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The Ostian Empire
The Ostian Empire is a relatively new player on the political stage, but through its government and people, has become one of the most formidable powers in the world in so short a time. Ostia is also one of the most progressive powers in the current age, and some say, a sign of the changing times.
Where the Ostian Empire stands, there were once three kingdoms. Though larger than the Middle Kingdoms, they had still divided Ostia’s territory, quarreling in the name of unification. Each of the three kings fought for a different reason and ideal. One fought for justice, one fought for honor, and one fought to bring order to chaos.
In their idealism they ignored the very subjects who fought for them. Merchants were taxed, and their gold given over to fund the war machine. Fathers and sons were conscripted into the armies, that they might become more footmen to hold the lines. Farmers’ goods were seized and became the rations of these armies on the march. Though weary of the hardship and strain, they lacked a leader to rise up and protest this mistreatment.
Twenty years ago, a young woman named Olivia undine led a revolt, successfully capturing a terranite mine with the aid of the gunsmith Jonathan Orrin. A detachment of the royal army was sent to pacify the situation, but what they found was a heavily fortified base filled with peasants armed with advanced firearms, advanced cannon, and a refusal to back down quietly.
The royal army was devastated, and siege engines were called in to tear down the fortifications.
The siege engines were devastated, and news of these successful rebels spread.
More and more commoners flocked to Undine’s cause. The next major victory came at Ostia, which grew to become their base of operations. Cities and towns fell as quickly as news could spread. In some cases, the Ostian rebels arrived to find themselves welcomed with open arms.
Throughout the conflict, the nobility found themselves the target of purges and executions, even after surrender. Those who dared call themselves of noble blood found themselves at the end of a blade or looking down the barrels of a firing squad. Hunts were led to find those in power, regardless of surrender or whether their people had once prospered.
It wasn’t long before the Ostian revolution had ended, but not through collapse. The three kingdoms had been defeated, and all three kings’ wishes had been fulfilled: Ostia stood united, pulled together by the efforts of Olivia Undine and Jonathan Orrin. The city of Ostia became known as Grand Ostia. While some voiced complaints that the rebellion had produced another imperial family and built a new kingdom on the ashes of the old, Empress Undine’s policies soon silenced her dissenters. What little remained vanished.
Twenty years later, Grand Ostia endures. Empress Undine still reigns. Having since taken a consort and borne a daughter since the bloody coup, it is a testament to her skills in leadership that Ostia has not only survived, but prospered and flourished under her careful guidance.
Ostia’s government is a constitutional monarchy, but if one examined its constitution, they would notice that he Empress wields absolute power with the ability to disregard and overrule the legislative body. On the other hand, she has never used this, and seems disinterested in wielding her authority over matters of policy or state unless necessary.
The Empire itself is divided into individual Dominions, each led by a local governor. The legislative body is known as the Deliberative, and it determines most domestic and foreign matters. The Emperor-Consort also oversees the Deliberative now and again, and while permitted to speak, he wields no real authority.
Deliberative members are directly voted in; governors are appointed. The head of the Deliberative is known as the Premier, and is appointed from among the Deliberate by the Empress herself.
To enter the world of Ostian politics, one must submit themselves to a unique process: They must provide proof of contributing to Ostia in some significant way, be it through advancement in the economy or in science, or in military matters. Applications are processed and judged, but only a small number are actually approved.
Ostia’s economy is driven mostly by trade and terranite exports. It viciously controls the export of these . Within its borders, necessities like food and basic materials are manufactured by the state. Competition with the state isn’t illegal, but opposing Ostia’s industrial might is difficult. Innovators who make some worthwhile contribution are, as a matter of course, bought out by the government.
Successful entrepreneurs often target things the state doesn’t provide; generally luxury goods, such as designer clothing and entertainment. Restaurants and theatres are some of the most successful small businesses in the Empire, but any individual entity operating a small business is taxed.
Unemployment is virtually unknown in Ostia. Every citizen is entitled to a job in one of Ostia’s massive, state-run industries. The industrial machine always has a need for more bodies, and a great many different vocations to fill: Farming, infrastructure maintenance, mining terranite, building, and many others. Food and housing are often provided, too, though the accommodations can be sparse.
The Iron Guard
A branch of the Ostian military, the Iron Guard serve as bodyguards to the Empress and Emperor. Most don distinctive iron power-armor, powered by a terranite generator set in a backpack. While not as protective as the famed heavy plate worn by Pyrean Paladins and having very little freedom of movement, a complex set of pistons grant the user exponentially enhanced strength and defense. Often, a detachment of Iron Guard are dispatched to assist the army in tasks that require such talents.
The Iron Guard also works tirelessly to provide security for Ostia itself, as well as members of the Deliberative. Only the detachment connected to the imperial family wear their famous power-armor.
The Secret Service
This branch of the Ostian military reports directly to the Empress and the Premier, and its activities are shrouded in mystery. Their purview includes assassination, spying, and the deployment of “special purpose teams.” Armed with the very best available in Ostia, these teams are in charge of covert objectives that require secrecy and strength.
Rumors say that they’ve done things like make an entire castle vanish, erase families from history, and worse. They are, of course rumors… and the Secret Service certainly does anything necessary to preserve the Empire’s best interests.
Ostia’s armed forces are peculiar by the measure of its contemporaries. Infantry formations are based around two types of troops: Ostian musketeers, armed with the Orrin “Knight Killer” rifle, and shocktroopers.
Musketeers are trained as ranged marksmen, first and foremost, capable of fighting in formation and lockstep. There is a growing trend among them to break ranks and split up, taking cover wherever may be most convenient. Lightly armored, they wear cuirass and wield bayonet as their standard equipment.
Shocktroopers are the melee counterpart to the musketeers, clad in half-plate armor and carrying massive shields. Most take the front lines, guarding the more agile and longer-ranged musketeers. Their main armanents are miniature hand cannons, typically loaded with a canister of small lead scattershot, as well as large maces that can crush through the armor of their foes.
Mages have no unified place, assigned situationally. Most find their niche aiding musketeers or shocktroopers in any way they can. The fiery destruction that a fire-Concepted mage can bring to a shocktrooper assault is just as valued as a water mage bringing rain to cover a musketeer retreat.
Ostian cannon is accepted to be the pinnacle of the art. For nearly every situation and target, there is a cannon made for crushing it. Ostian cannoneers strive to perfect their accuracy, knowing by instinct what cannon and angle to use to land an explosion exactly where they want it. While sapper and saboteur units do exist in Ostian ranks, they generally aren’t needed but for the most stalwart of fortifications.
Officers wield the same weapons as their troops, in most cases, but are permitted to wield what they prefer. Rapiers, maces, two-handed swords, and pikes have all been seen in the hands of shocktrooper officers. Like the troops they command, musketeer officers favor pistols or rifles.
Setting it apart from its contemporaries, Ostia has no standing cavalry of its own. There have been experiments with mounted musketeers, but the long Orrin Single Shot is clumsy to carry on horseback, and even more difficult to aim and reload at a bouncing gallop. More success has been made with troops dismounting to attack, but such effort is considered a waste of resources.
Ostia’s navy is much less organized, and all manner of ships fill its ranks. During the rise of the Empire, most ships laying in port were seized. Since then, the navy has made no effort to pull together; but the discovery of the New World has lent some measure of impetus, and now Ostia’s admirals have begun to modernize and standardize its navy.
Rumors abound of ships built entirely of metal, with colossal terranite boilers and engines, but such are only rumors, for now…
Grand Ostia itself is one of the most wondrous cities in the world. Visitors can’t help but feel intimidated by its scope and breadth. Originally a large trading city to begin with, the Empress’ attentions have ensured its expansion. Buildings huddle together in meticulous array, and space in the city is at a premium. Grand Ostia’s environs are filled to the brim with factories, warehouses, laboratories, markets, workhouses, and more; and one can nearl smell the terranite fumes in the air. It is the very image of a modern metropolis, strange as it may be to the rest of the world.
Some may claim it dreary, but its people agree that Grand Ostia is the beating heart of the Empire.
The heart of Grand Ostia, in turn, is the Imperial Palace. It is the residence of the Imperial Family, as well as the place where the Deliberative meets to debate matters of policy. As a matter of course, the palace is one of the most heavily defended areas in Ostia, and surmounting those defenses is almost impossible: The Iron Guard and the palace’s thick fortifications make it nigh on invulnerable to assault.
Ostia’s main shipyard is also the most common port of call for any vessels seeking passage to the New World, thanks to its location at the westernmost point of the continent. Despite the traffic that passes through Valence, it also houses Ostia’s shipyards.
Valence has grown from a small trading port to one of the busiest harbors on the coast. One can find almost anything with enough effort; be they sailors on shore leave, or ships stocking their holds to embark.
Empress Olivia Undine
They say the origins of the Empress are that of an orphan who grew up near one of Ostia’s terranite mines. Having reached threshold, she rallied the people to take up arms, and with the help of a local gunsmith sparked the revolution that would encompass the whole of the western coast.
Though her motivations were assumed to be the injustice committed against her fellow man, one can’t help but think of how she put herself into a position of absolute power. Does she truly act with the selfless interests of her subjects, or were her reasons more opportunistic? Either way, her efforts could hardly be called unsuccessful.
Olivia Undine is a woman of average height, but an eyepatch and several scars on her face make plain that she is a veteran of war. Seldom publically seen unarmed or without a full set of plate armor, Undine is a woman who fought for what she gained, and has no compunctions about doing so again.
In her official appearances, Undine speaks seldom, but talk amongst the Deliberative members indicates that she has little in the way of tact or debating skills. She describes what is to be done, heedless of the likes or dislikes of those beneath her, and expects it to be so. Attempts to curry favor or flatter her are often stopped cold by a steely glare; but on the other hand, she does not ignore her people. More than one rising star in Ostia’s military has received a letter of commendation signed by Her Excellency herself, no doubt to their great shock.
With the revolution over and most military actions these days relegated to crushing border disputes, the Empress has withdrawn from the public eye. She does makes rare appearances; the most notable being her direct intervention with what appeared to be the entirety of the Iron Guard during a border incursion. She has made little appearance in the Deliberative since, though, and those who have caught sight of her described a kind of restlessness tinting her otherwise intimidating and direct mannerisms.
What her plans may be for Ostia, or for the New World, remain a mystery.
Emperor-Consort Janos Roquefort
If the Empress is a woman of few words, Janos Roquefort is anything but. Indeed, the Emperor-Consort can be described as day to his wife’s night. Where she is direct, he is subtle. Where she is of few words, he is of many.
Indeed, it was those qualities that saw him through Ostia’s rocky beginnings. While Olivia led and fought on the front, Janos infiltrated, dueled, and generally spied his way through the war. Somewhere along the lines, he crossed paths with the Empress-to-be, and the rest fell into place. They were married a year after Olivia officially declared her ascension to the throne.
Janos is much more visible, and considerably less intimidating, than his spouse. Those encountering him describe him as someone they wouldn’t mind sharing a pub table with, possessed of a rapier-sharp wit and charisma. His speeches during Deliberative meetings can move it unanimously; something often thought impossible, and his is the Imperial face often presented to the public. Indeed, some of the most memorable occasions in Ostia are those when Janos has happened to make a surprise appearance in a local drinking establishment, only to declare that all drinks are on the house… courtesy of the Imperial Throne, that is.
These days, Janos seems at ease, relegating his official duties to sitting on on the Deliberative and representing the Imperial family at foreign and state functions. While those who saw him in action may have no doubt of his skill in espionage and foul play, many seem to think he’s gone soft. Some say he is content to be what he is now: Were one to sneak into the Imperial Palace, they might observe the Emperor-Consort contentedly playing with his daughter in the garden; a far cry from his hand in the rebellion.
The nine-year-old scion of Empress Olivia Undine is rarely seen. Although she often accompanies her father, whether this is a case of Undine’s lack of time or of Alvia relating better to her father is a matter for debate. Indeed, it may be a little of both.
For now, though, little is known of the sheltered princess, and such may be the case for some time to come.
Premier Dross Eron
The current Premier of the Deliberative is relatively young, compared to many of his subordinates. Some have observed that he is on remarkably good terms with the Emperor-Consort, and have pointed out that such is the reason for his appointment, rather than leadership ability or merit.
They would be mistaken.
During the rise of the Empire, it was said that Janos Roquefort was inferior to only one person when it came to matters of cloaks and daggers: Dross Eron. Even at sixteen, Dross was a master of intrigue. A simple student of magic who enjoyed chess during the time of the Three Kingdoms, his gameboard stratagems began in earnest once he’d caught wind of the revolution.
Dross communicated with the uprising by way of notes left in drops, guiding them here and there, revealing himself only when troops entered his town. Nobility would mysteriously feud and accuse one another of treachery just in time for Ostian rebels to storm the town’s defenses and devastate them. While Dross’ plans certainly sealed the fate of many, none know whether they personally met their end at his hands or not.
Dross is said to have changed little since the Rise; calm, controlled, and ruthlessly pragmatic. His friendship with Janos is a mystery to many, with the cavalier Janos at odds with the calculating coldness of Dross. Nevertheless, the two are seen together frequently, and Dross has even been trusted with guardianship of Princess Alvia on one occasion.
For the time being, Dross concerns himself with the daily effort of running the Empire, and the activities of the Ostian Secret Service. He is known to lecture at the Ostian Grand Library on magic, as well. He does not practice his manipulation of Void in public, though, which leads some to ponder his reason for lecturing.
Conspiracy theorists consider him a favorite suspect for just about everything that happens in Ostia.