The Holy Falcon Empire, as known as the Knights of the Light, was an ancient and strong Human empire united by Ronan in the northern area of Ashan. It was ruled by the Falcon family before they died off. The philosophy of the empire order is “Law & Order” rather than “Good & Mercy” Driven by the Angels, Elrath’s chosen, the children of the Holy Empire believe in the flawed nature of the self, which must be cleansed in the light of Elrath. Their objective is to lead a life worthy of Elrath’s forgiveness, shape the world in his image and spread his sacred Light.
Haven or The Holy Falcon Empire was originally a series of squabbling clans that once venerated the Dragon-God of Air, Ylath. Ronan the Great, High King of the Falcon, united them through a combination of dazzling generalship, brilliant negotiations, and the occasional political marriage. Once the country was under his thumb, he declared the foundation of the Falcon Empire, and settled in to make his position as Emperor hereditary. This task was made easier for the other leaders to accept by a prophecy from the Seventh Dragon Sar-Elam, that stated that as long as the Falcon’s line existed, the Human race and the world would endure.
At about the same time, the angels were in a dire predicament: their numbers had been declining for centuries because of their courageous but often deadly exploits during the wars with the Demons, their archenemies the Faceless and their low rate of reproduction. They were facing the end of their race, and consequently, an end to the worship of their patron Dragon-God, Elrath. So they searched for nations to convert and they set their eyes on the Humans of the young Falcon Empire, lost in the religious upheaval that had followed the Wars of Fire and Sar-Elam’s ascension to Dragonhood and sacrifice. The Angels approached the young boy Brian, son to the Emperor Ronan Falcon, and helped him convert his fragile Empire into a strong nation dedicated to Elrath. However not everyone wanted to convert to Elrath and instead of dedicating to the Dragon of Light, they remained faithful to Ylath and seceded form the Empire, thus began the foundation of the Free Cities. The Empire has made attempts to annex these free cities, most notably Hammer Fall, but through the Cities resilience and unity, they have remained free from the empires influence outside of trade.
The Orc Crusades Edit
During the First Eclipse, the Demons of Sheogh returned to the world of Ashan. The Wizards allied with the empire and created the Orcs and Beastmen, fusion of demon blood and human criminals in the former and a fusion between man and beast in the latter, to stop them. At the end of the invasion, demonic concerns were set aside and rebuilding began. The long-restive Orc population, settled in sparsely populated regions were used as indentured troops or servants. Soon the Orcs and Beastmen, angry at their slavery, rebelled from their wizard masters and the rebellion spread to the empire. They declared themselves free of the Dragons, unwilling to worship any gods at all. This blasphemy could not be born, and the Empire’s retaliation was swift. So began the so-called Orcish Crusades - efforts to force the Orcs back to dragon worshipping.
Imperial armies smashed Orc encampments, and relentlessly drove the Orcs back. The broken yet proud survivors fled to the most inhospitable reaches of the world, form the Sahaar Desert, the Steppes of Ranaar or the Pao Islands. A great armada was prepared to follow the Orcs to the islands and there, with Empress Morwenna at the head, wipe them out. However, a tremendous storm arose and wrecked the fleet, killing the empress. This, the new Emperor Conner III, decided was a sign from the Dragons. Enough had been done, the Crusades were over.
War With The Elves Edit
Before the time of the Second Eclipse, the empire faced dangers not only from the Demons but also from within their own ranks. In Emperor Liam's vanity and ambition, his knights attacked the vulnerable forests of Tarlad, a former kingdom of Irollan under Queen Tuidhana. Thus began the War of the Bitter Ashes. The war ended in a stalemate after Tuidhana made a dark deal with the Faceless, forcing both the elves of Irollan and the Holy Falcon Empire to leave the Elf Queen's land, recognize her kingdoms independence and pay reparations. Since then, the Falcon Empire's relation to the Elven realm had been strained; a sense of distrust was sown, especially for the new Dark Elves. It would be years before relations between Irollan and the Holy Empire would improve and develop some sort of relation with the Dark Elves new nation of Ygg-Chall, The Dark Below.
The Second Eclipse Edit
Merely a few years before the Second Eclipse, within the Empires own borders, old and bitter rivals, Slava of the Griffin Duchy and Gerhart of the Wolf Duchy, nearly forced the empire into civil war over how Slava allowed the Orcs of the Whitespear tribe to settle in the mountains of his duchy, until Emperor Liam intervened. In an effort to force them to make peace and advised by Uriel, Slava was forced to wed his daughter, Irina, to Gerhart. Unfortunately, with Sandor's aid, Irina escaped to the Naga Islands and Slava was murdered by his youngest daughter, Anastasya. Slava's son, Anton, was then named Duke of the Griffin Duchy, and in his rage over his fathers death, forced many in his duchy to publicly proclaim their loyalty to Elrath. Those that refused were either imprisoned or declared themselves independent. Only a few years later, when Jorgen revealed himself as a Faceless, Anton realized the error of his ways, and welcomed his disgruntled nobles back into the fold. However by the time the Eclipse arrived, the Demons invaded earlier than expected, catching the empire off guard. Falcon's Reach itself was attacked and Emperor Liam died at the hands of the Demons under Ahribban.
Though the emperor died, Anton managed to defeat the Demons and saved Liam's niece Gwendolyn from demon cultists, thus she inherited the throne. Meanwhile, Irina with her Naga allies defeated Gerhart and became the new leader of the Wolf Duchy. Also, a revived Anastaysa discovered Uriel was the one who used her to kill her father and his treasonous machinations to restart the Elder Wars. In an act of revenge, she used the same artifact Uriel had used to control her, leaving him helpless against the Demons, killing him. Anastasya, along with her siblings revealed Uriel's deception to the Empire. Thus began the separation between the state and the church, called the Charter of the Griffin, and a sense of wariness for the angels as Uriel's treachery broke the trust that was formed since the Empire's earliest years.
Dissension and Stability Edit
After the end of the Eclipse, Empress Gwendolyn faced dissension from the more conservative nobles who disapproved the Empress' decision's, mainly near the Agyn Peninsula as the nobles of Karthal threatened to secede from the empire. Though through her tactics and agents, the empire returned to stability. The Empire also aided the wizards against the Necromancers during the War of The Broken Staff, driving the dark wizards back to Heresh. Only a few decades later the Empire lost the Agyn Peninsula to the Crimson Wizards of House Chimera, who chose self-exile from the newly formed Silver Cities, making it their own kingdom.
The Holy Falcon Empire maintained stability and its power even during and after the third and forth eclipses, and further made trade alliances between its neighbors.
Falcon's Last Flight Edit
However, the Fifth Eclipse became the Empires darkest time. Under the leadership of Empress Maeve, the demons were routed on the battlefield but she underestimated their new ruler, Kha-Beleth, The Demon Sovereign. Demon's led by the traitor turned Succubus, Jezebeth, infiltrated the capitol, Falcon's Reach, and murdered Maeve and her children. Jezebeth and her demons then burned the capitol to the ground to ensure no heir of Falcon survived. Though the Griffin Duke, Ivan, avenged Maeve by killing Jezebeth and the Dukes attempted to maintain stability and unity within the empire, each Duke tried to make a legitimate blood claim to the now vacant throne. It soon became apparent the Empire would fall into Civil War.
The Church of Light and the angels attempted to maintain stability and trace leads to Brendan's survival as he was said to be last Falcon. Led by Archangel Sandalphon and advised by a renegade yet wise angel Murazel, they formed the Conclave of the New Dawn. For a time, peace was maintained and one day, a hunter brought a feral boy to the conclave. After much investigation, the boy was indeed Brendan Falcon. Only Sandalphon and Murazel knew this, but they were attacked by the Blades of Erebos, infamous Dark Elf assassins who sell their services to the highest bidder. The angels figured out they had been hired to kill Brendan Falcon but were unsure on who hired them. Despite his efforts, Sandalphon was killed and Murazel was forced to flee with Brendan and sought refuge with the secretive Dragon Knights.
The Conclave then imploded on itself, and chaos and suspicion dominated the empire. Now it became all to clear that only the strongest noble would be named emperor.
War and Rebirth Edit
The civil war would last for over a decade, with each duke trying to outdo the other and prove their legitimacy to the imperial throne. This war would be known as the Ten Years War. The war exacted terrible tolls on its rulers and its people. For a brief moment, peace occurred when the Church of Light led by Archbishop Wilhelm chose to support Duke Seamus of Stag and name him emperor, in an effort to prevent the empire from tearing itself apart. Most of the dukes agreed to pledge allegiance to Seamus while others begrudgingly complied after being pressured by their people. Only Duke Ivan of Griffin and Duke Stefan of Wolf refused to acknowledge Seamus as Emperor.
Seamus' first decree at the "Stag Emperor" called for the Crusader armies to return and to send supplies and aid to the most devastated regions of the empire, giving him the appearance of a fair ruler. However, other's had suspicions on Seamus and his motives. After establishing Horncrest as his capital, the other nations of Ashan came to observe the new emperor, among them Lady Tanis, an ally of Ivan from the Silver Cities. With Tanis' intel, Ivan discovered that not only were the Crusaders meant to provide aid to the empire but also enforce his rule by whatever means necessary. Villages and towns that displayed sympathy to Ivan or Stefan were burned and its people either imprisoned or killed. Ivan then resolved to remove Seamus from the imperial throne.
Ivan's campaign took a dark turn as Seamus defeated the Griffin Duke at Meadowfair with the aid of Engurrand of Greyhound. Seamus would have defeated Ivan there if the Silver Cities hadn't provided aid to Ivan, turning against Seamus. Ivan would recover and gain new allies from the other nations of Ashan in his mission to remove Seamus from power.
Seamus then made an offer to Ivan: he would acknowledge Seamus as Emperor and Ivan would be named Archduke and would marry his eldest daughter Nolwenn. Ivan agreed to meet with Seamus near the ruins of Falcon's Reach - not to agree to his terms but to force the Stag Duke to surrender. Instead, Seamus sprung a trap, summoning the Blades of Erebos, killing his own daughter to frame Ivan for the deed. In this foul deed, Seamus fully revealed himself to Ivan as a treacherous madman and the one who hired the blades to assassinate Brendan Falcon in the first place. This plan would have worked, but Ivan was able to rescue Nolwenn and defeat the Blades. Outraged by this treachery, Nolwenn and the Dukes turned against Seamus, swearing their loyalty to Ivan. Even the priests of the church and the angels refused to aid Seamus, as not only were they disgusted with Seamus' acts, but Murazel was able to convince them to stay neutral until the war was over.
Seamus then retreated to his duchy, refusing to both acknowledge Ivan as emperor or surrender. Ivan gathered his allies and besieged Horncrest where Seamus' madness had taken him fully. Even as his own people began turning against him, Seamus had them imprisoned or killed. Unable to handle the Stag's madness any longer, Ivan personally attacked Seamus in Horncrest and defeated him.
With the final opponent defeated, the Empire was whole once more, with Ivan declaring that Seamus be imprisoned for the rest of his days and one of his daughters be named Duchess of the Stag. Also, Ivan gave his former Griffin lands to his distant relative Andras, a member of the Raven family and descendant of Sandor, for his aid. Thus the Raven Duchy was formed in place of the former Griffin Duchy. The Ten Years War was finally brought to a end.
Ivan didn't restore the Falcon Empire, as he believed that the empire had fallen long ago under its own arrogance and mistakes. Resolving to clean the slate, the newly crowned Emperor Ivan, rechristened the Holy Falcon Empire as the Holy Griffin Empire.
The Empire lies in the middle of Ashan with the forests of Irollan and mountains of to the north and the deserts to the south. Most of the Empire is made up of rich farmland and rolling hills. The countryside is well watered, with several large rivers snaking across the landscape. There's plenty of mine's, sawmills and quarry's all over the land to fuel empires trade economy.
The climate is of a constant warm spring but has moments of winter.
The Holy Empire is a monarchy (originally a Theocracy before the Second Eclipse) with a feudal structure. In theory the Holy Emperor has absolute rule, but in reality the land is chopped up into seven duchies (Griffin Duchy, Wolf Duchy, Stag Duchy, Falcon Duchy, Unicorn Duchy, Bull Duchy and Greyhound Duchy) with countless baronies, so that much of the Emperor’s time is spent juggling his various nobles. Frequently at least one of these regions is in some sort of revolt, though these are rarely serious or bloody.
Angels don’t have official roles within the Empire, except in times of crisis when they can get temporary assignments, either as commanders or military consultants against darker foes. Most of the time, they act as advisers and counselors with lofty, but honorary ranks. Within the Church of Light, the angels have a more official role, either as teachers for training new priests and inquisitors or unofficially advising the Empire through the Church.
Knights come from the ranks of nobles and socially ambitious merchants. The rise of the middle class has taken place mostly in the cities, and many of the newly rich traders and Merchant Guilds are seeking to ally their families with the noble houses, generally through marriage. Most peasants and citizens don’t care who’s in charge, they just want to go about their lives normally and be in peace.
Humans of the Holy Empire cover the gamut, depending on which region of the Empire they hail from. Northern humans are tall, thin and pale, with light hair. Further south, both skin and hair gets darker. Both men and women wear their hair long.
Imperial fashion is very modest, nobles and commoners alike wear clothing that covers as much of their skin as possible. Standard clothing includes tunics and leather jerkins, leggings, and boots. Women often wear dresses with long sleeves and high necklines.
Haven meals are very plain. For the peasants, it involves bread, cheese, potatoes and onions in various quantities, occasionally supplemented with pork or venison. They drink cider or beer, generally brewed locally. Nobles tend to dine on meat, and plenty of it. No dinner party is complete without the roasting of at least one exotic animal as a main course. They drink wine, usually imported. No one in Haven drinks water if they can help it, except the priests.
External Relations With Other FactionsEdit
Historical Allies: The Wizards of the Seven Cities (later the Silver Cities) have allied with the Empire against the demons in the past, though most nobles are wary of the wizards' creations and their arrogant nature.
The Dwarves of Grimheim have allied with the Empire against the Demon invasions and are old trading partners. In fact, the Empire is the Dwarves' best customers in the glass working industry.
Historical Enemies: The Demons of Sheogh - Haven’s nemesis since the first days of the Empire. Often the empire is at the forefront in the defense against the demons, and as such, the demons seek to destroy the empire and gain a foothold in Ashan.
Lesser Enemies: Necropolis and its Undead of Heresh are considered a abomination to the Light, though the empire doesn't actively seek war with the Necromancers. Hardly any relation of any kind have lasted. Only secret dealings between some of the less scrupulous nobles of the empire and the necromancers were made and only for influence or profit.
The Strongholds of the Orcs- They are a mix of the hated demons and filthy criminals and former slaves that rebelled and proclaimed themselves free of the Dragon Gods. However some knights and nobles are more sympathetic to the Orcs and try to avoid bloodshed with them.
The Dungeon Dark Elves of Ygg-Chall - while not really enemies but branded as such by the Church of Light because they worship Malassa, the Dragon of Darkness. They have slowly made commerce between their two realms.
The Holy Falcon Empire has known numerous dissensions amongst its six major duchies and hundreds of baronies since the day it converted from Ylath, the Dragon God of Air, to Elrath, the Dragon God of Light. In fact, the Free Cities were once a part of the empire but seceded when they refused to convert. Though religious disputes are by no means the most common reason for internecine conflict, they have been known to be the most bloody. Political rivalries over land and the emperor’s favor have set the stage for forced marriages, trade embargoes and forced alliances. The Holy Emperors have learned how to use this internal tension between the duchies to expand their dominion over the centuries and maintain a grip over the Duchies.
It is easily arguable that without a common enemy, the Holy Empire would have dissolved and returned to a mass of scattered clans, in constant conflict with each other, rather than fighting for a common cause. It is thus ironically fortunate that the Empire’s history was bloodied by countless conflicts with the Demons, Elves, Orcs, Necromancers and various border skirmishes with the numerous Free Cities. This semi-permanent state of martial law has allowed the Inquisition to keep the empire mobilized for war for several decades. Though the Inquisition has disbanded since the Second Eclipse, they still hunt for those who wish to bring disorder and darkness in the empire.
They worship Elrath, the Dragon of Light through the Church of Light. The core of philosophy is “Law & Order” rather than “Good & Mercy”. Driven by the Angels, Elrath’s chosen, Haven believes in the flawed nature of the self,which must be cleansed in the light of Elrath. Their objective is to lead a life worthy of Elrath’s forgiveness, shape the world in his image and spread his sacred light. With the Angels mostly gone, the Holy Empire is the primary remaining base of worship for the Dragon of Light. The Church of Light is led by an Archbishop, who wields considerable political force, and the center of this worship is located in the holy city of Flammschrein. Even the smallest villages of the empire have a church near their center. Both men and women can become priests, confessors or inquisitors and they are allowed to marry, though not actively encouraged to do so.
Worship of the other dragons still occurs in the Empire but in minor scales. For example, sailors pray to Ylath for good winds and even some of the Dukes and nobles honor their former progenitor. Sailors and fishermen also pray to Shalassa for calm waters for safe travel and a good catch, and blacksmiths honor Arkath for not burning their houses down and aiding them in their forges.
The humans pray to Elrath in exchange for blessings and miracles. In this system of belief, magic power is proportional to faith. Angels are a bit different, being an elder race directly related to Elrath, they have an innate affinity with Light magic.
Regardless, with their use of Light Magic, the Inquisitors, Priests, Knights and Lords of the Empire can illuminate dark places, heal their soldiers and allies, fill themselves with hope and resolve and even bring their troops and allies back to life. They also can use Light Magic to protect themselves and their allies against various kinds of curses, pierce through illusions and stealth and bring down the might of the scorching sun's rays to burn their enemies. The Empire's knowledge, skills and use in Light magic are said to be second to, if not rival, the Angels.
The Humans of the empire do have access to other forms of magic outside of Light Magic, through primarily Fire, Air and Prime Magic. Other practices of magic do exist in the empire but in the smallest scales, the least tolerated is Necromancy and the most misunderstood would be their natural opposite, Dark Magic.
Imperial public architecture is heavy and ornate yet functional. Every inch is covered in sculpture, statues, and the like. Stone is the preferred building material, particularly for cities and noble houses. Most of the empire's cities are built around a central castle and keep, and the homes of nobles generally have protective walls and at least one defensive tower. Decorative gardens are very orderly, laid out on regular lines with plants arranged in symmetrical locations or in geometrical designs.
Smaller buildings, farmhouses and inns are generally made from wood, and most cottages have thatched roofs. The average farm has a central house and two outbuildings, one for livestock and one for storing aniseed.
The countryside is marked with stone and post fences, and there are standing stone sites scattered across the hilltops. The empire’s vast expanses are criss-crossed by thousands of miles of paved roads and hills radiating from the imperial capital.
On the battlefieldEdit
Mounted knights make up the Empire’s heavy shock troops, supported by heavy infantry (the Sentinels, renowned for their discipline and military coordination) and missile weapons (the justly feared crossbowmen). The Imperial armies are famous for their discipline, team spirit and impressive morale, which becomes a powerful asset in battle, where they seem to strike twice as much as their opponents. The Empire can also count on the support of powerful creatures, such as Angels (Seraph's and Celestial's), Griffin's and Dire Wolves.
Each noble is responsible for training his or her local militia and men-at-arms, and each troop is under the command of the noble who raised and paid to outfit it. The entire army is under the command of whichever noble the Emperor has appointed to the post. In theory, anyone is eligible. In practice, very few are ever given command of an army the Emperor simply doesn’t trust many of his vassals with that kind of power.
Originally, the backbone of the Imperial armies was formed by volunteers, willing to give their lives for the empire. Centuries later, they are professional soldiers, and as a result, they rely less on faith and more on their training.
The Emperor or Empress personally leads the Imperial Host, a collection of battle-hardened troops made up of the best soldiers the Empire has to offer. These soldiers owe their allegiance to the Emperor or Empress and no one else, and there isn’t a force in the Empire who can stand against them.
In terms of tactics, the empire takes a defensive stance against their foes. Normally led by Knights, Vindicators or Paladins, the imperial troops are legendary for getting their enemies to fight on the ground of their choosing. They often win in the long run by resisting their opponents' assaults and preserving the freshness of their troops.