Jun 19, 2008
After the discovery of the first lodestone, the wizards of the Kingdom of Solanthis developed a means by which they could detect and follow the leylines of the world. Some research on the matter already existed—the great cities of the eladrin were believed to travel upon the leylines. One great scholar, Hemedices, had created charts of the appearance locations of these cities. The tome was considered, at the time of its writing, an interesting but generally useless book of facts and dates—the eladrin cities
did not appear with the regularity of the phases of the moons, but instead exactly when and where the eladrin wished them to appear. While Hemedices had intended to find a routine of appearance for each city separately, he did not attempt to combine his data sets upon a map. When the wizards of Solanthis did this, a very clear pattern emerged—a map of the leylines.
The last king, Gosus II, commissioned an expedition to the nearest possible lodestone. The journey would take them well beyond the natural borders of Solanthis, and through regions that humans had dared not venture since Pelor himself had granted the kings their Sun Crown. The legends of Pelor shining his radiant, protective light upon the great downs of Solanthis’ verdant domain had explained the fertile region, and why humans had long ago come together and claimed the land, forsaking many of the more harsh wild regions, but had resulted in a healthy degree of paranoia when it came to venturing into the dark forests and ancient ruins of the fallen empires. The hostile, and sometimes even outright spiteful monsters that paced in the shadows gave credence to this belief.
While previous expeditions into the wild had used large military forces, and long, heavily guarded supply trains, the wizards’ plan called for foraging, the guidance of amiable wilderness cultures, and the construction of permanent teleportation circles. The first expedition was able to make fast time through the uncharted forests and marshes of the wild, and established the first waystation three hundred miles from the border of Solanthis. This construction tested the expedition harshly, for while a wooden garrison was assembled in the span of days from the clearance of the local forest, the construction of the teleportation circle met setback after setback. All told, three months had passed before it was finished, and the numbers of the expedition had dropped considerably as foragers went missing, and sickness took its toll.
When it was completed, a portal allowed many members of the expedition to return home to Solanthis instantaneously. Replacements were brought to the waystation, and the expedition continued. Many had argued that the expedition had spent more time building than marching.
The first holding was constructed by Telsis, the first son of King Gosus II, upon a high hill on the far edge of the aptly named Trollmere that the first expedition crossed. Within five years, the second lodestone location was uncovered, and Solanthis’ production of residuum doubled.
The Foundation of the Empire
Gosus II was ailing by the time the first Holding was in complete operation. The noble houses of Solanthis were at that point actively competing for the rights to own land in proximity to the holding, their eyes looking to unclaimed lands in proximity to a vast undertaking—the construction of the holding’s castle town. Managing the noble houses would fall on the shoulders of Telsis, not Gosus II.
Upon word of his father’s failing condition, Telsis returned to Solanthis as quickly as the messenger had arrived via the holding’s teleportation circle. He had born an iron crown in his holding, and one advisor argued that the Sun Crown be remade to reflect that the Kingdom of Solanthis now consisted of two points—one of gold and another of iron. Telsis declined the Sun Crown entirely. He declared that he would grant one of the noble houses the right to continue his work at the holding in exchange for a large percentage of its residuum production. He also declared that no noble house would truly own a holding, but would reside there so long as they obeyed his edicts.
Thus, an empire was born. During Telsis’ reign, two more lodestones were discovered. Through a series of edicts, all of which are still viewed as the keystones of Imperial civilization, Telsis gave conditional power to the noble houses which both showed the greatest loyalty and, perhaps more importantly, showed the greatest competency when it came to managing their holdings. While the noble houses of the Kingdom of Solnanthis were constantly in turmoil, unable to expand beyond the safety of the downs and into the wild, now there was only peace—openly at least, as each house sought to curry favor with the Emperor.
The Eladrin Issue
When the wizards of Solanthis had studied Hemedices’ works intent upon the expansion of the empire across the leylines, they must have realized that doing so would mean that any future empire would be an entirely porous territory, especially to the eladrin. Their beautiful, high-spired cities of ivory followed the trade winds of the feywild, appearing momentarily in the material world, sometimes with no regard, or no knowledge, of the claims of other kingdoms. Although never openly hostile, the eladrin were an utterly foreign culture, and almost no success had been made with any efforts to establish diplomatic contact with any of their cities.
When Telsis’ son, Mardol II took the throne, it became clear that the eladrin would be needed for further discovery of the lodestones. The scope of Hemedices’ work, while commendably vast, and even more commendably profitable, had only revealed the location of four lodestones along the intersecting points of four leylines. The options were grim: either follow the leylines blindly for months through hostile terrain teeming with hostile peoples and beasts, or deal with the eladrin.
The wizards of the empire took to developing a ritual, the Loremaster’s Bargain, to contact the seasonal powers of the Feywild. In exchange for a series of pacts within one of the Arcane Colleges, the seasonal powers gave the humans a means of contacting one of the eladrin cities.
After much diplomatic dalliance, the eladrin city of Vesulathi agreed to help Emperor Mardol II find additional lodestones. Modern scholars are still uncovering the many subtle prices of this agreement.
By the end of the second century of Imperial expansion, the Skyfleet of Barony coursed across the forests and mountains of the land, looking for the telltale signs of lodestones—exotic locations, odd weather patterns or temperature changes, and the ribbons of light that appear with the waxing of Sehanine. Expeditions no longer risked land travel, and the alliance with Vesulathi lost much of its luster as the ever evasive eladrin were slower to commit to facts than the lookouts of the Skyfleet. It was during this time that the Skyfleet would earn more of its political leverage, as the plotting of the Githyanki came to threaten the entire Empire.
A race of militaristic builders who reside in the Astral Sea, the Githyanki watched with interest as the Empire developed in the middle world. Their agents, disloyal Imperial citizens, had been able to produce the names of several minor noble families in each Holding that made regular use of teleportation circles. After having procured hostages, the Githyanki made simple demands of the nobles—use the circles, and record exactly each location’s circles. The families complied, unaware that other families across the Empire were doing similar things. The hostages were retained until the Githyanki plot was put into motion.
Traditionally, teleportation circles are considered a poor manner of transporting military forces. Even an only moderately competent garrison can resist an invasion through a teleportation circle, given adequate preparation. The githyanki were no ordinary invading force however, and most forces, through continuous applications of the Planar Portal ritual were able to overwhelm and take control of the teleportation circles of the Holdings across the Empire simultaneously. By the time the Imperial forces had congregated at secret portals, most of the circles had already been the subject of Forbiddance rituals, and a grueling battle for the holds was waged, each hold left to their own devices. Although the githyanki were eventually fought off, with some conflicts lasting weeks as remaining githyanki took to hiding, the dangers of the portals became clear.
Today, most teleportation circles have been dismantled and relocated beyond the curtain walls of the holdings. Teleportation circles are given to the Church for the purposes of guardianship, with Angelic forms constantly in the rafters of most cathedrals that cap the portals deep within their sublevels. Also, the Arcane Colleges and Orders now deal with the Githyanki to maintain a steady peace. Although many would consider it simple protection money, the Githyanki have taken to sharing some information with the Arcane Colleges about the terrors of the Astral Sea that the Githyanki face using Imperial weapons and armor. Although the politics of the Astral Sea are utterly foreign to many in the Empire, the highest orders of wizards still discuss the dangers of giving the Githyanki the means they need to spread their conquests farther.
The Civilized Races
First, it is important to note that the humans of Solanthis are not the only humans of the continent. This was learned as the expeditions followed the leylines and came across other human cultures.
Second, it is important to note that the humans of the Empire are no longer simply the humans of Solanthis. Traders from unknown kingdoms arrive on the outskirts of holdings periodically, and those traders who venture through the wilderness return to their distant, unknown kingdoms with stories to tell of great cities of stone that rise above the dark forests of the world. When those travelers return, they often come with people who want to see these places, and very often those people are humans from other cultures.
Finally, it is important to note that the humans of Solanthis did not develop as an isolated race. When Pelor shone his light upon the clear downs, races traveled for hundreds of miles, following it across mountains, through forests, and even from the islands off the coast. Elves, Halflings, Humans, Dragonborn, and Tieflings came to the downs. Pelor bestowed his crown upon a human King, but many scholars argue that was based on the merit of the individual, not his race. Although the line of leaders has forever been human, the council chambers of the kings of Solanthis, and later the emperors, have hosted dwarves, elves, half elves, Halflings, dragonborn, tieflings, and eladrin. Twice, the same dwarf councilor stood regent to the throne in times of war, and the well-known Celval of Reedriver, a half-elf, was in line for the Sun Throne for three generations.
There are five known dwarven clans, and of them the Ironhelms alone have allied themselves with the Empire. Sat upon a throne of granite, dwarven kings act as ordinators, adjudicators, and executor sfor all of their clan. Dwarves of Solanthis often turn to the dwarven high court of the Ironhelm Hall to deal with their affairs, rather than trust in the courts of Solanthis, even if it means they must wait for months to present their arguments.
The Ironhelms control the Fourth Lodestone, which they had discovered long before the Empire had been established. Although not a holding, decades of trade and exchanges that mirror the relationship between the Imperial Family and the great houses effectively makes Ironhelm Hall an informal member of the Empire. The dwarven craftsmen of Ironhelm Hall enjoy the demand for their wares, and at the same time, the farmers of the Solanthis province sell their excess at premium rates to dwarven traders.
As the humans of Solanthis crossed the wild, they came to find the moon elves good friends. Although their tree-top cities are known for their beauty, the elves build upward because of the dangers of the forest floor first of all. The elves live upon the razor’s edge in the wild, settling where human nations could never take root, in the forests they call the Dark Above. Although elven cities are as far spread as human holdings, they maintain regular contact through Nature based rituals.
Unknown to the Empire, the elves have known of the leylines and lodestones since before Pelor cast his light upon the downs, and have fought the drow for control of the leylines since the schism of their race. To the drow, the leylines are the web of Lolth, stolen from the Underdark, and currently twisted into a natural force that fuels the life of the world above. To the elves, the leylines are rightfully where they belong, in the place between the Dark Above and the Dark Below, and so long as the moon is Sehanine’s, Lolth’s children will not come to control the leylines. Although the works of the elves do not center only upon their seemingly endless struggle with the drow, they do have sufficient reason to worry, that all elves are taught to survive the Dark Above so that they can one day venture into the Underdark.
While the elves seek to maintain the leylines through the natural forces of the world, the Eladrin have turned their attentions towards the politics of the Feywild. Engaging in constant dealings and strife with the cyclopses of the Feywild’s Underdark, the Eladrin’s battle strangely mirrors the elven struggle for control with the drow.
Long ago, Arkhosia the Ashen Dragon turned upon the Dragonborn and destroyed their lands. A proud warrior culture, the Dragonborn traveled across the wild, and for generations they lived as nomads, moving from land to land, selling their blades and scales for enough supplies to move on. When they arrived at the Imperial Palace of Solanthis, the Emperor saw their value, and invited them to remain as permanent members of the Imperial military forces. As another generation passed, many gained citizenship in Solanthis, and some spread out to the Holdings. Today, the Imperial Throne still maintains an elite group of Dragonborn, who are referred to as the Ashenscale, a sort of twisted homage to the ancient dragon that destroyed its own kingdom out of a maddened rage.