The Empire of Solerne
Official Name: Great Empire of Dawn, Empire of Solerne
Solerne began as a small coalition of villages and forts around the Bay of Dawn, each protected by a small god or goddess who looked after the well-being of their worshippers, striking bargains of mutual respect in order to ensure their mutual existence. All of that came to a test when the Demon Princes began their war of conquest, invading the land from the East. The deities and their villages joined closer than before, forging an alliance that would culminate in the forming of the Solerne kingdom, thus named after the leader the gods had chosen: Zuze’en, goddess of the Sun and overseer of Beldatz, the most secure of the settlements thanks to its location between mountain cliffs.
From the mortal’s alliance, a man named Petrigai joined forces with a woman named Edarra, and both coordinated a brilliant defense against the demonspawn. So strong was their joint strategy that they rallied many warbands and militia under their banner. With the alliance of the gods growing stronger in return, the Solernian forces soon drove the demonspawn away, while their gods destroyed their demon masters in the Land of Dreams.
Instead of dissolving back into its member states, the Solernian force consolidated into a kingdom, with Petrigai and Edarra marrying and vowing to share power equally. After that, Solerne has grown in size, with its rulers knowing how to adapt their ancient traditions for the new generations, under the guidance of Zuze’en and the rest of the Solernian pantheon.
250 years after its founding as a kingdom, Solerne had grown so much that it threatened to collapse, with many nobles vying for favor and warring with each other for land. Guided by their wise goddess, emperor Petrigai and empress Ederra (all Solernian rulers take the names of the first ones) made a series of reforms to stabilize the nascent empire. They moved the capital from Beldatz to Jasokari, a city further south and home of Petrigai’s original noble house.
Solerne’s history is marked by strife between the different Noble Houses, held together by the authority of the Imperial throne.
These are the most important of the Solernian Houses; there are more of them, but they are too small to merit notice in this overview.
House of the Sun: Solerne’s ruling class, they are no true House in the sense that its members are not related by blood and its membership is rather fluid. The House of the Sun is the seat of imperial power, and the emperors and empresses renounce their former name when they assume the throne and join this House. The rest of its members are the bureaucrats, officers and magistrates of imperial government, who control all the unclaimed lands, both the free lands to be awarded to new minor Houses or to independent settlers (Askeherri) and those that are designated as training and staging grounds for Ceremonial Wars (Liskaherri).
House Izcari: The house where all the empresses have come from, they have no land except very large holdings around Jasokari, but they are the guardians of the Shrine of Zuze’en. They train the main forces of the Hawk Maidens and, unbeknownst to the Empire as a whole, it is the headquarters of the Moonshades.
House Iritzecu: The house where all the emperors come from, they also lack lands of their own except large holdings around the capital city. They train the main forces of the Falcon Knights as well as host several fighting schools.
House Tzelan: A small but powerful house, it has often provided the imperial army with its greatest generals. The throne has traditionally allowed House Tzelan with some liberties in the way it conducts its business, as they are completely loyal and devoted to the welfare of Solerne.
House Mixil: This house created the concept of Ceremonial War (see below) because they could not afford the casualties of real warfare with other Solernians, when they have the border deserts to contend with. They are warlike by necessity, and cling to their hostile lands because of its mineral riches.
House Miyalli: The Miyalli are actually a people apart from the Solernians, but they agreed to join the Empire when they were surrounded by lands loyal to the imperial throne. The Miyalli are a peaceful, agrarian people with a love for knowledge and contemplation. Some of the deeper spiritual movements in the Empire originate from Miyalli lands.
House Xipoc: This house is small but incredibly prosperous and rich. Their few lands yield an incredible bounty every year, which has paid for many influences in the capital, as well as financed many of Solerne’s roads and public works. This prosperity is due to the Xipoc’s expertise in geomancy and other forms of sorcery.
House Matzidari: Another small house whose fortune resides in hosting the cradle of Solerne itself: the Bay of Dawn and the Maze of Entry, where the goddess Zuze’en rose to her position of power. The land around the capital Beldatz is harsh, but it rests in a meeting point with the Viryuni and Maevindra elves, as well as with the Kerrostian dwarves, so there is a lot of commerce moving through its roads.
House Tezcatzi: A modest and hardworking house, it is famous because its nobles are encouraged to work alongside the commoners. Nonetheless, they are greatly influential as their lands are Solerne’s breadbasket.
House Xillitari: They host the shrine to Eka’ii, and that colors their general disposition: reckless, raucous and troublemakers. Its nobles engage in many little wars both within the House and with other Houses. The best, if more undisciplined warriors bear the name of Xillatari.
Solernian culture is complex and dynamic, which has allowed it to withstand half a millennium of continued prosperity. These are some of the salient points of Solernian culture:
Gender Equality: Zuze’en devoured the essence of her husband, the Lambent Falcon, as he was struck down by the Demon Princes. She encompasses both feminine and masculine aspects of divinity, and wished her followers to find such a balance themselves. Because of this, men and women are considered equal, but different. Gender roles such as warrior and housewive are equally respected, and there is no shame in a male performing house work or a female taking up arms, although there are separate styles of both housework and combat for each of the genders. Equality does not mean conformity, and Solernian philosophers accepted that there are fundamental differences between men and women, but none of these made one superior to the other.
[On the Webcomic: Beldatz is suffering a severe spiritual disbalance, which is making the Solernian philosophy of gender equality to be skewed.]
Ceremonial War: The emperors understood that a society that does not move is bound to decay, and conflicts that are not resolved fester into conspiracies. Ceremonial War was created to vent the hostility between Noble houses without compromising the Empire’s strength. A Ceremonial War is declared by the emperor by petition of two Houses in conflict, and then both House armies clash in a designated battlefield, using wooden and blunted weapons. The goal of Ceremonial War is the taking of prisoners, which created many techniques for subduing an opponent rather than killing him, which later evolved into Solernian martial arts. Officers and nobility are worth more than rank soldiers, and whoever ends with more “points” is the winner. Prisoners are exchanged and the conflict is resolved in favor of the victor. There have been cases when the loser reneged the result and attacked with real weapons, but the Imperial troops joined the battle with the legitimate winner and punished the offender with even greater losses.
Fighting Schools: To keep warriors and nobles from becoming idle, the techniques developed in Ceremonial War were compiled into fighting schools, which found lethal applications of them to fight the enemies of Solerne. Many Houses host their own fighting school and its own fighting style, but those hosted by the House of the Sun are open to anyone who wishes to enter. “Swordmaster” (or “swordmistress”) is the title awarded to one who has achieved above average proficiency in a school’s style, and is by law given some leeway in their actions, acting like semi-official agents of the imperial throne or their own House.
Warrior Orders: A step above fighting schools, warrior orders are formal organizations and small armies in and of themselves. They fulfill a certain duty for the Empire, and are usually sponsored by one or more shrines dedicated to the Solernian pantheon. The most famous orders are the Falcon Knights, who receive orders directly from the emperor, and the Hawk Maidens, a much smaller but esteemed order of girl warriors, whose members usually graduate into a greater order, a fighting school or back to their former lives. A totally unknown order is the Moonshades, an organization of spies and covert operatives under direct command of the empress.
Writing: There are three alphabets used in Solerne. Common Solernian is a collection of phonetic symbols that are put together to convey the sound of a word; High Solernian is made up of ideograms, abstract symbols that convey whole meanings; a variation of High Solernian is used on magic writing. Royal Script is not writing at all, but drawings on paper or stone; with each figure trapping the essence of entire paragraphs and readable only after proper meditation by the knowledgeable. Royal Script is used in great magic works.
Religion: Solernians worship their whole pantheon, although there are shrines devoted to one or more deities dotting the territory, from the small and humble roadside shrines to Jorita to the grand temples of Zuze’en. Priests are devoted to one deity, but they pledge allegiance to the entire pantheon.
Education: Before assuming command of the Solernian pantheon, Zuze’en was a goddess of learning and contemplation, and she wished her followers to be educated. Fallible as mortals are, such designs have not been fully achieved, but the Solernian education system is one of the most advanced in Nahast. All major cities and larger towns have a school where children attend to learn to read, write and perform the duties of a Solernian citizen. There are two schools, actually, one for nobles and magistrates which teach the finer points of government such as strategy, history and administration, and one for commoners, which teaches basic history and the basics of many crafts and professions. Commoners may attend noble schools if they pass the necessary exams. Schooling is free and mandatory until the age of 12. Further schooling is voluntary and charges different fees as knowledge and training becomes specialized to certain areas. Boys and girls attend schools in co-ed classrooms, and there is one teacher per class who takes children from their first year to their last, and then goes back to teaching young beginners again. The position of teacher is greatly respected, and has total and complete authority inside a classroom. Small communities either send their children to school in a nearby town or petition for an itinerant teacher to be sent by House authorities.
Social Strata: There are very distinct social classes
in Solerne. Commoners comprise farmers, artisans, tradesmen, and other
workers, while nobility assumes positions of command, whether in government,
the army or the clergy. Commoners may rise to the position of magistrates
with hard study and work, and from then own his family is considered
minor nobility, with all the rights and responsibilities of the position.
There is a nascent class of rich commoners emerging from traders and
artisan guildmasters; they have been abusing family relationships and
corruption amongst minor magistrates to gain an increasing influence
in imperial affairs. While not all of these commoners obeys this norm,
it is a disturbing majority.
Cities of Solerne
Art and story © 2002-2008 Alejandro Melchor.
Nahast Campaign Setting and Product Identity © 2002-2008 Proyecto Nahast
d20 System and the d20 logo © 2000-2007, Wizards of the Coast.
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