History tells us that every empire falls, eventually and is replaced by new societies. The Romans, the Parthians, the Spanish and all the others have fallen. But empires are large, they cover several smaller nations and while their fall may be dramatic, it is rarely quick. The simple massiveness of the social and economic construct that is an empire can keep it from total collapse for a long time, even against internal and external pressures.
Empires can start on their long and slippery road to destruction by many different ways. But most often it is the difficulty of governing such a massive area with multiple cultures that is the leading cause. Lack of good leadership and cultural shifts can also cause the process to speed up. Disasters, both natural and not, can prove the inefficiency of the central government. Also, insecurity about imperial stability is often cited.
In the Thylian empire of the Pretorian dynasty, things start to go bad. Bad management, infighting among the imperial subjects and an invasion of an elvish horde cause the fall of this empire.
End of an Era
Like the Wizards before them, the Thylian empire started to stagnate eventually. Pretorius XIX and his reign is seen by historians as the last high-point of the empire. Pretorius overhauled the imperial administration, began a massive overhaul of the road network and fortified the imperial borders with modern fortifications. His greatest legacy was, however, that he left no direct heir.
Pretorius’s queen had borne his husband three children, but they all died in infancy, leaving the emperor without a direct heir. Knowing that the empire required stability, the emperor designated his younger brother as an heir, but ill luck seemed to plague the imperial heirs and he too perished soon. distraught, the emperor went into mourning and the empire was without a legal heir for the first time in decades.
When the emperor fell suddenly ill, there started to be murmurs among the people, that the gods had deserted the imperial dynasty. In the Iron mountains, where Eisenburg and her allies still quietly desired more independence, rumors of coming rebellion started to circulate.
When the imperial court learned of these rumors, the emperor, still bed-ridden, sent extra legions to the area, to discourage any rebellion. Desperate to maintain stability, the emperor named one of his generals heir. This general, Vladimik, was a distant cousin of the emperor and while his lineage was not direct, his membership in the Pretorian dynasty was doubtless.
Vladimik was an able general, but unproven in administrative capabilities. His pre-emptive campaign in the mountains was a success, but with the emperor weakening rapidly, he was forced to shoulder the administrative duties early. Vladimik found out soon, that running a civil organisation was not his forte and decided to delegate power to his advisers. Emperors had delegated before, often with good results, but the nobles Vladimik chose were his trusted friends, not the most capable administrators of the realm. They had earned his trust on the battlefield, but in the court they played the heir to their own advantage.
When the old emperor died, Vladimik became Vladimik Pretorius XX, later to be called the Weak. While his reign didn’t contain any large catastrophes, it was marked by the growing influence of the Private Council, the circle of friends Vladimik delegated most of his power to. If Vladimik’ s choices had been better, this arrangement might have been beneficial to the empire, but these former soldiers soon grew jealous of each other and of Vladimik’s young son, the imperial heir.
Both the old nobles and the meritoratic bureacrats from the open colleges resented the Council, too. Th e nobles felt that the Council, whose members were mostly originally minor nobility, was given too much power over the old houses with long traditions of ruling and governing. The bureaucrats, on the other had, felt threatened as members of the council were given positions traditionally filled with capable bureaucrats. This caused the court to fragment into three factions, all trying to win imperial favor instead of doing their duties.
Vladimik’s son eventually inherited a shaken court. instead of his father’s friends, he listened to the nobles. insecure about his ability to rule, he delegated more provincial duties back to the nobility, infuriating the old council and the bureaucrats. This shift to decentralization was sudden and weakened national unity, as the nobles openly “took what was their right” after waiting for centuries. With the provincial tax income rapidly dwindling, the legions, bureaucrats and imperial infrastructure began to decay rapidly. Many of the legions were forced to rely on local nobles for their support, damaging their ancient connection to the imperial crown.
But still, the empire survived for decades, although the central authority of the emperor diminished over the years. With the imperial court virtually abandoned, the nobles gathered their own power bases and armies, only nominally loyal to the emperor. Eventually they started fighting among themselves for resources.
And then came the elven horde. Several thousands of horse-riding, long-eared marauders crashed through the imperial lands like a wave. Raiding and pillaging as they went, the pointy-ears faced no unified force. The nobles bickered among themselves about costs, leadership and other minutiae while the marauders decimated their small armies. Some nobles even begged the emperor for help, but he had none to give, the few loyal legions he had were defending the capital.
in just a few years, the imperial heartlands were destroyed. The fringes survived somewhat unscathed. The imperial capital fell, was sacked and the last emperor slain. And then the elves left, the wave receding back over the borderlands where it had come.
The Thylian Empire was no more, but it’s successors still live and fight each other to establish the next empire. The cycle has begun anew.