Thursday, September 30, 2010

CC: Marika Rahna, Imperial Consort

also known as the Widow, the Uncrowned Empress, the Lady of Ashes

Imperial tradition has little in the way of provisions about whom an Emperor or Empress may marry, given that--at least in theory--titles of nobility are elected, not inherited. It came as a great surprise to the Congress of Peers and the people of Weirwane when Ignatius III courted a wife from the clergy. The Church of the Holy Saint had been one of Ignatius' earliest advocates, and their support was essential in the Act of Lesser Nobility. So strong was his connection to the Church that he established two cloisters, one on each of the Palace grounds--the brothers of St. Nicodemus became Ignatius' advisors in the winter, and summers were spent with the sisters of St. Rosalind.

Romantics have spent the past ten years writing and rewriting the late Emperor's courtship of Marika Rahna, an orphan abandoned to the mercy of the Church. In some accounts, Rahna, an admittedly skilled enchantress, vied for the Emperor's attentions. In another, Ignatius is befuddled by her serenity and spends a season dotting on her unsuccessfully before finally wooing her. The truth is no secret: already reaching enfeeblement, Ignatius selected a strong woman and prelate of the Saint of Fertility in the hopes of bearing heirs. Marika proved an intellectual equal and ally to the King, and while they enjoyed a cool friendship, neither suffered any illusions of love. She bore him two sons: Alexander and Jackelepski.

Liturgical law, rather than imperial, prevented Marika from ascending to the throne as his Empress, and so instead Ignatius named her Imperial Consort and granted her the title of Marchessa of the Summer Palace. While not part of the Congress of Peers, Marika proved a valuable political asset because if the people liked Ignatius, then they loved his wife with a fierce passion. Her grace and accessibility made her dangerously beloved among the common men, and her speeches often rallied the support of religious peers, even those who considered themselves Nobilist.

It was from one such trip that she was returning when flames consumed the Summer Palace, immolating her husband and two sons, countless friends and the majority of her sisterhood. She spent days among the ashes, silent and furious.

Since then, she has withdrawn from the public eye. She passes unseen from one house to the next, tarrying with Royalist supporters. She has appeared twice before the Congress of Peers: first to plea unsuccessfully for money to rebuild her cloister on the grounds of the Summer Palace, and then to rail against a bloc of Nobilists trying to undermine the Petty Nobility. Many have since sought Marika, knowing that the endorsement of the beloved Consort would be a powerful benediction to any Peer seeking the Imperial Throne. She has refused all such attempts.

Friday, September 24, 2010

CC: Ignatius Weirwane the III, Late Emperor

also known as Ignatius Noblemaker, Ig the Irascible, and (pejoratively) the Petty Emperor

Ignatius the III had a relatively brief and revolutionary rule. Originally, Ignatius abdicated his claim to the Empire's throne in favor of a quiet life of study and contemplation. Noted as a philosopher and a self-taught businessman, Ignatius parlayed his social standing and allowance from the Imperial purse into the funding of several failing guilds. Buoyed by his support and directed by his vision, the Honored Guilds of Steelworkers, Mechanists, Farmers, and Grocers entered into an alliance that saw tremendous advances in agricultural efficiency. Behind the scenes, Ignatius pressured his father and Royalist peers to pass legislation helping to protect the quality of life of the lower classes.

This is not to say that he was particularly popular among the lower classes--or the nobility, for that matter. Ignatius Weirwane the III was a terribly uncharismatic man with a drawling, gravelly voice and a distinctly unpleasant demeanor. His uncompromising sense of morality earned him a reputation as a hardliner. In one popular apocryphal account he was subject to a mugging. His alleged response has become a popular political slogan: "You'll take nothing from me you haven't earned, whether it's my money or my life."

When his father, Raphael the VII, finally died a few months after his centennial birthday, the Empire was struck by tragedy. Raphael the VIII, Ignatius' younger brother and then-heir apparent, was assassinated on the eve of his coronation. Ignatius, already nearing his sixtieth birthday, at first refused to reclaim his title--much to the joy of the Nobilist peers--he was at last swayed after meeting with a Guildsmaster of the Honored Guild of Farmers, a man known as Jackelepski Vimes. With the frenzied support of the common men and women of the Empire, the Congress of Peers had no choice but to accept Ignatius as their new Emperor.

The majority of his rule was a struggle against the Congress, testing their boundaries and comfort zones. His browbeating rhetoric saw several improvements to the rights and quality of life of common people, with new liberties given to the guilds. By far, his most astounding accomplishment was the passing of the Act of Least Nobility, creating a second, lower house to the Congress of Peers. Every guild and town was given representation within the House of Petty Nobles. The Greater Nobles, representatives of the five great City-States of Weirwane, balked at this assault on their power, and that nation was very nearly at war.

Less than six months later, Ignatius died in the hellish explosion that utterly destroyed the Summer Palace just days before the Royal Family was to tour the Empire in full during their procession to the Winter Palace.

Now a martyr, Ignatius has been recast and reimagined by both his former allies and enemies. To the Royalists, he was a reluctant Emperor, wise and fastidious. To the Nobilists, he was a tragic figure undone by his trust in the lower classes. To the Petty Nobles and the countless villagers and guildsmen enfranchised by his efforts, he was a hero. None can deny the truth, however: he was the last of the Weirwane line, and the Empire must change.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What is Weirwane?

A fairy tale. A horror story. An epic of nobles and peasants alike. A land of mystery. A lonely world in the emptiness of the Last Desert. A place for strangers and for allies, for the good and the evil and the countless throng that rests somewhere in between.

Weirwane is a place that has been touched by love and violence--and, all too often, they are one and the same. An empire sprawling in a mammoth chasm, Weirwane is a state in turmoil. The emperor is dead, his wife and heirs and himself incinerated in a great blaze that swallowed the Summer Palace whole. The nobles preen and strut and feign sorrow, but each has a knife behind their back and a plan to put themselves upon the empty throne. The common man, galvanized by the memory of a royal family that had done more for them than the entire line put together, will meet any usurpation with blood. The five great city-states of the Empire wait for the coming storm. Shrines and chapels are broken open, their holiest relics torn out. The restless dead stir at the edges of the empire, and enemies within and without conspire to see Weirwane remade--or unmade.

Weirwane is a setting, designed without regard to system. It depicts a strange, closed world full of mystery and intrigue. Set in a period of political strife, Weirwane aims to provide a compelling drama for players and a toolbox for storytellers, dungeon masters--whatever you like to call yourself. Weirwane should seem familiar: the trappings of fantasy are strewn throughout the setting. Even more importantly, Weirwane should seem unnerving: there is a great deal going on beneath the surface that aims to trouble the tropes and workings of fantasy.