The Twilight of the Known Worlds
Politics as they exist today, do NOT exist in the Known Worlds. There is no such thing as democracy, or equality under the law. Such notions died in flames at the end of the Second Republic, as the Ten great Noble Houses brought to an end that decadent, sinful episode in human history. In the era of the Empire of the Phoenix Throne, the masses have no voice in their government. The only voting that takes place is among the elites, when agreement on a course of action cannot be reached through consensus or force of arms.
The Nobility and Feudalism
The dominant political system of the Known Worlds is feudalism, a decentralized form of government in which public power is held in private hands. There are no political parties, and leaders do not need to campaign for the support of their subjects. Power is passed down through a hereditary nobility. At the summit are the five Royal Houses that remain. The Hawkwoods, Decados, al-Malik, Hazat and Li Halan have survived a thousand years of cutthroat war and diplomacy. They are the uncontested rulers of the Known Worlds.
Below the Royal Houses are the minor noble houses, who have managed to hold onto some part of their land and power. They often exist at the whim of one of the Royal Houses, to which they are often tied through a labyrinthine web of alliances, treaties, and feudal obligations. The minor houses, some of which once numbered among the Ten, yearn to attain the status of a Royal House, and most of their political schemes are focused on that goal.
Within the noble houses, political savvy is a prized talent. Those who possess skill at diplomacy and the art of alliance are keenly sought after, and such individuals often rise far. Who you are as a noble is often based on who your allies are, within and without your House. The Emperor Alexius owes his throne to his political ability and the alliances he made within House Hawkwood and with the other factions, including the Church and League.
For all its power, the Nobility makes up only a tiny fraction of the populace of the Known Worlds. At the bottom, making up 70 to 80 percent of the population, are the serfs. Between the serfs and the nobility are the freemen, who retain some small freedoms compared to the serfs, but are usually quite poor. Standing out from that social structure are the Universal Church of the Celestial Sun and the League of Merchants.
Members of the Church are made up of second and third children of the noble houses, and freemen who were fortunate enough to gain entrance to the seminary. Yet whether freeborn or noble, the clergy enjoy many privileges above those of the common man. Church members are protected from some of the excesses of the nobility, and enjoy greater freedoms than the average freemen. The Church itself has lands—fiefs with serfs—that it owns and administers.
Generally, the church is much more compassionate to its serfs than the Nobility, but not always. The Church itself, under the direction of the Orthodoxy, plots to increase its prestige and temporal power. Sometimes at the expense of the flock’s spiritual needs. It is no secret that Patriarchs have in the past sought to create a Theocratic dominance of the Known Worlds.
The League of Merchants, heirs to the dubious economic legacy of Second Republic corporations, maintain a precarious balance within the political structure of the Known Worlds. The majority of Guild members are freemen. There are a few escaped serfs slaves who find shelter in the Guild. Noble-born members of the guild are an extreme rarity, as few care to forsake their noble privileges under the law, and those that do are seldom trusted.
The leaders of the Guilds scheme to increase their clout in the Known Worlds, and some of them even plot to someday bring about the overthrow of the nobility. Yet such scheming is carried out in absolute secrecy, as advocating the rise of a Third Republic is a sure way to have your head removed from your body by a noble, or be enveloped in flame by the Holy Inquisition. Talk of Republicanism is a serious crime in the Known Worlds. Punishments include imprisonment, severe penance, death or banishment.
For the Nobility, Republicanism is anathema, and nobles will go to brutal extremes to destroy republicans. A Third Republic would likely cost the Nobility all it has. The Church rejects Republicanism on the basis that democracy defies the Pancreator’s Descent of Grace, responsible for the decadence of the Second Republic and even the the Fading of the Suns. Their teachings are widely accepted by the majority of freemen and serfs in the Known Worlds, who have never known political power anyway.
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