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Formation of the Triumverate (4999-5005)
The Emperor's Triumvirate
The Known Worlds were still recovering from the devastation of the Emperor Wars, and a military conflict with the Kurga Caliphate might weaken the Empire enough to allow one of Alexius’ rivals to unseat him. The Emperor could always go through with the plan to hand Vargo over to one of the Known Worlds factions and let the lucky winner deal with the Kurgans. Yet no one faction could hope to stand alone against the massive Vargen army that was poised to invade the lower valley of the Santiam River and retake Vargo City.
Then fate handed the Emperor a third alternative. A petition arrived from three of the leading factions on Vargo; the Hazat, the Engineers, and the Amaltheans. The leaders of these factions, Count Alvaro, Fellow Howe, and Bishop Teya, offered to share power among themselves rather than see the planet handed over to the uncertain mercies of a single faction come January, 5000. For Alexius, this seemed an ideal solution. Standing together, these three factions might be able to hold the Kurgans at bay. Thus was born the Triumvirate.
The Emperor’s announcement regarding the new order on Vargo, prematurely ending the contest, was met with resentment among the factions that had hoped to win Vargo for themselves. Their complaints were set aside in the face of the impending invasion, as news of the massing armies reached the Known Worlders in Vargo City. Thanks in large part to the charismatic diplomacy of Hazat Baron Trowa St. Matthew Justus de Omala, the Known Worlds factions rallied to the defense of the fledgling Triumvirate in spite of their differences.
On a cold December day in 4999, the combined forces of the noble houses, the Church, and the League met the Vargen invasion force at Enide. Though heavily outnumbered, the Known Worlders carried the day with their superior discipline and weaponry. For the Vargen resistance, it was a devastating defeat. Their valiant effort to drive the offworlders from their planet had been broken, their best generals captured, and the flower of their soldiery slaughtered. The Triumvirate, barely a month old, had survived its first test.
The Threads Unravel
The security of the Known Worlds fiefs on Vargo was assured through a series of successful strategic actions in the months following the Battle of Enide. Among these was the heroic strike in June, 5000 against Montalba, a missile base from which the Mercedes had threatened to hurl atomic death upon the Known Worlders’ fieflands. This threat was eliminated in a joint action by House Decados, the Brother Battle, and the Charioteers guild, working together in spite of the many differences that had divided them in the past.
The elation over this victory was short lived. Later that same month, as crowds gathered to observe a solar eclipse visible from Vargo City, the antinomists carried out a vile ritual that threatened to snuff out Vargo’s sun. Thanks to the timely intervention of the Engineers, the rite was interrupted before it could be completed, thus saving the world from certain destruction. Yet this close call served as a chilling reminder that Vargo faced threats beyond the worldly dangers presented by the Kurgans or the Mercedes.
The spirit of cooperation and common that had marked the Triumvirate’s birth did not last long. Once the immediate threat from the rebels and Kurgans abated, the factions of the Known Worlds began looking to each others’ holdings with covetous eyes. The Triumvirate--the Emperor’s curious experiment in power sharing--seemed weak, ripe for the plucking. Several factions, in particular House Decados, began scheming to carve out their own empires on Vargo, and even to overthrow the Triumvirate and claim the entire world for themselves.
Other developments further weakened the Emperor’s experiment, even as the Triumvirate’s borders expanded through skillful diplomacy. Many worried that the military might of the Hazat granted Alvaro, now Duke, undue power over his fellow Triumvirs. Howe, always eccentric, retreated from public life to focus on his personal research projects and disengaged from the workings of government. Archbishop Teya inexplicably left Vargo on a spiritual sabbatical that some say was orchestrated by the Orthodoxy to weaken the Amaltheans.
As the other factions chafed under what increasingly seemed to be a Hazat-dominated Triumvirate, even Duke Alvaro’s allies began to question his leadership. Alvaro’s romantic attachments had always been the subject of gossip and innuendo, but now seemed to be influencing his decision making in unsavory ways. His brief marriage to a Decados lady of questionable reputation (which ended with said lady’s suicide), and his subsequent pursuit of and marriage to Baron Trowa’s widow, left many to wonder if the Duke was fit to rule.
Yet Alvaro remained popular with the Vargen people, and the Hazat had crafted a formidable war machine on Vargo. Few were willing to risk bringing the Duke’s wrath upon their heads--especially after the Kurgans went on the offensive in the summer of 5002, with an abortive attempt to capture Seren. For the first time, well-armed Kurgan troops had fought in equal numbers alongside native Vargen irregulars. No longer could the Known Worlders count on technical or tactical superiority over their foes on the battlefield.
The rising occurrence of disturbing occult manifestations on Vargo, including the abduction of a prominent Hazat lady by the minions of a demonic cult, spurred public outcry for Church intercession. Yet the Amaltheans remained leaderless and the Orthodoxy failed to rise to the challenge--in spite of impassioned pleas from its clergy on Vargo. The Eskatonics and Brother Battle offered what aid they could to those who would battle the forces of darkness, yet without backing from the Patriarch their hands were tied.
In late 5003, a new Vargen threat arose along the Triumvirate’s vulnerable western frontier. Forces under the command of Prefect Annoura Mercedes, supported by technology of unknown origin, carried out a series of successful raids against the al-Malik and Hazat fiefs. Annoura’s raiders seemed to have the ability to appear and disappear at will, striking a village under cover of darkness and fading away before the defenders could respond, only to strike another village hundreds of kilometers away the very next night.
The Balance Shifts
The al-Malik did not quietly abide Annoura’s attacks against their lands. Having prospered from their investment in their fiefs, they had gradually built up a military force on Vargo second only to the Hazat. Baron Arjoun al-Nasir Vidrakarna Karamdas unleashed the full might of his military against the rebel Mercedes in the west, but not before securing allies among dissident Vargen landholders through canny diplomacy. These turncoat Vargens fought alongside the al-Malik troops as they stormed Annoura’s capital.
As the al-Malik carved out a new empire for themselves in the west, House Hawkwood looked with interest toward the city of Port Lewellyn, in Vargen-held lands along the coast southeast of Vargo City. The Lion lacked the military potential of the al-Malik on Vargo, yet a young knight named Michael Comar Hawkwood believed that a swift surprise attack against Port Lewellyn’s defenders, under cover of darkness, could yield the city to their hands with minimal losses. Duke Alvarex Hawkwood himself gave his blessing to the plan.
The Port Lewellynites, who had believed themselves neutral bystanders in the struggle between the Known Worlders and Vargen resistance, did not take kindly to what they viewed as a dastardly sneak attack that massacred the city’s police force and coast guard in their sleep. Yet the fact remained that their city had been conquered. Duke Alvarex rewarded Sir Michael with the title of Viscount and placed him in charge of all Hawkwood holdings on Vargo, henceforth to be known as the Viscounty of the Southern Reaches.
These al-Malik and Hawkwood victories changed Vargo’s political landscape; the Hazat no longer held a position of overriding dominance among the nobility. In recognition of this shift in the balance of power, Emperor Alexius decided to revise the charter of the Triumvirate. Thereafter, the Triumvir positions would be elected offices with limited terms; the right to vote for these officers would be denoted by possession of special Electoral Keys granted to specific factions--including the al-Malik and the Hawkwoods.
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