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A single spark of judgment can echo through history. Of all the great figures of the mighty Solar Hegemony, Empress Celina Solati-Vanen, Lux Imperia, stands atop a mountain of enemies as a peer to the greatest leaders of Humanity. Not since Emperor Remus did a personality reshape the Light Plains so strongly to their vision and will, however twisted. Celina’s ascension to new heights was necessary for such a spectacular fall.
~Salvation By the Light~
Celina was born around 41 LS, and was promptly abandoned by her unwed parents at the steps of the Temple of Sola in Abresia. This castoff origin did not immediately spell a sentence to slavery, as is common in Abresia. Rather, Celina spent countless hours in study and devout duty as the clergy took her in on a trial charity emulating the creche system of Mundi. Advisors took note of her dedication and wit, although always patronized she should try to curb her sharp tongue. Scholasta historians speculate that Celina’s troubled interpretation of her birth, coupled with the strict, relentless teachings against the promiscuity and excess of the old Abresian nobility, molded her into an assertive but deeply puzzling figure focused on rising to the most respectable position of power possible.
By early adulthood, Celina was a driven Solasii high priestess, fiercely pious and ascetic. Few did not wither under her carefully planned machinations against those she found to be hypocritical or corrupt. Celina steeled herself to be the embodiment of justice, faith, and the rule of divine law over Abresia. Those who did not come around to her strict interpretations of the Book of Sola found themselves isolated by her growing flock of commoners and low-clergy. In quick succession, several of Celina’s superiors in the church had their reputations tarnished, exposed for vice and greed in trials that ended with public executions overseen by Celina’s allies in the Abresian Krypteia.
~The Years of Tacitus The Kind~
Celina’s puritanical rise in Abresian society stood in direct opposition with the official spirit of the wider Hegemony. The Grand Reformations of Emperor Tacitus the Kind, grandson of the founding Emperor Remus Cassar, were in full swing by this early part of the Exodus Era. Religious tolerance, social programs for the poor, expanded protections for nonhumans, and less harsh Scintillan System forced conscription for the Solar Legions were all on the national agenda. Even talk of abandoning the quest to activate the Solar Network had begun in the wake of the supposed destruction of one of the seven Orbs of Abragon. Tacitus did not immediately condemn this talk, to the damning judgement of his peers. Most prominently, a push for more separation between the civil government of the empire and the Church of Sola was gaining steady support.
This was a vast political swing in the other direction from the brutal reign of Tacitus’s father Emperor Decimus, who had traumatized the Light Plains. Yet, to Celina’s flock, the Grand Reformations appeared to be a straying of the Hegemony’s society away from the fundamental tenets that once guided it to conquer much of the known world. To allow Tacitus’s sweeping reforms to continue would be to risk the Final Victory promised by the Book of Sola at the end of days.
~Rise of the Rudimentarii~
No further ‘heresy’ would be allowed to fester. The Abresian church’s criticisms came to a head during the Silver Horizon riots of 66 LS. Secretly roused to action by Celina and a close core of ringleaders, the city’s devout public rose up and declared a new sect of the Church of Sola – The Rudiment. With Celina at the head, this ‘pure’ form of the faith was magnetic to the Abresians who felt alienated by the rapidly changing pace of their world. It quickly spread to other corners of the Hegemony through waves of born-twice preachers. In Abresia, the Rudimentarii overpowered the garrison legions, put down several slave revolts, and looked for allies among the dozens of fledgling separatist movements led by rogue generals and governors across the Light Plains.
The most powerful of these rebellions was led by High Admiral Ahn Vanen of Deonar. Vanen had also grown wary of Tacitus’s reforms, seeing them as compassionate but a threat to the survival of Humanity. He was quick to pledge the Imperial Home Fleet to spread the light of the Rudiment. Using intelligence provided by Celina, two full loyalist provincial legions were defeated and captured by the Cobalt Marines of Deonar at the Rout of Fallow Fields. Thousands of disarmed legionnaires were paraded through the streets of Deonar, then ordered to convert and fight for the Rudiment or face death. As one, the entire force bent the knee. Celina and Ahn finally had a military large enough to strike for the Water Palaces of Scintilla.
Yet, when their forces at last entered the inner provinces, they found the gates of Scintilla open, crowds of Scintillans applauding in the streets. One of Tacitus’s most treasured advisors, the devout Brutia Araelia, had convinced the palace Praetorians to seize Emperor Tacitus and surrender the city to the true path of the Rudimentarii. It is said Celina and Ahn wept ten thousand tears each upon seeing how low even their beloved Emperor had fallen from the path of light. The public execution of Tacitus and the political wedding of Celina Solati and Ahn Vanen on the same day marked the coming of a new order.
~The Reign of the Diarchy and the Exaltation Wars~
A diarchy of two co-rulers would lead the Solar Hegemony, its government rechristened the Second Genesis. Unfortunately, goodness and justice were merely abstractions to hide oppression behind. Massive purges of the church and military followed as the diarchs put down rival insurgencies and false emperors, their search for treason and heresy becoming a quest fueled by paranoia and judgment. If the cunning couple had come to rule in a power vacuum, they would have to seal the possibility of being dethroned behind them.
Every level of the Second Genesis government became staffed with Rudimentarii clergy that would reshape life in the Solar Hegemony for the next twenty years. Austere spiritual purity was made to be the highest goal in a citizen’s life, with almost every spare moment an average citizen had away from labor devoted to worship. The most competent of the Hegemony’s generals found themselves purged by a zealous new Krypteia even more empowered to root out enemies both real and imagined. The most skilled leaders fell victim to the most pious, then simply the most obedient, at the expense of the military, economy, and social progress.
These final years of the Exodus Era marked a strong decline in the Hegemony’s foreign expansion in favor of various schemes attempting to bring about the return of Sola. With Celina’s agents, mercenaries, and adventurers scouring Dema, a miraculous two more Orbs of Abragon were discovered during the diarchy. Yet, the strains the Hegemony’s legions underwent as oppressed provinces sought to break away from the Rudimentarii’s tightening grip nearly fragmented the Light Plains back into kingdoms on multiple occasions in conflicts that would collectively be called the Exaltation Wars. The blood of one last-ditch battle was barely cleansed before the next flared up as rifts along species, religion, and class deepened in the Daylands. This dark age of discipline, abstinence, tension, and revolt lasted between 70-90 LS, immortalized in tomes and histories such as Faith and Fire, A Vigil For Would Be Kings, and Lux Imperia.
Supposedly, Ahn revealed to Celina in 89 LS that he had lost faith in the Second Genesis regime, believing the Final Victory not worth the brutality it was taking to sustain worship that had only received silence from the sun goddess. The only way a deity could be silent from such pleadings for light was if they did not exist. Ahn’s atheist revelation apparently drove Celina to despair – and fury. She ordered Ahn imprisoned, to be put to death in the Coliseum of Mar in Mundi for the ultimate heresy. Despite the best efforts of their brilliant son Sicarius to avert his father’s demise, insisting that Ahn would find his faith once more, Celina personally oversaw Ahn’s torture and execution in the cheering arena, her billowing white silk gown knit with ten thousand rubies glinting on the arena’s central throne.
~A Fall of Wrath and Fury~
The remaining year of Celina’s rule was spent in a frenzy of violence across the Hegemony. Her guile was not dulled by her unhinged wrath. She made the unprecedented decision to shift the Solar Hegemony’s capital to Abresia, ruling through atrocity from her battered homeland. By the time she declared herself the divine Avatar of Dawn in 90 LS, Celina was in the final stages of arranging for every firstborn child of the Rudiment’s faithful to be sacrificed on the steps of the Temple of Sola in Abresia to bring about the goddess’s return.
Only steps ahead of the Krypteia, a coalition of conspirators led by Celina’s son Sicarius slew her warrior-monk Chastined guards. The group of mostly Praetorians and priestesses horrified by Celina’s plans locked Celina in the highest tower of Abresia. Power fell to Sicarius.
A sizable portion of the public still spoke of Celina as the infallible Avatar of Dawn. Equally vocal factions of the conspirators spoke of sparing Celina as a powerless figurehead of the Rudiment, or of executing her to prevent more danger to the Hegemony and to restore the proper Church of Sola.
Sicarius’s choice was never known for certain. Only a select cohort of Praetorians was ever allowed to enter that tower again. Officially, Celina perhaps still lived on unseen. This allowed for at least a wishful interpretation to the mainline Rudimentarii that the even mightier deeds of Emperor Sicarius lasting into the final days of the Redsky Era were at the command of his unforgettable imperial mother.
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