The Request of Master Jemeaux
Once a district of the cruel Durmost Empire, the city of Venklat valiantly struggled to power in overthrowing the once-continent-spanning menace. Leading a rebellion that laid the groundworks for Venklat’s own glorious empire to arise, the heroic Devroille] gathered like-minded Chosen, and waged an unceasing war against the Lineagists, and though she tragically lost three of her four sons and her seven daughters—all, miraculously, Chosen—in the conflict, her most loyal and steadfast son, Alfair, survived to see her dream of a free Venklat. When cowards of the Durmost Empire assassinated her with poison, Alfair realized that the city of Venklat would never be free so long as the Durmost Empire remained, and so reluctantly but dutifully resumed arms against the Lineagists. His struggle endured through the lives of his grandchildren, but he and his eight wives ultimately succeeded in not only carving a section of the Durmost Empire—the righteousness that remains the Venklat Empire of today—but in crippling the cancerous giant until it fell into a decay that later generations of Chosen would conquer for themselves.
Upon Alfair’s death, the Venklat Empire he had founded was broken into eight houses, one for each of his wives: Urbost, the first and strongest of the Houses, named after Alfair’s first wife; Tinille, the second House, named for Alfair’s first son and child of his second wife, a once great House that has fallen to depravity and disrepair; Enfir, the third House, named after Alfair’s last daughter and child of his third wife, a House with a tradition of strong intrigue but few warriors; Ligette, the fourth House named for Alfair’s fourth wife, and the only House to never produce an Emperor or Empress; Renmas, the fifth house and named for Alfair’s reportedly favorite child, with Urbost and Misraim one of the Great Houses; Fralais, the sixth House, named for Alfair’s first daughter and child of his sixth wife, has produced the most Emperors; Misraim, the seventh House and named for Alfair’s first grandchild, the son of the seventh son of his seventh wife, a House that has been Urbost’s chief rival since its founding; and Irmein, the last House, named of Alfair’s last grandchild, a House as crippled as its founder but as stubbornly resistant to death.
The liberation of Finost followed soon after Alfair’s death, though treacherous Timel resisted the wisdom of Venklat and betrayed the founding Chosen. Bhranka was never fully conquered, either, though the permanently frigid region was of little interest to the Emperors and Empresses. Mankost remained a canker to Venklat, and resisted Venklat’s enlightenment just as thoroughly as it had refused Durmost’s dominion. The remainder of the continent, however, enjoyed nearly 600 years of prosperity and divine providence under the Chosen, before Timel’s consistent skirmishes and sabotage lead to the first successful slave rebellion—aided by cursed Lyei, a Chosen who betrayed the purpose of the Venklat Empire in pursuit of personal power. Other regions fell from the Empire’s care over the following 300 years, until only the heart of the Empire remained.
All Chosen are citizens from the time of their first Experience, and receive full rights of leadership and responsibility for the care of the forlorn. Each member of a House selects their leadership, from mayoral and council positions through the Kings and Queens of their House. The leaders of each House—the Kings and Queens, and the Senate—select the Emperor or Empress upon the death of the current Emperor and Empress. The Emperor leads the nation, guiding the Kings and Queens to the benefit of all, while an Imperial Senate guides him, providing advice and recommendations from experts throughout the Empire.
Within the Kingdoms, each is ruled by their Monarch, with each guided similarly to the Emperor, with a Senate elected from among the Chosen. Unlike the Emperor or Empress, however, some Kingdoms retain a hereditary inheritance of leadership—provided, of course, that at least one progeny is among the Chosen. In the event that no progeny of a sitting King or Queen of such a nation is among the Chosen, then the Senate of that nation selects a new King or Queen. Urbost and Misraim, uniquely, not only do not practice hereditary procession, but in fact forbid dynasties, with a new King or Queen chosen from a line within the House who has not ruled as Monarch.
The Venklat Empire is not a particularly devout nation, though it officially pays homage to the One and the Eight, with shrines and a church established in every major city. While individual devotion to the faith runs the gamut from exceptionally zealous to aggressively indifferent, the fact that devotees to the Divine make up nearly a third of all the Empire’s free citizens means that the Church wields more power than it does in other nations with similar apathy among its populace.
All slaves are required to attend a service at either a church or a shrine at least once per week, and while many avail themselves as an opportunity to have additional time off work (and have their quotas appropriately reduced), all but the most blind of the clergy realize that the hearts of many just aren’t in it. Still, the Patrons prefer obedience to disobedience, and attendance at services—coupled with its mass prayer—is at least a form of obeisance.
Although Kitanthar is nominally chief of all Patrons, Venklat venerates Jiezou as at least his equal as the creater of humanity. Still, all the Patrons excepting Ornegald receive official praise, with his exclusion due to his lack of magical contribution.
GEOGRAPHY & ECONOMY
Between the ranges, the Venklat Empire rests on a massive plateau, with the nation’s average elevation nearly a mile above sea level, with the drop toward the Durmost Wreckage precipitous and well guarded.
A series of glacier-fed rivers water (dominated by the massive Revoinille, combined with the world’s most comprehensive irrigation system and some of the most fertile soil on Finost, have left the Venklat Empire not only self-sufficient agriculturally but a net exporter of food—for a price.
The mountainous borders of the Empire also have a series of extremely productive mines, particularly iron, gold, and gemstones. A series of managed forests on the mountainsides also provide construction lumber for the nation, and more importantly, a habitat for monsters and other sources of magic supplies and ingredients for the Chosen. The warehouses of the wealthy are said to hold untold fortunes in hides, skeletons, and organs from all manner of creatures.
DIPLOMACY WITH OTHER NATIONS AND RACES
The Venklat Empire does not officially recognize any human nation, excepting only the city-state of Jimen. All other nations are viewed as either being in a state of rebellion or betrayal. Unofficially, however, the Empire practically recognizes the need for trade, and that not all grievances are equal.
The hordes of Bhranka have remained a sore subject for the Empire. Though some speculate that untold wealth lies beneath the permafrost of the southern tundra, the barbarians have proven unruly and chaotic even when brought into the fold for brief periods. The primitive magic utilized by the southern tribes has been an issue of some scholarship within the Empire, with some few embracing their shamanistic ways as somehow more “pure” or “natural” than other, more refined magics. Still, the babarians have been a useful buffer against the Iminis since the last Dragon Hunt, and their willingness to trade the carcasses and organs of their unique fauna for scrap iron has been of great profit.
The remnants of the Durmost Empire were the largest Ether Maelstrom in Dimueva, until the Elvish catastrophe have that distinction to Miliendair. The unpredictability of magic within the Maelstrom has left the once-great empire a place of chaos that Venklat struggled to tame even in its peak of power. Now, with the Empire’s current struggles, relations with the Durmost Wreckage are strained and informal, as various strongmen within the Wreckage attempt to build their own kingdoms. Still, the raw might of the Durmost peoples is a force that all the nations of Finost rightly fear.
The Finmol Collective is the Empire’s largest trade partner, providing rare metals (especially adamantium), dyes, textiles, and ingredients from species not native to the Empire. Venklat has done its best over the years to keep the Collective little more than loosely allied city-states, and while the Collective has demonstrated unity in rare times of desperations, the efforts of the Empire to destabilize the Collective have mostly been fruitful. Of all the rebellious territories against the Liberation of the Venklat, the Finmol Collective seems most likely to return to the protecting arms of the Empire.
The fabled Holy City, Jimen holds a place apart from the remainder of the continent, as not only did the Empire never claim it, but never desired to. Set apart and holy to Jiezou, Jimen has remained distinct from the politics and wars of other humans. At the far end from the continent, it is unlikely that much trade would take place between Jimen and the Venklat Empire today, even if Jimen were a producer; as is, however, the Holy City remains a place of pilgrimage and scholarship, with the most ancient and complete libraries on the continent. All priests, by custom, are ordained there, and all national and empirical leaders are proclaimed there.
Venklat feelings toward Lyein are complex, to say the least. The first region to succeed in rebellion against the Empire, Lyein nonetheless is seen by some as Venklat’s spiritual successor, or as a wayward child. The unfortunate decision not to care for the Forlorn as they should be is the greatest distinction between what Was and what Is in Lyein, with a Forlorn even sitting as reigning King. Still, trade between the two remains robust, and though Venklat is troubled by the prospect of a truly dominant Lyein, it is still preferable to the notion of anathematic Sirence or the Sebamenos abomination rising to great prominence.
Though nominally liberated under the Venklat Empire and ruled over by the Durmost Empire, the reality is that the unruly wasteland dominating the northwest of Finost has never been under any control save its own chaotic musings. A warrior culture and a fierce pride have left this fractured people in a constant state of king-of-the-hill, with few cities remaining longer than the strength of the local strength to maintain it. Little is grown or produced in Mankost, with most subsisting on forage and hunting—and the barbarians of the north choosing to devour objects of profound magical importance and wealth, and finding little worth acquiring save weapons or armor.
Venklat has enjoyed a relatively strong and stable relationship with the Miliendair, and Elves in general: their contributions to magic theory has been instrumental in Venklat’s own rise to power, and Venklat can well sympathise with the Elves’ perceived frustration with their purpose. Alone among the non-human races, the Elves have maintained regular and meaningful diplomatic relationships with the Empire, no doubt perceiving their inevitable return to their former glory.
The reclusive continent of Quirharandar has ever been a mystery to not only the Venklat Empire, but humanity as a whole. Known mostly through legends of hideous monsters and horrifying aberrations, the continent has remained closed to trade with all save the Dwarves, and even then only in one heavily regulated city. Various Emperors have offered luxurious rewards—even to the Forlorn—for any verifiable information from Quirharandar, but no would-be-claimants of such a prize have ever returned.
The kingdom and trading empire of the Dwarves was an object of cold envy at the height of the Venklat Empire, as the naval might of the Dwarves prevented the Venklat Empire from duplicating the success of the Durmost Empire. Too, the diligence with which the Dwarves protected the secrets of their own magic specialty has left the Empire lagging far behind in the knowledge of magical items—a void that some claim is responsible for the Empire’s decline. The fact of the Dwarves Lineagist bent profoundly upsets the proper balance of the world, and that the Elves have been in at least mild dispute with the traders has left little hope of friendly relations between Rhobrah and the Empire—though trade relations have strongly benefited both parties.
Seba and Menos
The sister-states of Seba and Menos are seen as one of the most profound failures in Venklat history. The once proud region of Sebamenos stood as Venklat’s crown jewel, a region of vast natural resources and a people of particularly strong magical progeny. But when they could no longer control the region with Lyein’s rebellion, the Empire watched in rage when it split itself. Were the sister-states not the producers of the best ceramics—including weapon-grade and armor-grade ceramics—mithril, and, recently, adamantium, Venklat would likely prefer to pretend the nations didn’t exist. Still, the Empire is watching with strong attention to the adamantium mine and the potential to drive a wedge between the two states.
Despite their close alliance with the Elves, the Venklat Empire has maintained a barely-concealed fascination with Sinlal and the Fey. The raw mystic ability and ties with the Fey, as well as their direct relationship with Miran, has put them in a frustratingly innate understanding of magic—an understanding that the Fey either can’t or won’t share in a way with less magically-entwined humans. While the Fey are too scattered and chaotic a people to establish anything like diplomatic or trade relationships in a significant way, individual relationships between the Chosen and particular Fey are rampant, with Fey by far the most common non-human race in the Empire.
A cold bitterness smolders in the heart of the Empire toward Siran. Though the Empire’s early days nearly worshiped the dragons of Siran as gods and upheld them as the perfect creation of the Patrons, the dragons themselves rebuffed every attempt at friendship. As the Empire fell into decline and ruin, the dragons silence and refusal to help further exacerbated their feelings of being scorned. Still, it is a capital offense within the empire to kill a dragon, or for a Forlorn to wear the image of one as a symbol, and the Empire fervently hopes to win the approval of the revered beasts.
Relations with the Orcs of Tesmondal have been strained, in large part because of the Orcs refusal to engage in the politics of humans. The nation built largely on intrigue and power can find little common ground with a people who—though versed in deep and ancient magics—have no interest in either. Where the Empire knows itself to be the inheritors of the world, the Orcs see themselves as its guardians, and as protectors of the balance between law and chaos. Little trade ever passes from Tesmondal, as the Orcs largely view trade with bewilderment and curiosity.
The Timel Empire is the only nation with which the Venklat Empire is officially at war, and has been in a constant state of war for nearly a thousand years—were Timel not the world’s deepest and largest magic desert, the war would likely have been swift and brutal. As is, however, Timel enjoys relative immunity to Venklat’s most powerful weapons, while Timel could never win a battle—let alone a war—with Venklat outside their desert borders.
The tiny state of Vegil has quietly been one of the Empire’s strongest allies, as Venklat has ably maneuvered the surrounding nations to leave Vegil in peace. Vegil has responded with a burgeoning scholarship that has fundamentally altered various perceptions on magic theory, and has maintained the greatest network of libraries on the continent. A second agricultural power, Vegil and the Empire have worked in tandem to avoid competition, and to harm the pricing schemes of their rivals to control the flow of foodstuffs around the continent.
Alone amongst all peoples of all continents, the Venklat Empire has never extended even a token of friendship toward the Iminis, nor would any such token be received. A species whose seemingly emotional state is rigid hatred, the Iminis have been a source of violence, and their Dragon Hunts have been denounced as the greatest evil in all lands. Yet, there are a rare few among the Empire who entertain dreams of placing the Iminis under heal, and using them as an unstoppable army to re-conquer Finost.