The Workings of Empire
All land in the Empire belongs to the High King, who is a divine entity and the ultimate authority. He leases it out to the ruling class of human lords in return for a fixed amount of tithes.
Tithes are assessed, collected and redistributed by the High King’s priest-caste, the Legates, who also act as law-givers and judges. The highest legates are priests able to work magic; they are supported by a body of scribes and monks and protected by their own cavalry unit, the Paladins.
The main recipient of the tithes is the Army. It is divided into legions, each numbered and led by a general. There are four to six hundred men in a legion, each unit of about one-hundred is in turn led by a Centurion. Military service usually lasts twenty years, after which most soldiers retire with a pension and live as freemen. The more capable ones stay on and are rewarded with land and the inheritable title of Lord upon discharge.
The upper class are the landed nobles, called the Lords. Many of them have inherited their title and the land and serfs that go with it. Lords may buy and sell land from other lords and pass it on in marriage or as an inheritance. They may also sublet land to freemen. Only humans can hold the title of Lord.
Below the nobility are the Freemen. Many among them are humans who work as expert craftsmen or merchants but many of them are poor. The children of freemen are also born free, even if they have elven blood. They may lease land and own slaves. Many Freemen join the clergy or the army. As long as they are members of either organisation, they are subject to its rules and the orders of their superiors.
The majority of the people in the Shady Dales are Elves, and the vast majority of them live and work as Serfs on farms and plantations owned by human Lords or Freemen. They clear land, tend crops and help in the processing of their produce. Serfs keep part of the goods they make and may trade them for tools, clothing and other everyday items. However, they may not own land, livestock or weapons. They may travel only at their lord’s permission but can never leave his demesne to live someplace else.
Below the serf is the Slave – usually elves who have been convicted of crimes. Slaves are marked by a tattoo on their arm. They have no rights and are kept and traded for their labour, often of the hardest kind, i.e. in the mines. Any freeman may buy and own slaves, including free elves. The children of slaves are also slaves. Slaves may be freed by their owners, but this happens only rarely.
The only class of people lower than even the slave is the outlaw or Wolf’s Head, who may be killed by anyone on sight.