10 years ago, the massive gates of Oskan, the Imperial capital, were closed, braced and secured. First a handful, then hundreds, then thousands of couriers from the regional governors clamored outside the 30 foot walls, never receiving so much as a whisper in return. Within weeks, nobles from the major Houses declared for themselves, gathered what men of arms they could, and waited for the first sounds of the coming storm.
House Lia struck first, claiming the granaries in Tiffen, under Imperial control in name only, and shut off grain shipments from the Iron Isle. House Marco responded with a naval blockade of all Lia ports. On the smaller islands of the Imperial archipelago, minor Houses relaunched wars of petty dispute kept in check previously by Imperial threats. By the decade’s close, over a quarter of the islands’ populous was dead, by starvation, war or disease.
Lands which were considered, for taxation at least, under Imperial protection fared better. The colonies and subject baronies in Challiston, three months sea-travel away from Oskan, were used to functioning with little to no contact from the Winter Court. Freeholds such as Merrydale, Kai-Sal and Portia actually increased in both prestige and land, with smaller fiefdoms maintaining as they always had, Empire or no.
Of late, though, last scions from dilapidated Houses, generals whose armies had abandoned them, and simple dregs of society, having burned every bridge left in the Iron Islands, began leeching into the strata of Challiston politics. And the brave, bright and anxious sons and daughters leave the relative calm of their homeland to pursue dreams of glory and riches in hitching their star to the next Imperial pretender. Storm clouds of war and death are starting to roll onto the shores of Challiston, and few remain who are interested, let alone capable of standing against them.