Holy Year 1527 – Emerald Keep, City of Grandesburg

Emperor Ioseph von Grandesburg did all he could to appear attentive in front of his courtiers. He barely slept a wink the night before due to his duties, yet it is his obligation to make sure that no issues remain unsettled before he could rest. As the sovereign of four million people however, it seems that two new problems pop up for everyone he could solve. Recently, a crisis has broken out between the Holy Empire and their eastern neighbor, the Kingdom of Frescya. There is a damp mood over the great hall as many nobles theorize amongst themselves on how the issue would proceed.

"I tell you, it will only be a matter of time before those damned Frescians declare war on us! We must raise our armies while we still have time." Baron Rudy von Seine warned.

"I don't believe that King Louise of Frescya would be so brash." disagreed Baron Alonso von Briscia. "He wouldn't risk a war on us over a few carts of merchandise."

"Over a few carts of merchandise, he wouldn't." Baron Rudy agreed. "But over his pride? He certainly will. To be slighted by a count would not settle well for a king.".

"Count Corentin von Sasont did what he had to do. He could not just turn a blind eye on the illegal shipment of magic crystals passing through his territory." said Baron Ratsig von Spilitz.

"What was so special about that shipment anyway?" asked Baron Alonso. "How could a few carts put the Empire at the brink of war?"

"Count Corentin managed to intercept a convoy of high-grade magic crystals mined from Drakonsberg he believed were en route to the Kingdom of Frescya." answered Baron Ratsig. "The issue is that these were classified military-grade crystals being researched by the Kingdom of Drakonia as a trump card for the Empire's armies."

"It would certainly be a bad thing if the crystals were to fall into Frescian hands." added Baron Rudy. "If anything, it tells us that those pigs have plans in clashing with us on the battlefield."

"Still, we cannot be rash." Baron Alonso insisted. "Harvest season is almost upon us and raising levies now might put our grain supplies at risk. Besides, they will have a hard time marching their army into Imperial lands. The Umbris Mountains and Rolling Hills separate us from the Frescians".

"You forgot that the Eastern Plains are like a funnel that would lead our enemies into the heart of the Empire." Countered Baron Rudy. "If they manage to reach Krassau, all they need to do is to wait as we starve to death. The Principality of Krassau is the breadbasket of the Empire which we could not afford to lose."

"And that is where the Eastern Garrison comes in Rudy. They were especially formed in order to prevent that very scenario from happening. I believe we are being overly worried at nothing." insisted Baron Alonso.

Emperor Ioseph inhaled deeply as he observed his nobles in the great hall talk amongst themselves. He has become weary of this scenario. As the Holy Roman Emperor for more than three decades, he had sometimes considered abdicating the throne. His only son and heir, however, Crown Prince Franz von Grandesburg is barely 12 years old, and is still unable to rule. The responsibilities of the Emperor are endless, and one so young cannot handle such burden. Not only is Ioseph the Archduke of Grandis, as the Holy Emperor he also has lordship over eight other realms namely: the Free Cities of the Northeast, the Jarldom of Scania, the Duchy of Saxnia, the Marche of Rhinnus, the Principality of Krassau, the Prince-Bishopric of Zalksbury, the Confederation of Umbris and the Kingdom of Drakonia. While his authority over the other realms is very limited, he still is considered as the first among equals in the Electorate College. This college is composed of the nine electors who are the heads of the nine realms. Legally, the title of Emperor is voted by the college and could be any of the nine electors but over the last 500 years, the title has always gone to the Archduke of Grandis.

All his musings distracted Ioseph enough for him to break his façade as his head slowly bowed due to exhaustion. It was his wife that freed him out of his train of thoughts.

"Are you tired my lord?" Empress Theodora asked his husband. "Why don't you take off your heavy iron crown for a moment? We could have one of the lighter crowns replace it so that you would not be weighed down as much." The empress started to motion for one of the servants when the Emperor waved his hand.

"No need my dear. The weight of the Reichskron is to remind the Emperor of the burden of his duty." Ioseph told Theodora. "As long as Franz is not yet of age, I shall have to continue bearing this weight."

Theodora looked like she was about to protest when she stopped herself and sighed. "If that is what you wish your majesty. Just remember that the Empire will not fault you for taking care of yourself once in a while."

"It is my duty to take care of the Empire. I need not take care of myself. I have you for that." Ioseph smiled lovingly at his wife. He then turned his attention back to his steward who was still in the middle of reporting the state of the realm.

"…Jarl Ragnar and Duke Alfred continue to have disagreements over the fishing rights in the Bay of Peace. Minor naval skirmishes occurred but nothing of great trouble. An ambassador has already been sent by Prince Bishop Augustin to settle the issue." the steward continued. "Grand Mayor Claud von Zeelandsk of the Free Cities has managed to come to an agreement with the merchants from the Kingdom of Albion. He hopes that this new trade route can further boost the prosperity of the Empire."

Emperor Ioseph sighed. Petty conflicts will always be inevitable between the realms of the Empire. Fortunately, there was some good news. This new trade agreement that the Grand Mayor secured will not only be a source of wealth but could also pave the way for future cooperation with Albion against Frescya.

"Prince Frederick von Krassau als-". The steward was suddenly interrupted with a loud crash, as the doors of the grand hall swung open. Count Kellen von Vinne, the marshal of Grandis, entered with hurried steps, almost out of breath. He rushed to the foot of the throne and knelt.

Ioseph stood up and acknowledged the marshal. "What do you need my lord count? What could be so urgent for you to barge in the middle of the court?"

Kellen, after taking deep breaths to maintain his composure started to address the Emperor. "Forgive me Your Majesty but I bring grave news."

"What is it then? Speak!" Ioseph demanded.

"It is the Frescians my lord. They are now marching across the Rhinnus Steppes."

The grand hall devolved into chaos. Rage, shock, and panic swept across the courtiers as they learned that the Frescians are now nearing the heartland of the Empire.

"How can that be?! Why haven't we heard anything from the Eastern Garrison, or from Margrave Iosef?" Baron Alonso demanded.

"Margrave Iosef sent word that he marched his troops to reinforce the Eastern Garrison after hearing of Frescians gathering a host there. He was tricked however as approximately 25,000 Frescians marched through the Rolling Hills and took the undefended Citadel of Grasbrik by surprise." Kellen answered. "I believe they are now marching to take on Grandesburg itself."

"The Rolling Hills are supposed to be impassable to an army! The hills and trees should have been able to prevent massive formations." Alonso exclaimed in disbelief.

"Apparently not. The Frescians must have been able to find a way." Baron Rudy pointed out before turning to address the Emperor. "Your Majesty, you must flee the city! We cannot allow you to be trapped here in an event of a siege. Perhaps you should head to Drakonsberg."

"No, I will not leave my people while I flee to safety!" Emperor Ioseph said in conviction. "Grasbrik is approximately 400km away from the city. It will still take at least a month for them to reach us." He paused in contemplation before addressing his subjects once again. "My counts and barons: return to your fiefs at once! Raise your levies and we shall assemble in the County of Ralm, by the River Weslas. Theodora, have the court mages relay a message to all the Electors of the realm and have them do the same. We will not allow those damned Frescians to take an inch of Imperial territory!"

"Long live the Empire!"

"Down with Frescya!"

"The Burning Spirit is with us!"

Cheers of frenzy and war cries echoed in the grand hall. Their panic and shock were now renewed by vigor and impatience to put their enemies in their place. Emperor Ioseph looked at his subjects. His speech did much to improve their morale, but he knew it would not be enough. War has come, and they were completely taken by surprise.