Aredia is a prosperous and peaceful country, though its prosperity does not come without a price. A complex, strict tier (caste) system keeps the populace in order, as generally no one really seeks to move out of their “place.” In each tier lies many sub-tiers, though to those above the tier, everyone within it is in the same place. There are no distinctions between men and women in each tier.
- First tier: Royalty (Subdivided into members of the court and royal family.)
- Second tier: Circle priests/priestesses and their families are found here, subdivided into rank within the Circle.
- Third tier: Includes wealthy, talented, renknowned craftspeople, merchants, traders, etc. Military officers, administrative officials, healers, and talented entertainers may be found here.
- Fourth tier: Contains less wealthy/reknown merchants, traders, craftspeople, etc. Could be considered "middle class." It's easier to move up from a fourth tier to a third tier in one's chosen profession.
- Fifth tier: The largest tier, includes most common citizens: farmers, laborers, small-scale merchants, etc.
- Sixth tier: Indentured servants, foreigners (automatically thrust into this tier), criminals from any tier.
Mages don't really fit into any tier, which serves to highlight their “separate” status; to some, they fall below even the servant tier, but to others, usually those who've been helped out by them, they are sacred, held in higher regard than even the Circle members.
There is some debate about where sentinels should fit. The Circle deems them part of a religious organization, but other, higher tiers claim that sentinels, like mages, should be exempt from tier system, given that many sentinels are unmarked orphans.
Each citizen is branded at a young age – dependent on the tier – with a mark indicative of their tier. Higher tier children are considered more valuable, and so are marked early, after their nameday. Lower tier children are marked whenever their parents can manage it; having no mark is just as bad as having a low tier one, so some parents choose to hold off. However, this practice is illegal, and children found over the age of three years who are not marked will automatically be marked as sixth tier.
The brands are all in the relative shape of a star, which increases in complexity through the tiers. There is an art to these brands. Only a trained priest/priestess of the Circle, (called a Cipher), can create them, and the higher up the tier is, the more complex is the brand. Only two people in the realm know how to mark the royal family. Mages are branded with their initial tier; two small crescent moons, back to back, are added beneath once their magic is discovered. Sentinels, too, receive a mark once they join the order: twin triangles reminiscent of their daggers, pointing toward one another, the tips barely intersecting.
While it's very difficult to move from a lower tier to a higher one, it's easy to move down. Marrying too far below one's station, committing a serious crime...these things can have you stripped of your “place” and set in a lower tier. When it comes to receiving services like medical care, however, only the higher-tier folks will get priority over lower-tier folks, even in an emergency. The tier system is rigid and inflexible in this way, as it is essentially a system to keep the peace, to keep propriety and deference among the people. The folk of Aredia see other countries who don't use this system as uncivilized and wild.
When a couple gets married, the person of the lower tier takes the family name of the higher tier, essentially giving up their own name and family to gain rank. If the gap is too large, the family of the higher tier could petition for the lower-tier person to not change their name at all, even going so far as to “demote” the higher-tier person of the marriage to the lower-tier's name. If both parties are on equal footing, neither has to change their surname, but often the default is to the female side. Marriage is ordained by the One, and is a symbol of unity and intentions to form a lifelong partnership. It is a very serious undertaking. For the purpose of starting a family, a couple must get married, but also state their intentions with the Circle, and be “blessed” by Mara. Therefore, a marriage is not solely to reproduce, which means that two men or two women can get married if they choose, though they cannot have children. There is a similar “blessing” ceremony if a couple wishes to adopt. Basically, there is a difference between getting married in order to express love and getting blessed by Mara in order to reproduce.Government
Presently there is a regent/monarch in charge of the government, who has a cabinet of advisers; there is also a parliament consisting of representatives from each of the provinces. Additionally, the most elite Circle leaders sit in on the meetings and have an official voice. Since most of the “regular” population follows the Circle, they are said to represent the public voice. The Circle takes tithes, a portion of income, from the loyal, which they use to fund the sentinels, among other things.
Aredia is divided into seven provinces:
- Starwatch (north) Mountainous country, near the boder of Aredia and Cander. Infrequently traveled.
- Whitewater (east) Named for the rushing White River that dominates much of the landscape, beginning in the mountains and making its way down through the country. The capital, unimaginatively named Whitewater City, was built at the center of the White River, on a massive rocky outcropping. Only one entrance/exit: a bridge that stretches to the mainland.
- Redfern (west) Home of thick, old-growth forests, rich in timber, mining, and minerals. Many of the older structures are built into the trees themselves, remnants of older days. Thought to be “hicks” by the rest of the country.
- Greenhill (south) Contains rich farmland, prosperous and peaceful, full of wealthy, often “snobbish” people. (The kind who obsess about wine and breeding the best hunting dogs.) However, the folks of Greenhill are also hard workers who take pride in their achievements.
- Indigo-by-the-Sea: (southenrmost, coastal) Mainland that also includes a chain of islands, contains the city of Pillau, the “Blue City,” made entirely of blue marble, azurite, lapis, etc. Pillau is actually built into the cliffs, which are made of lapis, and overlooks the bay/ocean, and the rest of the province. Thought to be somewhat "lawless" by the rest of Aredia, corruption and gangs run rampant in the city, though there is little crime that is not gang-related.
- Silverwood: (centrally located) Home of the capital city of Lasath. The provinces hosts rolling hills and grasslands, not much in the way of forests, any longer, as many were cut down to create more farmland and room for the capital. The province is named for the few “protected” sections of forest, where the trees are pale silver in color.
- Stonehaven: (southwest, partly coastal) Bordering another country, (Zheem), and the coasts, Stonehaven is often considered the protector of Aredia, for it houses the only hematite mine in the country. Relatively newer province, “surrendered” by the surrounding ones in order to accommodate the hematite mine.