Pythia is a city state and a member of the Athosian league. Pythia is a civilisation of seers, scholars, sorcerers and sailors. All in Pythia is bent around the acquisition of knowledge and prophesy. Seers consult the portents of fate, scholars search through prophecies of the past, sorcerers use their magicks to understand the magical forces which underpin the world, and sailors go off in search of lore from far off lands.
Pythia is ruled by an Oracle Queen whose visions guide the whole nation. The Oracle Queens draw their power from their connection to Minerva, the goddess of chastity, and their power is conditional upon their virginity. Oracle Queens are not elected or chosen, but rather they are foretold by prophesy. Most frequently, Oracle Queens are drawn from the sacred order of Minervan seers, but this is not always the case. Some Oracle Queens have not always been Pythian in origin, with Pythians undertaking arduous expeditions to far off lands to find children whose births were foretold. Often these children are found cast into the woods by their parents who believed that they were mist-touched and fey. The current Oracle Queen, Daphne, was found washed ashore from a shipwreck. She did not speak for five years after she was discovered, until the moment when the previous Oracle Queen died. None, perhaps even her, know from what land she hails.
All of Pythian society is part of the Academy – a grand organisation committed to the preservation and acquisition of knowledge. Pythian children enter the academy as soon as they are weaned off the breast. In the academy, children are taught and tested and tested and taught. The schoolmasters of the academy are always looking for children to demonstrate aptitudes for scholarship, magic or simply curiosity. Children who are shown to have an aptitude for magic are the first to selected, as they typically begin to manifest latent magical talents around age 5. These children are sent along to the Arcanum where they are taught the ways of magic. Scholars are next chosen as children undertake a series of aptitude tests. These children are sent to the Librarium where they undertake, at first, broad studies, and then then later specialise into fields such as Astronomy, Geography, Ancient History, Mathematics and Philosophy. Those children that remain are taught to maintain their curiosity, and they are sent to the Fortunarium where they learn the craft of the explorer. There is a strong rivalry between people of the Librariam, Fortunarium and Arcanum – for instance, it is common for a member of the Arcanum to think that people in the Librarium are just a little bit stupid, and that those in the Fortunarium are just tragic. Rivalry aside, at no point in this process do children have any choice over their fates.
The sisterhood of Minerva is an exception to this process – as they are an exception to many things in Pythian life. The sisterhood of seers, following the directions of prophecies, will at certain points remove children from the Academy to take the path of the seer. Sometimes this is done at a very young age, before they are selected for the Librarium, Arcanum or Fortunariam, but sometimes it is done at an older age after the child has applied herself to specialist studies. It is rare, though not unheard of, for adults to be taken into the sisterhood, though never after they have lost the virginity which Minerva prizes so highly. It is not unheard of for young women whose dreams have begun to be disturbed by dreams to quickly find for themselves a partner to bed – so loathe are they to leave the lives which they have had. The sisterhood of Minerva attends the Oracle Queen directly, as well as committing themselves to the maintenance of the temples of Minerva. A certain number of Minervan sisters are sent off to Myrmidos where they undertake the trials to become Silent Sentinels. Though Myrmidians often think of these women as unlikely candidates, it is a rare thing indeed for these sisters to fail to make the grade – their success is already foretold by prophesy, and it is rare for prophesies to be misread.
Whilst the Oracle Queen is the head of Pythian society, much of the day to day running of society is taken up by other officials. The leader of the Academy, and therefore almost all of Pythian society, is the Chancellor. Each of the three colleges of the Academy is also led by a Vice Chancellor. Each of these positions is highly sought after both in terms of power and wealth. Whilst the Oracle Queen sometimes makes pronouncements and decisions by edict, it is often the case that the prophesies she sees must be further studied in order to understand their significance. Some therefore whisper that she is more of a vehicle for the will of Minerva, rather than any real power in her own right.
Many menial tasks in Pythia are undertaken through magical means, and so Pythia does not suffer from the same difficulties that Myrmidos does in having a highly specialised population. It is common, for instance, to see ships out at sea casting their nets of their own volition, as well as ploughs which move themselves through soil. Despite this, some physical tasks remain to be done. These tasks are often undertaken by unfortunate members of the Fortunarium who failed to demonstrate any aptitude for exploration or fighting. Whilst formally members of the Fortunarium, this formality does not fool many, and there is a heavy stigma upon these people as being useless and the lowest of the low.
The Pythian military is, for the most part, not a regular standing army. Members of the Fortunarium often form armed expeditions around the world to uncover knowledge, but this is far more frequently undertaken by small warbands of individuals rather than armies fighting in battle lines. Members of the Fortunarium are often highly individual as a result of their travels, and they often resent the kinds of discipline required for an army to fight effectively. Whilst having a formal responsibility to defend Pythia in the event of an attack, there is some doubt as to the efficacy of such a band of mavericks. Members of the Fortunarium sometimes also join the fighting forces of other nations, seemingly as mercenaries, calling themselves soldiers of fortune. These companies of Pythians often find fighting for other causes to be a convenient means to an end, and though they claim to follow a higher calling, they are more than happy to keep the gold.
For the most part, the magics which are learnt in the Arcanum are not of immediate battlefield application. A great many wizards of the Arcanum study rituals whose casting is far too slow to be used in the immediacy of combat, so too is divinatory magic of little value in the heat of the moment. Nonetheless, power wizards exist in the Arcanum, and occasionally they use this power to lay wards of protection upon the mountain home of the Pythians, and sometimes they find themselves persuaded to accompany members of the Fortunarium on expeditions. Occasionally towers in Pythia spontaneously combust, or explode with plumes of multi-coloured flame – so it is to be assumed that in the event of an attack, at least some of this magic could be marshalled for defensive purposes.
Pythia’s only standing army takes the form of the Silent Sentinels who are the military wing of the seer sisters of Minerva. These guards are trained in Myrmidos from a young age, and undertake a vow of silence. The vow of silence is in view of the sensitivity of the prophesies to which they are privy in defending the Oracle Queen’s person, as well as the great archive of prophesies. The Silent Sentinels fight much in the same way as Myrmidian Hoplites, though as a garrison force, their wargear is somewhat heavier. The Silent Sentinels tend to be garbed in silvered platemail armour, they tend to hold silver oblong shields, and they hold long spears not at all unlike Myrmidian soldiers. Atop their heads, the Sentinels have tall blue-crested closed-faced silvered helmets. It is said that even when wounded in battle, they do not break their vows of silence. The Silent Sentinels seldom leave Pythia, though on the rare occasions that the Oracle Queen leaves their island home, a detachment will always accompany her.
Non Pythians, with permission, are able to live in Pythia. Some come there in search of prophesy or knowledge, and others simply for trade. Whilst non Pythians may hold property in Pythia, because they have no place within the Academy, they often find themselves outside of all Pythian society. Very few foreigners choose to live in Pythia, and instead they simply come for their business and leave. Pythians are not hostile at all to foreigners, but immersed in their own ways, they have little attention or time to make foreigners feel welcome.