The Summer Empire
A History of the Summer Empire
The First Empire By B. Pitt
The times before the First Empire are shrouded in myth and whatever comes when even myths are mostly forgotten. Mile-high towers of glass and steel, skies thick with airships, entire kingdoms paying tribute to their dragon rulers, lizard people tearing out hearts in sacrifice in their temple-cities, intelligent spiders spinning their web-houses, cities of clockwork and brass, open war against the Uratha—the tales get more fantastical with
each telling, and there is rarely any way to separate truth from lies. Of why the islands float, where perihumanity came from, which breed is the original or even if there is an “original” breed, what happened to the intelligent non-perihumans, and other questions, there are whole libraries devoted to the cause and no answers.
The First Empire is frequently known as the Patrian Empire, for that is where it began. It spread outward in fits and starts, slowly and painstakingly absorbing island after island, relying on the powers of its thaumaturges and the spirit-driven magics of the Priest-Kings to provide communication and transportation. While the modern Summer Empire relies greatly on the little gods to provide its infrastructure and protection against the Nobility and hostile spirits, the First Empire was ruled directly by spirits. The Priest-Kings opened themselves up as vessels for their spirit patrons to dwell within, providing them direct access to the mortal realm.
It endured for centuries, but not forever. Struggles among the Priest-Kings for power reduced the First Empire’s ability to deal with external threats, and as their struggles moved from covert action into overt battle, attacks by the Uratha gradually increased until they were a near-constant threat to the borders of the Empire. In this cauldron of turmoil, the vampires saw their chance and reached out to seize it.
The Rise of the Nations of the Night
The vampires had always lurked in the shadows of perihuman society, but now they knew they had an opportunity to become something more. They offered safety from both the Uratha and the depredations of the Priest-Kings and their masters, and the subjects of the First Empire accepted their offer with open arms.
For a thousand years, the banner of the Nations of the Night flew over the islands. Direct contact with the little gods was punished by execution, the worship of the sun goddess Lyral was banned, thaumaturgy was harshly regulated, and the population was subject to the sanguinary tax. The vampires took on titles, and styled themselves the Nobility, pointing to their blood and the power it gave them as evidence of their right to rule, and banned others from holding any position of real authority.
Despite that, life did improve for most under the Nobility’s rule, at least at first. Recognizing the importance of health for maintaining their food supply, the Nobility sponsored research into sanitation and medicine. Within the first century of their rule, cities of any size had large sewer systems for waste disposal, a dedicated thaumaturge corps ensured the bounty of harvests and the health of herds, and public bathing facilities were built to maintain
personal cleanliness. Knowledge of alchemical cures were widely disseminated to ensure that even those places without a dedicated healer had access to modern medicine. The Houses of Doors were constructed to provide instantaneous transportation across large distances, allowing anyone of sufficient means and leisure time to take vacations. A network of adepts and druids allowed reasonable fast communication to anyone who could afford it,
and with the new mass communications and the later invention of the printing press, news became cheap enough that even laborers in the cities could afford to read about doings in the farthest corners of the Nations of the Nights.
The Dawn War and the Summer Empire
As time passed, however, the Nobility became more and more tyrannical. They fell to warring among themselves, wasting their subjects’ lives in meaningless border disputes, and increased the sanguinary taxes to the point where people were taken bodily in the middle of the night. Travel beyond the boundaries of the Nations of the Night was banned entirely. The rumbles grew and grew, and over the course of a generation slowly took shape
until finally a single discovery made everything possible.
The invention of air-cartridge-powered firearms had allowed the Nobility to keep the peace more efficiently, but they had always harshly punished any research into improving them that wasn’t strictly under their control. Gunpowder especially was banned and everyone involved with it executed after the first time it was discovered, and the Nobility’s power allowed them to erase even the memory of its discovery. The second time it was
discovered, however, was outside their control, and furthermore, the rebels discovered a means of making their guns shoot a short blast of flame. It was close-range only, but everyone knew how much the Nobility feared fire.
It was called the Dawn War, and it was over in a month. With their flamethrower ammo, gunpowder firearms, and allies among the Uratha and the Nobility’s dhampiri families, the rebels attacked at dawn on Patria’s longest day of the year. Within a day, they had taken the city, controlled the Houses of Doors and were spreading through the Nations. After a month, the Nobility had been put into full flight and those who survived fled to the lower
reach to nurse their wounds and plot their revenge.
There was one exception. Alexis the Black, Duchess of Calas, had ruled her territory for nearly as long as the Nations of the Night had existed. She had heard the whispering among the younger Nobility of a plan to drink her blood and steal her power and her kingdom for themselves, and she pre-empted them by going to the rebels with an offer. If they left Calas alone, she would provide them with all the aid they required, including her formidable powers and those of her blood-bonded allies and thralls. The rebels, knowing their chances were slim, agreed, and to their great surprise Alexis kept her word. And if
some of the fleeing Nobles found their way into Calas and were forced to blood-bond themselves to Alexis or accept destruction—well, it was a small price to pay to get rid of them.
The rebels immediately set to work reordering their society. The worship of Tyan the Night King, the Nobility’s deity of choice, was banned, and Lyral reinstituted as the patron deity of the newly-proclaimed Summer Empire. To prevent the lurking danger of the Nobility from returning or hiding as it had before the Nations of the Night, each city made a pact with its own little god. In exchange for regular ceremonies and one or two points of behavior, the spirit would warn the town’s thaumaturges whenever there was a Noble, an Uratha or a hostile spirit within the walls, as well as provide lighting at night. Usually further benefits were worked out as well, but those vary from town to town.
With the Nobility’s rule fresh in their mind, the very concept of rule by right of birth has fallen completely out of favor. Every country is a meritocracy now, though their specific flavor varies. Malak is a theocracy, ruled by the priests of Lyral, and Lanun allows only the rich to vote in their elections. Kyria is a full democracy, with important issues decided by a council chosen by lot from among the entire citizen body. Alfheim has little government beyond the local town councils. Regardless, in the modern Summer Empire, one of the worst thing you can accuse someone of is having aristocratic leanings.
Despite that, everything is not as peaceful as it seems. The chaos of elections means governments change policy frequently, some of the little gods are discontent and make trouble, strange cults and societies flourish, and some people even look at Calas and mutter about its stability. The future hangs on the edge of a needle, and a single strong push could send it tumbling in any direction.