Ascent of Ironclad II
|History of the Empire|
|Historical account: The Pralgadian War of Succession|
|Written by Taron Gregor Merallion, independent historian, 219 IE|
|Began: 204 IE | Ended: 219 IE|
In year 201 of the Imperial Era, Viceroy I ascended to the Imperial Throne. He faced harsh internal struggle and resistance from the powerful houses of Pralgad. Neither a Sol nor an Ironclad, Viceroy was doomed from the start. Weakened by open rebellion in Aizo and barely cloaked insubordination in Pralgad, he was virtually powerless. He lasted three years before he was assassinated by a disaffected guardsman in the pay of Bogdan Kesh, an general in the Imperial Army and a cousin of Viceroy I. Kesh was detained and executed by a few remaining loyalists, while the rest of Pralgad plotted to take the throne.
The Civil War that followed Viceroy's assassination was a struggle of mainly four, arguably five factions, to which a sixth was added near the end of the war.
Sol was the first house of the Pralgadian Empire, since Sol I had declared it in 1 IE. In the unclear succession, they held some degree of legitimacy and the most powerful economy. The mines around Solaria in Western Pralgad were the most abundant source of iron and precious metals, which gave them a superior weapons supply as well as a lot of bartering power.
The leader of House Sol, and their imperial candidate, was Jehan Sol, a brilliant and ruthless Brigadier-General.
Ironclad, another Aizoan noble house that was living in exile on Pralgad, had last held the throne before the controversial appointment of Cullen Dragos as heir. As such, they also had a great claim on the throne when he died. This they based mainly on the assertion that the appointment had been in violation of all custom and tradition, and that the legitimate heir was Ironclad I's son, and then his grandson Gideon. They did not possess limitless weapon supplies, but they had control of the Imperial Army, and thus had the greatest territory and the most numbers. Their capital, Blackstone, was the strongest fortress of the continent, easily surpassing the capital in invincibility.
Gideon Ironclad, the imperial candidate, was neither learned nor very intelligent, although he possessed a captivating personal charm.
Dorian Kylen, illegitimate grandson of Ironclad I, won the support of a small, but influential faction of the Ironclads. A former councilor of Viceroy, and the one who brought to justice Bogdan Kesh, he also had the support of the Imperial Council and was able to seize the capital Imperius. Perched precariously between the powerful Solarans to the West, and the numerous Ironclads to the East, their only advantage was the control of strategic lines of travel as well as the growers in Southwest Pralgad, providing the bulk of food produce for the Empire.
While Dorian Kylen would likely have kept his surname upon ascending to the throne, this name had no noble house to it and his claim to the throne was arguably the least legitimate of the three.
Sailor's Association of Free Trade
The Sailor's Association (SAFT, as it was also known) was the most powerful economic guild on Ermarian in its day. They had a virtual monopoly on sea trade and transport, and all of Pralgad being a terrain eminently unsuitable for land transport (mountains, large inland sea deltas, etc.), their trade power was immense.
Its founder and then head was the infamous Vida, a former pirate. Some rumored that her association, covered by its legitimate business front, still employed pirates and engaged in piracy, but that was hardly necessary to maintain its influence.
The SAFT was determined to remain neutral in the conflict as long as possible, thus to secure their greatest profit.
The Aizoan Expedition Force
Ironclad I had, after nearly three centuries of a total cut-off of communication between Pralgad and Aizo, dispatched an expeditionary force of troops to Aizo with orders to bind the lost continent, birthplace of the Empire, back into the Empire where it belonged.
Led by General Corim Warderson, the Aizoan Front was largely ignorant of the current happenings in Pralgad, with a fast ship requiring more than six months to travel between the two continents.
The Pralgadian Populists
Risen in response to the atrocities in several towns and the often indiscriminate massacres of civilian farmers by the armies, the Populists first made their appearance in 211 IE. Their goal was to abolish the Imperial monarchy and turn Pralgad into a republic. Their numbers were large but disorganized, their communications were slow and their equipment atrocious, but their morale was fanatical and their intelligence network all-pervasive.
204 - 206 IE: Aftershocks
The assassination of Emperor Viceroy I by Bogdan Kesh was an unprecedented action. For the first time in its brief history of just over two centuries, the young Empire found itself without a clear successor.
Former successors - for childless rulers - were elected long before the reigning Emperor's natural death, and took the crown mere days after the appointed time of mourning. This time, there was none. And while the traditional thirty days passed (from Viceroy's death on the 10th of Evermoon), the various factions of the council were in hot dispute as to the future of the Empire.
They hoped to appoint a successor from one of the noble houses, but there turned out to be a problem. The only one with the authority to appoint a successor outside of natural descendancy was the Emperor, and the Emperor was presently decomposing in his crypt. The searched the records for evidence of a possible descendant - one who could be bribed or coerced to appoint another noble - but Viceroy had no descendants, legitimate or illegitimate, before or after he was crowned. They tried to elect an emperor in a council vote, but there was no procedure for that. Drastic measures were called for; some were ready to write a constitution, but there was no consensus.
The Empire, whose only laws were Tradition and the Emperor, proved to be impossible to govern in the violation of the former and the absence of the latter.
As the Empire threatened to break apart at the seams, the council could not come to an agreement. The wizard Ayin Yuvak, then on the Imperial Council, dared to suggest a government of the people, but was immediately overruled. Anarchy could lead to nothing, it was said. In bitterness, Ayin resigned from the council, left the capital and was last seen in his home city of Horus. It were vastly unpredicted circumstances under which he was later to resurface.
After over a year of ineffective Council leadership, the end was predictable. Tradition allowed that, in times when the Emperor was indisposed, the various provinces of Pralgad were ruled by their respective noble houses. Such a state of emergency was declared, and as its last official act, the council disbanded itself on the first day of the New Year, Remembrance 1 206.
206 - 211 IE: Prelude to War
Signs of the impending hostilities could be seen even then: The nobles of House Ironclad and Sol dwelling in Imperius left the capital to return to their respective lands. The Imperial Army, led by generals sympathetic to the Ironclad family, was filling its ranks and almost on constant duty. Jehan Sol, too, was recruiting an army. By winning the sympathies of the towns close to Solaria, and especially the mining cities along the western coast, he gained the advantage in steel weaponry, which Ironclad had to trade for. In the absence of an emperor, restrictions on private Livery and Maintenance were a hollow law, and the private armies of Sol and Ironclad were building up. Both houses were already harboring imperial ambitions, though they did not state it openly.
In 209 IE, an unprecedented action shocked the Empire yet again. Dorian Kylen, advisor of Viceroy I and illegitimate grandson of Ironclad I, declared himself the rightful heir to the throne. He had been speaker of the Council at the time Viceroy died, and it was thanks to him that the Council had achieved anything at all in the following year. He was older than Gideon Ironclad, and his legitimacy was a matter of bribery.
An opportunist to the core, Kylen was able to take control of the capital of Imperius in the absence of the partisans who had deserted it. The lands around the Jsoulza basin and the Delta, belonging neither to Sol nor to Ironclad, fell to him by default, as large parts of the Imperial army defected to him - mostly disaffected officials who saw in Ironclad an inefficient figurehead and a potential weak emperor. Kylen was also the first to institute a military draft, in his new self-assumed office of Emperor. Although the Kylenian infantry was less well-equipped than the Solaran one, and Ironclad's army was better trained, Kylen had the strength of numbers.
Controlling several of the vital industries, especially agricultural, he had partisan supporters on both sides of the Jsoulza mountains. The control of the mountain passes was a crucial objective to his cause - and these passes were the first to taste blood.
211 IE: First Strike
It was Kylen's claim that shattered the fragile peace - or rather, hastened the inevitable war.
The ambitions of the other houses had been nothing less than obvious, but Dorian Kylen was the first of the pretenders to openly declare himself the rightful emperor. Jehan Sol and Gideon Ironclad were quick to assert their own claims and denounce each other as traitors. For almost two years, the factions ignored each other and continued to prepare, the tension throughout the continent almost palpable.
Finally, the storm broke. Again, it was Kylen who took the initiative: His was the central position on the continent, and although this put his forces into a double front, he had the best opportunity of controlling all land traffic between East and West. And take it he did: On the third of Suncome, 211 IE, a moderate but well-ordered force of Kylenian soldiers attacked the passes through the central Jsoulza Mountains, which were presently held by the Ironcladians under Colonel Karadas.
This war was to last for a year, but after a number of battles, pyrrhic victories on both sides mixed in with ignoble routs, General Ilai Hugo launched a surprise attack on Karadas' main fortress, Fort Six.
Through the strategical use of firebombs, Hugo was able to demoralize the defenders to such a degree that a lot of the garrison surrendered on the spot. Karadas and his remaining men fled the fortress toward the south, gathering followers sufficient to attack and retake the crucial passes. However, his army was attacked yet again by Kylenian sympathizers from the south and the east, while being pursued by the Kylenian forces from the passes.
Karadas' army suffered an utter defeat, and it was through luck and skill alone that Karadas himself escaped. He remained in the southern hills of eastern Pralgad, rallying a vicious guerilla force that was to cause long-lasting difficulties to the Kylenian-controlled territories. For years, the immediate area of the rivers was the only territory that the Kylenians could hold easily.