Of Poets, Fools and Madmen. . .
The Yassumearoh Emperors rose to power about 1000 years ago in the archipelagos of the Suntrack Sea. During the Kith Wars (roughly 65-70 thousand years ago,) humans migrated toward the salt marshes of the equatorial lowlands to escape the conflict and the encroaching cold in the absence of the smaller, warmer sun. The sparse human tribes survived, and with the return of the Old Sun, found themselves withdrawing from the expanding marsh lakes until they were ultimately isolated upon the remaining high ground of the resulting islands. Over the ensuing millenia they gradually developed sailing technologies and settled some of the regions of the equatorial coastlines of the time, only to be subsequently isolated once more by the returning cold and vast salt marshes when the Old Sun disappeared again.
With the sun’s second return, (approximately 10-15 thousand years ago), the tribal peoples began to worship a new god now associated with it, Jessanak, the True Sun, who promised them that he would remain to guide them and that they would achieve ascendancy in the world if they followed his teachings. As the salt marshes were slowly replaced once more by the expanding sea, the tribes rediscovered their previous seafaring skills and began to expand once more, frequently coming into conflict with each other and the seafaring khurorhk tribes of the western Narrows and Neck, dense clusters of small islands where the extensive mountain ranges of The Spine of the World bring the two coastlines closest together. While a common culture and religion was developing among the many tribes, the Little Suns appeared, twin comets which, passing close to Jessanak, were “captured” by the suns’ gravitational pull and drawn into an orbit not far behind the smaller sun. This event precipitated the expansion within the many cults of the True Sun to include the worship of “His Servants,” Melangen and Renosha, and the formation of an increasingly rigid and stratified class system in the societies under Jessanak’s tutelage. Although they prospered greatly during this time, throughout the next millennium numerous (nearly constant) wars were fought among the various island peoples over disputes of both territory and ideology until Yassumearoh Hitosha, Jessanak’s high priest on the largest of the islands, seized power there, establishing the Malenorian (“human”) Empire. Over the next 50 years he succeeded in unifying both the surrounding islands and their society, codifying both the structure and religion into its present form, including the acknowledgment of him (and his heirs) as Jessanak’s avatar and representative. Successive emperors expanded their control to further outlying islands, eventually laying claim to all of the equatorial islands and the waters visible from them. The Empire’s ongoing attempts to press this claim against the Khurorhk of the Narrows and the Neck have resulted in a state of nearly constant war between the two people for nearly as long as the Empire has existed.
Very early in their development, the humans of the region established relatively good relationships with those of the Burrowing People whom they encountered, in particular some of the dwarven clans who appreciate their sense of honor. While the clergy of Rimilnix evinces an inexplicable but clear distrust of Jessanak and his followers, many dwarven smith and masonry clans, by Imperial Charter, still populate “foreign enclaves” in major Malenorian port cities where their crafts are highly valued. Gnomoi and halfling attitudes toward the Empire have become ambivalent at best. While the Malenorian market can be large and profitable, many, especially the Gentlemen Freetraders and most halfling caravans express outright disgust with Imperial trade and travel policies. Imperial relations with seafaring elven nations remain cordial, if uneasy. As the elven navies operate in oceanic waters to which the Empire lays no claim there has been no cause for conflict between them and the two peoples trade often in the easternmost islands. The Emperors regularly accept elven diplomats in their courts, but given elven policies of isolation, offers to send their own representatives of the Order of the Bright Suns have been consistently (albeit courteously,) rebuffed. Relationships with the coastal human nations vary widely. Malenorian territorial claims include much of the coastal waters and the Empire has constructed a huge navy (which includes the largest vessels afloat) by which they often pursue a policy of halting and inspecting civilian shipping in search of “contraband,” seizing cargo when it is found as well as sometimes sinking the vessels or seizing them and conscripting their crews. These raiding practices are most frequently used as a means of pressuring their weaker neighbors with regard to Imperial interests.
With the marriage five years ago of the young King Magrelan of Djelaekhar to the daughter of a highly placed Servant (and blood relative of the Emperor) Malenorian relations and influence along the southern coast are undergoing some very significant developments. He built a temple complex to the True Sun and his Servants in the capitol city as a wedding gift to his wife, and is just completing a second in the southern city (and provincial seat) of Pakhearah as a birthing gift in honor of his first child and heir. The king’s apparent conversion has many of his neighbors very concerned and some believe that he is becoming a puppet monarch of the Emperor. Others cite his well known headstrong nature and consider this highly unlikely. Regardless, it remains to be seen how this alliance will balance itself and how it will affect the region. Malenorian fury toward Salis Freeport over the Coppersmiths’ Guild’s longstanding refusal to sell the copper sheet it produces to the Imperial Navy, sending it westward overland instead to ports in the Neck and thence to Khurorkh shipyards (for sheathing their hulls), is well known and the Emperor has clearly stated his intention to gain control of this vital commodity. So long as Salis Freeport remains a city independent of either of the Twin Kingdoms it lies between this cannot be accomplished directly. However, as the copper mines which supply Salis Freeport lie in the Djelaekharan territory of the foothills around the headwaters of the Upper Salis River, it is feared that Magrelan may simply cease all export down the Salis River and send the ore overland to either Port Djeddarh or Port Djelarh for sale to the Empire. This would provide him with considerable leverage in dealing with his more powerful ally. (He has already laid claim to control of the many independent mines in the badlands south of Djelaekhar where no clear border has ever been established beyond the towns along the caravan route.) What is certain is that functionaries of the Order of the Bright Suns, representing both the Emperor and his church have become far more numerous in the realm and are treated quite favorably by its monarch.
Malenorian Religion and Society
The Malenar worship Jessanak as their primary deity, giving their loyalty and obedience to the Emperor as his chosen representative. The Emperor is both his high priest and avatar, and as such, the Imperial throne and high altar of Jessanak are one and the same thing. (In the Rite of Succession the new Emperor is invested with the god’s power as his avatar and so is viewed to be sitting upon his own altar.) Further, absolutely everything in the empire is the sole property of the emperor, all subordinates and “personal property” being managed by the citizens on his behalf through authority granted by a variety of Imperial Charters. Worship of Melangen and Renosha is secondary, but an official part of the state religion. Their conjoined churches are led by close relatives of the Emperor, usually a brother or sister and spouse, and their temples are always located behind that of Jessanak, all of them facing east toward the rising sun. Functioning under the auspices of the Church of the True Sun, the Order of the Bright Suns maintains (among others,) monasteries in the capitol city of every major island for training and administrative purposes. Members of the order, both monk and clergy, form the diplomatic corps of the Empire. No other monastic orders are granted charters, nor are any of the churches receiving Imperial dispensation to function in the Empire permitted to train monks within their chartered temples.
Permitted Other Religions
The Primordials are generally ignored, seen as peasant gods not worth considering. In rural areas their churches are also permitted to function by charter, while those few druids as exist in the empire are held to be classless citizens whose official function is to tend to the dead. All other religions are viewed as “foreign” churches, some of which are permitted to operate temples by Imperial charter, while some others and their clergy are explicitly outlawed. Besides the Primordials, charters have been granted to the churches of Shaliah Eveningstar, Varrul Morningstar, Delatrian Roadstar, Kensoto Blademaster, Beldam and Vanidar. The Collegium functions extensively throughout the Empire, albeit without faculty from the proscribed churches, as do The Open Wayfarers. Malenorian members of The Golden Crusade often function with Imperial sanction both within Imperial borders and beyond. Foreign monks are permitted entry (with temporary travel charters registered and paid for in port,) but are disregarded by the populace as a whole.
Specifically outlawed is the worship (and clergy) of Salistreah, Surnest, Melanar, Kherrekh, The Friends, Hanedriss, Tarisht’ah and those deities specifically classified as evil. Orders (and their known members) heavily associated with outlawed deities, i.e., the Order of the Three Ladies, The Hands of Peace, The Disciples of the Way, The Servers of the Way and the Turners of the Wheel are likewise outlawed. Clerics and monks of any proscribed church or order (as well as sorcerers and psionicists) are refused travel charters. Any discovered in the Empire (including its claimed territorial waters,) without charter or chartered under false pretenses (this would include members of permitted organizations as well) are held as spies and charged with treason, a High Capitol Crime as defined elsewhere.
Class in Malenorian Society
Class Tiers and Privilege
Malenorian society is divided into four distinct classes with the rights and privileges of each clearly defined. At the top of the social structure are the Servants (of the Emperor). These families receive direct charter from the Emperor to manage his affairs, establishing them as essentially landed nobles and their vassals. They function as military officers, governors, and in the upper echelons of the civil service. The family daisho is the primary emblem of rank. Only those Servants presently serving the Emperor explicitly (e.g., military and provincial guard officers, government ministers, etc.) are permitted to wear the full daisho personally. Others, such as a minister’s senior aides, only wear the katana, while their spouse wears the family wakazashi. (Upon retirement, officers and ministers are often granted a special charter to continue to wear the full daisho as a mark of honor and recognition for their service.) Additionally, Priests of Jessanak, Imperial (personal guards) while on duty, Military commanding officers and Imperial magistrates (whose duties include that of executioner) are pemitted to carry a no-dachi as direct representatives of the Emperor. (This privilege is sometimes extended by charter upon retirement.) Possession of the Emperor’s weapon by anyone else is defined as treason.
In the middle are the Tradesmen. Rank as a Tradesman is achieved through membership in a Chartered Guild. Tradesmen are permitted to wear a plain wakazashi of normal workmanship (the blades of which are also noticeably straighter than those carried by the Servant class,) as a mark of rank. Near the bottom are the peasants. Farmers, laborers, guildless craftsmen, etc. they are accorded little status or privilege. Peasants are only permitted to carry a wakazashi (or any other martial weapon) while on duty in military or civil guard service. (Should a peasant choose to remain in such service and manage to survive to retirement they often receive charter to own, though not wear, their service weapon. The family of a peasant killed in military service is presented with a blunt, essentially decorative wakazashi “in gratitude” for their sacrifice.) Otherwise a peasant is only permitted to wear a tanto. At the very bottom of the social structure are the serfs, essentially classless citizens without rank, privilege, or really any functional rights. Convicts, indentured servants, druids and those few khurorhk living within Imperial territory are all serfs. It should be noted that anyone bearing a “superior weapon” may freely give orders to anyone bearing a lesser blade. As a point of rank, servants and their spouses are viewed as equals, wearing the family daisho together, while in all other matters of comparison, size clearly matters.
Sumptuary laws pertain primarily to the bearing of arms. All masterwork weapons must be registered with the Ministry of Social Order upon completion of their forging, importation or transfer of ownership. Peasants and serfs may not posses a weapon of that quality. Guildsmen are permitted possession of simple weapons of Masterwork craftsmanship, but only light martial weapons of common quality. The weapons of Servants are unrestricted save as previously noted. In general, heavy or repeating crossbows, one-handed and larger martial weapons may only be carried upon issue by guards or sailors while on duty or by Servants. Hand crossbows are considered an assassin’s weapon and are illegal; possession of one is usually treated as a capitol crime. Special monk weapons may only be born by chartered monastics (e.g., monks in the Order of the Bright Suns). Possession of a proscribed weapon usually carries a steep penalty for the first offense, followed by the loss of a hand for the second or third offense and charges of treason for further offenses.
Class Recognition and Privilege With Regard to Foreign Visitor
As they are not citizens, foreigners are technically considered classless. However, they are accorded privileges in arms and property equivalent to the same Malenorian profession and class if they are able to provide proof of nobility, rank or guild membership in their homeland upon application for Travel Charter. (This would not apply to any Khurorkh or half-orcs, as they are already defined under Malenorian law as classless regardless of any status they might hold elsewhere. Understandably, such visitors are unheard of. Generally speaking, nearly all would be denied entrance on religious grounds in any case.) Visitors without proof of higher status are accorded the same rights and privileges as serfs. Visitors convicted of less than capitol crimes are deported via the nearest port of departure upon completion of their sentence without restoration of any status or property.
Dwarven clans which have settled in Malenor are treated as Chartered Guilds under Imperial Sponsorship. The heads of such clans are further accorded the equivalence in status of Servants. However, as they are not full citizens they remain technically classless. As further detailed below, foreign churches and orders permitted to function in the Empire do so under similar charters, defining their members likewise as visitors. Children of foreign parents born in Imperial Territories are also defined as foreign visitors. If human, the parents may apply for citizenship for their children but rarely will any do so as they would be unable to take the children with them should they leave the Empire without Letters of Imperial Indulgence which all citizens must first acquire in order to travel abroad (in lieu of specific Imperial Service Orders directing them to do so).
It is possible to rise or fall in class in Malenorian society. As detailed elsewhere, completion of Arcane or Divine Studies (within the State Religion) accords the status of Servant Class. Acceptance of a peasant or serf by a Chartered Guild will likewise accord a rise in class. The Guilds however are very possessive of their status and are only likely to induct someone born into a lower class if they display some exceptional talent, skill or aptitude or in gratitude to a family which has rendered the guild some exceptional service. It is possible for a family to pay for guild tuition, but few can afford to do so. Career naval service is the most likely chance for peasants and serfs to rise in class through military advancement as naval petty officers are Guild members and officers are Chartered Servants. (Merchant marine and other vessel officers are Guild members only, petty officers/mates peasants and common sailors serfs.) Militia and guard service provides similar but far fewer opportunities for advancement as all military ranking tiers reflect civilian class equivalents – a serf while serving at the lowest rank is still accorded peasant status. Ministry occupations rarely advance anyone’s class. The few exceptions which do occur are almost exclusively rewards upon retirement for a lifetime of exemplary service.
Loss of Class and Malenorian Law
The stripping class status can only occur by Imperial Decree (a magistrate is considered to speak as the Emperor’s representative,) for a high (but not capitol) crime and affects the entire immediate family. Related vassal families may also be affected but do have the right to appeal the ancillary judgment against them before it is carried out. Likewise, liege relatives may also be affected, being held responsible for the acts of their vassals. However, they are prosecuted separately from and simultaneously with the principle case. Those convicted of treason are stripped of all class prior to execution, likewise affecting their families. These cases are far more likely to have broader, domino effects rippling outward from the principal case, possibly affecting other vassal families of the traitor’s liege, and in the most extreme cases disgracing entire extended clans and houses. Further, anyone executed for High Capitol Crimes is soul bound in the process, unable to reincarnate so long as the stone holding their bound soul remains intact. The soul-stones of traitors are kept in an absurdly secure vault in an unknown location. (Imperial High Guards are teleported to and from the location when their shifts are changed by members of the Grasping Talons, the Malenorian Secret Service.) The soul-stones of those executed for other High Capitol Crimes are dropped from a naval vessel in secret into the ocean by a member of the Order of the Bright Suns who does not inform the ship’s captain of the nature or objectives of their mission.
Lesser sentences of imprisonment or (more commonly) public service render the offender temporarily classless until completion of the sentence, at which time class and privilege are usually restored. Such temporary status has no (direct legal) effect upon the subject’s family.
Effect of Class on Prosecution and Redress
Murder of a Servant may be a High Capitol Crime, while the murder of a Tradesman or Peasant, a Low Capitol Crime. Murder of a serf is not a capitol crime. It should be noted that the relative class of the offender will influence the degree of crime as well. Killing someone of a class one tier below the offender is termed execution, not murder and may only be assessed the payment of a Head Price to compensate the Emperor for the loss of his property. (A Servant will only be so fined if they fail to show “just cause” for the execution. . .) Executing someone two class tiers lower is not prosecuted.
One final note regarding this; it must be recognized that such executions are not necessarily disregarded. When a Servant of one family executes a peasant or serf vassal of another family, the dead vassal’s liege may well seek retribution through the execution of one or more of the offending Servant’s vassals. Long and bloody feuds between Servant families and clans have begun in this fashion and persisted for generations through the conduct of small covert wars of attrition waged upon the peasants and serfs of the families involved. Such feuds between Tradesman families are much rarer and smaller in scale as such families will have few, if any serfs in their employ to begin with. Retribution between Tradesman families for various perceived offenses to property or honor is usually carried out by means of material or financial sabotage.
Citizenship and Foreign Travel
Traveling abroad without proper authorization (in the form of Imperial Service Orders or Letters of Imperial Indulgence) is considered a treasonous act. Any citizen determined to have done so will be so charged upon return. Those who emigrate (with our without authorization) and remain abroad will be so charged and tried in absentia one year beyond the expiration date of their authorization or the date of their dereliction. Those so charged are invariably convicted with the usual effects resulting upon any family members remaining in the Empire. Only in exceptional cases will the Empire attempt to capture and extradite (or execute) an expatriot, as few foreign nations will honor an Imperial request for extradition on general principal. Rather than outright refusal, most such requests will simply encounter the same sort of bureaucratic delays for which the Malenorian Foreign Ministry is famed until long after the fugitive(s) relocate. On the other hand, few foreign authorities will bother to interfere with or investigate evidence of Malenorian covert operations conducted against their own refugees without some significant stake in the matter.
Character Class and Social Class
Many character classes have specific roles in Malenorian society which are reflected in formal social class. Most of the magic using classes are discussed in detail below under Magic in the Empire. Of further note is the fact that while the clergy of the State Religion are classed as Servants, all other clergy are classed as Tradesman, their churches being accorded the same status by charter as guilds. (Further, in the vast majority of instances this status is only honorary, as most non-State clergy are foreigners and therefore technically classless.) Foreign High Priest/esses, Abbot/Abbesses, etc. are accorded Honorary Servant Status as the leaders of their respective institutions. It is exceedingly rare for a citizen to be granted a charter for the undertaking of divine studies and training within the auspices of a foreign church. Adepts are not uncommon in the Empire and nearly all are formally inducted into their deity’s church upon registry. They are usually assigned to shrines in remote or rural areas. Bright Sun adepts are invariably assigned guard, militia or naval chaplain duties under a cleric’s direction and are defined as Tradesmen in service to their church as well as NCO/Petty Officer rank while in military service. (The roles of military chaplains will be detailed further in discussion of the military.) Rangers and Paladins (other than foreign) are very rare, occurring only in service to Melangen and Renosha.
Those born into the Servant class invariably will have at least one rank in the Noble character class upon reaching maturity. From that point career choices will largely direct further class development. Ministry careers generally develop further as either Nobles or Experts. (Non-magical) Military careers will for the most part involve development in the Samurai character class, while those of lower Class pursuing a military career may train as Fighters and/or Sailors. Generally speaking, multi-classing is very common among those of the Servant class, pursuing the necessary training to acquire pertinent skills as they seek to further develop their careers.
While the Emperor has not seen the need to field a significant army in centuries (since the Empire was consolidated into its presently held territories), expeditionary and occupational forces do operate upon some of the islands of the Narrows and soldiers have at times been dispatched to foreign shores in support of a neighbor (or, more functionally, to pressure their opponent) and the Empire does maintain a standing militia. In total, Imperial Naval forces are believed to be the largest floated by any single nation in the world.
Not surprisingly, rogues, as such, are essentially a lower class criminal element in Malenorian society. While not, in fact, so uncommon as the Empire would have its detractors believe, they are of necessity very clandestine in their operations. Access and induction into what constitutes the Malenorian black market (the Noonday Business throughout the equatorial region,) and underworld reveals a whole new and vast social strata beneath the lacquered veneer presented to the world at large which in fact permeates all tiers of Malenorian Society at least to some degree. Wisely pragmatic at the highest echelons, the Imperial government recognizes the inherent fact of such existence and so seeks to use it to its own ends, at times even directly (if rather forcibly) recruiting useful talent to service in the military, Bright Suns or Grasping Talons. For their own part, the savvier operatives in the higher tiers of the Malenorian Noonday Market are likewise aware of this manipulation and seek to play it to their own advantage as well, resulting in convoluted intrigues of truly labyrinthine complexity.
Magic in the Empire
The use of magic is heavily circumscribed in the Empire. All wizards must receive charters and register all spellbooks and magical items (including scrolls) with the office of the local Minister of Arcana. Young citizens demonstrating the potential for magical ability may apply for study in a Chartered Arcane Academy. If accepted they are then chartered to practice arcane `magic through their affiliation with that academy upon commencement of arcane studies. Upon completion of studies they are inducted by personal charter into Imperial Service, usually in a military capacity. (A few are recruited by the Order of The Bright Suns.) All mages are classed as Servants, hence for many, wizardry poses an attractive means of rising in status (as does acceptance of a peasant or serf into a guild). Domestic wizards are exempt from registering scrolls which they have scribed themselves as their knowledge of the spells (and ability to cast them) is already registered. However, they must still register any scrolls received from another, regardless of whether or not they have already learned and registered the spell(s) penned upon them. All wizards, while residing within the Empire (for any length of time) upon acquiring new spells or magic items (regardless of origin) must register them within one week (10 days) of their acquisition or creation, or upon arrival in port if a domestic wizard is returning from abroad. Domestic registrations are often handled through the bureau in which the wizard serves as a matter of course. Depending upon the spell, the result of failing to do so may be the assessment of an Arcane Tax, mandate of some manner of public service or even trial for Arcane Treason.
All of the above apply as well to foreign wizards who must likewise register to receive Temporary Travel Charters and Dispensations of Arcana before being permitted outside of the port’s ghetto. Any forbidden spells (primarily any offensive spells which do damage to their target) in their spell books are magically sealed so as the page(s) they are written on appear blank save for the name of the spell. They are only unsealed prior to departure from the port of entry. Wizards exiting the Empire through a different port forfeit their unsealing. Proscribed magical items (including scrolls which contain proscribed spells) are confiscated upon entry and registry and must likewise be claimed upon departure via the port of entry. Again, leaving by way of a different port, or failing to depart by the specified expiration date of their Travel Charters (at which point they are considered deported whether voluntarily or not,) forfeits said items which default to the Ministry of Arcana. The Arcane Dispensation lists all magical items the wizard has on his person or held by the Ministry, as well as all spells in their spellbooks, indicating which are sealed and referenced by page number(s). A wizard caught with an unsealed page, casting a forbidden spell` or having a proscribed item or scroll in their possession is tried as a spy and charged with Arcane Treason.
Other Arcane Magics
Sorcery is forbidden in the Empire and sorcerers outlawed just as the functionaries of a forbidden church or order. The practice is charged as Arcane Treason. The Empire does not make any distinction between sorcery and psionics. It should be noted at this point that Imperial laws are intended to control as much as possible both the use of magic and those capable of doing so. With regard to arcane magic this is accomplished primarily by controlling the wizard’s spellbooks and their access to the spells within them. By and large, wizards cannot add new spells to their spellbooks without the knowledge and permission of their superiors. Those permitted to travel abroad, who would thereby gain access to new spells without any such constraints in place, only do so in the discharge of their duties as Imperial Servants (almost exclusively as members of the Order of the Bright Suns). As such, they are thoroughly vetted with regard to obedience and loyalty well prior to foreign assignment. Given the more intuitive nature of sorcery and psionics it is impossible to exercise such control over their practice, and in general, whatever the Empire cannot control it outlaws. Bardic and divine magics are dealt with somewhat differently as their users do not suffer the constraints of spellbook preparation either. All bards capable of using magic must register all known spells, items and scrolls through the Social Arts and Performance Guild. While guild membership is not an absolute requirement for performance for purpose of public entertainment, the guild is extremely protective of its performance rights and privileges (non-members might as well break just their own hands and feet and join the “Beggars Guild” at the start to save time and pain. . .) and non-guildmembers caught using magic face severe charges and penalties for Arcane Crimes. Guild charters specify spells which members may learn and teach and how they may be cast. Absolutely no directly offensive spells, i.e., those that deal damage, are permitted while transformations which might have an offensive application are permitted within detailed parameters in the course of a performance. Foreign bards may, like wizards, receive Temporary Travel Charters and Arcane Dispensation with guild sponsorship, facing similar (but much broader) restrictions upon items and casting. Criminal Spellcasting with regard to bardic magics is dealt with on a case by case basis. Depending on the spell and its ensuing results, bardic casting may be dismissed, assessed a severe Arcana Fine (1st offense) or even prosecuted as Arcane Treason (including 2nd offenses of casting a spell for which the bard has already been fined). With regard to such legalities it is of particular importance to note that as Tradesmen, bards receive far less privilege and protection afforded their social class than wizards do as Servants, and foreign bards virtually none.
Anyone capable of performing divine magic must register as an acolyte and acquire a charter. Divine spellcasting without a charter (with the exception of Heal spells) may be tried as Divine Treason or assessed a severe penalty, depending upon circumstances. Registry is through the Order of the Bright Suns. Training in any temple is only by Imperial Charter and registry is normally carried out as a matter of course. Divine scrolls and magical items must be registered with the Order of the Bright Suns as per their arcane equivalents through the Ministry of Arcana. Prosecution for unlawful divine casting or items generally varies in accordance with the associated temple, i.e., Clerics of Jessanak (and members of the Order of the Bright Suns) are generally exempt from prosecution, with the clergy of Melangen and Renosha only slightly less so. Clergy of other faiths face heavier prosecution and penalties with druids causing harm to anyone via magic most severely of all (up to Divine Treason) and causing the destruction of property only slightly less so.
Finally, magic items acquired by non-spellcasters must be registered with the appropriate ministry and are assessed a usage tax. Inherited items are not taxed a second time, however the heir must register the transfer of responsibility within one week of inheritance or the heirloom defaults once more to the crown as the original and proper owner.
Basic Commerce and Taxation
Imperial taxation is levied at 5% of the equivalent cash value of all goods and monies exchanged. This applies to both parties in a given transaction. Outside of customs concerns and transactions, visitors should expect to pay approximately 10% above normal coast for most goods (adjusted for how commonplace they may be,) as local merchants will have already adjusted their prices so as to cover their 5% in the transaction. Merchants likewise collect the purchaser’s 5% at the time of sale and issue a receipt for the tax paid, turning all tax monies over to the Ministry of Finance every ten-day.
Usage, Responsibilities and Welfare
A large portion of the taxes collected are used in public works and institutes by Imperial Sponsorship. As the society essentially feudal, all landholding Servants are required (by the terms of their Charter) to ensure the basic occupation and welfare (i.e., food, clothing and shelter) of all peasants and serfs in the lands which they administer, as well as the essential medical and spiritual needs (as defined by the official State religion,) of said peasants. (The latter essentially amounts to making sure that peasants at least have the opportunity to attend church services and participate in its functions and festivals.) This may of course be accomplished by ensuring that subordinate Servants administering smaller portions of the Chartered holdings do so. (Generally speaking, authority may be delegated but responsibility cannot.) Guild masters (also by terms of Guild Charter) are likewise required to do so for all guild members and their families. No one is permitted to starve and gross negligence in duty with regard to maintaining the Emperor’s property is prosecuted rigorously. The most extreme cases may be charged with Substantive Treason. In cases of shortages, Petitions for Material Indulgence may be tendered to the local or circuit Office of Magistracy which will assess the situation and authorize release of appropriate goods or commodities from Imperial stores to the Servant for management and distribution. Commonly this comes from those stores already reserved and maintained locally via taxation.
Only Imperial coinage may be used in Malenorian exchange. Outside of port ghetto districts, visitors must exchange monies through the Harbor Ministry. As the Emperor does not tax himself, the cost of this exchange is 5%. The Harbor Ministry inspects all cargo and assesses the value of and taxation upon all imported goods before off-loading and ships are not permitted to embark once more until the tax is paid, regardless of whether or not the Master was able to sell the cargo at the full value assized. The ship’s master must also show proper bill of sale for all goods sold so that the buyers may be properly assessed. (They will be taxed according to the actual price of purchase, regardless of whether it is higher or lower than the Harbor Ministry’s preliminary appraisal.) Failure to do so defaults to payment by the seller of an additional 5% of the appraisal value. Receipts for all goods purchased for export must likewise be provided and the buyer’s 5% tax paid when outgoing cargo is inspected and the manifest registered. This is calculated from the actual purchase price specified in the receipt – failure to provide one results in payment according to the Harbor Ministry’s subsequent appraisal of the cargoes value at the time of inspection. Finally, when this has been completed all Imperial coinage must be exchanged once more (again through the Harbor Ministry with a 5% fee) for foreign trader bars or coin as the Emperor’s property may not be removed from Imperial territory.
By now it should be obvious that most merchants engaging in any significant ongoing Malenorian trade will choose to expedite commerce by retaining the services of factors (essentially customs brokers) Chartered to operate in the port ghetto districts who the handle all fiscal exchange, and frequently the purchase of out bound cargo as well. These customs houses intercede directly with the Harbor Ministry and manage all necessary bills, receipts and tax payments on behalf of the merchant. Being able to conduct all domestic transaction with Imperial coin in the first place and foreign transactions in the port ghetto with foreign currency, they are permitted by their charters to bypass the costs of monetary exchange, balancing their books and paying tax only upon net earnings once per month upon each holiday. Such a system of course creates plenty of opportunities for graft and corruption but that, like virtually everything else, remains under control of domestic monopoly. Foreign merchants attempting to bribe local officials are likely to find themselves immediately deported and barred from all future entry at best. Savvy merchants recognize that this too has already been taken care of by their local port factors. . .
Other Legal Concerns
Interpretation of Criminal Conduct
It cannot be stressed enough that everything and everyone in the Empire is the property of the Emperor. What is not directly under Imperial (Ministry) jurisdiction is held and maintained in the Emperor’s name through Imperial Charter. From this follows that all crimes are committed (at least indirectly) against the Emperor by way of the destruction (deliberate or through negligence), or misappropriation of Imperial property and/or the disobedience of Imperial Edict (either active or through failure to fulfill the responsibilities assigned in the terms of Imperial Charter), hence can always be subject to prosecution for some form of treason (although functionally this only occurs in the most extreme cases). Sentencing for the most part reflects restoration in some manner of double the value of the Emperor’s possession affected by the crime as compensation for it both to the Emperor and whomever the Emperor had permitted the use of said property as set forth in the terms of Imperial Charter.
Realistic Functionality of the Social System (or the Rotten Underbelly You’ve All Been Waiting For)
In theory, the Emperor’s rule and power (authority) are absolute and unquestioned. In actual fact, his true, functional power is only so much as he is able to gain and hold onto. Political intrigue is, in reality, subtle, intense and pervasive at all levels of society. At lower levels this is conducted primarily through currying the favor of superiors coupled with “smear campaigns” directed toward one’s rivals. At higher levels more explicit acts of political sabotage are employed even up to outright assassination among Servants and ambitious vassals of rank. Hence, the Emperors edicts must at least not offend enough of the more influential Servants to motivate the fomentation of assassination plots with sufficient support as to likely succeed. The bottom line of all this is that those who subscribe and adhere to the ideals of Melangen and Renosha will never rise to any levels of significant power in the Empire without some major change in their perception of the status quo sufficient to motivate a radical restructuring of their functional priorities in keeping with their (overriding) underlying principals. On the other hand, those who comprehend and emulate Jessanak’s real ethos (including and especially the Emperor) have each other to contend with. In the Empire there are (explicitly and only) leaders and followers. The leaders (and those with ambition to lead) must be very careful to maintain the facade of proper social order lest they find themselves bereft of (disillusioned) followers.
Ritual Suicide and Ultimate Redress (Keeping Up Appearances)
Ritual suicide is a commonly accepted response to the failure to achieve significant objectives, both of public duty and of private politics. It is viewed as a means of regaining the family’s honor which was lost through that failure; or more precisely as the means of protecting the family from being affected by the individual’s loss of honor. Once honor is restored in this fashion it is considered extremely bad manners to discuss (at least publicly) the failure which prompted the act. To do so offers sufficient offense to warrant challenges to duel. In matters of (failed) treason suicide therefore serves as a means of not only avoiding the soul binding of an executed traitor but also of preventing the loss of class which the traitor’s family would otherwise be subject to. Since any position of note is held by Imperial Charter and any significant subordinate position is held by appointment under the terms of said Charter, it then follows that virtually any failed intrigue may potentially be prosecuted as some form of treason. Ritual suicide is therefore the socially accepted norm by which the slate is wiped clean. It serves as well, at all levels of society, to maintain the appearance of correctness and adherence to the proper social order.
Current Internal Affairs
The present Emperor, Yassumearoh Tonukashah, ascended the Altar nine years ago upon the death of his grandfather Yassumearah Sonnibonoh. His mother, the Empress Regent, was the former Emperor’s only child. She remains First Spouse of Renosha, while her consort serves as First Servant of Melangen in name only (A consummate diplomat who is more accomplished as a monk than as a cleric, the Regent Consort serves primarily in the Order of The Bright Suns as Minister of Foreign Liaison.) While this helps to consolidate theocratic power for the time being, the lack of issue from the current Empress, (Yassumearoh) Allearadeh is cause for great concern. For many generations Imperial offspring have been few and male children even more rare.. The current heir apparent, Yassomearah Kentosha is first cousin to the Empress Regent and serves as Admiral of the Imperial Navy, a post he has held for fifteen years. While he is both ambitious and ruthless, fortunately for the neighboring nations of the Suntrack Sea, he is a poor strategist, better suited to commanding a vessel than a fleet. He would like to see further expansion of the Empire, making the coastal cities and nations tributary to the Empire if not explicitly under Imperial Charter. His arguments however have been countered by the Emperor (and his predecessor) with the insistence upon first gaining control at the very least of the Narrows up to the Neck itself before any coastal conquest might be considered reasonable to pursue. Without such control Khurorkh support of any opponent would be a forgone conclusion in fact as well as principal, making at minimum the effective blockade and containment of Khurorkh naval assets within the Neck an absolute necessity. Since the Emperor insists upon keeping him close to home in order to Command the Marine Guard Fleet, he in turn has deliberately kept his best strategists and Fleet Admirals close to home in the Marine Guard or Coastal Watch Fleets. He clearly cannot permit another to achieve this perpetual objective and overshadow him, as anyone finally succeeding in defeating the Khurorkh island clans and tribes after centuries of near constant warfare would become the greatest national hero since the Empire’s founding. The assignment further serves the Emperor as a subtle insult to his second cousin since the Admiral had commanded the Setting Sun Fleet some 25 years before and faired poorly, being recalled by the former Emperor after only two years and placed in command of the Coastal Watch Fleet. Kentosha believes that if he could bring some of the coastal cities under Imperial control he would gain sufficient popularity and support to ascend the Altar smoothly should “some misfortune befall the Emperor.” Being denied the opportunity to attempt this via military means he has finally set upon a more diplomatic course in the arrangement of the marriage of his youngest daughter Najirah to King Magrelan of Djelaekhar.
The Empress Consort has been married to the Emperor for seven years, since shortly after the death of his first wife (also childless) of twelve years. She also serves as Minister of Clandestine Affairs, in effect, as Imperial Spymaster. Unable (by law) to rule, she is loyal to her husband but fiercely protective of her position. While many of the Principal Servants of the more significant houses would like to urge the Emperor to take a new consort, to do so even discreetly has in the past proven to be extremely dangerous if not fatal. The overall situation remains very unstable as most would in fact consider rule by the Heir Apparent to be disastrous. Under present conditions, the death of the Emperor would likely plunge the Empire into civil war, a situation which the surrounding nations would certainly leap to take swift advantage of. The more astute of those closest to succession recognize that the Heir Apparent would not survive the Emperor long enough to assume rule himself and therefore curry the favor of the Empress Consort. It is also clear to them that while on the surface of things she would have no say in the matter, were she to survive her husband she would in reality be the one to ultimately decide who would actually succeed him. This simple fact has caused a few of the younger ones to remain single and makes the wives of the others extremely cautious.
Greater Geopolitics and Influences At Work in the Empire
The Collegium’s Charters permit the clergy of Varrul, Shaliah and Delatrian to operate schools (primarily for Tradesmen) and provide tutors (primarily to Servant houses) within the Empire. The order is usually interwoven with the Open Wayfarers and the Guilds themselves. A few Mercenary Halls are charted in major ports and the worship of Vergonne and Kensoto is tolerated within this scope. Smaller mercenary units do find employment at times as well as individuals and small cadre elements providing training and instruction. The Shadowhands, Noonday Profiteers, Gentlemen Freetraders, True Sons, Ferine and the Web all operate a handful of clandestine cells within the Empire. The Bloodknives and the Librarians operate more extensively, with loose networks of cells on most significant islands, and at times centralized headquarters on some of the smaller ones. The Wild Hunt rarely operates in Imperial territory, referring most matters which come to their attention formally to the appropriate authorities. The Empire tolerates their activities when the do take direct actions as their goals are seen as beneficial to the Empire’s welfare and irrelevant to any political concerns. (Exceedingly rare cases of political conflict invariably involve encountering Malenorian operatives in the Web who of necessity must limit their interference to deniable acts of obstruction, harassment, etc. at a local level.)
The Druid Groves operate openly under very limited charters permitting them to handle funerary functions. Less obviously (being rather literally beneath the aristocracies notice,) they embody a vast information network permeating the lowest levels of Malenorian society and are (as in most lands) the principal points of contact for the Ferine and the Wild Hunt in addition to aiding (or at least looking the other way from) the activities of the Unseen Way and the Gentlemen Freetraders. They also function to help train those who feel called to serve the Primordials as clerics or adepts. The Empire makes no clear distinction between clerics of the Primes and druids, but shrines to the Primordials are often tended by actual clerics where they are available. The most common of those are clergy of Salimarah and Whishahliah. While (deliberately) not particularly ostentatious, their “shrines” in most major ports actually function more on the scope of cathedrals. Viewed as “peasant gods,” their worship is largely ignored and tolerated as an unpleasant necessity among the sailors of the Imperial Navy. (Every vessel has a “druid” on board to tend to the dead. As functioning clergy they are dismissed out of hand in any formal sense and any “services” they may conduct in the ship’s lower decks are viewed as informal recreations of the common sailors while not on duty.)
Though concealing themselves from public view, the clerics of Mine wield some influence within the Grasping Talons, as Mine does at times serve Jessanak, being more loyal to his ethos of greed than to his mother. To a much lesser extent Pahkreet has followers among the Grasping Talons, Bright Suns and the Servant class in general.
The Malenorian Empire maintains its extensive military forces by means of conscription. All capable males are required to perform a minimum of three years of military service beginning at some point between the ages of 16 and 20. Initial registration for military service and the subsequent assignment and induction into initial command tables of organization is conducted by the Ministry of Social Order. Those physically incapable of performing the standard duties of soldiery are provided opportunities to contribute through other clerical or administrative positions within said Ministry. Women between the ages of 18 and 21 may volunteer for military service as well. Exempt are those already chartered for the undertaking of Arcane or Divine Studies, who will pursue careers in Imperial Service upon completion of their studies in any case. The Imperial military consists of three distinct branches: the Militia under the supervision of the Ministry of Social Order, The Imperial Navy under the Ministry of Maritime Deportment and the Imperial Guard under the Ministry of Clandestine Affairs. Conscripts must apply for service in the more prestigious (and better paying) services outside of the Militia upon initial report to the Ministry. Such applicants are subsequently screened for physical and mental fitness and loyalty before induction. Those who fail in screening or do not apply are assigned to militia duty.
The principal function of the Militia is the common policing of the populace. This includes both city watch(es) and interior, harbor and shore patrols. Because the principal criminal activities in the Empire revolve around smuggling, in issues of jurisdiction throughout the archipelago the maritime patrols supersede dry-land assets and district zones of command are defined by their encompassing waters. (In general it is easier for marine constabulary to pursue smugglers onto land than for foot patrols to pursue them onto the water.) While militia service carries no prestige among the lower rank and file, Guild career opportunities are plentiful and the Ministry of Social Order itself wields considerable political influence and Imperial Magistrates are adjutant to the Emperor himself. The Adjutant General of The Ministry of Social Order is invariably a high ranking cleric of Jessanak and close relative to the Emperor. The Servant in this post is selected with extreme care and is usually (though not always) filled by the Heir Apparent. The current Adjutant General, Kendalahar Jehnishah is the elder brother of the Empress Consort and childhood friend of the Emperor. Not only does he stand fifth in line of succession to the Altar as the Emperor’s third cousin, but his authority in the Church of the True Sun is second only to the Emperor himself. While on the surface of things such an appointment might appear to place the Emperor in a position of great vulnerability, his sister’s ruthless determination to maintain her own position stands well in check of any personal ambitions of his to ascend the Altar of his god. Instead he holds in check any influence which his uncle, the Heir Apparent might seek to develop within the Church of the True Sun. As in every other political arena, Yassomearah Kentosha’s ambitions, as well as his estimation of his own abilities to achieve them and the favorable opinions of his peers far outstrip his actual capabilities.
By far the most prestigious and privileged service in the Empire, the Imperial Guard (alongside the ancillary bureaus in the Ministry of Clandestine Affairs) conduct all critical matters with regard to national security. They serve not only to protect the Emperor’s person but to preserve all sensitive properties and safeguard the conduct of classified Imperial activities. Unlike the other military services, the rank and file of the Imperial Guard constitute a Guild and are career assignments only. As such, few peasant or serf conscripts are ever inducted since the rigorous screening criteria (which includes literacy) are exceedingly high. These standards ensure the elite nature and capabilities of this corps. The First Swords of the Imperial Guard are always a married couple, accomplished as both samurai and clerics of Melangen and Renosha, whose duties include staffing the Emperor’s personal body guards and fulfilling that role themselves in formal affairs of state. Surprisingly (to most outsiders), they are also always born into a lower class. This ensures their personal dedication to their function with regard to the Emperor’s person and affairs both through gratitude for their elevation and the complete absence of any possible ambitions toward Imperial succession.
The most widespread and well known service, the Navy constitutes the principle expression of Malenorian military might in both display and usage. The Empire maintains four fleets in the Suntrack Sea. The weakest,the Rising Sun Fleet, patrols the sea’s eastern waters. As relations wit the oceanic elven nations are at least peaceful (if somewhat distant,) there is little threat to Malenorian sovereignty from that quarter. The fleet does see some action at times when the Emperor feels it necessary to be more forcefully persuasive with his coastal neighbors along the eastern seaboards. The Rising Sun fleet primarily serves as a policing force with regard to smugglers and pirates operating in the open waters beyond the reach of the Militia’s marine patrols. For this reason it floats the fewest capitol ships and the largest percentage of sloops, frigates and tanto class swift galleons. Unlike the other three, the Admiral’s flagship of the Rising Sun fleet is a katana class leviathan warship. It is supported by five wakazashi class victory war galleons, two of which will be out leading patrols at any given time with one in dock for resupply, any needed repairs and crew’s shore leave. The reaming two always stand ready with the flagship. Also in the fleet’s base harbor is maintained one katana class warspite siege vessel and two (each) wakazashi class devastation and devourer war galleys. The first are primarily for harbor defense and docked at readiness on either side of the naval harbor mouth. The devourers serve both defensive roles and patrol support duty when there is time to call them out to capture and bring in a disabled or heavily engaged (pinned down) vessel. Half of the remaining tanto class hulls are always on patrol with the other half in port; one quarter for refit and leave and the balance at readiness in the flagship’s flotilla.
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