Golden Empire of Arrboth
"We would wage war, we would recover from war, we would prepare for war, and we would wage war again. Perhaps, I thought, holding a true claim to The Varulosph would take a miracle. It did."The early history of the empire is not much unlike the history of Chal: an untamed land where Orcs and Men formed tribes, hunted, and competed. Unlike there, however, the Midland Steppe has little land to farm and much to hunt, so bands of roving hunters and gatherers in tents steadily became a fact of life. Conflicts over the unclaimed holy land of The Varulosph were frequent, and the tribes steadily became hardened to war. Yet, in the present day, few of the names of these clans matter, with one crucial exception: the Veng clan, and Arrboth Veng, the warlord that would start the largest empire in The Eye. The story of his life, the divine mission that brought him to unify not only the steppe but the other disparate cultures of the continent, is his own story, however, and not that of the empire he would leave behind. By the time Arrboth Veng had a majority of the midland clans under his control, he already had plans to establish control of The Varulosph. Few of the forts from this time still survive (mostly on account of being made of wood), but it was at this point that the Oasis of Beran started to be used for farmland, laying the groundwork for what would one day become Beroba. These people were historically ill-suited to building lasting settlements, however, and it would be at least a decade later, between continued wars, Elven visitors sharing knowledge, and the assimilation of the Rusgans, that the empire could truly be said to start building cities. When they did, however, the population took a sharp increase, and many moved (forcibly or otherwise) from being hunters, gatherers, shepherds, and warriors to working mines and acquiring the needed resources for a growing empire. While the conquest of the Rusgans went without incident, the Teleran would leave a permanent mark upon the nation's history. Civil unrest was common during the attempts to integrate them into the empire due to the laws imposed upon them, and while Emperor Arrboth was responsible for some of this due to his personal biases, much of the guilt falls upon his descendants. Towns burned, fields dried, and many Telerene families fled the persecution of the empire. Despite these signs, it was not until Rammon Veng, the grandson of Arrboth, was struck blind by a beam of light from the sky during his rule that he and his advisers realized they could no longer place the blame for these events upon the Teleran people. Poring over their founder's writings, they learned the error of their ways - their empire had the notice of The Observer, and straying from the path of beauty had a high price.Steppe warlord, name unknown
"Where The Observer on High once blessed my forefathers with vision, he takes mine away, but I was already too blind to accept my duty. May we never stray from our path again."Fearing further divine retribution, Rammon was quick to agree to the new laws and restrictions to be placed upon the throne. They were, after all, for his own protection and that of his descendants. The damage to relations to the Teleran people had lasting consequences, however, and many of the laws forbidding their cultural practices remain (though many have reasonable roots, due to the inherent dangers of summoning). But with its focus upon art and the pursuit of beauty written in law, the empire started to flourish again. The construction of the Pillar of Light began in Beroba, trade and gathering increased with a new interest in both dyes and outside ideas, and a rush to seize the continent's ample gold was sparked that would bring the empire to new heights of wealth. The growth of settlements outside The Varulosph to gather these resources, however, made the limits of the empire's hold clear. For a time, lawlessness started to reign anew on the steppe, with opportunistic raiders seizing supplies from caravans and hiding out in mobile tribes in the traditional fashion. In one of his last notable public acts as ruler, however, Emperor Rammon rectified this, displaying his newfound respect for the Teleran by Communing with an elemental of Light. The being granted the emperor knowledge of where one of these warbands was hiding, and the men were brought to Beroba and publicly executed. While officially the practice of communing has more commonly been used for guidance than criminal justice over the years, the fear and awe invoked by the possibility has been a remarkably effective deterrent for petty criminals in imperial holdings since.Rammon Veng
In their ambition and weakness, how soon mortals forget.Unfortunately, however, the imperial line has had a far from spotless reputation. Emperor Rammon would only be the start of a cycle, and every few generations, the throne would succumb to greed, wrath, or simple disinterest in the beauty that The Observer holds in utmost importance. And each time it occurs, the Lord of Light provides a brutal reminder of the source of their prosperity that sets the royal line straight. Thankfully for the Golden Empire, their patron has shown remarkable patience despite these repeated offenses, and the increasingly long record of its previous acts has helped to steadily slow the cycle of forgetfulness. Guidance from communing with spirits of Light, an act that royal summoners (the few licensed to perform such rituals within the empire) are hired for in recent times, also helps keep Arrboth's descendants from straying too far. Of course, the overland caravan trade would ultimately reveal a blind spot in the empire's supposed all-seeing eye. As some ambitious caravans opted to cut directly through the desert for speed, emboldened by their wealth, they would eventually discover the secluded settlements of Sen'ssinai, an oasis and sanctuary of magic that many of the Teleran people had already retreated to. As trade routes started to take advantage of these towns and ones that previously had effective monopolies on the fastest routes across the steppe dried up - figuratively - the Golden Empire ultimately took notice of their neighboring nation. Communication has been slow, but an uneasy peace currently exists between the two, with recent emperors proving hesitant to make war with the Elves in the desert. Apart from fear of divine retribution and the difficulty of combating a supernatural threat, lucrative trade and pressure from caravans have helped maintain this peace for the moment.
Officially, the Golden Empire of Arrboth has claimed the entirety of the continent for centuries. More factually, their reach ends at The Ashlands, in the central deserts of the Midland Steppe, and in The Endless North. While some expansion into these areas has been attempted in recent times with the help of more readily available ships, their effective distance from the empire makes them relatively safe havens from imperial law. In the case of Sen'ssinai, this protection takes a different form than distance, though its residents are not quick to harbor outright criminals trying to hide from the empire there.
The tactics and hierarchy of the Golden Empire's military has changed little since the time of Arrboth, but this is partially due to how revolutionary and successful it was for its time. Regiments were divided into tens, hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands of men, with each group having its own commanding officer chosen from among them. This ordering provides not only remarkable mobility, allowing units to split up or converge into a single charge as needed, but gives a great deal of flexibility in how orders are carried out. While it can seem disorderly and chaotic to outsiders, punishments for direct disobedience are often harsh. Additionally, the chaos tends to be far more detrimental to the empire's enemies than its own troops. Imperial soldiers (levels 1-3) are trained both in the use of the bow (or a firearm, in some regiments) and curved blade, and most importantly in horseback combat. Others train to use lances to converge on enemy armies. Units of hundreds are frequently supplied with a healer (typically of around level 2) skilled in traditional Rusgan magic to keep the army going with minimal casualties and guaranteeing ample grazing areas. On top of this is the imperial guard (level 3-4), skilled in both horseback and on-foot combat, often ascended officers who have risen through the ranks through loyalty and skill.
Similarly to Chal, the tech level of the empire is predominantly medieval, though Telerene techniques for making durable glass, fine lenses, and their signature clothing stretch significantly beyond that. The deep Rusgan understanding of anatomy and material properties has also been used to great effect in imperial architecture and sculpting. On the other hand, compared to the labor-saving devices of Ristshan, horses are still commonly used for heavy lifting and plowing within Arrboth. One place Arrboth excels, however, is navigation, without which it would scarcely be able to connect to the rest of the world in the first place. No one will dispute that the people of Arrboth have been watching the skies for navigation since the early days. Without the luxury of clear landmarks in the long treks across the steppes or rivers to connect their settlements, the steppe peoples used the nebulae and rising and setting of the Daystar, and their access to telescopic lenses has only enhanced this. While they lack Chale shipmaking skills, the ships they have purchased, along with their telescopes and astrolabes, allow them to find effective paths to nearly any shore in The Eye. Their scientific knowledge of astronomy is similarly unparalleled by the current standards of civilization. While their agricultural prospects in many ways pale in comparison to their primary competition, Arrboth is constantly innovating to support its population without over-hunting the wild game that gives them their massive wartime advantage. Ash-based fertilizers have been around since early in the empire, and irrigation techniques have continuously improved. More strangely and shockingly to some are their experiments in artificial magical hybridizations, harkening back to Rusgan roots. A relatively recent but lasting result of this are the Namazu, catfish that are capable of moving and surviving on land (albeit not terribly quickly) and that grow to sizes that allow them to produce more meat than a cow. With no other livestock of a similar size, their introduction has drastically altered local meat production.
Since its founding, the Golden Empire has worshiped The Observer on High, who first gave Arrboth Veng the divine vision that began his mission of creating the empire. Every permanent settlement in The Varulosph is focused on producing beauty in all forms it can, from music, dance, or plays to art, sculptures, and pleasing architecture. Many laws that even the emperor must abide by exist to preserve this focus and avoid compromising it for personal gain, lest the empire draw the ire of its patron. One clear impact of this is that more than anywhere else in the world, the people of Arrboth put great care into considering how their buildings, towns, and even farms look from the sky as well as the ground, as the Lord of Light can see from either.
The Golden Empire has relative difficulty communicating with Chal or Nalanosa in a timely manner due to sheer distance, so their relationship is predominantly one of trade. While some emperors have considered expansion across the world, the truth is that the revelation of the existence of Sen'ssinai have put any such plans on an indefinite hold. Domestic matters take priority, and the realization of these magically-inclined neighbors has been a major point of confusion and contention. While economics have kept the relation between the two nations stable so far, there is a considerable cultural tension between them.
Agriculture & Industry
Almost all farming in Arrboth occurs in The Varulosph due to its richer and less dry land. Rice is an extremely common crop in the region to feed its population and livestock, with wheat or corn grown more rarely. Some bordering Rusgan swampland is even converted and irrigated as needed. Hunting is still relatively common, though the empire has been trying to reduce it to maintain an abundance of wild animals for its army. Apart from the aforementioned Namazu, chickens and tapir are the most common livestock in the region, with horses and camels raised for transportation, combat, and labor purposes. While some attempts besides the Namazu have been made to create better animals to serve both purposes, few results were successful and even fewer breed true. Some novelty pets born of Rusgan methods, however, have historically been sold at high prices to wealthy nobles or mages desiring unique familiars, and been kept rare for this reason. In terms of industry, on the other hand, the empire produces not only its namesake gold and jewelry, but also an abundance of weaponry and armor. While Arrbothi weapons of quality are rare due to a lack of materials or supernatural means of reinforcement, the sheer amount of bronze weaponry and armor the empire is capable of producing for its armies makes up for this. Steel, on the other hand, is rarer, reserved for elite ranks and habitually worked with great care. As a consequence of this, almost every steel weapon or piece of armor in the empire is masterfully crafted, and it is easy to tell such equipment from the bronze standard at a glance.
Trade & Transport
Most of Arrboth's internal trade is over land routes, with caravans of covered wagons and horses or camels (depending upon region) transporting goods across the grasslands. Using traditional practices of the steppe, these caravans make their way across the land quickly and efficiently, avoiding most threats and deterring others due to their size. Boats are used to transfer some rare goods from The Ashlands back to the Varulosph, and some ports exist on the coast to facilitate both this and trade with Ristshan and Nalanosa, but this is fairly secondary to the empire.
Discounting its palaces and the Pillar of Light, the art colleges of Beroba are some of its most prominent buildings, and with good reason. The Golden Empire takes the acquisition of knowledge seriously, especially where it aligns with the its goals in furthering architecture and the arts. These tasks require skilled and knowledgeable people, and while their scholars are not as innovating as one might expect in the practical sense, their creativity often results in novel developments. While art is a focus by name, other skills such as philosophy, navigation, and mathematics are taught in these institutions. Not everyone in the empire has access to this level of education, of course. More distant areas of the empire are not as lucky, and many that live outside the Varulosph are fairly unskilled labor for farming, mining, or other such tasks. On the other hand, these schools are also notably open to outsiders who show promise and dedication, and regular trade means that paying for a trip to the empire by sea can actually be surprisingly affordable. More elaborate knowledge, such as military tactics, magic, and summoning, is typically kept to smaller groups of natives, however.
While not technically exported as such, far more imperial gold coins end up across the globe from Arrboth's purchases of rare goods than any other nation's, making them a de facto source of the currency along with their abundance of gold. Some small sculptures or paintings reach the market, and Chal has a great interest in the potential alchemical ingredients of the Rusgan. Nalanosa's newfound demand for Corestone has even sparked some renewed interest in mining the previously overlooked reserves in The Ashlands, though Argenduum remains as the primary source of it.
Chale alchemy (especially cosmetics), beautiful Nalanosan furs and ivory, and Dwarven steelwork all make their way into Arrboth's ports, though it does not truly rely upon any of them. However, the nation's economy does have some reliance on Chal's shipbuilding prowess, and any ships they can purchase from the kingdom of water are highly prized.
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