The failures of leadership manifested by the Kalirion Dynasty, led by Kaiser Ayreon IV, whose administrations lent undue credence to Elianist ideologies, left the vast and sprawling Benacian empire of Shireroth singularly ill-equipped to contend with a series of calamities including the Elwynnese Civil War, the White Plague, and the emigration of a large portion of its former ruling classes, particularly from the territories of Modan. Shireroth, having invested heavily in financing a global military-industrial complex and the largest armed forces of any of the remaining great powers of Micras, for the purpose of resisting Jing and Bassarid aggression during the years of confrontation, and burdened with a sclerotic and overly hierarchical system of governance, effectively a neo-feudal and corporatist abomination of a command economy, was unable to pivot adroitly towards the reforms and reorganisation that would be necessary for peacetime development.
The inability of the ruling classes to continue operating the machinery of state with any measure of precision or alacrity was finally exposed by the feeble response of the Imperial Government to a minor but bloody rebellion in Shireroth's Inner Benacian puppet state, which had cost the lives of countless Imperial bureaucrats and "advisers", most notable of whom was Lady Cherokee, a prominent Elianist and member of the high nobility. The decision to meekly accept this atrocity, and Inner Benacia's repudiation of the Raspur Pact, and to limit retaliation to economic sanctions and the sealing of the frontier, left Imperial garrisons trapped in Inner Benacia, and merely served to embolden the Laqi insurgency to the point where it became a low intensity "holy war" against the Imperial Republic.
The situation in 1671 AN
Having survived the White Plague, and having formally suppressed the last remnants of the moribund federal system, the Imperial Republic was, on paper, a highly centralised polity, with vast powers accrued to the Imperial Advisory Council and the Steward, over whom the Kaiser exercised only the power of appointment and dismissal. The ruling Steward's authority was enhanced by coalition majorities in the Folksraad and Adlesraad, the bicameral legislature of Shireroth's multi-party democracy, while at the same time the presiding committee of the high nobility - heir to the ancient title and dignity of the Landsraad - was quiescent following the departure of most dissident lords with the Modanese Migration.
Control over the tumultuous and perpetually squalid capital, Shirekeep, was ensured by the Shirekeep Garrison, a composite force built around the Palatini Corps, the elite imperial guard which consisted of eight heavily reinforced legions supported by auxiliaries, that was largely independent of the administrative control of the army and outside the operational jurisdiction of Benacia Command. Because of the chequered history of the Palatini Corps, a strong security apparatus, answerable only to the Imperial Household, was set up to protect the sacred person of the Kaiser and other critical officials (Sentinels) and to monitor office holders with an open mandate to purge where necessary (Crypteia). The city's contingent of cudgellers (police) - the City Guard - had also evolved to become a paramilitary force answering to the Prefect of the city. This latter force, notorious for skirmishing with the garrison, had been tamed somewhat by incorporation into the Imperial Constabulary answerable to the Ministry of State.
The Ministry, formed during administrative reforms of the late 1660's out a merger of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Military Affairs, exercised administrative direction and oversight over the so-called pillars of control which allowed the metropolitan centre to exercise control over the vast imperial periphery, these being:
- Control of Force (Imperial Forces / Imperial Marshals)
- Control of Finance (Office of Bounties and Factorage)
- Control of Information (Panopticon / Imperial Postal Service / Benacian Data Network)
Officers of the Ministry of State were represented at every level of these pillars of control, creating an integrated "power-vertical" through which the Imperial Government could make its influence felt even down to the bailiwick or village level.
With the dissolution of the states the top tier subdivision of the Imperial Republic was the dominion, an agglomeration of counties, bailiwicks, and cities, within a distinct and usually contiguous territorial jurisdiction. Dominions, headed by a Viceroy, enjoyed strictly limited autonomy but in practice were entirely dominated by the structures of the power-vertical - the size of provincial militias being formally limited to 6,000 men-at-arms meaning that even the most independently minded viceroy would be hopelessly outgunned by the Imperial garrison within his dominion. Moreover Viceroys had become subject to a further administrative oversight, which over time had come to look more akin to direct control, by Lieutenants of the Golden Mango Throne (Lord Lieutenants) appointed to each of the subdivisions by the Steward. Lieutenants had especial responsibility to oversee the local implementation of of Imperial Law and Policy and had received a detachment of Crypteia, supported by personnel seconded from the Palatini Corps, around which to form a rapid reaction force with which to crush any instances of dissent or sedition discovered within their jurisdiction. Under these conditions the remaining Viceroys, with the notable exception of dissident Verionists in Elwynn's high north, had become timid ciphers, capable of only working within precisely defined and narrow remits whilst being wholly terrified of undertaking any action not expressly sanctioned by higher authority, lest the dreaded accusation of disobedience be levelled against them, followed swiftly by a sudden and nocturnal tribunal held before the inquisitors of the Judex.
The independence of the judiciary from the mechanisms of central government, although theoretically still upheld in the Charter, had largely ceased by this time, mostly on account of slow drift of legally trained professionals from the inns of court towards the chambers of the bureaucracy where the pay was almost as good and the threat of assassination by discontented plaintiffs was markedly reduced.
(All times are in Shirekeep time)
- Benacian Stabilisation Force stood up. Stated objective to relieve IBFOR contingents trapped behind frontier in post-revolution Inner Benacia.
- Fall Luikur deployment orders put into motion by Benacia Command. General staff relocate to Merensk.
- Provosts report that desertion rate amongst Imperial Forces exceeds 10% for the first time since War of Lost Brothers.
- Process of assigning personnel and equipment to operational formations assigned to Benacian Stabilisation Force begins to look more and more like the wholesale occupation and or looting of Imperial facilities by Raspur Pact aligned factions within the Imperial Forces. Attempts to raise the alarm are made by commissary officers attached to the Field, Frontier, and Riverine Armies. The placement of Raspur Pact aligned staff officers serving dual duty in offices concerning the administrative function of the Imperial Forces helps to effectively stifle the attempts of those on the ground to warn the Office of Defence and Security that something is seriously amiss. In spite of this some warnings are received by the civilian overseers of the armed forces. Shirekeep however remains silent.
- Kaiser Ayreon IV, his concubine Lady Isidora IV of Octavius-Teleni, and children Salome, Kir, and Kian, go to Kezan on a working holiday.
- Elianist People's Party in Amokolia, the Northern Reaches and Akordionnyr, vote to split from the main Elianist People's Party to join the pro-independence Elwynnese Popular Front umbrella party.
- Elianist People's Party, a government party in the imperial government, criticizes the move, calling Elwynnese independence anachronistic. But by now, the government majority in the Folksraad and Adelsraad have been reduced to a minority in both chambers.
- Elwynnese Popular Front delegation in the Folksraad moves for no confidence in the Steward (Soraya Octavius-Parini). Receives significant support by opposition parties for a first reading of the motion in the Folksraad. Decides not to make a similar motion in the Adelsraad, as the party wants to portray the possible downfall of the Steward a "common man's act" (instead of the nobility's).
- Second reading of the motion in the Folksraad. No debate. Motions of confidence are quite common in the Folksraad but never before have they gone past the second reading. This time they did.
- Kaiser meets Kalgachian representatives in Kezan.
- 09:30. Third reading of the no-confidence motion in the Folksraad.
- 09:32–11:45: Folksraad debates the motion.
- 11:47: Folksraad votes on the motion.
- 11:48: Speaker Marius Macaby (Imperial Order) announces the result of the vote: that the Folksraad has no confidence in the Steward.
- 12:05: Speaker Macaby meets with the Lord Speaker of the Adelsraad and the Prætor of the Landsraad (Tinker Sprocket) to discuss the new government formation process. Kaiser is informed.
- 12:30: Kaiser calls the Steward to inform her that he will relieve her of her office.
- 12:48: Kaiser issues Imperial Decree 1193, relieving the Steward of her office but tasking her to remain acting Steward until the Landsraad has elected a new Steward. Kaiser decides to return to Shirekeep to meet with the Prætor and Imperial Advisory Council. Concubine and children stay in Kezan.
- 19:03: Kaiser returns to Raynor's Keep. Calls for an IAC meeting for the day after.
- 21:00: By now, Kaiser has had dinner with his catamite (Jaap van Pijpervale). The dinner does not go well. van Pijpervale contravenes protocol and departs from the Imperial immediacy without prior leave, returning to the sleeping quarters of the adept pages in the Dirâsat-an-Nûr. The Kaiser's fury is relieved by a mild sedative administered by the court physician.
- 21:52–23:11: van Pijpervale finds consolation with a coterie of Elw page boys who, ultimately, prove to have something interesting, which they have long contemplated, to reveal to him.
- 22:45: The Kaiser, with the effect of the sedative wearing off, is reported to have worked himself into a "heightened emotional state". After refusing offers of consolation by the adept pages attending upon the Imperial immediacy at the appointed hour, the Kaiser dismissed his retinue before retiring to have a two-way conference call with Emperor Nathan II of Natopia (the Kaiser's husband), hosted in the Keep's holographic projection chamber. The Kaiser's personnel security detail is excluded from the projection chamber during this time. The breach of protocol is swiftly reported to the Chamberlain of the Imperial Household, herself absent attending to her functions as Count-Palatine of Kezan at the time.
- 05:30: An attack carried out on Shirekeep-Foley Aerodrome by unknown assailants utilising a mix of imperial and allied equipment, uniforms, and gravimetric vehicles, throws the capital into pandemonium. The Evocati legion, garrisoned at Fort Foley, is the first to respond whilst the remainder of the Palatini Corps and the City Guard enact their deployment orders for placing the old city and Raynor's Keep into lock-down.
- 07:00: Hostile raiding force retires, after destroying eleven F-8 Shrikes on the ground. As the site is secured a panopticon node is discovered to have been tampered with. Running a system diagnostic on the device without isolating it first from critical networks results in the sending of a data spike to the central data repository housed beneath the Esagila of Raynor. The resulting system cascade crashes the Benacian Data Network, crippling those Imperial communication systems not carried on the Natopian-based satellite communication grid utilised by Benacia Command. Within minutes the knock-on effects are felt right the way across Benacia as the operating systems of government facilities, hospitals, factories, and power stations are all knocked out of action by the network crash.
- 07:10: The tram and metro system of metropolitan Shirekeep ceases operation, compounding the delays caused by the throwing up of additional security checkpoints around the city. Reports of violent jostling by angry commuters, escalating into disturbances requiring the intervention of cudgellers, begin to trickle in from around the old city.
- 07:32: Rumours of fighting in and around the barracks of the Saznan Szironeï in Sakatopolis following reports of an attempted mutiny being thwarted in the preceding hours concurrent with the attack on Shirekeep-Foley Aerodrome. The city's Crypteia Rapid Response Group is dispatched to investigate.
- 08:19: A local communications network is created utilising old radio sets taken out of storage in the subterranean portions of the Kelb of Raynor's Keep and Hoennese electronic communications devices belonging to individual officers - flouting a long-standing Imperial ban on the use of the latter for official purposes.
Across much of the Imperial Republic the continuing loyalty of a given dominion or county was determined well in advance by whether the appointed Lieutenant, designated Imperial representative to the subdivision, had remained at his post or absconded during the months preceding the moment at which the fracture of the state apparatus had become undeniable. In the county of Malarboria, a vast region encompassing the old Minarborian provinces of Lachmeren, Lywall, Novodolor, and Porolia, the situation had begun to unravel almost immediately upon the success of the Inner Benacian revolution becoming widely known. Under these circumstances, the Lieutenant, having endured much in the way of abuse, resentment, and outright resistance from the preceding regime, was amongst the first to depart Sansabury for the east, departing with a retinue of the Imperial Constabulary trailing in her wake. The restive, and ever watchful Lach, quiescent in the province since the repressions of the Prince of Modan, took this as their opportunity to renew their struggle for independence. It was under the cover of confronting this new insurgency that the General Staff began to concentrate reliable personnel, equipment, stores, and command & control assets, around Sansabury, Merensk, and Šlomxala between the fifth and eighth months of 1671.
Sanilla and Amarra
The disarray and power vacuum during the Kalirion Fracture presented an ample opportunity for the Sanilla and Amarra Liberation Army for Democracy to seize power. Working from a base of operations in Nee, the SALAD quickly took control of the coastal regions of Amarr, including Fatehpur Sikri and Thanatos island. Encountering little to no resistance, and with support from the local oppressed classes and castes, the SALAD-controlled territory expanded northwards. Its stated nationalist goals for Sanis and Amas gave it a power base within the majority population. The SALAD faced its first real opposition when it reached Base 3-C close to the border with Highpass. Instead of attacking the base head-on, the SALAD encircled it and cut off all supply routes. The base was also hit by numerous desertions from native personnel. Heavily decimated and cut off from supply and communication with Shirekeep, the base surrendered within weeks. All personnel were allowed to leave. In southwestern Lachmodan and on the islands of Z and Azarea, local uprisings among the Sani and Ama populations led to those areas passing under the control of the SALAD.
On 7.VII.1671, the leadership of the SALAD declared independence from Shirekeep under the name Democratic Federation of Sanilla and Amarra.
The rapid fracturing of the Duchy of Modan & Malarboria, a gift from Ayreon IV to Natopian Emperor Nathan II, prompted the Emperor to make a direct claim to the core territory of the duchy and areas of significance to both his family and Natopian history. The entire duchy split apart at its seams almost instantly: the RIB encroaching in the west, the Black Legion asserting control in Malarboria, Laqi revolutions in Amarr, and the sudden resurgence of Yardistan's thirst for annexation. The Duchy of Modan & Malarboria was thought to be a secure and personal investment in the prosperity of Shireroth, Natopia's longtime ally. Natopia had come to rely on Shireroth's military acumen and tradition. The sudden loss of almost all of the duchy, and the possibility of a dramatic or total reduction of Shirekeep's power, was a direct threat to Natopia's security and Nathan II saw the independence of Lachmodan and So-Sara as the only viable solution to maintaining the strength (or at least some semblance of it) of the Raspur Pact's military hegemony over the western hemisphere, which is the cornerstone of Natopia's defense strategy. Remnants of the ducal militia, under orders from the duke quickly secured population centers in Lachmodan, as Nathan II issued a public declaration in Drakorda calling for the peaceful and mutual independence of Drak-Modan from the rapidly fracturing Imperial Republic. The newly self-proclaimed King promised the residents of Lachmodan and So-Sara security and prosperity as a closely allied and supported state of Natopia. The islands of So-Sara are disputed with Yardistan.