Control is important in the Empire of Splendour - control of the people through stratified laws, and control of the natural environment. Seasonal floods caused by spring melt high in the Throne of Heaven Mountains once used to devastate farmland in the lowlands of Utashar. This is no longer the case. For centuries the flow of water has been controlled by a series of mighty dams, the mightiest of all is the Dam of Sepuraabi, created as a result of civil war.
About 1500 years before the reign of Emperor Received Wisdom, in the reign of Emperor Great Knowledge there was a schism in the Imperial Ceremonial Priesthood. The priesthood had become mired in corruption and was suffering the after-effects of a purge conducted by the High Priest Raalstinapi. Raalstinapi was driven by what he claimed to be a prophetic dream to remove his rivals in the priesthood and in so doing stripped the organisation of some of its brightest and best. Sepuraabi was one of the few talented priests who survived this purge by hiding his true feelings and abilities, and was thus overlooked by Raalstinapi. When Raalstinapi died (prematurely), Sepuraabi quickly rose to power and brought the fractured priesthood back together. He became High Priest in three years.
During this time, however, Emperor Great Knowledge died and the Priests of the Divine Flame went into seclusion to discover to whom the Flame of Heaven had passed, and thus who was to become the next Emperor. Thanks to Raalstinapi's purges, though, many of the Priests of the Divine Flame were venal and corrupt men. They took bribes from an ambitious young Magister Judiciary and declared him Bearer of the Flame of Heaven. He was coronated Emperor Many Blessings.
Sepuraabi came to learn of this deceit when he became High Priest, in the 5th regnal year of Many Blessings. He gathered a group of priests that he could trust and bade them divine the true Bearer of the Flame of Heaven. They found the rightful Emperor, a young woman, and hid her away in Ut'Bharma. Many Blessings knew that the true Emperor would be out there somewhere and his agents searched everywhere for him or her, hoping to eliminate the threat to his unlawful rulership.
Sepuraabi put on a compliant front towards the usurper Many Blessings and for a while the Emperor did not suspect his High Priest of being anything other than loyal. Until, that is, the Festival of Lights in the 7th year of Many Blessings' rule. At this time, the 29th day of Victory Over Darkness, the first month of the Ceremonial Calendar, people light fires, lanterns and candles to celebrate the birth of the Divine Emperor, East Sun, and his bringing of light and warmth to the world. The mortal Emperor is expected to officiate at a great fire ceremony in the Imperial capital Reflected Glory. It was here that Sepuraabi denounced Many Blessings as a fraud. The fires died, people panicked, supporters of the true Emperor rose to arrest Many Blessings but with the aid of loyal followers he fought his way free and escaped north to his stronghold of Tifur.
Civil war struck the Empire. The true Emperor was brought from exile and crowned Empress Seeking Perfection. Magisters, priests and the common people were divided, uncertain over who was the legitimate Emperor. Trust in the honesty of the Priests of the Divine Flame had been shaken and it came down to the word of one side against another. Battles were fought for two years until Seeking Perfection cornered Many Blessings in Tifur. In its narrow valley, Tifur was difficult to approach. Magicians working with Many Blessings could send a miasma to afflict besieging armies with disease. It was a stand-off until Sepuraabi arrived.
Sepuraabi called upon the power of the Immortals to judge who was the legitimate heir. The mountains shook. Rocks tumbled down and sealed the valley of Tifur. The skies darkened. Rain poured down on the mountainsides and a flash-flood swept over Tifur and obliterated it. The civil war was over. The name of Many Blessings was removed from the official lists, his statues torn down. His name lives on only as a warning to other would-be usurpers.
Imperial engineers refined the Dam of Sepuraabi, closing off leaks, allowing control of water levels in Tifur Lake and building aqueducts to supply the city of Reflected Glory. It was to be the first of many such dams.
Who was right? Many Blessings was not a bad Emperor, as things go. He was young, energetic, popular with the people and by no means a dreadful tyrant. Some say that crops failed, provinces rebelled and the economy faltered during his reign - a sure sign that the Immortals were displeased with his rule. But these could have been a result of Sepuraabi's civil war. Some say that Many Blessings was the legitimate heir, but that the Divine Flame became corrupted within him and had to find a new host in Seeking Perfection. Some say that Many Blessings was able to command such loyalty because he bore Dorilar, the Sword of Unity (one of the legendary Blades of Zaakon). If this is the case, it lies beneath the waters of Tifur Lake clutched in his dead hand. Sepuraabi died in a fall a few years later. Empress Seeking Perfection had a long and successful rule. Her most noted achievement was fixing the Official and Ceremonial calendars so that they ran concurrently.
(c) 2006 The Creative Conclave.