A world without humans…
Illumians came into existence just over five hundred years ago with The Ritual of the Word Made Flesh. They secretly manipulated the other races of the world and acquired subtle power before their population massively increased 170 years ago with a second iteration of the ritual. They have dominated the civilized half of the continent since that time.
The Codex Hegemony stretches from the Morgwin Sea to the Eiragaer Mountains, and is sending tendrils of influence beyond. The Hegemony creates infrastructure, dictates trade, collects taxes, provides healing, minimizes the environmental impact of cities, and arbitrates disputes between The Elvin Matriarchy, The Gnomish Federation, freehold cities, the Killoren and Wood Elves of the forests, The Dwarven Dynasties, and the various Illumian enclaves known as Majuscules. They directly rule the cities — mostly composed of Mongrelfolk — that crop up in the shadows of their Majuscules, yet otherwise the Hegemony allows a great deal of independent rule for each of the subordinate governments in its territory. However, it does reserve the right to insist on certain policies being enacted and enforced, and the right to annul any law or depose any ruler that they find to be grossly unjust. So far only one ruler has ever been removed, and the Dwarfs of that kingdom were duly grateful to have the mad king replaced with his less bloodthirsty younger brother. The benefits of trade with the Illumians, their protection from the Zern, the art, entertainment, magic, and healing they provide, and the use of their transportation infrastructure greatly outweigh the minor burdens that their laws have imposed, so there has been little resentment or strife except from the most prideful of individuals.
The Hegemony has put out word that it is looking for skilled adventurers to retrieve living and intact examples of unusual creatures outside the borders of the Hegemony so that they may be studied. Divination will be provided to locate the creatures, but the adventurers’ ability to devise safe transport for the creatures is as important as their ability to subdue them, and to be able to protect themselves and their living cargo as they traverse potentially hostile lands. The Hegemony will pay 200 platinum per adventurer per creature safely retrieved, and the contact in the Blither Majuscule on the Hegemony’s border may provide bonuses for quick retrievals, extra specimens, or other examples of exemplary service. In addition, the adventure’s have the opportunity to earn the Hegemony’s favor.
Gaining the favor of the Hegemony is a powerful step towards accomplishing any goal one may have. Expert negotiators worked out an arrangement with the Hegemony that it has continued to offer to all adventurers: complete seven services for the Hegemony, and — in addition to an agreed upon sum of platinum for each job — they will grant one favor. Communities have sent promising members out to gain favors that will solve a pressing need of that community, and powerful individuals seek favors to fulfill their own ambitions or whims. Previous favors have included:
- The skills of a team of researchers who will delve into the collected archives of Illumian Majuscules and report to the adventurer or a designated proxy with the level of summary or detail desired. Books are copied and analysis is given. This is exceedingly useful for finding lost items of legend, establishing historical borders, tracing family bloodlines (often for the sake of improving the family’s prominence by having tales of illustrious or noble members, or to make claims on territory or titles), magical spell development or rediscovery, or simply sating one’s curiosity.
- Political pressure and expediency for the adventurer’s pet cause. This will not be something that will fundamentally alter society, but the sort of decisions that are regularly arbitrated will go in the adventurer’s favored direction (within something resembling reason). This can be anything from adding or removing a regulation on mining, funding a program to provide pets for all children, banning hedge mazes, providing the adventurer’s uncle a pardon allowing him to return from exile, etc.
- A meeting arranged with the musician, dignitary, hero, or author of your choice. Anyone in the Hegemony’s sphere of influence will spend a day with the adventurer and give her or him a special performance/speech/short composition, etc.
- The Hegemony’s spy network will increase the monitoring of a person, organization, clan, or city of the adventurer’s choice and share the results with the adventurer. (They won’t, however, share information on Majuscules with non-Illumians, and major powers such as the Elvin Kingdom as a whole or the entire Gnomish Federation accrue favors that they use to ensure that they themselves never have their weaknesses divulged.)
- The use of components, books, historical alters, and experts for an ascension ritual.
- Commission a poem, painting, sculpture, song, tapestry, or illusion show about the subject of the adventurer’s choice from the adventurer’s favorite artist.
The Hegemony may be open to other favors, but there are plenty of adventurers seeking to earn them, so there is no pressure on them to agree to anything if they don’t approve. They have plenty of candidates to choose from and so will select those who best have the skills necessary, will work well together, and have made reasonable favor requests.