The Lorddom of Anticlere is an independent Bretic realm along the north-central coast of the Iliac Bay. At present ruled by Manfred Flyte, the Mara-blessed King, Flyte of Anticlere, Great Captal of the Gradkeep, Lord-Elect of Mens, Baron of Chestermarket, it is undergoing a period of prosperity unmatched in its history that is tied closely to the events in Hammerfell. Establishing itself as a trade power following the War of the Wolves, it remains neutral in the affairs of High Rock, managing to avoid conflict or the pressing of claims from both Queen Elysana of Wayrest and the Aldmeri Dominion.
Located in the west-central part of the north Iliac shore, Anticlere is a fairly humid land marked by brief, mild winters and hot summers. The climate is only slightly cooler by the shore, growing warmer further inland - particularly in the Gradkeep Plains - and only beginning to slowly cool again before it passes into the forests of Daenia and Urvaius.
In general terms, the land can be divided into two - the Gradkeep Plains in the east and the Lake Highlands of the west. The simplified features of these two regions should be obvious from their names, however it is worth noting that the west is harder to broadly classify, as the hills smooth into plains before reaching the Iliac Bay, which in turn are mostly separated from the Gradkeep by another small chain of hills.
The Gradkeep Plains are often considered to be the region's breadbasket. As the name suggests, the terrain there is mostly flat. In the centre, the Plains are hemmed between the narrow Rothe Bay and the Silver Spine, the tallest mountains in Anticlere, before spilling out again all the way to the border with Dwynnen in the east. It is within the narrow central strip that the largest lakes within the Gradkeep can be found, Lake Gray west of the township of Grayborne and Lake Ettiene to the north.
Small, often quite sparse forests and streams and smaller rivers break up the plains. Nestled against these rivers are small hamlets and the ruins of ancient wizard towers may yet be found close by; individual farms are very rare, however fields often stretch far around the villages and small towns that can be found throughout the Gradkeep. It is here that one can find the vast majority of nobles' villas in Anticlere, petty Gradkeeper nobles constructing elegant dwellings which 'coincidentally' double as small fortresses to solidify their hold on the land they own. The occasional stone castle breaks up the soothing monotony of villages and villas, belonging either directly to the Flyte (or the great captal, as he is almost always referred to here), to one of the local nobles or - quite seldom seen in this part of Anticlere - housing communal garrisons of the city itself.
While the north-west is not drastically different, one can notice that these two regions of a realm now one once had separate histories of their own. The hills which rise here are the most obvious differences, their slopes and the valleys between them often forested somewhat more lushly than in the east. Several larger and numerous smaller lakes dot the land, fed mostly by small streams with the occasional more notable river snaking between the hills.
Ruins of hill-forts sit proudly atop, while old hideouts can still be found at the feet of these mounds. Some of these ancient fortifications have been reconstructed into more modern castles, here it being more often for them to be under the charge of Anticlere's guilds than in the east; others remain in misuse and ruin, though life continues around the husks that remain of the old tribal days as small villages lean against their walls.
Though in this day and age the highlanders and the Gradkeepers are no longer as culturally different as they used to be, differences between them can still be noted in the many solitary stone farmhouses belonging to freeholders that dot the hills; the rural hill-dwellers still seem to prefer solitude. When they must gather for whatever reason, they most often do so in the larger towns of the region, which occupy the valleys between the hills, hugging the greater lakes' shores.
Further south, where the hills abate into plains again and where the Via Bretonica, the Imperial highway, stretches from the very west of High Rock, the countryside changes again. Bustling towns that sit upon the great road dominate their surroundings, most obviously of all the great capital of Anticlere, surrounded by suburbs in the shape of small villages that stretch disjointedly in all directions.
Where is the real Anticlere? Edit
It is a known fact that the current name of the realm is not its ancient one. Both the capital and the former Lorddom of Reich Gradkeep have been renamed following the election of Auberon Flyte, in honour of the new ruler and the new era he was expected to usher in; the name Anticlere was chosen because that is what the ancestral homeland of the Flytes is called. However, few are versed enough in High Rock geography to say where this 'little Anticlere' is.
Anticlere is, in fact, not a village - it is an area that includes several villages and a castle, located some ways north and east from the capital, positioned along the Via Bretonica. 'Little Anticlere' is not far from the most widely recognized boundary between the Western Lakes and the Gradkeep Plains, culturally having belonged more to the latter, however falling under the political influence of the current capital when it was a city-state during the tenure of the Guild-Council before its defeat at the hands of Lord Chestermarket at the time, Avel Graddock.
Early First Era Edit
Inhabbited chiefly by proto-Breton tribes in the early First Era, archaeological evidence suggests that the ancestors of modern Anticlere had little contact with the Elves that dominated the shoreline. Unlike further to the north-west in Glenumbra, no major slave-trade venture was undertaken here; there are, however, signs of a small settlement close to the modern day town of Chestermarket. In all likelihood, it was a trade outpost of the Balfiera Elves, used to trade with the primitive Mannish tribes of the area (the primary commodity being slaves captured during tribal warfare) or, rather less frequently, stage direct raids of their own.
The First Empire of Skyrim likewise seemed to take little interest in Anticlere. Known findings indicating Nordic settling in the very south-west of the realm seem of dubious reliability and even if true speak of only small volumes of eastern colonists, likely connected to the so-called 'boathouse of Shalgora'. The Elven outpost appears to have been looted and only resettled several decades later, however there is nothing to suggest it was visited regularly by Nordic merchants.
It is during the times of the First Empire that the differentiation between east and west began to take shape. Previously semi-nomadic, the more permanent settling of the tribes of the Gradkeep Plains is usually traced to this period; villages of sturdier structures begin to emerge, animal husbandry seems to become a secondary means of food production compared to the increasing prevalence of farming that is spurred on by advances stemming from both local ingenuity and Nordic methods applied to High Rock conditions. In the hilly west, however, herding retains the centre stage and a more extensive and nomadic way of life continues. As tribes clash for herding grounds, the first fortified hilltop settlements are constructed.
The Direnni who drove the Nords out of High Rock would thus find a much changed setting from what their forefathers had faced in Anticlere. While the Gradkeepers grew into a sedentary and somewhat peaceful way of life, with a surplus of production begining to emerge due to advancing methods and the first traces of local nobility starting to form, the western highlands were then the home of warlike highlander tribes that often fought one another for cattle or grazing lands or raided the neighbouring lowlands. Chestermarket had by then grown into the makings of a proto-city much like Daggerfall, and was thus chosen by the Direnni as their seat of power when they required one in the region.
Division between east and west would further grow in Anticlere following the advent of the local mage-lords of High Rock. As a place of some import, Chestermarket was asigned its own wizard ruler, the very first Breton of such a position in Anticlere; in the highlands, however, where the presence of the Direnni was barely felt if at all, there were no such new offices or indeed many changes to life. Tribesmen of some wealth, honour or influence emerged to become prominent warlords for the muster or judges in the village assembly, but the arcane was as much a secret to them as it was to the ordinary hillman and their position was not guaranteed - legally, they were still the same as any other freeman.
Meanwhile, the Gradkeep kept pace with the more Direnni-affected areas of High Rock. Magic spread among those of sufficient wealth to purchase the priviledge to use it, becoming more and more popular as a tool to rule over the masses. Entire villages would become indebted to a local wizard-lord for his protection or bow out of fear of the unknown, further increasing their riches and allowing them to purchase growing quantities of slaves in mimicry of their Elven masters. Public land would be taken by those with the owned hands to work them, depriving the freemen of the source of a large part of their food and driving them into debt to the rich. It would be from these mage-lords that the first barons and nobles of Anticlere would emerge following the fall of the Direnni, to quarrel among themselves for centuries.
In the ages to follow, the Gradkeep Plains would fall into something of a pattern. Chestermarket would rise up above the other petty baronies, only to experience a decline again and have to climb back to the top. The west, on the other hand, was less predictable, but just as turbulent. The Gallovale Stone bears witness to the alliance of several reichs, as the petty realms of the highlands were called, formed to resist the invasion of a splinter group of Yokudans who landed first in the isle of Mens and later crossed over into the mainland, establishing a short-lived realm around the territory of the modern day capital.
Alliance and Annexation: Late First Era to the Second Era Edit
The Yokudan splinter forces that first landed not far from the present-day location of the city of Anticlere represented only a fraction of the Yokudan refugees' actual military power - the bulk of which, as is well known, was directed against Hammerfell - but even they presented a considerable and entirely unexpected challenge to the struggling petty realms of the western lowland. Troubled by constant warfare against the hill reichs that constantly descended from further north to extort tribute or simply ravage the countryside, as well as conflict among themselves, they were in no position to resist the Yokudan invasion and were swiftly annihilated one by one, refusing to ally even as they fell as each petty lordling hoped he could be the one to play the invaders for his personal benefit.
Such an uneven fight and the annihilation that followed proved to be an educating sight for the hillmen themselves. By the time the Yokudans had begun their thrust northwards - expecting pickings as easy as their advance over the lowlands had been, most of their warriors having already written the Bretons off as poor fighters - many of the hill reichs had already banded together in an unlikely alliance known as the League of the Lakes. The very first reliable written source to reach us from High Rock's history is the witness of this alliance - still standing to the present day in its namesake town, the Gallovale Stone bears the names of the reichs and their representatives that swore to take part in the anticipated fight against the dark-skinned invaders alongside one another.
Sources on the precise course of the conflict that followed are regrettably scarce. It appears, however, that the fortified hilltop 'capitals' of several of the southern-more reichs were conquered and destroyed before the hillmen struck back, and struck back decisively - expunging the Yokudans from the Western Hills entirely and driving deeper into the coastal lowlands. Whether or not any formal peace treaty was signed is unknown, although such an event is extremely unlikely given the nature of both combatants. More likely, the Yokudans simply withdrew back to the sea, possibly answering the call for the greater crusade of extermination sweeping over Hammerfell at the time, while the hillmen had no means to follow them and simply had to accept this as the end of the war.
Archaeological evidence suggests that, after the Yokudans had been expelled or withdrew of their own accord, the League of the Lakes turned on the few reichs that had stayed out of the alliance and the war, before collapsing in on itself as could be expected. Its work, however, had been done - rather than reverting to their previous state, the political landscape of the Western Hills was much changed in the end. Several dominant reichs rose up, absorbing smaller neighbours into their own territory or imposing upon them the status of clients; where previously dozens had fought, now only a handful remained as practical contestants for dominance over the hills.
The east would not feel the effects of this for a while yet, however. Everything seems to suggest that the arrival of the Yokudans had been barely noticed here, and even then only by the western-most of the petty realms of the Gradkeep. Most of them were instead preoccupied with power-struggles against one another, mage-lord squaring off against mage-lord for land and wealth. Alliances were few and far in-between, and never lasted long; magocracies rose up and were overthrown practically overnight.
Had the magocrats of these troubled times possessed the resources comparable to modern Bretic rulers, the ravages of constant warfare would have been considerable indeed; however, with magic restricted to a tiniest fraction of the populace and most of the battles hinging on the personal skills of a mage-lord rather than the size of his host more often than not, these wars were rather different in character to modern conflicts, or even the battles fought between the hillmen and the Yokudans further west, and appear to have had negligible impact on the lives of most. It might be rather confidently said that, to the average inhabitant of the Plains - who teetered more often than not on the brink of slavery, if not already enslaved - it mattered very little who precisely was in rule - the magocrats were all similar to one another in the extreme, and came and went rather quickly.
However, while this state of affairs continued for a considerable amount of time, it could not last forever. Chestermarket, the earlier bastion of Direnni rule, was the immovable rock in the stormy sea, so to speak; though not a proto-city per say, it was the closest thing approaching this in the entire territory of modern-day Anticlere, and its rulers tended to be able to entrench themselves firmer and for greater lengths of time. The security of its fortifications would give birth to the first dynasties of the Gradkeep; they, in turn, would give birth to the first dynastic policies, bringing continuous and directed expansion as well as the ability to consolidate gains to some extent.
The culmination of Chestermarket's rise to power would be the Battle of Duncreigh Bridge, whose memory is loudly trumpeted to this day, along with being our only informant over the existence of a petty realm called Sensford. Defeated in this battle, this Sensford was subsequently annexed by the Baron of Chestermarket, which apparently made him bold enough to proclaim himself a lord; that records from Daggerfall seem to recognize him as such, and would go on to refer to Chestermarket as a lordship up until the birth of Reich Gradkeep, suggests this was not a hollow title.
That Chestermarket's lords had the fortune to survive the disastrous Thrassian Plague that annihilated many other noble houses throughout High Rock, being one of the many families who were in a position to profit from its horrors, only went on to strengthen the nascent realm's position, establishing it as the principal power of the Gradkeep Plains for good - though not powerful enough to conquer its entirety for the time being, certainly enough so to have its influence felt to the very hills in the west and all the way up to Eastcastle in the east.
Colovian Colonization and the birth of Reich Gradkeep Edit
That, then, is what the first Colovians arriving here in the early parts of the Second Era found in the lands of modern day Anticlere - several competing reichs in the north on the doorstep of statehood, an emerging regional power in the east beginning to style itself after Daggerfall, and an insignificant and neglected western coast peppered with petty baronies constantly wary of becoming the targets of their warlike neighbours from the hills and cautiously beginning to consider forging ties with Chestermarket in exchange for some measure of security as that might offer. They were thus in no position to refuse when the travelers from Colovia set up their first outpost on the very site of the present-day capital.
The town of Rislav, named for the cherished King Rislav the Righteous of Colovia by the colonists, was quite fortuitously located. Despite the looming threat of the reichs hanging above it in the north, it was relatively safe, its immediate neighbours being more interested in allying with the settlers rather than trying to expel them; with strong ties to its homeland, it benefited not only from some amount of trade with Cyrodiil, but also a steady influx of Colovians driven from their land by conflict or leaving it by choice. Offering a decent opportunity for impoverished aristocrats, landless peasants and highlanders without a penny or a slice of bread to their name, the settlement grew at a rate surpassing that of its immediate native Bretic rivals.
By the time the hillmen realized its presence, the new colony had already become quite well established. With a mixed Breton-Colovian populace and ruled by a count backed by an aristocracy just as mingled (so thoroughly, in fact, that Anticlerian nobility from the west retain traces of Colovian features to this day), when the first emissaries of one of the southern-more reichs arrived at the gates of Rislav to demand tribute, they were told in no uncertain terms to return to their home, for their own sakes. That was surprising. What was even more so was the victory the nascent colony won over the northerner host that advanced upon it soon afterwards.
What followed was long years of conflict that failed to snuff out the town. Suffering setbacks and humiliating peace treaties as well as earning victories and expanding its hinterland, the colony's territory eventually came to encompass a significant stretch of the coastline and lowlands further inland. The settlement grew with its territory to the point where it could rightly be called a city, owing much of its prosperity to the guilds that came to form within it; it would be these guilds, with their considerable wealth and influence, that would come to rule the city when the bloodline of the original counts failed. Governed by the Guild-Council, Rislav would only become further emboldened, pursuing further conflict with the hill reichs and founding trade outposts of its own on the isle of Mens. Eventually, there came a point when the city-state became such a threat that the hillmen could abide it no longer - the second League of the Lakes was born.
But while the west became embroiled in wars of ever increasing scope, both the hill reichs and the city-state of Rislav remained oblivious to the events unfolding in the plains east of them. Chestermarket, ever the principal power, fell into the hands of the Graddock family; a generally energetic and competent bloodline, it was under them that the long and difficult process of breaking or eradicating the lesser baronies of the Gradkeep Plains began in earnest. The first conflicts with enemies from outside the territories of modern-day Anticlere would be fought during this arduous unification, Chestermarket squaring off against their opposite numbers from the territory of present day Urvaius for influence over the very northern reaches of the plains. It is testament to the Graddocks' successes during this infancy of the realm that the border today is drawn north of the Silver Spine.
With the conflict between the League of the Lakes and Rislav in full swing, the day finally came when, under Lord Avel Graddock, the Lord of Chestermarket could confidently say that he was the sole, undisputed Lord of the Gradkeep; the barons of the plains had either sworn fealty to him or been eliminated and replaced by men of loyalty. It was then that Gradkeeper eyes finally turned to the west for the first time; treaties were drafted with the Lordship of Shalgora to secure its non-involvement in the coming conflict in return for concessions of land, both that which the Shalgoran lords had viewed as their sphere of influence for ages, and that which was yet to fall to them. Finally, the Gradkeeper hosts set out to claim the west.
Having gone through the trial by fire of uniting the Gradkeep Plains beforehand, Chestermarket was already familiar with the conquest of such swathes of politically divided land as its armies were now faced with. Local nobility were given a choice between bending the knee or being put to the sword; Rislav's forces, already engaged against the hillmen, were worn out and unable to stop the third party entering the war already in progress. And while the League of the Lakes could withdraw to its hills for some measure of security, the only place for the city-state to withdraw to was the walls of its capital - which, when surrounded, held out for over two years before finally being breached.
Though the hill reichs still remained nominally independent, their conquest was only a matter of time when faced with the collective might of the western lowlands and the entire Gradkeep Plains. Rislav conquered, Lord Avel Graddock named his new realm Reich Gradkeep, renaming the city to the same. It is perhaps somewhat ironic that, during its moment of triumph, Chestermarket itself was faced with the greatest fall in its history - the capital was moved to the newly renamed Reich Gradkeep and the city itself entrusted to a baron; a relative of the Graddocks (this branch of the former ruling house of Reich Gradkeep surviving here to this day) perhaps, but a baron nonetheless.
Reich Gradkeep was born.
Distinct in some ways from both their immediate neighbours and Iliac Bretons at wide, Anticlerians nevertheless retain many similarities. Their art is passionate and often romantic and prone to idealization, however does not share the Daggerfallian penchant for depicting old glory days and hyperbolising ancestors' qualities or deeds; instead, it is closer to the Wayrest strain, more focused on realistic depiction and fine details while still leaving some leeway for imagination and romantic fancies, although Anticlerians also have the unique tendency to be fixated on the temporarity of life and all that comes with it. Nothing is forever, even death, and thus every moment must be exploited to the fullest.
That is not all there is to it, though, as the Anticlerian penchant for paradoxes and contraditictions becomes apparent already in their basic philosophy. While the moments of life must be treasured and enjoyed as much as can be, they are not to be surrendered to - for every mortal is but an actor in the grand play of life, assigned role at random by the whims of the playwrights - the gods. When all is said and done, this divine audience must be left satisfied with the performance, the role assigned played as well as it could be to ensure their continued favour.
With such a fixation on the deception of acting as becomes apparent from a glance at Anticlerian philosophy, it is not much of a surprise that the denizens of this realm enjoy theatrical performances to a great extent. From the capital city down to even the smaller villages of the countryside, plays can be observed everywhere when the occasion calls for it; or sometimes, particularly in Anticlere itself, without occasion at all.
Bands of artists, accompanied by musicians and the so-called stage enchanters, may be found wandering the realm year-round, performing more or less impromptu on the streets, in squares, taverns or nobles' villas. There is rarely any preparation involved; plays break out spontaneously, audiences assemble likewise and pay according to how much they enjoyed the performance. Unlike the Imperials, Anticlerians find little reason to shackle themselves to purpose-built theatres; audiences observe standing or quickly procure benches and makeshift seats, a very popular position in the capital being the rooftops of the surrounding buildings.
Plays are rarely if ever philosophical. Interpretations of popular legends or events are common, commedies always enjoyed but tragedies or heroic epics not scorned either. The focus is on providing the audience with a spectacle, a show to remember, and this is where the stage enchanters - a profession almost unique to the Bretons - come in, using the arcane to make the Anticlerian theatre a sight difficult to forget, with its elaborate lightshows, illusions and other feats of magic that bring the scenario to life.
With the emphasis on providing a show, some may call the content of the plays themselves into question. It is most certainly true that many pieces acted out to win over the commonry are lacking in philosophical value and are more often than not vulgar commedies or lacklustre tragedies that hinge entirely on the stage enchanter's skill to become appealing. However, that is not to say that Anticlere is lacking in playwrights who may proudly stand even among Tamriel's greats; the most famous Anticlerian masterpiece, Rene Pellau's 'Shepherds of Gallovale' - an imagining of the famous Shepherds' Accord that resulted in the formation of the First League of the Lakes as recorded on the Stone of Gallovale - was met with generous praise even in the Imperial City.
Anticlerian art is dominated by a desire to inspire the viewer with a sense of authenticity by the accurate capturing of details, all while taking liberties with the scenario depicted itself. Themes tend to focus almost entirely on events of significance to the current situation and the deeds of great men and women of the past that carry relevance to the present. Past is rarely depicted for its own sake, unlike in Daggerfall with its obsession on the First Era.
As the primary patron of art within the realm is the nobility, as in much of High Rock, topics dealt with are generally those that concern them and their depictions favourable. Politics thus tend to dominate; with the recent developments, reimaginings of key moments of Breton-Redguard relationships are becoming popular alongside the more traditional source of inspiration, key moments in Anticlerian history that are taken to symbolise the freedom upon which they pride themselves so.
Just as with the theatre, providing a show is a great concern of the artist's. Statues often attempt to convey a sense of movement, while the arcane surfaces again in painting, the greatest (or the ones ordered by the richest at least) works of art made using special enchanted paint that appears to shift and change, fooling the mind into perceiving the painting not as a static depiction of events (static is not the right word; even the far more common ordinary paintings attempt to depict movement as best can be done), but rather a moving window into the events presented.
While the fancies of the realm shift and change, constants can fairly easily be made out and certain things are often returned to after falling out for a brief period. The general trend is for the clothing to be less restrictive than in other parts of High Rock, with puffs and widenings favoured to the generally tighter fitting clothing encountered elsewhere.
'Spring is never out of fashion in Anticlere' is a popular and correct saying - lighter tones tend to dominate, with the darker colours usually less obvious or reserved for special occasions. The warm climate makes possible and indeed neccessary the wearing of more open clothing that allows the skin to breathe, which leads in turn to dresses that some foreign visitors might deem inappropriate, the low cuts often seen violating the norms of more conservative cultures but fitting perfectly with the passionate Bretic nature.
While there are clearly differences between the clothes of the nobility and the commonry, shared elements exist in the shape of small details that bear symbolic significance to the people of Anticlere. Nearly universal among the youth is a brimless scarlet cap; men of a respectable age tend to wear notable white rumpled collars of varying sizes, larger collars coming with greater social status.
Fashionable nobles' clothing tends to be elaborate, but not overdone. Silver trimming is by far more popular than golden embroidery, designs tending to be flowing and more focused on blending with the fabric itself than standing out on their own. Wearing one to three rings is commonplace; necklaces and amulets are almost exclusively the province of pendants of Mara, popular among men and women of all ages and social positions.
Commoners' garbs strive for a similar feel as those of the nobility, however are obviously less intricate and with more of a mind for practicality. Iconic among them is the so-called 'sailors' shirt', a loose shirt with a low cut front that is worn not only by sailors and dockworkers, but most men of lesser means of various professions. Unlike with the rich, it is common practice among those of the lower orders who are married to wear the sign of their matrimonial bonds - a colourful cloth tied around the wrist, with a loose piece of fabric hanging where it once connected with the other end on the wrist of the spouse (cut after their first night together).
The unique architectural style of the realm is most clearly evident in the capital. Here, houses of the middle citizenry and the nobility, as well as grand public buildings, convey vividly Anticlere's position in the crossroads of cultures and races. With its notable Nibenese and Colovian influences, the Anticlerian style seems again closer to the more geographically distant Wayrest rather than the neighbouring Daggerfall, however Redguard tones grant it an identity of its own.
Less vertically inclined than the other Bretic styles tend to be, Anticlerian architecture places great emphasis on symmetry and proportion. Also unusual for High Rock is the prevalence of colonnades, porticos being common for larger buildings - the Cathedral of Mara in particular. Tending to be lithe and elegant, these columns mesh quite seamlessly with the rest of the Anticlerian style, use of the heavily Nibenese-influence elaborate capitals going hand in hand with that.
As with everything here, colours tend to be bright and movement dominates. Sharp angles and corners appear to be detested, roundings and flowing details being prevalent instead, striving to create the usual Anticlerian sense of fluidity. The principle of getting the most of life but not surrendering to it can be felt in the rich decoration that nevertheless in the better examples of local architecture tend to maintain a sense of elegance and lightness, veering from appearing weighted and overdone.
While traditionally since the ascension of the Flytes central power has been strong (very much so by High Rock standards), the lord's authority is not absolute and he must contend with several different groups in the different regions of Anticlere. This struggle is rarely if ever physical and takes place as endless negotiations, appeasements, offers and counter-offers, stonewallings and the like; tensions grow and fade as new issues arise, often merely new faces of old points of contention.
In the capital, the various guilds have been traditionally heavily involved in Anticlere's internal politics since the fading of the Colovian aristocracy before the unification of Reich Gradkeep, being not only economical unions but voting units and recruitment bases. This makes belonging to a guild a matter of great importance to an Anticlerian and not unappealing even to the urban nobility - who are, after all, closely entwined with the burghers. The galley families - a handful of noble bloodlines who hold in their hands a large part of Anticlere's naval potential - are likewise not to be underestimated, possessing vast riches from trade and mercenary service, as well as considerable manpower.
The influential factions of the countryside are, generally speaking, less important but nevertheless not to be dismissed as insignificant. The Gradkeeper nobility, once potential candidates for political hegemony in vast portions in the realm, have suffered a fall in power since those ancient days but remain important landholders and often the decisive factor in the Council elections. The holdings of the half a dozen or so remaining magnate families of the east, while middle nobility at best compared to the unbridled power of the high nobles of some other Bretic realms, nevertheless maintain control over some key areas and fortifications of the Plains, breaking up the Flyte's direct holdings and fiercely contesting any attempt to expand communally owned land.
Politically perhaps the least significant is the north-west, its highlands the mainly the domain of freeholders and the nobility here little more than the wealthiest of these freemen. The highlander obsession with maintaining freedom in Anticlere, however, makes for a political bee-hive which might prove to be far more dangerous than commonly anticipated if stirred.
Council of Nobles-Elect Edit
It is common enough practice in Bretic lands for the recognized estates of the realm to be represented in an assembly and have a hand in shaping matters of the realm - in theory, at least. The precise forms and details of these assemblies vary, ranging from the widely considered classical example of the Estates-General of Daggerfall to the single-estate Moorstag of Glenumbra Moors, however these assemblies are generally dominated by the nobility. Anticlere's case is no different, even if this realm's assembly is otherwise fairly unique.
Unlike the proportional representation of the other realms (proportional to the estates' wealth and influence, of course, not the part of the populace it makes up), Anticlere's Council of Nobles-Elect is, as the title of the councillors implies, elected from candidates of affirmed 'nobility of blood and current status', as the formula goes. It is worth noting that its first part usualy rings void - nothing can stop the richest burghers form coming up with 'proof' of their nobility and, so long as enough cogs are oiled, the legitimacy of the proof rarely comes into question.
Voting is done not by individuals, but rather by different 'voting units' - guilds, elderships, noble households and their clienteles and, since the creation of the Chevaliers, military units as well. Theoretically, all the people of the land belonging to a 'voting unit' have a vote to cast, but the prices and dangers of travel are such that even those in the countryside who live close to Anticlere can hardly afford to make the trip; thus, their voices mostly go unheard, restricting any political say chiefly to the city and - a key feature to note - the rural nobility who can cast a vote in representation of the lands under their stead (not uncommonly numerous votes, depending on the size of their holdings) and are often rich enough to afford the luxury of a voyage to the capital.
While the title of Councillor and Noble-Elect is a goal of many of Anticlere's most influential nobles, that is more of due to the prestige associated than any real power conferred by it. That is not to say, however, that this is a hollow position - for one thing, the councillors are closest of all to the person of the Flyte and have the greatest chance to be heard in times of important decisions. Membership of the Council also opens the door to having the duty of tax collection in a particular part of Anticlere relegated to one's self, coming with a slice of the money collected and the possibility for more 'unofficial' profits; it is also upon the past or current councillors that the Flyte most often conferrs temporary stewardship over his personal key holdings.
The League of Shadows Edit
A recent addition to the Flyte’s arsenal of political weaponry is the invaluable League of Shadows. Acting most of the time as the eyes and ears of their lord, their primary task is making sure that he is the best-informed man in his realm; information is power and in this, the League are power-brokers beyond compare in Anticlere.
The vast majority of the ‘Leaguers’ are sleeper agents that were added to its ranks because of their position and loyalty. Composing the rank-and-file of the League, none of them ever reports directly to the Flyte himself, nor is any Leaguer informed of the identity of his fellow agents or even his contact with the League. They may be anyone, and that is why they are feared – a trusted friend or a servant within one’s own household, an innkeeper in a popular tavern, a mercenary captain in foreign employ; such are the people favoured, feeding information to their superiors.
These ‘superiors’ are what forms the core of the League of Shadows. A small handful of men and women of superb skills in subterfuge and covert action, little is known of them beyond rumours and fishmonger wives’ tales. Some say they pose as beggars; others – that they have no identities at all, being people who have long been thought dead. It is these shadows that provide contact between the lesser agents and the Flyte, as well as the hands through which he may act when a nudge in a certain direction is required.
It may go unseen, but there is no denying that the League is a major player in Anticlerian politics and an invaluable asset to the ruling lord in matters both internal and external. As the realm’s nascent prosperity propels its citizens into foreign lands on matters of trade and diplomacy, there can be no doubt that among them there are the Leaguers, adding new threads to the web of secret intelligence that has its heart in Castle Anticlere.
Assemblies: A Political No-Man's-Land Edit
While most of Anticlere is bound up in its internal politics and attempt to follow their developments to the best of their capabilities and understanding, there remain some elements which care little for the powerplay between the realm’s most influential, concerned only with the travails of their existence. Such are the Labourer Assemblies of the capital’s slums, its crimelords focused solely on the pursuit of profit – if it comes with the chance to undercut a rival assembly, all the better.
Firmly established in the shabby and run-down districts of Anticlere’s ‘slummers’, these assemblies are not technically part of the country’s politics; indeed, technically they are not even legal, though this does not prevent them from existing an prospering. Unscrupulous criminals not arrested on sight merely because they are all too often too important to some or other influential to touch or because the trail of their crimes goes cold after the arrest of their lackeys directly responsible, the leaders of these assemblies are the go-to places for the dirtier, more underhand aspects of the struggles of the capital’s highborn.
They are where one should turn when an opposing merchant’s shipment needs to go missing or when one’s own goods must safely reach the warehouses. At each other’s throats more often than not, those who find themselves in repeated need of their services make a point of making use of the petty crimebosses’ rivalries – when a particular assembly is suspected to be involved, a rival one might be contacted to protect from the offending operations, or simply paid for pre-emptively breaking the legs of those involved.
Little more than nests of crime that have a stranglehold on life in the labourer district (it is hardly possible for any ‘slummer’ to go anywhere far in life without at least the silent blessing of his local assembly), the Labourer Assemblies were not always so. When immigrants from other Bretic countries arrived at Anticlere in the past, they often struggled to make ends meet in an alien land; thus, men and women of shared homeland came to band together, joining their feeble resources to support one another as well as new arrivals.
They had – and still have – the right to preside over religious festivals of their homes that are not celebrated in Anticlere; they were to provide a voice to the unspoken-for labourers. Noble goals that have surrendered to the march of time, sadly, religious duties becoming a mask for criminal syndicates and speaking for those without a voice turning into an extortion racket aimed against those employing assembly muscle and not paying their dues to the leaders on time.