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Selhomarrian Politics and Lawsby Geoff Gander
The Selhomarrian people base their political state, and their laws, upon thousands of years of precedents, edicts, and agreements. At the very base of their body politic is the Codex of Tylios, named after the young emperor who, after his tyrannical father, Galhossian, was executed following a civil war, signed the new political arrangement into law. It was signed in BC 8377 - the original copy of this document still in existence, safe in the vault of the Imperial Palace in Calimnis. The Codex explicitly delegated all of the executive powers of the state between the emperor and the ten regional princes. This was done both to restrain future emperors from taking total control, and to eliminate confusion that could result in another civil war.
Before the rise of Galhossian, there was an unspoken agreement, evolved over the centuries, between these two executive bodies. The princes were largely responsible for domestic affairs, while the emperor (or empress) saw to external affairs of state, and reigned as the symbolic head of government. This arrangement was re-asserted, but this time on paper, where no one could question it. As the centuries passed, and new areas of political authority were needed, the Codex has been consulted in order to find out which executive body should have jurisdiction.
As it stands right now, the ten regional princes have control over the powers of tax collection, domestic production of trading goods, the training and command of soldiers, and administering justice. The emperor has control over conducting relations with outside nations, setting the tax rate, assenting to new legislation, providing last appeal in legal cases, declaring war, approving the appointment of public officials, raising people to the nobility, administering the capital city through a mayor, and drafting legislation. In the case of the drafting of legislation, a panel of experts is normally summoned by the emperor to act upon his ideas, usually combined with suggestions from the princes. As mentioned above, however, the ruler may also draft his or her own legislation - though this is rare.
The Princes and Other Nobles:
Although the princes have responsibility for many domestic issues, functionaries and bureaucrats often do most of the work of administering policies and laws. For the average prince, most of the day is taken up by touring the province and talking with the commoners - and providing a travelling court of law. When this is not going on, a prince is often meeting with the emperor, or other princes, in order to decide on major issues of the day; or supervising soldiers or leading them in training exercises. Basically, the princes' role is to ensure that all is quiet on the domestic front, while the ruler concerns him or herself with the affairs of state.
As with other members of nobility, the princes derive their power from their bloodlines - from those men who were chosen around BC 8600 by emperor Santhalis for their bravery and loyalty to be his personal assistants, who would rule in his stead in the countryside. Along with the princes and their families, there are other nobles in Selhomarr. As mentioned above, the ruler has the power to appoint commoners to the nobility. This is invariably to the rank of "Lord" or "Lady", and the title conferred is hereditary. Such an event is very rare, and is often the occasion for public celebration. The main reason why this is done is to recognise the great service an individual has done for Selhomarr, or to the ruler him or herself. This practice also helps the regional princes, as this provides new noble families for their children to marry into. As it stands right now, there are about 200 lords and ladies scattered across the nation.
Unlike the princes, the lords and ladies have no special powers under the Codex, and are considered common citizens, aside from the fact that they are titled and may marry into a prince's family. A prince is, however, free to delegate authority to a lord or lady, subject to the ruler's approval. Currently, many lords and ladies are given the authority to act as judges in legal cases, where the prince in question does not have the time to do so. These minor nobles do have one important responsibility, though. In times of war, they are required to assist the prince in assembling the military forces of the province, as well as provide suitable commanders, if none are otherwise available from among the professional soldiers.
A Note on Succession:
It should become clear that, with so many nobles living in Selhomarr, there are simply not enough lands or positions for all of them to exercise their powers to their fullest. In the case of the imperial family, the eldest child of the current ruler, boy or girl, will assume the throne, barring any accidents. Younger siblings are usually appointed to important positions in the imperial household, such as strategic advisers if their skills lie in that direction, or they might be made into ambassadors to the most important Hollow World nations - at least, those most important to Selhomarr. If all else fails, a brash sibling of the current ruler can always find a place as an officer in the Selhomarrian military. This situation is much the same in a regional prince's family, except that only the eldest son, or another male sibling, may assume the throne of a province.
As for the numerous lords and ladies, only the eldest child will succeed the current local ruler, again, barring any accidents. Younger siblings can either petition the regional prince to grant them a stretch of untamed lands on the fringes of the province, to mould into a new dominion, or they may be granted rulership over a dominion whose recently-deceased ruler has left no heirs. As a general rule, both of these situations are exceedingly rare. In the case of larger dominions, territories can be divided by the regional prince into enough pieces that all the children may be landed lords or ladies, though most larger dominions have long since been divided. In most cases, the only options open to younger children of petty nobles are to join the military, or obtain a position in the government - imperial or provincial. It is not unknown, though, for young nobles to have their elder siblings assassinated, in order to gain land.
The Selhomarrian Political System at Work:
With this information in mind, one can easily classify the nation of Selhomarr as a federal state, with a constitutional monarch at its head. The empire is divided into ten provinces, each ruled by a prince, who in turn delegates part of his authority to local lords and ladies, but both directly deal with the populace. The capital city, Calimnis, is directly ruled by the emperor or empress through the mayor. The only region that is outside this structure is the Ilarnnian Autonomous Region, which has all the trappings of an independent state without statehood. All portions of the empire, including the Ilarnnian region, share common foreign and trade policies, a common currency, a common army and navy, and a common legal system.
This does not mean that the Selhomarrian Empire is harmonious - far from it! The constitutionalised division of political power has created friction; past emperors have tried to usurp more power for themselves, at the cost of increased friction between the Calimnis and the regions - almost to the brink of civil war. In other periods, regional princes have tried to wrest power from the centre, and occasionally remote provinces have requested the level of autonomy enjoyed by the Ilarnnian Autonomous Region. In the imperial court, nobles from the provinces exhibit behaviour along this spectrum, and many form political blocs, lobbying influential bureaucrats, and the emperor himself, in support of their goals. There are literally dozens of such blocs operating in Calimnis at any given time, and their membership and goals are highly fluid; any potential political goal has advocates somewhere among the ruling elite. Rivalry between political blocs is also highly variable, ranging from shouting matches to occasional assassinations.
The Selhomarrian Legal System:
As mentioned earlier, the Selhomarrian political and legal system is based largely upon precedent. In any legal case, attempts are always made to find records of a similar case, in order to provide a better perspective on how judgement should be carried out, if the recorded sentence in the precedent was deemed fair by both prosecution and defence. This does not mean that there are no hearings in court, or testimony; only that guidelines are always sought. Where this is not possible, then extra care is taken, as what is decided at that case may become tomorrow's precedent. This has produced a marked tendency towards slowness in rendering decisions - it is not unusual to wait weeks, even months, before a final judgement is rendered.
The Selhomarrian legal system classifies people according to social classes, each having the same basic rights. At the lowest level are the citizens, who may own property, live wherever they wish, and keep the money they earn - less the amount taken in taxes. Being a citizen also entitles a person to vote for the administrators of their place of residence - often mayors or reeves. Both men and women can be citizens. Apart from this, though, there is no political franchise per se. Citizens also have a few fundamental freedoms - namely, the freedoms of expression, association, and privacy. These freedoms are, however, subject to the will of the ruler, and may be suspended when the need arises.
Within the class of citizen are several gradations of prestige, defined by profession. Those involved in manual labour, such as farmers, fishermen, or miners, are at the bottom. Above them, in order of prestige, are smiths of various kinds, shopkeepers, soldiers, lawyers, scholars, politicians, explorers, and priests. One's position on this scale determines how the public perceives that person - how sophisticated they are, their potential to advance themselves, and how much they are respected; it does not confer any extra powers. There is, in fact, very little social mobility in Selhomarr between the classes; one who is born a commoner will likely remain so, though they may climb within their social stratum by becoming a leading cleric of Xeron, a military officer, or a government official. All of these require almost a lifetime of dedication and service.
Above the citizens are the lords and ladies, as mentioned earlier, though they are legally on the same level as citizens. They do not have any extra powers, apart from those delegated from a prince. Above these nobles are the princes, whose powers, rights, and duties have been discussed earlier. Finally, at the top the scale of power is the ruler, whether it is an emperor or empress, the details of which have also been discussed earlier.
Unlike many other cultures, slavery does not officially exist in Selhomarrian society. Those captured in war are detained in prisons, but are otherwise treated well. Falling into debt, however, leads one into a legal nether region, where the debtor must forfeit their wealth and non-essential assets. If not enough money is raised in this manner to pay off the debt, then the debtor is required to work for the creditor, at a rate of repayment equal to the salary that would be otherwise paid out. Once the debt is paid, the servitude ends. Technically, this is indentured servitude, though the debtor is still considered a citizen under the law, and retains all rights thereof. In reality, though, many indentured workers are treated little better than slaves.
Crime and Punishment:
The table below summarises what is considered illegal, and what one can expect in terms of punishment. All Selhomarrians are considered equal before the law, even the emperor. There is no lenient set of punishments for nobles - in Selhomarr, the law is the law, period.
Criminal Act Punishment Theft (1,000 alinni or less) Restitution of stolen property, 1 year in prison Theft (1,001 - 10,000 alinni) Restitution of stolen property, 5 years in prison Theft (over 10,000 alinni) Restitution of stolen property, 10 years in prison Publicly Denouncing Xeron Public Censure Publicly Denouncing the Ruler Public Censure Assault (non-lethal) 20 lashes Sexual Assault 75 lashes or 7 years in prison Attempting a Coup Death by hanging Manslaughter 75 lashes or 7 years in prison Murder Death by Hanging or Exile for Life Worshipping an Outer Being Death by Hanging Worshipping Thanatos Death by Hanging
This system of punishment is followed throughout Selhomarr. While the execution of a person for worshipping the Outer Beings may seem harsh at first, one only need to learn of the history of the Selhomarrians in order to understand why the punishment is so severe. The Lhomarrians and Ilarnnians are aware that the machinations of the Outer Beings ultimately brought them to the Hollow World, and, they believe, destroyed their old world. They fear that such an event could happen again, and they feel the Outer Beings are listening, waiting for worshippers to give them strength. As a result, there is no room in their societies for those who would venerate these Beings, who would bring ruin onto everyone.
This fear of the machinations of the Outer Beings is so ingrained in the Selhomarrians' collective psyche, that even the accusation of being a worshipper of them is enough to ruin a person's reputation, and condemn them to a life of ostracism. Even families have been known to cast out relatives who have been so accused, out of fear for the consequences that may result from harbouring a suspected cultist. As such, one of the deadliest threats one can make to a Selhomarrian is to threaten to provide "proof" of Outer Being worship to the authorities. This tactic has been used in the past to remove political opponents, and to force nobles to abdicate.
In any political system, various groups are formed of like-minded individuals who band together to advance their own views. Selhomarr is no exception, and the groups below are the ones that are the most active, and have infiltrated the government to some degree. Feel free to add your own groups to those listed. Each group is described in terms of their membership, who can join, what their essential beliefs are, and what they do in terms of activities.
Fellowship of the Leaf
Members: Approximately 12,000.
Who can join: Any citizen of Selhomarr; druids and foresters welcome. There is no annual cost.
Beliefs: The Fellowship of the Leaf is devoted to the protection of Selhomarr's wilderness regions, and all creatures who inhabit them. Although they do not discourage woodcutters, trappers, and hunters in their activities, they do try to ensure that no one takes more than they need from nature's bounty. As a result, they are not above intervening in such activities that they deem excessive. They usually do so by melting out of the woods, and warning the interlopers against continuing what they are doing. Another important task undertaken by the Fellowship is to patrol the wilderness in search of evil monsters and other corrupting forces, such as undead or foul magical experiments, and destroy them. Of the roughly 12,000 members, about 1,000 druids and 3,500 foresters form a "core" membership. The remainder are Selhomarrians from all other walks of life, who support the principles propounded by the Fellowship's "core" members.
Activities: The Fellowship spends most of its time patrolling the wilderness regions on the outskirts of the empire, keeping watch over its charge. The Fellowship also assists local druids in their ceremonies, and forester members serve as bodyguards to high-ranking druids, as well.
Fist of Xeron
Members: Approximately 40,000.
Who can join: Any Lhomarrian or Ilarnnian who worships Xeron. Cost is 50 alinni per year.
Beliefs: The Fist of Xeron is a radical movement composed of Lhomarrians and Ilarnnians who have become alarmed at the profusion of "outside ideas" within Selhomarr. The primary objects of dislike are worshippers of "false gods" - such as those who worship Diulanna or other Immortals - but anyone who follows non-traditional ideas or philosophies will also be blacklisted by this group. Selhomarrians who follow "the wrong path" are insulted whenever encountered, and efforts are made to persuade people in positions of authority, and people on the street, to ostracise them. Members believe that only by following Selhomarrian traditions to the letter, and by embracing Selhomarrian culture, will the favour of Xeron be gained. There is no room for "foreign" religions or ideas. A xenophobic, conservative group, but relatively non-violent.
Activities: Largely confined to haranguing people in the streets, insulting those more open to new ideas, and occasionally burning temples to other Immortals.
Hunters of Righteousness
Members: Approximately 24,000.
Who can join: Any Lhomarrian cleric of Xeron. There is no annual cost.
Beliefs: The Hunters believe that the evil influence of the Outer Beings is omnipresent, and only through constant vigilance can the people of Selhomarr be protected from their foul machinations. They call themselves the Hunters of Righteousness because they believe their divine mission is to seek out those who might be a servants of the Outer Beings, and destroy them. Those accused of being Outer Being cultists, whether accurately or not, often find themselves on the receiving end of their abuse, often resulting in the death of the victim. The Hunters also think that people of other races and cultures - including Ilarnnians - are not as inherently virtuous as the Lhomarrians, and are thus more susceptible to the whiles of the Outer Beings. As a result, the Hunters consider Selhomarr's current policy of openness a mistake. Far better, they believe, to close the borders, expel all foreigners, and place someone on the imperial throne who will fight for the purity of Selhomarr. They also find the official clergy of Xeron to be too lenient; Selhomarr should not be advised by the personal servants of Xeron, it should be ruled by them. The Selhomarrian government and the clergy of Xeron do not sanction the Hunters' activities, but they realise that these thugs have struck a chord among the more conservative elements of society. As such, attempts to curb the Hunter's activities are covert, out of fear of inciting a revolt if it becomes known that a prominent conservative group is being "repressed". This, of course, hinders their attempts at curbing the excesses of this xenophobic group.
Activities: Hunters spend a great deal of time preaching to those they deep to be receptive to their messages: the poor who seek scapegoats for their problems, and the devout. They also track down and "purify" suspected Outer Being cultists - leaving very little behind after they finish their dirty work. When not doing either of these, they send death threats to, and occasionally attack, known foreigners. Unbeknownst to them, the Hunters receive their clerical powers from Atzanteotl, who delights in seeing the discord that this group is sowing.
Order of the Homebound
Members: Approximately 8,500.
Who can join: Any citizen of Selhomarr who worships Xeron. Cost is 250 alinni per year.
Beliefs: Members of the Order of the Homebound believe that certain principles of the teachings of the priests are flawed - that the realm on the outside of the Hollow World is the paradise of Xeron, and is reserved only for him and those he deems most virtuous. They believe that the "other side" is indeed a paradise, but that it is not closed to mortals; rather, Xeron has placed it like a prize, and only the purest people will survive the perilous journey to live with him in splendour. They hope to gain Xeron's favour by proving their mettle - by staging a great pilgrimage to Xeron's realm, where they will live for eternity. They see the priests' warnings merely as an effort to keep this great destiny out of the reach of the masses. The great pilgrimage will commence once 10,000 people have sworn the oaths of secrecy and loyalty.
Activities: Most members discreetly seek out others who would be sympathetic to their cause. Meetings are clandestine and infrequent, and often concern progress reports on gathering supplies for the journey ahead. Should this group ever gain enough members, they would arrange to leave at a prearranged time, meeting in the southernmost region of the empire. From there they would sail south into the polar region. Any survivors would find themselves nowhere near any paradise, stuck in far southern Davania.
Order of the Laurel
Members: Approximately 7,500.
Who can join: Any female citizen of Selhomarr. Cost is 35 alinni per year.
Beliefs: Members of this conservative group believe that the more "permissive" society tolerated by the Selhomarrian government is bringing the empire ever closer to chaos and destruction. The long-established, yet unspoken, tradition of allowing young women who have proven themselves in battle to join the military is of particular concern to them. They believe that it is the man's duty to fight for the empire, while women should raise the next generation of loyal citizens. Needless to say, this attitude has brought the Order into conflict with the Warmaidens on numerous occasions. Generally, the Order of the Laurel believes that Selhomarr should withdraw from the outside world, and discourage its youth from going on "dangerous adventures in savage lands". Members are also strong supporters of the clergy, and they frown upon anyone who does not show proper deference and respect to the religious class.
Activities: Most members spend their time preaching on street corners and passing out leaflets. They lecture passers-by on such topics as the ills of alcohol, the virtues of isolationism, and the benefits that are to be had through adherence to the faith of Xeron.
Soldiers of Free Ilarnn
Members: Approximately 9,000.
Who can join: Any Ilarnnian citizen of Selhomarr. Cost is 40 alinni per year.
Beliefs: The Soldiers of Free Ilarnn base their philosophy on highly subjective views of Selhomarrian history. According to history as they know it, Ilarnn was forced into the Lhomarrian fold against its will during the wars against the Carnifex of Y'hog. They believe that Ilarnn could have settled a separate peace with the Carnifex, and let the Lhomarrians fight their own battles. They feel that the Ilarnnian people are occupying a similar subservient role in Selhomarr, and that the only solution is to fight for independence from the empire, once and for all. Only then will the Ilarnnians truly be a people unto themselves, free to develop their culture as they see fit, without being forced to live under the wing of the Lhomarrians, who outnumber them greatly, and will ultimately assimilate them.
Activities: Most members spend their time gathering weapons, and training for the battles they feel they will have to fight once independence is declared. They also frequently hold meetings to discuss what Ilarnn must have been like as an independent nation, though in the process they have developed an idealised vision of how things once were. Occasionally, less tolerant members will beat up lone Lhomarrians (especially those on their Wandering), or small groups of them.
Members: Approximately 47,000.
Who can join: Women who have chosen fighting as a profession. Cost is 100 alinni per year.
Beliefs: Members of the Warmaidens believe that women should also have the opportunity to serve the empire in the army or the navy, and not be forced to train themselves to a level where they will be accepted as having "proven themselves". The Warmaidens feel that too many aspiring warriors are put at needless risk by this outdated tradition, possibly robbing Selhomarr of tomorrow's top military leaders. To this end, they have established academies in the countryside where women may go to learn the arts of war, taught by veteran female soldiers. Despite the large membership base, and the growing number of such academies, demand still outstrips supply, such that many young women are still forced to go out on their own to get the training they need.
Activities: Officially, the Warmaidens' activities are illegal, as only men are allowed to enlist in the army or navy and receive basic training. The military, religious, and political leaders realise, though, that the Warmaidens are providing a valuable service - that of providing professional soldiers. In recent minor battles with the Antalians, units comprising Warmaidens, or those trained by them, performed at a much higher level, and sustained fewer casualties, than conventional forces.