Sea Power History
History of the Obrasian Empire and Hydra Court
The exact pre-history of both the Hydra Court and the Obrasian Empire are rooted in ancient high-magic flying cities. The fate of the original inhabitants of the floating islands on which the empires are built are unknown. The islands fell from the skies during some arcane cataclysm when the spell-engines that kept them aloft all failed simultaneously. The cause some say was hubris angering the god(s) of magic, other say planar astrological alignment, and still others whisper stories of betrayal and lost love. Most of the smaller islands, mere townships or villages, fell to the ground like comets, blasting apart as they crashed into the earth or sea. The largest which landed in the ocean managed to survive, either due to lingering magics, or the fact that they were honeycombed with tunnels and sealed chambers. The fates of the original residents of the flying cities are unknown, but the resulting islands were discovered by mariners and re-settled quickly by various seagoing folk. New cities and civilizations were built atop the ruins of the old, in part with riches gleaned from exploration of the under-cities.
The two greatest of the floating cities were Polluxis and Castoria. They were among the first to be discovered and settled, and of all the cities that fell, they were the only ones which landed upright, leaving considerable architecture intact, if mysteriously vacant. It was from these hubs that colonization of the other floating cities was seeded. The other cities architecture was largely destroyed and they exist on the bottom of the previously floating cities. These cities had to mine deep to finally break into the lowest chambers of the previous cities, which gave rise to the Produndian saying “sometimes you’ve got to work hard to even start at the bottom.”
As the floating civilization developed, the diaspora from the two primary cities began to diverge culturally. The Profundian islands, as governed by Castoria, developed extensive trading routes, finding many partners among the coastal communities. They relied less upon reaping the hidden wealth of the lost civilization under their feet. Research into the lost high magics that kept the islands afloat lead to the discovery of the Mythallars, the singular engines of arcane power that once carried the cities through the clouds. Although they were much diminished from their former days, they seemed to possess some deep profound intelligence, albeit of a fundamentally alien nature. This lead to the development of monastic orders, whose primary duty was to pool psionic energies, in order to communally guide the Mythallars to steer the islands along slow courses through the seas. This advance further aided the Profundian island-nations in their trading enterprises. The secret of guidance was kept closely though, and not shared with their Obarasian neighbors.
Meanwhile, the islands that fell into the region surrounding Polloxis became known as the Obarasian islands. These islands grew more insular and fortified, sometimes turning to naval actions and even piracy to maintain themselves. They mined more deeply into the chambers below sea level for resources, but soon discovered a horrible but inevitable truth; their island-city homes were sinking. A gradual loss of a few inches a year began to accelerate, until it could no longer be ignored. Whether due to their extensive disturbance of the chambers below their cities, or the lack of psionic support for their Mythallars, no one knew; but their time was limited. In a desperate gambit, representatives from Polluxis and several of the other Obarasian islands turned to the Iron Council in Andratan. What was offered in recompense is unknown, but it is clear that the sinking islands received what they needed to survive; the technology to draw breathable air and power from the sea itself. Once the preparations were complete, the islands apparently destroyed their faltering Mythallars, and turned their backs on the daylight of the surface world. These sunken cities became the Obarasian Empire, whose reaving-vessels range widely beneath the waves, stealthily sinking trading vessels for plunder, even making raids upon coastal settlements at times. Little is known about what their civilization or society is like today. Even the exact number and location of the Obarasian cities is a matter of some debate.
With the departure of their brethren, the seven remaining surface island-cities formed an alliance as the Hydra Court, though each has its own governance and character. The role of the monestaries in the governance varies, though each island has a single order which maintains the Mythallar. Castorian has a monarchy and an extensive array of nobility, with the Castorite Order keeping well removed from the central governance. Still the largest and best-developed of the Hydra Court, representatives of the other surface cities meet in ruling councils on their shores.
Sancellian is the island-nation on which the initial discovery of the monastic techniques for bolstering and controlling the islands was made. The Sancellian Order was thus the first to gain preeminence, and seeded each of the other island monastic orders. As the founding members were themselves adventurers and delvers of the ancient ruins, the Sancellian Order was more worldly and practical than its later iterations, growing into a byzantine, hierarchical network rife with scheming, spies, and political pressure. It is widely rumored that the seniority-based advancement is often moved along by assassination. In any case, the island of Sancellian has no governance other than the Order, which dominates most aspects of life there.
Less lawful in nature, Bravios was distinguished from its brethren by having significant iron and steel resources, leading to the development of superior smithing techniques. Bravosii blades gathered some fame even on the mainland, and drew many swordmasters to settle upon the island. In some quarters, duelling in the streets became common, for honor, money, or simply survival. In recent years, the decadent nobility that ruled Bravios was toppled by an uprising of commonfolk, as lead by the rising middle class. As part of this revolt, the monestary of the Bravosii Order was also attacked, in order to secure control of the island. Currently they are occupied and ruled by the proletarian revolutionaries, with any surviving temple guards killed, exiled, or forced into hiding.