|History of the Empire|
|Historical account: The Reconciliation of The Empire and Avernum|
|Written by Dorn Kaytar|
|Began: 832 IE | Ended: 843 IE|
After Empress Prazac tasked the Surface Explorers from Unspecified Services with the mission to destroy the monster plagues in Valorim, Avernum was rewarded with a peace treaty and a substantial area of land in Southeastern Valorim (near Karnold Province). Many Avernites settled in that area, founding the city called Dawn, and traffic between Avernum and the Empire began in earnest.
Period of Silence
After the Empire withdrew from the caves, having failed in its retaliatory attack on the Kingdom of Avernum late in 823 IE, there began a long time through which there was no contact between the surface and the caves.
The Kingdom was busy rebuilding its devastated cities and cleaning up the debris that the invasion had brought. The Empire, then ruled by the young Prazac I, was busy expanding the infrastructure of Valorim, whose settlement had been somewhat interrupted by the mass exiling and the war. The two nations left each other alone throughout a period of almost seven years.
When Avernum's economy was for the most part functioning again, and its population was rising in spite of the lack of new Avernites, the Kingdom began looking for new frontiers. Several caverns had been collapsed, both through the use of excessive combat magic and through deliberate destruction on both sides. Scryings revealed further cavers toward the south and the west, but Avernum had another ambition. They wished to see daylight once more.
Perhaps their victory had made them overbold, but after years had passed and the Empire had neither launched another invasion nor resumed sending down Exiles, they grew curious as to the state of affairs above ground.
The end of Exile's function as a prison, however, had done nothing to ease the difficulty of reaching the surface from below. The war had depleted much power (and destroyed a lot of the magical facilities), thus teleporting was beyond the realm of the practical, if not outright impossible. Instead, the wizards confined themselves to scrying the heavy rock layers above the caverns for any tunnels or weak places that might be excavated.
Instead of a tunnel, they eventually found a series of caverns so close beneath the surface that they were hardly a part of Exile proper, lying far above it. These caverns were extensive, to be sure, they apparently held a large underground lake, and would be eminently habitable once the various artificial plants of Avernum were introduced to them. But what was most interesting about them was that it was connected to the surface world above.
In 831, finally, this discovery was acted upon. With the help of the Vahnatai, Avernum's ally in the war, a portal was built in the Tower of Magi, which connected with a counterpart in the southwestern corner of Upper Avernum, as the cave came to be called. Upper Avernum was settled and several cities were built along its lake. Of note were the move of archmage Erika Redmark, who had dwelled in the Abyss previously, and of several Vahnatai who built the tower of Ghikra.
The First Party
Across the tunnel that opened out to the surface, a fort was constructed both as a defense against any invading Empire troops and to serve as a base for surface exploration. For there was now no doubt that explorers were going to be sent. To mark this eventual return to the surface, the fort was named Fort Emergence.
In 832 IE, a party of adventurers was recruited into Unspecified Services, the covert branch of the Avernite military. This party consisted of Erin, Elsner, Gwost and Tucker. They were trained briefly, equipped with powerful magical items by the wizard X, and teleported to Upper Avernum, where they left the caves through Fort Emergence.
Unfortunately, their mission was doomed to fail. What exactly happened to the party after it left is not entirely clear, but it appears they separated almost immediately. They never reported back.
The Second Party
Failing to receive any results, and eventually having to acknowledge the likely failure of the mission, Anaximander of Unspecified Services was under enormous pressure. As soon as the surface exploration was widely admitted as a failure, both public sentiment and his superiors would be so turned against further exploration, that he needed to either immediately launch a new mission or abandon the plan altogether for the next few years.
Under such time pressure, Anaximander was left no choice but to post advertisements for another party of adventurers, take the first half-way competent ones who responded, and send them on their way.
Here is where the reports vary. Some claim that this second party numbered four, and their names were Aldous, Ssschah, Cordelia and Mycroft. Other reports name six adventurers: Jenneke, Thissa, Frrr, Adrianna, Feodoric and Michael, and that the earlier four were actually the third party to be sent. As the files concerning this mission are still classified, no definite answer can be given. It is known, however, that the four were eventually the ones to be credited with defeating the plagues on Valorim, while the whereabouts of the six are presently unknown. There are scarcely credible rumors that they either deserted, betrayed, or were discharged from Unspecified Services.
The Plagues of Valorim
The final party of surface explorers discovered that the surface was no longer the idyllic homeland they had dreamed about. Six plagues of monsters roamed the surface, terrorizing the people of Valorim. The Surface Explorers were tasked with eliminating the plagues and currying favor with the Empire. They began with the slimes in Krizsan Province, where they came across the seal of Erika Redmark in the back chambers of the Slime Pit. From there they moved to the Isle of Bigail and their disease-carrying cockroaches, which were produced in the aptly named Filth Factory. After destroying the factory with a Phoenix Egg and finding suspicious dragon scales on the ground, they had their second suspect. However, both Erika and the dragons agreed to aid the adventurers, providing them with a protective amulet and the Beastslayer Blade, respectively.
It was not until the troglodytes of Karnold Province and the giants terrorizing Midori Province were dealt with that another group was under suspicion. When the adventurers broke down the barriers separating the natural enemies and let them eliminate each other, they grabbed some of the crystal shards left behind and had them analyzed by Berra, the wizard of Fort Emergence. He suspected that they were of Vahnatai origin, and when confronted in Ghikra, Rentar-Ihrno only offered vague warnings. After destroying the source of the golems in the Tower of Shifting Floors in Monroe Province, more crystal shards found their way to Berra, who this time confirmed that the Vahnatai had made the golems and were behind the plagues. This was verified beyond the shadow of a doubt when Ghikra was found completely empty when the adventurers sought out Rentar a second time.
A Deal Between Nations
When Anaximander, head of Unspecified Services, heard this, he sent the Surface Explorers to negotiate a deal with Empress Prazac. If the adventurers rid Valorim of the plagues, the Exiles would be allowed to return to the surface. Prazac reluctantly agreed, and let the adventurers into Footracer Province to seek out the source of the devastation. After navigating their way to the Keep of Tinraya through treacherous, alien beast-filled terrain, they went underground again to Rentar-Ihrno's fortress, which they valiantly destroyed after an epic battle which saw Erika Redmark sacrifice her life to save the Empire which cast her away. Before the fortress could collapse on the brave Avernites, Prazac had them teleported out to Blackcrag Fortress, where she showed her admiration for them by naming them all honorary Empire dervishes. As part of the deal between the nations, Prazac granted Avernum the territory of Provincial Avernum, located in southeastern Valorim.
Since that day, free traffic between the Empire and Avernum has occurred, with many merchants relishing the opportunity to offer their goods underground or on the surface. However, for a year the Surface Portal was inoperable as Rentar's retribution, combined with the tension of the Darkside Loyalists, brought new isolation and fear to Avernum. But with Rentar's demise, relations between the nations have returned to normal.