Council of Counts
The Tapani Imperium's traditional upper house, the Council of Counts consists of the heads of each named High Vor House (or said Count's officially designated spokesperson, called "the Count's Voice"). Provided the individual is the officially recognized Count/Countess in charge, that person has one equal vote on any legal matter which comes before the upper house of the Tapani Imperium government, regardless of how much land they own or control.
However, since the High Lord usually votes first among the Counts in a given Province, anyone who votes opposite their High Lord has openly invited drama. In House Vormelantha, this used to carry a near-guarantee of sudden "illness" or "early retirement". High Lady Katianna Vortapani has not yet arranged for the removal of a sitting Count in Melantha Province but that may be because she has so many open seats still awaiting heirs.
The Freeworlds Territory does not have any Counts, which means that it does not have voting representation on the Council of Counts. It does have three non-voting Representatives appointed to attend the Council of Counts, to observe and advocate for its interests. By custom, they are positioned as far apart from one another as possible, in case there is a sudden need to escape with sensitive information.
Within this context, officially speaking, "Count Vortapani" has only one vote, which he traditionally abstains if a significant majority already exists on a given matter. Any time Emperor Gregor Vortapani chooses to register a vote, smart politicians pay attention to that issue . . . and to who voted the same way before the Vortapani position was announced, and who didn't, and who changed their intentions when they saw what the Emperor had to say.
Because it is treasonously illegal to have a weapon in the presence of the Emperor unless that weapon was issued by him personally, no Count or High Lord may bring any bodyguards into the Council of Counts' chamber. However, many houses have long kept a Mentat on staff as the Count's privy counsel: they do make excellent advisors in so many fields, plus they have excellent open-hand melee skills, in the event of an emergency.
- All bills must be deliberated within this Council and ratified by majority vote before they can be presented to the Emperor for his approval or veto as a functional law.
- The Council of Counts has the final responsibility to approve or reject any District's proposed Count's Heir, as this is the person who will become one of the peers responsible for steering the entire Tapani Imperium.
- The Council of Counts is responsible for regulating the mechanics of military and municipal government for the Tapani Imperium. They do not appoint Ministers for various branches of the Emperor's executive branch, but have the power to remove them with a two-thirds majority vote. Similarly, they cannot assign rank, status, or specific roles to military or police personnel, but can present general directives or goals to the whole organization which must be completed, and they can request that the Emperor assign one or more of his Solicitors to investigate particular persons or actions if the Council of Counts find reason to disapprove.
The Council of Counts, on official documentation, was a sub-council of the Tapani Great Council formed four years after the Federal Era began. Functionally, however, it has always been the related-but-separate legislative body which conducted the final vote determining whether a debated bill became law, whether a proposed Count's Heir is confirmed into office, and how to manage police and military issues for the Tapani Federation. It has also always been the source of viable candidates for Prime Minister.
The Tapani Council of Counts is located at Vorhartung Castle, number 5 on the Estalle Island map.The castle also holds archival rooms, meeting rooms, private offices, event spaces, and a military museum. 3
Vorhartung Castle has reinforced rooms for intrasystem and hyperspace communications, for emergency medical treatment, and for long-term survival in the event of a cataclysmic event. Some believe that it also has deep subterranean connections to the Imperial Palace, but as a general rule, any idea featured in a Jedi Quest story arc is unlikely to feature in real security planning.
1 In practice, due to various recent events, the current roster of the Council of Counts has dropped to thirty-seven until the High Lords and Ladies (particularly High Lady Katianna Vortapani of House Vormelantha, who has been permitting the other provincial leaders to suggest points of view on her options) and the Bene Gesserit Order can agree on a solution for the empty seats.
2 ((For those comparing our version to the Lords of the Expanse source material: Yes, we swapped the Senate Building and the Great Council Chambers on the map, and renamed the Senate Building to be Vorhartung Castle from LMB's Vorkosigan series. It made more story sense for us to put the Council of Counts closer to the Emperor's Palace. We have not swapped the outlined shapes of any buildings yet.))
3 Guided tours may be available by arrangement on days when the Council of Counts is not in session.