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The political system in O (the “western lands”) is a four-thousand-year-old empire, the SolTanZoZon – “the Empire of the Pure Way”.

After an indefinite period of time known as the Clouded Era, the empire was created, and in some ways based upon, the lost ancient civilisation of the race known as the ‘Metallic ones’.

The empire was initially created from armies of clans originating in the geo-political centre of the continent, the Metallic city of LuinShar. These clans followed certain traditions, and grouped together in Marks — A Mark is thus, for the most part, an association of like-minded clans.

At the centre and summit of the city — well over 1,000 metres above sea-level — is the SuMu, the sacred, Metallic citadel. Here, the court (the GoMin-U) is housed.

The emperor – the ShionDo (the “lord over the lords”) – is a dynastic ruler. When, for whatever reason, a dynasty comes to an end, a new dynasty must be inaugurated.

The organisations responsible for inaugurating a new dynasty are known as the Five Bodies. These are all ancient, pre-imperial institutions, and were all based in the SuMu, a place considered sacrosanct by even most degenerate warlord of the Clouded Era.

The Five Bodies are:

ShimThet – the ancient “celestial” police force, who used to police the SuMu.

ShoKun – the Mark of the Hatching Egg, who since time immemorial, have been responsible for collecting the blood of all aristocratic families, and of overseeing the matrimonial arrangements of the clans of the western lands. Their responsibility is to ensure the “purity of the blood” of the people of O. Their headquarters is based in the complex of buildings around the great Library of Blood, up in the SuMu.

ViwaShar – the Mark of the Five Towers. The body of people who, before the formation of the empire, guarded the SuMu from any external threat. With the foundation of the empire, the Five Towers Mark becomes an organisation dedicated to guarding and serving the emperor, and of ensuring continuity across dynastic changes. The ViwaShar organise the emperor’s household, and supply him with his personal bodyguard.

MarZom – the political body responsible for governing the Marks. The empire is a clan-based system. Each clan is governed by its aristocratic head, and each noble clan is known as an hereditary House. The heads of the clans (Isens) are in turn governed by the head of whichever Mark the clan belongs to. The heads of the Marks meet in council and are governed by the MarZom.

MuKesho – a highly revered monastic body, whose monks and nuns were responsible for guarding and maintaining many of the most precious buildings of the SuMu. Above all, the MuKesho are responsible for the metal books — books of sublimely complex signs, known as “hypergrams”, or “Shofi” — which are the indecipherable texts of the Metallic ones, and are stored in SharAmor, the “sacred tower”, at the absolute centre of Shar.

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…‘Well: how will you get justice, now? The whole power of the state is behind Azulsokul and the Xira clan. You yourself referred to the rumour: that the ShionDo is not just Azulsokul’s nephew, but…’

Berensota’s hesitation before finishing the sentence once again alerted Zy to the difficulty people found in discussing the internal affairs of the Dustless One and the imperial clan. The Dustless One had to be… well, Dustless. No dust of ordinary life should be able to cling to His Majesty’s person. Even in private, out of earshot of anybody else, Berensota still couldn’t speak of the matter without unease, as if he was sullying something within himself by opening his mouth and voicing these unflattering things. And in a sense, to deprecate the ShionDo was to cast oneself down, too, for the ShionDo was the Purest of the Pure, the Guardian of the Law, the Lord who was Vigilant over the Lords: the emperor was simply the purest person in O, the quintessence of the whole labour of the state to maintain the TanZo, to practise vigilance and to achieve purity. If there were specks of dust on the ShionDo, then there were specks of dust at the centre of the world. And if there was dust upon the Dustless One, where wouldn’t there be dust? Dust would have reached heart of the empire. And if there was dust at the heart, who could escape dust upon themselves, as well? It would mean a profound collective failure of the SolTanZoZon. No wonder, then, that people were deeply hesitant to criticise His Majesty…


Excerpt from Master Darkness [i], Volume 21 of Dustless

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Dustless | Volume 9