Life in the Empire

Class structure among the Lizard Men.

Class Structure

The inception of the alliance of primitive gissian tribes, which would eventually knit together to build a vast empire, resulted in certain thought processes becoming engraned into the culture of the lizard men. The very nature of the first alliance resulted in an “us and them” class division. The tribes who joined the alliance began to benefit from the pooling resources and, in time, the giss who had stayed apart realised that the grass was indeed greener on the other side. Initial petitions by Jarak (outsider) tribes to join were granted but, as time went by, the population began to grow too fast. Surplus giss resulted in the first fights over food and other resources since the alliance began.

Jarak tribes were no longer welcomed and over time, the term grew to encompass any non alliance member, giss or otherwise. The giss had begun the climb to civilization. The tribes had become houses, each of whom belonged to the Gissian Federation. Each house supplied young giss to serve in the defense and administration of the federation. As borders expanded, it became apparent that the houses could not supply enough giss to meet the expanded administrative needs of the federation. New laws were passed, allowing for individual Jarak to become citizens of the federation upon application. In order to gain their citizenship, they had to serve a term of duty in the service of the federation. By this time, the giss had been in contact with the humans from the north and a human word was coined for these non-house citizens – the Foederati.

Another concept which the giss inherited from their human neighbors was that of slavery. The giss had long followed a strict, yet simple, code of law. If anyone acted to place themselves outside the law, punishment would be severe and in most cases, deadly. As time progressed, the concepts of lenience and lesser punishment for lesser offences made its way into gissian law. Lesser criminals were given the opportunity to repay society for their offences. Stripped of any rank, they were named as slaves and forced to work for the federation until their debts had been repaid. Later on the concept of selling slaves became more common and a slave industry developed. As the demand for slaves grew, raids into neighboring lands became common. These raids were often followed by wars of retaliation and once again, new legislation was drafted. Only criminals could become slaves. These criminals included prisoners taken from any enemy the federation was at war with. Slaves who had paid off their debts or had been freed via some other mechanism became Jarak. The children of slaves were born as Jarak, to all intents and purposes, free.

Thus a four tier class system became entrenched within the federation and later the empire. On top are the Kaderasti, those born to or who had been accepted into one of the great houses. The emperor, ranking officers, officials and senators are all Kaderasti. Next are the Foederati, citizens who may hold land and who had served the federation and empire, yet had not joined a great house. Although freemen (freegiss), the Jarak are lowly and may not own land. In certain times, they have been hated and persecuted. Last come the slaves. So low that they may not even entertain the idea of joining the Jarak auxiliaries in the legion. Giss despise slaves as the lowest form of life. an old Giss proverb recounts “Better it is to die than a parasite be,” referring to preying on ones own kind like a criminal. Slaves and criminals are equated as one in Gissian culture.

The Great Houses

The great houses are not simply what the tribes became over centuries: Lizard men are ovoviviparous and the females usually give birth to a brood numbering anything from one to nine infants. The female will usually care for its young for a few weeks before they are placed in a nursery with other young, pooling their resources to find food and protect the young from danger. This is still the practice among the primitive Jarak giss who inhabit the jungles and islands off the southern coast of Araktor. Among the civilized giss, these nurseries later became the basis for a clan, where youngsters raised within the nursery usually remained together, until they matured. It became the custom for females who reached maturity to leave their birth clan and seek another clan to join. Young that were born to a clan nursery inherited the maternal clan name, vis-a-vis the name of the clan who had accepted their mother, not that of her birth clan. Thus, even though the father may have belonged to a different can, the young would belong to their mothers clan. Over time, the riverside nursery pool of the clan was replaced by an enclosed nursery house. The word clan fell out of use, as giss would ask each other in which nursery house they were raised, and later on, which house they belonged to. As adults, some male giss change their house allegiances, although most will stay with their birth house. Very rarely will a female remain with her birth house. In the cases where this happens, it is usually because no male child has been born to their mother.

As the empire grew, so too did the wealth and honor of certain houses, so that today there are some extremely powerful and ancient houses. Pride in ones house is the backbone of gissian society, no matter whether born or adopted by ones house. The head giss of the most powerful house is usually the most influential giss in the senate, which in most cases ensures that he or she is emperor or at least that the emperor is of the same house.

Currently house Udrak rules the senate, but the emperor is old and his house is weakening. Before them, house Glanhas was the most powerful house for over two centuries, until Mimbrus I lost the sword of Gorgoth, causing house Glanhas to loose its honor and with it, its influence.

Welcome to Araktor

A geographic introduction to Araktor, the continental home of the Onyx Empire.

Araktor is a large continent which straddles the Gæa’s equator. Situated to the South-East of Gæa (the continent), Araktor’s northern most tip is only a few degrees in latitude south of the Wika-Waka wetlands, Gæa’s southern most point. It is a warm continent covered for the moist part by lush grassland, forest and jungle, bar an arid lowland region which spans much of the north west “horn”.

The equator bisects Araktor a few degrees south of its widest point. As such, much of the area it lies across is highland terrain, including the towering Cimmerii Cloud peaks. As a result, the vegetation is mostly very dense forest with only small tracks of equatorial jungle near the coast. Further south, once the highland plateau drops off, the vegetation rapidly becomes a dense, impenetrable jungle. The land to the north of the equator is separated into two “horns” by the Tranquil Bay, so named for its glassy waters, calm air and lack of storms. The two horns could not be more different. In the east, the dense forests from the equatorial highlands continue, gradually changing from the evergreen hardwoods further south to deciduous hardwoods the further north one travels. The woodlands north of Lake Kyror are all deciduous and are the last place left on Araktor where elves can be found.

The western horn is very different. The highlands north of the Cimmerii Cloud peaks continue for some time before an escarpment is reached. A great rift valley extends from the escarpment to Water Town, in the far north. If the valley were any lower and if the range of hills along the Tranquil Bay were not present, the land would have been sea bottom. The climate of the valley is hot. The hills to the west and highlands to the south and east block all but the most persistent rain clouds from bringing their moisture to the interior. Certain areas still support the fragile grassland that once covered lowlands, but in the most part, it is desert, some natural, other man/giss made.

The warm jungles of the south are the ancestral home of Lizard Men, a race of intelligent bipedal lizards who, over many centuries, have carved a vast empire, spanning the entire continent of Araktor as well as parts of Gæa and Vasniss.

This article was last updated XX August MMII

Ancient map of Araktor