The Vermilions set their mark on their new conquests, and their conquests shaped them in turn. In the wake of the Vermilion soldiers came officials; and in the wake of the officials came migrants, eager for a better life than what their remote, windblown homeland could provide. At the same time, it soon became clear, there simply were not enough Vermilions to oversee everything. Nor were there enough to replenish the imperial army, as it campaigned further and further away from home.
There was a solution. Had the Phoenix Prince not treated the other Vermilion principalities as honoured partners rather than conquered subjects? Was not the woman nicknamed “the mother of empire”, whose eventual regency had been critical to the success of the fledgling empire, herself a foreigner? And so, the decision was made early on to respect local customs and treat other peoples as equals. It was one of the most momentous in the empire’s history.
When the guns finally fell silent, centuries of peace and prosperity began. Cities grew beyond their walls, and with piracy and banditry (often gruesomely) suppressed, trade flourished across the continent. Merchants criss-crossed the empire, offering rice from the south, furs and horses from the interior, and manufactured goods from the cities. Where the merchants and migrants went, cuisines, art styles, and religions followed. New faiths and ethical creeds gradually developed, often bridging different communities, as imperial citizens sought meaning in their new, expanded world.
In time, Vermilion became the lingua franca of the educated throughout the empire. Client monarchs sent their children to Vermilion military academies, and dressed themselves in Vermilion-style uniforms. The Vermilions themselves embraced the arts, sculptures, and foodstuffs of the rest of the empire; and following the example of the imperial family, they intermarried with the other peoples amongst whom they found themselves. Talented non-Vermilions could be found amongst the highest ranks of the armed forces and the civil service.
At the Empire’s height, a scholar might dine on foods first cultivated in a distant province; sip sugared tea while penning a contribution to a journal; and write poetry to a sweetheart whose ancestors had fought the Vermilions with horse and bow.
Life was good.
A quick note: due to better communications such as pegasi, I envision that most parts of the world would have been — at least very tenuously — connected with each other. This world’s equivalent of the Columbian exchange would have occurred well before the rise of the Vermilion Empire, and compared to our world, it would have been a little easier to get hold of foods and beverages from far away. However, the real boost to palates would have come with the political unity (and improvements to transportation) brought by the Empire.
Next up — the Empire’s pegasus riders.