It was the second Dark Age of Sublanarya; beastmen swept from the east across Thule in a wave of violence that claimed millions of lives, each innocent life taken in the name of the resurrected Kalibos, and each sacrifice feeding the endless horde and summoning demon lords to Kalibos's coalition. It was a desperate time as dwarves retreated into the deepest depths of the earth to escape the apocalyptic holocaust being carried about the beastmen, the peoples of Zafaria and Saesun were overwhelmed with Thule refugees with beastmen nipping at their heels as they fled, and the defenses of the Hamutian Empire began to waiver under constant assault from the sea. Indeed, the last thing standing between total civilization collapse may have been the Hamutian Empire but, ironically, the only thing holding the Empire together was this war for survival. The people prayed to the gods for salvation and, according to their saviors, a god did answer the call.
The envoys were holy men of a foreign religion, the Church of the Nameless God, and a foreign land, but had come to the aid the people of Sublanarya. Their leaders were an splinter sect of holy knights, the Order of the Next Dawn, that had broken away from the Xalhoteccan Empire to fulfill a prophecy, a divine mission, to come to the shores of Thule and to push back against the endless hordes. Their armada had traveled far and they had suffered great losses at sea, only having the divine promise of the prophecy to guide them to Sublanarya, but with strong conviction had managed to reach their destination. They offered any Hamutian, Zafarian or dwarf with the will left to fight to take the fight to liberate Thule. This coalition called itself the Unbroken and the name would hold true.
Croma was given a breastplate that was not his fit and he was given an old sword and rusted shield that were too heavy for him, but he was given a good horse. The commanders did not know about Croma's lineage. They did not know that he was descended from a line of Geledan kings or that his ancestor had met Kalibos in battle before. They did not know that the gods had sent them a weapon. As they watched Croma ride into battle, all they saw was a fragile but courageous boy. Somehow he rode his horse in a straight line for Kalibos. It was as if the horse knew the destiny of the boy who rode it. In fact, as Croma held tight to the horse's reins, he felt an updraft as a pair of wings sprouted from the horses shoulders. Astride a white pegasus, Croma was taken straight for Kalibos who knocked the boy off the horse. The pegasus moved to fight off all foes who approached Croma and, in fact as if by design, a circle of knights managed to break their way in and gave Croma a chance in his fight against Kalibos.
With Croma's last moment, he died knowing that he had defeated a great evil, that he had saved his brothers in arms, and, with his final request, he asked the Unbroken to settle in this place and make it their home. And they did. On that spot, they built camp into a fort into a village into frontier town into a city into the capitol of the Holy Imperium and named them all after their newest saint, Croma.
GEOGRAPHY & ARCHITECTUREWhile Saesun is defined as a complex archipelago with a wide range of climates and the breadth of Thule guarantees a gradient of arctic to Mediterranean from north to south and temperate to alpine from west to east, the climate and regions of The Holy Imperium are far less stratified. This is mostly a result of the comparatively small geographic size of the Imperium that is larger than the Isle of Saesun but smaller than regions like Albyon. There are four distinct regions with their own biomes:
The capitol city of Croma extends from the southern coastline and into the surrounding hills, protected by an impressive series of manned walls, and is an impressive sight that matches the majesty of Grand Saefurra, stone for stone and bronze for bronze, with an almost divinely pleasant mediterranean climate known for light snow and rain in the long-night (winter), fair breezes in the first-flower (spring), warm and lazy days in sun-meet (summer), and the most pleasant glow of early twilight in leaf-fall (autumn).
This region is also beset with tropical conditions and all the hazards therein from malaria to heavy rains and typhoons from the Great Eastern Sea.
The most impressive Imperian settlements of this region are the Saint Gates.
There is hope in small settlements set up by mercenaries such as the fledgling Beacon.
POPULATION DEMOGRAPHICSThe population of the region is less diverse than some but more than others. Primarily human with a prominent population of dwarves, the Holy Imperium is also home to native populations of leopard and tigerfolk, as well as a population of grippli, in the Grand Green, with more diversity in the coastal cities in the Crimson Sea. That said, here are some rough estimates based on the "Imperian Census".
Imperian Census Results:
The Basket: 80% human (primarily Imperian with Thule and Hamutain converts), 15-20% dwarf (primarily Shield dwarf with pockets of Boot dwarves), less than 5% other
The Shield: 50% human (primarily Imperian), 45% dwarf, less than 5% other
The Grand Green: 90% human (primarily Imperian with Hamutian natives/converts), 5% dwarf, 5% other (catfolk, dogfolk, gripplis)
Rothgard: 80% dwarf (equal parts Boot and Shield), 10% human, 5% gnome,
Uroc-Thanc: 85-90 % dwarf (equal parts Boot and Shield with a small minority of Under dwarves), 10% human, less than 5% other
Durnhold: ~100% dwarf (primarily Under dwarves)
RELIGION, GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
Unlike the secular Iaurdin empire or the alliance of monarchs in Thule, there is no separation of church and state in the Holy Imperium. The state is the church and the church is the state.The governance of the Holy Imperium is dependent on the partnership between the two major forces of political and religious power: the theocratic hierarchy/democracy, the Church, which is meant to oversee and manage the imperium, and the divinely appointed and total monarchy, the Imperator, who is meant to lead and rule the imperium. But, to better understand both, we must first understand the religious beliefs, practices and structures of the The Holy Imperium.
THE CHURCH OF THE NAMELESS GOD
Imperian citizens are brought up with the teachings of the Church of the Nameless God. He is also known as the Lord, the Unnamed, the Forgotten, The Almighty and The Morning Star. Followers of the Nameless God believe that their deity is the mightiest of all the god and, in fact, is the ultimate divine power. They believe that the Nameless God is actually the true inheritor of the Mother goddess's will, either as her husband, brother or son depending on the scripture, and that he is older and more powerful than any of the deities of the Naryan pantheon and came to this world to bring about salvation.
He also gave them the gift to sense magic. Humans do not have the natural connection to the magical field. The doctrine of the Church does not depict this as being a flaw. Instead, it is considered a blessing.
The use of arcane magic is all but illegal within the imperium, although some more cosmopolitan and less militant regions will overlook it. In more extreme corners of the imperium, there are special Inquisitors, "witch hunters" and "mage slayers", who are trained to hunt, capture, torture and/or kill magic users and tieflings within the empire. They primarily hunt magic criminals and cultists but, from time to time, dangerous sects of extremists sprout up that "cleanse" cities by converting, by threat of imprisonment, torture and/or death, arrested magic users.
Grimnir Blue-Cloak and the other Naryan gods, for unknown reasons, stopped him from taking the throne of Heaven and his rightful place as the almighty ruler. What happened next is highly debated: the Nameless God was either killed, imprisoned, or banished by the other gods. Regardless of what occurred, he is lost. This is why his name has been forgotten and, it is said, even those that know it refuse to say it. Some say just saying it would bring him back. And, according to prophecy, he will return.
The Church's doctrine promotes humanity as the supreme race of Narya destined to save it. Some take this so far as to claim that humans will be the last race of humanoids standing after the Day of Judgement but others claim that all who praise and serve the Nameless God will have a place in the new world and in his kingdom.
But, it is important to note, there is more to the Church than the more extreme doctrine. The moral teachings of the church and the primary guidance in day to day life come instead from the lives of the saints. In fact, while all members of the Church pray to the Nameless God, they also pray to the saints. What defines an Imperian saint and what sort of teaching do they impart?
The other type of saint, those who earn the tile in death, either by being incredible warriors of the death that defy the odds to defeat great evil or being martyrs who lose their lives in the name of the faith. For example, Saint Zakarias, who led the crusade that took the north-western tip of Raj-Hamut, also died by leading a charge into the Nine Hells itself to stop some fiendish plot. Divine warriors and extremists pray to these saints for strength and divine power to overcome the odds stacked against them.
Rather than getting their divine powers from the Nameless God, it is arguable that they instead draw upon their saints but, then, the question becomes who the saints draw upon for their power?
A full list of saints can be found (work in progress).
THE CHURCH AND THE CROWN
Every day life as well as the government is administrated by the Church of the Nameless God: any member of society can become a priest, who are allowed to marry but some abstain as a symbol of their devotion, and can establish a temple. As long as they follow the doctrine close enough, they will be allowed to preach but, if they stray too far from approved dogma, they will be warned and, if need be, reprimanded. Priests collect donations to pay taxes to the church, to afford repairs and upkeep for the temple, and to go towards various charitable causes such as feeding the poor.
Towns and cities, as well as small counties, are overseen by bishops. Bishops are elected by the local people from archbishop approved priests. Bishops administrate local priests as well as serve as mayors. They perform duties to maintain the law and order, such as collecting taxes to pay for law enforcement and small local projects, and oversee court cases.
Bishops are promoted to archbishops by appointment of the cardinals. Archbishops oversee large regions containing several cities. They serve as governors, administrating the bishops beneath them, and represent their regions in the imperial legislature known as the Diet. The Diet meets in the capitol for several weeks every year or in times of great peril to address problems in the imperium, reform the law, and hold religious debates. From among the archbishops, the Imperator elects an odd number of cardinals to oversee the Diet, advise the crown, and to serve as a counter to his power. While ultimately the Imperator holds supreme power in the empire, the condemnation of the cardinals can sway many to disobey him. These tactics are, usually, not meant to undermine the crown but to instead curb it from hurting itself.
Archbishops and cardinals are the elite class of Imperian society. Only the most influential military leaders hold more sway over the actions of the nation. Above them?
The military of the Holy Imperium is a vastly powerful enterprise comprised of well-trained and pious soldiers. It is comprised of dozens of Holy Orders, each with their own symbols, traditions, and specialties. They enlist from as early as childhood to be trained as volunteers soldiers of the faith, who sacrifice life and limb in the name of their cause when not living their lives as citizens, war priests who specialize in healing magic and miracles, and elite holy warriors who stand as paragons of the faith and match friends in might and fearlessness. They all serve as guards, militia, monster hunters, and, most importantly, as crusaders in the naval, cavalry and infantry forces. Often, among their numbers, those touches with divinity, the Aasamir, can be found as well.
This is more reasonable than some may realize as many Orders have any number of conspiracies swirling about them throughout the ages and now.
Shield dwarf converts are quick to volunteer in Imperian Orders that will accept them to prove their loyalty and faith.
The Imperian economy is not as strong as that of the Iaurdin Empire but Imperian coinage still holds value.
The he state controls much of the market by monitoring and collecting taxes, especially the agricultural taxes that, which is compensated with coin, but eliminates much of the food market in the Imperium. This is justified as feeding the military and poor, through various welfare programs, is considered of top importance. That being said there are still plenty of valued resources being collected and traded in the region.
The most profitable resource are minerals such as iron, copper, tin, lead, silver, gold and precious gems that are mined by dwarf and Imperian alike to be traded throughout Sublanarya. A good deal of foreign coinage is minted from Imperian sources, especially in Zafaria and the Hamuts. Furthermore, the quality of dwarven forging is still valued.
And finally, while not as exciting as markets in Saesun, Zafaria or the Hamuts, the position of the trading ports of the holy imperium ensures the export and import of precious goods.
OTHER TRADITIONS, ENTERTAINMENT AND FOOD
While they lack interest in theater and music, save religious pageants or choirs, sports are actually quite popular as a downtime activity among Imperians, as they are seen as encouraging teamwork and physical fitness. Bishops and archbishops often build local gymnasiums and arenas with a mix of public funds and donations from private sponsors.
All you need is a high hoop or other target, at least a wall, and a ball to practice the sport.
And with that, we draw this to a close and I must admit I need a good snack and drink myself. I hope you enjoyed reading this and that you look forward to future work. I am currently brainstorming for Fatihs articles to fill out the Naryan pantheon, have outlined some ideas for the dwarf religion, and plan on working on Hamut or Zafaria next. Thank you.