In 1685, the Cellian Empire was proclaimed by Mureios I of Arcellus and began the prosperous century of Ashanzu expansion. When its internal politics fell into turmoil, self-proclaimed "millile-zarods" began to declare themselves and conquer tribes of primitives. Ultimately, nearly two centuries of war bankrupt the Empai's vaults and its people. It's moment of triumph faded just as soon as it appeared.
The conquest of his father, Mureios I was followed up by a period of relative peace in which Mureios I began to spread Cella's influence across its newly conquered lands. In addition to merchant ports that were forced to use Cellian currency and the eggs of locals were replaced with the eggs of Grems taken from Cella. Notable colonies included Isawemin Lumafia and Vastasuesmin Bankamana, the coastal colonies off Vasta that provided fine wood for Arcellus, Vatsasuesmin Bankafia and Vastasuesmin Bankaterra, two trade outposts under the control of entrepreneurial Ashanzu Loro Kempt Financier Man. Further east were Boravasuesmin Bankaterra and Empai's Visit, settlements with large populations of immigrant Tokai and Sprites respectively.
The Kavees rebellions of 1711 and 1716 and the Hammer War of 1715 weakened the Empai, but left the core strength of its army intact. A strong opposition movement was growing, believing that the Empai's response to insurrection was too soft. The rebellious faction prepared for a coup and waited for a suitable time to launch.
In 1730, Andurian Rafil, cousin of the Empai, was secretly smuggled back into the city of Werex Bankasorabeau by diplomats from his mortal enemy - the Ghidovians. A retired retuvian named Erasmus Atreit and his companion cleric Lara Olens were brought by Loro Kempt Financier Man. They made demands of the Empai for tribute to be send to quell Ghidovia's internal problems following their civil war. When the demands were not met, a bloody coup was instigated that left most of the Rafil court dead, and the Millile-Zarod Andurian Rafil was declared Empai.
Under Andurian's genocidal vision for the Ashanzu, a rapid depletion of the royal reserves of arcane dust and gold were siphoned towards his fortresses in southern Vasta built in Ghidovia and Loro Kempt Financier Man's territory. After only a few years in 1733, Andurian abdicated the throne and retired into a life of luxyry at the expense of the thousands of Ashanzu he murdered through forced labour, death marches, and manufactured famines throughout the rise.
A young Arcva named Daria Rafil I, nephew of both Andurian and Mureios II, took the throne in 1735 after she was Augmented. Daria's reign stabilized the decline of the empire and restored some of the losses experienced under Andurian and Mureios II. Daria left the rule of the empire to her advisors while she spend a decade studying, touring the empire, and visiting Ghidovia. When she returned in 1736, Daria reformed the tax system to a two-tiered system whereby local Loros were expected to pay directly to the Empai in return for the right to tax their subjects as much as they wanted, within some limits. This reform allowed the empire's coffers to replenish and its debts get repaid despite declining trade in the increasingly hostile Jarissa and Cedorax seas.
Daria also established cordial diplomatic relations with Redoga for the first time in centuries. The two nations had previously been locked in a state of perpetual war until Andurian abandoned control over the western coast of the Pizors Straight. Now, the two formally made a truce that would prohibit Redoga from constructing war galleys in exchange for Cellian removal of tariffs from its merchant fleet.
The Colonies Depart
In 1747, the Iron League formed. This league of merchant colonies in southern Vasta, Ghidovia, and southern Borava had sustained themselves for years without the support of the Crimson Sails or any military assistance against Vasten or Tokai raids. When asked to pay direct taxes to the Empai, the League decided that they no longer had any reason to remain in the empire, knowing full well that the Crimson Sails could not challenge them so far from home. Zarodess Freja Norsom of Ghidovia annexed the parts of the League in Ghidovia, and ensured that Ghidovia actively maintained favorable relations with the empire, despite a decline in trade.
The Second Kavees War
Kavees was a prosperous land at the end of the century, but it lacked centralized power and was unable to stop incursions from the Great Tribe of Nomi Auq. That tribe fractured upon the death of Great Strongman Quick Mind in 1758, leaving a vacuum in northern Kavees that the Cellians filled with three milliles shipped in haste from Werex by aspiring millile-zarod Doran Amari. Junian II of Kavees also sent in an army of his skirmishers, who fought with the milliles over Nomi Auq. The Cellians retaliated with expeditions into Kavees from the south that captured Esmaj Vinaola Diu. Junian II arranged a truce where he would cede control of his borders and his tax collection to the Empai. Though nominal control of the Kavees Highlands remained with Junian, the empire had recovered from Andurian.
Cellian Civil War
Daria was popular among her people and her army and her efforts to decentralize the empire's leadership provided greater local efficiency. However, they also left room for aspiring millile leaders to emerge, much as had happened with Andurian almost a century earlier. In 1801 the young Empai Muat III of the Cellian Empire was augmented. He did not posses the same goodwill as his mother had during her prosperous reign.
Millile-Zarod Doran Amari disputed the claim of Muat III in 1803. He argued that he was an illegitimate son of Andurian fathered during the old Empai's exile in Ghidovia and, although no longer part of Court Rafil, he had more potential to rule than did Muat III. Several powerful rulers took sides in the civil war:
- Zarod Junian II Kavees supported Doran in exchange for the promise of land around Nomi Auq;
- The Vasten Tribes of eastern Kavees supported Doran as an excuse to plunder Junian II's land; and
- Loro Magnus Haurim of the Wes Fuval took Doran's side in hopes of gaining control of the surrounding south-draining fuvals.
The early years of the war were attempted to be resolved diplomatically by Muat III, who did not wish to turn the Callian Rise into a warzone. Meanwhile, Doran, Magnus, and the tribes began to harass any outlying centiles they could find.
The Battle of Noesmin Graniterra
With peace unlikely in the year 1805, Muat III took to the battlefield. Hoping that a decisive victory against Doran would make Magnus surrender, Muat III and Junian II assembled a force of 15,000 soldiers outside Vitro Auq and began to move north. As they did, Doran's forces retreated into local stone strongholds and waited. After surrounding Nomi Auq but with the majority of Doran's army still intact, Muat III ordered the fortresses stormed. Each fortress took months to capture and at high losses. Disease spread among the Cellian ranks, and tribes began to destroy their baggage carts and plunder the land near Vitro Auq. The Cellians pulled back to the town of Noesmin Graniterra. There, they encountered a much smaller force of Vasten.
Thinking this would be a decisive victory, their heavy infantry advanced in face of barrages of missile weapons. Their pursuit failed, the army raised shields and plotted their next move. After hours of debate, Junian II detached his army and headed back to home. The Vasten force kept pace with the detached army, and once again forced them to stop and take shelter. Unable to force an engagement or to return equivalent fire, Junian II surrendered. His men were executed and Junian II was never heard from again.
Muat III spend the night in Noesmin Graniterra, unable to leave. When word reached him of Junian II's fate, he ordered his soldiers to drop any equipment other than armour and shields and attempt to flee back to safety. The disorganized retreat permitted a few thousand to reach safety, but most, including Muat III, never arrived.
Unable to accept her brother's death or Doran as Empai, Muat III's sister, Athen I Rafil, crowned herself Empai against the wishes of her Argenia advisers, who she had imprisoned and starved until they augmented her. Arcva and ashanzu survivors from Kavees came with stories of the barbarity of Doran and his tribes towards any cellian Ashanzu or Arcva they found in Kavees, and warned of their impending arrival in the Cellian Rise to do the same. She called in all her available armies and implored her distant allies in Morata, Redoga, and Ghidovia for assistance. The army of Doran and his eastern allies ploughed through local militias in the Mimi Fuval and sacked the city of Mimimaj Bankalumafia, the last Cellian port in Kavees.
Athen's army was different from the traditional Milliles. Zarodess Fryna II of Ghidovia arrived with heavy infantry equipped with iron weapons and supported by archmages - the new core of the army with the disciplined milliles defeated. They also brought reindeer cavalry who could catch up with and defeat the Vasten skirmishers to prevent the disaster of Noesmin Graniterra. Redoga did not provide any assistance, and in return, they were blockaded by the Crimson Sails. The Ghidovian/Cellian force advanced into the rise in the fall of 1810 and siege to Magnus Haurim's fortresses. Unlike her brother, Athen opted for a slower campaign that out-lasted the defenders. Magnus' castle of Suwekep Loro was surrounded and held out for a year. In the winter of 1812, they too laid down their arms and Magnus was taken into custody and thrown beneath Wekep Empai.
The Vasten tribes preferred to take land to live on or plunder for wealth than to actually replace the army. When the combined army turned towards Kavees, they fled back to the Grande Steppe and to Essea, which they settled as their own. Doran Amari retreated from the Callian rise, leaving behind a path of burned fields and destroyed land.
When Athen and Fryna II returned to Werex, they were met by an unpleasant sight. Zarod Butos Keizash of Redoga had purchased from the Iron League galleys to transport a large army across the Papiska straight and had tried to subdue the heart of the empire. Most of the locals had flocked behind the Betalium walls, but did not have the food for a long siege. Redoga was much more fragmented than Arcellus, and they had spend a century learning how to lay siege to fortified cities. However, Redoga's attempts to use catapults on the walls were fruitless and the height meant that no conventional ladders could mount it. When the Iron League's ships fled from returning Crimson Sails, Butos was trapped.
The Iron Empai and her allies coordinated the defenders exiting the city at the same time as the relieving army arrived. Though outnumbered, the Cellian allies were far better equipped with heavy armour and iron weapons. The siege was lifted and all the attackers were slain. The Cellians then crossed over to Papiska and re-took the west coast of the straight in retaliation, which Redoga could hardly prevent.
The Empire in Decline
Athen I died in 1838 and was celebrated as a hero in Werex Bankasorabeau, but was cursed as a tyrant from most of the rise that fought against her. Further minor civil wars erupted over the next century as loros took advantage of the declining strength of the central Cellian empire. Her wars shifted from those of conquest to reconquest and finally to internal wars to fight over the remains of what was left. By the end of the year 1900 after the first Rafil came to Altus, the Cellian empire was stretched thin. It held onto the western Cellian rise and all the major rivers, but the Grand Steppe and Essea had been settled by Vasten invaders. Kavees had been defended, but only the port cities that depended on trade flew Cellian Flags, and their populations were substantially reduced from their height. Daria remained Cellian, but was now facing threat from Iridian pirates whose ships could easily outpace the Crimson Sails when in favourable winds. Though Papiska was once again Cellian, none of the eastern colonies remained.
The Cellian empire was still the dominant commercial power on Altus. Nonetheless, its academies no longer produced the elite wizards - those students now went to Ghidovia. Its armies were well equipped with iron and its milliles discipline was unmatched, but the evolving nature of warfare no longer made the unbreakable shield-wall the chief tactic on Altus. The Empire, like a spring coiled up, awaited its next golden age where it would once again spread to bring prosperity to all Ashanzu.