ShimThet is one of the Five Bodies. The Five Bodies are the most ancient institutions in the government of the empire, the SolTanZoZon – also known, simply, as ‘O‘.

ShimThet is responsible for policing the empire. Although in principle it has power over all citizens of O, in practice much of the day-to-day policing of the state is carried out by another organisation, the BerSolMay, who are also called by their formal and historical title of KinChogan.

The BerSolMay are known as the “police of earth”, or “the earthly police”, and are responsible for policing the “terrestrial domain”. ShimThet, though, are “the police of heaven”, and in the symbolic system of O are responsible for policing the “celestial domain”. The BerSolMay deal with practical, everyday matters like land disputes, street crime, crowd control, and so on. However, they are not permitted to enter – unless invited – the compound or domain of an aristocratic clan; and they are not permitted to take life, unless in self-defence. Only in exceptional circumstances can the BerSolMay arrest an aristocrat, or hold an aristocrat in confinement. Because privilege in O is partly related to ancestry, and to an index of purity, aristocrats are revered as models of purity and are expected to behave accordingly: however, if an aristocrat misbehaves, no member of the BerSolMay is considered pure enough to pass judgement or to restrain or interfere with the freedom of a ShiCho (a person of aristocratic status).

By contrast, ShimThet contain members, known as “erasers”, who have the right to enter any clan lands, and to pass judgement over the members of aristocratic families. Erasers are also permitted to take life, including the life of members of the nobility. In a society in which violence is not tolerated, the right to take life is seen as a sacred, and almost a semi-divine power.

“The diffusion of power in O

O is essentially a clan-based society, ruled over by the imperial family. The clans are aristocratic families. Over time, groups of clans have joined together to form alliances: these groups are known as Marks, after the ancient crest they choose as their emblem. Famous Marks include: the Long Night, the Oak Leaf, and the Empty Barrel.

To a certain extent, O is self-policing. The clan is regulated by the head of the clan. However, in practice, the head of the clan isn’t simply an autocratic ruler, and the power isn’t only invested in the blood-members of the aristocratic family. A clan (an “U-Mar”, meaning “a House formed by bonds”, or “a bonded House”) will always contain “direct retainers” – and direct retainers are hereditary retainers, whose families may have served their aristocratic masters for centuries or even millennia. A high-status direct retainer – a chamberlain, for example – will be a person of great eminence in the society of O. And although in general a clan will be organised according to the tradition of the Mark to which it belongs, virtually all clans will be ruled over by the lord or lady of the House, working with a counsel of elders.

In other words, at the level of the clan, power isn’t usually concentrated in the hands of an individual or even in the hands of the individual family. High-status direct retainers will offer advice and expertise.

At the time of the main narrative of Dustless, just over 4,000 years into the life of the empire,