Long ago, when the Auspice Isles were united under the hero-admiral Tetram of Brightwalk, the surviving lore of the Shogunate was compiled to form a single collection, the Shogun Dadian. This was done in order to protect it from the erosion of memory and time and to make it allow scholars and craftsmen to make it part of the living legacy of the people. The hero-admiral sent fleets loaded with partial copies to the other isles, keeping back the most dangerous and useful secrets for the use of his homeland. His admirals overawed the natives, bringing back rich cargoes of trade goods and tribute. More importantly they tought the people of countless isles such forgotten arts as agriculture and metalworking, basic sanitation and medicine, and the building of ships and homes. Some patriots in the Auspice Isles whisper that Coral owes her mastery of the seas to such a bequest of knowledge.
So great a collection of knowledge was quickly patronized by a great god and grew its own priesthood of scholar-priests. For generations Yi Dadian, the god of the great encyclopedia, has fathered children who served as chief librarians or priests to their divine parent.
Yi Xiandao is the youngest of Yi Dadian’s children and the most willful. Though of obvious talent he did not take to the scholarly life, often out among the people making friends claiming he was putting his lessons to practical use. When the time came for him to take his place as a librarian-priest he declined and he had the financial resources to do so without fear of destitution.
That day is many decades and many fortunes ago. Xiandao took advantage of what he knew to gain an advantage in every field he could find. He commissioned ships to old patterns that were swifter and more maneuverable, letting him charge higher rates for passengers and cargo. His ledgers were kept with careful skill so that even his far flung investments could be assessed and tracked. Within a score of years he was rich as a guild factor.
In the salons of Coral and before jaded dynasts he says that he started his so-called empire as an expedient to make up for the trouble of poor clients and pirate trouble, eventually buying and selling power as he would any other commodity. In truth he never really forgot why he had left the library-temple and gone out into the streets. People were miserable and ignorant all across the West and he had the power to rectify both. So he did.
It was not a smooth process. At times his mercenaries clashed with native forces that resisted his intrusions. He was forced to take hostages and cement marriage bonds between tribes and islands at the point of spears and under threat of embargo. At times he schemed to get vast swaths of people and land as collateral for debts that could never be paid. Yet he was not cruel if he did not need to be and much preferred kinder paths. He established schools and dispatched teachers under the pretense of long-term investments. He built harbors and breakwaters, aqueducts from mountain to shore, drained marshes, and arranged favorable trade deals to allow “his” people to enrich themselves.
For forty years Yi Xiandao has ruled in all but name across great swaths of the Neck as well as the nearer islands in the archipelagos of Wavecrest and Coral. Generations have been born and raised knowing nothing but the days when his hand was felt. On some islands he is called the Righteous Guide, among the halls of the learned he is the Pearl-Laden Sage, in Abalone he is Prince of Far Isle or the Upstart
And to a great god, who’s temple now dot a hundred isle, he is the son who made his father most proud.