LORE
The Rulers of the Empire

Even before the Calamity, power in the Empire was distributed along hazy lines between too many grasping hands. The matter was not helped by a society brutally fractured by a cataclysm of unprecedented scale, the intrusion of malevolent Gods and eldritch creatures, and constant war since the Restoration Period. Yet most citizens of the Empire are able to pinpoint the prominent holders of power and the rulers of the realm.

The Emperor

‘Abiuara ut eas Imperator Divinis!’ (approx.: ‘May the Divine Emperor shield you from harm!’)

- Imperial proverb

Emperor Valen Xevaris, the Immortal Emperor, Protector of the People, the Deathless, the Divine Son of Xyn the King of the Elder Gods has been the sovereign of the Empire for over 2000 years. Ever since his self-sacrifice during the Calamity and his subsequent comatose state he has been unable to rule, however, and thus his most trusted servants - the Apostles - took on the burden of governing the Empire in His name. It might also behoove any historian or loremaster to note that even before the Calamity, His Imperial Majesty has been rather distant from state affairs and politics in general, and was mostly occupied with overseeing the construction of the Cathedral of Ascendency as well as various mysterious passion projects. Thus, the Apostles have been quite prepared for taking over the rule of the Empire in His absence.

The Twelve

‘Distant thunder rumbled in a grey sky beset by the turmoil of the spheres. The dark procession was slowly pouring out of the city gates and turned north, following the Emperor’s Road among the hills like a great black snake. Rattling incessantly, endless scores of unliving legionnaires trod the ancient stone causeway with yellowed bone feet. Proud cavalrymen in tarnished breastplates and tall, crested helmets galloped along the line, warbanners aloft in the cool breeze before the storm. And then we saw it, just as it turned the corner by the Tiberius Plaza: a magnificent, black chariot the size of a building, drawn by a dozen undead Slerad. On it hovered a great armored figure cloaked in undulating shadow. No, not even shadow, not merely the absence of light. Unlight it was; it drew your eyes towards its abyssal center. The general stood motionless, perching up high like a great bird of prey, ready to swoop. Its visage struck cold terror in our hearts and we could not move, speak, or tear our gazes away until finally Gaius spoke in a tiny voice:

‘It is true then. One of them is personally leading the campaign. Poor sods, I wouldn’t want to be in their sandals now.’

- Excerpt from ‘The Day of Reckoning’ in the memoirs of Celmina Livius Quies (cca. 551 p.c.)

The Calamity caused the death and resurrection of the Twelve Apostles - the highest ranking priests of the Elder Gods. Death at the hands of their own Gods; resurrection due to the selfless sacrifice of the Emperor. In their newfound Unlife the Twelve became immortal sorcerer-lords: the Twelve Liches. Since His Imperial Majesty slumbers within the Cathedral of Ascendency, the very site of His stand against the treacherous Elder Gods, they have been the de facto rulers of the Empire. The Emperor’s absence, according the the Twelve, is merely temporary - yet it has lasted for over a millennia now and there is no indication it will end anytime soon. The Liches are reputedly working on reviving the Emperor from his stasis, although such claims might seem suspect, especially given the fact that nobody is allowed to see Him except for the Twelve and a few high ranking priests of Ahskul, God of Death. But discussing such a thing in public would be considered heresy: the mandate of the Twelve comes from the Emperor Himself.

It is not widely known that the Twelve of our present day are not the same group of individuals as the Twelve of the Calamity: some of them have been destroyed throughout the post-apocalyptic centuries either by wars or the schemes of the other Liches. Yet, some of the original Apostles still remain - others were recruited and given Unlife by the more ancient ones. Regardless which echelon it belongs to, each of the Twelve exercises unrivaled, absolute power within the Empire. The only ones who can effectively veto any intent of a Lich are the other members of their conclave, although little is known of their true modus operandi. In praxis however, several other branches of power can manipulate or even force them to reconsider their agendas and methods. The success of such endeavors has varied greatly throughout modern history. Each of the Twelve is an individual with vastly different skills and ways of thinking, burdened by their duties to the Empire for eternity, possessing almost limitless magical and mundane powers.

The Senate

‘It is thus plain to see, dear Glabio, that such a motion would not only upset the Calani crystal trade in the region in an immoral way but also cause considerable discomfort to lighthouse operators who, I’m sure you are well aware, are essential in preventing ships - and that includes your merchant ships, too, Senator - from getting smashed to tiny pieces on the jagged rocks of the coastline. Therefore, I conclude that the motion is not in the service of a fair crystal trade or the Empire but is in fact an abomination drawn up by extreme incompetence.’

- Senator Artran on the Senate floor, addressing Senator Bevarus Glabio on his proposal for a restrictive motion on Calani crystal trade, receiving thunderous applause

The Imperial Senate operates under the watchful gaze of the Twelve, even though only one or two are said to take part in its sessions at a time. Apart from the reign of Emperors, this sacred institution has been the most stable political tradition of the Empire for its existence throughout the long millennia. Its creation harkens back to the first Emperor, who called it into existence after carving its governing principles onto the Pillar of Laws. Having started as an advisory council to the Emperor, the rights and responsibilities of the Senate have changed drastically during the Third Age. The institution reached its latest peak in the centuries prior to the Calamity: in the Emperor’s absence, all legislative and judicial powers were given over to the Senate, as well as the right to supervise the election of public officials - until the Apostles took over.

Today, the Senate is one of the most potent counterpoints to the Twelve and the priesthood who strive to turn it into their own puppet. Most Senators belong to the aristocracy and all but inherit the title - others come from the most wealthy citizens of the Empire and are often the agents of Trading Houses. There are 633 seats in the Senate, some of which are taken up by positions outside its confines, such as the Twelve, the High Priests, the heads of each Fulcimus, and so forth. Over half of the Senators attend sessions infrequently or never at all. In times when the aristocracy grows more powerful, the Twelve can have a hard time overruling the Senate’s consulta (a formal decree after a consensus is reached).

The Priesthood

‘Have you been thinking about what happens to this vessel when your soul departs? It is better to consider these matters earlier than late, don’t you think? The King of the Underworld often arrives unexpected, friend, and after that encounter it’ll be late to reap the rewards for serving the Empire post mortem.’

- Havrius, Acolyte of Ahskul, ‘recruiting’ for the shambling legions

Ever since the resurgence of the Twelve, the Triumvirate had been their closest allies and the tools of their power. Thus, with the Fourth Age began the rise of the priesthood, only slowed down somewhat by the Triumvirate War of the second century. The authority of the priests today is so remarkable that some sages claim the Empire is now in effect a theonomy. High ranking priests sit in the Senate, advise the Twelve, carrying out duties of great import and authority throughout the Empire. Perhaps the best example is how the Church of Sergorod can overrule the Senate’s judicial powers and hunt down criminals, gather evidence and judge the guilty, all under the pretense of holding up the law. Similarly, the Church of Ahskul is responsible for all funeral services and the maintenance of the Undead legions of the Empire.

But not only the Triumvirate’s priests are powerful - the smaller clergies and monastic orders of Saints and Avatars also wield considerable power. The monks of Merkatus, for instance, have gained great authority over commerce and certain economic fields due to tradition, lobbying, and outright profiteering. Akin to that, the cenobites of Irafons can often be seen guiding travelers and maintaining roads and maps.

Fulcimus Imperium

‘Do not forget that I am the law.’

- Sedarias, Knight of the Black Sun

Similarly to the priesthood, the Pillars of the Empire (Fulcimus Imperium) have rights and responsibilities that surpass that of most citizens. The leaders of these orders are also Senators, and strict laws are written to uphold the balance between them and the Triumvirate’s clergies, which is the reason they were created in the first place. The Knights of the Order of the Black Sun serve not only as shock troops and generals in war but also as inquisitors and elite investigators. The assassins of Ater Manis are a guild of contract killers in the service of the Emperor - yet in his long absence they have been serving the Twelve most fervently. The Nosferatis Sisterhood’s duties are more obscure but according to insiders it appears that their clandestine research into the arcane is supposed to somehow further the goals of the Empire.

Sorcerers

‘Death to all sorcerers! Whatever they taught you, aekil, it was the accursed mages that caused the Scorching by meddling with arcane powers they coveted yet were too dim to understand.’

- Thergulidian, Elven agent in a heated conversation

It is no wonder that in a world irrevocably scarred by arcane energies, where the fallout of the Calamity still greatly influences everyday life and where magic often has a noticeable impact on people’s lives, sorcerers and mages have significant authority. Wielders of the arcane have long been at odds with the priesthood - even before the Calamity - and were forced to form their own institutions to protect their rights and privileges. Considering all the anomalies and magical phenomena, the Senate could not marginalize these orders of spellcasters; thus in the centuries following the Calamity they were formally given power and were invited to join the Senate.

Chief amongst the powerful sorcerer clans and orders is the Crimson Order, the founders of which survived the cataclysm by shielding vaults under Karkpolis with extremely potent magic. Full-fledged members of the order are often found in advisory roles to powerful politicians or delving into politics themselves. Many believe that sorcerous covenants such as the Crimson Order are somehow to blame for the Calamity and there is a lingering distrust around them, yet nobody denies their usefulness in present day Xeryn.

Trading Houses

‘Law follows where coin jingles.’

- The motto of House Venari

Contemporary Xeryn is characterized by many isolated settlements divided by vast and perilous lands. This is one of the main reasons why mercantilism rose to utmost importance: trade and communication would be virtually impossible without the involvement of comitati, armed caravans that traverse the wasteland. It did not take long before the merchants started to flock together to protect their interests. Trading Houses represent the pinnacle of merchant organizations. Most often, they are run by a council of merchants, a family of aristocrats, or some other interest group. Successful vagrican hope to join these Trading Houses, gaining their benefits and protection along with the obligation to pay a considerable tribute and abide their internal code of conduct that governs most aspects of trade.

There are various ways the Houses can influence politics from sanctioned lobbying to bribes, private armies, and even assassinations. The most powerful Trading Houses have so much influence due to their coin that they often have public officials or even Senators in their pockets. Throughout the centuries, they have managed to secure exclusive rights and monopolies for themselves - no wonder many consider them the most powerful faction in the Empire.

<< Previous

#godsofxeryn #loreupdate #theimmortalemperor #thetwelve #xerynempire