Years ago, the Empire had been at the height of its power, the rule of the Emperor completely unquestioned. Much of the day-to-day business had been decided in the Imperial Center, with all of the Empire subordinate to the decrees issued from there.

That had been fifty years ago, before Emperor Zeren IVís machinations. Zerenís predecessor, Zeren III, had been the one who had led his armies against the rebellious natives in the Southeast Province, finally pacifying them after years of uprisings and warfare. With that, the Imperial Legions suffered from a lack of use Ė while they still saw action in quelling peasant uprisings, natural fortifications Ė the sea in the west, the vast swamps in the east, and the numerous mountain chains in all other directions - made continued Imperial expansion effectively impossible.

Zeren IV, however, had been unwilling to be left in the shadow of his brilliant predecessor. He wanted the Empire to keep expanding, bringing new lands and people under his rule, and he wanted his place in history well guaranteed.

So, under Zeren IVís orders, the Imperial Legions set out to colonize the mountainous area to the south. Thousands and thousands of soldiers marched into the harsh lands, making them their new homes. Thousands died, unused to the harsh climate. Zeren swore that the forces of nature could not stop the Empire from growing, and swore that the Legions would keep expanding this new Southwest Province until they would pass to the other side of the mountain chain.

For a while, nobody had protested, and everybody had followed Zerenís orders to the letter. But over the years, discontent began to grow. As the expansion proceeded slower and slower than had been promised, people began to whisper that the Emperor had an unhealthy obsession, one that would end up destroying the Empire if it kept up.

More and more troops kept being sent to the effort, weakening the legions in the other Provinces. Peasant uprisings began growing more common and harder to quell, and the other Generals began voicing their discontent, quietly at first, then more loudly when it became clear that their protests kept going unheard.

The final blow was when an uprising in the West Province beat all the legions sent to suppress it. The rebels marched to the capital of the Province, forcing the General in charge of it to flee. A few days later, he returned with reinforcements from the neighboring Provinces and crushed the rebellion, liberating the capital.

Nevertheless, the rebellion had dealt a severe blow against the Empireís might. Word of the event spread, and numerous uprisings kept popping up all around the Empire. The Legions were ill equipped to handle them all.

It was at that point that the Generals in the High Council demanded Zeren to retire. Zeren refused, calling the Generals traitors and summoning the legions to his defense.

The battle that was waged in Treknistia had been a bloody one. Zeren had his elite legions defending him, but they were no match against the combined might of the armies from every other Province. He was defeated and put to the sword.

Upon Zerenís defeat, the Council decided to drastically cut down on the Emperorís powers. While the General of the Imperial Province still had more influence than any other, it was nothing like complete control. All decisions made in the Council were now put to vote, and the Emperor only had one vote, just like the others.

The Imperial Legions, formerly completely under the Emperorís direct control, were reorganized. Only troops from the Imperial Province would be called Imperial Legions, and they were the only ones that remained under the Emperor. All other Generals placed the troops in their own provinces under their own control, independent from the Emperor. In order to secure the Empireís safety, some crucial areas were allowed to remain under the control of the Imperial Legions.

As much of the training had so far been given in the Imperial Province, the Emperorís legions remained the best in the whole Mandean Empire. To help the other Generals defend their interests, Elite Legions were stationed in the capital of every Province, helping guard against possible rebels. Since these units reported directly to the Emperor and the High Council, they were theoretically the first unit that would take action in case a Generalís actions would be deemed treasonous. In practice, the Generals kept a close eye on them to make sure nothing of the sort would ever happen.

The other entity that was kept independent of the Generals was the Messenger Corps. As they were, together with the Elite Legions, the only group that was allowed to own and use horses, it was considered too risky to give them under the command of different Generals. Furthermore, because they had to deliver messages throughout the Empire, turning over their control to many different authorities instead of a central message center was considered unwise.

As a result of the decline of the Emperorís powers, the Provinces began to gain considerable autonomy, as there no longer was one central power controlling their actions. The Generals began to make deals with each other, agreeing to help each other vote down proposals limiting their actions. Soon, the High Council stopped even trying to make resolutions it knew had a very small chance of passing.

And so, the Empire had fallen low.

Celren swore quietly.

He had become the General of the Imperial Province Ė the Emperor Ė fifteen years ago, when Denin, the man installed into power after Zerenís death, had passed away due to a disease. Raised on the tales of the old, strong Empire, Celren had been disgusted to see how the Empire was being run these days.