Reign: 249YE - 257YE
Called: the Relentless
Also known as the Crazed in some circles, and the Revoked in others.
Early life and Election
The girl who would later become Empress Brannan was born in the High Thorn Path striding of the Navarr in 225YE. She was a talented battlefield magician, and a proficient wielder of Summer ritual magic. She served more than once as both the archmage of Summer and the Grand Master of the order of the Rod and Shield as well as being warmage three times during the reign of Emperor Guntherm, a post she held while fighting alongside him during his final campaigns against the Jotun.
In the aftermath of Guntherm's death, Brannan campaigned for and took the throne, vowing to continue the glorious campaigns that her predecessor had begun and gain new territory and new wealth for the Empire, driving its borders ever outwards. She also encouraged the Navarri vates to prepare new trods through the territories she would claim, intending to speed the process of corroding the power of the vallorn and allowing speedy reclamation of the lost Terunael cities.
Immediately after taking the throne, Empress Brannan initiated a ruthless punitive campaign against the Jotun, seeking restitution for what she saw as the murder of her predecessor. The Empire made significant gains in Narkyst, and it appeared at one point that they might succeed in claiming the entire territory held by the southern Jotun. Before her campaign against the Jotun was complete, however, she launched an attempt to claim the Barrens from the Druj subject tribes, and pushed eastwards into the Vore and the area around the Feverwater. Tired, overstretched armies fought increasingly costly battles to the east and the west - some historians theorise that had the Thule not been so badly defeated by Emperor Guntherm, and able to take advantage of the situation, it is likely that they would have been able to overrun northern Varushka and Wintermark with little opposition.
Brannan was a skilled battlefield commander, but she appeared to have little regard for the strategic considerations that followed her victory. Inevitably, settlers in Narkyst and the Barrens alike were slaughtered as soon as the armies moved to their next target. Injured soldiers barely had time to recover from their wounds before they were sent back into battle again. The entire Empire began to suffer a little from 'battle fatigue' - the constant demands of the military council drained Imperial reserves and the constant resources expended on resupplying tired armies meant little mithril or weirwood to use either on other projects or on expanding the resources of the citizenry.
As her reign went on, the Empress made increasingly bold use of powers that other Emperors had used more cautiously. She used her responsibilities as the defender of the Empire to become effectively the general of the Black Thorns, and attempted more than once to have herself voted the ability to assume more than one generalship. She used her position as master of magic to dissolve the Imperial Conclave repeatedly, whenever they resisted her demands for more mana and magic to assist the armies of the Empire. She even issued demands to the Faraden, Iron Confederacy and Skoura for mithril and military support, threatening to declare war if her demands were not met.Perhaps most egregiously, she used the power of veto to dominate the Imperial Senate, bullying them into approving her demands for more troops.
It is difficult to see how she managed to remain on the Throne for as long as she did, but historians point out that for most of her reign she was simply seen as 'hot-headed' and passionate. She listened to advice, and wielded her powers with a moderate amount of restraint for much of her time on the Throne. It was only in the last three years, when it was clear that all the territory she had captured with her armies was being reclaimed by resurgent barbarian forces, that she began to go 'off the rails'.
Even more significantly, she had begun to rely further and further on the magical support of certain eternals, specifically Eleonaris and Hayaak of the realm of Summer. Both eternals offered increasing numbers of magical troops, and in return for certain concessions they offered powerful enchantments to the armies of the Empire. While the soldiers who received these blessings enjoyed great strength and fervour for war, the number of changeling births in the Empire began to rise. A number of beasts thought legendary ravaged parts of Dawn and Varushka. Magicians of the Conclave quietly warned that the Empress was giving over more than perhaps she should in her increasing desperation to defeat her enemies and secure the territory she had taken.
Regardless of the truth behind these allegations, in the end, the Empire had had enough. Even the assemblies of Courage, Pride, and Ambition could not continue to defend her careless abuse of her position. At the Spring Equinox of 257YE the general assembly of the Imperial Synod voted near unanimously to revoke Empress Brannan and remove her from the Throne.
Their actions sent shockwaves throughout the Empire. For the next six months, until Emperor James took the throne, the Empire endured a time of almost unprecedented crisis while still at war on multiple fronts.
Death and Legacy
Empress Brannan died shortly after her revocation - on the first night of the following summit in fact. Historians generally believe that she took her own life, but there is no clear evidence one way or the other. Despite having been removed from the Throne, she was still interred in Necropolis - the Cardinal of Pride at the time of her death lambasted those priests who argued that she should not be accorded such an honour. For much of her reign she had been a heroine of the Empire, and should not be denied the honours she had earnt because of later failings. Still, her tomb is on the very outskirts of the necropolis - a short tower of weirwood surrounded by a maze of white granite walls.
In some ways, Brannan is almost a footnote, sandwiched between the glorious Emperor Guntherm and the wise Emperor James. While she won many battles, she ultimately kept losing the war. Her constant drive to move on to the next fight, to keep expanding at all costs, was seen as ultimately futile. This is not entirely fair - under her reign the Empire ultimately secured several territories that had been in danger of being lost. The raw expression of Imperial military might gave the rulers of Faraden and the Iron Confederacy a fine example of what the Empire could achieve if it turned its mind entirely to warfare.
The Navarr in particular remember her with a combination of sadness and pride. She laid a lot of the ground work that allowed the vallorn to be cleared from much of Hercynia, and she launched several attacks against the Druj with the intention of allowing parts of Therunin to be reclaimed. She encouraged expansion of the trods where possible, but she also made great use of Navarr scouting expertise in her campaigns. Many Winterfolk and Dawnish likewise consider her reign bittersweet; some of the most glorious engagements of the third century took place during her time on the throne. She made resources available to generals, soldiers and battle-magicians on a scale that has never been repeated, and they were able to demonstrate the victories they could achieve with such support. Unfortunately, her lack of strategic thinking meant that all these victories were ultimately hollow.
She is also a cautionary tale. It seems that Brannan genuinely believed that if the Empire stopped expanding, it would become stagnant; she seems to have been equally genuine in her belief that the Empire could ultimately smash the orc barbarians and bring their lands into the Empire. Unfortunately a combination of impatience and short-sightedness meant that she tried too much, too soon, and the Empire paid the consequences.