Imperial Survey: Yathrib
Excerpted here is the Emperor's survey of Yathrib.
The Last Bastion
Salutations, O Emperor: though I am new among your Company, I am the proudest of those who call themselves Questing Knights. When my father and I arrived on your throneworld after years of long-journeying, we found our hopes made manifest - in your court the Pancreator was still supreme, and from your vassals our homeworld was delivered from the infidel.
Let me give you my tale. I am Joscelin De Moley, son of the Count Joscelin of Yathrib, the world where the Prophet beheld the Holy Flame. In the nine hundredth year of Yathrib's exile - the year 4993 - my father beheld a new, bright star amidst the Fading Suns, and heard an old man in the square preach that this spark meant hope for mankind. Our straits were dire indeed, for the Kurgan infidel had driven back the reflective faithful into a fraction of what they once held, but despite the need for every fighting man my father gathered a small body of men and took flight to seek the source of that reborn sun.
I traveled with him, as did the blind man Tireseus and a company of oathsworn men. Long were our journeys - we fought our way from Yathrib into the lands of the Kurgan, and from there into stranger space amongst Lost Worlds until at last we journeyed through the wild worlds of the Vuldrok to Leminkainen. The first Yathrib knight saw Known Worlds sun again in 4996, where we were swiftly brought to your court.
Oh, that day - that happy day - is burned into my mind forever. Here was a revelation, a promise that mankind could fight back the night. My father raised a force of Crusaders to return along the long night roads to Yathrib while I remained behind, swearing as your man amongst your Phoenix Company.
What follows is known history - my father's crusade arriving at the last hour, the Engineers who accompanied him reopening the gate to Aylon. Faithful Flavius raising a great host to regain some of what was lost, and the state of war since between infidel and faithful that ranges across the skies and sands of Yathrib.
I know in my heart that valor and faith will win the day, but if you are to rule this rediscovered world you must understand. I present to you, then, this Imperial Survey, conducted on Your Majesty's behalf, so that you may understand this holy planet so long forgotten and so recently thrust into the center of the Known Worlds. To accomplish this task, I have spent the last year traveling across the planet, even into Kurgan and Sathraist lands, accompanied by a clever minstrel recommended by your Sir Chamon Mazarin, a wise if eccentric monk, and the most foolhardy Charioteer I have ever met to get us to and from these difficult places alive. I owe this volume to their skill and bravery, and most of all to the grace of the Pancreator who saw us all survive.
Sir Joscelin De Moley
Company of the Phoenix
Yathrib is a dusty world with scant resources that lies on no appreciable trade route - and yet in 2723 it was the site of the most important event in history, the Prophet's revelation of the Holy Flame. In an instant, Yathrib became the spark that would save mankind.
Early in the Diapsora, Captain Henry Pym of the Pan Arabian Mercantile Alliance - PAMA - discovered a dusty, habitable world one jump away from Aylon. PAMA's pilots were among the best explorers in the waning days of the First Republic, but the zaibatsu sold most of its discovered systems to other corporations, retaining for itself only out-of-the-way worlds with few resources. At the time, PAMA's rivals laughed - the richest rewards were in colonization and exploitation, not exploration and discovery - but they were not privy to the true agenda that underlay PAMA's discoveries.
Unbeknownst to even the senior management of the zaibatsu, the line pilots who made up PAMA's ranks were riddled with Sathraists, and they subtly wormed their way into the heart of PAMA's decision-making - seeking refuges for their dark religion, places where they could base their cults away from prying eyes. Yathrib - like Mazdak, later linked to it in history - was once such world, and the PAMA colony at Discovery Bay on the northeastern continent of Pymeria became a haven for Sathraists that would last nearly fifteen hundred years.
The PAMA base at Discovery Bay was not the only colony on the planet, however - with Old Urth jammed to the brim, PAMA sold colonial shares to tens of thousands of people who settled - despite the rather inhospitable conditions on Yathrib - first in the southern islands, called the Antipodes because they lay almost exactly opposite Discovery Bay, and then along the coasts of the main continent of Asher. The "share colonists" had hard lives - much of Asher was desert, and a general lack of support from PAMA meant they lagged at least a generation behind the great metropolis planets of Criticorum or New Istanbul, but they lived honestly and simply as farmers, herders, and fishers, manufacturing mostly local craft goods to be exported off-world.
The Coming of Zebulon
In 2772, a traveling priest named Zebulon came to Yathrib on a mission of discovery. Local accounts say he arrived with the snows and spent a year on Yathrib, accompanied some of the time by his friend and pilot, Paulus. Everyone agrees he was seeking something; some suggest it was answers to the mysteries of the Ur, while others suggest he was driven already by visions. The Church officially has no position on this time, relegating it to 'blessed myth', but on Yathrib it is commonly believed he landed at Akko and made a slow circuit around the Shining Gulf until he came to the empty wilds now occupied by the holy city of Revelation. There - on September 17, 2773 - he beheld a vision of the Holy Flame that changed the course of history.
His first sermon was given only to Saint Paulus, and then - together - they left Yathrib without returning to any town or village, bound for Aylon where the Prophet would begin to preach. He never returned to Yathrib in his lifetime, though pilgrims began to come soon after he began preaching - and so did the zaibatsu and the nobility, fearful of what the Prophet's message.
Even as pilgrims flocked to sites the Prophet is said to have visited during his time on the planet, like the shrine at Leon where a lion knelt to Zebulon or the ford in the River of Joy where he is said to have bathed fearful magnates sent men-at-arms to Yathrib to stomp out this banned religion. Several early martyrs were killed during those early years, often at the hands of PAMA, who were particularly afraid that this new attention on Yathrib would draw attention to their Sathraism.
The Ukar Wars
The Ukar Wars changed all those equations, however. One jump from Aylon, Yathrib was far too near to Ukar Space, and the Ukari warlords feared the influence of the new religion spreading among the humans. They struck Yathrib in 2855 as part of their initial surprise assault on humanity, and held onto the world for "Forty Years of Night" until a human fleet was able to force its way past Aylon and liberate the holy world in a ten-year crusade from 2895 until 2994.
The forty-year occupation of Yathrib left scars; it drove many of the original pilgrims into the wild, mixing fervent faith with the frontier attitude of the original share colonists, while it drove PAMA off-world for a time. The Ukari stomped out traces of the Prophet's church and forced early worshippers underground - literally, in many cases, with a tradition of underground chapels in some ancient places that remain venerated sites to this day.
The Second Republic
During the Second Republic, Yathrib bloomed: particularly in the early years, it was a destination for pilgrims, with every year bringing more pilgrims than the last. The great city of Revelation - the Holy City - grew up as a teeming metropolis around the spot where the Prophet received his vision of the Holy Flame. As the Second Republic matured the flow of pilgrims began to level off, but the rise of resort cities on the subcontinent of Chemosh and "package vacations" that took visitors to the holy sites before a relaxing week at the beaches in the Pearl Cities kept the pace coming.
While the Church tried to moderate the increasing commercialism, many bishops became coopted against their better natures. Most Holy Archbishop Alexander the Builder was perhaps the epitome of this; while all agree he had the faith at heart, he opened Yathrib up to commercial sponsorship in order to expand the starport at Pilgrim's Landing and build new two vast new ports. The first, Alexandrun, was at the White Oasis, linked by a dozen monorails to the holy city, while the second was a floating 'Saint Paulus' Port' modeled after New Istanbul's Port Authority anchored in the Shining Gulf south of Tyche.
Towards the end of the Second Republic, these ports became more and more important: the rise of the Fading Suns phenomenon led to a new flood of pilgrims to Yathrib, where the sun - like Holy Terra - seemed less affected. There, pilgrims hoped the putative closeness of the Holy Flame might keep them safe against the end times.
The Fall brought chaos to Yathrib. The vast computer systems that managed the itineraries and travel of the millions upon millions of pilgrims on planet failed as communications networks and starports were swiftly overwhelmed by travelers trying to reach their loved ones and their home. Shipments of food from offworld faltered, and the mechanical farms and vat-factories that sustained the pilgrims ground to a halt. The wealthy sealed themselves inside their bastions where they could - Alexandrun, isolated as it was by desert, was one place of refuge, as were the libertine resorts of Chemosh - though in some places the mob still reached the wealthy.
In the midst of this, the Sathraists made their move. PAMA had long-since faded away, but the respectable upper-middle-class town of Discovery Bay still had Sathra at its heart. With the orbital defenses now shut down, Sathraist pilots took control of the skies, appropriating the system defense fleet and beginning to swiftly assert control over the planet. The Sathraist's ultimate goal was unclear - perhaps they saw Yathrib as the heart of a nascent empire, or perhaps they were just under the sway of the end times.
At first, the Sathraists seem to be winning; with the Known Worlds distracted by fighting everywhere, communication was cut-off and the weakened Church had few allies. Then, however, a few brave knights began to fight back. Led by Sir Godfrey de Moley and Sir Malcolm Xavier Justinian, this ragtag brotherhood swore an oath to keep the pilgrim roads open in 4053. Gathering like-minded warriors to their holy cause, they began to beat the Sathraists back, and over the course of the next several decades they cleansed the skies and established a beachhead on Yathrib around the Holy City of Revelation. The Apocalyptic See gave Saint Godfrey - leader of the brotherhood - title as Guardian of the Holy City, and he set to reclaiming the lands around the Shining Gulf from the chaos.
Godfrey's cousin Count Jackson liberated the city of Akko from a mob under the sway of the mad preacher Cavil the Pure, who died a suicide when he realized his hold on the mob had been broken, and from Akko the band of knights - officially founded in 4061 as the Poor Brother-Knights of the Prophet, but already commonly called the Brother Battle - began to systematically cleanse the Sathraists from the planet. As the order coalesced into a fraternity of warrior-monks, the leaders began to recruit faithful nobles to fight as allies, promising them lands around the gulf. These fifty fiefs - granted by the Statute of Amity in 4068 - became the nucleus for faithful law and order on Yathrib.
The final battle for the Prophet's world took place in space, and at the conclusion of the fight the Brother Battle turned their space cruiser's guns on Discovery Bay, the Sathraist stronghold. In 4073, they plague-bombing it into oblivion. Even now, the ghosts of those ancient toxins make Discovery Bay a poisoned, unsafe place filled with a dozen different ill humors. Even as the bombs began to fall, the Brother Battle pursued the Sathraists to Mazdak, where Saint Malcolm was killed and Saint Godfrey maimed. Count Jackson became the new leader of the order, while Saint Godfrey returned to Yathrib to rule as Master of Akko and Guardian of the Holy City.
Despite seeming victory, however, the Sathraists were not all dead. Before the bombing of Discovery Bay, many of their leaders had fled to Chemosh, taking shelter among the hedonistic nobility there, and once the fleets of the Brother Battle had turned elsewhere they began to plot. Waiting for Saint Godfrey to journey off-world for medical treatment, they struck at the jumpgate in 4093, disabling it and sealing Yathrib off from the wider Known Worlds.
A New Dark Age
The jumpgate's sabotage thrust Yathrib into shock. The chaos of the Fall, which had only barely been contained, burst back into riots, and the next century was spent restoring order on the planet. That century gave the remnants of the Sathraists time to regroup; combining forces with the nobility on Chemosh, they set up the Sathraist Kingdoms, even as the faithful reasserted control over the Shining Gulf and the Pearl Cities. The scattered settlements of the Boreale were left largely to themselves, while the Antipodes became a place for a sort of cold war between the Sathraists and the Universalists.
With most of the Brother Battle having relocated to Mazdak, the order drew back and fortified their citadel on the Mount of Apples in Akko. The Guardianship passed into noble hands in the person of Saint Godfrey's sister's son Baldwin de Moley, who left the Brother Battle so that he could marry Margaret Justinian, Saint Malcolm's cousin and another former knight of the order. As Guardian, Baldwin leads a coalition of nobles and priests to restore order, dying finally as an old man in campaigns to put down rebels.
His son completed the task, and by 4211 Baldwin II was an old man ruling as first among equals over a loose coalition of nobles and priests. Besides Baldwin's minor House De Moley, two of the Ten emerged with prominence from the chaos: House Justinian, many of its members drawn to Yathrib by faith, firmly entrenched in Alexandrun and the Shining Gulf, and House al-Malik, rising to rulership in the Antipodes by virtue of long and close association with Aylon. Houses Windsor, Gesar, Hawkwood and Hazat had lesser roles in the Pearl Cities, while the minor houses Dextrite and Masseri converted to the faith of the Sathraist Kingdoms.
The five senior partners in planetary rule were Baldwin, as Guardian and senior member of House de Moley, the Orthodox Archbishop of Revelation, the Brother Battle Master of Akko, and the senior counts from Houses Justinian and al-Malik. For the next several hundred years, this quintet was the core alliance guiding planetary government in a fight against rebels, Sathraists and others.
As the centuries marched on, many of the nobility on the planet - already given to faithfulness - began to donate lands to the Church. Powerful clergymen came to control many of the fiefs in the Pearl Cities and the Shining Gulf, and these Exarchs or Prince-Bishops became political powers in their own right. Other scandals plagued the nobility; in 4611, Titus Alecto, rich from slave plantations in the northern jungles, crowned himself King of Asher with the tacit support of the Brother Battle, who had become rich with their own adventures in the northern jungles. Alecto ruled until 4540 when a coalition lead by Maxwell Justinian unseated Alecto; in the ensuing chaos, the Alecto family was outlawed, with its surviving scions absorbed by House Gesar. Maxwell extracted the city of Akko from the Brother Battle for their role in supporting Alecto, and indeed this was the start of a period of recession for the Brothers, one accelerated when Maxwell gained in his late age the title of Guardian of the Holy City from the 'boy count' Jaffray De Moley.
With the Lordship of Akko and the Guardianship in Justinian hands, a sort of detente began to build for the next century and a half between Akko and Revelation. The Justinians - supported by the lords of the Cote-Leon with more distant support from the Antipodes - stared across the gulf at the Prince-Bishops, who in turn had the support of many of the Pearl Cities. Sporadic border wars with each other and with the Sathraists kept tensions high until the All Saints' War broke out in 4756, lasting for twenty years before the Brother Battle and House De Moley reasserted themselves, settling first the Justinians and then the Prince-Bishops. By 4800, Bertrand the Pious of House De Moley had solidified his position in Akko and turned his attention towards the Sathraist kingdoms, beginning a series of Long Wars across the great desert that lasted on and off under his successors until 4874.
The remnant Known Worlders had long suspected that the Sathraists had keys to some night road out of Yathrib space; during the Long Wars, they seemed to be able to maintain a level of technology with fresh parts and other supplies the forces of the Holy City could not match. These suspicions were right: the Sathraists had a route out past the Kurgan world of Rukh, where they had for a millenium sneaked through the Lost Worlds. Their secrecy could last only so long, however, and in 4874 the veil dropped as a Kurgan armada exited the jumpgate into the holy system.
Eight hundred years after the closing of the gate, Revelation's space forces were much diminished. The Brother Battle had principal command - a testament to their early history as a coalition of fighter pilots - from the Castrum, a monastery-station in geosynchronous orbit above the Holy City that had been used to direct traffic and provide orbital defense during the Second Republic. Most of the Holy City's ragtag space fleet was based aboard the station, where it saw irregular action against Sathraist fighters and made cautious patrols to the few colonies still remaining in the broader solar system. When the Kurgans attacked, the Castrum became the center of a short and ill-lived defense. Infidel forces drove straight for the station, boarding it and beginning to cut their way through. The Brother Battle commander attempted to trigger the self-destruct but was killed by Kurgan assassins who had secretly infiltrated the venerable fortress.
With the skies over Revelation now in Kurgan hands, the infidels began their invasion. The Shining Gulf had long relied on the Castrum for space protection, and so as the Castrum began to fall the Archbishop of the Holy City called together the traditional quintet of lords and clergy. A decision was made: the monorails that linked Revelation to Alexandrun and the Pearl Cities would be pressed into service to move as many of the anti-space defenses of those provinces as possible to the Gulf to prevent the Kurgans from conquering the Holy City immediately.
The so-called 'Spoiling of the Pearls' was a success, but at a price: the sudden presence of a forest of pom-pom lasers pointed up at space turned the Kurgan armada away, but the Pearl Cities now lay undefended, and so the Kurgan warfleet began to land there instead. This was the first of the Halaba Wars, from the Kurgan word for conquest -- the Halaba of the Pearls lasted nearly 15 years, resulting in the eradication of the remaining Hazat lords and ending with the Conversion of the Gesar, when Count Tengri Gesar knelt to the Kurgan khaghan at Alexandrun and converted to their faith.
Further conquests followed; now ensconced at Alexandrun (Iskandretta, in the Kurgan tongue) the Kurgans sent expeditions first to the Boreale and then to the Antipodes, sweeping away the few defenders in the former and fighting a short but bloody conflict in the the latter until the al-Malik count of Hydessos struck the Peace of Edessa, in which the Antipodes would pay tribute to the Kurgans but be allowed to keep their faith. The greatest of the Halaba Wars, of course, was fought over Revelation, which beat back three sieges in 4892, 4908, and 4919 until the Kurgans were able to bring orbital bombardment to bear in 4924. After the ensuing evacuation, the remnant Known Worlders began to shell back in a continuous set of wars broken only briefly by the Peace at the River of Joy, which created five refugee camps for those who had been driven out of the Holy City and set guidelines for their administration.
By 4940, however, war had resumed again after a Church-inspired rebellion in the Pearl Cities, and constant battle between the now-reformed Crusader State of Akko and the Kurgan sultanate at Iskandretta was the norm for the next fifty years.
By the latter part of the 4980s, the remnant forces were losing. The fall of Tyche in 4980 opened the Shining Gulf up to Kurgan naval operations, and much of the east bank of the gulf was in Kurgan hands. Raids across the River of Joy routinely scourged Known Worlds remnant lands, and while there were moments of glory - like the 'Golden Season' of 4986, when the Lord Geoffrey de Moley briefly recaptured Revelation - each year the Known Worlds remnants became less and less able to hold on to what they had.
In 4992, disaster truly struck. Count Rutger Mortimer, the Lord of Auberry, took Kurgan gold and allowed an invading army under the leadership of the Kurgan general Jalalkan to cross the River of Joy. Jalalkan detached a force to besiege Joyeaux, allowing more Kurgans to cross there, and then began a slow march towards Akko. The Cote-Leon fought back hard, but the tide had turned.
As the Cote-Leon became a battlefield, the brother of the Lord of Akko - Count Joscelin de Moley - had a vision, seeing a sun suddenly born in some distant vista. Consulting with a blind priest, he gathered a small group of brave souls and commandeered a starship, heading to find this reborn sun. Those left behind believed him to be giving up, but they redoubled their effort to make the Kurgan advance a slow and brutal fight down every mile of the Cote-Leon.
Meanwhile, Count Joscelin and his companions found themselves in Kurgan space, where for two years they had an odyssey among the stars. Finally making their way through barbarian jumplanes to Leminkainen, they found the Known Worlds they had been for so long cut off from. They were whisked to the court of the new Emperor Alexius on January 1, 4996, where Count Joscelin knelt at Alexius' feet and swore fealty in the name of his brother. Swiftly, brave knights pledged their swords, and a hastily-assembled armada began to retrace Joscelin's laborious steps through barbarian space.
When Joscelin's Crusade emerged back in Yathrib space, Akko was in dire straights: Jalalkan's host was at the gates of Akko, and it seemed that the last days of faith on Yathrib had come. Joscelin's forces fell upon the Kurgans from space, and Count Joscelin himself fought hand to hand with Jalalkan. The Kurgan general struck him down, but the crusaders won the day, pushing the Kurgans back over the River of Joy.
The west bank of the Shining Gulf lay in ruins as the Kurgans retreated, however. Most of the local lords had died in the fighting, and the new crusaders settled down to claim lands in what was now being called the Crusader State of Akko. Contact was made with the al-Malik in the Antipodes, and they - like others - began to rebel against the Kurgans, opening new fronts in the war. Engineers who had traveled with the crusade made their difficult way out to the jumpgate, and in 4998 they were able to open the road to Aylon, suddenly making the link to the Known Worlds much less tenuous. More crusaders piled in, establishing a beachhead in-system in the Jewels of Hatay, and then in 4999 a second, greater crusade arrived.
Prince Flavius, most faithful of the Royal Houses, had been gathering soldiers since Joscelin knelt before Alexius, and when the gate reopened two million men began to mobilize. They reached Aylon in 4999, causing consternation in the al-Malik worlds, and then poured through the gate. Some of the forces diverted at Hatay, but most of them landed at Fallingfire on the southern island of Ydessa, where they established a great citadel and helped the Antipodes cast off the Kurgan rule. Then, with Hydessos liberated, they traveled by ship north to Akko to join the fight at the Holy City.
By 5000, the Flavian Crusade had petered off, replaced by a full Imperial legion entrenched in the ruins of Revelation: but the dark days of 4994 were past. Salvation had come, bearing the flag of the Reborn Sun, and now these new crusaders had a Holy City to reconquer and a long-forgotten land upon which to stamp their destiny.