Monday, September 19, 2016

Setting: The Imperial Calendar

[Just a quick something to get back into the habit of writing. Not part of my current game rules, but rather something from my old campaign.]

The Imperial Calendar was created during the reign of the Emperor Constans in order to provide the Empire with a single calendar. At the time of the introduction of the Imperial Calendar, during the reign of the Emperor Constans, there were four major calendars in use within the Empire - the Mithraic, Aslander, Mahan, Pagan, and Church calendars (in addition to numerous minor calendars). Not only did they have a different count of years, they also had differing definitions of how the year was to be split up.

Each of them had their problems:

  • The most commonly used calendar was actually the Mithraic (since Mithras was the current Imperial Capital), which was a solar calendar that dated from the reputed founding of the city. However this consisted simply of a day count from the autumnal equinox (which was effectively Day 0 of the count). It was a tradition that all business deals and obligations in the year be finalised before the Equinox. Each new day started at dawn. Because it was a simple count of days the probability of someone making an error in the count (and subsequent disputes) grew as the year went on.
  • The Aslander calendar was a solar zodiacal calendar, with the year being subdivided by which of the twelve zodiacal constellations the sun rose in at the beginning of each day. This had two basic problems. First of all, the constellations occupied different parts of the sky, so each month was effectively of different length. For example the Vulture was officially a month with 34 days, whilst the Hare only had 25 days. Secondly there could be a dispute as to when a new month officially started, which had consequences for business disputes. This was officially settled by the Aslanders by having the Senior Judge of each city make the observation as to when each month actually began. Thus the first day of Hare occured 35 days after the first day of Vulture. This was fine and dandy, until, in typical Aslander fashion, a court case decided that "observation" was quite an important legal aspect of this decision/custom, so that the new month could not start until the Senior Judge literally observed the sun rise in the constellation. Thus an inconvenient bout of bad weather (or inability of the Senior Judge to make the observation) could artificially lengthen one month and shorten the next.
  • The Mahan calendar was really a minor calendar at this time, although is worth mentioning at this time because of the importance it gained after the Interregnum, when it was became the official calendar of the Witch Kingdoms (the so-called "Empire of the Moon"), which grew up around the clansmen of the Mountains of Maha and the Caverns of Nosorol. It was a lunar calendar based around the phases of the moon, and started each new moon and lasting 28 days. The first month of the year began on the new moon that follows the winter solstice.
  • The Pagan calendar(s) were your typical rural calendar system which was governed by the local agriculture and weather. They were probably the most important sort of calendar if you wanted to grow food, but the increasingly urban population (including scholars) tended to ignore it. Still many rural "contracts" were written in terms like "after the bean harvest," making it a useful measure of time.
  • The Church calendar was probably the worst of the lot, since it was a liturgical calendar based on the various saint's days. Originally the major saint's day where associated with the solar festivals (for example Saint Mithras Day was the autumnal equinox, whilst Saint Justen's Day was the summer solstice). There were two problems that resulted from this. First of all, the Synod added days to the calendar in positions that were theologically appropriate to the surrounding saints. As the calendar filled up, this eventually pushed some of the major saints away from their respective solar festivals since each saint's day had to be celebrated in order. The second problem was that the Synod didn't stop adding names to the calendar when they reached 365 saints. At the time of the Emperor Constans, the Church calendar was officially 456 days long.

The Emperor Constans, in consultation with his astrologers and court magicians, sought to create a new Imperial calendar. Because of a love of symmetry it was to have four seasons, each consisting of three months of exactly thirty days in length. In the middle of each middle month there was added an extra day to the calendar which was the ay of the appropriate Solar Festival. These festival day were not actually considered to be part of the calendar - they were not actually part of the middle month of each season, and no business or work could be performed on them. The middle month remained legally exactly 30 days long (despite the fact that the sun might rise and set 31 times in the same time period). The year would officially start on the summer solstice (using the count of years since the reputed inauguration of the First Emperor - who was later to be canonised as Saint Justen).

And so all the calendar problems were to be solved in one fell swoop. By Imperial decree the calendar was adopted throughout the Empire at the next summer solstice, which would begin Year 756 of the Empire (IE).

Only there was one small teensy problem - the solar year was actually 365 days long, and the new Imperial year was only 364 days long.

They were still arguing over where to put the extra day in the calendar when the year 777IE formally started. The decision was delayed by Constans' illness though. And then someone noticed something strange about the autumnal equinox (Harvestfare). Everyone could remember celebrating it on the day, but people counting back the number of days in the month arrived at it being exactly 30 days long, not 31. There were 15 days before it and 15 days after it, but only 30 days in the month. This happened at the winter solstice (Sunreturn) as well. And the summer solstice (Emperor's Day) occurred exactly after 15 days of the middle month of Midsummer. An entire day had been excised from the year.

It appears as if they had inadvertently (although some suggest intentionally) created an Empire-wide magical ritual that had excised a whole day from the solar year.

The year 757IE happened much the same way (well except for the death of the Emperor Constans from his protracted illness and the investiture of the Emperor Rubens). And 758IE. 759IE. The magicians of the Empire waited for something to happen for their hubris at accidentally trifling with time (something that was prohibited by the High Council of Wizards for a very good reason). But nothing happened...


If you are busy doing a long task and you finish sooner than you think you would, or are taking a long trip and discover that you got there sooner than you thought you could, then perhaps, just maybe, that extra uncounted day you got was the Lost Day, just helping you in your time of need.

Serving time retail, rather than wholesale.

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