One of the most powerful nations in all of Oriund, Visaous is a nation devoted wholly to the worship and agenda of Hell.

The nature of its government has changed over time, thanks to the occasional coup, revolution, or steady slide into some new power structure. The state has been, at various times, a feudal-state, a theocracy, an oligarchy, a plutocracy, a military dictatorship, a bureaucracy-heavy empire, and many in-between models.

The current state-model is apparently a military dictatorship, styled as an empire. The highly-decorated General Zpatar seized control of the city of Visaous some fourteen years ago, after four years of bloody civil war. With the unwavering support of the legions, he took the title and crown immediately. Since then, Zpatar has been quick to show the rest of Oriund that Visaous remains a giant among the nations. Perhaps his best proof of the might of Visaous was in the campaign against Chalonea, which was razed and virtually depopulated only three short years ago.

The civil war which brought Zpatar into power likewise brought a new cadre of ambitious priests into power in the church. Some have even suggested that the star of Cardinal Zuur (who now heads the Episcopal Ennead, and thus the Church of The Nine), rose before Zpatar’s ever did, and that the Emperor is really suffered to sit on his throne at the Lord Cardinal’s will. Of course, Visaous has never strayed too far from a theocracy, so whether Zpatar is Zuur’s creation, or vice versa, makes little real difference: they two are the rulers of the Holy Visaoun Empire.

The Caste System

Visaoun society is highly structured. This is perhaps best exhibited by the caste system, which by-and-large determines the extent of one’s station in the empire for one’s entire life. While it is possible for the rare individual to be accepted into a different caste under extreme circumstances, generally, you live and die in the same caste.

The lowest caste is that of slave. Slaves cannot be freed except by the unanimous ruling of the Episcopal Ennead, and the children of slaves can only ever be slaves. Visaous’ slaves are sourced from military campaigns, slave trading with other nations, and as repayment for debts owed (i.e. some individuals can become slaves if they cannot repay a debt – this is one instance of how an individual’s caste can change). Slaves have no rights, and are considered property in every sense of the word. Most households have at least one slave, and so the slave population of the empire is conservatively estimated at fifty percent of the polulace. Various social and magical controls are used to discourage rebellions and runaways, though both still occur from time to time.

Above the slave caste is the peasant caste. Peasants have few rights, are not considered citizens, can own land (though with heavy limitations on the amount of land), cannot carry weapons (unless they join or are conscripted into the Ninefold Legions), cannot carry on a business (other than working the land, or simple services under the approval of a priest), and have a variety of other restrictions. Peasant households are allowed to own slaves with no restrictions, a social benefit which does much to keep the caste-members relatively satisfied. As noted above, peasants can join the military, in which case they could be elevated to the Warrior caste.

The merchant caste has, at various times, been the most important of all castes. Merchants can carry on a business, can own much larger parcels of land, can carry weapons, and have relatively few restrictions. The merchants are the middle-class of Visaoun society, along with warriors. Some merchants have interests which rival the most powerful priesthood houses, while others may be little more than butchers, bakers, or candlestick-makers. The more powerful merchant houses could be compared to the nobility of a feudal state (and, when Visaous has been a feudal state, such houses were the nobility). The merchant caste includes some major tiefling dynasties, dating back to when the nation has been an oligarchy.

The warrior caste is one of the smallest castes. Warriors are confined to particular districts in certain cities, and live and train together communally. Strength, cunning, and the martial arts, are taught to warriors from childhood up, and battle is all they ever know. Command of armed forces is always given to warriors, and the Emperor Zpatar is of the warrior caste. Disabilities and weakness are not allowed in the warrior caste, with children sacrificed to the Lords of the Nine, and adults generally choosing to die in combat (where combat is not possible, an adult warrior’s superior officer determines his or her fate). Warrior females are generally celibate, being instead “married to battle”. Warrior males are given strong female slaves, peasants, or occasionally even merchants or priests, as companions, in order to continually bring new, strong blood into the caste. Warrior children borne to slaves are not considered slaves (this is an exception to the general rule).

Finally, the priest caste. The priests are the most powerful caste, on the whole, and comprise of a number of dynastical families. Most of these families are tieflings, but some sapien, eladrin, and dwarven families can also be found among this caste. Lord Cardinal Zuur, for example, is a member of the Aita family, a tiefling family of great renown. The priests have more rights than any other caste, and officiate not only in temples and churches, but also in courtrooms as judges and lawyers. The priest caste also has a strong scholarly tradition, and the great schools of Visaous are all run by the priest caste.

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