THEOCRACY OF IESADHE

Stretching across the vastness of Darejh, the theocratic Empire of Iesadhe is an imposing presence over those that live in its shadow. Although its power has waxed and waned, its influence has never faltered.

Government and Politics

A monotheistic theocracy, the empire of Iesadhe is governed by the 31st Theonh, Alfunce Caelhe from the Citadel of Truth. He is assisted by a council of advisors, culled from the Dhọmestic papacy and known as the Dioed. Initially, the Dioed was meant to provide little more than advice to the Theonh; however, with the occurrence of the Soulshard madness that has struck so many past Theonhes in later life, it is now the primary political force in the empire and the Theonh serves as a spiritual figurehead. The Dioed is composed of twelve men from the upper echelons of the Dhọmestic papacy who are appointed for life by the Theonh. Like other Theonhes in the past, Caelhe made some attempts are reasserting the power of the Theonh before he began to suffer the effects of the madness. This has lead to consternation among the more moderate elements and outright hostility from those with a more fanatical bent. As the madness has become more apparent, the Dioed has become more assertive in using its authority.

Ruling an empire as vast as Iesadhe is not possible even by someone believed to be an avatar of Dhọm. The empire is divided into twenty seven regions that vary in size from densely populated cities to sprawling wildernesses rarely visited by a tax collector. Each of these regions is under the governance of a lord or, in the case of the border regions, a battlelord. Hereditary positions, the lords and battlelords are supposed to carry out the mandates sent via imperial courier from the Citadel of Truth. The vastness of the empire has long made this impossible. Most of the regions operate with near autonomy and are kept in check only by the periodic visits of imperial magistrates. As would be expected, the further from the capital a region is located, the more independence demonstrated by its lord. In some of the southern regions, corruption has become rampant and the lords rule them as near fiefdoms. The influence of Sheinari merchants and Rieyale agents - who fear a powerful empire - has further destabilized the south.

The day to day running of the empire is maintained by a legion of clerical scribes and scholars, from the imperial civil service. Each region has at least one civil service office. The clerks are supposed to be selected through an examination process that is designed to ensure at least a minimal degree of competence in their area of expertise. Although the vast majority selected through this system and are competent and honest, corruption and nepotism occurs too frequently to be an aberration. Again, it is found most readily and openly in the southern regions.

It should be noted that the Aethani Tribes exist within the political boundaries of the empire, but are not governed by it. A nation within a nation, the two peoples have maintained an uneasy truce with each ignoring the other. As the Aethani do not believe in the human notion of a nation state, the tensions are not related to issues of sovereignty as much as cultural independence.
Only in recent decades have some inroads been made toward mutually beneficial engagement.

Crime and Punishment

The empire has a relatively complex legal code divided into three main branches: mercantile, criminal, and heretical. Mercantile and criminal laws are compiled yearly by civil service scribes into the Imperial Codex. These laws have a lengthy history and are based on pre imperial principles of common law and modern Dhomestic morality. Each year, as new problems arise and precedents are established, the Imperial Codex is expanded. This is especially true in the case of mercantile law which governs domestic and foreign trade.

The laws of the Imperial Codex are adjudicated at a local level, with civil matters handled by the imperial civil service and criminal matters adjudicated by the lord or his representatives; however, in some localities, serious crimes (e.g., murder and rape) are left to the adjudication of imperial magistrates who make a circuit of the empire on a regular basis. Given the length of time that can pass until the arrival of a magistrate, offenders may spend lengthy periods of time in local jails. Criminals can be sentenced to a variety of punishments: fine, imprisonment, mutilation, banishment to the Durgha penal colony, and execution.

Heretical law, which also encompasses arcane magic, is enforced at the local level by the lord with the support of the local clergyman and prelature. Some crimes, however, call for the power and judicial authority of the Tapestry of Truth. Called only for the most troubling or widespread of heresies, the Tapestry of Truth is often brutal in its enforcement of heretical law.

Crime is no better or no worse in the empire than elsewhere, with criminality more common in cities than in the rural areas. Laws are enforced by the police branch of the imperial civil service known as the Aegas. All urban regions and the majority of rural ones have an Aegas office. In rural areas, the Aegas is composed primarily of local volunteers led by retired imperial soldiers; whereas cities frequently have a more professional force. Thus, the degree of skill and professionalism shown by the Aegas varies widely. The Aegas is directly accountable to the lord, except when a magistrate is holding court.

Economics

The vastness of the land inherently makes Iesadhe resource rich. The well tilled soil of the interior makes the central, rural regions the breadbasket of the empire; meanwhile northern miners harvest a variety of minerals in the Shiv Katham mountains and fishing villages dot the southern and eastern coastline. There are few resources not available in Iesadhe, making it a self sufficient nation. Most trade occurs between regions and various indigenous groups, rather than across borders. This situation is a result of the expansiveness of the empire, rather than any isolationist tendencies or governmental interference. The empire maintains few tariffs or trade restrictions; however, economic conditions limit foreign trade to luxuries and exotic goods from the Six Cities Confederacy and the lands beyond the Great Pale. Since the recent trade agreement with the Six Cities Confederacy, one can find almost anything in the marketplaces of the major cities.

Trade is in the hands of a variety of merchant companies. Some are small enterprises focusing on specific types of goods, while others are large dynasties with their hands in every commodity. House Cardhimuon, based in the coastal city of Dalesul, is a typical example. One of the oldest of the merchant houses, Cardhimuon caravans are found all across Darejh, while their fleet of galleys makes calls into major ports around the world.

Society and Culture

The majority of Iesadheans are of human stock, the only exception being the indigenous Ar' Aethani and the few Thar-Ged who have invaded the western borders of the empire. Neither, however, is considered part of the Iesadhe population by the civil service census. As the empire expanded, a number of human cultures were incorporated under its banner. Although a common imperial culture has emerged over the centuries, physical differences are still apparent. Southerners are generally stockier than their northern cousins, with darker skin tones of olive and brown, black and brown hair and dark eyes; northerners, lithe and tall, have fairer skin with blonde or copper colored hair and a variety of shades of eye color. To the west, the people are tall and powerfully built, with dark skin tones and black hair and eyes.

Clothing styles vary widely throughout the empire based on geography, climate, and social status. Generally, however, most styles are conservative in response to the beliefs and tenets of Dhomism.
The Iesadhean share a common language, known as Iesan. Because of the near insidious pervasiveness of the Civil Service, a degree of standardization has emerged in Iesan with only limited dialectic variations occurring in the more remote regions of the west and the south. Iesan is a soft, nearly lilting language punctuated by hard, syllabic emphases.

Arts and Academics

Literacy is relatively low in the empire. Though most Iesadheans can “read” the Book of Arghedhọm, this is more a feat of memory than literacy. In contrast to the average Iesadhean, those who live in the major cities of the empire have rudimentary reading skills. As would be expected, those who wield power in the economic or religious spheres have the highest literacy.

Science is a rarely studied subject, but religious and moral philosophy common; astrology and mathematics dominate, while astronomy and biology are relatively ignored in those few places where science is practiced. Religious prejudices relegate academicians to a second class status; however, this is changing as the current Theonh is continuing his predecessor's funding of the Great Tower of Iesadhe, an independent secular university. This is a point of conflict with the more conservative and fanatical members of the Dioed.

The art of the Iesadhean is generally focused on religious themes. Whether it be the sculpted pillars of a Dhọmestic temple or the paintings hung in the private bedroom of a merchant lord, the art usually depicts the images of various Theonhes or events of historical importance to the religion. Poetry and songs are commonly used to praise Dhọm and plays in theaters are often of a moral nature. Secular art exists, but these artists are usually patronized only by rich merchants in the major cities. The most popular of Iesadhean artistic endeavors are the tapestries of silk woven in the south.

Religion

As would be expected in a theocracy, religion is the most central facet of Iesadhean life and is woven into every fabric of life, from the most profound to the most mundane, as reflected in the theocratic belief that every Theonh is a reincarnation of Abeụldhe. The existence of the Soulshard is not a secret, but only those in the highest ranks of the temple hierarchy understand it what it is and the madness it entails. This ignorance is encouraged by the temple. Although a monotheistic religion, Dhọmism is theoretically tolerant of other religions to the extent that other gods are seen as manifestations of Dhọm or the children of Dhọm. In practice, the laws of heresy are strict and only foreign merchants or dignitaries are allowed to worship any gods other than Dhọm; even in such cases, only under limited circumstances and for only a limited amount of time. This has not prevented the existence of small sects that continue to worship the younger gods in secret; nor has it prevented the more common practice of superstitious rituals.

There have, other the years risen a number of sects within Dhọmism which vary in their practices of mysticism, and their interpretations of the holy book. Two of the most significant sects include Abeulites, who believe that the First Prophet was the only prophet and do not hold any other Theonh in a spiritual light and consider further works to be commentary rather than holy text, and the Theonhites, who believe that every Theonh has been a true prophet and reincarnation of the First Prophet as evidenced by the passing of the Soulshard. A third group, more a point of view than a sect, is reflected in the Followers of Răgth. Militant and zealous, they are found most often amongst the prelates of the martial orders. They hold that there is no other God and that heresy must be burned out with fire and heretics saved by the sword. To the ire of the prelates and some of the members of the Dioed, the Răgthians have been relegated to the fringe by the current Theonh. Finally, there are the Wyrmbane Cultists, a fringe group of fanatics who have taken an obscure passage out of the Book of Arghedhom as their fundamental tenet. They hold reverence for the Wyrmbane tree more so than anything else, believing that the Soulshard stole the spirit of the tree and embedded it in the First Prophet. Needless to say, they are hunted with the Tapestry of Truth with zeal.

Dhọmestic clerics exist in a variety of flavors, but can arbitrarily be broken down into two basic types: priests and prelates. Priests are the benign force of Dhọm and provide a majority of spiritual services for the people. They are organized along a hierarchy with the Theonh and his Dioed at the pinnacle and local temple priests at the lowest end. The prelates are the militant clerics, divided into various orders and monastic groups. Unlike the military, these soldier saints are not directly associated with the daily governance of the empire and remain in their secluded monasteries unless called forth by a priest. Above all others stand the Soulkeepers, elite warrior answering directly to the Theonh.

Magic

Anyone who practices thaumaturgy in the empire is known as a spell weaver. This title comes from the belief that there is an astral plane that parallels the real world and thaumaturgists literally weave the material of the astral plane into various spells. Although considered neither good nor evil, magic is strictly regulated in the empire in order to ensure it does not violate the mandate of Dhọm. Thus, all spell weavers must either be members of a clerical organization or register with the Tapestry of Truth in the region that they call home. Even in the empire, spell weavers are an iconoclastic group and most join secret societies rather than register with the Tapestry of Truth. It is only due to their lack of direct assaults against the empire that has saved them from a visit by from the Tapestry of Truth.
Theonh Caelhe has begun to reinterpret the Arghedhọm with regard to magic, believing that it has been interpreted too literally. He has begun to encourage an increase in the study of magic and has attempted to reign in the Tapestry of Truth in their sometimes overzealous enforcement of arcane law. Believing that the lost works of the Dobrai Lords may hold the solution to the madness of the Soulshard, Caelhe has been a fervent supporter of seeking a magical solution to the problem.

Military

The Empire of Iesadhe, like many empires of times past, maintains a strong professional military force divided into twelve legions. The military is well organized and highly disciplined. Soldiers for the legion are recruited during peace time but can be conscripted if the need arises. In addition to the legion, the empire has the authority to conscript all able bodied men for a one year period of service. During this period, these men are not paid but their families receive a subsistence level stipend. Those who refuse conscription are considered engaging in treason and punishable by death or banishment to Durgha.

Each of the major trading houses also maintains mercenary companies which can be hired by the empire if necessary. Finally, the Dhọmestic prelature is organized into various military orders which fight alongside the imperial legions should the need arise. Generally, however, the prelatures only rarely venture forth.

With technological advances learned from the Sheinari and tactical advances learned in response to the Tharged, the military machine of the empire is a presence to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, the same can not be said of imperial naval power, which for all intents and purposes, is non existent. The few vessels that exist in the imperial navy have been bought from the Sheinări and are often manned by mercenaries.


Places of Interest

Iesadhe

The imperial capital city is a teeming metropolis of nearly 400,000 inhabitants who call it home and an uncountable number who make pilgrimages to the holy city. Protected by manned walls, it stretches along both sides of the River Iesadhe in the northeast. The city is a place of great diversity where theologians rub shoulders with peddlers and soldiers; the alabaster domes of temples share the skyline with the palatial homes of merchant princes and the cottages of the less fortunate.

The Citadel of Truth
Forbidden to foreigners, the Citadel of Truth is home to the Theonh and forms the crowning glory of the majestic capital city. The citadel, nestled against the river on a man made hill, is surrounded by its own alabaster walls and rises above the city like a beacon. When the sun rises and sets, the walls of the Citadel are painted in the hue of the sky, while under the mid-day sun it glows with an ethereal beauty.

From the distance, the Citadel of Truth appears to be a single structure; however, it is actually a small city within the capital. In the center is the citadel itself, once the palace of the First Princes of Iesadhe. Across from a large, mosaic-tiled plaza is the White Temple, a large domed edifice. Hidden behind the Citadel of Truth is the military barracks of the Citadel Guard. A squat, unassuming structure, the barracks is home to a contingent of Soulkeepers and the elite Fourth Column of the First Imperial Legion.

The Citadel of Light
Named after the Citadel of Truth, this imposing fortress on the northern outskirts of the capital city is the home of the Tapestry of Truth. A large edifice of white stone, this impregnable fortress looms menacingly over the city from a hillock as if a reminder to the citizens to follow a path of righteousness.

Although the Citadel is at a great distance, many people who have windows facing the fortress keep their curtains drawn. One never knows when a Truth-Hunter is watching.

Dobe

Once the capital of Dobrai, Dobe has become a hotbed of conflict and intrigue. Home to numerous spell weavers and where the Theonh has begun construction of a university, it has drawn the attention of the Tapestry of Truth. Outside of the Citadel of Light, the tapestry fortress on the outskirts of the capital city, Dobe has the largest concentration of Truth Hunters. To add to the tensions of the city, the 7th Imperial Legion has a garrison force in Dobe.

It was from Dobrai that the High Lords practiced their arcane magics. And, the influence of such power remains in Dobe. It is believe that there are vast caverns and ruins beneath the modern city of Dobe, where the foolhardy can find powerful artifacts from this age of magic.

Rieyale

Along the southwestern coast, Rieyale was once a powerful independent nation; however, it was conquered by the empire nearly half a century ago. The proud Rieyalese, however, have not forgotten their history and acts of rebellion continue to occur.

Durgha

An imperial penal colony, Durgha is an island in the sea of tranquility. Home to heretics and traitors, it is a barren and inhospitable land with treacherous water currents and reefs that make escape near impossible. The island is as barren astrally as it is physically. The little mana that flows across the island is fragile and quick to unravel. Rogue spell weavers imprisoned on the island often find the confinement the least of their punishment.

Rebirth

Home to the pilgrimage city of Rinbhe, this island in the southern cusp of the Sea of Tranquility is peppered with shrines and monuments. The Bridge of Ascension, over two miles long and built over decades and with the blood of innumerable artisans and laborers, connects the island to the mainland.

Wyrmbane Copse

Located a days journey from the capital city, the Wyrmbane copse holds obvious significance as the site where the First Prophet was touched by the Wyrmbane Soulshard. Now a beautiful garden maintained by an army of monks, the copse is heavily traveled by pilgrims futile hoping to touch the original Wyrmbane Tree. Such contact is strictly forbidden.

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