Imperial Tax Law
The Belted KnightUnder Imperial tax law, all tenants of a lord’s demesne are required to render service as a sort of tax. This labor is used to till the lord’s fields, plant his crops, and harvest his grains. This form of tax is also found in cities where the required labor is used to repair roads, build public structures, and maintain aqueducts or sewers (in those cities ancient enough to possess either) as well as to repair walls. Residents can commute these costs to gold, though such commutation is fairly rare and onerous—the gold-price of a day of labor is generally set as higher than the wages of someone working, so the lord can both make up for the lost labor and profit from the commutation.There are several kinds of peasants and their taxes are assessed differently depending on their status and the amount of land they own. These are:Virgaters: the wealthiest peasants, they own a virgate of land or more. Whether they are servile (cannot sell the land, owe two workdays a week instead of one every two weeks, etc.) or free is independent of their wealth.Half-virgaters: those who own less than a virgate but enough to feed themselves, these peasants are generally free. They owe one workday every three weeks (two every three weeks if they are servile).Cotters: peasants who own only a cottage (or in extreme cases, a cot) they must supplement their farming labor with work for the lord or other local peasants in return for enough to feed themselves. They owe only the one traditional labor a year, the great harvest (at which they are fed in return for their several days of work).All people living in a city are assessed ad censum, or by head, meaning that larger families tend to owe more in terms of labor. While labor commutation is rare or almost nonexistent in the towns and vills, it is common in cities for it to be commuted to kind (butter, apples, etc., assessed as a value of the labor provided) or in gold, particularly when the peasant is a wealthy merchant glad to be free of traditional labor-duty. Still, it is not uncommon to see a work-gang composed of city-folk who are providing their traditional one work-day a month for their magnate.
Amongst the men of the north you may hear the term “belted knight” bandied about quite a bit. Even in elvish lands, you’re likely to hear someone speak of the “sworn” or “anointed” knights. The conception of knighthood is not invariable, however; the precise meaning of that phrase depends on where you find yourself.Knights, general. The term knight comes from the Eylic/Orthr word for a servant, particularly a boy-servant. In High Varan they are called milites which refers instead to ancient soldiers of the empire. No matter where you are, the concept of knighthood has a military aspect. It evolved over time from an apparent union of horsemanship and military service and knights are generally associated with horses (or mounts of some kind) throughout the north.Imperial - Term: Milite Honorific: SieurIn the empire, knights are elite soldiers supported by grants of field and property form their lord. These fields are worked by the local peasants that owe labor to the demesne, thus freeing the knight for military service. Attaining knighthood is, like many imperial offices, celebrated by a vigil and the award of a special and distinctive belt, in this case a gold-paneled sword-belt with scenes of battle and blessings inscribed on it.Knights may be chosen for other duties besides their military ones or in addition to them, adding to the stipend received from their lords. Serving as bailiffs is a common use of knights, as is being promoted to a magisterial position to oversee the local curia and law courts. Knights in the empire are technically possessed of that mystical quality nobilis and can never be considered to be servile under any legal definition of the term.Imperial knights are generally created to help lords meet the legal requirement of supporting elite warriors from their lands. However, it is also possible to be knighted for performing some extraordinary service to a lord, usually a military one. Knightship is not hereditary, nor are the children of a knight necessarily expected to serve (though they certainly have a leg up, as they are generally trained by the local master-at-arms).In the empire, fidelity is generally taken to mean devotion to a house or noble family. Knights, ideally, will be deferential to all members of the family which elevated them and do their best to serve the interests of the family as a whole. Many of the new-style of imperial tragedies focus on the conflicting loyalties a knight must feel for both his emperor and his lord.Elvish - Term: Vannottu Honorific: TyrElvish knights are anointed for a number of reasons, generally military ones as well. Unlike imperial knights, elves made into Vannottunoi are considered to be personally bonded with the noble who knighted them. While a strong element of fidelity is common to all knights the land over, elvish knights do not necessarily feel an attachment to the house of their lord, but to their lord himself.Unlike imperial knights, elvish knights rarely fight unmounted. They serve as traveling companions and elite swordsmen, eschewing the use of most other weapons as blunt or inelegant tools for battle. Elvish knighthood has a religious element as well, though it is intertwined with the notion of personal loyalty to one’s lord.Elvish knights, unlike most others, form a hereditary class from which they are drawn. They are the least of the elvish noble class in any kingdom (to be elevated to knighthood for battle is far less glorious than to be elevated, for example, for brilliant poetry to a lordship). Elvish knights train for most of their young lives, mastering the sword and shield as well as horsemanship or, in the case of Vesimian Sea-knights or Talimisian Sky-knights, ships and pegasi.