King Horatius

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Overview

King Gaius Horatius (Y422 - ) took the throne in Y460 upon the death of his father, King Festus Horatius. Horatius was a strong king whose reign was marked by widespread peace throughout the kingdom and received tribute from the surrounding principalities. Under his leadership, Mysticus became extremely prosperous. However, he failed to produce a politically viable heir and as his health failed, confidence in the Horatius dynasty declined.

Early Life

Gaius was an astute follower of court intrigue, from youth. It was said that by the age of 12, he was in the heads of all of the dukes and duchesses and was able to predict quarrels with uncanny accuracy. At age 18 he was appointed Prince of Drin ahead of his older brother, Vinicius, though he had no battlefield experience. And, inasmuch as his success at court caused none to question his legitimacy, it was widely circulated among the lower nobility that he had arranged his own promotion through wheelings-and-dealings and had forced his father's hand. Vicinius accepted his younger brother's appointment and was rewarded with the Duchy of Aetius, where he was given the heritable title of Archduke.

Reign

The War of Vanity

In Y467 Horatius fought his first war against a group of barons led by Duke Livius, who had sought to renegotiate the dues on their titles and had used alliances with border states as leverage. It had become well known that Horatius had no mind for military strategy, and Livius leveraged this fact by fortifying his duchy with conscripts and mercenaries. He argued his contribution to the kingdom was strength of arms and that his duties were intolerable.

Horatius led an army south to fight Livius, but the results were disastrous for the crown. Livius' forces were entrenched and every approach was heavily guarded. Ultimately, the royal forces were crushed. Livius, believing the war to be over, offered his original terms: reduction in dues and greater autonomy. Horatius, however, believing that capitulation would make his reign weak and fruitless, fled to Aetius for more forces. His uncle quickly conscripted a new army and Horatius marched south, again.

However, instead of invading the Duchy of Livian, he used the army to blockade it. He then bribed the local independent border states to nullify their alliance and agree to the embargo and offered them portions of the duchy when the war was won. After a year, Livius capitulated, was stripped of his titles, and was exiled to Hippo along with his top barons.

The Horatian Triumvirate

The Church refused to take a political stance in the War of Vanity and support the crown. The Triumvirate's reasons were unknown to the public, but it was whispered that Horatius had frequented a chapel to Cornelia Agar during a stay in Arduk shortly before ascending to the throne. Whatever the reasons, Horatius was furious with the Holies and publicly accused them of hurting morale in his first army.

However, the public sided with the Church and by Y472 Horatius was concerned about his hold on the throne. He ascended Mt. Sanctus, presumably to repent and make atonement. But, surprisingly, upon his descent, he announced that he and the Triumvirate had come to an agreement, that two of the Holies would be stepping down, and the Church was to hold an immediate election to establish a new Triumvirate. The kingdom was in shock, but the announcement was confirmed by the Holies, themselves. Therefore, elections were held and two priest confessors from the castle at Drin were elected. This was called the Horatian Triumvirate because the choices were overtly political and, indeed, Horatius enjoyed the apparently-unconditional backing of the Church for the rest of his reign.

Pax Mysticana

Horatius' reign, subsequent to the War of Vanity was marked by an unprecedented lack of political unrest. Moreover, his political machinations with the border states brought many of them, especially those that reaped the rewards of support during the war, closer into the fold, thereby freeing trade routes and benefiting commerce in general. Even the various tribes of orcs, who typically kept to themselves, were open to his overtures. His one major political failure was an inability to open a lasting contact with the dwarves, who shunned his invitations to dialogue and negotiation.

Coffers filled and the peasantry thrived. Thus, the period from Y468-Y499 is commonly called Pax Mysticana, and King Horatius is credited with making and keeping it.

Decline

The king remained physically and mentally active well into his 70s. But on his 77th birthday (Y499) on a hunting trip he was thrown from his horse resulting in a terrible injury and infection that was expected to kill him. The kingdom prepared for the coronation of his eldest daughter, Gratiana, but the old king clung to life and even began holding court, though it was reported that pain and ailment distracted him. During this time, Gratiana and her brother, Brutus, vied for authority in political matters. Gratiana called parliament, attending to affairs of state, but Brutus sat beside his father in court and answered questions directed at the throne.

Towards the end of Y499, Gratiana had lost a lot of support as much of the upper nobility began seeing Brutus as the more likely successor. By the time Horatius stopped holding court because of his ailments, Brutus held dominant support over her, and publicly called into question her capacity to rule on account of Mysticus had never had a ruling queen. However, he himself was not widely supported by the lower nobility, and even the upper nobility thought he was far less clever than his father, and his answers were often cruel and unfeeling towards the peasantry.

At this time, Archduke Julius Aetius, who had ascended to his father's position, proposed a solution: Aetius would succeed Horatius. Aetius, though relatively untested, was said to possess a keen intellect and the capacity for compromise that all parties could accept. He was well-liked by the nobles, so overwhelming support quickly moved to him. Horatius, however, in his last public council (and much to the surprise and consternation of Brutus, who sat beside him) declared that Gratiana was to be his successor. The church immediately backed Gratiana, which led to a split between the church, itself, and much of the nobility that still supported Aetius.

When Aetius refused to back down, Gratiana, who had begun holding court in her father's place, expelled him from Drin. Gratiana's popularity quickly grew after that, and by the new year most of Aetius' support had reluctantly swung to her. In Y500, Aetius publicly acknowledged his error in trying to take the throne, but said that he was not wrong to oppose Gratiana. Instead, Brutus should be made king, and Aetius, himself, would guide him in the qualities necessary for leadership. Brutus received this support and rallied the nobles to his camp. Gratiana banished Brutus from Mysticus to Hippo. However, Brutus fled to Aetius and the two began a rebellion.

Horatius, amazingly surviving through the war, held only private council. Gratiana directed the actual campaign and the old king remained in seclusion in the castle at Drin.

Controversies

Horatius can be said to follow a philosophy of realpolitik that sacrifices the "good" for an acceptable political outcome. A notable case is the Horatian Triumvirate, which kept the nobility in line for three decades and the Archduke Aetius on his heels throughout the war. The cost is a political church with notably reduced moral currency among the intelligentsia. Inasmuch as the Triumvirate has benefited the crown and promoted stability, the utilitarian tendencies of its proclamations have undoubtedly had a measurable impact on the moral hygiene of the peasantry.

Additionally, despite his incredible self-control in matters political, Horatius was notorious and is believed to have fathered numerous illegitimate children, both noble and peasant. This has not, as yet, led to widespread claims to the throne, but the long-term consequences for the Horatian dynasty are problematic.