Imperial Citizen's Primer
The Golden Empire of Esylia, or simply Esylia, is the largest nation in the world in terms of population, geographical area, wealth, and projectable power. It is also one of the oldest nations in the world.
The nation is geographically centered around the vast, shallow freshwater sea known as the Evermere. The sprawling capital city of Caerse sits upon its southern shores. Wealthy and cosmopolitan, Caerse is an architectural wonder of gleaming white domes and soaring blue-tiled minarets. Artists, scholars, magicians, philosophers, and merchants of every stripe and from every corner of the empire can be found within its unbreachable walls.
The eastern edge of the empire is defined by the pebble beaches and soaring cliffs of the Laughing Sea. To the south, the twin ranges of the Kargenspires and the Blackrock Mountains form a natural (and highly defensible) border.
To the west, the endless rolling hills and plains have played host to countless wars, incursions, and raids throughout the empire’s history. Esylia and its neighbors continue fighting to this day – over the fertile land, over the strategic rivers, over old slights both real and imagined. Thankfully, these conflicts have been restricted to brushfire wars, posturing, and tit-for-tat raids by both sides for the last hundred years.
The endless forests, mist-shrouded hills, and shadowed valleys of the northern frontier have been a thorn in the empire’s side for centuries. No fewer than sixteen Esylian Expeditions of Conquest have met their calamitous ends attempting to subjugate the strange creatures and ancient peoples who inhabit the lands of the north. Consistent military defeat hasn’t deterred the ambitious and disaffected of Esylia from emigrating to this mysterious realm, however. A steady stream of free thinkers, homesteaders, outcasts, undesirables, entrepreneurs, hucksters, proselytizers, and simple adventurers have headed north, to live life on their own terms or to find their fortunes.
The undisputed and absolute ruler of the Golden Empire of Esylia is Emperor Tarsius IV, known popularly as Tarsius the Red (or in whispers as Bloody Red Tarsius). Blunt, unyielding, and draconian in the administration of his rule, he is an effective but unloved ruler. Together with his wife, the Empress Consort Valia, he rules from the Alabaster Hall at the heart of Caerse.
Below the emperor, the proconsuls control the various provinces, while regions within the individual provinces are administered to by rectors. Individual towns and cities within the empire are allowed to determine their own local governments, as long as taxes are paid to the rectors on time and sedition and rebellion are prevented.
The most popular religion in the empire, and indeed the official state religion, is the Church of White Pillars. Venerating a quintet of deities known as the Pentarch, the Church holds tremendous sway throughout the realm while attending to the spiritual needs of the masses. Most towns of any size boast at least a small temple, while wandering mendicant clerics known as Confessors attend to smaller, more rural hamlets. Followers of the Church, known as Pillarites, typically wear a small devotional amulet depicting a solitary white pillar upon a blue field. The favored weapon of the Church is a five-flanged heavy mace.
While the Church of White Pillars is huge, rich, and powerful, it is not the sole religion within the realm. Similar to the municipal self-rule permitted at the local level by the Empire, the citizens of Esylia are permitted to worship the gods of their choosing, so long as they do not preach a doctrine of rebellion and sedition. It is not uncommon for shrines and churches of local deities to appear alongside Pillarite temples in towns and villages across the empire, and many citizens venerate both the Pentarch and their own patron gods with equal fervor. Though radical factions within the Church of White Pillars view this as an unforgivable heresy, the bulk of the clergy acknowledge the peace and stability this allowance creates, and begrudgingly accept it as reality within the realm.
The Order of Roderick represents the largest martial order dedicated to the Church of White Pillars. Composed of paladins and militant clerics, the Ordermen (or ‘silverbacks’, as they are commonly known among the populace due to their silver-embroidered cloaks) are a common sight across the empire, often serving as protectors and judges when they are not called away to war. Though the largest, the Order of Roderick is but one of many similar organizations, dedicated to the Church or other gods, within the empire.
Though many universities and centers of learning exist throughout the empire, none is more famous (or perhaps more infamous) than Morsehall. Almost as old as the Golden Empire itself, Morsehall boasts a rich history of exploration, discovery, and scholarship, having produced some of the empire’s most famous mages and experts. However, it is and has always been a hotbed of radical ideas and questionable research, leading many within the Church and the aristocracy to view them with deserved apprehension.
The dwarves of Clan Dardungurazador (‘Mountain Sapper’) and Clan Balkazad (‘Longaxe’) maintain vast holds and deep halls within the Kargenspires. Centuries ago, the empire and the dwarves engaged in a bloody and taxing war that eventually saw the defeat of the Underhall Kings. In those days, Writs of Blood and Iron were forged, eternally tying the loyalty of the clans to the Golden Empire. Nominally independent, the dwarves know they are bound by unbreakable law to serve as vassal and troop should they ever be called upon – a fact that has chafed the sensibilities of generations of dwarves.
The elves of the ancient and inscrutable Brackenwood have always been an enigma. Subjugating them beneath the Empire’s rule proved again and again a disastrous folly in the remote past, so the Golden Empire has instead opted for a new tactic – ignoring them. Which seems to suit the elves just fine. Though young elves are known to venture out from their woody domain to explore the world, no regular trade or contact occurs with the strange and insular inhabitants of the Brackenwood. They remain a mystery.
Of all the races within the Golden Empire, none have so successfully integrated into human-dominated society as the humble gnome. Spread throughout the empire, gnomes have coexisted with humans since the first founding of the empire. Known as skillful craftsmen, consummate traders, and learned scholars, the cosmopolitan gnome is omnipresent upon every rung of society, from lowly farmer to the highest echelons of power – indeed, the current Grand Confessor of the Church of White Pillars is a gnome.
Numerous rivers crisscross and thread the tumultuous western expanses of the empire, all flowing towards the Evermere. And it is upon these mighty waterways that the halflings hold sway. Bargemasters of the highest order, the river clans control the transport of the west’s significant agricultural bounty, transporting it to the Evermere and around the empire. Generations of cutthroat trading and the ever present danger of a border war flaring up has made the river halflings clever, aggressive, resourceful, and amoral – the safety of their clan and their Kithbarge, and the ironclad integrity of their trade monopoly, always comes first.