The Times They are a Changin’
For this month’s diary, let’s talk about some of the changes the Known Worlds have seen since we last visited them.
[Blocked Image: https://www.ulisses-us.com/wp-…/05/Alexius2-774x1024.jpg]
The Known Worlds have had a time of relative peace and stability since Alexius took the throne. Compared to the tumultuous years of the Emperor Wars, where every month saw major changes to territories and fortunes, the last 10 years have been downright quiet.
This, at least, is what the majority of the population have experienced. Behind the scenes, as always, plots thicken and conspiracies hatch — only to die before fruition as rivals head them off, or lie hidden in wait until their enemies make a mistake. The constant scramble to gain and hold power is subtler these days but by no means absent.
The Pax Alexius
Five years ago, Baroness Milanza Romano de Cadiz was gathering conscripts for a campaign on Hira and found the local peasants to be recalcitrant. After she gave a stirring speech about honor, glory, and duty, one of the older peasants asked: “Why do we need to go to war? It is the Pax Alexius. Leave us to tend our crops.” A Town Criers Guild reporter was there to record the moment and it quickly spread from world to world. The Pax Alexius. The current interregnum of relative peace now had a name.
The Town Criers report didn’t cover the rest of the story, how the baroness rounded up the complaining farmer and his immediate cohorts and shipped them off to Hira. But the name still stuck and was eagerly exploited by Alexius’ apparatus of state. Questing Knights all began using the term, Imperial Eye propaganda put the words into the mouths of those who appeared to be Alexius’ detractors, and even the new Patriarch Palamon used the term in a public address.
Few can deny that this is indeed a time of peace. While there are always a number of hot conflicts on local worlds, there has been no major change of interplanetary territory by force of arms for some time. The three exceptional upheavals have all come without war and have all redounded to Alexius’ favor: Hargard, Hira, and Stigmata.
Hargard: Freya’s Dowry
At long last, the Emperor is getting married. Society has whispered for years about Alexius’ various paramours — chiefly Salandra Decados and Theafana al-Malik — and when he would finally choose among them.
He chose otherwise. From out of the blue — at least as far as society mavens are concerned; it was a surprise to them — Alexius announced that he would wed Freya Eldriddottir of Hargard. A Vuldrok “barbarian.” She brings as her dowry the world of Hargard as a new Imperial planet. In return for her daughter’s hand and lands, Alexius has ennobled Thane Eldrid the Wise and her immediate thanes as House Eldrid. The marriage brokers, the Ramakrishnas of Hargard, are also receiving house status. They bring two continents into Alexius’ hold, with only a third — Ostmark — resisting the empire’s claims.
While this has initiated a series of conflicts to pacify the rebellious Vuldrok of Hargard, the planet has largely changed hands without a major military campaign.
Hira: Broken Pilgrimage
Somebody shut down the jumproute leading from Hira to Khayyam, cutting off one end of the sacred Kurgan pilgrimage route and trapping a planet of Kurgans behind enemy lines.
This is such a new and sudden development that the Known Worlds are still reeling in shock at the sudden turn — as are the Hazat. The royal house cannot believe its luck: the world they’ve long fought to claim now lies vulnerable, with no access to reinforcements.
This has forced Alexius’ hand. He has sent Imperial ships to the system and declared an armistice with the Hiran Kurgans. (Some point to Baroness Milanza Romano de Cadiz’s prize position in the Emperor’s negotiating party as proof that the “Pax Alexius incident” was staged with her assistance.)
Alexius clearly fears that the Hazat could well commit genocide in their rush to cement their claims. This is not an entirely altruistic concern. Everyone knows that the jumproute could open again tomorrow or the next day, bringing a flood of angered Kurgans. Or it might be months or years or even centuries before the jumproute again unlocks. This is an existential nightmare for the Kurgans, cut off not only from their people but from the pilgrimage that forms the foundation of their religion.
Stigmata: A World in Retreat
Lady Theafana al-Malik has been declared dead. She has been missing for five years but already her legend grows. Her disappearance coincided with a turn in the tide of the Symbiot War. The Symbiots on Stigmata have fallen back into defensive positions and reinforcements from Absolution, Chernobog, and Daishan have dried up. Something happened, and nobody knows what.
Eskatonics at the Stigmata Garrison theorize that the Symbiot’s connection to the planet, its “world egg”, has been severed. Perhaps the egg is dormant or blocked from their lifeweb. None can say if this is a temporary setback for the Symbiots, or a more permanent victory for the Known Worlds.
Around the same time as Theafana’s disappearance, although not initially linked to it until some years later, a strange phenomenon was observed on nearby Nowhere.
A penitent expedition from Stigmata arrived to pray before the legendary Ur artifact, the Gargoyle of Nowhere. They set up camp in the evening near to the statue. After some initial austerities performed before the base of the Gargoyle, the group returned the following morning to begin a long ritual, only to discover that the statue had moved nearly 10 meters from its position.
This of course set tongues wagging. After years of many different parties studying the phenomenon, an astronavigator from the Charioteers realized that the Gargoyle appeared to have taken up its new position during a planetary alignment with the system’s jumpgate, within the same window of time that the gate opened a route to Stigmata, although no ships are known to have passed in or out of the open gate during that time.
And of course, more to come…
We’ll talk more about Known Worlds current events in next month’s diary. See you then!
— Bill Bridges, Product Line Manager