The World of Allrianne and the Kingdom of Tintagel

24 Dec

Another section from the Zero universe …

The World of Allrianne and the Kingdom of Tintagel

Allrianne is effectively divided into three continents, formerly four (see below). Maxima and Minima, separated by the Inner Sea, were once ruled by the Thousand-Year Empire before its collapse. To the east, on the far side of the Desolation, lies Hangchow, home of a civilisation that is barely known to the denizens of Maxima and Minima; to the west lies the Saragossa Archipelago, presumably once a continent itself before being shattered by an unknown force somewhere in the distant past. There are a handful of island nations near both known civilisations, mostly engaged in sailing and fishing.

Very little is known for certain about the history of Maxima and Minima prior to the Thousand-Year Empire, although stories of lost emperors and god-kings echo down the ages. What is known is that a mid-sized city in Southern Maxima developed the first true understanding of magical principles, allowing it to rapidly conquer most of Maxima (as far north-east as the edge of the Desolation) and then much of Minima. Unlike previous conquerors, the Thousand-Year Empire was smart enough to integrate vast numbers of the natives into its system, allowing them to join the empire and work their way up the ranks. A culture hegemony was effectively imposed that would last until the empire’s fall, although rumours of hidden civilisations in unexplored regions of Minima or deep within the Desolation continue to this day.

Very little is also known about what happened to the Thousand-Year Empire. Records are sparse; there was a magical disaster of some kind (the Eternal City and the southern half of the Inner Sea are no-go zones as far as the vast majority of people are concerned) and the subsequent civil war destroyed much of the remaining imperial administration. Civilisation itself took a major blow, almost collapsing before reforming around the remnants of imperial administrators … now styling themselves kings and queens in their own right. A thousand years after the Fall, Maxima and Minima are divided into a number of kingdoms that compete endlessly for power. Although the kings claim to want to reunite the empire, it is growing clear that none of them can do it.

(In our terms, Maxima is Europe, Minima is Africa and Hangchow is China.)

The Kingdom of Tintagel sits on the northern edge of the Inner Sea (roughly Southern France, in our terms.) To the north, it is bordered by the Princedoms of Ardrossan; to the north sit the kingdoms of Galashiels and Balamory; to the east lies the abandoned core of the Thousand-Year Empire; to the south, on the other side of the Inner Sea, sits the kingdom of North Cairnbulg. Tintagel has a long history of rivalry with Galashiels (over disputed land) and North Cairnbulg (over trade). Despite that, in the hopes of cooling down tensions, King Rufus married his son to the Princess of North Cairnbulg.

Like most kingdoms in the post-empire world, Tintagel was founded by a warlord who found himself in a position that allowed him to translate his military force (he was originally the commander of the Tintagel City Garrison) into long-term power. The kingdom expanded until it reached its natural borders, swallowing up a number of minor kingdoms and principalities, either through force or negotiation. Over the years, as the continent stabilised, Tintagel became one of the great powers, engaging in overt and covert conflict with its rivals as it struggled for supremacy. The royal line, too, changed over the years. Very few people will admit it, but the current monarchs have no link to the original monarchs, let alone the Thousand-Year Empire.

In theory, Tintagel is ruled by King Rufus the Bold of Tintagel (known as King Rufus the Fat to his braver subjects.) In practice, owing to the high concentrations of magic within the kingdom, there are a number of limits on the king’s power. First amongst them is Parliament, divided into the House of Aristocracy (long-term landed aristocracy) and the House of Money (elected by taxpayers.) While the king still wields substantial power, parliament can limited him by refusing to vote funds or confirm treaties. Indeed, majorities in both houses are enough to dispose a king, although historically this has only ever been done as a rubber stamp once the king was safely removed from power. The king is thus forced to wheel and deal with parliament if he wants to get anything done.

Below that, the Great Charter guarantees the rights of all subjects, from the proudest lord to the lowliest peasant. Outside wartime, even the King cannot break the Great Charter lightly; Parliament may quietly agree with him, but they are unwilling to allow such a precedent to be set without resistance.

King Rufus and Queen Eleanor have one son; Henry, Crown Prince of Tintagel. Henry is married to Queen Saffron of North Cairnbulg; so far, they have two young children. Below the Crown Prince, King Rufus has three daughters, five nephews, seven nieces and a number of other relatives who are in the line of succession and technically have the right to be called prince or princess.

The Crown Prince is, technically, his father’s closest advisor and commander of his armies. In recent years, however, there have been stresses and strains on their relationship: the Crown Prince wants more power and freedom, including an estate of his own, while the king wishes to keep as much power as possible concentrated in his own hands. The Crown Prince does not even have anything to reward his followers that doesn’t come from his father. While he is still in line to inherit, he has started to withdraw more from courtly life.

Politically, Tintagel is divided into estates (ruled by the king and his noblemen), freeholds (independent settlements) and semi-independent cities. By tradition, the freeholds and cities enjoy a considerable amount of freedom in exchange for tax, although in practice this can vary widely. Falladine, a city on the border with Galashiels, is effectively ruled directly by the king’s representative, as skirmishes are not uncommon along the borders. The king is still permitted to recruit soldiers from the cities, although the army’s commanders prefer peasants. They tend to be less aware of their rights.

Landed aristocracy are expected to pay a certain amount of money each year in tax, as well as serving as the king’s representatives and army officers. Commoners who earn more than a set amount each year have to pay tax, but are compensated for this by the right to vote, stand for parliament, etc. (Social mobility is quite high, particularly in the cities, but there is a certain amount of discrimination in favour of the children of taxpayers.) The aristocracy often tries to integrate particularly brilliant or successful commoners into its ranks, normally by proposing marriage alliances. (The children of such marriages are considered equal to the children of pure-blooded noblemen.)

Power and position within the aristocracy depends on landholding; the larger the estate, the more powerful the nobleman. It does tend to vary at times, depending on ready cash and a number of other factors, but generally land equals power. Senior aristocrats may be relatively secure in their positions, yet even they may face challenges from lesser family or a sudden assassination that sees a shift in the balance of power. There are constant rumours about aristocrats who get into debt, putting up chunks of their estates as collateral.

There is no (legal) slavery within Tintagel, although lower-ranking peasants are often tied to the land (with the cities as escape valves for particularly rebelliously-minded peasants, who might otherwise cause trouble.) There is also a remarkable degree of sexual equality; women can do almost everything a man can, save for serving in the army. It isn’t uncommon to encounter households – even the noblest – led by a woman.

There is no organised religion within Tintagel. Most people worship – more accurately, honour – their ancestors, regardless of whatever they actually did. A handful of peasants worship the land and seasons, celebrating the changing of the seasons with elaborate ceremonies. The monarchy tries to get people to honour long-dead kinds, but success is very limited outside

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