The Theocracy of Palaven. In many ways, one of the most unique nations not only in Rolsten, but in all of Aerion. As most other countries, Palaven is united by a culture which the citizens embrace. However unlike other nations which are united by common language, dialect, values, norms, ideology, social structure or ethnic distinction, Palaven is united by a common religion, the Church of the One True God. It is for this reason that it is one of the most tolerant countries in terms of immigration, professing peoples of all races, including men, elves, and dwarves. It is the closest nation to an absolute religious state, with over 99% of its population following the Church of the One. Being a theocracy, the head of state of the country is the religious leader Armand Terrin, known by the people of Palaven by his official title of the 'Voice of the One', as in Palaven he is believed to be the holy link between Aerion and the One, with the Voice believed to be able to speak with the One Himself and dictate His will.
The city of Garius was built as the epicenter of their religion. Nicknamed the 'City of God', it was built entirely out of the finest materials known to man. Angelic-white marble paved the flawless, shining streets of the city, and alabaster stone made up the architectural arrangement of all buildings. Garrius is a city of privilege, haboring all that was valuable and substantial in Palaven, most notably the Great Cathedral of the One, home of the Voice, around which the city of Garius was constructed. It is an imposing and radiant structure, the largest in diameter of Garius, and by far the most magnificent, decorated with engravings and inscriptions across the outside. For the very few who have managed to enter, it is said to be even more impressive, a home built literally for God. Also around the city was the Tower of Absolution, where the Palvanese Senate holds their meetings and sessions. It is the tallest building of Palaven, but also boasts decorative designs across the exterior of the structure. There were also over four dozen smaller (in relation to the Great Cathedral) churches across the city, acting both as the places of worship and the schools for the people.
Built for aestheticism rather than fortification, it is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world, accommodating half a dozen capacious public parks, which are decorated with fountains and statues in dedication to the One or some religious context of the One, an abundance of religious, historical, and artistic museums, and celestially decorated theaters upon which plays are performed. All structures are maintained to the highest degree to ensure continuous cleanliness, and crime is almost non-existent. It is a city of pleasure and revelry. Of beauty and artistry. Of security and safety. However, what it lacks in high walls and hefty defense it makes up for in the sheer abundance of soldiers inside of the city, having one of the largest standing armies in a single city in Aerion.
Yet not all of the citizens are allowed to live inside this beautiful paradise. As was earlier suggested, Garius was a city a privilege. Quarter requires a thorough background check, as well as proof of religious piety. There is also a hefty tax upon first request of entry, and following one's confirmed residence into the city, continuous tax which would be collected yearly. For such reasons, much of the peasants and even some of the middle class live in surrounding villages, as well as in port cities and small towns. They too pay a tax to Garius, albeit a much smaller one. Many of these are supposedly in very horrendous condition because of the lack of funding and enforcement. Besides the extensive costs it has taken to construct Garius, most funding goes to the capital as well, leaving very little for those who dwell on the outside. Although some of the larger cities endure, smaller towns have barely enough to survive. Crime is rampant, disease is ever-present, and occasionally, riots break out. However, they never last long, as they are either quickly put down or literally, those who riot simply die out.
It was a country Varian never thought he would end up visiting, as the nation rarely allows foreigners who aren't of the religious faith. Trade is heavily regulated and often restricted to the port cities, most notably Ashera, where the bulk of foreigners would dwell. They are often quite poorly treated, frequently ridiculed and beaten by natives, to which the guards often cast a blind eye. In some cases, death because of religious differences would also occur, usually without response by the theocracy. However, their experience turned out to be much different. Upon arrival of their ship which Agarra commissioned, the mercenaries were instantly picked up by soldiers at the shore, and placed into decorative carriages with cloth to obstruct the view from the windows. From all that was rumored about Palaven, Varian wondered if these cloths were designed to keep the people of Palaven from seeing the mercenaries, as it would be an oddity, to say the least, of outsider mercenary foreigners to be taking a leisurely stroll through the countryside, or if the cloths were designed to keep the mercenaries from viewing the rest of Palaven, as upon their two day ride to the capital, they had little chance to view the countryside, as few stops were made along the way, and all were away from any cities or towns. With all the rumors surrounding the extent of the abhorrent conditions of the people outside of Garius, it would have been possible that they were shielding their view of such sights as to continue to present the idea that Palaven's true depiction was that of Garius.
As for that city, even Varian, the uncultured mercenary who had no real interest in the arts of sights, was impressed. It was a city to behold, and one where he knew they would certainly stick out like sore thumbs. The cloths around the windows of the carriages were removed, and the doors were opened into the bright, shining city. Beyond all of the sights that the city presented, Varian also saw the people as they walked through, some of which conversed with each other, and others who went upon their day merrily. They all appeared well-mannered, polite, and highly intelligent. It was also somewhat strange. All talks Varian could hear had something or other to do with the Voice. In almost every dialogue, their names were mentioned, or the sentence was begun with a greeting in relation to them. In on particular example, a man greeted another with, “The Voice guides your light,” which Varian took to mean hello. He overheard another, in which a man told another in departing, “The One protects you.” Another interesting concept was their referral of outsiders as “infidels”. Varian thought the word an insult at first, but as he had spent more time with the guards over the few days, and from what he had seen at shore, it was apparently a normal way of referring to outsiders who did not embrace the faith. It was all centered around the ceremony of the religion. Varian found it surprisingly intriguing. He had never been seen such overwhelming devotion from an entire population towards one single ideology. Others professed unity and togetherness in similar fashion, but those countries who say that they were religious always had the minority who were opposed. In Palaven, in Garius, everyone preached a similar ideology. Everyone was on the same page. Everyone thought the same, and everyone talked the same. Everyone had the same high level of devotion. It was now becoming clear to Varian why some began to treat Palaven with a bit more appreciation. When an entire population is behind a single ideal, in this case a religious ideal, with such passion, the results could be deadly for their enemies.
At least, that was the face the city presented, and for now that was what Varian had to accept. The guard who had escorted them to shore quickly motioned for them to continue on their way. “Welcome to the City of God. Follow our path, infidels, as we tread the path of the One.” The guard ordered to the group, Varian assuming that they mean to follow in their ceremonial way of speaking. He did his best to ignore his referral of the group as 'infidels' so casually, again reminding himself the term was not an insult here. “Refrain from conversation with those in the path of the One, if you will. They are not used to seeing infidels among the streets of God.”
Varian looked around to confirm what the guard meant, as the people of Garius gazed upon the group of odd mercenaries in bewilderment and shock. Some younger children, who were also dressed in fine clothes, tried to get a closer look at them as they walked the streets, only to be forced away by frightful parents. Most of the citizens saw them as a part of a plague, people who were untouchable. Many kept their distance, but none averted their eyes. One citizen of obvious noble birth finally approached the group, gazing upon them many of the others did prior, and then spoke to the lead guard. “The One protects you,” He said to him in a smile. The guard nodded, and the well-mannered man continued. “I am interested, sir, as we all are, what you are doing with these infidels. Are you perhaps proceeding to make an example of their sacrilegious ways and burning them at the stake?” Varian quickly turned his gaze to the man, a bit surprised by what had come out of his mouth. Did he just say burn them? He had a feeling that bit wasn't shrouded in ceremony. He meant what he said, and the normal citizen said it so nonchalantly, as if it were normal.
“Nay, citizen,” The guard replied. “These infidels are to be brought before his Holiness himself. The Voice has use for them.”