Oman, in His brilliance, created the heavens and the earth. In his mercy, he requires only that men worship and adore Him, without question or doubt.
Men were, at one point, wicked and without purpose. They killed one another without reason, and stole and lied and laid with animals. Oman decided that something must be done.
Oman created an Avatar (one of many: Oman is in all places at all times, and has many such Avatars), and sent It to the Earth, and entered the body of his holiest of priests. His name has not been preserved, but his memory shall be cherished always, for he was the First.
The Avatar became King, and ruled men fairly and sternly. Men were chastised, as is proper, for wrongdoing, and praised, when deserved, for deeds of virtue.
With the Avatar's entry into the world of men, life changed, and became prosperous. Instead of fighting amongst one another, the chosen people of Marsuk turned their energies to making life better for themselves and one another. The right of one man to own another, so long as he is not a worshipper of Oman, was instated. Life was Good.
With the First's death (the Avatar was able to keep him alive for many years, but not forever, being a vessel of weak flesh), the Avatar passed itself into another, the First's successor. The successor was chosen from the most loyal of Oman's priests: the Watchers.
And so it has gone, generation after generation.
The Avatar is a spiritual Being who exists in this world encased in the body of a man. Upon the death of this vessel, the Avatar enters the body of another: always a priest chosen for his strength of conviction and loyalty. It is said that the when the death of the previous vessel is at hand, the vessel is killed in a special ceremony, his life blood offered up for the pleasure of Oman. It is unknown whether this ritual is necessary to pass the spirit of the Avatar from one vessel to another. The Possession, as it is called, is a great honor.
The Avatar is very powerful. It is rumored that the Avatar, through his Vessel, can kill a man by touch, that He can see the workings of a man's mind, and that he can cause powerful minions to appear with a thought. Other, darker, powers are attributed to Oman, but not by men who enjoy free and happy lives.
Certainly, the Avatar can fly, and is occasionally seen soaring above the city of Agrabah, where He rules, looking down upon his subjects.
Oman's church is filled with many very loyal priests and devotees. Every seventh day is known as Oman's Day (or Omanday), and is marked by the population congregating at churches and singing praises to Oman. The highest nobles, and the high ranking officials of the Church, stand in a courtyard in Oman's palace and silently revere the figure of Oman standing above them. All speaking and displaying of "favor tokens" is expressly forbidden during the High Mass.
Upon entering the church, all candidates are expected to shave their heads bald, and keep it so, until they leave the church (very rare), or are expelled (equally rare). Priests who are in no Order are expected to wear the robes of their rank (detailed below), and the holy symbol of Oman, a sunburst.
Novitiates to the Church spend their time learning the stories and the Laws of Oman. After a time, they gain the ability to Heal, and are sent out into society, as Acolytes, to help the people with ailments. Many of these work in shops run by members of the Order of the White Hand, in which they heal for money (nearly all of this money is donated directly to the church, although there are some who try to cheat the system). A symbol of a white hand above a door is typically an invitation to come in and have your ailments healed, for a price.
Acolytes are expected to remain entirely devoted to Oman, following His Laws to the letter, and thinking only the purest thoughts. Once per month, on an Omanday, the Acolytes speak with an advisor, who is assigned them as Novitiates. They speak with the development of their careers and lives, and are guided through difficult decisions. At some point, these advisors recommend the Acolyte's promotion to the next rank, that of Priest. Acolytes wear white robes and no headgear.
A Priest's role in life can be one of many things. There are travelling Priests, who travel from town to town doing Oman's will and preaching Oman's word. There are Priests who preach the word of Oman to the populace on Omanday. There are Priests who act as advisors to Acolytes. There are Priests who serve in the army, training in the magicks of war. The great majority of the church's population is made up of Priests, and most Priests never rise above this station in life. Priests who are not in an Order wear black robes, and no headgear.
Some few, however, do. Some rise to Deacons, and finally to Cardinals. These two roles are different mostly in the power structure of the Church. Deacons and Cardinals run the church, doing paperwork, serving in the households of powerful citizens, and acting on behalf of Oman when important work is to be done. Deacons and Cardinals are nearly always in Orders. Those who are not wear blue and white robes, respectively. All Deacons and Cardinals wear headgear as a sign of their rank: Deacons wear skintight caps, typically black, and Cardinals wear tall pointy hats.
Members of certain church orders (q.v.) may take warders: specially bonded warriors who are sworn to protect and assist the priest. A gift from Oman, the bond between priest and warder is similar to the bond between wizard and animal familiar. In particular, the pair can communicate simple thoughts and emotions telepathically, and also can find one another over great distances. Very rarely, a Priest may have more than one warder. Warders are entitled to wear the holy symbol of the priest's order, and carry a special long knife, known as a Tooth of Oman, which they are especially trained in using in close combat.
Holy symbols and vestments are to be provided by the priest himself. Depending on how well-to-do the priest is, he or she may spend lots of money on these trappings, getting the holy symbol crafted by master craftsmen, the robes made by expert tailors. There is a small industry of craftsmen and merchants who deal exclusively in selling holy vestments. Most of these craftsmen deal exclusively in Agrabah.
The Church also has a number of Orders. Each Order has its own rules and regulations, requirements for joining, and the like. Several Orders are very well known.
The Order of the White Hand is composed of those Priests who enjoyed healing as Acolytes, and decided to make it their lifelong mission. Typically, a Priest of the White Hand will set up a shop in which customers can come and be healed. Prices vary based on the skill of the healer and the severity of the ailment. Priests of the White Hand are expected to appear in public wearing white robes, and the symbol of their order, a hand centered in a sunburst.
Note that no Priest can raise people from the dead. It is rumored that Oman can do this through his Avatar, but it is rarely, if ever, done.
The Order of the Owl is dedicated to the preservation, cataloging, and dissemination of knowledge. The Order is granted funds by the Church to build libraries, universities, (q.v.) and to collect books. Certain members of the Order of the Owl are responsible for understanding the very subtle points of the Laws of Oman, and are used as a resource by the Wheel in especially tricky interpretations. The Order of the Owl are responsible for the maintenance of the libraries, and providing access to the books to the population. Priests of the Owl, gain, upon reaching upper mysteries of their faith, a peculiar ability: the ability to transform people into books. This gruesome ritual must take place when the subject is alive, and can be performed once per day. The resultant book contains all the memories and thoughts of the converted person. This ability is rarely used (as it is tantamount to murder: there is no way of brining the subject back), except in rare cases in which the Church needs very particular information at any cost.
The Order of the Red Fistconsists of those priests who have chosen to enter military service. Trained in the arts of war, these priests are typically quiet and feared. Rumored to be able to kill a man by boiling his blood, Priests of the Red Fist form their own companies in the Claw. These companies are small, consisting of only 10 priests per legion. Priests of the Red Fist wear the robes of their order always, black robes with red trim, and wear the symbol of their order, a fist centered in a sunburst. Many members of this order have warders.
The Order of the Flame is rarely seen. Composed of the most loyal and high-ranking followers of Oman, these men (as they are always men) are specially trained by the Order and stand, in their crimson robes, in silent watchfulness over Oman in his throne room. They are also seen when the Avatar chooses to roam the city, standing watchfully by His side. Little is known about the Order of the Flame, except that they are extraordinary warriors, wielding their sabers with unearthly skill. They are also rumored to have strange magickal powers, but you know how rumors are. The Order of the Flame do not wear holy symbols. Members of the Order of the Flame are never seen to have warders.
Libraries and education are taken very seriously, as the dissemination of knowledge is considered virtuous by the Church. Thus, there is a very rich system of libraries and universities throughout the lands of Marsuk.
The Order of the Owl (q.v.) is responsible for building and maintenance of libraries and universities. They are given large funds to buy books and scholarly artifacts to use in these places, and also provide grants to scholars and their ilk to do research. Their goal is to advance the state of human knowledge for the benefit of all mankind. A happy and prosperous nation is a devout nation.
Although knowledge is beneficial, certain types of knowledge can be very dangerous. Although there is no strictly "banned" knowledge (except for knowledge of evil arts and the trafficking with demons), some knowledge (particularly that of powerful weapons and the like) is strictly controlled. Researchers may study these fields, but the Order of the Owl, along with help from other arms of the church, keep an eye on these individuals, to prevent them from hurting themselves or others.
Priests of the Owl are allowed access to restricted knowledge. As a result, they take special vows upon entering the order to never use knowledge for evil, and to prevent this use, if possible.
In general, the Order of the Owl considers there to be five main categories of knowledge (and thus, of books).
General knowledge consists of that needed by nearly everybody in their day-to-day living. Books on household maintenance and the basic running of one's affairs are available for all at the libraries, and the universities offer courses on basic life skills for a modest fee. In general, only the upper-class take advantage of these resources, although the knowledge is intended to be available to all.
Specialty knowlege is that knowledge required to perform certain trades, such as farming and shoemaking. Although the majority of tradesmen successfully work their trade by using knowledge passed down from father to son, master tradesmen find the books and courses available on various subjects to be very helpful.
Scholarly knowledge consists of those abstract fields such as mathematics, history, astronomy, and the like. Fields which do not provide things directly for people. Most of the practitioners of these fields end up staying on at the universities as professors, some join the Order of the Owl, or becoming entrenched in private study, funded by the church.
Religious knowledge, the highest of all fields, is the study of Oman and his subject gods in all their glory. The Laws of Oman are copied and distributed throughout the lands of Marsuk, as well as books investigating the mysteries of faith. The priesthood find these resources immensely useful.
Restricted knowledge, considered to be that knowledge which can wreak havok on the nation, is specially controlled. Carefully monitored researchers may study and add to the store of restricted knowledge, and Priests of the Owl are, of course, allowed access to it. The general population, however, are not allowed to see these books unless they have special dispensation from certain high-ranking members of the Order of the Owl.
The mystic arts are allowed to flourish in Marsuk, under the wing of the Order of the Owl. Considered a field of scholarship, magic is expected, at some point, to provide many useful services for mankind. As of yet, magic has failed to live up to its promises, still being too difficult to make available to the commonfolk. However, for enough money, one can purchase the services of a mage in any of the major cities in Marsuk. Most noble houses have house magi that perform various tasks for their patrons. A select few noble houses consist almost entirely of magi.
The field of alchemy is also practiced in Marsuk, and is tolerated by the church. Thus far, the alchemists have been unable to make good their claims regarding eternal life and converting metals, but many successful alchemists practice in Marsuk, selling various potions and draughts. The potions of the alchemists tend to be less expensive than the services of the White Hand (q.v.).
Herbalists are everywhere. In addition to providing various herbs and poultices for minor wounds and aches, they are the primary source for cooking herbs in Marsuk, as well. Individual herbalists, in order to make their names in this competative industry, specialize in particular types of herbs.
The currency of Marsuk consists of hexagonal coins with the sunburst of Oman on one side, and the likeness of the King on the other. The coins are 10 to a pound.
Several years ago, foreign coinage was allowed in the lands of Marsuk, there was a serious problem with counterfeiting. A standard currency helped, and now all currencies other than the standard one are illegal. It is possible to go to the mints, and get foreign money changed, but only at a fairly high cost (10%)
Oman, through his Avatar, the King, rules Marsuk. There are two general wings to the government under Oman.
The first wing, that of the Claw, is the military force. This organization keeps the peace in the many lands kept safe by Oman, guards the streets in cities, and carries out the wrath of Oman when citizens or slaves break the Laws. The military is subdivided into companies, which act under a commander. In the rare event that larger-scale military action is required, companies can band together into legions, which are controlled by generals. The supreme commander of the military, the General in Chief, is expected to control and direct the military forces that they do the most good.
The second wing, that of the Wheel, is the beurocracy that makes everything work. They control money production and consumption, set the rates of trade, and study and edit the Laws, interpreting and clarifying Oman's edicts. They are responsible for the smooth running of society. There are many twists and turns to the organization of the Wheel, which makes documenting it very difficult. A commonly seen order of the Wheel is the tax collectors, known as the Wolves for their heraldry: a wolf's head within a wheel.
The two wings of the government work together to exert Oman's will in the world. Oman is supreme commander of the government, and has final say in every issue. The government, of course, deals with most issues itself. Known collectively as the Wheel and the Claw, the government of Marsuk is deftly controlled by Oman to wield His power.
There are five broad classes of people in Marsuk, each of which has their own rights and responsibilities as they live their lives.
These classes have some common rights and responsibilities. First, they must obey the Laws of Oman, as written in the Lawbooks. Some leeway is given for foreigners, who do not know the ways of Oman, but not much. Secondly, they have the rights of all mankind: the right to food, shelter, and sanctity of body. The first two rights are provided for those who do not already have them by the Church, which provides food and shelter for the poor. The Laws of Oman maintain the last right: one's body is pristine. Murder and rape are swiftly and harshly dealt with.
The first class, that of slaves, have no rights or responsibilities other than the rights granted to all mankind. Being slaves, they are owned by others (only citizens may own slaves). Their owners, to save the government the burden of punishing slaves, deal with minor infractions against the laws, but the Wheel and the Claw deal with major infractions directly. Slaves make up the bulk of the population. Probably half to two-thirds of the population is composed of slaves. Any citizen can become a slave by selling him or herself to the government, who auctions new slaves to slave merchants, who auction them to the population. It is illegal for slave merchants to buy slaves directly. Slaves are sometimes also created when a citizen breaks a major law. A slave can stop being a slave if he or she raises his or her value in gold, plus a slave's grandchildren are automatically lower-class citizens.
The second class is lower-class citizens. Lower class citizens are little better than slaves, although they have the right to own slaves, which slaves do not. Lower-class citizens are all expected to worship Oman, and attend church regularly. The Wheel and the Claw deal with infractions against the law. Lower class citizens make up most of the non-slave population, and do most of the work. Craftsmen, minor merchants, farmers, herbalists, lower-class citizens do most of the important work of keeping Marsuk alive and well. It is possible for lower-class citizens to apply for military duty, and whole companies of the Claw are comprised of people from this class. Most lower-class citizens stay lower-class throughout their lives, being born into it. Occasionally an upper-class citizen will fall into disfavor and become lower class, but this is exceedingly rare.
Comprising the third class, upper-class citizens are essentially lower-class citizens with more respect, power, and money. Upper-class citizens comprise most of the Wheel and the Claw, although many upper-class citizens are merely rich merchants and master craftsmen. Minor infractions against the law are often overlooked. Becoming upper-class is complicated. It is possible for a hard-working lower-classman to make lots of money, buy lands, servants, and fine clothes, and introduce one's self into upper-class society, and this sometimes is accomplished. More often, however, the Wheel will decide to knight a person. There are many reasons for knighting, but the most common is fine military service.
The fourth class is the priesthood. The priesthood is discussed at length elsewhere in this document. Suffice to note here that Priests, although they have the same rights and responsibilities as normal citizens, are expected to follow the laws of Oman much more closely than normal citizens.
The fifth class, foreigners, are a special case. Since they are not of any class, and do not belong in society, they are given special dispensation for minor infractions against the law. Major infractions, of course, are punished, although some leeway may be given if the foreigner is very important, and the laws are different in his or her land.
Before Oman entered the world, men needed to do all of their work themselves. This was very expensive, since men had no time to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Few luxuries were available, and life was hard and unpleasant. Men turned to crimes like theft and greed to compensate for this, and sin and vice ruled the earth.
When Oman sent his Avatar, one of the first Laws passed was the inalienable right of every man of age 18 or over to own up to 5 slaves for his personal use, provided at a reasonable cost. This was subject, of course, to the availability of the slaves.
Slaves were available from three sources.
The first source of slaves was from the citizens themselves. Any citizen could, for a cost in gold determined by the Wheel, sell him or herself into slavery. If the citizen raised this money, and presented it to his or her owner, then the owner was obligated to release the slave.
The second source of slaves was from other nations. Evil men who served in armies against Oman and the Claw were incarcerated and used as slaves, usually to do hard manual labor. These slaves could buy themselves out of slavery for a value determined by the Wheel.
The third source of slaves is from criminals. Many crimes, such as murder, theft, and lying with animals, are punishable by slavery. These deranged men are incapable of looking after themselves, and so must serve other, more responsible, citizens. Criminal slaves can also buy their way out, but the Wheel typically sets their release gold at a very high value, so in practice, it rarely happens.
In either case, a slave's children are also slaves, but not their grandchildren. The grandchildren, by virtue of living in Marsuk for two generations, are full citizens, and are granted all rights and responsibilities thereby implied.
Slaves are generally well treated (unless they are disobedient, in which case punishments can be severe) and are entitled to food, shelter, and sanctity of body, as are all other citizens of Marsuk. The slave's owner must supply these things. Not doing so is a crime punishable by fine.