The Marcon Alliance or Marcon Empire was the largest multi-world power during the Dynastic Period of the Mage Wars.
- 1 Alliance or Empire?
- 2 Proto-Marconians
- 3 History
- 4 Poltical Structure:
- 5 Religon
- 6 Customs and practices
- 7 Societal Structure and Caste System
- 8 Economy
- 9 Language
Alliance or Empire?
The Marcons were clearly an empire: they were led by an emperor, practiced imperialism, and were generally not nice people. Because history is written by the victors, who insisted that everyone call them an 'Alliance', all surviving records created by the Marcons use that word.
However, everyone else regarded them as an evil empire, so records written by anyone who wasn't held at sword-point refer to them as the 'Marcon Empire'.
In modern publications, both terms are considered accurate.
The Marcons began as an ethnoreligious group on the Greater Continent. While Marconian tradition holds that their lineage began on the Summer Lowlands, the true 'heart' of Marconian ideology sprang up in the interior. True Marconians were indeed very small in number, but several distinct cultures shared a few similarities: they practiced slavery, degraded women, and believed that being the strongest gave them divine right. Marconian religion, or at least the early precepts of it, preceded the formation of the first empire.
The first Marconian emperor gained superiority over his rivals and eventually controlled around two dozen towers and an area of roughly six million square miles. To command the region, the emperor needed the co-operation of the arch magi who capitulated, so he called the new regime an "Alliance". Thus, the name "Marcon Alliance" stuck.
Is is believed that around 3000 B.G.A., dimension-traveling mages spread the religion (or at least its ideology) to different worlds. It would take five hundred years for this ideology to give birth to the true Marcon Alliance.
The Narano are often held up as an example of proto-Marconians; however, if Emilie Sachen is to be believed, most of the evidence is historical revision by the later Marcons. Chester Rumbarahl, whose later incarnations became some of the Marcons' most powerful leaders, was a Narano. As he introduced the concept of reincarnation to the Marcon Alliance, he would eventually be revered as one of their gods.
The Marcon Alliance as a multi-world empire began at Pem Farheuill, in B.G.A. 2507, during the Intermediate Priod of the Mage Wars. By the middle of the Dynastic Period they were a major power, and by the end they were by far the strongest. Marconian history refers often to the Twelve Sanctions, which formed the beginning of their empire.
Had events not transpired as they did, the Marcons would no doubt have conquered the entire verse within another millennium. Their only delay was by Lelerough, Destroyer of Worlds, who wrought havoc over nearly half the Empire; and because their destruction by her was incomplete, they recovered their power as if it never happened.
However, in B.G.A. 301, an entire army of battling sorcerers seemingly appeared out of nowhere. Using a well-planned series of pinpoint attacks, they shattered the Marcon Alliance, broke its powerbase, and left them vulnerable to hordes of enemies.
The breaking of the Marcon Alliance is considered the turning point in the Mage Wars, and the transition between the Dynastic Period and the Second Chaotic Period.
The Marcon Alliance took over 2,200 years to form, and was destroyed in just one.
Fall of the Marcons
The most complete source of information on life inside the empire, as well as its fall, comes from the diary of a slave-girl named Lyria.
The tale follows Lyria and a landowner's son through the Gudersnipe Army's invasion, and the complete destruction of the Marcon Alliance. The story provides a unique look at the fall of the Marcon Alliance from the perspective of the Marcons; Lyria writes repeatedly about the anger and frustration of the people around her.
Lyria and the son eventually escape. The son, despite being a full-blooded Marconian citizen, escapes death because he is mistaken for an escaped slave. He and Lyria leave the Marcon Alliance for one of the newly-freed slave worlds. Though now free to leave him, Lyria stays with the son who has showed her kindness through the years, and consents to marry him; this is the end of the diary.
The Marcon Alliance was ruled by a military dictator who called himself the emperor.
During its existence, the empire was rulled by dozens of families. Power often changed hands through assassination, though passage from father to son was not uncommon.
The proverbial brass ring was always the emperorship, leaving the bulk of the Alliance relatively stable. A strong central leader was not always necessary, as the different regions were largely autonomous. Expansion was the most important thing, so all that mattered on a local level was making more land part of the empire.
At its zenith, the Alliance controlled more than 50% of the Known Worlds, making them the largest political entity since the Empire of Roads and probably the clear winners of the Mage Wars had the Gudersnipe Foundation not made them all dead.
The Imperial Court, often simply refered to as 'the court' (with great reverence) were the 1,001 most powerful mages in the entire Marcon Alliance (with the Emperor, of course, being the 1). The court had two Mage Towers; one at the capitol on Lake Bentika, and the other at Centered. Each tower was made entirely of White Ivory and Adamantium, and contained the Crystal Fortress. Both were destroyed by the Gudersnipe Army. The Armory at Kartik was not destroyed, but simply lost.
The Marconian religon centered around a practice of ancestor worship and worshipping the emperor. The Marconian creation myth, as well as the customs, rules, and beliefs of the culture, are contained in a multi-volume text called the Bravkar. Though Marconian emperors were routinely proven mortal, they were still considered deities by almost all Marcon citizens. The emperor was usually honored with tributes, though blood sacrifices were commonplace.
According to Marconian beliefs, the known worlds were created 22,000 years before the founding of the Marcon Alliance, or in about 23506 B.G.A.. The Great Sun Gods, the first iteration of the Marcon Alliance, fell to earth in around 17194 B.G.A., which gave birth to the Age of Darkness and the Dragon Clan. A series of warrior-kings would rule in the name of the Great Sun Gods through the Age of Darkness until the founding of the Marcon Alliance in 1506 B.G.A, at which point authority was given directly to the first Marconian Emperor, believed to be a reincarnated Great Sun God.
The first Emperor supposedly fathered all true Marcons, so the ancestor worship centers around tracing one's family line back to the original Emperor. Because every Marcon believes he can trace his bloodline back to the first Emperor, every Marcon has a legitimate claim to the throne; therefore, any citizen had the right to assassinate the Emperor and take his place, if he survived the attempt.
The Marcon account of ancient history is considered a complete fabrication, including the very existence of the Dragon Clan (supposedly invented by the Marcons to justify their claim of the verse). The Marcons' Bravkar, which tell the story of the Great Sun Gods and the warrior kings of old, use a poetic verse form and were probably handed down orally through the Age of Darkness, where stories were embellished and figures mishandled. Certain elements of the Marcons' version may be true, when filtered through the commonly accepted version of events.
Herbet Patric Galactis, author of the Accepted Histories posited that the "Great Sun Gods" of Marconian legend were the Ancients, the progenitor civilization of Antiquity, and that the "fall" mentioned in the Marconian texts is the Fall of Roads. No concrete details in the Marconian religious book offer a chronology of the Age of Darkness, and may be an exaggeration. Much like the Dragon Clan, the story about the first emperor being a reincarnation was likely created to justify his claim to the throne.
Customs and practices
Though many details about the Marcons were lost during the Second Chaotic Period, a few fragments have survived, both in the form of written records and oral histories.
Whenever a new land was conquered, settlers from the previously held regions were brought in to convert the new region. The Marcons worshipped their emperor, and forced whoever they conquered to join the imperial cult. All who resisted were slaughtered. Nearly all Marcons saw enslaved peoples as sub-human, and had no respect for them. A typical Marcon would feel more ill-at-ease over killing a dog than killing a slave.
The Marcons hated technology, and tended to destroy anything more advanced than iron smithing. Electricity especially was targeted, and whenever a new land was conquered they would often destroy the cities and relocate the entire population to help quickly subjugate them.
Entire races were often enslaved, especially when the Marcons encountered a group whose physical distinctions could easily separate them from the Marconian citizens. Skin color was a favorite indicator, though the Alliance was so vast that there really was no specific standard: to a Marcon, there were just "Brother Marcons" and "slaves". That sort of thing extended to foreigners, too: a Marcon considered every foreigner as raw material, waiting to be turned into one of those two categories. No Marcon would sully his hands with any sort of labor; even mental tasks such as accountancy were beneath them. Therefore one class of (menial) slave, to the Marcons, formed a faceless, nameless mass, and the other (mental) class were trained and often quite well educated, but still slaves, and still reminded of their subordination. Most of this second class were slain or taken with their masters as the Marcons fled Lelerough's rampage, leaving only the completely uneducated.
Above all else, the Marcons are remembered for their profound misogyny, so much so that it is often wondered how they managed to reproduce. While slavery was common, all women were automatically slaves. The concept of partnership did not exist, so no Marconian citizen had a 'wife'; and the concepts of maternity, sisterhood, etc., were ignored by Marcon law and custom. Most historians believe, the Marcons did trace their maternal genealogy and keep record of their daughters, purely to prevent inbreeding; but there is no evidence either way. Female slaves were socially lower than male slaves.
Women in the Marcon Alliance were considered good for only two things: sex and producing sons, in that order. Though some lower-class slave owners would use their women for labor, thus keeping them alive to work, very few women in the heart of the empire lived past the age of 20. Most died in childbirth long before this.
The Marcons' hatred for women was so strong that many thousands of years later, calling someone a 'Marcon' is considered the worst insult within the Gudersnipe Foundation.
The Marconian legal system is based upon the principle that it is wrong to punish an innocent man. Therefore, any case that goes to trial, is bound to result in a 'guilty' verdict. Trials are purely for show and based entirely on ritual and ceremony. The jury consists of animals; usually herd animals, with sheep being the favorite because they are small and relatively well-behaved.
The animals are placed in a pen while the trial proceeds. At the end, the pen is opened, and the animals are allowed to decide guilt or innocence by moving into one of two appropriately-marked pens. The 'guilty' pen is filled with food, ensuring the animals make the proper decision. Juries always consist of 13.
Societal Structure and Caste System
One interesting and sometimes baffling aspect of the Marcons, is their lack of an idea of racial purity. This is most likely because the Marcon Alliance began as a confederation of disparate city-states, each a melting pot in its own right, and lacking any central racial identity. Instead, the Marcons founded their identity based on patrilineage. By the time they had branched out into the whole of the verse at the start of the Dynastic Period, in order to be considered a true Marcon (or Truemen, as they called themselves), one had to be able to trace their ancestry back not just to one of the founding states, but to the aristocracy. Of course, early Marconians tended to be quite prolific, so creating a citizenry in this way wasn't difficult.
By the time of the dynastic era, the proliferation of Marconian citizens had become somewhat of an issue. Granted, much of this was solved by continuing to expand their territories and giving citizenry new lands to administrate. But it was still not clearing out the men fast enough. Marconian doctrine recognized only Marcons and slaves, and by divine right the Marcons were entitled to various things now in short supply. The solution to this problem was to create a new caste of men.
Accounts differ on exactly how it came about, but sometime around the 23rd century before the Golden Age, Marcons began to draw a distinction between legitimate sons, and those born of casual assignation. Only intentionally-sired sons counted as citizens; those bred by accident formed a third class, known as Burgmen. Burgmen had rights and status, but were not entitled to the same privileges as full Marcons.
Because Marcon law did not recognize marriage, the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate sons was not precisely what it was to the rest of the verse, but it counted for something none the less: a legitimate son was, in practice, one most favored by his father, and an illegitimate, one not desired, but acknowledged. Legitimate, or "True" sons were called "Truemen". An unacknowledged son was essentially orphaned (usually left to become a slave); and daughters, of course, were not mentioned at all.
Illegitimate sons were called Burgmen. They had many of the same rites as Truemen but not the same entitlements. Burgmen still formed a valuable part of Marcon society. Because they had rights and could earn money and own property, but had little given to them, they were encouraged to learn trades and gain skills. Burgmen were preferred as lower officers in the military. They were more loyal than slaves and thus trustworthy, but also much more numerous than true Marcons. Any Burgman who wanted to could have a junior commission for next to nothing, and end up with a small army of slaves to boss around.
Burgemen could not become members of the priesthood and were not entitled to land or slaves, but could earn money and buy slaves. If they demonstrated ability as a mage or otherwise had appropriate skills, they could ascend to the highest levels of Marcon society.
A third class was known as Trustmen. These were initially slaves or otherwise conquered people who, through some act or service, gained the right to status. Despite the implications of the name, Trustmen were, in fact, not well-trusted. But they could own property. Most Trustmen were outsiders who had ingratiated themselves in some way to the Marcons.
Everyone else was a slave. It was possible (but highly unlikely) for a slave to become a Trustman.
The central areas of the Marcon Alliance functioned on a strict command economy, but in practice this was largely something of a showpiece and not a true manner of operation. Every Marconian citizen was granted certain "entitlements" which amounted to a basic living stipends, while all the actual work was done by slaves. All of the land in the empire belonged to a relatively small number of Marconian citizens.
In practice, this lead to a very poor standard of living for all but the most elite of Marcon citizens. The only way to attain any real wealth was to own land, and short of new territories being conquered, the land very seldom changed hands. All the skilled labor was done by slaves (with profits going to their masters), while all the land belonged to a small minority of the ultra-wealthy elites.
Life for a typical Marcon citizen involved squatting in dilapidated housing tenements and eating what food was handed out to them by the state. This was mostly grain, rice, and corn in significant quantities. They would eat some of this, and trade the rest for whatever they needed. Meat and fresh vegetables could be obtained depending on the season, but prices varied significantly. Spices were more highly-prized as a cheap way to add variety to the bland food; but as most Marcons lacked even basic cooking facilities, they mostly had to trade their meager rations at kitchens run by the more wealthy.
The cities offered a variety of free entertainment and services to keep the populace happy. Life was in general not so bad, but it was a complete lack of upward mobility that made most citizens miserable.
There were very few jobs to speak of. Truemen typically lived off of the family estate, while Burgmen had to make due with the dole or otherwise try to earn money. The only common paid jobs, then, were as vassals, slave marshals, or soldiers. A smile minority also made a living as artisans, actors, and occasionally tradesmen.
A Vassal worked as a sort of property manager, directing and caring for the property of wealthier Marcons. Vassals would typically be denied a grain dole, though it was possible to get it anyway. This could mean managing a farm (and the associate slaves), running a factory, or even directly managing buildings. Vassals were typically related in some way to the owner of the property and thus loyal to them. A vassal was very seldom paid in money. Usually they were instead "paid" in the form of accommodations; a house, food, slaves to do their bidding. They were allowed to make use of the property of their master. This could lead to a vassal living quite well, but with no property of their own they were effectively in another form of slavery. If a vassal was ever dismissed from his post, he would be stripped naked and forced to walk away, as everything, including the clothes on his back, was the property of his master. A common practice when dismissing a vassal was to do it on the first day of the month, since the grain dole would not be distributed until the last day of the month, ensuring he would starve.
Typically only Burgmen and Freemen worked as slave marshals. A Truemen could of course command slaves (and always owned a great number of them) but typically did not interact with them unless he was of low station. Only free citizens could be trusted to command slaves, so there was always work available as a slave master. Additionally, citizens on the dole could do this job and still receive their ration of grain. For work as a slave marshal they would be paid in money, though wages were typically low as competition for the job was fierce. It was also dangerous work; slave uprisings were common and the marshals were always the first to go.
The symbol of the slave marshal is a Shepherd's crook.
Most Marcon armies were comprised principally of warrior-slaves, some even bred explicitly for this role. The slaves however only made up the infantry. Every officer had to be at least a Burgman, though Trustmen could sometimes become junior officers. Burgmen were preferred, and made up most of the officer corps. It was possible, though rare, for Burgmen to achieve a level of status equivalent to a Trueman by serving well enough.
Most trade work was done by highly skilled slaves. A few of the otherwise idle Truemen took up pastimes such as painting or sculpting and became exceptionally skilled at it, producing some of the empire's finest works of art. Burgmen could train to do the most difficult aspects of skilled work, such as managing building sites or running stone quarries. In practice, these jobs were often little different from that of slave marshals; as the Burgmen in charge still seldom knew as much as the slaves doing the work.
There were a few professions only Burgmen or Truemen could enter.
The Marcon Alliance had paper money, as well as minted coins in many denominations. In practice, money had very few uses. Most Marcons lived on the dole and used their stipend of grains to buy things. This might occasionally be traded for money when they had extra to spare. Also anyone doing odd jobs or favors would be paid in money.
The various slave communities tended to adopt their own informal currencies for internal use.
The chief currency among the elite was gold or electrum.
The Marconians did have a unique spoken language, obliterated when the empire fell. No surviving examples exist, though many words used in regions they once controlled are suspected to be Marconian in origin. Modern experts on the tongue have no idea how their language sounded, as the written version recorded only the consonants (assuming a native speaker would be able to fill in the vowels).
The written language is quite complex, with some two hundred distinct characters. Scholars speculate it evolved this way to allow any magical treatise from a subjugated people to be translated. The Marcons needed a written language that could cover every conceivable use-case; which meant only a handful of their elite could ever truly master it.
While extensive writings in the Marcon tongue did exist, no more than a few paragraphs survived the Mage Wars outside the archives of the Gudersnipe Foundation. Countless inscriptions, jewellery, and seals also exist. The Foundation has publicly stated that they have the entire language carefully mapped and documented, and will happily translate any short passage presented to them, but have provided no information on it, intending, indeed, for the tongue to remain lost.
In Korrinth, a new language called Korrali was invented based on assigning sounds to about 30 surviving characters from the Marconian language. Since the sounds the characters originally made were completely unknown (and all of them were consonants anyway), Korrali bore no resemblance to Marconian.