Alsara: Requiem and Revolution
Government of Atur
All power comes from the Sultan.
This is not quite as straightforward as it sounds. His office has to approve all land acquisitions, and transfers of said land from one generation to the next. He also approves the construction and purchase of every palace in Atur, as owning such a gaudy thing technically makes the new owner a Merchant Lord. Land acquisition makes the new owner responsible for maintaining order in their lands; for particularly mercantile Merchant Lords this means maintaining order in their palace, which is generally not very hard unless they happen to enjoy harboring Vokayan researchers.
Reality is much, much more complicated. It is impossible to manage the sheer volume of requests that must be processed by the Sultan in order to effectively run the country. While the Merchant Lords will often take care of themselves without much oversight, many of their routine actions require a seal of approval from the Sultan, and the Living Dragon does not actually wish to involve himself in the day-to-day management of his vast kingdom.
In order to handle this, a complex web of clerks, bureaucrats, and servants is actually responsible for managing the bulk of the paperwork. This network has no official structure, though it has existed for over a thousand years, and has adopted a nearly cult-like conformity to process and legal precedent. Over the centuries, it has become known as the Office of the Sultanate.
Looking at the system from the outside, it would seem that the Office has more power than the man who would rule it; while this might be true, in practice it is next to impossible to actually extract enough power to use. If this were not so, the delicate balance of power would have crumbled the nation long ago.
Atur does not manage an official standing army beyond the guards of the Grand Palace. They do, however, have many, many soldiers at their disposal; reflecting the country’s preference for hands-off governing, they only pay for soldiers when they need them. However, they encourage soldiers to exist by paying very well, and paying for services past rendered.
In order to maintain relations between mercenary companies over decades, a system was put into place by the Office of the Sultanate, and it has been fervently embraced by the warriors of Atur.
The Listed Companies
Buried in the maze of bureaucrats, there is a clerk in a library, surrounded by tome after tome after tome, called the Keeper of Lists. Each tome bears a symbol and name, both of which belong to a mercenary company founded in Atur. These tomes record and recount the deeds of their company, as well as the gold they were paid to perform their duties. Having a book in this room marks your gang of soldiers as a Listed Company, and companies with honorable histories, or consistently positive results in battle, become highly sought after by the Merchant Lords. Mercenaries sought after by Merchant Lords swiftly become extremely wealthy mercenaries.
This has shaped much of the military philosophy of Atur. Most mercenaries favor cushy contracts that involve little fighting, but a truly reliable Listed Company is expected to fight hard battles, and to win them, even at the cost of great bloodshed. Those who die in service to their company know that their sacrifice will make their brothers both stronger and richer for their deaths.
Listed Companies will often keep chroniclers and lorekeepers on their payroll, in order to keep track of the events and trials that they face. It is very easy for these men to bend the truth in their favor, of course, and so every once and a great while, a particularly crafty or ambitious Keeper of Lists will assemble secret auditors, and plant them in random Listed Companies for a campaign or two. If they find a chronicler to be dishonest, it reflects poorly on the company as a whole. Thus, the records are kept vaguely honest.
It has become a point of utmost honor, and the role of a chronicler has become more than a simple economic investment. The history of a Listed Company can serve as a beacon of morale and faith, forging a brotherhood stronger than coin alone could craft.
Disgraced and Non-Listed Companies
There are less reputable companies, of course. To most people, not having your company Listed can only mean you are a legion of cowardly or traitorous incompetents, who do not want their histories of failure, betrayal, or selfishness to be known. Non-listed companies are almost never hired by the Aturan government, and usually find their work with foreigners that don’t know any better.
After a consistent string of defeats or dishonorable actions, a company can become Disgraced. They remain Listed, of course, as otherwise their failures would be lost, but they are seen as equally foul—if not worse, depending on their transgressions—in the eyes of their fellow citizens. Again, Disgraced companies either find employment beyond the borders of Atur, or they simply disband.
These factors have combined in Atur to create a massive, complex web of relationships between mercenary companies as complicated and storied as the lines of succession in other countries. Feuds between Listed Companies can go back to battles fought generations ago.