War of the Magpie and the Dragon
The War of the Magpie and the Dragon (1614-1618) (Khadenz: Fairuz ti'Txatka ab ti'Dracon, Latin: Bellum Picae Draconisque), also known as the Cadenzan-Exponential War or the War of Scottopia, was a major conflict in eastern Astyria in the early seventeenth century. Raids on Exponential shipping by Cadenzan privateers culminated in the occupation and burning of Portus Regalis, the Exponential capital of the Scottopian Isles, and provoked a war between the two colonial powers. Initially dominant at sea, Cadenza lacked the resources for a protracted war and proved unable to hold Portus Regalis for any length of time against Exponential armies and their Scottopian allies. Without the ability to provision their fleets and lacking an army, they instead turned to Imperial territory in Kamalbia, which they conquered and successfully defended against attempts to retake it.
Though Exponent was unable to force a crushing defeat on Cadenza, by late 1617 it had driven them to seek a peace. An Exponential victory off St. Andrew's Point saw Exponent finally achieve a strategic victory that set the scene for subsequent peace negotiations. The 1618 Peace of Portus Regalis or wherever compelled Cadenza to pay full reparations to Exponent, in exchange for which they were permitted to keep their holdings in Kamalbia and Caranad. For Exponent, nearly bankrupted by the loss of Al-Raha in 1602, the peace was an unexpected blessing that saved the empire from financial collapse. For Cadenza, the initial burden of reparations was deemed acceptable in exchange for the acquisition of a colonial empire. The discovery of diamonds in Kamalbia, in 1622, brought in a steady stream of wealth to Cadenza. The crucial role of native Scottopian forces under Baxter III in repelling the Cadenzan invaders earned them the admiration of their Exponential overlords and recognition as a sovereign state by Cadenza.
Modern historians tend to favour the name "War of the Magpie and the Dragon" for the conflict, although less romantic names such as "Cadenzan-Exponential War" and "War of Scottopia" continue to hold some currency, the latter particularly in Scottopian academic circles. At the outbreak of hostilities, it was not immediately clear that the conflict would be of any great duration. Officials in Exponent began to refer to it as "the War in Scottopia" only once Portus Regalis was decisively occupied by the Cadenzans, and, indeed, skirmishes prior to that attack are not considered part of the war even by modern historians. For much of the conflict, Cadenzan officials referred to it euphemistically as "the campaign in the east." In the early phase of the war, most battles were fought by Scottopian troops and local colonial militias against the armies of individual Cadenzan earls who fought under their own banners. It was only when ducal and imperial forces became the primary combatants that the national symbols of the Cadenzan magpie and the Exponential dragon gained prominence in popular perception. Folklore associations soon propelled these names to the forefront. The idea of the dragon as a creature that hoards vast stores of treasure had long been attached to Exponent's widespread colonial empire. Parallels were quickly drawn between the magpie, a bird believed to steal shiny objects to decorate its own nest, and the small Duchy of Cadenza, which was now trying to snatch colonies from the Exponential hoard. The aptness of the allegory was too perfect for commentators to ignore, and it remains the preeminent name for the war.
Loss of Al-Raha
Starting in 1594, a series of devastating plagues began shattering the Hesperidesian continent, and by the time they subsided in 1608 they had left nearly seven percent of the Empire of Exponent dead. The massive drain on manpower forced the Emperor to recall to Exponent many of the colonists in Al-Raha, to work the farms of their now deceased countrymen and attempt to fill the wide gaps in manpower left in the wake of the outbreak. This left the Al-Raha peninsula severely undermanned, and with some isolated instances of plague still breaking out to further weaken the colony's resolve. Sensing this moment of weakness, Riysa sought to reestablish its control over the region, and deployed a powerful force to reclaim the territory.
Beginning in 1610, the Empire of Exponent was forced to fight a long, costly war that ultimately ended in the cession of the peninsula to the Riysian forces. The war had a far greater effect than just the loss of land, however, as it made a significant impact on the already dwindling Imperial treasury. By 1614, the Empire was borderline bankrupt, with the one-two punch of plague and war having taken full effect. The empire was at this time ripe for another attack by a hostile power.
The latter half of the sixteenth century saw a renewed interest in exploration in Cadenza and Kur'zhet, no longer exclusively for mercantile purposes. Wealthy patrons, often the nobility, began to finance explorers (the ratafran), motivated by scientific curiosity in addition to the prospect of finding new trade ports. While ancient knowledge of eastern lands, such as Hesperidesia and Aquitayne, was retained, the maps which depicted them were loose representations at best and wild and inaccurate fantasies at worst. The rationalisation of cartography improved navigation and allowed ships to sail further from land. Around 1530, the islet Torim Viqalka began to be used as a regular stopover for renewing shipboard water supplies. Successive expeditions made greater progress around the southern extremity of Teudallum, a journey which previously had required multiple legs, rounding its tip in 1557. Cadenza began to formalise its tentative trade links with the powers in the east. Clashes such as the War of the Seventy-Three Tunas demonstrated the tension arising from this increased merchant presence from Cadenza and Kur'zhet.
In 1603, the Trellinese Empire began a period of state isolationism, closing its ports to foreign trade, which had a severe impact on the trading economy of its Cadenzan ally, which relied heavily on exports to Trellin for its wealth. To offset the ensuing downturn, the duke arranged an expedition to settle the Insula Fera. A colony was established on the southwest coast of Kyashi, then divided and war-torn amid the Kyashan Warring States period. This settlement failed catastrophically: although it passed unnoticed for some seasons, the colony was eventually besieged and destroyed by local warlords in late 1604. In the following decade, privateers were employed to gather as much information as possible on east Astyrian politics, as the Cadenzan earls prepared for their reintroduction.
The opening action of the war was a major amphibious attack launched by a Cadenzan feet under Teodos Molatiri, Earl of Canve, on 5 May 1614 against Portus Regalis, the Empire of Exponent's provincial capital in the Scottopian Isles. The poorly defended port was attacked by surprise, and the Cadenzans captured it within twenty-four hours. They subsequently occupied the city for three weeks before they were forced to withdraw by Scottopian forces, setting fire to the city as they left.
Panicking Imperial officials took to the countryside, where they set about offering large sums of money and promises of increased independence to the various local Scottopian warlords, and within a matter of weeks had managed to organize a significant force with which to reclaim their lost city. The force, totalling over six thousand men, heavily outnumbered the Cadenzans but was woefully under equipped, completely lacking in any form of firearm. On 29 May, the Scottopian forces under King Baxter III launched their attack, and in the ensuing bloodbath lost more than half of their force, either dead or wounded. The Scottopian armies, however, persevered through the tremendous losses and recaptured the city, which drew great respect and admiration from the Imperial officials both still in the city and who had gone out to gather the men.
Molatiri, realizing the situation was lost, gave the order to withdraw from the city shortly before nightfall. As he did so, however, he ordered his forces to set fire to the city and many of the ships in the harbor, causing tremendous damage to Portus Regalis, especially to the area around the harbor. The several thousand Scottopian troops, most still too exhausted to assist, watched helplessly as the city they fought so hard for just hours earlier was engulfed in flames.
Molatiri's venture brought him acclaim in Cadenza and won him considerable plunder. Other Cadenzan earls began to consider mounting their own expeditions into Imperial territory. The first to act was Khaledro Pamma, Earl of Do'rediq, who led a raid on Monsa in the hopes of securing prestige and profit as well as having his considerable personal debts erased by his merchants. This attack, the Battle of Monsa, was disastrous for Pamma, and ended in his ignominious retreat. It had also the effect of shaking Monsan confidence in their Imperial overlords, and it was a significant factor in their later decision to stop paying tribute.
The Cadenzans' experience in Scottopia demonstrated to them that even a large Exponential garrison could be overcome relatively easy if caught off guard, and, motivated by the loot from the sack of Portus Regalis, Eskamar I decided to outfit a second expedition to the east, this time with the Imperial territories of Kamalbia in their sights. On 11 October, a force of roughly 2,000 soldiers under General Tariq Kimepra made landfall on the coast of southern Kamalbia, beginning a campaign that would last for more than a year and end up capturing the entire colony.
Campaigns at sea
Although the war had been undecided for some time, Exponent's victory off St. Andrew's Point finally compelled Cadenza to sue for peace. Ambassadors met in the ruins of Portus Regalis to draw up the terms for a treaty which salvaged Exponent's dwindling finances, forcing Cadenza to make reparations while permitting it to retain Cadenzan Kamalbia. The defeat of the pride of the Cadenzan fleet was a wake-up call for the republic, which quickly instituted major reforms in its military hierarchy, consolidating control of the fleets under the ducal government. In the following decades, diamonds were discovered in Kamalbia which made it the centrepiece of the fledgling Cadenzan empire.