Tales from the Arena: Green Prophecy, Red Future
Empire of Izeltium
The greatest empire in the history of Parmens, Izeltium rose from a single river city into a monolithic entity that ruled nearly two continents and wielded the powers of God Itself.
According to mythology, the City of Bar-Izelt was built by the heroic twins Zelta and Pordat some 2500 years ago, two wild children who tricked a group of Giants from the Broken Tower into assembling a home for them rather than eating them. The truth of this is lost to history, and the details of the many hardships and conflicts of the early citizens gone as well, but what is known is that within a thousand years, Bar-Izelt was the most powerful city in all of Central Parmens, and her legions had driven the orcs and giants into the Ogre Steppes to the north.
The growth of Bar-Izelt from a trading hub to the center of civilization, however, was spurred on not just by military or economic might, by by religion. The Church of the One True God, an Eldart religion which had migrated across the Mediarennean Sea, found converts amongst the Izeltian highborn, who decided that the Holy Word must be brought to all who suffered in the darkness of the savage land, and a campaign of aggressive conversion began.
Rather than alienate “conquests” and “heretics”, however, the savvy Izeltians used more peaceful means of conversion when possible. Her legions, well-supported by the treasuries of some eighteen central cities, offered defense to those who were under constant threat of monsters, humanoids and Beastmen on Parmens. Her missionaries accepted the less wild bits of religion amongst the desired converts, while defending others against the depredations of fiend cults and other, less “friendly” religions.
Over the course of another six hundred years, almost all of Parmens came under the influence of Bar-Izeltium, while the nearby Land of the Elder Ones became a source of new wonders and outposts for the expansion of Izeltium. It was around this time, some eight hundred years ago, that the foundations of modern wizardry were laid with the return of Maetra the Wizard from the Far East. These spell-casters were seen at first as a blessing, and a Golden Age of enlightenment and peace spread from the Empire of Bar-Izeltium to it’s provinces.
It was during this time that the Church of the One True God first laid the blessings of the Unnamed One upon the High Chancellor of Bar-Izelt, an innocent action that would one day lead to tragedy.
Civilization reached a high point during this time, and both humans and non-humans built great cities and works at this time, in some places rivaling the craft of those humans uplifted in mists of time by the elves. Tragically, this was not to continue.
Over the next three hundred years, the Empire would be shaken by a series of disasters which would cause the great wealth of political and religious power to fall in the hands of a very privileged few. The first was a disagreement with the clans of Dwarfhome over precious stones in the Granseat Mountains. This conflict came to blows in a five-year-long war, which was decisively won by the Izeltians, and Dwarfthrone was nearly forced to swear allegiance to the Izeltian Senate as punishment.
Next came the Shadowplague, a series of mysterious attacks on the living from the Death-Sorcerers of the Forbidden Land, and unleashed the first plague of undead on Parmens. Though the invaders were driven off, Orcus-worship remained in secret amongst the citizens of the Empire, and questions about the source of wizardly power began to turn public opinion against the mysterious spellcasters who provided much of the Empire’s wonders.
This was followed by uprisings of gnolls, orcs, giants, and others, which taxed the Imperial legions, and allowed Beastpeople from the chilly north to test the bounds of Izeltian strength for the first time in hundreds of years.
It all came to a head some seven hundred years ago when a mysterious rash of “witch-children” began being born. Rare today, these children were born with innate spellcasting powers, and were more numerous than wizards, but far less stable. Despite the efforts of the Society of Arglyph, Izeltium’s premier wizard organization, these “witches” ran rampant across Parmens, and many of them born amongst the monstrous humanoids of the world led their kinsmen to war against the Empire. Weakened from two hundred years of instability, the Empire was nearly rent asunder there, and many cities and towns were looted and razed.
A hundred years of rampant war, called the “Witch-Troubles”, was only brought to a head when High Chancellor Praedicen of Bar-Izelt, the fifth of his family line to hold the title, assumed full regalia (with approval from the Senate), and set all of the Empire to a total war standing. Rebels and humanoids were beaten down, and the Church (to the annoyance of the Society of Arglyph) was tapped to “quell” the witch-children. A program of indoctrination was begun, wherein natural-born spellcasters were taught that they had been born without the One True God’s saving grace, and that such a thing could only be earned by turning their magical powers to the Church’s use.
Seemingly, the extensive pogrom and prejudice seemed to curtail the number of witch-births, and “penitent sorcerers” were once again a rare phenomenon. But the damage had already been done.
When the greatest conflicts were done, the High Chancellor retained the regalia he had assumed in the time of conflict, and was acknowledged as Emperor of all Bar-Izeltium, Praedicen the First. Blessed by the Church, Praedicen’s reign was a prosperous but troubled affair, and he never managed to claim back even a tenth of what was lost in the troubles.
Even so, Praedicen’s family continued to rule over the Empire, and the next hundred and fifty years saw five great emperors come to rule over the Empire, safeguarding her borders and proving that the Bar-Izeltine Empire was yet the greatest power in the land. From Empress Telurrodd the Fair, who sponsored the greatest works of art and architecture in Izeltium’s long history, to Emperor Craesta, a great warrior who built roads all across Parmens that survive to this day, the sheen of the bygone Golden Age seemed almost restored.
But, such power was ill-placed. Despite their good intentions, each successive monarch was more arrogant, was granted more power and felt they deserved it more. Their rule, which was described without rancor as the Tyranny, grew worse and worse…
Until Escaltrom the Fifth rose to the throne.
The War of the Fall
Emperor Escaltrom V was born into the strongest empire in three hundred years. The blessings laid upon him by the Church were beyond any others in their history, and it was said that his divine powers outshone those of any who had come before him. However, he was a vain and paranoid man, and his study of history informed him that his power, no matter how great, was not the only in the land. The Emperor began to dispatch his Legions and Knights across the width and breadth of Parmens and “East Izeltium”, seeking to curtail the power of wizards, fey, and other magical creatures.
Many hedge wizards, house fairies, and druidic hermits were marginalized, captured and, eventually, murdered in the Tyrant’s pogrom. Good and evil meant nothing to him, only that those with arcane powers were destroyed. When these battles began to consume the lives of the common folk, complainants from each province of the Empire journeyed to Bar-Izelt to plead with the Tyrant Escaltrom.
The first three were sent away. The remainder were executed, and their provinces placed under heavy censure.
A rebellion amongst the lower classes and magical community, led by the vengeful wizard Pelaethor began to press against the Legions of Izeltium. Five years of guerrilla fighting had the rebels, called the Enemies of Izeltium, nearly defeated, but they were sustained by the addition of forces from Northern Parmens led by Marcus the Monk, a charismatic commoner who had successfully defeated the Knights of Izeltium on several occasions. They were joined by Lady Celesdue, former Knight of Izeltium and led a coalition of revolting nations on a two year campaign that ended at the gates of Izeltium.
Over this decade of conflict, Escaltrom grew more and more powerful, both temporally and spiritually, and eventually took over the power of Grand Patriarch of the Church of the One True God. As it’s figurehead grew more insane, so too did the religion and, as the Enemies of Izeltium drew their armies against the capital city, Escaltrom the Fifth declared himself not merely Emperor, not merely Grand Patriarch, but Godhead of the Church. Equivalent on the Arena to the One True God Itself, the Tyrant gained a sliver of divine power. An epic battle between the Heroic Triad and himself ended in the disappearance of all three.
As the Age of the Wandering Sky began, the Empire of Izeltium was torn irreparably apart, and the various regional governors, rebel leaders, and other upstarts began fighting each other over the scraps.
While the complete dissolution of civilization was warded off by a tentative alliance brokered by the nascent Church of the Three, what was once an Empire that straddled two continents had collapsed in the course of some twelve years. New kingdoms like Gal-Nentiriyar and the City of the Black Cask rose and fell from the ashes, and the Arena continued on.
But the power and glory of Bar-Izeltium survives to the present day. Ruins from it’s two thousand years of existence litter Parmens; some built over other, older cities, others made from whole cloth. To this day, the countries of the Land of the Elder Ones live in cities in the Izeltine style, and many emulate the Imperial trappings of the fallen nation. And a greater legacy remains in the night sky, which shifts completely every year after the Empire’s fall, and in Heaven and Hell, where the astral victors and losers of that conflict remain, plotting for the future of the world.