Benyr is an ancient kingdom, having just under a thousand years of recorded history. It was enormously stable, and even stagnant up until about 50 years ago when the kingdom was invaded and conquered, and the one surviving member of the royal house was driven out to the Kelwyn Isles. As a result, Benyr has lost a good deal of its former languidity, and has experienced some radical change, not all of it for the better. Because the ancient history is something which the conquerors have elected to preserve, however, this anarchy has not progressed as far as it might have. Benyr remains sufficiently agile in the aftermath of the conquest to meet a number of possible threats.
The conquerors themselves were a band of younger noble children and their allies from Tocara. The Primogentiure system there prevented many of them from achieving any sort of power, and so an expedition against their larger but softer neighbor made a good deal of sense. Many of them are now in their late fifties and sixties, still strong and cunning. In favor of Tocaran values and Tocaran ideas about power, they rule Benyr with an iron grip.
Their children, however, in the age-old system which the first Tocaran conquerors advocated, have been tutored and trained in Benyran culture, and are fully prepared to restore many of the old ways. As a result, as the generation of invaders die off, Benyr becomes more accustomed to the Tocaran yoke, and the chances of a revolution fall further and futher away. [Age Value: 6; Equilibrium/Active; Conviction (superiority), Aquisition (power, land), Revolution (youth vs. age)]
Because of its size, Benyr is easily accessible. The coastline possesses many fine harbors, coves and bays, while the overland routes are either gentle or well marked. Many of its cities lie on useful rivers and other trade routes. Its own natural resources are extensive, and it was blessed with easy access to those materials. Many people don't want to go there, of course. Benyr is by far the largest kingdom ever conquered by the younger children of Tocaran nobles, but hardly the first. Nine kingdoms, two dukedoms and four principalities have overlords of Tocaran descent, each conquered by a disgruntled generation. Such unkindness to neighbors has netted the Tocarans an evil reputatation, so their cities and ports are ignored by most merchants and traders. Tocarans only trade with Tocarans [Isolation 16; Interaction 5].
Benyr's long history and rich heritage has given it ample knowledge, especially in a number of areas of innovation. In the last hundred years, however, more and more of its knowledge has been dispersed, while its own efforts have lagged. Wine as an art form is credited to a Benyran inventor, and the caternary arch is likewise a Benyran achievement. Lately, Benyr has rested more on its laurels than earned new ones. In addition, Benyrian transportation lags far behind much of its other development. The ancient institution of post riders ensures the swift delivery of royal missives, but most people have to make do on their own. In addition, Benyr is largely turned inland--- it knows little of seafaring or navigation, relying mostly on river traffic. [TV 12; Advancement 6, Assimilation 7; DMV11; P/MV11; A/EV13; B/AV14; T/CV9; MV13; MiscV16].
Benyr, like most of its neighbors, is fully agricultural. Hunting by Benyran noblity and their Tocaran rulers supplements the diet of the upper classes.
Meat is not in the diet of most of the population, however; most of the animals belong to the upper classes. Chicken and other poultry are common, however, as are egg dishes. The Benyran pancake is known throughout the Merevon Sea as a delicacy, although it is a common meal here, essentially a very thin pancake of egg batter stuffed with cooked vegetables and spices.
Milks and cheeses are widely available, with several types being particularly well-known, among them Bremmaran, which is a brownish-white cheese with a creamy honey flavor. Grains and some vegetables make up most of the kingdom's diet. Bread comes in a wide variety of types, including almost 30 varieties of black bread prepared in the region around Benyr's capital alone. True white bread is both rare and expensive, but it is not missed. Beer and ale are commonly available, while the south is known for several white vintages of wine. Benyrans tend not to move around a great deal, staying close to their birthplaces for the most part. However, some travel with the 'Wagoners', a tinker/trader group which wander the countryside. Some six Wagoner clans are known, and over eighty caravan groups are documented. [Fully Agricultural; Secondary hunting; Sedentary; tinker/trader]
Benyr's market has undergone some changes, but the kingdom continues to use the ancient system of coinage laid down six hundred years ago. Based on the silver 'Lune', the system uses copper 'trees' and 'branches' (valued at the 1/50 and1/100 of a lune, respectively) and the golden 'lantern' and 'sun' (valued at 25 and 50 lunes, respectively). The sun is an extremely rare coin, and is more often used as a bookkeeping entry than as a real monetary unit. Benyr is largely guild-driven, at least in the cities; most professionals outside the cities are serfs tied to the land in any case, with their prices fixed in part by the whim and will of their lord. Goods and services are controlled and regulated by the industries which produce them, and so while resources are plentiful, their production and availability is controlled heavily. As a result, few nations trade with Benyr, despite the quality of a number of its goods, including timber, wine, and building stone.
Benyr also has silk production, and a number of countries would like to steal the secret. Tocaran rule remains an obstacle to normal relations, however; and trade has been stagnant for some time. [Resources: 13; Exploitation 9, 45%; Trade: 4]
Benyr maintains a large standing army, officered by Tocaran and Benyran lords, and made up mostly of Benyran commoners. Infantry and Cavalry are represented, although some units, the best supplied and best trained, are composed entirely of imported Tocaran troops for hire. Considerably more loyal to the Usurper and his forces, these mercenary troops are the elite, and are more than capable of suppressing insurrection in the ranks of the main army. A fair number of the officers of these elite units are magicians, very suited to the dirty tasks of maintaining discipline in a morale-damaged military such as this. Benyr maintains less than a dozen ships for a naval force, relying on its coastal garrisons as its main line of defense.
The Tocarans are indifferent to religion, and their bias is reflected in public attitudes throughout Benyr. In private, a huge number of people are religious, and say their devotions with a fierce intensity. Two faiths currently hold sway in Benyr, the ancient faith of the Nine Holy Ones, and Tocaran Matheism. The Benyrans believe in a set of nine deities, organized in three sets of three. The first three, the Elders, are given a variety of names, but represent Earth, Sea and Sky. The Younger Gods also are assigned different names in different regions, but are associated with human pursuits: War, Agriculture, and the City. Finally, the Ageless are the rulers of the unknown: Death, Dream, and Future. The Nine Holy Ones are more often referred to by titles rather than names; their names are viewed as holy. For religious Tocarans, the faith is much more bleak. The ancient Tolcans, from whom the Tocarans are descended, were monolatrous worshippers of a god called the Bleak-Hearted One, usually translated Malcholus.
Malcholus in times past required human sacrifices in particularly bloody and pain-filled ways. Though the early cult was wiped out, the presence and action of the god was felt to a sufficient degreethat worship, though not sacrifice, was maintained as an offering to prevent his wrath and vengeance.
A number of sub-schools of both faiths exist and thrive. [Tolerance 9; Prevalence 14; Diversity 9]
The Tocaran overlords encourage artists and artisans in a wide variety of practices and crafts. Patron-artist relationships are common and viewed with approval. Art, drama, music, literature and poetry, painting and sculpture all thrive in Benyr. The Tocaran interest has led to renewed Benyran interest, but certain symbols from Benyr's past have been banned from artistic expression, among them the Endless Knot, symbol of the enduring kingship, and one of the symbols of the Royal House of Benyr, in exile in the Kelwyn Isles. [Tolerance 13; Prevalence 15; Diversity 19].
Where the arts are encouraged, scholastics and magic are discouraged and persecuted. Benyr is an ancient land, and has much in its long and proud history which the Tocarans would prefer to have forgotten. Scholarship, however, is as much a part of Benyr's artistic and cultural life as any play or poetry. Many religious orders exist solely for the purpose of teaching. So far, the Tocarans have merely ridiculed the practice and discouraged it.
The Tocaran monopoly on magic in Benyr is another matter entirely. Benyr, like most places, has few bloodlines with the Talent, and fewer still exercised it in any great measure. Under Tocaran rule, many magicians lose a hand or foot for practicing without a license; and participation in bonding rituals required to make wizards is punishable by death. Since a Bonding sends up metaphysical pyrotechnics visible to other wizards for leagues in every direction, escape from this fearsome punishment is rare. Nevertheless, in the more rural areas some magic can be performed, although the higher wizardries are limited to the Tocaran magelords, easily the best-trained on the Merevon Sea. [Scholastics: Tolerance 7, Prevalence 18, Diversity 19; Magic: Tolerance 1, Prevalence 4, Diversity 6]
Life in a nation so long occupied and ruled with ruthless force by a conqueror puts enormous strains upon the social hierarchy. The Tocarans have, for the moment, reinforced many old dictates of society, placing themselves at the top, of course. As a result, there are no easy ways to move around in society, especially up, without the aid of a Tocaran patron which leaves one open to charges of collaboration with the Invader. Despite this, many young Benyrans are entering the ranks of the civil service, hoping for a shot at a comfortable life. Manners common a century ago, and outlined in books on manners, are rapidly coming into vogue again, and duels as the consequence of a real or perceived slight are rapidly becoming the norm. Dueling with a Tocaran, however, is expressly forbidden. In the meantime, the Hierate of the Nine Holy Ones retains the priestly dignity of Temple-conducted trials, and the Hierate is rapidly appearing as a hotbed of sedition among Tocaran notables, as the ranks are packed with rebels seeking some modicum of protection.
HIERARCHY OF SOCIAL ESTATES Ruling Agency Political (I) The Usurper and his Family 20 Warrior (I) Tocaran Elite Lords 16-19 Arcane (I) Sanctioned magicians, wizards 17 Ruling Archetype Political (II) Lesser Tocaran Lords 16-17 Political (III) Benyran Lords 15-16 Official (I) Royal court officials 10-14 Privileged Archetype Ecclesiastical (I) Patriarchs, senior priests 14 Bureaucratic Clerks, court officials, magistrates 10-13 Official (II) Tax collectors, city officials, rural reeves 10-12 Warrior (II) Tocaran regular force officers 13 Professional Archetype Merchant Merchants, dealers, Caravaners 8-14 Ecclesiastical (II) Priests, monks, elders 6-12 Fine Arts Writers, artists, performers 5-15 Academic Teachers, doctors, lawyers 8-13 Artisan (I) Urban craftsmen 7-14 Warrior (III) Benyran officers, troops 8-10 Labor Archetype Artisan (II) Rural craftsmen 6-10 Labor (I) Unskilled, some skilled, laborers 4-7 Marginal Archetype Fringe Theives, harlots, beggars, poor 1-5 Labor (II) Unfree persons, outlaws 0