The Commonwealth is a federation of allied cities, linked together by common heritage, finances, trade, diplomacy and the religion of Sagonos. The church holds a very prominent place in society, rivalling the power and influence of the civil government. Most polittics are shaped by rivalries and negotiations between the Ekklisiasma and the various merchant cartels, who hold the main power.
After the dreadful horrors of the foreign invasion three centuries ago, the Ekklisiasma of Sagonos - church hierarchy of the original kingdom - led its remaining faithful south under the leadership of charismatic Basileus Chromaros and the mighty warlord Belisarios the Butcher. In the south they would build for themselves a safe refuge from the foreigners and all who would threaten the work of Sagonos.
Some hundred years before the present, the single greatest revolution in the history of the people was unwittingly unleashed by the great inventor Lucarios Dramatorgos, who invented the Dramatorgos mechanism, or double-winch spring. It enabled following generations of inventors to develop all sorts of outrageous clockwork mechanisms, machines of endless cogs and gears, all power by the springs and winches of Dramatorgos’ original design.
These innovations changed society forever. Use of manpower in farming was gradually augmented, and nowadays a multitude of clockwork mechanisms tend the fields next to Vaha farmers. In the cities, the wealthy elites established workshops where they gathered together all sorts of mechanisms for producing the goods they would sell. Trade flourished, the merchants grew richer, but the commoners enjoyed little of this newfound prosperity. Instead, the labour-intensive nature of the mechanisms meant that most of those who had their lands seized, bought, or otherwise were left unable to continue their previous farmers’ lives poured into the cities, which became unclean, squalid, and overcrowded places where the workers toil for long hours in dirty workshops. Almost half of Chromaros’ urban population consists of winch-pullers, whose only job is to endlessly rewind the mechanism springs. The main focus of the Commonwealth economy is therefore metallurgy, and new alloys are continuously mixed and tested in laboratories and workshops’ friction furnaces.
But the expense of the mechanisms meant that many merchants began to pool their resources in order to purchase them. This was the origin of the Cartel, the foremost political unit of the Commonwealth. A cartel is equal parts merchant conglomerate, noble family and commercial enterprise. Most will have a founding dynasty, though some consist of several. It is commonplace for promising administrators, merchants, scientists and inventors to be adopted into such a dynasty - the main way of true social advancement in the Commonwealth, and the ambition of many starry-eyed youths - which instantly elevates them to the heights of society.
Each cartel owns workshops, farms, taverns, canteens and whatnot to supply its workers’ needs. Thus, most commoners live their lives entirely subsumed within a cartel - working in its workshops, eating in its canteens, drinking in its taverns, and living in its houses. Street fights between gangs of workers belonging to rival cartels are very common.
The Ekklisiasma is essentially a cartel in its own right, and an extraordinarily powerful one. It holds sway over many parts of Commonwealth life - medical treatment, higher education, religious services are almost entirely monopolized by its priests. Furthermore, it has bargained the right to persecute certain religious crimes and administer judgment and punishment in such cases. It has its own workers, canteens, taverns, and housing areas, and possesses numerous workshops spread across the Commonwealth cities. Its power is enforced by the might the Most Blessed Order of Sagonos’ Knights of the Blood, commonly known as the Blood Knights or simply the Order.
Sagonos is a hunting deity, and this is reflected in most of the associated practices and rituals. Vahans are a carnivorous species, and doctrine holds that they were created by Sagonos to enrich the world with the purity of their predator deity’s emulation. It is common for men to give thanks with a burnt offering of a hunted animal in the Oikimion - the temple of Sagonos. To do this is to curry favour with Sagonos, who might bless the individual with bountiful hunts, or bestow other boons. The greatest reward Sagonos can give is to, after death, take the individual to Himself as a hunter in his Garden, chasing its bountiful game for eternity. The greatest horror He can inflict is to, rather than a hunter, reincarnate the individual as a prey creature, doomed to be chased down and killed again and again.
This fate is reserved for heinous sinners, chief of whom are the so-called herbophages. A herbophage is a Vahan individual who has stooped so low as to consume plant matter. To do this is to spit onto the blessings Sagonos bestowed upon the species, and to betray their heritage. Such appalling crimes are quick to bring down the relentless and merciless Inquisition on the offender, who are only too eager to hasten the sinner along on his path to eternal damnation.