Kralorela has some 8.9 million people and covers around 625,000 square km. Kralorela is a relatively narrow arable band of land, islands, and shallows seas no more than 500 km wide, between the high Shan Shan mountains and Kahar’s Sea. It extends some 1250 km from the tropical forests of Fethlon to the snowy reaches of Ignorance. It has an average of about 15 people per square km, but like the Lunar Empire, it includes very densely populated areas and vast areas of near wilderness.
Let’s ignore the Dragon Emperor himself for a moment, as it is the exarchs that I find interesting. They receive worship directly from the masses through the imperial cult. Huge amounts of magic points get funneled to them, granting them great magic adroitness and imposing spiritual powers. They can change reality about them, like some cross between sorcery and dragonewt magic. Now this Dragon Magic is interesting stuff. It has no “spells” although many of the types of effects are no doubt given names.
There’s probably less than 20 of these powerful priest-rulers, who hold their office until they decide to retire. Then there is an extensive search among all the priests-officials in the appropriate province or ministry as a successor to the retired exarch.
So what we get is a system of seeming permanence and stability: Exarchs at the top, aided by a bureaucracy of priest-officials, receive worship from the masses through the imperial cult. There’s loads of cults outside of this system – most actually – but the imperial cult holds everything together.
This system predates the New Dragon’s Ring that ruled Kralorela from 768 to 1120 as a tributary of the Middle Sea Empire, but the Exarchs can’t help but have been influenced by their three and a half centuries of exile. The person who became Godunya may have been an exiled exarch or may have been a Hero Mystic who awakened Dragon Consciousness. We really don’t know because the personal name of Godunya is a secret that even Sheng Seleris did not uncover. We know that somehow the God Learners found a way to gain power over the dragons of Kralorela, and that they somehow lost that power (old Seshnegi tales refer to an Amulet of Hykim).
In reality, the system is hardly as uneventful and permanent as the imperial cult and its officials purport. From 1363 to 1460, Sheng Seleris ruled Kralorela. He kept the civic officials, but channelled worship to himself rather than to Godunya. After the fall of Sheng Seleris in 1460, Godunya and the exarchs prohibited contact with barbarians outside of Kralorela. However trade was permissible through Ignorance, the Red Haired Tribe conducted regular trade between the Lunar Empire and Ignorance (which of course Kralorelan merchants were allowed to participate in). The Opening in 1580 resulted in the establishment of Lur Nop, the only port open to foreign shipping. I suspect smuggling is a huge deal, and smugglers routinely brave the Kralorelan navy, Amazons, and Hsa Hsunchen to bring goods to Teshnos or Melib.
Also remember that the imperial cult is an overlay. Beneath it are many cults that the God Learners (and Lunars) recognized as local variants of well-known Gloranthan cults, including: Vashanti/Yelm, Halisayan/ Dendara, Huocheng/Lodril, Serelaloon/Chalana Arroy, Okerio/Uleria, Miyo/Grain Goddess, etc. The God Learners identification of these cults and their secrets proved a great boon for the New Dragon Ring, which did manage to rule for over three and a half centuries, and maintained their rule after the Closing and even after they lost the power to command the True Dragons. This has also helped the Lunar Empire in its understanding of Kralorela.
The New Dragons Ring is particularly interesting, as many theorise that it gained its dragon communication magic from the enemy of the Middle Sea Empire – the Empire of the Wyrms Friends.
One thing that gets understated is that there are dragonewts in Kralorela. A LOT of dragonewts. They have no Inhuman King, but serve the emperor of Kralorela instead.
So what is Godunya? Is he a human hero who achieved Dragon Consciousness? Is he a True Dragon in human form? We simply don’t know.
We do know that he came out of hiding in 1120 when he was consecrated as Emperor. He went back into hiding in 1442 and did not appear again until 1460.
Something else – during that century when Sheng Seleris ruled Peloria, Pent, and Kralorela (as well as other places), Sheng Seleris sent civic officials from Kralorela to be administrators in Peloria, and Yelmites from Dara Happa to be administrators in Kralorela. Both the Lunar Empire and Kralorela claim this had no effect on those cults or institutions after Sheng Seleris was overthrown.
We can assume that Is something of an exaggeration.
One thing that I find interesting is how little obvious legacy there is from Malkionism, despite the Seshnegi conquest. I suspect the Seshnegi role was something more like that of the East India Company – a relatively small number of Seshnegi and Jrusteli managed the New Dragon Ring’s customs service, taxes, justice system, and its general administration, with the growing assistance of a native civil service (the mandarins). I suspect most Seshnegi-Jrusteli sought to adjust to the way of life and customs of the Kralori people and not trying to reform them.
By Malkionism legacy, I don’t mean sorcery – the Kralorelans have plenty of sorcerers. What I mean is the philosophical system, the writing, or even Malkion and Hrestol. Presumably, after the fall of the New Dragons Ring, “barbarian influences” were rounded up, burned, etc. by the returned exarchs and their followers.
But maybe if you scratch deep you can still find some influences.
I’m using these terms pretty loosely, especially when we are talking pre-Godunya.
Because of Pent, Prax, and the Closing, it was easy for Godunya to minimise outside (barbarian) contact after 1460. Teshnos remained in contact through the Nanguan Pass of course.
The Pentans are why the Kralorelans built the Iron Forts and the fortress-city of Baibao. But we really don’t get much of the history of the barbarian dynasties from the imperial scribes.