Alsara: The Dragon's Legacy
The Rise of the Sultan
The Rise of the Sultan
After centuries of quiet acquiesce to the true powers of the Aturan Sultanate, in 1221 the Sultan took full command of his nation. The fallout was catastrophic, and has overturned much of the traditions of Atur, and the powers that once controlled every aspect of that proud nation have either been suborned by the Sultan, driven from his borders, or eradicated outright.
The Powers That Be
Before the Sultan asserted his control over his nation, there were three entities that ran the country: the Merchant Lords, the Office of the Sultanate, and the Brotherhood of the Immaculate Throne.
While the original Sultan was a powerful ruler, his descendents have become further and further disenfranchised by the Pact of Duln; the religion that quickly spread to envelop all of the Sultanate some thousand years ago. At some point after it was created, the Pact of Duln spawned a mystery cult around the power and strength of the Sultan, declaring him a living manifestation of Duln’s will upon the world. This cult was called the Brotherhood of the Immaculate Throne.
The Brotherhood began as a bridge between the Sultan and the Pact, but over time the clerics and religious leaders in the Brotherhood began to supplant the more secular rulers, eventually leading to a direct power struggle that might have been a coup, were it more visible to the outside world. Eventually the Sultan of that time was assassinated, and his successor willingly gave up his powers over the Pact to the Grandmaster of the Brotherhood. Because the Pact of Duln had begun to rule the Sultanate in everything but name, this act turned the Grandmaster into the de-facto ruler of Atur.
However, the Brotherhood remained a cult, and did not press for influence over the more secular affairs of state. The country’s economy was dependent on the once-kings that still ruled over their lands as noble clans. These powerful clans had sacrificed much of their authority to the conquering Sultan, but as he had surrendered to the Brotherhood, these clans began to reassemble their independence. However, generations of acculturation to life in Altun Sahir and the influence of the Pact of Duln had caused these clans to lose their desire for national independence, and instead they simply sought personal power. The began to engage in economic contest, initially in development and then later in open conflict with one another. The Merchant Lord houses were born.
Their infighting was exacerbated by the lack of a national army of any kind: the Sultan had forsaken his direct control over the armies of Atur. The Brotherhood had not claimed that right, however, believing that indirect guidance of the Sultanate would be more sustainable. Instead the armies were turned into mercenary companies, loyal not to their people but to a new individual: the Keeper of Lists. This clerk was responsible for granting legitimacy to the new mercenary companies that came into being, and served as a balancing factor to ensure that the conflicts that would begin to rage would remain civil.
Meanwhile, the Sultan became more and more removed from public life. Year by year and generation by generation, the Sultan’s duties were delegated to officials and bureaucrats (much like the Keeper of the Lists), in an increasingly complex web of responsibility and influence called the Office of the Sultanate. These officials belonged exclusively to members of the Merchant Lord houses, who in turn were approved by or removed by the Brotherhood of the Immaculate Throne. Three sources of power, each pulling the reigns of state in different directions; a balance delicately maintained…sometimes by the Sultan, sometimes by the Brotherhood, and sometimes by nobody at all.
Somehow, this state of affairs perpetuated for more than eight hundred years.
I Am King
By 1221 AT the Sultan was more symbolic than anything else, trapped by the impenetrable complexities of the Brotherhood, the Merchant Lords, and the Office that bore his name. That January the old Sultan died of opium addiction, and his eighteen-year-old son was enthroned. While there had not been a Sultan this young in quite some time, it was still not an occasion that should have caused much commotion in the Aturan Sultanate.
The surprise did not wait long.
Almost three weeks after his coronation, this new Sultan (his name abandoned upon assuming the post of his father) enacted a coup against his own kingdom. Behind closed doors the upper echelons of the Sultanate were slain or sworn to the Sultan’s new order, and then, unified, they turned their attentions outward. The very largest of the Listed Companies were reformed into the Aturan Legions, direct tools of the state under the sole command of the Sultan. Once their loyalty had been secured, the Legions marched through the Palace District of Altun Sahir, and every Merchant House either declared their loyalty and submission to their Sultan, or they were put to the sword. Few managed to escape, as even while the Legionnaires marched on the streets, the Exalted—elite Brotherhood bodyguards of the Merchants Lords—struck from within. It was a massacre.
The bloodshed spread like wildfire across all Atur, and by the height of summer the Sultan ruled his Sultanate undisputed, from sea to shining sea.
His Sultanate had shrunk in that time, however. A movement, both political and religious, had been growing in the southern city of Tyr Kappa, and took this opportunity to flare into life. They were called the Hakli, and they were based on the philosophies espoused by the Reformation of the Imperial Church: through religious enlightenment, the individual could learn of their own place intended by the Gods, and that the Dragons so venerated by the Pact of Duln and the Brotherhood of the Immaculate Throne were but servants to this still-greater entity. Needless to say, this radical change in perspective called for the removal of the political systems now cast as corrupt.
This cult had been suppressed for almost a decade, on pain of death for any who followed it. However, the chaos in the northern reaches allowed this underground movement to explode in popularity. What was once sacrilege became the sole standard, and any rejection of it was seen as cowardly clinging to a false old order. While many flocked to the freedoms promised by the Hakli, many others were killed in the quest for liberation. Those who refused to turn from Duln’s guidance and protection were slain.
Those among the Hakli justified their actions by claiming to fight against an enemy so terrible that victory was worth any price. Perhaps they are right, but the streets of Atur now run red with the blood of the fallen on both sides. The most active participants in this quest for justice are a sect of the Hakli dedicated to destroying the Pact of Duln at any cost. They call themselves Paladins, after the hunters of heresy and protectors of the people in the Holy Falcon Empire of old, and they have named their order the Order of the Redeemers…their very name a grim reference to the noble cause that their bloody mission seeks to achieve.
The Sultanate would be redeemed; either by rejecting Duln, or by dying, and in so doing releasing the world from falsehood and slavery. In their words: All Aturans are guilty of perpetuating Duln’s evil. The only way to be cleansed of their sin is by fighting their oppressors, or dying alongside.
The Fall of Atur
By 1222 AT, there were three powers vying for control of Atur: the Sultan, the Merchant Houses and Listed Companies that rejected his authority, and the Hakli rebellion that would overthrow them both. The Sultan and his Neo-Dulnite followers were winning, but the Hakli continued to grow in strength, and the True Dulnites (as they called themselves) had fled the country with significant resources still intact. It might be decades, even generations, before the question would be settled one way or the other.
All that said, however, one thing was clear to the Aturans on the streets and in the fields: their homeland would never be the same again, for better or for worse.