Zhepïn

“So rare is a woman who deserves the title of Zhepïn that it was nearly forgotten. In his dying edicts, the Magnificent Emperor, a man so fond of dead and wretched traditions, granted his mistress, Gloka Unagitsyo the honour. And so when the men came in with their blue robes, the boy-emperor ran to her, not his mother.”
  Outside of the Table of Ranks lies a rare title which, when taken from court references to the women who have borne this rank, does not appear so powerful despite being near the top of those ranks. Yet, of the many hats and titles which its most famous bearer, the king’s acolyte Gloka Unagitsyo, perhaps this is her most powerful.  

Role & Power

 
“It is little secret that the king is incompetent despite his favour by his father, a man who had a knack for spotting talent. Yet the people are oblivious to the fact the Nwarin Zhepïn is the puppetmaster of ministers.”
  Unagitsyo, while bearing this role before retiring to her estate, had a very similar role to her rival the Nwa Freba or Yigcha Ōsnå Naekh. Primarily, it was to advise the king in hard times, or in her own 'to unburden him of one trifle'. Unlike her rival, she had no stranglehold on the emperor, however. Especially as he grew into the position of a decent king (at least by the empire's standards after The Great Civil War).   Though less powerful than a regent, as she had to share her power with the Empress Dowager Khōy Núthfaeř, the Yigcha Dovan Podinal and of-age emperor, her power came from her connections in the court. After all, she had been exposed to the court all her life but raised in prestige by catching the emperor's eye and mothering three illegitimate children with him.   But unlike many royal mistresses, she'd been careful with politics. In a society so desperate to leave ruling to a few men through institutions such as The Council of Brethren or the many Vidama throughout the years, she managed to convince an emperor to heed her advice, and grant her the rare privilege of entering the Dnan Yamtu. Explosive in private and subtly rebellious in public, the newly bought-up ministers had flocked to her because she represented a change in how the empire was run. Not by an emperor and a few noble men but a semi-meritocracy (in theory) by the Ngàs Mungimi. The young emperor or his humble chancellor hadn't got the respect yet.  

The Women who Wore it

5 recorded women have had this title over the history of the empire. Rönkhi Kavonup, Chota Memomani, Hümpil Davuma-Prozhach, Davya Vintz, and Gloka Unagitsyo.  

Rönkhi Kavonup

The daughter of a Uganic fisherman and his Tezoshi wife, and expected for a simple life. Rönkhi was most likely not her birth-name but very few records of the era even noted the names of women, so it is surprising historians have hers. Nonetheless, as many a gaudy ballad would tell, she managed to gain the emperor's attention after a hunt where he saw her. The account of what activity she was doing varies from telling to telling, though it is most often butter-churning or weaving.   Rönkhi was the concubine of Bania II, one of two recorded, though the only one to get named. In the last years of the legendary Anu I's reign, Bania began to meddle more in politics and brought along Rönkhi (as she was a good administrator). When Anu died in 1604, Bania was lifted to the throne but his health was in decline. So, he relied more and more on his beloved concubine. By the time he died in 1509, perhaps she was more powerful than any of the ministers, rare even to this day.   However, none of her 6 children became monarch, though her descendants are many through the nobility. Instead, the throne went to Zhay I, who was 11 and highly timid. Regents are often men of the clan, or the mother but there was little trust on the young emperor's uncle, who'd been disinherited by Anu due to libertine nature, and his mother faded out of records before the death of Bania (which historians use to guess she died). So, the ministers, loyal to her, created a title which meant no one could dismiss her from service, bar the emperor.   With this power, she managed to set up the framework from which Zhay would reform the empire, introducing the now set-in-stone table of ranks and a rudimentary form of the Ngàs Mungimi which would be lost after his death. But when her adoptive-son came of age, she peters out of the records, suggesting she was dismissed or died, though there is a curious reference of 'kingly priestess to whom the emperor [Zhay] would greet with a kiss on the cheek'.  

Chota Memomani

The Memomani family still looms large over politics in the empire, their daughters have been empresses, wives of chancellors and so on. If there was one of their daughters most kingly, it was Chota. Born in the new year of 1711, the daughter of Yàngap Memomani and his wife Davari. Despite the family's usual penchant to marry daughters off quickly, it is unknown whether she was married. After all, in the records of the time, she is always referred to as Memomani and not Memomanrin if she had been wed (and she was not using her husband's name).   Nonetheless, as a highly intelligent woman with a keen ear for secrets, she caught the eye first of the Emndet Luze byi. For a summer she was his mistress, a distraction from his marital woes only to die in battle come next spring. Allegedly, she received the news on her birthday. Then, mourning slightly, she caught the emperor's too. And so, her fate was sealed. He wished to marry her but his wife, a Louti Princess, was 'in the way'. She is the first woman to have been recorded to speak in the Dnan Yamtu   Both of her children with the emperor did not survive infancy, so when the emperor died, she was told to depart from court. But a young emperor meant scheming advisors, including his power-hungry mother and so she stayed, first to watch until a contingent of ministers came to her door. The emperor begged her to sit in on the Brethren's meetings, for a second opinion, and so she did. For the rest of her life, unlike the other Zhepïn who were dismissed or retired. She died in 1791, having been a figure in politics for 8 emperors.  

Hümpil Davuma-Prozhach

Her name is one synonymous with blood. Perhaps Zhepïn is not the best of terms to call her, but even despite there still being no dynasty, there was an emperor who gave her this name. The daughter of a general in Dukha Yapai's army to overthrow the pretender to the throne. Her father was known as 'The Bloody', perhaps fate is genetic.   Another trait shared between father and daughter: a penchant for backstabbing. Yapai should have been more cautious as Hümpil slowly began to influence and subtly seduce him. For 4 years, while he pacified the south, she served as his prime minister and here he named her Zhepïn for him. Once he returned to Vost, he took her as his bride. Then he was found dead, not a year later, poisoned. It was most likely her but she pinned the blame on one of his mistresses.   But here she gained her own base of power, Yapai’s men swore fealty to her, and she continued his quest to restore the monarchy via a small branch of the family, one where its two members were an old man and a child who’d barely learnt to speak. Nonetheless, she took the surname Prozhach and raised her flags for them. In this time her skill for strategy was shown and she became known for her armies being so effective that even seeing the banner meant total annihilation.   She was also a notoriously good spymaster, keeping plots and unrest to a minimum even if she was more brutal than the other men had been when they ruled the territory she now held. Perhaps because of this, she became so paranoid to the point where the maids who helped her undress dared look at her for fear she took her gaze for treason. She did not care what they said, she saw daggers everywhere. And then she suddenly died, perhaps poison like the way she killed her husband.  

Davya Vintz

Pretty, witty and ghastly is a description written of the 'Commoner Empress' by a spurned lover. Born in the slums of Luze, very little is known of her early years besides she was a fruit seller, less is known of her parentage. In the last stages of the civil war, Hitanu Lyu reigned, though never became emperor, preferring the title that many leaders of the era used: Lugsha Nwa byi. A lover of the arts: he patronised theatre especially, and set up the most notorious acting company perhaps in the known world. Davya, desperate for money and with talent for memorising things, became part of the group.   During a performance of the tragedy play, Hümpil the Bloody, she managed to catch the eye of Lyu. Due to laws prohibiting prostitutes (and also actresses from being introduced into high society), Lyu had to do some manovering. Soon, to keep her as a mistress, she retired from the stage. The stipend he gave her per year was more than she'd ever earnt.   Her talent for advising and statecraft did not come into focus until his death in 2003, proclaiming his nephew who had more of a connection to the Waya and Ildili lines. Young, brash and getting used to power, in order to keep the new emperor from doing anything too stupid, Lyu wrote in his will to give Davya the title of Zhepïn. Indeed, she was competent, it had become clear from the three women who bore it prior: if it was to be given, it was earned by intelligence.   But her title as Zhepïn is not what she is known for. She is known more as the Commoner Empress as this young emperor, only a couple of years younger than her, took her as his wife before any ministers could convince him to marry a foreign princess. Their marriage was notoriously stormy in private, yet he trusted her to run parts of the bureaucracy. It is also by her hand the laws making women akin to children were slightly loosened, allowing them to hold property on their own and to prevent legal marriage to 16 for girls. She is the only Zhepïn to have her blood within emperors regent, for her son became emperor Ewa II, dying at roughly 67 years old.  

Gloka Unagitsyo

Born a humble member of the lower nobility and married off at 16 before being widowed (with 2 young children) at 22. It would have been surprising for even her to be noticed by an emperor. Mayua III is known for 4 things: his splendour, his ruthlessness, his talent for picking competent ministers and his hedonism. When he seduced the young widow, the court thought her a summer fancy. But she stayed. She bore him 4 children, she sat on his Council of Strangers alongside the one-eyed, paranoid Aìzaa Salat and that ever annoying chancellor Ōsnå Naekh.   She's a lot of things Gloka Unagistyo, but simple is not one of them.
Form of Address
Nwarin Zhepïn
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