An onirarchy (pronounced /ˈoʊnərˌɑrkiː/; also spelled oneirarchy) is a nation run by one or more dreamlords, or onirarchs, rulers who siphon the dream energy from their citizens and use it to boost their own magical power, which they use for many administrative and construction purposes. Because of the immense amounts available to onirarchs, magic tends to be a pervasive part of life in onirarchies. They are full of magically altered and wholly artificial creatures, talismans of diverse sorts, and powerful enchantments to help enforce the rulers' will.
To keep their people mollified and malleable, onirarchs tend to arrange for them to have blissful dreamworlds for them to spend their dreaming time in—which bears the additional advantage of making them want to spend more time dreaming, thereby giving the onirarchs more power. In contrast, the waking lot of a citizen of an onirarchy generally consists of little more than labor for the leaders, endured without complaint in order to return to the paradise of dreaming—so that awake and asleep, the people are working for the onirarchies.
Because they rely on the particular workings of dream magic, onirarchies are confined to the cosmos of Ses—at least, if something analogous exists elsewhere, it would have to work somewhat differently. Onirarchies are particularly associated with the world of Dadauar, although it is possible that they may have arisen independently on other worlds.
The word "onirarchy" is not commonly used on Dadauar; instead, the onirarchies are called by other terms, such as "developed nations". A nation on Dadauar which is not an onirarchy is generally called an "undeveloped nation".
Life in an Onirarchy
The average citizen of an onirarchy has no say in how his nation is run, and tends not to give much thought to the matter. Waking life, indeed, is seen by most as little more than a mildly unpleasant but necessary distraction from dreams, which is what they really live for. Some few, those who for whatever reason generate significantly more dream energy than average, are magically sustained by the onirarchs and allowed to spend all their time dreaming—these people are called sleepers—, but most other citizens do have to work at various jobs during their waking hours to pay for the food and shelter that keeps them alive to dream. Because they spend most of their waking time working anyway, people have few luxuries in the waking world; the typical citizens of onirarchies have very tiny living spaces, living in minuscule apartments, in large communal areas along with many other people, or in some intermediate arrangement.
The details of how the people live vary by onirarchy. Some onirarchies retain the traditional family structure, allowing its people to raise their own children (and inculcate them properly in the lands' ways), while in others pregnant women report to birthing centers where their babies are taken to be raised by the state. Some onirarchies give their citizens at least the illusion of considerable choice in their lifestyle, allowing them to decide where to live and what job to work at, while in others every detail of a person's life is dictated by the state. Some onirarchies go to extremes, such as Plakhán, where the people are kept asleep nearly all the time, and Risinien, where they are transformed into the buildings and structures of the cities.
Nevertheless, there are some things that remain constant, or nearly so. In most onirarchies, education is not available to the common citizen, except for job training and some rudimentary teaching of the national language so that the people can understand the onirarchs' commands. Detailed knowledge of science and culture is unnecessary for the menial work most onirarchies have their citizens do, and may lead to danger of their becoming discontent with their station in life. Children in an onirarchy are started working at a very young age; after all, there's little else for them to do while awake, and the usual childhood games can be pursued just as well in their dreams. Onirarchies do, at least, generally provide very well for their citizens' physical health; a dead citizen is not providing the dreamlords with any power.
Because of the way they exploit their citizens, onirarchies are generally considered to be tyrannical in nature. Most of the inhabitants don't think of them that way, being too much under the rulers' control and too subjugated by their propaganda, but there are those few who rise up against the government and form resistance cells that are a continuing thorn in the onirarch's sides, or who rebel in milder ways and seek to forge out an existence for themselves more fulfilling than what their rulers intend, but without actively working toward the dreamlords' downfall. The only onirarchies on Dadauar that might reasonably be described as benevolent are Drithidiach, Ivinii, and Trimian, and even they concentrate a lot of power in the hands of the rulers, and while the current rulers of those nations happen to be more sympathetic to their populace than those of most onirarchies, a change in leadership could easily render those lands as despotic as the others.
While onirarchies seldom are short on magic or labor, they nevertheless do have to trade with other lands—including other onirarchies—for certain raw materials and other goods, as well as for certain magical and manufacturing techniques and creations that particular other onirarchies may specialize in. Meanwhile, within most onirarchies, the people are paid for the labor they do for the state, and are in turn allowed to spend their earnings in stores which in most cases are government-run. Naturally, the onirarchs limit what they make available to their citizens, and the people of an onirarchy will not be able to legally buy weapons, talismans that would allow them to escape the onirarchs, or books that may give them information that would make them a danger to the state.
Though the people of an onirarchy require few amenities, one thing that is needed in every onirarchy is food. There are some onirarchies that have enough open space between their cities to grow at least some food, but many onirarchies are covered almost entirely in sterile cities, leaving no space to produce their own foodstuffs, and therefore must import their food from elsewhere. Some onirarchies achieve self-sufficiency in this regard by various ways, Risinien by sustaining its people magically—and by the onirarchs feeding literally on the people, though on expendable growths and appendages—, Ovla Ba by filling its cities with greenery and edible animal life, and Mamlaas by raising herds and growing crops inside the buildings of their cities under artificial lighting. Others take advantage of their coasts to engage in fishing and aquaculture, producing some food that way, though in most cases not enough to account for all its people's alimentary needs. The largest importer of food is the Free Republic of Avelax, which produces negligible amounts of food on tiny garden plots but must import the majority of what it needs to sustain its enormous populace.
While some food is imported from undeveloped nations, these lands tend to be much less densely populated than onirarchies, and could not by themselves sustain the onirarchies' huge numbers. However, there are some onirarchies that produce enough food to trade the excess to other nations. Drithidiach and Mamlaas are the two largest exporters of food to other onirarchies, though there are many other onirarchies that export smaller amounts.
Media of exchange
Most onirarchies mint their own coins of varying denominations, the shapes and patterns varying widely. These coins are generally made of dreamstuff, making them easily produced by the dreamlords but nearly impossible to forge by someone without access to their powers. Theft of the coins is, however, still an issue, and the great mints where they are magically created are always well guarded.
However, not all transactions require a physical medium; the existence of tabulator batirines and other talismans and enchantments makes it possible to easily and reliably keep track of debts and assets without the necessity of any material markers, which means that many transactions—in some onirarchies, the vast majority—are done virtually, without any coins or other tangible moneys changing hands. The onirarchs keep track of each person's monetary balance, and this information is read and processed during transactions by magical means that vary between onirarchies.
Trade between onirarchies is generally done virtually as well, though occasionally trades may be made in kind or in exchange for favors. Some undeveloped nations do accept the coins of onirarchies they trade with as valid currency, but in general the coins of one onirarchy are not accepted in another onirarchy. Even with undeveloped nations, it is rare for onirarchies to trade in coins; onirarchies often trade such nations talismans and magical services, both of which are much more readily available to the dreamlords than to rulers without their vast magical resources to draw on.
Though most onirarchies have strict systems of laws, they are laws that most of their citizens are never particularly tempted to break, content as they are to go pacifically about the drudgery of their daily lives in order to get to the dreaming. However, onirarchies do have their share of lawbreakers; in addition to the resistance, which directly opposes the dreamlords, other types of outlaw include the black marketeers who sell goods not available through legal channels, and the smugglers who provide them with their wares as well as exporting contraband goods to other nations. Some people working for one onirarchy may be considered criminals in another, including spies reporting on local events to their foreign masters, and some smugglers may actually be in another onirarchy's employment.
In addition to activities such as theft, murder, and assault that are forbidden under most legal systems, there are other acts that the onirarchies see fit to outlaw. The practice of magic, for instance, is completely illegal in most onirarchies by anyone other than the dreamlords and their sanctioned agents; other mages not only could pose a threat to the state, but are also using dream energy that would otherwise go to the onirarchs. Travel outside an onirarchy is also generally not permitted without the government's express permission; onirarchies want to keep a hold on their citizens and the power they give them.
Enforcement of the law is generally done by batirines, some varieties of which are specially designed for the purpose, and can better serve it than a human agent. Eye batirines watch for illegal activities, while seekers infiltrate suspicious meetings and otherwise take a more active role in tracking down lawbreakers. When an incident takes place, enforcers apprehend the perpetrators. Other varieties also exist to perform these functions and various combinations, as well as certain other creatures such as the guler and the gargoyle.
Punishment may take various forms, but one of the most common is that of dream redirection—temporarily, a criminal will go, when he dreams, not to the usual paradisaical dreamworld but to an unpleasant or even horrific place instead. Many such nightmare dreamworlds exist that the onirarchs use for this purpose, including the Tarry Sea and the Forest of Teeth. For recidivists, or for those who, like many resistance members, place less value on the dreamworld anyway, other punishments exist. Imprisonment, disfigurement, and execution may be occasionally practiced, but a preferred punishment is to turn the scofflaw into a zombie, which has the side benefit of giving the onirarchs a new servitor, albeit an unwilling one.