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The Circle

"In the year of the induction, many candidates surpassed me in favors, in honors, and in preferment. But I exceeded every one in the arts of guile, till the illustrious and foremost lay dead from my poison, or my knife. When the choosing came, none remained to rival me. Then the Circle called me before them, and enumerated for me my every crime, which I had thought well secret. I trembled, expecting death. But they praised me, saying: ‘For the ruthless, all things are licit, and we are the most ruthless of all.’"

-- Renolf Denayi,
Memoirs

 

 

The Circle, a council of magicians, constitutes the Denayi Republic’s ruling body. Each member of the Circle, known as an Initiate, can draw upon the power of the Denayi Pylon, and as such is a formidable representative of the Republic in peace or war. Collectively, their magic permits the creation of magical Gates, and the Enhancement of its Uukaptai soldiery. Yet the Pylon’s power, in turn, must be renewed by the regular infusion of fresh souls. Thus the Circle must expend the greater part of the Republic’s resources in the collection of these souls, upon which the Republic’s very survival depends.

In theory, the Circle holds absolute power over every aspect of the Denayi state and the power of life or death over its everyone in it. Indeed, technically speaking, the Circle itself is the Republic, and its Initiates are the only citizens. All the Worlds it has conquered, and everything on them are the property, and everyone living in its domains, the chattel slaves of the Circle.

In practice, the Circle exists in a symbiosis with the nobility, the military and the great bureaucracies of the central state. The Circle retains formal power, and sets most high policy decisions, but leaves most day-to-day government in the hands of their officials, normally chosen from among the high nobility. The nobility, in turn, supplies most of the candidates to the Circle. As one might expect, this often leads to the consolidation of power around blocks of related nobles, on and off the Circle, but never to the extent that it undermines the sovereignty of the Circle. Initiates live practically forever, are jealous of their privileges to the exclusion even of blood ties, and wield massive power. Those nobles who attempt to turn the Circle into an appendage of a noble house, or to turn state offices into hereditary possessions, quickly learn that while the Circle needs a nobility to do its dirty-work, it considers individual noble lines themselves perfectly replaceable.

The Circle comprises approximately one hundred Initiates, each of whom have a vote in the large council (or the Outer Circle). Of these, the select few (perhaps a dozen) sit on the small council (or Inner Circle). In the past, the Circle was much smaller, consisting of about 20 Initiates, but as the Denayi Republic expanded, the need for more Initiates made itself felt. Thus the Inner Circle evolved to meet the needs of actually directing Denayi policy and controlling the other Circle Members. The Inner Circle legislates on all matters when the Outer Circle is not meeting (which is most of the time), and can only be over-ruled by a two-thirds majority vote from the Outer Circle. Since the Inner Circle calls the Outer Circle to session and sets the agenda, this rarely occurs. The Outer Circle elects the Inner Circle by means of a complex voting process that supposedly ensures fairness, but actually reinforces the ability of influential and ruthless Inner Initiates to designate their own successors.

The Circle inducts new Initiates every so often, either to replace dead members or to increase its numbers (perhaps in preparation for expected casualties) but not at any predictable interval. Sometimes it creates new Initiates several years in a row, at others it waits decades, perhaps even generations, before Initiating anyone. Many a potential candidate has grown old and died while politicking for a seat on the Circle. Indeed, the Inner Circle keeps the induction process irregular in no small part to frustrate the high nobility and sap their wealth and resolve.

In the centuries following the Alexian Restoration, the Circle has tended to gather classes of potential Initiates for examination. Some candidates are nominated by the noble houses, others are proteges of senior Initiates, others gathered directly from the Soul Tax. After a period of consideration, the Circle then votes in some small number of candidates, or maybe none at all. Naturally politicking runs wild on these occasions, both within the Circle and the nobility, for factions have much to loose if the Circle rejects their candidates. The most favored candidates possess talent, connections, and patronage. Military or political experience, and age, might also assist the hopefuls, but just as often, it undercuts their chances, as the Inner Circle often prefers candidates whom it can mould to its liking. No one, not even the best placed candidates, can ever count on victory, whatever their backing or gifts, and sometimes unknown candidates with few connections or talent win seats against the odds. The Circle claims that the Ancestor spirits guide them in their choice, and indeed, sometimes an undistinguished candidate becomes a great figure in Denayi politics. Not all do, however, and just as often a new Initiate spends his career on the back benches.

Initiates are subject to no law but the judgement of their peers. They cannot be arrested for any crime, and have the power to kill or expropriate the property of anyone in the Republic. Practically speaking, however, Inner Circle (on behalf of the grand council, of course) watches every Initiate, and will censure or reprimand them if they cause inconvenience for their Circle or act in a way likely to cause public scandal. This most definitely includes harassing important, rich or influential nobility, killing people on the streets for no good reason, and so forth. The Inner Circle also possesses the power to grant Initiates military command, diplomatic assignments, or access to the Circle’s other resources. These assignments come rather often to young Initiates who have yet to prove their worth to the Circle, and they are often sent on military missions or to "troubleshoot" problems in the provinces. As Initiates age and gain prestige and connections, they gain a greater measure of leisure and discretion.

All Circle members have access to a stipend from the treasury, as well as any personal property they might possess or acquire. Some Initiates live lives of unimaginable splendor and luxury, constructing palaces full of pleasure slaves. (They often meet the censure of the Inner Circle, however.) Others, especially the oldest and most experienced Initiates, live like hermits in their chambers in Denayi Castle, and appear in the streets dressed in old (but comfortable rags).

The politics of the Circle are a complex and often literally murderous intersection of interests between noble families, the military arms, and individual Initiates. Private animosity plays a big role too. Public assassination is frowned on. Assassination with an alibi is overlooked, and perhaps even encouraged. Just remember, officially, nothing an Initiate does – not even killing another Initiate -- is a crime unless the Circle (sitting in court of judgement) decides that it was. In which case, anything could be deemed a crime. An Initiate quickly learns that the goodwill of his peers is his most potent shield and sword.

 

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