A realm divided by ideology, faith, and a patchwork of complex feudal obligations and holdings, the Korlian Empire of Berlberg, colloquially simply the Empire, rots. The Cult War pitted the faithful of the Imperial Cult against the new heresies springing up in the northern districts. No sooner had the Cult War come to its bloody close than the privation it had wrought among the people spurred the Summer Rising, an Empire-wide rebellion of the underclasses that was only barely suppressed. Since then, the twin specters of heresy and reform have haunted the Empire, threatening to rip it apart or transform it into something else.
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Races in the Empire
The Empire is dominated by humans, and they make up the entirety of the nobility and the vast majority of other civil and political posts. Those of nonhuman races who dwell in the Empire typically are either specialized craftsmen or advisors who make their living plying their unusual trade, or poor laborers who have come seeking opportunity or on the run from the law in other lands, or both.
The people on the whole are quite racist. The nobility is often more accepting than the commoners, though this may be a practicality rather than a result of "better breeding". A noble has a use for an elven fencing master, and so is inclined to treat him well. By the same token, the merchant class is much more cosmopolitan, provided that their interactions with other races can prove lucrative.
Nonhumans are not legally protected, and so if one intends to survive they either ingratiate themselves to powerful people or keep their heads down. Large concentrations of nonhumans are rare, but when they do they tend to settle in insular communities within cities for mutual protection.
Politics and Law
The main governing body of the Empire is the College of Electors. Originally composed of the five Prince-Electors (Kuerfuersten) and five Ecclesiastical Electors, the Treaty of Lorges expanded the College to include the mayors of the five largest free cities and representatives from the five largest heretical faiths in the Empire. The College elects the Emperor and his successor, the King of the Korli, at the death of each reigning Emperor.
The Imperial Cult
The Imperial Cult centers around revering the Emperor as God's worldly representative. Indeed, the Emperor himself his often styled, "His Holiest Majesty", and his many titles include, "Champion of the Faith" and "Anointed Sword of the One True God". Civil and religious crime are closely wed under this system--crimes that break the Emperor's peace are likewise sins against God. The difference between the two has become more distinct, however, with the advent of the Treaty of Lorges.
The Cult is organized along hierarchical lines, with the Emperor as supreme priest. The true management of the Cult is left up to the four Archprelates, who administrate in the four major districts of the Empire. Below them are an army of prelates, deacons, and scrollmen, who enforce the Emperor's divine will and minister to his flock.
The God of the Imperial Cult grew out of the Korlian pantheon's war god, Horm. Horm absorbed many of the attributes of the other gods until the Imperial Cult entirely did away with his fellows and elevated him to the status of the One True God. To use the name of Horm is considered heresy, as the Imperial Cult's dogma maintains that God was never Horm and denies that the Korli ever worshiped many gods.
Heresy and Heathenry
The rolls of every faith in the Empire would fill volumes. The largest heretical faiths are related here.
The Cult of the Reformed Imperium is better known by its derisive name of "Anti-imperialism". Anti-imperialists, or simply antis, still revere the God of the Imperial Cult, but discount the Emperor's role as divinely appointed. Despite their name, the Antis are hardly seeking the overthrow of the Empire, and apart from their rejection of the Emperor's divine right, their dogma is almost indistinguishable from the Cult. All the same, the Cult considers them heretics of the worse sort and their primary rivals.
The Antis are dominant in the north of the Empire, where the Heresiarchy formed during the Cult War.
The monotheistic faith of Fayenreich has a large following in the Empire. Not only Fayenreicher expatriates, but half-elves and even a few Empire born humans now revere the Goddess, attracted by its more lax attitude towards dogma and the looseness of its hierarchy. Kallas has no ordained clergy, instead viewing each individual believer as capable of divining the Goddess's. This egalitarian stance makes it a popular choice for republicans and democrats, and it's reverence for a female deity attracts many women of all races.
Even when the Imperial Cult denied the existence of Horm and his fellow gods, some stubborn people continued to practice the old traditions. Even a few nobles clung to the old ways, worshiping Horm and Jykk and Hollgass and all the others in those sacred places that remained after the purges. The Edict brought an resurgence of the old ways throughout the Empire. Is is greatest in the more conservative district of Polard, though the worship of Horm has enticed many soldiers through out the Empire.
The small crown republic of Geldindarn, located on the Empire's easter border, is unique among the nation's of the world for its racial makeup. The "ruling class" is an amalgam of halflings and hobgoblins. The halflings serve as civil administrators and diplomats, while the hobgoblins are military leaders. This curious arrangement came about around two hundred years ago, when the hobgoblins enslaved a large population of halflings living in the area. Intially their rule was brutal and harsh, but they recognized the value of the halflings and have since cultivated more harmonious relations with them. While the hobgoblins are still nominally supreme, the relationship between the two races is startlingly egalitarian. Halflings and hobgoblins call each other "cousin" as a term of respect, and hobgoblins often act as guardians of halfling children and vice versa. Purely ceremonial "weddings" between hobgoblin and halfling families are also not unheard of. It is often held up as a sterling example of racial harmony by anti-racists in the Empire.
Geldindarn is a close ally of the Imperial House, and despite its small size is a creditor for many nobles. Because so many are indebted to it, Geldindarn wields influence incongruous with its small size.
Reigning Monarch: Nollis IV
Prime Minister: Linus Dadrikssen
Ambassador to the Empire: Livia Bronthig
On the extreme northern border lies Orkmark, a cold and unforgiving land home to barbaric orc tribes. While the Empire's embrace of gunpowder has neutralized their threat somewhat, their raids still pose a great danger, especially now that many are more focused on internal threats. In some northern districts, orcs have settled with the permission of the local nobles, who grant them land in exchange for defense from other orc tribes. Some of these settled tribes have grown quite powerful and wealthy, much to the alarm of the nobles who procured their services.
Located to the west, Fayenreich is populated by a large concentration of elves, who form the nobility and ruling class. A much more centralized and absolutist state, it has long been a goal of the Korlian Emperors to ape the Fayenreicher kings.
Fayenreich is the birthplace of many of the new "Enlightened" ideologies now plaguing the Empire. Strangely enough, the source for these comes not from the disenfranchised human majority, but the elven upper class. Elven longevity has torn a rift between the "younger" generations who were born within the last few centuries and their elders, who cling to power with no signs of relinquishing it.
Reigning Monarch: Clovis III
Ambassador to the Empire: Reddin de Volgerac