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Revolt and Rebellion (4996-4999)

Heretics Declared

A Church delegation representing the five sects, led by Orthodox Archbishop Anand Kraelian, met with the surviving Vargen clergy in the city. To say the meeting did not go well would be an understatement. After a heated debate over Church doctrine, the proceedings closed with Archbishop Kraelian declaring the Vargen clergy to be heretics--over the strident objections of the Amalthean and Eskatonic representatives. Kraelian issued warrants for the arrest of the native clergy in Vargo City.

All but 27 of the clerics in the city managed to elude the Inquisition, headed by High Inquisitor Icarus ul Sendraka. Those 27 stood trial before a tribunal consisting of Kraelian, Icarus, and Adept Yu Jie of the Brother Battle. The tribunal found the Vargen priests guilty of heresey, and sentenced them to death. They were garroted in the Plaza of the Prophet. When word of the executions reached the inhabitants of the city, riots broke out: Adept Yu Jie had to deploy her Brother Battle to protect the Cathedral as Imperial troops restored order.

The events that followed are sketchily known, derived from interviews conducted among Vargens in the fieflands. The surviving Vargen clergy from the city joined their brethren in the countryside and organized native landholders against the Known Worlders. The efforts of the Vargen clergy to rally the populace against the 'invaders' apparently played a critical role in recruiting the army of resistance that gathered under the banners of the Mercedes and other leading Vargen families. The 27 executed clergy were hailed as martyrs.

Reconquest

The rise of the Vargen insurgency caught the Emperor’s agents by surprise, and the small Imperial garrison on the planet suddenly found itself on the defensive. After a series of inconclusive skirmishes, Imperial Governor Gunnarson redeployed his troops to defend the capital and the starport--Vargo’s vital link to the rest of the Known Worlds. A standoff emerged as the Vargen resistance leaders, reluctant to test Vargo City’s defenses, opted to bide their time. Gunnarson sent an urgent plea offworld for relief.

That relief came in the form of an Imperial Army regiment under the command of Colonel Christopher Rena, fresh from battling the Symbiots on Stigmata. Rena’s first act as garrison commander was to launch a lightning offensive against the insurgents. This time it was the Vargens who were caught off guard. During the spring of 4996, Rena’s troops pushed upriver, driving the Vargen defenders before them. One by one, the villages in the vicinity of Vargo City were “liberated” from the insurgents and placed under Imperial control.

Colonel Rena implemented stern pacification measures in the occupied areas to quell native resistance. With the aid of the Holy Inquisition, still headed by High Inquisitor Icarus ul Sendraka, the Imperial troops instituted a draconian campaign to root out republicans and heretics in the native populace. Public executions were held as a lesson to any would-be rebels among the conquered Vargens; resistance leads only to death. A sullen atmosphere pervaded the newly reconquered territory as Rena imposed an uneasy peace.

The Imperial advance upriver came to a sudden halt in July, 4996. The Vargens, who had yielded ground steadily to date, suddenly staged a counterattack. After several pitched battles, in which the Imperials found themselves both outnumbered and outgunned, Rena abruptly adopted a defensive posture. Rather than risk losing the beachhead he had already secured, Rena ordered his troops to build a series of earthworks and fortifications across the river valley. He intended to hold this line until reinforcements arrived from offworld.

Dark Tidings

As the Imperial Army battled rebellious Vargens in the countryside, Vargo City was scene to intrigue and ominous portents. The representatives of the Known Worlds factions, isolated in their enclaves in the capital and kept in the dark by Governor Gunnarson, began to feel impotent and ignored. A lost world had been opened up for trade and exploitation, yet they were being denied a role in its conquest. The nobles, in particular, chafed under this status quo. Was it not the nobility’s place to rule within the Pancreator’s order?

Troubling developments in the city had done little to improve the mood among the Known Worlders. Several guilders and knights disappeared without a trace. A strange black ship had attacked the Agora. A Questing Knight was brutally murdered in what appeared to be an occult ritual. A curious Gargoyle was discovered in catacombs beneath the city. People were plagued by inexplicable nightmares and headaches. Archbishop Kraelian, head of the Church on Vargo, offered neither explanation nor comfort in the face of these dark tidings.

The Governor sought to diffuse the growing resentment by involving the factions in the redistribution of the lands so recently liberated by Colonel Rena. Gunnarson called for each faction to submit a proposal regarding the equitable division of the new fiefs, and decreed a ballot among the faction leaders would determine which plan was to be implemented. This announcement unleashed furious politicking among the various sects, guilds, and houses as each faction schemed to secure a land distribution most advantageous to its interests.

Yet all was not well in the Municipal Palace. The Governor withdrew from the public eye, and began to issue erratic, contradictory proclamations. On August 18th, 4996, when he announced the results of the fief distribution vote, he seemed to suffer a nervous breakdown on the speaking pavilion in Vargo Square. A few days later, Gunnarson disappeared. His office was found in disarray, as if a scuffle had taken place there, and arcane symbols had been written on the walls in blood. A goat had apparently been sacrificed on his desk.

New Leadership

The Emperor dispatched Sir Haakon Torenson to replace the missing Gunnarson and oversee the contest for control of the planet. Yet the leaders of the Known Worlds factions, having witnessed the terrors that stalked Vargo, and having suffered under the previous Governor’s growing madness, were not inclined to sit back and allow their fate to be decided by an aloof Imperial government. The time had come for the Known Worlders to rise to the challenges that Vargo presented. The contest for the planet had begun in earnest.

Yet Alexius had never made it clear what measure he would use to determine which faction was most fit to rule Vargo. During the months that followed, the leaders of the various factions struggled to find ways to establish their precedence over the others. Those factions that played politics as usual, such as the Scravers and House Decados, found themselves at a disadvantage vis a vis factions that broke the mold of traditional politics, experimenting with new ways to reach out to the native populace, and new ways to deal with each other.

In time, four factions emerged as the likeliest contenders for winning Vargo. Among the nobles, the Hazat and al-Malik rose to the forefront by investing heavily in the development of their fiefs, building infrastructure that not only solidified their defensive capabilities, but improved the lives of their subjects. The Engineers and Charioteers earned political capital (and profit) by facilitating this development. By cooperating rather than competing with each other, these factions surpassed those that were held back by distrust and paranoia.

Throughout this time, the Universal Church seemed paralyzed, unwilling to act in the face of the occult threats that hovered over Vargo like a dark cloud. The Orthodoxy never regained its footing after Archbishop Kraelian died under suspicious circumstances. The Sanctuary Aeon stepped into this vacuum, under the leadership of Bishop Teya. The Bishop built clinics to extend Amalthea’s healing hand to the populace, and exerted her influence to rally the Known Worlders against the dark forces threatening the planet.

The Kurga Caliphate

Those occult threats kept the Known Worlders busy in the years ahead, as they struggled to counter the foul schemes of an antinomist cult that seemed intent on raining darkness down upon the planet. Yet the antinomists proved elusive, always managing to slip away just as the forces of the Light were closing in. Whatever the cult’s ultimate goal was, it seemed to involve the Gargoyle that (occasionally) could be found in the chambers under Vargo City. The artifact had a curious habit of disappearing from time to time.

Aside from sporadic terrorist attacks in the capital and fiefs, the Vargen resistance was curiously quiescent during this time. The standoff in the north persisted, and the Emperor’s troops steadfastly held the Rena Line north of Enide. Yet the rebel question was never far from the thoughts of the Known Worlders. Some nobles, particularly the Hazat and Hawkwoods, persistently petitioned Governor Haakon to be allowed to venture beyond the line and take the war to the insurgents with their own troops, to finish the conquest of Vargo.

That endeavor would have been far more difficult than the war advocates imagined. Unbeknownst to the Known Worlders, the Vargen resistance had secure an ally in their war against what they perceived as an invasion. That ally was the Kurga Caliphate. With the aide of the Kurgans, the rebels had been building up an army to retake Vargo from the hated “offworlders” who occupied the planetary capital. As the summer of 4999 drew to a close, that army began massing for a coordinated thrust into the fieflands around Vargo City.

Clues to the Kurgan presence filtered to the Known Worlders as early as the spring of that year, but no one guessed at the Caliphate’s alliance with the resistance. The connection was not made until the Imperial Eye detected the massing rebel troops, accompanied by Kurgan military advisors. When this news was reported to Alexius, the Emperor faced a conundrum. If the rebel attack was not stopped, the Known Worlder beachhead on Vargo would fall. Yet Imperial intervention risked a war with the Caliphate that the Empire could ill afford.

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