The Saga of the Bjornings
The Kelestine Empire
The sun rises on the eastern shores, its golden light illuminates the domes of the many cathedrals and domed churches dedicated to the lost masters. In the streets the market vendors call out the quality of their wares both domestic and exotic from far off lands. The multitude of smells of food being cooked and the sounds of animals being traded in the market and prepared for slaughter. Militia and professional soldiers patrol the streets aside the multitudes of mercenaries from neighboring kingdoms. Swarthy skinned and bearded locals mingle with pale skinned northerners, blonde or red haired, and light skinned steppe nomads with wispy facial hair. Men brush shoulders in the crowds with the many-varyimg augments: men with wings, or odd pigmented skin of forest green, shadow black, or ice blue, skin as thick as leather armour, or four arms, or two heads taller than the tallest men, and more. The clergy call the masses to worship, and the monks travel in groups showing their devotion by chanting and meditating in the streets. Members of different sects and faiths debate in the plazas while crowds gather to watch and listen as though it were the chariot races. Street arcanists use prestidigitation to impress passerbys. Con artists and charlatans pretend to be powerful magi and use tricks to swindle the unaware from their money. Then there are the games, the most magnificent spectacle of the empire. Fifty thousand people gather in the stadium to watch as the four different teams of charioteers race, and in some cases battle, in the arena to entertain the people and even decide political relations. As the sun sets, the shadows dart through the city, seeking their prey. The assassins, so common an act in politics and business that a common greeting in the empire congratulates each other on the failure of the assassins to have yet slain them. This is the empire of the Kelestines, glorious and wonderful, truly amazing to the foreigner and a shining beacon of civility in the chaotic darkness of the western lands, with an underbelly just as gritty and dark as the darkest of dragon caves.
The Kelestine Empire is over 1000 years old. It is the most majestic and organized realm in the western lands. At its peak it stretched from the western ocean around the great central sea and to the eastern steppes, north from the Masters’ Sea to the desert of Sarkaland in the south. Its neighbors in the north were all barbarians and in the east the civilized realm of Gozer. Five centuries past the borders shrank with the loss of several provinces which became the kingdoms of Esperania, Caleberia, the northern island kingdoms and Peldanor. A century ago the provinces of Argonia and the Masters’ Sea were lost to invaders. 20 years ago the nomads galloped in from the steppes and claimed land from Skythia to Ungarn. Yet, the core of the empire has remained strong and well defended.
The empire has a large population, numbering in the ten of millions, the capitol itself being almost half a million people. It is run by seven primary families, and the government by a large bureaucracy running the governmental affairs. Its hand is felt in all aspects of Kelestine life and daily affairs. However, it is a costly beast and in the centuries since its inception the currency of the empire has been inflated and debased so that imperial currency is worth less than the coinage of even the barbarians. The primary Noble Families have a long history of intermarriage, political wheeling and dealing and subterfuge with each other, constantly vying for power. Assassination is very common, and civil war is an almost constant threat as many people lay claim to the throne through some blood connection.
The emperors over the years have gained a strong distrust of local soldiers so the military is bolstered by foreign mercenaries, a double edged sword, allowing their specialized skills to improve the quality of the army but also putting very powerful foreigners in positions where if not played right could place themselves as petty kings and warlords and take kelestine lands for themselves (which happens more often the the empire likes to admit). As a result powerful mercenary captains are often paid in land grants called pronoiai. These proniars are then almost the same as local born nobility.
The two current dominant families are the family of the previous emperor, the Dalassenoi, who are strong in the bureaucracy, and the Gabrai who are strong with the military. The current emperor wrested control of the empire 10 years ago from the corrupt and morally debased emperor Ianos Dalassenos, in a coup de tat, avoiding a bloody civil war. To maintain the peace in the empire he allowed the brother of the emperor, Baras Dalessenos, to sit in the court, and the emperors son to hold a position in the military as a student to the generals.
The Embassy in the capitol houses embassies from many of the neighboring states, a diplomatic bulwark to avoid war, and a direct connection to hire new mercenaries.
The religious situation is very precarious. The primary sect of the Covenant of the Return generally views the other sects as heretical and only barely tolerates them, while seeing non covenant faiths as heathens and chafe even acknowledging their existence.
Magic in the empire is primarily in the realm of the church. The church feels that since magic was the domain of the Masters then only the faithful should practice true magic. So licenses are given to practice magic as a foreigner and all arcanists are trained by the clergy to practice appropriately. However, pagan magic such as northern runic magic is not seen as anything more then hedge wizardry and so tolerated as a parent tolerates children’s games.
The chariot races and games are just as much a political tool as the they are a source of entertainment for the masses. often brutal and many times fatal. The four teams are the blues, greens, reds and blacks. The blues are the favored teams of the military leaning families; the greens are the favored of the bureaucracy; the reds are a smaller team with no real noble backing, but are favored by some of the heretic religious fanatics; and the Blacks are another minor team favored by the foreigners and other outcasts in the empire. Aside from chariot racing there are other sports, feats of strength, speed and endurance. Also personal combat, not always fatal but not completely immune from fatalities.
Kelestine life is very strict and rigid. It is in many cases so regimented that every detail is so carefully orchestrated and ceremonial that even the slightest slip or misstep may be seen as a grave insult and cause massive damage. This is true for the common man but especially for the court. They love their pomp and ceremony; everything is reason for a holiday, a parade, and a show of spectacular magnitude.
The current emperor is Alexios Gabras, his title is Avtokrator. His brother is Alexandros Gabras, his title is Sebastokrator. Both are warriors and former military commanders. His daughter is Cyra Gabra, a student of magic, philosophy, history, and also trained a little in personal combat.
Some notable personae of the court are:
Lox Viranettos. a pronyar who has been in imperial service for almost fifty of his seventy year life. he has seven sons. the eldest was on the voyage to the east with the famous explorer duncan. he is a longtime friend of the Gabras family. he no longer commands mercenaries but is a general and strategikon of an imperial theme. he is very straightforward and blunt when he can be. but is a master of the political pomp and can navigate his way through the ceremony of the empire like a master ships captain.
Balsamonl: the current patriarch of the eastern covenant. he is a somewhat large and jovial man. seen as a grandfather to the entire empire and beloved by most. he earned his stripes years ago when he was on the journey to the east as part of a diplomatic attachment to duncan’s expedition. he is very open minded and tolerant though devout in his own faith.
Celebrex and Pradexa: the captain of the Elven guard and his wife, and first lieutenant. Both are loyal as can be to the emperor. The Elven Guard is a unit of elves sent by the ‘Wood Prince’ to act as Imperial protectors in accordance with an ancient alliance. They number 300 who are equipped with chain mail, long bows, thinblades, and have basic skill at magic.
Andronikkos: the grim and dour captain of the first guard. the immortals. the primary unit directly under command of the emperor and last vestiges of the ancient empire. the ‘First Guard’ is comprised of 500 long lived First, all of whom have served since the masters still held dominion over the earth. the are equipped with breastplate and chain skirt, large ovular shield, long spears, long curved swords, and composite short bows.
Skilios Panargeneto: the mega doux and grand strategikon of the military.
Nikephoros Andropolous. the drungarios, or head admiral of the navy.
Lord Brace is the captain of the “hell Riders” cavalry. the ‘Hell Riders’ are a band of warriors from the Northern Island. they number at 200 Heavy cavalry. 50 equipped with plate armour, the rest with chain armour, kite shield, heavy lance, long sword and mace. and the horse are covered in a coat of chain mail barding. it has and auxiliary force of 400 light cavalry, equipped with light lance, and brigandine armour, small shield and axe.
Somerled is the captain of the finnian warriors. the Finnians are a force of 800 wild and fierce foot soldiers. equipped with leather armour, large wood shields, broad swords, spears which can be used against infantry, cavalry and even thrown. most also carry daggers and a small axe.
Wakash is the captain of the friendly tsyrgys horse archers. the Tsyrgys ride small steppe ponies. there are 1000 in all. they are equipped with composite short bows, and scimitars and wear leather armour.
Jorn von Holst, captain of a band thurangian mercenaries. Jorns men are primarily medium infantry and medium cavalry. the cavalry number 500 and are equipped with chain mail, and kite shield, broad sword and battle axe, and spear the can be used as a light lance or thrown as a javelin. the horses are armoured with a light scale barding covering the head, neck and chest of the horse. he also commands a further 800 mounted infantry. equipped with chain shirts, large wood shield, spears and maces.
Georg Helmand of Grimmburg captain of a second band of thurangian mercs. 400 heavy cavalry, men and horse clad with chain mail armour. large shield, heavy lance, broad sword, and mace. the infantry contingent from Grimmburg is at 1000. 300 are mounted infantry with studded leather armour, small shield, broad sword, spear and mace. the other 700 are a solid regiment of medium infantry. chain armour, tall shields, broad sword, mace, and throwing axe.
llewellyn twydor captain of the cymric longbowmen. the longbowmen number at 1000. they are equipped with leather shirts, bucklers, longbows and long daggers. (1d4+1 damage). highly effective as a mass formation but equally as effective as broken ground hunters and snipers
Aelfred of Saxhillshire captain of the Seax mercenaries from Fenwick. the seax are the Huscarls of Aelfred. he has brought 600 men. all equipped with chain hauberk, large shields, large battle axes and broad swords. he also brought a further 600 light infantry volunteers from Avery. leather armour, small wood shields, battle axe and javelins.
Captain “hammer” of the Ogre mercenaries the “slammers”
Lieutenant “Sledge” “Hammer’s” aide.
“Sarge” Thomas Darkhelm. captain of the Northern Rangers. the rangers are a unit of 300 rangers. equipped primarily with studded leather, occasionally light chain shirt, spears, axes, bows, various swords. they have no regular gear, but are all mounted on light horse and capable of acting as archers, skirmishers, light infantry, scouts and snipers, but not effective against a direct assault from any professional force.
Raynard and the ‘Dire Dogs’. the ‘Dire Dogs’ are a small mercenary army of 1000 men. 200 cavalry, mounted on medium horse, with leather barding, chain armour, small shield, long sword and axe, spear and mace. and 800 infantry equipped into units of macemen, axemen, swordsmen and spearmen. many also have bows. usually equipped with ringmail or scale mail armour. but as for their name, each has a war dog of large build, often mastiff, shephard, bull, rott and pincer, but a few actually have the feared Gozerian hounds which accompany them into combat.
Lanceor Hood. captain of the augmented/outcast guard. Lances army is one of the largest mercenary forces in the empire, it numbers in the order of 2500 soldiers all augmented humans. he has divided his army into what his men are good at based on race and skill and equipped them appropriately.
Iaios “black Jay” “the Black Pronyar” captain of the Shadow guard. the ‘Shadow guard’ is comprised completely of the shadow augmented humans and led by a small cadre of long lived first granted with the ‘gift’ of being shadow augmented. there are in all 400 shadow soldiers. equipped with black leather tunics augmented with sections chain mail covering parts of the arms, legs and chest. small black shields, Long swords, short bows and spears. wearing black cloaks that completely cover their entire bodies, enshrouding them in the shadows. the cadre of shadowed first number at 100. equipped with blacked back and breast with chain skirts. heavy sabres, axe and mace and short bow. and using light lance when charging as cavalry. wearing the same black cloaks
Wulfgar Finnborgsen. captain of a Nothern Varangian regiment. son of the king of the northern lands. and “troll lord” captain of a “troll” unit he enthralled on his journey to the empire
Borg Finnborgsen. younger brother of Wulfgar and spare prince of Finnborg.
Halfgar Gustavsen. akoulythos, acolyte or peer, to the emperor. eldest son to gustav. captain of the Varangian gaurd.
Granwulf Gustavsen. halfgars younger brother and bjorns older brother. aide de camp to Halfgar.
Nordbricht. Jarlsliefs nephew and commander of the Jarlsliefian detatchment to the varangian gaurd.
Ka-El-Andzus. the tall dark and sinister ambassador from the adversarial empire of Gozer to the east. he is almost seven feet tall and always wears his black and red robes over his chain mail armour.his face always covered by a chain mesh veil so his face is covered completely. always bearing his black steel longsword and openly shows his distaste for his job as ambassador to his hated foe.
Dakang. ambassador from the Skythian nomads.
Alag and Karrok. ambassadors from the goblin and orc nations to the north.
quintus Archaeus longinus ambassador from the kingdom of Argonia
Eadwyn Trolham. younger brother of the king of the “united” kingdom of the isles.
Durak Mayarulscu. Ungarn ambassador.