|Within every bird's|
Flight, is a single moment
Of perfect stillness
----Anonymous Cathayan Haiku
It started in the south, in the endless stepped rice Paddies that sheathe the rolling hills that tumble down from the Mountains of Mourn. Small enough to escape attention, at least for a little while. The crop was smaller that year but not alarmingly so. The small number of blackened, misshapen plants that clawed their way out of the water were simly discarded or ignored. The next year, more than half of the fields on the north facing slopes sprouted withered, disfigured plants that crumbled into a sticky brown ash at the touch. By the time the Empire began storing food it was already too late. As the last of the summer sun bleeds into the West not a single plant has been harvested in over a year and Cathay, the largest, most powerful nation humanity has ever known stands on the brink of collapse.
In the forbidden city of Wei-Jin, the Noble families jockey for position in the endless Dance of Houses, riding out the famine with their considerable stores of food. Desperate to take advantage of an impotent child Emperor still too young to take command of his Empire but goverened by centuries of tradition the Noble houses seek to undermine one another, gaining power at the expense of their rivals, heedless of the plight of the Empire that supports them.
In the East, in the religious strongholds of the Empire a radical offshoot of Tzeenchian religion has gained favour among the poor and the disenfranchised. With * The Imperial Corpse * safely barricaded in Wei-Jin and dismayed at the seeming indifference of their rulers, the people find comfort in the words of a charismatic Priestess who has galvanized the Religious with promises of ancient secrets and promises a better and more equal way of life for those willing to follow in her footsteps.
In the meantime, local Governors, cut off from the heart of the Empire and left to fend for themselves with food supplies dwindling, look to their people and to their borders. For banners have been sighted on the horizon and the warning bells have begun to toll. These Governors wield tremendous power, but with no functioning central voice their first priority has become the preservation of their own Province as the lines of communication throughout the Empire begin to fragment.
From the Hinterlands an army of Greenskins riding monsterous spiders daubed in primitive warpaint threaten to overwhelm the Southern defences by sheer force of numbers. From the North, led by a waif-like girl-child a host of darkness marches under a cloud of disease and pestilence that scorches the earth to a blackened cinder. Comitted to the destruction of the Empire itself they stand behind the Barrier, looking for a way in. From the West come confused reports of an unholy alliance of Chaos Dwarves and Skaven marching over the Mountains of Mourn, drawn by the promise of slaves and of new and terrible weapons constructed with the magical secrets of an ancient Empire. Other reports tell of a vast Migration of Ogres, driven out out of the Mountains of Mourne in search of food led by a mysterious prophet preaching a new way of life. Through the Kingdoms of Ind, weary after years of travel, a group of settlers led by a charismatic but sickly leader seek a home in the Empire of the Dragon, but find their new home teetering on the brink of collapse. Meanwhile, the Mercinary army of Prince Alfonti prepares to defend Cathay from those who would seek her distruction and out to sea, vast armadas jockey for position, their flags and pennants snapping in the breeze. Some dare to hope that they have arrived to lend aid to the stricken Empire in its hour of need, but others prepare for the worst and all across Cathay a vast stream of refugees flees the advancing armies, searching for a safe place to ride out the storm.
As the shadows lengthen the Cathayan army has begun to mobalize. Millions of men determined to preserve their way of life and a country which has not been truly threatened for thousands of years. Whether there will be an Empire left for them to inhabit remains to be seen.