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Sunder the Gold

In this thread, I wish for discussion speculating on how the Belkan Empire began on Midchilda, grew to encompass other worlds, collapsed into ruin, and made way for the TSA Bureau.

But I also want to talk about the clans and tribes that lived through these times and remained. For example, does the Alpine family of Belkan-style Insect-summoners date back to the days of the Belkan Empire? Wouldn't the Lu Rushe tribe of Dragon-summoners have been employed by the Belkan military... does that possible past have anything to do with their current social isolation and use of Midchild-style?

First, I want to start with the Scrya Clan.

Supposedly, they are a clan of archeologists who basically do nothing but archeology. They cooperate with the TSAB, but presumably are not directly employed or funded by them. Presumably, no Scrya has sought employment in the Infinity Library before Yuuno Scyra. I don't even remember if Yuuno KNEW about the Infinite Library before the Lieze twins introduced him to it.

Perhaps the Infinite Library is a much newer institution than I originally thought. When it was first introduced in the second season, I was under the impression that it was a mystically magical library, where books simply appeared. Now it occurs to me that the Lieze twins were being fanciful; books don't magically appear in the Library -- the TSAB mundanely collects all the books and records they could find and tossed them into the archives. Considering that the TSAB was perhaps 50 years old at the time (much younger than I assumed, when I first watched the series), this all seems plausible.

The other point of confusion is how an entire clan survives doing nothing but archeology. Treasure-hunting is a vanishing business; if you've been at it for too long, there's no more left to find. And in the first place, is archeology normally a business lucrative enough to support an entire clan on, financially? And have enough left over to spend on elite military-grade Intelligent Devices? (Assuming that the Scrya made Raising Heart themselves.)

But did the Scrya also get their start in the days of the Belkan Empire? Were they a family of scribes, messengers, librarians... perhaps literally "Scryers" who specialized in spells to locate things?

5/17/2010 #1
Kalshion

Umm, in regards to the archeology, you might be incorrect there. If Dimensional Space is as infinite as some of the people I've talked to think it is, then there is no such thing as a 'vanishing business', since there would be endless numbers of 'worlds' that can be explored.

5/17/2010 #2
NGTM-R

Midchilda, Belka, or both, have apparently come off a long, nasty war in the last 100 years. The Bureau has been stated to be about 70 years old and to have been created to clean up after the last major war. All sorts of stuff has gone missing in all likelyhood; witness what happened to European art collections after WW2. Given what we've seen of the raw destructive power both groups can wield (The Book of Darkness and the Arc-En-Ciel), whole planets could have been sterilized of life or destroyed, entire fleets of starships vanished without a trace, and billions died without anyone being the wiser.

The Scrya clan's archeology may be a lot less "ancient history" than we would use the term for and a lot more "present events in the past tense".

11/28/2010 #3
AluciusDawn

Yeah, given what I've seen in the show TSAB 'archeologists' are more out there to collect Logia. I'd imagine this would be a dangerous job and they would likely be well compensated, perhaps enough for an entire clan to devote itself to the task. They probably also do actual studies on the ancient civilizations on the side as well, but it is a secondary concern.

Also, I think Mid was merely a Belkan colony. At some point Belka ended up getting annihilated in some fashion.

Kinda, sorta timeline thingy: So I'm thinking a couple centuries of expansion. First, 'uniting' their world before moving on to others. Big armadas, thousands upon thousands of mage knights, huge magically assisted mass weapons. Nobility starts modifying themselves into walking arcane WMDs. Some kind of civil war breaks out, Belka is lost, everything falls apart. Probably a bit of a pause as the dust settles. Then, Unification War starts with the different Saint Kings and whatever all else trying to re-establish the Belkan empire. Things start getting out of hand until Olivie does something to end it, dies in the action. More dust settling. Now free from the shackles of Belka, Mid-Childa forms TSAB in order to clean up the mess left by the wars. It quickly grows with additional worlds throwing in their support, they have seen the horror of war and do not want it to happen again. Early years are probably seriously rough as everyone and his uncle are running around with old Belkan tech. I'd imagine the first five decades or so would be spent merely trying to establish some modicum of order (The Three Admirals running all over space stomping on war mongers and criminals). Then finally we get to the relatively more peaceful era that MGLN takes place in.

I'm sure I could fill in the details more but this is what I've managed to cobble together with the sketchy details in the show and manga. This all probably takes place in around five centuries or so (give or take a couple centuries).

As a sort of side thing I also like to guess that the lack of sentient aliens is due to the Belkans going all "KILL THE XENOS!!!" when they started exploring. There's no evidence for it, but my mind tends to make the Belkans into some cross between WH 40Ks Imperium and Ace Combat's Belka. Probably not accurate, but it amuses me.

12/3/2010 #4
Sunder the Gold

Normal space is infinite, with an infinite number of planets in it. The Nanohaverse doesn't need to be a multiverse to be infinite.

I rather think that the Time-Space bureau calls itself that because of "the Dimensional Sea" (canon or fanon name?) they use to travel faster-than-light speeds between distance places. The Garden of Time that Precia used for a base was likewise hidden within that subspace.

If there was really a multiverse thing going on, there would be multiple Midchildia's, I think. And Nanoha would have been hunting for activated Jewel Seeds on alternate Earths as well as her own.

12/7/2010 #5
Sunder the Gold

@ In general: What happened to the topic on Nanohaverse magic? Blast it, I wish I had saved it before it disappeared.

@ NGTM-R

I do believe that the Tome of the Night Sky was stated to be an artifact from Al Hazard, the advanced civilization that preceded the Belkan Empire. Though my theory has always been that it was a Belkan magic-user who corrupted the book to use it as a weapon, and also drafted the Knights that it formerly didn't need for protection. Likewise, the Saint's Cradle was mentioned to be a Lost Logia from before Belka.

Perhaps the Scrya Clan was once employed by nobility during the Belkan reign, to dig up more on the lost civilization. After the Unification War, they survived, but had no patrons. So they expanded their family mission to include looking for things recently lost and contracted their services to the new TSAB.

On a seperate note, I recall how Chrono said that Belkan magic was an offshoot of Midchild style magic. I think Midchildia held an important place in the Belkan Empire if the foundational Style was named after it. The Belkan Style was probably developed later for the use of the nobility and warrior class, which is why its practitioners are called "Knights" rather than "mages". Midchild-style remained in use among the lesser social strata, like the Scrya Clan.

12/7/2010 #6
Sunder the Gold

@ AluciusDawn

Seems reasonable to me. Including that bit at the end.

Maybe future fics can pit the TSAB's Aces and Combat Cyborgs against Eldar, Necrons, Orks and Tyranids? And someone discovers something horrible and Chaotic out in the farthest reaches of the Dimensional Sea? But hopefully not. Such enemies would force too much of a departure from the original spirit of the series. No more than one good story to explore the GrimDarkness, and that'll be quite enough.

12/7/2010 #7
AluciusDawn

I don't think we need to go quite that grimmdark. Though that's been sorta-kinda already done with Chronicle of the Imperial Wars -- Book 1: Unfortunate Meetings by Base Delta Zero and The Doorstop, by Iaculus. (Both of which don't update nearly enough for my liking =P)

While putting the MGLN characters into a war scenario doesn't bother me, dumping them against the incredible 'crapsack world' that is 40k just seems cruel. To see the light of hope disappear from those eyes is heartbreaking to me.

Which isn't to say I won't enjoy a story about it, just expect me to be rooting for TSAB the whole way through.

12/7/2010 #8
Base Delta Zero

In this thread, I wish for discussion speculating on how the Belkan Empire began on Midchilda, grew to encompass other worlds, collapsed into ruin, and made way for the TSA Bureau.

Wait... Belka was on Mid-Childa? I'm not entirely sure of that... there's a 'Saint Church Main Cathedral', but that could well be a planetary cathedral or such, rather than universal. Anyways, I have them as being on seperate planets entirely...

Perhaps the Infinite Library is a much newer institution than I originally thought. When it was first introduced in the second season, I was under the impression that it was a mystically magical library, where books simply appeared. Now it occurs to me that the Lieze twins were being fanciful; books don't magically appear in the Library -- the TSAB mundanely collects all the books and records they could find and tossed them into the archives. Considering that the TSAB was perhaps 50 years old at the time (much younger than I assumed, when I first watched the series), this all seems plausible.

I've considered having the TSAB actually finding the 'headquarters', and expanding it, rather than building it, in which case the Infinity Library was already there. It would help explain why they don't already know everything there. Alternately, we've just seen the 'archiving' section of the library, which hasn't been processed in yet. In either case, yeah, it's more Library of Congress than L-Space.

I rather think that the Time-Space bureau calls itself that because of "the Dimensional Sea" (canon or fanon name?) they use to travel faster-than-light speeds between distance places. The Garden of Time that Precia used for a base was likewise hidden within that subspace.

The problem is, they refer to 'dimensions' as being seperate entities from each other, and seperate from the Dimensional Sea. (Which is also called 'High Dimensional Space-Time, again suggesting there's something more than X-Y-Z going on here.) I suppose it's not uncanonical, but I don't like it...

If there was really a multiverse thing going on, there would be multiple Midchildia's, I think. And Nanoha would have been hunting for activated Jewel Seeds on alternate Earths as well as her own.

Depends on the kind of multiverse, and how they can travel. They don't travel along quantum realities, but various different, but similar universes. That was what Project Hydra was for - hence the appellation 'hydra' (Referring to the creation of multiple different realities as each reality splits).

On a seperate note, I recall how Chrono said that Belkan magic was an offshoot of Midchild style magic. I think Midchildia held an important place in the Belkan Empire if the foundational Style was named after it. The Belkan Style was probably developed later for the use of the nobility and warrior class, which is why its practitioners are called "Knights" rather than "mages". Midchild-style remained in use among the lesser social strata, like the Scrya Clan.

I seem to recall him saying it was an alternative form of magic, rather than an offshoot. Alternatively, maybe the Mid-Childans invented it first, and then the Belkans adopted it?

I also envision Belka as being a bit more egalitarian than that... Knights were simply the appointed military officers of their city-state, and all you need to do to become a knight was graduate from a military academy. (Not that that's easy...)

Maybe future fics can pit the TSAB's Aces and Combat Cyborgs against Eldar, Necrons, Orks and Tyranids?

*Raises hand*

No more than one good story to explore the GrimDarkness, and that'll be quite enough.

Aww...

As a sort of side thing I also like to guess that the lack of sentient aliens is due to the Belkans going all "KILL THE XENOS!!!" when they started exploring. There's no evidence for it, but my mind tends to make the Belkans into some cross between WH 40Ks Imperium and Ace Combat's Belka. Probably not accurate, but it amuses me.

I have the Xenos-killers as Al-Hazared, who were huge dicks (and a mix between Objectivists, India/Persia, and Freidrich Nietzche (who I just realized is Fried's namesake...)). They killed a large number of alien races, but there are still a few around, although the primarily stick to their own regions - in part because some of them can't survive in conditions hospitable to humans.

The Belkans, meanwhile, are a mix of Ancient Greece (sp. Athens.), English Gentry, and Japan.

I don't think we need to go quite that grimmdark. Though that's been sorta-kinda already done with Chronicle of the Imperial Wars -- Book 1: Unfortunate Meetings by Base Delta Zero and The Doorstop, by Iaculus. (Both of which don't update nearly enough for my liking =P)

I'm sorry! I can't help myself!

While putting the MGLN characters into a war scenario doesn't bother me, dumping them against the incredible 'crapsack world' that is 40k just seems cruel. To see the light of hope disappear from those eyes is heartbreaking to me.

Ah, but what if you shot the 40k galaxy with a really big bombardment beam? Then it would become nice, right? That's totally how it works, isn't it?

Anyways, the idea came in more of a moment of 'wouldn't it be really awesome...' which then eventually evolved to consider the vast differences between the two states, and just how... much... they constrast. Also, awesome. (At least, I try.)

Which isn't to say I won't enjoy a story about it, just expect me to be rooting for TSAB the whole way through.

That's a sign you're still sane. The only time rooting for the Imperium is acceptable is if it's a Cain book, or the Space Wolves. At all other times you must demonstrate at least moderate disinterest.

Alternatively, Brighthammer.

12/7/2010 #9
NGTM-R

I think rooting for the Salamanders is also acceptable these days. Possibly for the IG in Dead Men Walking, too, but Krieg are hard to love even when they're fighting Necrons.

I'm just not really interested in getting 40k on my Nanoha or vice versa. There are serious disparities in level of raw power that each side can project, but most importantly 40k is still (stupidly, perhaps, given orbital support, but it is) wedded to the concept of linear battle, and the Bureau has the means to completely invalidate that whole paradigm of warfare. With personal flight at supersonic speeds, and more importantly instantaneous and highly accurate teleportation, the Bureau has the means to take down the command structure of an opposing force in seconds. If there's any sort of comparable level of power between the sides then teleport attacks by the Bureau will leave a 40k force headless moments after the battle starts. Logistical support wouldn't last very long either. So, given the parameter that the Bureau is not stupid then it's not going to be a very interesting fight.

Now, mind you, my Rogue Wolkenritter could easily be considered a homage to the Necrons, what with their always coming back and an extreme resistance to physical damage.

12/9/2010 . Edited 12/9/2010 #10
AluciusDawn

Ah! Hey! Don't forget the Tanith First and Only! Gaunt may make some questionable decisions but I still think he and his men (and women!) are good people.

I do agree that in general...wait a tic, what was this one about again. History and Clans? Damnit you guys have got me sidetracked again!

Scary. Rogue Wolkenritter Necrons is scary.

12/9/2010 #11
Base Delta Zero

Ah! Hey! Don't forget the Tanith First and Only! Gaunt may make some questionable decisions but I still think he and his men (and women!) are good people.

There are quite a few books with sympathetic characters, but, as in the Ghosts books, the Imperium itself is arguably as much a villain as any of their enemies...

Scary. Rogue Wolkenritter Necrons is scary.

I see your Wolkenritter Necrons and raise you Chaos Huckebein. :P

I'm just not really interested in getting 40k on my Nanoha or vice versa. There are serious disparities in level of raw power that each side can project, but most importantly 40k is still (stupidly, perhaps, given orbital support, but it is) wedded to the concept of linear battle, and the Bureau has the means to completely invalidate that whole paradigm of warfare. With personal flight at supersonic speeds, and more importantly instantaneous and highly accurate teleportation, the Bureau has the means to take down the command structure of an opposing force in seconds. If there's any sort of comparable level of power between the sides then teleport attacks by the Bureau will leave a 40k force headless moments after the battle starts. Logistical support wouldn't last very long either. So, given the parameter that the Bureau is not stupid then it's not going to be a very interesting fight.

The Imperium isn't stupid, either, you know. Their commanders and supply convoys will be well guarded - and their tail is fairly short, as it would generally be coming down for orbit. They'll also be deploying jamming, have multiple layers of command, and it won't be instantly obvious where their commanders actually are. Unless they're in a Leviathan or the like, in which case you have a problem of a wholly different shape. Or in orbit. Finally, teleportation has been used to insert into combat what, once? And ended up a few kilometers from the actual target? Also, 800 to one odds.

Anyways, let's not turn this into a versus quite yet...

My history has Belka as a seperate planet, settled by Al-Hazared as a mining colony roughly 3000 years ago. The Executor-Sultan of Al-Hazared then tried to make himself a god, and achieved nothing but blowing up several galaxies and bringing the empire to ruin. The Belkan serfs took the opportunity to cast off the tyranny of Al-Hazared, in a battle that left the landscape littered with powerful artifacts. Nevertheless, the populace scattered and fell into a long dark age, slowly recovering over the years, their technological recovery accelerated by the lost technology, including device technology. They had just begun major experimentation, and established their first off-world colonies (although not yet developed Dimensional Drives) when a group of salvagers discover an ancient starship on the bottom of the (thus named) Falling Star Sea. An Al-Hazared Rampage class battlecruiser shot down during the events of Ragnarok (the great rebellion that marks the beginning of Belkan history). A battle erupted over the ship's technology, in which the state of Auchen-Hesh emerged victorious. They proved largely unable to reverse-engineer the vessel, but were eventually able to discern the genetic sequence required to control it (albeit roughly a hundred years later), as well as derive numerous new technologies from it, including a dubious D-Drive (which ultimately spread beyond their borders, and led to several large powers expanding out-system), and used its Geno-Forge for advanced genetic engineering.

Auchen-Hesh had become a semi-constitutional monarchy of sorts after the Falling Star War, but its Kaiser, Heike Segbert, had an ambition not only to tighten his grip on power, but also to expand his domain - and the starship (since renamed Ascension) was key in his plan. Roughly 300 Belkan years ago (a Belkan year is equal to roughly 4.12 standard years), he created an artificially engineered daughter to use as a pilot. The girl's surrogate mother - Helena, a Knight of the realm and one of Heike's mistresses - named her Olivia. As the child grew, however, Kaiser Heike was frustrated and concerned for his inability to completely control her. At Olivia's fifteenth birthday, Heike resolved to resort to more desperate measures; a mixture of powerful, specially designed drugs. Helena's adoptive mother did not appreciate this, and ambushed and killed the Kaiser. A variety of different counselors convened before the Ascension, each one seeking the throne - after only a few minutes, the candidates seemed on the verge of starting a civil war. Olivia (Belkan monarchy is rarely hereditary) attempted to negotiate, but this only infuriated them further. Then, Helena declared, more in exasperation than reason, declared she would herself become Kaiser. The outraged candidates immediately attack, killing Helena, and wounding Olivia and forcing her to flee into the ship. Infuriated, Olivia takes control of the Ascension and reduces the offending parties to sub-atomic particles. Some peculiar combination of her mother's affection and sacrifice; her fathers wickedness; and her own nature drove Olivia to become a remarkably virtuous young woman. After the calamity of the brief civil war, she resolved to use the power of her birthright to right the wrongs of the world, and lead the human race (she believed, at the time, that Belkans comprised the whole of humanity) to greater glory. It was not long, however, before she realized she would be opposed by no end of evil men - if she wanted to succeed, she would need to unite the world.

Thus began the Unification Wars. (To be continued, I think?)

12/10/2010 #12
NGTM-R

I see your Wolkenritter Necrons and raise you Chaos Huckebein. :P

I'm cool with that.

Mind you, that's because I just killed all of them but Arnage and Veyron. Force wouldn't give me enough to work with for most, so killing them was a good solution to otherwise one-dimensional personalities that I don't feel like writing. . And this way, I get to play with what it must be like for someone like Jail on the run from the most powerful group in reality, and no longer allowed to be stupid about it.

And if you want Chaos, that's the tier-1 Rogue Wolkenritter, who are basically out to blow stuff up and kill people for the lulz of it and are nearly impossible to control (and as such are treated as utterly disposable; a lot of the time they aren't supposed to come back). Tier-2 Immortal Order types tend to have too much discipline to fit into the Chaos mold, but tend to be too sane as opposed to not sane enough; utterly rational, they can justify anything.

Anyways!

Belka got there first. That's basically the story of the Belkan Empire: they got Dimensional Sea drives first, and it gave them the universe. With the ultimate mobility advantage to secure the ultimate high ground, the Belkan Empire spent thousands of years (estimates vary; the people most in the know, the Wolkenritter, say roughly nine millenia) conquering anything they felt like and generally being enormous pricks to anyone they didn't like. Comparisons to Rome and the Mongols could both be made, depending on which phase the Empire was going through that week. Sometimes they depopulated planets and generally made a mess of things, and sometimes they also cleaned up and improved the native's standard of living after they got through conquering them. Having never encountered a comparable power, and far too large to be effectively governed from one place, the only real danger to the Empire was always internal. Sometimes the various sub-groupings of the Empire went to war, and sometimes they didn't, but the presence of the actual royalty usually managed to close things down again and put the lid back on...for awhile.

The myth of the invincible empire died at a place called Nona, where the Belkans met the soldiers of the relatively small Midchildan Federation for the first time. The Old Belkan style of mage combat, developed over thousands of years of having never faced an opponent who could actually threaten them and based around close-quarters personal combat, proved very badly flawed facing opponents whose style of magical combat emphasized powerful ranged attacks and mobility. The Midchildans also had viable teleportation technology to rush troops to endangered areas, and for the first time the Belkans faced a power with starships like their own. What should have been a routine pacification operation if handled with any real skill became a meatgrinder that chewed up and spit out a significant fraction of the local army. The Midchildans counterattacked, sending a lone ship on a deep strike against the Belkan homeworld of Al-Hazard, where it teleported captured Belkan antimatter weapons into anything that looked important. The resulting interaction of antimatter and a massive number of mage deaths tore a rip in spacetime that engulfed the planet and the ship sent to do the deed. The mission was so highly classified that it is essentially forgotten in the modern period, with only oblique references to it left somewhere in the highest-security sections of the Infinite Library.

Chaos ensued. The Belkan Empire, lacking the stabilizing semifeudal influence of its supreme rulers, descended into a self-destructive spiral. Everyone claimed the throne and was willing to do anything to get it, and the Empire had the means to do incredible damage to itself. Three months later, with their stocks of reality-destroying, antimatter, planet-wide neutron pulse, and other weapons of mass destruction all but used up and the empire reduced from over a hundred thousand worlds to under fifty (the majority of which were either "breadbasket" worlds with minimal population or subsistence-level colonies), the Belkans looked around and realized that things had gone terribly, incredibly wrong. Lead by the woman who would later become the Sankt Kaiser, the remains of the royal guards attempted to bring the survivors back under control. The Midchildans offered logistical support as the newly-incarnated TSAB, but did not wish to directly intervene. Belkan weapons may have stagnated thousands years ago, but the rest of their technology had not and the Bureau did not wish to provoke anyone whose WMD philosophy was "one planet, one bomb."

Olivie was visiting Midchilda to appeal for direct intervention, late in the fifth year of her own campaign, when a Belkan warlord's ship deployed antimatter weapons against the Saint's Cradle in an effort to kill Olive and prevent any such alliance. The attack did not succeed in destroying the Cradle, the last of the Royal Family's own warships, but it did send it into an uncontrolled deorbit. An attempt to save the ship by jumping into the Dimensional Sea before impact instead entombed it under hundreds of feet of rock and killed all aboard. This effort to keep the Bureau out of it backfired spectacularly, provoking the Bureau to take up Olivie's cause of destroying all existing stocks of Belkan mass weapons and all means of production.

Midchilda's conquest of the remnants of the Belkan Empire took a little under three years, and was never truly in doubt. The Bureau had an intact infrastructure and a recruiting base that wasn't busy rioting in the streets, and was powerfully motivated to bring what was left of the Belkans to heel. Nearly half the worlds left welcomed Bureau troops as liberators after their leaders triggered what would become known as The Fall. Much of the Bureau's current structuring dates to this period, including the use of Enforcers with police powers extraordinary to pursue the most important investigations; the Enforcers were originally tasked with finding and disposing of leftover Belkan mass weapons or the means to produce more.

The fratricidal insanity of The Fall destroyed thousands of years of history and knowledge. The majority of Belkan society went up in a frenzy of dimensional dislocations, mushroom clouds, and radiation. Nearly everything about Belka was lost, and today even accurately determining what Belkan culture was like and what sort of technology they had is impossible. The Bureau counts itself lucky it even got a hold of accurate pre-Fall maps.

12/11/2010 #13
Base Delta Zero

Anyways... I seem to have gotten side-tracked. Allow me to finish.

For the most part, the Unification wars were short. Even beyond the power of the various Knights and their devices, the technology of the time produced many powerful weapons, but they were as nothing before the ancient power of the Ascension. Many nations, persuaded by Olivia's increasingly polished speech, or simply seeing the fully realized power of the ship, chose to join willingly, while others were swiftly conquered - although Olivia was particular not to employ the full power of the Ascension's spinal railgun, merely using it (and her highly trained followers) to launch swift, decaptating strikes against enemy regimes, as she did not want to cause any more further devastation than necessary.

However, across the sea, another empire was expanding - the Shutra Hegemony, an ancient and revered state, tracing its founding to the very beginning of the Lost Age. Shutra was a military, political, cultural and economic center, and had been expanding its borders the old fashioned way, for the better part of a thousand Belkan years. It was a feudal state, of a sort, although it might be called more of a confederacy of semi-republics. It too, was led by 'monarch' who had been genetically enhanced, using knowledge sold by traitors from Auchen-Hesh - Klaus Ingvald, First Hegemon of Shutra. He, too (like predecessor, and her predecessor), had been expanding his nation; driven by much the same motivation to end the ceaseless wars on Belka, through decisive employment of yet more war - taking atrocities in nearby regions as an opportunity to not only right those particular wrongs, but also to seize the offending territory.

The exact details are sketchy as to how exactly Olivia and Klaus first met, or even if they ever did, but it is now generally agreed that although Shutra and Auchen-Hesh forged an alliance at the start of the Unification Wars, and remained allies for most of the duration. However, as it became clear that they were winning, and that the goal of uniting Belka would soon be complete... both leaders realized there was one last nation to unify. Klaus refused to yield the millenium-long legacy of his nation without a fight, citing his nation's old experience in governance and strong tradition of exalted values - it was in many ways logical that Shutra lead the new united Belkan Hegemony; Olivia, too, refused to back down from her dream, and more tellingly, her popularity had waxed greatly throughout the war, and, although far from canonization, she was lauded as a hero throughout much of Belka, even many of the conquered states - billions demanded she become the Kaiser of the new Empire (to say nothing of the fact that only she could command the Ascension).

It was clear that they were at impasse. The two friends, or at least allies, must fight. But in a war between Olivia's Empire and the Hegemony, there could be no surgical strike, or clean victory; it would bring ruin, killing millions, if not billions - it could quite possibly be worse than all they had fought to overcome. There was only one logical solution - an honor-duel, one against one, with the destiny of Belka as the prize. And so it was.

It is written that the battle between the two superhuman knights lasted for three days, covered the length and breadth of the world, and even brought low the mountains of Gemaldberg. It was said to be a battle of an intensity not seen before or since. Whether that is true or hyperbole is a matter of question, but in the end, Olivia emerged the victor. And so it was decided, and Olivia became the leader of a united Belka, the first Kaiser of the First Empire. For Klaus, although defeated, it was almost a relief, as now that the final decision between them had been concluded, they could now cooperate without hesitation, and, although 'only' a lieutenant, he aided Olivia in consolidating their world, and defeating the occasional band of insurgents loyal to some warlord or another - to say nothing of expanding their gaze to the stars, where not all of the colonies had been unified, and countless more worlds await. It was the dawning of new age, one that scholars would later call the Imperial Age.

Though the Empire was never truly peaceful, Olivia and the rest of the government were a vast improvement over many of the previous states, and the large wars had more or less ceased. It was an age of great prosperity - many new technologies were invented, and dozens, if not hundreds of new colonies were settled, to say nothing of a general increase in prosperity. The seat of government was moved entirely to the Ascension, which moved from place to place as needed, although remaining largely in orbit around Belka itself, as much a massive flying palace as a warship. Peace more or less reigned for 17 Belkan years (70 some standard years), although problems with insurgents, and the occasional misbehaving Al-Hazared artifact arise; it is nothing that Olivia and the Belkan Army cannot handle.

During this time, Olivia attempted to find some way of making an easily replicable post-natal form of the genetic coding that allowed her to operate the Ascension, but she was unwilling to test it (the Cradle rather spectacularly immolates anyone who attempts access with an appropriate 'key'), and with an incomplete understanding of thepalace's systems, no simulation could provide an accurate answer. She feared that if such a serum did not exist, then her descendents would risk becoming an entrenched dynasty, with the Ascension serving tyranny rather than justice. It is for this reason that she never had any children, figuring, in any case, that the ship's power was no longer truly necessary.

She was to be proven wrong. In 1098 Free Era, reports of raids on the new colonies began to surface, perpetrated by a force operating no known model of dimensional ship. An investigation was swiftly launched, wherein it was revealed that the perpetraitors were an unknown group from beyond the borders of known space, a band of nomadic raiders, either significantly altered humans or some form of humanlike alien. They were ruthless, wiping out entire colonies wholesale, and committing unspeakable atrocities - they came to be known by several names, typically based on the first world they attacked, Rotewelt, followed by some crime they had committed, and they called themselves the Nadree. Like a bolt from the Abyss, the came to disrupt the relative peace of the new empire. Several of the colonies actually managed to make pacts with them, siding against the Empire in exchange for at least temporary security.

The armies and fleets of the Empire were marshalled to fight. The Nadree had ships which were more advanced than the Belkans, but only a handful, and nothing to match the Ascension. Likewise, although they had fast vehicles and savage fury on the ground, the were no match for Belkan discipline, armour, or magic, let alone all three. The reaction was swift - the Nadree were hunted, and their raiding fleets defeated one by one. It could have been a minor incident, but by chance, Olivia Segbert was mortally wounded on the world of Verdunspiegel, by a barrage of caustic-laced 'razor missiles', in a battle that would come to be known as the Battle of Ten Salvations. The powerful chemicals of the weapon could kill every man in a room in a matter of seconds, but Olivia's body protected from - and the Ascension could have saved her - but, during the battle in space, a desperate Nadree ship had closed to within spitting distance of the Ascension, perhaps trying to ram or board it, being destroyed within a mere 25 kilometers. Its anti-matter reactor exploded in a tremendous blast, and the hurtling fragments of the ship slammed into the ancient warship. This was at most a minor threat to the ship, but enough that, without a captain on the throne, its automated systems acted to defend themselves. Without it able to come to Olivia's rescue, the Belkans are forced to call another ship to transport her back.

Unfortunately, the caustics have already caused extensive damage her to system, and the medical facilities on this smaller ship are incapable of halting their progress. Olivia regains consciousness, just long enough to speak to her friends (including Klaus, and the knights and officials with her), and declare Klaus her successor, before passing. At this point, the battle is virtually won, and the Nadree flee before most of the soldiers even learn of the death of their leader. The damage to morale is substantial, however, but Klaus is able to rally the troops and continue the war against the Nadree with a venegeance, as the Ascension is towed into drydock around Verdunspiegel. A great state funeral is held at the Necropolis in Auchen Hesh, and Olivia's body placed in stasis. Meanwhile, a council of Ehretoten priests convenes, and declares her a Saint, for her dedication to right and exemplary demonstration of the five virtues; and commands and that a new shrine will be built around the Necropolis.

Incidentally, it is generally believed to be around now that the Ascension acquires the name 'Saint's Cradle', referinng either to its nature as Olivia's birthplace, or the centrepiece of the foundation of the Empire, but at least initially a somewhat casual or even sarcastic nickname - it didn't become the de-facto official name until after the fall of the First Empire. In any case, the name Ascension is now generally only used (or even known) by scholars, and the two names have only fairly recently been recognized as the same thing. It is also the occasion that earned the Cradle its 'cursed' reputation, for obvious reasons - it seemed as though virtually everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Many believe that story to be exaggerated however, suspecting she really died on the battlefield, where only Klaus (possibly) and perhaps some knights would be present, assuming she got the chance to speak at all. Conversely, there also exists an even more exagerrated version where Olivia returns to the Ascension, only for its medical systems to fail one by one. She lives for a few more days in this version, with all her friends (and, according to the legend, family, although it's dubious she actually had any at this point.) in attendence. (To be continued: Next: The Imperial Age, and it's end.)

12/21/2010 #14
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