Zhao Ren wrote:Warlords v4 Epilogue: 205 BC onwards
All the sages can surely agree that our most unfortunate time was during the reign of the Righteous Emperor of Chu. With the deposition of the Third Emperor of Qin, the Tyrant thought himself above all other men. Forcing the Righteous Emperor to recognize him as Hegemon-King of Western Chu, the Tyrant sought to recreate the Middle Kingdom to his desires. Yet this was not enough. Seeking to become like the First Emperor of Qin, he plotted against not only the Righteous Emperor, but also his former advisor, Fan Zeng, who held the position of Prime Minister of Chu. But nine months after his coronation, the Righteous Emperor was attacked and slain by a tattooed bandit in service to the Tyrant. Fan Zeng was forced to flee for his life into the lands of Wei. All illusions that the Middle Kingdom was at peace, despite the many barbarians and rebels of the former empire, were dashed in an instant. The forces of the Empire of Chu no longer knew friend from foe, and the Middle Kingdom fell into chaos. Out of this disunity and war, a figure emerged, one who would overthrow the Tyrant and bring a period of peace to the Empire: the Grand and Martial Emperor ((Ma Dieu)).
From his humble origins as a lesser general of Chu, the Grand and Martial Emperor rose to become a feared commander of the Southlands, a fierce rival to the Lord of Lakes and Rivers ((Li Jiacheng)). The land of Huainan bore witness to several battles between them, for the Grand and Marshal Emperor had been tasked to secure that state for the Empire of Chu. When word arrived, however, of the Righteous Emperor's death at the hands of a tattooed man, the Grand and Martial Emperor acted decisively. Marshaling his forces, he abandoned his war with the Lord of Lakes and Rivers for the time being and struck at the Tyrant. He realized that the Righteous Emperor had been slain on the Tyrant's command and was determined to earn revenge on his behalf. The heartland of Chu fell in only a month to the Grand and Martial Emperor, and the Tyrant was pursued into the lands of Liang. With this victory, the Grand and Martial Emperor called a meeting of the many lords and kings of the Middle Kingdom. There, he introduced a distant relative of the Righteous Emperor, announcing that he intended to crown the youth as the new Emperor of Chu. Though many submitted, there were many who did not.
To the west, the King of Han ((Liu Bang)) and his vassal, Zu Yanghei, the King of Sai, would not recognize the authority of the new Emperor of Chu. To the northeast, the powerful King of Jiaodong ((Shi Tong)) remained silent, tacitly opposing the Empire of Chu. Recognizing the King of Jiaodong's hesitancy, the Grand and Martial Emperor marched west against the two kings of the Land between the Passes. Threatened by a vast alliance against him, including not only the Grand and Martial Emperor, but the Literary Emperor ((Shen Feng)) and the Queen of Yin ((Zhu Lizhi)) as well, the King of Han called upon his vassal at the time, the scholarly King of Qin, to stand against this alliance. All in vain. The Grand and Martial Emperor had amassed a sizeable force to crush those that would oppose him and the young Emperor of Chu. In the van was Xun Jiang, called the Twilight General by some, the Black Ogre by others. Wielding the halberd of the mighty E Lai himself, Xun Jiang struck fear into the armies of the Land between the Passes. The King of Han was captured and bound in chains, while Zu Yanghei fled west to the Yuezhi tribes with his wife, Guan Xiuying, a woman of renowned beauty and charisma.
With his foes to the west pacified, the Grand and Martial Emperor turned his might upon the north. There, the forces of the former King of Nanyang ((Baocen Peng)) had amassed to aid the King of Jiaodong. Led by the famed general, Lin Yue, who twice had been given the honor of being named General-in-Chief of a state's army, this force hoped to secure and keep its independence from the Empire of Chu. Though she had been defeated by the Grand and Martial Emperor in the past, Lin Yue showed great generosity to her foes, gifting a fine treatise to the Grand and Martial Emperor and a priceless necklace to the Literary Emperor. The Grand and Martial Emperor lamented that they would have to fight that day, greatly respecting his foe. Though she fought valiantly, Lin Yue could not overcome the cunning Grand and Martial Emperor and the armies of Chu that had been sent against her. Thus the Kingdom of Jiaodong fell. To the south, a campaign by the Admirable Emperor ((Zu Shi)) against the Lord of Lakes and Rivers ended in defeat. Though the Grand and Martial Emperor had been a foe of the Lord of Lakes and Rivers for many months, and was as close to the Admirable Emperor as a brother, he offered peace to the lands of Wu.
Thus the Middle Kingdom was united beneath the most successful general in all of its history. With his foes defeated, the Grand and Martial Emperor went about reorganizing the Middle Kingdom, ruling as Hegemon-King of Chu. The Lord of Lakes and Rivers ((Li Jiacheng)) was allowed to retain his lands and titles in Wu, Yue, and Huainan. Meanwhile, the Admirable Emperor ((Zu Shi)) was given the lands of Jiaodong, Jibei, and Changshan and Dai to govern, though he gifted the lands of Dai to his faithful lieutenant, Sho Tao, who was made King of Dai. The Literary Emperor ((Shen Feng)) ruled much of the Southlands from his capital at Jiangling, and the Queen of Yin ((Zhu Lizhi)) ruled over not only that state, but the lands of Zhao and Wei as well. The Grand and Martial Emperor's cousin, the Majestic Emperor ((Ma Su)), was given back his lands in Liang. So too were Tian Rong and Zhang Han given back their kingdoms in the heartlands of Qi and Yong respectively. Lastly, to the Twilight General, Xun Jiang, the Grand and Martial Emperor gave the lands of Yan as promised. Thus the Middle Kingdom was divided into its many provinces, and for a time, it seemed as though the Grand and Martial Emperor had brought peace back to the lands.
This was not to be, however. Peace was not something that the Grand and Martial Emperor could adjust to, and together with his chief advisor, Fei Lai, he set out to attack the Xiongnu, who had recently overcome yet another tribe, this time the powerful Yuezhi in the west. As Fan Zeng had passed away the year before, the Grand and Martial Emperor entrusted the Empire to the Prime Minister Zhao Liu. Neither the Grand and Martial Emperor nor the Chanyu Modu of the Xiongnu had known any great defeats, and both had an experienced and well-trained army at their command. The Chanyu Modu, however, had a secret ally. Having fled west after his defeat, Zu Yanghei and his wife recognized the power of the Chanyu Modu and betrayed the Yuezhi to him. With his wife's charm, Zu Yanghei managed to secure a promise from the Chanyu Modu that his kingdom of Qin would be restored to him. Thus the Chanyu Modu began to march east, raiding and pillaging as he went. Before the Grand and Martial Emperor could arrive, the King of Yong, Zhang Han, led his force to face the Chanyu Modu. The result was disastrous. Zhang Han was slain in the fray and his men scattered to the winds.
It was in the autumn of his fifth year as Hegemon-King of Chu [200 BC] that the Grand and Martial Emperor arrived in the west to face the Chanyu Modu. Advised by the brilliant Fei Lai and guarded by the new King of Yan, Xun Jiang, the Grand and Martial Emperor's army was one to be feared. After an extensive period of maneuvering amongst the loess plateaus of the west, lines were drawn south of the city of Chencang, near the original Qin capital of Quanqiu. Though the Grand and Martial Emperor laid out his plans for the coming battle brilliantly, he could not have expected what was to come. As the armies of Chu bore down upon his men, the Chanyu Modu ordered his men to fire a volley of arrows at where the Grand and Martial Emperor was. Each coated in a poison invented by Zu Yanghei, the results were devastating. And how much more so when it was discovered that the Grand and Martial Emperor and his advisor, Fei Lai, were struck! But even poison would not stop the Grand and Martial Emperor from fighting this battle. And so the armies of Chu and the Xiongnu clashed, a fearsome fight that has yet to see its equal. The lands of Qin resounded with the thundering hooves of both Chu and Xiongnu cavalry alike.
And yet, neither side could find victory. Running low on provisions, and finding himself weakening from the potent poison now coursing through his veins, the Grand and Martial Emperor ordered a retreat. The Chanyu Modu would not let him flee so easily, however, and ordered his renowned cavalry to pursue. By this point, the Chanyu Modu had overcome twenty kingdoms with this feared force, and should he have managed to overcome the Grand and Martial Emperor, surely there would be more to follow. Yet not all hope was lost for the Grand and Martial Emperor, for Xun Jiang, the King of Yan, was eager to prove his worth once again. Asking only for a division of men, he vowed that he would manage to hold off the horde of the Chanyu Modu long enough for the Grand and Martial Emperor to return safely to Chen. Thus Xun Jiang went forth to fight and to die, valiantly sacrificing himself in order to preserve the rest of the army of Chu. Time and again the Chanyu Modu sent his cavalry against Xun Jiang and his men, and time and again he was repulsed. It was only until the Grand and Martial Emperor was many li away that the Chanyu Modu managed to overcome Xun Jiang, but by then, it was too late.
When the Grand and Martial Emperor returned to Chen, he was greeted with disastrous news. In a conspiracy masterminded by the cunning Li Xiatiao, a kinsman of the Lord of Lakes and Rivers, the young Emperor was stolen away from Chen by the Prime Minister, Zhao Liu. Not only did the Emperor's Guardian, Yi Guang, fail to stop this conspiracy, but it was later discovered that he had helped it succeed. Furious at the blow dealt to him by his bitter rival, the Grand and Martial Emperor passed away but a few months after his trusted advisor, Fei Lai. In his passing, the Middle Kingdom fell into chaos once again. All were distressed by the actions of the Lord of Lakes and Rivers. Though the Literary Emperor ((Shen Feng)) attempted to mediate the situation, the Majestic Emperor ((Ma Su)) and the Admirable Emperor ((Zu Shi)) were united in their desire for revenge. Though they managed to seize the lands north of the Yangzi, the Lord of Lakes and Rivers prevented any crossings, safeguarding his now diminished kingdom. He was not alone, however, in this scheme, for the King of Qi struck at Jiaodong, hoping to return his lands to their former glory. Turning his army swiftly about, the Admirable Emperor soon destroyed Tian Rong, annexing the heartland of Qi.
Months passed, turning into years, and the constant probing attacks against the lands of Wu were turned aside by the ferocious Yi Guang and his sworn brother, Shangguan Wei. Frustrated and realizing that the Empire of Chu was growing restless without the young Emperor, the Majestic Emperor took it upon himself to assume the great responsibilities of the Imperial throne, establishing the Empire of Song. Out of respect for his ever-victorious cousin, the Grand and Martial Emperor was declared its founder, and worship was paid to him for the deeds he had done. Not all were pleased by this, especially the sworn brother of the Grand and Martial Emperor, who felt this to be an act of treason against the Empire of Chu. Declaring himself independent of this new empire, the Admirable Emperor led his armies in an attack upon the lands of Zhao and Wei, still held by the Queen of Yin, who had declared her loyalty to the Majestic Emperor. Though he was not possessed of the same might as his sworn brother, the Admirable Emperor was still a force to be reckoned with, and soon the Queen of Yin was forced from her lands of Zhao and Wei. It was only through the convincing words of the Literary Emperor that further war was averted.
And yet, in return for this aid, the Literary Emperor received only scorn from the Majestic Emperor. Finding no hope in remaining an ally and vassal of the Majestic Emperor, the Literary Emperor returned to his lands of Jiangling with sorrow. However, soon news of another war would rouse him to action again. Having recovered from the battle of Chencang, the Chanyu Modu invaded the Land between the Passes once again. With no Grand and Martial Emperor to oppose him, the Chanyu Modu managed to secure the ancient lands of Qin, which he gifted to Zu Yanghei to govern as king. Fearful that the Chanyu Modu would strike deeper into the heartland of the Middle Kingdom, the Literary Emperor moved to secure the heartland of Chu against this foreign invasion. The Majestic Emperor doubted the motivation for this maneuver and soon declared war upon the Literary Emperor. It was with great sorrow in his heart that the Literary Emperor received this news. With much of the Southlands under his control, and now lacking a liege to serve, the Literary Emperor declared his independence from both Chu and Song, founding the Quan Empire, after the state that had once ruled Jiangling.
Years passed, and these new empires continued to skirmish amongst each other, vying for the hegemony that the Grand and Martial Emperor had once held. Yet, for all of their struggles, no empire emerged triumphant. The expected push by Qin into the lands of Chu never materialized to the extent that the Literary Emperor ((Shen Feng)) had imagined, as Qin soon lost the support of the Xiongnu, who rode off to the west, leaving Zu Yanghei to rule over the lands of the old state of Qin as a vassal king. This allowed the Literary Emperor to focus upon fortifying his lands further against invasion, appointing his Chief Aide, Lei Anshui, as Grand General of the Rivers, entrusting the defense of his empire to her. The Southlands flourished under his rule, and Jiangling has ever since been considered the cultural capital of the Middle Kingdom. Meanwhile, in the lands of Wu, the newly diminished Empire of Chu managed to live on despite all the odds against them. Yet Chu's hegemony was forever shattered. Now but a puppet under the Li clan, the Emperor of Chu and his descendants were forced to take wives from the prominent families of Wu, most notably the Li clan and the descendants of Yi Guang, who served his Emperor faithfully for the rest of his days.
In the Central Plains, the Song Empire fared much better. Though forced to give up its dreams of reunification, the Majestic Emperor ((Ma Su)) managed to prevent any further loss of his new lands. In this, he could only thank the Queen of Yin ((Zhu Lizhi)), who brought with her the talented Gusu sisters, all born upon the same day. With their aid, and the governing expertise of the military genius Suo Yang, the Majestic Emperor was able to secure his domain, firmly entrenching the Song Empire into the heartland of the Middle Kingdom, its capital at Dingtao, though Yin's capital of Zhaogu was considered a secondary capital in acknowledgement for the Queen of Yin's great aid. The Majestic Emperor was not the only one compelled to abandon his attempt for reunification. Though the Admirable Emperor ((Zu Shi)) was second only to the Grand and Martial Emperor, he would not find the same success. Forced to abandon his attempt to rescue the Emperor of Chu, the Admirable Emperor declared himself the Emperor of Qi, establishing his capital in Gaomi. With the former states of Qi, Zhao, and Wei under their control, the Admirable Emperor and his descendants would bring great prosperity to the north.
Yet there was one state still yet to be established. Ever since her defeat by the Grand and Martial Emperor many years before, Lin Yue had gone into exile in the north. When word finally arrived of the death of the King of Yan, Lin Yue was quick to capitalize upon the weakness in the north, seizing control of the lands of Yan not for any other, but for herself. Ruling now as the Queen of Yan, Lin Yue established the sixth sovereign state in the wake of the Grand and Martial Emperor. Through a series of envoys, she managed to secure an alliance with the Admirable Emperor, ensuring the stability of her much smaller state. With these six states - four empires, two kingdoms, the Middle Kingdom had been torn assunder. It has been many years since the time of the Grand and Martial Emperor, but his legacy lives on: one of war and Warlords.
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