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“Like the tiger, a big cat native to more southerly Europan climes than our own Arhomaneia, the leopard sometimes takes to man-eating. In my experience, a man-eating leopard is to be dreaded even more than a tiger that has gained the same taste, as it possesses greater agility and stealthiness, as well as its silence.” Excerpt from Man-Eaters: The Memoirs of a Professional Hunter by Khristoforos Iagoupes, first published in EK7400 (AD1892). Iagoupes was later awarded the courtly title of Protokynegos, or “First Hunter”, in recognition of his exploits. The Leopard Throne. One of the most important symbols of Arhomaneia. It stood on a dais of porphyry that was covered with a cloth of gold, under a canopy of the same material, at the end of the grand state throne room, the Khrysotriklinos, of the Basilikon Synkrotima Palatión, the Imperial Palace Complex. The heart of the Megas Agios Basileia, the Greater Holy Empire. It was actually a dual throne – the left hand side was the vacant seat of Christ. The Holy Emperor, the Agios Basileos kai Autokrator ton Arhomaion, the Holy Emperor and Autocrat of Arome to give the more formal title, was the representative of God on Eurth, sitting at His right hand. The throne itself was gold and studded in precious stones, a shining example of Aroman craftsmanship and nothing that mere barbaroi could hope to imitate. Its seats were covered in leopard skin upholstery and the sides were in the likeness of snarling big cats, ready to pounce. The teeth of the leopards on the sides were ancient elephant ivory, the red tongues made from coral, their spots picked out in pieces of carved jet and the eyes were crafted from amber. This imagery gave the throne its name. To enter the throne room, two vast gold-plated doors had to be opened. These magnificent works of art were perfectly balanced and swung outwards smoothly and silently. They were kept oiled and were polished regularly by one of the myriad of servants within the Imperial Palace Complex. It was considered a high honour to be selected to carry out the task. Once inside the room, a visitor would be greeted by one of the most striking sights in the wurld. The walls of the throne room were a shining white, representing the purity and holiness of Arhomaneia. The floors were a gilded mosaic, breathtaking in its magnificence. Glass, gold and ceramic tiles displaying proud moments in history, fearsome hunting scenes and the glory that was embodied by the Arhomaioi. Behind the throne was a multicoloured stained glass window of vast size which bathed the room in jewelled light when the sun shone through it. Unlike other, more heterodox Christian nations, there were no recreations of heavenly scenes or the Saviour Himself – depictions of holy figures was considered to be idolatrous by Arhomaneia's particular brand of Christianity, the Aroman Church. Great pillars held up the high roof. These were alternatively shining white marble or porphyry. Beyond them, the walls were as richly decorated as the mosaic floor and more large windows of stained or clear glass, alternating in the opposite way to the pillars, allowed light to flood into the state throne room. It was designed to overawe any visitor to the throne room, as if being in the presence of the Holy Emperor wasn't enough in itself. The throne itself, on its raised dais, sat under a semi-dome at the apse end of the room with the words “Christ, King of Kings” inscribed across the conch of the apse. It was no mistake that the throne was under the eastern end. The ruler of Arhomaioi was appointed to this role by God Himself, manifesting His will on Eurth. As a sign of the Agios Basileos' lofty position as the Thirteenth Apostle, those that approached the Leopard Throne's occupant were expected to acknowledge their lowly position. This act, called the Proskynesis, signified the subservience of the one doing it and the recognition that the Holy Emperor was their rightful overlord. The act involved throwing themselves to the floor and kissing the Holy Emperor's feet with their arms outstretched. It had, however, become impolitic to expect foreigners to perform it these days. The overly proud Barbaroi found it very offensive, as they often did not recognise the primacy of the Arhomaiki ruler over their petty overlords. And as there was one Kingdom in Heaven, there was one Empire on Eurth. That Empire had stood for centuries as a bastion of civilisation in a world of barbarism, a beacon of faith and light shining out and inspiring the lands surrounding it. It was a centre of culture, ever changing and evolving, and yet maintaining a link to the glorious past of the Aroman Empire before it, even if that past had yet to find the enlightenment of Christianity. This cultural heritage meant that it was Tagmatium's duty to shepherd the rest of Eurth towards that enlightenment and the civilisation that it brought with it. The throne was flanked by a soldier from each of the six guard regiments of the Tagmata, the Palace Guard, the unit that had inadvertently gave the common name to the Megas Agios Basileia, the Greater Holy Empire. Their positions near the throne was kept in a strict rotation to avoid one being favoured over the others. The bodyguards were all brightly dressed, with horse hair plumes on their sallet helms the colour of their robes, clothes embroidered with golden thread and carrying shields decorated with symbols of Christ and Arhomaneia. A soldier from the Exkoubitoi, their name meaning “Sentinels”, currently stood on the right of the throne, the closest to it. Perhaps the most famous of the units from the guard corps, their red robes and black lacquered armour, a mix of lamellar and plate mail, made them a distinctive sight throughout the capital of the Greater Holy Empire. They regularly accompanied members of the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion, the Imperial Government, abroad on diplomatic missions. Behind the Exkoubitos was one from the Ikanatoi, the “the Able Ones”, wearing red armour, cream robes and carrying a spear. Next to the Ikanatos, dressed in red robes and cream armour, was a Opsikios, holding a shield and a sword. To the left of the throne stood a soldier of the Athanatoi, “Immortals”, in green robes and wearing a similar mix of lamellar and plate, although their armour was coloured blue. This soldier was armed with a short-shafted axe as well a sword. Behind the Athanatos was one of the Paramonai, the name coming from those who stood close to the Agios Basileos. They were armed with maces and shields, dressed in blue robes and steel armour buffed to a mirror shine. Like the Exkoubitoi, their role was to closely guard the members of the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion, the palace complex and Tagmatika itself. Completing the row of three was one of the Arkhontogennhematai, “the sons of officers”, in shining steel armour contrasting with pitch black robes and holding a spear. The appearance of the guards might be deceptive - they were drawn from decorated combat veterans from the Tagmatine army or from candidates that had especially impressed their instructors during training. They would die to protect their charges and took their roles extremely seriously. As well as soldiers from the Tagmata, at all times dignitaries and attendants from the amongst the government, the civil service and the court aristocracy waited on the throne, even if it was vacant. They were dressed in jewelled robes of ancient, although not out of date, style. Whilst the positions within the court aristocracy were not hereditary, members of it were often granted great estates within Arhomaneia. This meant that they would have the time to wait on the Agios Basileos kai Autokrator without having to worry about money or inability to afford the splendour in which they would have to dress. They may not have been as powerful as the military or bureaucratic aristocracies in the reign of Kommodos III, but there was power in proximity to greater power. They were the cup bearers, the concierges and ushers, with their families having been in the service of the Greater Holy Empire for generations, even centuries. Being close to the Holy Emperor for many hours meant that they often had his or her ear and even become valued confidantes. They might be perceived as useless hangers-on by some but that often couldn't be much further than the truth. The Greater Holy Empire would last, and they would have their day again. With the guards around the throne and the attendants surrounding it, completing the groups within the throne room were a choir of monks, chanting praise to Christ. They were dressed in black clerical robes that were a sharp contrast to the sumptuous dress of the courtiers and the elaborate uniforms of the bodyguards. Bishops and other prelates were often in the state throne room too, as the Holy Emperor had such an important role within the affairs of the Church. The smell of incense permeated the cavernous room. If the Holy Emperor was present, then the chanting would cease and a respectful silence would dominate the room. Only if the Vice-Gerent of God willed it would that be broken. Court ceremony was entirely designed to emphasise the dignity and prestige of the monarch and to imply the superhuman nature of the one that sat upon the Leopard Throne. Recent years had seen a resurgence in activity from the Greater Holy Empire. At first, its attention had been focussed beyond Europa, then Arhomaneia turned somewhat quiet. Unlike @Adaptus, Tagmatium's closest neighbour, ally and fellow heir to ancient Arome, the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion had not become destabilised. Eurth had seen the influence of the Megas Agios Basileia spread. Several programmes to improve Tagmatium's environmental impact had taken precedence over the military actions that had seen the nation's international prestige increase over the years. Sustainable power generation had been stepped up across the country, from wind farms to hydro-electric power stations. There had been some rumblings within the nation's borders, primarily from pro-democracy campaigners, although these had been dealt with peacefully. They did not shatter the tranquillity and prosperity that had been earned after the hard shock of the Civil War in EK7513 (AD2005) and the struggle of the nation finding its feet again in the years that followed. Arhomaneia had once again become a main player on the wurld stage, with much of Eurth seeing its influence. But the same wurld was changing, and it was said by some that the Megas Agios Basileia needed to change with it, lest it become stagnant and lose its place as the country that all others looked up to. Arhomaneia could not afford to slip back into the background. It had come a long way since the Civil War and had reforged itself under Kommodos Iakoumos, who had been elected to his position in the aftermath. As yet, it remained to be seen how this most ancient and glorious nation would deal with the changes that had happened around it.