Flintlocks & Fireballs
Arakesh is fertile. The city is sited on rich, red, river-valley earth; as long as it has stood there has been enough to eat: barley, onions, grapes and apples from the fields, and fish from the river. Up until the start of the revolution, the well-irrigated farmland in the Arakesh valley was the breadbasket of the Empire.
Arakesh is prosperous. Its citizens have spread throughout the Empire. The art and culture of ancient Arakesh is still held up to be a relic from a golden age.
And Arakesh is old. You might think that the Empire is old, but next to Arakesh it’s a bawling child. In the enormous halls of history beneath the city’s towering stone ziggurauts there are basalt columns detailing the names of ancestor upon ancestor upon ancestor, from the founding of the city to the present day. Being able to trace one’s roots through changing years and dynasties is a matter of pride.
Arakesh and the Empire
Which is why Arakesh reacted with so much horror to the rise of the Sigmund Empire, sons of brigands and barbarians with mere centuries to their name. But Arakesh, as we have said, is old; and with age comes complacency. For a long time its parliament thought they would be able to soften, corrupt or outmanouevre the Empire; and then they found that they had been softened, corrupted and outmanouevred themselves; and then there was nothing to it but to open their gates and allow Imperial forces in peacefully. Better that than to risk warfare in the streets of the oldest city in the world; every ruler of Arakesh is a link in a chain stretching back centuries and the responsibility that comes with that honour is to maintain that chain for future generations. So Arakesh changed with the times, as it has done before. Occupation became the next page in its living history. Arakesh adopted the Incarnationist faith, opened trade routes, and became another vassal of the growing Empire.
These days, Arakesh is the centre of the Rebellion, and the only city the rebels have been able to take. They’re doing a pretty good job of holding onto it, too: the land outside of the valley is mostly desert to the north and marsh to the south (in fact, it joins onto the Barrier Wastes in several points). It’s difficult terrain to move an army across, but small guerilla forces can survive there well. So far, the Empire haven’t been able to break through, but that isn’t stopping them pouring more and more men into there. The city itself is being run efficiently by the rebel council but on a perpetual state of high alert, well aware that it would only take one Imperial infiltrator with a bomb to destroy a hundred years’ worth of knowledge. At least there’s plenty to eat, but the Imperial blockade means medical supplies and especially arms are running low.
This works both ways, though: while the rebellion is running low on fighting supplies, every week that they keep the rebellion active is another week’s drain on the Imperial stores. The mines of Ramaslu and Praxia depend on imported food. If they were to shut down, the Empire would find it’s most powerful weapons impossible to operate. The Empire, if (possibly planted?) rumours are true, aren’t far from introducing rationing – if that happens, riots are sure to follow, making the rebellion almost certain victors. But that, of course, depends on them holding off a better equipped, more organised and experienced army for just a few weeks more…
The Arakeshi capital is no more than a few miles from the fighting – the centre isn’t under direct bombardment, but the outskirts have become the front line, too sheltered for artillery to attack, but impossible to advance from. The Empire has thrown countless waves against the rebel defences, but with very little success – they’ve taken only a few buildings, but every single one is a definite blow to the rebellion, and puts the empire closer to destroying the Library.
The Great Library is the centrepoint of Arakesh, and is often seen as the centre of the rebellion – despite being of no particular strategic advatage, the Great Library is popularly seen as the single greatest repository of human knowledge – which rebels see as an icon of independent thought, and the empire sees as an idol to the Senescent beliefs. Neither side wants it so much as they can’t allow the other side to hold control of it.