|The City of Shalazar | Society and Social Roles | Religion | Law and Justice | Council of Elders | The Status of Men | The Great Families | Government and Military | Trade and Economy | Prices | Health | Transport and Communications|
At its heart, Shalazar is a monarchy, with an absolute monarch who is the head of both Church and State. The Calipha has right to command all djinn, by the authority of Shaliq, as written on the tablets: this is the source of the majority of her power.
Ascension to the post of Calipha is hereditary, of a sort. Unlike any other social position in Shalazar, the title of Calipha is handed to a daughter at the discretion of the reigning incumbent. 'Daughters by marriage', i.e. wives of the Calipha's sons, may inherit the throne, although this has happened only twice. The ability to name a successor is what has allowed the position of Calipha to continually pass to an able woman.
However, though the Calipha may command Djinn, her own armies, and the loyalty of her citizens, she is only human, and limited by any number of factors: time, her own intellect and imagination, practical considerations (she must eat and eat like any woman, and age takes its toll), and her own desire to rule--which has not always been great in past Caliphas.
If the Calipha were truly all-powerful and all-seeing, neither politics nor government would be necessary. This not being the case, the Calipha's power has been devolved to a number of entities, each of whom derive legitimacy from the recognition of the Calipha.
The Court, which is held within the pavilion of the Calipha's garden, is where the most important political decisions are made. The court is held irregularly based upon considerations of feast-days, astrology, and (upon occasion) the Calipha's whim.
Military preparedness and the military of Shalazar itself is the provenance of the Twenty Four generals. Nominally, these generals are independent of the Great Families and serve the Calipha directly. Often this is true, although in many cases those appointed to Generalships do not completely sever their links to their old Houses.
Great Families are great not only because of the wealth and power (although that is a necessary condition) but because they are recognized by the Calipha. In theory, a Calipha could strip a Great Family of their title, although this has rarely occurred.
Historically, the Great Families have been those who controlled the Outer Cities, collecting from them tribute and taxes for their own coffers (and those of the Calipha). These taxes are levied in theory for protection of the cities, although it is often the other Great Houses against which they must be protected.
The Stewards of the Great Cities are usually related to the Great Families by either blood or marriage-although their allegiances have been known to change…
The outer cities were formed when the leaders of the Twenty-Five tribes were sent by the First Calipha Adara to pacify the barbarians during the founding of Shalazar. With a single exception, the Obsidian City, each leader returned to Shalazar having either convinced the natives of the divinity of Shaliq, or slaughtered the inhabitants and taken their women into slavery.
These cities form the agricultural backbone of Shalazar, and the foundation upon which the wealth of the nation is built. Each of the Outer Cities is ruled by a Steward, usually a daughter of the Great Families, although there is no cultural restriction upon men being stewards, as they are merely holding land in trust. Each Steward is responsible for the protection and well-being of the citizenry, as well as for collecting taxes to be distributed to the inhabitants of Shalazar.
The Stewards are generals in their own rights-each can call upon an army of approximately 5,000 troops. It is said that the petty squabbles between these generals are sometimes fomented by the Calipha, to make certain that no faction ever gains enough power to threaten the city of Shalazar itself-though it is doubtful that the massed might of the twenty-four city-states could manage this. Certainly each steward remembers the early Desert Rebellion, and how it was crushed utterly by the Second Calipha.
There have been kind Stewardships, and cruel ones, and it is not unheard of for the city-states to rise up against their steward, although they have never yet risen up against the Calipha.
The Courts of Justice handle the day-to-day administration of law within the City. The Justices are generally priestesses, and the legal profession is the purview of women-monks sometimes act as legal scribes or scholars if they are eunuchs, but are forbidden by tradition from becoming lawyers.
Similarly, no man may set foot in a courtroom, save eunuchs, and even they may not argue their own cases: women are required for representation. In any event, arguing a case of theological law without significant knowledge would be a fool's task-making arguments based upon thousands of years of doctrine is a skill which only develops over time.
However, the Courts gain their legitimacy from the Calipha, and any citizen of Shalazar, be they male or female, may petition the Calipha for redress if they feel the Courts have done them a disservice. However, while the Calipha may or may not be fair, she is loathe to undermine her Courts, and reprieves are rare--and a foolish petitioner without grounds for appeal may find their punishment increases tenfold…
The Order originated in the Yilden city of Asala, where an old priestess established an order of warriors and sages to seek out and bring to justice all those who consorted with demons. Waleed al'Din was an aspiring warrior of the order, who was tasked with expanding the order into the city of Shalazar itself. This he did with great success, seeking out an ancient sword created as a bane to all necromancers, and using it to drive out an infestation of rat demons. In reward for this the Calipha herself acknowledged the Order as the Defenders of the City against Demons. She further declared the sword to be the greatest of all the wonders brought before her, and Waleed won himself the hand of soon-to-be Calipha Rasheeda.
Sitting at the right hand of the Calipha, and still loyal to the organisation that raised and trained him, Waleed saw to it that the Order received further honours. The Order was allowed to provide Waleed with a personal bodyguard, the Order of Blazing Sword. The Calipha granted the Order of Kal'Nayak the right to punish in her name those suspected of consorting with demons.
After the death of Waleed, the Order of the Blazing Sword was retained to guard the monument Rasheeda erected in her husbands name. Killian was appointed as an advisor, and he also took on the task of instructing the growing Amlatta. When she became Calipha, he became her most trusted advisor, and on his advice she disbanded her mothers bodyguard and called in the Order of the Blazing Sword to take on their role.
Shalazar's army is the stuff of legends, though it has been two thousand years since it last saw combat. Not since the time of the Desert Rebellion, when seven of the newly formed city-states tried to break away from the Calipha's rule, has the full might of her war machine taken to field. Yet though they spend most of their days chasing bandits across the desert, or manning guardposts in the city, these warriors are still feared throughout the lands of Shalazar.
The Calipha's army splits into three main parts - The Order of the Blazing Sword (formerly the Calipha's Bodyguard), the Blessed Legion, and The Military Academy's legions.
The Order of the Blazing Sword replaced the Calipha's Bodyguard as her personal protectors when Amlatta took the throne. (Many suspect that the Bodyguard's more romantic but less pious natures offended her sensibilities.) The Order is not known to be as physically powerful as their predecessors, but are certainly more numerous, and just as willing to die for their charge.
The Bodyguard, now disbanded, were the most feared warriors in all the land of Shalazar. Numbering 24, to honour the 24 generals who returned, they were all young, physically superior fighters, trained in close and ranged combat alike. Weilding weird swords that leave scars which no healer can sew up, and carrying huge metal shields - which some say were forged by the djinn themselves - the Bodyguard could easily hold off a force ten times its size within the palace, whose secret tunnels and passages only they and the Calipha know. Some say that the bodyguard drank strange potions and use oils which give them superhuman reflexes and strength, whilst draining away their lives. What is certainly true is that they served for a short time only, and as a rule died young.
Though the Bodyguard were nominally supposed to stay celibate, it had long been recognised that this rule would be impossible to enforce; whilst they could not marry while in service, a member of the Bodyguard would have been be hard pressed not to have many an affair with the ladies of the Calipha's court.
The Blessed Legion serve to protect the palace itself, and keep peace and order within it. Like the Bodyguard, they are selected from the Academy's finest - a fact which has lead to much jealousy towards the Bodyguard in the past, as Legionnaires are generally Bodyguard rejects. These days the troops serve a largely ceremonial purpose, patrolling the streets of the palace in their giddy outfits and shields, maintaining the Calipha's peace. The Legion and Bodyguard are both under the command of the Captain of Palace Guards, who is also one of Calipha's closest military advisors.
The legions of the military academy are the core of the Calipha's armies. There are 24 legions, one for each of the generals who returned, and their commanders form the Council of Honour; advising the Calipha on all matters military. The mainstay of the army are the light infantry and horsemen, ideally suited for desert fighting where mobility and speed are the key. As well as this, each legion has a considerable number of heavy infantry, who advance upon their enemies in tight, disciplined formations, grinding down all before them. Although the city-states of Shalazar fight amonst each other regularly, the Calipha's troops will generally stay out of such squabbles - after all the Desert Rebellion aptly demonstrated that in the open, there is no army that can match that of Shalazar. Nontheless, there are murmourings of discontent amongst the officers - combat is too rare and easy, and spoils nonexistant - and many believe that the army of Shalazar should be used to expand, not police the empire. The rank and file, however, are not so bothered by the lack of action and relatively cozy existance afforded to them, and many in fact see the currnt state of affairs as a blessing.