Helia is the largest, oldest, and most powerful human empire. Early life for the human race was difficult at best and lead to a trend toward small settlements struggling to eke out a living in whatever way they could. What emerged was a feudal society of the first magnitude with petty nobles ruling small fiefs from a local stronghold.
Slowly, as the centuries passed nobles were able to consolidate their power through treaties, trade and marriages. Eventually kings emerged and then finally the King of Helia united all the human lands from one coast to the other into a great, unified government. For a thousand years Helia was the hope of humanity, its salvation from the dark years where man almost perished on the plains of Halad’eth. It was not to last however.
Civil war tore the kingdom apart as aristocratic nobles sought to usurp the growing power of Solonus in the eastern half of the empire. The new Emperor, Orrin Krovinin, appointed by the aristocrats who thought he could be easily controlled, took Helia down a path that would alter it forever. The emperor abolished the armies of the provincial kingdoms, replacing them with a single imperial army. Service became mandatory for all men in the realm. Taxes were increased sevenfold to pay for this army and the wars to the east. When the aristocrats sought to depose this new emperor he had them rounded up for treason and beheaded. No longer where the provincial kingdoms ruled by their hereditary leaders, but puppet governors replaced them, appointed by the new emperor for their personal loyalty to him.
In time the Emperor died, but his son was just as bad, if not worse. It would be decades before Helia would emerge from this dark shadow. The personal freedoms once enjoyed by its citizens would remain forever a thing of the past however, and the golden age that seemed to be humanities greatest achievement went with them. The past several Emperors have been fairly descent rulers, all things considered, and the citizens of the empire are enjoying a prosperity not seen in a long while.
Magic, though not an everyday spectacle for commoners, is quite pervasive in the empire. Wizards are honored and respected in the empire, so much so that the Emperor’s chief advisor is himself a wizard of great power. They are seen and respected, but still very little is known of them and few ever have contact with them. Those that do are awestruck by their great power.
Religion also plays an important part in Helian life, and every village or settlement no matter the size has at least one shrine to its patron deity and usually more to any number of deities. Visitors can expect to find shrines to the full range of deities within any large city. The gods are invoked in the passing of any important event, from planting to harvest to life and death and everything between. Many of the Helian people have no moral or ethical qualms in offering a sacrifice to a god of questionable character if they think it will help their cause. Others are more devout and worship one god exclusively as a priest or cleric. The very few join knightly orders and serve as paladins where they can expect to be respected throughout the empire. Many times religious influence causes conflict with stately influence. Many a bloody conflict has been caused for this very reason.
Once, the people of the Helian Empire enjoyed an enlightened government which gave them many rights, great personal freedoms and equal protection under the law. That empire is gone. Nowadays, the first citizens of the empire are those of Helian descent. Those of Helian descent still enjoy the freedoms that all once held, while non-Helians are taxed heavily and often receive little due process in matters of law and governance. The Emperor’s governors are more often than not more interested in lining their own pockets than governing a province so taxes remain very high while public services are non-existent.
The Helian people once enjoyed the fruits of advanced building techniques that afforded such luxuries as limited plumbing, running water pumped from aquifers through miles of aqueducts, paved roads with drainage culverts and other amenities. Many of these great marvels of engineering now lie in ruins or a state of disrepair as years of abuse and neglect have taken their toll. Not all is bad in the empire however. Many of the people are good at heart and despite the hardships they remain optimistic that things will one day get better. Many minor nobles see the plight of the people and sympathize with their plight while members of many religious orders offer what aid they can to aid the people of the empire.
The Helian army is easily the most disciplined fighting force on Halad’eth. Organized into legions, manuses, cohorts and centuries, they fight in closed ranks with large tower shields and short, deadly swords. The legions are supported in the field by battle arcani (fire support) and clerics (for healing) and many other specialized units, such as mounted knights and siege units capable of transporting and operating massive engines of war.
: Helians stand from 5 ½ to 6 feet tall. They have a full range of eyes and hair colors and their skin tone ranges from light to dusky and dark. Some Helians have Vizjerai blood in them, passed down through the generations and some facial characteristics (particularly the eyes) remain from that long dead race.
: Helians are by and large an outgoing people who get along well with other humans and have little prejudice against elves and dwarves. The long standing feud with orcs and ogres leads to a great amount of prejudice toward those peoples as can be imagined. Helians accept magic as an everyday part of life and have no ill will toward mages or divine clerics.
: The Helian Empire occupies the whole of Northwestern Halad’eth. Helia itself is comprised of many once independent kingdoms such as Allowmar, Karlidom,Panadur, Felamond Sethechar, and IlLycia. These once independent kingdoms now form districts within the empire itself, their rulers serving as appointed governors to the emperor himself.
: Helians worship a full range of deities. Jazirian is particularly popular, as is Heironeous, Azathar and Vergadain.