For two hundred years, the Vareno Empire has dominated the rim of the Middle Sea. Long since free from serious external threat, the Empire is instead rotting from within, ruled by the aging, incompetent heir of a corrupt dynasty. Emperor and Senate squabble for control in the capital city, Choiro, while power-hungry provincial officials take advantage of the absence of oversight. Meanwhile, rebel groups—intent on vengeance after centuries of subjugation—gather in the Empire’s borderlands.
Originally, the tribal peoples of what is now Varen practiced a duotheistic religion centered around the worship of the god Vares and his sister, the goddess Varena—the Twins. When Tachis Berion, the first emperor, unified the tribes to form the nation of Varen, he encouraged the adoption of the monotheistic religion practiced in the Empire now. The Church comprises three monastic orders: the Scholars, devoted to the study of theology; the Hospitallers, devoted to the care of the poor and vulnerable; and the Mendicants, devoted to a life of humility and poverty.
The Guard are an elite, powerful paramilitary force tasked with guarding the imperial household and protecting the Empire through counterintelligence and espionage. Unlike the army, the Guard operate independently of Senate control, answering directly to the emperor. The current High Commander is Maris Pavo, a former slave who ambitiously worked his way into the Emperor’s favor.
In Modigne, one of the most important port cities in the Empire, the jentes, crime lords, finance their own merchant fleets and operate their own businesses—often quite openly, because the local Imperial officials are either unwilling to intervene or are corrupt themselves. The jentes are heavily involved in smuggling and the slave trade, but many of them are also bitterly anti-Imperial, and some Modigni view them as sorts of folk heroes for resisting Imperial rule.
Signi are violent criminals sentenced to punitive military service, usually assigned to high-risk missions or dangerous frontier posts. They are stripped of Imperial citizenship and have fewer rights even than slaves.
|In Modigne||In Tasso||In Choiro|
Decimation: the military practice of killing one soldier out of every ten, as punishment
Intaglio: the gem of a seal ring
Manumission: the legal freeing of a slave
Taberna: a food stall in a covered marketplace
Viniculture: the cultivation of grapes for wine-making
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