The Lore of Eldritch
The Culture of the Kingdom
The culture of Arnesse is one that mimics the myriad feudal societies of medieval Europe and other parts of the world in addition to many of those from fantastic literature and other similar media. The kingdom is divided into large territories called Protectorates which are ruled by the Lord and Lady Paragons, as are listed in their corresponding supplement. Each of these Paragons are sworn to the current king of Arnesse, King Giles Bannon II. Cultural customs and practices largely depend on the Protectorate from which one originates. While there are some commonalities shared among the Protectorates and their inhabitants however, the people there possess many of their own customs, from laws in addition to those of the kingdom, unique marriage ceremonies, and holidays that find their origin in a peoples’ seemingly exotic and forgotten rites.
Laws & Punishments
Law and justice in Arnesse is governed first and foremost by the King’s Laws. The King’s Laws are considered to be the law of the land and all who live under the King’s rule must obey them or face punishment. The King’s Laws have not been static over the over three hundred years of monarchy as some rulers have added or removed portions of it to suit their own desires. The King or Queen is able to sit in judgment of any matter of law in the Kingdom. They can defer this duty to a member of the Council of Lords, particularly the Lord Chamberlin, who can sit in for the King or Queen anytime they are unavailable. The monarchy does not address all legal matters and instead defers the dispensing of justice down through the chain of fealty, through the Lord Paragons, the High Lords, and the Lesser Lords. What this means is that all matters of law are resolved at a local level by the noble who owns the land upon which the crime was committed. Any noble to which that person owes fealty can, if they wish, choose to hear the case instead.
What this looks like in practice is that the law is subjectively applied in both fairness and severity throughout the Kingdom, depending on which noble hears a case and the social rank of the accused. There is a general formula that is followed by nobles in that those individuals of lower rank have less rights and privileges and are subjected to harsher punishments than those of higher rank. A Commonfolk is more likely to be maimed, tortured, or executed than a Highfolk, who is more likely to simply be fined, imprisoned, or believed to be without fault. This system is highly unfair and causes constant friction, so some nobles do make efforts to balance the system to mitigate the possibility of revolt in their lands. Those nobles that don’t make those efforts and rule as tyrants have to take other precautions, militarily or otherwise, to ensure that they keep their populace in a state of fear and unable to act against them. Nobles also can create local laws that are binding on their own lands which are legal so long as they don’t contradict the King’s Laws.
The legal process is usually swift, unceremonious, and brutal. Almost all legal issues are often resolved in a formal setting such as Court held by a noble, but matters can be heard at any time and for significant cases, it is not uncommon for a separate trial or event to be held. Hearings can be held in public or private, but most public hearings risk turning into a bit of theater. The noble who hears the case is in almost every situation the judge, jury, and executioner. Many nobles will hear witnesses to the crime and personal testimony about the character of the accused. Some nobles hear nothing and simply decide. If innocent, the matter is considered resolved. If the party is found guilty, the punishments are typically carried out during the hearing itself or shortly after. Many punishments, especially executions, are given to be somewhat of a public spectacle as nobles want the general public to see the consequences of violating the law.
Holidays of the Kingdom
Celebrated in the 1st moon cycle of the year, this patriotic holiday commemorates the rise of the Ardan monarchy under King Edric Bannon I and his daughter Queen Catherine four hundred years ago. The King and Queen welcome the new year and oaths of fealty are often sworn and reaffirmed. This is also often a day for exchanges of power, treaties are signed, and disputes settled. No conflict is allowed in the Kingdom on this day, not even personal duels. Commonfolk and gentry alike play games of skill for prizes of sweets and the privilege to brag to their counterparts.
Celebrated typically in the 9th moon cycle, this is a feasting holiday that gives thanks for the bounty of the harvest. This holiday is very harvest centric, with games focused around food such as eating contests and smashing pumpkins or gourds. Fire is a common theme and scarecrows used during the growing season are burned when it gets dark as a sign that they are no longer needed. During this holiday, generosity is encouraged among all and it’s not uncommon for nobles to show uncommon kindness to their subjects. This is often when criminals are pardoned or people are given a gift from another, often food item or food store, especially if they are less fortunate.
Feast of Flowers
Celebrated during the 4th moon cycle, this event celebrates the coming of the Spring and the planting of the crops. A feast is often held with the remnants of Winter stores as the people celebrate the milder months to come. It is also a very romantic holiday and marriages are often declared or performed. Couples declare affection for each other by exchange of flowers and wearing favors that one is given. Those who live near bodies of water, especially in more superstitious parts of the Kingdom, will also often create floral floats. They will attach notes to them that contain their wishes and dreams. Those floats will send then be sent downriver in the hopes that the spirits will answer them.
The Darkest Night
Celebrated in the 10th moon cycle, the Darkest Night commemorates the lives of those who have passed into death. It starts with a feast of remembrance, during which others toast and speak of their fallen loved ones. Before dark, the people then lock themselves in their homes and do not let anyone in who comes. It is said that when the sun sets, the spirits of the dead and creatures of the dark will freely prowl the night. Sometimes they will even appear as a trusted friend or loved on. Each hour, a brave lantern bearer will come around announcing the passage of time until morning. Families will often stay up all night with their hearths raging, exchanging scary stores and awarding those who tell the most terrifying with rare sweets and treats. The very brave will travel out into the night dressed as the dead in the hopes that they will pass unnoticed. It is said that Lirit walks the earth this night claiming those who to try to pass as one of the dead.
Celebrated during High Summer in the 7th moon cycle, this is a lavish tournament usually hosted by the local noble. Feasting, drinking, games, shows, and music are all commonplace. The tournament is the feature of this event and the winner is then declared the King or Queen of Summer. The one they have chosen to bestow their favor upon joins them as a co-ruler and the two are treated to a special place of honor. For the rest of the year, until the next Midsummer Tournament, the King and Queen of Summer are said to be good luck and bring the light and warmth of the sun with them wherever they go.
The Festival of Light
Celebrated in the 12th cycle of the moon, this holiday is held during the coldest and darkest time of the year. Starting at nightfall, lights and fires are illuminated in every hearth and home. Candles are burned throughout the night to symbolically ward away the darkness, songs are sung, and there is often quite a bit of drinking and merry-making. People will make floating candle lanterns and attach to them a list of their regrets for the past year. They will then either let those regrets float away in the air or set them down a river to be forgotten. This is also a time of little and it is not uncommon for people to help each other in uncommon ways in in the form of a gift or other type of exchange.
Marriage and Customs
Marriage is an important rite among all social castes. While some in the Kingdom do marry for love, most regard marriage as a social and legal contract that typically involves the exchange of goods, and most importantly, property. While marriage is especially important among the noble families of Arnesse it is also of no small significance to the lower classes. Marriages are often arranged by families, especially among nobles, though it is not uncommon for a person to marry who they wish, especially among the lower castes. Marriage, culturally, is seen an opportunity for families of all social levels to gain more wealth, status, and to secure lineage through the production of heirs. It is more common for those who find love to not marry and choose to remain unbound legally, as there is no real moral or religious pressure to form a legal union as an expression of affection or a requirement for intercourse.
Before a marriage takes place there is almost always a negotiation between the parties involved. This can be between the parents of the individuals to be married, representatives appointed by the parties to be married, or even the individuals themselves. These negotiations typically include topics such as which surname will be retained by noble couples, how property will be divided, and inheritance. Among nobles, lesser houses will often take the name of their spouse, male or female. If that lesser house wishes to retain its name, it would be a significant concession by a greater house. It is also not entirely unheard of for both spouses to keep their original names, but the surname of the children will have likely been negotiated. These negotiations can often be quite complex and indicate stipulations such as the couple being required to produce a viable heir within a time period or other demonstrations of good faith. Typically, these negotiations involve the exchange of property, or favors, or even coin. Not a few marriage contracts have involved backing someone politically, successful victory on the field of battle, or the grant of a parcel of land. The wealthiest and most powerful family involved in the negotiations typically holds the upper hand and when two powerful families are involved things can get quite complicated and contentious. Not a few marriages have never happened due to failed negotiations.
The key matter behind many marriage negotiations is inheritance and in Arnesse men and women in most regions inherit equally. The Sovereignlands and the Northern Marches tend to favor men and women respectively, but other regions don’t see gender as often. In almost all cases, where one party has the upper hand in a matter, it is because of wealth, power, or station, and not gender. While men and women may inherit equally, the matter of inheritance is a serious one and both nobles and the commonfolk take it seriously. Nobles have much more than the peasantry and thus inheritance for them is often more complicated, but all parties what to protect what is theirs. In the end, the King or one’s liege owns all of the land, and if that land or property is not included in an inheritance, it can be taken from a family. For comonfolk, their liege lord owns their land, but inheritance and the passing of land to an heir is permitted. Most nobles will charge a tax when an inheritor takes possession of the inheritance.
Typical inheritance typically goes to the eldest child. Similarly, a widower is entitled to a lifetime interest in their deceased spouse’s land, normally one-third of it, to support them; and if they had no adult children, the widower would inherit all the land, or at least control it until their eldest child grew up. Marrying a widow with property could make a person very wealthy by commonfolk standards. Since rent was normally paid in the form of labor services – so many person-hours of work per week on the lord’s land – a person with property likewise had a financial interest in marrying someone who could help perform those services, since otherwise they’d have to hire laborers to assist them with the land.
It is quite common for a noble to charge a fee, called merchet, when their serfs get married. This was a legal test for free or unfree status, since only unfree tenants had to pay. The amount was determined to be at the noble’s discretion and was often modified by several factors, including if both individuals were in the employ of that lord or lady. A person marrying someone from a different village and planning to move there to live might be charged a higher fee, since the lord was going to lose their labor services. Commonfolk families will quite often bargain hard over how inheritance would be handled, what, if any, property or goods will be exchanged, and which family will pay the merchet fee if the noble demands it.
Lastly, the Kingdom has no prohibitions, laws, or restrictions mandating that marriage be between a man and a woman. While not with the same frequency, men marry men and women marry women. While traditionally, one of the goals of marriage is the production of an heir, there are many cases of adoption being an option, which in the eyes of the King’s Law is as legitimate as a blood inheritance.
Thanks to the reign of King Giles Bannon I, the concept of annulments have returned to Arnesse. They had existed in the past, but under monarchs during the early Age of Kings, were largely abolished. It is not common to see an annulment, but they do happen. Typically, it is the noble of the region who can recognize and authorize the dissolution of a marriage. It is unclear under the law if the noble who issues the annulment must be the same one who granted the marriage and this ambiguity has created events where an individual has fled to another noble’s territory, who has then granted an annulment of their marriage. The division of property in the event of an annulment is determined by the original terms of the marriage negotiation. If those terms don’t exist, the noble has the right to determine the division of property. As annulments have become more popular and now legal under the law, nobles and peasants alike have taken to including terms in their marriage negotiations for the event of an annulment. Some marriage negotiations have annulments built into them should one party fail to uphold their agreement.
Inspired by the contributions of Erika Shafer.
There is no official celebrant for the marriage ceremony. It is often done by a village official or elder but can be performed by someone close to the couple or even the noble of the land if they are lucky. This particular marriage ceremony is practiced widely throughout Arnesse and while some regions may have other rites, they are certainly not as common or as well-known as this one. In parts of Arnesse some of those marriage ceremonies would be considered to be barbaric and punishable under the King’s Laws.
In advance of any ceremony, a couple’s representatives will meet at an agreed location that is marked by a lantern is hung at the threshold of the dwelling. Each party in the negotiation typically brings a gift and exchanges are made to begin the talks. Those negotiations can last for days and can be for naught if both parties don’t agree to terms. Once terms are agreed to the lantern is extinguished and the families will feast together to celebrate the betrothal. Betrothals can be short or long, sometimes even years, especially if the individuals involved are not old enough to be wed to each other. It is unheard of for a person to be wed to another if they are under eighteen moon cycles old and considered fully an adult.
The ceremony itself is typically a multi-day affairs, full of old rituals meant to represent not only the joining of two people as partners in life and love but the uniting of two families and their resources. From the humblest serf to the highest noble, these rituals are an important part of forming the bond of marriage. During the first night relatives of each couple get them mildly drunk, take them each on a journey somewhere at night and along the way share some wisdom about life, marriage, and family. Then, both are given a lantern and must find each other only by the lights of their lanterns. While the two search, the families may play pranks or practical jokes on other family members or couple. When the couple finds each other, they are taken to feast in their honor during which they are given gifts by all their loved ones. Traditionally, these gifts align to the elements that each of them are born under. The element a person is born under is associated with their birth date. This is an older practice and is losing much of its popularity among the younger generations in Arnesse. To some it is considered witchcraft.
Iron – Referred to as Ironsouls, these are children born during the 1st and 2nd moon cycles.
Water – Referred to as Seabound, these are children born during the 3rd, 4th and 5th moon cycles.
Fire – Referred to as Firebound, these are children born during the 6th, 7th, and 8th moon cycles.
Wood – Referred to as Forest Children, these are children born during the 9th and 10th moon cycles.
Earth – Referred to as Earthsouls, these are children born during the 11th and 12th moon cycles.
The day before the wedding is also a time that the couple are tested and anyone who wishes to object may do so. While rare, those challenges can even result in a physical conflict, typically a duel between parties.
One the day of the wedding, each person awoken, presented with new wedding clothes and flowers in the morning. At dusk they are brought to site of wedding blindfolded, led by their ‘second’. The second is called the ‘First Man’ or the ‘First Woman’ and these individuals are typically someone close to them, a friend or family member. The couple gather around a dais or alter, upon which is set an unlit lantern. Then all who are gathered at the ceremony share stories of both, speaking of the good and bad in their lives. This is called the ‘Forgetting’ because it is meant to be a remembrance of the couple as individuals in those moments before they are joined as one. After that, follows the ‘Embrace of Elements’, when loved ones, bearing the Five Elements of Iron, Water, Fire, Wood, and Earth, appear and surround the couple. It is then that the officiant speaks the words, “It is from the elements that we are born and so it is to them we shall return. I call forth the elements to recognize their own.” It is then that the element which is associated with each comes to stand behind them. If both are of the same element, it stands behind both of them. The officiant says, “Then beneath the eyes of the elements and all you hold to be dear, recite your oaths to each other.” It is then that each member of the couple recites words to each other and makes a vow before the officiant, the elements, and all who are in attendance. These oaths do not necessarily have to be vows of love, but they do have to represent a devotion to the marriage.
Once the formal oaths are completed, the couple will ‘Combine the Elements’, taking the representation of their element and placing it upon the other. For some, this is fire extinguishing water, or a piece of iron placed upon a handful of earth. This is meant to represent the union of their two animi. The couple will often exchange a token for each to wear as a symbol of the marriage. This can be as simple a braid of threads or as complex as jewelry of gold and gems. Once this is finished, the officiant will then speak aloud to all,
“What the elements have wrought, let deny. By their own words, these two have pledged themselves to each other and as their chosen witness, I declare this union to be official and binding.”
Before the couple leave, they will both light the lantern in the middle of the dias and then leave and small offering next to it. This is the offering to the Lady of Death, Lirit, for it is said to please her is to bring good fortune upon the couple for their marriage. It is said to be good luck if the lantern is found extinguished and the offering is missing, it is said that Lirit came to claim the gift and will look upon the couple kindly. If the lantern is not extinguished and the offering is not taken, it is an omen most foul. After the ceremony, the couple and their loved ones will retire to a second feast in the couple’s honor that will generally last into the late hours of the night and during which almost everyone will get very drunk. Sometime during the party, the couple will retire to their wedding bed, a moment that will no doubt rise a great cheer of support from the likely inebriated attendees. It is said the louder the cheer the more likely it is for the marriage to succeed and, when applicable, produce children for the couple.
On rare occasions, couples will do private, small, or even secret versions of this marriage ceremony that has some of the same elements. This is rare as the point of this ceremony is a public show of the union.
Marriage in the Aurorym
Inspired by the contributions of Amber and Brian Lind.
The Aurorym have long held a different set of marriage beliefs. They do not adhere at all to the concept of elements instead, choosing to place their faith in the Dawn. Part of getting engaged in the Aurorym faith is to dedicate a Deed to your intended. An especially lofty Deed could even be declared in advance and dedicated to show the might and worth of the match. Both people are expected to perform some kind of deed. There is shame, and probably no wedding at all, if the deed declared is not completed.
Until the deed is completed, pursuit of the persons can happen, but since both people need to complete an action to “seal” the engagement, it can lead to some disappointed paramours. The engagement is a time of celebration of the completed deed(s), and the wedding usually occurs very shortly after. It is generally accepted that while class or birth does not matter in an Aurorym wedding, that both who wish to be married must be of the faith and that an auron is involved in order to complete it. There is also an expected donation that is made to the faith by the couple or their families before the wedding occurs.
The night before the ceremony is a vigil. Both future spouses vigil with a lantern through the night, separate from each other but with the shrine of their Saints. This is a time where consideration is made to the saints, what they represent, and how the participants of the union will affirm and grow the might of those ideals. This is also a time for advisors and any who disagree with the wedding, to approach the future spouses with advice, challenges, and gifts. It is not traditional to provide wedding gifts on the day.
Before dawn, the future spouses find one another, and hand in hand, seek out the Auron for the ceremony. The Auron stands behind a table that has a large, unlit lantern (or candle if the couple are poor). The wedding starts with the betrothed couple on separate sides of the venue, each surrounded by their friends and family. Those who have more people by their side generally have more social capital. All participants light a candle and then walk towards the table. The couple approaches the table and sets their candles down on the table and their separate groups of family and friends merge into one crowd. The Auron typically has a few prepared remarks and a short reading from the book of Magnus (Rune X of The Litany of Hope is especially popular). More fancy weddings may have singing, poetry or dancing. The Auron will then have the couple speak the following to each other, “I can show you the way but I cannot do this alone. Take my hand and do not fear, for death holds no horrors for the truly righteous.”
As the final part of the ceremony, the Auron will ask for the audience to extinguish their candles, leaving just the couple with lights. They together light the large lantern and then extinguish their candles.
The Auron then shouts:
“What do we say to the darkness”
and the audience shouts in response:
“Bring the Dawn”
The married couple carries their lantern through the crowd, allowing each to light their candle from the flame as the call and response is repeated, usually getting louder until everyone has a light and the ceremony ends. Typically, the ceremony is followed up by a feast and celebration in the community.
Bastardy in Arnesse is defined as being born in defiance of an agreed marriage contract. It can also apply to children in general born out of wedlock, because those children technically have no rights established around their inheritance and lineage. Given the importance that most place on inheritance and property ownership, children born out of marriage are looked down upon and often relegated to a social stigma of being a bastard. While this moniker bears less impact among the commonfolk, who have less to lose from an errant child, among the nobles, bastards are anathema. They are gentry of the noble’s line that could make claims to what a noble has. What makes them particularly terrifying is they are governed by no laws, agreements, or restrictions. To many, they are seen as wild cards and dangerous. Not a few of them are hunted down and dealt with by their own parents. Those that are not, often must hide their true identities, if they are even aware they are a bastard. Countless bastards lie scattered around Arnesse, abandoned by one parent and unaware of the noble blood that courses through their veins.
Known bastards among the gentry are easily identified as they bear a surname that indicates where they were born. It does not identify the family from which those bastards were born, for that is a sign of shame upon the noble house. Instead, the bastard child must bear all the shame for their unlucky birth.
Dusklands – Ash
Everfrost – Frost
Tarkath – Ember
Thornwood – Thorn
Midlands – Meadows
Sovereignlands – Wolf
Hearthlands – Marsh
Three Seas – Storm
Some regions and houses are more accepting of bastards than others. The Aragons and the Rourkes both more easily accept romantic dalliances outside marriage that result in a child. It is rare, but bastards can sometimes get good enough into their good graces of a parent that they are recognized as a member of that family. Only then are they allowed to abandon their bastard surname and use their true name. This recognition does not have to come from their true parent either. They could also be recognized by another house and legitimized under another family’s name. It is common for bastards to seek out membership in organizations such as the Apotheca or Fayne (both of which are organizations which have their members abandon their surnames and past) to hide their identities from the world.
The Classes of the Kingdom
Nobles are truly the top of the feudal pyramid and are the highest ranking members of society, second only to the royal family. A noble swears an Oath of Fealty to another noble, who then grants them land and lordship as a vassal. With this is the charge to uphold the King’s laws, pay taxes to their liege, and heed their liege’s call to war by sending their banners. In return, the noble has the right to own their land, tax the people who live on it as they see fit, assign that land ownership to lesser nobles, and create laws, so long as those laws do not contradict those of the King. At the top of the noble pyramid is the King and Queen; all oaths end with the Crown. Beneath the King serve the eight Great Houses, seven of whom administer wide swaths of land known as Protectorates. These eight Great Lords are known as Lord Paragons. Those nobles who are directly sworn to a Great House are called High Lords and rule the High Houses, or the second tier of power. Beneath the High Lords serve a number of minor Lords and Ladies who rule what are called Lesser Houses. Knightly Houses are always considered Lesser Houses regardless to whom they have sworn loyalty. This entire structure is supported by Oaths of Fealty and the assumption that each lesser noble will honor that Oath at the time that they are called in by their liege.
Even the least of the Great Houses have wealth and power beyond all others. They command thousands of troops and have a half a dozen or more High Houses serving them and a dozen or more Lesser and Knightly Houses. The further down the chain of fealty goes, the less powerful, wealthy and influential a noble house generally is. Great Houses can rival the monarchy in wealth and power but Lesser Houses can struggle to even make their taxes to their liege. The affairs of Peers of all ranks is often consumed with managing their land, sitting in judgment of the law, and protecting what is theirs. All noble houses have a complicated game that they play of allegiances, bargains, and at times, betrayals. For in addition to protecting what is theirs, most also seek to elevate their station and influence, often at the expense of their fellow houses. At most times, nobles live at peace, but the complicated arrangements, oaths, and marriages can cause a single decision have ramifications which can send the entire system into chaos.
By commonfolk standards, all nobles live a life of wealth, but not all nobles are equally wealthy. The poorest of them wear clothes that, while far higher quality than any commoner, are still plain and unadorned. The richest wear the finest clothes in the land made from imported cloth and adorn themselves with silver, gold, and jewels. Lords and Ladies live on estates or in castles and are often the owner of many acres of land, which requires a great deal of administration and attention. The day of a noble often begins with a repast of meat, eggs, and bread near dawn. Nobles then attend to business matters in relation to their land. Reports would be heard regarding estate crops, harvests and supplies, finances, rents, taxes, customs, and dues. They would also resolve complaints and disputes, marriages, and deal with a number of political discussions and decisions. Lunch would be a light meal of meats, bread, cheeses, and fruit. The afternoon would be spent in artistic pursuits, hunts, and any other business that was not resolved in the morning. Dinner would be a heavier meal of roasted meats, wine, bread, and vegetables usually followed by music and sweets. In matters of law, on their own land, the noble was the judge, jury, and executioner. Their word was the law and they were entitled to make law. A higher ranked noble than they could hold them to account, but in many cases a corrupt or wicked noble was beyond justice. Most found the best way to deal with such a noble was murder or open rebellion.
The system of nobility in the Kingdom of Arnesse focuses on land ownership. To be called a Lord or a Lady, one has to be granted a parcel of land by a liege, thus becoming a vassal. This title grant would extend to your spouse, but not to any other members of your family, including your children. When you passed on, your heir would typically inherit your title in line with primogeniture and earn the right to be called Lord or Lady, but before that, they would be considered a gentry or gentle. Gentles are one of the smaller groups in society, but they wield an incredible amount of influence and power. Gentles are entitled to be called by the honorific ‘The Honorable’ when addressed. Men can also be referred to as Master and women by Lady, but very specifically Lady followed by their name, not Lady and their House name or Lady and the location their family rules. So Lady Catherine would be fitting but not Lady Bannon or Lady of Blackmere. The latter examples are reserved for the noblewoman who rules the land grant.
Gentles have the most freedom and opportunity of any group. They also are among the wealthiest and best educated. Their early years are typically filled with education, in history, trade, reading, writing, heraldry, and government. Almost all gentry are literate and many are provided with tutors from a young age; often Magisters who are a part of their House. Military training in both sword and archery are common, as well as horsemanship. Gentry in good standing with their families want for little. By comparison to a Serf, even the poorest of noble houses are wealthy and the richest are beyond imagining. Most gentry live in castles, manors, or estates. A gentle’s adornments and clothing often befit the wealth and status of their house and not all houses are equally wealthy. Poorer gentles tend to have more comely clothing, older weapons, and no jewelry. Gentles from wealthy houses own fine horses, steel weapons, and dress in the finest silks, brocades, and jewelry that money can buy. While a poorer gentle may eat meals more akin to commonfolk, rich gentles eat meat flavored with exotic spices. Regardless of wealth, it is rare for a gentle to experience any kind of actual day-to-day labor. A typical day for gentry involves rising at dawn to a breakfast of meats, eggs, and wine followed by attending to duties about their lands and then some manner of instruction or artistic pursuit. Lunch is fresh game like fowl or fish with bread and fresh fruit, followed by an afternoon ride and attending to additional affairs around the estate. Dinner comes at sunset and consists of rich meats, breads, and vegetables all cooked and heavily flavoured with valuable spices such as caraway, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, and pepper. Sweets are often served after dinner and can feature jellies, pies, and fritters made with fruit or honey.
Gentry have options in life and can easily give up their noble status to join a Guild or seek the path of a Knight as a Squire. The other path for a gentle is promotion. This promotion can be by inheriting a title of nobility by the laws of primogeniture or simply be given land by a higher ranking noble for service or in gratitude. If they inherit a title of an existing house, they retain all the history and rank of that house. If they are granted land, they have the right to found a House and establish new heraldry. If this House is related to another existing landed house, they are entitled to form a cadet branch of that existing house. In justice, few are above gentry and rarely would a noble find them guilty. The worst that would happen if a gentle committed an offense against those of a lesser station, was a fine of coin. If two gentles came to a disagreement it was often settled by a duel, either by proxy or directly between the injured parties.
Knights are all well trained, professional soldiers who are typically in the service of a noble. They represent the pinnacle of combat in Arnesse and are the best equipped and best trained force in any noble’s army. Most knights are bound by a code that they swear to uphold and usually seek to swear an oath to a liege and pledge their sword in service. In return, the noble provides the knight with shelter, food, equipment, and usually coin in compensation. It is not uncommon for a gentle to take up the mantle of a knight and not unheard of for a commonfolk to do the same, though the latter certainly gains less respect and has to work harder. All knights are permitted to use the honorific ‘Ser’, for men and women, and are also entitled to take up personal heraldry and colors to identify them in battle.
All knights have gone through a period of trials and testing as a squire. They are then knighted due to some particular act of valor or demonstration of bravery. A knight can be a Knight Errant or a Knight of the Realm. Knight Errants are a knight who belongs to no order and have sworn their sword to no one. A Knight Errant is free to sell their sword to whomever they wish. Knights of the Realm have sworn their sword to a liege in an Oath of Fealty and often have also sworn to a Knightly Order. Most knights are sworn to a code of virtues and bans that they must maintain to stay in good standing. Knights who violate their code are held to account by a Lord or a Knightly Order in a Court of Chivalry and can be fined coin, tortured, imprisoned, or killed if they are found guilty. Knights of all ranks are often considered beyond reproach by the King’s law and it is rare that a lord will find against them. However, most knights are quick to settle any dispersion cast upon them in a duel rather than await a judgment.
Most Knight Errants are poor and often wander, searching for work as a sellsword or participating in tournaments. They can be so penniless that they must sleep in ditches or the woods for shelter. Most wish to earn employment with a noble and quest to do so. A low ranked knight in the service of a noble can expect to be well compensated and live a comfortable life. While they cannot afford an estate of their own, they certainly can eat fine foods like game, drink wine, and wear good clothes that suit their station. Truly skilled and high ranked knights are often extremely well paid and can live a life of luxury, with an expensive apartment, estate or manor, fine clothes, and jewelry. Those in the favor of a noble may even earn a land grant of their own. These knights are often as wealthy as lesser gentry or nobles. Once a knight is granted a land parcel, they are entitled to found a Knightly House and claim heraldry. Knightly Houses are among the least of all noble houses but they allow a Knight to change their honorific from ‘Ser’ to ‘Lord’ or ‘Lady’ and that Knight is now considered to be a noble in the eyes of the Kingdom.
The Guilds of Arnesse are the Cirque, the Apotheca, the Fayne Moirai, and the Veil. Each is a great power in its own right. They are specialist organizations that have their own ranks, customs, and rules and are mostly left to their devices by nobles. Because of their power and influence, they are afforded more social status than commonfolk. The Guilds draw their membership from all levels of society, from serfs to nobles, and once one joins their ranks, they are said to have given up their old life and started anew. Many recruits who are initiated take on new names and nobles renounce all claim to land or title. Therefore, it is rare for a member of a Guild to have any kind of distinguishing names besides their Guild rank.
Life in the Guilds varies from group to group but all are dedicated to a specific calling and lifestyle. Opportunity for advancement is solely within the ranks of the Guild and those who distinguish themselves and rise within their ranks can indeed find themselves in a place of power and respect in the larger Kingdom. All nobles in the land know the power and influence of the Guilds and often seek to bring their members close into their counsel and trust. Joining Guilds can be a challenge, but it is possible for a Guildsmen of rank to earn wealth and live a lifestyle far beyond a humble upbring and the they are a common destination for the lower class seeking to rise in status. Nobles who have little advancement opportunity in their own family also join in the hopes of increasing their own prestige. Once a person joins a Guild they were generally provided for in all ways, from food to housing, to clothing but a great many Guildsmen are in the direct employ of a noble household and make a lucrative profit in coin selling their skills. Guilds often require dues from their members if they earn an income.
All these organizations have laws that are unique to them and dispense their own justice if a member breaks those laws or the laws of the King. At times, this creates friction between nobles and the Guilds, especially when a noble or even the monarchy wants to make a public example of that crime. Guilds often have central locations in a town or city called a guild house that serves as a meeting place for the members. Though Guilds serve many different organizations, they all swear an oath of loyalty to their own membership. Those that are found to break their loyalty are harshly punished, but the exact form of that punishment can vary from Guild to Guild. The Guilds provide protection and anyone who harms a member has to face the wrath of the organization. This alone leads many nobles to wisely fear and respect the Guilds and no commoner, highfolk, noble, or even the King wishes to be out of their favor.
Those among the freemen who learn a tradecraft skill can become the highest rank among all of the commonfolk. Artisans are given a special distinction because of their value to the Kingdom and most find work either in direct service to a noble or in a local town or village. The life of an artisan is often similar to that of a freeman, but more so than any commonfolk, they have access to a lucrative trade skill that can pay well. Artisans who serve a noble directly on their lands are often paid nothing but their rents, but a market stall or even a business in a bustling town hub can be quite profitable indeed. An artisan can rely on making at least a decent living if they are good at their craft. This affords them an apartment in a city that, while often cold, leaky, and dark, exceeded the accommodations of most serfs or freemen. They can generally afford to dress better than other commonfolk, especially tailors, and eat better food, which means more meats, fine bread, wine, and even the occasional sweet. The wealthiest artisans can live almost like a noble, with fine clothing, jewelry, and even large estates or townhouses in a city.
It’s no surprise then, that many artisans gravitate toward villages, towns, and cities. Life in a town or city is very different from the country or a noble’s lands. The streets are often crowded, dirty, and stink with human refuse. Markets and bazaars allow people rare access to goods without the need to farm, collect, or grow them and freemen in the surrounding country often bring their goods to town to sell. This unique access to goods allows an entire culture of merchants and artisans to not only function, but to thrive and prosper. As a result, trade and commerce spread to all corners of Arnesse but it was particularly strong in the Midlands, Sovereignlands, and Dusklands. Many towns are connected or close to a noble’s stronghold and governed directly. Still others are run by a castellan, a member of the noble’s staff who is in the confidence of that lord and authorized to govern in their name. Though many castellans are nobles and knights, not a few are trusted freemen. In the employ of the castellan is a staff that helps administrate the town, ensure that the King’s laws are enforced, collect taxes, and keep the peace.
Those artisans not directly in the service of a noble’s household work as independents, but under the watchful eye of the Cirque. The Cirque is a guild of artisans, traders, and merchants who were granted a monopoly over all trade and commerce by the Crown. All artisans, merchants, and tradesmen pay taxes to the Crown and also are expected to pay dues to the Cirque. Those who do not pay dues risk retaliation in the form of threats or even violence. Artisans who pay their dues are given protection, access to specialized goods and training, and granted better locations in market. Those that do not are often victims of extortion, theft, and find few customers. The lucky few who impress the Cirque with their artistic talent, trade skills or ruthless business practices are invited to join them. The life of an artisan can be both exciting and lucrative, but it was not without its perils. Still, compared with the dirt hovels and endless labor of a Serf, the prospect of owning a business and earning coin is well worth the potential dangers.
A freeman is a serf who has earned their freedom from the land by purchasing off their debt from a noble through either years of service or coin. Under law, nobles are required to allow serfs to earn free status and have to set terms of contract for them to be able to work off their debt. Some nobles are more fair with these contracts than others and set amounts that can be worked off in a single person’s lifetime. Others create contacts that can take families generations to work off and ensure they are never likely to be free. Many times a contract has an amount of coin that can be paid to a noble to buy out the contract but this is often a large sum and more than some serfs can earn in several lifetimes. Becoming a freeman is made even more difficult because most serfs also have no easy way to get money, seeing as they do not often get paid in coin and give almost all the goods they produce to their liege. Once a serf earns their freedom, they typically enter into an arrangement with a noble to rent the land they are on in exchange for a coin, a percentage of their yield, or both. Any goods or coin above this amount is available for the freemen to keep and use as they see fit. This allows many freemen to have a slightly better quality of life than most Serfs do, though most of them still live in some level of poverty.
The daily life, diet, and habits of the freemen do not change very much from that of a serf. Having more coin allows some Freemen to have better homes, nicer clothing, and more livestock. Freemen are privileged in that they can move up and earn rank in society. This often means going into service of a wealthy household and rising in rank among the staff there as a butler, valet, cook, or maid. Some work for a town or village, in the service other freemen like a castellan or sheriff, as a deputy or bailiff. Still others join the military and seek advancement as a man-at-arms. As a result, more freeman than serfs seek service in hired labor or in the army. With social advancement comes more coin and a better life. Freemen are not entitled to hold a family name but like many serfs, choose names that distinguish them from others in the community. Earning status through service to a higher institution can sometimes enable them to wear a title of great respect such as castellan, sheriff or sergeant.
Freemen are able to move about as they wish but this is a great risk to the family, as it involves packing everything they own and finding a new home. A poor lifestyle under the yoke of nobles causes many freemen to seek refuge in towns and villages, where they find work as labor or even business owners. Those freemen who live under a noble’s rule have rights to protection, justice, and to claim a yield from their land as dictated by the terms of their rent. In Courts, because some nobles regard their more developed skill sets as valuable, they are seen as slightly higher in status than a serf, but they still often suffer injustices. Once a Freeman is declared free, their family and their successive generations are also free. In Court, it is possible for a noble, as a punishment to a freeman, to revoke their status and reduce them to a serf, either for a period of indenturement or permanently.
The life of a serf is hard, brutal, and often short. As the lowest social caste in the Kingdom, they are generally uneducated individuals of low skill who work the land of a noble. Serfs form the majority of the workforce in Arnesse and are, by far, the largest part of the population. They live on a noble’s land and in exchange, provide the majority of their yield. Serfs also work part of their time as labor for the noble and the rank-and-file military units are often comprised of serf soldiers. By law, the serf is entitled to protection from their lord, justice, and the ability to sustain their family from the land. Though they have right to justice under the law, in the eyes of most nobles, they are the least privileged and suffer the most in the system, especially if their cases are against Highfolk or Nobility. Serfs are bound to a land parcel and are unable to leave unless by the will of their noble, which rarely happens. They are often traded or sold along with land parcels, giving them no freedom to live as they wish. Serfs carry no family name but did often distinguish themselves by associating with a trade or a geographical region. For example, a serf from Tillwater may be John of Tillwater or a beautiful woman, Ella the Winsome.
Serfs rise with the first morning light to begin their long day. A typical breakfast includes bread, an onion, a piece of cheese and some beer. Black, hard, and coarse bread is the main ingredient of their diet. Beer is the main beverage and all serfs have to know the proper proportions of barley, water, yeast and hops in making beer. During a hard day of work in the field, the average serf may drink fifteen liters of beer, or even more. A typical midday meal consists of stew made with cabbage, onions, peas and turnips, seasoned with a bone or perhaps a bit of meat. A serf returns home at sundown, after putting in ten or twelve hours of hard physical labor. The evening meal, which is usually leftovers from lunch, would then be eaten.
Both male and female serfs work the fields, but females often take care of most of the household. Their tasks include raising the children, milking the livestock, shearing sheep, spinning wool, making clothing for the family, tending the garden, baking, preparing meals and preserving food. Women also manage the household economy. The family depends on the mother’s wise management of food supplies to keep them fed for the year. The average peasant family lives in a windowless, one room house with a dirt floor made of straw and twigs, known as a cruck. Furnishings usually include a fireplace for cooking, one or two beds, a table, several stools and a chest for storing clothes. Not surprisingly, these houses are dark, drafty, sooty and have leaky roofs. A shed is sometimes attached to the house and serves as a storage place for tools and a shelter for animals during the day. The animals are often kept inside the cruck at night.
Trade & Commerce
Trade and commerce have existed in some form in Arnesse for many centuries. However, it was not until King Giles I, father of the current King, Giles II, took progressive steps thirty years ago to encourage the formation of towns and trade hubs that the merchant and trader truly came into their own. Despite this growth the industry is still in its infancy and the life of a merchant is not easy. The primary obstacle to trade is that Arnesse is very rural in most places and there are limited roads that lead between major trade hubs. That, combined with a general lack of towns that can produce finished goods and the fact that travelling across country can be hazardous to one’s health, has kept many areas of the Kingdom without supplies from lands afar. The most common event at a local level is a Moon Market held at a central location on a noble’s property once every cycle of the moon. There, people come from far and wide to buy and sell goods, feast, celebrate, and trade stories. These markets have become quite the gathering place and social event. The nobles who can afford it invite merchants from larger cities who have rare and fine goods. Permanent markets are established in cities and towns that are major trade hubs.
Merchants who wish to stay safer operate locally, selling wares they craft at the nearby Moon Market. Other merchants take goods or products from one location to another where they are not as available. The latter take many more chances, both from bandits and attack by creatures. Merchants deal in a variety of goods from raw and finished materials, to artisan craftworks, and even rare goods. Since the preserving of food is very limited, almost all foodstuff is sold locally save for livestock, which can be driven in carts or herded to a place. Common raw materials include fleece, rushes, wool, hides, furs, coal, iron, steel, and tin. Finished materials are often more difficult to come by and thus more valuable, including things such as woolen cloth, linen, canvas, nails, stone blocks, horseshoes and wood planks. Common craftworks were clothes, pottery, blankets, tableware, cups, cooking vessels, candlesticks, armor, weapons, and even carts.
Exotic & Rare Goods
Exotic goods’ availability is often poor and the cost of them is beyond what most lower classes could afford so they are not often seen commonly save in the largest markets. Herbs and spices are popular among the rich and merchants often feature pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, saffron, coriander, cumin, turmeric, anise, mustard and sugar to cater to their discerning tastes. Rare fabrics such as silk, furs, taffeta, velvet, brocades, and damask are found in the finest markets of the land. Glass is surprisingly rare and expensive, including glass vials. Specialty items such as writing kits, apothecary materials, craftsmen’s tools, chirurgy instruments, paper, ink, and even musical instruments are surprisingly difficult to find on the average merchant. Decoctions, oils, and elixirs are not often seen in market but when they are, they are often very expensive. Jewelry, gems, and rare metals are rarely sold at markets due to the fact that they tend to be massive magnets for thieves. Finding a jeweler to make an item is often as hard as tracking down the actual rare metal. Older items are often melted down to make new ones and the gems reused.
Trade and commerce in Arnesse is overseen by one Guild: the Cirque. Known to some as the Snakes, their symbol is that of a serpent eating its own tail. The Cirque has been given a total monopoly on trade and commerce by the Crown. They set all buy and sell prices, collect market fees, ensure quality of goods, and work to maintain standards and integrity within the trade community. Though the Cirque’s reach is long, they do not oversee every local market in the land; outside of major trade hubs, their power is greatly lessened. The Cirque also sees to the protection of all trade by maintaining its own independent mercenary force known as the Nagas. Though the true home of the Cirque lies within the Free City of Orn, the largest trading port on the continent, they have guild halls in most major trading cities and towns throughout the land. The Cirque requires that all artisans, tradesmen, and merchants pay dues to them if they peddle their wares and make a wage. These dues are considered to be above and beyond any market fees and taxes to the Crown. In exchange for these dues, the Cirque offers protection and preferential treatment by the local Master of the Market, a position always favorable to the Snakes. Those that do not pay their dues quickly find themselves afoul of trouble in the form of any number of accidents or misfortune, some of which have been known to be fatal. Not all artisans and traders are invited to join the Cirque. It’s said that they choose only the most gifted, the most enterprising, and the most ruthless merchants, tradesmen, and craftspeople to join their ranks.
Coin & Wages
There is one single commonly recognized coin in the Kingdom that is the dragon, produced by the Grand Bank’s mint. Dragons come in three denominations, gold, silver, and copper. All three currencies bear the mark of the Grand Bank – a dragon on one face and a tower on the other. The Grand Bank would tell you the tower represents their mighty vault in Orn, but most know that the House of the Five Towers, the Bannons, have forever enshrined their legacy upon the currency of Arnesse. Other coins have been produced by aspiring financiers throughout the years, but most of these have faded from use or been melted down for their precious metals. The gold dragon is the highest denomination and is worth ten silver dragons. The copper dragon is the lowest denomination and is worth approximately one tenth of a silver dragon.
Most Commonfolk of Arnesse are extremely poor and work for meager wage in copper dragons. The average Freeman laborer makes a wage of about two to three copper a day, or fifty copper a month. Serfs, valets, and house servants are even worse off and make one or two copper at most, or about thirty to forty copper a month. Some servants are paid abysmal wages and make far less. An artisans wage can vary depending on their skill but they can and often do make four to six copper dragons a day. A master or particularly skilled craftsman could make ten coppers a day or more; artisans in lucrative cities have even been rumored to make a silver dragon or more in a single day. The Guilds pay varying amounts of wage for services, but all those who serve them are well paid for their skills. Even the lowest ranked make six or more coppers a day and those highest ranked can make a silver or more a day and often count their salaries in silver or even gold dragons. Knights are also well paid for their services, making a wage similar to that of a Guildsman and sometimes even earning extra bonuses in hazard pay for particularly dangerous missions. Knights who compete in tournaments also find prizes that pay in gold dragons. The purse for the winner of the Tournament at Turlot was one hundred gold dragons. Nobles are by far the wealthiest in all of Arnesse and while gentry often make no income and must live off the generosity of their family, a wealthy noble can make twenty or more gold dragons a month. Poorer nobles make less depending on their taxes and debts. There are tales of destitute and poor noble houses who have little more worth than the land upon which they sit.
The Black Market
The King’s Laws forbid the possession of certain items and goods. Such things include poisons, and some types of decoctions, drugs, or items. However, most of what is found sold in the Black Market are illegal services. This can include acquiring forged papers, signet rings, and maps of secure or secret places. One might also seek out the Black Market to hire a scoundrel to commit various crimes from theft to assault. Fencing is also common on the Black Market and items which go missing often end up here for sale to the highest bidder. These goods often go for a much lower price than outside the Black Market as the sellers are particularly motivated to get rid of them. These items are often art, but can be exceptionally collectible and rare items like the armor of a war-hero, exotic animals, a souvenir from a noble, the relic of an ancient hero, or even grave-markers of famous people. Slavery is outlawed in the Kingdom of Arnesse, but it is also rumored that if one seeks a slave, they can have one for enough coin. It’s also whispered that one can even acquire highly forbidden lore on poisons or the black arts for the right price.
It’s not known who runs, supports, or moderates the Black Market. Consistent rumors try to tie the Cirque into association with it, but those rumors have yet to be connected with any facts. Most major cities are assumed to have some manner of connection to the Black Market, but locating it can be exceptionally hard if one does not know the right folk. Who is involved in the Black Market, where and where they meet, and what goods they sell are all closely guarded secrets, only available to those who are trusted, if not trustworthy. If one seeks the Black Market, they certainly should be careful whom they ask, as those who are careless are often not seen again.
The Grand Bank
In 630 AS, King Richard Bannon I made the Royal Exchequer by royal decree, which was the account into which all of the Kingdom’s taxes and public monies are paid. It is overseen by a position on the King’s Council of Lords known as the Master of the Vault. When Richard I was to decide where this account would be held, there was but one choice: the Grand Bank. While there are quite a few financial institutions throughout the Kingdom of Arnesse, the mighty Grand Bank dwarfs them all. The bank predates the monarchy and has existed for over six hundred years; easily the most influential financial institution on the continent. Not only is it a bank, but by the King’s leave they are the official mint of the realm. Their incredible wealth and longevity has allowed them to become so much more than a bank. It is said that the Grand Bank has a direct hand in the affairs of Kings and Lords. The Bank is concerned about one thing: a return on it’s investments. They loan coin to those they feel will not only return payment in full but increase their wealth and power. All are welcome to petition, but only the most worthy are heard. Rebels and established Kings alike have turned to the Grand Bank in their times of need.
The Grand Bank’s headquarters and mint are located within the Free City of Orn, and only has offices in three other places: Highcourt in the Sovereignlands, Ember in the Dusklands, and King’s Crossing in the Midlands. The Bank is run by a council of three that oversees the daily administration of the bank’s affairs, though they employ a veritable army of moneychangers, guards, and scribes. They even have their own military force, the Grand Company; a highly trained and incredibly well equipped force of several thousand warriors. From Orn, the Grand Bank watches the affairs of the Kingdom with a keen interest. They are able to support and fund whomever they like, in whatever way they like. That much coin can change the fate of an entire Kingdom. How or why it chooses its investments is unknown, but all know that a debt to the Grand Bank will always be paid. Those who do not fulfill their obligations or ignore a debt often find that the Bank decides to place its investments elsewhere, typically in the hands of a rival.
Jobs & Titles
The King's Council
This is the highest appointed positions in the Kingdom and the King’s Council is in direct service to His Majesty in Highcourt. These positions serve at the monarch’s discretion and they can replace or appoint anyone as they wish. The appointments are for as long as the monarch desires and some members of the King’s Council have even served multiple monarchs. These nobles are among the most powerful in all Arnesse and have broad sweeping powers that extend their influence even beyond that of a Paragon. It is also worth noting that while many of these nobles are also land owners, being on the King’s Council confers the title of Lord or Lady upon the noble in question even if they do not own a fief of their own.
Lord or Lady Chancellor
The Chancellor of the King’s Council is largely regarded as ‘Third in Command’ of the Kingdom, behind the King and the Queen. The Chancellor is empowered to sit in the King’s stead if he is absent and is also the holder of the Royal Seal. The Chancellor’s office, usually staffed by an army of clerks and scribes, oversees managing all the documents, records, and contracts for the throne. The Chancellor also chairs the King’s Council and is the breaker of all ties in the event of votes that are dead locked. The current Lady Chancellor is Lady Lynesse Marston of Lyonesse. Lady Lynesse is the sister of Lord Edward Marson a vassal of House Bannon and ruler of Lyonesse in the eastern Sovereignlands. Lady Lynesse is known to be a fierce fighting woman who is well trained in the saddle. She has always put in a surprising showing at the tournaments she fights in and has won more than a few. In the jousting lists, Lady Marston is known as ‘The Judge’ due to her exceptional grasp of the law and the judicial system.
Lord or Lady Exchequer
The Exchequer oversees the Royal Treasury and the finances of the Kingdom. They also maintain a strong connection with both the Cirque and the Grand Bank, working to ensure a good relationship exists with those financial giants. The Exchequer also works closely with Castellans and Sheriffs throughout the Kingdom to ensure that taxes are collected swiftly and properly from all fiefs. The current Lady Exchequer is Gisela of Ember. She is unique because Gisela is one of the few Richter nobility to convert to the Aurorym faith. She is young, the daughter of Lord Gustav Richter of Ember. Lady Gisela may be young but she is a prodigy with both numbers and has a strong relationship with the Cirque.
Lord or Lady Admiral
Much as the Lord/Lady General commands the King’s army, the Lord/Lady Admiral commands his fleet. The monarchy maintains a surprisingly substantial armada, split between the eastern and western coasts of Arnesse. Next to House Rourke, the King and House Bannon field one of the strongest fleets in the Kingdom, but it has a lot of water to patrol and is often spread thin trying to keep shipping lanes safe from raiders. The bulk of the King’s fleet is concentrated in the west between Highcourt and the Free City of Orn and in the Southeast, close to the pirate-laden waters of Tythion Bay. The current Lord Admiral is Ambrose Corveaux. He is an aging sailor in his sixties and is the father of Lady Jeanne Corveaux of Suthwater, ruler of Orgonne. The Admiral is a member of the Order of the Gryphon and is famed for his ship, ‘The Raptor’ spends most of his time at sea or working out of the Corveaux port of Afton. Raiders across the Three Seas fear the sight of his flotilla for it is famed for being ship hunters.
Master or Mistress of Shadows
This role was created during the reign of King Roland Aragon, over two centuries ago and was designed to be the monarchy’s eyes and ears beyond the Grand Court. The role has the distinction of rarely being given to an existing noble in Arnesse, but rather, someone of the lower castes who has good connections and a penchant for intrigue and espionage. Rumors persist that this office was created as the King’s assassin and spy, a rumor the monarchy has never tried to correct. The current Master of Shadows is Arcan. His origins are unknown but there are credible rumors he is from Orn. Whomever he was or where he came from has been well hidden. He is the King’s informant and only appears at the Council when he has information to share. Arcan is the only non-noble, non-guild member on the Council and while he is lower in caste than others, almost everyone respects him.
The Apotheca also have placed a representative on the King’s Council. Grand Magister Oberan serves in that role and has been head of the Apotheca order for two decades now. Oberan is a stately man in his sixtieth year who is well known for being one of the foremost masters of philosophy in the Kingdom. The Grand Magister is known to enjoy reading poetry from before the Great War, and is almost entirely blind. Though he is not a follower of the Aurorym, the Grand Magister is said by many to be the ‘Conscience of the Kingdom’, regularly challenging the the morality or correctness of a decision.
Lord or Lady Chamberlain
The Chamberlain is the keep of the King and Queen’s personal affairs and household. While this duty may sound minor, it also has a great deal of diplomatic and social influence. The Chamberlain is responsible for who sees the King and who doesn’t as well as being the source of much of the monarchy’s information about the outside world. The Chamberlain is also responsible for organizing the King and Queen’s events, parties, and running the royal household staff and attendants. The current Lord Chamberlain is Eldric Bannon. He is a cousin to Lord Paragon Charles, the head of House Bannon, and Lord of Whitethorn Hall in the Sovereignlands. He is also known to have the King and Queen’s favor and to be a devout follower of the Aurorym faith. Those that have dealt with him find his lordship to be strict when it comes to affairs of the Court, brooking no fools, dotards, or disrespect.
Lord or Lady General
The General of the King’s armies commands the fighting force that represents the Kingdom of Arnesse. Though the King’s actual army is less than ten thousand troops in size, by Oath and Law, the Lords and Ladies of Arnesse must respond with troops to fight in the King’s armies if he calls for them. The General oversees all the King’s army during times of peace and ensures they are well trained and equipped. During times of war, the General will lead the King’s army but almost always form a War Council that consists of the leaders of the factions who have come to fight alongside the King’s men. The current Lord General is Garm the Witch-Breaker. Ser Garm was promoted to Lord General in the wake of the victory at Lanton and he has led the King’s armies for the last ten years. He’s a greying wolf in his fifties now, but is still as fierce and cunning as any southern soldier. A man of Everfrost for most of his life, Lord Garm has never seemed to fit in among the Grand Court and is often afield from the city. He is known to be the father of Patriarch Gerard and said to have a familial fondness for King Giles II.
Master or Mistress of Shadows
This role was created during the reign of King Roland Aragon, over two centuries ago and was designed to be the monarchy’s eyes and ears beyond the Grand Court. The role has the distinction of rarely being given to an existing noble in Arnesse, but rather, someone of the lower castes who has good connections and a penchant for intrigue and espionage. Rumors persist that this office was created as the King’s assassin and spy, a rumor the monarchy has never tried to correct. The current Master of Shadows is Arcan. His origins are unknown but there are credible rumors he is from Orn. Whomever he was or where he came from has been well hidden. He is the King’s informant and only appears at the Council when he has information to share. Arcan is the only non-noble, non-guild member on the Council and while he is lower in caste than others, almost everyone respects him.
The Fayne Moirai also have a representative on the King’s Council. Reverend Mother Tessia serves in that role currently. Not much is known about her other than that she is part of a famous cabal known as the Raven’s Call. The Raven’s Call sisters are said to directly serve the will of the Reverie itself.
The Lord's Council
The Lord’s Council is comprised of the eight Paragons of the Kingdom. The great lords and ladies of Arnesse. All but House Rourke rule a vast protectorate and have many houses reporting to them. The Lord’s Council is more a figurehead than an actual governing body. It meets every few years at best and given the distance many must travel to attend; attendance is often spotty. The King has the right the call the council at any time and often does so in the event of major occurrences or happenings in Arnesse.
Paragon of the West
The current Lord Paragon of the Sovereignlands is Lord Charles Bannon (See Sovereignlands for more details).
Paragon of the Dusk
The current Lord Paragon of the Dusklands is Lord Hawken Richter (See Dusklands for more details).
Paragon of the South
The current Lord Paragon of Tarkath is Lady Lyra Aragon (See Tarkath for more details).
Paragon of the Dawn
The current Lord Paragon of the Hearthlands is Lord Frederick Blayne (See Hearthlands for more details).
Paragon of the East
The current Lord Paragon of the Midlands is Lord Desmond Corveaux (See Midlands for more details).
Paragon of the Wood
The current Lady Paragon of the Northern Marches is Bantiarna Bodhmall Innis (See the Northern Marches for more details).
Paragon of the North
The current Lord Paragon of the Everfrost is Lord Talbot Hale (See Everfrost for more details).
Paragon of the Waves
The current Lord Paragon of the Waves is Lord Tybold Rourke (See the Three Seas for more details).
Local Government Officials
Beneath the King’s Council and the Lord’s Council are the myriad nobles who serve the great lords and ladies of the Kingdom. Serving them are thousands of lesser officials that help keep their fiefs in good working order. These roles have regional power and have vast control over the fiefs in which they live. These jobs are among the highest appointments next to nobles themselves and it is common to see the children of nobles, knights, and others of noble birth be given these positions over the lower castes.
These are the rulers of the fiefs of Arnesse. Nobles can vary in power from High Houses that serve the Lords/Ladies Paragon themselves, to lesser nobles that barely rule several acres of land. Within their fiefs, nobles are extremely powerful and are the King’s hand in matters of justice and law.
Sheriffs are primarily charged with enforcing the King’s Laws on behalf of their Lord or the Castellan. They also have a secondary role for collecting taxes and ensuring that those taxes are paid by everyone. Sheriffs in a region often have several deputies in their employ and can even be assigned troops to be under their command if the noble they work for wishes to give them more military support. Sheriffs are also responsible for keeping the peace and often viciously stamp out any sign of potential rebellion. Sheriffs have broad discretion in many fiefs when it comes to the enforcement of the law. It is worth noting that the Sheriff role is often taken by a knight or even a commonfolk who has risen in the trust of a noble. It is one of the highest jobs that a commoner can reasonably attain in the Kingdom.
Castellans were once considered to be the administrators of castles, overseeing their affairs. During the last few centuries the role has evolved to become an administrator of a fief or town on the behalf of a noble ruler. These Castellans serve in a mayoral capacity, working to ensure that the fief or town runs smoothly, its people are fed, events are organized, and the peace is kept. They often have several lesser officials reporting to them such as scribes and clerks. Sheriffs and deputies will also report to a Castellan and are charged by them to enforce justice. Nobles often lend their Castellans the ability to dispense justice on their behalf and can sometimes give them broad and sweeping powers over fiefs.
Much akin to the Lord Chamberlain’s role above, Chamberlains work in the direct employ of nobles, heading up their chancery and keeping clerical work in order. They also often hold the noble’s official seal, signing paperwork on their behalf and, at times, sitting in the noble’s stead when they are not present. They also work in a diplomatic capacity with neighboring nobles to ensure good relations. It is also the Chamberlain’s job to keep the noble’s household and staff running smoothly, to ensure that their family is well cared for and have all that they need, and keep the noble’s personal affairs in order.
General jobs make up the bulk of what many people do in the Kingdom. Laborers actually make up the bulk of all the ‘jobs’ in Arnesse, but many of these positions are more specialized and unique roles that those of lower castes can and often do step into. It is rare to see anyone of noble birth be in one of these roles unless there is a situation where the individual in question is disgraced or out of favor.
A scribe is a person who serves as a professional copyist especially one who made copies of written works. The work of scribes involves the copying manuscripts and other texts as well as secretarial and administrative duties such as the taking of dictation and keeping of business, judicial, and historical records. Typically, they are employed by noble or sometimes by other officials like Castellans.
Bailiffs work as assistants to Sheriffs are considered higher in rank than deputy. The duty of the bailiff includes serving summons and orders, in addition to executing on all warrants issued out of the corresponding court. Typically, several deputies report to a single bailiff, who then reports to the Sheriff of the fief. Like Sheriffs, they are empowered with broad discretion when it comes to law enforcement.
Officer of Arms
Officers of Arms are charged with the tasks of the regulation of the Coats of Arms for the knights and nobility in service to their liege. They are also charged with making announcements or proclamations on behalf of their liege, being a messenger as needed for the delivery of such news. Lastly, they are also typically given authority to run and organize tournaments on behalf of their noble.
Officers of Arms have ranks of their own that determine their level of expertise and skill:
Pursuivant: This is the lowest ranking Officer of Arms and is an apprentice-level in heraldry skill.
Herald of Arms: Heralds are the middle rank of Officers of Arms and are both experienced and knowledgeable in their field. Typically, a Herald of Arms is a journeyman-level in heraldry skill.
King of Arms: This is the senior rank has the very rare authority to grant armorial bearings and certify genealogies or noble titles. The King of Arms is considered to be a master-level in heraldry skill.
Millers work a grain mill and grind wheat into grain. Many millers also actually bake bread as well. This can be a very profitable job, considering so many rely on grain as a basic staple of their diet.
The most common profession in all of Arnesse is that of a laborer. Be it working the fields or the mines, these individuals form the backbone of the Kingdom and provide the basic materials to keep it running. While many laborers are serfs, it is also not uncommon for freemen to work these jobs. The days are hard, but work is always available and the pay is decent, especially for dangerous assignments.
Ditcher – A laborer who is charged with digging moats, castles, and other earthworks.
Miner – A laborer who works in the mines and digs stone and metal out of the ground.
Woodcutter – A laborer who works in the forest, cutting wood.
Farmer – A laborer who maintains or gathers crops from a farm. Also, a Plowman.
Cottar – A laborer who does various low duties such as swine herd, latrines, and heavy labor.
Unlike a merchant, most tradesmen move goods from location to another via caravans or ships. Tradesmen can sell the goods and be a merchant, but many just move the goods and then sell them to merchants at the locations they travel to. Tradesmen typically are part of trade companies or work closely with the Cirque, as the road can be dangerous for those who do not have friends to protect them.
Popular with the people, minstrels or bards represent performers that often travel from tavern to tavern to make coin. While some bards and minstrels are employed in the courts of the great and good throughout the Kingdom, it is far more common to see one performing for their next meal than bedecked in finery. These minstrels and bards employ a number of instruments, from lutes, to lyres, to flutes, drums, and most commonly, their own voice to keep audiences entertained and happy.
The owners of establishments designed to house those who are traveling, innkeepers rent rooms to those who don’t have other lodgings available. Inns come in varying qualities and the nicer the establishment the more it typically costs per night. Innkeepers also tend to have a common room in which a traveler can acquire repast for a reasonable price. Not to be confused with an inn, taverns lack any sort of lodging and are only for eating or drinking. Both inns and taverns are places where the locals gather and often celebrate late into the night with a good deal of drinking and merrymaking.
Clerks typically serve alongside scribes as record keepers, scholars, and keepers of accounts. It is uncommon for clerks or scribes to exist outside of large towns or in the employ of very powerful nobles. The Cirque, the Apotheca, and the Grand Bank are known to have many clerks in their regular employ.
The lowest ranking law enforcement official, the deputy is charged by either a bailiff or a sheriff to work in their service as an agent to enforce the King’s Laws. While deputies are rarely charged with many actual responsibilities or autonomy they have broad powers to execute law enforcement as they see fit.
This is a social caste as well as a job in Arnesse. Artisans are typically addressed by the artisan title that addresses their level of experience: Apprentice, Journeyman, or Master. Artisans represent a thriving portion of the ‘middle class’ in Arnesse, their work in the trades enabling those of low standing to learn a skill and turn that skill into both coin and opportunity. Many Artisans work in the employ of noble households, towns or the military, but many more work with the Cirque or even as independents.
Blacksmith – An artisan who works metal and leather into fine weapons and armors.
Artificer – An artisan who turns a variety of raw materials into clothing, jewelry, and trinkets.
Bowyer – An artisan who crafts fine bows and arrows.
Gunsmith – An artisan who possesses the rare skill of crafting firearms like pistols and rifles.
Architect – An artisan who is experienced in engineering and erects buildings and other structures.
Glazier – An artisan who creates glass from sand, turning into artwork and windows.
Potter – An artisan who is skilled in the creation of pots, jars, and other earthenware goods.
Mason – An artisan who is familiar with turning raw stone into art or blocks for construction.
Woodworker – An artisan who is familiar with the crafting of wood like boards, planks, and furniture.
Chef – An artisan who prepares food and other cooked goods.
Chandler – An artisan who creates candles and waxwork.
Cooper – An artisan who crafts barrels.
Cartwright – An artisan who crafts carts and other transportation.
Brewer – An artisan who crafts beers, ales, and other fine spirits.
The herbalist is a job which is charged with gathering various herbs and plants for use in crafting, ink, or apothecary arts. The herbalist is required to be surprisingly knowledgeable about flora and fauna. This can be a difficult craft to learn and is often a skill that is passed down among families.
This is a person who sells goods for a living. These goods are often not theirs that they make, but rather that they buy from tradesmen or artisans, to resell at a mark-up. Merchants often sell their goods in markets in towns and cities. Some merchants travel from market to market, but in larger cities, it is not uncommon for a merchant to stay in one location. Some merchants also own shops in towns and cities, partnering with craftsmen and women to use them as fronts from which to sell their goods.
While the Ordo Erdani is the premiere messenger service in the realm, quite several smaller companies and even individuals exist to do delivery of messages. They are often slower than the Ordo Erdani and much less reliable, but they can be more affordable, especially for local deliveries within fifty miles of one’s current location. Not a small number of nobles employ messengers for just that purpose.
Actors, Storytellers, Playwrights
Popular with patrons of the arts, actors and playwrights make up the small, but growing scene of cultured wealthy in the realm. The theater and plays have never been very popular, but within the last half century, appreciation for the arts, particularly the performing arts, is on the rise. This group also represents the ancient and hallowed storytellers, who while they lack the flair and pomp of an acting troupe, possess no less craft at weaving a tale that keep audiences enraptured.
This is a person who works at a tavern or inn, serving food or drink. This job can be low-paying and often the barmaid or barkeep must deal with a good deal of trouble from drunk patrons.
Noble Household Staff
One of the largest and most stable employers in the Kingdom are the households of nobles. The often-extravagant estates and castles of Arnesse’s nobles require dozens or even hundreds of staff to upkeep. While these roles below can sometimes exist outside a noble’s household, they are most commonly seen there as they represent services that are typically unavailable to the lower classes and the poor.
The steward is considered the head of a noble actual estate, reporting directly to a chamberlain if one exists. The reeve supervises all work on their property and ensures that it begins and stops on time. They also handle all staffing issues, including hiring and dismissal, and even dealing with punishments and crimes. The reeve outranks all other staff in the noble’s household and has authority over all of them.
This is the actual law enforcement on a noble’s estate. While a sheriff and their staff often deal with an entire fief, the constable maintains the security and safety of the noble estate. Constables are a job of substantial trust as they are designed to keep enemies away from a noble’s door. They often have a staff of watchmen who are assigned to help them keep the estate or castle secure from invaders.
If a noble wishes to go on a hunt, they often employ a hunt master. The hunt master is typically a hunter of some skill and good with a bow. They often have skills in handling of animals, particularly dogs or falcons. Interestingly, the maintenance of a hunting habit can be quite costly and often only the wealthiest nobles can afford to keep a hunt master on their staff for any length of time.
The butler is responsible for the castle cellar and oversees large ‘butts’ of beer and wine. The room in the castle called the buttery is used for storing and dispensing beverages, especially ale. This job is a middling level of responsibility at an estate as the butler is charged with keeping the noble’s valuable spirits safe and with having an extensive knowledge of the wine, ale, and spirits stored in the cellar.
The maids and grooms are responsible for attending directly to the nobles and other personages of standing at the estate. They assist them by serving food, helping them to dress, and attending to their needs. Maids and grooms also are the primary force which works to help keep the estate tidy and in good working condition. While scullions do most of the dirtiest and most grueling work, maids and grooms have their fair share of manual labor to take care of in the course of a day.
The janitor, or porter, is responsible for the main castle entrance and for the guardrooms. The porter is responsible for ensuring that no one enters or leaves the noble’s estate without permission.
These jobs are responsible for keeping the noble’s grounds well cared for. This includes trimming hedges, cleaning up after storms, keeping the grass clipped, and pulling weeds. While some nobles employ master gardeners with incredible skill to sculpt their flora and fauna into artistic masterpieces, this job is generally considered to be very low skill and not highly regarded on the estate.
Also, referred to as a fool, the jester is charged with entertaining the noble’s court. While this position can attain some level of notoriety, jesters, by their very nature, are meant to be ridiculed by almost everyone and it is not uncommon for a noble to place someone they dislike in the role of jester and force them to be ridiculed by all. Tales persist of nobles even placing their own disfavored family members or defeated rivals in their court as jesters to make them suffer humiliation and torment.
The treasurer is the keeper of the noble’s coffers and maintains all their coin. They also are responsible for paying the noble’s taxes and working with the sheriff’s staff to ensure everyone pays. The treasurer also works with other members of the noble’s staff to ensure that all funds are available to keep the estate running smoothly. This job is considered highly ranked because of the trust involved.
Keeper of the Wardrobe
The room in a noble’s castle or estate is called the wardrobe was intended as a dressing room and storage room for clothes. The keeper of the wardrobe oversaw the tailors and laundress. This is a position of some authority as it oversaw a number of lesser servants in the estate.
Serving the constable, these are estate or castle guards that ensure the noble’s property is kept safe. There is a common belief that a watchman is unskilled or incapable of handling a fighting. Their experience and qualify can vary widely depending on the watchman in question, but there are some that are quite skilled in both the use of a weaponry and the defense of their noble’s holdings.
These jobs are responsible for keeping the noble’s animals and training them. Some nobles keep raptors and others dogs and others have both. This is a job is afforded a decent level respect as the falconer or kennel master must have some skill to train and keep the animals in good condition. This job often works closely with the hunt master if the noble’s estate keeps one on staff.
The staff which maintains a noble family’s clothing, both sewing new clothes and washing existing ones. Some noble families retain no tailors at their estates, but wealthy ones often have a large staff who serves to make them clothes night and day, for any occasion they feel it is needed. This role works under the watchful eye of the keeper of the wardrobe who ensures all runs smoothly.
The cook staff is often extensive in many noble estates and is responsible for preparing the food for meals. Seen as one of the lower end positions, this job often labors long hours in very hot kitchens.
One of the lowest servants in a noble’s house, the ewerer is responsible for taking water to guests at table for the washing of hands. He was also responsible for drawing baths as required and drying clothing that gets wet. The ewerer is also responsible for drawing water as needed by the estate.
Scullions are the lowest workers on an estate. Their duties include washing the kitchen, cleaning chamber pots, mucking out horse stalls, and other tasks no one on the estate wishes to do.
Spirituality & Religion
Faith as a concept in Arnesse was largely absent during the early Age of Kings. It is well known in the histories that the rulers of old discovered that the Gods of Arnesse meant to use their power to destroy mankind. During the Great War, the armies of the noble houses rose to defeat these immortals, casting them down into ruin. Not all the rulers agreed this was the right course of action and what followed was a period of civil war that unleashed powers so great they rent the very fabric of reality. The result was the Eldritch Cataclysm, an event that stripped all magic from Arnesse and those able to wield it.
Queen Catherine Bannon, the first ruler of the Kingdom, outlawed all practices of faith during the first century of the Age of Kings. Facing religious persecution and potential execution, most worshippers of the Gods, the Eldra faith, were killed, arrested, or driven into hiding. No faith was practiced in the open but some still did so in secret. Those faiths of ages past, the Old Ways, still held to their ancient, forbidden rites. The Old Ways consisted of several all-but-dead faiths: the adoration of the sacred woodland spirits by the draíochta of the Northern woods, the unholy communion with the spirits of the dead by the bone shamans of Everfrost, and the ancient blood rites performed deep in the wastes of Tarkath.
In 606 AS a cult would rise in the North, in the lands of House Corveaux led by a charismatic minor nobleman named Magnus Blayne. Blayne starts a fire among the Commonfolk with his words: ‘Even the weak can be mighty.’ Soon his teachings and sermons are attracting hundreds and the peasants are not the only ones whose attention he gains. In the Midlands lay a region known as the Troth. The Troth was owned by noblemen well known for adherence to the now dead Eldra faith: House Ulster, one of the High Houses of House Corveaux. The Ulster family was quick to offer sanctuary to Blayne and his followers in their land.
Through his actions and demonstrations of faith, Magnus Blayne was proclaimed to be a messiah, fulfilling an ancient prophecy that claimed a savior would come to the people and bring the dawn during a time of great darkness. Magnus’s message was that of hope in dark times; of ascension, not by the power of any deity or greater power, but through personal acts and deeds. He spoke of the animus, a person’s immortal essence, and how through a regime and life of virtue and valor that this animus could grow strong enough to transcend death itself. Those of great virtue, valor, and deed could ascend as true paragons, a Hallowed Saint, revered by all the faithful. The Hallowed and those who followed his faith would not endure a mortal’s lament in the afterlife, but ascend to the Empyrean, where they would reside in glory until called upon to liberate the world at the end of times. For a people in a desperate state, Blayne’s message was almost irresistible and so it was that despite being in defiance of the Kingdom’s law, they gathered and listened.
Magnus Blayne carries on his sermons for three years. His followers would come to be known as the Aurorym, the Servants of the Dawn. Magnus, the Son of the Dawn, writes many of his teachings down in what would come to be known as the Book of Magnus. At the center of his teachings and writings were the Five Litanies, what he called the blueprint for ascension. Blayne attracts a group of followers known as Witnesses; disciples that helped spread his word and witness his sermons and demonstrations of the faith. In 609, King Richard Bannon II grows tired of Blayne’s cult and orders him arrested and brought to justice for his crimes against the Kingdom. Despite the best efforts of the Aurorym, Magnus is captured, tried, and then publicly executed. The King orders his body dismembered and sent to the four corners of Arnesse. Legend among the faithful is that the body of Magnus Blayne was stolen before this happened and that the King was forced to cut up another man’s corpse to make good on his grisly promise.
Magnus’s death sets off a firestorm of revolt in the North which includes House Ulster and its vassals. Richard orders his troops, along with those of House Corveaux, to crush the rebellion but are defeated at the town of Exeter by an army of Commonfolk led by the Living Saints of the Aurorym. Richard II dies to an assassin’s blade shortly after Exeter. The uprising is forgotten as the Kingdom is plunged into a bloody civil war between Richard’s brother James, his daughter, Anne, and House Aragon. The civil war ends with the ascension of Roland Aragon and Anne to the throne, and a royal decree that overturns over a century and a half of religious persecution and prohibition in Arnesse.
To settle unrest in the North, the newly crowned monarchs elevate House Ulster to sit among the most powerful lords and ladies of the Kingdom as a Great House. House Ulster, as a show of their piety, changes their name to House Blayne, to honor the lineage of Magnus Blayne and his sacrifice for the faith. The Living Saints found the Fervent Order of the Vellatora, which becomes the sworn knight order of House Blayne in 614 AS. In 615 AS the remaining Hexen Schola join the ranks of the Aurorym, finding their prowess against the creatures of the dark greatly restored by a devotion to the Dawn.
Even the weak can be mighty. For centuries, your forefathers have told you that this is not the order of things; that those who toil may never rise. But are not all men, by nature, made of the same elements by the same hands? In the eyes of nature, the poor peasant is as dear unto this world as the mighty prince.
Is it not humanity then which sayeth a man is mightier than another, be it by birth, or wealth, or by title? These trappings of the physical world may make a man strong, but they cannot make him mighty, for true might comes not from strength of arms or lineage, but from that which lies within.
In Elder days, man was given a gift, a breath of life, an animus, that fills each of us. This spark of the divine cannot be seen, touched, nor tasted, but its power is without limit if one knows how to harness it. Place not your faith in the divine, for any man need look no further than his own heart.
I was given unto this world to show you the way. A path not simply to salvation but ascension, trod equally by the strong, the weak, the poor, the rich, the peasant, and the noble. It is not a journey that one must suffer alone, yet the footprints in the dirt must be your own. For he who conquers others is strong, he who conquers himself is mighty.
- The Book of Magnus, Chapter 1
For the last century and a half, the Aurorym faith has been the only consistently practiced religious belief system in Arnesse. Founded on the teachings of an obscure minor nobleman named Magnus Blayne, the strength of the faith’s message has resonated strongly with the people, especially those of the lower classes. Blayne was believed to be a savior, a messiah; named by prophecy to lead the land out of darkness and into a new age. Blayne preached his message for three years until he was brutally executed by King Richard II in 609 AS. The resulting revolts and chaos caused by his death, as well as the ascension of a sympathetic monarch to the throne, saw the faith take hold not only as a formalized religion, but rise as a movement that continued to grow in popularity, power, and influence.
Despite gaining the backing of a noble house, the Aurorym faith struggled to gain a foothold in the years that followed the death of Magnus. Many subsequent monarchs were unfaithful and did not support the formal recognition of the Aurorym faith within the Kingdom. In addition, poor administration and being one of the few Great Houses not granted a Protectorate caused House Blayne to consistently struggle to gain and retain power among the other mighty nobles. Still, House Blayne and the Aurorym are not to be underestimated. They possess the largest knight order in the Kingdom: The Fervent Order of the Vellatora, each man and woman sworn to die valiantly for their beliefs. In addition, the ancient Schola of the Hexen Order join their ranks, as they found common cause with their ancient charge. The Aurons, powerful spiritual warriors, lead the Aurorym and serve as messengers of the faith, spreading the sacred word to the far corners of the Kingdom.
The biggest strength of the Aurorym is that their power appears to be real by all accounts. The teachings of Magnus Blayne intrinsically tie the faith to conflict against corruption and it has been demonstrated time and again that the servants of the Dawn can drive off and destroy all manner of unnatural creatures. Magnus preached that the monsters which stalked the night and plagued the land were manifestations of its corruption and the corruption of its rulers. He blamed many of the nobles for the land’s slide into despair following the Great War and charged his followers to seek out corruption and purge it. In doing so, they might demonstrate enough valor to qualify their animus for ascension in the afterlife. Thus, many followers of the Aurorym faith are unafraid of death and even go so far as to seek out a glorious end for a noble or worthy cause. This has earned them no shortage of creative slurs, “zealots” being the least harsh of them all. Still, all rulers, even those who dislike them, know that the Aurorym are more than capable of dealing with any supernatural threats in their lands.
When King Giles II ascended the throne in 751 AS, he took an unexpected bride: Lady Aline of House Blayne. His wedding gift to her was a portion of House Corveaux’s land that would come to be known as the Hearthlands. House Blayne gained control of the Hearthlands Protectorate and began a rise in power that has spanned almost the entire twelve-year reign of the current King. While the King has stopped short of legitimizing the Aurorym as the faith of the realm, his support of the faith has gained him incredible support among the people and, if rumors are to be believed, the enmity of many nobles. As House Blayne has grown in power, wealth, and influence, so have the Aurorym. The faith’s single largest benefactor is Lord Frederick Blayne and from all accounts, the head of House Blayne spends far more on hallowed edifices and Vellatora knights than on his starving people. The seat of the Aurorym’s power lies in the city of Scrow in the Hearthlands, where the breathtaking Dawnbringer Rectorix sits amid the squalor and filth of a city who has seen much of its wealth spent elsewhere. The only other significant stronghold of the Aurorym is the Draven Rectorix located in the Dusklands of House Richter. House Richter’s lands have seen a great deal of strife and suffering in recent years and Commonfolk there have turned to the faith in ever increasing numbers.
The Auroym are fairly organized within the Hearthlands but many nobles refuse to have have them within their lands. As a result, the faith has struggled to spread to other parts of the Kingdom. Also, most nobles are rooted in the ancient spiritual traditions of their Houses and few have converted, leaving the faith with drier coffers than they would like. Outside of the Hearthlands, the faith has established chantries in most major towns and cities. There, the Aurons hold regular sermons and encourage the local populace to become converts. The message is strong and the faith seeks to empower otherwise powerless peasantry to fight for the dream of an afterlife that is vastly better than the living nightmare endured by many. Since the faith is barely established in a true sense, the Book of Magnus is their only sacred text. It is supported by a few stories written by the followers of Magnus Blayne known as the Cants, but the book is largely seen as unfinished and uncodified. The Aurorym faith outside of the Hearthlands is often extremely localized, with regional heroes rising to become legends that are then written about and added to the sacred texts. This leads to a faith that can, at times, feel more like a cult, without any centralized canon. It’s not rare for the Aurorym faith in different regions to revere different Saints and have entirely different practices. The core texts of the Book of Magnus, the sacred Cants, and the Five Litanies of the Dawn are often the only thing that keeps the Aurorym from breaking off into several smaller splinter cults with wholly different beliefs.
Death & Dying
What is Death?
What is Death to the Godless? Once, when the Gods and Goddesses walked Arnesse, there was a sense of security when one shed their mortal coil, for to die in their favor was to be promised a peaceful afterlife. The Gods were a reassurance that no matter how vile or wicked a life led might be, one could always seek their forgiveness; reason with them to somehow find a way back to salvation. Now that hope is no more. The Gods may be dead, but Death is not, and it cannot be reasoned with, will accept no bribes, and is the one force in Arnesse that is inevitable for every man, woman, and child. Now that only Death remains, many have turned to it as a source of solace and comfort, hoping to curry favor. During the Age of Kings, not a few death cults have emerged, the strongest of which is the Temple of Lirit. and even the hardiest of warrior or the most cunning of noble pays them heed. A great deal of speculation and superstition exists around Death, and it is common for a village to have a shrine erected to Lirit in the hopes that offerings will keep ill omens or bad fortune away from their homes. Many towns and cities have a larger structure known as a sepulcher, home to the priests of Lirit. It is also said that if one seeks Death, they can petition the priests and within the sepulcher, be laid to rest in peace.
The workings of death remain a mystery to mortals, but scholars have observed over the years that it is not entirely random. Death possesses about itself an energy, an essence, that permeates everything it touches. This essence is the chill one feels in their spine when they enter an old cemetery or the feeling of dread in a place particularly touched by Death. The more anyone exposes themselves to this essence, the more they become tainted by it. Those who are particularly imbued with the essence of death become magnets for ill fortune or are haunted by the spirits of the dead. While it is not exactly known how one becomes death touched, it is said that the murder of another is one of the fastest ways to attract the unwanted attention of the Lady of Death. This has led superstitious believers to avoid causing death to another and thus an entire culture of non-lethal dueling has arisen among the people to resolve disputes. Killing, especially murder, is considered one of the most serious crimes in Arnesse. Still, there are many who do not believe in fairy tales and kill whomever they wish, whenever they wish. Those who revere Death say that these wonton murderers are cursed, Deathbound, and that upon their passing, their animus is forfeit, claimed by Lirit and taken to the Land of the Dead to suffer an eternity of agony.
The side effect of this culture is that parts of Arnesse are extremely death obsessed and even a bit macabre. In a dangerous land, many seek to avoid Death and hope to ward it away, keep it at bay, or even bargain with it. This has created an entire subculture of cults, merchants, scholars, and prophets who are involved in attempting to solve or at least navigate this puzzle. Several charlatans and false prophets have arisen to seek profits from people’s fears and superstitions. It is whispered that some of those who falsely represent Death or swindle others in its name meet an untimely and gruesome end. Whether this is truly the work of Death, or just the result of a lifestyle of swindling others, is unclear.
Funerary Customs & Practices
Memento mori – Remember Thou Shalt Also Die
A common phrase in Arnesse. Life in the kingdom is hard and often short, and when a loved one passes there must be rituals not only to honor them but also to insulate the living from the proximity of Death. Freemen and nobles enter a time of mourning, dressing in austere black (“widow’s weeds”) and shrouding windows and lights in their homes to demonstrate their grief. Meals are eaten cold and without spices, holidays and celebrations within the home are canceled or rendered as drab as possible, and most jewelry or other forms of adornment are put away, with the exception of “mourning jewelry” such as tiny portraits of the deceased or reliquaries made from locks of their hair or similar. The length of formal mourning varies with the degree of relation to the deceased and the family’s social class. Generally, the closer the relative and the more ennobled they were, the longer the mourning will be. It would not be considered strange for a bereaved spouse to mourn in perpetuity, which serves a dual purpose of signaling they would not be interested in remarrying.
Nobility or wealthy merchants might choose to call upon the services of professional mourners, making a greater show of their grief and bereavement. While not associated with the Temple of Lirit, mourners can be paid to help shroud a home, maintain a grief vigil over a body, follow funeral processions, and other such duties. Mourners always appear swathed in black, and often carry extinguished candles or blacked-out lanterns. Many mourners are skilled at related crafts such as carving cameos of the deceased or weaving locks of their hair into adornments for the bereaved to wear. Mourners are considered to be exempt from becoming Deathbound as their services are solely rendered to give honor to the dead, and many make a tithe of their earnings to the Temple of Lirit to ensure the continued goodwill of the Lady of Death.
Following a death in the household, the deceased generally lies in state for a period of up to three days. This grief vigil is often done in the house or even the room of the deceased, though nobles may have more elaborate locations prepared for them. Friends or professional mourners maintain the vigil over the body, while family members are given leave to explore their grief in private. The grief vigil is expected to be silent, without lights or ostentation – though nobles usually get around this by using expensive black silks and jewelry made of wrought iron and jet – and extremely solemn. The closed eyes of the deceased are covered with stones painted with open eyes, or sometimes with special memento mori coins provided by professional mourners or prepared in advance for figures of importance. On the last night of mourning it is customary for the family of the deceased to hold a feast for friends and members of the community. No one is turned away, for death comes to all.
Following the grief vigil, which may be brief indeed for commoners, the body is prepared and taken away for burial. Funeral preparations are simple as a rule, often just a winding sheet. The funeral procession may be just a cart for Freemen, while nobles might enjoy an elaborate procession featuring sombre but expensively dressed pallbearers, family and friends in black, and even professional mourners trailing after the corpse to hand out memento mori coins to onlookers.
The funeral procession ends at the nearest Temple of Lirit. Nobles and the rich are interred in sepulchers – for a donation to the temple – while others are rendered to Lirit’s mercy in a field outside the temple. Burial locations are generally considered under the watchful eye of the Lady of Death and her servants, and so are almost never visited lest her gaze be drawn to the living. Instead, the survivor closest to the deceased is given a vial or small pouch of symbolic ashes by the priests of Lirit, though by custom this does not come from the corpse itself lest the recipient risk becoming Deathbound. Typically, this memento of the departed is placed in a private memorial display, often with a cameo, reliquary, locks of hair or other tokens associated with the deceased.
While the commoner or merchant might expect only a private memorial in their family home, important nobles are not infrequently remembered with formal monuments in public places. Statues, urns, plinths and other markers may be placed on pedestals or in special niches built into the exterior of important buildings to remind passersby of the honored dead.
Aurorym Funerary Customs
While certain regions have unique burial customs, of particular note are those practiced by the Aurorym. When a family member dies, those family members and close friends or comrades will set a vigil in the night as the body of the deceased is burned to ashes. Over the course of that night, those present will speak on behalf of any hallowed deeds performed by the departed. Should the hallowed deeds be significant enough, they may undergo a separate sacred rite known as Glorification and become a Saint.
Once the last ember of the fire that consumed their body has cooled, the ashes are gathered and distributed to those present at the funeral rite. For the commonfolk, a family may have a single large urn that houses all the ashes of their ancestors. Faithful nobility often carries jewelry or ornate reliquaries to keep their loved ones close to them. As the orphaned knights of the Vellatora consider each other family, those of their number who fall in battle have their ashes spread out among each of their surviving comrades to carry in a personal reliquary.
The Lady of Death
Whenever a chill wind blows on a dark night or a foul, unnatural smell is caught in the air, it is said by many to be Lirit, the Lady of Death walking among mortals. Stories are told that on the darkest nights, she wanders the land as a woman dressed entirely in black, her face covered with a veil so that none may see what lies beneath. There is no more ill an omen than to catch sight of her ghostly apparition, for that means that you are soon to die. To some, Lirit is a source of fear of the inevitable and terror of the unknown that lies beyond the veil of life. To others, she is a benevolent Goddess of Death that seeks to maintain balance in the world through the great cycle of birth and death. Those who believe in her have taken to wearing charms or medals with death images and even the bones of the dead in the hopes of appeasing Lady Death or making her think they are one of the dead to avoid her notice. The phrase memento mori or ‘remember you must die’, is often used in society, art, architecture, and stories as a reflection upon the mortality of man, a reminder of the vanity of life, and that all things are fleeting.
For most who die in Arnesse, Death is final. But there are those who exist who can violate the laws of nature and restore life to the recently deceased. These Resurrectionists as they are called, are rare and their origins are unknown, even to themselves. What is known is that this ability can manifest at any point in a person’s life and that once they are invested, they can use their very life force to restore breath to those who have died within the last day. The cost for this incredible ability is that the life force paid by them is permanent and if they resurrect too many, the last life they restore will come at the cost of their own. Resurrectionists are regarded with a mix of reverence and distrust among the populace. Some regard Resurrectionists as charlatans who have no real power at all, others say they are remnants of the now-dead Gods, and still others view them as little more than witches who put evil spirits in those they restore. What cannot be argued is that from all appearances, these rare few can restore life to the dead.
It is said that there are those who are chosen by Death to transcend the natural order and become a servant to it. These servants are exempt from the laws that govern most mortals and thus can bring death to the living. These chosen few are known as the Veil and while their exact purpose and mission are shrouded in mystery, they appear to act as a balancing force between life and death. The members of the Veil are hidden, existing within society as any other person, from a respected noble to the lowly shop keep. The only contact this shadowy organization has with the outside world are petitions made to the sepulchers of Lirit asking for Death to take the life of another. Occasionally, these petitions will be answered with a demand of payment and, should that payment be made, Death will come for that person. Those who are killed in this manner are found with a black veil draped across their face to let others know that Death had claimed them. Those who would seek to traffic with Death should be warned that the while the services provided are almost certain, the price demanded is often more than most can bear. There is no recruitment or joining the Veil. How or why they select their members is unknown but it is whispered that Lirit herself chooses them and that some terrible price must be paid.
Calendars & Timekeeping
Most in the Kingdom aren’t terribly concerned with the hours of the day. They rise at dawn and sleep when the sun goes down. The people that do care, keep time in several ways. During the day, many use sun dials when they are able. By night, or when there isn’t sufficient sun, candle clocks are used to keep measure of the hours. The calendar in Arnesse is tracked by cycles of the moon. There are twelve cycles in one year. When speaking of a date, the day will be called out first, then the cycle of the moon, then the year. For example, the 4th day of the first moon in 763 would be written as the 1st Day of the 1st Moon, 763. Sometimes AS will be used to denote the year, but it is often used by scholars only and not well known what it means.