The Forty Kings of Solstice
The governing of Solstice is a complex affair, involving avatars, councils, guilds, divine proclamations, churches, alliances, gangs, consulates, great houses, merchant princes, crime leagues, and adventuring companies. Much of this is built around the Intercession Compact, the rules the gods and their avatars use to regulate their dealings within the city, and the charters of the two Astrological Guilds who hold considerable power as the only bodies proven to regularly predict with accuracy the planar conjunctions that can empower of destroy the entire city.
This mish-mash of regulations, edicts, recommendations, and raw threats has, over the centuries, formed a fairly stable system of determining who is taxed, who takes out the garbage, who brings in the water, and who gets thrown in jail. The so-called Quilt Law manages to give rules for most situations in part by insisting all the charters, laws, and proclamations in Solstice treat all individuals of the same rank as equals. It doesn’t matter if you are a smoke knight of the dusky dimensions or a knight-champion of the shining crusade – a knight is a knight under the law. And while Quilt Law is complex and imperfect, and the fact that all elves everywhere are at best going through their Spring Years and running amok with no elven adults to reign them in (or even slow them down), has put it under immense strain, it is generalyl considered “functional.” There’s rarely more than one riot per night, a few murders in each borough each week, and never more than a few dozen building on fire at once, so overall most citizens are content.
Of course, that raises the question of who is a citizen. And who is a knight, who a priest, who a lord, who a prince, and so on. More than anywhere in the world, the titles an individual can claim and which titles are equivalent in which languages are crucial to the day-to-day workings of the patchwork legal system. For the basic underpinnings of Quilt Law to function, someone must have final say in who has what title, and what individual words mean.
When the Quilt Law was young, and avatars of gods of language and order were more common, all the existing major political powers of the day agreed a single scholarly chamber of heraldic and linguistic experts would be assembled to make these decisions. More than mere pursuivants or heralds, these were the kings of arms, who could define each title, match it to cultural and legal equivalents, and split the hairs between squires and esquires or draw the lines from merchant princes to trade barons. Forty wise men and women of all ages, genders, and races were drawn together, and given vast autonomy to pick their successors and determine their own guidelines. To ensure no single force would ever attempt to take all the power of Solstice under a single banner, the kings of arms were given a single inviolate decree – no title or rank greater than duke/duchess/prince/princess would ever be acknowledged within Solstice.
Thus it is often said. “There is no King of Solstice, for Solstice has the Forty Kings.”
The Forty Kings have broad rules determining who becomes a citizen of Solstice at birth, who can gain citizenship and how, and who has a title automatically accepted by Quilt Law. In addition to their “rules ordinary,” which can be applied in nearly all cases, the Forty Kings can also grant an ancient title, local appellation, or even nickname the power of legal authority by declaring a “rule extraordinary” which applies in just one case. If Bloodburn Jill is a pirate captain of great renown who has worked diligently to aid and protect Solstice from naval threats, the Forty Kings can declare “Bloodburn” to be the equivalent of being a countess under Quilt Law as a rule extraordinary that applies only to Jill. Or they can decide to make it a rule ordinary, that when Bloodburn Jill gives up her ship, whoever she chooses as her replacement becomes the new Bloodburn.
The Forty Kings also have vast influence over the definition of words for the dozen languages in common use within Solstice (which are the definitions Quilt Law uses when interpreting a contract) and what are acceptable names for newborn citizens (which may not count as citizens if their names aren’t recognized as being names). As scholars and influential people with no one but themselves to answer to they are often catered to by the rich and powerful within the city, causing them to also be fashion setters and trend-makers in matters of clothing, art, music, culture, tradition, festivals, and even what is and isn’t considered socially acceptable public behavior.
The membership of the Forty Kings is made up of forty numbered “chairs,” numbered 1-99, with 17 numbers retired (to never be used again, either out of respect for their past owners, or as a mark of shame), and 42 numbers not yet ever assigned. When a chair becomes open, which happens only at the death of the previous holder, anyone may send an application to take the chair’s position. In addition to letters of recommendation, scholarly works, and a written argument for why the applicant should be accepted, each applicant must also write a eulogy for the fallen King of Arms, the delivery of which is the new King’s first official duty. As a result, some scholars refuse to apply for specific chairs, as their academic feuds with the previous occupant were so great they are unwilling (or unable) to write and read a noble and praising send-off speech.
Once all applications within a designated period have been received, the Dean (the King who has served the longest), Perpetual Secretary (voted on by all Kings when the previous secretary dies), and the Chancellor (determined at random every three months from among the members, and possibly also the Dean or Perpetual Secretary) go over them, and each may veto up to one quarter of the applications. Then 5 randomly selected chairs are given the task of choosing from the remaining applicants using whatever method they all agree upon, but coming to a final agreement within 180 days. If no agreement is reached in 180 days, the front page of the 5 applciations are all soaked with buttermilk and placed equidistant from a hog that has not eaten in 12 hours. The first application touched by the hog wins the seat.
The current Dean is Tranth Urhudoun, a 120-year old uriphant, that has the distinction of also being the oldest member of the Forty Kings, as any humanoid is limited to 110 years as a result of the Fiery Time of the Necrologer. The current Chancellor is Forgrim the Forgemaster, a 110 year old dwarf who is believed to be the oldest humanoid left in the world (by a matter of seconds over the next-oldest, the elven “Spring Queen” Feyla Feylona, ‘she of the golden ink’). The current Dean is Miserrle Fallenbrook, a half-elf of 31 years who is trying to avoid having her studies interrupted by an unwanted position of great power.