Banner of Parthia
Parthia is a kingdom ruled by a vampiric aristocracy, established following a coup by a particularly composed and long-sighted clan of vampires. They infiltrated the aristocracies of Eastern Varelia unknown centuries ago, and eventually gathered enough influence and prestige to wage open war against the Emperor, establishing the independence of their realms 200 years ago. Their armies were smaller, as few would serve them, but they themselves struck in the night at the Imperial chain of command, sending their enemies into disarray and forcing a peace that secured their independence. Following their success, all domains in Eastern Varelia were turned over to vampiric rule, with the mortal aristocracy sent into exile in the west.
The Parthian clans do not behave like other vampires, and never have. The others are driven mad by their hunger for blood, but the Parthians have ever retained their senses and judgment. They were quite deliberate in their plot for control, desiring to move away from the vampiric equivalent of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle and towards a more pastoral arrangement. They consider their mortal subjects their herd, and they are the shepherds. The beating heart of this arrangement is the blood tax extracted from the residents of all Parthian domains. In the interest of keeping the public peace, children and the elderly are exempt from the blood tax, and it is a testament to the cunning of the Parthian rulers that this has always been so. The only others exempt from this tax are those that serve in the armies, so that they may be at their full strength.
The Parthian vampire lords are interested in maintaining this arrangment for a very, very long time, and so conventional taxes are significantly lower than in other domains. As long as the blood keeps flowing, they are quite generous to their herd, and naturally fiercely protective of it. Monstrous incursions and threats from bandits are dealt with in the dark of night, efficiently and with incredible brutality. The mortal Parthian Guard (the standing army of Parthia) is tasked with keeping bloodshed among the populace to a minimum, for obvious reasons. These elements combine to make the status quo under vampiric rule quite tolerable (if not always pleasant, on account of the mandatory ritual bloodletting). It must be so, because the Parthians are branded with a tattoo in their youth, and denied the freedom to emigrate. All ships flying the Parthian flag are crewed only by the Guard and the vampires. Few other mortals ever receive permission to leave, and those almost always on state business, attending a vampire lord. Slavery as such is forbidden by law in Parthia, and those who pay their taxes (both gold and blood) and stay inside the borders are seldom meddled with by agents of the state.
The Parthian Kingdom is not expansionist (at least, not on any human timescale), but maintains the Parthian Guard to see to its security in the daylight hours. Guards who perform their duties well and demonstrate great loyalty are sometimes chosen to join the ranks of the vampires, as a demonstration of upward mobility in Parthian society. This “tenure” is never mandatory, but allows Parthia to field an elite guard of vampiric fighters to serve as the vanguard of its nocturnal attacks. This elite guard, in turn, is sometimes granted land to watch over in return for faithful service.
Otherwise, land changes hands in Parthia far less frequently than in other kingdoms, on account of an aristocratic attrition rate of around zero. In the rare event that a vampiric domain-holder should be destroyed, it is customary that they have personally declared a successor already in the event of an unfortunate staking. The king of Parthia is the original leader of the Parthian clan, indeterminably old, and has reigned since the coup he lead himself. His council, likewise, has been with him since the beginning. Parthia, as such, is a deeply traditional and fairly fatalistic society. A mortal Parthian might aspire to wealth or home ownership, but land and titles are reserved for the immortal undead. The Guard is not only a difficult but a dangerous place to distinguish oneself, and most Parthians are resigned to their lot as artisans and farmers who never travel far from home. If a visitor asks them how they find life under these circumstances, they typically smile and wryly praise the low taxes.
Other nations find the Parthian arrangement unsettling, but the vampires’ dealings with other rulers have been mild and fair since their revolution, which has kept the peace so far. Varelia still bears a grudge about its lost territory, and has an extensive network of safe-houses for Parthian refugees (and a good number of dedicated vampire hunters to deal with any attempts to take them back across the border). The secret plans of Parthia’s rulers are the subject of much speculation, but their agenda unfolds under cover of night, too gradually to attract much notice.
Few mortals will live to see what the future holds for Parthia, but even now that future is being plotted in its windowless keeps, by those who live forever in the darkness.