Whatever the intention of Oran Helting two thousand years before the time of Farthing, thirteen hundred years later is ideology was used to create an association of countries ruled by a common religious belief.
The decline of the Haften and Heinela Cwendrin empires was long and slow but by a thousand years after Helting's death, their influence and governance was fragmented and ineffectual leaving a vacuum where there was no authority.
In the land known as Heinelina, the Church of the True had been growing in influence and power and some of the countries across the continent were already being run by church councils and announcements about governance being transmitted through the temples.
Gofan Hemona was a priest in the town of Stern in North Han and had built up a following who were determined to wrest the country from the grip of the war lord whose family had ruled for two centuries. In an armed struggle that lasted three years, Hemona won control and helped neighbouring countries to seize their own lands with his help.
Hemona believed in a rigid interpretation of Oran Heltings original writings and he doubled the number of temples and made the ritual of "giving faith" mandatory; men had to give faith three times a week and women and girl children daily to pardon them for being weak.
Hemona was opposed to rule by blood and he advocated that on his death he would nominate a successor based on piety and dogma. He believed that by this method, the law of his god would remain paramount.
In contrast to his tough stance on personal behaviour, he gave favour to large trading families who benefited from his patronage and were spared many of the rituals and restrictions of daily life. The country, for the few, became prosperous and others imitated his system.
In his middle years Hemona formed the first Prelature, a gathering of Prelates held on an occasional basis. In many ways it was an imitation of the very earlies Cwendrina Councils and was used to create alliances between the Prelates and to solve disputes. However, it was also used to discuss and form doctrinal law. Although the Prelature had no formal say over how each prelate ran their small country, nor over exactly how they interpreted the teachings of Oran Helting, much agreement was found and in the early days the Prelature held much power.
At this time the term Prelatehood was adopted to replace the term Country. Hemona never lived to see all countries in The Prelates, as the continent had now been renamed, become Prelatehoods as it took anther hundred years. By five hundred years before the time of Farthing, all countries within The Prelates were Prelatehoods.
In the beginning the Prelature was held every year, but as nearly two hundred Prelatehoods were members and some Prelates had to travel long distances, the council was held every five years instead. It must be remembered that by this time the rift between dragons and humans had been festering for some one thousand years and since Oran Helting did not favour close relationships with Hexapods (though her was in no way against their existence himself), the Prelates were not in the position to ask favours of the Dragons or even pay them to carry them.
Over time the Prelature lost its influence over the Prelatehoods which became kingdoms in everything but name. By three hundred years before Farthing's time, it was common for the Prelates to simply pass their title down their own family which was against Hemona's original teaching. When Farthing was born the Prelature had not been held for more than twenty years, the last one having been poorly attended.
The Twelve Dutchies
West of the Western Alps, the last lands held by the failed Heinela Cwendrin, the transition into Prelatehoods was less complete than it had been east of the mountains. Although they were known as the Western Prelates for a time and even regarded as Prelatehoods, the Prelates there never took part in the Prelature.
Indeed, the Prelates their did not have complete governance over their regions.
As time passed, new families arose through blood feuds, many claiming lineage with the twelve old families, thought their is much dispute as to whether any of these claims were truly legitimate.
The Prelates were pushed from their position and the west once more became a Kingdom run by the twelve families. They imposed the ancient Feudal system, thought for a time they kept a strong association with the temples.
A Free Society
Oran Helting was opposed to anything that put dominance of one over another, though he was noted for his misogyny.
Under Hemona and the Prelature, slavery was made illegal and that remained constant throughout all the Prelatehoods till their eventual collapse.
The feudal system was also much frowned upon and land ownership was allowed by all.
In practice, favour was always given to the richest traders, and it is thought that many of them still used slaves, though it is unknown how much.
However, in many ways, the society was much more open and free than in previous times; travel was not restricted, taxes were often loose and the opportunistic had the freedom to take opportunities. In other ways doctrinal law and dogma could be very oppressive and was embraced by much of the citizenry. In North Han and Tepid Lakes, two famously conservative Prelatehoods, you were as likely to be sanctioned by your neighbour as by the local priest if you failed in some moral expectation.
In more liberal Prelatehoods where the local priests had less influence, society was probably about as free as it had ever been and far more so than under the Heinela Cwendrin.
North South Divide
The north of The Prelates has always had a larger population and been more affluent than the southern Prelatehoods, but they were by far the more conservative. As time passed, those in the south east became more Liberal, though they were often much poorer and were often run by the most greedy of Prelates.
It is no surprise that Pree had her earliest success south of the Red Mountains. These countries had become tired and some barely governed with unsafe roads, collapsing infrastructures and even uncollected taxes. Several of the countries changed with a bloodless coup, though some like Siinland suffered heavy fighting.
These countries also saw the greatest benefit since many areas were very poor and trade had suffered through banditory. Under the new councils trade improved dramatically.
It has been speculated that war might have broken out across the Red Mountains some two centuries before Farthing's birth, but the north had continuous problems with the war lords of the Northern Waste who had never accepted either the Prelature or the teachings of Oran Helting and were powerful and numerous.
After the collapse of the Prelates system, the Southern States prospered for some years, but those in the north were much slower to adopt the principles of Pree's Law and the Mayoral system. Some never did, but as the Prelates lost influence, these were the first states to drift back to feudal societies.
The south, of course, followed; with the breakdown of trade in the north and following some punishing droughts in the far south, there was a dramatic fall in the population and some areas became ungovernable. Mayors became kings and the hard won battles fought by Pree were forgotten.
Much of the blame for the failure of Pree's dream and, indeed, the failure of the Prelates before was put down to the divide between humans and dragons. Till the rise of the Haftens in particular but also the Heinela Cwendrin, there had been a very close bond between the three main speicies - Dragons, Humans and Callistons. Each fulfilled needs of the other and with the non territorial stance of the dragons and that they could fly huge distances, it was a very joined up world. By the time of the Prelature this symbiotic relationship had died, and under Pree, the Dragons had had to leave.
If the Prelature is remembered positively in any sense it will be because it proved that mutual co-operation produces more secure and stable society than confrontation.
However, the extreme dogma practices by many of the Prelates undermined that success and in places it created embittered, reserved societies.