Government of the Empire of Splendour

The Emperor and the Imperial Court
The Emperor, Bearer of the Flame of Heaven, is the supreme ruler of the Empire of Splendour. In name, at least. The reality of the situation is that successive power struggles over the three thousand years of the Empire's existence have gradually eroded the powers of the Emperor to that of a mere figurehead. Ensconced in the sprawling Palace of Reflection of the Morning Sun, physically isolated from the rest of the Empire, the Emperor has little do pass the time except oversee the petty scheming of the Imperial Court.

The position of Emperor is not hereditory. When an Emperor dies (Passes to the Jade Garden), the divine portion of his soul, his Essence known as the Flame of Heaven, is reborn in one of his subjects. Discerning which subject is a matter for the Priests of the Divine Flame, who through divination and meditation locate the new Emperor. Although the new Emperor is quite often an infant, this is not always the case. The current Emperor, Received Wisdom, came to the throne at the age of ten. The oldest age of elevation for an Emperor was Emperor Studious Tranquility, at 65.

This would seem to give the Priests of the Divine Flame great power, in that they can decide who becomes Emperor and then manipulate him to their advantage. In the past, this has certainly been the case, leading to the War of Many Blessings and the War of Red Wind amongst the more dramatic cases. However, the truth is that, with the weakened authority of the Emperor, real power lies elsewhere these days.

The Imperial Court comprises of two distinct factions. The first are high ranking Magisters who have achieved their position through hard and (mostly) honest work, such as the Magisters of the Twelve Rivers who set legal policy throughout the Empire. The second faction derives from the families of elevated Emperors who are bought to the Palace of Reflection when the new Emperor is raised. Over the centuries, these families have formed a hereditary class of courtiers with little function except to bicker about seniority and protocol.

The Bureaucracy: Magisters Administory and Magisters Judiciary
The Empire is ruled on a daily basis by a vast army of bureaucrats. Any Imperial Citizen may attempt to join the bureaucracy, provided that they can pass the necessary examinations. In reality, since it costs money to take the exams, this privilege is limited to the richer members of society. It is not unknown either for exam results to be manipulated to ease the passage of favoured candidates, although this is technically a capital crime.

All members of the bureaucracy begin as a Clerk of the Fragrant Hills, working their way through the five ranks of clerk before they can specialise either as Magisters Administory, who oversee the daily running of the Empire; or as Magisters Judiciary who are responsible for legal matters. Time spent at each rank of clerk varies from individual to individual, and some remain clerks all their life. Each rank of clerk is achieved by passing further exams.

Clerk Ranks

  • Clerk of the Fragrant Hills
  • Clerk of the Glittering Waters
  • Clerk of the Emerald Seas
  • Clerk of the Morning Snow
  • Clerk of the Golden Disk
Magisters Administory are responsible for collecting and allocating taxes within their assigned region, to monitor Magisters of lower rank, initiating public works (according to central policy), regulating the Magisterial exam system and so on. As with the clerks, each rank of Magister Administory is attained through another set of exams, and the rate of promotion through the ranks varies between individuals.

Magister Administory Ranks

  • Magister of Dawn and Birds: responsible for a ward.
  • Magister of Morning and Orchids: responsible for a district.
  • Magister of Noon and Jade: responsible for a nome.
  • Magister of Dusk and Diamond: responsible for a province.
  • Grand Magister: responsible for nations under Imperial control, normally based in Reflected Glory.
There are, essentially, three Grand Magisters with any real power - those of Utashar, Ut'Bharma and Dronistor. Other Grand Magisters exist for provinces that are no longer part of the Empire, such as Oksa and Anhoi, but the lethargy inherent in the Imperial system means that the positions still remain.

Magisters Judiciary are empowered to enforce the law in the Empire of Splendour. To become a Magister Judiciary, one must first pass through all the same five ranks of Clerk as a Magister Administory and then progress to the Judicial branch of the Magistery as a Clerk of Five Scrolls. Once again, progress through the Judicial ranks requires passing examinations.

Magister Judiciary Ranks

  • Magister of the Succulent Gourd: oversees a ward. Able to try civil cases and ratify legal paperwork for births, deaths, marriages etc.
  • Magister of the Longing Star: oversees a district. Authorised to hear criminal, but not capital, cases.
  • Magister of the Six Winds: oversees a nome. Authorised to hear capital cases except treason.
  • Magister of the Silent Earth: oversees a province. Authorised to hear any case.
  • Magister of the Twelve Rivers: law lords based in Reflected Glory. Authorised to change or create laws.
Magisters of the Succulent Gourd and Longing Star tend to travel around their regions with a regular schedule so that plaintiffs know where and when they can be contacted. The higher Magisters tend to be based in governmental offices. Any citizen unhappy with the judgement of a Magister may take his or her case to a higher-ranking Magister, although the higher one gets the slower the legal process becomes.

All Magisters Judiciary have the powers to subpoena witnesses and deputise agents from amongst the citizens who are not criminal, insane, or 'deemed to be under the influence of supernatural forces'. They have the power to decide cases and pass sentence, within their level of authorisation and according to guidelines laid down in the Classic of Just Retribution. There is no jury or defence council under Imperial Law, but for a criminal case a Magister must be presented with four pieces of evidence, although the definition of a 'piece of evidence' covers anything from an incriminating item to a flimsy eye-witness account, and allows much that might be considered circumstantial in other legal systems. For capital cases (rape, murder, destruction of government property, treason, the use of destructive magic, Magisterial corruption), this increases to six items of evidence.

Magisters Judiciary are awarded a grant to maintain a peace-keeping force known as the Guard of Unswerving Vigilance. All Guards swear an oath to serve the Emperor, and punishments for corrupt practices are harsh. The exact numbers, arms and training of the Guards varies from place to place, depending on how honestly the Magister Judiciary has applied his grant. Non-lethal weaponry like clubs and staves are common, as are Guards trained in unarmed techniques. Armour is typically a quilted pentesh or leather jerkin. More heavily armed and armoured guards, backed up by a magician or two, are held in reserve for high threat deployment.

(c) 2006 The Creative Conclave.
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Anhoi River States
Empire of Splendour
Imperial Calendar
Imperial Culture Part One
Race, social order, language, geomancy, the Nine Arts, births, marriages and deaths.
Imperial Culture Part Two
Law and order, magic, Imperial Couriers, travel.
Imperial Culture Part Three
Arts and entertainment, bathhouses, dragon scales, clothing and costume.
Imperial Provinces
Imperial Religion
Khazarate of Vaarta
Queendom of Mopendor
War of Many Blessings

Discuss this article

Dividing the Empire
The administrative divisions of the Empire are simple but variable in scope.
Ward. The smallest administrative division. This can be part of a city, a whole city or a collection of towns and villages in the countryside, usually covering a population of 100-500 citizens.
District. This can be a single large city or several medium-sized rural towns, usually encompassing 5-10 wards.
Nome. A subdivision of a province that is typically composed of 3-12 districts and contains several large cities and associated rural areas.
Province. Imperial provinces are those areas that typically were once autonomous regions. The four remaining Imperial Provinces are Utashar, Ut'Bharma, Dronistor and Vorsheeva. Former Imperial Provinces include Anhoi, Oksa, Denra-Lyr, Vaarta and Mopendor.