The Avenan Empire
Motto: Our People Our Pride
Language: Avenan Common, Gnomish
Current Head of State: Jennor Kaudus, 12th Duke of Besiktas
Ethnic Groups: 100% Human
Government: hereditary Duchy
Patron Gods: Pelor, Ehlonna, Fharlanghn
Year Founded: 480 Before the Scourge
Besiktas is a typical Imperial city, ruled by a heriditary nobility lead by a Duke. The current duke – Jennor Kaudus – is the 12th in his line. He is the descendant of an Imperial cousin installed as the head of state after the conquest of the city by the Empire in 294 BS.
Typically, Kaudus would be assisted by a bureaucracy similar in structure to most other Imperial cities, with a master-at-arms in charge of the militia, a Lord mayor and Lord Magician in charge of law enforcement and magical education and infrastructure, etc. but all individuals qualified for such positions were wiped out during the last days before the population of the city retreated into the fortress. As a result, Besiktas is currently an absolute monarchy with no checks on Kaudus’ power and no state infrastructure. The population is small enough that all citizens currently have direct recourse to the duke himself in the case of disputes.
Before the Scourge, Besiktii soldiers were considered some of the finest infantry in the Empire. The large population of the city supported a sizable professional army that focused on aggressive, flexible tactics in massed combat. On open ground, there are few forces in the world that could stand on foot against an assault from the Besiktii army. Against cavalry, only the dwarves of N’Dango are rated as highly.
Of particular note was the importance of archery to the Besiktii military. By law, all Besiktii males over the age of 13 were (and technically still are) obliged to practice with the longbow for four hours every Sunday afternoon. This practice is widely credited with the typically broad shoulders of Besiktii men, and results in the city’s archery being finer than any other. Every Besiktii soldier carried a longbow – from the highest ranking noble to the lowest peasant spearman. The ubiquity of the bow gave Besiktas a vast advantage during the opening moves of any battle, allowing them to rain death down on opposing forces before full engagement.
It may also be what allowed the city to last as long as it did without building a caer, since the city was able to fight off many attacks simply by virtue of the weight of metal it was able to put in the air.
Besiktas governed a vast region stretching from the eastern edge of Aksumi lands all the way to the gates of Andurrial on both sides of the mountains. Though the city itself was the only large population center, the land it ruled was almost entirely farmland, making the region the breadbasket of the Empire. Small towns and trading villages dotted the landscape. Before the Scourge, Besiktas boasted the largest rural populated of anywhere on the continent, as well as one of the largest urban centers.
Now, though the city itself still stands mostly intact, the farms and hamlets that once covered hundreds of square miles around it have been reclaimed by dense pine forest.
As a kingdom that derived its prosperity primarily from farming, Besiktas worshiped the pastoral aspects of Pelor and Ehlonna. The god of sun and the goddess of the woodlands watched over the duchy’s farms and ranches, granting fertile soil, easy winters, and sun and rain each in their part. Also of great import to the city and the trading villages throughout the territory was the god Fharlanghn, who watched over the vast stretches of road crisscrossing the land, and protected the travelers thereon.
Today, the only god regularly worshiped by the survivors of the city is Pelor, who watched over them during their long isolation from the life-giving sun.
As a center of agriculture and trade, Besiktas spoke Avenan Common even long before their conquest by the Empire. Before the Scourge, there was also a dialect called Besiktii Common that was spoken just as often as the Avenan dialect, especially outside of the city.
Dwarven and Gnomish were also common, given the city’s location between Belix and Andurrial. Elven was also spoken by some of the rural population.
Besiktas was a highly rural, agrarian region, with a single large city near its center. The vast majority of the population lived in the central city (and now the entire civilized population resides there). Prior to the Scourge, the common outside opinion of the Besiktii was that they were primarily countryside hicks, distrustful of strangers, ignorant, and often racist. This was also the opinion held by most Besiktii city-folk of the farmers and ranchers who worked the vast stretches of land around the city.
Unfortunately, the image of the Besiktii country peasant were not entirely without merit. Religious fanatics and con-men were common, and as a result strangers were viewed with suspicion, cult activity was somewhat common, and there were even rashes of witch burnings and other tragedies in the decades leading to the Scourge.
The city of Besiktas, on the other hand, was one of the most metropolitan in the world. Despite its small size relative to Aksum (its nearest large neighbor), it gathered its own share of wealth serving as a trading hub between the dwarven kingdoms and the human cities in the south, and the gnomish and elven kingdoms of the north. It also had a strong martial tradition that allowed it to build one of the most powerful conventional armies in the world prior to its conquest by the Empire.
Before the Scourge, Besiktas based its economy on the export of spices, grains and other easily transportable foods, as well as its position at a trading crossroads between the northern and southern halves of the continent.
Currently, given its extremely depleted population, Besiktas maintains a barely functioning subsistence economy.
Though it was once a fairly metropolitan city, Besiktas always supported a majority human population, with most non-human races represented by transient populations or very small native groups.
The human and non-human populations were both largely wiped out during the first days of the Scourge. The few survivors are universally human.
People, Organizations and Locations
Jennor Kaudus, 12th Duke of Besiktas
Baron Kaudus is the current head of the city, and the last in the Kaudus line of succession. He has not declared an allegiance with either the Emperor or the Council of Regents, nor does he intend to. His focus is entirely on reviving and protecting his city, and integrating the newly arrived survivors from Aksum into a functioning society.
It is unknown precisely when the region that eventually became known as Besiktas was settled, but scholars have discovered evidence of elven habitation in the area as far back as two thousand years before the Scourge. The fertility and alchemical makeup of the soil hint that the region may have been particularly favored by dragons at the time, and that the elven population were either slaves or clients.
In any case, the first recorded habitation of the current Age was a group of elven settlers from the east, who had migrated out of what are now Ta-Den lands. For several hundred years, this small group maintained a fairly peaceful existence supported by hunting, gathering, and the limited agriculture typically practiced by small elven populations. It is from this period that the name of the region arises – be’siktaa is an ancient Elven word meaning “ashen soil.”
Sometime around 1000 BS, the first human settlers arrived, establishing small farming, trading and mining communities in the region. For some time, humans and elves lived peacefully alongside one another. Ancient stone circles are common in the region, as are old-growth forests that still bear the hallmarks of careful maintenance; both indicate that human and elven cooperation was common. Some recovered Elven writings from the time indicate that Ehlonna and Fharlanghn both may have spent some time in the region interacting personally with both human and elven worshippers.
However, the relatively rapid growth of the human population, as well as the growing trade between Andurrial and Belix eventually caused several communities to merge into what eventually would become the capital city of the region. The establishment of a trading hub spurred emigration from the larger cities in the south, and in 480 Besiktas was officially founded, with the druid Eleman Oryn as king.
Over the next several decades, the city grew rapidly, quickly expanding beyond the original walls and into the forest beyond. The concept for the city imagined by the druids, farmers, and nature-worshippers who had founded it had been to build a metropolis along the elven plan – a city that grew within and alongside nature. But as the population exploded and wealth came along with it, the druidic nobility found itself in conflict with the population at large. A series of increasingly restrictive laws intended to slow the growth of the city and limit the import of nonnative building materials led to a coalition of merchants and traders hiring a small army of Faroese mercenaries who quickly deposed the ruling family. The third king of Besiktas was also the last druid to sit on the throne.
After the coup, with a new merchant king upon the throne, Besiktas quickly began snatching up as many resources as it could, hungry to expand its trading footprint, and desperate to house thousands of increasingly wealth citizens.
In 445, desperate for direct access to the sea, Besiktas annexed a section of Belix Bay just north of Aksum. The annexation included the seizure of a number of Aksumi ships and their cargoes. So began a rivalry that would eventually lead to more than a hundred years of warfare between the two nations. During this time, Besiktas developed a powerful conventional military optimized for fighting the extraordinary magical threat of their rival. Besiktan infantry gained a reputation for both mass combat and guerilla warfare unmatched in the west.
The simmering and occasionally explosive rivalry between the two cities ceased in 291 BS when word came that the Avenan Empire was on the move, conquering territory almost\ as fast as it could move. Both Besiktas and Aksum withdrew their forces from the line of forts and palisades that had been established between the cities and prepared for the inevitable Imperial invasion.
Unfortunately, the century of war with Aksum did nothing to prepare Besiktas for the Empire. Despite the unquestioned strength of the Besiktii military, they had no defense against the flying ships of the Empire; the extraordinary mobility of the Imperial forces confused and confounded the Besiktii commanders. The city was conquered in less than a month, the king killed, and a new Duke installed.
Despite the speed of their conquest by the Empire, the native intransigence and provincialism of the average Besiktii evolved into a simmering rebellion that continued up until the Scourge – and even after. The city was easily infiltrated during the early days of the Scourge by demons and other evil creatures largely because of the few Besiktii nationalists fanatic enough to consider alliances with anyone (or anything) that promised a chance at independence. It was insurgent forces that introduced the first intelligent undead to the city, and from that it was a swift downhill tumble that led to the city being the largely abandoned and overgrown ghost town it now is.