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Under The Twinkle Of A Fading Star: The Return of Dangers, War, and the Modern Age

The New Realm

In the shattered remains of what was once known as the River Provinces, a Dawn Caste Solar Exalted named Markian Sunflame had survived the Threefold War and protected his small kingdom. Markian had been young when the war ended, having Exalted early in the Yozi invasion, but he took his responsibilities seriously, and set to work protecting his people. Using his own Charms, he journeyed through the Wyld to nearby nations, following the trails that connected the Span's Manses and eventually gathering around himself a new Solar Circle. Naming his home nation the new Imperial Seat, Markian began construction of ships that would help his people travel as he did; as it stood, his fledgeling empire was in danger of fracturing entirely without his constant guidance. Once his first Wyldfarers were created, he began to travel further afield, absorbing new nations and worlds into his New Realm - a ressurection of the Great Deliberative in his mind's eye, where Celestial Exalts might once again govern the world as they had, guided with a newfound sense of responsibility. Markian managed to uncover over a dozen Essences, all of whom joined his growing Empire. Finally, however, one of his ships travelled eastwards, and the Solar who piloted it came face to face with a second massive Empire to the west. The stage was set for disaster.

The Bloodgold War

To say that the initial meetings between the Scarlet Imperium and the New Realm were disasterous would be an understatement of epic proportions. On the one hand, the wars of the past Age were still in the minds of the eldest of the Dragon-Blooded, a very few of whom had actually been Exalted during the confrontations, and who remembered the Solars fighting, not for the demonic armies as the Immaculate texts had suggested, but against them. Certainly, the dread tales of the Anathema were less dire for having not run into any in the past three hundred years. On the other hand, both Gregorious and Markian approached their meetings assuming that the other would quickly bow down before the rightful ruler of Creation, and both were quickly annoyed by each others' assumptions of superiority.

Still, it took two full years of collapsing negotiations before the two great Realms went to war with one another. Ultimately, the final straw came when both sides laid claim to the world of Hollow, where Nexus had stood before armies of the dead ravaged it. The interconnected manses of Hollow were a great find, and neither nation was willing to release it. So began the Bloodgold War.

The early days of the war were the most vicious. Wyldfarers turned increasingly deadly weapons against one another as the armies of the Dragon-Blooded made war against a much smaller, but far more powerful, Celestial force. Behind the scenes, the Bureau of Destiny campaigned to regain control of the Sidereal Essences that Markian controlled, while the Silver Sky tried to get their Lunars to withdraw from the fight. Worlds were captured and re-captured, vicious ground fighting balancing out deadly Span conflicts. In one of the worst incidents, the Battle of Marin Falls, Emperor Markian himself crushed Tepet Gregorius's gleaming jade warstrider, driving his daiklave through the Imperium lord's chest and killing him. Even that did not end the war, as Gregorious's successor, Tepet Silane, swore vengeance on her father's behalf.

Ultimately, rising death tolls and a lack of a decisive advantage caused the two sides to agree to peace negotiations; there were too many other dangers in the Span for their brutal war to continue. The negotiations themselves were strained, but the two sides agreed to a series of borders and declared peace. For a time, it seemed that the worlds might settle into a peace, for a time.

The Imperial Succession

Tepet Silane proved to be a superior monarch to her father. For ninety years, she carefully balanced the needs of her people with the needs of her nation, continuing to work to expand the trade networks into the western Span, and finding an ever-growing number of worlds. At the same time, Markian did the same towards the north, gradually growing in size and might. However, many smaller alliances of worlds grew up in this time, carefully balancing the two great powers above their heads in order to assert independance and create thriving minor nations throughout the Span.

However, in Imperium Year 427, disaster struck. Tepet Silane was found dead in her chambers, along with her husband and young son. None of the three had so much as a mark on their bodies, nor did the extensive investigations carried on by the Imperium discover any trace of poison, sickness, or wrongdoing. It seemed as though they had simply fallen over dead. The nation fell into mourning, and the Deliberative began discussing succession.

It took only weeks for the discussion to dissolve into war. Soon, Imperium forces were arrayed against one another, fighting for control of their future. On the borders of the nation, Emperor Markian took advantage to carefully remove most of the neutral nations that had sprung up between the two Realms, adding them to his own fleet of worlds. However, he chose not to invade the Imperium itself, fearing that such an action might be the catalyst for a deadly counterattack. Ultimately, the succession wars ground to a halt after four years; half of the competitors were killed or captives, while the rest had finally organized behind Soren Naganis. Cynical and manipulative, Naganis had avoided the bulk of the fighting by playing his enemies off against one another, and he took the throne with very little muttering from his surviving vassals, pledging to rebuild the Imperium's glory.

The Collapse Of Civility

Naganis's reign was marked by the slow rise of the Immaculate Order to prominance once again, as he saw the advantages that its philosophies held for him. In addition, he very gradually reduced his nation's freedom to trade without passing through a Great House, and cast blame for the Imperium's troubles on Markian's Realm. Ultimately, Naganis's provocations pushed Markian to close off all trade with the Imperium and declare a state of war. In response, Naganis allowed the Immaculate Order to once again declare the Celestial Exalted Anathema and destroy them whenever they were found within the Imperium's borders.

The second Bloodgold War has been much less violent and active than the first, marked by year-long campaigns and occasional skirmishes, but not the full-scale assaults against major targets that caused the first war to be so brutal. However, with much of each great nation's military occupied, piracy has begun to spread across the trade routes, and nations on the edges of each Realm have declared their independance or joined other minor leagues. Worse, a new threat has begun to spread across the stars, still only whispered about in the dark corners, but growing in power - the Emissaries of the Void, who have spend five hundred years gathering Abyssal shards to them, hoping to throw the worlds into the Maw. The Emissaries are rumoured to have destroyed entire worlds, though their origins and locations remain unknown.

The worlds stand on the crux of their age's ultimate destiny; will it be unity beneath one flag, a squabbling collection of independant worlds, or dissolution to the forces that stand against it? Only time will tell...

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