World building – governance


When I started getting into the nuts and bolts of the plot of War of Shadows, I needed there to be a fairly solid government system. It would have been easy to just have a king and some lords, but I decided to go in a little deeper. Perhaps I was thinking about Duke Leto vs. Baron Harkonnen, and how that appealed to me. While reading Dune, I never really understood how the title of Duke related to the title of Baron, so I looked up peerage. I think I learned something there, I don’t remember. What I do know is that I wrote up an entire governance system for one country in my world, which I forgot about. While re-writing chapter 17, I decided I needed to work out something about a title. So, I went back to my notes to see how the ranks compared. At first I skimmed through my notes and though I had copied a Wikipedia article or something, but it also seemed oddly specific. After a few more minutes of reading, I realized that I had actually written up an entire peerage, based off of the British system, for my country and also a bunch of details on how the governance works in the country. It’s set up for political intrigue and back-stabbing. Anyhow, since I thought it was fun, I figured I’d share it, so here it is, as it appears exactly in my notes (Beware, this hasn’t been edited!):

 Concerning the governance of Swarendrin

The kingdom of Swaerendrin is a strong monarchy. The king is both head of state and chief executive. However, the power of the king is somewhat balanced by the noble classes. These are largely hereditary titles, being passed to the eldest son. In instances where there is no son to inherit the title, the king may assign the title at his own discretion. In very many cases the king holds these titles and lands himself, to be assigned to allies. Titles of nobility amongst the Swaerem are as follows:

Duke – This is the proper title of the most senior lords amongst the nobility, though the name of the title is rightly dhaat. However, very few indeed refer to the title directly, instead using the honorific ‘Lord’ in lieu of the title, and is often accepted as the right title. It is the highest rank of nobility behind the king.

Marquis – This is the proper title of a special class of dukes, who hold lands upon contested or border lands. These men are permitted to engage in battle and press men into service without prior consent of the king, as would be required of any other Duke. The correct title of these men is ræn dhaat, strong duke. Again, these men are referred to only by ‘lord’ in virtually all settings.

Earl – This is the proper title of minor land lords. These men are appointed by the king, and also pass the title on, but are in fact the subject of the local major lord. The right name of this title is Eord, but as with the title of duke is rarely used. Often these men are addressed by Lord, and usually described as minor lords or minor nobility.

Count – Non hereditary title bestowed by the king, for governance of large cities. This appointment has no term, and few counts last more than a hand-full of years. Often they are removed in the interest of public contentment.

Master – Non hereditary title bestowed by the duke, for smaller cities, towns and villages. These are given in terms lasting no longer than 5 years. The local lord has authority to name all Masters, except when overruled by the king. Application of the title master is excessively inconsistent and is typically applied to any man with greater authority.

Baron – land owner of noble birth, rightly called Ryen. This title comes only with land, and is subject to the governance and taxes of the Duke or Earl. Men with this title are very often tapped as caretakers of lands normally held by dukes and earls. Those possessing this title will be addressed as ‘Sir’ or ‘Lady’, but never lord. The title is inherited, but unlike other hereditary titles, the baron may choose his heir and is not obligated to gain the approval of the King, Duke, Earl or Marquis. This law has produced a number of baronesses.

Ældorman is a fighting man of either the nobility or merchant classes. This title is bestowed by Dukes and Marquis. These are the considered the trained fighting men, and are given land, though that land cannot be inherited. They are never called by their right title, and only referred to as oathmen or sworn men, these men are correctly addressed as sir or master. This title is not transferred by heredity, and is usually considered outside of the peerage. Like to all others within the peerage, they employ armbands of precious metals to distinguish themselves. While dukes, earls, barons and the like use a single arm-band as a sign of rank, these men tend to wear many, as a sign of fighting prowess.

Kingsman is like to an ældorman, excepting they are named by the king, and may only be of noble birth.

In addition to these titles, the king also appoints a council, called the kings thanes who are responsible for a wide variety of governance tasks. Also, there is the council of common thanes, who are also appointed by the king, at the recommendation of the wealthy men amongst commoners. The widely held belief amongst most is that the council of common thanes (council of thanes) holds the bulk of power in the kingdom. The lords and king permit this belief to continue as a way to make commoners think they have some control over the government, and therefore support it.

These lords do not have formal organization, and band together in adhoc fashion as needed. These affiliations are usually in accordance with the political interests of the time. The non-titled moneyed men of the kingdom, choose members of a body known as the parliament, which consists of men form their own ranks. This body is considered to be the representation of the commoners, and exercises some limited power on their behalf. Dukes and the king often permit this body to carry on as if it had real power. With such a large common population, this is considered an essential component in maintaining a well ordered society. During times of peace, this body is permitted to govern the greater part of the kingdom. However, when the kingdom is under attack or during periods of turmoil, the members of this body often line up with lords sympathetic to their own interests.

Even with the parliament in control of many routine aspects of governance, the office of King requires much more than a single man to handle even the most routine of affairs. To this end, the king has many agents and designees. The chief body among these is the council of theigns. This group consists of one dozen men chosen by the major lords of the mors, and confirmed by the parliament, though the parliamentary confirmation is only a formality. These men are intended to be advisers to the king and assist in decision making processes for the kingdom. The position of king’s theign, while prestigious, and ostensibly powerful, is a term appointment for no more than five years. These men will be responsible for becoming intimately aware of any situation the king may require advice on. They are not permitted to become involved in any topic where individual prejudice might cloud their judgment.

Along side this complex and layered government is an organization known as the sisters of fate. The sisters of fate remain largely outside of actual governance, but they play a key role in blessing all decrees and decisions made by the king, and Dukes. They also magically bind agreements, giving them real weight and the promise of real consequence should both parties fail to uphold the terms of said agreements. The sisters of fate are a far more important organization to the population as a whole, providing healing, spiritual guidance, and binding of marriages, to name a few. While some men do serve this order, they do not practice the magic common amongst the women.

photo credit: Château de Sarzay via photopin (license)


Trying to create a constructed language

After staying up far too late last night and working hard on a chapter that I’m not too sure about, I decided to take a little break today and work on one of my languages. I created it largely to provide a way to name things, and maybe also give little chunks of quotes in certain parts of the text. I think I may have gone overboard, and it’s still far from anything having enough words to really say anything useful. I call the language I’m working on today Lotath. That’s the name of the language, not the folks who speak it. For fun, I’ve translated part of quote that appears at the very beginning of my story into the language it would have been spoken in.

The quote:

It would seem the enemy has been defeated utterly, yet in my bones I feel this war is not yet over.

The quote as it would have been spoken in the formal Lotath dialect:

Teziz sukai sedira fefoilta pelfrot lë níza, joza nathaijis däinjol injol nos tukil kami olír kolth joza pellethost

Here is what it breaks down to:

Teziz [it would seem] sukai [the] sedira [enemy] fefoilta [were/have been] pelfrot [state of defeat/defeated] lë níza [to the finish/completely/utterly], joza [yet] nathoiljis [in the bones] däinjol [of mine] injol nos [I do] tukil [feel] kami [this] olír [war] kolth [is not] joza [yet] pellethost [in a state of being done/over].

It really looks like this language is just a string of random letters someone decided to call a language. However, it’s more than that. Just to point out a few elements that are probably not at all obvious, and to show it’s more than just a string of random letters stuck together:

To start, the word fefoilta comes from the root word fota (is). the prefix fe means immediate past, the infix replacement of the o in fota with oil makes it plural formal, straight plural would have that infix replacement as ai (where ai is pronounced the same as the i in island). In this example, ai doesn’t appear because it’s the formal dialect. If you look at the word nathoiljis you could replace the oil with ai, and make it a non-formal version of the same word. The application of formal/non formal depends on the context and dialect. In the common dialect of Lotath, oil would only be applied to things of specific significance. This is in the same way English speakers might add a ‘the’ in front of certain pronouns to designate uniqueness. Think: The Mountains – you hear this a lot in context. If we were to apply the Lotath rules, it might read Moilutains instead. The formal dialect would generally apply the oil all the time for plurals. In the history of this world, the formal was first, and as the language changed, the formal only came to be applied in very specific circumstances, which resulted in the usual application of the infix ai for most plural, leaving oil and a singular counterpart ol as infix modifications for specific, important things or people.

The application of possessives is demonstrated here as well. In the case of the word däinjol, we have the male possessive prefix (da) on the formal male word for I (injol). The owner of a thing, follows that object. So to say something like Dave’s bones, it would be: Thaijis dadave in Lotath. In the case of däinjol, the a and i are pronounced separately, which is why I’ve got the diaeresis above it. Otherwise, ai would be pronounced as described earlier, and indicate a plural (pronouncing it this way would probably sound like nonsense actually).

I picked a fairly poor example to demonstrate conjugation, as this language has dozens of conjugations. However, the one example I’ve got is the use of injol nos. The closest equivalent is something like ‘I do’, but can also be use in instances where English would have ‘I am’.

So, anyhow that’s a brief intro to one of my languages. I just thought I’d share it because I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s hard to really give a good idea of what I mean by a fairly fleshed out con-lang without a demonstration.


Map of my world

This is the (poorly drawn) map of one part of the world in which my story takes place. I also have two others to go along with this. The general scale of the land mass is something like 400mi east to west and 500 north to south. The darn scanner cut off the right hand side, but not much is missing, just a long mountain range. Yes, it’s busy and got lots of stuff. Part of the purpose of this map is to serve as notes, but part is to serve as inspiration to myself. This is why everything is mostly written in the languages I created. Anyhow, world-building really is my favorite part, and having an interesting and unique place for my story to take place seems essential. Plus it’s sort of an expected thing for a fantasy, right?