A Brave New World
The Carolingian Empire
When the many Frankish and Germanic clans of Gallic Rome united under the ambition of Charlemagne, son of Pepin the Short, clan leader and Roman representative to the Franks. Charlemagne followed the example of Brittany nearly 50 years before, and gathered the clans together for a monumental rebellion against Rome. He complained that Rome was too large to care for Gaul and did not have enough concern for the trials that drought and disease brought to his people. A fifteen year rebellion ensued, often involving guerrilla warfare on the part of the Gauls. Eventually Gaul became to expensive to hold and many of the Roman soldiers were hesitant to go into the wooded areas where many of the forces hid in waiting.
In 1537 AUC, Charlemagne was crowned Emperor of the new Carolingian Empire. Charlemagne quickly spread his influence past the Roman Gallic holdings into the Carpathians and north to the edges of Viking territory. Before his death in 1567 AUC, he had united much of mainland Europe under his rule and left a vast Empire to his son Louis. Louis had a moment of brilliance and divided the Empire into three regia before his death. He left the largest, Gallic sector, to his first son, Lothair I, the Carpathian reaches to his second son, Louis II, and the Northern reaches to his last living son, Charles the Bald. A triumvirate was created and maintained for a while. Eventually the grandsons of Louis each died without male issue, excepting one: Charles the Simple. Charles was named Emperor of a reunited Carolingian Empire in 1673 AUC. Charles’ wife gave birth to Louis IV, who in turn gave the Carolingian five heirs to the Empire. The Carolingian Empire remains stable to this day, at least in issues of heredity.
The Carolingians have expanded their influence into colonies throughout South-East Asia, China, Korea, the Western African coast, and the Northern Atlantic coastline of the New World. Their greatest danger is the sheer size of their holdings, giving them many of the problems that the Roman Empire held at their rebellion eight hundred years ago.
Women and Class System
The Carolingian Empire has vast holdings and is divided into two sections: The Gallic sector and the Reaches. The Gallic sector is the closest to the Roman Empire, an area across the Alps and that contains the rich river lands in the West of Europe. The Reaches are the less populated area near the Carpathians in the East and bordering the Viking Clans to the North. These two distinctions are important to realize when talking about women and class.
In the Gallic sector, women are not responsible for themselves, they are almost always under the auspices of a male, whether a father, husband, master, or pimp. The Franks of the sector believe women are beautiful accessories and should be pampered, primped, and displayed. A male’s wealth and standing is often displayed in the women of the household, and even poorer household try to uphold this standard.
In the Reaches, women are different. Often, men cannot afford to loose a strong back to pampering, and women find themselves an intricate part of the household. The Reaches breed a woman that is strong, hardy, and dangerous. Many times they are left alone at home, charged with keeping the household running smoothly, educating and protecting the children, and fighting off any incursions by animal or man. Women are believed to be protected and sometimes possessed by vengeful and powerful goddesses, a hold over from the beliefs of the old gods.
Regardless of where the woman lives, however, the laws of the Empire do not acknowledge women as belonging to themselves. Any family fortunes are inherited through the next male in the family and widows are the responsibility of her husbands male relatives. This can sometimes turn out badly for an unwanted female.
The class system in the Carolingian Empire is much like Imperial Brittany. It is highly stratified and everyone belongs to one or another. The lowest group are the slaves. Unlike the Roman Empire, slave labor is strictly for brute labor jobs: field work, heavy lifting, untrained construction, etc. Most slaves are male, though the sex slave trade does exist. The next lowest group are the untrained masses: the prostitutes, labor workers, shepherds, field hands, etc. Slightly above them exist the service providers: the barbers, the shopkeepers, the sharecroppers, drovers, seamstresses, etc. The middle class are those that are minor land and property holders: farm owners, riverboat shippers, etc. The upper middle class consists of the educated service providers: doctors, lawyers, etc. The upper class are those minority that own the majority of land and property. They employ most of the lower classes and gain their fortune from them.
Like the differences in women and class, religion varies greatly between the Gallic sector and the Reaches. The closer to the Roman Empire traveled, the more Christian the Carolingians become. The Holy Roman Church spread quickly through Western Gaul and became very popular with its simple divine forgiveness, amazing afterlife, and, mostly, loving God. This belief system meshes very well with their more metropolitan lifestyle.
The Reaches, however, are a completely different experience. Cities do not light the night, nor parks tame the wilderness. The Slavic families to the East and North deal with horrors every day. Vikings raid townships constantly and packs of Dire Wolves populate the Carpathians and its dark forests. The peoples of the Reaches are comfortable with their old myths of Baba Yaga, Vampires, Werewolves, Vilas, Zmeys, and so on. The old gods Perun, Volos, Hors, Mokosh, Stribog, and many others, still have engraved images in households and roadside temples. Christianity holds no parallels to their existence and does not appeal to most of people of the Reaches.