Chapter 1

The Assertion War had only lasted a mere five years, yet it would remain in the memories of generation after generation. It wasn't a great display of military strategy, nor was it a crusade against evil. It left no far reaching effects, just the devastation of its immediate Empire.
The Assertion War would be remembered for its sheer suddenness, swiftness of achievement, and manic barbarity.
The War was omitted from history books and never taught to subsequent generations and it was very rarely spoken of, but it was always there.

Azoria was the Empire. It was the seat of government, administrative capital, business and finance nerve centre and home to the Azorian Military. It was the city of Art as well as Science and people travelled from miles away and for many months to study within its schools and universities. This was Azoria, and had been for centuries, ruled as a republic under its direct, hereditary Defenders. The noble family of DeGaise had flourished and produced sons to continue the royal bloodline for as long as anyone could remember.

Azoria itself was a city unparalleled anywhere in any realm for its beauty. It was a vast, sprawling metropolis that was almost completely square. The reason for its unique, and contained geometric shape was its location. The huge capital city was situated in the massive Sapphire Lake; a lake so vast that some of it was uncharted and the only reason it couldn't be literally classed as a sea, or even an ocean, was because it was landlocked. The city was in riding distance, over precisely constructed bridges, to the continent of Plaus. Three of these bridges spidered out from three of Azoria's geometric edges to connect to strategically advantageous points on Plaus. Each bridge came from one of Azoria's Quarters, the Third Quarter being un-bridged, or 'blind'.

The Defenders DeGaise had lived, and succeeded under a family of advisers as old, if not older, than themselves. If the DeGaise family was the inspirational, figurehead, heroic rulers of Azoria, then the family Athula were its commercial and economic backbone.

Some say that the preservation of the DeGaise bloodline became a paranoid necessity that led to genetic unsoundness, some say that Loram DeGaise was, in fact, the illegitimate son of his father, Hap, and a diseased brothel wench, some say he was influenced by power hungry priests, some say it was Loram who influenced the priests. Whatever the reason, a maniacal, insane streak was born to the family DeGaise and it lay dormant in Loram DeGaise for almost fifty years, until the death of his father, Hap.

Defender Loram had ambitious ideas for Azoria, many of them fantastic, many of them impossibilities and almost all of them unaffordable. Libraries and schools were torn down to build tributes to the DeGaise family, namely Loram. Laws were passed ordering all teachings to portray Loram, and his ancestors, as immortal gods imbibed with magical and mystical powers and the military divisions of Azoria were quadrupled in anticipation of any factions who dare disagree with the Defender.

It is said that an incomplete tapestry, woven in gold, and silver and encrusted with priceless jewels sent Loram into a frenzy. The work of art had been specifically ordered by him and was to depict him sitting on a golden throne surrounded by god favoured creatures and wearing a jewelled crown of the deities. He ordered that the money to fund his unfinished tribute be found within days and when it couldn't be, he had all six craftspersons beheaded in public by the sword.

This incident was a step too far for Guill Athula who requested his release from the employment of the insane Defender. Loram refused and became further enraged. No one was quite certain what actually turned Loram's interests to the finances of this very successful family but Loram impounded all the Athulan available money by force, outcasting Guill, and his family to live in poverty on the outskirts of the city. Loram was convinced the family Athula had been accumulating wealth at Loram's expense for years and although Guill was exiled to poverty, Loram mounted a persecution assault that wiped out Guill, his wife, three sons and four grandsons.

More and more people were obviously becoming frightened and sickened at their ruler's tyranny which perpetuated Loram's insanity and paranoia. He set out to eradicate the family Athula, all their known business associates and contacts and anyone at all who sympathised with them in any way, shape or form. The Azorian quadrupled army was put to use very effectively in The Assertion War.

Such was the insanity and barbarity that the victorious party in the War, the DeGaise government and Loram DeGaise became soon unpopular by the very Military that had supported them. Most soldiers simply left the service and left Azoria. With no army to stop them or to do his bidding, Loram was much weakened. The Azorian Military officially disbanded itself only two years after the end of the Assertion War, and Loram lost his grip on reality all together. The government swiftly reinstated itself to prevent total anarchy that was bound to follow such drastic events and the people of Azoria demanded the life of Loram DeGaise. The Azorian government refused. They stood steadfast in the belief that to execute their insane Defender, or worse still, hand him over to the people for them to do it, would put them on an equal despicable par to the man himself. Governor Spence Toller appointed a very charismatic man by the name of Herod Bonetti to persuade the population that Loram's suffering would be more effective if he lived within the confines of his own, now very heavily guarded Palace, and his own insane mind.

The Military was gradually rebuilt with soldiers dedicated to the government, and who swore never to let tyranny rule again.

This would be remembered by the Azorians because this dramatic and bloody chapter in their history lasted eight years only in total. Some say the period is ongoing, as Azoria will take an epoch to overcome the scars left in the aftermath of the Assertion Wars. Families fled their homes and were scattered all over the Empire, including the surrounding Plaus wasteland that consisted of acres of woodland alternating with great plains of barren and hostile land with only a few recognised travel routes. Azoria itself recovered remarkably well due to its 'sweeping under the carpet' tactics. No records survived of the War and it was never taught in schools, or discussed in public. The old military of Loram's day had disbanded and exiled themselves but the new military was still on the lookout for any remnants of that time, any reminders of that time.

Reminders came in many shapes and forms, including surviving Athulan supporters. What of them? Would they be allowed to simply return and voice their discontent? Perhaps demand compensation for their injustice? Would they look upon a Azorian government simply as a DeGaise puppet body? Would they demand re-elections? Maybe even the death of Loram DeGaise, as their urban counterparts had? It didn't take long to regard the former supporters of the Athula family as prospective rabble-rousers. They could seriously compromise the whole, still growing, framework of Azoria while it was still in its infancy and the anarchy they'd tried so desperately to avoid would be upon them.

The law that stated that it was illegal to support the family Athula wasn't amended straight away for fear of 'unrest'. Such dissidents, however, were not to be harmed, when found. There were any amount of menial but necessary jobs to be done in rebuilding the city that the Athulans should gratefully take while they thought about how lucky they were to have survived. For the less compliant there were still the jail-houses and the arenas, in a reformatory capacity of course. The words 'slavery' and 'imprisonment' were all but taken out of the Azorian vocabulary.

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