Saturday, July 1, 2017

Valley Kingdoms: The Empire of the Throne, Middle Period

Wondering what the hell is going on with these blog posts? Well, head on over to this here post to get a general feeling for the Valley Kingdoms. If you'd like to read the other Valley Kingdoms pages, you can click the button up top or just follow this link to the index.

The Empire of the Throne
The Middle Period

The reign of Emperor Katha the Scholar ended in the year 97 F.V. This traditionally begins what was known as the Middle Period of the Sifik Empire. The central imperial period was typified by a stable succession of power from emperor to emperor. The Sifik Emperors generally groomed their own replacements and presented them before the Thivatin assembly in Daredin. Each of the major cities of Sifhem was granted its own self-governing council. These small thivatin were regional centers of administration, each with its own code of laws that applied to its hinterlands. This was known as the Administration of Two Lords, meaning the Sifik Emperor (usually as embodied by his agents, the High Wizards of Shalpirith) and the local thivatin.

Local nobility were also semi-independent, although they were knit together to the general imperial culture by means of a growing corpus of Sifik literature and learning. Of course, as the middle period went on, the nobles began to dominate the regional thivatin. Strict laws issued from the Litha Palace, however, prevented them from ever obtaining too much influence in the Great Thivatin.

The Middle Period saw a number of wars in the west and south of the Sea of Yer, as Sifhem had yet to integrate the small states in those regions. The descendants of Othan were particularly fierce in their bids for independence, to the point where, though Dumyana had long ago been abandoned, the great city of Argot claimed to be host to a series of new Othan Queens, who formed the core of a Southern Alliance against Sifhem.

While the Southern Alliance resisted Sifik occupation for centuries, it was nowhere near as great an existential threat as the Medenleb. In the time since Medenleb's dominance of the Seas of Yer and Feb, the Great Library had become the primary political organ of the city. Ruled by academic wizards, it presented a directly challenge to Sifhem's type of authority—the Sifik Emperor claimed to be the premier wizard in the Valley, with his lieutenants the High Wizards as the only legitimate form of magical organization. Indeed, in each territory Sifhem conquered, wizards were taken in tribute and, under several of the more warlike emperors, were even tied to powerful standing stones where their magic was nullified by the presence of Yasivan and subsequently executed as a blood-tax from conquered nations.

Middle Period Sifhem also established a much more comprehensive road system in the interior regions. The so-called Throne Provinces became highly developed, with an extensive trade network overseen by imperial civil servants. The crowning achievement of this time was undoubtedly the construction of the Darish Bridge, across the strait separating Shalpirith from the Throne Provinces. This massive undertaking was a bridge of native Shalpirith stone with soaring arches high enough to permit the massive barges and roundbellied ships that plied the waters there. Towering several hundred feet high and crossing nearly ten miles of deep water, the architect of the bridge, the wizard Sawe, was so adored that she was made Empress later in her life.

Of course, one of the important things to note about Middle Sifhem was its extensive use of slaves. Several conquests and expeditions were conducted beyond the Valley. These extra-valley people, as part of the Cult of Ya's theology, were then and have ever since been seen as something other than human. To have the quality of being human (dunum in Middle Sifik) is to be connected to Yasivan. Both the Sifik Emperor at the very top of the hierarchy and Sifik slaves captured in war, at the very bottom, were thought to lack this essential trait or quality -- slaves might develop dunum through living in the Valley and slowly becoming connected to Ya, but the Sifik Emperor was something else altogether: as a wizard, he had purposefully severed the link to Ya that bestows dunum on the Valley-folk.

As the Middle Period came to a close, Sifhem conquered the holdout kingdoms in the south and west, save for the vassal-states of Medenleb and the Wizard's City herself. These autonomous regions would never be conquered by any Sifik Emperor.

Unlike most of the states of the Valley, Sifhem suffered only a handful of major civil conflicts during its heyday. These came in the form both of a few civil wars between imperial claimants, but also revolts from below -- both entire cities, provincial governors, and even in some cases, castes of nobles in some district of the Empire revolted during this period. Notably, however, none of these revolts ever seriously threatened the unity of the Empire, mostly because of the lack of external threats large enough to seriously challenge Sifhem.

All this would change in the Late Period, when the tadunum or Inhumans beyond the Valley began to make inroads against the power of empire and, eventually, through pressure on its borders, caused it to collapse.

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