The Crusader State

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The Shining Gulf - Click to view full size.

For most of its history since the Fall, Yathrib has been ruled by an unruly group of semi-independent nobles, many of whom were bitterly at war with each other. After the gate to Aylon was shut down, order was maintained by a loose quintet of the senior De Moley, al-Malik and Justinian counts as well as the Archbishop of the Holy City and the Master of the Brother Battle. The leader of the quintet was the Guardian of the Holy City, a position originally held by House De Moley but held instead at several points in the planet's history by House Justinian or even the Brother Battle.

The quintet model was never perfectly effective; it largely excluded the Pearl Cities from power, and at various times Prince-Bishops and rebellious lords openly flaunted its authority. The quintet entirely disintegrated, however, when the Kurgans invaded: the decision to strip the Pearl Cities of their planet-to-space weapons left the lords of the Pearls bitter and discontent, and then submission of the al-Malik and the loss of the Holy City eviscerated two of the quintet's members.

In 4925, the three remaining members of the quintet met in Akko. Fulk de Moley was the Lord of Akko and Guardian of the Holy City; Galen Maxwell Justinian was Count of Olivet and Thomas de Kerak was Master of the Brother Battle. The Most Holy Archbishop was trapped in his palace in Revelation, sending a legate to attend the meeting, while Osman al-Malik had knelt to the Kurgans seven years earlier. He sent his daughter Nadira to attend, however. There, the assembled dignitaries issued the Statute of 4925, commanding and requiring all the faithful to swear fealty to the Guardian of the Holy City and formally establishing a Crusader State of Revelation with the sworn and stated goal of retaking the Holy City.

The Crusader State

The Crusader State is a feudal state based in Akko with the Guardian of the Holy City as its formal head. His direct vassals are the assembled counts of Yathrib, who in turn have barons and baronets sworn to them. The Crusader State also directly controls a number of castles which serve as rallying points to defend Akko and crusader lands.

The Lord of Akko is the feudal superior and head of state, but while his powers are stronger than under the quintet system old traditions still sway. De facto power rests in the Custodial Court or Curia, which is composed of all the peers of the Crusader State. Similarly, the Guardian has several officers who see to the day-to-day prosecution of the war and the administration of the realm, even more so now that recontact has brought a wealth of external politics for the Guardian to contend with. While the current state dates back only about 80 years, the institutions of the state - including the Guardian, Curia, and the offices of Chancellor and Constable - are much older, having existed in one form or another for centuries.

The Custodial Court

The Curia Custodes, or custodial court, is the high court of the Crusader State. All peers of the planet are members, though the Seven Seigneurs - the traditional chief vassals of Akko - are first in precedence and receive special high-backed carved chairs at meetings of the court. Other peers and captains must sit on camp stools, indicating the wartime posture of the Crusader State, while those who are merely observing the court stand. Even the Guardian sits upon such a stool, though the Curule Seat is ancient and carved, set just before and below the ancient Throne of St. Godfrey. The Guardian takes that throne once upon his ascension and after only in times of great and serious purpose, when presiding over a trial of treason or preparing to make some pronouncement of terrible import. The order to Spoil the Pearls was made from St. Godfrey's Throne, and other such pronouncements have been equally grave.

The assembled bishops and mitred abbots of Yathrib are also members ex offico of the Custodial Court, as are the heads of knightly orders. The knightly commanders are officially not permanent members, but every session opens with one lord rising, gesturing to the commanders, and asking the court to "accept these worthy captains who fight for our cause as brothers in arms." Since recontact, important offworld crusaders have also been given that honor. When a crusader is first introduced to the curia, a lord rises and says, "My lords, I am honored to be in the presence of a foreign prince, sworn to our great crusade. Let us call him a brother and seat him amongst our company." From then on, the crusader is considered one of the 'worthy captains' who are made ad hoc members each sitting. In general, a new crusading captain must command a substantial force to be given such an honor, though a particularly famous commander may be seated on the strength of his or her reputation.

The court has several traditional duties. First, it serves as the highest judicial body of the Crusader State, settling disputes between vassals and hearing trials of peers. Second, the Guardian must traditionally seek the Curia's consent before committing the entire force of the Crusader State to some campaign. Third, the Guardian traditionally must seek the Curia's consent before appointing someone to command one of the State's castles, and the Curia itself can nominate captains-major or captains-general to lead Akko's armies. The two senior Great Officers, the Constable and Chancellor, traditionally decline to serve the Guardian if they do not have the support of the Curia. Finally, any peer can demand the Curia take up as a whole and reconsider some decision of Constable or Chancellor the peer disagrees with.

The actual conduct of a curia meeting is relatively straight-forward. Peers rise, are recognized by the Guardian or his designee, and speak their piece. The Great Officers and the Seven Seigneurs are entitled to interrupt anyone if they choose, though they traditionally seek recognition before speaking. The Seven Seigneurs are also entitled to speak for as long as they choose, including designating someone to speak on their behalf; this is a de facto filibuster that can be used to veto some curial act the count disapproves of.

Proxy Votes

Peers who cannot attend Curia often give their proxy to others - formally, they do this through a letter addressed to the Chancellor, indicating that they wish to vote on some matter in a certain way, and defer to some other peer for clarification when required. General proxies can (and sometimes are) given, but the Chancellor or some other peer can question a general proxy if it has been given too often, and demand the absent peer present themselves to the Chancellor and prove that they are their own person, and not bound to vote after another. This inquiry is a protection from a time when powerful lords regularly demanded lesser peers vote with them on penalty of invasion, and is a jealously-guarded right of the peerage.

Types of Curia

The greater or Curia General is the most famous sort of assembly for the court of the the Guardian, but other forms of meeting occur.

The first - perhaps most common - is the Small Curia or Curia Minor, where pro forma matters of state are decided by a handful of peers bearing sufficient proxy votes to handle matters. This is often used for appointments to offices like Castellan or Captain-Major, and the attendees are usually the Constable, Chancellor, and some (but often not all) of the castellans and Seven Seigneurs. The Small Curia's agenda needs to be published in advance, so that the Chancellor can be assured that there are not objections by the peerage such that a matter should be considered by the general Curia.

Second and less common is an Extraordinary Curia, called generally by a peer or officer of the crusader state to confront some single important issue that cannot wait for the Guardian or Constable to summon the peers to court. Strictly speaking, an extraordinary Curia still requires the Constable or Guardian to open the assembly, though there have been 'rebel Curias' who have met in extraordinary session without the agreement of the Guardian. Such a thing happened at the end of the All-Saints' War, when the Court of Akko voted to depose House Justinian and reinstate House De Moley as Guardians and Lords of Akko. By their nature, extraordinary curias are to discuss some single important question; all other matters are left for the next session of the Curia General or the small curia.

Great Officers

The Crusader State has two great officers as well as a number of castellans. The great officers are almost always peers, though conceptually a freeman could be appointed to one of those offices, and the castellans are sometimes peers and usually noble or priests, though there have been Muster commanders at several brief points.

The Lord Constable of the Holy City is the senior officer of the Crusader State and the head of government of Akko. The Lord Constable is responsible for coordinating the defense of the Known Worlds lands and prosecuting the war against the Kurgans, and is entitled to call upon the vassals of Akko for aid in times of emergency when the Curia cannot meet. The Constable assigns tasks to the castellans, captains-major and captains-general of the crusades, though the political oversight exercised by the Curia means that some of those commanders may ignore some or all of the Constable's command. Finally, the Lord Constable can overrule the decisions of the Chancery under "the exigencies of war."

The Lord Chancellor is the head of the Chancery, the bureaucratic arm of the state. The Chancellor is responsible for revenues and taxes, for chartering cities and markets, and for establishing the courts. It is the Chancellor who recognizes the associations who control the Foregate and controls the Spice Market, Stockyards, and starport. The Chancellor also issues charters for fairs and markets among Akko's vassals, though many lords flaunt that authority by holding adulterine markets. On occasion, however, the Chancellor has shut such fairs down and seized all the goods. Finally, the Chancellor charters towns and cities, though a local lord can also issue a charter. Such a charter allows the freemen of a town to form their own government, which is generally dominated by League interests. The Chancellor's power over towns and cities as well as the courts make him the ultimate arbiter of law and order in Akko, though daily control is exerted by the League and the Brother Battle.

In rare cases, the offices of Constable and Chancellor are combined in one person, who is usually then given the title of Seneschal. Only two Seneschals have been appointed in the Crusader State's 75-year history; the first was Count Galen Justinian, one of the original authors of the Statute of 4925, while the second was Count Joscelin de Moley, Lord Geoffrey's brother and the eventual instigator of recontact.

Castellans and Commanders

The Crusader State has three sorts of appointed officers: castellans, captains-major, and captains-general.

The captains-major and captains-general are given command over joint armies raised by the Constable or the Curia, and are usually nominated and appointed by the Curia itself, though the Constable and Guardian usually have candidates in mind. Captains-general are appointed to lead whole armies, while captains-major are usually chosen to lead smaller forces or to serve as lieutenants to a captain-general or the Constable. In some cases, the Guardian or Constable may specially ask for a Marshal to be appointed, who serves as a sort of 'second Constable' with wide powers. The Imperial Marshal was confirmed as a Marshal of the Holy City by the Curia when the Imperial Legion arrived, mostly as a courtesy.

The castellans, by contrast, are nominated by the Guardian or Constable and confirmed by the Curia. They command the Crusader Castles that serve to defend the state. Four of the Castellans - the Castellans of the North, West, South and East - do not have castles per se but are instead responsible for the defense of Akko's four approaches and serve as the battlefield commanders of the armies raised from Akko itself. The Castellan of the North is additionally responsible for Pilgrims' Landing and the Refugee Camps, while the Castellan of the East is instead called the Lord Warden of the Port, and is responsible for Akko's maritime defense.

Two additional castellans are appenages of the counts. The Castellan of Johburg is the Count of Johburg, though at one point the Count nominated his son to serve as Castellan instead. Similarly, the Castellan of Joyeaux is the Count of Oultrejoyeaux, though the Count of Leon is upset about this development: Joyeaux was his possession until the Castellan declared himself independent.

Three other castles remain in crusader hands. The High Castle above Olivet watches over the high passes between the Vale of Olives and the desert; it is currently held by the Count of Olivet's cousin, though he has used his influence on the Curia to distribute it like patronage. Castle Malefaux sits above the Pass of Arrows, guarding the approach from the ruins of Maleband; it has been held by a succession of crusaders. Finally, the Cripple Keep controls one of the three crossings over the Lesser Branch of the River of Joy. It was in the hands of a Muster commander until his recent death in a skirmish with the Kurgans.

The Counties

There are seven counties in the Shining Gulf, each with between 1 and 5 vassal baronies, as well as a couple of independent barons who owe fealty directly to Akko. There is one marquis - the embattled Lord of Sidon, a vassal of Auberry north across the Lesser Fork - though there have been others in the past.

The Feudal System

The barons and counts rule substantial areas of land directly, and to administer such holdings they have tenant knights and baronets. Barons, counts, and marquises hold land 'per baroniam', as sovereign vassals, while baronets and knights have so-called 'mesne tenure'. The peers own their land outright and have the rights of high and low justice, while the baronets can be removed from their tenure for cause and have only the right of low justice. Some few baronets have achieved 'sovereign' status, holding land as a sovereign vassal, but they are rare.

Unlike on some more stable planets, the constant churn of war means that the counties are not largely organized along house lines. A Hawkwood count may have Hazat or Decados barons as vassals, and the high degree of independence exercised by vassal barons means that sometimes the bonds of fealty are loose. In addition, a single Hazat lord might be the vassal of a Hawkwood count for one barony and a Decados count for another, potentially creating explosive conflicts of interest.

Taifa Fiefs

In the chaos of the back-and-forth wars between the Kurgans and the Crusaders, several fiefs have become orphans -- Known Worlder baronies trapped in Kurgan lands or Kurgan sheikhdoms in the midst of the Crusader State. These fiefs are called 'taifa', 'orphan', or 'tribute' fiefs, because they survive because of an uneasy agreement to pay heavy taxes to their overlords in exchange for freedom from conquest. The first taifa was Hydessos; when Osman al-Malik submitted to the Kurgans at the Peace of Edessa, the island of Ydessa was termed a 'taifa' by the Kurgans and paid heavy taxes to the Khedive. Now, the phrase is used more generally to denote taifa fiefs both in Known Worlds lands and among the Kurgans.

There are a number of taifa sheikhdoms and even emirates in the Antipodes, though the Li Halan Duke of Fallingfire is a consistent advocate for putting the fiefs to the sword. In the Shining Gulf, there is only one taifa barony, held by the Dey of Farouk, who is a vassal of the Count of Leon. Many barons have Kurgan villages under their control, however, ruled by Kurgan lords who pay a tribute to their feudal lord.

On the Kurgan side of the Gulf, there is less of a formal arrangement. Several of Oultrejoyeaux's baronies pay a quarterly tribute to Malaga, though none can be described exactly as a vassal of the emirate. The Kurgan-held refugee camps can be most accurately described as vassals, however: while Camp He is largely lawless, Camp Vav can be described as a very rebellious vassal while Camp Khet is an almost enthuiastic one. There are several taifa baronies in the Pearl Cities as well, held by noble lords who have never converted and yet have avoided death in the periodic pogroms sponsored by Kurgan radicals.