Illistim Culture - Part II. Branches of the State
The Illistim city state directly supports the following branches, providing them with enormous amounts of funding and what may be the most important resource of the Illistim – access to the Library Aies. Only the Masters of Lore are allowed full access to every wing and shelf of the Aies, but involvement in any affords them some level of access that those without do not have.
Perhaps the most iconic of all of Ta'Illistim's official arms of governing bodies are the Illistim Masters of Lore, whose founding coincided with the founding of the city itself, with Lisandrych Illistim herself being the first, and arguably greatest, Master of Lore.
The Masters of Lore study every field of research one could ever dream of – from the mating habits of the fire ticks of the Southron Wastes to the conversion of powerful Flow magic to Rote magic. Their studies comprise the breadth of all known knowledge – mundane and fantastic alike – and often the Masters will be focused solely on one or several related fields from their induction. Each facet is supported in some manner by the funds and resources of the city-state, depending on the current needs or whims of the royals at the time.
The Loremasters are charged with a number of tasks – among which is the governing of magic use within Ta'Illistim's borders and serving numerous advisory roles within the royal courts, advising both nobles and the Queen herself.
They are also tasked with the education of the elven people – at its very heart, the Loremasters run the most prestigious and only state-sponsored collegiate institutions for both general and magical studies. While the amassing of research, history and various aspects of elven and other cultures is incredibly important to them, they are also responsible for the spread of their accumulated wisdom, setting up institutions of learning in the vast expanse of Ta'Illistim's borders and within the cities of our brothers. There, students learn the lore of our people and those beyond, are granted the best education in the known world, and the basic tenets of magical theory are offered to those with the inclination to learn, with advanced techniques reserved for the brightest of students.
The Loremasters are directly responsible for the upkeep and management of the Library Aies, and the exclusive schools of magic housed within its walls attract elves from all over the empire to the Shining City to drink of its bounty of knowledge. While most of the Aies' secrets are barred from non-imperial elves and outsiders, their time is often spent expanding the library or working through the vast and immeasurable load of collected and unread scrolls, tomes and uncatalogued artifacts waiting to be researched more thoroughly.
The Masters of Lore often lead a reclusive and shuttered life, rarely leaving the halls of a library or a laboratory lest their studies force them to work in the field. Their research goes directly toward the House's overall goals, with a council of elder Loremasters convening to speak with royalty about House Illistim's aims and their recent breakthroughs or discoveries and where to direct funds for specific fields of research. The ranking system of the Loremasters has changed little from the time of their inception, and is as follows:
Student of Lore – the very first rank of the Loremasters, this denotes the period of time the Loremaster is instructed heavily in all manners of things regarding research, study and, depending on their chosen field, magical aid. Students are granted extremely limited access to the Library Aies, able to see a portion of the books and study projects reserved for internal use by the Loremasters and never seen by the public.
Walker of Lore – the second rank denotes the transition from a pure student to one who aids a Dedicated of Lore – nominally as a research assistant based on the student's interests and strengths. If a student shows exceptional talent, they may be assigned to an Elder or even a Master of Lore. A Walker of Lore might specialize in alchemy, floral studies of the southern DragonSpine or lost nomadic tribes of the eastern plains, their field of interest is limited only by their raw ability and the availability of certain Elders.
Teacher of Lore – The Teacher of Lore has reached a level of dedication where they are trusted within their chosen field of specialty to teach others. They often spend many a year transferring to the different collegiate institutions of the Loremasters, discussing at length their field of research and learning from other teachers. This position is often where most Loremasters, if they ever do so, choose to marry, as the time spent apart from a potential love interest when they were students kindles affection when they reunite once more. This is also the rank where most Loremasters tend to stop their progression, as some naturally love to teach and spread the wealth of information they've amassed so far. Teachers of Lore are given further access to the Aies' non-public wings.
Dedicated of Lore – The rank of Dedicated of Lore is the first transition into a master of knowledge – it marks the true calling of the elf who walks its path, as they have chosen a field of specialty and will pursue it wholeheartedly. The Dedicated of Lore are given nearly full access to the Aies, save for a few ancient wings walked only by the Masters. Teams of Dedicated Illistim elves with similar research are formed during this stage, directed by either an Elder or a Master. The Dedicated are also afforded a few research assistants if they so wish, taking a single or several Walkers of Lore under their wing. The goal of this rank is to once again permeate the bearer of it with similar knowledge of his or her chosen field, perhaps breaking any rigid molds they see their field in and allowing them to see view ideas from a different perspective.
Elder of Lore – The Elders of Lore once again take on a role of teaching and directing the Dedicated, furthering their pursuit of their chosen field of study. They may also, on occasion, teach advanced classes in the institutions, but this is rare. They are nearly consumed with their research, learning the methods by which a team of researchers must be directed and used properly to further to knowledge of their chosen field.
Master of Lore – A Master of Lore is the pinnacle of elven wisdom, having gone through an arduous path of learning and discovery. It is a known fact that no Master of Lore holds less than two orange-rimmed jewels on their personal crest, with many exceeding such a low number. The Masters of Lore are given full autonomy and a number of research facilities within the Library Aies, summoned only for general meetings among the Masters and for concerns of the Queen herself. Masters of Lore may contract their services out to other noble families in and out of the House, or may return to their own family and perform research functions related to their overall proclivities. However, no Master of Lore is ever allowed to speak of what lies beyond the most private and secluded halls of the Aies, where the Illistim elves' secrets and their most dangerous research lies. It is rumoured that a condition of becoming a Master of Lore is to be bound by a geas spell never to speak of this research or the knowledge contained within the forbidden wings to a non-Master lest one suffer a terrible, irreversible death. The Masters of Lore, obviously, do not speak of such spells.
The Elemancers are the pinnacle of elven mastery of elemental magic, an elite cadre of researchers and practical applications of elemental magic – from the mass tilling of fields to the summoning of legions of elementals. The individuals within the ranks of the Elemancers of Illistim are wide and varied, and they are the only group which answers directly to the Queen, acting by her hand only rather than an internal commanding officer. They are largely an autonomous group, with its members being sent on missions of diplomacy, research and even battle and bodyguard roles, for each Elemancer is on the forefront of all applied elemental magic and is a truly dangerous force to be reckoned with.
Elemancers are selected by the reigning ruler every few years – top researchers in the field of wizardry and planar studies, even Masters of Lore deemed appropriate for the society are approached with the offer. There is often enormous pressure on the elf chosen to accept such an honor -- beyond the fact that it comes with a multitude of benefits, including funding from the House for whatever research they wish to delve into – to not accept is generally regarded as an affront to the House and those who have refused are quietly and subtly cast out as a pariah over the years.
The level of autonomy afford to Elemancers is quite high, and they can go years without performing anything of import for the House, but when royalty calls, they must answer and do whatever is asked of them.
The Sapphire Guard is charged with the protection of the city and the outlying provinces, and while most of the Guard is well-trained physically and completely non-magical in function, they are supplied with the best quality armor and weapons that the Artificers of Illistim can supply them with. Loosely modeled on Vaalor's military – they are, after all, quite good at it, so no use tinkering with a solidly proven system – the service is voluntary, but once inducted into its ranks, they must serve a solid century lest they be severely punished.
Despite Ta'Illistim's reputation as a city of bookworms, the Sapphire Guard is home to a number of master tacticians whose logistics are quite formidable. There is a fairly large magical division of the Guard – used mainly for support and firepower in battle. They are generally posted along the walls, specializing in long-range destructive spells. When needed, the Guard taps the resources of the Royal Magi or even the Elemancers, whose skill sets include acts of war.
Not to be hindered by being a purely combat-oriented group, a number of the Guard actively refine and research new tools by which they might further their effectiveness, with a number of them actively conferring with Withycombe gnomes to glean knowledge of their clockwork mechanisms and how one might incorporate that into weaponry and defensive measures.
The Council of Thrones
The Council of Thrones, as it is called in Ta'Illistim, is often mirrored in other city-states, though by different names with some varying particulars in regards to operation and mandates. The entirety of its membership is made up entirely of former rulers of the House, who have stepped aside for one reason or another. Its primary function is the selection, grooming and training of the monarchy, and once a new ruling monarch is established, they take on advisory and support roles for the throne. It is here we must digress into a bit of explanation for those unfamiliar with the intricacies of the elven political system.
The elven people, ever wise in their ways and the standard by which leadership is considered in the known world, recognize that ambitious and talented leaders do not always stay within the family line.
During the founding of the Empire, this was not the case – the families of each House lead their people and their city into greatness, with successors selected only from within the family itself – much like the Turamzyrrian Empire is today. Lisandrych Illistim's direct line ruled over the House for many years and no doubt lead us to great heights.
However, after the events of the Undead War and as our people separated into their own city-states, a decision was made unanimously among the elves of all cities, agreed upon by all current rulers – the bloodlines of our founders would indeed be preserved and honored, however, the events of the war had seen incredible advances in magic and battle – beyond the terrible and forbidden magic of the Faendryl, the elven empire as a whole had seen sweeping changes and advancements, as well as bravery and leadership unparalleled anywhere else.
As all elves are essentially of the same family, the current rulers decided to break the royal bloodline, recognizing the folly of familial ties in such a long-lived people. This decision came shortly after the exile of the Faendryl, whose bloody family politics and assassinations had embroiled our people for ages under their leadership. No longer lead underneath their banner, our people came to the decision that this was the best possible scenario, allowing the best and brightest to grow to be the leaders they were meant to be without the limitations of an archaic system that had held back our people and forced the Faendryl to commit unspeakable atrocities. Whether it was to differentiate ourselves from the Faendryl as soon as possible, who still keep to the familial monarchy to this day, or a method of recognizing the diligence and extraordinary ability of all those lost in the war, we can really never say – all who came to the decision had different reasons. It took our people varying lengths of time to adopt this new line of thinking wholeheartedly – with other Houses taking longer than our fair Illistim ancestors – who were the first to implement the system fully. Others, obviously, were not so happy with these terms, mainly distant cousins and the like who dreamed of such chances.
Regardless, once such a decision had come into play, the Council of Thrones was established in the Shining City, originally comprised of members of the Illistim line and prominent figures in the city of that age. At the time the current ruler's reign comes to an end, either by death or through stepping down from the throne, the Council will vote on its own pool of candidates that it has selected over the years, generally conferring with the ruling monarch at the time as to who might be considered. The current ruler is also allowed to personally name their successor, which generally holds quite a bit of weight with the Council – however, it is not a guarantee of succession. When a ruler must be chosen, the Council assembles and often invites various high-ranking representatives of different branches of state to confer and vote upon the House's new ruler. It is noteworthy that it is a long-standing tradition to name successors of the original founder's gender, but it is certainly not a requirement.
When a new leader is chosen, they and any of their children borne under their reign become the embodiment of the House – giving up their family names in lieu of the House's founder. This usually increases the monarch's original family's status slightly, but they are in no way considered part of the royal family. The monarch themselves take on a new given name, usually suggested by the Council after their elevation. Once a ruling monarch steps down they retain their 'royal' name, while any children they've fostered under their time are still considered 'royal' by all standards save in name only. As the many years pass, however, many of the former monarchs revert back to their original names and families.
The Council is comprised, as mentioned prior, of a number of former monarchs of the House. They serve as mentors and advisors to the new ruler, gathering to impart their wisdom, guidance and experience overall to move the embodiment of the House – its ruler – ever forward. While not common, the Council may also invite high-ranking politicians and various branches of state to aid them in their official day to day tasks beyond the voting process for the new ruler.
The Arch Magi
The Arch Magi are a group of magic-users whose sole duty is the protection of royalty – this includes family members and the Council of Thrones, however, their primary duty is the protection of the ruling monarch. Once inducted into the Magi, an Illistim elf's training becomes solely focused on the art of magical war and combat, and they refine their craft over hundreds of years of practice. They often act as consultants within the Sapphire Guard and the Artificers, their studies often leading them to natural conclusions about magical defense and implementation. When needed, the Magi are dispatched alongside the Sapphire Guard, serving as extreme tactical advantages.
The Magi are afforded some research assistance, should they wish it, but they are mainly encouraged to study new and interesting ways to destroy or ward things. It is the sole reason their numbers are among the lowest – most Illistim would prefer not to make things explode as they find it very boring and droll. Still, those that do enter this branch of service are incredibly well-trained in the art of defense and destruction and are considered elite units among militaries of the world.
The Artificers of Illistim work directly for the benefit of the House, and maintain a registry of all magical items ever created under the hand of an Illistim elf. It is a royal decree that all new artifacts created or discovered by Illistim be registered with the Artificers within a week – anyone in violation of this decree suffers very severe punishments. A number of the Artificers work on painstakingly cataloguing every aspect of a magical item, the components used to create one, if any, and the undertakings of steps one must go to actually forge the item oneself to archive in the Library Aies.
The other side of the Artificers work toward the creation of new magical items and enchantments, using what has been deconstructed from known and thoroughly catalogued items to form new ones. They are also responsible for maintaining, improving, and creating the majority of the Illistim's airship fleet, augmenting them whenever a new discovery is made that will aid in their flight.
Another side of the Artificers' work is exclusively training the captains and monitoring all of the airship activity going in and out of Ta'Illistim. They are primarily concerned with establishing new trade routes and directing supplies and resources – they are far cheaper than contracting a mage for a teleport spell, especially over longer distances with heavy cargo. They are also the only institution which offers training in the piloting of elven airships and the mastery of veniom.
Airships are driven through a manipulation of the forces of veniom, and while one can manipulate them magically with very careful practice, the Artificers are the only source of the interface which can allow a completely magically inert elf to fly a ship with relative ease. It is rumoured to be a mixture of dreamstone, glimaerstone and various refined metals that enhance and focus the mind's power to a very specific set of tasks. They take on students that pass certain aptitude tests, and provide training to them free of charge in exchange for a number of years of service in the trade routes business – skimming off the top in the process while letting the captain in on some of the profits. They will also teach any elf the method for the right price, which is usually exorbitant.
One of the less glamorous jobs among Illistim society are the royal representatives – this encompasses a multitude of purely clerical and bureaucratic positions, from magistrates, to clerks and other roles which blend effortlessly into Illistim society. They are responsible for making certain the elves among or underneath them are performing to their very best, recommending promotions and even the awarding of jewels to their superiors. Royal Representatives can be found in every one of the Illistim's state-sponsored branches – from the Masters of Lore to the Sapphire Guard and even the Elemancers. They are the nigh invisible cogs which make the Shining City's society push forward in whatever they do.