Orthocracy of Kaddish
The city of Kaddish is the oldest continuous settlement in the Dawnlands. It was founded by the Dawnmen, and formed the capital of the Kingdom of High Kaddish. The kings were overthrown a few hundred years ago by the “Orthocracy” a group of priests, merchants, wizards, crime lords, charismatic demagogues and discontent nobles who mustered the peasantry and townsfolk and expelled the royal family and their supporters.
Since the revolution, the city has had no unified government. An orthocrat today is simply any powerful person, whether by reason of wealth, charisma, force of arms or magical might. There are several thousand of them of varying importance. Each orthocrat is attached to one or more factions in the city, often as the leader of it, and they support their factional followers as they see fit.
There are several competing codes of laws that operate in different districts, and the Kaddish are used to handling criminal matters themselves, with the assistance of whatever association or faction they belong to. Most serious criminals who are caught are sacrificed to one god or another, and the violence of everyday life in Kaddish means that the hungry gods always have their due.
Kaddish is located on an alluvial plain between two rivers that carry snowfall and spring runoff out of the mountains to the sea over a distance of approximately 175 km from the foot of the mountains to the coast. The rivers are approximately 75km apart and mark the northern and southern boundary of Kaddish power.
The land between the two larger rivers (the Birth and Death) is filled with lakes, tributaries, and springs. It is one of the most water-rich regions of the entire Dawnlands, but can be prone to flooding. It has some of the best soil for farming and ranching, and hosts the largest temperate boreal forest in the Dawnlands. The land is mostly flat, and grades slightly down to the sea.. Most towns are built around forts or encampments near water sources and are economic colonies of the city of Kaddish.
The city of Kaddish itself is equidistant between the two rivers and connects to them both through a series of canals and multiple waterways that stretch out of the city towards the rivers. Though originally a plain, the canals, reservoirs, brickpits, rice paddies and ruins collect water, so that it is very nearly an island in the middle of a man-made lake.
Factionalism is a fact of life in Kaddish. Everyone is connected to one group or another that supports and protects them in exchange for service. The most common kinds of faction are clans, collegia and cults. Most Kaddish belong to all three, in addition to whatever other allegiances they may have. A faction can make various demands on its members depending on its function.
Clans – Kaddish live in large extended family groups. Kaddish society is polygamous and collectively matrilineal, with all the children of a single mother-group seen as relatives. Like most polygamous societies, a few men have many women and many men have none. Prostitution is rampant, and the excess population is siphoned off into economic colonies and military service. Clan members tend to help pay one another’s debts off and ransom one from slavery.
Collegia – A collegium is an organisational unit from the revolution that continues to the present. Theoretically, it was responsible for providing a certain number of men to the Kaddish military. In practice, they are organised gangs of veterans who combine the functions of organised crime and government in one. The members of a collegium are typically interested in extorting as much money as possible from other collegia while protecting their own members from extortion and crime. Collegia are usually run by an orthocrat, and there are usually no more than one or two per district. They typically both organise and put down riots as it suits them. The heads of collegia are orthocrats.
Cult – Religion is ubiquitous in Kaddish life. The ancient gods of the Dawnmen, the Celestial Cattle and the Stone Pack, are rarely worshipped in modern Kaddish. Kaddish religion is cultic, centred around the fulfillment of a cult rather than conscientious adherence to a dogma or creed. The Kaddish have hundreds of gods, some with more than one cult and temple. Many strange features in the city derive from the various forms of worship the gods demand. Human sacrifice of criminals is common, and demon worship is permitted. Most Kaddish switch faiths opportunistically to advance their status. Cults help their members with difficult problems that other institutions can’t, since they can often muster magical resources for their followers. The high priests of more popular temples are orthocrats.
Other factions – The Kaddish may also hold allegiance to a particular gang, to a powerful wizard, a charismatic leader or to their employer, amongst others.
The city of Kaddish is organised into roughly 25-35 districts or wards. The boundary of a given district is fluid, but the canals serve as rough borders. The number and nature of districts change relatively rapidly – new buildings rise up, old canals silt over, a gang leader might seize three old districts and build bridges between them, uniting them into a single area. Typically, districts are organised around a landmark. In the absence of canals to organise boundaries, the ability to see a particular landmark or building indicates which district one is in, as well as giving it its name.