At the time of Hali’s story, the Empire of Sangrithar was closing in on its five thousandth birthday. Obviously, in an empire so old boundaries are fluid and change over time. Every square inch of land, from the Plains of Dust (they weren’t always so dusty, the credit for that belongs to Lady Korandra of Castle Moonstone fame) to the Iron Hills belonged to the God-Emperor. But, even rulers as powerful as them needed a strong supporting cast to stay in power and the Pearl Throne’s came in the form of Sangrithar’s nobles. It’s not all that special of a formula and follows the same recipe for success employed in your world and a thousand thousand others. Could Rome have held Europe without the provincial governors? Could Britain have spanned the globe from a little island in the cold northern seas without enlisting local muscle?
Even before Sangrithar outgrew the little village on the coast of Belgrith Harbor, Thar who was Umbar understood the importance of allies. Many coastal towns surrendered willingly to the man who fell from Esel without drawing so much as a single sword, and more often than not, Thar who was Umbar would leave the village elders in place. Unlike the Borg, he appreciated cooperative assimilation though in the end, resistance was just as futile. Thar who was Umbar worked his magik up and down the coast and those few who did resist were replaced, but that was the exception not the rule. However, as he moved inland away from the sea, his magnetism waned and things didn’t come quite to him quite so easily. Now that we know the truth, it’s easy to understand why he was stronger close to the sea. Back then, when his origins were unknown, it wasn’t at all clear, though to be fair, it was hard to notice. Even in a region as land-locked as Switzerland, Thar who was Umbar’s power would be nothing to scoff at.
When Arcanicles came to town, he revealed the truth behind Thar’s mysterious origins and Thar who was Umbar went back into the Heavens with holy Raena at his side, leaving Sangrithar in the care of his daughters. Though very powerful, Averanda lacked her father’s divine stature, and so she relied upon more mundane, tried and tested methods of maintaining her hold on the land – bribery disguised as lands and titles she bestowed upon her faithful followers.
At first, the outlying lands remained in the hands of descendants of the old tribal elders that Thar who was Umbar had left in charge and those Averanda anointed after she took the throne, but eventually this system broke down. If any of you have worked in a large corporate environment, you know what I’m talking about. Due to distance (physical and psychological), field offices often develop a culture separate and distinct from the home office. Slowly but surely a subtle independence is promoted along with disregard for the home office rules. It happens all the time. Those vested with local power forget to whom they are beholden and act like miniature God-Emperors, wielding little sticks instead of god-fire. Eventually, the suits at HQ get fed up with the situation and send some freshly indoctrinated newb to take the reins of power from the crusty old incumbent.
The same thing happened in the empire. Those who’d been in charge when the territory was assimilated into the empire began to fail. Sometimes a local died without leaving heirs, or a natural disaster wiped out an entire family, or a war took too many casualties, the reasons were as different as flakes in a flurry, but the result was the same – new leaders were appointed – and these new leaders invariably came from the capitol, where a new upper class with Thar’s fairer skin was emerging.
Some of you might be wondering how Thar could be responsible for populating Sangrithar’s entire upper class. He’s just one man, you’re thinking, and he was married. Well, first of all, Thar who was Umbar wasn’t just a man, he was a god, even if he didn’t know it, and gods are lusty creatures, married or not. Just take a look at Zeus’s track record. Secondly, Thar was a warlord and a damn good one. As Sangrar’s Alexander the Great, he conquered half of Fanar. That meant that he was on the road all the time and you know what happens on the road, especially when looting and pillaging is part of the equation. Last but not least, which god had top billing in Sangrithar back in those days? The Maiden, that’s who. Now I’m not saying that the parties at Tar-Numerath back then were anything like the ones the Elder Races threw between the Stones, but she was the Maiden and old habits die hard. Just saying …
For centuries, the Priest-Kings, and after them the God-Emperors, handed out lands and titles like candy. Fiefdoms rose and fell like the seasons, passed on to the next generation unless a noble died without heirs, in which case the lands reverted to the crown. The throne could declare a noble’s lands and title forfeit, but this was rare until the Curse afflicted the God-Emperors. Then running nobles out Tintammil became more commonplace, particularly late in a God-Emperor’s rule when logic fled like Aeriel’s light at dusk.
Eventually, the throne started running low on its seemingly limitless lands. The first line of defense was to stop handing out such large parcels, and by Hali’s time, only three duchies remained in the Empire, (Grenway, Silverbough and Ssurford) a tiny number compared to the seventeen baronies. After a while, there weren’t even enough lands left to grant a barony, but that didn’t stop the God-Emperors from buying favors. They still handed out titles to anyone deserving (i.e. wealthy enough to buy one), but they were titles only, sans lands. Without lands the God-Emperor’s largesse wasn’t quite as satisfying, but it was still nothing to turn down and did include a free hall pass to Tintammil.
By Hali’s time, the list of titles still in use had been reduced to Duke, Marquis, Count, Baron and Signor after others (Earl, Viscount, Baronet) were retired from active use. In total the realm included the three duchies and seventeen baronies already mentioned and five provinces (ruled by Marquis) and eight counties (ruled by … drum roll, please … Counts). In actual fact, the God-Emperors appointed many Barons (and at least two many Signors) but only seventeen held imperial land grants.
There was a rather complicated system for ranking the nobles. First in play was the actual title. Dukes, Marquis and Counts were considered greater nobles, Barons and Signors lesser ones. Next to be factored in was the existence and size of the noble’s land holding. The larger the better – more land meant more taxes. All Dukes, all Marquis (not counting Videssyn, the lone exception), some Counts and some Barons held land. Some Counts and some Barons held title only and no land. The Signors, who were lowest on the aristocratic totem pole, held titles only and never land.
Also coming into play was a noble’s origin story. I’m not suggesting any nobles were bitten by radioactive spiders or exposed to cosmic rays during experimental moonshots. I’m referring to the means by which they acquired their title. The most respected nobles inherited theirs. Below the noble born were those paying for the title with gold, a class including a host of nouveau-riche Barons and Signors. Even among those buying their way into Tintammil, there was a pecking order, based on relative wealth and industry of choice. Land owners, shipping magnates, and those with extensive mine holdings were held in the highest esteem. Foreign merchants, like Signor’s Pelthane Orvandal’s grandfather were the least regarded.
Lastly, the noble’s villa, mansion or castle was a measure of his success and standing. Every noble maintained a home in the capitol. The oldest, wealthiest and most prominent had villas in Dynrael Quarter, near the imperial palace Gloryngael. The lesser nobles, those with lineages not quite so pedigreed lived in walled villas dotting the Plaza of Golden Domes. In fact, these villas were the source of the Plaza’s name, though by Hali’s time the paint on the domes was chipped and fading.
I might have given the impression that there were cast iron rules regarding noble standing, but it was a loose system with plenty of give and take. The empire flourished for close to five thousand and that’s an awfully long time to maintain any status quo. Compared to the history of nations, men’s memories are short-lived and that was especially true in Tintammil, where vast amounts of alcohol were consumed on a regular basis. Buying a title didn’t sentence you and your descendants to generation after generation of second class treatment, nor was the right blood guarantee to centuries of favor. Eventually, those with ancestor-purchased titles were accepted into the fold and counted the same as those inheriting their title, except for foreign born merchant nobles. The sots in Tintammil found it impossible to overlook the high forehead of an Endiron, a prejudice Orvandal never forgave. If you were Sangritharian born and bought your title, you could rest assured that your great-grandchildren, or great-great-great ones would enjoy all the rank and privilege as those nobles descending turning their nose up that first day you entered Tintammil.
When the God-Emperor exiled Hali, three noble houses stood head and shoulder above the others, at least in terms of ringleadership. I hesitate to classify what Auberc, Barginali or Videssyn offered as true leadership – their motivations were entirely selfish, which in and of itself is reason enough to question it, but they were … let’s just say prominent and leave it at that. In their day, Tintammil was as much circus spectacle as the Coliseum.
A map showing where nobles’ lands lay.
|Type of Territory||Name of Territory||Title||First name||Last name||Location|
|Duchy||Grenway||Duke||Albadar||Fairwatch||SE of Sangrithar|
|Duchy||Silverbough||Duke||Elgin||Carrol||E of Sangrithar, fr Harrowmeet to Colcester|
|Duchy||Ssurford||Duke||Ansel||Felegari||NE of Sangrither, bordering Ssural River|
|Province||Dunharrow||Marquis||Vinzari||Bluefin||far to the east, meadows S of the Harrowmeet|
|Province||Lorvale||Marquis||Raynard||Barginali||just N of Sanngrithar betw River Taris and Ssural River|
|Province||Pemberton||Marqessa||Mynda||Velsurri||N of Ssural River, betw County Valind and Lorvale|
|Province||Umbari||Marquis||Mirakar||Djen||NW of Sangrithar, W of River Taris, S of Lake Umbra|
|Province||Pelhaven||Marquis||Averil||Bluestorm||N of Colcester, betw Silverbough and Shemur|
|County||Belham||Count||Fulsom||Took||in eastern Sangrithar, SE of barony of Danfarthing|
|County||Eastdale||Count||Maris||Tolynar||far to the east, borders River Andurant|
|County||Highridge||Count||Nicor||Ullami||N of Sangrithar, highlands up to Dragonback Ridge|
|County||Lockspur||Count||Datheril||Highwing||far to the east, borders Eastdale, Southport|
|County||Moormist||Count||Wyndham||Harrowdale||E of sangrithar, in southern Harrowmeet|
|County||Southport||Count||Corrin||Theopoli||East of Colcester|
|County||Tarisford||Count||Telford||Haliphan||W of River Taris, border Umbari and Tanylcar|
|County||Valind||Count||Laran||Firesong||N of Sangrithar, east of High Ridge|
|Barony||Caravalle||Baroness||Serani||Pourve||Eastern Sangrithar between Derry and Eddaford|
|Barony||Cormane||Baron||Xander||Lessari||W of Sangrithar between River Taris and capitol|
|Barony||Cymerring||Baron||Stephan||Revenar||N of Ssural River|
|Barony||Danfarthing||Baron||Altero||Whysteri||in Oakheart Meadows, east of the capitol|
|Barony||Derry||Baron||Philo||Netriphides||in eastern Sangrithar, between Moormist and Eastdale|
|Barony||Eddaford||Baron||Garliss||Herephal||in eastern Sangrithar, between Pelhaven and Lockspur|
|Barony||Greenwood||Baron||Tarril||Sternbough||in SW tip of Harrowmeet|
|Barony||Hillforge||Baron||Sebi||Nantal||NE of Valind, nestled against Dragonback Ridge|
|Barony||Ironfort||Baron||Ardell||Khan||in Oakheart Meadows, east of the capitol|
|Barony||Khargan||Baroness||Elkyrra||Kilgali||NE of Sangrithar, NE of Pemberton, N of Cymerring|
|Barony||Raynavalle||Baron||Jins||Arvadan||W of Sangrithar, between Hills of Mourning, Lake umbra|
|Barony||Seacrest||Baron||Levis||Auriculae||eastern coast, between Grenway and Colcester|
|Barony||Sellivane||Baron||Durvin||Etasca||NE of capitol, near Tharlynd and Grenway|
|Barony||Shemur||Baron||Regis||Lanivar||eastern coast, between Colcester and Southport|
|Barony||Sunhelm||Baron||Burl||Antilles||in Oakheart Meadows, east of capitol|
|Barony||Tanylcar||Baron||Zirkali||Malvane||W of Sangrithar|
|Barony||Tharlynd||Baron||Danticlor||Ironweed||E of Sangrithar and N of Sellivane, borders River Ssural|