Innovation is in the air. New technologies appear every day, the magical arts are flourishing, and the court tongues have never been more silver. The past is being re-examined and - if necessary - discarded in favour of the new. It was recently discovered that the heart pumps the blood around the body. Talented young playwrights are taking to the stage with bright, bombastic comedies and debauched, revengeful tragedies alike. Priests perform their sermons on street corners, attended by crowds a hundred strong. Painters are creating some of the most striking works seen to date. The universities flourish, and overreaching young scholars flock to their halls. If you listen in the right places, there are whispers of religious and political sedition. It has never been more exciting to be an Esharian.
The past few decades have seen a lot of translation and re-examination of formerly forgotten Hashar texts, leading to scientific leaps and bounds. It is steadily becoming more accepted that the earth revolves around the sun rather than vice versa. Anatomy is becoming increasingly more accurate. The universities are increasingly and overwhelmingly fascinated with algebra. The printing press has just been invented, allowing books to be distributed like never before.
Heavy muskets are only just starting to see widespread use, joining cannons and other simple artillery. Gunpowder is used in warfare and (more unusually) in simple fireworks. Rifles exist but are highly inaccurate and used only for sport.
Many of these innovations originated in the Wetlands, and their inventors continue to attempt more exciting and complex designs.
It is generally accepted that the body is made up of four humours: black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. Disease is caused by having an abundance or deficiency of any one of these. However, unlike the equivalent real-world theory, Esharians do not believe in any significant difference in humours between men, women, or other genders.
Another prominent theory is that disease is caused by inhaling bad air (or miasmas). Bad smells are not just unpleasant but present a health risk.
Every few years, outbreaks of plague occur. Previous bouts have all but decimated the population, but these are increasingly rare. While the disease has subsided, it has yet to fully disappear. Since you are in an opulent environment, plague will not present a threat to you unless you actively seek it out.
Two (or more) people can be legally married no matter their gender or sexuality, provided all parties are eighteen or older. Arranged marriages do take place, but not outside of these limitations. It is possible to opt out of an arranged marriage. The consequences for doing so vary from family to family, but mostly consist of displeased parents. However, this does not happen particularly often due to a strong cultural sense of familial duty.
Once married, a couple will decide between them which house to officially join (although links to a newlywed’s previous house will almost always be well maintained). The more wealthy or influential house is almost exclusively the one chosen.
Children of any gender can inherit, dependent on order of birth.1) However, when it comes to inheritance, legitimacy is paramount.
When married partners have a baby - whether by birth or adoption - a state-arranged Legitimacy Ritual will take place. During the ritual, the blood of the child is alchemically mixed with the blood of their parents. It is this that makes a child legitimate.
It is taboo to perform this ritual on an adult,2) as well as considerably more difficult. It is possible to perform multiple rituals on one child - for instance if their previous family died and they were then adopted - but it becomes more difficult with each one performed.
It is possible to tell whether a ritual has succeeded or failed, and a person's legitimacy can be verified through a fine-tuned magical procedure. However, there are no non-magical means of telling whether or not somebody is legitimate.
Regardless of parentage, if this ritual has not occurred, a child is not legitimate and is not eligible to inherit.
Most, if not all, children of lower middle class or higher will have attended a grammar school - classified here as a school that teaches magic. Children are taught to detect magic and cast simple spells by rote, with close and consistent study of Hashar texts. They are also given a grounding in reading, writing, and arithmetic.
Further study is undertaken at Esharia's universities. There are approximately ten throughout the country, clustered in the most notable cities. The oldest and most prestigious of these is Badosir University in Hashat, named for the scholar who established it. Other notable examples are Aggrianda (in the Wetlands) and Noscenza (a few miles away from Hashat).
Students do not choose a discipline but instead receive a jack-of-all-trades grounding in theology, literature, philosophy, and various applications of magic. By the end of it, students have a proficient grasp of all of these. Further more specialised study can then be undertaken, but most students enter a profession - the most common routes being into the army,3) the church, or court politics.
While primarily attended by the upper classes, scholarships are occasionally awarded to lower-class students who show sufficient promise in the magical arts. This is almost always accompanied by patronage from one of Esharia’s noble families.
Alchemically illegitimate children are barred from attending.