A Brief History of Rath
by Nilus Vanan
College of Valande
The Rathan Empire was founded in the 625th year since the Sundering of the Six. From then, to its height at the time of this writing, the year 1360, the Empire has conquered and integrated dozens of cultures. The influence of these cultures can be seen throughout the Empire in the diverse customs that are followed.
The history of the Rathan Empire can be divided into three distinct periods: Founding (625-710), The Era of Kings (710-1031), and Imperial Rath (1031– 1300).
The city of Rath was founded around 625 years following the Sundering, the cataclysmic event that changed the world in time immemorial. The city was established in the fertile area known as the plains of Kaiat Koldu. It is thought that the city-state of Rath was initially formed by villagers joining together with settlers from the surrounding hills in response to an invasion of mountain orcs. Archaeological evidence indicates that a great deal of change and unification took place around 630 which likely led to the establishment of Rath as a true city.
By the late seventh century the inhabitants of Rath had organised a loose system of laws, dialects, currency and government. They fought among themselves for domination, and internally over different styles of constitution. Rathan expansion was initially limited by internal dissent in Rath city and the lack of a clear leader. As the city expanded and the demand for building materials grew, the Rathans’ attempts to expand their logging operations into the vast Westmark Forest were rebuffed both militarily and diplomatically by elven tribes, who wanted no interference with their sacred glades.
In 710, the burgeoning city-state was almost totally destroyed. Waves of human tribes from the far east crossed the Kholukkhand Desert and laid waste to Rath. The nomad tribes of Vi’ruk, Sesh’hau and Ferth’assa overwhelmed the disparate Rathan forces within days, then began their ritual practices of cannibalism upon the dead. Complete disaster was only forestalled by unexpected reinforcements from elven and dwarfish settlements, who arrived in time to lend their weight to the battle and lift the siege. The Eastern tribes fled back through the Valley of Dogs and across the desert in disarray.
The humans, elves and dwarves, halflings, gnomes and representatives from other factions and races, met in an unprecedented council in the ruins of Rath. After much debate, they signed the Accords of Unification, which has remained in force ever since. That treaty has been the subject of entire books. However, in short: the elves and dwarves agreed to allow human mining and logging operations along the fringes of their territories (though not into the heart of the sacred glades, or deep into the dwarfish mines), along with the establishment of trade missions and permanent representatives to ensure diplomatic communication.
In return, the humans would grant free passage and guarantee equal rights to all peaceful races who wished to visit Rath, whether for trade purposes or simply to enjoy the benefits of the human city. The Rathans would be required to ensure freedom of movement and the absence of racially-motivated assaults on any non-humans that chose to visit Rath for whatever reason. Even orcs or giants can be seen in Rath. Anyone is welcome as long as they follow the local laws and remain peaceful (although the practices of necromancy and demonic enslavement are outlawed because they are seen to be too at odds with the concept of law and order). Finally, all those who were present at the Accords signed an expression of peace and alliance, with the understanding that they would come to each other’s aid in times of need.
Era of Kings (710-1031)
The first true period of Empire is known as the Era of Kings, after the signing of the Accords in 710. During this new age of peace, the desire to keep to the Accords of Unification gave rise to a requirement for a common system of laws and crime prevention units. To fund these activities, the Rathans had to codify their system of taxation and trade. The lead human representative at the Accords, Talven Meklan, became the first King of Rath and dedicated his life to the prosperity of the growing city-state.
Rath, led by no fewer than eleven kings in this era, advanced both militaristically and economically with increases in physical boundaries, military might, and production and trade of goods with the surrounding races. Politically, this period saw the early formation of what would later become the Rathan constitution. The end of the Era of Kings came with the decline of individual monarchs and the rise of Rath’s parliament in 1031, the Chamber of Lords, thus ushering in Rath’s Imperial Period.
No longer ruled by kings, the Rathans established a new form of government whereby the upper classes ruled, namely the Chamber of Lords. The Lords influencing the Empire were not only political figures but military leaders, religious heads and merchant princes. However, an Emperor was nominated and made the final decisions for the well-being of the Empire, with guidance from the Chamber of Lords. Rath’s first Emperor was a powerful merchant, Atticus Celsus I, after whom Celsus City was named.
Imperial Rath (1031-1300)
In 1070, Emperor Celsus I established the “Twelve Truths”, a standardized code of laws meant for public, private, and political matters, which became the formal constitution of Rath. The essence of the Truths is that the Chamber of Lords rules not for its own enrichment, but for the well-being of all Rathan citizens of all races. While the populace have responsibilities such as following the law and paying their taxes, the Lords have as many, if not more, responsibilities to the commoners underneath them, to ensure peace and that the Accords of Unification are never broken. With the exception of a few corrupt Lords in history, the nobility of the Empire has generally taken this obligation extremely seriously.
Rath continued to expand through the Imperial Period and gained control over the entire peninsula by 1093. It was the Valandan Wars from 1075-1093, along with rapid improvements in Rathan naval technology, that allowed Rath to take control of vast swathes of territory and thus become the dominant maritime power in the Valandan Sea.
During this period, despite the expansion to the east and south, the people in Rath lived in an atmosphere of peace. The Empire became pluralistic, welcoming people of all races, species and cultures, as long as they followed the Twelve Truths. Many religions and customs were subsumed into the fabric of the Empire and for the most part, the citizens co-existed in harmony. Centuries of peace with the elves, dwarves and gnomes meant that increasing numbers of them were seen throughout Rath conducting their business as citizens of the increasingly diverse Empire. Companies of elven archers served as auxiliaries to the Empire’s forces, and gnomes provided magical advice to the Council of Lords.
In expanding to the east, they once again encountered the nomadic tribes that had almost destroyed Rath in its infancy. Though no treaty was signed, an uneasy peace settled following numerous clashes between the Rathan army and the eastern tribes, who refused to establish a formal border. They still claim the entire eastern region as their own, and tribal terrorism and strikes on Rathan settlements frequently occur.
By 1300, Rath’s borders had spread to the north, past the mountain ranges known as Ikhael’s Spine. There, they encountered a powerful civilization that was intensely hostile towards the Rathan incursion into its territory. The Rathan forces were met by legions of goliaths, giants, goblins and orcs – and even human renegades, criminals expelled from Rath, who were working for gold.
However, there was a greater threat. This civilization, which would later become known as Sha-ral, was ruled by dragons, who had set aside their usual aversion to co-operation and joined forces to enrich themselves and enslave others. Led at the time by an ancient chromatic dragon called Elbryth the Nocturnal, the dragons ruled by bribery, terror, magic, and sheer force of will. This information was gained at the cost of many Rathan lives, especially those of the spies who posed as human mercenaries and infiltrated Sha Tolan and Sha Temul, the two largest cities in Sha-ral. This network of spies would soon become the Imperial Inquisitors.
Once they became aware of Rath’s presence on their southern border, the dragons acted quickly. The dragons were not wary in the slightest of the might displayed by Rath, and wanted nothing less than the complete enslavement of the Rathan people. Legions of their underlings swept down from the plains, utterly annihilating the Rathan expeditionary forces in their path, and destroying every settlement they came across. This advance was only stopped by Emperor Carasan I. He met the invading forces at the Battle of Wolf’s Peak in the year 1300. It was a titanic struggle. Tens of thousands battled. The Empire was supported by contingents from all its component races, along with mages, medics and priests.
The Battle seemed to hang in the balance. Neither side was able to gain an advantage, until the Emperor’s position was assaulted by Elbryth the Nocturnal himself. A flight of dragons appeared above the battlefield and tried to wipe out the Lords of the Empire in one assault. With claw, fang and spell, they attacked. The Emperor himself was rescued by the quick actions of an officer named Radburn, who suffered grievous wounds, but would recover and later become one of the greatest war heroes of the modern age.
However, the Empire’s finest lay decimated, dying in their thousands on the rocky outcrops of Wolf’s Peak. The appearance of the dragons gave their troops an increase in morale, and their magic laid waste to the human forces. Rath’s mages were unable to counteract the draconic magic. The Emperor was watching his civilization die.
He turned to his most powerful mage, Ilan Isafa, and begged her to act. In her desperation, she broke one of the fundamental laws of magic. It is said that spells fall into one of nine tiers of potency and destructiveness, and that ninth level spells represent the absolute limitations of magic. Wizards say that the gods themselves will not allow the existence of a spell greater than ninth level. Somehow, in the course of her studies, she had come across an obscure spell of tenth level, possibly even higher. She had learned to cast that which was thought to be impossible – and she cast it that day.
A dark, rippling bubble of magic expanded outwards from her position and dealt massive damage to every creature in its path. It ignored race and affiliation. Every creature slain by this spell was reduced to dust, including most of the invading forces and the bulk of the Empire’s finest military units. The crisis was over in seconds, but Ilan Isafa was never seen again. Some rumours say the gods themselves took her as punishment for using a spell higher than ninth level, for putting the very fabric of the universe at risk. Others say that the spell claimed the lives of all it killed and added them to the longevity of Ilan Isafa, making her nigh immortal. One tale says that she killed herself on the spot, unable to cope with the sheer burden of grief from taking so many lives.
Perhaps we will never ultimately know the truth of what occurred on Wolf’s Peak. To many people in the modern age, the Battle is just a tale or fantastic story. Few know the truth of the sacrifices made on that day to repel the invasion. Even in the capital, contemporary records show that the forces of Sha-ral were seen as an annoyance, a distant threat that would never succeed in taking Rath – although they certainly would have done so were they not stopped. The dragons seemed to have disappeared entirely, and the tribes of orcs, giants and goliaths that survived were so depopulated that they were content to return to the north in peace.
The Emperor returned to Rath, a saddened, broken man. Although he retained power, he withdrew from public life and became increasingly bitter and isolated as he neared the end of his life. His teenage son, Carasan II, oversaw much of the rebuilding of the Rathan forces and the restoration of peace. Several heavily-fortified outposts were established on the northern border. As one of his final acts before he died, Carasan I decreed that the Empire was not to expand further north, lest they provoke another dreadful confrontation with Sha-ral and the dragons – if any remained.
Present Era (1300 onwards)
Sixty years have passed since then. Emperor Carasan II has led us through a period of immense prosperity. The years following the battle provided many opportunities for profit as the army was rebuilt and refitted. We have seen several decades of peace, cultural and scientific advancement, and further expansion to the west and east. Carasan II is now in his late seventies but rules us still with a wise mind and a kindly touch.