The Treaty of Wurtbad allowed Franz to concentrate the bulk of his forces on the battle for the north and north-eastern provinces of the Empire. Before returning to the front he paid a visit to the ancient city of Nuln, the capital of Wissenland and traditional seat of the Imperial Gunnery School. The second largest city in the Empire, and Altdorf's rival politically, economically and culturally, Nuln also served as the biggest manufacturer and exporter of munitions and blackpowder war machines. Its reputation as a city of learning predated that of Altdorf's, and its sewer system and the great bridge spanning the River Reik were considered marvels of technology.
|The city of Nuln, provincial capital of Wissenland and premier supplier of munitions and blackpowder weapons.|
The Elector Count of Wissenland, Eben Von Liebwitz, was an old adviser of Luitpold who had seen the ascension of Luitpold's young son as an opportunity to expand Nuln's influence at Altdorf's expense. His ambition came to naught, however, when he was slain in an ambush by the Crooked Moon tribe south of Pfeildorf. To make matters worse his son and heir died in the same battle, leaving a power vacuum in Wissenland which left the province in disarray. Harried by vampire encroachment from the south-east and greenskin raids from the south-west the Wissenlanders were more than eager to consolidate with the growing Empire. The biggest squabble lay in who would succeed the fallen Elector. Without a clear heir a mad scramble for the throne ensued, and it appeared that the aristocrats were quite willing to let Nuln fall to the greenskins or the vampires rather than relinquish their claims.
Franz chose Emmanuelle Von Liebwitz, a distant niece of the late Eben, as Wissenland's new Elector Countess. His choice was controversial, and widely disputed. It was rumored that Emmanuelle, already an ambitious woman in her early 20s, seduced and bedded the young prince shortly after his 16th birthday. Only the two of them know the truth in this matter, but it is agreed that the Emperor's judgement, usually so sure in matters of war and statecraft, lapsed badly in the presence of Emmanulle. Franz could not deny her anything. A woman of astounding beauty, she was adept at navigating the torturous corridors of court intrigue. She was also an indifferent ruler, given to indulgent excesses and frivolity at the expense of the mercantile and agricultural classes. Her claim was weak, and her appointment opposed by many powerful families. Only the existential threat of the vampires in the south and Franz's successful reunification of four other provinces made it possible for the Emperor to have her confirmed as the next Elector.
With Wissenland provisionally secured Franz headed back to the front. The news from the other independent provinces was grim. No word had come from Wolfram Hertwig, the Elector Count of Ostermark, for weeks on end. The first inkling of his province's fate came when Varg armies appeared south-east of Talabheim. Outriders dispatched to Ostermark came back with dreadful news. The capital city of Bechafen was in ruins. Essen was occupied by the vampires. Norscan warbands and the undead roamed the countryside unchecked. Of the Count's ultimate fate no more news would be forthcoming.
The deluge of grim tidings continued unabated. Ostland's capital Wolfenburg fell to the Norscans, as did Talabheim shortly afterwards. Helmut Feuerbach, the Elector Count of Talabecland, died in the siege. Ostland's Elector, Valmir Von Raukov, died attempting to lift the siege of Praag. Even Ludenhof was forced to evacuate from his provincial capital of Hergig, prudently conserving his meager forces while waiting for the Imperial reinforcements to return from Nordland. It was truly the End Times. Never had the Empire been in such dire peril, nor had it ever lost such a number of its great towns in such quick succession. Middenheim, Talabheim, Wolfenburg, Averheim and Hergig had all fallen to enemies in 2502-2503. Not for nothing was this time known as the Age of Reckoning.
|The provinces of the Empire, in a happier, alternate universe. This map is also dated 2522 IC, 20 years after the events in this post, so this may still be possible.|
Reiklanders have always claimed that their province was the breadbasket of the Empire, and subsequent events would prove the truth behind this boast. The north and north-east may have been ravaged, but the industrial and agricultural centers of the Empire - Reikland, Stirland and Wissenland - were largely intact. Armed and supplied, Franz led a combined army comprising of Reiklanders, Middenlanders, Wissenlanders and Stirlanders to relieve Ludenhof's army of Hochland, who was fighting a rear guard action west of Hergig. Even Nordlanders were represented, albeit reluctantly as conscripts. Franz's conquest of Nordland earned him the enmity of the province, an enmity that would soften only after Franz showed his commitment to the defense of their home. Even then they would never really love him, not in the way that the Reiklanders and some of the other provinces would come to venerate the young Emperor after his many successful campaigns in the future.
Wissenland was about to be eaten by an Orc and Goblin army, so when I offered to consolidate they took it without hesitation. This time though I inherited no generals, just the city of Nuln and a couple of heroes. Still, Nuln will become a great defensive bastion to protect the south side of the Reikland, so I was happy to acquire it. As for the other provinces they no longer exist, having either been swallowed by the vampires or taken by the Norscans. The only Imperials left are under Franz's control. The Empire is finally unified, albeit in a somewhat diminished form.