect the by-then moribund Imperial Clades. His murder in gt443 led directly to a brief civil war known as the Purge of the Temples.
Loreis never married; he was succeeded by his bastard son Lossages (the Great) who continued and expanded upon his father's reforms. He also did more: in gt450 he commissioned the Clades to explore the lands north of the Ve Tiefe plantations, along the Smikuu Frenisonizhuu. While development of the coastal areas proved too dangerous, new settlements in the Frenuu valley were productive; the city of Samace was established in gt474.
Vailor (the Bard) succeeded to the throne on his father's death in gt472. During his reign Vailor instituted wholesale reforms of government, for instance introducing a limited form of democracy for the first time in the Empire's history - possibly influenced by increasing contacts with the Telik Lands to the west. Emulating his father, Vailor also commissioned the Clades to explore the Vaeyuu river north of Nausuu Vaeyizhuu; the first of the Jungle cities - Brhuuwane - was rapidly established in gt478, though it would be a further decade before the city and its plantations became self-sustaining.
In gt487, Vailor moved the Imperial court from Stalhe to the city of Twhefile - a political action designed to break the remaining power of the Temples over the government. Three orbits later an earthquake demolished large areas of the new capital; the Emperor died from injuries received during the disaster a few months later, following his only son and heir who had died (in mysterious circumstances) a few days earlier.
- Loreis (gt420-443, 23 orbits)
- Lossages (gt443-472, 29 orbits)
- Vailor (gt472-490, 18 orbits)
The New Emperors: House Manikta (gt490-668, 178 orbits)
The loss of Vailor, alongside much of the governing executive, led to a time of chaos across the Empire. For six orbits various factions vied for power, with Maniko, a grandson of Loreis, emerging triumphant in gt487. Maniko's power base lay in a coalition of various Temple sects and Clade Commanders, backed by the city leaders of Stalhe. As a result the government moved back to Stalhe, democracy ended and the Temple, Clades and certain city Governors gained a significant share of the Emperor's power.
To combat this loss of control, Maniko developed a new Court, granting his sons status as Courtesans and instituting the family-based Clan system as a mechanism for moving power away from the centre. For the next century and a half the Empire became a place governed by the intrigues of the Court as Clade and Temple factions fought with the Clans for control of various economic activities and markets, which could then be used to purchase influence at the highest reaches of the government. A level of corruption that had rarely been seen in the Empire now became the norm.
The time of the New Emperors also marked a degradation in the fabric of Vreski Society. State slavery as a form of judicial punishment was introduced early in Maniko's reign, alongside a right allowing the Clans to own and trade people from certain Castes. More general trading beyond the borders of the Empire was discouraged, leading to a fall in the quality of the goods and services available to the public.
Even so, the development of the Jungle Cities continued, as the interior regions became the source of both staple and exotic raw goods. Paved roads were built linking the newly opened Nausuu Buerhameshizhuu to the coastal regions in the south and east. The cities of Ferhe and Kantagwafe were established in the late gt510s, with Viyame following in gt528. Bassakesh (the Golden City) developed much later, in the early gt600s, as a result of the Vedegga dye trade - the inexplicable popularity of which caused a number of economic difficulties during the course of the 7th century.
As the fabric of the Vreski Society slowly degraded, so the incidence of disease - and the impact of routine disasters such as typhoon strikes - grew. Of particular note is the destruction of the city of Louge on the orders of the Emperor Loemattak in gt562, following the outbreak of a virulent pneumonic plague in that city at the end of the previous orbit. In contrast, it seems that the ravages of the Great Disaster - the appearance of the polar ice cap in the north with the attendant falls in sea level and climate change - had little direct effect on the Empire.
The reign of Lokiduer, the last of the New Emperors, is particularly remembered as a time of civil discord. During the early part of his reign the Clan families took to battling each other in a low-level war known as the Clan Strife. Lokiduer never married; his death (after the longest reign of any Emperor in Ewlah) triggered renewed conflict between the Clans, leading to the outbreak of a civil war - remembered as the Time of Strife - which was to rage for more than three decades and result in the final collapse of the Vreski Empire.
- Maniko (b. gt460; r. gt490-524, 34 orbits)
- Iduer (b. gt495; r. gt524-541, 17 orbits)
- Loemattak (b. gt522; r. gt541-589, 48 orbits)
- Jerannas (b. gt566; r. gt589-607, 18 orbits)
- Lokiduer (b. gt587; r. gt607-668, 61 orbits)
The Last Emperors: House Arallta (gt668-705, 37 orbits)
- Puusen (b. gt627; r. gt668-691, 23 orbits)
- Belas (b. gt669; r. gt691-705, 14 orbits)
The post-imperial Lands
While the date of the collapse of the Empire is often given as gt705, with the killing of the last Emperor, Belas (the Terrible), in battle, the truth is that the death of the Empire was a long and protracted affair over the course of the previous century. The Empire that Belas ruled was much diminished: the Northern Territories that became the Land of Frejige declared their independence in gt676; the Jungle cities (eventually the Land of Cieyevrheske) followed suit in gt690. Plague decimated the populations of the Ve Tiefe plantations - worked mostly by slaves - in gt695, leading to its rapid abandonment; it was more than a century before that region was repopulated by Istran settlers, when it became the Land of Yilstrhe.
For the rest of the Empire's territory, the 8th and 9th centuries were a period of fragmentation. Cities and settlements were left to their own devices, with some thriving and others collapsing as disease struck communities and soil sourings became more common. Petty wars over scarce resources were often fought - the deadliest of which was the fifteen orbit conflict between the cities of Stalhe and Hwaatiste, which only ended when the Hwaatiste forces put their oppontent's city to the flame in gt888.
The 10th century saw a return to sanity as the concept of the Land as a form of government finally found adherents in the Vreski heartlands. The cities of Twhefile and Hwhate joined together as the Land of Laeyoemavrheske in gt919; in the north the cities of Hwaatiste and Leya-Makese agreed a union as the Land of Vrheskiyose in gt930. The Land of Vrheskidiese was proclaimed in gt971 when the joint forces of the cities of Belatanese and Petezbarhe finally defeated those of Stalhe, killing forever that city's dreams of Empire.
The ravages of the past five centuries has left a profound mark on the psyche of the Vreski Society. Much of that part of the continent remains closed to outsiders, with little in the way of trade between the Vreski heartlands and the rest of the continent. The Temples no longer exist - the commonfolk have apparently abandoned their old, monotheistic religion in favour of local cults and superstitions. In recent decades there has been a sustained effort - particularly by the Istran and Telik lands - to change this situation: the region is believed to have much to offer in the way of raw materials and useful produce, particularly given the advancements over the past century in modern technologies and agricultural practices.