Rise and Fall of the Shadakine Empire
I am Ziani Mesanna, a historian born in the Southern Magnamund land of Forlu during its period of subjugation to the Shadakine Empire. My forefathers were among the many native leaders overthrown by Shasarak the Wytch-King when he brutally swept down and conquered the Tianese lands in the War of the Winds.
Having only known the joy of liberation for a short time, as compared to the years of tyranny from Shadakine domination, I have endeavored to provide as complete an account as possible of the rise and fall of the Shadakine Empire. Invaluable to this task were the interviews I conducted with Tanith of Suhn, a former apprentice to Mother Magri of the same city. Tanith liberated the great hero Grey Star from his prison in MS 5050, beginning the chain of events that would lead to Shasarak's destruction. She witnessed many of the later happenings in this chronicle, and her vast knowledge of Shadakine history contributed to many of the earlier details.
The Shadaki People
The Shadakine are a race closely allied with the Sadi Nomads. They are a Vassa people, but are distinguished from their northern cousins by their lack of eye coloration. Traditional allies of the Darklords, the Shadakine have fought wars against their northern relatives and for a time succeeded in conquering virtually all of the eastern regions of Southern Magnamund. Under their last emperor, the Wytch-King Shasarak, the Shadakine Empire stretched from the Plains of Lissan all the way to the northern coast with the Tentarias.
The first Emperor of Shadakine was Jublah Khyr, who constructed the main imperial palace. The west wing of the palace became the prison of Ghol-Tabras. Because of its location, hundreds of miles from the southern capital at Shadaki, the Palace of Ghol-Tabras was built before the Shadakine armies moved south towards the Sadi Desert. Emperor Jublah's glory, however, would be eclipsed by that of Shasarak, who presided over the expansion and the collapse of the Shadakine Empire.
According to Tanith, she insists that Shasarak was not a normal Shadakine, "a fact his people soon realized after centuries of his rule. It was believed that he probably maintained his longevity with dark magic, but no one ever guessed that he was actually a Shianti."
Generations before, the Shianti had risen to power, and their arrival heralded a great Golden Age for Magnamund. They encapsulated all their power and knowledge into one jewel: the Moonstone. So climactic was the creation of this power that all calendar dating begins at MS 0. And so disruptive was the Moonstone to the balance of Aon, the vessel that contains Magnamund, that the moon goddess Ishir appeared and asked the Shianti to send the Moonstone into the Trianon, a magical prison in the abyss of Daziarn. They agreed, and went into exile on the distant Isle of Lorn, surrounding their new refuge with magical mists and winds to prevent anyone from ever reaching their abode.
Shasarak, one of their numbers, refused to go into exile with the other Shianti. In MS 3145, he arrived in Taklakot, then a thriving kingdom. The power of Shasarak's Sunstone, a mysterious jewel, brought wealth and accelerated evolution to the Taklakotians, but they became overconfident. Unlocking the Sunstone's forbidden powers, the people of Taklakot released a great blast that destroyed their nation. This apparently allowed Shasarak to seize the hearts of the seven Kazim-the Stone Peoples. Their magical hearts were powerful crystal orbs, capable of bending minds as instruments of absolute truth. The wasted plains of Desolation Valley, the mad city of Gyanima, and the haunted Forest of Fernmost are all testaments to the folly of those who choose to defy Shasarak.
The Shadakine had originally lived in a collection of weak city-states, which were quickly subjugated by the Sadi Nomads. Wandering north, Shasarak took control of the Sadi and Shadaki, arraying seven powerful sorceresses called the Wytches under his rule. He gave them the stolen Kazim Stones, which became powerful implements of torture and magical defense under the Wytches. In each of his seven conquered cities, Shasarak erected a citadel and placed a Wytch as the local governor and upholder of his cruel and tyrannic law.
Taking black stone and granite from the Jazer Mountains, Shasarak constructed a new capital at the city of Shadaki. His black capital was situated close to the former Shadakine capital of Jazer; it was intended to be the unifying center of a new, united Sadi-Shadakine empire. Shadaki was to be the crown of this union, one that would as Tanith tells it, "threaten the very existence of Southern Magnamund's free nations. Shasarak possessed a burning desire to expand the realm, at the expanse of the Tianese lands, many which never realized the Shadakine threat until it was too late. They would pay a very high price for their mistakes. The Sadi advanced through the Morn Pass, and MS 4663 saw the burning of the Forest of Lara. Shasarak, tired of Kundi guerilla warfare on his armies, burnt the lush forest valleys to the ground. The Laranese tribes fled south, while Shadakine settlers entered the wasted land to farm its now scorched soils.
The exact place the Laranese tribes had migrated to remains a mystery to all but a select few. Shasarak forbid talk of the subject, and wild legends placed them as having fled to the Shuri Mountains or to the Forest of Fernmost. However, some have held that the Lost Tribe of Lara actually arrived at the southern peninsula of Azanam, where they constructed a great treetop realm. Tanith, based on what she has heard from Grey Star, confirms only the following: "While we were wandering Lissan, he spoke of the Kundi race - a culture of primitive appearance but hidden intelligence. Apparently it was his asking around on the subject that led to Grey Star being thrown into the Suhnese prison-lucky me!"
Having conquered the Kundi race, Shasarak turned his malevolent eyes southward to the Tianese nations that had settled the fertile lands. In MS 4663, the same year as the burning of Lara, Shasarak swept south through the Sea of Winds, a prelude to the war of the same name. Since the founding of Shadaki, the Wytch-King had been preparing a great fleet of ironclad warships, and now his plans came to fruition. He formed an alliance with the Mesanna Dynasty in Forlu, the richest and most populous of the southern states. "Shasarak had always coveted the jadin inside the Shuri Mountains, and there were also rumors of buried treasure. He saw the War of the Winds as Shadaki's way of engineering a great final sweep of all the Tianese lands, but Forlu was powerful enough to stand in his way, so he didn't honor the alliance. The Wytch-King took the opportunity to divide and conquer." Tanith had particularly emphasized her last sentence with dramatic gestures.
Shasarak indeed divided and conquered. The Mesanna had foolishly formed an alliance with the Shadakine, but when Shasarak's forces entered Forlu and seized the Mesanna Palace, the royal family found itself betrayed. Shasarak ordered the household thrown to the streets, where the Forluan citizens soon exacted revenge for centuries of corrupt rule.
With Forlu now under his control, Shasarak made war upon Korli, seizing the entire state. Andui, Karnali, and Suhn felt mortal danger as towns and cities fell to the rapidly expanding Shadakine Empire. After the fall of Korli and Forlu, Shasarak swept west to Andui, conquering it in MS 4665. The Anduis and Kalamar Rivers fed the fertile province; it had split from Korli after the discovery of mineral wealth in the Kashima Mountains. "Many wars erupted between Andui and Korli," Tanith said while picking at a hangnail, "which resulted in the construction of various forts along the strategic borders. These were not strong enough to hold back Shasarak, who established a sizable garrison in Andui after adding the province to his now long list of conquered regions. Incidentally, Mother Magri's sister Mother Chowloon came to rule Andui."
Shasarak's attention turned to the west, and he eyed the Masbaté, the tribes that inhabited Lissan. The Mythenish people that had settled the Lissan Plains were an irritation to the Wytch-King, who fought a prolonged chariot war against them with no success. In MS 5045, Shasarak unleashed the Zadakar plague upon the Masbaté. Tanith remembered encountering them in the Lissan- "horrifying demons of all twisted shapes, sizes, and colors." She shivered at the thought of the agarashi horde. In any event, the Masbaté lost the Plains of Lissan that year, and most of their lives. King Samu survived the extermination of his people and fled eastward, thinking that he was the lone survivor. He was wrong, however-some Masbaté had survived the holocaust and hid themselves in the mountains.
Shasarak meanwhile had continued to move southward. "At this time, most of Southern Magnamund realized that the Shadakine would not stop until they dominated the entire southern peninsula," Tanith reflected, "and the royal house of Shy-gin began to contemplate their fate. We of Suhn had long maintained our independence by using diplomacy and even a little treachery to keep peace and possibly profit. But what diplomacy could stand up to the emperor of the Shadaki? Shasarak understood only the language of brute force...and so my city was doomed."
Karnali was the last nation to fall to Shadaki. It was a tough land populated by tough people, Tianese settlers who had come to exploit the Gurlu Marshes and their valuable Chaksu hides. Tanith recounts Mother Magri dismissing them frequently as "petty annoyances." But the spirited people of Karnali proved to plenty annoying to Shadaki. "Their Freedom Guild erupted suddenly after the Battle of the Tentarium, like a Kleasa from fire. First of that guild was Sado of the Long Knife, a crusty, hardened fighter who hated all things Shadakine."
Shasarak and Mother Niya tried to put down the revolt, but it continued, even after the Warward Kiro was sent to crush dissent. "Mother Niya was always weak," commented Tanith, "and there was talk that I or another Wytch's apprentice might have been sent to Karnali to succeed her. But Grey Star did say she put up quite a spirited fight at the battle of Karnali."
Tanith explained, "Shasarak saw the Tianese and the Mythenish as doomed to fall beneath the great onslaught of the Shadakine, which is why he persecuted our lands so cruelly. The Wytch-King believed the union of the Vassa peoples a necessity. He was not Vassa, but it was convenient for him to pretend to be one to advocate the expansion of the Shadakine Empire. And since the Sadi and Shadakine had joined together, it was only natural that the Vassagonians would have to merge-or be crushed and assimilated. To accomplish this, he marshalled a large fleet and set sail for Vassa - which later events led to what was known as the Vassa War."
The disastrous Battle of Tentarium would be the first blow to Shasarak's dreams of conquest. Having seized the entire south in the War of the Winds, the Shadakine Empire controlled virtually all of the eastern quarter of the continent. Shasarak's empire stretched from the southern seas below Azanam all the way to the Tentarias.
The Vassa War was an utter debacle. Shasarak underestimated the might of the Vassagonian Empire, which had long been an entrenched superpower in Northern Magnamund. He sent his many warfleets and armies into southern Vassagonia, hoping to take the empire. But Barrakeesh, the capital, was too far north and the Vassagonians too strong to break. The massive invasion culminated in the Battle of Tentarium, where the Shadakine fleet and army were both smashed. Vassagonia's traditional support to the Shadakine faded at this time.
I myself recall members of my family, who survived the takeover of Forlu, speaking of the war. Many Shadakine soldiers left our city during that time to fight in the north; most of their ships departed as well, but there were enough left under the control of Mother Lhasa to prevent us from rebelling.
The war, Shasarak's first loss in centuries, proved that his empire was far from invincible. Karnali was the first to rebel, and would soon be followed by the other city states. It was the beginning of the end for the Shadakine Empire.
The Arrival of Grey Star
During this time, the Shianti sensed that Shasarak's conquest of the continent could not be allowed. They were alarmed by the prospect of a Shadakine victory in Vassagonia, and by the fact that one day, Shasarak would lead a final battle against the Shianti at Lorn. Unable to leave their island due to Ishir's ban, the Shianti were heartened by a shipwreck which brought a human baby to the Isle of Lorn. Seeing the child as a sign of hope, the Shianti raised him and trained him in their magic. He would become Grey Star.
In MS 5050, Grey Star left the Isle of Lorn forever and journeyed to the Port of Suhn. His mission: to recover the Moonstone from the Daziarn and use it to challenge Shasarak. The Shadakine army noticed the arrival of the mysterious man soon enough and he was sent to Mother Magri. Imprisoned in the Citadel of Suhn, Grey Star despaired, but Tanith "saved him in the nick of time." She is still proud of her accomplishment, although "at the moment, it was to me more a question of freeing a cute young man from his cell, not defeating the Shadakine Empire."
Grey Star would journey through the Empire, searching for the Kundi who could take him to the Shadow Gate between Magnamund and Daziarn. He succeeded and his Kundi guide, Urik, took him across the southern borders of the Empire.
With the arrival of Grey Star at Karnali-the Shianti was on his way to Desolation Valley to rendezvous with a Shadow Gate that would take him to the Moonstone - the Freedom Guild of Karnali was invigorated. The Guild's leader, Sado of the Long Knife, saw Grey Star a potential ally in his troops' attempts to free Karnali. They renewed their struggle against Karnali, finally storming the city with Sado and Grey Star at the front of the attack. Mother Niya mustered her powers against the Freedom Guild, nearly succeeding, but failed and died mysteriously.
With the death of Mother Niya-accounts vary, some saying she died in the taking of the Citadel, others say the Warward Kiro strangled her in a fit of madness-the Freedom Guild looked certain to win. Her sorcery had nearly propelled the Shadakine troops to victory, and without it they were lost against the Freedom Guild.
The city was soon stormed and taken by Sado's forces, the first Shadakine city to be liberated. It was far too remote, however, to make a difference, but Shasarak realized that the Freedom Guild could start threatening trade routes to the Port of Suhn. Tanith spoke of particular glee on this subject, saying that it was the first time anyone held hope for Suhn's liberation from the cruel fists of Mother Magri and her overlord.
Grey Star left Karnali soon afterwards, accompanied by the Masbaté king Samu, his Kundi guide Urik, and a thief called Hugi. They made their way to Desolation Valley, blasted by Shasarak's Sunstone centuries ago and the site of the Shadow Gate that would lead to the Daziarn-and the Moonstone. It was in Gyanima, the Forbidden City, that Grey Star discovered a vault of objects that had apparently once belonged to Shasarak. One was a book that conclusively proved that the Wytch-King had once been a Shianti. Grey Star had little time to ponder over this shocking discovery, for he had to race to the Shadow Gate before it closed. It was at the Gate that he discovered the Kleasa and Tanith, imprisoned by Shasarak for her treason against the Empire.
Tanith speaks little of what happened afterwards, saying the experience was excruciating and "hardly one I want to relive." But she did say that Grey Star successfully liberated her, and together they stepped into the Daziarn to find the Moonstone. "After some time, Grey Star and I found the jewel," Tanith recounts, "but it was not before meeting some evil forces and one of Shasarak's servants. We came out of it in one piece, thankfully, but sometimes I think I would rather take Mother Magri's hoarse screaming than another Jahksa..."
Meanwhile, much was afoot in the Shadakine Empire during Grey Star's absence. A massive army of Shadakine warriors sent by Shasarak besieged Karnali, but they were soundly repelled, "much to Shasarak's displeasure." Buoyed by their victories, the Freedom Guild attacked trade routes and caravans, cutting off the Port of Suhn from the rest of the Empire. They began to threaten Suhn itself, knowing very well that the fall of the port would strangle much of Shadaki's economic power. Sado prepared his armies for battle, while Shasarak began mustering a massive force in the Sadi Desert to flush out the Freedom Guild once and for all.
Forlu soon followed the way of Karnali. Mother Lhasa had begun to lost control of her subjugated people, and they fled the principality in the words of Tanith, "like a cloud of migrating Najin." Their villager counterparts in Wenat, Sena, and Zhanis also opened pockets of rebellion. The Freedom Guild's ranks swelled as the Forluans went southward to Karnali, now the capital of a burgeoning rebellion against Shasarak. Forlu was by far the most populous city in the Empire outside of Shadaki, and its growing rebellion posed a great worry to Shasarak.
Return of the Moonstone
Tanith said that although she was later told seven years had passed while she and Grey Star explored the Daziarn, it seemed as if only a mere week or two had elapsed. In any event, she remembered Grey Star holding the Moonstone aloft, and speaking triumphantly with the proud Shianti. Then there was a "flash of light, and we were sent back...to possibly the worst place in the Empire."
The Shianti had transported Grey Star and Tanith to the Lissan Plains, where the Zadakar armies of Agarash the Damned still roamed. Shasarak had little use for them after destroying the Masbaté, and so he allowed them to "run amok." In the midst of a battle with these horrors, a force of Masbaté warriors surprised Tanith and Grey Star. Apparently, they were part of a small group of survivors from the original massacre. Hiding in the mountains, the Masbaté had avoided the foul eye of Shasarak, and furthermore, had been reunited with King Samu.
Grey Star formulated a plan and succeeded in drawing the agarashi plague against the Shadakine. With the Masbaté armies, he managed to join Sado and the Freedom Guild. Now, almost all of the forces against Shasarak were in place. The return of the Moonstone to Magnamund proved to be a great lifter of morale amongst the armies of the Masbaté and the Freedom Guild.
Fall of the Empire
Grey Star warned Sado that Shasarak had amassed a much larger force in the Sadi Desert, and after some argument, was able to persuade the Freedom Guild to enter the Forest of Fernmost. There, Grey Star encountered the Kazim-still immobile after centuries of imprisonment by Shasarak's hand. The Kazim recognized the Moonstone, and told Grey Star that the Shianti had a vow to uphold-they would free the Kazim one day when the stone returned to Magnamund. Grey Star agreed, freeing the stone people and allowing them to pursue their campaign of vengeance against the Shadakine Wytches and Shasarak. At that time, the Shadakine armies, led by Mother Chowloon of Andui, attacked Fernmost.
The liberation of the Kazim saw the immediate death of Mother Chowloon, who had been haplessly parading her Kazim Stone into battle. Tanith, laughed coolly, "It must have been like waving a tasty human morsel at a Quoku- the furious Kazim quickly located the owner of his heart and reclaimed it with obvious glee." Mother Chowloon was killed in the process, the second Wytch to fall victim to the enemies of Shasarak, and Andui was thus liberated.
The battle turned decisively in the Freedom Guild's favor as Mother Chowloon's magic dissipated. Meanwhile, the other five Kazim left, headed for Forlu, Suhn, Korli, Jazer, and Tiklu, where their hearts were still held captive by the other Wytches.
The crushing of the remaining five Shadakine Wytches, including Mother Magri, saw the final chain of oppression broken. It was a day of liberation for the inhabitants of all those cities, including Tanith, still imprisoned in Suhn. All cities of the Shadakine Empire went into open revolt once the Wytches were destroyed. Shasarak became even more desperate as he saw the relentless Freedom Guild and Masbaté armies march onwards. For the first time since his defeat by Vassagonia, Shasarak must have felt mortal danger approaching.
Sado and Grey Star, at the helm of their forces, pursued the Shadakine armies across the land as they furiously attempted to reach Shadaki, where they could regroup under Shasarak's command. At the final stretch, Shasarak cast a great spell, sending animated skeletons to destroy the freedom armies. Grey Star saw that the time had come for a final battle and he teleported to Shadaki.
What exactly happened there may never be known. Tanith herself, who arrived in Shadaki soon after being freed from imprisonment in Suhn, said only that details are unimportant. "The only thing anyone needs to know is that Grey Star won, and Shasarak is now damned to an eternity of suffering: rightful justice for the pain he put our people through." And so we will leave it at that.
With the dissolution of the Shadakine Empire, all of the subjugated states returned to being free countries. Karnali, Suhn, Korli, Forlu, Tiklu, and Andui were broken from the Shadakine Empire and became independent city-states. The Shadakine themselves retreated to the Sadi Desert, and it will be a long time before they can threaten anyone again.
Grey Star became regent of the free states, and it was hoped that he would bring stability and justice to the lands after so many years of Shadakine tyranny. However, he left for a journey to the west some time ago, and has not been heard from since. Rumors are rife that necromancers, who have been on the rise since the abolishing of the Empire, captured Grey Star. There are many still loyal to Shasarak, and although they do not form a concerted threat, they are still a potential danger. Tanith leaves us with her take:
"I have my doubts, but I think that there may be more than a grain of truth in the rumors. Certainly, I have had no contact with him since he left. What does disturb me is that a certain Grand Master of the Kai Order, whose name I seem to have forgotten, passed through Shadaki and the Free States, including Tiklu and Suhn, very recently. Stories say that he was bearing the Moonstone with him."
Lone Wolf © TM Joe Dever 1984-2000.