Exploring the Halls of Arden Vul: Institutions

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Institutions of Empire[edit]


The Archontean empire is subdivided into thirteen themes, or administrative units. Six of the themes are on Mithruin: the city of Archontos itself, plus three agricultural and two mountain themes. Three more are mainly military in nature, and encompass the seas and trading lanes of the North, South and Center. The last four reflect overseas possessions: Borealios, the Grain Islands, Narsileon and Arcturos.

The title of the officers in charge of themes varies by their nature, being either an eparch (for Archontos the city), an archon (the agricultural themes of Mithruin), a strategos (the mountain themes of Mithruin, the theme of Borealios, and the naval themes), or an exarch (the Grain Islands, Narsileon, and Arcturos).

Archontean Bureaucracy[edit]

The vast imperial bureaucracy is divided into three main branches, the House of Coins, the House of Sight, and the Private House. Each branch is led by a thesmothete living in Archontos, who consults regularly with the basileus about decisions affecting the empire. In each imperial theme or exarchate, the chief bureaucrat for each branch of the administration is a logothete, who administers a small army of chartoularii, enforcers, guards, and so forth. Service in the bureaucracy is common for middle- and upper-class citizens.

House of Coins[edit]

Perhaps the most hated of the three branches of imperial government, the administrators of the House of Coins are responsible for all direct and indirect public taxation, and for operating the five imperial mints. In addition to being responsible for paying 10% of their annual income to the officials of the House of Coins, citizens are liable to a bevy of other taxes, including tolls, usage fees, extraordinary ‘aids’, and so forth. In Narsileon the current logothete of the House of Coins is Lord Alexandros Junienos.

House of Sight[edit]

The smallest of the three official branches of government, the House of Sight is concerned with the road system, with postal service, and with diplomacy. While formally a subsidiary office within the House of Sight, the Drome is in practice a separate bureau, with its own logothete who acts with full independence. In Narsileon, the current logothete of the House of Sight is Lord Rebecca Xenarcheon.

The Drome[edit]

Technically a bureau housed within the House of Sight, the Drome is the name of the imperial secret police. So important is the Drome that its facilities are usually distinct from – and much larger than – those of the House of Sight; indeed, the Drome operates as an utterly distinct agency, and its regional leaders are given the title of logothete (a title equal to their putative supervisors in the House of Sight). Special agents of the Drome are known colloquially as the Black Lotus, and are greatly feared.

The Private House[edit]

The bureaucrats of the private house are responsible for administering all property and financial rights held directly by the imperial family. These duties include managing the emperor’s personal estates, collecting revenues due from tenants on those lands, ensuring that tolls and other exactions held directly by the emperor are paid promptly and in full, and so forth.

Although its scope might seem the narrowest of the three branches of government, the Private House is, in fact, the largest of the three branches, with numerous chartoularii serving in regional offices of the Private House all over the empire. In Narsileon, the current logothete of the Private House is Lord Georgios Hellakreon, called ‘Half-Hand’ for obscure reasons.

Archontean Army[edit]

The Archontean emperor maintains a standing army composed of five legions of heavy cavalry (cataphracts), six legions of heavy infantry (scutarii), and three legions of light infantry (velites). In addition, the emperor directly controls nine cohorts of the tagmata, or imperial guard.

Each legion is led by a polemarch and is supposed to contain 3,000 soldiers. Legions are subdivided into 6 cohorts of 500 soldiers, each led by a komes; each cohort has 5 kentarchia of 100 soldiers, each led by a kentarch; each kentarchia has two pentarchia of 50 soldiers, each led by a pentarch; each pentarchia is divided into five konturbia of 10 soldiers, each led by a dekarch.

The imperial tagmata are slightly different. Each cohort contains 1,000 soldiers and is led by a taxiarch. Each cohort is divided into two banda of 500 soldiers, each led by a komes; each bandon is divided into 5 kentarchia of 100 soldiers, each led by a kentarch; each kentarchia is divided into 5 konturbia of 20 soldiers, each led by a dekarch. Common soldiers (privates) are called spatharii.

Archontean Navy[edit]

The Archonteans have a long history as a naval power, even as their only real threats by sea are Wiskin long ships and pirates from the coast of Ostralios. The Archontean navy is built around the dromon, a fast galley with one or two banks of oarspeople plus a lateen sail. Light dromons carry 108 oarspeople in one bank, where heavy dromons carry 180 oarspeople in two banks. A super-heavy ship, the chelandion, carries 300 oarspeople in three banks. Each ship is captained by a novarch. A unit of 2-20 ships is called a squadron, and is commanded by a droungarios. A unit of more than 20 ships is a fleet, and is commanded by a strategos.

The main Archontean naval forces are located as follows: the Karabisoi, or home fleet, based in Archontos; the Grain Isle squadron, based in Ostentown; the Irthuin Squadron, based in Narsileon; the Borealios squadron, based in Westholm; the Ostralios squadron, officially based in Agoreon but actually based in Arcturos; and the Iron Isles Squadron, based in the Iron Isles. Each ship carries a complement of marines numbering 1/6 the number of oarspeople; these marines are trained as, and have the same prestige as, members of the imperial tagmata.


The seven collegia effectively monopolize the formal training in magic use in the Archontean empire. Originally there was but one collegium, the Order of Thoth, and it was strictly limited to the nobly born. Resentment of this stratification was one of the causes of the infamous War of the Sortians and Theosophs, which nearly destroyed the empire some 1,200 years ago. A result of the war, alongside general imperial retraction from Irthuin, was that magical training became more egalitarian. Seven collegia now exist, each with its own identity and/or specialty:

  • The Order of Thoth: generalists; the original order, and still politically powerful
  • The College of Perception: illusionists and magic users interested in illusion
  • The Imperial Academy: generalists; few in number; snobby, limited to uppermost nobility
  • Collegium of Macrina: academics and researchers; their members produce the largest number of new spells
  • New School of Arcane Might: generalists and necromancers; follows a philosophy of domination
  • Order of the Fifth Circle: summoners and those interested in the planes
  • Collegium of Cinders: elementalists

A few well-placed magi suspect that an eighth, secret collegium exists.

The Factors[edit]

The Factors are large, empire-wide mercantile enterprises. All of the major Factors have constructed a Factor-Hold in each of the major Archontean population centers. Individual merchants belonging to the Factor can thus travel between cities and towns and be assured of a secure base for their transactions. The Factors also offer banking services: one can deposit monies or goods for secure storage, and one can also procure letters of credit to be redeemed at any Factor-Hold (thus reducing the amount of cash one must carry). While the four large factors have truly empire-wide reach, a number of more regional factors also exist.

The four large Factors are:

  • The Silent Factor
  • The Golden Band
  • The Prosperity Factor
  • The Wisdom Factor

Each of the four has certain idiosyncrasies. For instance, members of the Silent Factor publicly wear attire that covers all but their eyes and refuse to speak to non-members at all; they use elaborate sign-language (and, occasionally, interpreters). The Golden Band is the largest and most prosperous of the four.

Knightly Orders[edit]

The Black Legion[edit]

A private knightly order composed of very noble and thus very haughty members.

Knights of the Azure Shield[edit]

A knightly order that is more militarized than the Black Legion or Sacred Band. It is divided into septs of twenty knights (each with squires). Septs typically act as independent units.

The Sacred Band[edit]

A knightly order of paired lovers, some male-male, some male-female, some female-female. Typically, the pair includes one fighter/knight and one magic user. While proud of the order as a whole, members are typically more devoted to their partner than to the order. This renders the Sacred Band more valuable for heroic individual (or dyadic) missions than for large, collective endeavors.

Organized Crime[edit]


Benevolent Brotherhood[edit]

The Brotherhood is the empire-wide thieves’ guild, active in all major Archontean cities and towns. Members are ranked: Little Brothers are the rank and file thieves; Brothers run cells within a given area; Elder Brothers are those with a certain geographic jurisdiction and authority over 7-10 cells; Eldest Brothers are a shadowy handful of senior thieves who coordinate empire-wide activities as needed.

In sizable population centers (e.g., Narsileon), the Brotherhood operates a public ‘front’, where those in need of the Brotherhood’s services may deposit requests for service with a named Brother (or with a randomly-chosen one, if none are known to the petitioner).

The imperial authorities normally do not intervene in the daily affairs of the Brotherhood, leading many to speculate that the Brotherhood pays regular ‘tithes’ to avoid scrutiny.

Vengeance Factor[edit]

The empire-wide public assassin’s guild. While it is legal to hire assassins for private matters (especially matters of honor), Archontean law prohibits the Vengeance Factor from targeting public officials.

As the bureaucracy is very large, many individuals are ‘protected’ by their status. It is not uncommon, therefore, for a person to hire the Vengeance Factor to satisfy his grudges immediately before taking public office. Assassination that is not conducted by the Vengeance Factor is strictly prohibited, and is punished with the most gruesome of public torture.

The Vengeance Factor is quite selective in what contracts it accepts, at least partly because members of the Factor who are killed in the service of a contract may not be avenged. In Narsileon, the Vengeance Factor operates a guild-hall in the Grain Market district, where Plashey the Face facilitates contracts.


Lords of Justice[edit]

A recently-formed, secretive, alternate thieves’ guild, designed to challenge the Benevolent Brotherhood’s monopoly. The nature, size, and motives of the Lords of Justice are unknown. The Brotherhood is quite concerned about this threat, even as the imperial authorities have so far turned a blind eye to its activities.

Thorcin Recovery League (TRL)[edit]

The name given to organized Thorcin resistance to the Archontean Empire on the continent of Irthuin. Members of the TRL use distinctive blue arrows and are said to be led by a certain Eadric Strigona. Stated goals of the TRL include the expulsion of the Archontean empire from Narsileon and Arcturos.