Skyships of Mars
Power Groups of Mars
The League of Free Cities
Sometimes simply called the League or the Free Cities, the League of Free Cities is an alliance of several city-states who hold similar political aims and ethical beliefs. The Free Cities are so known because they have all given up or outlawed the practice of slavery. The League is led by the Twin Cities and their interests dominate the League’s decisions and actions. The League’s detractors claim the League is nothing more than a puppet for the desires of the Twin Cities. The League seeks to dominate trade within its sphere of influence through taxation and tariffs. Cities that are a part of the League receive preferential tax rates for their own merchants that is better than the tariffs applied to merchants from other cities outside the League. Additionally, the city-states of the League agree to abide by a set of common laws, mostly regarding trade and state security. Officially, the cities who are part of the League are Anshan, Ashur, Ashurbanipal, Lydia, Mehdia, and Nineveh. Slavery is outlawed in all of the cities of the League but only in Lydia and Mehdia are slaves automatically emancipated once inside the city-state’s borders. The other city-states of the League forbid the ownership or commerce in slaves by its citizenry but do not forbid citizens from other city-states from keeping slaves within their territory provided the slaves were slaves before their arrival and were not previously citizens of any city within the League.
Delegations to the League meet twice a year in the city of Ashur in a special palace built specifically for the League’s use.
The Utopian Alliance
The Utopian Alliance stands in direct opposition to the activities of the League of Free Cities. Most often simply referred to as the Alliance, the Utopian Alliance seeks to ensure free trade across Mars and allow each city-state to determine their own laws. The primary leaders of the Alliance are the city-states of Belshazzar and Marduk. These two power-states have similar viewpoints but ultimately different goals. Marduk seeks to expand its wealth and opposes the League on the basis of its trade agreements. Belshazzar is opposed to what it sees as the League’s attempts to meddle in its affairs. The other city-states in the Alliance are Achaemenid, Hammurabi, Sardis, Sennacherib, and Tomyris. Between them, Marduk and Belshazzar dominate the Alliance and the rest of the Alliance merely shelters beneath their mutual protection. The combined wealth of Marduk’s Merchant-Princes is so vast that it needs little help to stymie League attempts to influence trade outside of League domains. Belshazzar’s military is widely acknowledged as the largest, most advanced, and most experienced force on Mars. Individually, the cities in the Alliance share a mutual defense treaty and many share common trade interests but offer little in the way of cooperation or interference to each other’s internal affairs. Delegations to the Alliance meet quarterly in Belshazzar, Marduk, Achaemenid, or Hammurabi on a rotating basis.
The Churches of the Net-Jeru
The Men of Mars have a variety of different faiths. The White Men brought the faiths of their forefathers from distant Earth while each tribe of nomads carries their own set of beliefs on their backs. The largest and most influential faith among the Men of Mars is an inter-related family of churches that worships their ancient Atlantean forebears. Collectively known as the Churches of the Net-Jeru, each is an independent faith centered around the worship of their patron divine ancestor first and the rest of the pantheon second. The Patron deities of the Net-Jeru are: Amon-Ra, Sehkmet, Anubis, Horus, Sobek, Selket, Hathor, and Set. Most of the churches are only open to Men but there are exceptions. The Churches of Sobek and Set both have Sauren worshippers and priests, while the Church of Selket is served by Chitik worshippers. Temples dedicated to the Net-Jeru are scattered across the face of Mars but are only loosely affiliated. The larger temples can influence their smaller brothers but do not directly command them. In some small villages, a single temple or even a lone priest may share the worship of several of the deities while a large city-state may have more than one temple to the same patron deity.
When Josha Bannoc discovered the secret to controlling the spirits, called Djinn he changed the world. The uses for Djinn are myriad. Everything from heating a home to lifting a sky-ship are made possible through the use of Djinn but only a select few have the knowledge and ability to command the Djinn. It began with Bannoc and his apprentices but the demand quickly outgrew the few of them could provide. So Bannoc began to teach others but he was determined to keep a monopoly on his knowledge. The Endgineer’s Guild was formed to teach new Endjineers but also to protect Bannoc’s monopoly. Conspiracy theorists claim that the Endjineers are the secret masters of Mars. Every city-state keeps a cadre of Endjineers on retainer and the growing importance and abundance of air ships only reinforces their power as without an Endjineer to control the Djinn, air travel is impossible. Their growing power could easily create more enemies than friends so the Guild maintains a strict policy of neutrality. The Guild’s Endjineers will serve any master who pays the Guild’s rates with absolute loyalty – as long as their master continues to pay. Endjineers who betray a trust or employers who betray an Endjineer are punished ruthlessly by the Guild’s mercenary army. The Guild may have the largest standing army on Mars but it is scattered among the Guild’s numerous holdings. Every City-State of any size has a Guild Hall and merchants who cannot afford the cost of their own airship can purchase space on one of the numerous Guild Ships that travel regular routes among the city-states. Another advantage to the neutrality of the Guild is that no city-state will deny passage to a Guild-flagged ship, which makes it attractive to smugglers, diplomats, and spies. On the other hand, the Guild is more than happy to hand any smugglers they discover over to the proper authorities once they arrive at their destination or toss the offender overboard at three hundred feet if the proper authorities are not convenient.
The Ministry of Man and the Brotherhood of Solomon
Officially, the Ministry of Man is a faith that seeks to promote the ascendance of all Men to a state of grace as described in the holy books of sacred Terra. The Ministry preaches that God created all Men in the perfect garden of Terra. Some Men were cast from Holy Terra for their sins and became the Men of Mars. Later, God sent his prophets among the White Men to bring the Men of Mars the gospel. The Ministry’s stated goal is to convert all of the Men of Mars to the one true faith through a mission of peaceful evangelism. However, within the Ministry there are those whose zealotry demand more than simple evangelism. These violent extremists seek to use fire and sword to force conversion where more peaceful methods fail. There a many splinter factions but the largest and most organized is the Brotherhood of Solomon. The Brotherhood has carried out assassination plots, kidnappings, and other criminal acts in support of their goals for years. They are a secret organization that is both wide ranging and well-funded. Although the Ministry denies it there have long been rumors that there are those within the Ministry who secretly finance the Brotherhood with either the Prime Minister or the Prophet’s tacit approval.