==Bretonnia == '''Bretonnia''' is a kingdom in the western Old World ruled by an absolutist monarchy. The foundations of Bretonnia were laid over 1,500 years ago, when Gilles le Breton began the conquest of the many small feudal states lying west of the Grey Mountains. The campaign of unification was completed around 70 years later by his grandson, Guillaume Barbonoire. At the time, Bretonnia was a troublesome backwater compared to The Empire. Soon however, the kingdom began to rival the Empire in power, and her cities became the model for modernity and fashion. More recently, with the reign of King Charles I L'enorm (grandfather of the current king of Bretonnia), the kingdom has degenerated considerably. The once proud cities and prosperous ports have fallen into ruin. A national apathy has set in, and with it, corruption, inefficiency and decay are everywhere. The King (currently Charles de la Tête d'Or III), is the least caring of an uncaring elite, living in the great royal palace at Oisillon 100 miles northwest of Gisoreux, surrounded by favorites, sycophants and countless servants. In stark contrast to the relatively calm and prosperous countryside, the cities are poorly administered, left to decay as money is squandered on frivolities, or funds meant for their upkeep are embezzled by corrupt officials. The elites are willfully blind to the decay, corruption, decadence, the taint of Chaos that surrounds them; unwilling to accept its dreadful implications, they hide their fear behind extravagance. A pompous charade is carried out amid the squalor of mud and dung. Ladies sit like dolls in shining carriages, bedecked in glittering jewels and tall, white wigs, while hiding their ghastly pox-marks and worse disfigurements behind rouge and white powder. The kings have managed to maintain their absolutist power over Bretonnia, although decadence ensures that they could never entertain any serious thoughts of expanding its borders. Bretonnia nonetheless remains at least a conniving influence in the Old World - the Bretonnian kings having assisted the Burgomeisters of Marienburg in their gradual secession from the Empire, regarding the Wasteland as a potential buffer between Bretonnia and any expansionist attempts by the Empire. ===Geography=== Compared to the dark, oppressive and brooding forests of the Empire, the countryside of Bretonnia is relatively calm and prosperous, and the marks of Chaos less apparent. Bretonnia's rolling hills and serene valleys produce abundant crops and fine wines, while the forestlands provide solid timber and good hunting. The Grey Mountains form the natural border between Bretonnia to the west, and the Empire to the east. The northern extension of the Grey Mountains are known as the Pale Sisters, separated from the rest of the range by the Gisoreux gap, the confluence of all the overland trade routes between The Empire, Bretonnia and Estalia. ===Cities=== There are a number of large cities in Bretonnia: L'Anguille with its famous lighthouse; Bordeleaux; Brionne, the city of thieves; the spa city of Couronne; Gisoreux; Moussillon, the City of the Damned; Parravon; and Quenelles. '''Couronne''' stands upon the gentle sloping hills of the eastern bank of the Sannez river, while on the opposite bank the city's filthy suburbs and docklands sprawl. Famous for its spas, the city is blessed with numerous springs and natural baths, their steaming waters believed to have magical powers. On one of these springs stands the greatest temple to Shallya, the Goddess of Healing, to which pilgrims hobble, crawl or are carried from every corner of the Old World. As a virtue of the natural springs, the city within the walls is relatively clean, the constant flowings dispersing the foul air and filth commonly associated with Bretonnian settlements. Directed by subterranean culverts, the waters cascade down into the Sannez. In Couronne even the poor have a certain wholesome appearance. '''Gisoreux''' - with a population of 18,000, Gisoreux is the largest city of Bretonnia. It was from here that Gilles le Breton set out with his army, beginning the campaign of unification that would create the kingdom of Bretonnia. A huge statue of this mighty warrior towers above the seething masses thronging the central market square. Despite the city's honored place in history, the filth and decay of Bretonnia's cities is no less prevalent here than any other. Gisoreux's inhabitants are largely the poor, disabled, diseased, and politically volatile - the much feared "Gisoreux Mob" frequently taking to the streets in riots of theft and violence. Yet within the bowels beneath the city are greater, if hidden, dangers - countless miles of forgotten, dark and crumbling tunnels hide the doings of Chaos cultists, who are often thrill-seeking aristocrats corrupted by their constant pursuit of new experiences, power and exotica. Even fouler things find refuge in the labyrinthine darkness, creatures which feed upon the waste of the city above, or emerge during the night to prey upon the hapless. ==The Empire== ===Political structure=== The provinces which make up the Empire are to a large extent independent; the Emperor's powers over these provinces limited by a range of special privileges granted to various offices by previous Emperors, so that over history the Empire has become less centralized as provinces have gained greater independence. The fact that the responsibility of electing the Emperor is left to those who are mostly provincial rulers means that, to ensure the continuation of their own privileges, the Electors normally choose the ''least'' accomplished of their number - someone who will not actually attempt to use their powers properly. Therefore, in more recent history, the choice has fallen to the somewhat eccentric Holswig-Schliestein family, who are regarded as unambitious by the rest of the Electors. '''The Council of State''' is appointed by the Emperor to assist him in the day to day running of the Imperial court, and advise him on military and financial matters. The members of the Council, besides the Grand Theogonist, are selected from among the families of the most ancient lineage. Although the Council has no constitutional authority, when it speaks with one voice, it can exercise considerable influence over the Emperor. The Grand Theogonist, arguably the most powerful man in the Empire, is usually behind the Council's most urgent recommendations. The '''Imperial Plenipotentiaries''' are special representatives appointed by the Emperor to the provinces to keep tabs on his so-called servants. Some might also be ambitious, Machiavellian types appointed to remote areas simply to keep them out of the way. '''The Prime Estates''' - When Emperor Boris the Incompetent attempted to make his favorite racehorse a Duke, the other Electors unanimously agreed that they needed some eyes and ears in the Imperial capital to warn them if the Emperor was planning any more "foolishness". Each of the provincial rulers sent a special representative to Altdorf to form a watchdog body, which has since become a ''de facto'' supreme court. The Prime Estates carefully studies each edict issued by the Emperor, sending reports back to the Provincial Electors. Since the Provincial Electors can effectively refuse to police any edict they don't like, the Prime Estates has an almost complete veto on the Emperor's right to issue commands. ====The Electors==== ;The 15 current Electors (2512 IC) #'''Emperor Karl-Franz I''', '''Grand Prince of the Reikland''', age 35, named heir is Prince Wolfgang Holswig-Abenauer, his sister's eldest son #'''Grand Theogonist Yorri XV''' of the Cult of Sigmar, based in Altdorf #'''Arch Lector Aglim''' of the Cult of Sigmar, based in Talabheim #'''Arch Lector Kaslain''' of the Cult of Sigmar, based in Nuln #'''High Priest Ar-Ulric''' of the Cult of Ulric, based in Middenheim #'''Grand Prince Hals von Tasseninck of Ostland''', age 62, named heir is his only son, Prince Hergard<ref>Prince Hergard was reportedly killed in the Grey Mountains (his father, the Grand Prince Hals von Tasseninck believes it was part of a Talabecland plot).</ref>. #'''Grand Duke Leopold von Bildhofen of Middenland''', age 46, named heir is his younger brother, Baron Siegfried #'''Grand Duke Gustav von Krieglitz of Talabecland'''<ref>Grand Duke Gustav has territorial designs on southern Ostland. A shrewd opportunist, he is willing to exploit traditional Sigmarite-Ulrican rivalries; Gustav hopes to influence Middenland, which has strongly anti-Sigmarite elements (with Middenland an ally, his territorial claims would have more support and he could launch a two-pronged attack against Ostland).</ref>, age 22, no named heir #'''Grand Baroness Etelka Toppenheimer of Sudenland''', age 51, named heir is the adopted son of distant relative, Baron Olaf Sektliebe #'''Graf Alberich Haupt-Anderssen of Stirland''', age 15, no named heir #'''Grand Countess Ludmilla von Alptraum of Averland''', age 77, named heir is her eldest daughter, Baroness Marlene #'''Graf Boris Todbringer of Middenheim''', age 57, named heir is his youngest son, Baron Stefan #'''Duchess Elise Krieglitz-Untermensch of Talabheim''', age 31, no named heir #'''Countess Emmanuelle von Liebewitz of Nuln''', age 27, no named heir #'''Elder Hisme Stoutheart of Mootland''' ;References <references/> ====The provinces==== The primary division of the Empire are the 11 semi-independent Electoral Provinces, whose rulers all hold the position of Elector. The remaining 5 provinces making up the Empire are all attached to an Electoral Province. The rulers of these non-electoral provinces are responsible first to the relevant Electoral ruler and secondly to the Emperor. Some provinces are more independent than others due to privileges granted to particular provinces by previous Emperors. For example, some provinces send no taxes to the Empire's coffers or are called upon to provide troops only when the other provinces are exhausted. ;The Electoral Provinces *Averland (Grand County) *Middenheim (City State) *Middenland (Grand Duchy) *Mootland *Nuln (City State) *Ostland (Grand Principality) *Reikland (Grand Principality) *Stirland (Grand County) *Sudenland (Grand Barony) *Talabecland (Grand Duchy) *Talabheim (City State) ;Non-electoral provinces *Hochland (Barony, attached to Talabheim) *Nordland (Barony, attached to Middenheim) *Ostermark (League, attached to Talabecland) *Sylvania (County, attached to Stirland) *Wissenland (County, attached to Nuln) ===The Nobility=== History closely ties the noble families to their provinces and continues to influence relations between the noble families and between the provinces. Considerable rivalry still exists between the electoral provinces. Only the rulers of Averland and Sudenland could honestly claim to have no pretensions to either the imperial crown or the extension of their provincial territories. Fortunately the memories of bitter civil war does much to ensure these ambitions are carried out only through very discrete political machinations. The Provincial Electors are very often in competition, although their position also unites them against the Emperor, the independent towns and the Guilds. ====Important noble families==== The '''Todbringers''' of Middenheim - distant relatives of the '''von Bildhofen''' family. Current head is the '''Graf Boris Todbringer''', Elector and provincial ruler of the City State of Middenheim. The Todbringers and Middenheim are closely tied through intermarriage to the Nikses (the hereditary ruling family of Nordland) and the Barony of Nordland (a non-electoral province attached to the city state of Middenheim). The '''von Bildhofens''' of Middenland - descended from '''Grand Duke Gunthar von Bildhofen''' (the younger brother of Magnus the Pious), who withdrew to Middenheim after falling foul of the then Grand Theogonist who blocked his inheritance of the imperial throne from his brother. Current family head is '''Grand Duke Leopold''' of Middenland, an Elector. The '''von Krieglitz''' family of Talabecland - descended from Emperor Dieter von Krieglitz (deposed for his part in the secession of the Wasteland). Family head is Grand Duke Gustav, Elector and the ruler of Talabecland. The '''Krieglitz-Untermenschen''' of Talabheim - descended from the Emperor Dieter von Krieglitz, and Grand Countess Ottilia Untermensch (who declared herself Empress without election in 1360). Current head is Duchess Elise, Elector and the ruler of the City State of Talabheim. The '''von Tassenincks''' - rulers of Ostland. Current family head is '''Grand Prince Hals''', an Elector. Being easterners, the Tassenincks are regarded as hardly better than country yokels by the more sophisticated western noble families.