Nobunag'an IV of Ralgon
Emperor Nobunag'an Ral IV, born 1564 AN as Prince Takeshi Ral XV, is both the longest-lived monarch and longest-reigning monarch in the history of the Holy Ralgon Empire. He is also the Emperor Emeritus of the same nation, having been bestowed the title by his successors after they shifted to using conventional as well as native Ralgonese titles.
As of 1686, the man is a remarkable 122 years old, making him one of the oldest living Ralgonese in the country. His record-breaking reign of 78 years saw the transformation of the Ralgon state from a mere group of disjointed tribes on the eastern and southern coastlines of Drag'os into the unified state prepared to conquer the island under his successor, Emperor Shiro I.
Early Life (1564 - 1594)
In 1564 AN, he was born during the fifth year of the reign of Azul'an III, the then-current ruler of the country. Prince Takeshi Ral was Azul'an's great nephew, and he was the grandson of Azul'an's brother, Draeg'ar XV. When Takeshi was 8, he had his first experience in statecraft: Because of the harsh realities of the country's existence, kings simply didn't last long. In fact, twenty years (a full generation for the Ralgonese peasantry of the day) was considered exceptional, and special celebrations were held. Azul'an III never got the chance to see that rare celebration for himself. In 1562, in his 14th year as king, he died in battle while personally leading the defense of a border city against a dragon attack -- as rulers were obliged to do.
Takeshi's second lesson as a child in statecraft was this: Replacing slain kings wasn't easy. In the brutal, unstable, and existentially challenging 1500's for the Ralgon state, crowning the next king was a messy, brutal affair meant to ensure the new king was stronger than everyone else in the ruling clan. Additionally, a King taking the throne in the wake of a decimated royal house would reign without opposition until his almost certain death within less than a generation -- enough time for the Ral Clan to reconsolidate and repeat the process of thinning its ever-changing ranks. Kings needed to be replaced quickly, and the new king needed to be the strongest and smartest in the land if he was to survive for long.
Thus, Takeshi learned his third lesson: weakness in the Ral Clan was never tolerated, and weak pretenders to the throne would quickly meet their fate in the arena or on the battlefield shortly after coronation. And those without the stomach to participate in an election and potentially fight for their own honor were cast out of the decision-making process afterwards -- at least until the next election. In this way, the Clan never allowed itself to balloon out of control, and retained power through a line of strong elected kings, each related to their predecessor within three generations. The only weakness? Kings were reliably short-lived due to constant battlefield-related obligations, and dead kings were morbidly expensive for the ruling Clan in terms of manpower to replace. By Azul'an's death in 1562, the Ral Clan listed no more than fifty eligible contenders for the Throne, and twice each generation with upwards of a dozen deaths was unwelcome in the long-term.
In late 1562, Nobunag'an III, Azul'an's successor, then came to power later that year after Takeshi witnessed the brutality of the Selection Tournament, after the existing Crown Princes failed to agree on who the next ruler would be. The Ral Clan's numbers reduced by eight, the new king was expected to live long enough for the cycle to complete itself and the Clan's members (especially the king) were expected to produce enough children to feed to both the arena and to the army's endless meat grinder on the nation's ever-shifting inland border.
It was towards the end of Nobunag'an III's reign in 1584 that Takeshi turned 20, and was granted the style of Crown Prince after going through the rites -- thus completing a generational cycle -- and already seeing three kings in his lifetime. In 1584, 12 years into his reign, Nobunag'an joined his predecessors in death. During a battle with rival natives from inland near the north-western border, both parties were attacked by a lightning dragon. Nobunag'an III died leading a retreat inland, and his men escaped to tell the tale because the dragon turned on the inland natives instead.
After an unusually quiet Election process, Draeg'ar XV, Takeshi's great-uncle and Nobunag'an III's brother, took the throne. However, he died within a year of being crowned (1585) when he led an expeditionary scouting force consisting of brown-water Navy forces too far into the Great Swamp. While taking a small fleet across one of the Swamp's many deep (and interconnected) lakes, his boat was attacked by a mosasaur. His expedition only returned with a tenth of its original size.
Next on the throne was Draeg'ar XVI, after a similarly quiet election process. After five years as king, he died in early 1590 during a plague that swept the country. During this time, the Ralgon state began to take its modern form, with Nixtorm finally recognizing their senior partners in the south as rulers outright. Drag'nor, however, remained obstinate on the matter due to ideological differences. It was also during this time that lightning dragons began appearing less often off the coasts, allowing for the possibility of sea-based travel outside the immediate environs of the Drag'osian coastline.
Dalgar'an IV, Takeshi's father, won the next election and resulting Selection Tournament and took the country's helm in 1591. As Takeshi's father, he elevated him to the rank of Crown Prince, after seven years of surviving the harsh reality of being a Prince without portfolio, constantly on the battlefield. In 1591, Dalgar'an IV's realm only consisted of the modern province of Stormhold, which was little more than the capital city of the same name (now called Valeria as of 1686), and a port city of little economic consequence near the eastern tip of Drag'os, called Glacier City. (Although Nixtorm and Drag'nor were nominally a confederation with the Ralgon state, each was, in practice, independent of each other and did their own thing for the past two centuries.)
Coronation and Early Reign (1595 - 1620)
In late 1594, Dalgar'an IV died during a battle defending the border against a particularly large incursion from giant insects from the Great Swamp. After winning the Royal Selection Tournament in which ten other contestants died in the arena, Takeshi Ral was quickly crowned on New Year's Day, 1595 as Nobunag'an IV, after the first ruler with that name -- the same ruler who first made peace with both Drag'nor and the tribes of Nixtorm to battle against their homelands' respective dangers. The freshly minted king, now 31 years of age, set forth to consolidate the small country's tribes and expand from the coastline. Although most rulers of the country were expected to expire after less than a decade (he'd already been through five predecessors in his lifetime already), Nobunag'an resolved to survive by carefully selecting those battles he'd personally set off for, and allow rivals to handle the most dangerous missions instead, as a way of covertly ridding himself of political opposition.
By the tenth year of Nobunag'an's reign, the ruling branch of the Ral Clan had recovered its numbers from the tumultous period following Azul'an III's death. As the new king was already past his first decade of rule, the court began making preparations amid skepticism of the shrewd ruler's longevity. Instead, that never materialized. In 1615, Nobunag'an celebrated his twentieth year on the throne -- the first such anniversary since the early 1500's, and only the second since the Great Atomic Bombardment of 1450.
Such a date was important to the Ralgons, as an entire generation had passed since the Emperor took the throne. Now solidly entering his 50's, Nobunag'an was already a few short years older than many of his immediate predecessors at the time of their own deaths. To commemorate the event, a special Sed festival* celebrating the king's jubilee was held throughout the country -- and in neighboring Nixtorm, which was considering a personal union in the wake of its own ruling clan's decline. For modern historians, this marked a major turning point in national morale, as well as their stance towards the kings as an expendable asset (regardless of the pain caused by their loss). It also marked the point in which a hard border began to form between the environs of the growing Glacier City (the Ralgons' core territory at the time) and the Great Swamp.
After 20 years on the throne, the slowly strengthening Ralgon state also began to see unprecedented prosperity due to having a stabilized leadership on the throne for the first time since 1450 AN. In 1620, Nobunag'an IV celebrated his second Sed festival, as it was held every five years after the king's first 20-year jubilee. A king celebrating more than one Sed festival had not occurred since a similar festival during Draeg'ar XII's reign in 1402 AN.
Modern historians consider this the official beginning date of the modern Ralgon state, as after 1620 Nobunag'an IV had gathered enough military, political, and even religious power within the state to begin realizing his ambitions to unite the countries on the Island of Drag'os in more than a nominal fashion.
Unification of Ralgon (1620 - 1650)
Opening the Country (1650-1670)
Late Reign (1670-1673)
Heb Sed (Real-world ceremony held in Ancient Egypt)