The Vreski Society was a stratified society, with individuals assigned to various groups based on the status and standing of their parents - in particular their mothers.
At the top of the hierarchy stood the Imperial Clans. These were extended families who could trace their ancestry directly back (through the male line) to a particular Emperor; which Emperor determined the rank of each Clan, with those clans descended from a more recent Emperor taking precedence over those who descended from a more remote Emperor.
The Emperor at the time of this Story was Lokiduer. His great-great-grandfather (Maniko) usurped the throne by deposing the last of the Falah Emperors in the year 490, after which he declared his three sons and all their descendants to be Noble Courtesans, with precedence over all others at court. Maniko was succeeded by his eldest son Iduer, who similarly declared his sons to be Esteemed Courtesans with precedence over all Noble Courtesans. The practice continued when his son, Loemattak, took the throne (possibly by poisoning his father) and made his sons Honoured Courtesans. Jerannas, the fourth emperor of the line, was less fortunate with children: only his son Lokiduer survived to adulthood. Jerannas started the practice of promoting individuals (always men) from the commonfolk to the rank of Favoured Courtesan, with a ranking below that of the Noble Courtesans - a practice continued by Lokiduer, who never married nor sired any legitimate children.
The bulk of the Empire's population was made up of Commonfolk, some of whom are mentioned in the story (such as Tuuke and Behin). The Commonfok included most of the Empire's professional, trade and laborer classes. All the soldiers and officers serving in the Imperial Clades would have been Commonfolk.
A subset of the Commonfolk were slaves: people found guilty of serious crimes were often sentenced to either permanent or temporary slavery. Slaves could only be owned by the Emperor - there is no evidence to suggest an active slave trade existed in the Empire at the time of this story. For the most part, slaves were sent to labour (and die) in the northern reaches of the Empire's territory.
The origin of the Servants remains a mystery. Unlike slaves, there's no record of anybody being assigned to or from the Servant class: Servants were born Servants and died as Servants. Servants also differed from slaves in that they could be owned by individuals other than the Emperor; there was an active trade in Servants, including the breeding of Servants, throughout the 7th century. Most Servants were owned by Clan members. Evidence suggests that Servant numbers were never high, even before the Clan Strife which broke out in the early part of Lokiduer's reign - during which many Servants were killed.
At the time of this story (the late 670s, by the reckoning of the Grand Treaty calendar) there was some evidence of deindustrialisation across the Vreski Society. Innovations such as electricity and communication by radio waves was known and used, though the understanding of how these technologies worked appears to have been restricted to certain groups and classes; certainly radios (known as Mechanisms) were treated with some suspicion and superstition by most people.
The family descending from Prince Arallan, second son of Emperor Loemattak, having the rank of Honoured Courtesans. Prince Arrallan had many legitimate and illegitimate children, thus Clan Arallo were a large and powerful Clan during the second half of the 7th century. The Clan leader at that time was Puusen; Loetopas was Puusen's twin brother, while Jassael was a first cousin to the brothers. Loken was Puusen's only surviving son and heir - the rift that developed between Puusen and Loken is widely believed to be a key contributor to the civil war that broke out across the Empire in 670.
A man called Rollusek, who discovered a method of making a permanent golden dye from the fruit of the vedegga tree and grew very rich as a result, was raised to the status of Favoured Courtesan by the Emperor Lokiduer in the year 628. His eldest grandson Gelleris was made Governor of the city of Bassakesh in 654, at which point he handed over the leadership of the Clan to his first cousin Devisek. Clan members in the late 660s included:
For the most part the state religion of the Vreski Empire appears to have been centred on a wrathful God. For instance, in one of the holy texts we find the following creation myth:
'We are the deserved destitute. Within the stitches of God's light and God's time and God's rock we gathered. Of all shapes and forms we were at that time, and yet one thread bound us tight. We looked upon God's work and we questioned its worth.
'Oh woe for the stupidity of our Fathers, that infects us through the very sperm that makes us! For God is Light and God is Time and God is Rock, and even as we found mouths to articulate doubt, so did God know that we had corrupted the Great Work.
'We are sentenced to suffer; condemned to endure. Through suffering and endurance do we, the Sons of our Fathers, learn again and again the truth of God's wonder.
'This world is our prison, crafted by God to give us hope of redemption. This is the palace of torments! We are beset by poisons and disease so that we may endure and die, and in each death our Sin is tested. Those still with Sin are reborn in this world; those whose kernel of Sin has been stripped, consumed in the annealing fires of this hell, they are reborn in God!
Beyond the official text, there is evidence that both Clanfolk and Commonfolk alike centred their beliefs on the existence of a wide collection of spirits whose purpose was to make people ill, mad, or bring them poor luck. These beings included: imps, who caused physical illnesses; devils, who delighted in causing mental illnesses and social unrest; and demons, who brought ill-luck and bad judgment to those they afflicted. Some of these entities were personified with names, for instance Brach (a fire imp), Buccu (an imp of hysteria) and Chuffhig (a sneezing imp).
To combat these supernatural woes, a highly complex system of wards and fetishes was developed - people would often consult with astrologers to seek advice on the best wards to wear when undertaking particular endeavours on particular days. The wards themselves were rarely of any intrinsic value - the choice of colour, material and placement on the body was considered to be more important. Even people's names were wards: a sequence of propitious morphemes assigned at birth with no wider meaning in the language.
The Servant stories were (and are) an oral mythology retold through the generations by story keepers, which offered an explanation of why the world had come about, and the role of humanity within that world. At the centre of the mythology lay the story of the two creations, where the creator built the world and populated it with life; his dissatisfaction with his first attempt led to him unleashing the councils of the imps - agents of death and decay - across the world, after which he undertook a second creation.
Most of the other stories can be divided into three groups: those that tell the tales of Sama-Lovare and his sister Mara-Gaye, commonly involving the animal Princes (the firstborn of each animal group) as the first humans learned about the world and came to terms with their place within it; a second, larger corpus deals with the stories of the descendants of the first people - many revolve around the trials and tribulations of the Four Grandsons, early leaders called the Lords of Rock, Storms, Wood and Imps. A third group, involving spirits of place and endeavour appear to be a later innovation. Characters (and places) in the stories include:
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