The origins of the Cabal are murky, as befits a conspiracy. Its founders claimed an ancient ancestry, holding that they were chartered by the emperor Benoras around 1400 as secret defenders of the Empire. However, the known activities of the Cabal date to no earlier than 2060.
By the 2000s it was increasingly common for the death of an emperor to trigger a violent struggle to regain the sash. The Cabal claimed that they acted to prevent such disorder. Its nine members— who dressed identically, in red robes and mask— spent decades allying with anyone who seemed disgruntled with the emperor, making promises of wealth, position, and prosperity once they succeeded in taking power— or threatening those who refused to support them. They hid their names, but several are known to be generals, and all were powerful nobles.
In 2107 they felt strong enough to act. Their forces occupied the chief buildings of Ctesifon, and murdered the infant emperor Ďallir as well as the entire imperial family. They moved quickly to assert control over the military and the pagan hierarchy.
It was expected that one of the Cabal would become Emperor; but instead they constituted themselves as a ruling body, all equals, all anonymous. Each member was to be addressed as Claetiles, Caballist. They were alarming figures whenever they appeared, and all the more terrifying because they could appear seemingly at any moment and any place. A claetiles did not give up his normal identity, which added to their mystery— any successful noble might be a Caballist.
Their program soon became evident: to plunder the Empire for their own gain. They appropriated imperial treasure, persecuted their many enemies, and took huge estates for themselves. Confiscated estates were generally kept in the name of the Cabal, though some were given to allies (some of whom, of course, were secretly members of the Cabal). Few of their promises of reward were kept, but they famously fulfilled all of their threats.
When a claetiles died the other eight claetileit would name a new one. More than once two or three claetileit died within weeks of one another; it was generally assumed that these were the victims of intra-Cabal intrigues.
Caballist rule weakened nearly every Caďinorian institution. The courts grew corrupt; the army grew accustomed to living on intrigue and spoils; the pagan patriarchs taught respect for the Cabal and were forbidden to name any emperor. (The use of the temples for such propaganda was later considered to be one of the most vile deeds of the Cabal, and led to the compilation of the Aďivro.)
There was resistance, at first: high priests or nobles protested arbitrary rule or appealed to Caďinorian tradition, or even the promises of the Cabal itself. The Cabal punished all such "treason" with equal severity. At first this gave the Cabal unprecedented power: there was no precedent or model for dealing with this level of tyranny, and it was assumed that a few concessions would contain its excesses. Eventually it was realized that the Cabal was not like a warlord turned emperor, brutal merely in its rise to power; it was a revolutionary power which recognized no legitimate opposition, nor any bounds to its own power.
Invasions and rebellions
The Caballists appealed to the growing threat of the barbarians to justify their strong-arm tactics. The threat was not imaginary, as proved by the Coruo takeover of the second-largest city of Eretald, Aránicer, in 2145. The Cabal retook it in 2170. In 2195 Eärdur province rebelled and was suppressed.
In 2198 the important northern city of Verduria city was taken over by the wizard Uhnonca. It took the Cabal three years to retake the city; after this they rescinded the city's autonomy and appointed governors to rule it.
Control over the ktuvoks was lost as troops were recalled to fight these rebellions. If anyone worried about the possible future consequences; well, the ktuvoks hadn't caused any real trouble for five hundred years; and anyway the Carhinnoi were now at the height of their power and would presumably keep them in line.
Now the rebellions came fast and furious. The Caballists rushed from one city to another, but they had lost the confidence of the army; a particular division was loyal if a claetiles led it, part of the rebellion otherwise. The Caballists grew even more brutal in order to assert control— for instance, they not only executed rebellious nobles, but tortured and murdered their families. This only solidified resistance, as there was nothing to gain by surrendering even tactically.
In 2212 the nobles of Ctesifon itself declared the noble Irun of Banda, the commander who had defeated Uhnonca, as emperor. Though he was quickly forced out of Ctesifon, his forces continually increased, and stayed loyal. Where possible, he reinstated families ousted from their estates by the Cabal. Soon he was executing Caballists faster then they could be replaced. He re-entered Ctesifon in triumph in 2220, and by the end of the next year had captured the remaining Caballists.
For some time new Caballists continued to surface, though they never succeeded in causing mischief beyond an assassination or two. Nonetheless it was a commonplace to blame any political intrigue on the Red Cabal— all the more so, indeed, as its acknowledged activities receded in memory. Today, over 1200 years later, subversion by an underground Red Cabal is a common conspiracy theory in the Plain.
In Verdurian thought, the Cabal is the archetype of the oligugués or oligarchy— or perhaps we should say 'anarchy' or 'kleptocracy', as the Cabal's rule is considered a time of lawlessness, as destructive as barbarian rule but all the more shameful because it was home-grown.
| Red Cabal
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