Monday, 27 February 2012

The Bellenos Empire

While the classic medieval stories of knights in armour, splendid castles and feudal chivalry of Britain, France and Germany have inspired a lot of Toutus, Bellenos, one of its main rivals before the empires collapsed, is from further south - namely the Renaissance Mediterranean, especially Venice, Florence and Genoa. While feudal loyalties were what bound the various duchies and counties of Toutus together, it was trade that kept Bellenos together. The Bellenosians certainly had powerful armies, but they were more a means to an end when trade and diplomacy failed rather than the reason for the state. 

If this makes it sound like the Bellenosians were more benevolent than the Toutatians, think again. At their best they were charismatic, sophisticated, cooperative diplomats. At their worst they were cynical, greedy lying bastards who would buy large tracts of land from ignorant natives for just a handful of glass beads, and then viciously repel the angry natives with steel when they realised the deal they had struck was unfair. In other cases the Bellenosian explorers simply conquered hapless natives in foreign lands, claiming the land for the Bellenos Empire (with the expectation of being governors of these new territories). 

Bellenos arose as a coalition of city-states on the home island of Bellenia, which then spread  around the Vendalian Archipelago. The empire had grown powerful through their merchant-explorers, travelling around the archipelago and beyond - even reaching the shores of Toutus, though never establishing anything more than trading enclaves in Toutatian towns and cities.
They also explored east and south. To the east they came across the huge continent of Keshiss, with its northern and southern halves both projecting west towards Bellenos. To the south the Bellenosians found the Cynidean islands, with the dying Cynidean culture that collapsed just as the Bellenosians made contact. The Bellenosian towns and trading posts only cover some of the islands - a lot of it is still wilderness and abandoned Cynidean ruins. One of the most notable of these Bellenosian towns, which has survived the Summoning and subsequent collapse of the Empire is Tekhumis the Desert Port

The Bellenos way of war was less feudal and more regimented than in Toutus, and with less reliance on armour and more on manoeuvrability - lightly armoured crossbowers protected by ranks of pikemen and halberdiers were common among the regiments of the city-states. Since Bellenos was based on an archipelago with many overseas outposts and colonies, there was a much greater emphasis on its navy - not just slow, crude cogs, but sleek, fast schooners and mighty galleons, while closer inshore there were galleys manned by hundreds of rowers each. The sailors who manned these ships were reluctant to wear armour that could drown them if they ended up in the water, so in Bellenos the Swashbuckling style of fighting was developed. 

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