Larassa has a long history. It began six hundred years ago, when Larassus Sarno began the process of conquering and absorbing the petty kingdoms surrounding his. Binding the subjugated kings to him as dukes, counts, and other nobles, Tibertus was able to expand his dominion. The fact that in exchange for fealty, the lords were allowed to maintain hold of their land while also enjoying the protection and friendship of the most powerful warlord on the continent did much to ensure the loyalty of the early nobility.
It was Larassus’ great-grandson, Tibertus Sarno who finished expanding his family’s dominion to cover much of the continent. He named the newly finished kingdom after his great-grandfather. Shortly afterwards, Tibertus was visited in his dreams by the Child-Gods, who revealed the true faith of the Twelve to him. After this revelation, the Gods appeared in Kuthven and presented themselves to Tibertus who knelt before them. The Child-Gods performed miracles to prove their divinity and named Tibertus and all who held the throne after him to be their most favored servant. From there the Twelve recruited their first priests and established the Temple of the Twelve, which stands to this day as the official faith of Larassa.
From that early point, the Sarno family continued to expand and strengthen their kingdom. Tibertus Sarno’s granddaughter Merenia Sarno, one of the most talented wizards of her time, established the strong magical tradition, pouring mountains of gold to found the Seven Towers, the first school of wizardry in the known world. She also spearheaded an artistic Renaissance in Larassa, encouraging the nobility to support and honor artists. And it was Merenia who first combined art and magic, developing the Merenian philosophy of magic, which continues to dominate magical study in not just Larassa, but most of the world.
Her son, Tibertus III took the wealth, power, and national pride his mother had fostered and turned it to the further expansion of Larassa. Tibertus III expanded and strengthened the Larassan navy, turning it into a force through which Larassa was able to make contact with nations across the oceans. First contact with Vassalor was made, which rapidly grew into a powerful alliance, becoming the only foreign power to be recognized as something other than part of the Beyond, a concept the King himself invented.
The establishment of colonies on other continents and the taking of tribute from Beyonder nations brought riches beyond anyone’s imaginings into the Royal Treasury. Contact with other cultures also brought new influences into Larassan society, and while they were largely ignored by the commoners, the nobility devoured every novelty they could get their hands on. Larassa’s dominance was almost uncontested. Larassa’s sister nation of Heild was strong enough militarily to maintain their independence from Larassa, but not enough to truly threaten it, and despite the best efforts of Larassa’s generals, the savage Gurmites continued to prove almost impossible to bring to heel. But beyond these minor concerns, Larassa was an unstoppable force, the greatest nation that had or ever would be.
The monarchs following Tibertus III were not particularly notable in and of themselves. They continued the work of expanding Larassa’s influence in other lands, explored further outward, and continued to rake in ever increasing amounts of wealth. The nobility threw themselves into the spirit of the Golden Age, devoting themselves more and more to the pursuit of art, magic, and pleasure. The endless search for fresh and exciting ideas and experience became more and more an obsession amongst the increasingly jaded nobility.
Despite what most historians say, the decline began before the Gurmite Deicide, or even the Reaverkin. It began with a series of weak kings and queens who were more interested in luxury and court intrigues than in the expansion or even maintenance of the empire. They encouraged the lavish spending and decadence of the aristocracy, who were growing ever more distanced from the common folk. The coin that should have gone to the military or navy was diverted to fund pet projects or orgiastic celebrations. Funding into magical research, and thus Larassa’s status as the most mystically learned nation was only maintained because it was directly linked to the study of art.
Then came the Reaverkin uprising. The deteriorating navy was no match for the spine-ships, who were able to cripple Larassa’s ability to exercise its control overseas. Likewise, the flood of wealth began to trickle away as ship after ship of tribute was lost to Reaverkin pirates. The decline in wealth did not go unnoticed, but the royals of the time were ill-equipped to deal with it. Their response to the problem was to throw money into the navy, and installing new officers in command. The new funding was not nearly enough to make up for the damage already done, and the replacement of seasoned naval commanders with royal toadies and yes men only further added to the problem.
Without a strong navy, Larassa lost its ability to control the Beyond. The tribute ended as vassal after vassal cut ties with the Empire. Despite the growing lack of gold in the Treasury, the revelry of the aristocracy continued without pause. The difference was taken out of the commoners through rising taxes and draconian fines connected to even the most minor of crimes.
The Gurmites spelled the final end of Larassa’s power. The power of the Joining decimated the Larassan military, leaving it a weakened shell that has never recovered. Larassa itself began to shrink as an ascendant Heild began absorbing the more distant parts of the nation. It is the nation of the Weeping God that now dominates Tulvus, while Larassa has become a shadow of its old self, smaller, weaker, and poorer than it has ever been.
Regardless of the decay, the nobility continue to live as they have for centuries. Those who cannot afford to keep up with the constant spending go into debt to save face. Those who can afford it do so through ludicrous taxes and whatever other means presents themselves. The nobility does its best to ignore what has happened to their kingdom, diverting themselves with art, and parties, and politics that mean little but cost lives. What power is left in Larassa comes from its magical tradition, which continues to both draw in much needed wealth and act as one of a few, small points of pride the former empire can console itself with.
Recent years have brought new troubles to an already deeply troubled land. The tensions continue to rise between the impoverished and ill-treated common folk and their lordly masters. Rumors of revolution have begun to take root everywhere, whispers that have begun to be picked up by the aristocracy, who respond with new taxes and whatever punishments they can conjure up. One way or another, something is going to give, and soon.
For Larassans both common and noble, life is art. It is the most basic concept of their worldview. Everything can and should be done with a thought towards aesthetics and expression, to the art of it. This is true of religion, magic, love, hatred, and even politics. Everything is art.
The national preoccupation with all things artistic means that almost everyone in Larassa is at least conversant about art. In fact, your average country farmer is likely to know more about art than any of his counterparts in other nations. Similarly, just as everyone knows a little about art, so too does everyone have something artistic they do. Whether it is music, woodcarving, dancing, a Larassan’s life is generally held to be lacking if it does not have some form of direct artistic expression.
This tendency is universal to Larassans, but changes in how it exhibits depending on whether you are noble or common. For the nobility, art is very strictly regulated. There are set forms, procedures and pageantry that must go into anything for it to be art. Similarly, there are established authorities who can dictate what is or is not “true” art. This obsession with form and ritual is actually a recent development, a trend that began only about seventy years ago.
For the common folk, art is simpler. While they may argue over whether one piece is better than another, the common folk hold to a general attitude of “you know it when you see it.” They tend to less formal and more fluid with their art, though they also tend to be less comfortable with the avant-garde.
Passion itself also holds a special focus in the culture of Larassans. Both love and hatred hold a powerful grip on their worldview, and are held onto for a lifetime and sometimes even generations. Blood feuds are matters of art, but also deeply personal. If one’s family was wronged by another family, then one is obligated to seek retribution. Similarly, friendships often transcend a single lifetime; it’s not uncommon for a friendship between two families, common or noble, to maintain so close a friendship that they might as well be one family. For Larassans, passion is eternal. What a Larassan feels, he feels passionately and often his emotion will outlive him.
This belief in continuity pervades Larassa. The Temple of the Twelve includes a strong focus on the veneration of one’s ancestors, particularly one’s parents. A man is expected to live up to and honor the memory of his father, and likewise a woman her mother. The work of one’s ancestors must be kept alive, as do the passions that drove them. And an insult to one’s parentage cannot, and will not stand.
This has led to the development of certain families having traditions such as a piece of art that each member of the family adds a piece to, until the work itself becomes a sort of family tree. These “blood works,” have created some of the most powerful, complex and enduring pieces of Larassan art.
Despite this focus on living up to the past, Larassans also believe in living life for its own sake. Again, life is art. There is a culture wide belief that inactivity is tantamount to death. Work and play must be both attacked with the same amount of energy. This does a little to explain the nobility, who often lack much in the way of work and must compensate with play. The common folk have been forced by economic burden placed upon them to work most of the time, with little time for pleasure.
Magic, like art, insinuates itself into all of this. Magic is common in Larassa, though strongly controlled by the nobility. By law, a commoner can only gain magical training with the permission of their lord, who will pay for their education in exchange for the services of the soon-to-be wizard. Similarly, entering into the priesthood is something that is open to the common folk, but it is a rare thing for a commoner to become a priest. Thus magic is generally restricted to the nobility, with the few commoners who gain it often being drawn into the aristocracy in some fashion or another. Magic is in fact, one of a very few forms of upward mobility in Larassan culture.
But despite this, magic is pervasive in Larassa. Most of the domesticated animals in the nation have been replaced by magically bred and perfected subspecies. The cows are healthy, resistant to disease, and produce beef and milk that are both healthy and tasty. The military itself is now almost entirely reliant upon its magic users. And while few commoners are wizards, there are many who can cast a cantrip or two.
Days of the Week
Months (32 days per month)
|Month of the Forge
||Month of the Glove
||Month of the Coin
||Month of the Blade
||Month of the Helm
||Month of the Scream
||Month of the Scale
||Month of the Whisper
||Month of the Spear
||Month of the Bright
||Month of the Hand
||Month of the Shroud
Amongst the aristocracy, fashion is a language and a contest. The combination of colors, accessories and perfumes are used to nonverbally express emotions and intentions. But it is also a never-ending game of one-upmanship. The more over the top and opulent the outfit, the more honored the wearer. Larassans favor color and ostentatiousness. Hair is powdered or dyed into a variety of shades, or wigs are worn in a plethora of colors. Magic is woven into the fabric of clothes, so that a gentleman’s cape appears to be made from starlight, or a lady’s shawl from fire. Innovation in fashion continues unabated in Larassa, no matter how poor the kingdom has become.
As stated above, amongst the nobility fashion is a language all of its own. The most important components of this language are color and flowers, either worn or as perfume. Colors are the primary tool of expression, with every color having a specific message behind it. Failure to observe or read the color of another nobles clothing is a sure path towards social disgrace, or at the very least to embarrassment. The language of colors exists amongst the common folk as well, but it is not as strictly observed and usually manifests as superstition, with different colors being considered lucky or unlucky based on different circumstances. For example, red and yellow are generally universally lucky, while it is unlucky to wear anything but white at a funeral. Another example would be an apprentice wearing a silver ring to bring them luck in their studies. Below is a list of the most important colors and their meanings.
- Red: One of the most popular colors in Larassa, Red is indicative of wealth, luck, and happiness. When someone wears red they are either enjoying one of those things, or they aspire to them. Take note of that; a noble wearing a red shirt may be happy, or he may be wishing very hard that he was.
- Black: “I don’t want to play.” That is what black clothing says. It is the color of neutrality or disinterest. A black dress or suit is a way of declaring that one has no intention of getting involved in any social or political intrigues. The message of the color is respected, but any abuse or deception intended by wearing black results in disgrace. If you plan to state your neutrality, then you better follow through.
- Yellow: Red’s twin and the other most commonly worn color. Yellow represents the same ideas as red, without the possible negative interpretation. Thus red and yellow combined demonstrate happiness, while wearing entirely red is often a signal that one is having a rough time of it.
- White: The color of youth, as well as of old age and death. Children are expected to wear primarily white clothing until they reach adulthood at age sixteen, and some continue to wear the color until they marry as a statement of purity. The color is then reserved for funerals, at least until the Larassan reaches the age of 60, or sees the birth of their first grandchild. White is often combined with black, both to protect children from the machinations of adults, or as a way of expressing an elder’s boredom with Larassan social backbiting.
- Grey: The color of sarcasm. It can be combined with other colors to turn their meaning sarcastic. For instance, wearing grey with red would mean: "Yes I am so VERY pleased right now. I was REALLY looking forward to this engagement."
- Pink: The color of healing in all forms, whether it be physical or mental. Both those receiving healing and those providing it frequently wear pink.
- Purple: The color of magic, and of art. Purple is a popular and honored color in Larassa. Purple accents in one’s makeup, jewelry or outfit are used to express an interest in art or magic, and commonly worn by those attending art shows or performances, or by students of magic. A wardrobe that is based on purple though is used to declare oneself to either an artist or a magic-user. Generally, purple combined with green is reserved for wizards, while purple and red mean artist. The very common state of being both results in some of the more…vibrant outfits seen in Larassan society.
- Orange: The color of pride and confidence. Orange is frequently worn with other colors to express pride in something specific. For instance, orange and purple would express a pride in one's artistic or magical talents.
- Blue: Blue is the royal color, restricted to the Sarno line and those given permission by the King. Those so favored by the king are permitted to wear blue clothing, while all others are only allowed by law to wear blue accents and accessories as a token of respect to the royal line. It is a peculiar law, most agree, but a respected one.
- Green: The lowliest color, suggestive of Beyonders and commoners. A noble wearing green is generally either putting on an air of humility, or declaring a common ground of some kind with such “people.” Depending on the context, wearing Green can either be seen as daring, or obscene.
- Gold: Wedding bands are traditionally made from gold, and as such gold has long been associated with love in Larassan society. Gold jewelry or accoutrement come out on romantic occasions, and gold rings worn on a finger other than the ring finger allows an unmarried individual to broadcast that they are taken. A gift of gold is one of the foremost romantic gestures.
- Brown: A forbidden color, product of another strange law that goes back to the very beginning of Larassa. Brown is not to be worn by the nobility, and most especially not in the presence of any member of the royal family. It is an unclean color, and also a dangerously desirable one. Many nobles have a brown outfit secreted in the back of their wardrobes, to be worn just so they can enjoy breaking the taboo.
- Silver: “I’m looking for something new.” Silver is a color that signifies curiosity, greed, and the search for novelty. It is an invitation to new experiences, an unspoken yes to whatever surprises the day offers. Commonly worn by those fresh into adulthood, it is also a common color choice for students, a way of demonstrating an enthusiasm for learning.
- Brass: Brass is the color and metal of hate. It is rarely worn in public, because it has a singular purpose; challenging someone to a duel of the Brass. Traditionally, one wears brass jewelry or buttons under such circumstances, often accented with foxglove in the hair, or on one’s clothing. Brass is only for absolute hatred. Wearing brass without making a challenge is seen as the height of tackiness. Beautiful, savage hatred is not something to be advertised without cause.
- Lighter and Darker Colors: The shade and tint of a color can be used to express the intensity of the message being sent. Incredibly dark colors represent a much more intense message, while lighter colors typically represent the message being broadcast with a more casual tone.
While colors express very specific messages, flowers or their scents are used to provide subtext or context. The language of flowers is the more subtle, more difficult aspect of the language of fashion, and as a result has largely bypassed the common folk. The most important flowers and their meanings are described below. Please not that there is also a certain amount of importance to placement of flowers, or the difference between wearing a flower or merely the perfume, but for the sake of preserving some brevity, this will not be dealt with here. Also note that while some of these flowers may not have a distinct smell, there will be perfumes or scents that are associated with them, and within the language of flowers no difference between the flower and perfume is made.
- Rose: Roses are an invitation to romance. The perfume is simply that, while wearing the flower allows a little more specificity.
- Black Rose: “A one-time affair, no stress, no excitement, just some casual fun. No silly games.”
- Pink Rose: “Nothing physical, just flirtation or a romance of letter writing.”
- Red Rose: “I am interested in love. True, mad, dangerous, invigorating and incinerating love.”
- Tulip: “Honestly, I’m okay. Not bad, not good. Just generally so-so, status quo.”
- Foxglove: “I am dangerous. Draw near only if you dare.”
- Lily: “It’s been a long day, and I really just want to relax.”
- Poppy: “I want to get drunk tonight. If you have no wine, I will settle for what narcotics you can provide.”
- Lotus: “I am at peace. If you know what’s good for you, do not disrupt said peace.”
- Carnations: “Whatever emotion I am feeling tonight, it is fucking intense.”
- Sunflower: “I am depressed, and looking for something to cheer me up.”
- Cherry Blossom: “I am looking for a wife/husband.”
- Orchid: While Roses invite romance, orchids advertise grief. A person wearing or smelling of orchids is in mourning, and thus may as well be wearing black, if they aren’t already. The type of orchid gives an idea of the type of loss. Some examples include:
- Burnt Orchid: “I lost my wife/husband/lover.”
- Vanilla Orchid: “I lost a child.”
- White Heather: “Someone is looking out for me.” Seen as a flower representative of protection by both common and high born, it is a common expression of friendship and affection to offer white heather to one going into danger. Generally such displays are entirely platonic, lacking the romantic associations of roses.
- Almond Blossom: "I am hopeful and wish that you are the same."
Larassa is a monarchy, an absolute monarchy in decline. The monarch has power to do generally whatever they desire; their word is law. Every noble has power based on their title, which is theirs only on the monarch’s sufferance. Of course, the nobles themselves can exercise power, but generally as a group. Thus it has long been a proven tactic for the royalty to play the nobles off one another, manipulating them into playing the games of favor and factionalism that keep them from uniting. Unfortunately, the current generation of royals have been dragged into the game themselves. The king is by most accounts a weak one, though the first king in generations to have a decent military mind. But in matters of court he is a three way pawn between the Queen, and his siblings, not to mention a rotating gallery of favored aristocrats.
The nobility is currently a mess of factions and conspiracies, all scheming towards goals that are variously pragmatic, esoteric, or power-hungry. The most powerful factions are generally geared towards some scheme to return Larassa to glory, by manipulating the King down one path or another. There is little talk of removing the King, given that the monarch is relatively easy to manipulate, and his siblings are generally of a more willful disposition. Generally the focus of most the scheming is to try and permanently take the monarch’s ear, and insulate him from any dissenting viewpoints. Of course, given that everyone has the same goal, the end result is a constant game of political tug of war, with a bewildered monarch at the center.
Suffice to say, very little of actual substance gets done in Larassan politics currently.
The main factions amongst the nobility are as follows:
- The Militarists (Wear badges on their lapels depicting spears): One of the larger and more powerful factions, though also one of the least unified. The Militarists believe that to restore Larassa’s glory, the first thing to be done is to rejuvenate the nation’s military and navy. With a powerful army at its disposal, Larassa will be able to retake its old territories and reestablish its dominance on the world stage. That is what they agree on. Beyond that basic point, the militarists disagree on largely everything else. Firstly, everyone has their own ideas as to how exactly to begin the process of injecting new life into Larassa’s armed forces, and everyone has their own list of preferred targets for when the army is “ready to march.” The most popular targets are of course, the Shifters/Gurmites, the Reave, and Heild. Methods vary greatly from replacement of living soldiers with undead or constructs (and regarding the former, let the Executioner-Knights be damned), increasing taxes even more to fund a new military, or instituting forced conscriptions amongst the common folk. Despite the group’s general state of disarray, they enjoy influence comparable to the other, more focused factions simply because the King is more or less a Militarist himself. The King has a gift for tactics and strategy, and is a highly skilled warrior, having more of a passion for fighting than he does the actual duties of state. Because of this, the Militarists do not have to plan or work nearly as hard or intelligently to get their plans pushed forward.
- The Templars: The Templars are a religiously focused political group, counting amongst their number most of the high ranking priests of the Temple the Twelve. The Templars are a secretive group, more of a conspiracy really. Their end goal is a restructuring of the state with an eye towards decreasing the power of the king and nobility and increasing that of the Temple. Simply put, the Templars seek to transform Larassa into a theocratic nation with a thin veil of monarchism over top it. Of course the nobility would be strongly against such a change, and the Child-Gods themselves have made it quietly, but firmly clear that the clergy are to serve them by serving the king. The disapproval of their gods has done little to stop the Templars, and in fact has only succeeded in making them ever more secretive in their pursuit of power.
- The Tibertans: Led by the King’s brother, the Duke Tibertus Sarno VII, the Tibertans believe that the time of absolute monarchy in Larassa has past. They believe that it is time for other hands to guide the fate of the nation. And by other hands, they mean the nobility. The Tibertans are trying to steer the King into ceding many if not most of his powers to the nobility, who will be organized into some sort of legislative organization. Essentially a parliament, though that term does not exist yet. They compete with the Merenians for the King’s attention. The Tibertans enjoy the sponsorship of Tibertus VII and widespread support amongst the nobility of course, but are weakened somewhat by their own internal backbiting and plotting, which balances them with the Merenians.
- The Merenians: Without a doubt the most cohesive faction vying for power, the Merenians are directed by the king’s sister, and receive support from a variety of powers outside Larassa, including Halitrad and the Commonwealth. The goals of the Merenians are similar to that of the Templars and Tibertans, replacing the priesthood or nobility with arcane magic users. While they have few friends amongst the bulk of the nobility, and a cool relationship with the clergy, the fact that most of Larassa’s remaining power is based on its arcane assets gives them a lot of power to throw around. Unfortunately, their plans are also the ones the King is least inclined to agree with and thus they have the hardest time influencing him. And rumors aside, there are too many powerful magical safeguards on the king for any enchanter or illusionist to manipulate him without being found out. They are also the only faction in the nobility that has taken notice of the increasing anger of the common folk, though what they intend to do with the awareness has yet to be seen.
Noble Ranks (From Highest to Lowest)
The Royal Family (The Sarno Line)
Note: Thus far the king and queen have two daughters, the oldest of whom is six years old. Because of their age, both children are kept generally in the custody of nurses, but receive regular visits from their parents, who despite their faults are actually surprisingly good, if busy parents. While everyone keeps an eye on the princesses, their father and mother are both young and healthy enough that they have yet to be the immediate focus of any plotting. At least as far as anyone knows.
- Centri: A family of dancers, choreographers, and managers, the Centris have spent centuries providing entertainment of the most spectacular and explosive kind to the Larssan nobility. The Centris have magic in the blood, with those blessed with sorcerous potential being trained as dancers, while those born without take on the necessary administrative functions. The family has enjoyed years of fame as some of the kingdom’s foremost masters of the art of dance, rivaled only by their hated rivals in the Tempest Dancers.
- Thibault: One of the oldest, and most maligned family’s in Larassa, the Thibault’s have long been associated with a past full of murder, black magic, and the Tiefling curse. According to the old stories, the Thibaults, engaged in a feud with a rival family, turned to the power of the folkloric hag known as the Rot Wife, who in exchange for living sacrifices and her mark upon their family line wiped out the opposing family. Whether or not the story is true, the Thibaults suffer from a recurring trend of spellblooded children, a trend that has done much to damage their reputation. Despite this, the family is still powerful, but does not exercise that power often. Instead, they act as power brokers and negotiators, counting amongst the family several members of the Black Gardeners.
- Iago: A once-prominent family with extensive trading ties with Vassalor, the Iago’s are one of the main forces pushing for the rebirth of the navy, as their fortunes are tied heavily to foreign trade. The family (rightfully) blames the Reaverkin for their weakened state, and has poured more money than anyone into trying to wipe out the Reave by any means necessary. Their influence, while waning is still enough that they’ve been able to make quite a bit of trouble for the Reaverkin.
- Murcatio: A family with very strong connections to the Temple of the Twelve, specifically the Temple of the Scale. The Murcatios are a dependable, loyal family, but also a singularly ruthless one. It has been longstanding tradition in the family that while they strive to not interfere or work against others, when they do they do so with finality. Similarly, when someone transgresses against the family, the Murcatio tradition is to make sure it cannot happen again. This policy has done the family well, as has the religious connection that has allowed them protection for when that policy backfires on them. It is a large family, and an obsessively united one. They hold together, them and the Scale against the rest of time and the world.
- Notoriani: An up and coming dynasty that has made a killing off of the sale of spices harvested from the Redwater swamp surrounding Kuthven, and the southern barley fields. The Notoriano have developed a reputation for being devious, cruel, and intensely ambitious, and for producing one of Larassa’s most gifted singers in the family heir, Petro Notoriani. To further expand their power, the family has begun marrying into Vassalorian dynasties, hoping to both undercut the Iagos and expand the scope of their own business. The Notorianis are ambitious, and rumors circulate that there is no end to the heights to which they would climb. Some suspect that the Notorianis hope to one day seize the crown itself.
- The Fraternal Order of the Black Garden: Despite the sinister name, the Black Gardeners are actually a point of stability in Larassan society. Simply, they are a society of nobles who have for whatever reason chosen to wear black full time, to essentially remove themselves entirely from the games of Larassan society. The founding members were a group of elderly aristocrats who three hundred years jokingly declared that they’d “rather be gardening.” Since then the Order has served as a refuge for the members of the gentry who could give a damn about parties or politics. Despite their attempts to avoid getting involved in anything, the Order has reluctantly built a certain amount of influence and power in Larassan society for the simple fact that they make ideal arbiters, and because they can be trusted to see to matters of national interest that can’t afford to be disrupted by the usual flurry of bribery, blackmail and conspiracy. Despite this, to their mind unfortunate trend, the Order stolidly continues on striving to be just left alone to grow things.
- The Tempest Dancers: Considered by many, especially themselves to be the most elite warriors in Larassa, the Tempest Dancers are a troupe of warrior dancers and arcanists. They work both as mercenaries and performers, blending together swordplay, dancing, and evocation in spectacular and lethal displays. The group is very selective and strict with their membership, so as to maintain the troupe’s legendary reputation. As a tradition, members are encouraged not to speak with those outside the troupe in the belief that this strengthens the group’s cohesion, and encourages the communicative power of their dance. They are also required to be chaste, pious, patriotic, and cannot own wealth or property beyond their weapons, clothing and what they require for their performances. There is a strong public fascination with the Dancers, with apocryphal, heroic penny books dealing with outcast Dancers being very popular with the common folk, who are entranced by the Dancers capabilities, but also repelled by their obvious, proud disdain for those of lesser station. The Dancers have had a longstanding vendetta with the Centri family, one that has led to deaths on both sides.
- Bluejays: The revolutionary movement amongst the common people is really a mass of different conspiracies, gangs, rings, and plots. The Bluejay name and symbol has come to represent the entire mess, as does the phrase that has appeared repeatedly on the sides of buildings or in underground pamphlets; Let Every Man Be a King In this Land. Though they only have power in the low places, the Bluejays are gaining speed, and notice. The crown is dimly aware of the discontent, and rumors of royal spies circulate just as often as those of rebel spies. No one knows when the Bluejays will make their first move, but it will definitely be soon.
- The Poet’s Corp: One of the few relatively well-off portions of the Larassan military, the Poet’s Corp is a martial order of conjurers (wizards or Eldritch Knights with access to conjuration instead of evocation) who utilize the ability to rapidly drop egregores into combat to disrupt and demoralize enemy troops. The Poet’s Corp are closer to a knightly order than anything, being well trained and recruited exclusively from the nobility. The orders name comes from their traditional method of avoiding capture. Each member of the order upon joining composes a short death poem (short enough to be spoken in a final breath), which is then keyed to a copy on their person, each letter of which is an explosive rune. Suffice to say, the Corp does not believe in loss without reprisal.
As noted previously, the official religion of Larassa is the Temple of the Twelve. The Temple is almost as old as Larassa itself, and is almost universally the practiced faith, with only a few holdouts who are involved in Ancient Faith cults or the worship of the Heildish Weeping God. The Twelve is highly organized, very civically focused faith. The Temple worships the Twelve child-gods, who first appeared to Tibertus Sarno I, and named him their most beloved servant in the world. Ever since then, and despite the efforts of some in the priesthood, the child-gods have had a close relationship with the monarchy, supporting every decision made and quietly, but decisively condemning any threats to it.
The Temples tenets hold that the social order of Larassa is a holy one, the ideal system gifted to the kings and queens of Larassa from the Twelve. All are born into the role they are suited to. Commoners are meant to work, nobles to lead and see to matters beyond the spiritual constitution of commoners, and the monarch to rule over all. To attempt to move beyond one’s station or to revolt against the divinely inspired order is one of the gravest sins in the Temple. Beyond this, the Temple also preaches the holiness of Larassa itself, the virtues of obedience, humility, patience, piety, good works, and of course art.
In regards to an afterlife, the Temple proclaims that those who serve the Twelve in life will upon death join with and enjoy a blissful eternity in unity with the spirit of the child-gods. Those who do not find their souls banished to the darkness beyond the Veil, to spend eternity as prey and playthings for the horrors that dwell there.
As for the priesthood of the Temple, it is really twelve priesthoods that work together in a rough fashion. Generally comprised of the bastards and younger children of the nobility, the priesthood exists in what amounts to a middle-class in Larassa, with the most powerful or favored priests able to live lives comparable to those of nobles. Because of this, the priesthood is even more of a cesspool of intrigue and ladder climbing than the nobility, being one of the few places in Larassan society where upward social mobility is realistically attainable. Due to the child-gods general lack of involvement in…well anything, the priesthood can safely be treated as a separate entity with its own desires, namely the expansion of its power.
The Child-Gods as noted just above, do not interact much with the outside world. Generally they spend almost all of their time in their temple-palaces in Kuthven meditating silently for months on end. The only time they ever leave, or otherwise go active is on holy days or when asked by either the monarch or sufficiently important clergy. The masked, and eternally youthful deities are enigmas, providing no insight into their personalities, and only distinguishable based on their masks and regalia.
Dueling and Hatred
For Larassans, hatred is one of the highest emotions, when done properly it can create some of the poignant and tragic art. A beautiful hatred is one wherein the individuals involved hate each other more than they love their own lives, but also find enough mutual respect and common ground that there is something almost comradely in their hatred. Hatred strong enough to dominate and define both lives. Such hatred is carried out through politics, duels, and through the odd tradition of letter correspondence between sworn enemies.
As with most things, Larassans look for art and ritual in dueling. When a duel is declared, the two parties or their intermediaries arrange for the type of duel, as well as the time and place. Each factor has significance, and helps tell the story behind why the duel is being fought. For example, a duel at dawn is usually a matter concerning a lover, while a duel being fought on the land of the liege of one of the combatants suggests that the duel is actually being fought at the liege’s request. But the most important matter is the type of duel, which speaks to how severe the matter, the hatred involved. The four common types of duels fought in Larassa are outlined below from least to most serious.
- Magical: A surprisingly common form of dueling in Larassa, a magical duel is either because most obviously, two wizards have a disagreement that needs resolved through violence, or because two individuals of means have a disagreement and decide that it needs resolved in the most expensive and spectacular way possible. Because magic users are a valuable commodity, magical duels are rarely to the death, or really even to anything more extreme than first blood. Magical dueling comes in several forms, such as two conjurers battling through their egregores, or enchanters going back and forth trying and force the each other to perform some prearranged action. And of course, and most often there’s two evokers and a lot of explosions. Those duels do tend to result in injuries, and due to the high potential for collateral damage are restricted to locations set aside for evocation practice and combat.
- Blades: A more serious form of contest than magical dueling usually is, a duel of blades is still usually not a matter of life and death. Most commonly the duel is fought to first blood, or until one combatant yields. Such duels are especially common amongst young nobles, partially due to their hot tempers, but also because so they can flaunt the resulting scars. The search for scars is such that there is actually a small market for alchemical or herbal substances that can be used to ensure that a wound scars impressively.
- Pistols: Now this is where matters of honor get serious. While accidents do happen with the above two forms, a duel of pistols is undertaken with the understanding that death is likely, and in fact the intention. Traditionally the duel is resolved when one combatant is hit, with at most three exchanges of fire before the duel is declared a draw (which is also often a cause of embarrassment for those involved). If the duel is to the death, then the matter is based on one exchange of shots, after which the combatants have to figure things out for themselves. Rocks, fists, daggers, whatever is immediately to hand will have to suffice.
- The Brass: This is the most serious of the Larassan dueling forms. A duel of the brass is a surprisingly simple affair. The two parties acquire two brass orbs from the Temple of the Scream, meet at the prearranged location and then proceed to try and beat each other to death. Once the brass has been received from the Scream, there is no turning back. If one party tries to flee, his opponent can chase him with the backing of the law, and kill him wherever he finds him. True to the Larassan idea of hatred, the only weapon allowed in the duel are the brass orbs, use of any other arms in the contest is an insult to the Scream, and her priests will take delight in exacting their own brand of vengeance. Suffice to say, duels of the brass are relatively rare, and usually storied occasions, the climax to a truly beautiful hatred.