Adventures in Zenith
Tellius, son of Andromedae
"Through storm, steel and fire, Bright Lady preserve me."
Tellius, son of Andromedae and Tidus of the house Aurellius, is nothing if not the product of his environment. A legionnaire of the Seltarian Empire – one of untold thousands – a look at the Empire is necessary to understand who and what made Tellius who he is.
The Seltarian Empire lies many, many miles to the west of Medernia, across the Sea of Tears. A massive state that has conquered most of its continental neighbors through military and economic dominance, the Empire is, at present, at the height of its power. Once a wide coalition of small barbarian kingdoms that warred with an ancient Dragonborn Empire, the tribesmen of the largest kingdom of Seltaris eventually rallied their neighbors to overthrow their Imperial masters, and thus, roughly 600 years ago, the Seltarian Empire was born.
As a consequence of being born from several nation states, the Empire is remarkably eglatarian. All sexes are equal, and all races – Human and Dwarf, Elf and Dragonborn, even Orcs, Lizardmen, Kobolds and Goblins can be found in Imperial cities (though it is extremely rare to see the ‘monstrous’ races as anything but second-and-lower class citizens.) So long as you are a citizen, you are worthy of respect and fair treatment in Imperial eyes (though only first-class citizens can own land and vote in appointing members of the senate – the brearoucratic body that rules much of the day-to-day life of the Empire in the Empress’ name.) Ironically, this leads most Imperial citizens to treat anyone NOT from the Empire as mere barbarians. Citizenship is either granted at birth, or earned through specific talents, or through a fifteen year term in the Imperial Legions.
An important sub-note in all this is the concept of ‘bondsmen’. The Empire runs on bondsmen, and they are, effectively, slaves. Bondsmen are usually captured after battle, but can be debtors or petty criminals as well. Though they cannot own property, they are protected from violence from their bond-holders, have a right to be fed and clothed, and are subject to the same protections and penalties of the law as any Imperial citizen. Many bondsmen serve only decade-long terms. They are, however, expected to follow their bondholders’ orders to the letter and to the best of their ability. Failure in this regard can have… Unpleasant penalties. The children of bondsmen are born free and potentially eligible for citizenship.
Finally, religion. The Empire worships three major deities, revering them above (though not to the exclusion of) all others. Nepteria, goddess of the seas, land, and love is revered by craftsmen and farmers. Noxyia, goddess of death, the sky, and knowledge is revered by scholars, leaders and doctors. And Atharia, the eldest of the sister deities, is the chief goddess of fire, the sun, and war – and her flaming standards lead the Brass Legionaires of Seltaris no matter where they go.
From this far-off empire was Tellius born. A model citizen, he and his seven siblings were the progeny of house Aurellius, once one of the most powerful and revered military and political houses of the Seltarian Empire. However, his mother failed on campaign, and his father’s political allies turned traitor; within a month, house Aurellius was broken and destitute, a long-planned masterstroke of its rival family, the Victarii. Many of his siblings and family were taken as bondsmen, and Tellius only escaped that fate thanks to two things – the efforts of his mother using the last of her military clout to expedite his legion posting (he was 16 at the time) and young Tellius’ remarkable connection to the goddesses – particularly Atharia.
Tellius passed into the Legion’s care and proved remarkably favored of the lady of flame, becoming a Presterius (“Brass Priest”, the lowest rank of soldier-cleric of the Empire) within a year of service. He seemed to be on the fast track to making the Aurelius family great again, and as such, was a threat to the Victarii. But rather than kill him, and start a blood feud, the Victarii chose a much more humiliating path.
Specifically, making sure Tellius was chosen for the ‘explorator’ mission overseas. Prestigious enough that he could not turn it down, but on the other side of the world, the Victarii could very easily remove Tellius as an obstacle without even lifting a finger in violence. Furthermore, they made sure that Tellius received a posting to the barbarian, backwater kingdom of Medernia- the furthest point of the mission, out into territory the Empire doesn’t even have maps of.
Tellius, for his part, realizes he has been slighted, but is determined to do right by his family name and complete his mission (a decade of reconnaissance, learning the local language, gauging the strength of the local military, industry, and resources – and making yearly reports sent to the Imperial embassy in the coastal trade nation of Karros) – if only because success might be the only way to gain power back home.
It has been five years since Tellius has seen home, and he has only recently arrived at his destination after crossing several countries on foot. He wears his national identity proudly, and finds many of the customs of the lands he travels through baffling. He is less arrogant than his countrymen, if only just, and is beginning to doubt his mission. He increasingly realizes that even if he does well, it may mean nothing upon his return, and every day his family’s fortunes fall further. Were it not for the light and fire of Atharia in his mind, Tellius would have given up long ago, but the goddess’ favor, deeply, gives him hope that someday he shall rebuild his family name and honor… And it is almost more in her name than his own that he carries on.
23 years of age, serious, strong, and skilled at arms, Tellius walks among cultures and civilizations he can barely comprehend, a stranger in a land not his own. Though he seems cold and compassionless, he is neither – rather, he looks at the world from a Seltarian perspective first and foremost. In particular, he tends towards ‘mercenary’ action, but once paid for a task, will give everything, including his life, in pursuit of a mission – even for the paltriest of pay. For “anything for which you are paid is worth the whole of your self – lest you shame your name and reputation.”
Tellius is also incredibly pious, though not in a fashion many would understand. He feels his goddess’ eye on him and her fire in his soul, at all times, and acts appropriately. It could aptly be said he’s married to his deity, and his piety is both the deepest of zealotry and strongest of love.