GoG 0.49 - The War of Exhaustion II

The Kaiserlose Zeit, 35 years of feuding, in-fighting and regression without imperial oversight came about after the sudden death of Heinrich III called ‘the Greedy’. With the members of the Reichskammer unable to accept or even elect a single candidate, several of them were raised up instead, either by force or intrigue. These ‘Apaitors’, pretenders to the sacred throne of the realm, brought with them smaller conflicts and tried to rule as warlords would, summoning back the Years of Torpor for a while.

But them appearing was only one of many symptoms of what was to be the illness that became the war. Among the other symptoms was the fall of coinage, as every year towards the 1350s led to another decrease in the worth of thaler, mark and groschen, which, at it´s height in 1353 led to an almost total breakdown of economic value when enough coin was on the market that once could build entire houses out of them, but buy nothing a common city would produce.

This, in turn led to both inflation and elation of the coinage of other realms, in such numbers, that twice in those years the houses and merchants of Atelei had to resolve to bankruptcy, despite, or possibly even because of numerous tons of gold & silver being brought over from Quidron in their treasure fleets and galleons.

This phenomenon in turn rapidly led to several revolts around Atelei, and was heaviest in the Kolpingerlanden, where a leading faction among the populace declared themself freed of elder debt and obligations and rose up in arms against what they claimed as northern aggressors and occupants. One thing led to another and the ‘Frei-Kolpinger’, as the rebels styled themselves, soon followed up by proclaiming themselves free of ateleian influence in their newly-founded Republic of Equality. The war begun thus would rage on and off for close to 60 years, and only came to a close recently.

But while Atelei was run into the ground by debt and hyper-inflation, the rest of Gehenna wasn´t spared from harm, as the Red Death, the most deadly and virulent of diseases reared his ugly head, first only in distant and isolated cases, in small communities alongside the mountains, where seldomly a trader would visit, but over the months carried amidst all cities of the realm, until none could truly claim it had spared their family.

This and other such diseases which followed in the wake of the dead Kaiser was for many a sign of the gods disfavor with the Reichskammer, which in turn inspired several religiously-inspired revolts under so-called ‘prophets’ who promised answers and led the simple folk astray.

One among them, chief was the supremists, who, having resolved their internal disputes quickly, spread among the east like wildfire and would soon lead to entire cities converting at sword point, as their leaders forced others to follow the new creed. The events combined with one another as new and old heresies reared their ugly head and the open arrogance of several decadent cults, rose to prominence, whipping up a new kind of fanaticism among their believers.

Part of the problem was the new breed of rulers that had come to power in those years, young and brash as they were, having forgotten the lessons of the past or believing themselves to be more likely to be successful than their predeccessors, would more often than not choose war over alternatives. Thus the devastation was carried forward.

Finally, the empty sacred throne led to a very different and new problem. With no one sitting at the helm of the SCR, no instrument existed able to grant seats in the Reichskammer. Thus, each new appointee was given less power over the course of the realm as whole, strengthening those remaining on their seats and angering those left outside the prestigious institution.

First documented in 1301 RA, the conversion of Marti Hundsrueck in Helzand was the first open act of defiance the suprematii dealt the established order, when he publicly, and in the face of the great procession that was ongoing, denounced his old faith and declared himself one of the flock. The enraged mob tore him apart, but, as is part of the suprematii claim, the fact that he rose again as light touched his flogged corpse renewed the strength of his claim and news of the event flared up all over the lands, leading to a stream of conversions amidst.

This in turn led to the open pogrom against their kind, when, during a raid on Zar´Vas property one of them claimed conversion to suprematii faith, and thus attempting to escape the wrath of the guard, tried to hide his riches from proper taxation, and him would follow many, who would soon claim that no power not following their creed would ever get hold of their hard earned goods.

Thus threatened, the already swelling events led to the first suprematii-induced war in 1309, called the ‘Langer Nächte’or War of Long Nights, during which newly conversed supremists would storm ancient and cultured temples, smashing statues and works of art, proclaiming their new faith, while those under authority or invested by the Kaiser would soon set forth for action, rooting out the rebellion, as it was known in the western part of the realms, as best they could, though with little success.

By 1318 the situation had come to a stalemate, and neither side was willing to budge any further, with several cities of Atelei under siege by mercenary companies, while others thought to hire foreign and outlandish armies. It was here that Heinrich III intervened, though many claim he bought the peace that followed. Nevertheless, the Langentaler Accords were struck, which stipulated freedom of worship for what amounted to those not caught within one of the mannusan temples and cults. It should come at no surprise, that this angered the established cults. It may even have been some of the groundwork laid out for events that followed.

It is little surprise then that a mere two years later, Heinrich the Greedy passed away. His nickname among common folk an expression of disgust over his economic policies, left the realm in well-off shape from a view of the treasury, but little else. Even with its coffers bursting, the separatism movements, the rising cults and fanatism accompanied by it, the low-simmering warring in and outside the realm and his almost inflationary politics led to many a tragedy all over Gehenna and there are few today who wouldn´t curse his name somewhat.

Nevertheless, it was Heinrich´s death, that started the time of sorrow and bitterness we now know as the Kaiserlose Zeit, when his sudden demise led to the first session of the Reichskammer without choosing a single candidate. Instead, several where trumped up, but none chosen, and the Sybillines asked, but no omen returned. Thus chaos reigned for a time.

With such a background of events, it comes as no surprise, when the first real movement remained mostly unheard. It was only days after his wife´s death, that Marek von Dorbrugge collected his men and began his first campaign, attacking in quick succession settlements around his territory, forcing them under his control, long before anyone even took notice.

All the while, the war between Kolpingerlanden and Tarraco, for all intents and purposes…stopped. With the inflationary crisis that held Atelei in its grip, unable to pay their mercenaries, no one really wanted to fight the Kolpinger, who instead relished the freedom from distant rulers. This forced a meeting between the Stadtholders and the then freshly selected Prince-Electat who declared an armistice for 12 years, after which they´d reconvene to confer about the status of Kolpingerlanden again.

The following years saw little movement, though one crisis shook the SCR deeply and already it was unclear whether it would spill out into war. As the Langentaler Accords remained unpopular and with many of those able to remember the ‘Lange Nächte’ since then gone, the violence between the differing belief structures came out much more pronounced than previously seen and came to a breaking point when the death of the Comte du´Chancy led to crisis.

Having died without male heir in his main line, the territory was poised to go to the Kutteglueck family instead, who had married into du´Chancy via the second daughters´, Annebelle du´Chancy y Kutteglueck-Weit, claim, but this was contested both by the Electates chosen from the faithful and rather vocal supremists of the region, as well as the Duke of Lange, who backed his own nephew Mariuz Aldenhaupt von Ahnspor-Gry for the position, claiming ancient heritage between their houses for this.

While by itself, this might not have led to anything, it was the final event that threatened to spill it all. The chosen vogt of the city and territory, Johanne Zirc, himself a stout member of his congregation of mysteries of Deimos, married, against all rules of his position, the supremist merchantress Maria Gallora and stated his conversionist tendencies. This added a dreaded angle to it, as many an ateleian suddenly felt the call of the supreme and many began to block to Helzand.

As troops were raised, mercenaries bought and plans made to move inbetween, it was mediation that calmed their temper, as famed green knight and paldin Richard of Locke, who, while on quest, was visiting the neighbouring lands, and entered and embraced the diplomatic role between the parties involved, allowing for a peaceful resolution. Zirc was allowed to marry, but would remain mannusan in faith, and the territory would be administered by neither of the houses, but instead be given status of free and immediate imperial territory for the time being, until a Kaiser could forment a differing decision.

For that laid at the heart of the issue. The control was worthless without it becoming a vote to one own in the Reichskammer, for the territory, while rich ind land and resources, would always fight back against invaders who´d taken it against the law of people. Of course, with no one Kaiser sitting on the sacred throne, but at it´s height a simple three claiming the position for themselves, this was all but impossible to legitimize easily.

With war averted for the time, the events turned forward, and the differing Electates would find themselves in Helzand again and again. Finally, in 1348, on the steps of what would become the great Cathedral of “Le Seígnéur”, those who represented suprematii faithful and interests came together and founded the Council of Intermediaries, which today is known as the head of the great beast that sits atop the Surprematii Church.

It took some time for the established religion to react to this, as the mannusans reacted only in 1354, when the High Priestess of Eris convened with those of their corresponding congregations and proclaimed the Mannusan Coaltion, to protect the faithful against all outside interefence. The Ordo Peucinia is said to have been elevated at this point towards a full martial and most holy order. It has been noted that not all temples of the faith followed the proclamation. Notably especially are the temples of Yerv´Edhaz, who at the times was still propping up their own Apaitor, as well as the temples of Rhea and Zat, the former for their unwillingness to band together with what they perceived as a naked power play by the Erisians, the latter for their inability to act in times of crisis.

Thus we stood, when 1355 rolled around, and Marek entered Kaynbuehl with Rex Superior in his hand, calling the princes, lords and leaders of the realm to the Reichskammer.

The Pull of History (1355-1365)

While momentous all on its own, the coronation of Marek deigns to be much more sinisher than many outside of it know. I cannot give a full account on these pages, but know that the sybillines did not accompany the coming Kaiser by their own will, nor did they give their blessing freely. Nonetheless, the fact that Marek presented himself to the assembled leaders of the realm as the only remaining viable candidate led to a quick and, while not completely unanimous, at least not opposed vote for the man that would be Kaiser. And thus it was done. Marekoi I was crowned on the 32rd tenday of the year, in the months of summer, the year 1355 of the Age of Reascension.

For a moment, all was good. But nothing good ever lasts. Two actions followed, that forced the hand of those involved. Shortly after being investigated in power, the new Kaiser was asked to legimize and justify those who held the vote of each of the cities of the realm and re-assert imperial privilege to the great noble houses. It was here he broke etiquette for the first time. Claiming that the possession and rule of cities by suprematii was against godly and good rule, he denied them the vote.

Outrage was earned in the wake of his decision, with several votees clamoring to change their vote for the Kaiser into an against, only to find that the man they´d crowned unwilling to let go of the title and power it conferred. The Reichskammer was surrounded by his soldiers and it´s members were put under house arrest “for their own security.

Shortly after, advocati were sent out, loyal to the Kaiser and only him, placed to take control over territory that, so he stated, belonged rightfully into imperial hand.

Except two, who´ve disappeared without a trace, most were imprisoned or laughed out of court at the respective places of power. It was at Langental though, that events escalated. The group of advocati sent are said to have resembled thugs more than administrators and bureaucrats, and as such, the Duke decided to have them publicly executed instead, declaring that any such Kaiser who´d dare such actions, was no Kaiser of his choosing, and be opposed at every turn. Thus, the first dead came to be. Marekois answer was swift, as he proclaimed the Langentaler Accords null. As no previous Kaiser had ever rescinded a decree, this uncertainty even among the most learned of men informed many of their choices.

While subduing and working to gain control over the situation from Kaynbuehl, the situation had tipped over into what would develop to become war. Already, early into 1356 the supremists were calling for all who´d declare themselves righteous to come to their aid, which resonated deeply in Berwangstedt and it´s surrounding territories, and the region up to Luchsfels was shaken by a number of ‘inspired revolts’ took place, led by priests and clerics of suprematii-leaning.

All the while, the popularity of the supremist cause resonated even among the island kingdom of Cymris, who, while not offering official support, allowed many independent and warring individuals to set course to Gehenna proper and supported even some companies with ships. These would soon find themselves in skirmishes between them and mannusan militia, who, overwhelmed by the situation, would lash out at anyone foreign and different, as a number of pogroms can attest.

It wasn´t until 1357 however, that the next act in this chain of events took place, as a number of letters sent by the Council of Intermediaries was apparently caught from being sent out from Helzand and published, showing that they promised the same kind of offer towards nearly all the independent powers of Gehenna in exchange for their support. While it is likely that spies from the cult of deimos where behind this action, it did not have the intended effect at all. Instead of being outraged at this, many, especially smaller powers, took this more as a challenge to offer the most support to the cause, trumping or at least beating others for the same thing. Into this chain of event, the assassination of Duke Thomas V of Lange & Ahnspor happened, who, being replaced by his eldest Heinrich, led to a surge in military power for the Council, when the newly minted duke declared his own conversion and support for the supremist cause.

In the east, the meeting about the continuation of the armistice failed. Having gained a new foothold in the revolts into Kolpingerlanden led Tarraco to redouble their efforts to subdue what they claimed was theirs by birthright, and as such it took only another year, when in 1358 fights began to pick up between them as well. This led to the rather farcical situation that two factions fought each other, while standing nominally on the same side in another conflict. It is no without reason then, that coalition-forces seldomly engaged supremists where they knew citizens of Tarraco and Kolpingerlanden to be.

That very same year, the first march on the Kaisers haven, his home city Maledictas, the re-named Dorbrugge, failed, as the supremist army revolted against their leadership, who faield to pay, for months on end, their own soldiers. Unlikely to be a good event for any side, the dissolution of the force that followed left a number of scars upon the land for decades to come.

As 1359 came around, and the war between Tarraco and Kolpingerlanden began again in earnest, the Council of Intermediaries in the meantime declared their own candidate for the sacred throne, and raised the Electat Rober vun Wajetaal up as Robert I, the Antikaiser. While unexpected, the decision was mostly ignored and the Antikaiser played only a small role in the overall events.

On the other side of the continent, words from Balaim in golden ingots persuaded the voivode of Gatylia to act against the Kaiser, marching his men against eastern cities and raising up the flag of Tethysm. He would remain a steady thorn in the side of the Kaiser and his allies, until distracted by the Aen Seidhe himself some years hence.

After the failure of their first march upon Maledictas, the Supremists weren´t defeated yet, as even then their own troops rather mutineered, than fight against their overlords. It wasn´t until 1360, when the Battle of Black Plains loomed, that defeat was a real concern for their war effort.

Borne out of a terrible placement, the originally on, earlier arrival of the supremists would have easily won them the day, as both armies were evenly matched, but as Mercenario Primo Ligoretto di Spalda force-marched his troops towards the enemy, the sudden speed at which the coalitionists advanced against the only slow to react supremist forces led to a breakdown in morale, as the right wing fled the incoming devastation instead of standing in line. Thus weakened, the flanks were easy mincemeat for the coalitionist, though the suprematii general Pieter Fortinbras zu Luxern was able to flee. Robert I wasn´t so fast, as he´d been thrown of his horse and this mistake cost him his life, and cemented the terrible nature of this war, where the fortunes would waver from one side to the other, only to swing around once more.

This was also shown when, during the Battle of Halbenweg 1361, south of Luchsfeld, close to the widest part of the Kaynau, Fortinbras´ supremists hunted down and hounded imperial troops under the command of Van Dijkvries every step of the way, only to finally defeat the small detachment left over that was willing to stand and fight at all. This victory earned Fortinbras both respect and enmity far and wide along Gehenna, with some voices claiming this as payback for Black Plains.

It might also have been the reason, why Fortinbras was invited to Cymris in early ’62, where he was honored as a kind of folk-hero and paraded for in the cymric capital. His accidental death at the hands of a drunken thug in a midnight bar brawl remains a sorry end for such illustrious a gentleman.

Losing such members from their council and advisory dealt a harsh blow to the supremist war efforts and may have led to the use of the Fires of Righteousness in ’64. The documents we can survey from back then tell of a desperate siege of Castle Steinfalken west of Berwangstedt. Nowadays, nothing remains of the former site, except the smell of sulphur, and the constant white ash, that seems to follow its every use. There are no known survivors.

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