|Photo by Ying Feng Johannsson|
The Empire's furthest reaches were demarcated by The Aleph Pylons. Most of these were pulled down centuries ago during the Prairie Fire Rebellions, which initiated the so-called Headlong Tumble and the Empire's decline. The Aleph lost hundreds of worlds during the Tumble, but still managed to hold on to dozens by diplomacy, bribes, seduction, treachery, necromancy and elementalism, and in a few cases, brute force.
The invasion of the Trolls did the rest. The Trolls came from Beyond the Deep Horizon, and liberated numerous Aleph worlds. Finally, the Trolls reached the center-world of Aleph's wicked Empire. They surrounded that corrupt, dying Empire with Good Government.
The Trolls reduced the Aleph Empire to a single ancient shambolic walled city-state, a virtual Tower Realm all but surrounded by the Troll-state. Many peasants in the immediate vicinity of Rust Gate have fled to the Troll Republic. Only the most docile stayed behind to work the land for the city. Still others have declared themselves rebels and freeholders, and have sought alliances with the Troll Republic to maintain their autonomy. The city responds with terrorism and necromancy. As a result, most of the land required to feed the city has now gone fallow.
Within the city, Rust Gate's half-starved populace and nobility are subject to the unceasing intrigues and whims of the city-state's decadent Emperor and Court. The city's elites have recently hit upon intermarriage with the Troll Republic's ministers, emissaries, and high merchant families as a way of buying some security against outright invasion.
These Troll Marriages are welcomed by the Troll families, because through these arrangements, the Troll Republic gains access to some of the well-fortified and closely guarded Tower Gates within the city-state. The gates offer the Trolls new prospects for trade and conquest - new avenues down which to spread their republican ideals.