Thieves & Kings
“The old wisdom that was borne out of the Fades was forsaken. Kings and mages made tombs more splendid than the houses of the living and counted the names of their descent dearer than the names of their children. Heirless nobles sat in aged halls musing on heraldry or in high, cold towers asking questions of the stars. And so the people of Amber fell into ruin. The line of their kings failed, the White Stag vanished, and the rule of Amber was given over to lesser creatures.”
The Shemite Mindset
The predominant characteristics of the citizenry in Shem are their contentedness with their kingdom, and the conviction that their system of government is for the best. While this has given many citizens of Shem a reputation as “elitists”, believing other realms to be inferior to their own, there is some of this belief grounded in fact. Its single ruler and central control, a strong central army, and content citizenry, is what makes it a potent state.
Shemite citizens are responsible individuals who take the issues of the kingdom to heart and participate in community affairs. Each town has a sense of community that is difficult to breakdown. Even the meanest village on the borders of the realm have a unity that is difficult to explain or understand.
Among the nobility, this is even more evident, with their conscientious devotion to its leadership and government. Nobles see their role in Shem as more of a duty to their people rather than a right to inherited (and abusive) power. Shemite citizens also take pride in their level of civilization. The laws of the land are honored with compassion and diligence, but not so much that criminals are let loose or that prisoners fear for their lives when they enter the road crews.
There are many customs across Shem; some are common, others are regional in nature. A number of the more common traditions follows.
Commoners of both sexes and all races bow their heads to royalty. This is actually law, one that is often enforced with visitors, regardless of who they are or whom the individual royal might be. Shemite citizens greatly respect their leaders, and they want this respect impressed upon everyone who visits their realm.
Burials are followed by wakes. Shemite view death as the end of a journey, which is supported by the clergy of all the popular sects. While they tend to practice separate burial practices, they all believe that some sort of wake must follow a burial, and that the dead should be mourned by the living whether they live on or not.
Ravens are the messengers of the gods. Respect for ravens dates back further than anyone remembers, and this reverence crosses all religious beliefs. Ravens are sacred and should not be slain. The appearance of a raven is said to be the witness of the gods to whatever task is at hand. Therefore, many citizens keep ravens as pets, or provide feeders for them and give them a great deal of latitude in their activities. Similarly, those trying to hide activities try to keep ravens from their environs.
Men and women interested in finding a mate wear a purple scarf. An ages-old custom of unknown origins, it is followed mostly by young and adventurous youth. Lovers also share such scarves as gifts, and as secret signs of affection.
Guests adhere to the rules of the household. When invited to a home, the guest is responsible for making sure they do not upset the household’s daily routine. Shemite citizens believe that the home is among the most sacred places in existence, and its maintenance is essential to the clan’s continued happiness.
Hunting on another clan’s land is forbidden. In the heartlands of Shem, game animals can be scarce, and hunting rights are protected by ancient laws. As such, personal hunting rights are a closely monitored tradition, and breaking this law is tantamount to a betrayal of trust, and the result is low-level ostracism. There are cases when this can be redeemed by offering a local banquet, or by allowing others to hunt on their own lands.
The use of foreign currency is frowned upon. Shemite coinage (primarily the silver knights minted in Seville and Mornhaven ) should be used, and avoid reliance on foreign coins and the impact it might have on the local economy. Trading currency is the monopoly of the merchants, who have the required equipment to properly test, weigh and evaluate the quality of coins in comparison to Shemite versions. Mornhaven and Seville are both exceptions to this, as both communities have a trading-based economy dependent on outside currency, as well as royal mints.
The Shearing Ceremony
Native Ninnellen clans have a custom which is an important part of both common and noble society, the Shearing Ceremony. Developed among the clans as a means of allowing its young to intermingle and learn from other clans and craftsmen, it was in common use among “highland” clans hundreds of years before adoption among the lowland clans near Mornhaven. As the Phaedran culture began to change lowland culture, the Shearing Ceremony was one thing that never left, and remains in practice regardless of clan or geography today.
When a Ninn youth approaches adulthood, wither he will approach his parents, or they will approach him with the news it is time for “The Shearing”. Soon after, a dinner is held to which all other relevant family and clan members are present. At the meal’s conclusion, the youth stands silently, as their parents solemnly dress them in travelling gear. The bottom of their cloak is sheared off and left ragged as a reflection of their condition, an impoverished traveler and vagabond.
From that time forward, the child is considered a friend of the clan, but not a child of it. They must make their own way in the world, using the skills they’ve learned and the interests they’ve pursued to make their way through the communities and clans as they may. Most have a letter claiming their skills or status as a friend of the clan, so they might procure a position in another clan’s household, or under a master craftsman as an apprentice. For years, the child earns their way, improves their skills and knowledge often as a mercenary in some noble clan’s retinue or cohort, proving to everyone they can prosper and make good decisions.
Eventually, when several years have passed, and the child has proof of their skills and achievements in hand, usually a journeyman’s certificate, or the armor and blade of a proven warrior or knight, they can return home to present themselves to their family and clan. Thus vindicated, they are presented back to the family at another formal feast, at which time he is presented with a garment showing his clan’s markings or a shield with the clan’s mark boldly painted. This represents his return to full status in the clan, and often accompanies the achievement of his or her majority; among nobles it means their own knightly lands to prepare them further to inherit, or their own acreage of five to ten acres to prepare them for the coming inheritance of the rest of the farm. Many marriages are often plighted at this time among youthful lovers, and marriages soon follow.
Today, the practice is employed by commoner and noble, Phaedran or Ninnellen, and even all three of the Warduke’s children proved themselves through a Shearing, thus ensuring that their noblest family was willing to ensure its children were not worthless parasites, but worthwhile servants of the realm.
Most communities hold trade fairs, often annual events tied to local commerce, such as farmers driving their flocks to market every fall for visiting merchants to see and purchase them. These trade fairs attract food vendors, camp followers, and even wagon tinkers of all sorts, usually organized under the aegis of The Mangai. Clothing takes on a new perspective at such events, as each person tries to display their best possessions to others.
Pure sporting events, except for religious events such as maintained by the church of Sarrok – The Gray Slayer, are much rarer. Most folk in the Dominions simply don’t have the leisure time. Gladiator games, once popular in the Coranik Imperium, still have some hold in the Border Kingdoms and among the other remnants of that fallen realm. Rural regions of Shem still hold regular archery shoots; small, one-day events with modest prizes donated by local craftsmen, such as a sack of flour, a sack of apples, twelve copper pieces, and a good dagger, are the norm.
Festivals, especially religious ones, and annual celebrations across the Dominions, and often involve an element of “misrule”, such as apprentices clashing in the streets, demonstrations of weapons skills, glorified and wide-spread treasure hunts, and so on. In larger cities, it’s often difficult to find a day when someone isn’t celebrating something, but these observances are rarely city-wide. Monster-taming, wrestling, acrobats, jesters, jugglers, and the sale of confections and “luck-pieces” that tell scary or amusing tales are common at trade fairs.
Travelling troupes often travel with good trade costers, performing full, popular plays at communities along the road. They often sell their own costumes and jewelry after performances to interested parties for extra coin. These troupes are not a disreputable profession; they often find a place among the highest courts and are commonly lodged in the local lord’s manor. Audiences, however, expect some ad-lib to reflect the political climate of the local region, and new jests or mockeries on old plays are often well-received.
Minstrels and bards memorize “the classics” (old plays) and perform key scenes alongside music and dramatic recitations of poems. Audience favorites, the confrontation between god-heroes and dragons, rulers and their usurpers, wise old men and young reckless fools, and love stories are among the most popular. “Oldboots” are shows where performers place old, second-hand footwear upside-down over their hands and with simple cloth draperies as their backdrop, tell many of the same tales.
Taverns are places where festive individuals, gamblers, bards and troupes meet. Locally made beer, cider, and tea are all popular at these establishments. Imported spirits, wine, and exotic ales are also popular, but tend to be expensive and reserved for the wealthy. Above all, however, is the fact that they serve as places where the wealthy and the poor can meet together, and enjoy the talents of their entertainers.
Law and Order
The Warduke holds all rights inherent in his position as the Overthane of Shem, and technically only answers to the Pendragon of Phaedra. In theory, the Warduke, as Overthane of the Clans and the Prince(ss) of Shem, creates all laws, judges all disputes, passes all sentences, and makes any decision (s)he sees fit to make. In practice, his powers would quickly erode all support given by those around him, including the clergy, nobility, magery and the Mangai. Where administration of the realm involves foreign or military affairs, the Warduke is likely to take a directly active hand. Otherwise, the crown remains above the day-to-day administration of the realm, leaving civil and criminal matters to the capable hands of the Magistrates appointed to the Great Council.
The nobility of Shem are primarily human, but include a handful of elves through marriage, while most have strong ties to the temples of Nolom – The Shining One and can trace their origins back to ancient Ninnellen clans with great pride. The nobility are in constant conflict with the growing merchant clans, who are increasingly gaining position, wealth and influence that is eclipsing the abilities of the noble clans. In cities such as the City of Bright Sails and Katarre, where trade is the lifeblood of the economy, only a handful of noble families exist with any real power. Their continued strength lies in the Royal Council and within their own lands, not in the cities themselves. These “country lords” are held in disdain by the wealthy “merchant lords”, but only the noble clans can hold lands at the discretion of the Crown.
There are perhaps a dozen noble clans with any influence in Seville and Mornhaven, along with perhaps another two dozen “minor” clans, who are generally allied to these major clans. Outside of the cities, perhaps a hundred small noble clans rule the local towns and villages, jealously guarding and husbanding their power.
The Royal Council
A assembly growing in reputation, power and influence in the realm, the Royal Council has become increasingly important. Designed as a forum for open discussion, the Council is becoming the source of new legislation and other important decisions in the realm, reinforced by the recent Succession Crisis of TR 1042. The Royal Council is organized as follows;
40 Seats : Nobles : Held only by hereditary nobles, one per named clan. Only half the nobility are landed lords in the Council. The more powerful noble clans can actually influence several smaller clans to follow their leads, either through direct control by marriage or long-term relations.
20 Seats : Merchants : Held by wealthy merchant clans whose loans, trade and interests have aided the Principality of Shem in the past. Only a handful are given to members from outside either Seville or Mornhaven, and usually represent powerful economic control over various imported or exported goods, found among the stronger trade costers.
20 Seats : Craftsmen : Reserved for the various craft guilds in the realm, only established Guild Masters may sit in Council. Masons, Metalsmiths, Clothiers, and Woodcrafters hold multiple seats, reflecting their influence and numbers in the realm, but one from each of the guilds must be present at any full sitting of the Council. The Timberwright’s Guild, supported by the Charcoaler’s has become an increasingly powerful faction as well.
10 Seats : Commons : Reserved for members who do not apply to any of the other categories, namely farmers, laborers, mercenaries, and fishermen. Two are chosen from each existing barony, and are appointed by the barony’s Magistrate; traditionally, the members sitting are among the greatest non-noble, freeman landholders in any given district.
10 Seats : Crown : Reserved for appointments by the Crown, the membership reflects the Crown Council. Generally it includes Princess Adrianna Warduke, the elven and dwarven ambassadors, the primary clerical leadership, and several senior members of the Royal Service.
Members of the Royal Council must be residents of the realm for at least three years, and be duly recognized through a Royal Writ by their regional Magistrate. Such Writs are incredibly valuable, and must be retained to gain access to any sitting of the Council.
The Council sits at least once each year, but no more than four times, and is convened at the discretion of the Warduke, or a majority vote of the Council itself. All members must be notified of an upcoming session, with at least a ten-day allowed to travel from their residence to the capital. A session can be dismissed either by general consensus, or at the Crown’s will after a ten-day has passed in session.
The Council is generally engaged in debating proposals for new public expenditures, foreign mercantile agreements, and local security concerns, though not larger military matters, as the Crown controls the national army.
The Crown Council
The Warduke appoints ten members to positions of personal influence in the realm. Traditionally, these have included the Crown itself; the ambassadors of Imladris and Greysmere; the High Priest of the Radiant Sun; the High Priestess of the Lady’s Grace; the leader of the knightly Order of Avarkiel; the Chancellor; the Chamberlain; the Exchequer-Royal; and the Lord-Marshal.
The Chamberlain is responsible for scheduling the Crown’s itinerary, and organizes any public festivals or holidays of importance to the Crown. The Chancellor is primarily involved in the government of the royal towns and the realm’s courts. The Exchequer-Royal is is responsible for tax collection, administration of the public works (such as trade roads and bridges), and the royal harbor and its fleet, as well as royal licensing and the Mangai. The Lord-Marshal controls the standing military, the regional militia armories, and the various mercenaries (and often adventuring companies) in the realm.
The Royal Service
The Royal Service, under the direction of the Crown, is an extension of the royal household, and the Crown appoints all senior (and several minor) members of the bureaucracy personally. The Chancellor, Chamberlain, Exchequer-Royal, Lord Privy Seal_, Sheriffs Wardens, and Marshals are all considered senior members of the Household. All are members of the Privy Council which (theoretically) meets regularly to advise the Crown, but is often limited to the members of the Crown Council (described above). Any other individual who represents the Crown in the realm, is also called a Royal Servant, albeit a minor one. Generally, the royal service ensures that the feudal lords are complying with the Crown laws and they handle any issues that are considered to be the Crown’s to decide.
The Chamber : The Chamberlain, Sir Artair of Fireoak, is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Royal Household. The potential power of this position is high, because the Chamberlain controls the right of almost unlimited access to the person of the Crown, and all of the royal family.
The Chancery : The Chancellor is responsible for the genreal government and judiciary of teh realm as a whole. Civil officials, including the aldermen of Seville and Mornhaven, usually report to him. He also presides over the Chancery Court, which is the highest civil court below the Crown. The office is currently held by the long-serving Lord Lahr Valliance, also the resident court mage.
The Lord Advocate of Shem can be though of as an attorney general; the Inquisitor General is the crown’s prosecutor; both are skilled litigants. The Lord Privy Seal keeps the Great Seal of Shem and acts as the confidential secretary of the Privy Council and for the Crown.
The Exchequer : The Exchequer-Royal is the chief financial officer of the realm. His responsibilities include the collection of all royal revenues, (through the Sheriffs), from both Marches and royal towns. Revenue from vassal lords is also collected by this office, but is turned over directly by their agents. The Exchequer-Royal also presides over the royal mints in Seville and Mornhaven, and advises the Crown on budgetary matters. The Exchequer-Royal is Sir Marik of Huntington.
The Provinces : Sheriffs are the Crown’s agents within the provincial Marches_, but in most day-to-day matters, they are answerable to the -Exchequer-Royal for financial matters, and the Chancery for judicial matters. There is one for each province. Each Sheriff maintains at least a tower keep (and its permanent Royal garrison) which is considered a royal stronghold and residence. Sheriffs are also the eyes and ears of the realm, providing intelligence on local activities of bandits, general lawlessness and trade.
Wardens are the military governors of the Marches; regions that might one day become a Barony, but are not yet sufficiently secure or loyal. Each has control of at least one fortress and its garrison, and are directly responsible to the Crown. Only the most trusted soldiers are granted the position of Warden in the royal household, as it represents a significant position of independence and might. Wardens spend much of their efforts in subduing local bandits or raiding humanoid tribes, trying to befriend local clans, and in building roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
Magistrates : The Magistrates hold an increasingly important position in the government. They report to the Lord-Advocate of Shem, and preside over civil and criminal cases, as well as pass sentencing within the framework of the national law. In cases involving a sentence of death, or in concerns of 10,000 sp or more, the case must pass before the Lord Chancellor, who acts as the direct voice of the Crown. The Lord-Advocate argues on behalf of the Crown, but evidence and litigation presented can argue on his behalf. Matters involving the nobility, must appear directly before the Crown. The Mangai and the recognized churches also hold their own courts for matters of their own rules, but can have no control over life and limb.
High and Low Society
The Principality of Shem is a fairly typical example of a kingdom in Argoth, but it does enjoy several unique distinctions. It is one of the most informal states in the continent, in terms of its relations between nobles and commoners. All denizens of the Grandwood think of themselves as frontiersmen and individuals, and the distinctions of class and breeding are often ignored. Shem is also a very militarized realm, only a generation or two removed from what often amounts to conquest and occupation by its current rulers. Many military traditions are reflected in the law of the land and the values of the people of the forest kingdom.
Slave : Slaves are not approved of in Shem, and thus slavery is outlawed. The closest thing to a slave in Shem is the convict (described below), who must work in the manner of a slave during their term of sentence. Slaves brought into the realm are not considered property, if they can make it into a royal town, they are considered freemen. Slaves carried on ships harboring in Shem, as long as they never make “landfall” at a dock, are an exception, as they remain “cargo”. Slaves are increasingly common in neighboring realms such as Blackgate or Seareach Castle.
Convict : A Convict is someone of Freeman rank who is currently serving a sentence imposed by a noble or royal court of Shem. Nobility can become Convicts too, but are first stripped of their titles by the Crown. Once the convict’s sentence is complete, they become freemen. Convicts in Shem often work in chain gangs building and maintaining roads and fortifications.
Serf (Villein) : The Crown of Shem does not approve of the practice of binding men to the lands they work, so technically the serf class does not exist. Nonetheless, serfs do exist on border realms, where people have been bound to marginal lands and cannot leave the lands they work nor the homes they live in, except by the express approval of their lord or other ruling noble. Serfdom is, however, commonly found in most other realms of Argoth and even more commonly across Kethira.
Freeman : The Freeman makes up the overwhelming majority of the population of Shem. These are the ordinary folk, ranging from dirt-poor farmers to wealthy merchants who are struggling to gain a wealthy title.
Freemen are addressed by their names. A freeman in a position of importance is usually called Master or Mistress. Such individuals include townmasters, guild leaders, senior craftsmen and merchants, well-known heroes, and so forth; if they have no other titles, they’re called “Master (Name)” or “Mistress (Name)”. Courteous noblemen will also address these people by these titles; a nobleman (other than the Royal clan) who does not do so, is probably being rude.
Knight (Knights-Bachelor) : The lowest rank of nobility granted by the Crown, it does not grant any lands upon the recipient. Usually granted as an award for service to the state, or a lesser noble clan, such as a lord or baron, the rewarding nobleman sends a document to the Crown commending the individual, and the Crown then grants the individual a knighthood. There is a degree of ceremony involved in the actual grant, but battlefield commissions are common during times of war.
In game terms, this means that the individual is considered nobility (even if a lower-class of nobility). When travelling, they can ignore weapons regulations, and may claim shelter from anyone, usually one night’s shelter for themselves and a small party – of not more than six – of anyone, technically even the royal family. The family and heirs of the knight do not benefit from this award, and the spouse or children of a knight are not automatically granted a title. When a knight dies, the title dies with them; it is not inherited by an heir, and the title and any properties associated with it fall back to the original grantor, usually the Crown. A knight who purchases land or other property is not automatically a landed knight; anyone can purchase land rights; to be landed, one must receive
A knight is addressed as “Sir (Name) or “Dame (Name)”. A knight may also be addressed as “Sir Knight” or “Dame Knight”, if the exact identity of the individual is unknown. A squire – the assistants or apprentices of a knight – is usually addressed as “Squire (Name)”, usually because they are the younger sons of often powerful lords.
Men and women who have attained Priesthood in the clergy are treated with the respect accorded a knight; they are not given an actual title by the Crown, however, and are often referred to by a religions own title. Junior officers in the Royal Army are held to be gentlemen and often bear the title of knight. In military matters, they are usually addressed as “Lieutenant (Name)”, but may be addressed as “Sir (Name)”.
Landed Knight (Banneret) : The lowest rank of landed nobility in Shem. WHen this rank is awarded, it is always accompanied by the awarding of a demesne, or entitled landhold. The fief might be small – one village and some surrounding lands, of rinstance, or even lands with no population at all – but it belongs to the landed knight and all permanent residents upon it (except theoretically, those of higher rank) are subject to the rule of the landed knight. The spouse of a landed knight automatically becomes a landed knight themselves, over the same demesne. The heir of a landed knight automatically receives the title if both parents die or step aside from their rulership.
Landed knighthood grants the respect of a normal knight. However, the title accompanies the land; the Landed Knight is in control of, and responsible for, a population of men, women and other creatures housed upon his land grant. Defending them against troubles, staying on guard against troublemakers and criminal plotters among them, and holding the land in the face of invasion, conspiracy and political maneuvering occupy much of their time.
Landed knights are addressed precisely the same as normal knights, however they may also be addressed by the name of the territory to which they are beholden, but only by other nobles. For instance, Dame Kahli Nethwater of Whiterock may also be addressed as “Dame Whiterock” or the “Whiterock”.
Court Lord or Lady : A Court Lord is a rank of great respect granted to men and women who have fought well and hard in the service of the Crown, and are generally known to have committed many great deeds for the realm’s people. The spouse of a court lord or lady is granted no special rank. Children of a court lord or lady, upon attaining the age of their majority, are often granted the rank of knight, but there is no guarantee of this title.
When a person receives the title of court lord or lady in the course of their lives, they receive certain rights and responsibilities. Similar to those of a knight, is is expected that the court lord or lady provide favors for those whom they impose upon. Generally this means hunting down beasts ravaging the local lands, or putting down a knight turned bandit, or some such. Sometimes it requires attending court as a witness or officer of the local noble clan, to assist in adjudicating a particularly difficult case.
Court lords and ladies are addressed as “Lord (Name)” or “Lady (Name)”. A priest who advances to the rank of High Priest is accorded the respect, if not the title, due a court lord or lady. The same applies to a senior officer of the Royal Army, such as a captain.
As with a knight, a court lord or lady who acquires property does not automatically become a landed lord or lady.
Landed Lord or Lady (Baronet) : A landed lord or lady has all the rank and responsibilities of both a landed knight and a court lord or lady. The spouse of a landed lord or lady is a landed knight. The children of a landed lord or lady are knights upon achieving their majority. The heir of a landed lord or lady, if themselves a court lord or lady at the time of their parent’s death or should they step-down from rulership, becomes the landed lord or lady of the lands of their inheritance. If the heir of a landed lord or lady is not a court lord or lady at the time of the death of both parents, or if they both remove themselves from the title, he/she becomes a landed knight.
Landed lords or ladies are addressed precisely as “Lord (Name)” or “Lady (Name)”, as court lords and ladies are addressed. However, they may also be addressed by the name of the territory they have charge over, though only by other nobility. For instance, “Lord Farmington of Ashbourne” might be addressed as “Lord Farmington” or even just the “Ashbourne” or “Lord Ashbourne”.
Baron or Baroness : A rank granted only to nobles who have demonstrated that they can rule over fiefs in proper fashion, and that they have sufficient loyalty of the nobles under them to earn a position and lands held only by a few directly below the Royal family itself. A potential baron must have been a landed knight or landed lord or lady for a period of at least two years before being considered for the position.
The spouse of a baron is a baroness; the spouse of a baroness is a baron. The children of both are considered knights upon the attainment of their majority. The heir of a barony must be confirmed in the rank of baron or baroness by the Crown when his parents either die or step aside from rulership; if the Crown confirms the title, the heir becomes the new ruler and takes the title of baron or baroness. If the Crown does not confirm the title, the heir becomes a landed knight, and usually an unhappy one at that, as their lands become largely forfeit to the Crown.
Nobles of Baronies are addressed as “Baron (Name)” or “Baroness (Name)”. By other nobles, they may be addressed by the name of the fief; for example, Baron Magriel Wyrmlyre of Citadel may be addressed as “Baron Wyrmlyre”, “Baron Citadel” or simply the “Citadel”.
Prince or Princess (The Warduke) : The rulers of Shem bear the title of Prince or Princess. As most principalities are a part of a larger kingdom, the Grand Principality of Shem is an independent nation and therefore, the title of Prince or Princess is the highest there is.
In theory, the children of the Prince or Princess are considered to be knights upon attaining their majority, but in reality, are treated with much the same respect as barons. When one is designated the heir, they become a landed lord, complete with territory, traditionally the ruler of Mornhaven – City of Bright Sails, as that city is a royal town, owned directly by the Crown. They work with the Townmaster, learning to rule on a small scale before assuming the full title and responsibilities of the Crown.
Persons with the rulership of Shem are addressed as “Prince (Name)” or “Princess (Name)”, more commonly “Your Grace”. They are also often addressed as “Sire (Name)” or “My Liege Shem” among other nobility.
The Oath of Fealty
The Oath of Fealty is an oath which defines the relationship between the Crown and his nobles, of landed Knight rank or higher. In the Oath of Fealty, the new noble promises to be loyal to the Crown and their direct noble lord; to support them in times of peace with taxes from their lands and in times of war with fighting men and supplies; to acknowledge the heir to throne and to swear fealty to them when they achieve the throne; never to conspire against the Crown; and to obey the laws of the Crown and her legal representatives. In return, the Prince or Princess of Shem promises to support the claim of the noble and his heirs of his fief; and to help defend their fief if it should find itself under attack.
In Shem, as in most feudal states, all land belongs to Princess Adrianna Warduke, as the chief noble of the realm. Lands and titles are granted by the throne in exchange for military service, feudal taxes and other support. Feudal nobility tend to regard their own interests as more important than those of the Crown, but they are kept in check by the method of the Crown’s creation of royal demesne – and his efforts to limit the power of his vassals set to administer that demesne.
The Red Princess has the right to taxation of all peoples of the realm, and has outlawed the taxation of others as independent nobility; all standing armies are incorporated under the Crown’s aegis, and large forces of military are illegal under Crown Law; and last, but not least, the Crown has the power to over-turn any law or treaty enacted by any of its vassals. This is why independent warlords rarely survive long in the realm; either they submit to Crown Law and its authority, or face extinction.
This rule is not tyrannical, however, despite draconian measures taken early in the rule of the Crown. A fair system of taxation pays-off the vassal lords, so that they don’t have to enact their own; lords are able to maintain a personal domain guard of no more than a cohort (120) of personal troops, ensuring their own protection; and the Crown cannot remove nobility from power, unless evidence of either gross negligence or treason can be presented in open court. These laws have made the realm strong and secure.
Shem’s nobility are responsible for keeping the peace in their own demesne by providing a local watch or other constabulary, they must judge matters of local justice, they must quarter and provide for any Royal troops stationed within their lands, and they must collect all taxes and tariffs in the name of the Crown.
Shem maintains a standing military of about 1000 troops. In times of war, this number increases another 2000 or so through baronial and feudal lord militias, and another 2000 or so from mercenaries and town militias within a few weeks.
Most troops in the realm are equipped as light infantry, with studded leather armor, light shields, dagger, short sword, and longbows. Roughly one company in five has access to light horses for rapid patrols or response to rumors of raids, but are stabled at whatever fort the unit has command of.
Rank and File :
While there is no formal badge or other marking to identify rank within the armies, tradition holds that the junior and senior officers wear a wolf-skin cloak and hat, gifted upon their receiving a commission. Higher-ranked officers bear the marks of knighthood, whether or not they have the title; chain and plate armors, spurs and long swords or other weapons of their choice, such as war hammers and battleaxes. Identifying a trooper’s rank is therefore a matter of identifying their gear.
Troopers/Soldiers, are the common warrior and support personnel in the royal military. Even smiths, ostlers and woodcrafters attached to the military have this rank, and are given a rudimentary training which they must maintain with regular drill.
Sergeants, have command of a File or Squadron of a “hand” of troops, and are considered a “junior” officer. A watch post is usually garrisoned by a file, usually located along an important trade road, and often little more than a fortified stone barracks hall, possibly a stable and storage for passing military resupply.
Lieutenants command a Company of soldiers (roughly 20 troops), customarily a “hand” of files, and the typical garrison of a border fort. Most border forts are stone towers that house barracks and storage, and are built on high vantages overlooking the nearby roads and lands for miles. They sometimes have stables attached, but are usually isolated features with little chance of resupply in times of war. They often bear beacon fires on their roof to alert nearby settlements or other forts along a border.
Captains command of a Cohort or a “hand” of companies, but officially consist of one-hundred and twenty (120) officers, troopers and support personnel. March Wardens, typically have access to a cohort. Support is usually attached at this level, consisting of smiths, wainwrights and ostlers, who provide the supplies and armories to smaller divisions of the cohort.
Cohorts usually man the largest forts available to the military, traditionally squared shell keeps of a very standardized design, recently designed and built by the army. While this allows regular understanding of supply needs and capabilities to the army, and has allowed them to be quickly and cheaply constructed, it also means that the same tactics can be used to defeat them regardless of where they are. Although local terrain can force changes during an assault on one, their interior is exactly the same; armories, barracks and kitchens are located identically, regardless of location.
Marshals, are the commander of an Army, customarily a “hand” of cohorts, though this number rarely operates at full strength during peace time. Officially, an army is considered to consist of one thousand (1000) officers and troops at full muster. While they are mostly a “paper wolf”, with only a couple cohorts at active muster during peacetime, they can reach this number within a ten-day once the call goes out to local nobles to arm for war.
The Armies of Shem
The 1st Army consists of the royal town garrisons, and both the Royal Low Guard and Royal High Guard forces that defend the person of the royal family and its personal demesne.
The 2nd Army consists of the Royal Stag Guards, a knightly order of the Crown; the Elvenguard, a company of elven knights from Imladris, who operate in the Crown’s interests, usually in the northern realms; and the Royal Scout Cohorts, which are simply yeomen from ancient clans who have sworn direct fealty to the Crown, and patrol the forests of Archenshield and Elmshire as their vassal obligations. There is also a company of mages who are attached to the army who operate under the aegis of the local army, and are based from Fort Threshold, the royal fortress in Citadel.
The 3rd Army is actually the Royal Navy and its three ships, but also counts a cohort of retired soldiers with skills in combat and anti-piracy operations, who are on the rolls as yeomen, living in the farms around Mornhaven.
The 4th Army consists of two cohorts of archers, known as the “Swords of the Warduchess” (1st Archers) are based from Fort Threshold in Citadel; and “The Forest Storm” (2nd Archers), have charge of two forts on the eastern border, Fort Raven’s Rock, an isolated frontier fort with access to the sea, and Crossfort, a lonely trade fort watching the border and trade road beyond Longbridge, a lonely and difficult calling.
Both cohorts are actually over-sized and could technically be counted as two cohorts, but are listed as single for intelligence purposes. This army also once controlled another fort north of Waterthorn, but it was ceded to the Barony of Tauria during their secession.
The 5th Army consists of two cohorts of archers, known as “Fury of the Mountains” (3rd Archers), based from Fort Threshold in Citadel; and “The Serpent-Crushers” (4th Archers), operating from two forts in the Freestead province, Fort Giantbane and Fort Stonebow. Fort Giantbane is built well north of Grimstone, and looks to curtail bandit and ogre raids coming out of the Dreadwaters. Fort Stonebow is located deep in the forests along the trade road out of Grimstone, and protects a valuable silver mine.
Again, both cohorts are actually over-sized, but recorded as single cohorts for intelligence purposes. This force has great experience, and often transfers its soldiers into other cohorts as officers.
The remaining armies are intended to house the vassal troops of the realm. The 6th Army “Leaves of the Wind” and 7th Army “Song of the Sea” are to be raised from the royal demesne of Ambarin and Seaholme, respectively. The _6th Army keeps a core company of archers in Fort Wargrave, a small fort along the Forest Walk trade road, near the village of the same name. The 7th has two companies of archers in active service outside the province; one recently attached to Sentinel to guard the valuable trade route to the Underdark, and a second located in the stronghold of Myrkfast, serving the local lord attempting to tame the wild realm known as the Dreadwaters. The soldiers of the 7th formerly served with the 10th.
The 8th Army, 9th Army, and 11th Army are raised from the vassal realms of Archenshield, Freetead and Winecastle, respectively. They have no active forces, though most barons maintain the title among their yeomanry, for ease of their own muster.
The 10th Army was once the holding unit for vassal troops raised from Waterthorn, but with its secession, the army was dissolved and stricken from the rolls. Officers remaining from these units were re-assigned to fill the active garrisons of the 7th.
The 12th Army “Blades of Honor” is the holding unit for any mercenary forces hired in times of war, and includes any adventurers or other independent forces operating under the Crown’s control, even in times of peace. For example, if a registered adventuring company is operating as a scouting force in a March, they are paid through the aegis of the 12th Army, answering to an appointed officer of at least Captain rank, who in turn, answers directly to the Crown.