The Broken Kingdom, formerly known as the Stone Kingdom, sometimes called the Truest Kingdom, is a moderately populated agrarian society in the northwest region of the Eastern Block, home to the Armored Riders. The people of this region are know for their strict adherence to tradition, codes of honor, and sturdy masonry. The Broken Kingdom is the largest exporter of horses, their stables producing some of the most specialized breeds to be found. It is a land of artisan-ship where it is considered a part of each person's honor to master their craft. From the martial skills of the Armored Riders to the work of their smiths and masons, it is not enough for someone of the Broken Kingdoms to be good at their skill; it must be done with flair and please the eye.
Despite the Kingdom's colloquial name, it is far from divided. Each of the twelve kingdoms within the Broken Kingdom functions as a part of the whole. The ties between the kingdoms and their ruling families are extremely strong, reinforced by blood-relations, marriages, honor-debts, the Oaths every noble and Royal in the kingdoms swear, and the Truest King's presence. While some disputes do arise, these are typically settled via champion combat during the monthly tournament cycle, or in the case of disputes between Royals, during the yearly High Tournament.
The people of the Broken Kingdom can be found with any color of hair or eye as would be considered natural for a human. The defining features of the people collectively is found in the paleness of their skin and significantly greater than average size. The men of the Broken Kingdoms typically range a few inches over six feet of height and are notoriously stocky while the women typically stand just under six feet in height and are likewise robust. Bands of adventurers from the Broken Kingdom can generally be found out and about in the world, seeking to earn knighthoods or acquire tales of daring to share back home. These young and rowdy groups are typical of the Stone People: eager to fight an honorable and good fight, living fast, and dying valorously.
The Broken Kingdom is ruled by twelve royal lines of kings and queens. Succession is passed on to the eldest heir who is anointed by the Truest King at their time of inheritance. Part of the Anointment of Crowns is a ritualized trial in which witnesses confirm the Heir has met the Truest King's requirements for rule. These requirements are that the Heir has earned a knighthood, has led men in a field of battle, led from the front lines, has tested their skills against their peers in tournament or personal combat, has upheld the Code, and has named their own Heir. While the heir and lines typical pass from father to son, it is not unheard of for a princess to inherit and become queen. Female heirs are expected to fill the role of male heirs and rulers in every aspect. Eldest children unwilling or unable to meet this requirement are passed over for the next eldest child. This means that when one meets a Queen of the Broken Kingdoms, they're meeting a woman who has successfully trained as a armored rider, completed in tournaments, won duels, and lead every battle following their knighting on the front lines. If no blood-relation of the current King or Queen meets the requirements to become Heir, then an unrelated person who fills those requirements may be selected.
Due to the innate hazard of being a Royal in the Broken Kingdom, the first line of duty to be completed before the end of the Anointment is for the new King or Queen to name their heir, lacking any qualifying family members, an unrelated heir can be named who is considered to be the adopted child of the King/Queen postmortem should they pass on before a biological Heir can arise. This is the only way for a new line of Royalty to be formed, as while a Royal can wed anyone they please, from peasant to noble, the right of succession can only flow down the Royal's blood/adoption line. It should be noted that only foreigners of extremely high social standing in their homelands are considered legitimate spouses to a Royal. If a King were to couple with a foreign peasant, the peasant's offspring would be considered ineligible for rule until the foreigner met all the requirements of an Heir and was formally accepted as one of the People of Stone (an ancient name for those born in the Kingdom) by the Truest King. This acceptance is part of a rare ceremony called the Blooding of the Stone, which is only performed when a foreigner who wishes to become a part of the Broken Kingdom has attained the status to do so.
Once every twelve years, the Royals and their Heirs make a pilgrimage to the Cathedral of the Truest King to hold council and ensure the survival of their kingdoms. Similarly, each Royal is served by twelve "High" Knights who function as lords of the land and help govern that Royal's kingdom. Each of the twelve districts overseen by the High Knights is likewise governed by a council of twelve Low Knights, and again each of the twelve Low Knights oversees a local council of twelve selected by the people of the area. Each Royal is required to meet with their council of High Knights every twelve months, each High Knight meets with their council of Low Knights every twelve weeks, and each Low Knight meets with their local council every twelve days. The exception to this cycle is during times of direct warfare, with every council meeting missed being required to be held. This means that following any extensive conflict, each level of leadership is obliged to spend far more time with the tiers directly beneath them, adding a level of resiliency and speed of recovery following the conflicts.
The Low Knights, while not overly high-ranking in the grand scheme of things, are generally drawn from the Armored Riders. While not every Armored Rider is a Knight, everyone referred to as a Knight has served as an Armored Rider. Likewise, the High Knights are drawn from the Low Knights. This means that in any of the twelve kingdoms, the leaderships structure below the King/Queen can consist of either the offspring of higher society proving themselves and meeting the requirements in place to take on their father or mother's role or the lowborn who have risen to meet those same requirements and now stand a chance to be selected as "Heir" and move upward in society. The exact proportion of high-born and low-born filling these roles varies from kingdom to kingdom, and year to year.
- The Truest King
- Royals - The King or Queen of one of the twelve Stone Kingdoms
- Royal Heirs - Must hold at least a position of Knighted Rider
- High Knights -
- High Heirs - Must hold at least a position of Low Knight
- Low Knights -
- Low Heirs - Must hold at least a position of Knighted Rider
- Knighted Riders -
- Armored Riders -
- Grand-Master Craftsmen -
- Master Craftsmen -
- Journeymen Craftsmen, Farmers, Businessmen
- Squires, Apprentices -
- Unskilled Laborers, Foreigners
- Cowards - Tattooed, dehaired, and treated as animals
Guided by the Truest King, the Broken Kingdom has been generally non-conformist since its first roots took place in the early years following his arrival. Aside from iron and steel, the Broken Kingdom has little need for the outside world, but, fortunately, the Council of Royals sees fit that trade should be utilized rather than massively increasing native production. In all the Kingdom, trades with everyone and anyone they are not currently warring with. Rather holding lasting grudges, those who interact in a hostile manner with the Kingdom find themselves receiving bills for reparations (normally in tonnage of iron or steel). Those who do not pay such bills of reparation find themselves subject to absurd price hikes when dealing with the Broken Kingdom for periods that have lasted one year to multiple generations. Two thousand years of history has given the Broken Kingdom ample opportunity to interact with the other factions of the world.
"Their men wear dresses and nag until they get their way. It's rather like dealing with women, but, like the women, they make tolerating them worthwhile." - High Knight, speaking of the Encircled hospital in his township
The Broken Kingdom keeps generally open relations with the Circle. While refusing to join the Circle, the Kingdom does allow the Encircled to establish their small centers in the larger towns ruled by High Knights and the capital cities. These centers are valued for their doctors more so than the other services offered there and it isn't uncommon for subjects of the kingdom to be so inclined as to pursue medicine to seek apprenticeships from the doctors of the Circle. Each doctor working in the Kingdom is gifted a pacing horse by the local nobility and taught to ride it well if they don't know how; in addition, each of the Circle's centers is provided with a monthly allotment of food at no cost from the nobility's stores.
Aside from this, the Circle is a great source of low-grade steel, which is purchased in droves. The Kingdom maintains a military alliance with the Circle and it's by their behest that the Border Patrols became more than monster-hunting trips by young Riders seeking to prove themselves. Each of the twelve kingdoms keeps a force of five hundred Riders on standby to be deployed to assist the Circle, essentially giving the Circle a force of six thousand heavy cavalry to be called upon. As always, however, the Riders will refuse to enter combat unless the leadership of the Encircled forces join them on the front lines.
Post Great War
Following the use of the Dust by the Circle at the close of the Great War, their relationship with the Broken Kingdom became rather strained. While this has eased, as the generations present to see the Goran forces die in agony have passed on, the Truest King and collective memory of the Kingdom retains the scene. While trade continues and Circle hospitals are still welcome, there is stricter enforcement against indoctrination teaching, with anything determined to be heresy banned and monitored by the local Order of Truths Magistrate and the rates are not as favorable. While the Broken Kingdom still provides Border Patrols and has a reserve force for responding to Goran incursions, larger actions are conducted with reluctance and payment is typically demanded in return.
"The Kushanese? Assassins, monster-breeders, and a lack of honor. They have the most grateful of women to have real men around though! Let me tell you of the time I went to their Autumn Festival to fight their forests of monsters....." - Armored Rider speaking to a new recruit
The Broken Kingdom generally is stand-offish towards the Kushanese. The Kushan interests in biomorphs, use of poison, and assassins keep an underlying tension in all relations between them and the Kingdom. These things are generally considered dishonorable, distasteful, and unethical when not just outright evil by the Kingdom. More than one young Rider has earned a knighthood by hunting down an escaped biomorph at behest of the independent townships in the lands between the two nations. That said, Kushani medicines are highly valued in the Kingdom and are traded for by merchants.
Post Great War
The release of Corpsebloom is widely attributed to the Kushanese and the Broken Kingdom has yet to forgive them fully for it. The Council of Royals and Truest King remain skeptical that the release was truly unintended by the ruling factions, and, much like with the Dust in the north, find the manner of death rendered unto the Goran as horrific. The Kushan experience the highest prices set for any Grand Parade of all the factions, and while their help in spreading the Purge Root has taken the edge off the tension, they're widely regarded as a morally bankrupt people whose only redeeming virtue is that they let the Armored Riders kill some of their monsters each year.
"They fight with honor; they live with strength. These are worthy opponents who many would call savage. The same would call us savage when not smiling to our faces I think." - Low Knight during the Great War
The Broken Kingdom holds a grudging respect for the Goran nation, and unlike many do not consider them to be savages. As the Goran conducted themselves respectably during the Great War, not much changed between the nations afterward. While Goran incursion into the Kingdom's lands is met with deadly and swift response, the Kingdom is open to diplomatic meetings with the Goran. To this end, a few messenger riders are kept at the Gate of the portion of the Great Wall the Broken Kingdom constructed. Despite the open channel for communications, the Goran are nominally considered to be enemies of the Kingdom if they make it across the wall. Due to the way the Goran were removed from the Great War, they tend to receive much kinder treatment when they come in peace than many would expect. Goran are generally treated as guests of honor in the Kingdom with room and board provided for free or at greatly discounted rates. It is unknown what the Goran think of being seen with pity and sympathy by the People of Stone.
"The Ashen folk make very effective walls. Sturdy, functional, and devoid of spirit. Not unlike the Ashed themselves. You can't trust a people who don't bring the form of a thing up to match its function. It's as though they have no appreciation of beauty, a grayness of heart to match their skin." - Broken Kingdom Master Mason
The Ashed are generally distrusted by the Broken Kingdom. The saying that when three Ashed are in a room, there's a conspiracy against one of them is a common bit of wisdom among the Kingdom's people. While the Broken Kingdom is neither friendly nor unfriendly in a political sense to the Ashed, there is a deep and lasting love for Ashed steel in the Kingdom. Widely considered to be the absolute finest steel to be had in he kingdom, the only contrary voices are those who are aware of the existence of Sumerian steel. All Grand Parade contracts with the Ashed are brokered only in return for steel; no other payment is accepted.
Post Great War
The Ashed have maintained their status with the Broken Kingdom as a valued trade partner despite the Betrayal. While the steel accounts for a lot of this willingness to forgive and forget, the fact that the Ashed set aside their neutrality and profiteering to help at all goes a long way. Innocent of any of the war crimes that were committed as well, the Ashed essentially are still well regarded as warriors and craftsmen. The 14th Councilmember's role in defending the Cathedral ensures his continued state of being welcome in the Kingdom, the open invitation to the Cathedral's hospitality continuing to stand.
"The men of the north! Their wildness on the field is only surpassed by their wildness in the sheets!" -Journeyman Prostitute attending the Contest of Blood festival
Much like the Goran, the Woag are respected as fearless and fierce warriors by the Broken Kingdom. However, most of the interactions between the two people are violent in nature. Woag traders are welcome in the Kingdom, and the Woag are perhaps the most common non-biomorph to find themselves in battles with the Broken Kingdom. Following the Eternal Warrior's cease-fire during the Great War, the organized and yearly festival-like battle between the two people called the Contest of Blood was arranged. Otherwise, Woag raiders often find that any settlement they visit too often soon finds itself reinforced with volunteers from the Broken Kingdom. The Royals of the Kingdom do not order Riders and armies to station themselves in defense of the independent villages and townships, but rather simply send any messenger seeking martial aid into the public square to plead help from the populace. Young Riders desiring knighthood and civilian adventure-seekers alike regularly volunteer to accompany such messengers back to help with the defenses.
"The Faceless Emperor sent his armies into these lands. It cost us an ocean of blood to extract them. What he took from us will never be rebuilt. What he gave us is something he will never be able to build against, which can never be destroyed. He gave us a cause; he gave us a rallying cry. Perhaps it will not be within this century; the world is not ready for another war between the great nations. I vow though, by the immortality of my blood, with the surety of the headsmen's axe already falling on the condemned, I will see the Tallet Empire taken apart, dismantled, and freed. The Emperor will sink upon bent knee and beg for mercy and forgiveness and, for the first time in the history of my rule, there will be none. The deaths of eight million of my people lie at his feet: two in three! And he will pay for each of those lives, each day for the rest of his eternity." - The Truest King to the Undying Council at the suggestion of a new peace accord
Of all the peoples of Soi, the Tallet have earned an almost permanent ire from the Broken Kingdom. The past between the two peoples is littered with a number of misunderstandings and confrontations. Much like the Woag, the Tallet often find small bands of volunteers from the Kingdoms reinforcing independent nations they have targeted for expansion. The most notable of these conflicts, called the "Mud War" by the Circle, was an invasion by the Tallet during an extensively rainy year which rendered the Kingdom unable to field its cavalry. What followed was the Tallet becoming the only nation to have first-hand experience at what it is like trying to occupy and hold land within the Broken Kingdom as every man, woman, and child strong enough to wield a weapon fought back like cornered animals. This has lead to the phrase "dangerous as a grandmother in the Kingdoms" to be used to refer to a threat that would otherwise be underestimated. In the end, the entirety of the village's population fell in such a bloody and pitched battle that the Tallet withdrew soon after, no longer having the numbers on hand to hold against the approaching armies of the Kingdom and no longer considering the area worth the trouble of fighting for.
Post Great War
The Tallet Empire is the singular enemy of the Broken Kingdom. Tallet armies that find themselves too close to the Broken Kingdom are subject to attacks by the mustered forces of the Armored Riders, often with the Truest King leading the charge. All trade with the Tallet has been suspended and any Tallet found within the Kingdom are summarily executed as spies unless they carry a writ and an escort from the Cathedral itself.
Most people in the Broken Kingdom aside from the Council of Royals are unaware of the Citadel's existence. Historically, the last direct interaction between the Kingdom and the Citadel was the aid of Citadel engineers in designing the inner workings of the Cathedral. Modern interaction is limited to the occasional Seeker being sent to ask advice on how to counter the various weapons they discover, particularly those which violate the Barren Soil treaty.
The Cult of Gogalith
"Yes, the cultists are oppressed in the Kingdom, as they should be everywhere. These people's ideas are too destructive to be allowed to foster. To be fair, though, can you think of a more enjoyable vetting process to be subjected to on the Kingdom's coin?" - Low Knight to an Encircled observer following the execution of a Cultist
The cult of Gogalith is banned from entering the Broken Kingdom on pain of death. Anyone suspected of following the cult is provided with a cut of bacon and/or shellfish, a mug of fine drink, and a prostitute. After partaking in all three, the individual must then perform a dance while denouncing Gog and Alith as false, inept, pansy gods who are too afraid to show themselves and lead their own people to war. Failure to perform fully is grounds for summary execution given the individual is of the age of consent.
"We understand your plight, and we wish we could aid you. Unfortunately, it is the standing decision of the Council of Royals that we will not interfere in the affairs of minor nations. We know you don't understand this now, but in a hundred years when your people are a great people you will have the pride and honor of having stood on your own. It is not the desire of the Truest King to have the states of mortals vassal to his own, it is your role in this world to rise to stand with us as equals, not as debtors who owe your position to us. If you manage to find volunteers from the populace, so be it, but the armies of the Kingdom will stay in our borders." - Royal of the Kingdom, speaking to an Emissary
The Broken Kingdom is generally neutral towards the unclaimed regions of the world. Those nearest it get the benefit (or nuisance) of being visited by bands of Armored Riders on "Border Patrol" duty. Beyond this, the terms of relations are generally in the hands of the unclaimed leadership who can either be grateful the Kingdom takes no interest in sending armies into their lands, or resentful about the lack of support. Military aid rendered to these peoples is usually limited to volunteer forces, which have to be recruited by the people themselves. While not typically mercenary in nature, such volunteer forces are often fighting with the understanding that room and board are provided by the host and are typically raucous enough to cause no end of disturbances during their stay. Traders from these nations and peoples are welcome in the Kingdom, and are accepted on the same terms as the Circle. All guards must be left outside of the Kingdom, rents for parking caravans must be paid to the local nobility, all transactions must be done in barter or with King's Cubes, and no animals of breeding stock may be sold.
The people of the Broken Kingdom are called the People of Stone and are the fullest expression of that culture. While some nations near the Kingdom share some of the racial and cultural heritage, those lands tend to have some form of local deviation from the father-land.
The Six Day Seven Day Week
The Broken Kingdom observes a six day week with a seventh day that exists between the final day of one week and the start of the next that is never acknowledged in time-keeping, travel times, or history. This unrecognized day is essentially twenty-four free hours in where there are no obligations placed on those ranking below the Armored Riders. The Riders still guard the borders and garrison the fortified structures of the land, as is their duty, but even they are far more relaxed with no drills ever scheduled on the seventh day. This day of rest and relaxation follows the sixth day that marks the end of each week, which is also the day in which all of the populace participates in military drills. The first through fifth days of each week function much the same as they do in any other culture, with people going to work and living their lives without interference.
The Thirteen Month Year
The Broken Kingdom utilizes a thirteen month calendar with 364 days instead of the standard 365 days of an actual solar revolution. Each of the thirteen months has twenty eight days assigned, though only twenty four of the days are numbered, in groupings of six day long weeks. The other four days are accounted for in the unrecorded seventh day of each week which occurs between the end of one week and the start of the next week.
The Broken Kingdom has had only two periods of expansion. Each of these expansions were exponential in size and set new borders for the Kingdom. The first occurred during the Truest King's active rule during the years 390-410. During this time period, the initial Stone Kingdom grew to incorporate the eleven neighboring major townships. Today, the original town and the additional eleven form the twelve great cities of the Broken Kingdom. The second major period of expansion took place around the year 1400. For the second expansion, the smaller villages and border forts had grown to become thriving townships and rather large fortifications. The current borders are once again marked by small villages and border keeps, however, with the depopulation of the Great War, the Broken Kingdom seems to be some centuries away from having the population to demand a third expansion.
It is worth noting that each time the Kingdom expands, a new lair of nobility is added. The differentiation between High Knights and Low Knights only came after the second expansion. Expansion into new townships and border keeps followed the established system of twelve. Each of the twelve great cities have twelve large towns and each large town have twelve attached border keeps with their associated villages. If this pattern continues, the inevitable third expansion will put the Broken Kingdom to direct borders with the Woag, the Circle, and possibly the Tallet as well.
The Broken Kingdom is a relatively self-sufficient land, with much of the trade being conducted between local townships or between the twelve kingdoms. As civilians are considered dishonorable targets, peddlers and merchants are able to travel freely between the kingdoms even when the Royals are at odds, and enjoy a very protected status no matter where they roam inside the kingdoms due to the Code. While the Broken Kingdom does not enjoy the technological status of other lands, the cultural tie of individual honor to the work each craftsmen performs ensures that shoddy goods are few and far between. This high investment into quality, even for things as simple as a table and chairs, often means that goods are relatively scarce as craftsmen barely keep up with local demand and exports are rare.
Precious Metals and the King's Cubes
As precious metals are prized for their place in ornate work among grand-masters in each kingdom, the Broken Kingdom, unlike other nations, does not use them in currency. Within the Kingdom itself, stone cubes bearing the symbols of the Living Throne, the Crown, the Sword, the Horse, and the Brew are traded as value-holders when direct barter is not practiced instead. Called King's Cubes, the currency is single-unit in nature and carved from the same stone with which the Broken Kingdom builds its homes, roads, and castles, but ten-weight versions made of quartz and hundred-weight versions made of white marble exist. Seen only among the highest stratum of wealth are thousand-weight cubes, carved from precious stones (typically reshaped Woag arrowheads). This chafes the merchants of the foreign lands to no end, as their standard coins must be exchanged for cubes before they can conduct commerce and often the precious coins are immediately melted into bullion and vaulted, meaning visitors are unable to trade cubes back for coin upon leaving. This means that many traders have to make many trips to exchange small quantities of coins for cubes so that they are not stuck with a supply of King's Cubes upon exiting the Kingdom. These trips are highly annoying because Coin can only be traded for Cubes at the border fortresses of the Low Knights, the Castles of the Royals, and at the Cathedral, meaning that some transactions can take days to complete if not enough coin is initially exchanged, leading to the traders having to spend even more cubes on room and board in the process. The natives themselves seem quite content with the practice and are often seen gambling by simply rolling their cubes as dice in any number of games, the cubes acting as both wager and game-piece.
The notable exports of the Broken Kingdoms consist of their horses, their masonry work, and their alcoholic beverages. While the breeds of horse favored by the Knights and Armored Riders are never traded as a commodity, battle-trained geldings of these lines are sometimes given as diplomatic gifts but never an animal that could be used as breeding stock by foreigners. The typically exported breeds consist of the gigantic draft animals and small riding horses (normally too small to carry to a fully grown man of the Broken Kingdom) that are prized as messenger mounts due to their speed and endurance. Intact males of these breeds are likewise never exported.
Due to the agricultural nature of their society and the high frequency of revelry, demand for alcoholic beverages of all makes is very high in the Broken Kingdom, to this end almost every village has at least one brewery and almost every farmer has some skill in producing his own home brew. The end result is that barrels of mead, ale, beer, wine, and spirits are in overabundance in the region of quantity and variety that cannot be consumed by the native populace. As a standing tradition almost as strong as law in the Broken Kingdom, these barrels are only ever marked with the type of beverage they contain. This makes every new keg tapped in the Kingdom a surprise and welcome variety to the life of a native. Merchants, however, and their customers are not always so pleased at the mystery that each barrel contains. Lacking any identifying marks, each barrel of wine sold to an innkeeper could be the driest of reds or sweetest of whites and the only way to find out means breaking the seal. Due to the nature of consumption in the Broken Kingdom, no units smaller than a barrel are ever packaged for export, further reinforcing the "Broken Kingdom Mystery Barrel" specials in far away lands.
The export of masonry being impossible aside from the occasional stone or marble statue begets the event which ensures the otherwise isolationist Broken Kingdom stays known in the world. Those seeking to hire the masons of the Broken Kingdom must enter a contract with all twelve Royals, as the Truest King, as a means of maintaining balance, has denied any foreign actions being taken without unanimous consent of the Royal Council. The process is complicated, as every detail must be agreed upon before the first signature can be had and can at times take over year to complete. The end result of a sealed contract though is a Grand Parade.
Typical terms normally include the establishment of a worker's village which is autonomous and typically overseen by Knights from the Kingdom, payment in full before the work is begun, and the supply of food to the worker's village at the expense of the employer. It is worth noting that the worker's village typically consists of the workers, an armed force to guard them, the wives who wished to accompany their husbands, any small children brought with the women, and any children born while the construction was underway, in addition to the typical support staff needed to maintain the armed force and provide the services needed by the workers and said families. In all, hiring a Grand Parade is a cost-prohibitive venture for all but the wealthiest clients who truly want to make sure that their structure will stand until the end of time itself.
Structures built by the Broken Kingdom strike a balance between form and functionality. While the functionality is determined as part of the contract, the final form and appearance of a structure is always left to the grand-master mason who arrives on sight to determine it. This, at times, can delay construction, as more stone needs to be fetched to accommodate the aesthetics. This is considered non-negotiable as no master or grand-master mason would ever accept the humiliation of having something displeasing to the eye credited to their name.
The Broken Kingdom primarily imports high-grade steel from the Ashed, low-grade steel from the Encircled, medicines from Kushan, fine cloth, spices, and luxury goods. The only true trade not conducted via the Family Hearth is the small but rich armor and weaponry trade conducted by the master smiths of the Kingdom. They also engage in the rare trade with the Mamutok, who freely trade mammoths, valued in the Broken Kingdoms for their meat. Those wishing to purchase arms and armor are only allowed to deal with master or higher grade smiths and must remain in the Kingdom for the entirety of the production, from measurements and fitting through to the final detail work. Every piece made and sold in this manner is unique to the buyer and, as with most things, prohibitively expensive unless the buyer is willing to accept the lower grade steel or iron natively produced by the Kingdom rather than their imported Ashed stock.
Tournaments are a monthly affair in the Broken Kingdom. Each month, one of the Kingdoms takes a turn in rotation of hosting the contests. The tournaments are almost a traveling carnival, with the officiants traveling from one tournament ground to the next, setting up and tearing down before moving on again for the next round of games. The tournaments host more than just contests of martial skill, but also contests of skill for most trades. It is not uncommon to have bards competing for the title of "High Minstrel" for the kingdom each year alongside journeymen craftsmen competing for recognition with the master craftsmen. The most popular competitions, aside from the martial ones, tend to be the brewers competitions, the dancer's competition, and the Companion competition.
The general rule for every competition is that the hosting kingdom allows recognized journeymen of any trade to complete, but those visiting from the other kingdoms to compete must be recognized as masters of their craft. For the martial games this means that the armored riders of the host kingdom must complete against both the host kingdom's knights and knights from the other kingdoms who fancy entering the contest in order to win their own knighthood through tournament combat.
For the craftsmen, it means their products are compared to masters from all around the kingdom, ensuring that the quality is never allowed to be lowered, as to be named a master, the journeyman must take the prize by being chosen over the other masters.
During the thirteenth month of each year, the monthly tournament of the Kingdom is held at the Cathedral's grounds. No journeymen contests are held during the High Tournament as this is considered a neutral ground where the masters of each craft or calling can contend with each other before the neutral judgement of the Order of Truths. Likewise, only Knighted Riders can enter the High Tournament. While Royals are generally in attendance, the only guarantee of the True King's attendance is when the Tournament precedes a High Council of Royals.
Contest of Blood
In the summer of each year, there is a special tournament called the Contest of Blood which takes place between the Broken Kingdom and the Woag people to their north. The tournament is actually a full contact battle, with both sides agreeing to full quarter granted. The exact size of the battle, the prize to be won, and all other details are settled for the next battle at the end of the current one, renewing the agreement between the two peoples. The minstrels of the land say this event came about after centuries of raiding and counter-raiding warfare between the two people and a deep respect which grew between the rivals for each other. The event itself is chosen to happen during the safest weather for the Woag to travel in their longboats and is often proceeded by a large, shared feast between both people. After the battle, the winners claim the prize bounty (usually an offering of foodstuffs and goods from both peoples) and all wounded participants are treated in massive hospital tents set up for the purpose. There is a final, solemn dinner shared between both peoples to mark the end of the event and announce the terms and time for the next one.
Council of Royals
"You've business to be brought before the Broken Kingdom and we will hear you, but mark me do not waste our time. One King becomes unkind at having his time wasted, and you have before you today twelve." -King of Kriegberg
The Council of Royals convenes each year during the thirteenth month of the Broken Kingdom's calendar. This is a period where the Kings and Queens discuss their inter-kingdom issues, resolve disputes, and host the High Tournament of the Kingdom. The month-long meeting at the Cathedral is at times overseen by the Truest King, but this is not a guarantee except during the High Council of Royals every twelve years.
Most foreign powers consider the Council of Royals to be the only reasonable time to try to interact with the Broken Kingdom as all terms must be agreed upon by all twelve Royals before a treaty can be formalized. During other times of the year this process can take up to twelve months by the time the final draft is cast due to travel times. During a Council, the same process can be achieved in hours. The requirement for unanimous consent among the Royals is part of the reason for the great cost of contracts of military aide or grand parades from the Kingdom, as the Royal with the most reluctance sets the price that each King or Queen gets. This means that even if eleven members of the council will aid for a hundred wagon loads of steel, should the twelfth demand two hundred wagon loads then all twelve must agree to accept two hundred wagon loads. This system keeps the wealth of each Royal neatly comparable to the others and prevents favorable treatment from being granted by one or two Royals to a foreign power.
The High Council of Royals
"Have you upheld your oaths as a king of this circle?"
The High Council of Royals is the meeting of the kings and queens of the twelve kingdoms and the Truest King at the Cathedral, following a public and open ceremony which consists of each King or Queen and their Heir kneeling and swearing their loyalty to the Truest King before the Living Throne. During this time, the Royal and Heir of each kingdom must look directly into the eyes of the Truest King and profess to have held every measure of the Code. Any failure to uphold the Code at this time must be publicly confessed for it is fully believed and routinely demonstrated that the Truest King can sense lies when they are spoken. At the end of the Ceremony there is a day's recess where each Royal or Heir with a confession is given time to meet privately with the Truest King and explain themselves fully. On convention of the next day, a second public ceremony takes place where penance is handed out for those who have confessed. The penance has been known to be appropriate to the transgression and have ranged from immediate beheading at the hand of the Truest King to the requirement of some manner of physical public service typically considered beneath the station of a Royal.
At the close of the Penance Ceremony the Cathedral is closed to everyone save the Truest King, his staff, the Royals, and their Heirs for the next six days. During these six days, all matters relevant to the Kingdom are discussed at great length with any decisions to be made being arrived at. The next six days are reserved for the bringing to trial of those accused of high crimes for which there is little or no evidence so the Truest can determine their guilt or innocence. The Cathedral at this time is only open for the immediate family of the Royals, the victim and/or his immediate family, and the accused and their family. All others in attendance consist of only the Truest and his clergy.
This twelve-day window every twelve years marks the only guaranteed presence of the Truest King at the Council of Royals, and he typically spends the month prior in the Cathedral personally overseeing the High Tournament and participating in any High Blademaster challenges that have been issued.
Violence in the Cathedral, on its grounds, in the surrounding settlement, or on the journey to or from the area is strictly prohibited by the Truest King, violators finding themselves ridden down by the Truest and his personal retinue of war-priests who are selected from the most dangerous of warriors in the land.
Armored Riders and Military
The term armored rider is somewhat of a misnomer in regards to the heavy warriors of the Broken Kingdoms. The Armored Riders patrol the roads of the kingdom, provide officer level leadership to levies in time of war, oversee the training of the peasantry each week, organize and conduct the mandatory youth training, and form the recruiting pool from which Low Knights are chosen. Due to the low frequency of openings among the Low Knights, a large number of senior Armored Riders have a knighthood which offers them only the prestige of such, but no land holdings. The entirely volunteer and professional force offers only two paths for entry.
The first is to be selected from among the youth and offered squire-ship at a young age. This is the typical approach most take as few with the potential are overlooked during the vigorous training and even fewer decline the invitation. Service as an Armored Rider is the only path upward in society aside from marriage in the Broken Kingdom, and thus many families begin grooming their sons even from the cradle in hopes they'll receive the invitation.
The second path is reserved for the grown men and women who either passed up the invitation or never received one and is considered to be the more difficult of the two paths, which begets its own level of prestige for accomplishing. The prospective Rider must defeat separate riders at jousting, swordplay, horsemanship, and athletics. Riders chosen to compete against the prospect are chosen by lot for each of the four tests. The prospect is allowed to enter these contests every twelve weeks and is typically observed by the council of Low Knights. Within a year of winning one of the contests, the prospect much achieve victory in the other three, otherwise their first victory expires and they will have to win that contest again.
In times of peace, the Armored Riders are complimented by the men-at-arms of Low Knights and other nobility. Each noble is expected to keep sizable enough force of infantry to defend the hold-associated defensive structures. These men-at-arms are professional soldiers who have not entered the Armored Riders. In times of war, the army burgeons in numbers as the peasants of the kingdom are levied into service. Due to the continual arms training, the outfitting of each citizen soldier is maintained and adjusted to their abilities. Men no longer able to hold up to the physical rigor of fighting as heavy infantry are downgraded to medium infantry and archers. Women are typically levied only if there is still a need after the male populace has been drawn upon, and are typically left in garrison positions when the army leaves.
The Heavy Infantry of the Kingdom are typically outfitted with partial plate and mail, shields, battleaxes, and maces. Medium infantry typically wears full mail suits and are outfitted with what many nations would consider great bows and two-handed weapons. The sheer amount of metal required to produce and maintain this level of martial preparedness drives all external trade in the Kingdom, leading almost every export to be traded exclusively for iron and steel or the means to acquire more iron and steel.
The Grand Parade is a collective effort of all twelve kingdoms, which brings forth a massive caravan that travels to the buyer's point of construction and establishes a semi-permanent camp until the project is complete. Depending on the magnitude of the project and the exact details of the agreement, the Grand Parade could be as small as a few dozen wagons and their escorts of armored riders or far larger.
The largest of projects, such as city walls or fortresses, result in a veritable army of thousands being deployed as a Parade with subsequent parades in following years to deliver more stone, rotate workers, rotate Riders and men-at-arms, or what have you. For these large projects it isn't uncommon for the wagons to be refitted into semi-permanent shelters, resulting in sizable villages of thousands of people living in wheeled homes near the project completion with monthly tourneys, marital training, birthing, and child rearing continuing in the mobile villages the same as it would have been conducted in the Broken Kingdom.
These mobile villages are of course the dreaded part of any contract with the Broken Kingdom as inevitably the contracts stipulate that within the village the only law recognized and enforced is Broken Kingdom law and the food needs of the villages is usually included as part of the cost of hiring the work crew. This essentially means that the host nation has a foreign encampment inside their lands, which they are contractually obligated to keep fed and are likewise barred from policing. These onerous terms keep the building of any truly massive structures rare and violation of the terms carries a harsh penalty, usually resulting in the Broken Kingdom keeping the payment in full of the host country and the Parade returning home.
Breaking of contract and prevention of the Parade's withdraw is the only recorded instance of the Kingdom mobilizing its united army in an offensive manner aside from the Great War. There stands a stone obelisk left as a memorial to the fallen dead of the Kingdom in the ruins of what was once a free city now only referred to as "The Twelve Kings' Stone". The obelisk and ruins stand as a testament to the fury the Broken Kingdom is willing to unleash when it has been wronged.