The Heshian Syndicate (/ˈheʃːiɛn/listen) is a dwarven sorafaring empire known for its mercantile strength. Cosmopolitan and comparatively progressive, the Syndicate is a relative newcomer to the Sora. They maintain a network of trading posts across the Sora, their primary concern being commerce and the acquisition of money.
Social StructureHeshian society is highly class-based, with most people fitting into one of two broad classes; the patricians and the guilders. The patricians are the major land and business owners in the Syndicate, holding most of the capital and wealth. Their position makes them the employers of most guilders, though the power given by this is checked greatly by the way the Syndicate's employment system works. Businesses do not, by and large, directly hire employees to fill roles. Instead, they sign contracts with a guild which provides the services they require. The guild then staffs these positions from their members, who are collectively known as guilders. Pay goes directly to the worker, though all working members of a guild must pay dues to cover the guild's administrative costs, vocational training, and services provided to guild members. Patricians have a limited ability to dismiss their workers. The typical contract allows them the right to request replacements only, requiring a just cause to be considered. The guilds can refuse to honor such requests and, in the event the stated cause does not meet the guild's standards, almost always is. When the request is accepted, the worker will be replaced with another guilder. The replaced worker will remain a member of the guild unless the reason for their replacement was due to some gross misconduct or incompetence. Because only employed guild members pay dues, guilds are incentivized to keep guild members on their rosters and have them working to keep money flowing into the guild's coffers. In only rare cases does a patrician break a contract with a guild, as there is rarely an alternative workforce available to do the work. There are no laws or rules restricting a patrician from seeking workers who are not affiliated with a guild, but doing this typically angers the guilds as a whole, risking a boycott of all future work from the patrician by the guild. Those who have tested the guilds in the past have almost always lost, though extremely wealthy patricians have been known to weather the storm and eventually pay a penalty to the aggrieved guild to clear their standing. This power balance helps to ensure that most guilders are reasonably compensated for their labor. The patricians still hold the majority of the political power in the Syndicate, however, as they are the only ones eligible to be elected dux and sit on the council of Reardolcobuogar. This means they are the ones to directly set laws, with guilders having only partial influence on electing the dux and the threat of a general strike. This threat has only been carried out once in the history of the Syndicate, after the council passed a law prohibiting the guilds from requiring dues for membership. The guilds convinced their members that this personal gain in funds was ultimately to their detriment. They called for a general strike until the law was repealed, leading to the complete standstill of the Heshian economy for nearly three weeks before the Council submitted. Movement between these social classes is rare, but has been known to happen. Patricians being reduced to guilders is somewhat more common, as families squander their wealth due to poor investments, bad decisions, personal vices, or pure misfortune. While one or two bankruptcies can be weathered by most families thanks to loans or political connections, those who burn too many bridges or fail to repay too many loans can find themselves with little beside their patrician title to their name. These desperate individuals sometimes sell their patrician titles, reducing them and their families to the level of guilders but sparing them from destitution. Most often, these titles are purchased by minor branches of an established patrician family, allowing them to form their own house. A guilder making their way into the patrician class is much rarer. Many cases consist of some degree of luck, such as a famous case of a guilder living on a remote, backwater realm discovering their property sat atop a massive reserve of elemental crystals. The purchase of his land allowed his entire family to relocate to Genorath and purchase their way into patrician ranks. A more rare occurrence is a guilder taking the risk of starting their own business and finding great success. This is incredibly difficult due to the fact that the incredible wealth of the patricians allows them to muscle most insurgent competition out with little difficulty. However, every generation there are a handful of guilders who exploit an unrealized or underserved niche to make enough of a fortune to buy a patrician title.
HistoryThe Syndicate traces its history back roughly eight-hundred years to its home realm of Siornal following the break up of the Greater Azuran Empire. The empire had been in decline for several centuries, with each of its constituent provinces having grown more and more powerful and independent. When the capital city of Galia was sacked and the imperial family put to the sword, the empire broke into numerous rump states. In the intervening decades, these rump states fought one another over the former imperial territory, with many of them collapsing. This eventually led to numerous independent cities throughout the former imperial territories. Many of the more successful cities found themselves sitting along important trade routes, where the wealth brought in by merchants enabled them to hire mercenaries for protection. One of the richest cities was Rigepilano, a dwarven city based at the confluence of three rivers and four hills. The constant warfare, along with the bandits and pirates emboldened by the chaos, often disrupted trade, frustrating Rigepilano and several of the other independent cities. Around 700 years ago, the merchant guilds of seventeen of the cities, led by those from Rigepilano, agreed to form a commercial and defensive confederation in an effort to protect their interests. They called this confederation the Sanctuary Syndicate (Resen Viogor in the language of Rigepilano). This pact worked tremendously. The Syndicate gradually grew in power over the following century, eventually becoming the de facto rulers of the former Azuran territories. The merchant families gradually came to fill the position of nobility in the Syndicate while the guilds of other professions struggled against them. The balance swayed back and forth for some time, until it came into a rough equilibrium which greatly resembles the modern Syndicate. By 350 years ago, the Syndicate (now known as the Heshian Syndicate due to changes in pronunciation) was the dominant mercantile power across all of Siornal, with trade cities in every nation on the world.
Reaching the SoraThe Syndicate was not the first group to discover soraflight on their world, but they did make the best use of it. They built an extensive soraport in 162 PC, considered the finest on Siornal at the time. The other nations on the realm had taken tentative steps into the Sora, including discovering nearby realms. The soracraft of the time were slow, however, and journeying to these worlds too several months, with no ability to resupply along the way. Thus most nations considered the Sora as little more than a curiosity, a minor concern compared to their terrestrial interests. The Syndicate, however, saw the potential despite the limits of their soracraft. They established the first Siornese colony on the realm of Genorath, building it up as a way station for further exploration into the Sora. Despite the difficulty, the Syndicate saw the life-filled realms as opportunities for profit. They were also convinced that, much like explorers had once crossed the oceans of Siornal and discovered other civilizations, so too would they cross the Sora and find others. The Syndicate knew that the first nation to meet another civilization would benefit greatly from it. They made first contact with fellow sorafarers in 192 PC, discovering a small realm called Druebur which has reached the Sora just a year before. Only three of the nations on Druebur had soraships. The Syndicate went to each, offering to build a soraport in one of their cities, using the more advanced techniques they possessed, in exchange for the right to collect fees on all who used the port. Only one of the nations accepted and the Syndicate immediately began building a port in their capital city. By 194 PC, the soraport was complete, bringing a flow of goods through the city. The desire for Heshian goods was matched only by the eagerness of Drueburian merchants to sell their goods to the people of Siornal. This caused an economic boom, prompting other nations to come to the Syndicate for their own ports. The Syndicate used this swell of interest and their control over the advanced technology to build influence over the competing nations, as well as their ability to set fees to curry favor with merchants and nobles within each nation. They used this growing influence to gain power over Druebur, eventually become the de facto suzerain of the realm, collecting tribute in the form of tariffs and fees, influencing the governments by supporting factions most favorable to them, and providing favorable trade deals to those who displayed the most willingness to back Heshian policy.
Encounter with the Daren HegemonyThe Syndicate repeated their success with Druebur on several other realms, their power and influence far eclipsing the other nations on Siornal. One by one, the Siornese nations entered into contracts with the Syndicate giving them access to the many ports they had built across the Sora. By 224 PC, the entirety of Siornal were effectively client states of the Syndicate. It was that year when the Syndicate first encountered another sorafaring power with technology and reach equivalent to their own: The Daren Hegemony. The Hegemony had only recently unified their home realm of Daré, but they were hungry for conquest to prove the might of their new empire. They had already attacked and pacified numerous smaller realms, similar to those the Syndicate had gained economic control over. At first, the Hegemony viewed the Syndicate as a united empire, much as they were. This perceived strength excited the Daren King, who wished for a glorious conquest to prove the strength of the Hegemony. Before the Hegemony could launch an invasion, the Syndicate soon invited the king to tour the Syndicate's worlds. The king accepted their offer, expecting to confirm his view of the Syndicate as a mighty foe. Instead, he was shown the soraports the Syndicate controlled, but was repeatedly told that the cities outside the soraports were outside of the Syndicate's territory. The Syndicate proved this by introducing the king to the rulers of the realmside nations contracted to the Syndicate. Additionally, they allowed the king to conduct an inspection of the Syndicate's military. The king reportedly was shown ten soraships, a paltry sum compared to the Hegemony's fleet. The king returned home to Daré, disheartened by the belief that the Syndicate was merely a "collection of merchants and traders". It is unclear if the Syndicate pushed this idea to prevent Daren attacks, but the king turned his eyes to other conquests he saw as more worthwhile. Meanwhile, the Syndicate began negotiating with the Hegemony's tributaries, forging trade relations which would help protect them from any future aggression.
Great StrikeThe Syndicate continued to grow over the following centuries. They mostly maintained peaceful relations with the Hegemony, though occasional border skirmishes occurred. Regardless, the Syndicate prospered, gaining new client realms and establishing new trade routes as it continued to meet additional powerful empires. As the wealth of the Syndicate grew, so too did the power of the patricians. They began to bristle at the checks on their power by the guilders and sought to seize some control. They attempted to pass a series of laws giving the patricians greater control, such as granting themselves the right to dismiss guilders from contracts, attempting to break up larger guilds into smaller entities, and enforcing a head tax on the guilds. The guilds consistently stood together to oppose these changes. The threat of a general strike caused the patricians to walk back the laws before they were fully implemented. Yet this did not stop the patricians from trying to further break the power of the guilds. A group of patricians concocted a plan they hoped would sow dissent within the guilds. They proposed a law prohibiting guilds from requiring dues, claiming that this placed an unfair burden on the laborers within and was akin to stealing the value of their labor from them to line the pockets of the guild masters. They knew that guild leadership would balk at such a law, but believed that a large portion of the guilders would support the move as it would leave them with more money. If enough guilders supported the law, the guilds would either be unable to oppose it or cause fractures within themselves. Either way, the patricians hoped this would drain the resources of the guilds and break their power, allowing the patricians to eventually push through their more desired changes. At first, it seemed the ploy would work. Many guilders supported the ending of mandatory dues, while guild leadership opposed it. The guild leaders threatened a general strike if the law was put into effect, but the patricians believed enough guilders would object to the strike to prevent it from being effective. The patricians were mistaken. They declared mandatory laws to be unlawful and the guilds declared a general strike. To the surprise of the patricians, even those guilders who supported the law joined the strike in solidarity. The patricians attempted to hold out, believing that the guilders would eventually run out of money and grow desperate to begin working again. They attempted to hire foreign workers from the Daren Hegemony, Bláthaofa Kingdom, Koganusân Kingdom, and many minor powers, but these both generally did not meet the standards met by the guilds and were insufficient in number to cover all necessary work. As the strike stretched into its second week, the patricians attempted to pay off guild leadership to call an end to the strike, even offering to raise several of them to patrician families. The guild leaders all refused, sending a single missive signed by all stating "Cua latcia sto". Toward the end of the third week of strikes, many patricians were risking defaulting on contracts made to other empires and were generally losing a great deal of money. Reardolcobuogar met and voted to repeal the law. The guilds returned to work and the patricians ended their attempts to break the guilds' power.
PoliticsThe politics of the Syndicate are relatively straightforward and uncomplicated compared to most other empires. People at all levels of Heshian society hold very similar values and wants; that is to make money through industry and trade. The main differences in political opinion are how best to achieve this; what trade routes to prioritize, which trade partners to give the best deals to, and what industries to fund the most. These tend to be broken down along selfish lines; patricians advocate for the industries they have the most investments in and the partners and routes closes to their homes. Guilders are similar, looking for subsidies for their trades and focus on partners and routes that will bring them the most work. This side of politics tends to be dominated by the exchange of favors, agreements to support one proposal in exchange for a promise to support future proposals. Secondary to this, but much more contentious, are the struggles between the guilders and the patricians. Both constantly want to claim a larger share of the profits the Syndicate generates. The patricians like to point out that 50% of the wealth goes to the guilds, while the guilds respond that patricians make up only a small fraction of the population. The pendulum has swung back and forth over the centuries; currently, it is considered to be firmly on the side of the guilders. Compared to the workers in most other empires, guilders have it fairly well, as the organized guilds provide incredible bargaining power to the guilders. However, those who are outside the guilds (such as those who cannot work for some reason or have been expelled from their guilds) struggle greatly and often times have no avenues to make money legally.
GovernmentThe Heshian Syndicate is a parliamentary oligarchy, ruled by an elected dux and a council of elected officials. The dux and council are selected from the patrician families, a group of just over 100 merchant families who control the majority of business throughout the syndicate. Counterbalancing the patricians are the guilds, which most citizens of the Syndicate belong to. There is a guild for virtually every profession, though the largest and most influential all involve labor of some sort.
DuxThe dux is the chief magistrate of the Syndicate, entrusted with executive power to oversee the Syndicate's day-to-day operations. The dux's powers are defined by the Constitution, which lays out the Syndicate's offices, responsibilities, and foundational laws. The dux is responsible for all governmental ministries and is able to set the objectives of these institutions, though most important tasks are carried out by chief ministers appointed by the dux. Should any of these ministers displease the dux, they can be removed at a whim. Additionally, the dux appoints the governors of all territories and overseers of trade posts, giving them tremendous power in determining which families will prosper and which will falter. The dux is elected from one of the 107 patrician families of the Syndicate, though in practice it is one of the heads of the most powerful fifteen families (the Incudon) is selected. Each patrician family has a single vote to cast, as does each trade guild. Votes tend to be traded for favors and coin, with the fifteen great families utilizing their great wealth and influence to acquire enough votes to win the duxship. Election requires only a simple majority of the votes, with ties determined by whomever received the most votes from the patrician families. In order to prevent the establishment of a hereditary title, the position cannot be held by the same family twice in a row. A dux typically serves for life, though they can be recalled by a majority vote by the council.
Those of WealthThe council of Reardolcobuogar consists of 41 elected representatives from the patrician families who do not hold the position of dux. The council is elected after every duxal election. The fourteen Incudon families who have not been elected to the duxship wield tremendous influence on the council, typically having at least two members sit per family. This leave little room for the lesser families, who must scrabble over the remaining seats, typically needing to curry favor from the Incudon to win one. This reinforces the power of the Incudon, keeping them firmly in position as the leading families of the Syndicate. The council is responsible for the creation and implementation of laws. This most commonly manifests in their responsibility for setting tariffs and taxes throughout the Syndicate, as well as what to do with the resulting revenue. This gives them tremendous power in determining which industries flourish in the Syndicate, as they can provide favorable subsidies for specific industries or additional funding to ambitious ventures. Additionally, the council acts as a check on the dux in certain capacities. When the dux removes a chief minister, a majority vote of the council may block it. Similarly, when the dux wishes to recall or replace a governor, the council must approve it by a two-thirds vote. Finally, the council can recall the dux and strip them of their title if at least three-fourths of the council votes in favor of it.
Trade GuildsVirtually every adult citizen of the Syndicate who is not a member of a patrician family is a guilder, a member of a trade guild. The trade guilds serve as a combination of vocational schools, worker's unions, and social organization for its members. Anyone who conducts a particular trade is expected to be part of a guild. Membership in a guild comes with some level of responsibility, but also with benefits as well. All guilds require their members pay dues, which is a portion of their pay, in order to fund the guild's activities. Members are also expected to attend guild meetings when possible, vote on certain guild actions, and participate in any organized guild activity that has been decided upon. While this seems like a burden to some members, the benefits of guild membership are many. The most important is that they have the collective power to ensure at least reasonable pay and conditions from the patrician families who employ them. While outright strikes are rare, the guilds can organize their guilders to resist in other ways, such as reducing production or purposefully producing shoddy products. Guild members are difficult to replace with outside workers, as the guilds control all training, meaning replacement workers would not meet production goals and quality regardless. Some patrician families have attempted to import foreign workers, but the guilds often persuade the replacement workers to join with them, thus making it not worth the time and effort. Additionally, the guilds maintain guild halls in every major settlement. These guild halls provide cheap lodging and meals to guilders, as well as a place to relax, socialize, and seek further training. The activities of all guilders in the city and outlying settlements are organized by the guild halls. The halls also serve as the training centers for apprentices of the trade, allowing older members or those unable to work to pass their skills on to a younger generation. The guilds are organized as representative democracies, with each branch voting for a guild master who oversees local guild affairs. The guild masters collectively form a leadership council, choosing one from among them to become the chair. The chair is a purely administrative role, managing and scheduling the affairs of the guild and acts as a spokesperson for the guild when interacting with other guilds and the Heshian government. The leadership council votes on how to allocate guild funds, adjudicate disputes, and otherwise make any decisions that affect the guild at large.
Laws and Criminal JusticeThe justice system in the Syndicate is run by guilds. There are guilds for judges, law enforcement, defense attorneys, prosecutors, bailiffs, and every other profession necessary in a judiciary. The governors of each jurisdiction contracts these guilds to maintain law and order, try criminals in court, and arbitrate civil suits. The civil and criminal courts are largely kept separate, with different guilds serving them. The sole overlap are the clerks guild, which provides administrative support to both courts (as well as non-court areas). In some sense, the justice system is run as a business, using the collection of court fees, fines, and a percentage of civil penalties to partially cover the costs of running the judiciary. This source of income goes to the governor contracting the guilds, though they rarely turn a profit. The patricians consider the major value of the judicial system to come from indirect benefits, improving the overall economy by keeping people safer and more able to spend money. Criminal courts are adversarial in nature, with opposing attorneys presenting evidence in front of a jury of 13 selected at random from locals. Both guilders and patricians can be selected to serve on a jury, though due to the lesser number of patricians, it is usually entirely filled by guilders. The accused are considered neither guilty nor innocent prior to the trial, thus at least 9 members of the jury must vote guilty to convict. All those convicted of a crime are given prison sentences, even for misdemeanors. However, in all cases except those involving capital crimes such as murder, an individual can purchase back portions of their sentence, with an exchange rate set based on the severity of the crime. Civil courts are treated more like arbitration cases, with civil attorneys arguing on behalf of their clients before an arbitrator. Because the attorneys on both sides come from the same guild, these cases tend to be rather amicable, even when the individuals they represent have a contentious relationship. Most civil cases end in a settlement between the parties. In the event a settlement cannot be reached, the arbitrator issues a binding decision, which may be less favorable to one side than a compromise they would have agreed to earlier. The Syndicate's laws are relatively standard, with no major incongruities compared to other empires. It's most notable quirk is the stricter than typical punishment for avoiding the payment of fees, tariffs, and other duties. While considered minor crimes in most other areas, the Syndicate's economy is heavily dependent on the collection of these payments. As such, they consider duty evasion to be on even minor amounts to be akin to grand larceny.
DiplomacyThe Syndicate typically maintains positive relations with most of its neighbors. It desires trade among all else, wishing to export goods manufactured in the Syndicate and import the rare valuables that cannot be found domestically. While the Council is responsible for setting tariffs on imports, it is the dux who negotiates treaties with other empires, though they must be validated by the Council. This can make negotiations very complex, as the interests of the dux can conflict with those of the Council. Regardless, as long as there is profit to be made, the Syndicate is willing to deal with someone. However, the Syndicate does have some compunctions and refuses to engage in slavery, piracy, or other illegal activities, as it feels these ultimately harm its ability to make profit. The main group it balks at is the Tanzit Suzerainty. The patricians view the history of the Suzerainty with trepidation, worrying that the guilders might rise up and overthrow them as the Ikengchai once did their elites. To this end, the Syndicate has imposed harsh sanctions against the Suzerainty and refuses to cooperate with it. There are rumors that Reardolcobuogar have funded pirates in Suzerainty territory in an effort to destabilize the area, though no hard evidence has been found for this. The Syndicate has, however, openly courted realms seeking to join the Suzerainty, promising them favorable contracts if they abandon plans to join the Suzerainty. A number of realms have agreed, their leadership finding the corporate overlordship of the Syndicate preferable to the dissolution of power structures required by the Suzerainty.
TerritoryUnlike most other sorafaring empires, the Syndicate does not habitually annex realms into its territory. Instead, it establishes trading posts in the major port cities of a newly connected realm and slowly amasses influence with the local governments. Over time, it leverages this influence to gain more power over the governance of the city, eventually assuming de facto control over it if not de jure. It does the same with any other major ports that are established and offers to construct ports for any local governments which do not have any. Through this, it gains control over the shipping of a realm, becoming their nominal suzerain. It does, however, colonize uninhabited realms, though typically only those which offer some promise of commercial value. For instance, it readily colonizes any realms rich in natural resources or along major trade routes. As such, the Syndicate officially claims only 38 major realms and 56 minor realms as its territory, though it controls the trade on an additional 68 major realms and 83 minor realms.
Trade and EconomyThe economy of the Syndicate is large and diverse, fueled by a variety of industries and trade. Nearly every type of good and service is available within the Syndicate for a price. Prices tend to be fairly low within the Syndicate compared to other empires due to its economic might. It is able to produce most goods domestically and import those they do not for relatively cheap prices. Their economic might has earned them a reputation throughout the Sora as shrewd and tough negotiators, as well as a group not to cross in a deal. The largest sector of the Syndicate economy revolves around trade. Due to its rather centralized location between several other major empires, including the Daren Hegemony, Koganusân Kingdom, and Bláthaofa Kingdom, as well as numerous minor nations, makes the Syndicate a hub for trade throughout the Sora. The Syndicate is one of the few major powers willing to conduct trade with the Confederation of Doflein Realms, though it does so mostly through exporting goods to the Confederation rather than importing their goods. As most guilders find the concept of slavery to be abhorrent, any patrician attempting to sell Confederation goods typically goes to great lengths to either hide its origin or provide evidence that the goods are "slavery free". It is often said that the Syndicate would even deal with the Álfuríki, if the Álfuríki ever wished it. Even goods not intended to stay in the Syndicate frequently travel through it on their way to their final destination. Much of those trade caravans are owned and operated by patricians within the Syndicate. Several patricians have made great fortunes through acting as intermediaries between hostile entities. Traders often make multi-year voyages, traveling from one location to another, buying and selling goods at each stop. Discovery of a profitable trade route can quickly bring massive wealth to the patrician who owns the ships.
Natural ResourcesMining for ore, gemstones, and economic stone serves as the foundation of the Syndicate's economy. While not as expansive as the mining conducted within the Koganusân Kingdom, the dwarven culture of the Syndicate considers mining a core, traditional profession. A fair amount of this mining is conducted to carve out living spaces with the byproduct being refined for sale or use. The Syndicate also engages in the collection of other natural resources, such as wood and furs, usually relying on the inhabitants of their satellite realms.
ManufacturingThe Syndicate produces many mundane goods, including tools, clothing, furniture, and the like. Syndicate durable goods are generally held to be sturdy and dependable, though with little in the way of amenities. Many outsiders consider Heshian-produced goods to be common and simple, good for the common folk but not of much value to the upper classes. The majority of luxury goods produced within the Syndicate are kept within the Syndicate.
AgricultureThe majority of the Syndicate's agricultural output is consumed within the Syndicate itself, often locally to where it is produced. Most settled realms have their own local farming communities, as the Syndicate finds there to be little profit in growing and moving perishable goods a long distance throughout the Sora. On outlying worlds, the Syndicate does import foreign food to bolster any shortfalls.
DemographicsThe Syndicate is a fairly diverse empire with a total population of 112 billion. While originally founded by dwarves, their home realm of Siornal possessed numerous races on it. As such, the Syndicate has welcomed numerous species as citizens and there are a number of non-dwarven patrician families. Dwarves remain a majority of the populace (53%), but there are large populations of humans (19%), goblins (17%), and elves (6%). The remaining 5% are a mix of other minor races. Around 1% of the population are members of a patrician family, with the rest considered guilders. Approximately .5% of those classified as guilders do not actively belong to a guild; this includes those expelled from a guild, those in niche professions that do not have guilds (such as adventurers or criminals), those unable to working, and those unwilling to work. The population of the Syndicate's client realms are not typically considered in demographic measurements. They are estimated to account for an additional 120 billion persons, making them somewhat more numerous than the Syndicate itself. However, a number of these realms are not politically unified and contain some polities who do not recognize the Syndicate's primacy.
LanguagesA huge variety of languages are spoken in the Heshian Syndicate with none holding official status. Heshian, the historical language of the Syndicate's founders on Siornal, is the most widely spoken language, with nearly 90% of inhabitants speaking it fluently, with 81% speaking it as their primary or only language. The business of the dux, government ministries, and Reardolcobuogar are all conducted in Heshian, though translations into several common languages are available for most public releases. The majority of guild business is conducted in Heshian as well, though guilds in areas with larger populations of non-Heshian speakers may use another language. Local governors use Heshian as their primary language for communications and publications, though many also issue official documents in other languages with large populations of non-native speakers. Among non-Heshian languages, three have a significant number of native speakers in the Syndicate. The first is Kyēn, which is spoken as the primary language by a large Kyēnic goblin population accounting for 9% of the population. The second is Sálti, which is spoken as a primary language by 5% of the population, mostly consisting of immigrants from the Koganusân Kingdom. Finally, Daren is the third, with 2% using it as their primary language. While many speakers of these languages also speak Heshian, significant numbers speak only their native language.
ReligionThe Syndicate is not very religious as a whole, allowing a variety of faiths and pantheons to be worshiped within its borders without much in the way of promotion or suppression. Those who are religious tend to worship the pantheons of their home realms or the realms of their ancestors, though because of the cultural diffusion across the Syndicate, there are numerous temples to foreign religions in most larger settlements. Popular deities tend to be those associated with labor, mountains, wealth, and trade.
EducationThe majority of children within the Syndicate receive a basic education until they reach adolescence. In these schools they learn how to read, write, and work with basic numbers. Most leave academic education once they reach puberty, typically beginning to assist their parents with work around the house at this point. This typically continues until they reach their age of majority, at which point they enter an apprenticeship with a guild. Most guilds have rules regarding how long an individual must serve as an apprentice before they can work; this training period can stretch from one year for simple professions to a decade for professions that require a level of artistry.
MilitaryThe Syndicate maintains a professional military which citizens may voluntarily join. Much like other professions, soldiers belong to their own guild, and many serve for life. Life as a soldier is considered dangerous and necessary job, one that pays well, though it is viewed as undistinguished, work mainly for those who have no skill or talent for something that can create wealth. Thus the military is fairly small, but well trained and dedicated. The Heshian navy consists of roughly 500 soraships of various classes, though most are smaller interceptors and reconnaissance craft, with larger, defensive ships kept mostly in the core territories of the Syndicate. Many of their craft are purchased from other empires, as few in the Syndicate are interested in development of vessels of war. Thus the Syndicate's fleet has little in the way of uniform design or capabilities. The Syndicate military is legally a defense force only. No provisions exist for the declaration of an offensive war, either by the dux or Reardolcobuogar. To date, there have been no entities the Syndicate has found profitable enough to invade with military might, preferring to use its economic strength to achieve its political ends. There have been occasions where tensions with neighbors have boiled over, leading to a declaration of war upon the Syndicate, but the Syndicate has never taken any territory in these conflicts, only defended its borders.
Prosperity Follows Strength
The Kingdom and Syndicate view each other as good trade partners. Neither does anything objectionable to the other and both have goods the other likes.
The peaceful Mandate makes a good customer to the Syndicate. They Mandate itself doesn't have quite an appreciation for the Syndicate, but have no complaints about what they're buying.
Neighbors, the Syndicate and Hegemony vacillate between trade partners and rivals. Those on the borders tend to have grudging respect for one another, while those within the core realms hold deeper distrust.
Contrary to what most people expect, the two major dwarven empires don't get along too well. The Syndicate views their kin as a bit simple and basic, but otherwise harmless. The Kingdom holds a stronger view of the Syndicate, considering them haughty, greedy, and lacking in many proper dwarven attributes. They often think that dwarves from the Syndicate gives dwarves in general a bad name.
The Syndicate only views the Archive as a potential impediment to trade, seeing their refusal to engage with other empires to be annoying at best. However, they also know crossing the Archive would be foolish, so they mainly just grumble about the state of things.
Reluctant Trade Partners
The populace of the Syndicate largely despises the Confederation, a sentiment which is shared by the Confederation's people. However, the Syndicate's willingness to deal with anyone given the right price has made them one of the few entities willing to do business with the Confederation,
While the Suzerainty and Syndicate do not share borders and are relatively distant from one another, their operational outlook is vastly different. The Suzerainty considers the massive income inequality in the Syndicate, as well as their willingness to deal with groups like the Confederation and Hegemony, to be completely immoral. The Syndicate sees the Suzerainty as an existential threat, promoting values that undermine their social hierarchy, and actively make efforts to isolate the Suzerainty economically.