Until the day of awakening, this province was comfortable, quiet, and much like the others. There was a rising problem of ghosts, and rumors of lizardmen in the north had trickled down, but the cities and villages here were stable and safe. Then over 45,000 ancient’s reappeared with no infrastructure to support them, and deeply ingrained memories of being the lords of the land. To prevent massive starvation and suffering, they used their superior magic and resources to strip the nearest villages and cities of food and supplies. The population was quickly deemed inappropriate for citizenship as they are virtually exclusively non–magical. The end result was that a massive wave of conquest was launched.
The jungle was slash-and-burn cleared, and farms were planted everywhere it was physically possible to cram them in. This action is called The Great Burn and is one of Field Consul Toxin’s most successful campaigns. 8,000 spell casters created a ring of flames around Shadow of the Sun, then drove it outward. Wizards, warlocks, psions, and slaves fed those flames and controlled the wind, and just swept it outward relentlessly. The skyships dropped soldiers on unsuspecting villages, rounded up the able-bodied adults, stripped all the food, and brought them back to the other side of the wall of flame to be indoctrinated and/or drafted into the army. None of the villages had the power to fight back. Only two cities managed to last more than a day. And no one was able to cross the wall of flames to launch a counter attack against the ancients. The smoke was visible for hundreds of miles as the wall of flame spread from the center of the province outward. It took 4 months for the smoke to get far enough from Rising Sun that the sky looked blue. Even 6 months on, the horizon is red at all times as the Great Burn continues its spread. Toxin plans to halt the flames at the edge of the province, which will be reached in another 4 months.
Thanks to the magic the city can bring to bear and the fertility of the burned soil, the zone behind the flames is already an amazingly productive farmer’s paradise. Those natives who now serve the empire are stunned by what was achieved in so little time. Land that barely supported a few hundred natives, now feeds several thousand and exports a surplus. Areas of wilderness full of monsters and dangerous beasts were burned clear and pacified without a struggle. Ruins lost for thousands of years were revealed as the wall of flame stripped their covering jungle away. Rivers that were choked with ash for months, run blue and clear, and feed lakes filled with fish and fowl. Those who doubted the old stories of the ancient’s power fell silent.
Many in the city felt bad about the brutality of the early days. Most understand the necessity, and accept the reality that the bulk of the natives in this and the next generation simply will not be able to integrate or assimilate into ancient society as anything but third-class citizens. Given a few generations, with magic made a bit more available, things could change. But for now, what is the point of treating them with kid gloves when they have no future anyway? The ancients on the whole do not care to preserve native society. They seek to recreate their empire. The Spreading wall of flame is a physical manifestation of their goals. To see it in such stark terms, stripped of all rhetoric and coloring does make many feel uncomfortable, and question whether it is the right thing to do. Thus far, the majority look out over the vast green fields where hundreds of slaves toil, and say, yes this is worth the short-term hardship.
Outside the Great Burn the natives of the Imperial Province have largely come to accept that they cannot stand up to the ancients on their home turf. The wall of fire is unstoppable and cannot be crossed without powerful magic on the level that only the ancients wield. As a result, the natives are either fleeing for nearby provinces (mostly Goldenrod and 59-hands) or are simply waiting for the ancients to arrive so they can sign up as slaves. Ancient soldiers visit each settlement about 4 or 5 days before the fire reaches it. They demand the city surrender, and offer to assist anyone who is willing to come peacefully. Those who accept are given 3 days to gather their belongings and meet the ancients at a designated nearby location. At that spot, spell casters setup a gate to teleport them to a military encampment where they are indoctrinated as slaves. Anyone who refuses to surrender is simply left behind as the fire will deal with them. There are only battles if the ancients learn that some who wish to surrender are being prevented from doing so, or if a village panics and riots. In both cases, they do their best to capture the settlement swiftly, forcibly enslave everyone, and let the flames handle the cleanup.
There were some large battles early on, but Toxin used his skyship Midnight to make examples out of the troops and then their cities. As a result, no native forces in excess of 300 have been seen in the Imperial Province in the past 3 months. There are constant rumors of a resistance building with the support of powerful native spell casters and some of the cities from Goldenrod. These rumors usually claim the spell casters are affiliated with either the Golden Path or the demon cults of that province. Thus far, Toxin’s publicly stated policy is that if the natives wish to rebel, he will let them as it will simply gather lots of his enemies in one place so he can more easily kill them.
Unlike their normal practices, the ancients are using harsh magic inside the great burn. In these areas they are forcing crops to grow at a massively increased pace, so as to cause three harvests a year instead of one. They are packing huge numbers of slaves onto the farms sometimes as many as four times the manpower as the natives themselves use to farm an equal acreage. The results are spectacular and they have completely solved their food crisis. Unfortunately, the abusive magic is harming the land. The Grand Council estimates that after 10 or at most 12 years the land will be critically damaged. They estimate that they will be able to scale down this aggressive program in 3 or at most 4 years, at which point the land will need 2 years to recover and they can then go to a sustainable level of agriculture. Many of the natives do not believe that they intend to ever stop and this is fueling discontent among the agricultural workers.
Rising Sun (Ancient) 25,000 ancients, 8,000 natives: The capital city of the Ancient Empire. Home of the Grand Council. The Day of Awakening brought the city back to life with roughly 48,000 inhabitants. A little less than half have moved out, either by joining the army, becoming a farmer, traveling to their remembered homes, or being given an estate. The population is still dropping at the rate of about a thousand people a month, but this is slowing down and is expected to stop in another few months. Many natives have been brought up. Most as slaves, but adepts of all walks and tribes are risking their lives to contact the ancients and petition for citizenship. Most are absorbed into the army, but a few are brought to the city. Due to the exodus, the city itself has a great number of empty homes. So far, most people are maintaining two homes if possible, one in Rising Sun, and one wherever they moved to. How, or if, this will change in the future, is uncertain.
Shadow (Ancient) 5,000 ancients, 16,000 natives: The full name is “Shadow of the Sun” but most just call this city Shadow. On the day of awakening the ruins beneath Rising Sun had a population of about 4,000 making it one of the biggest cities in the world. It was a massive ruin that clearly held several tens of thousands at its height. Farmland surrounding the city was still magically enhanced even after thousands of years. The ancients have rebuilt much of the town and brought a staggering number of natives here to fill it up and support Rising Sun. Small boats and platforms are levitated up and down constantly. The natives are learning techniques of craftsmanship they never dreamed possible, making textiles and pottery and metal works of incredible beauty and functionality. Compared to any other native city Shadow is a jewel with citizens living in undreamt of luxury. Compared to Rising Sun proper, it is one-step up from a slum. The outskirts of town are still a cluster of ruins. There is an extensive underground cave network and necropolis that have only been partly explored. The city is thus a series of rings. In the center you have the government, military, and religious centers as always. Surrounding that is the area that was occupied and is now a massive trade district. Surrounding that are a series of estates built by the first ancients to emigrate from Rising Sun to the ground blended with the homes of the first natives brought in as slaves. Then you get to the ruins. Outside the old city walls you hit the farmland the original natives had kept clear of jungle. At the edge that used to be the jungle, now is a second wave of Ancient Estates, these typically by much more powerful and influential nobles. Past those estates farmland stretches out all the way to the great burn.
Economically, Rising Sun is still a parasitic city. It has massive support needs. But as the population drops and Shadow develops, this is changing, and merchants are adapting to life without skyships and setting up reliable ground caravans to the outlying provinces. Regular trade is having an incredible impact on the native villages and towns and they are able to send much more wealth back to the capital than they dreamed possible. Shadow is really the engine around which all this prosperity turns. It is here that the caravans meet. Here that the merchants make deals with nobility. Here that native bands are turned into skilled labor. Here that trade goods are organized and sent where they are needed.