- "Praes could be held, but it could not be owned. There would be no Dead King to reign forever here, no Tenets of Night all must bow to. The Dread Empire would have a hundred thousand Tyrants, all of them lost and grasping beyond their reach until their doom fell upon them. And the Tyrant would rise anew, with fire in their eyes and unquenchable ambition in their stomach that Creation would deny – but oh, the craving."
- ―Black Knight
The Dread Empire of Praes, often referred to as "the Empire", "the Dread Empire" or "Praes", is one of the predominant Evil polities on the continent of Calernia. It was founded on the first year of the Imperial Calendar, roughly thirteen hundred years before the current events of the story. Its capital is Ater.
The Empire uses the Imperial Calendar, with the label AD (After the Declaration) starting with the Declaration and Dread Empress Maleficent I's reign.
The lands now making up the Dread Empire were once several separate polities embroiled in conflict.
The Orc Clans, at the height of their power, raided the Soninke with impunity, enslaving many from their cities. It was the strongest power in what would become Praes. The holy grounds of the Broken Antler Horde was the biggest city in Calernia of its time. The Soninke had several kingdoms centered around what are now the Wasteland's major cities, while to the south the Taghreb occupied the Hungering Sands as nomadic tribes, warring against the Goblin Tribes, the Soninke Kingdoms and each other.
War of Chains
See also: War of Chains
The War of Chains was the war in which the Miezan Empire annexed the polities that would eventually make up Praes, starting roughly 1500 years before the Uncivil Wars. Their first expeditions landed on the shores of Soninke and Taghreb settlements who have previously encountered a Miezan ship that was blown off-course and eventually sent it back.
Having a formalized system of rituals under the Petronian theory of magic and taking advantage of local disputes, the Miezans were successful in defeating and enslaving the human polities. Akua Sahelian believed that had the Soninke focused on improving their strengths instead of removing the deficiencies of ritualistic magic, they would have won the war.
See also: Miezan Empire
Miezan occupation had a tremendous impact on the peoples and societies which they subjugated. It lasted from the conclusion of the War of Chains up to the Declaration, for roughly 2 centuries. In many ways, this brutal union of people under a foreign invader is what gave birth to the Empire. The goblins were least affected, having offered their surrender after a handful of defeats. They managed to retain most of their holdings.
The orcs had almost an exact opposite experience. At the time they were experiencing their golden age, often raiding Soninke settlements and even fighting with the elves of the Golden Bloom. As a result, the foreign empire took a very harsh stance and systematically dismantled every aspect of orc culture. They went as far as razing the holy grounds of the Broken Antler Horde, the largest city on Calernia at the time.
The human experience was somewhat in-between, neither utterly destroyed nor indifferent, they bore their shackles with hatred. Eventually, Miezan began to crumble as the foreign empire thought against the Baalite Hegemony in what would become known as Licerian Wars. By the time the Praesi rose in revolt there was barely a legion of foreign soldiers left to guard them.
Declaration of Empire
See also: Dread Empress Maleficent I
The details surrounding the Declaration are sparse. It dates back to 1324 years before Book 1 and it marks the start of the Imperial Calendar. The woman who would become the first Dread Empress was called Amina, a Taghreb who was the Governor of Kahtan under Miezan occupation. Presumably she was also one of the leaders who led the rebellion that overthrew the Miezans. She would become Dread Empress Maleficent the First and she also named the Empire "Praes", a word from Old Miezan.
Based on the modern Empire, it's tempting to believe that she forged Praes by force, however this does not seem to be the case. The Orcs considered her a friend and it's mentioned she didn't break the promises of Declaration, implying the Declaration itself might be a piece of diplomacy and negotiations. It's assumed she began the construction of the Tower in Ater as well a formation of the Imperial Government.
Her rule came to an abrupt end as the Soninke could not brook the less populous and powerful Taghrebi being in charge. She was killed less than a decade into her reign by Subira Sahelian of Wolof, who took her place and became the Dread Emperor Sinister the First.
Dread Empress Sinistra I
See also: Dread Empress Sinistra I
Attempted around 120 AD, the ritual of Dread Empress Sinistra the First to steal Callow’s weather was an unmitigated disaster and is referred to as the Emprie's “first great national act of lunacy”. It turned the land lived in by Soninke into what we know it as today - the Wasteland. It also exaggerated Praesi overpopulation problem by lowering the amount of arable land.
Praes had food shortages prior to this event, ultimately rooted in the Miezans overburdening their fields with Petronian field rituals. In fact, the fields were already starting to rot from the inside and whilst Sinistra's failed ritual was disastrous, it only sped up the process that was already in place.
War of Thirteen Tyrants and One
See also: War of Thirteen Tyrants and One
Fought between fourteen Claimants, the War of Thirteen Tyrants and One was one of the most brutal civil wars ever waged in Praes. It was triggered when Dread Emperor Vile I tried to solve the Empire’s issue of overpopulation by unleashing a magical plague that would kill two in ten. It severely diminished the Empire's strength and eventually resulted in the Dread Emperor Traitorous becoming the Tyrant.
Dread Empress Triumphant
See also: Dread Empress Triumphant
Dread Empress Triumphant, the First and Only of her name, ruled from 500 AD to 515 AD, conquered most of Calernia, barring the Kingdom of the Dead - her ally - and the Golden Bloom, which was shifted to Arcadia, in only 10 years. Such a feat was unprecedented and has not been repeated since. Among her many accomplishments during her conquest, Triumphant has:
- Used a flying fortress to conquer Summerholm.
- Unleashed a demon of madness on Laure, the capital of Callow, thus killing nine-tenths of the population and ending the Alban dynasty.
- Killed half the population of Daoine.
- Wiped out two cities in anger after the Elves shifted the Golden Bloom from Creation to Arcadia.
- "Killed" one of the Seraphim, sharing this accomplishment of defeating an angel with only one other Dread Emperor: Traitorous.
- Forced the Kingdom Under to pay tribute after she flooded several of their tunnels with demons.
- Slaughtered over nine tenths of the Ratling population in the Chain of Hunger and she only withdrew after burning everything down and salting the ashes.
- Utterly broken the Titanomachy. A fifth of the Gigantes were slain and the rest were left on the verge of death and centuries of accumulated power was depleted. Most of their spellsingers were mentioned to have been massacred by her in the process. The Titan's Pond was created as a result of this fight.
Overall, Triumphant's conquest was perhaps the most brutal, continent-wide slaughter of the peoples of Calernia in recorded history. Culturarly, Triumphant is considered one of the worst calamities to ever befall the continent, equated with the Dead King. Her conquest was one of the main reasons why Praes is considered more than an international laughingstock.
Eleanor Fairfax, the Rebel Knight, leads a continent wide rebellion with the help of the Yan Tei and the Baalite Hegemony that topples Triumphant, around 5 years after she conquered most of Calernia, known as the First Crusade. As her last act of spite, she collapsed the Tower on the heroes that invaded Ater.
Forty Years of Shame and Dread Emperor Terribilis II
Following directly after Triumphant's Fall in 515 AD, the Dread Empire was partitioned into the Crusader Kingdoms, in a period known as the Forty Years of Shame. Apart from Wolof, all of the Empire's major cities were ruled by the crusaders kings, though in reality their authority held no further than a few miles away from the cities they ruled. Neither the Northern Steppes nor the Grey Eyries were conquered either.
The first revolt which followed the establishment of the kingdoms gave rise to the Second Crusade, where Proceran armies pulled down the Tower for a second time and the Wastelander armies were crushed into dust. It was a perilous time for Praesi as a whole but for the nobility in general, with High Lords and Ladies facing extinction. The situation was so dire it gave rise to one of the most honoured Tyrants - Dread Emperor Terribilis II.
The second revolt was led by a man who would become Dread Emperor Terribilis II and it effectively ended the crusader nations after the Third Crusade failed. Terribilis spent his lifetime dismantling the kingdoms, which also included subduing a band of giants by putting a small city on fire. The period ended around 555 AD, after the Fourth Crusade was repelled.
Terribilis II rules the Empire for around 20 years and is overthrown when he tries to impose breeding restrictions.
Dread Emperor Sorcerous
The golden age of Praesi scholarship happens under Dread Emperor Sorcerous. During this period, Praes shifts from the Petronian school of magic to the Trismegistan. Sorcerous tries to invade Callow with a sentient tiger army, which defects, leading to an increase in the intelligence of the Wasteland's tiger population and the tiger being replaced by the lion as a symbol of the Tower.
Sixty Years War
Taking place at approximately 600-660 AD, the Sixty Years War was initiated by Dread Empress Regalia II who invaded the Kingdom of Callow, which was still occupied by the the Principate of Procer. It took around sixty years, concluding "a century and a half after the fall of Triumphant" when Dread Emperor Nihilis I retreated to the Blessed Isle without ever signing a formal peace treaty. It is considered one of the most brutal engagements between two sovereign surface nations, leaving both on the brink of collapse.
For Praes, the end of the war brought forward a century of mediocrity. The cultural shift was highlighted by a song known as the Tyranny of the Sun. Black speculated the continuous failures with no gains dramatically altered the nation's cultural landscape.
The Secret Wars and Maleficent II
See also: Secret Wars
About a hundred years after the end of the Sixty Years War, Dread Emperor Heinous declares war on Keter in an attempt to seize the Serenity in what would be known as the Secret Wars. The three Secret Wars are waged during a period of 25 years, approximately 760-785 AD. An invasion of Ater through a hellgate becomes so imminent that the general that would become Maleficent II calls on a pair of demons to erase most of a Hell and the past two decades. Maleficent II later conquers half the Free Cities and occupies them for two decades before being driven out by Procer and Ashur. She orders the building of Shatha's Maze to protect Thalassina.
Starting with the death of Dread Emperor Nefarious around 1285 AD, the Empire has seen a substantial restructuring of its government and military. Collectively these are knows as the Reforms. On the whole, the Empire's recent history can be best characterised as a series of long-term plans meticulously implemented by Dread Empress Malicia and her Black Knight.
Imperial Civil War
See also: Dread Emperor Baleful
Known at the time as Whore’s Rebellion, the Imperial Civil War was a succession war fought after Dread Emperor Nefarious was poisoned by his concubine Alaya of Satus. It had two sides: Dread Emperor Baleful, emperor-regnant and Chancellor of Nefarious; and Dread Empress Malicia, empress-claimant and the concubine who killed the previous Tyrant.
Malicia was supported by the Calamities, a handful of Orc Clans: predominantly the Howling Wolves and the Red Shields, as well as some of the Goblin Tribes. Eventually she also gained the support of the High Lady of Thalassina.
Baleful’s support was based on the High Seats. In particular, the High Lord of Kahtan - Mawasi Muraqib - was the leader of his armies. He was also supported by Okoro, Wolof and possibly others though as is often the case, most of the High Lords and Ladies were hedging their bets. The war ended in Malicia’s victory and the start of her reign.
See also: The Conquest
The Conquest is the name given to the Empire's second successful invasion of the Kingdom of Callow. It was lead by the Named band known as Calamities roughly twenty years before the start of the series, around 1300 AD. It was an overwhelming victory for the Empire. The campaign itself was a culmination of a decade of planning from the Black Knight in order to end the repeating cycle of war between the Kingdom and the Empire.
The aftermath of the Conquest left a significant cultural impact on Callow. Due to the overwhelming victory of the Praesi the Callowans dealt with the loss by putting them on the pedestal. Of course, it also lead to over twenty years of subjugation under the Tower, with all the political changes that entails. The Fairfax Dynasty was eradicated, the power of the nobility destroyed and a new system of Imperial Governorship was implemented. It was the crowning achievement for the Legions of Terror, in many ways elevating the institution to a previously never achieved status.
As of the end of Book 6, the Dread Empire is engaged in a civil war between empress-regnant Malicia and empress-claimant Sepulchral. Malicia is keeping such state of affairs on purpose, so as to make Praes appear weaker and non-threatening to the Grand Alliance. On a larger scale, the Empire is allied with the Dead King and the Kingdom of Callow, which has been in Praesi control for over twenty years, has became independent. It has suffered significant losses during the Tenth Crusade: Thalassina - one of its bigger citied - was totally destroyed, Nok was sacked and Wolof was contaminated by a demon, killing a quarter of its population. Overall it appears quite fragile though divining how much of it is Malicia's intent and how much is actual weakness is impossible.
Other Notable Events
- The First War of the Dead
- Goblin Rebellions (seven in total), including the one known as the Long War
Ethnicities & Races
The Dread Empire is made up of several different ethnicities and species, including Soninke, Taghreb, Duni, orcs, Goblins and Ogres. With the annexation of Callow, it now also includes Southern Callowans and Deoraithe.
Praes seems to be inspired by Africa, as denoted by names of cities, ethnicities, and languages as well as the dark-skinned Soninke and the sand-colored Taghreb. Plus, the names of Praesi human ethnicities reference African groups, as Soninke is a West African ethnic group, Wolof are a people form Northwestern Senegal, and Taghreb might be a reference to Maghreb, the name of the Northwest Region of Africa (which is an Arabic territory). Also, the language used by Praesi Soninke is called Mthethwa, which was an African confederation of Eastern Southern Africa.
Praesi Duni, who are paler-skinned due to being descendants of Callowans that settled in Praes during the age of the Crusader Kingdoms.
Government & Politics
The ruler of the Empire is called the Dread Emperor, Dread Empress or Tyrant, a title that is also a Name. There are seven High Seats - one for each of the large cities - to whom lesser lords are sworn.
While nominally Tyrants have absolute power (and at times this has been true), unless they have monstrous personal power or Praes itself is facing an existential threat, there are practical limits to their power. The High Lords and Ladies have a substantial amount of influence, meaning that to some degree the Tyrant is forced to pander to them or risk losing their control over Praes. They are also kept in check by concerns of popular uprisings, as sufficiently angering the general populace could lead to rebellion and even the appearance of heroes.
- War College
- Legions of Terror
- Eyes of the Empire
- Imperial Bureaucracy
- Imperial Mages
- Imperial Orphanages
- Imperial Governors
Also known as the City of Gates. It's the capital of the Empire as well as the seat of Imperial Bureaucracy. Usually ruled by the reigning Tyrant, currently Malicia.
The High Seat of the Sahelians. Currently ruled by Sargon Sahelian.
Ruled by High Lord Jaheem Niri.
Ruled by High Lady Abreha Mirembe, now empress-claimant as Dread Empress Sepulchral. Her appointed successor is Isoba Mirembe.
Once ruled by the Yeboah family. It was deposed and the Sesay were installed. Currently ruled by High Lord Dakarai Sahel.
Formerly the biggest sea port in Praes, it was destroyed in the Tenth Crusade. Some scholars believe it to be the first Praesi city. It was ruled by the Kebdana, with the last ruler being Idriss Kebdana
Led by High Lady Takisha Muraqib. According to Wekesa the Warlock, it may be the oldest Praesi city.
Currently ruled by a goblin called High Lady Wither. Until its capture by the Confederation of the Grey Eyries, it was ruled by the Banu.
- "'The Empire usually waxes and wanes between three and eight villains at any time,' Akua said. 'Though only four Names are considered to be part of the fabric of Praes.'
I didn’t need her to tell me which. Dread Emperor, Chancellor, Warlock and Black Knight. The four roles that’d been at the core of the Empire’s way of life for centuries, Yet I was now learning that there were much more nuances to those roles than I’d believed. For one, not all Names came with every generation. Praesi highborn usually saw which had come and which had not as an indication of what should be expected from a reign."
- ―Book 6: Vestibule
The Dread Empire is one of the three human nations that has a common number of Named associated with it.
See also: Dread Emperor/Empress
- Dread Emperor Abominable, the Thrice-Struck
- Dread Empress Atrocious
- Dread Emperor Benevolent I
- Dread Emperor Callous
- Dread Emperor Foul I, the Frugal
- Dread Emperor Foul II, the Forthright
- Dread Emperor Foul III, the Linguist
- Dread Emperor Heinous
- Dread Emperor Imperious
- Dread Emperor Inimical, the Miser
- Dread Emperor Irritant I, the Oddly Successful
- Dread Empress Maledicta I
- Dread Empress Maledicta II
- Dread Empress Maleficent I
- Dread Empress Maleficent II
- Dread Emperor Malevolent I, the Unhallowed
- Dread Empress Malevolent II
- Dread Emperor Malevolent III, the Pithy
- Dread Empress Malignant I
- Dread Emperor Malignant II, the Particularly Petty
- Dread Emperor Malignant III, also known as Dread Emperor Revenant
- Dread Empress Massacre I
- Dread Emperor Nefarious
- Dread Emperor Nihilis I, the Tanner
- Dread Emperor Perfidious
- Dread Emperor Pernicious, the Imperiled
- Dread Empress Prudence I, the Frequently Vanquished
- Dread Empress Sanguinia I, the Gourmet
- Dread Empress Sanguinia II
- Dread Empress Sanguinara
- Dread Empress Rancorous
- Dread Empress Regalia I
- Dread Empress Regalia II
- Dread Emperor Reprobate I
- Dread Emperor Sinister
- Dread Empress Sinistra I
- Dread Empress Sinistra II, the Coy
- Dread Empress Sinistra III
- Dread Empress Sinistra IV, the Erroneous
- Dread Emperor Sorcerous
- Dread Empress Sulphurous, the ‘Technically Correct’
- Dread Emperor Terribilis I, the Lawgiver (also known as the Thorough)
- Dread Emperor Terribilis II
- Dread Emperor Traitorous I
- Dread Empress Triumphant
- Dread Emperor Venal
- Dread Emperor Vile I
- Dread Emperor Vindictive I
- Dread Emperor Vindictive II
- Dread Empress Vindictive III
- Chancellor (currently outlawed)
- Assassin. Current holder unknown