The Great Empire of Vohrleyn is the remaining rump of the Third empire, where the Sarkans and Tharns still owe allegiance to the Vulan. Although it covers a relatively small geographical area, it’s the most densely populated part of Kalyr, and contains well over half the world’s total kandar population.
The empire consists of the band of cultivated land extending along the coast from the Gulf of Vohrleyn to the great city of Keylin, and up the Val valley to the Lake of Valgar. Outside the numerous cities and towns, the land is divided into plantations, worked by human labourers growing food for the populations of the cities. Beyond the cultivated land lies wilderness “hunting reserves”, where nobles hunt wild animals (and the occasional runaway slave) for sport. The cities of the empire are connected by a network of well-maintained and well-patrolled roads. Since most major population centres are coastal, much trade also travels by coastal shipping.
The present Vulan, Kadheyn Ardreyr, has ruled for the past twenty years, inheriting the throne from his uncle, Avaluis. He maintains power through an instinctive understanding of politics and a very extensive spy network. He has an uncanny ability to play potential enemies off against each other, and a ruthlessness in crushing those he can neither buy off or assimilate into his network of patronage. He’s actually quite popular amongst the common people, even many humans, though his policy of ‘bread and circuses’, keeping them fed and entertained.
Kadheyn’s actual policies are directed to maintaining the status quo. He takes the threat of the Konaic Empire seriously, and devotes a lot of energy to maintaining sufficient military forces to repel an invasion, and to break up Karmorki spy rings. He takes ‘the human question’ just as seriously, and is prepared to deal very brutally towards any human group that threatens to rock the boat. He has other enemies as well. Many of clan Alkurvil have never forgiven clan Ardreyr for outmanoeuvring them and seizing the throne, and still want it back. Then there are bitter rivals within his own clan. His most significant enemes are his half-brother Turvath Ardreyr and his scheming wife Zanata Alkurvil. As head of Administration for the Vohrleyn Guild of Victuallers, and head of Security of the Vohrleyn Academy of Life respectively, both have too much of a power base for Kadheyn to move against either directly.
He replies heavily on his spymistress, Shavanta Ardreyr, and a powerful cabal of psionic advisors to sniff out potential enemies. Many plots against him have been infiltrated and redirected against other rival plotters. This frequently results in the would-be plotters succeeding only in eliminating each other, leaving Kadheyn untouched.
Smaller cities have their own intrigues. The Vulan grants control of individual cities to clans, but it’s the elders of the clan that decide which one of their number shall be Tharn of the city. With many clans riven with factions and feuds, they resemble the Imperial court in miniature, with rivalries, plots and the occasional assassination. Then there’s the ever-present threat of a rival clan petitioning the Vulan to grant the city to themselves. Frequently, rival clans struggle for control of important guilds. Even if one clan officially rules a city, a rival can have a lot of leverage by controlling several of the guilds, giving them an economic stranglehold.
The caste system applies pretty strictly in the Empire, which severely restricts social climbing. Senior positions in guilds and temples are almost exclusively filled by the kandar nobility, and a ‘glass ceiling’ restricts the progress of anyone of humbler birth. The sole meritocratic organisation is the army, made up from four of the old empire’s eight legions. But even they do not employ humans except as ‘cannon fodder’ auxiliaries.
The vast majority of humans live therefore as simple labourers on the plantations, or occasionally as tenant farmers on poorer land. The vast majority of humans in the cities are slaves. A few eke out a living as casual labourers, performing the dirty and dangerous jobs no kandar will do, dwelling in run-down ghettos. In terms of standard of living, most of them are worse off than the majority of slaves. Since non-slave humans exist in a legal twilight zone, there is no shortage of criminals, who can prey on their fellow humans with virtual impunity. This results in many humans paying protection money to crime lords in order to be left alone. Only the bold or reckless human criminals would dare to rob a kandar; punishments will be swift, harsh, and almost always fatal, not just to the actual criminal, but to his friends and associates as well.
At the opposite end of the social food chain, many kandar nobles lead idle and decadent lives, devoting their time and energy to petty intrigues, leaving honest toil to others.
Adventuring in the Empire
The Vohrleyn empire is the default setting for Kandar characters, and is best place for a game where political intrigue and social climbing is a major element. The stark social divisions make it hard to sustain a mixed party of kandar and human characters, although an all-human party could view the corrupt society from underneath.