I took a simple premise for my most recent novel: what if an Imperial legion (not nation) was cut off from its main world? What would they do without support, without their homeworld watching them? That’s the basic setup of A Tyrant Comes’ featured race, the Kadran. But this is not Rome. And Legion is not the right word to describe their basic political model in the common tongue.
Legion translates to wandering nation or nation of nomads in the common tongue. And at the core of this concept, lies the struggle of a people who fight, kill, save, and die because they have no real origins, no real homeland.
They are a people without a past.
But they were strong, divided, and restless. Two hundred years of small tribes, low level chieftains and cheiftainesses duking it out for territory, to regain what they lost. A phantom pain until she appeared. She is their Cyrus, their Romulus.
And with her Nine Companions, a twenty-year-old horned girl of no particular origin, no particular tribe, united a people through sword, through affection, and a simple belief: we will find our origins and we will bring our fury, our joy, and our sorrow upon the stars.
Her name is Corianna Mor and she bound her people in the Great Chain. A chain that gave them purpose, a chain that brought hope, sorrow, and ruin upon the cosmos for a thousand years. She fights, she explores, and they deify her like a war goddess. And one day? She dies on the battlefield, no one knows how or why. But they say she died smiling, content her law saved her people.
And the Kadran honor her, as they honor her Companions and those who were like her. Conflict drives them. This doesn’t mean mindless violence or murder. Arts, sports, philosophy, religion, the basic tenets of a pragmatic and nomadic people are rooted in a basic mantra. Judgement comes for the wicked and the just.
They fight other warlords, other fanatics, other worlds. They face the One-Eye dragon worshipers, and are give pause by their adversaries. Some join them, leaving their Legions. Slowly, the chain rusts. When one of the greatest Legions to rise in a hundred years invades a world they traded with, they were allies with, the Chain snaps. They are beaten, they are outplayed, and a great bird of prey doesn’t peck their corpse. No, join the flock, see what lies beyond the Wastes, it squawks. Take this western land, this free state. And the chain starts to snap. Many rebel, many question Corianna’s chain.
The phantom pain lingers. Who are we? Where is the promise of our origins? Without the Law, without our need to drive forward, who are we? Who are the Kadran? And slowly the dream dies, the Legions grow restless. The age of the Kadran war machine, the salvation army, crumbles for the next three hundred years.
A century goes by. A young uprising mercenary fights across the worlds, whispers of her lineage, her father, the head of their faith. Nashandra Aresh comes. She goes to the world where the Kadran tasted true defeat. Two years go by, is she dead or alive? She comes back. She comes with purpose, clarity, and a century later? Conquest!
But this is no ordinary conquest. No, this is the last conquest, the last salvation, against the machine, against the promise. No one will ever know what Nashandra Aresh’s real aim was and is when Orenos is sealed.
And for the next forty years, a lonesome Outrider, the youngest Archoness in history, her shadow, and all their supporters will decide the fate of their people decades hence.
Thus begins the last days of a crumbling dream bound by a young girl’s shining dream.
The point of the above stylized blurb on a setting is to illustrate the complexity for why empires form. Science-fiction and fantasy sometimes do a poor job of illustrating why empires come to be. The traditional reasons? Land, opportunity, accident, all are reasons why they form. First a fiefdom, then a kingdom, and finally an empire. But to say that these models can’t form from some place of of idealism, some nobility? It isn’t to say to condone Imperialism. In fact, the very model is tested and deconstructed within the novel itself. All political systems have their time in the sun.
We live in a democratic republic world with a mixture of communist regimes, religious kingdoms, and other dying model. The Republican model I doubt will last more than another century. That’s why in SFF, it’s important to explore the other side, to find out why this Empire, this Imperial model exists. So we can examine it, so we can critique, so we can compare to the other models. Just food for thought.