NOBILITY & SKAA
| SKAA |
Upon his Ascension, the Lord Ruler reordered human physiology to fit the needs of his new Empire.
While his loyal supporters formed the noble caste, the rest of humanity formed the working foundations of the Final Empire—a nation of serfs. Skaa were altered to be hardier, more durable, and more fertile. They can easily subsist on the stunted brown plants they cultivate, and can endure harsher beatings.
Years of interbreeding with the nobility have lessened these traits, however, to the point that skaa and noblemen are indistinguishable. The caste system remains, however. An assaulted noblewoman would have the city guard by her side in an instant; a female skaa can be raped and beaten without fear of consequence—so long as she is destroyed, to prevent the birth of any half-breeds. Fear of the Inquisitors has ensured that most half-breed children are destroyed.
In cities, a lucky skaa demographic is given some measure of freedom: Skilled artisans, often in families, have permission to own personal workshops. Some master blacksmiths, woodworkers, tailors, and painters have all been skaa. They take a quiet sort of pride in their elevated status, and are pleased to sell their wares to the nobility—who cannot help but recognize their skill. Behind the scenes, however, many of these skaa-owned shops are fronts for thieving crews . . . Some are also very professional.
| NOBILITY |
Opposites and masters of the skaa, nobility enjoy lavish keeps and plush country estates. Formal wear has not changed for a thousand years—suits and vests for men, billowing gowns for women—but somehow fashion still takes precedence. Fashion, along with relationships, politics, music, art, and games, occupy noble gossip. Indeed, while many have personally mistreated skaa, most are totally ignorant of the death around them. To them, the skaa underground is a fanciful myth—and to speculate on the nature of skaa is considered counter-culture, at best. At worst, it is treasonous thought crime, punishable by law.
The most powerful noble families comprise the Great Houses, all of which own keeps in Luthadel, capital of the Empire. They own multiple holdings throughout the Final Empire, and "own" many smaller houses with whom they have contracts. Between the Great Houses, tension and intrigue are the eternal clime. One house is always seeking to usurp another—by forming an alliance with yet another. The Lord Ruler does little to stop this, allowing the Great Houses to purge themselves every few decades. New houses join the ranks, and old houses ones fade; the Final Empire remains stable.
Below, a list of the Great Houses, as they currently stand:
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THE STEEL MINISTRY
The theocracy of the Final Empire is managed by the Steel Ministry, priesthood of the Lord Ruler. One can spot an obligator—a priest—by his gray robes, shaved head, and intricate eye tattoos. Each division, or Canton, of the Ministry has a different tattoo pattern; size and intricacy of the tattoos indicate rank. Obligators are omnipresent, whether they can be seen or not. Know that they are always watching.
No citizen of the Final Empire can live without contact with the Steel Ministry: Every day, a crew of skaa workmen collects the bodies of their fellow skaa, and the deaths are tallied by the Canton of Resource. Like regular clockwork, noble houses are visited by the Canton of Finance to collect the monthly tithes. Keeps and mansions are festooned with religious imagery, as approved by the Canton of Orthodoxy. Every man, woman, and youth fears the Canton of Inquisition.
The Lord Ruler owns the world, and the Steel Ministry is the cage he has built for it.
Below, the list of Cantons in the Steel Ministry:
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KANDRA & KOLOSS
| KANDRA |
In skaa folklore, mistwraiths are horrible demons that emerge at night, lurking in the Mists for which they are named. If you dare to venture out in the Mist, a mistwraith will devour you—and return wearing your face. In actuality, the mistwraiths are just shambling amalgamations of scavenged bones—disturbing, but totally harmless. For a mistwraith's "mature" form, however, the myths hold more truth . . . [MORE TO BE ADDED]
| KOLOSS |
Guards and Inquisitors suffice in controlling Luthadel and the Central Dominance—but for the outer Dominances, a more direct threat is needed. A mature koloss stands anywhere from ten to twelve feet, bulging to the point that its blue skin tears in folds. They each wield massive, slab-like blades, the weight of which alone can crush a man’s back. The koloss know only two emotions—boredom and rage—and they obey the Lord Ruler and his Inquisitors unquestioningly. [MORE TO BE ADDED]