Helgram Game: The Courts of Chaos
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Very little is known of the world before the Courts of Chaos came into being, save that there were many land masses which formed spontaneously in the Abyss. Certainly, it was from the Abyss that Great Cornelius came to the Rock of Thelbane and drew the Logrus, with the aid of his sons Swayvill and Suhuy. By tradition, this is believed to have occured about fifteen-thousand Chaos years ago.
Over the next millennium, Cornelius, Swayvill and Suhuy brought together scraps of other worlds from the Abyss, as well as those worlds which had formed after the Logrus was drawn, and wove them into what would become the Courts of Chaos. Following the death of his wife Titania, Cornelius realised that a sacrifice needed to be made to solidify the whole, and chose to be that sacrifice so that his children, and their children, would have a safe and stable home. After their father gave himself to the Logrus, about fourteen-thousand years ago, Swayvill became King of Chaos and Suhuy took on the mantle of Keeper of the Logrus.
A timeline of the Courts of Chaos can be found here.
Denizens of the Courts
The people of the Courts are divided into three main groups: the Cornelians, i.e. the direct descendents of Great Cornelius;, the Lords and Ladies of Chaos (usually called “Chaosians”, or “Titans” after Cornelius’s wife Titania); and the more populous Demons, the everyday dwellers in the Courts. “Demon”, in this context, is something of a misnomer, however, as “Real humans” in far-away lands, such as Amber and the Golden Circle have equivalent solidity and greater than Shadow-dweller longevity to “Demon” stock.
As well as Swayvill and Suhuy, whose mother is unknown, Cornelius had four other children with the Lady Titania of Chaos. From these six descend all of those who can be referred to as “Cornelians”. Of these, only Swayvill and Suhuy remain in the Courts to this day.
The order of birth was:
- Cornelius + mother unknown
- His descendents follow him in the Thelbane line of succession.
- He has voluntarily withdrawn his family line from the Chaos succession.
- His son, Dworkin, established the House of Amber.
- Cornelius + Titania
- Kyessa (daughter, born third, but fifth in precedence): travelled into Shadow, fate unknown
- Severin (son): missing since being sent to pursue Dworkin Barimen after he stole the Eye of the Serpent.
- Theodore (son): first High Priest of the Serpent, deceased.
- Marilla (daughter): travelled into the Abyss, fate unknown.
Cornelians are functionally immortal, usually dying only through illness, accident or enemy action.
Lords and Ladies of Chaos (Chaosians, Titans)
The Lords and Ladies were the inhabitants of the original Rocks drawn together by Cornelius from fragments of other worlds found in the Abyss, as well as those who came into being with the lands which formed in the first fifty years after the Logrus was drawn (roughly the first five rings of worlds around Thelbane). It also refers to their direct descendents, many of whom now have some measure of Cornelian blood to a greater or lesser extent, due to intermarriage with the Major Houses: sufficiently so that they have a reasonable chance of surviving initiation to the Logrus, but not enough to be counted as full Cornelians. Cornelius’ wife Titania was a Lady of Chaos, as were Swayvill’s two Queens, Alberta (deceased) and Mathilda.
The majority of the Minor Houses were founded by the Lords and Ladies. In addition, many remain within the Major Houses as trusted members, and carry the House name.
In earlier times, their life expectancy was between 500 and 750 years. This has now risen to closer to 1,000 years. In addition, several of the female Heads of Minor Houses, who were Ladies of Chaos, were married to Oberon in the past, and it appears that carrying Children of Order has extended their lifespans to become comparable to the Cornelians.
This covers the everyday denizens of the Courts of Chaos (and Amber), as well as those that hale from the worlds of the Black Zone (and Golden Circle). They are “Real” beings, in the sense that they come from the worlds in close proximity to the Poles, and are therefore more influenced by the two Powers, but they are not sufficiently robust to be able to walk the Logrus. Demons born in the Courts are usually more substantial, and longer lived than Black Zone demons. The ancestors of the Courts and House demons were often brought into the Courts as staff, servants, soldiers, slaves, etc, but are now valued members and retainers of many Houses.
Some Lesser Demon Houses have since been established in their own right, albeit usually as clients to one or more of the Major or Minor Houses.
The life expectancy of Lesser Demons is 250-350 years.
Shadow Folk refers to anyone born in the worlds that stretch across the multiverse between the Black Zone and the Golden Circle, which were cast between the two when the Pattern was drawn, with the exception of the dwellers from the Dancing Mountains. Life expectancies vary, depending on the natural conditions on their home Shadow.
Some Shadow folk find their way to the Courts and settle there, although to gain status, they usually need to become accepted into one of the Houses.
Rarely seen in Chaos, although they do sometimes visit, the Dancers are beings which live in the worlds of the Great Divide (aka the Dancing Mountains). Whereas many Chaosians are decent – even expert – shapeshifters, the Dancers are beyond even the very best of them. They also have a method of travelling Shadow, which may be related to their shifting, or may be due to something completely different. Much of the time, their forms are constantly changing, like the worlds they come from, although they are capable of holding a single form when interacting with individuals in the Courts. No-one knows what the life expectancy of the Dancers is.
The Dragon Court of King Swayvill
The Courts is a fundamentally feudal society. Swayvill’s Imperial Dragon Court is held in the Throne Room of Thelbane Palace. The huge Court chamber itself is in Swayvill’s colours of red and gold. Splendid tapestries hang from the walls, and there are a number of famous stained glass windows, including one of Suhuy, Keeper of the Logrus and brother to the King, scolding the Unicorn of Amber. The huge dragon throne is on a golden dais, and beside it is the slightly less impressive throne of the Queen of Chaos.
The entire Court is expected to stand, with the exception of the King, Queen, the Princess Swayvanna and her children, and the Grand Dukes. Court dress is complicated and reveals the intricate centuries old customs and traditions of the entire ancient kingdom and its governance.
In addition, the King is advised by the Great Council, which is made up of the Grand Dukes/Duchesses of each of the Major Houses, and the Dukes/Duchesses of the Minor Houses, or their appointed representatives.
In recent years, His Royal and Imperial Majesty suffered a period of ill-health, and it was feared that his time as the Great and Benevolent Ruler of Thelbane may be drawing to a close. His condition worsened during the War Between the Powers, when the rebel factions of the House of Barimen, descended from his nephew Dworkin Barimen, fought all the way to the gates of Chaos. However, a settlement was finally reached, in large part due to the personal relationship that has developed between King Swayvill and King Random of Amber. Since then, King Swayvill’s health has rallied.
Education in the Courts
The education of the children of the Courts is handled both by the individual Houses, and centrally, depending on individual circumstances. All the Major Houses provide an extensive education to their children, at least up to bachelor’s degree level. Some, like the Helgram Academy, take that further into post-grad studies, while the Hendrake Military Academy is attended by the majority of members of the House after they complete their basic education. All the Minor Houses have establishments to educate their children to the equivalent of High School level, but don’t always have the facilities or population to justify full degree level courses.
As well as the individual schools, colleges and academies within the Houses, there are also several central places of learning, which are open to all the denizens of the Courts, be they Cornelians, Chaosians, demons or Shadow Folk, and whether they are aligned to a House or not. For children whose parents wish them to be educated within the Courts, rather than in Shadow, but who do not qualify to go to school in one of the individual Houses, the following establishments are available:
- The Queen Alberta Preparatory School: for all children from 4-11
- The King Swayvill Grammar School: for children aged 11-18 who pass the entrance exam.
- Thelbane High School: for children aged 11-18 who did not qualify for the Grammar School – this high school education is still considered to be of a good standard.
With respect to higher education, there are a number of university-level institutions which can be applied to by any registered denizen of the Courts or members of all Houses in good standing. These offer both undergraduate and graduate level courses, as not all the Houses can offer a full curriculum within their own education systems. It is also not unknown for students to received a bachelor’s level equivalent education within their House, but then attend one of the Thelbane institutions for master’s and doctorate level studies.
These institutions include:
- Thelbane University: provides both undergraduate and post-grad degrees in many different subjects.
- Thelbane College of Magic: not all the Houses, especially the Minor ones, have enough members to justify running their own mage colleges, so the TCM provides that facility.
- With respect to healing magic, the TCM does provide a basic eduction, but anyone wishing to practise medicine at a higher level will usually go to the TMC.
- Thelbane Medical and Veterinary Colleges: while these are technically two different institutions, they share a site and, in the first couple of years, many of the classes are shared between the two sides.
- The colleges provide an education in both magical and non-magical medicine, as well as the healing aspects of shapeshifting and the treatment of maladies of shifters.
- Thelbane College of Jurisprudence: whereas many Houses offer courses in their own House Law, the TCJ covers a much wider remit. Anyone wishing to practise law outside their own House or in Thelbane as a whole, is required to attend the TCJ.
Religion in the Courts
The primary religion in the Courts is the Church of the Serpent (also sometimes called the Church of the Dragon). Its high prelate is Bances of House Amblerash, and his House is probably the most well known in connection with the Church and its administration. There is also a small Oracular House which works closely within the Church of the Serpent, by the name of House Delacroix. That said, any denizen of the Courts who has a true calling can attend the Thelbane Seminary, which is attached to the Cathedral of the Serpent, to train for the priesthood. There are no restrictions on gender or marriage within the priesthood.
Most Houses have a primary Church of the Serpent within their Ways: if nothing else, so that no-one decides that they might be heretics. However, levels of devotion within the Houses do vary. In addition, both Houses and individuals also sometimes have their own private temples and their own beliefs, and have small personal shrines to those they wish to venerate.
There have been seven High Prelates of the Serpent since Great Cornelius gave himself to the Logrus:
- Theodore, son of Cornelius + Titania (1,000-3,853 ALC)
- Ambrose Amblerash, son of Swayvill and Alberta (3,853-5,497 ALC)
- Cybill Amblerash, daughter of Ambrose (5,497-6,735 ALC)
- Rufus Amblerash, younger brother of Cybill (6,735-9,180 ALC)
- Roshan Amblerash, younger brother of Ambrose (9,180-10,604 ALC)
- Isaura Amblerash, daughter of Roshan (10,604-13,701 ALC)
- Bances Amblerash, son of Isaura (13,701 ALC to present)
The most Holy day of the Thelbane calendar is the Great Festival of the Serpent, at the Thelbane Summer Solstice, which commemorates the sacrifice of Great Cornelius to ensure the safety and stability of the Courts. The second-most important festival is Creation Day, which celebrates the drawing of the Logrus.
As Prelate of the Church, Bances’ official line is the truth that worship of the Serpent is the one true way for all who love the Courts. That said, for the most part he has not gone out of his way to stamp out other beliefs, and declare the heretical. The exception is his hearty dislike of the almost religious devotion show to some members of the Amber family, by some denizens of the Courts, that has arisen since the War Between the Powers.
Marriage in the Courts
Given the life expectencies of the Cornelians and the Lords and Ladies of Chaos, the concept of marriage being “Until death us do part” isn’t really appropriate. Long, loving marriages, like those between Swayvill and Alberta, or Graham Helgram Junior and Joan, do occur in the Courts, but are in the minority. It is far more common for marriages to be of a set duration, with binding pre-nuptial agreements (perhaps related to disposition of children, or certain House assets, or the possibility to extend the duration of the marriage), and ending in no-fault divorces. Many Thelbane nobles undertake multiple marriages of this kind during their lives, which explains the interconnections between different families and lines.
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