The year is 309 AFP (After the Formation of the Pentarchy), though the history books know it as 1444 AD. All the Great Powers of the Unidalanian peninsula are poised to go to war. For years, militarization, closed-door diplomacy, fanaticism, and manipulation have torn at the heart of Unidalanian politics. The visions of Unidalania’s monarchs and syndics are realized on the summer solstice, when Lyka, with the backing of two fellow Pentarchical electors and a host of powerful nations from across Unidalania, declares war on Kattornika, the Emperor of the Pentarchy, who calls on the two remaining electors and the Great Powers Nivarra and Frianea to defend what it views as the very integrity of the Pentarchy.
Following millions of deaths on both sides of this brutal struggle, the Treaty of Genetia is signed by Elector Exollos I Lyka and King Ennisos VII Kattornika. Lyka led the belligerent Excordiant League against the hurriedly-formed Cordian League, and both coalitions used the pretext of religious conflict to explain actions both justifiable and not. However, it was clear from before the war even began that long-standing rivalries, animosities, and feuds would finally be resolved and put to rest; that debts, dues, and favors incurred by erstwhile leaders would be repaid in full; that the dangerously serpentine network of alliances, guarantees, and partnerships would be put to the ultimate test.
But, one may ask, how and why did all of this even begin?
The first section of The Excordiation: a Historical Recollection, fittingly called “Setting the Stage,” will present the state of the Unidalanian peninsula in the years leading up to the War of the Excordiant League, starting soon before the formation of the aforementioned alliance in 303 AFP and ending immediately before the Lykan war declaration upon Kattornika six years later. “Setting the Stage” will follow the major players in this absolutely momentous and consequential period of Unidalanian history as they weave their way through the world.
Once war has begun, this series will transition into Section II, simply entitled “The League War.” Finally, following the Treaty of Genetia, there will be a short epilogue — Section III — with the self-explanatory name “Aftermath.”
The answer to the question of how and why the War of the Excordiant League began will not be dispensed immediately, or even expeditiously, but in due time, everything will be revealed.
The next installments of this series will provide a greater context to the entirety of the conflict — both within and outside of the war — and will detail the beginning of the end.
The Unidalanian Pentarchy is a centuries-old political and military institution meant to serve as a neutral governing body — in ways similar to a 21st-century decentralized federal republic — for its member states, of which there are dozens ranging in influence and size. However, since the very beginning, this has almost never been the case. Politics, infighting, rivalries, and cutthroat closed-door diplomacy have always been at the heart of the Pentarchy, and some say they are the heart of the Pentarchy. But all agree that in the past years, the level of division and disunity in the region has never been higher, and those countless webs of intrigue and manipulation will eventually lead to war.
Little do those oddsmakers know how devastating and wide-reaching that war will be.
Moving back to the founding principles and rules of the Pentarchy, each member state is unique from the others, ranging in geographical vastness and political acumen from the small but wealthy city-states known as Free Cities to the nation in charge of the Pentarchy, known as the Emperor. However, there are quite a lot of similarities, too, typically seen in the system whereby each nation is categorized into one of five “classes” of member state.
The first type of nation is also the most powerful — the Emperor of the Pentarchy. Technically, it is that nation’s leader who is the Emperor, but it is also acceptable to refer to the nation with the same title. The Emperor holds significant written and unwritten power, and is extremely influential in the Pentarchical political spheres. Obligated to protect member states which have been attacked by an outside aggressor and obligated to defend the independence of the Free Cities, the Emperor is also highly discouraged from attacking its own member states within the Pentarchy. However, they may do so, and when they do, it is usually to force a member state to return conquered land to its rightful owner.
Considering the title, it’s considered odd to many outsiders that the Emperorship is not hereditary; rather, it is an elective monarchy. The second class of nations are the five Electors, which together make up the Electorate. When an emperor (the person) dies or abdicates, the Electorate will convene to vote for the next emperor. As this is a lifelong position, republics cannot be elected Emperor; only monarchies — including electors themselves — can lead the Pentarchy. Additionally, if the entire Electorate so desires, they may dismiss the current Emperor and immediately elect a new one. If there are fewer than five Electors for any reason, the Emperor must appoint new ones until the Electorate once again has five members.
As of the year 303, when the Excordiant League was founded, the five Electors were Praxia, in a Personal Union under Emperor Ennisos VI Kattornika, Lyka, led by Elector Noros IV Lyka, Syntiria, led by Elector-Regent Mettsen, Arvenia, led by Elector Wesiros Arvenia, and Erisia, led by Elector Verisos II Erisia.
Imperial dismissal does have the potential to be abused by a power-hungry Electorate, but in practice, the five Electors are too divided to make any politically-charged dismissals. Imperial dismissal has instead been used in the past in instances in which the Emperor was unfit to serve — usually due to age or wellbeing — and refused to abdicate or die.
Next: the third class of Pentarchical nation is the Merchant Republic, of which there are currently three. As the name implies, Merchant Republics are led by elected leaders, Grand Syndics, who serve five-year terms. While the Merchant Republics all happen to be small in size, they are very wealthy and wield a significant amount of economic influence. This is because they have been granted special economic rights and privileges — such as unrestricted access to the ports of the Emperor and Electors — meant to keep the Pentarchical economy strong and diversified.
Each Merchant Republic also leads a Trade League, a collection of smaller, usually poorer nations which seek economic protection from larger countries with larger economies. Trade Leagues also serve as defensive alliances in which “an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.” To compensate, a Merchant Republic is typically granted access to the ports and markets of the members of its Trade League.
The fourth class of nation is small but powerful, too. It is the Free City, nations which are limited to holding one province — a mid-sized geographical unit ranging from roughly 2,000 to 3,000 square miles (5,200 to 7,800 square kilometers) in size. There are currently eight Free Cities, and while there is no written law stating so, tradition dictates that if there are any fewer, the Emperor should grant the title to one-province member states until there are again eight. Free Cities are led by Syndics who serve five-year terms, and they may choose to join a Trade League. If not, they receive no economic protection, but the Emperor has to defend any Free City — whether or not it’s in a Trade League — if attacked by any other non-Free City nation.
Finally, the regular members of the Pentarchy are called Princes — and similarly to the Emperor, this title is used to refer to the nation or its leader. Despite the name, Princes can be any gender and their nation can be a monarchy (led by a Potentate) or a republic (led by a Syndic). Princes may become an Elector or a Free City, if they hold one province, and monarchical princes can be elected Emperor. Otherwise, they have no unique protections, rights, or privileges.
However, all of the countries of the Pentarchy are supposed to be protected by the Emperor and the Electorate in the event of foreign aggression — so, in a sense, all Pentarchical nations have that one privilege. For this reason, the Emperor is usually a nation which itself has a powerful military or a nation with strong allies. But, as is inevitable, many Emperors have been elected for political rather than practical reasons.
The current Emperor is Ennisos VI Kattornika, who has ruled for twenty-seven years — since his inauguration in the year 276. He, like his father Ennisos V, leads a Personal Union over the Elector Praxia, meaning that both nations have the same ruler. Therefore, as long as the union continues, Kattornika has the guaranteed support of one elector, though this electoral control has the potential to upset the other electors and sway them to elect a non-Kattornikan emperor. So far, the Ennisos Kattornika lineage has managed to stay in favor with the electors Erisia and Arvenia, giving them the necessary majority. The Kattornikan union over Praxia also prevents dismissal, as unanimity cannot be achieved if one of the five electors is also the Emperor.
But that’s not all! The Pentarchy, while large, does not control all of the Unidalanian peninsula. There are a number of smaller countries, which can safely be ignored due to their irrelevance, and a few Great Powers, which should not be ignored because they hold extreme relevance. These powers, while outside the Pentarchy, have a long history with Pentarchical nations, and all of that will be covered in the next chapter of Setting the Stage.
There are six predominant Great Powers in the Unidalanian peninsula. These nations dominate peninsular politics, have done so in the past, and will almost certainly continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Below is a brief description of each nation and their place in greater Unidalania.
1. Kattornika — A small yet densely populated nation, Kattornika is the heart of the Pentarchy and is its primary diplomatic link to the rest of the Unidalanian peninsula. A series of diplomatically gifted rulers has granted this nation the Emperorship time and time again, and as such, it has no reason to conquer foreign lands. Instead, Kattornika prefers to use diplomacy rather than war to expand its influence, and has spread its dynasty to the Great Power of Hyraxia.
2. Ciena — A nation divided politically and geographically, Ciena is a longtime enemy of Kattornika and Hyraxia. The current Cienan ruler, Laghel IV Ciena, has made clear his ambitions to reclaim ethnically Cienan provinces in Hyraxia. This vision is backed by the most well-trained army in the Unidalanian peninsula; this is a force that defeated the entire Electorate’s combined military during the early rule of Laghel III Ciena, but some say that the recent lack of conflict has softened Ciena’s Grand Corps.
3. Hyraxia — Ciena’s mortal enemy and a major maritime power, Hyraxia is dynastically linked to Kattornika, though it also maintains a trade partnership with Lyka, a traditionally anti-Kattornikan elector. The Hyraxian navy is one of the best maritime fighting forces in Dauiland, second only to the Richompians’. And just as Laghel IV Ciena wishes to reconquer ethnically Cienan land within Hyraxia, Hephloros III, the ruler of Hyraxia, hopes to one day own the gold mines that currently fund Ciena’s military.
4. Choria — Having stayed out of any and all Pentarchical affairs since a disastrous war twenty years ago, Choria is the geographically largest and most populous Great Power. The Chorian population almost exclusively lives a rural lifestyle, and most people who leave their home province are soldiers or high-ranking officials. Its ruler, Vermiros VII Choria, formed an alliance with Ciena soon after his crowning on those bases — Choria exports grain to Ciena, and Ciena promises to help limit the Pentarchy’s power in Unidalania.
5. Frianea — The predominant Unidalanian military and economic power in the north, Frianea is a country protected by mountains and cliffed coasts. While Frianea has historically been rivals with Kattornikan, Swediros Frianea sees value in a Kattornika partnership. Choria recently won a war against Frianea, leading to extremely hostile relations and a Frianean desire to restore its old borders. Combined with Ciena’s rivalry with Kattornika, Swediros has been persuaded by advisors to proclaim an “amicable attitude” towards the Emperor, with hopes of an alliance.
6. Nivarra — The only republican Great Power, Nivarra is by far the wealthiest nation in Unidalania; while Hyraxia’s navy is used for military purposes, the Nivarran navy consists almost exclusively of several trade fleets. In addition to holding strategic land and sea regions across Unidalania, Nivarra has bought access to the ports of dozens of smaller nations. However, its army is profoundly weak, and it must rely on notoriously unreliable and expensive mercenaries in major wars. This proved disastrous in a recent war with Ciena and Choria; in fact, the Nivarran treasury was entirely emptied and the country only avoided bankruptcy thanks to Kattornikan subsidies.
In the next part of Setting the Stage, we will cover what is possibly the most important document in this period of Unidalanian history. It is a letter sent by Elector Noros IV Lyka and Elector-Regent Mettsen Syntiria to the Emperor of the Pentarchy, Ennisos VI, announcing secession from the Pentarchy. This letter, known as the Breakaway Proclamation, cites rampant corruption within the Pentarchy and the Cordian establishment, a somewhat religious advisory committee for the Emperor, and the failure of the Pentarchical leadership to do anything about it.
Whether or not Noros IV and Mettsen made the right decision remains to be seen.
Born in the year 264 to the imperial family of Richomp, Rylin II Alkhanar always had an ambitious mind. He taught himself his family’s grand history at a remarkably young age, was a vastly better learner than his fellow students at the Irigar Academy, and by the time he took the throne upon his father’s death in 298, had already developed a masterfully precise plan, with the intention to do what his predecessors could not. He wanted to bring the Unidalanian peninsula under Richompian rule.
But unlike his predecessors, including even his father, Rylin II had no intention of defeating the Unidalanians in traditional, honorable warfare. No… Rylin saw the weakness in considering the mortal enemies of his empire worthy of respect. His plan was one of manipulation — and while his ancestors had shied away from this kind of dishonorable deceit, Rylin had no such shortcomings.
Therefore, in the year 303, when Rylin’s spies sent him word that Elector Noros IV Lyka was beginning to feel disillusioned with the Pentarchy, the young emperor knew he had to act decisively. Despite practically all his advisors and strategists begging him not to waste precious funds on this certainly fruitless excursion, Rylin went ahead with his plan. He sent a group of operatives — playing the role of dignitaries — to parade a vast load of metals and spices around Noros IV Lyka’s court, promising the king the entire fortune if he stood up against the tyranny they said was rooted within the Pentarchy.
Eventually, with encouragement from Elector-Regent Mettsen of Syntiria, Noros IV began drafting the Breakaway Proclamation. Mettsen was seen by Noros IV as a benevolent figure, but had actually been paid a similar fortune by Rylin to follow the Richompian’s orders. And while Mettsen’s initial actions were backed by money, he soon found sense in his words. He and Noros toiled for months, always hiding their plans from their respective peers, building a plan. Mettsen and Noros IV thought they were doing something remarkable; Rylin thought they were pawns who had been tricked into thinking any of this was their idea.
And finally, in the sweltering Lykan summer of that year, Emperor Rylin II Alkhanar of Richomp had the first part of his vision realized. Mettsen and Noros IV formally seceded from the Pentarchy, their evidence a combination of Mettsen’s believable but false concerns and Noros IV’s accusations, which are thought to be largely genuine but could have been influenced by the metals and spices offered by Rylin’s agents.
We, Elector Noros IV Lyka and Elector-Regent Mettsen of Syntiria, address this manifesto of hitherto concealed truths to Emperor Ennisos VI Kattornika, Derria I of Cordia, and the sympathizing constituents of the Electorate as equally as to the intellectual class of this world.
We appeal to all those with a sane mind in our proclamation of secession from the Pentarchy of Nations. Its fraughtness of corruption, its reckless combination of its emperorship with the Cordian establishment, among far too many others, are justification enough for our breakaway and exposure of fact; yet most important of all to our cause is the critical failure of its power-wielders to enact any measures which would acknowledge and confront these issues.
We have seen the constant disregard and disrespect for the founding wishes of the Pentarchy. What should have been — what once was — a unifying overseer has mutated into an oppressive, quarreling regime. The Pentarchy is the flailing, many-headed beast throwing and stumbling its way through the fine and precise garden of the current world, demanding to know why no crop hopes to be in its path. For too long, I and so many others have stood by and wondered why the world we were taught we will create is but a crushed flower, forever destroyed by the rampaging beast.
We thus vow to build, uphold, and defend the true Pentarchy; not in name, but in action, we will enact the wishes of the founders with more success than any so-called emperors of this century or the last.
We see the rampant and unchecked corruption in the Pentarchy. We see the closed-door deals between Merchant Republics — once the steadfast defenders of the economic wellbeing of the Pentarchy — that have turned them into a ruthless oligopoly. We see the cutthroat and often deadly competitions to join those nations’ trade leagues. We see the minority that is the Free Cities terrorizing neighbors into paying tribute, whether in money or people. We see the morally and legally reprehensible conduct performed between Kattornika and Praxia. We see, therefore we object.
We, despite our sincerest wishes that it may not be so, notice the habitual use of rule by decree of Emperor Ennisos VI Kattornika; yet we also notice that he has issued no decrees that even attempt to slow or redirect the flailing beast. His ignorance of corruption is not ignorance; it is indulgence.
We, despite our sincerest wishes that it may not be so, notice the power of Cordia to affect any aspect of life in the Pentarchy should they wish it so; yet we also notice that Derria I has never failed to veto movements which would enforce proper behavior upon powerful figures.
This will not stand. We hereby break ourselves and all that entails away from the two institutions that have never failed to disappoint the truth. We will watch with disappointment as there is yet another bloody power struggle, today for the new electoral positions, but we know our words carry weight: Lyka and Syntiria are no longer Pentarchical nor Cordian nor will we ever be.
We declare the Excordiation.
Following four days of seething and silent fury at his estate in the Kattornikan country, Emperor Ennisos VI emerged in Hilanium and convened his high council at the city’s Imperial Palace, telling each councillor nothing about the purpose of the meeting — planning a rebuttal against those snakes Noros IV Lyka and Mettsen of Syntiria — until she arrived. And despite choosing to return to his duties for the first time since hearing the news of the Breakaway Proclamation, Ennisos kept himself hidden from his councillors until they had all arrived.
When that happened the following morning, the young emperor immediately took to explaining his ideas. He wanted Mettsen to be replaced as Elector-Regent of Syntiria, but his advisors reminded him that he lack the influence in the Syntirian court to call for such, and he wanted Noros to abdicate, but his advisors reminded him that he lacked the power to force a king to step down. By noon, Ennisos had decided to respond to the Proclamation — not with empty clamors, but with a message of his own. Just as the Proclamation would inevitably gain attention among the intellectual elite, Ennisos hoped, so would his rebuttal.
Upon the dusk of the convention’s third day, the emperor’s counterstatement was complete. In this document, Ennisos derogated Noros IV’s so-called “venomous mentality,” called Mettsen an “unknowing participant in Lykan treachery” — perhaps so as not to anger the Syntirian court, which had brought him victory in his election to the empership — and demanded that the press (or at least what early form of it existed at the time) take his side. Ennisos then cited the Lykan Uprising of 247 — a rebellion against the Pentarchy that was brutally put down by the emperor — and warned that if the Lykan’s misdeeds gained too much traction, he would have no choice but to repeat history.
What worried Elector Noros IV Lyka most about the emperor’s countercharges wasn’t the glossary of insults, nor was it the demands he made to the publicists; what worried Noros was the emperor’s immediate willingness to fashion this conflict into a military one. Lyka had been at peace for longer than even its oldest residents could remember, and Noros, who had studied his country’s history for years before and after taking the throne, knew that one elector’s army had absolutely no ability to fight Kattornika and all its allies.
Of course, Noros was no fool — he knew Ennisos VI would be enraged by this breach — but he and Mettsen had expected the Kattornikans to confer with the Cordian establishment before countering the Breakaway Proclamation. At the very least, the conservative members of his high council should have persuaded him to seek common ground with Lyka. Threatening occupation was never the first resort of a well-advised emperor, meaning whoever or whatever had convinced Ennisos to do so would clearly benefit from war. Or Ennisos was even more impulsive than Noros thought.
So, because the emperor lacked good people, Noros realized he had no choice but to respond to a military threat with military protection. One week after Ennisos’s counterstatement — two after his own Proclamation — Noros IV Lyka and Mettsen of Syntiria convened at the Lykan Royal Palace to build a deterrent.
Noros initially believed in a strong alliance network, while Mettsen wanted to raise a standing army — a move usually only made during wartime. Ironically, neither of them had brought their councils, and as the only others privy to their deliberation were palace servants, neither ruler had any reason to change his mind.
Eventually, however, Mettsen found himself losing passion; he knew the animosity between the Excordiation and the Cordian establishment and its allies would last longer than his rulership — he was a regent, and would depart from the throne once Prince Galaifos was of age. One day before their convention finished its second week, Noros and Mettsen departed for their respective courts to announce what came out of the conference:
Lyka and Syntiria were now the founding members of the Excordiant League, a military deterrent to prevent war with the Cordian establishment and its ally Kattornika.
Before two weeks had passed, Noros and Mettsen were already beginning to regret their decision. King Vermiros VII Choria — one of Kattornika’s most vocal enemies, and therefore a powerful potential member of the Excordiant League — was dead. In his place was his untested son, Vermiros VIII.
And the idea that the Excordiant League served to prevent war? Oh, how wrong they would be.
The founding of the Excordiant League was not taken lightly by the Electorate.
In his naivety, Elector Noros IV Lyka wished to hold a convention to discuss his actions, completely failing to understand that meeting with the people who had elected Ennisos VI Kattornika had no reason to support a stray elector and every reason to support their emperor.
Elector-Regent Mettsen of Syntiria knew better — but not much better. He believed that Wesiros Arvenia — the only other elector inaugurated after Ennisos’s election — didn’t hold the attachment to the Cordian establishment of electors Erisia and Praxia, and that Wesiros could be swayed into supporting the Excordiant cause.
Elector Wesiros Arvenia couldn’t invest too much in either the Excordiants or their rapidly militarizing adversaries in Kattornika. His resources were unavailable, working to put down a rebellion of pretenders who wished to end Wesiros’s reign and install their own candidate onto the Arvenian throne. Still, he admired the audacity of Noros, and while most of the Proclamation seemed far too extraneous to be true, the very action of openly opposing Kattornika was bold. And history favored the bold.
Elector Verisos II Erisia never dared to entertain the idea of supporting the upstarts who had the temerity and imprudence to attack the most sacred institutions of the Pentarchy. Verisos prided himself on his adherence to tradition and common sense, and the Kattornikan-Cordian emperorship was a tradition that had brought unprecedented success to Erisia, if not the entire Pentarchy. Whatever frivolous “revolution” Noros thought he had created would not enter Erisian borders or minds.
Praxia, of course, was in a Personal Union with Kattornika, meaning it was led by Emperor Ennisos himself; and Ennisos’s rage at the snakes Noros and Mettsen had only grown in recent weeks.
So, for the moment, the conflict between the Excordiants and the Cordians would remain at an impasse. Moreover, the winter festivities were beginning soon, and even the currently ill-tempered Ennisos would be remiss to miss them.
Spring soon arrived, and with it the return to politics. Wesiros Arvenia met with the leader of the pretenders to negotiate a treaty, Verisos II Erisia continued to follow his long list of endeavors, and the hostilities between the Excordiants and Cordians resumed.
This year, the convention Noros had hoped for was held in Arvenium, the seat of Wesiros, the only elector who had not yet chosen a side. Noros and Mettsen knew Wesiros was an optimist, and they hoped to convince him that Excordiantism was the path to a better, brighter future. Verisos knew Wesiros’s father, Soralos IV, an ardent supporter of Kattornika, and believed he could convince the Arvenian king to keep with his dynasty’s history.
The convention was to last two weeks, with each week comprising six days of deliberation and one of respite. Almost exactly one year after Richompian operatives first arrived in Noros’s court, the four electors arrived in Arvenium.
Mirroring the first year of the standoff between the Cordians and Excordiants, the first week of the convention won neither side any standing with Wesiros. He was resolute — obstinately so — in his unwillingness to join the Excordiant League or any counter the Cordians might put together, expressing his admiration of the former but reminding both sides of the heavy and inevitable cost of war in the Pentarchy. “Allies will call upon allies will call upon allies,” he said at one point, “and death will cause death.”
But Wesiros was as optimistic as he was stubborn. He believed in improvement and in the future, and believed that the Excordiants thought the same way: although their manner of expressing it was unorthodox, to say the least, Wesiros felt that Breakaway Proclamation was, at its core, a statement of frustration towards the stagnation of the Pentarchy. He believed that siding with the Excordiants was in his character, but also knew firsthand the troubles of war. His nation had just finished a painful civil war; and Wesiros’s government barely came out of it alive, so how would it fare in the major region-spanning war the Excordiants were inviting?
The answer came in the form of voluntary engagement. The convention was nearing its end, and if neither side won Wesiros’s support, it was highly unlikely that they would have the chance to do so again. So — in a desperate move that would gain him very little if it succeeded — Noros Lyka told Wesiros that if he joined the Excordiant League, Arvenia would not be obligated to join the rest of the league if war was ever to break out.
This removed almost all the benefit Noros would gain from having Arvenia in the League, but at least Arvenia wouldn’t join the Cordians — if Wesiros even agreed to this proposal.
Luckily for the Excordiants, he did. And another victory for the breakaways was won soon after the convention when the Merchant Republic Franetia joined the League.
Now, the Electorate was split three to two, with the imbalance favoring the Excordiation. Only one Great Power had taken a side, and that was Kattornika. Who will each of the other powers decide to support?
In the still-brutally cold early months of the year 305, the Excordiation was dealt a startling blow, its most ardent supporters now significantly more cautious in their commitment, its leaders beginning to exchange worried communications between each other, and its opposition hoping to resolve this entire matter quickly and decisively. Elector Noros IV Lyka had been diagnosed with the Plague of Dyras, a fearsome disease that had troubled the peninsula ever since it entered Unidalania three centuries ago through the maritime city-state of Dyras. The plague took little time to pass a victim, and it could not be passed between humans — it was only through contact with contaminated items that others received it — but what so worried the Excordiants about Noros’s reception of the plague was that, despite the accumulated knowledge of the medical societies, the Plague of Dyras was incurable.
In the days after Noros was diagnosed, he was either going to survive the plague relatively unharmed or die quickly yet excruciatingly. It was the unavoidable chance of death that worried both Cordians and Excordiants across the peninsula, as his successor — as determined by Lyka’s unique succession laws — would be Exollos Lyka: young, arrogant, impulsive, and worst of all, a fierce militarist.
Fortunately, Noros lived through the day during which as well as the day after which he was diagnosed with the plague, his body showing no signs of succumbing. The following day, feeling confident that he would survive, Noros dispatched messengers to his allies, Elector-Regent Mettsen of Syntiria and Elector Wesiros Arvenia, telling them to put their worries to rest and inviting them to convene at Lykum to consider the future of the Excordiant League.
Then, on the fourth day, the twenty-nine-year old elector of Lyka died to the Plague of Dyras. Mettsen and Wesiros hadn’t even received Noros’s dispatch when the Lykan government sent out another group of messengers, this time announcing the death of its ruler. Following tradition, before the inauguration of Exollos, the Lykan advisory council officially bestowed Noros IV the honorific “the Honest.” And during the crowning of Elector Exollos Lyka, she gave herself an honorific, breaking severely from the tradition of others giving that name after one’s death. Lyka’s new leader was now Exollos the Undying.
Instead of the Excordiation’s leaders meeting to contemplate their future, it was Emperor Ennisos VI Kattornika who held a convention in the cool spring of 305 to find allies. Despite all his capriciousness, Ennisos knew what the rise of Exollos meant for the Pentarchy: it was one step closer to war. If the other side of this ever-growing conflict was to attack Kattornika, Ennisos knew he could rely on Hyraxia, as his alliance with its Hephloros III was the strongest in the peninsula, and on Praxia, for he held as much power there as he did in his homeland. But unlike past war or insurrection, much of the Electorate would not support the Emperor. Lyka and Syntiria, of course, wanted nothing to do with Kattornika, but now that Wesiros Arvenia supported their cause, the military strength of the Excordiant League more than matched that of his alliance.
So, for all his impulsive and erratic actions, Ennisos finally followed his council’s counsel and held a convention with Hyraxia to plan the creation of the Cordian League. Ennisos and Hephloros’s first day was spent planning and formalizing the first steps they would take if attacked by the Excordiant League. They then shifted to discussions regarding further diplomacy. Because Kattornika’s army was too elite and expensive to keep standing and Hyraxia’s navy was configured for trade in a manner that would take months to undo, the Excordiant League currently had a military strength frighteningly comparable to the Kattornikans’, not to mention the mobilization that was sure to come with Exollos ruling Lyka.
Ennisos’s first thought was to use the loyalty of the remaining elector, Erisia, at the time led by staunch Cordian Verisos II, to grow his league. Hephloros, while younger, was the more politically acute of the two, and suggested securing new alliances rather than further instituting existing ones.
For the next week, Ennisos and Hephloros — two of the most influential Kattornikas in the dynasty’s history — worked on a series of documents and plans that would not be revealed to the public — or almost anyone else, for that matter — for many months.
That day, the day after the end of 305’s winter festivals, the first day of the year 306, the Treaty of Cordian Solidarity was signed. The deliberations of Cordian Convention of 305 had eventually returned to Ennisos’s first thoughts, as Erisia joined the Cordian League. The treaty also brought two new countries into the league: Plesa, a Free City neighboring and heavily reliant on Kattornika, and Genetia, a small yet powerful Merchant Republic whose immense wealth and strong navy, Ennisos and Hephloros hoped, would deter the Excordiants from attacking. And if war was to erupt, neighboring Lyka owed Genetia several favors that would help sway the tide.
For now, though, almost all members of both the Cordian and Excordiant Leagues were hoping with all their will that the devastation and wrath of war would not descend upon them.
Then, in the waning days of 306, Exollos Lyka sent her most loyal operatives into the court of a Cordian nation. Their mission? Assassinate Verisos II, drawing enough attention to let Exollos quietly mobilize her army on the Genetian border.
Exollos Lyka proved her worthiness to the Excordiant cause when, mere weeks after her dispatch of assassins meant to kill Elector Verisos II Erisia, she ratified the Pact of Five. That many Free Cities — the most protected, and thus the most prized, nations of their size in the Pentarchy — were now full and grateful members of the Excordiant League. Aneta: neighboring Kattornika, Praxia, and Hyraxia, yet full of the elite power holders who embraced Excordiantism; Chona: a neighbor of the now-Cordian Genetia and a constant target of embargoes and tariffs for refusing to agree to its trade deals; Ifalla: near Syntiria and dependent on its grain exports; Dralda: a city split by a river practically owned by Kattornikan and Hyraxian merchants; and Aresva, a displeased member of the Genetian trade network — now, thanks to Exollos, fully committed to the Excordiation.
But Exollos was still as flawed as she was upon her rise to power, and demanded some sort of tribute from both Syntiria and Arvenia to repay her for her deed. She expected each country’s leader to act independently, complying with her demand to avoid disunity within the League, but instead found her command declined by both Mettsen and Wesiros.
Despite this lesson, though, Exollos remained determined to wrest power from her peers and claim total control over the Excordiant League.
Verisos II Erisia took pride in his unwavering loyalty and conformity to Cordian teachings and practices. His predecessors had all followed the Cordian establishment, he followed the establishment, and he hoped his successors would continue to uphold what he saw as a truly Erisian way of life. And because Cordian beliefs emphasized the importance of a connection between a leader and their people, Verisos decided to pass the summer festivals of 306 with his fellow Erisians, regardless of whatever Excordiation-related tension there may have been. In fact, he believed time spent with his populace would ease those tensions.
After learning of the elector’s epiphany, Exollos Lyka’s assassins split into two groups. Members of the first group were to disguise themselves as festivalists visiting from Nivarra and attend the Aynora festivals, the largest in Erisia. The assassins hoped that any connection found between an attempt on Verisos’s life and Nivarra would distance it from the Cordian League: the maritime power’s recent disastrous war against Ciena and Choria would have bankrupted its government had it not been for generous Kattornikan subsidies. The second group posed as Erisian and was to attend Erisium — the capital’s — festivals, with hopes of fomenting unrest and creating an exaggerated sense of polarization within pro-Cordian society.
The agents’ chance came in the final week of festivities. The false-Nivarran team spotted Verisos traveling around the walls of Aynora, but the time it took to regroup and push through the swaths of people crowding all parts of the city, the ruler’s procession was out of Aynora. It had switched paths and was now on the road to Erisium, the site of the second team. Half of the team returned to the city center as quickly as they had left it, scrambling to hire the fastest messenger their munificent mound of money could muster. The other half immediately departed for Erisium: a backup plan in case a sufficient messenger couldn’t be found.
In fact, neither of those plans were necessary, as the assassins stationed in Erisium received word of Verisos’s imminent arrival from city sentries trying to keep the public’s spirits high in the wake of a storm damaging many parade displays beyond repair. The operatives once again split, this time completely. Each person was assigned a section of the city, and was supposed to send a smoke signal — a prompt predetermined weeks ago — if Verisos entered their section. The rest of the team would see the signal and converge on its location.
The first assassin failed to catch sight of her target. Verisos’s procession never entered the northwest section of Erisium.
The second assassin, assigned to the northeast, never saw Verisos, either.
Neither did the assassins assigned to the southeast, the southwest, or the city center. In fact, Verisos never even arrived in Erisium.
The panicked question on all their minds was answered at the end of that day when two Nivarran festivalists sent out a smoke signal at the city’s south gate. They explained that Verisos was never going to arrive in Erisium… because he was dead. They had killed him.
It was mere hours after Exollos received a report from her assassins that Deros Erisia was crowned Elector of Erisia. Both new rulers knew that Verisos the Traditional had been killed, and Deros pledged to work to expose the perpetrators until they were found or she herself was killed.
And Unidalania was another step closer to war.
While the Pentarchy’s largest powers were preparing for war, most other Unidalanians found themselves enjoying a long peace. Choria, Frianea, Nivarra, and the smaller states that constituted the Eastern Stretches saw the schism between Cordians and Excordiants as nothing more than yet another squabble between Kattornika and whatever countries felt threatened by it this time. But Exollos Lyka — having spent the past months with her advisors and allies in Syntiria and Arvenia, only initially reluctantly — had grown to realize what even her most experienced generals did not: if Lyka was finally to settle its century-old feud with Kattornika, and if the Excordiation wanted to survive the next century, the League needed to expand beyond the Pentarchy.
Most around Exollos tried to convince her to instead bolster her standing within the Pentarchy — suggesting that she recruit a few more Free Cities, or stir up a few rebellions in Cordian territory — but she believed she knew what was coming. She saw a massive war looming, and believed that acting as if otherwise would accomplish nothing but the eventual defeat of the Excordiation.
So Exollos set out to the royal court of King Laghel IV Ciena to propose an alliance.
Ciena’s government — and indeed its society — was the most militaristic in all of Unidalania. Its land force, the first fully standing army in Unidalanian history, was backed by a large and loyal populace, and was nearly universally considered the most well-disciplined and well-trained in the peninsula. Its armada was small — under one hundred ships in total — but battle-hardened, well-led, and experienced at fighting larger enemies such as Nivarra or Hyraxia. And while the nation was reasonably coastal, it was the Cienan army — the Grand Corps — which truly backed the words of its ruler, Laghel IV.
But Ciena wasn’t united; at least, not geographically. Split into eastern and western halves by the Pentarchy, Ciena’s clashes with Lyka, the nation between its halves, were now merely another fact of life. And combined with Laghel IV’s ambition to reconquer ethnically Cienan provinces in Hyraxia, already a longtime rival, it seemed that neither league had more favor with the king. Laghel wanted both to connect his divided peoples and — in his view — liberate the Cienans suffering under the tyranny of Hyraxian rule.
But when Exollos arrived at his seat of power in the city of Cientar, she didn’t offer him a land connection between his eastern and western territories that would, she argued, end up imposing more strain than it lifted. She offered him the coast of southern Nivarra, thereby freeing Cienan merchants, admirals, and even commoners from the torrent of Nivarran-sponsored pirate attacks that had been troubling Laghel for years. Attacking the pirates was pointless: there were plenty of those to be found in the rest of Unidalania, and Nivarra would simply replace the sunken pirates with a new gang. But demanding that Nivarra stop had no weight, either, as Laghel himself used pirates to counter the Nivarran pirates, and he was far too distrustful to recall his mercenaries with nothing more than the promise that Nivarra would do the same.
While cutting off Nivarra’s pirate gangs from the ports which they needed to repair and resupply would mean an end to the pirate problem altogether, and while joining the Excordiant League and liberating the Cienans living in Hyraxia could win him and his people massive power and reputation, Laghel was not about to sign a military pact with Lyka, either. He wanted proof that Exollos was more than a young, arrogant warmonger, so he promised to join the Excordiant League only if Exollos could also convince King Vermiros VIII Choria to join her alliance.
That was where she went next: to the royal court of Choruph. Several years ago — in fact, only days before her predecessor Noros IV began the Excordiation — Vermiros and Laghel had formed an alliance. During Vermiros’s early years as king, he had tried and spectacularly failed to invade Kattornika, Praxia, and Hyraxia, and was apparently still bitter about his defeat. Combined with the typical Chorian paranoia, the recent boom in the country’s population (and accordingly, its army size), the possibility of a permanently Kattornikan emperorship should the Cordian League defeat the Excordiant League or even the entire Excordiation, and Exollos telling him of his ally’s willingness to commit militarily to her cause, Vermiros was quick to accept the Lykan’s offer. He signed the Treaty of 308, marking the year Choria — the most populous Great Power in Unidalania — became a member of the Excordiant League.
When Exollos returned to Cientar, King Laghel had already received word of her success in Choruph, greeting her with the Cienan Concord, a signed letter proclaiming his country the next member of the Excordiant League.
After spending most of the year in Cientar and Choruph, Exollos Lyka, once believed by allies and foes alike to be impulsive, unpredictable, arrogant, brash, and many more undesirable things, she proved them all wrong. She manipulated language and history masterfully, inviting more strength into the Excordiant League than was thought possible by her peers.
She saw herself, wanted to change, and changed. By the end of that year, 308, Exollos was not the loud, embarrassing presence Mettsen of Syntiria and Wesiros Arvenia feared, but rather an equal — an embraced and accepted leader and ruler — beyond what Noros IV ever achieved.
And soon, she would have to prove herself again; not in the royal court, but in the theater of war.
In the early spring of 309, Elector-Regent Mettsen of Syntiria’s rule came to an end: Galaifos Syntiria turned sixteen years old, and was therefore considered to be of age. The day following his birthday, in the royal palace of Syntirium, Galaifos was crowned and given the title Elector. As Mettsen was a regent — not a full elector — he was not given the typical post-rule honorific; and once again, though he remained an influential member of Galaifos’s court, he was simply Mettsen.
The new ruler, unlike his regent, was prudent when planning and absolute when acting. While Mettsen was ruling in his stead, Galaifos had spent countless hours since the founding of the Excordiation studying the military history of his future domain. If he inherited a nation at war, he wanted to immediately understand what his generals and admirals said and planned. If he inherited a nation at peace, he wanted to help the military devise a foolproof strategy for war that could defeat Kattornika quickly and conclusively.
This devotion to resolute and well-advised military command would result in Galaifos having extremely high popularity among his military and its leadership, and the Syntirian tradition of loud, colorful debates between members of its leadership would make it one of the most forceful presences in the war.
And the Cordian side of that war was about to receive some support…
Elected in the year 305 — the year Exollos Lyka rose to power and the Cordian League was founded — Grand Syndic Kospiros knew how much the Nivarran government he led owed Kattornika. Following Nivarra’s humiliating defeat at the conclusion of an offensive war against Ciena and Choria during the tenure of the last Grand Syndic, Senanos, its government was on the verge of bankruptcy, owing vast sums of money to mercenaries, soldiers, and the victors of the war. Refusing to pass the opportunity to have a major power owe him, Emperor Ennisos VI Kattornika loaned enough money to Nivarra to keep it afloat.
Having won the position of Grand Syndic on a platform of fiscal independence, Kospiros now felt it was his duty to repay the favor. He wanted to join Kattornika’s Cordian League, and hoped that at the end of the now-inevitable war against the Excordiants, his country would receive some land from the neighboring Excordiant League members Ciena and Choria.
So, following a rather short convention with Ennisos, Kospiros signed the Nivarran Treaty of Cordian Unity. With naval supremacy a given given the combined power of the Nivarran and Hyraxian navies, Kospiros then moved to ready his land forces for the looming conflict, as he deeply wanted to avoid a repeat of Nivarra’s humiliating defeat in its last war against Ciena and Choria, both due to the prestige the country lost because of it and the fact that losing this war would surely mean an end to his syndicship.
King Swediros Frianea wanted in. He saw the approaching war between Kattornika’s Cordian League and Lyka’s Excordiant League, and he saw how the division between those alliances had been spreading across the peninsula. In fact, just last month, Frianea’s closest trading partner, Nivarra, had joined the Cordian League. And although his advisors continued to beg for him to maintain his country’s long-standing policy of isolationism, Swediros didn’t see danger in taking part in the war. No… he saw opportunity.
His predecessor, Queen Koloros, had lost a war against Choria, and was forced in the peace treaty to lose several large, fertile provinces on her side of the Chorian border. Swediros knew that joining the Chorian League would enable him to reconquer that land and restore his country’s old border with Choria. In fact, as the plurality of people in those provinces were of Frianean descent, Swediros believed that he would be warmly welcomed. He also believed that returning all that fertile land to his domain would give him the resources he needed to drastically increase the size of his army and invade the Eastern Stretches, a messy collection of small states and city-states home to constant infighting but capable of serious power when united against any foreign threat.
One week later, Swediros and Ennisos signed the Frianean-Cordian Restoration Treaty, bringing Frianea into the Cordian League with the promise of a restored Chorian border by the end of the war.
In the late spring of that year, Grand Syndic Stenos of the Merchant Republic Voenetia held a convention with Syndic Takaros of Orada, a Free City, Syndic Frabeos of Veronum, a moderately sized regular Pentarchical member nation (typically called a Prince, regardless of government form or its ruler’s gender), Potentate Nadeos of Millorum, a small Prince neighboring Voenetia, and Syndic Epidaos of Kryseum, a one-province-large nation in the Voenetian trade league.
Together, the rulers of Voenetia, Orada, Veronum, Millorum, and Kryseum drafted the Treaty of Pentarchical Unity, a joint request for entry into the Cordian League. For the rulers of these countries, the Cordian League represented not only protection against the predation of dangerous Excordiant ideology, but also protection of the status quo, from which all five signers benefited greatly — so greatly that they were willing to risk lives over it.
Of course, as soon as Ennisos received the letter, he accepted the five signers as new members of the Cordian League. After the entries of two Great Powers into his league, seeing a small collection of five scattered countries requesting to join him was a bit amusing, but the Ennisos of then wasn’t the Ennisos of the previous year. He had spent a long time learning from his imperial council, and indeed from the Cordian establishment itself. He had promised himself upon the founding of the Cordian League that he would not let himself nor his country forget the ideals for which it fought, and for all his flaws, Ennisos found pride in his ability to uphold his word.
On the first day of summer, Exollos Lyka returned home from a convention with the other leaders of the Cordian League. She had proven herself before the meeting, considering the presence of Laghel IV Ciena and Vermiros VIII Choria at it, and soon she was going to prove herself again. Simultaneously, the members of the Excordiant League spent the next days readying their armies, navies, and peoples for what was about to come…
…Because Lyka had declared war on Kattornika. The Unidalanian League War had begun.