“Ruling is a two-sided coin: on one side, you must conquer what you don’t own; the other, you must make peace within what you do” – King Slygon I’s memoirs
Slygon is not the original name of the continent. Whatever it was once called, not even Time remembers. All it remembers is the legacy of the great Slygonian Ascendancy, the most powerful empire that ever ruled the Jewel in the Centre. Before those days, the land was split into many warring kingdoms and fiefdoms, all vying for more power and territory. But an unsuspecting birth would change that. He who would become the first king was born somewhere in Northern Taranis. Or south Ambelas in some accounts. Little of his youth is known, not even his real name. It was only when he shed his former self and adopted the persona of King Slygon I, King Ascended, his fate became the fate of countless others. He was a brilliant strategist and war marshal, one that historical reports – although perhaps not the most trustworthy – say possessed a vigor and fortitude in his eighties that overshadowed many twenty-year-old studs. Despite the lyrical and romantic interpretations of the King’s exploits, the success the Ascendancy had cannot be overstated: Slygon I would conquer most of the eastern lands during his long life.
Mage by Qian Li
Following King Slygon I’s philosophy, the pacification of newly conquered lands were crucial for the Ascendancy’s renewed success over the decades. With a formidable war machine, without equal in the land, conquest came easy. But it was in the internal policies and reforms adopted by the regency that cemented its power for lengthy years to come. To reign over docile and happy subjects is an easier proposition than disgruntled, rebellious ones. Once the swords were sheathed, the King would waste no time putting to use the even more numerous army of builders, healers, missionaries, and propaganda officers that followed the stead of their bellicose brethren. Despite its eventual end, how long the Ascendancy endured the test of time is solid proof the king’s novel approach was as successful one. Core to the strategy was the promiscuity of the Cemirian creed. How its pantheon grew to encompass so many deities and traditions, rites and holy symbols under its wide umbrella, not even the most cunning schemers of Slygon I’s court could have ever dreamed of.
Cover art for “King of Ashes” by Raymond E Feist for Bragelonne pub By Marc Simonetti
Also essential in the Slygonian Ascendancy’s success was how its rulers managed discontent, loyalty, and tribalism. Part of the found solution was moving people around. Lands, cattle, protection during the journey, and financial support was offered to those families who would leave their place of origin to establish a new existence elsewhere in the dominion. Periodically (often very frequently), the sovereign crown would issue quasi-immediate mandatory migration to (random? suspected dissidents?) subjects, under the pretext of helping the empire grow stronger and more stable. This made the empire more diverse and multi cultural, with the average citizens feeling more part of the empire than they did towards the former local ruler. It was also quite efficient in breaking one rebel cells without bloodshed. But the expenses associated with these colossal vagrancies would pile up, and not even all the coin in the Ascendancy could halt its steep increase. So war and conquest continued until, fatefully, its armies met defeat. Something they had never had. And nothing would remain the same.
Like hungry, rabid animals, the empire that spanned a continent, that counted millions of loving subjects, tore itself afar, cannibalizing itself with voracious appetite. The spire downwards was quick, frantically quick. Enemies revealed themselves once blood began to be spilled, and Ascendancy crumbled under the fragments. When the dust of this collapse giant settled, the power vacuum felt deafening. Until the roar of a thousand would-be kings and successors raised their hordes to tear down the long centuries of peace, unity, and stability that Slygon had enjoyed so dearly. The Dark Ages were upon the Jewel, where family and friend became foe and feud. A civil war that was all-consuming and all-blinding; And in the shadow away from the limelight of warfare, foreign enemies, with memories still fresh of the Slygonian aggression, licked their wounds back to health. Biding their time to regain their power and strength, and bring havoc and retribution to the southerners who had dared to cross the Avar Mountains.
Cover picture: Horsemen by Victor Hugo Harmatiuk
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