We Need Another Emperor

New segment time!

Trying something a little different from the norm today, fellows. In the past few months, I’ve gotten a number of requests pertaining to my novels: specifically, for a little more of that information we writers like to call “worldbuilding”. Now, I’ve long since ceased with the whole, “Inside Idasia,” topics, but I thought perhaps expanding on some of the characters of the Haunted Shadows might fit the bill and quell some appetites. With that in mind, I cracked open ye olde notes and whipped up the first of what I’ll call: We Need Another Emperor—stories of Idasia. We start, appropriately, with the emperor as of “The Hollow March”. Enjoy.

Excerpted from the annals of Die Geschichte von Idasia (The History of Idasia)

Matthias I

Matthias came to the throne following the death of his short-lived brother, Joseph III, at a time of uncertainty for the laws of Idasia. Though the Altengard—the electors—of Idasia had confirmed him with little debate, there was some question as to his legitimacy. It had been Joseph who had been groomed for the throne, and his sickly statue had been seen as a staunch rebuke of the Durvalle line. Matthias was viewed by many as a bookish scholar, a boy with his head in the clouds. Many a rebellious lord at the time urged the claims of his younger brother, Mauritz, instead, or even those of his uncle, also named Joseph, and a long established councilor of his father.

Though he began his reign under the regency of his mother and his protector, the Count Palatine Kurste, it was not long until he reached majority. Within three years, he married a daughter of the principalities of Ravonno, Noelia Tirozzi. Theirs was to be a fruitful marriage.

He has survived no less than three attempts at assassination, all of them stemming from those early days. The most prominent of these, later to be known as the Burning of Bruchsal, resulted in the deaths of no less than the Count Palatine Kurste and three lesser lords. The conspirators, a group of no less than fifteen nobles and courtiers, were found out, strung up, and quartered before the gates of Anscharde. Although the Emperor’s uncle was never implicated in the crime, it is worth noting that he resigned his commissions shortly thereafter, and retired to his estates, his claim all but forgotten.

Though young to the throne, and untested before that time, Matthias was to reveal himself from an early age as a true and able emperor. Decisive, shrewd, a fine warrior and a finer horseman, he often played the peacemaker, but would gain the sobriquet “the Bold” for his strategic and quick-moving mind in times of war.

His empress, Noelia, was less beloved of the realm. Though beautiful and keenly intelligent, she was a creature aloof, severe both to courtiers and subjects alike. Some said she ruled the empire as much as her husband, but there is little proof of this. It is a notion stemming largely from how quickly the emperor turned from certain old policies upon her death.

For sixty-some years, their marriage nonetheless held true, and for the most part it was a happy marriage, from which many children (and eventually grandchildren) would flow. A fact which, many have claimed, has contributed to the state of affairs in the realm today…but this is not our tale.

For all the love they held for one another, Matthias was never a particularly faithful man. No less than three bastardies are recorded as his issue, on different women of his court, and noblewomen even in Asantil have claimed children of his own bearing. Of Surelia herself, eleven children would be born. Only one would fail to outlive her mother—this being the second, Sarre, who fell to plague in the flower of her youth, and would bear her parents much grief.

With the help of his brothers and his councilors, Emperor Matthias set out to reform the realm. He took the unified code of the old kings and reworked it, diminishing the rights of the old blood and paving room for new, whilst bolstering those of the littlefolk who toiled beneath his banners. Roads that had been allowed to wear for years were reworked, and new ones ground across the empire. This, in turn, funneled the supplies and troops which tirelessly expanded the boundaries of the nation, boundaries Matthias would be constantly attending throughout his lifetime, such that it was said he scarcely rested anywhere more than a day.

In his youth, so too was Matthias heralded as a champion of the faith, his marriage to Noelia and his own carefully worded essays on Visaj seen as a growing (and troubling, for other nations) link between Idasia and Holy Ravonno. After Noelia’s death, of course, this would change. Today, Matthias is sometimes called the Scourge of Visaj, though this is hardly fair. The emperor has always remained staunch in his faith. What changed were his people. As Farrenism spread throughout his lands, he simply opened it to them, allowing them the same rights as his brothers in faith.

Tragically few see it as such, even amongst his own family.

Thus the greatest problems of the later years of Matthias’s reign would be two-fold: religious dissension, and the unheard of simplicity of too many heirs. Though his son Joseph was named heir apparent from birth, there was no love lost between the two men. Following Noelia’s death, Joseph openly rebuked his father’s policies of conciliation with the Farrens, and for his decision to take up a Farren bride. Some have pointed to the son’s days in the military less as a chance to build his character than as a means to remove him from the emperor’s daily sight.

Of his children from Noelia, only Princess Sara would embrace the new faith. The others would remain steadfast, and there are many who have spoken of “the great factions,” of the court, contained only by the will of Matthias himself, the personal loyalty of his bannermen, and the soothing words of his skilled Chancellor. That the Emperor has had two more children since from his marriage to Surelia Jerantus, a princess of the Jerantus line of the Farren-littered kingdom of Banur, had not aided matters, though.

Today, however, it is the war with Effise in the east which holds the attentions of the scribes of tragedy. For years, the two nations had seethed over their borders. Effise’s navy had long controlled the seatrade routes, while Idasia held all land routes to the west. Effise had long held the advantage of technology, being masters of the cannon, but Idasia was far the larger, and flush with the wealth of its conquests.

For all this, all accounts agree it was the Council of Anscharde which decided things. Matthias’s decision to allow equal rights of property and worship to Farren and Visaj alike, and the murder of an Effisian diplomat on his return from that same council were to be the sparks of a brutal war which has stretched for nigh a decade now. The Church of Visaj, as well, has used this proxy war to push its agenda in the court of Idasia, and to funnel money into Effise.

Matthias has proven himself on the field of Effise, and abroad. Under his reign, his military accomplishments have included:

  1. The Duchy of Walim, in the west, was brought into the sphere of the Empire’s influence. Its old duke, an uncle of Matthias’s, died without issue. Attempts to put a niece upon the throne were contested by Matthias, and the resulting war ended in a year’s time.
  2. The Kingdom of Surin, in the east, was reduced to a chaotic strip of land, generations of petty warfare between the two nations finally brought to a head and the waning power of the kingdom utterly smashed. The Idasian Empire seized the remainder of Ulneberg forest, and all of Surin’s holdings on the western side of the River Jurree. Surin’s king was rendered incapable, its royalty reduced to little more than first amongst many, a horde of barons squabbling for scraps.
  3. The aging Kingdom of Durscht was finally eliminated in the south, its lands split between the imperial provinces of Varstein and Karinth, and the southern Wine Coast thus secured for Idasia.
  4. The Margravine provinces of Momeny and Arlaine were founded in the east, with land seized from Effise.
  5. The Effisian navy was smashed by a resurgent Idasian fleet in the Crystal Bay and, consequently, the Effisian blockade of Imperial territory was lifted. Never before had the Idasians been anything but a land power, yet thanks to retrofitted cannons developed by an Idasian admiral, imperial cannon gained a ranged superiority unmatched by neighboring states.
  6. At the Battle of Halensa Fields, the Zuti menace was finally checked. After having consumed the Kingdom of Naran in the west, Zuti forces had moved to take Asantil and Lorace. Recognizing the threat to its western borders, the Empire joined the coalition of Marindi states on the fields of Asantil, where its cavalry, as well as the advent of gunpowder proved a decisive victory for Marindi nations, and spelled the end of Zuti ascendancy on the continent.

For more than sixty years, Matthias had led the Empire of Idasia to the very peak of its power and prestige. He is called “the Bold,” “He Who Rides,” and the “Good Emperor Matthias.” Yet as the war in Effise drags on, and initial victories have dragged into stubborn sieges, some question whether the aging Emperor, once renowned for his nightly travel from castle to castle and town to town, can still hold up the nation he so embodies…

(Haven’t read the books? Keep up on the fantasy and dive into The Haunted Shadows. Just click the image below!)

Hollow March eBook Cover 2

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The House beneath the Moon

The rumpled pleats of shapely ash,

wildness pruned by sunken barn—

a peak bends beneath the sun,

broken iron set to finger buoyant clouds

a gable, rumpled, heaving on the breeze it names—

they rise and fall, and breathe so deep

the grass stained patter of a river’s game

like her little feet in the old moon’s shade,

a hovering cloud, a brushing touch

of years, unearthed, with the shaking of the wind.

Aerials

Bombastic given

bombardment by the grace of God

relent, rely, realize

the fire’s breeding spaces

but only by a history of shrieking faces.

 

Somewhere, waiting, with Names on a list

He’s waiting

for a soul or indifferent ravens

ours is but to do or die

barbaric bearing on the graceless lover–

just a click and all will sever.

Poetic Spotlight: Let America Be America Again

Langston Hughes, image care of Wikimedia Commons.

This week, we’re trying a little something new (with a little something old) here at the Waking Den. Every Thursday I’ll be doing my best to sift through my library (yes, I’m 22 and I would say I’ve got a good start on a library going) for some of the great works by classic poets – both known, and unknown – to bring before your eyes. Some will be personal favorites. Some will not. All will be here for your benefit, put forth, archived, and ready and waiting for any of your discussions of these immortalized poetic greats.

Today, we kick off the affair with something hardly “lightweight” in subject matter – Langston Hughes’s powerful “Let American Be America Again”. It packs a punch, as a forewarning, as well it should – it speaks to matters many would wish to forget, or to sweep under a rug and keep out of sight, at the least. It speaks of freedom and equality – critiques and hopes, longing–it rings out in a voice that echoes through the ages…and works as such are rarely gentle. Enjoy.

“Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed–
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean–
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home–
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay–
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME–
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose–
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain–
All, all the stretch of these great green states–
And make America again!”

Stone by Stone

Photo by and copyright Neil Alexander.

Stone by Stone

Vines inhale the flesh

The world atone

Stone by Stone

Memories of the haunted-hallowed moan

Of all we’ve wrought, kingly mess

Stone by Stone

Humanity stripped, to rise afresh.

* Hello, all. This, obviously, is my submission to One Shoot Sunday over at One Stop Poetry. It’s more than that, though. I hope you all enjoyed my interview with the talented Neil Alexander, but if you get to the end, you may have noted a little send-off from me and Adam Dustus. Today marks our second-to-last One Shoot Sunday venture.

Without getting into the whys too terribly and boring you all with the details, I’ll suffice to say, sometimes the path splits, and the trail leads us somewhere new. Photography, as writing, is one of my passions in life, and it has been a wonder for me to meet so many talented photographers and to share their insights with you all. It has been a magical thin for this reporter. Yet real life is coming at me something fierce right now, and in a couple months, I’ll be moving to Colorado. It will be wonderful, and the place is certainly a beauty – I cannot wait to go. In the meantime, I’m packing. I’m working freelance. I’m bidding farewell to old friends. And with everyone else departing at One Stop, it seemed, for me, the time to tip my hat to the crowd.

You all have been wonderful, I say that honestly. I have so enjoyed your poetry – and will CONTINUE to enjoy your poetry in the months and years to come. This corner of the blogosphere – it is a wonderful thing, filled with so many creative and wonderful people. I hope you will continue to visit me as well, as I’ll not be leaving….merely because I’m stepping down from One Shoot doesn’t mean I’m departing into a moonless night…I’ll be here, still doing what I do, and enjoying every moment of it.

Cheers, everyone. It has been, and still is, a pleasure.

Cover Up

Image by and copyright Walter Parada.

Red rivers ride

fluttering flags.

A smile and a hand, freely offered

belie the tip—

it’s not a stick you know

that I’ll stick you with,

not a dream doused with dreamers.

God or Man

the mortar drips

beneath the marble—

just a dab of purity to hide

stained hands,

strawberry walls—

Humanity

drifting.

* A piece for this week’s edition of One Shoot Sunday. This week features an interview I had with the talented Californian photographer Walter Parada. I was very grateful for the images he chose to share with us, as I find them all to be absolutely striking, from his landscapes to his portraits, and on to the image featured above.

St. Patty’s

Hello, my name is Chris, and I’m not Irish. My ancestors are from the isles, but they never did call the white-foamed cliffs or the emerald fields of Ireland their home.  I know, I’m sorry – but now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, allow me to add that I appreciate a good St. Patty’s as much as anyone. Started my day off right, with a fine play list taking us from as far off as the raging typical St. Patty’s tunes of Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys, through the Dubliners and Stephen Lynch and even a touch of Buck O Nine, between more traditional bits.

Outside, the day is already surrendered to the sound and the sight of the drink on campus – Frat Row, as it is called, has already got their beer pong tables set up, as usual, and I’m sure anything with pub or anything vaguely Irish in its name will be roaring with business all day. The weather couldn’t be better – 60s in Michigan in March, for St. Patty’s? Yes, please – and I am in a fantastic mood. I wrote and I danced, and you know what else? I worked up a little poem for you all, and I do hope you enjoy.

A shamrock lies between us.

The grievances of history

Balanced on the tips of leaves

Are swallowed in green beer

To high tide tunes of fiddlers

Passing in the night

Where love and lust are staggering

With dignity and design—

They say as much to Mr. Jameson

As they pour a little more cream,

Pondering the existential implications

Of the girls in their shortest skirts

Swaying and serenading

The Dance.

(All images care of Google – thanks Google search!)

Edit: And also to note – it is my good pleasure to announce that today is also my dear friend Kila’s (Willowwish) birthday! Happy Birthday Kila! And in the travesty of all travesties, she has to spend it AND St. Patty’s day mired in class…oh dears.