The Arrogance of Empire

by Celtic Bard

Tags: High Fantasy, Military,

Desc: Fantasy Story: Empire of Sieti-Kha grew out of two small trading villages to span a continent. Early in its history, the merchants who helped grow that Empire wanted the fabled riches hidden in the desert land known as the Killdari Wastes, home to the fearsome race that gave the Wastes their name. General Kallath is ordered to invade the Wastes on a mission he knows is both fruitless and doomed. He is an officer well-respected by his men and they follow him to their fate. A fate due to the arrogance of empire.

"Of hubris and arrogance, the heirs of the House of Daar were well acquainted, having turned a small trading village on the Sieti-Kha River into a continent-spanning Empire. It was somewhere between the trading league out of which Sieti-Kha grew and the Empire that Sieti-Kha became that common sense fled the founding Imperial House."

--The Arrogance of Empire, Master-Professors Friedrich of Drakla, Jurgen Chandler, and Miroslav of Crossroads, the Departments of History and Political Science of the University of Drakla

The sun was a brutal hammer raining scorching blows down upon everything unwise enough to be active as it approached its zenith. Heat wavered above the white, sand-covered landscape broken only by random heaps and outcroppings of dark rock. The rolling, wave-like dunes seemed to undulate onwards forever, their breaking upon the rocks the only surcease of the eternal sandy tides. A strong, steady wind moaned mournfully, assuring the sand never stayed still for long; the landscape transforming continuously and perpetually. Very few living things dwelled within that blasted, barren wasteland save the beings after which it was named: the Killdari.

As far as anyone knew, the Killdari had always been there. It was said by the other races that the Great God Mac n'Og Tir asked his son Killmac n'Og Tir, Lord of the Killdari, where he wanted his people to be created and the Killdari God replied, "Let them dwell neither in comfort nor in lushness nor in beauty, lest they soften, becoming the prey of stronger races." And so Mac n'Og Tir, Lord of Man and Beasts, created the Killdari whilst bringing to bear his power with that of his brother Aphrae, the Lord of Earth and Sky, to create the Waste in which they dwelled.

Harsh was this desert waste, relief from the desiccated plateau only being found along the coasts, where one could trade hot, dry air for hot, humid air. Even along the coasts, near oases, or on the few hills and mountains, trees were few and far between, running high to dwarfed palms and fruit trees more valuable for the food they provided than the building material for which other races in other places used their trees. As such, the Killdari grew and matured in isolation for centuries, if not millennia, before anyone wandered into the coastal cities of Endiskill, Killdari, or Killori and even longer before the stone marvel of Killdori was seen at the base of Mt. Akkilleth.

The first race to encounter a Killdari, shipwrecked Human fishermen from the nearby Sieti Peninsula, thought them aged, cursed Humans, so similar were their features. It was the Killdari's white to sandy blonde hair that led the dark-featured Sieti fishermen to think those approaching them were eld. It was the rough, dry, almost rocky-looking skin that made them believe they were cursed. The completely black eyes and retractile claws only reinforced that thought. The first contact between cultures often goes one of two ways: a slow building to friendship and understanding or slaughter initiated by one or both sides.

The fishermen were never heard from again.

The wood from their wrecked ship and other things that washed ashore on the northern and eastern coasts of the Killdari Wastes allowed the Killdari of the coastal regions to eventually build what amounted to crude fishing rafts, good only for the coastal waters. Since those shipwrecked in the vicinity of the Wastes were never heard from again, Humans and the other races were never foolish enough to bring large, capable ships within range of the Killdari, even after they learned of the three Killdari trading cities. Trade would eventually open with the desert dwellers, but it was wary and limited. The Killdari traded their few valuable resources, salt, fruit wines, oils, and leathers, for luxury goods carried to the Killdari by mostly Sieti, Kha, and Steel Harbor ships. These three early city-states became trading meccas based on that trade and gave the lords of Sieti ambitions.

A trading league grew from the villages of Sieti and Kha that nurtured those early towns into great cities, eventually spanning the western quarter of the southern continent. The city-states who were its members flourished and expanded their influence. Sieti and Kha, two cities facing each other across the Sieti-Kha River, merged and expanded their territory. They eventually came to control all of the Sieti and Kha Peninsulas, embarking upon the road to empire by conquering all of their league partners. Steel Harbor, the last to fall, confirmed Sieti-Kha as an Empire and a force with which to be reckoned.

With the west coast of the continent in their control, the Sietitians rapidly explored and expanded south and east, eventually conquering lands all the way to the east coast, including the fierce Goendami tribesmen who roamed the eastern third of the Sieti-Kha Continent.

A decade after conquering Steel Harbor, however, the second Emperor of Sieti-Kha decided the rumors of hidden wealth protected by the Killdari Wastes and its formidable inhabitants grew too much to resist his might.

Emperor Daar II sat in a padded chair; his once muscular frame was softening and a growing paunch hidden by the voluminous toga of scarlet-trimmed purple wool. His once glowing bronze skin was turning a sallow olive, his black hair grown long and elaborately curled in part to hide the beginning retreat of his hairline. The expression on his fleshy face could have been mistaken for indigestion had the men gathered around the table not seen it before. They were all either hiding distasteful grimaces or anticipatory smiles, depending upon the faction to which they belonged. Of the twelve men awaiting the Emperor's pleasure on padded benches around a heavy wooden table strewn with the remains of lunch, seven of them were military men still solid with muscles gained through hard training and five of them were built more like their liege, men comfortably living off of their prowess at trade and politics. All wore purple-trimmed white togas denoting their status as advisors of the Emperor.

The room was cool, the chill seeping through the cracks in the shuttered windows high on the stone walls of the large council room being battled by eight coal braziers stationed around the room and the fire pit behind the Emperor's chair. Daar II let his satisfied brown eyes lazily scan the faces schooled to blankness arrayed before him. That very blankness amused him. He knew the military advisors and those who used to be warriors would view his new project with dismay. The merchants and politicians would rejoice, for he was finally going to order something they had been begging the crown to do since his father was on the throne: invade and subjugate the Killdari.

"We have decided that since our borders have been pushed from the City of Dreams in the south to the southern shore of the Gorge of Madness in the north, we need to secure the entirety of the mouth of the Gorge and insure the free passage of our merchants and fishermen to the Sea of the Lost. As long as we do not control the mouth of the Gorge and the northern side of that passageway, our sailors can fall prey to anyone from pirates to Killdari.

"To that end, I am ordering you, General Kallath of the House of Coor, to assemble your forces and equip them for a protracted campaign in the Killdari Wastes," the Emperor proclaimed grandly, his smooth baritone undiminished by time and comfort on the throne.

His Majesty was one of his father's better generals before ascending the throne, and so he should have been more daunted by the task he was setting his army, cognizant of the difficulties inherent in such a campaign. General Kallath was more than well aware. He had been the commander of a small outpost beyond the borders of the Empire before he became a general. It was on the neck of the Killdari Peninsula, which saw, in times past, infrequent but costly raids out of the mountains that were the natural border of the Wastes. No one in Sieti-Kha knew why the desert people occasionally made the treacherous journey through the Vezier Mountains and down the neck of the Peninsula, but the results were always so disastrous that the Empire fought two brief wars to secure a base on the narrowest part of the Peninsula.

Kallath became a general on the back of defeating the largest Killdari incursion in decades, turning away the siege of Ft. Daar and chasing the Killdari war party all the way through the mountains to the very edge of the furnace that was the Wastes. So he was intimately familiar with both the enemy and the terrain. Or at least the terrain up to the actual desert. Nobody who was not a Killdari knew the desert.

"Sire, I shall prepare for the campaign expeditiously," he replied carefully, "but I have concerns about such an operation, especially at this time of year. By the time the army is equipped and marched to even the neck of the Killdari Peninsula at Ft. Daar, it will be approaching the start of the hot season on the northern part of the Peninsula. The very worst blunder we could make would be to invade the Killdari Wastes in the hot season."

"I believe I hear the clucking of a fowl in your caution, General," smirked one of the portly gentlemen across the table from Kallath. He was Grandmaster Merchant Haark of Coor City, the hometown of the House of Coor. Haark was born poor, the son of a tenet farmer living on Coor lands. He had the fortune to be apprenticed to a merchant of House Yeth and imbibed the Yethian hatred of their Coor rivals in Coor City politics and business. Haark was the undisputed leader of the faction that opposed nearly everything Kallath of Coor and his allies attempted.

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Story tagged with:
High Fantasy / Military /