The Dragon's Eye
The Yolgen Imperium began as an exiled clan of High Elves from the mythical land of Hylaecia. The “Yol-Gen”, meaning literally, “People of Yol” were the kin and disciples of the enigmatic radical, Yol. His belief that the Elves should exert their superiority over the younger races through subjugation and conquering was seen as abhorrent to the peace-loving Elves of Hylaecia. In his exile, Yol took his people South across the Wild Ocean until they came to a land encrusted with ice and snow. The Yolgen mages implored their leader to claim the land as their new home, as they sensed great power deep within it. So began the war of Ice, an undetermined amount of time during which the Yolgen clan journeyed across Aspartame, and battled with the ice creatures and dragons that dwelt there. This war culminated with a great battle between the Elves and the Elemental God of Ice. Yol himself, infused with the great and terrible magic of his people, smote the God and ended the war. This event is considered the beginning the Yolgen Calender (Yolgen Reckoning), and is known as “The coming of Yol”.
The body of the God of Ice provided a source of great power, allowing the wielder to control the power of the God. Yol had this fashioned into a throne and took it as his seat of power. The Ice dragons obeyed whomever sat on the throne, and became the protectors of the Elves. The elves carved out a kingdom that covered most of Northern Aspartame, and the Yolgen Imperium was born. As the ice retreated, the coastal living humans began to spread into the central plains of the continent and the Elves found themselves with competition. As the humans organised and formed kingdoms, Yol used the power of throne to protect his people from the perceived threat of the lesser race and the borders remained closed for much of the early reign asides from some small association with the Sea Elves of Lespol Néhara and some trade with Hylaecia.
In this era, the Yolgen Imperium was ruled in the common sense by a council of elders chaired by the daughter of Yol, Yan. Yol’s involvement with his people dwindled as his unnaturally long years wound on, becoming more and more reclusive, hiding away on his throne. As other non-Elves settled and hence carved out kingdoms for themselves, Elven preeminence came into question. With the council divided on the matter, the Imperium suffered, Human and Orcish raids threatened the populace whilst the armies paraded through the cities achieving nothing. Yol, blind to his people’s suffering for many centuries, emerged from his solitude to find his country in ruins. He was taken in a rage. He channeled his fury with power of the throne and unleashed a maelstrom of ice that encompassed all Yolgen territory, finally settling into great glaciers that separated the Elves from the other races. From this point (1846 Y.R.) the era of isolation begins. During this isolation, the deteriorating mind of Yol begins to contrive the Cult of Yol. He morphed his people’s admiration into adoration, using his god-like power and longevity to assert himself as chief deity of the Elven people. His command of winter and the ice dragons dominating all rivals. All non-Elves were expunged from Yolgen lands, save for the dragons and certain native beasts. ‘Yol’ became synonymous with ‘ice’ and Yol himself began to become physically bound to his throne, a spreading ice encrusted his skin and his eyes glowed the pale ghostly blue of an ice cavern. This was a golden age for the Elves themselves, unhindered by the tasks of war and border maintenance, the culture flourished. The great buildings and works of Frozen Throne were built, the laws of the land were writ, and in all things the Elves developed a deep and profound artistry, from simple weaving to story-telling.
This peace was shattered in the year 3068 Y.R. when the tumultuous event known as the ‘Dragon War’ began. Yol lost control of his ice dragons as they began, seemingly without reason to battle with their chaotic kin in the South. The arrival of the Giants in the war elevated it to titanic proportions. As the war dragged on, the Yolgen Imperium was dragged into the conflict. After centuries of endless battles and untold destruction, an alliance of mortal mages (many of Yol’s own retinue) managed to land the killing blow on the Red Dragon King Gothmos and so ended the great Dragon War in 3422 Y.R.. This three hundred year conflict decimated the dragon and giant populations. The ice dragons of Yol were all but destroyed and the giants retreated to the sacred islands of Ix. The chaos dragons returned to the mountains that had contained the dragon Eyrie in the newly created dragon’s eye desert.
In the following year, Yol reveled in his victory. Although his dragon protectors had all but been exterminated, he now exerted full control over the throne. Ice sheets spread across the land in a manner similar to before the coming of Yol. The country could not recover from the devastation of the war while Yol remained on the throne. The mage alliance conspired to assassinate the ancient king. On the 15th day of the month of the Wandering (Greater Sun), Yol was confronted by his mages and their new organization. A great battle ensued, a huge conflagration of sorcery rocked the capitol, a meeting of two disparate powers, of mortals, and a god. By battle’s end, all but seven of the great mage alliance remained, and Yol lay dead on the ground before his throne. An empire that had known the rule of a single, practically immortal, enigmatic leader for three and a half thousand years suddenly had no ruler. The remaining mages populated the high council with their own and began the slow process of rebuilding the country.
The ice retreated for a final time, the land embracing the heat of the sun at last, with the glaciers and ice sheets persisting only in the vicinity to Frozen Throne itself. The much diminished Elves had no choice but to allow more humans to push further inland, the emergent great plains of Aspartame became home to horse warriors, the old cities of the Northeast formed the Aspara-Yeorna Concordat, while to the South humanity’s power was solidified by the great Empire of Farúhn. The next few centuries were known as the quiet times, a diminishing of Elven power that the Species had felt the world over, a lessening of elder power that came with the advent of man. It seemed as if the Elves of Snow were doomed to share the fate of their distant kin. This waning persisted for centuries, with Humans, Dwarves and Orcs continuing to encroach on Elven territory, forming volatile kingdoms and forcing the Elder people away. The High Council’s inward facing politics and constant bickering finally came to a head in 4248 Y.R. when Valaesi Morvund organized a coup, killing her fellow council members and taking the frozen throne for herself. In what would come to define the Morvund dynasty’s legacy on the continent, Valaesi instigated a pogrom against all mortal opposition in her lands. This “Pogrom Humanus” (The Farúhnese title) was a vicious and brutal extermination of all non-Elves from Yolgen territory, with humans bearing the full wrath of the genocide. Her reign also saw the construction of formidable military structures including the great Frozen Fortress, which housed the Frozen Throne in a room only accessible by magical means.
When the pogrom reached the borders of Farúhn, the people pleaded with the Emperor to deliver them from the slaughter. The proud and aggressive young Emperor Impari was only too happy to oblige. In one of the most impressively coordinated military operations the world had ever seen, the entirety of the Farúhnese Empire launched an attack on its Northern neighbour. From the Provinces of Heran and Mephar, the central core of Laegar and Farú, all the way to the Corbon Isles, Legions of men marched over the border. For seven years (4251-4258 Y.R.), the Elves fought a bitter conflict, engaging Farúhn armies in virtually every region of the Imperium, with every victory won, several defeats were suffered. The united empire of Farúhn was able to field virtually limitless amounts of soldiers, every one eager to fight for the righteous human cause. Eventually, Valaesi pleaded for peace, and signed the treaty of Laegar which ceded vast swaths of territory to Farúhn. The First Farúhn war was a disaster for Yolgen, however, it did succeed in creating an atmosphere of propriety amongst the Elves, a need to prove themselves, a need for revenge that probably allowed them to avoid the decline that affected the rest of the Elven peoples. The renewed vigour of the High Elves prompted fierce defense of their new borders. No longer would the Elves descend into apathy and sorrow.
Empress Valaesi Morvund was blamed for her people’s disastrous defeat at the hands of the humans, citing her unwillingness to harness the power of the Frozen Throne to validate their claims. The loss of territory was considered a dishonour for the military commanders, all of whom opposed the peace treaty. Finally, in 4303 Y.R., members of the court and military organized a coup in the Capitol, seeing their chance to seize power. However, just days before the planned coup, Valaesi’s first son Argar killed his mother while she slept. Argar was hardline militarist and so the conspirators simply gave him their allegiance, matricide and regicide excused for the sake of pragmatism. Argar was a strong leader when it came to military matters, and for much of his reign, that served him well. His first decree began the border wars with the Orcish tribes, many campaigns of which he lead himself. But three hundred years of border wars hardly sustain an economy, and back in central Yolgen, his people suffered. One of his more brash decisions was to abolish the elder council that had plotted against his mother, a decision which left the country without a ruling body during his long years away. When Argar returned to the Capitol after an extensive hunt for Orcs in the Zoltan plains, he found his Imperium in ruins. His court poet wrote:
“The King of Ice returns to the site of triumph and finds naught but defeat-
His eyes grey and hair white, wracked with guilt of youth poorly spent-
The Frozen Throne cracked with disuse, a perennial empty seat-
A final war shall be waged, of redemption, of glory heaven sent-
The King of Ice lays all his blame at the foot of human deceit.”
Extract from: ‘Argar’s Shame, a Lament’
Argar blamed the Empire of Farúhn for all his woes, and in an attempt to claim a final glory in his waning years, he began a war to regain all his mother had lost. In the year 4624 Y.R., the Second Farúhn war began.
Perhaps the largest Empire in the world at the time, Farúhn was straining under its own weight. From talk of Vel Rebels in Mephar, to a resurgence of Corbon necromancy, the Empire was stretched to its limit dealing with domestic problems. The Yolgen attack was the clarion call for the Empire’s slow but inevitable demise. The Second Farúhn war is without doubt the most prolonged and bloodiest conflict in the later histories of Aspartame, lasting a total of 67 years with a front of one thousand leagues across, it is estimated that over five million people died from direct battle, with countless more falling victim to famine, plague, and sorcerous miasma. The war changed geography and society on a continental scale, with tribes migrating to avoid the war, entire populations being decimated, and the topography of the land altered by mages or armies to block or control supply lines. The war’s instigator, Argar Morvund died in the first year of the conflict, having choked on a piece of bread while feasting his glory after the battle of Krasis. With no heir of his own, the crown passed to the daughter of his late sister. Valaeri Morvund was crowned at the age of 74 (A child by Elven standards), leaving the generals to conduct their war how they liked. The war consumed three generations of Farúhnese men and women, and forced Yolgen to use human soldiers as cannon-fodder due to huge casualty rates among the Elven ranks. Eventually, Farúhn finally broke. The Vel people rebelled and seized the provinces of Mephar and Heran, establishing a set of volatile minor Kingdoms in 4672, which quickly entered a pact with Yolgen. Facing a war on two fronts, the beleaguered people of Farúhn sued for peace, and so lost the steppes of central Aspartame in the process. The Second Farúhn war finally ended with the two great Empires war weary, weakened, and eager to begin rebuilding.
At last able to lead her people, the young Valaeri Morvund instituted sweeping reforms in an attempt to revitalize the ruined Elven economy. She signed a trade deal with the wealthy Aspar, she reestablished the Elder Council, and (her most lasting legacy) created a college of magical research, the Academia Arcanum. The post-war years were good for the Yolgen people, in no small part due to the young Empress, a compassionate soul who sought to undo the horrors of war the Imperium had suffered. Her peaceful and prosperous reign came to an abrupt end when she was assassinated in her palace by a human in 5211 Y.R. Whether a calculated plot, or a random act of murder, her death sowed chaos throughout the land. Humans became pariahs in Elven society, a group too large, too unpredictable to be trusted. Lynching was common in smaller communities. Humans left the Imperium in droves, swelling the population of Velstat and the new Heranese Republic. The Elder Council elected one of their own, a quiet studious man, to be Emperor: Karva Elia.
Karva was a meek individual, he had neither the spine nor the intent to rule the Imperium, leaving the day-to-day running to his Elder Council, as the Council had intended when they elected him. Karva was once chief lecturer at the Academia Arcanum, and so was deeply fascinated by the mysteries of magic. He took the opportunity as Emperor to investigate (and control) the terrible power of the Frozen Throne, which had been but a relic used merely for coronation since the day of Yol’s death. Karva was determined to unlock the potential of the Throne once again, working tirelessly in the cold towers of the Frozen Fortress. The reign of Karva Elia was mostly uneventful until the Summer of 5462 Y.R., when the Farúhnan Emperor Askan the Foolish encouraged the wholesale slaughter of Elves in his lands in an attempt to unite his splintering Empire against a common foe. The ever bubbling animosity of the common folk was let loose, and an unstoppable force of peasants overran the countryside hunting for Elves. By the next year, this peasant army had swelled so large and killed so many Elves in their homeland, they began to cross into Yolgen territory in order to continue their pogrom. Two companies of Yolgen border cavalry nearly wiped out the peasant army. This defeat enraged the common Farúhnans, using it as fuel for the bonfire of their zealous crusade. The populous forced the Emperor to commit his legions to the avenging cause, and when his troops marched over the border, the third Farúhn war began.
This war, but a pale shadow of the Second Farúhn war, raged for the first seven years on the Yolgen borders near the provinces of Helsan and Laegar. With no territory gained, and an increasingly mutinous military, Farúhn made a gambit. They retreated into the more favourable territory of Laegar, trapping the Yolgen armies in the marshes and bogs of the River Kest. Here Farúhnans simply held the line and carried out guerilla attacks on the Elves, prolonging the war for another three years, and allowing the humans to advance on the Northern front significantly. The battle for the River Kest was seen as something as an embarrassment for the Yolgen forces, unable to attack or retreat without being cut to pieces by vicious locals, being eaten alive by voracious insects, or simply dying of plague caused by dirty water. A quick solution for an end to the battle was sought, as a treaty was out of the question thanks to the losses North of Helsan. In stepped Emperor Karva Elia, and in the only defining act of his reign, orders the Frozen Throne brought to the front lines in the Spring of 5470 Y.R. With his considerable knowledge of the Throne and its power, he decided to use it to end the battle swiftly as Yol would have done in the Elder days. For the first time in 4,000 years, the frozen throne is used. Karva attempted to angle the power at the Farúhn encampment, hoping simply to decimate their outer defenses. But Karva had underestimated the power of the Throne. It destroyed both the Human and Elven camps, it then created a huge glacier that quickly grew and spread across the province of Laegar. The glacier was volatile and was melted by the powerful southern sun, but at that stage the damage was done. Formerly the breadbasket of the Farúhn Empire, Laegar had been left a barren wasteland lacking water or topsoil. The glacier had drained into a depression in the North, carrying all the salt and minerals of Laegar with it. The Great Salt Lake was formed, and the newly redirected River Kest flowed straight into it. Laegar was decimated, becoming the “Laegar Divide” and was eventually abandoned by the Farúhnans.
With both sides losing their main armies, and a third of Farúhn being destroyed, a peace was declared and both empires retreated within themselves. Karva Elia lost himself in despair, disgusted by the devastation he had wrought and eventually took his own life. His daughter, Të Elia was crowned Empress, the ceremony used a replica Throne as a precautionary measure. Her rule was as benign as the Imperium ever experienced, her main contributions were related to establishment of a unified temple of Yol, as well as solidifying the tenets of ancestor worship in general. The crisis of her reign began almost as soon as she was crowned. Deep in the Dragon’s Eye desert, the dragons awoke from a deep slumber. Seemingly affronted by the use of the Frozen Throne during the war only months past, they attacked the Imperium. A line of destruction was wrought from the Desert to the Capitol itself, several forts were destroyed, and many towns and cities were practically burnt to the ground. They dragons attacked the Frozen fortress, besieging the ice for months. Eventually the dragons were driven back to the desert by the Yolgen mages. The dragons however remained a threat forever more, dwelling in and protecting the Dragon’s Eye desert, forcing the region to be abandoned by the major nations.
Të Elia was unlike her father in the fact that she actually had interest in ruling. The elder council was forced to step back into their advisory role (amicably in the light of recent disasters). Të attempted to right the wrongs of her predecessors as she saw it, taking an involved, benign approach to governance. The “Caste by Blood” system was relaxed in an attempt to placate the still resentful human population, this decision resulted in a far higher Half-Elven and Partial-Elven populations in proceeding generations, creating the mixed populations seen presently in outer Yolgen provinces. Military ventures into tribal territories were discontinued, and thusly it was discovered it was far more profitable to simple trade with the various tribes throughout the empire. Quan’tik, Zola, Seszal, Efeen, Dragonborn and Orcish tribes grew far more numerous and rich in the new peaceful atmosphere, much to the dismay of the Yolgen citizenry bordering tribal regions. Despite some more conservative citizen’s concerns, the Empire’s prosperity grew steadily during Të’s reign thanks mostly to her reforms. Although she was not popular among the military caste, the common people adored the second Elia monarch. In the year 6000 Y.R. Të announced that she was abdicating her crown to her Eldest son, Andrant, during the six thousandth Yol’s Day festival, and so she became the first Yolgen monarch to retire in peace.
Andrant Elia was a different creature to his mother. Despite his love and respect for his mother and her various accomplishments, he could not replicate her peaceable sensibilities when it came to governance. He was quick to anger when challenged, and couldn’t well comprehend economics. With these flaws apparent in the young Emperor, the Elder Council began to manipulate him into furthering their own agenda. Thirteen years into Andrant’s reign, a Zolta tribe visited the town of Grennhurst to trade, a disagreement over a merchant’s scales caused a fight, which snowballed into a riot, in turn leading to the town being sacked by the wild Zolta. An extremely embellished account was given by the Elder Council to the Emperor, and a furious Andrant assembled all available legions and marched into the great Zolta plain and began a campaign of vengeance against the horse-warriors. Andrant’s legions attacked the tribes’ encampments, their places of worship and, their herds of bison, forcing the warriors into battles in which their numbers were dwarfed by the Yolgen opposition. This war of extermination was so immense, that the Zolta were forced to flee en masse into Northern Velstat. This was the result wanted by the Elder Council, who saw the various barbarian tribes as a drain on resources, and a source of possible conflict, however they did not anticipate Andrant’s zeal when it came to protecting his people, and it soon became known that the fire-blooded Andrant cared little for borders, and had marched south in pursuit.
Andrant’s army was met with resistance from the Velstati border patrol, a small army of three companies. Despite the huge personnel differences between the two forces, the Vel proved an apt opponent. The companies operated as independent units, and this strategic freedom coupled with the Velen knowledge of their homeland let the smaller force ravage the Yolgen on multiple occasions. Although the Vel border patrol was nearly wiped out in their final engagement outside Yo’dobeah, their sacrifice became a legend, and bought time for the main Velstati army to assemble and meet Andrant’s Legions. The Vel sent peace envoys each day, but were turned away at the pickets. For four days, the Vel sent envoys in the morning, and the armies skirmished in the afternoon. On the fifth day, Andrant’s blood had finally cooled, and he submitted to the peace talks. The Vel offered a place to house the displaced Zoltan tribes, and Yolgen agreed to leave Velstat on the condition that the Zolta would be restricted to Velstat and would never cross the border. And so Andrant left Velstat, his first military campaign ending in embarrassment. The military appreciated their newfound importance in the eyes of the state, and manufactured a more favourable narrative to give to the people in an attempt to preserve their leader’s standing to the common populace. The Elder Council began to take a more distant approach to manipulation for Andrant, lest they trigger his destructive zeal again.
In early 6037 Y.R., the city of Turbiur in the far Northeast of the Imperium stopped receiving the weekly shipments of fish from the neigbouring fishing villages. The city garrison sent out scouts to investigate the sudden silence, however, the scouts did not return. The city then sent an expeditionary force to village of Desari, but when they arrived, they found the village burnt to the ground and the denizen’s nailed to trees. Several transport ships were beached on the shore, and the tracks of a large force headed in land, through the dense pine thicket. The company of soldiers marched back to Turbiur with their findings, but upon their return, they found the city ablaze, and a huge force of raging barbarians ready to meet them. Only a score of soldiers on horseback survived the battle to deliver the story to the nearest city. The Northeastern legion immediately rallied and marched to meet the invaders. The Elder Council withheld the reports to Andrant, hoping the legion would deal with the matter without the Emperor’s intervention. Unfortunately the Northeastern legion’s first engagement occurred when they were drawn into an ambush in a forest, and were almost completely decimated, with barely a cohort escaping because of the quick thinking of a mage. The cohort retreated to the city of Jostallen, and desperately prepared the defenses. But the attack never came. Instead the invaders remained behind the line of devastation, they attacked Asparan settlements to the immediate south, and then began to build their own settlements, even occupying the sacked city, Turbiur. When word finally reached Frozen Throne, Andrant Elia’s rage was palpable, but it was clear that he could do nothing. An army would take three months to assemble and then march into the conquered territory, and the enemy had already dug in. Andrant reluctantly acceded to the advice of the Elder Council, and the far northeast was abandoned to the Algan invaders. Andrant in his fury demanded that the Academia Arcanum develop a way to transport his armies across the vast distances of the Imperium. The Academia began to work on what would become the vast teleportation network that would link the distant provinces in ways never thought possible on such scales. Through Andrant’s rage, he had gifted his people with perhaps the greatest invention of all time.