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aesedra:alasmina_v_rolle

Alasmina V Rolle

For an explanation of dates used, please see the Calendar

Empress of Aesedra (b. Kellermore 4 Oll 11131 - d. Kyne 17 Fieljall 11153 r. 11150 - 11153).

The brief reign of Alasmina V Rolle was remarkable for many reasons. See the timeline for others named here.

Her early life

Many historians believe Alasmina Yolistia Lasildra Rolle (as she was born) was cheated out of the Throne in favour of the then Duke of Nither, Jortonis. Jortonis’ claim to the Throne was from his great-aunt, Candamelia X Rolle. Alasmina was the great-niece of Culustrielle III Rolle, who was Candamelia X Rolle’s grand-daughter. Alasmina was the daughter and only child of Lasildra Rolle, the Duchess of Iron Gates, who died in 11133, Lasildra’s husband, an Oscian nobleman by name of Hirtius, became steward Duke until Alasmina was to reach her majority at sixteen.

The events that led Alasmina to the Throne began on the day Bielana II Rolle died in 11135. Bielana II Rolle died childless and with no living near relatives. She was a withdrawn ruler who felt awkward and vulnerable in the company of men, and found the duties of Empress onerous and burdensome. Her reign was not a happy one, but that is a tale for another day. In short, Bielana’s death left the Empire in a perilous state, as she had refused to name an heir. In the end, the Council of Prefects gave seniority to Jortonis, who duly travelled to Kyne and became Jortonis IV Rolle.

The tortuous path to the Throne

Duke Hirtius of Iron Gates never accepted the Council’s decision and threatened to blockade Kyne until Alasmina was “rightly” placed on the Throne. The various cadet branches of the Rolle dynasty of Iron Gates supported Hirtius in this.

To mollify the Duke, and to stave off possible civil war, the Council made the Compromise of 11135, which pledged that Alasmina would take the Throne when she turned 16. Jortonis IV Rolle agreed to this readily, as he found the role of Emperor a chore and he longed for his home in Nither.

“…what good is a sole boy-child to the world? He is aimless, wandering, lost. Here comes his strong sister to guide him out of his benighted world, and into a land of manly responsibility…”

Duke Hirtius grudgingly accepted the Compromise and withdrew his blockade. In 11139, Jortonis IV Rolle died of fever and was succeeded by his son Taian, who became Taian XVIII Rolle. Taian was a cold and harsh man who increased the size of the military and re-fortified all border posts. Alasmina’s claim and Hirtius’ discontent with affairs were lost in the upheavals Taian had created.

Taian XVIII Rolle died in 11146 when Alasmina was fifteen. Hirtius attempted to have the Compromise revoked and have Alasmina accede, but the Council overruled him. However, the Council arranged for the marriage of Alasmina to Taian XVIII Rolle’s son, Ospertine. They were married and Ospertine became Ospertine I Rolle. He had been expected to take the name Taian, as an honour to his father, but refused to do so.

Alasmina

Ospertine had already garnered a reputation as a philanderer and a carouser. The fifteen year old Alasmina detested the thirty-three year old Ospertine from first sight and steadfastly refused to even meet with him. To this day, it is believed they never consummated their marriage.

Ospertine I Rolle had Hirtius charged with high treason for events that are widely believed to be fabricated, and had him executed. This act alienated Alasmina from Ospertine in all ways, and she moved away from Kyne and returned to Kellermore. There her followers began to plot Ospertine’s downfall. Alasmina, it is recorded, had no opinion on whether she should to ascend the Throne. It is disputed among historians if she conspired against her husband at all. Due to her later manifestations of paranoia, it is feasible she did plot against him. With Hirtius out of the way, Ospertine had the Compromise annulled and settled in to rule Aesedra for his natural life. Ospertine’s rule was renowned for its dissolution and debauchery and he fathered many children to casual encounters. He undid a lot of the military innovations of his father and generally paid no attention to affairs outside of Kyne.

It was during her time at her estate in Kellermore, that Alasmina developed her political and social theories. She would often spend time in prisons and asylums, or in dance schools, at circuses, fairs and fetes of various kinds. Some historians believe it was at this time that Alasmina developed the mental illness that many think she was afflicted with.

“…to the Pits with him and his whores! The world and Five together will sing happy songs as his filthy carcass is buried forever!…”

Ospertine drowned in Seling Deep in 11150. As no alchemist or priest of The Five was allowed near his body before it was entombed, conspiracy theories that he was murdered soon emerged. Nothing was ever proven. Alasmina had been in Kellermore and disavowed all knowledge of any plot, though she told Imperial investigators that she was overjoyed at his death. Official chronicles list his death as accidental.

On a hot summer’s day in 11150, 19 year old Alasmina became Alasmina V Rolle and started what would become one of the most bizarre eras in any nation’s history. Alasmina immediately suspended the Council of Prefects, alleging they plotted too much and did nothing for the common people. To allay the outrage from the Prefect’s respective duchies, she lowered the general rate of taxation, which caused general delight, but furor among the Empire’s treasurers. This was the first motion of many that put Aesedra into debt.

The Instrument

She drew up what has become to be derisively known as the “Instrument of Imbecility”, the Instrument of Good Living and Weal. In it, Alasmina decreed:

  • That all prisoners, from both jail and asylum, were to be released. Alasmina decreed that all of them be assigned to the rat breeding farms (see below) where they would learn useful life skills and decorum. She believed that the husbandry of the rats would rehabilitate the prisoners.
  • That the ides day and the first day of each month would be festivals, and all people, churl or noble, would be equal. To facilitate this, Alasmina designed long blue dresses with white lace trimming for the women and a suit of blue for the men; shirt, trousers and jacket. Thus attired, all people would be the same, to enjoy the Empress’ bounty as equals. No work was to be done on these days, and Alasmina conceived a large number of events and games that were to be played on these days.
  • That no man was allowed to strike a girl or a woman. The punishment for this was one week in a pillory. The penalties were increased if the man was a father and the girl was a daughter and below the age of 16. This law has persisted in some parts of Aesedra.
  • That men and women will not bear children out of Five-sanctioned wedlock. Further to this, Alasmina decreed that the proper family size was four children: two girls and two boys. Ideally, the girls should be older, to provide proper guidance to their younger brothers. This decree was removed from the Instrument before it was published on advice from her advisers, claiming it would foment civil war.
  • That all white, fawn and piebald rats and mice were not to be killed. They were to be bred, in the hope that they would outnumber and supplant the verminous brown and black varieties. She ordered many farms set up throughout Aesedra to achieve this aim. Alasmina believed that the lighter coloured mice and rats were less ravenous, and therefore more grain and foodstuffs would be available to her people.
  • That the death penalty was to be abolished. All offences that earned the death penalty - murder, treason, ravishment, coin-shaving, forgery, enslavement, lèse majesté, robbery under arms and piracy, now attracted a penalty of banishment. The offenders were to be sent to the Xicomor border in Makael and not allowed to return.
  • That any crime committed against the gentry was to be no more serious than if it had been committed against a common person. In theory, this was how the law stood, save for offences against the direct Imperial family, but in practice, was biased toward the noble. This decree eventually led to the Noble Statute or “Belantinian Law”, introduced 650 years later.
  • That no child under the age of 12 would do a grown man or a woman’s work. This law has persisted in some parts of the Empire, primarily Ghananda where such a law has always existed.
  • That Aesedran vernacular shall be the sole language of the Empire. Alasmina believed that Aesedra would be a far more productive and harmonious nation if all of her subjects spoke the same language. There’d be no misunderstandings, far less conflict, less regionalism and parochialism. Needless deaths due to misplaced patriotism would be prevented. In the Instrument, Alasmina stated that she personally held no favouritism for the Aesedran language, and that only since most people spoke it, it made sense for it to be chosen.
  • That the custom of Murredian female bondage be outlawed. Alasmina viewed this custom as an insult to women.
  • That guard-posts be set up every ten miles along all Imperial roads to provide shelter and protection for all travellers. This decree has remained in force.

The Effects of the Instrument

The effects of the Instrument of Good Living and Weal were immediate, drastic and wide-ranging. Her suspension of the Council marked her as an autocrat in the view of many. She was not the first to do this, but her declaration that the Council existed only to come between the Empress and her people generated mixed outrage, wonder and cheer.

“…Bitchqueen, they call me? I would ask every one of these fools to come before me and state the manner of how I’ve injured him, and how I deserve such an unholy label…”

Her implications that Aesedran gentry were no better or privileged than the common folk caused immediate and lasting enmity between her and her nobles. Many refused to don the “Bitchqueen Blue” suits and join their people in the festival days. Several of her Dukes, including those of Murred, Parrence, Ghananda and Firvell refused to honour these days at all. Ghananda went as far to label them an unproductive waste of public funds and outlawed them.

Due to the massive expense and time required to make these blue costumes, few made it to the remoter provinces to begin with. It is now a sign of family prestige to actually own one of them. Her termination of the Murredian bondage custom brought Murred to the brink of secession as a protest. Alasmina, in response, wrote an impassioned open letter to the women of Murred exhorting them to have self-respect. The Murredians were unyielding on Imperial interference in what they considered to be an ancient and noble custom, and Alasmina was forced to repeal that article of the Instrument. Nonetheless, Alasmina, in a pique, banned the presence of Murredian bondees from the Imperial City of Kyne - a law that has remained on the statutes.

Releasing prisoners to do public works was not a new idea. Alasmina’s emancipation of them all, and the reasons why she had liberated them, were universally scorned. While most prisoners found their new employment as rat and mouse breeders both productive and amusing, many reverted to their pre-incarceration lives and resumed criminal careers. Despite pleas from her advisers to abolish the breeding farms and put the prisoners back in jail, Alasmina never relented on this one.

The Mouse Queen’s Folly

The breeding program itself was ridiculed openly. The source of it lay in Alasmina’s observations as a young girl raising pet mice and rats. She saw that the lighter ones weren’t as savage and ate less ravenously. Despite it being pointed out to her that this was likely due to the preponderance of lighter coloured rats and mice being tame in the first place, Alasmina persisted with this theory. She strongly felt that Aesedra’s grain yields would be higher and there’d be less spoilage if the black and brown colours were bred out of them.

Many of the breeding farms are now ruins in the wild and some were converted for other uses. To this day, the pejorative term “ratfarm” refers to any expensive and worthless folly. Surprisingly, her laws concerning striking girls and women were both adhered to and respected on the whole. Ghananda already had such laws and paid Alasmina’s no heed. The more conservative provinces such as the two Quoughs and Makael grumbled but followed suit. It took many years after Alasmina’s death and the revocation of the Instrument, for these laws to fall out of usage and the general laws against assault to come back in vogue.

The abolition of the death penalty was met with everything from laughter to disbelief. The decree to banish all malefactors into Xicomor was a decision that would haunt Aesedra later, as the descendants of these criminals organised rebellious raids into Makael over the next few centuries.

The imposition of Aesedran vernacular as the sole language of the Empire met instant uproar and anger. Most vocal of the opponents were the Ghanandese and the Polatians, two peoples who have guardedly maintained their own customs and ways for millennia. Ghananda, especially, saw this as a brazen contravention of the Treaty of Uyre which guaranteed their cultural independence from Aesedra.

Alasmina was soon faced with the dire reality that this law would cause open rebellion against her and she grudgingly repealed it. She maintained the belief that a single language would erase a good portion of Aesedra’s internal disorders. Also, she believed (very strongly - writing many essays on the subject) that the stance taken by Polatia and Ghananda was indicative of the need to feel morally superior to others. She accused the Ghanandese especially, of fostering a parochial racialism that served nobody but their own sense of well-being.

“…you would fester in your worthless sense of separation, all the while bleeding, sweating and urinating the same as myself or my people. We are all one! Your zealous patriotism to narrow-mindedness is a malevolence I cannot overlook!…”

The idea that cultural distinction was the corner stone of all racism and exclusivity was central to Alasmina’s worldview.

Alasmina, the Champion of the Family

Also central to her organon was the family unit concept. Alasmina was an only child and historians and scholars have speculated that she was writing and envisioning about families from a wistful point of view. Although she was married for a short time, her and Ospertine were rumoured never to have gone near each other again after their wedding day. Therefore, there was never any opportunity for Alasmina to put into practice her own theories. It is commonly believed that she died a virgin.

The idea of casual sexual encounters appalled Alasmina, claiming that such things were only to the gratification and advantage of men. To properly enjoy the fruits of sex, the man and the woman needed to be committed to one another, and the product of the sex was to produce children. While this belief isn’t novel and Alasmina was by no means the first to espouse it, she was the first to attempt to legislate it.

Her law on having four children in religiously sanctioned wedlock was struck before it was published, mainly on the proviso that it was a tacit endorsement of The Five as a state religion. This would’ve put provinces such as Ghananda, where the Five aren’t worshipped at all, and Firvell and Parrence where worship is desultory at best, at odds with the Throne.

Despite the decree being struck from the Instrument, Alasmina wrote prodigiously on the subject, most notably in her book The Silver Family. She firmly believed that older sisters made the best and proper mentors for younger boys, and having two boys and two girls in the one family was optimal for correct family upbringing.

While she did not decry men ruling, Alasmina ascribed good guidance from older women, probably a sister, as the only effective method for successful male leadership. Alasmina was of the mind that women saw into the future better than men and could thus organise and prepare for rulership more effectively. Critics quite often point out the chaotic repercussions of her own decisions and allege these theories are mere hogwash.

Gatian wine-presser's clothes

Nonetheless, many of Alasmina’s theories have been taken to heart by some people and it’s not uncommon for an older sister or an aunt to provide mentoring and guidance to a younger male member of the family, particularly in provinces such as Senei and Vonei.

Her death and the after-effects

Alasmina V Rolle was found dead in a garden at the Palace of the Empire in Kyne, on 17 Fieljall 11153. She was 22. The cause of her death was widely suspected at that time to be poison (but see the section Her Legacy for why this is unlikely), but none of the surgeons who examined her could agree on a single cause. Officially, her death was listed as “heart failure caused by improper diet”. Surgeons and others speculated later that she died of a combination of malnutrition and deficiency of vital minerals, and that her heart simply gave out as a consequence.

When her body was examined at post-mortem, it was found that she was exceedingly thin. She weighed 85 pounds at the time of her death. She had been 5’3” in height bare-footed.

Alasmina loved animals and was a staunch vegetarian, not even taking milk. Despite her seemingly healthy diet of fruit and vegetables, she would often go weeks eating naught but just peaches or leeks or another single kind of food. She never ate cooked food, and insisted upon raw fruits and vegetables from her estates. The chronicles note that she would often faint and her personal journals are replete with entries where she complained of dizziness standing up or getting out of bed.

Her death, predictably, elicited mixed reactions. The nobility rejoiced that a mad tyrant was dead (they believed her to be insane) and order could now be restored, whereas many of the common folk felt that they had lost a sister or a young aunt. Much to the annoyance of the Aesedran gentry, nearly three million people flocked to Kyne for her funeral. She remains one of the most widely mourned leaders in Aesedra’s history.

Alasmina the woman

The surviving gravatures of Alasmina portray a sallow, peaked and hollow-cheeked woman with mildly protuberant eyes. She always had her bright orange-red hair cut short, to three or four inches in length. Her usual mode of dress was muslin white or cream blouses and brown plus-four trousers (see image) - a combination that earned her the derisive nicknames of the Tomcat Empress or the Butchqueen ( a play on her more famous sobriquet).

It is interesting to note that this is the traditional dress of male grape harvesters from Iron Gates. The Gatian Rolles have been vintners for millennia. So, in essence, Alasmina was wearing clothes her family’s servants had worn for ages. The mere fact that they were masculine clothes gave rise to many rumours, such as that Alasmina was homosexual, or she secretly desired to be a man and a host of other unfounded stories. Alasmina never wrote down or told anyone why she wore what she did, and as Empress, she may well have felt she was not required to.

She seldom wore dresses or clothes of high fashion, and the only gravature that exists of her wearing such raiment is her coronation day portrait. She was not a natural beauty, by any means, but as she let very few anywhere near her, few got to see Alasmina the woman except on the obverse of coins minted during her reign.

Alasmina, like most members of the Aesedran gentry, was tutored extensively and could read and write half-a-dozen or more languages, and had good knowledge of a great many subjects. Historians note that she spoke in a high fluting voice, with a crisp and clear diction - in stark contrast to her unkempt and ragamuffin appearance. Her writing style was both erudite and florid and tended toward euphuism. It was aped by many poets and satirists long after her death.

Alasmina was succeeded by Jortonis V Rolle, the second son of Taian XVIII Rolle, and so the Nitherese line was restored. Jortonis rescinded and repealed the Instrument almost in its entirety, saving the innovations deemed to be productive, such as the guard-post decree. The Council were reinstated and Alasmina’s orders were countermanded slowly but surely. It would take a century for the treasury of Aesedra to recover from the debt Alasmina’s Instrument had put it in.

Jortonis never publicly discredited Alasmina which led to a lot of historians believing he had admired the reign of his distant cousin. The Council condemned her universally, as did nearly all the Dukes of the Empire. In fact, it was voted upon to give her the sobriquet “Bitchqueen”, though Jortonis never ratified it, and neither did his short-lived successor, Bielana III Rolle.

Though she is commonly known as the Bitchqueen today, it has never been Alasmina’s official sobriquet. Many view it as an unfair calumny upon an idealistic and populist young woman who never had anything but the Empire’s best welfare at heart.

The common people of Aesedra jokingly (and affectionately) refer to her as Her Imperial Silliness, or occasionally as the Mouse Queen (a nickname she shared with the later Candamelia XI Rolle) or the Tomcat Empress (names that have long lost their barbs). Not one person was executed for any crime during her brief reign. Nor were there any foreign incursions or rebellions.

Her legacy

If anything, Alasmina’s stature has grown with time. Forgotten, except to history books, are her fiery temper tantrums, her poor personal hygiene (she rarely bathed as she was deathly afraid of being murdered at her bath), her raging and screaming throughout the palaces, her paranoia that all of her nobles were out to murder her. Forgotten also were her demands that everyone, including her Imperial Highguard, kept at least a hundred yards from her (armed men reminded her of Ospertine). She communicated through notes of paper (“requirements” as she termed them) and rarely allowed anyone within earshot of her person. If someone by chance strayed too close to her, they would receive ear-piercing shrieking until they had removed themselves sufficiently enough away.

“…I asked for FIVE sets of daily wear to be laid out for me! There are FOUR! Only FOUR! What am I to do on the fifth day? Shame the Five and expose myself to the sun and the stars?…

At the time, it was thought by the gentry and the few that were (somewhat) close to her, that she was mad. Her mouth would occasionally be contorted in tics and she had the habit of clicking her fingers when she was seated. She possessed a habit of rapid blinking and she could not focus her eyes on any object for longer than a few seconds.

But, all of these things are forgotten to the general public, and she is recalled as the wild, foolish and far-seeing visionary or the politically naive young Empress who wanted to change the world into a utopia where men and women were true equals and all people had bountiful respect for one another. Her works are still widely read, mainly by younger women who are inspired by her ideas on families and siblings. She could well be regarded as a feminist, but she had firm belief in the ability of men to achieve things, and she theorised that women could not rise to their potential without the input of a man and vice versa.

aesedra/alasmina_v_rolle.txt · Last modified: 2014/10/12 06:21 by peter