Population:11,692,670 (68% Human, 17% halfling, 5% Half-Elf, 5% Dwarf, 4% gnome)
Imports: Gold, spice, luxury goods
Exports: Grain, livestock, arms, armor, trade goods
Over two thousand years old, the great Conorrian Empire is a faded remnant of an empire that once encompassed nearly all of Vatheria. Nonetheless, it is still the largest and most powerful of all nations, covering more than a million square miles. At its height, the empire spanned from Tirgonia in the north to Luxur in the south, and from the Mahadran Islands in the west to the Great Steppes of the east, and it left its cultural imprint on all those lands. Its language is spoken by the learned throughout Vatheria and beyond, and its art, music and legends form the basis of much of human life in the region.
The Conorrian Empire of today is a shadow of its former self, whittled down by invasions, civil wars, and the tottering weight of its vast official bureaucracy. It is heavily populated, particularly along its lengthy coasts and near its ancient, wealthy cities. The Conorrian legions are still the best-trained and best-equipped of all the human armies, though their ranks are now largely filled with foederati from the Rhanalorian tribes, hardened Thariyyan tribesmen, or Brythnian mercenaries.
The coasts and rivers of the Empire boast vast tracts of farmland, once the economic heart of the known world. The forests of Conorria were felled long ago to create the cities and fleets of ships that made its people masters of the world, and the land cleared for the many farms. With the encroachment of barbarian peoples on all sides, many farmers have fled the fields for the cities or for fortified outposts, leaving the fields fallow. Monsters unseen in the interior of the Empire for twenty generations have begun to make a comeback, some even wandering near the great cities themselves in recent years.
All these problems aside, the Conorrian Empire is still a vast and powerful nation, inheritor of twenty centuries of art, culture, and learning. The cities are studded with great cathedrals, vast plazas, paved roads and wondrous works and marvels of magic and science. Martial academies and universities of scholarly knowledge unheard of in barbarian lands are regular features in the cities of the Empire.
The Divine Emperor
The Conorrian Emperor has among his many titles that of Vice-Regent of the Gods. Upon assuming the throne and being consecrated by the Patriarch of Echoriath, he assumes the divine status of Pater Eternum, eternal father to the Conorrians. It is his divine spark which animates the spirit of the Empire, brings victory to its legions, health to its animals and people, and wealth to its coffers. Statues of the Emperor and his forebears can be found throughout the empire, mute testament to the fervent worship of his mortal subjects.
The Emperor is not a hereditary position. Each emperor makes known his chosen successor, and after his death, this person must be acclaimed by the legions before becoming Emperor. Many times in history, the emperor has died without naming an heir, or the legions have refused to acclaim the named successor. Civil war has almost always been the result. Many emperors have tried to rid Conorria of this dangerous tradition by naming their sons as their successor, but the old ways have never died.
The current emperor is Varantius II “Keloicrator”, Hammer of the Hobgoblins. Born a farmers son in Nerassus, near the Thariyyan border, he rose through the ranks to become one of the youngest generals in Conorrian history. His campaign against the hobgoblin horde that invaded Conorria from across the river Esharias was brilliantly successful, and made him governor of a rich eastern province. When the emperor Keol was killed at the sack of Conorria in 2743 by the Worldspine orcs, Varantius was hailed as emperor by the legions, and eventually led the army that drove the orcs from the capital, with help from the sudden advent of the Rhanalorian tribes. His place as one of the great Conorrian emperors was sealed. There are many who believe that Varantius desires nothing less than a return to the greatness of old, when Conorrian power ran across the whole of Vatheria.
The Senate is a body of aristocrats who advise the emperor. The influence of the Senate has waxed and waned over the centuries. Currently, it is a powerful check on the ambitions of the Emperor. In the last century, the Senate was able to force the emperors to accede to a document known as the Concordat Eternal. This document bound the Conorrian emperors to abide by the final decision of the Senate in all matters of finance, morality and domestic peace. Only in war does the emperor still maintain the unchecked power of old.
The current Senate is divided into factions which support or oppose Varantius plans for expansion. The senatorial power over finance has sharply limited the emperors plans to build a great military, much to his anger. The factions scheme and plan to replace aging or retiring senators with their own candidates in order to tip the delicate balance in their favor.
The Conorrian Legions were once the force that knit together all the realms of humanity. Today, they are hard-pressed on every border, fighting the orcs of the Tarrakas mountains, the monsters of the Worldspine range, the aggressive elves of Celendor, their counterparts in the legions of Carhallas. Still, the legions are the finest infantry in Vatheria. Stationed all along the borders of the land, in fine fortresses and augmented by the Imperial War-Wizards, the legions hold back the rising tide of upstart nations, seeking to pillage the riches of Conorria.
The Conorrian legions were once filled exclusively with natives of Conorria, but now their ranks are largely filled with men from the provinces, barbarians who, seeking a better life, have sold their martial skills to the emperor. Most of the officers are still Conorrians, as are the most elite units of heavy horse and the Lauresian Guard, but the number of non-Conorrian senior officers is on the rise.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Conorrian military is its widespread use of the tactics of “active defense”. Most armies elsewhere in the world seek to bring the enemy to a single, decisive battle. Not so the Conorrians. Instead, the goal of the Conorrian armies is to make any invasion so costly that the invaders retreat back out of Conorrian territories. Conorrian military manuals give great weight to dogging the enemys supply trains, retreating in the face of assaults, and preventing the enemy from foraging for supplies. In addition, magical misdirection, illusion and trickery are given much more weight in Conorrian planning than mere offensive power.
A powerful network of fortified cities and citadels allow the Conorrians to protect their citizens from invading enemies, and allow the professional armies time to harass their enemies and deny them supplies. There are numerous examples in Conorrian history of numerically superior invaders retreating out of the Empire because of starvation, exhaustion, and trickery. Thus, the Conorrians are able to field a relatively small army of highly motivated soldiers who have a reasonable certainty that their lives will not be thrown away by a general seeking mere glory on the battlefield.
The War Wizards
As vital to Conorrian power as the might of the legions are, they could not succeed as they do without the Imperial College of the Arcana Militum, or War Wizards. Masters of battlefield magic, these terrifying mages enforce the Emperors will, acting as advisors and fire support to the Emperors legions. Often, the mere sight of the banners of a War Wizard has been enough to cause an enemy to flee from the field.
As young men and women, these wizards are chosen from among the best of the best throughout the empire, and must pass a grueling and often deadly series of tests designed to test their skills and dedication. Then, they undergo a mystical bonding with the emperor, making them living instruments of his will.
The Imperial Roads
Throughout the lands once ruled by the Empire there exists a network of fine, broad roads and sturdy bridges. Expertly crafted to shed water and speed traffic, these great feats of engineering were enchanted to be durable and resist the need for repair. Even now, hundreds or even thousands of years later, the roads are generally in excellent shape. In the Crusader States, there exists a deep rift valley where the forces of wild magic caused the land to fall away. But the Imperial road still runs across the gap of the valley as before, only now it is suspended three hundred feet over the rift.
In the wake of the Great Cataclysm, many human tribes wandered the shores of the new inland sea which was to become known as the Valesian Sea. Among these were the Conn, a warlike race who believed they were descended from the Faithful, Iridian priests preserved by the gods for their piety. The Conn settled on the Milesian peninsula and founded the city of Conorr sometime in the ninth century AC (Ante Conorria). Over the next eight centuries, the Conn became the Conorrians, waging war on their Milesian neighbors and slowly conquering the entire peninsula.
In what is now the Conorrian Year 0, the hero Aumarides, son of the god Erdhon, finished his epic journey, which ended with the return of the Pheonix to Conorria. Aumarides was acclaimed emperor by the people of the city, and took the name Vasil I. And the Conorrian Empire was born. Over the next eight centuries, the Conorrians developed a highly dynamic and expansive society, quickly dominating the central Valesian Sea.
Throughout the ninth century, Conorria faced its greatest enemy, the Beltene Kingdom, in a series of bloody and destructive wars. This nation of mysterious sorcerers from south of the river Artaxes had come to dominate Valesia, Luxur and parts of what is now Accolon in the early third century, and by 820, had begun to actively make war on Conorrian ships and trading outposts. The fabulous cities of the Beltenes would arise seemingly over night, and their armies seemed capable of striking hundreds of miles into Conorrian territory without being detected. During the Second Beltene War, the Beltene general Burastis led his army rampaging throughout the Milesian peninsula itself for nine years, defeating the Conorrians in several battles and once even laying siege to Conorr itself.
The Beltene Wars gave rise to the Conorrian War Wizards, recruited by the emperors to combat the mysterious power possessed by the Beltene generals. The great power and dedication of these master mages turned the tide in the wars. By 871, the Beltene had been driven out of the Valesian Sea and back across the Artaxes. In 872, twelve Conorrian legions crossed the Artaxes to pursue the Beltenes, but they and their quarry simply disappeared. No trace of the Beltene homeland was ever found.
In the wake of the wars of the Fisherman Emperors, the Emperor Jurisdas moved his capitol from Conorr to the new city of Echoriath, at the mouth of the narrows of the Sea of Serpents. The new capital, founded in 1330, was grander in every respect, built around one of the finest harbors in the world, and superbly protected from attack by geography and nature. Over the ensuing millennia, Echoriath became the true center of the Valesian world, the richest, most beautiful, and largest city in Vatheria.
The Summoning War came suddenly upon the Empire as the caliphs of Shanatar unleashed their secret plan to conquer the empire. Vast and deadly magical energies were unleashed as the two nations locked in a deadly embrace. Demons never seen on Theeurth were conjured in response to the elemental allies of Shanatar and their battles destroyed the land that is now the border. Neither side can be said to have won the war, which simply stopped when both sides recoiled in horror at the cost in lives, land and riches.
In 1680, the Empire reached its greatest extent with the conquest of Tirgonia. The Empire now stretched more than four thousand miles from northern Tirgonia to southern Accolon and covered an area of more than five million square miles. During this time, Conorrian culture, language, literature and values were universal throughout Vatheria, and even the barbarians north of the Worldspine and south of the Artaxes river paid tribute to their mighty neighbor.
In 1791, the Emperor Hadrasius XXI was assassinated while on a tour of Luxur. Although his infant son, Valerius, was acclaimed emperor by the Senate within weeks, there were many pretenders to the throne. Before the year was out, no less than thirteen claimants had been recognized by one legion or another. Many were murdered within months, but six, all of them wizards or sorcerers, named themselves emperor and made war upon the others. So began the Conorrian Civil War, known as the Mage Wars. These vast and bloody wars lasted for twenty-six years, and left the empire forever changed.
In the east and south, Valerius retained his empire and was recognized as the legitimate holder of the Phoenix Throne. But west of the Conorr peninsula, the empire was under the thumb of the Mage-Emperor Markimillien I, who founded the Miletian Empire. The Conorrian Empire had lost more than half its territory, and over the next several centuries, was to lose half again, as one by one, it lost control of Llyran, Luxur, Valesia, Thariyya, Farmuz, and Accolon.
In 1902, the Kazimak horde of hobgoblins arrived to drive the Conorrians out of the north, taking all their territory beyond the Esharias river. Thus began a war between empires that has never truly ceased in the ensuing eight hundred years.
The Darothic horde struck at the lands of civilized men in the year 2282. Though the greatest fury of their attacks fell upon the Miletian empire, the Conorrians also suffered. An army of some twenty-five thousand barbarians struck deep into the eastern empire and burned and looted its way across Acaris. The cities of Pergerlus and Adanaeum were sacked and their people led away in chains. But the barbarians were led into a Conorrian trap at the Ularus Bridge, and with the help of the War Wizards, were annihilated.
In the winter of 2723, a vaste horde of orcs and allied creatures descended on the lightly-defended western half of the Conorrian Empire and routed its defenders, burning and looting across the once-mighty realm. Only in the east was their power thwarted. The orcs forced their way down the Conorr peninsula, taking city after city and eventually capturing even the holy city of Echoriath itself in 2725. For the first time in nearly fourteen hundred years, the Conorrian capital lay under foreign domination. The Emperor Varantius II had managed to flee to the east by boat under the cover darkness.
The orc domination lasted only two years. During that time, numerous rebellions and even pitched battles broke out in and around the city. By 2725, armies of crusaders from the west had already begun to evict them from Akasia (the land west and south of the Lyodan river). In 2745, the Emperor returned to Echoriath at the head of a large navy, and aided by an army of horsemen from distant Rhanalor. The orcs tried to resist the siege, but were betrayed by forces inside the city still loyal to the Emperor. The survivors were numerous, but disorganized, and were soon driven back toward the Worldspine mountains. The Empire never recovered Akasia, which is now controlled by the fractious Crusader States. Even in its reduced state, the Empire is by far the largest and most powerful nation in Vatheria, stretching eighteen hundred miles from east to west and covering an area of more than a million square miles.
MAJOR POPULATION CENTERS
Echoriath (Metropolis; population 1,219,480) – The largest, grandest, richest city in all of Vatheria. This sprawling, boisterous city is the heart and soul of the Empire. It is a great center of trade, learning, diplomacy and magic. The triple walls of Echoriath surround a long peninsula that juts out into the sea at the foot of Mount Imarrilos. Several harbors have their own walls and guard towers. The streets of Echoriath are paved in stone, magically maintained by a college of wizards.
At the center of the city stands the Tartareum, a great arena made from the skull of the titan Tartaros, felled by the hero Aumarides. The Tartareum can hold thirty thousand people, and any person who ascends the spire at one end can be clearly heard throughout the structure. As the city is the heart of the empire, so the Tartareum is the heart of the city. Emperors are acclaimed here. Great gladiatorial and charioteering contests are held here, and many times riots begin here which have ended the reigns of emperors.
The magical towers of Echoriath are visible far out to sea, and many a foreign king has wept on seeing the undreamt-of grandeur of this city. Flying carpets from Shanatar are not an uncommon sight in the skies here, nor are the Lauresian Guard, mounted atop their giant eagle steeds.
The river Akernos, which winds through the city, flows magically backwards, bringing with it only fresh water and leaving the salt of the Valesian Sea behind. The river is a popular means of transports, and guilds of boatmen wait at piers and bridges to ferry paying customers to wealthy neighborhoods.
Adamos (Metropolis; population 101,340) The second city of the Empire, this city on the banks of the Esharias lies at the crossroads of the routes to Shanatar, Celendor, and Carhallas. But trade is only part of the business of the City of Bridges. Trade routes are also invasion routes, and Adamos boasts a unique ring of defensive towers, each the responsibility of a separate knightly order or school of wizardry. Adamos is called the City of Bridges because it is built on a series of islands in the Esharias, each of which are connected by a network of bridges, causeways and arches. The Emperors make their summer homes in Adamos.
Cyclados (Large City; population 69,890). Largest of the Firetowns, Cyclados dominates the eastern end of the volcanic island of Scythnus, south of the Conorr peninsula. Much of the trade between the eastern and western halves of the Valesian Sea stops in Scythnus, and the Firetowns are renowned not only for their smoking fumeroles, but for the great number of Sea Witches who may be hired there. Few ships will sail the Valesian Sea for long without the benefit of a Sea Witch.
IMPORTANT LOCAL SITES
The Sea of Serpents – This large arm of the Valesian Sea is home to great sea serpents who can swallow ships whole. Luckily, these vast beings have been only rarely sighted over the last few centuries. Unfortunately, they have in recent years been replaced by a more subtle menace, an undersea nation of sahuagin called Vareastis. These devil-men of the deep have allied themselves with certain pirates, making travel on the sea uncertain at best.
The Plains of Acaris – The vast central plains of Conorria, watered by the Esharias, Phaedan and Lyodan rivers, are enhanced by magic. Millennia of careful tending by the priests and priestesses of Calandra the Fertile have left this an unusually rich agricultural area, capable not only of supporting the Conorrian throngs, but in recent centuries, of exporting food to her former provinces.
The Shattered Plain – This tortured, infertile land of blowing grey ash, twisted stone spires and bubbling black mud stretches for hundreds of miles along the border with Shanatar. It is the result of the Summoning War. It is inhabited by giants and dragons and a seldom-seen race known as the Kamari, or dragon-men.
The Court of Love – Amid the pine forests high in the Dolenar region of the Conorr peninsula, there is a beautiful castle guarded by knights dedicated to Valendria, the goddess of love. It is famous as a refuge for poets and artists, and for those in love or who suffer from broken hearts. It is ruled over by Valendrias high priestess and her consort.
The Rymidion Forest– Between the Tarrakas mountains and the Esharias river lies the vast Rymidion Forest. Its southern and western eaves are home to many Conorrian villages that rely on logging for their livelihood. But the deeper forest is home to goblins, kobolds, orcs and even solitary beholders.