The Green Emperor laid down the fundamental rules of succession near the end of his rule in an attempt to prevent civil war, stating that the reigning emperor must name a successor and that the successor must be confirmed by the ruling House of Gulls. That system, in theory, guaranteed that there would never be a power vacuum and that the emperor and the Gulls needed to be in accord about the choice of successor.

As long as there was a strong dynasty on the throne, with many possible heirs to choose from, the system worked well enough. One of the reigning emperor’s sons or daughters would prove themselves able, be recommended as successor, and confirmed by the House of Gulls. There might be some brief posturing or a short, sharp conflict, but everyone involved realized that it was in their best interest to conclude things quickly.

However, when the Seventh Dynasty died out, the Verdant Empire was left in a quandary. The emperor had been the last legitimate male of his house, and the various cadet branches had been decimated by the purges instituted by his insane grandfather, the previous emperor. The Eighth Dynasty would have to come from a very distant relative indeed, especially since the squabbling between the emperor and the Gulls prevented him from agreeing on a successor. When he died, the Gulls nominated one of their own, a man distantly related to the imperial house through marriage.

The Grassblades disagreed, and forwarded a candidate of their own: a man with an even more distant link to the imperial house but one who was an accomplished general and could command loyal troops. Two emperors feuded over the Verdant Empire for nearly two years until the Grassblades put their man on the throne at last, only to see him assassinated after six months in favor of a candidate supported by the Sickles.

There have now been twenty-five emperors in fifty years, reigning a little over two years apiece. The most august of them clung to power for five years, while three have lasted under a month.

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