A History of Azara
Volume 1: The Empire
The Empire kept vast and meticulous records, consolidated by the Archivists, keepers of the Imperial Archives. Transcriptions of these books, brought to Imperius in a bygone time, account for the majority of our knowledge about the Empire and its history. Throughout these volumes, I will do my best to condense this information and provide a thorough but more accessible history of the world. This first volume will be particularly brief, often providing little more than brief summaries for important events. Where applicable, I will provide references to volumes which discuss these subjects in greater detail.
Chapter 1: Origins of the Empire
(This chapter provides a brief summary of the Progenitors. For more information, consult A History of Azara: Volume 3: The Progenitors and Early Atharius)
As with any good history lesson, it is important to start at the beginning. In the case of Azara, that beginning has proved difficult to trace. As we, in New Ora trace our origins to the Empire, so too did they trace their origins to a great civilization; the Progenitors, as they are now called. The Progenitors were a highly advanced civilization, both culturally and technologically. Their empire stretched from the straight Ora in the north to the fortress of Blackrock along the Ember Sea in the south. In total, their civilization covered roughly a third of the territory that would eventually be controlled by the Empire.
Ultimately, little information remains about the progenitors. We know they kept thorough records and archives, but it appears that the vast majority of this knowledge was lost when their capital was abandoned in the early 300s. Most of the information we do have comes from Atharius, a city state south of the Progenitors whose founding can be traced back to well before 300BCE. It is generally accepted that Atharius and the Progenitor’s capital were founded within a century of each other, but the exact dates are unknown.
Technologically, the progenitors appear to have been well ahead of their time. While they never fully utilized redstone, they accomplished many similar contraptions through the advanced application of steam. Ruins indicate they had a fully functional and largely automated railway system, although it appears this was primarily used for the transportation of goods, rather than people. Lighting was primarily accomplished by candles and oil, although redstone-powered lights saw limited use in the late 200s. The primary methods of travel were by ship and horse-drawn carriage, which were made more efficient by the Progenitor’s well-maintained infrastructure.
The Progenitors also had rich culture. What few ruins remain reveal intricate sculptures and architecture. In addition, records indicate artists and musicians were central in urban culture, while roaming bands of musicians were common entertainment at smaller towns. Operas appear to have been particularly popular in the capital, which had a massive theater dedicated to such performances.
Little is known about the Progenitor’s military, as there are no accounts of major military conflicts. It is likely they kept a standing army, primarily consisting of foot soldiers and a smaller force of cavalry. Given their use of steam, it is likely they were capable of producing advanced siege weaponry. However, no records or plans remain if such weapons were built. Despite the lack of military conflict, nearly all Progenitor settlements were built as fortresses, with fortifications capable of withstanding most sieges.
In the early 300s, disease began to spread through the capital city. It is still unclear if this is a result of a lack of sanitation or an early example of biological warfare. However, given the evidence of sewers in most large Progenitor cities, most assume this disease was the result of an outside group. The exact motivations for such an attack are unclear, which is the primary reason this theory has never been wholly accepted.
(For more information regarding these theories, consult A History of Azara: Volume 7: Mythology and Mysteries)
The capitol was officially abandoned in the year 324. No written history remains from this point on, but it is theorized that, in the absence of a central government, the major cities became independent city states, establishing strict quarantines in an attempt to keep the plague from spreading. The specific events following are unclear, but in the end these quarantine efforts failed, and by 326 nearly every major Progenitor settlement had been abandoned.
One noteworthy exception was the mountain fortress of Blackrock. As the southernmost Progenitor settlement, Blackrock served as primary fortress defending the Progenitor’s southern border. Resting on the coast of the Ember Sea, Blackrock was an impregnable fortress that was intended to serve as a bastion for the Progenitor elite during times of crisis. When disease began to spread, Blackrock sealed itself off from the rest of the empire. Over the following centuries, Blackrock became a nearly self-sufficient city state, completely isolating itself from the outside world with the sole exception of Ember Isle, a small island located a few miles of the coast. Blackrock came to rely on trade with Ember Isle merchants for many basic goods, and an alliance between the two city states slowly fostered.
(For more information on Blackrock and Ember Isle, consult A History of Azara: Volume 4: Blackrock and the Ember Sea Alliance)
As the Progenitor’s empire collapsed, the survivors formed numerous small nomadic groups. These groups primarily occupied the area just south of the Ora Straight, east of the Great Desert and the coast that would eventually become Novum Ora, and west to the Ora Sea. In 451, a small trading post was established along the Ora Straight. While it is unclear who originally established the outpost, it eventually became a central location for many of the nomadic groups in the area. Given its central location, the trading post became a center of prosperity and wealth. Over time, the trading post grew into a small city, attracting new citizens from a variety of backgrounds. This resulted in something of a melting pot of culture, meaning what little remained of Progenitor culture was likely lost during this time.
Chapter 2: The Early Empire and the Capital
The Empire was officially established in the year 749. At this point, the capital had expanded to occupy most of the southern coast of the Ora Straight. The constant influx of immigrants led to an insatiable demand for housing. Architects began to build both up and down, resulting in a multi-layered metropolis that eventually became the Eastern District. Characterized by aqueducts, bridges, multilayered roads, and an excess of lamps to compensate for the lack of sunlight, the Eastern District became the primary hub for the lower and middle class of the city. The Eastern District also expanded to the mountains along the coast, which eventually became popular locations for the houses of the upper-middle class. In a feat of architectural ingenuity, a massive elevated park was built over park of the south Eastern District. Supported by three massive columns, as well as the wall of the city itself, the park became a major tourist attraction for the city.
Construction of the Western District began in the late 700s. Unlike the Eastern District, the Western District was thoroughly planned. The plans were undoubtedly ambitious, but given the capital’s immense wealth accrued through trade and natural resources, construction proceeded smoothly. By 718, the majority of the Western District was complete. Towering buildings housed the city’s upper class. Below the streets, a series of elaborate tunnels connected by courtyards contained shops, galleries, and theatres. In addition, the Western District housed the Imperial Archives, as massive underground library that contained the sum total of the Empire’s knowledge. Access to these archives was heavily restricted and segmented, and only a handful of people in the entire land had access to every section.
The central feature of the Western District was the elevated promenade. The promenade ran the length of the Western District, stretching from the hill-top Royal Inn in the east to the Capitol Building in the west. The Capitol building was undoubtedly the crown jewel of the capital. The core of the structure was an open pantheon, lined by colossal columns. The entrance branched off to the three different sub-buildings. To the North was the Senate Wing. Serving as both the primary meeting place for and offices of members of the Senate; the Senate Wing generally saw the most traffic. To the south was the Foreign Affairs Wing. This Wing served as a luxury hotel for visiting diplomats, while providing space for negotiations and discussion.
Lastly, straight ahead to the West was the Throne Room. As the seat of power for the Empire, the throne room was intended to inspire both awe and terror. A towering vaulted ceiling loomed over elaborate tiled floors with intricate patterns that all seemed to lead to the throne itself, seated atop a set of stairs. Entrance to the throne room was only granted with an appointment, which in itself could be challenging to arrange. Seeing the emperor himself was even rarer, as audiences would generally be taken by his Steward. Generally, the emperor is only seen in the throne room when meeting with his advisors. Rather he spends most of his time in his personal quarters. Little is known about this hidden fourth wing. However, it is believed these halls are where the emperor takes his most important audiences.
Construction of the Western District was not considered complete until 734. By then, the District had grown well beyond original plans, although the core remained untouched. However, as the demand for housing continued, Architects began planning a new district to the north, on a small peninsula that stretched out into the Ora Straight. Known as the Northern District, or Seaside District, these new houses were meant for middle and upper class citizens who wished to live in smaller houses outside of the crowded Western District. Houses in this district were generally smaller, rarely reaching more than two to three stories in height. The architecture borrowed heavily from the architecture of Atharius and was modeled to be more classic and gentle than the imposing skyline of the Western District.
The Capital was also designed to be a fortress, capable of withstanding extended siege. Despite its immense size, access to the Ora Straight ensured sufficient supplies for citizens and soldiers, while towering walls and turrets could hold off any army. These defensive measures ultimately proved unnecessary, as the Capital became a central city of the Empire. Surrounded on all sides by fortress cities and substantial military forces, a siege of the Capital itself was nearly impossible.
Chapter 3: Expansion and the First States
As the Empire grew, so did its need for protection. As a beacon of wealth and prosperity for the imperial heartlands, the Capital drew the eyes of criminal syndicates and hostile tribes alike. While the Capital itself never came under direct siege, a series of attacks on the surrounding lands made the need for protection evident. This eventually led to the founding of the first state in 785, Arcis. Founded as a fortress city, Arcis’ imposing walls and impressive military garrison strengthened the Empire’s southern border. Over time a series of towns grew around the fortress, spreading down the Ashen Peninsula which stretched into the Ember Sea. Unlike the other states that would eventually be founded, Arcis never became a large city. However, the towns along the Ashen Peninsula became popular trading ports for the region. Arcis was also the first state to have contact with Ember Isle.
By the late 700s, the continued population growth and massive demand for resources had become a serious problem for the Capital. The Empire sought to create a new city that would serve as an industrial center for the heartland. In 793, the town of Novum Ora was founded. Located far to the east and north of the Great Desert, Novum Ora began as a small coastal town whose primary wealth lay in its vast iron mines. Over time, the city became a center of trade in the region, providing the Empire access to the Northern Seas, and through them access to the merchant fleets of the northern city states.
While it was originally intended to supply the Empire, Novum Ora was eventually given statehood and a seat in the senate in 820. The city continued to grow through the mid 800s, with a large influx of citizens following the discovery of a massive diamond vein in 857. While the vein was entirely depleted by 860, the fortune-seeking prospectors became a new source of a labor for the city’s vast iron mines.
In the early 900s, the issue of border protection was once again brought to the forefront by a series of raids from tribes to the north. While the Ora Straight served as adequate protection from these tribes for the Capital, the western heartlands were left vulnerable. In 914, a group of scouts were sent north to assess possible defenses. They discovered that, despite the seemingly inhospitable cold, numerous apparently hostile nomadic groups occupied the northern tundra. In addition, they found a possible location for a fortress that could provide adequate defenses against these groups. In 916, construction of the fortress began. Built against a large hill on the coast, the fortress was easily defensible, with ocean ports allowing for resupply during extended sieges.
As construction of the fortress continued, peaceful tribes began to build settlements in its shadow. Chief among these were the Kerzins, a relatively large group of generally peaceful nomadic tribes. As time went on, they gradually assimilated into imperial culture, and by the time the fortress had been completed in 921, the settlements had grown into a large town. As the town attracted more immigrants from the surrounding lands, it gradually grew into a city known as Galo (likely named after “Gala”, the Kerzin word for sanctuary). In 923, Galo was acknowledged as the third state of the Empire.
End of Volume 1 Come back for Volume 2 later!