Ergoth: Empire of the West

Over two millennia before the Cataclysm, around the time of the Second Dragon War, a mighty warlord arose among the barbaric human tribes. Named Ackal Ergot, he spent his early youth adventuring in distant corners of Ansalon. According to legend, he was the first human in many centuries to explore numerous ogre ruins, and within them he found both wealth and powerful magic artifacts that, coupled with a natural talent for military tactics and strategies, allowed him to bring all the tribes in the northwestern part of the continent from the mountains of Sanction and the Silvanesti frontier in the east, to the coast of the western sea.

On his seventieth birthday, Ackal Ergot declared Daltigoth, the one-time stronghold of a powerful chieftain who had given his armies a large amount of trouble, the capital of the Ergothian Empire. By this time, remaining free tribes in the south had banded together under the leadership of a warrior woman named Kharolis. The kingdom that resulted proved to be the first serious challenge to the mighty armies of Ergot.

After Ackal Ergot died, his children and grandchildren mismanaged the empire, pointlessly oppressed its people, and ran foolish military campaigns. Ergot’s own daughter assassinated the last of his sons. When she subsequently attempted to claim the throne, angry priests of Majere, patron deity of Ergoth, killed her. This event, coupled with the battles against Kharolis, put Ergoth on the path to becoming a fiercely patriarchal society.

After two centuries of rulership by petty tyrants and ineffectual warlords who barely kept the empire together, the first emperor of the Dermount dynasty took the throne. He reestablished a strong government in Daltigoth and then set aside the Sword of Ergot and initiated trade with the elves of Silvanesti. He even arrived at an uneasy peace with Kharolis, which by this time had become an ancestral enemy of Ergoth. During this time, the empire attempted to claim dominion over the kenderland of Hylo, but it eventually gave up the claim when the Imperial treasury couldn’t figure out how to appraise the wooden carvings and roasted nuts that the kender kept sending as tax payments. This period also marks the emergence of half-elves, since many humans and elves intermarried.

The peaceful times came to an end when a party of Ergothian hunters accidentally slew the Silvanesti ruler, Sithel. The elves refused to believe it was an accident and instead thought the Ergothians were attempting to return to their tradition of conquerors. War erupted, and the conflict, which has been dubbed the Kinslayer Wars by historians, lasted for almost five decades. The war ground to a bloody stalemate, and thousands of humans, elves, and half-elves were slaughtered as armies fought back and forth over the same few miles in the forests of central Ansalon. The war ended when one of Sithel’s sons, Kith-Kanan, negotiated a truce and forced his older brother, Sithas, to allow him to establish a western elven kingdom in the lands where the worst battles had taken place. Named Qualinesti, this land became a haven for half-elves, and when the Empire of Ergoth came into conflict with the dwarven kingdom of Thorbardin, Kith-Kanan’s new land helped broker a peace treaty that led to the creation of the legendary Swordsheath Scroll and the mighty fortress of Pax Tharkas.

With a permanent peace established among the Kharolians, elf, and dwarf kingdoms, and an understanding of sorts reached with the nation of Hylo, Ergoth entered into its Golden Age, the time during which most of what are considered to be the classic forms of Ergothian song, music, and poetry were created. The magic arts also flourished during this time, and more than one emperor was either a priest of Majere, or a Wizard of the White Robes. The empire’s neighbors also benefited from the peace and prosperity, and even the lowliest of serfs saw their lot improve.

Unfortunately, the seeds of Ergoth’s downfall as the dominant realm of Ansalon were sown at this point. During the reign of Quevalin XI, a Wizard of the White Robes, rumors grew consistently stronger among noble and military circles that he was planning to instigate sweeping changes in the laws surrounding imperial succession and in the structure of the Imperial legions. The most prevalent of these rumors was that he wanted to make it law that only those with talent for magic could inherent the throne and command the troops of the empire. Eventually, these rumors fanned the fires of rebellion, and Quevalin XI was overthrown by Macqui Hellman, commander of the Imperial Guard.

Hellmann was the first in a line of emperors whose incompetence was rivaled only by those who had reigned in the first centuries following Ackal Ergot’s death. Increasingly, the nobility became more decadent and greedy in their ways, the people started to suffer and subsequently rebel, and trade relations with neighboring kingdoms started to decline. A new union of city-states led by the Lord-City of Istar emerged beyond the Doomrange to fill the mercantile void, and this caused the nobles of Ergoth to become even more iron-fisted toward the common folk. Eventually, in 1241 PC, all the empire’s eastern provinces rebelled against the oppression and decadence that had taken hold in Ergoth. Under the leadership of visionary commander and statesman Vinas Solamnus, they created an independent kingdom.

The next millennia is a chronicle of the steady decline into irrelevancy of a once-great empire. Istar and Solamnia emerge as the military, commercial, and spiritual centers of Ansalon, and Ergoth grows so weak that it must rely on Solamnia for protection and trade. However, a rot far more severe than that which felled Ergoth eventually took hold in Istar. With the emergence of the Kingpriests, Istar began to force its will upon the other nations of Ansalon, using the Knights of Solamnia as the might through which they spread their “righteous ways.”

A century before the Cataclysm, only the priests of the Empire of Ergoth dared speak out against the Kingpriest, since everyone else — even the majority of Imperial citizens — believed the Istaran claims that the Kingpriest was the supreme agent of the gods in the mortal realms. Forty years before the Cataclysm, a strong emperor took the Ergothian throne for the first time in centuries.

The government of Gwynned VI fiercely challenged every edict that issued forth from Istar, and he saw that word was spread widely that many Ergothian priests had received visions from their gods that Istar would soon fall. As Istar declared wizardry illegal and increased its efforts to exterminate all they viewed as “evil,” the Empire of Ergoth was slowly starting to rediscover some of the vigor and cultural glory it had known a thousand years earlier. Slowly, the emperor began to raise an army to challenge Istar. He found willing allies in the Silvanesti elves, and the Knights of Solamnia seemed oddly oblivious to his efforts to challenge the righteousness of their long-time ally. However, just as Gwynned VI’s war against Istar had barely started, he died under mysterious circumstances. His son, Gwynned VII, was a gentle soul who truly despised war and who, fearing the supposedly divine powers of the Kingpriest, called a halt to the army’s advance. Less than a month later, the Cataclysm struck, destroying Istar forever and drowning much of the Empire of Ergoth under the sea.

The Cataclysm caused a strait to form that split Ergoth into northern and southern halves. Southern Ergoth in the Fifth Age fell under the dominion of the White dragon overlord, Gellidus. The White has turned this land of hills, plains, and woodlands into a frozen waste buried in glaciers, snow, and ice. A few of its former inhabitants cling to the more livable areas such as Daltigoth, which is now held by ogres in fealty to Gellidus.

Northern Ergoth has actually benefited from troubled times: They experienced a population increase. While many worship the old gods, others have adhered to the Citadel of Light. Northern Ergoth is ruled from its capital, Gwynned, by Emperor Mercadior Redic VI.

About Steve Miller

Steve Miller lives, writes, and watches way too many movies in Washington State. He started his professional writing career doing feature articles and reviews, but soon detoured into writing roleplaying games. With a little luck, he'll be balancing criticism and more creative writing in the years to come.
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