What is it to be human? To be a man of our time? We are at once beings of splendid grace and cutting dissonance. We are a living contradiction, a living struggle between what we should be and what we are. We have in our hearts everything we need to be strong, to be righteous; every tool for the craft at hand is laid bare and oiled for our use. We are given every advantage, like silver-spooned children upon a noble’s feathered bed, every means to triumph in a battle against our myriad weaknesses. And yet, here do we linger, the tools left unhanded and rusting. It is our very nature we seek to upend, like some stubborn stump blemishing the farmer’s carefully tilled fields.
To God I swear, we will not rest. We cannot rest. We are beset at every side by the wickedness of this brutish world. At our borders, the monstrous orc, the godless Shariqyn. At our backs the abhorrent heretic, the horrible Night Malefic. No place is safe save those we carve out, every day, from the very jaws of this wounded world! We are human! We are God’s sacred sons! We alone can make right of this place, make a paradise of this pandemonium. We are the inheritors of holy orders; to take this world inch by inch and make of it such a world, such an offering that even God Himself would be proud of our Creation in turn. We are human, God’s chosen, and only we are perfect. The Orc, the Elf, the Night itself – these are the darkness that the flame of humanity burns brightly to repel! Such is the power of our light, and though we falter, and though we fail, it is our unbreakable, unshakable, invincible faith that ensures that whatever the way, whatever the dangers, the shadows, the costs – whatever the devils, the damned, the blackest hells! We will never yield.
In humanity there lies infinite variability, infinite capacity. It is this depth, this capacity that makes us who we are. We are humanity. That is what it is to be human, to forge the Throne of God on Earth.
THE THRONE OF GOD ON EARTH
In the mountainous region of Gotha was the Throne first given form, thus beginning the tumultuous period of bloody expansion called the Lion Age. Completing the orders of Holy Benalus, the slain martyr of the Holy Church founded in his name, Victor von Herkheist, prince of the Gothic city-state of Fenristadt, united the disparate nations of the tribal kingdoms and brought into being the Throne, becoming its first Emperor.
Since then, the Throne has grown huge and thriving, spanning six cultures and thousands of leagues, but every step has been hard won. There are miles of walls and defensive pylons criss-crossing the land, where starts and stops of expansion leave their marks through the bloody transactions of history. The Emperor rules from the spires of Fenristadt in concert with the Pontifex of the Holy Church from the cathedrals of Holy Lethia. The twin governances rule matters temporal and spiritual respectively, together ensuring that the laws both human and divine are carried out to perfection.
Or so they pray.
Even as the place in which the powers of God and order are strongest, the Throne is far from secure and oceans away from peaceful. The borders are challenged daily, and if not for the vigilance of the knights and soldiers who guard it, the integrity of the Throne would be lost in a matter of days. Expanding the borders is like crawling naked through broken glass, making the blood-stained years of the early Throne seem easy by contrast. It was from the Orc that humanity took its land, and it is the Orc who will never forgive. Orcs are incredibly strong, able to rip people in half with their hands or hew though brick and stone with their crude weapons. The Orc kill whomever they can in the wilderness and crash regularly against the border watches, probing for weaknesses.
The Elves, observing humanity’s propensity to eat or kill all it encounters, sees them as little better than the Orc they war against – except smarter. They have no wish to go to open war with them, but bristle at the idea of their so-called Throne growing any more large or powerful. Midnight arrows from elves with one thousand years of training maraud or disable forces twelve times their size.
Fallen warriors of the savage titan, Kuarl, harry the borders inside and out, eager to please their carnal master with more divine butchery in His name. Worse than this, worse than all the rest, is the terrible black cancer that is eating the world alive – the Night Malefic.
The men and women of the Throne deal with this and more each day. It is their courage, from mud-splashed knight to cautious peasant, that makes any of it possible. Men pour to the borders to protect what they have earned from being stolen back, and every day they hold their breath because today could be the day that their defenses fail. And yet, through it all, it is not some immaculate hero that makes the difference. It is ordinary men and women guided by strength of will, and their unshakable faith in the glory of God, Prophet and Throne. Standing up to the darkness of each black night, these valiant many carry the Throne through to another day. They are the common virtue of mankind’s success.
PEOPLE OF THE THRONE
The Throne is home to a varied group of people built on a common legacy. Benalus of Lethia, the prophet of the Age of Heroes, was the first to begin to join the disparate human cultures together through diplomacy and conquest after a vision from God. Even still, his work was never completed in his lifetime, his life cut short by a betrayal that would throw the world into the black time in history called The Age of Witchkings. Hundreds of years of slavery and war later, the Lion Age completed Benalus’ holy orders and saw humanity unified as the Throne. The people of the Throne, once separate and now standing as one, bear the unique traditions and characteristics of their ways of life and offer that distinction to their cousins across borders.
A TWOFOLD RULERSHIP
The Throne is a massive, sprawling culture that spans a thousand leagues and a half dozen language barriers, all separated by harsh wilderness and dangerous travel. As a consequence, the government that rules it must rule iron-fisted and unopposed, and its rule must be total. To that end, there are not one, but two bodies of law, which sometimes overlap and even conflict.
THE EMPEROR’S COURT AND RULING HOUSES
The Emperor’s court and all ruling nobility govern the matters secular and temporal. The Emperor derives his power from Victor von Herkheist, the first Empereror and Founder of the Throne. In His lifetime, Holy Benalus ordered that mankind need be united or it would be destroyed utterly, that like a once-rich man still living a lifestyle of riches through deepening debt, mankind could ill afford its history of squabbling and infighting. Benalus called for total rule, and sought to complete such a rule in his lifetime, though tragedy, and the terrible Age of Witchkings, made such a dream impossible until Von Herkheist marched the armies of Fenristadt on his neighboring kingdoms.
Called the City of Wolves, the original city of Fenristadt predates the Throne and even Benalus himself as a Njordic and pagan stronghold. Saddling the rivers Fenrisulven and the Vargen, it was the seat of power and trade for much of the southern Njordic society. Its conquest by Benalus himself centuries ago set the stage for the first emperor, Victor Von Hurkheist, to inherit the city and begin a new campaign to unite all of man under one banner. Fenristadt was the hidden headquarters of Ordo Croix, a resistance force that was responsible for killing or arranging the deaths of several of the hated Witchkings, bringing that horrible age to an end, and later becoming known as the Vigilant Order of Templars. Their control of the ancient city, at first subversive, and then openly during the final stages of the age, set the stage for the prince of Fenristadt to march his armies.
In the Lion Age, it is here that the Emperor rules the Throne with an iron fist. In the courts of Fenristadt, ambassadors from every corner of the Throne ask for audience and Grand Masters of every knight order have knelt in fealty. The large influx of nobility have encouraged a gigantic palace district with the poorer districts expanding to match, making Fenristadt the largest city in the world.
Local governance of temporal matters falls to the noble caste. Every noble everywhere understands their place in a chain of fealty that runs from The Emperor himself down to the sparest local knight. Knights are the martial arm of greater nobles such as Barons, who in turn serve a regional power such as a Count or Duke, title depending upon specific region. These regional powers swear their fealty to the Kings of their countries, and these Kings swear their countries to the Emperor and the ideals of the Throne itself. Through the Emperor is all noble power made legitimate, and deriving from him, as the inheritor of the Von Herkheist right of Imperial Authority, every other noble beneath him in his fealty chains speak with some parceled out measure of his political power.
Nobles are born to their role almost exclusively, and trained their entire lives to take up the mantles of their fathers and mothers. This intense training and education is part of the justification for the entire existence of the noble class, as no one who did not receive such a rigorous upbringing could hope to manage the affairs of a land or a nation, rule with wisdom and strength, and the supreme virtue, safeguard the land against dangers and evils and prevent part of the Throne from buckling under its own weight or external pressures.
AUCTORITAS AND LAW
TEMPORAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS
Nobles may enforce whatever laws they wish upon the people of their specific region so long as those laws do not supersede or contradict laws that derive from a higher authority than they. Each layer of nobility is subdivided in its power from the one above it, and thus a Baron who serves a Count derives his power from that same Count. In that regard, the Emperor himself has decreed a set of laws which govern the Nobility itself, and no power on earth save the Emperor may undo or gainsay these laws.
This body of law, called the Auctoritas, outlines the responsibility of all noble caste members to the Throne itself.
The Law of Fidelity: Nobles may not rise in revolt against their betters. Any act of direct defiance, military insurrection or willful abandonment of their duty is considered rebellion and their lords are granted the power to quell such uprising and put to death a noble who does so. It is that noble’s liege lord who then decides the fate of the house of a rebel lord.
The Law of Standing: No law applies to a person of the Noble caste save the Auctoritas and the commands of their liege. A noble is only culpable for the crime of rebellion, though the Throne recognizes the case of Insult and the case of Injury against another Noble. In the case of Insult, a noble is harmed politically, personally, practically or financially, but without permanent or irrevocable harm to the integrity of the Throne itself or his ability to uphold his duty to it. Insult deserves satisfaction of like kind or at least some gesture from the offending noble to make a recompense, usually in the form of resources. In the case of Injury, the claim is that the offender has done the noble some permanent harm that cannot easily, if ever, be fully repaired, even by the offender. This is the case in the loss of a family member, the consumption of a unique asset, a permanent physical injury, or irrevocable damage to the noble’s honor. Whether a claim of offense is valid is a matter settled in Court, a formal hearing by the lowest superior that has jurisdiction over both of the nobles involved in the claim.