The Forge Towns

To the north and east of Hive town lies the vast bulk of the empire, an area of forests, hills and plains of mostly rural villages and small towns. It is here too that lie the industries that depend upon the massive stocks of raw resources that lie in the Ligurian mountains and the western tip of the Carpathians, that lie under the empires domain. It is without a doubt that these forge towns grant the empire its external might and have allowed it to maintain itself stably for five centuries.

Svizra (DX)

North east of the Hive lie the Ligurian mountains, and the province of Svizra. Its people are insular to the extreme but are hard working and renowned traders. This is not surprising as despite the abundance of mineral wealth and industrial centres Svizra shares the Hive’s dependence upon its neighbours for trade goods, particularly crops and food. Svizra is also unique in the northern provinces by being almost wholly unaffected by the recent troubles which have afflicted the empire. Of course Svizra is so insular that it is possible they have not noticed, though certainly when trade really starts to shrivel up they make start taking note.

Zurich

On the edge of the first of the three major lakes in the Ligurian mountains that feed the much needed clean water to the Hive lies Zurich, a town famed for its inventors and their inventions and centre of the Aethyr Liberation Front. It is from here the world’s supply of torches and clocks comes (or at least the empires), and Zurich frequently delivers contraption after contraption of sophisticated technology to those who can afford it, items of such power that even Gretchens would be weary of trading with the human empire.

Perhaps the most fascinating of the Aethyrites latest projects here is based upon the designs and concepts of Savinien, for a small cohort of engineers plan nothing less than to build and travel in a vehicle to one of the moons! Obviously theyve not got very far, but Im sure theyll make even bigger fools out of themselves this year then they have done for the last six.

Bavaria (DVII)

To the north of Svizra lies ancient Bavaria, a region that was, before the advent of the empire, a kingdom in its own right, and lays claim to still holding the territory that it did before even the first empire. To attempt to divide Bavaria into smaller regions, to attempt to increase the size of its borders or to attempt to move even one town, one hamlet, one farm is to encounter failure.

Bavaria will remain eternal Bavaria. Indeed according to legend Bavaria was the first to fall peacefully to Emperor Corsini, something copied by a handful of other provinces during his campaign though without the conditions that Bavaria outlaid to Corsini. For the royal family (a term used loosely as the royal family was a position swapped routinely by the noble lineages of Bavaria) as well as their allied families retained both their ancestral lands and more crucially and here alone in the empire is this the case, hereditary right of mayordom of the towns within their lands.

Regensburg

Although Munchen is the larger of the two greatest towns in Bavaria, Regensburg is the seat of the governor, direct descent of the original signatory to Bavarias adoption into the empire. Much remains as it has always done, with the duke’s castle overlooking the marketplace (which while significantly populated by the Maccelum is still under the ownership of the duke), and the duke’s household troops serving as the imperial garrison.

Munchen

The largest town in Bavaria, Munchen was originally founded by the Benedictines and a monastery remains here to this day.

Wrttemberg (DXIII)

To the west of Bavarian lies Wrttemberg, another ancient kingdom of the northerners.

The Black Forest

Although parts of the black forest extend to all neighbours of Wrttemberg, the majority of its vastness is contained in Wrttemberg. The black forest still to this day remains virgin in places, despite the great needs of Stuttgart for its many types of rare wood, however this is probably due to historical reasons alone. As serious attempts to colonise it have been at unfortunate times in history, examples being the Wrttembergs themselves, prior to imperial invasion, and the recent plans of the regent until the uprisings in the Charente kingdoms as well as to the east occured.

Stuttgart

Stuttgart is a proto-typical forge town of the north barring the fact that unlike its other cousins there exist an abnormally large amount of parks and greenery within the towns boundaries. In fact it is hard to exactly calculate where Stuttgart begins and ends for it is surrounded closely by neighbouring towns, each with an individual industrial focus and consortium of workers. Despite this model it still fails to seriously compete with the great forge towns, but does retain its own efficiency in the smaller crafts, and is well administered by the Hincmar crafters guild.

Stuttgart is also home to one of the great eight cathedrals and is the seat for the Wrttenburg-Bavaria-Zurich dioceses.

Brandenburg (DXVI)

North east of Bohemia lies the province of Brandenburg, the most stalwart of the forge town provinces in support for the regent after Wien. It should come to no surprise then that Brandenburg is also one of the most prosperous for not only is it in entirety self-sufficient for almost every type of good but it exports a large surplus to the southern city states.

Berlin

The central focus of trade for Brandenburg, Berlin is slowly being edged to one side for exports to the empire by Leipzig. However considering the vast amounts of exports and large scale engineering constructions that take place there I would not be surprised to see if Berlin’s plan to build their own connecting railway achieved fruition. Berlin as the provincial seat of Brandenburg can achieve resources that rival that of the Hive and its unity to a singular imperial focus allows it to allocate them with due force. It was here that the great airships were once built before their secret died with its creator, in a conflagration of Aethyr. Here too were the iron siege weapons built before Prague claimed dominance and here still to this day reside some of the greatest engineers outside of the Hive.

I love the place.

Leipzig

As mentioned after Wien the Velten Express splits into two – one a main line, the second heads north passing through Leipzig before terminating in Warszawa. This single fact turned what was previously a small monastery town of the Ordo Asceplius with a minor renown for academia into a full blown forge town with some interesting dynamics.

The largest example of which is the pit, almost a Hive in miniature which surrounds the station in all directions including above, and even more below. This is no coincidence as the Roachers together in a significant partnership with the Supreme Gretchen command manufactured this monstrosity and to enter is to witness the Hive’s wonders in miniature, even if the pit is constructed from iron and bronze rather then Shamic.

It goes without saying that the church took a dim view on this and an inquisition was declared upon the pit in the last few months.

There has been a fairly great diplomatic breakdown between the Roacher’s Guild and the church after the disappearance of the investigators, one can only hope it is resolved before full-blown warfare occurs.

Bohemia (DXIV)

East of Bavaria is Bohemia, a place that at one time long ago served for a short while as the seat of the first empire. However once moved from its ancient seat in the Brankovic kingdoms the reign of man across this continent was destined to be short lived, and upon its final desolation first into two and then into none, Bohemia became a kingdom like unto all other of its bickering neighbours.

Bohemia changed rapidly, however, when it fell under the control of the Hapsburgs who by marriage and politicking alone almost could have claimed the right to being the second empire of man. In its final days before the invasion of Corsini, Bohemia was the seat of the philosopher “emperor” Rudolph II, who laid claim to Bohemia, Wien and its surrounding province, Moravia to the east and even a significant percentage of the Brankovic kingdoms, the first and last time since the first empire that it could truly be thought to be unified with civilisation. It is without a doubt that without Rudolphs expenditure upon the new sciences and arts that Corsini would have finally been defeated in Bohemia. Progress at the cost of anything else, however, occasionally costs everything else.

Prague

Prague in its final days before falling to the empire was perhaps the most enlightened city in the world thanks to Rudolph II, and its riches beckoned Corsini accordingly. Prague also serves as the base for the archaic legion, as well as the forges and industries they are so heavily reliant upon.

The Archaic legion (Ordo Anestote).

There is no better example of the duality between the pragmatism of the empire and its religious ideals then the archaic legion. The legion consists of converted human automatons and traces its history back to the first three Corsini had repaired from artifacts salvaged from the archipelagos. At the height of its might the legion consisted of 2,000 of these elite weapons, all converted minds from veteran soldiers of the empire. However both Gretchen and human ingenuity could only do so much and while the minds are replaceable (and the biological system almost always goes first) the sophisticated systems involved have been gradually deteriorating. At this moment in time there are a little fewer than 500 of these soldiers in operable condition, with another 200 in a dormant state. Unlike non-imperial automatons the archaic legion is considered to be in a state of repentance, heretical still but the state of repentance grants them leave of existence.

The history of this lies in two key points of time. In the first, emperor Corsini led nine of these into battle against the Khanate at Marrechia, and the pope formally recognised these nine alone as forgiven, thanks to their deeds. In the second, two centuries later and for inexplicable reasons, the empire lent forces to the church for a crusade, the only crusade that has ever been officially recognised by the empire. The crusade was also technically the most successful, the church holding the prophets land for fifty years before the empire withdrew its supporting troops and as a direct consequence the church was subsequently driven out.

However upon the successful capture of the prophets city, the cardinal general of the Hominun Salvator used his right of auto de Fe to grant a permanent state of repentance to the machines themselves (thus granting the state to any soul committed to one), an act which was contentious and indeed justifiably questioned by the seven other senior cardinals but was then ratified by papal bull after the empress pointed out that the archaic legion would no longer be able to garrison the city if they were considered to be an anathema to the prophets way.

It was due to this new found acceptance by the battle friars that the legion sought and was granted leave to restructure itself according to a modified rule of brotherhood adapted from the Hominun Salvator. Interestingly this adaptation of a quasi-religious structure significantly increased the lifespan of the biological components and there are even a few brothers of the archaic legion still alive from this time!

Moravia (DXV)

East of Bohemia lies Moravia, again another province once part of the Habsburg kingdoms. Even before the recent problems of the empire Moravia had been poor and now it suffers from a combination of the worse deprivations of the empire. Unlike the other provinces of the northern empire there is no major forge town and instead Moravia is subject to the trade decentralisation of half a dozen smaller towns each vying for dominance rather then co-operating. Due to its relative economic unimportance Moravia has additionally suffered from the lack of an imperial presence that might aid in putting down the rapid rise of crime and dissension that has recently occurred. Indeed the only real imperial garrisons are based upon the borders of the empire with their focus being prevention of raids incoming from the Brankovic kingdoms, something which admittedly has prevented Moravia from absolute dissolution but in turn has prevented the Garrisons from sending any real patrols to keep the peace.

It was even rumoured that while the small town of Olomouc remains loyal to the empire its competitors Brno and Znaim have implemented town councils that consider themselves now autonomous from the empire. However this, the empire did take note of and an investigatory force was sent, which found no contributing evidence to such an effect.

Still it has been noted by the populace that in the past if ever such a rumour was to spring up about the smallest village not paying their full taxes then the empire would have sent a legion.

Krakw Voivodeship (DXXII)

The Voviodeship of Krakw was part of one of the larger of the fragment empires after the disintegration of the first empire which eventually became the Piasty kingdom (once they had given up claiming imperial right of rule over the rest of the former empire). Krakw now stands upon the very eastern borders of the empire beyond which lie the frozen steppes. With the exception of Krakw forge town itself, the province is mostly impoverished relying on subsistence farming and providing little extra in trade to the centre towns. This stated Krakw itself with its adjacent mines of salt and iron is a fairly prosperous centre of industry and its weapons and particularly its armour is in great demand by the legions of the empire. Unfortunately Krakw has not moved with the times rapidly enough and its guns are judged to be inferior to other well known manufacturers.

Warszawa Voivodeship (DXXIII)

Again Warszawa is the only really feature of note in the former Piasty kingdoms, a highly prosperous forge town with a significant number of manufacturers. While their armour is not judged to be as well respected as Krakw, their gunneries are second only to Prague, Berlin and the Hive. Further it is here the northern branch of the Velten consortium line ends and Warszawa has been quick to take advantage of this, becoming experts in a number of other industrial goods. Warszawa is also well known for having the largest borghetto of imperial nationalised Gretchen, the other enclaves mostly consisting of Gretchen who still retain Hive citizenship.

Volgograd (DXXIV/CVI)

Once the most eastern province of the empire and just north of the intermittent imperial province of Kiev lies Volgograd. If one were to examine an imperial map from just two years ago one it would mislead for two reasons. Firstly because Volgograd lies in a barely habitable basin in the frozen steppes and thus only the twenty miles surrounding the town are truly populated and the claim of the empire to the surrounding hundreds of miles of frozen steppes is somewhat pointless. Secondly because over two years Volgograd has been subject to both the unthinkable and unspeakable, namely a general commandant of an imperial legion not just rebelling but successfully rebelling and claiming Volgograd for his own.

Even the weak regent took note of this and now Volgograd is a warzone between four imperial legions and almost 50% of the archaic legion under the leadership of general commandant Guerre of the Savinien corps against the former mounted Zaporozhian legion as the Volgograd guard who joined the arch-traitor general commandant Emelian Pugachev.

Despite the legions arriving almost eleven months ago and their rapid entry into the city no word has been received back over the expected success of the legion. This is not to say unofficial rumour has not, and rumours from demons walking the streets of an embittered battle over a secondary foundry that has lasted for months have done. Most worryingly however is the claimed loss of the remaining two imperial airships, a rumour that appears to be confirmed by the guild’s sudden decision to send their remaining four on explorations out of imperial airspace and beyond the possibility of nationalisation.

Kiev (CV)

Although now once more technically part of the Brankovici kingdoms, Kievs story is central to the history of the empire, as well as its current state. As will be discussed later, there has been no end of imperial rulers who have turned their sights upon the Brankovici kingdoms as their next goal for imperial dominance. It is at Kiev however each and every one is halted. For Kiev is Brankovici through and through and though the conquering is generally successful in less than a generation theyve successfully managed to convince the imperial legions that they’re simply not worth it.

Kiev lies upon the northern edge of the Brankovici kingdoms, and to the east are the Khanate steppes, themselves a reason to keep the kingdoms between us and them Id have thought. But then I am not an emperor.

Of course since the last occasion in which the empire decided to invade Kiev, upon the whim of the child emperor, now no one is, for the emperor and those remaining who could rightfully wear the imperial robes died in an accident upon the Emperors airship as they witnessed Kievs retaking.

A retaking that ultimately failed as the legions below lost their generals alongside the emperor.

And so what was arguably the most powerful and greatest civilisation recorded in the annals of the churches ended, with the death of the child emperor, with the spread of the red death and lastly and what served above all else as the death blow to our fair paragon of hope was the successful forgery and subsequent spread of worthless cogs.

To this day no one is sure how it came to be or when precisely the deception was discovered, for no test has been able to discern even the minutest difference. All that is known is that the influx caused chaos initially by destroying the perfect balance four hundred and seventy seven years of imperial rule had created and finally eradicating the cog as the base unit of trade.

Inquisitorial forces claimed this crime lay at the feet of Rubic Forge, a place you shall not find on any modern map. Its exact location has been purged by all, damned by the church and put to the flame. Rumour states it was located high in the mountains north east of the Hive, on the shores of one of the three lakes that the Hive so relies upon as sources for its goods.

The towns and provinces have drifted, and while the majority still officially declared fealty to the shamic throne, this means nothing. Taxes are dwindling, recruitment throughout the legions are becoming so scarce that the draft is reappearing. And so here we are, forty six years from the death of the child emperor, twenty five years from the first major epidemic of the red death and 37 years from the forgery of the cog.