The Realm claims continuity with the Old Realm and does not look kindly upon those who imply a difference. As a result, it claims to be a direct descendant of the Shogunate, however in the Second Age, the Realm consists primarily of the Blessed Isle and arguably its Tributary Kingdoms, with the rest of Creation in the Threshold claiming independence, and nations such as Lookshy claiming that the Realm is a pretender to the Shogunate throne.
The Realm was established in RY 1 by the Scarlet Empress when she conquered the Imperial Manse and used its First Age Weapons to drive back the Fair Folk. Setting up camp in the Manse, she met with Chejop Kejak and established a relationship between the Immaculate Order that legitimized her government among the common people.
The next hundred years were primarily focused on consolidating the power of the government in the Empress hands. This was accomplished by establishing the various branches of the government - The Legions, The Thousand Scales, the Deliberative and the Imperial Eye, introducing the Jade currency standard, and the suppression of various threats to her power, notably the Seven Tigers and an eventual stalemate with General Nefvarin of Lookshy. With the Immaculate order establishing control over the Gods of the Blessed Isle, the political and social foundations of the Realm were well established RY 100. By this time, the Imperial City, originally a tent-city surrounding the Imperial Manse, was a well-established community.
Following the establishment of the Realm's government, the Empress devoted her time to ensuring that she could not be removed from it. By RY 223, the majority of Threshold was tributary to the Realm, but internal threats remained. An assassination attempt in RY 114 led the Empress to implement the Thousand Mazy Paths strategy, by which she made the government dependent on her continued presence. Meanwhile, an attempted coup by House Manosque led the Empress to destroy her own descendants and established a poisonous interfamily relationship that the Scarlet Dynasty has done its best to continue.
Throughout the following centuries, the Realm steadily expands, dealing with occasional uprisings (such as the Unbroken Rushes Rebellion) and internal threats (such as the coup by House Iselsi), however the Empress maintains a steady hand, ensuring the safety of her kingdom. Until her disappearance in Calibration of RY 763.
The Scarlet Empire continues to move forward through sheer inertia for several years. Regent Tepet Fokuf is appointed as a seat-warmer by the Deliberative, but as several disasters strike in short order, including the destruction House Tepet's legions by The Bull Of The North, the Dynasts begin to gut the Realm in preparation for civil war. The Legions are dissolved and reassembled under the various Great Houses, taxes and tribute are increasingly getting "lost" en route to the capital, and everyone is waiting for someone to state that the Empress is gone for the fun to really begin.
The Realm is a hierarchical society, one in which the Immaculate Philosophy preaches a reincarnative belief system that places the Dragon Blooded at the top of the social order. According to the Immaculate Philosophy, enlightenment is directly a function of one's Essence, and by living virtuously, a person will be reincarnated as an Exalt. As a result, the Realm has a highly static social structure with the Dragon Blooded at the top of the pyramid, although there are ways for mortals to influence the power structure subtly.
The Realm is divided into three major social classes: Dragon-Blooded, Patricians and Peasants. Patricians are upper class mortals, while peasants are the farmers and townsmen. Legal protection, sumptuary laws and income are all affected by class. The gap is widest between Dragon-Blooded and Patrician, as Dragon-Blooded have near total immunity to almost all prosecution as long as they aren't affecting Dragon Blooded or otherwise harming the realm.
Underneath these three classes are Slaves, although the Realm only allows Dragon Blooded to own slaves, and the government restricts the slave trade to House Cynis. If a Patrician wants to use a slave, they generally have to hire a Dragon Blooded as a a minder.
The uncertain nature of Exaltation adds two unofficial classes to the realm. Dynasts (members of the great houses) who don't Exalt, and peasants who Exalt. The former are treated as failures by their house (except for Nellens) and often used in strategic marriages; although technically patricians, they are usually haunted by their failure to Exalt and the life of luxury they were forcibly ejected from. Outcastes enter Dynastic society either through the legions or the Immaculate Order, and are generally of a slightly different character from their more sybaritic Dynastic equivalents. Patricians who Exalt are generally adopted by a Great House and are largely indistinguishable from other Dragon Blooded.
It should be noted that while Dragon Blooded may be able to get away (literally) with murder legally, internal social pressures try to keep the abuse from becoming too extreme. That stated, the Patricians and Dragon Blooded have an uneasy relationship; while Dragon Blooded are easily superior of mortals in combat and magic, un-Exalted Dynasts become Patricians, and Exalted Patricians are usually adopted by the Dynasts. Patrician families have a fair degree of power in the Thousand Scales and will use that to their advantage.
The government of the Realm is broken into 6 parts:
- The Legions, the Realm's military
- The Thousand Scales, the bureaucracy of the Realm.
- The Imperial Eye, the Realm's secret police
- The Immaculate Order, which serves the spiritual needs of the populace
- The Deliberative, the Realm's legislative body
- The Great Houses of the Dragon Blooded, the direct descendants of the Empress
The Empress was the foundation of the Realm and the Realm was designed to fall apart without her. While several of her institutions (such as the Magistrate) continue onwards under the Regent's auspices, the Realm is now falling apart.
The original military of the Realm, the Legions and Imperial Navy, have been dissolved and reconstituted under the various great houses. Originally, the Realm maintained a large number of Legions under the control of the Empress. Each of these legions were named after a shade of red, with the most notorious being the Vermillion Legion.
The Thousand Scales
The Thousand Scales is the bureaucratic engine of the Realm. It builds roads, handles taxes and the like. Since the Empress' disappearance, the budget of the Thousand Scales has been gutted as more and more of the budget is pressed into the Dynastic stipend. Bal Keraz, the head of the Imperial Treasury is losing hair and sleep over steep cuts due in the immediate future.
The Imperial Eye
The Imperial Eye is the secret police of the Realm, members of the Eye are recruited on the sly; a prospect receives a piece of cloth embroidered with an eye. If they do not tell anyone about this message, they are inducted into the Eye; if they do squeal, they are killed. Consequently, the common interpretation of the symbol is that a prospect is marked for death. The Eye engages in espionage, counter-espionage and other activities for the protection of the Realm.
Created as a place for the Empress to deposit noisy malcontents, the Deliberative is a legislative body designed primarily as a rubber stamp for imperial proclamations. On the few occasions where the Deliberative has shown independence, the Empress has promptly reengineered it (up to and including dissolving the Deliberative and executing all of its members) to rectify that flaw. Since the Empress' disappearance, the Deliberative has been working on its own, while its power may be entirely a fiction, it is real in the absence of an Empress to contradict it. Being composed largely of members of the Great Houses, the Deliberative has primarily been robbing the Realm blind to arm the various houses.
The Immaculate Order
The Immaculate Order, run by the Mouth of Peace, oversees the spiritual needs of the populace and also engages in charitable actions to keep the Realm together.
The Great Houses
While not technically part of the government, the Great Houses are engines of power unto their own right, with agents in the bureaucracy, military and so on. The Houses are currently engaged in a complex game in all the other parts of the Realm's government in preparation for an upcoming civil war for supremacy.
The Realm uses Jade as its standard for currency, maintaining an artificial shortage of Jade to control prices. In addition to Jade, the Realm also uses Jade Scrip as a form of fiat currency.