An Empty Throne
The Nine Keys
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The Nine Keys are the largest factions of humans who compromise the Central Empire. They represent the best (or at least the most enduring) examples of Physical, Political, Economic, or Enlightened might in the Post-Crisis world. Each of the Key’s was founded by a Legendary Hero – a Key Patron. Amongst the various deeds, every patron it is known for all of them have a few shared exploits. One of which is the basis of safety and mutual relations between the Covenant of Kings.
At the First City of each nation, there exists an Artifact known as a LandKey. Among its many abilities, a Land key stops the persistent encroaching of the savage wild in a wide radius beyond the inscribed walls of each capital city.
The only means known to stop the persistent growth, other than a LandKey – is a manufactured product and process known as a Spiral.Rune. Spiral Runes are the propriety manufacture of the Dwarven clans of the Iron Mountain trade consortium and their continued trade for this substance constitutes a huge part of the non-human alliance.
In no particular order, the Nine Keys are:
- The Scarlet Empire, aka Forbidden Cathay, is a hierarchical, society (based loosely on Mythic China). The country’s religious philosophy primarily preaches a version of reincarnation. Each soul must pass through a celestial accounting under the tight control of the ‘scarlet empress’ and the ‘five god-kings’. The scarlet empress is a very real ruler and her control of the empire is based on the semi-religious presumption that she fights for their ultimate fate. Though the scarlet empire is a powerful ally, its culture is fairly exotic to the other 6 nations in the covenant of kings. (much in the way that China was to Western Europe during the 17C.)
- The Valsgärde Commonwealth – From a bird’s-eye view, the Faroe island curls around itself. The construction of their First City of Valda exaggerates this iconic spiral by including its architecture on the curve. A distinct female-led community these women are a combination of Norn and Theturosi values, ruling my physical might and enlightened political intrigue. (based loosely on myths of Shield-maidens, and Valkyries, and Amazons. oh my NOT a bunch of too liberal-tree huggers.)
- The Volovik, aka the Norn, is a Viking clan-culture of Nomadic plainsmen following their herds across the northern tundra. They have a somewhat intimate and contentious history with the ruling women of Valsguarde. ( based loosely on a Kev-Rus/scandanavian mix )
- The Kalishi Khaganate – represents real old power. Kalishi prime is the oldest surviving city in the Central Empire even its own citizens are surprised by the resiliency of its urban planning. Marvels such as indoor plumbing, regulated heat, cool smokeless light, internal tunnels and transportation, and nearly immediate messaging between military positions. The pinnacle of technology, Ethangar is a bastion of power in a grand oasis surrounded by a lifeless desert. (based loosely on Mythic Persia pre-islam)
- The Pirate isles of Novus Ordum, is liberal autocracy is jointly ruled by the five most senior captains of the Black Corsairs Guild. The Novus Ordum are not MOST fear by their Corsairs but instead by their bizarre governing practices. Among the conditions by which the Novus Ordum was permitted to enter the Imperial Nation was that they would not attempt to convert ‘nonbelievers’ to their lifestyle. (based loosely on Mythic English Outcast traditions and the worlds first capitalist democracy)
- The Republic of Theturos – The mountains that surround the mighty First City of Artoros Prime serve as an aggressively militant shield between its holdings and the terrors of Arkos. (based loosely on the Kingdom of Rome not the more publicized ‘Roman empire’ ) The number of Theturi serving in the Reverent ‘Imperial’ Army, in comparison to all other nations combined, is significant.
- Athos. Melitos, or Athos prime, has been called the City of Scholars. It is a city-state of progressive thinkers, poets, historians, and seers said to be representative of the Athosian people. Born from the defeat of tyranny, and the triumph of free thought over brute force. Athosians pride themselves on such edifices as the Parthenon to the Gods, the Bard’s Academy, and for their Illustrious Navy. (based loosely on Mythic Macedonia )
- Catalonia – is the primary rival of Athos for Naval power. They have a smaller overall fleet but they are leaders in the progressive techniques known as ‘Artifice’. Or, they were… given the death of the old king of Catalan and his child successor The Church Triumphant has successfully taken control of the nation by establishing a council of regency over the boy-king. One of their first acts was to end the Artifice program which they’ve declared as heresy to the divine might of the gods. Artifacts of arcane power should not be used to provide shortcuts to science. The white council has put significant wealth into scientific discovery but has banned all attempts of ‘magic’. Much of the navy which pushed their meteoric rise in power is still in use… all accept the most ‘cutting edge’ ships most of which were destroyed. Though a couple ships were ‘lost’ …[stolen?]… the church denies this categorically.
Though not actually a culture, I’ve added it here to complete the NINE powers in the Central Empire.
The Church Triumphant, aka the Priests of the Imperial Pantheon, are not limited by nation or culture (though they tend to be human). They are diplomats representing ‘the collected morality of the people’. Warrior priests who try to guide those that rule to the precepts which founded the ‘Covenant of Kings’.
The Church has three major cathedrals in Theturos, Athos, and most recently in Catalan. (based loosely on religious/military organizations established during the Crusades) Three of the 8 nations of the covenant of kings are considered staunch allies of the church. [And often conspire as a block in various agendas.] Of the other 4 culture/nations, three have distinct pagan belief systems and the Novus Ordum are not particularly committed to any one faith. The Church is trying (via various methods) to convert all them to the Imperial Pantheon. Except notably regarding the Scarlet Empire. There is NO proselytizing allowed in Cathay on pain of death. This is the reason why the Scarlet Empire is known as Forbidden Cathay.
Lesser Cultures in the Empire.
- N’dongo Tribesmen of the Feverthorn Forest. [Not really one culture… but basically treated that way anyway.]
- Zinkalo Gypsies [Definitely holding themselves aloof from any of the above cultures. Though they are more or less empathetic to the ‘little people’ bound inside of these nations. They are based on the mythic gypsy fictional archetypes ala Ravenloft.]
- Tuigan Horde culture. – Based on the Mongols when they started to conquer Asia. If you went to the frontier these would be the predominant culture you could have interfaced.
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