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The Empire of MelCendia: Overview and Thendranor
Mel'Cendia means in Elder Thaecian, "New Center", with "Cendia" being a bastardization of the original Thaecian word for "center", or "xend". After the Invoked Devastation, refugees from the Thaecian Empire on the continent of Naranduil fled over the Sea of Endless Stars. Some migrated to Aramin and Arator, while the vast majority ended up on the continent of Telluria.

After several attempts at re-establishing order, a fledgling colony was set up. Time progressed and the "colony" became a full-fledged country, and eventually, a re-creation of the Thaecian Empire, though with several notable changes.


Overview of the Empire

Government

Present day Mel'Cendia is roughly half the size of its former self, from the time that its southern provinces broke off to become Wylund, Toralin, Kern. Hyboras followed suit approximately 250 years afterwards, as the Empire began to collapse within itself.

The Empire is divided into ten provinces, each of which is ruled by a King or Queen, who answer to the Emperor. Each of the provinces has its own rules for succession and transfer of power, although the Emperor can veto those rules at a moment's whim.

The provinces are:

Cyradia -- ancestral home of the barbarians of the Fhaard

Tel'Alin -- the province most hospitable to wizards, sorcerers and Aes Sedai

Khumash-Gor -- a border province with Khabad-dun; where horselords and wolfkin roam free

Khandras -- a border province with Khabad-dun, Khandras was originally established as a "prison province" where people were sent in exile to live out their lives amongst the steppes. Khandras is also home to nomadic tribesmen (who seem like the barbarians of the Fhaard); these tribesmen wage an unending conflict with ogrekin and orckin who covet the land along with those of the dwarves of Khabad-dun

Por Miren -- a province marked by the sites of some of the fiercest battles between the ex-Thaecians, giants and orckin in all of history

Mel'Cend -- the capital of the Empire and a hotbed of intrigue of all kinds

Luruen -- the breadbasket of the Empire

Zharash -- one of two provinces least hospitable to arcane users; trade to and from Zayal occurs here

Skyrelm -- a province where a fragile peace co-exists between its native inhabitants, the av'rael (winged elves), the Imperials and the barbarians of its southern plains

Thendranor -- one of two provinces least hospitable to magic; this province borders the League of Thendras, a theocracy dedicated to pursuit of justice in all its forms

Each province has its own distinct character, which makes for an interesting mix of culture since representatives from each area are sent to live within Mel Nethra, capital city of the Empire.

The elfdom of Quenaris borders the provinces of Por Miren, Mel'Cend, Tel'Alin and Khandras. By ancient compact with the elves who live within the borders of the ancient forest, Imperial law forbids trespass into elven lands on pain of death. The ex-Thaecians had learned long ago that to live in isolation from the rest of the world is a recipe for disaster, or at best, mistruth.


Thendranor

Thendranor is the northernmost province in the Empire of Mel'Cendia. It is bounded on the north by the Sea of Endless Stars, to the east by the League of Thendri, to the west by the province of Skyrelm, and to the south by the provinces of Luruen and Zharash.

Most of Thendranor consists of lightly forested plains and wooded foothills. The province has five main cities -- the port cities of Belorian and Cyrenus, the border city Selenium (near Luruen), the border city of Sabratha (near Zharash) and the capital city of Carthax, in central Thendranor.

Government

Thendranor is divided into five regional districts, each of which is headed by a governor. Each governor is appointed by the whim of the province's King or Queen. The current Queen, Lucretia of House Tarquinius, inherited the throne when her father was discovered slain by poison. The murderer was never found. As Lucretia is still an infant, a Regent has been appointed by the Emperor to act in her stead until she comes of age and takes the throne.

Listed alphabetically, the districts are: Albion, Aquitanius, Cyrenus, Elsweyr, and Valenwood.

Albion -- named in part for a series of limestone cliffs in the northwestern part of the province, as well as the pristine white beaches which line its coast, this district features one of the most scenic and beautiful land in this part of the Empire.

Aquitanius -- grapes grown in the soil of this district produce a stunningly sweet and fruity wine which is also known for its alchemical or magickal uses as a reagent in potions and alembics. A lush river valley is the district's central feature and provides direct access to the sea, besides being highly defensible.

Cyrenus -- this district (named also for the port city that sits astride its border), forms the main gateway from the north into Thendranor. The port is a melting pot of various cultures and races, and one of the most hospitable. It's no surprise that the practice of magicka is also tolerated here, although less so the more one travels farther afield from the region.

Elsweyr -- located near the district's border with Zharash, this district has a rather large population of Khajiit compared to other regions in the province. On a proportional basis, Khajiit outnumber humans by a ratio of 3 to 1. Most of the district is a harsh expanse of badlands and dry plains. Only in the northernmost part does it become somewhat fertile. Various crops are grown here, ranging from flax to the (semi-illegal) moon sugar.

Khajiit in this district are ruled by the Mane, a spiritual leader of the Khajiit, who, in ancient times, remained neutral in conflicts. The Mane is different from other Khajiit, although he is not a breed- simply different. It is said that there can only be one mane at any one time, although whether this is magical, or the result of the Mane eliminating competition, is impossible to tell. There was a time when Khajiit would weave their own manes into braids for the Mane to wear, however, with the burgeoning population of Elsweyr, this has become impractical. Although the Mane continues to wear the manes of his tribe and honor guard (the weight of which force him to travel in a palanquin) he does not wear those of most Khajiit.

Valenwood -- home to the Aeo'rhimm, an insular, clannish group of green elves, Valenwood is dominated by a thickly forested wood of the same name. The name "Aeo'rhimm" means "tribe of the Ancients". Most green elves of modern descent mark their lineage from bloodlines in among tribe. Tree-cities are not an uncommon sight in this region, although such are often found on the outer areas of the wood. Most Aeo'rhimm view plant life in the wood as sacred and are averse to harming or shaping the forest unnecessarily, although they have no compunction against using plants from elsewhere.


Thendran Culture

The center of the early social structure, dating from the time of the earliest city state in the former Thaecian Empire, was the family, which was not only marked by blood relations but also by the legally constructed relation of patria potestas. The Pater familias was the absolute head of the family; he was the master over his wife, his children, the wives of his sons, the nephews, the slaves and the freedmen (liberated slaves, the first generation still legally inferior to the freeborn), disposing of them and of their goods at will, even putting them to death. Thaecian law recognized only patrician families as legal entities. Ancient habits die hard, and this tradition carried over into Thendranor with very little changes through the ages.

Slavery and slaves are part of the social order. The slaves are mostly prisoners of war. There are slave markets where they could be bought and sold. Thendran law is not consistent about the status of slaves, except that they are considered like any other moveable property. Many slaves are freed by the masters for fine services rendered; some slaves could save money to buy their freedom. Generally mutilation and murder of slaves is considered outrageous.

Apart from these families (called gentes) and the slaves (legally objects, mancipia i.e. 'kept in the [master's] hand') there are plebeians that do not exist from a legal perspective. They have no legal capacity and are not able to make contracts, even though they are not slaves. To deal with this problem, the so-called clientela was created. By this institution, a plebeian joined the family of a patrician (in a legal sense) and could close contracts by mediation of his patrician pater familias. Everything the plebeian possessed or acquired legally belonged to the gens. He was not allowed to form his own gens.

The authority of the pater familias is unlimited, be it in civil rights as well as in criminal law. However, over time, Thendran law and most social views have evolved considerably, emancipating (to increasing degrees) family members.


Marriage

Marriage is often regarded more as a financial and political alliance than as a romantic association, especially in the upper classes. Thendran fathers usually began seeking husbands for their daughters when they reach an age between twelve and fourteen. The husband is almost always older than the bride; he might be two years older or three times her age. She is expected to give little or no objection in the bargaining between families - although there is proof that some daughters have more say in their choice of husbands than we might expect.

While upper class girls marry very young, lower class women - plebeians, freedwomen etc - often marry in their late teens or early twenties. Marriage for them is not about economic and political gain in the cut throat world of Imperial and regional politics, so it is usually not as urgent.

Friends and family attend an engagement ceremony before the wedding. Here the father is asked whether he promised to give his daughter ("Spondesne?") and he is expected to say he did ("Spondeo"). The bride-to-be then receives financial gifts including a ring to wear on her middle finger, which many believe contains a nerve that ran straight to the heart.


Naming conventions

Praenomen

This form of "first" name, except for familiar or friendly use, is relatively unimportant, and is not frequently used on its own. There are only a relative few praenomina that were commonly known in both Thendranor and the Empire.

Many of the praenomina used by male citizens are abbreviated to one or two characters in writing or inscriptions; the more common abbreviations include: Appius (Ap.), Aulus (A.), Flavius (Fl.), Gaius (C.), Gnaeus (Cn.), Decimus (D.) Lucius (L.), Manius (M'.), Marcus (M.), Publius (P.), Quintus (Q.) Servius (Ser.), Sextus (Sex.), Spurius (Sp.), Titus (T.), Tiberius (Ti.). The names Primus, Secundus, Tertius, Quintus, Sextus, Septimus, Octavius, and Decimus mean respectively, 'first', 'second', 'third', 'fifth', 'sixth', 'seventh', 'eighth', and 'tenth', and were originally given to second, third, etc. sons in birth order. There are, however, abundant examples of this birth-number significance being later lost: Sextus Pompeius, for instance, is not a sixth son. A possible explanation for this is that the numerical praenomen came instead to stand for the number of the month in which the person was born.


Nomen Gentile

The second name or nomen gentile is the name of the gens (family, clan), although the form conforms to gender. (Ex: Julius (male), Agrippina (female))


Cognomen

The third name, or cognomen, is usually a nickname or personal name that distinguishes individuals within the same gens (the cognomen does not appear in official documents until 120 PE). The cognomen is inherited from father to son, serving to distinguish a family within a gens. Often the cognomen is chosen based on some physical or personality trait, sometimes with ironic intent.


Clothing

Clothing and the dress distinguished one class of people from the other class. Tunics worn by plebians (common people) like shepherds and slaves are made from coarse and dark material, whereas the tunic worn by patricians are made of linen or white wool. Magistrates wear the tunic augusticlavia; advisors to the King or Queen wore a tunic with broad strips, called tunica laticlavia. Military tunics were shorter than the ones worn by civilians.

Even footwear indicates a person’s social status. Patricians wear red sandals, government officials have brown footwear, royals have white shoes, and soldiers wore heavy boots. Women wear closed shoes of colors like white, yellow or green. Males may sometimes wear togas; women usually wear stolas. Thendran law considers it disgraceful for a woman to wear a toga; to do so is to declare oneself a prostitute.

A stola is a long, pleated dress, worn over a tunic (the tunica intima, the Thendran version of a slip). A stola has long sleeves, but the sleeves could either be a part of the stola itself, or part of the tunic. A stola is typically girt with ribbons. It is frequently accompanied by a long shawl-like garment called a palla.


Eating and drinking habits

Traditionally in the morning a breakfast was served, the ientaculum or iantaculum, at noon the main meal of the day, the cena, and in the evening the vesperna. Due to the influence of habits from other parts of the Empire and also the increased import of and consumption of foreign foods, the cena increased in size and diversity and was consumed in the afternoon, the vesperna was abandoned, and a second breakfast was introduced around noon, the prandium.

In the lower strata of society the old routine was preserved, because it corresponded more closely with the daily rhythm of manual labor.


Ientaculum

Originally flat, round loaves made of wayreth (a cereal grain closely related to wheat) with a bit of salt were eaten; in the higher classes also eggs, cheese and honey, along with milk and fruit. Increasingly, after about 50 PE, bread made of wheat was introduced and with time more and more baked products begain to replace wayreth bread.

Prandium

This second breakfast is richer and mostly consists of the leftovers of the previous day's cena.

Cena

Among members of the upper classes, who do not engage in manual labor, it's customary to schedule all business obligations in the morning. After the prandium the last responsibilities are usually discharged and then a visit would be made to the baths. Around 3 o'clock, the cena would begin. This meal sometimes lasts until late into the night, especially if guests were invited, and is often followed by a comissatio (a round of drinks).

The cena essentially consists of a kind of porridge, the puls. The simplest kind might be made from wayreth, water, salt and fat. More sophisticated varieties are made with oil, with an accompaniment of assorted vegetables whenever possible. Wealthier individuals eat their puls with eggs, cheese and honey, and (only occasionally) meat or fish. The inherent flavours of vegetables and meat were completely masked by the heavy use of garun and other seasonings. It is considered an indication of the highest achievement in culinary art if a gourmet could tell neither by sight, nor smell, nor taste what the ingredients of a dish were. :wink:

At the table loose and easy clothing are worn (the vestis cenatoria), and the dinner is usually consumed in a special dining room, which is called the triclinium. Here one would lie down on a specially designed couch, the lectus triclinaris. Around the round table, the mensa, three of these lecti were arranged in the shape of a horseshoe, so that slaves could easily serve, and a maximum of three diners would recline at each lectus. The only people allowed a place on a lectus are men. More tables for the beverages stood beside the couches. All heads were oriented towards the central table, with left elbows propped on a cushion and feet at the outside of the dinner-couch. In this fashion at most nine people could dine together at one table. Further guests had to sit on chairs. Slaves normally had to stand.

Feet and hands are washed before the cena. Food is eaten with the fingertips and two kinds of spoons, the larger ligula and the smaller cochlear with a needle thin grip, which is used as prong when eating snails and molluscs. At the table, larger pieces would be cut up to be served on smaller plates. After each course, fingers are washed again and napkins (mappae) are customary to wipe one's mouth. Guests could also bring their own mappae to take home the leftovers from the meal or small gifts (the apophoreta).

A custom alien to many other cultures is that Thendrani throw everything that cannot be eaten (e.g. bones and shells) onto the floor, from where it is swept away by a slave.

During a dinner for guests, musicians, acrobats or poets might perform and dinner conversation plays an important role. Dances are not usual, as it is considered improper and would not mix well with table manners, although during the comissatio this habit is often disregarded. To leave the table for bodily functions is considered inappropriate and restraining oneself is considered good manners. After the main course, during a pause, an offering was made to the Lares, the spirits of the house. This offering normally consists of meat, cake and wine. Typically, the cake is colored with sungold (a saffron-like spice).
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