CS' Curse of the Crimson Throne 5E
Barely more powerful than the lord magistrates who preceded them, the monarchs of Korvosa must share power with the strict governmental entities extant at the founding of the monarchy. The following descriptions provide an overview of the city’s most powerful governmental forces:
Arbiters: More than judges, the arbiters also have legislative oversight. Any declaration the king makes must first face review from the arbiters, who vote on its legality both in regards to the Korvosa City Charter and the latest known laws of Cheliax. By charter amendment, seven arbiters must examine a monarchial decree and five of them must accept it in order for it to become law. If the arbiters review and reject a decree, one of those who voted against it must advise the king on what he can do to make the decree more acceptable to Korvosan and Chelaxian law.
The main task of arbiters, however, is to try criminal cases and settle civil disputes. Depending on the gravity of the crime, as many as nine arbiters might try a single case (they always try cases in odd-numbered groups to eliminate stalemates). For most crimes and for all civil disputes, though, a single arbiter oversees the proceedings. His judgment carries the authority of the city’s leader, although a convicted criminal may appeal the punishment handed down (but not the verdict) to the king. Most people don’t know they have this right, and thus it is rarely invoked. At most, the king must review a half-dozen cases a month.
Commandant of the Sable Company: Whenever a new monarch ascends to the Crimson Throne, tradition dictates that the commandant of the Sable Company reaffirm the company’s loyalty to the crown and the person who wears it. The commandant typically makes this pledge of fealty within the first month of the new monarch’s reign, although he does have the option of delaying or even refusing the ceremony. A newly appointed commandant is also expected to make this pledge.
Despite the pledge of fealty, the commandant of the Sable Company does not answer to the city’s leader, but rather to Castle Korvosa’s seneschal. This arrangement gives the company’s commandant freedom to act on behalf of the city against a tyrannical ruler, but it potentially puts him at odds with the powerful field marshal of the Korvosan Guard.
By charter amendment, in order to maintain this balance of power, the commandant must be at least three generations removed from a common ancestor of the city’s leader. The current leader of the Sable Company, Commandant Marcus Thalassinus Endrin, is first in line to become the new seneschal of Castle Korvosa, should Seneschal Neolandus Kalepopolis retire or die.
Field Marshal of the Korvosan Guard: In honor of the city’s founder and namesake, the Korvosan Guard calls its leader the field marshal. The city’s ruler selects the field marshal from among the senior officers in the guard, who then reports directly to the monarch. Because the Korvosan Guard has a tie with the church of Abadar, though, the ruler cannot remove the field marshal without agreement from the high priest. Frequently, the high priest has additional input into the appointment of the field marshal, making recommendations for or against candidates.
The field marshal of the Korvosan guard wields considerable influence in the city, as she both commands the largest military force in Zingara and—by custom and charter amendment—can reject an order handed down by the ruler. She may only do so if the order violates the laws of Korvosa or Cheliax or needlessly endangers the city’s civilians or its military forces. In this case, the field marshal must report her decision and reasoning to the high priest of Abadar within 1 day, who then decides on her fate. When such a process might interfere with the defense of the city, however, the field marshal has up to a month to report to the high priest.
Lictor of the Order of the Nail: Lictor Severs DiVri lives within Citadel Vraid south of the city and answers to Korvosa’s money. After agreeing to a price for the order’s service, the lictor sends out as many Hellknights as requested. The leader of the group sent works with officers and liaisons of the Korvosan Guards to organize their efforts. Occasionally, the lictor himself deigns to march into Korvosa, where he works directly with the Korvosan Guard’s field marshal.
Magistrates: With the creation of the monarchy, the magistrates and their bureaucratic underlings struggled to justify their existences to the city’s first king, the beloved Eodred I. Fortunately for them, Eodred I believed strongly in delegating responsibilities, and during his reign the number of magistrates and their staffs ballooned. Queen Domina halved the number of magistrates, but, since her death, many of those she cut have returned.
Today, city hall houses no fewer than 23 magistrates, with a combined staff of nearly a hundred. No one exactly knows what the magistrates or their staffs do, but most Korvosans suspect the entire purpose of city hall is to waste the time and money of the city’s people. Brief descriptions of Korvosa’s most prominent three magistrates (those who seem to actually do something constructive, no matter how hated) follow.
Magistrate of Commerce: The most hated man in Korvosa, Magistrate of Commerce Garrick Tann oversees the collection of taxes in the city. Contrary to popular belief, he does not set the tax rate; he only enforces it. Regardless of the truth, the people of Korvosa—as do people of all civilizations—hate the tax man. In addition to his primary duty of tax collection, the magistrate of commerce has two other onerous tasks that win him no friends: he is charged with breaking unions and regulating city fees. As the union breaker, the magistrate of commerce must work closely with the city’s military organizations to crack down on attempts to form guilds.
Magistrate of Expenditures: One of the best-loved men in Korvosa, Magistrate of Expenditures Syl Gar spends the money collected by the magistrate of commerce. This spending includes maintenance of the city’s public buildings (including Seawatch Tower of Castle Korvosa) and the payment of its employees (including both the Korvosan Guard and the Sable Order). Merchants and smiths welcome the magistrate of expenditures wherever he goes, as his arrival portends the spending of money or the establishment of contracts.
Magistrate of Regulation: Frequently a priest of Abadar, the magistrate of regulation is charged with maintaining fixed weights and measurements, so everyone within the city may operate on level playing fields. Magistrate Lolia Perenne and her underlings scour the city looking for faulty scales, shaved coins, and other attempts by merchants and customers to cheat one another.
Monarch: At the top of the political power dynamic sits the city’s monarch, currently King Eodred II, son of Queen Domina the Great. King Eodred enjoys expanded monarchial power wrested from the nobles and ministers by his powerful and popular mother. He controls Korvosa more fully than any previous monarch, but he still only barely retains power. Unlike the slave girls in his harem who serve him without complaint, the city of Korvosa is a fickle and demanding mistress.
King Eodred’s declarations from atop the Crimson Throne become law almost by default, although the arbiters retain the ability to counter any foolish whim of his that violates the city’s charter (and its 247 amendments) or Chelaxian law. By convention, the commandant of the Sable Company offered his group’s loyalty to the rightful ruler of the city when Eodred took the throne. Unlike the field marshal of the Korvosan Guard, however, Commandant Marcus Endrin does not report directly to King Eodred, but rather to the seneschal of Castle Korvosa, Neolandus Kalepopolis. King Eodred did place Korvosan Guard’s leader, Field Marshal Cressida Kroft, in power, as the city’s charter dictates he must, and he expects (and receives) full cooperation from Field Marshal Kroft in return. In times of need, the king can trust the Lictor of the Order of the Nail to send troops into the city—just so long as the city has gold with which to pay.
Other groups within the city cannot openly defy the king, although, when their individual members unite, they can cause the monarchy headaches. One member of each of the five Great Houses sits on the Peerage Review, an advisory council the monarch cannot dismiss but need not heed. Politics and wisdom dictate, however, that King Eodred II at least listen to the arguments presented by the review, as its members do have the power to contradict a ruler’s orders to the Korvosan Guard. Because the king cannot regulate every aspect of the city, nor would he want to, a set of magistrates (to whom the title of lord magistrate once belonged) divides responsibilities within the city.
It was by invitation of the seneschal that Korvosa’s first monarch, King Eodred I, took up residence in the castle, and up until Queen Domina’s reign the seneschal retained the right to evict the monarch from the castle. The beloved queen, however, influenced the passage of one of the last charter amendments, granting the monarch permanent residence within the castle as long as he bears the family name of Arabasti. A clause in the amendment allows for a monarch’s eviction (which only removes him from the castle, not from power), but doing so requires a unanimous vote from all five representatives of the Great Houses, the seneschal, and one arbiter chosen at random.
Sitting upon the Crimson Throne does bring with it a considerable drawback. The Curse of the Crimson Throne manifests itself in two forms. First, no monarch of the city has died of natural causes—all perished at the hands of another, whether subtly or quite overtly. Second, no monarch has yet produced an heir while ruling. Queen Domina is the only parent among the city’s monarchs, and she brought her adult son with her from Cheliax when she came to Korvosa.
Seneschal of Castle Korvosa: Before it became the home of Korvosa’s monarchs, Castle Korvosa provided a home for the city’s garrison. An early charter amendment gave the castle’s seneschal complete control over the entirety of the pyramid “and all structures built on it and all tunnels discovered or dug within it.” Later, when the headquarters of the Sable Company moved into the castle, a new amendment made the seneschal the liaison between the city’s leader and the company’s commandant. The seneschal can veto the nomination of any applicant to the post of Sable Company commandant.
People in Korvosa consider the castle’s seneschal as the second most powerful individual in the city, behind only the monarch. Although he no longer possesses the power to evict the monarch, he can make the city’s leader a prisoner within the castle by sealing it and calling for Sable Company marines to man and guard it. To date, no seneschal has had any reason to use such draconian measures, but he retains the power nonetheless.
When a seneschal dies or retires, the field marshal of the Korvosan Guard chooses his replacement from among the leadership of the Sable Company. Typically, the company’s commandant becomes the new seneschal, although a promising junior officer occasionally leapfrogs into the limited but powerful position.
Those close to him expect the current seneschal, Neolandus Kalepopolis, to step down in 3 years, on the 50th anniversary of his appointment to the post. Many see his very close and mentor-like relationship with Commandant Marcus Thalassinus Endrin as the most obvious sign of this.
Peerage Review: These leaders of the five Great Houses form an advisory board for the monarch, but they possess almost no actual power over city policy whatsoever. A unanimous vote by the peerage can, however, contradict a monarch’s direct order to the Korvosan Guard, forcing the guard to return to Citadel Volshyenek. Although this power exists within an amendment to the city charter, it has never been invoked. For the most part, the monarchs have worked closely with the Peerage Review members.