The Age of Phernac (300 AC to 475 AC)
The Age of Reawakening would come to its end shortly after the rise of the priest king, Zerbonopal I of Phernac, as his rule would begin a period of rapid conquest that came to see Phernac dominate much of ancient Sunar. The main method by which Zerbonopal achieved this triumph, was by embracing a number of innovative new technologies into the Phernaci arsenal and by using these to fundamentally change how his people fought wars. Through this manner, Phernac, also known as the Red City, became the first recorded hegemon over Sunar, and exerted an unprecedented amount of influence, that would not be seen for centuries after its eventual demise.
HISTORY OF THE RED CITY OF PHERNAC 300 AC - 475 AC
RISE OF THE RED CITY
RISE OF THE RED CITY
- Phernac rose to prominence around 300 AC, off the back of the large tin and copper deposits that lay strewn throughout its territory. Using these to produce bronze, the Phernaci successfully gained an advantage over their neighbors and used the material to revolutionize their army into a qualitatively better fighting force than all of their neighbors. The Phernaci furthered this advantage by being the first power, potentially anywhere in the world, to include chariots into their army. This made their army into a fast moving and and innovative strike force, that would be capable of fighting further from home for longer periods of time, against targets utterly unprepared for such a horrific weapon be deployed against them. Armies up unto this age were almost entirely made up of light infantry, archers and skirmishers, clad in leather or cloth armor, bolstered by a wooden or hide shield. As a result, most armies were especially vulnerable to the heavy, and often times bladed spokes of Phernaci chariots, which were pulled by war horses clad in near impenetrable. bronze plates. When deployed upon an unsuspecting and vulnerable flank, these chariots were essentially unbeatable, and were as such the backbone of the Phernaci army.
- The Phernaci were successful, in part, because of their innovations to the quality of their armies, but this would have amounted to little on its own if it were not also for the Red City's sudden change in doctrine under Zerbonopal I. Discarding the gentler, ceremonial style of warfare, that was widespread in Sunar at the time, Zerbonopal imposed a ruthlessly pragmatic doctrine upon his people, which saw honor fly out the window in the face of brutality, betrayal and victory. One example of this change would be how the Phernaci continued to commit to meet for battles at agreed upon locations, as was the Sunarian custom, only to instead deceitfully attack their enemies on route, ambushing them on the road, or at night, when they were most vulnerable. In these surprise attacks, the Phernaci abandoned any semblance of honor, and often took no quarter, killing their enemies to the last man more often than not, as a means of utterly wiping out an enemies fighting force. This was unheard of at the time though, as most Sunarian cities allowed their enemies to flee out of a desire to receive such a mercy themselves. Zerbonopal, however, arrogantly, but rightfully recognized the value his chariots played, and knew that he no longer needed to fight in this manner, as his armies could not really be defeated so long as the cities opposed to him continued to employ lightly armored infantry against him. Instead of simply leaving such a conflict there, and asking for terms, as tradition called for, Zerbonopal would capitalize upon his victory, by marching his army upon the now largely undefended city and laying siege to the community. Farmland would be pillaged, villages razed, entire harvests put to the torch. Through this the Red City utterly distanced itself from the older manner of war, and for the first time in centuries made war something real, which carried with it brutal and devastating consequences.
- Demanding from a besieged city tribute, or death, Zerbonopal was, unlike previous besiegers, fully capable of dealing out the latter, as the Phernaci brought with them a fearsome menagerie of new war machines to batter their way through even the thickest of fortifications. Siege towers, battering rams and ballista were all weapons deployed by the Phernaci in warfare, and came as a horrifying surprise to any city who dared refuse the Phernaci call for surrender. Early on, many city's did refuse the demand, as Phernaci expectations for tribute were far higher than what was generally seen as acceptable in this age, and most people utterly resented the Red City for its underhanded and ruthless slaughter of their army, often only a few days prior. A city who refused to surrender to the Red City, was thus, in the Phernaci mindset, completely fair game. Its walls would be breached, and the Phernaci army would assault the soft interior of the city, slaughtering and capturing the inhabitants for daring to resist the might of Phernac. Thousands would be put to the blade, with entire generations being snuffed out in a matter of hours. Temples would be looted, treasuries depleted, and homes ransacked to pay off the violent occupiers. Only then, when a blood tax had been paid would the armies of the Red City depart, content in the knowledge that the few survivors would pay tribute onward or face a second, worse punishment for defiance.
AGE OF THE RED CITY
AGE OF THE RED CITY
- Eventually the futility in resistance would become clear to those at the end of a Phernaci blade, and it became standard to accept the Phernaci call for their surrender on the rare occasion it was offered. In this way a city could save itself from being sacked and obtain some level of stability under the new, growing, Phernaci hegemony, which rapidly came to dominate Upper Sunar. These tributaries, were not occupied, though, and under the condition they paid regular, extortionist tribute unto the Red City, they were given great freedoms to practice their own law, keep their own religion, and maintain even their own leaders. The Phernaci were quite simply not in the business of empire building, and instead their hegemony was more of a protection racket than an early state. An order built on horror, extortion and cruelty could never remain stable, though, and on countless occasions former tributaries and victims of the Red City rose up in rebellion to try and shake of the shackles of Phernaci oppression. Most would fail in these endeavors and in their defiance harsh punishments would be met out in brutal and horrific manners, designed specifically to deter, or incapacitate future rebellions. Widespread mutilation, torture and execution were all employed by the Phernaci wholesale as a means of stamping out resistance. No examples of mercy are shown in historic records, and it is clear that the Red City's inhabitants quickly began to view their subordinate vassals as inferior peoples, weak, and gentle where they the Phernaci were strong and hard. Enslavement (a major taboo among most Sunarian peoples) was another practice of the Phernaci, who used it as a means of utterly erasing a city that dared to revolt against their authority more than once. Captured prisoners, often times women or children, would in this situation be broken down, and forced to work in the mines and fields that fed and outfitted the Red City's war machine. One cruelty especially enjoyed by the Phernaci was the punishment of dismemberment, in which the limbs of a victim were slowly over several weeks removed in such a manner that they would survive afterward. Entirely unable to survive on their own following such an ordeal these amputees were then left in ditches and on the sides of roads. Serving as a warning to anyone who passed the sad, starved corpses, of what fate existed for those who dared defy the Red City. This measure was often employed alongside enslavement, upon a revolting cities captured male population. Because of this, cases of mass suicide are fairly common in this time period, as defenders would take their own life when it became apparent the day was lost, rather than fall prisoner to the Phernaci and be forced to endure such a humiliating, and painful fate.
- The brutality inherent to the Red City's hegemony, could only ever provide order through fear, and did nothing to instill loyalty or love in the cities it oppressed. For this reason, weakness in the Red City was always answered by revolt in its tributaries who were constantly on the look out for some opportunity to topple the behemoth. When a harvest was missed, or a plague broke out in the Red City, a revolt was always sure to follow in short order, and as such the Age of Phernac was of tremendous bloodshed. After over a century and a half of this tumultuous rule, the Red City had bled more than any other, as where a rebel city fought one war, the Phernaci had to fight ten. To their immeasurable credit, the Phernaci proved experts at suppressing rebellion. Able to hang in an suppress an uncountable number of rebellions, military innovation and a growing sense of national superiority made the Red City a match for its weaker, but far more numerous underlings.
- Between the years of roughly 300 AC, and 450 AC, the Phernaci Hegemony grew to encompass much of Upper and Central Sunar. Chariots of the Red City would a be a common sight across these twins lands, as they raced to put down one rebellion after another. Through this expanse of territory, and the tribute Phernac received, the Red City grew into the largest city known to have existed at that time in history. With a population exceeding 200,000, most of its inhabitants were no doubt slaves, captured from the many corners of the Red City's domain. While only a fraction of its population would have likely been free Phernaci citizens, they were nonetheless a powerful, and populous people, granted an easier life off of the toiling of others. A sense of extreme paranoia no doubt ran rampant throughout the Phernaci society, though, as constant uprisings clearly revealed the extreme outrage seething across Sunar towards them and their abusive hegemony.
FALL OF THE RED CITY
FALL OF THE RED CITY
- Around approximately 475 AC this outrage boiled over into what would become the largest single revolt the Red City ever faced the Revolt of the White City. This widespread uprising, centered at the White City of Lohbe, was in truth a far wider scale one, involving nearly a dozen cities scattered across the plains of Central Sunar. Making matters far worse for Phernac was the fact that this revolt occurred in tandem with two disasters effecting the Red City, which would prove to be some of the worst in its entire history. Firstly, a slave revolt had occurred a year or so prior, which while not uncommon for the city, had yet to be put down, and was thus still raging near the modern city of Shame when the north rose up. The second and far more devastating disaster was the emergence of the Red Plague, a disease which garners its name from Phernac, the Red City. Transmitted by mosquitoes through blood, the Red Plague first appeared around 470 AC, however, was a non factor until about 475 AC when higher than usual flooding, and a lack of labor (because of the slave uprising) left numerous canals and reservoirs in disrepair, a prime breeding ground for the insect. Taking the city by storm, the disease effected all walks of life and resulted in a slower than usual response to the northern rebellion. Because of this, the White City of Lohbe, and its allies, primarily Hecarmenu, Sunas and Amatanet, but including others, were able to consolidate their forces and march on a Phernaci outpost near the modern ruin of Theren. There the rebel coalition was able to overpower the garrison with superior numbers and cut off supply lines for Phernaci armies throughout Central Sunar, giving the Phernaci their first big setback in an age, and inspiring even more cities to join the rebel cause. Responding to this humiliating defeat, Phernac's rulership foolishly mobilized the greatest host seen in the Red City's history and began the voyage north up the Sun River towards Central Sunar, dismissing the Red Plague as a lesser concern, while it ran rampant through the troops. Accompanying the army north down the river, the Red Plague thrived in the cramped wet confines of the fleet, and the entire voyage turned into a complete disaster not long into the trek. Pushed north by overconfident commanders, however, the army did not go ashore to recover, while thousands succumbed to their bloody, and horrific illness within the bowls of the river ships. Believing the city of Anrudet still loyal, the Phernaci army set ashore outside its walls, demanding food and supplies for its disease ridden men, but was bluntly denied any aid. Unable to force their way inside while the Red Plague ravaged the army, the Phernaci were forced to return to their ships and try at the next city to receive support. While this was occurring though, the rebel army was making short work of the smaller Phernaci armies operating throughout Central Sunar. Numerous outposts had been razed, and the loyalist city of Urkadet, which had refused to join the rebellion, was even under siege for providing shelter to a number of Phernaci commanders within its walls. In the south, the Red Plague continued to devastate the population of Phernac, and began to spread to other cities within Upper Sunar. Ramonar would fall to the plague next, with Ibreca experiencing it not long after; soon enough, reports of the disease in Khusuru trickled north. By the years end most of Upper Sunar was riddled with the plague and any hope of more reinforcements making their way north was lost. The great Phernaci host that was making its way north into Central Sunar tried again to receive help at the neutral City of Theren, however, hearing of the battle for Urkadet further north, the Therenese wisely denied the dying Phernaci army refuge. Unable to drive their dying men back onto the ships, the army was forced to remain beached outside the walls of Theren as the disease finished off the remnants of the great host. The Therenese would at no point show the Phernaci mercy and provide any form of aid, and instead barred their gates and allowed the sickened host to perish in its entirety, before cautiously going out to confirm its annihilation. Recognizing in this disaster the complete collapse of the Red City's hegemony, the Therenese pledged their support to the rebellion, invigorating the rest of Central Sunar, including Urkadet, to do so as well soon after.
- When news of Phernac's defeat trickled south, chaos, in the form of riots, ensued all across the Red City. The great host that had been sent north was no simple army, but was in fact the very best the Red City could muster to handle the northern uprising, and as such it was utterly irreplaceable. The cream of the Red City's youth was gone, an entire generation wiped from the world, never to return. Without those men, their could be no hope of maintaining control over the north, or putting down the slave uprising which was still in open revolt to the south. Reinvigorated by the defeat of their oppressors at Theren, the slaves continued to grow in number as more and more slaves broke free from their shackles and traveled south to join the war for freedom. An entire harvest would be lost because of this defeat, as there were not enough men, or slaves to bring in the harvest. As all this occurred, the Red Plague's wrath continued unabated across the south, killing so many that Red City, and Upper Sunar as a whole would never really recover. Even today a slight population disparity exists between the north and south of Sunar, with Upper Sunar being worse off economically than both the Central and Lower country.
- Following the pledge of allegiance from Urkadet, the rebel coalition in Central Sunar began to look south at the Red City with opportunism in the air. The Red Plague had yet to properly make the jump north into Central Sunar, though, and so the coalition restrained itself lest they too fall victim to its horrific spread. As such a year passed, and then another, and the rebel army remained in the north, content to let the Red City suffer in agony as the disease ran its course, and came to its slow, bloody end. When the Red Plague was at last thought to be gone from Phernac, the rebellion moved south into Upper Sunar, traveling overland along the sandy east bank of the Sun River as far as the modern city of Palmoc. There they boarded a fleet of "captured" ships provided by the Therenese, and crossed over into the domain of Phernac. Spurred forth by the news of fresh allies in their war on Phernac, the slave uprising made a devastating mistake and preemptively assaulted the Red City. Throwing themselves upon the walls in a daring night attack upon the city walls, the slave army underestimated the value of Phernac's monolithic fortifications and were cut to ribbons by the still lingering defenders. The few survivors of this foolhardy assault, ultimately joined up with the approaching rebel host a few days later, but were essentially a non factor going forward as the slave uprising was absorbed into the larger revolt against the Phernaci.
- Arriving outside the gates of the mythic city, the rebel army had learned from their slave allies of what lay before them and instead of assaulting those dark crimson walls, the coalition dug in for a long, cruel siege. Troubled by the plague and war for years now, Phernac's granaries were nearing the end of their supply, and so it would not take long for starvation to set in among the few surviving inhabitants of the once great city. After a few short months, the population of Phernac went from what was once two hundred thousand to only a few crippled hundred, of which one single man ultimately sealed the cities defeat. Stumbling blindly though the city gates in a feverish state, his name is lost to history but his actions remain cemented in legend as the lone sick man who let in the rebellion. Rushing into the exposed metropolis, the rebel army sacked Phernac and enacted a bloody vengeance upon the people who had abused Sunar. The temples of Phernac's god, were torn down, their monuments to past victories disgraced, their king, worst of all, was disemboweled for the abuses of his reign, and those of his predecessors. When sunrise came to the Red City, few if any Phernaci remained alive within its crumbling walls, and the last flickers of Phernac's golden age were snuffed out once and for all.
- While the urban population of Phernac were wiped out in their cities fall, they were not the only Phernaci. Thousands of farmers, and village folk still remained hidden among the hills and fields surrounding the city, and yet more still swelled in the Phernaci colonies of Sadarnu and Behsoyut. While looked down upon by the rebellion, these people were not directly seen as responsible for the atrocities of the Red City, and so most were reluctantly spared as the rebel army made the journey back home. In the years that would follow it would be these Phernaci, the displaced sons of the Red City, who resettled the burnt husk of Phernac, and gave the city new life. They would not have an easy task of restoring the sacked city, though, for few neighbors were willing to trade or visit its disease ridden and war torn streets. Despised for its abusive past, most saw such a fate as justice, and left the struggling city to die, but it refused to do so. Struggling on in years to come, the Red City would slowly, over centuries, re-emerge as a regional power. It would never again hold sway over vast swaths of Sunar like it once had, however, and only really overcome its dark past when it was absorbed like every other city, into the First Sunarian Empire, many, many years later.
THE RED CITY OF PHERNAC
BRONZE METALLURGYBronze was first discovered in Upper Sunar sometime around the close of the Age of Reawakening, however, when exactly, is not known. Of the Upper Sunarian cities, though, none was better situated to exploit this development than the Red City of Phernac. Sitting atop one of the largest deposits of tin in the entirety of Sunar (a component in bronze), the Phernaci mastered the art of bronze working and, ultimately, used it to master yet another art: the art of war.
ADVANCES IN IRRIGATIONWhile it was not exactly the Phernaci who instigated the discovery, or advancement of irrigation it was nonetheless something that improved during the age and arose due to the intensification of urbanization during this period. Dirt trenches that required year round maintenance and care gradually became stone walled canals that were significantly more reliable when it came to moving water further and further away from the actual river. This had the effect of opening up more land for agriculture which in turn allowed for a greater population further inland, resulting in a large population growth across the entirety of Sunar. Numerous cities that remain inhabited to this day would appear around this period as early city states; most of which fell under the growing influence of the Red City and its war like expansionism.
HORSE BREEDING AND CHARIOTSThe Phernaci would not be the first to domesticate horses, as their usage as draft animals likely predates the Red City by many, many years; they would, however, be the first to employ them in warfare, and in that endeavor became some of the first serious horse breeders in history. Phernaci war horses were generally male, with the largest and bravest of beasts being the most valued. This breeding effort was so intense that much of the land surrounding the modern city of Shone was devoted to the industry of producing such stallions for the Red City’s military. These horses were not ridden, however, as neither the saddle nor stirrup were known to ancient man, and as such war horses were instead used by the Phernaci to pull heavy, bladed chariots. Chariots were not new inventions at this point and had existed in Sunar for quite a while. usually taking the form of light platforms for the wealthy and prestigious to travel above the masses; be it on the battlefield or in the city streets. These rather elegant litters were a far cry from the heavier, armored war chariots of Phernac, though, as the latter was a far more formidable and dangerous method of transportation; one which was capable of absolutely demolishing enemy formations when invoked on an unguarded flank.
SIEGE WEAPONRYPrior to the Phernaci siege warfare was practically unheard of and when it rarely occurred, it was a pitifully simple affair that largely involved encircling and waiting out a city’s defenders. The Phernaci changed this by introducing machinery capable of breaching a city’s defenses. This exposed the soft civilian underbelly of the defending city and allowed the Phernaci to quickly, and decisively put a blade to their enemies throat, giving them the power and freedom to rise into the hegemony they are remembered for. Battering rams, siege towers and tunneling were all employed by the Phernaci alongside a more complex piece of weaponry, known as the ballista. Capable of launching bolts, or small stones, the device proved catastrophic upon a city’s defenses and became feared across Sunar as a symbol of the Red City’s power and ruthlessness. This was largely because of the fact that any city who came to see the weapons deployed against them often went on to see their walls destroyed and way of life threatened with extinction.
HISTORY OF SUNAR
THE AGE OF PHERNAC
A carving of the Phernaci King, Zerbonopal I
A tablet displaying the Phernaci style of hieroglyphic writing
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