Size: 156 worlds, 32 protectorates. All worlds of the Empire are Taysan colonies, the protectorates are individual spacefaring civilisations within or near the borders.
Years spacefaring: 3320
Leader: Empress Thalia
Government: Absolute monarchy
Appearance: Humanoid with silver skin and blue eyes.
Oldest of the spacefaring races, Taysan civilisation with all its rigidities and rituals reaches back well before they first ventured into the ‘sea-beyond-the-sky’. It is said that the first Empress to unite the kingdoms of the world was Arathea the Lightbringer, around 6000 years ago, and the Royal House claims direct descent from her through the female line.
The early days of colonisation and expansion were hampered by an ongoing war with Taysar’s very near neighbours, the Monoom. The war ended with the extinction of the Monoom in a devastating plague.
The Empress rules Taysar and all its colonies as an absolute monarch, hereditary through the female line. She is supported by the Circle of Twelve, whose members hold their place by right of birth, and by six Royal Advisers, who are appointees chosen by the Empress from amongst the Imperial and Noble Castes. It is sometimes suggested that the real work of government is done by the Royal Advisers, since they are chosen for their ability rather than by accident of birth. Members of the Council and the Royal Advisers have special rights to address the Empress.
The Empress issues decrees around once every three months, when Taysar’s three moons are in conjunction with each other, and all laws are made in this way.
All professions, known as ‘castes’ are inherited, usually through the male line. Anyone who is actually incapable of performing the profession of their birth for whatever reason is given a posting where they cannot do much harm, or ‘retired’ and must live a life of idleness.
The castes fall into one of three ‘degrees’ – Noble, Honourable and Servant.
- Noble: Imperial Caste, Noble Caste.
- Honourable: Swordbearer Caste, Priest Caste, Scribe Caste, Seeker Caste (scientist), Healer Caste, Stargazer Caste (astronomer), Bard Caste, Starstrider Caste (spaceship pilots), Swiftrunner Caste (athletes), and many more.
- Servant: Servitor Caste, Metalworker Caste, Cook Caste, Streetsweeper Caste, Player Caste, Menial Caste, and many more.
Within each caste there are clans, with their own allegiances, customs and tensions. So for instance, the Blades of Vengeance is a notable and powerful Swordbearer Caste clan. Each clan has its Elders and a Chief.
It is legal to marry someone of the same degree, with parental consent. In some parts of the Empire a more old-fashioned view prevails, that only marriage within one’s own caste is respectable. The correct courtship procedures must be observed, and both families must agree to the match. Marriage outside one’s degree is strictly forbidden. In mixed-caste marriages, children are generally considered to belong to the caste of the same sex parent, although there are sometimes instances of boys wanting to follow their mother’s caste, and vice versa. This potential uncertainty is one argument put forward by traditionalists against mixed marriages.
It is possible to be rendered ‘outcaste’ as a punishment for crimes against society. Most Outcaste simply starve to death, as they cannot work for sustenance.
Everyday interactions in Taysan society are dictated by a sense of queltha, a word which partly translates as ‘manners’ or ‘politeness’ but really encompasses a whole philosophy of etiquette, social deference, private conscience and respect for others.
Each caste speaks its own dialect of the ancient Taysan language, and while mutually comprehensible, these linguistic caste distinctions are complex and variable. One striking feature of Taysan is that personal pronouns and verb modifications change according to the caste and degree of the person being addressed, as well as of the speaker himself.
Religion is a very important part of Taysan culture, with the Priest Caste numerous and influential. The arrival of the Prophet Lonn around 5000 years ago is regarded as the dawn of true civilisation – before that time, Taysans were split into many warring religious factions, and according to legend materialism and decadence were widespread. Lonn claims to have looked upon the true Face of God, and wrote about his insights in the Testament of Lonn. Born a Scribe, but elevated to Prophet status by his gifts, Lonn greatly impressed the Empress of the time, Quelia. After Lonn mysteriously disappeared, Empress Quelia issued a decree that the Empire would henceforth follow his teachings.
The Taysans believe that some people are born with the gift of prophecy, and if this manifests itself in a child, they are brought to Court and are initiated into the Prophet Caste. They are however forbidden from marrying. This is the only way in which a Taysan can move from one caste to another.
Taysans are given what they need at any time, according to their degree, by their immediate ‘master’ – or mistress, but the word in Taysan can mean either. Everyone has a master, except the Empress herself, and most people are responsible for others beneath them. Taysans have a very finely balanced sense of what they are entitled to and it is the height of bad manners (queltha) to acquire more than this. Taysar has therefore never developed a system of electronic currency. There is however physical coinage used for everyday transactions, called chakra.
The Empire also trades with the United Worlds, largely via barter.