Prestige and Prejudice in the Empire - On Imperial Rank and Titles

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Prestige and Prejudice in the Empire - On Imperial Rank and Titles is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.

Prestige and Prejudice in the Empire: On Imperial Rank and Titles

The Empire of Turamzzyr is steeped in traditions.

Life within her vast borders is defined by one's blood and birth far more often than it is by one's accomplishments. Never will I hold a barony, no matter my efforts. Neither shall I ever know what it is to walk as a commoner, despite the extraordinary circumstances that have shaped my existence. The same is true of the hathlyn with an incredible talent for magic, who will never be welcomed as a Magister of the Hall, or the scullery maid born on the docks of Solhaven, who never shall see the interiors of Vornavis Keep, save, perhaps, as a servant.

For all the unpleasant questions those truths invite, this system has driven Turamzzyr forward for centuries. Unlike questions of relative merit, which are subjective and not easily settled, there is rarely meaningful debate within the Empire over the value of one's blood. Even at the most permissive verges of the land, where our borders blend with the lands beyond, these agreed-upon truths set a structure to life's affairs, one that governs the basest hathlyn to the holder of the Sun Throne himself. It is not a perfect order, but it is necessary nonetheless.

Perhaps it is an irony for one such as I, who has both clung to the peak of privilege and slumbered in the valleys of degradation, to be such an enthusiastic supporter of our land's system of nobility. The truth is that my homeland is not enamored of these systems: it depends upon them to survive. For all that I have railed against the systems of inequality that keep, for example, non-humans from service in prized martial orders, I have also seen the chaos wrought when those of one station seek to rise to another. This is perhaps our noble system's greatest accomplishment: it has kept a people predestined and predisposed to carnage from wiping each other out wholly. More, it has allowed us to fashion the greatest society since the rule of the drakes.

This treatise, though brief, aims to explore the various honors and titles of the Turamzzyrian Empire, the clockwork that turns the gears of Elanthia's greatest nation.

Nobility

To the untrained eye, the paramount division in the Empire is that which exists between nobleman and commoner. When one is born into a Ruling House or other noble family, he or she is given a set of privileges and duties unattainable to commoners. What eludes many casual observers of the Turamzzyrian feudal system is the further striations among nobles themselves. These distinctions are vast and intractable, and they stand at the heart of our governance.

Hereditary Ranks

The hereditary ranks of the Empire descend along noble bloodlines. Those who are born to power keep it, and those who are not rarely attain it. As is usual in such systems, power descends from the top, eddying in lesser tributaries before trickling down onto the common folk.

Emperor/Empress

The Emperor of Turamzzyr is the unchallenged ruler of the Empire. He rules from Tamzyrr and reigns for life or until abdication. His rule is nominally unchallenged, free of checks or balances so long as he lives. The totality of the office's power has, in reality, varied somewhat over the years, ebbing and waning with the diminishment and growth of other powerful interests in the Empire, such as the Church of Koar, the Hall of Mages, the Council of Lords, and the Small Ministry.

Aurmont Anodheles's reign as emperor, for example, has seen major growth in the power of the Small Ministry, a circle of lords--traditionally from Tamzyrr--who serve as advisors to the crown. As emperor, he has personally issued little under a fourth of the edicts his predecessor, Mynal'lyanna, produced during the same number of reigning years, which has allowed the Small Ministry carte blanche to legislate in his place. He is decidedly closer to the Hall of Mages than was Mynal'lyanna, giving House Kestrel unprecedented freedoms and honors. Relations between the crown and the Church of Koar have been unexpectedly cool since Aurmont ascended to the throne, in direct contrast to Mynal'lyanna's closeness to the religious organization.

Diadoch

The Diadoch is the declared successor of the emperor or empress. The Diadoch, when named, holds a seat upon the Small Ministry, helping to advise the Sun Throne and handle daily administrative duties. The position's holder can also be dispatched to various regions within the Empire as an emissary for the throne. Mynal'lyana, like Aurmont after her, refused to designate a Diadoch, allegedly fearing that naming an heir would make it more likely for that heir to scheme against her. Throughout Turamzzyrian history, the presence of a Diadoch in the ruling house has been seen as a contributor to stability in the line of succession, but just as often, bloody succession battles have occurred, both in the house and on the battlefield, despite such designations.

The Small Ministry

The Small Ministry is a handful of individuals, chosen and serving at the whim of the Emperor, as advisors to the Sun Throne. This group consists of four seats, one occupied by the Royal Magister of the Hall of Mages, the second filled by the diadoch as the chosen heir to the Throne, the third position is held by the Keeper of the Coffers, and the fourth is occupied by the Prelate of the Church of Koar in Tamzzyr, who acts as the Patriarch's voice to the Sun Throne. These positions serve for life, unless vacated by death, resignation, or royal decree.

The Council of Lords

The Council of Lords was founded in 4686 by Emperor Perrinor Rysus, who had gained the support of a large number of wealthy houses in the Empire by swearing to address the outrageous precedent set by previous rulers. The Council of Lords consists of one member of each leading House of the Empire, for the purpose of establishing and scribing the Rysus Codex, a massive document detailing the laws of the Empire, helping the kingdom to transition into a feudalistic society, with noble titles and holdings bestowed upon the leading families of the Empire.

The Council of Lords remains today, though rarely are they called upon unless Imperial laws are sought to be created or amended. The Council consists of seven members, each one the Heads of the Houses from Torre, Aldora, Estoria, Highmount, South Hendor, Seareach, and Jantalar.

Duke

Dukes are the first among the titled gentry of the Empire. Throughout Turamzzyrian history, these positions have frequently been held by heirs of the Sun Throne. The duchies of Aldora and Selanthia are the oldest standing regions within the Empire, and their nobles and rulers have amassed more wealth and influence than other regions further from the capital. Dukes hold command of large Imperial forces, second only to the Sentinels and the Sun Throne. In some cases, a duke can hold the position of Sentinel.

The Duchy of Kezmon was lost in a mysterious tragedy and the rights and titles of the area were transferred directly to the holder of the Sun Throne. As such, the Emperor may choose to include "Duke of Kezmon Isle" among his many stylings.

Earl

Like barons and counts, earls are the titular heads of Ruling Houses, ancestral lines that manage individual segments of the Turamzzyrian Empire. They are set above their peers due to special duties to the Empire, which are supposed to be put before personal or familial goals. For example, Earl Eddric Jovery is the Northern Sentinel, which charges him with responsibility for the safety of the Empire's northern borders, including Talador, Jantalar, Mestanir, Vornavis, and Riverwood. The Earl of Chastonia, likewise, is the titular patriarch of House Kestrel and hereditary Royal Magister, responsible for national policies on arcane arts.

Earldoms have a long history within the Empire, being some of the most ancient regions of human dominance in existence.

Counts and Barons

Counties are generally at the heart of the Empire with a longer history of human occupation than baronies. Baronies are generally the most recent regions of the Turamzzyrian Empire raised to provincial status with a noble family ruling over it, primarily designed as a bulwark against enemies of the Sun Throne and a source of raw goods for the Empire. Typically, barons oversee a smaller population and less development land, and counts enjoy the prominence and more influence of being further developed and closer to the center of Imperial politics.

The title of count was a remnant of the Kannalan Empire that has failed to die out in the Turamzzyrian Empire due to age-old tradition. Some speculate the ancestry of counts can be traced back to Kannalan bloodlines, though often through questionable means. While both count and baron are prestigious and noble positions, counts typically wield more influence because of their historic place within the Empire, the size of their populations they oversee, and the amassed wealth of the noble families over time.

Counts and barons have the distinction of being eligible to sit on the Council of Lords, which allows them to advise the Emperor directly. Traditionally, this has meant that they send representatives to Tamzyrr to speak for their houses. Advances in magic within the last century have facilitated meetings of the Council across great distances.

Baronets and Viscounts

Baronets and viscounts are landed local noble houses who generally have voting rights on a council that advises their local baron, count, or earl. In order to be a baronet or a viscount, one must own or be granted lands within said barony, county, or earldom. Often times, baronets and viscounts serve in other roles unrelated to the mastery of their given lands. As an example, the previous Lord Provost of Solhaven was also a baronet in the service of Baron Malwind of Vornavis.

Non-Hereditary Ranks

Common children, it is said, are fed from a young age tales of the baseborn who are lifted up into the ranks of nobility. The truth is that elevation from poor station is difficult and rare to attain. In these cases, the deeds of the ancestor are not conveyed upon the child. The system presses in on the next generation, forcing them back down into their assigned path. It is not a sentimental process.

Chevalier

Chevaliers are unique among nobility in that their titles are non-hereditary. Essentially, to be raised to the status of chevalier implies service to the Empire, generally of a non-martial variety. They may be granted land when raised to nobility, but depending on the terms of that grant, these lands may revert to the crown upon the chevalier's death. It is possible for a chevalier to be raised, even posthumously, to the status of baronet or viscount, but only under rare circumstances.

Among commoners, there is often the perception that a single line of distinction exists between those who are noble and those who are not. In fact, the separations between nobles of different ranks are often starker and more resistant to change. One born as a child of a baron holds little hope for every wearing a count's crown, just as the one born of a count's lineage is highly unlikely to become emperor.

Knights

Knights hold an unusual place in the Turamzzyrian hierarchy. They are generally seen as a martial counterpart to the chevalier, but many martial orders have gone decades without seeing combat, with no corresponding drops in membership. For this reason, knighthoods and chivalric orders are discussed in their own section later in this document.

Protector

The official title of Protector is not very common within the Empire and is reserved primarily for ordlyn and sylvan defenders who aid Imperial orders against the threats of the Horned Cabal. Duke Chandrennin has allowed for a lesser recognition of non-humans and sylvans who provide heroic contributions in the war against the Horned Cabal, and while the title may be bestowed upon them, they are not given a formal title or land. Such a decision in Aldora is primarily mocked in other areas of the Turamzzyrian Empire, although some rumors suggest a few provinces in the far north are considering similar accolades for those who join the fight against the monster hordes.

The Spellbook, the Church, and the Sword

Turamzzyr's desire to classify its citizenry goes beyond mere distinctions of nobility. In addition to the aforementioned distinctions, the Empire also takes pride in recognizing meritorious service in the fields of warfare and magic. It should be noted, however, that even these honorifics are not immune to the cold influence of our feudal system--sons of noble houses often find it easier to rise in the ranks of the Hall of Mages, the Church of Koar, and the various chivalric orders than the common born.

The Hall of Mages

The research done by the Hall of Mages has led to constant innovations and improvements in the quality of Turamzzyrian life, with the Hall's primary purpose being focused around the knowledge and mastery of magic. In addition, the Hall of Mages is tasked with the registration and control of elemental magic users within the Empire's borders to better manage and contain disasters from occurring, such as the infamous creation of the Wizardwaste with the destruction of Toullaire. Magic has been the backbone of House Kestrel's strength and because of this unspoken fact, their members are accorded extraordinary honor within Imperial borders.

While the Hall of Mages focuses more on knowledge and control of the magical arts, the Imperial Drakes operate as an equal force under the Royal Magister. The Imperial Drakes were formed to create a devastating military power and influence for the Sun Throne to deal with threats, both internal and external.

Even though the Hall claims to concern itself first and foremost with the affairs of the arcane, its members are heavily mired in politicking and tradition. The hierarchy within the Hall is no less rigid than that outside. The following are titles held by members of the Hall and their rough responsibilities.

Royal Magister

Although seen as the highest ranking magister in the Empire, the Royal Magister is actually not the administrative head of the Hall of Mages. The position is faithfully inherited along with the Earldom of Chastonia and patriarchy of House Kestrel, but the gift for magic is not. Therefore, there have been entire swathes of history wherein the Empire's Royal Magister is not, actually, an able spellcaster. Further confusing matters, the honorific "Your Wisdom" is reserved only for the Royal Magister and the Rector, the factual administrator of the Hall.

The primary role of the Royal Magister is to advise the Sun Throne on important matters regarding magic and the direction it will take within the Empire, overseeing the general practice of magical education. While the position is charged with oversight of the Hall of Mages, the responsibility of overseeing the day-to-day activities falls to the Rector of the Hall.

Rector of the Hall

The Rector is the official in charge of overseeing the smooth running of the Hall of Mages and its system of satellite colleges. Traditionally, he or she is among the most powerful Kestrel mages, but occasionally, members of other bloodlines have served between Kestrels. The Rector of the Hall also serves as the head of the primary campus of the Hall of Mages in Tamzyrr.

Magister Provost

The Magisters Provost are the heads of the seven satellite colleges of the Hall of Mages, which are located in The Swale, Nydds, Elstreth, Phannus, Immuron, Brantur, and Connedale. They are addressed by the title "Archmagister" and are generally accountable only to the Rector and the Royal Magister. A sometimes-friendly rivalry exists between the western campuses of The Swale and Elstreth and Immuron, to the East. Brantur is seen as a peculiar college with a sinister reputation due to its proximity to Maelshyve and New Ta'Faendryl. The satellite school in Connedale is generally viewed as rough and provincial.

Imperial Magister

The nine Imperial Magisters are also addressed as "Archmagister" and are generally seen as reporting only to the Royal Magister. They are responsible for the oversight of trained mages and wild talents across the Empire. Imperial Magisters generally serve on a rotating basis. They are selected from the highest echelons of the magical thaumatocracy.

Reporting directly to each Imperial Magister are the Adjudicators and Witchhunters, the Hall's version of inquisitors and executioners.

Adjudicator

This is the branch of the Hall of Mages that works very similar to Imperial inquisitors. They are often dispatched to investigate crimes related to rogue magic but also have jurisdiction over specific crimes committed against the Hall of Mages or its members. Their missions are primarily focused on fact-finding and only in rare circumstances, and often with approval from the Royal Magister or Imperial Magisters, can they also act as judge and juror. Otherwise, their findings must be documented and communicated back to the appropriate heads in the Hall of Mages.

Witchhunter

This branch of the Hall of Mages specifically deals with tracking and eliminating rogue magic users, be they former Hall members who have become criminals or dark magic users suspected of performing forbidden spells within the Empire's boundaries. Witchhunters are also trained in specialized anti-magic counter measures to more easily allow them to overwhelm and subdue their targets, or kill them if necessary.

There exists one position filled by a high-ranking witchhunter at each satellite college. He or she reports directly to the Royal Magister of the Hall of Mages. The Imperial Magister is an expert on magic and its counters, and oversees both adjudicators and witchhunters. The Imperial Magister and Royal Magister share the authority to send adjudicators to collect information. If a crime is deemed to have been committed, the Imperial Magister will typically dispatch witchhunters to bring enemies of the Hall to justice.

Archiver

The archivers of the Hall of Mages help maintain order in the official archives of the Hall, serving throughout its network of colleges. They are responsible for the protection of the archives and the cataloging of all tomes, research, and artifacts. They also function as the official scriveners of the Hall.

Grand Magister

Grand Magisters are recognized masters of their craft, elevated above the standard magister. The title can only be attained through years of difficult postgraduate work.

Magister

Magisters are members of the Hall of Mages who have proven themselves masters of their arts. Although no official racial limitations prevent non-humans from acquiring the title, there have been scant few non-human magisters in the history of the Empire. This is the only rank in the Hall of Mages generally open to commoners.

Prentice Mage

Prentices are mages who have been accepted for study at the Hall, but have not yet completed their studies. Many prentices actually work outside of the Hall, studying abroad and gaining valuable life experience, as innovation is far more prized by the staff than rote repetition.

The Church

The foremost religious organization in Turamzzyr is the Church of Koar, but that has not prevented the growth of other, similar fellowships over the course of Imperial history. Unlike the Hall of Mages, the churches usually embrace their obsessions with tradition-based orderings, claiming that human structures are inherent and that they must be the will of their respective gods.

It should be noted that the Church of Koar is unusual in its status as a monolithic organization dedicated to the worship of a given deity. Most Arkati have several or many orders dedicated to their worship within the Empire. The Daughters of Lumnis are a matriarchal organization that disagree vehemently with the Children of Many Colors, another Lumnisian church, and less recently, the Order of Dreamwalkers became wholly independent of its parent body, the Fellowship of Night.

Although this document primarily concerns itself with ranks within the Church, equivalent titles are provided where available and applicable.

Patriarch

The leader of the Church is known as the Patriarch. The Patriarch is always male, but the heads of other religious orders are not always so. Such is evident in the case of the Bountiful Mother of the Order of Oleani, who is always female, or the Hand of Kai, who may be of either gender. Although honorifics among the various orders and churches may vary, it is proper to address the Patriarch as "Your Holiness" and some variation thereof is usually a safe means of referring to the heads of other holy orders.

Presbyter

For the Church, the presbyters are an inner order of priests dedicated to the interpretation of Koar's acts on Elanthia. As a result, it is from their ranks that the Sun Throne ultimately selects the new Patriarch. Few other religious orders in the Empire have an corresponding body. Presbyters are addressed as "Your Eminence," as are their local analogues, the prelates.

Prelate

The title was originally conveyed upon the leader of the eldest Koarian congregation in a given barony, county, or earldom. Over time, the title has evolved to be conveyed upon the Koarian religious leader in a given territory. Prelates are responsible for setting the course of worship for their domain. They also consult with their local ruling house heads on matters of faith.

While the Imperial courts have their own laws and regulations, it is the law of the Church which provides the last refuge for those who cannot find justice elsewhere. These judgments are made by the prelates, those chosen by the Patriarch to be extensions of his will beyond the center of the Empire. Because they are granted this power by the Patriarch, they can rule with wisdom. Prelates serve as the local authority over the Church of Koar in every region, which has been established as Imperial law since the time of Emperor Rallick Anodheles.

The First and Second Watchers

The First and Second Watchers of Koar report directly to the prelate in each region, and they are responsible for governing the small churches. At times, they are dispatched to travel and spread Koar's justice and will.

Deacon

Deacons are servants of the Church who are recognized for their service to their respective god. They are referred to as "Father" or "Mother" and can generally achieve this title after years of work in service to a given cause.

The Martial Orders of Turamzzyr

There are hundreds of martial orders of Turamzzyr, but knighthood is still one of the most prized achievements available to any human born in the Empire. In order to become a knight, one must distinguish himself or herself on the field of battle or in service to chivalric causes. Given the peaceful state of the Imperial heartland, more and more knights are raised without any combat experience.

Knight Errant

The embodied fantasy of the wandering warrior, the Knight Errant has few responsibilities beyond service to chivalric ideals. Knights errant possess correspondingly great freedom to act in the interests of the Empire. These knights must be sworn to serve a liege lord, but they are subject to a light hand. Many knights errant choose to live outside of the Empire, working to forward Imperial interests in hostile terrain. Some champion various causes within the boundaries of Turamzzyr. Although it is the de facto lowest rank of knighthood, many knights errant attain celebrity for their brave deeds and quests than other, more responsibility-laden servants of the Empire. Some are members of chivalric orders, but this is not a requirement.

Knight of the Empire

Marginally above the default status of knights errant, Knights of the Empire are often saddled with administrative and military charges within the Empire, which can infringe upon their ability to advance in the hierarchy. Knights of the Empire owe their primary allegiance to the lord who raised them, but this service may be passed on without consent or notification to another noble (such as when Earl Eddric Jovery raised Knights of the Empire; they now serve Baron Malwind.) Knights of the Empire often find themselves as leaders of troops under knights-banneret or other nobles, but sometimes end up in administrative positions as a career dead-end. Almost all are members of chivalric orders.

Knight-Banneret

This can be considered the highest level of knighthood. It is often given on the field of battle, and it allows a knight to raise his own standard and organize his or her own fighting force. Generally, one should be a regular knight first, but outstanding achievement and hard work can sometimes catapult newly raised knights into this position, bypassing lower ranks.

Those Outside: Non-Humans in a Human Land

No discussion of the honorifics available in the Empire would be wholly complete without a mention of those demeaned by Imperial law. In Turamzzyr, it is obviously preferable that one be human. However, dwarves and giantmen are generally considered physically similar enough to warrant no special coldness from most Imperial citizens, especially those who live in border states. Aurmont's Edict of 5113, said to be inspired by the long service of Baron Malwind--who himself was part elven--declared that no individual within the Empire who bears a drop of human blood should be treated as less than human. This has opened up massive new avenues of possibility for half-elves and half-krolvin, both of whom were frequent targets of human supremacist discrimination.

The case is different for elves, sylvankind, dark elves, and gnomes, all of whom are still seen as second-class citizens in a land ill-disposed to change.

Conclusion

Governance is, it is said, the science of saving people from themselves.

If that is truly the case, then perhaps our unjust system, which brutally oppresses some and unquestioningly upjumps others, is a necessary evil, or not evil at all. History has certainly shown us the consequences of deviating from established paths in favor of emotion and sentiment. The arrogant Faendryl, who deviated from millennia of tradition to forge their own bloody path. The Ice Queen, Issyldra, who by some accounts was a commoner who thought herself above the station of her birth. More recently, the disgraced Empress Mynal'lyanna, who was unsatisfied with her worldly power and sought strength beyond even her own mighty grasp. The books of history are littered with such failures, marring the pages like so much spilled ink.

So, the Empire seems a barbaric place, but for all its cruelty, the feudal system has kept our land in a position of strength and safety since the Founding. It is not an arrangement without imperfections, but we humans are imperfect creatures. Without such traditions to divide us, would we unite only to tear our society apart in decadence and ungoverned fury? Perhaps it is our governing systems' acknowledgment and embrace of these flaws, its adaptation of failings into fortitude, that truly stands as the true bulwark against our basest impulses.

--From the desk of Paidreg Venquinor, called the Twice-Born, on 3 Koaratos in the Year 5113