The Fracture is the name given to the massive civil war in which the Stofonian Empire tore itself apart. In a mere six years, 1902 to 1908EYE, an empire that took a thousand years to build was broken into dozens of small states.
In the days after the Last War, several main factors began to strain the Imperial system.
First, not only the Last War but also the nearly constant smaller wars of the previous century, had drained the treasuries. Unlike in some of the empire's earlier wars, where the cost of the war was somewhat offset by plundering the conquered nations, the countries defeated in the Last War (mainly, Juturia and Badingo Empire) were so devastated by the war that there was very little left to plunder.
The empire first tried to squeeze money out of the victory by reducing the conquered populations to conditions of servitude not seen for hundreds of years, hoping to get free labor out of them. What actually happened was that the cost of keeping these people pacified turned out to be greater than any profits produced by them.
The enslaved grew to hate the Stofonians with a passion not normally seen. Rebellions were rare in earlier eras, when the Stofonians often came as liberators from even more severe governments. Now they were seen as loathsome invaders to be cast out at any opportunity. Guerilla campaigns were nearly constant between the Last War and the Fracture. The Stofonians responded to these, eventually, by completely exterminating the Et-Er who were seen as the ringleaders of trouble in Juturia; and by slaughtering so much of population of Badingola that entire provinces such as Dostofia came to consist entirely of settlers from older parts of the empire. All this, of course, cost even more money.
The failure to get any real spoils from the war, and indeed the continued pouring of money into various sinkholes, meant that the government had to levy higher and higher taxes on the productive parts of the empire. This was greatly resented, especially in some of the more developed provinces which began to feel that the Imperial government did nothing but drain money from them while providing little benefit. At least some were also horrified by the carnage in Juturia and Badingola, and began to wonder aloud about the legitimacy of a government that could afflict such horrors, and the possibility of such treatment being visited on their own provinces in the future.
By the 1890s, nearly anything that was grown or manufactured in one province and shipped to another province for sale, was taxed so heavily that a lucrative black market had emerged. Smugglers grew so rich and powerful that they could afford to arm their ships heavily enough to successfully defend against the imperial navy. On land, other criminals built empires of their own, funded by sales of contraband and enabled by easily bribed officials. Even in the imperial capital city itself, the crime syndicate known as the Bloody Knife was ubiquitous.
Another important factor was an enormous growth of interest in democracy and self-determination. During the Last War, Juturian propaganda had reached many parts of the empire, and republican uprisings had to be put down even in Stofstans itself. Although the would-be revolution was promptly crushed, the empire after the Last War was never without an underground of republican schemers. Any form of representative government was inimical to the empire, the whole institution being based on complete domination of civilian government by warriors.
The economic and political problems were combined in the grievances of the newly-powerful industrial and business interests. Both the new rich, the owners of factories and banks, and the growing middle class employed by these places, resented the new taxes and the fact that they were shut out of influence in the government. The military caste, they felt, had outlived its time at the top of the social and political pyramid, and should move over and make room for the captains of industry.
Finally, and probably the most urgent cause of the war, the government and military system had problems of its own. The Elikalns of Dostofia and Juturia operated nearly independent of central control. No effective civilian government was ever set up in either of these Elikalns, not even a military-dominated one as was normal in the empire. Everything remained under direct control of fighting units, as in a never-ending war. All of this was originally intended to give the local commanders free reign to deal with rebellions, but soon in their increased power they began to think of themselves as kings and emperors in their own right. This was the spark which was to ignite all of the aforementioned powder-kegs.
In 1902, Nomnor Pelthorstan, Elikalnstan of Juturia, decided that they way to enrich his Elikaln was to conquer Knarr. Knarr had not been part of the empire for hundreds of years, and no emperor had ever shown much interest in trying to get it back, including current emperor Dostof III.
Pelthorstan could not be stopped, and sent a large fleet and army to take the islands. In an uncommon display of military ferocity, the Knarrians killed most of the armies who tried to invade their land, and sent the fleet limping home in ruins. Knarr was to remain unmolested for the duration of the Fracture.
Dostof was furious with Pelthorstan, removed him from his office, and demanded his arrest. Pelthorstand responded by declaring an independent Empire of Juturia, with himself at the head. In an attempt to co-opt the support of the Juturians and the minority of bourgeoisie who had settled there from abroad, Pelthorstan set up a semblance of the old Juturian parliament, meeting again in the same hall where it had met until the end of the Last War. It was of course, a mere mockery of a republic, because the members were hand-picked by the Elikalnstan rather than elected, but Pelthorstan hoped that this fact would be overlooked and win him the support of the people he ruled.
Before the effectiveness of this ploy could be seen one way or the other, Juturia was threatened from all directions by forces from several other Elikalns. Pelthorstan's armies were defeated and beaten back from all of the outlying islands, leaving only Juturia itself under control of the rebel government. Pelthorstan himself was assassinated by the Department of Civilization, who had remained loyal to the emperor.
Before an all-out assault could be made on the Juturian homeland, the different forces sent to retake the territories began fighting each other. Armies from Dostofia fought armies from Sibinni, both of the fought troops from Stofstans, and everyone fought the Free Armies. Commanders quickly declared themselves independent dictators of whatever scrap of territory they had just conquered. The navy, which was theoretically independant of any Elikaln, took sides quickly. Many of Pelthorstan's troops who had been captured swore loyalty to their captors, and were released from the POW camps, given back their weapons, and put back on the front to fight for their new commanders.
The task of picking a successor for Pelthorstan fell to his puppet legislature. This parliament felt itself to be in a very precarious position. The loyalty of the troops who now guarded Juturia was very questionable. Several of Pelthorstan's generals expected to be appointed Emperor, and were likely to turn against the legislature if disappointed. They met with the intention of deciding whether or not to continue the rebellion, or to surrender to the Emperor in Stofstans in hope of more merciful treatment. This decision would never actually be made by this group.
The Popular Rebellions Begin
While the legislature was debating, the Juturian houses of parliament were surrounded by the Free Army of Juturia, a recently formed coalition of guerrilla groups that had been fighting the Stofonians for years, now incorporating many non-Juturian republicans, and huge numbers of recent recruits from the Juturian people. This group had been secretly supplied with weapons by countries outside the empire (especially the Foel Empire, Crockindus, and Islia), as well as a great deal of illegal support from private industry. Among the leaders of this group was a young Stofonian named Yothor Stanstan and a Juturian named Ron-El co-Oras.
The Free Army ordered the legislature, at gunpoint, to dissolve itself and call for actually free elections. All over Juturia, common people rose and attacked the remaining forces of Pelthorstan. Many of these people were unarmed, and at first the troops made short work of them, mowing down crowds with machine gun fire and Rolling Death. But they just kept coming, and eventually overwhelmed the Elikaln forces with sheer numbers. Many of these people armed themselves, and joined with the Free Army.
Pelthorstan's legislature surrendered, and elections were organized all over Juturia. A new, much more representative parliament was elected. The Free Army of Juturia became the new army of the Second Juturian Republic. The first over of business was to protect Juturia from impending invasion.
A democratic Juturia was even more intolerable to Dostof III than Pelthorstan had been, and fresh troops were dispatched from all over the empire to crush the new republic. Smelling fresh blood, the new petty dictators also joined in the fray.
The new Juturia army, with assistance of a navy assembled largely from smugglers' ships, held their shores from invasion, now and for the rest of the Fracture.
All over the empire, the situation in Jutria was repeated. Provincal, and in some cases even smaller, governors declared their independence and launched wars of conquest against their neighbors. The commanders of Free Armies seized any scrap of land available and claimed it as their kingdom. Naval fleets sided with whatever nearby power seemed most likely to come out on top.
By 1905, all of the Elikalnstanst outside of Stofstans gave up attempting to enforce order over their great divisions of the empire, and joined the grab for smaller territories.
In many areas, too, the civilization population exploded into open rebellion. Armed and aided by foreign powers, by tax-weary businessmen, and later on even by rivals in other rebellious states, groups ranging from semi-professional guerilla armies to simple armed mobs overthrew the local governments. The results were everything from republics to dictatorships to restorations of pre-Stofonian local monarchies. In some areas that was simply no organized government at all for a number of years.
Fearing such rebellions, local governors went to extreme measures to pacify their territories. Entire regions were de-populated of civilians, who were either relocated or simply murdered. Ancient tactics of war not seen for hundreds of years re-emerged, as rampaging armies would slaughter all inhabitants of a city except for certain women of sexually active age, which were claimed as the spoils of war.
The most notorious perpetrator of atrocities of every kind was Akenthor Nroth, known as Nroth the Mad, who cut a swath of utter devastation from Dostofia to Gullen. There were, however, countless others.
The End of the Empire
Within the Sinist of Stofstans, the ancient homeland of the empire, Dostof III still retained control. While no actual fighting had taken place this close at hand, the war's effects were still being felt. Ever since 1902, the people had been subjected to wartime rationing and even higher taxes than before. By 1908, everyone, regardless of wealth or position, was starving. In the great industrial belts that had been the engine of the entire empire, undamaged factories sat idle because there was no fuel to run them, and no raw materials. All of these things had mostly been imported for centuries, and now the war had completed disrupted such trade. Only the Bloody Knife prospered, growing richer by the day, supplying forbidden luxuries and feeding the addictions of anyone still able to pay.
Into this state of desperation, came Yothor Stanstan and Ron-El co-Oras, the heroes of the Juturian revolution. They had spent several years training and equipping a new Stofonian Revolutionary Army, and had secured safe passage for themselves, their men, and their weapons into Stofstans from the smuggler fleets.
Fearing some as-yet unknown danger, Dostof had locked down the entire province, allowing no one to move from place to place without permission. One of the things thus blocked was the flow of what little food was still being brought into the cities. Fearing literal death by starvation, the people of Stofstans and other large cities erupted into riots, the first large scale violence seen in the imperial homeland. For days, mobs fought police and armies in barricaded streets. The unorganized mobs were quickly joined by the Revolutionary Army.
Dostof III shut himself and his family, including the young boy who would one day have become Dostof IV, into the imperial palace far outside the city, hoping to ride out the troubles. In a night-time assault, the Revolutionary Army took the palace and arrested the emperor and his family. Although ordered to arrest and detain the emperor, the soldiers entrusted with guarding him, who turned out to be Namonists, grusesomely murdered the entire family, and declared the affair a magnificent human sacrifice to Namon Wu. Stanstan personally executed those responsible, and attempted to keep Dostof's death a secret, but word was out. All over the country and beyond, news spread that the emperor was dead and the line of succession was broken. Many concluded that the empire itself had died with him.
Stanstan and his followers announced the formation of the Republic of Stofonia now existed, and exhorted all sides to rally to their cause.
General Nomnor Alst, now the highest official remaining in Stofstans and the de-factor successor of Dostof III, abdicated any claim to the imperial throne and placed himself and his army in the service of the republic. (It should be noted that at this point no elections were held, and the "republic" in practical terms meant dictatorial powers for Stanstan). Alst's troops were the most loyal in all the empire, and no mutiny took place among them at this reversal of orders; probably the most significant instance of military disciple actually holding during the Fracture.
Riots and chaos continued unabated, however, until a bizarre (and many would say unholy) alliance was forged with the Bloody Knife. The mafia enforcers were used to put down the crowds and restore order, when neither Stanstan's nor Alst's men could do so. Raktor Aks, boss of the Bloody Knife, was actually put in charge of "public safety".
The new government fought one battle against neighboring Almusp, whose Sinistan vainly attempted to invade Stofstans. After that, peace was quickly made with all of the Republic's neighbors. All of the Sinists nearest to Stofstans had been largely spared in the war, and other than the almost reflexive reaction from Almusp, had little desire to bring destruction on themselves now.
All over the empire and the world, fighting died down. Not because the events in Stofstans were considered to be of any importance at this point, but because it was simply impossible to continue fighting. There was nothing left to loot and pillage, and hardly anyone left to rape. Outside of what had been the Elikaln of Stofstans, total devastation was ubiquitous. Millions of square miles of crop fields, including contiguous areas measuring tens of thousands of square miles, had been burned or otherwise ruined. Industries had been shelled and bombed out looted of existence. Entire cities now consisted or empty streets, broken windows, and burned-out skeletons of buildings. Everyone, even the most bloodthirsty, was either tired of fighting, or simply tired.
Everyone except for Nroth the Mad. After hearing of the death of Dostof, Nroth secured transport for his armies from Gullen to Kulst, and then blazed a trail of terror through the largely unspoiled territories of Kulst and Almusp, feeding his men on the fat of the land, and slaughtering men women and children as traitors against the empire. He declared himself the rightful Emperor, and steered his horde in the direction of Stofstans with the intention of either re-establishing the empire, or utterly destroying the city. His troops moved quickly, using what were probably the last remaining Rolling Death machines that still had fuel in them.
In the final great battle of the Fracture, in the Western Wilds, Nroth's forces were killed to a man by the newly reconstituted army of the Republic allied with troops from other neighboring Sinist. Nroth himself died in a final suicidal frontal assualt. Nomnor Alst was also killed in the battle.
A general peace treaty was signed by as many heads of government as could be summoned, ending the Fracture and recognizing the existence of dozens of new states. However, few signatories signed out of a genuine desire for peace or respect, and plans what would be known as the Alliance Wars began almost immediately.