The Thelo government is organized on three levels: First is the king, who speaks for the Thelo people to the outside world. As of 1899, the king has been deposed by invaders from Mount Diamount five times. Second consist of the council advised by the king’s consorts, who decide matters of internal affairs. Interestingly, while all three members of the council are women, the king’s consorts can be any gender. The king chooses his head consort and ten higher consorts to actually govern, and any number of lower consorts, who advise and fill minor administrative roles. None of the consorts are allowed to be otherwise married, naturally, but intercourse is not required, especially in cases of the higher consorts. Any child born to one of the king’s consorts is legally considered to be the king’s child, but sons born to the head consort are first in line for the throne, in order of seniority, followed by other sons, then daughters of the head consort, then other daughters if worst comes to worst. In the rare instance the king herself is a woman, she is still legally the father of any children born to her female consorts, but only one of her own children can take the throne, with alleged paternity not factoring in. There have been three female kings in the history of Thelo, which was first united as one kingdom in 1235, after the first Diamonitan invasion.
The king’s head consort is always a woman, even in the rare instance that the king herself is a woman. She is one member of the council, which is officially the council of the three sisters. The other two are sent from the islands. Each island had its own method of choosing its council member. On the outer island, the position is hereditary, passed down from mother to daughter. On the middle island, the council member is one of the chieftains’ daughters, chosen by committee consensus. The council of three sisters meets at least once every day in a building not too far from the palace. Interestinngly, the council has never stopped meeting since its creation, although during Diamontian occupation, they didn’t actually do anything much, other than make sure news was spread through non-Diamontian channels. They are still in charge of keeping the population apprised through a network of young people known as Vee’fai after a species of bird that inhabit the island.
The vast majority of governing in Thelo takes place at a local level. The land is split into villages, with populations ranging from a few dozen to nearly 100,000. These “key villages” tend to be where trade is the most prevalent and are often on the coast or at a nexus of frequently traveled routes. Each village is run by a chieftain, who is the oldest son of the previous chieftain, etc. There is an ancient custom known as “sʒoθo~sho”, wherein if three fourths or more of the villages population agree, a chieftain can be killed and replaced with his younger brother or oldest son. This is very rarely done, especially in large villages. The chieftains are said to be descended directly from the three sons of the goddess Thelo. They trace their lineage through former chieftains, calling themselves [name] son of [father’s name] son of [father’s name] chieftain of [villiage]. The rest of the population traces their lineage matralinally. Even the non-oldest children of the chieftainns do so, calling themselves [name] son/daughter of Chieftain [chieftain’s name] via [name of consort] daughter of [mother’s name] daughter of [mother’s name], daughter of [mother’s name] etc. Those who are a few generations off from a chieftain on their mother’s side will also sill throw his name into the mix, call themselves [name] son/daughter of [mother’s name] daughter of [mother’s name] daughter of the chieftain [chieftain’s name] via [consort’s name] daughter of [mother’s name] etc. Last names have no legal purpose and are not recognized in legal documentation, but are not unheard of. Generally, anyone who has legal business in another country, most commonly Mont Diamount, generally invents a last name for themselves, which is them sometimes brought back and adopted by family members for non-official purposes. Those of Diamontian decent will often keep their last name as a family marker, though whether they use it depends of social circumstance, as being of Diamonitan decent has social significance based on their tumultuous history. Ex-Pats living in Gil or larger villages also tend to keep last names.
Land ownership passes from mother to her oldest daughter. If a woman dies without having any daughters, it goes to either her sister or her landless daughter-in-law or her sister’s oldest daughter, depending on the circumstances. Usually, all interested parties make their case before the chieftain in court. While a chieftain or the king can have multiple consorts, all other men are restricted to one wife. Women, on the other hand, can have multiple husbands, although this is very rare among women who don’t own land. There was also a custom that allowed a younger daughter to declare her intentions to claim some of the jungle for herself, provided that she can get five men to swear that they will marry her. Women not set to inherit land who don’t want to go this route and men who don’t want to marry into that sort of situation often seek a place in some non-agricultural field, which often leads to relocation to larger villages, at least temporarily, for better opportunities. Men and women involved in the trades tend toward more “traditional” marriages of one man and one woman. While same sex partnerships among this population are tolerated by society, and are even able to have their unions blessed by the priests of Mell, they are not considered legally married. In fairness, there are no economic distinctions to officially married couples, and the main reason that marriage is brought up in court is if a man’s mother dies without any daughters. Divorce is illegal, but if someone is found guilty of domestic violence in court, then the victim has the right to take any children and retreat to their mother’s household, or in cases where the victim is a woman who either owns land or is living on land owned by her mother or older sister, the abuser is banished back to his mother’s household or kicked out. If a woman has more than one husband, she maintains custody of all children, since there’s no way to prove paternity. In small villages, this can be very awkward. Also worth noting is that neither party in such a case is ever allowed to get future unions blessed by the priests of Mell, although a woman, if not the abuser, could take more husbands. Any woman found guilty of domestic abuse is forbidden from taking any more husbands. While a woman might take multiple husbands, she is still subject to the rule that any given person can only have one union blessed by Mell, at least while both partners are still alive. Such a blessing is irrevocable and permanent, and is only taken in cases of pure romantic intent, as opposed to marriage, which can have social and practical reasons behind it. The technically term for a person bound this way is ‘Mell-bound’, although the term is most often used by same-sex couples, as they can’t say ‘husband’ or ‘wife’. There are also those called renunciates, who renounce their gender legally, which disallows them the legal right to marry or own land. Anyone who owns land and then renounces must first pass the ownership of the land to a female relative. Any marriages are still considered valid though, and renouncing does not stop a person from Mell-bonding. How much acceptance there is of renunciates varies from place to place, as does how exactly any law that differentiates men and women is applied. In some villages, chieftains will even allow the marriage of renunciates to women, in which case the law applies as it does to men. In naming conventions, the term son/daughter is replaced with the opposite, where appropriate, or with “to’cheh”, a catchall term for any kinship relationship that would normally be gendered when said person does not conform to either gender fully. “to’cheh of my mother” is sometimes used to refer to non-binary siblings when more specificity is needed, with the understanding that whoever gave birth to a person, even if they are not female, is still their mother.
Starting in Gil in about 1750, and spreading to other large villages, there was a ban put on renting or selling land for three generations after it was claimed. This was put in place as a measure against unscrupulous real estate developers, many of whom were Diamotian, from gaming the system. This led to a chronic shortage of non-agricultural land in large villages and leads to those not involved in agriculture living in very small spaces, and also to land-owners who owned land near the center of said villages very rich. While Gil is the only settlement officially called a city, some of the other large villages, particularly Fee’sho, on the middle island, have a much higher population. The cultural differences between these large villages and the more numerous small villages is not unsubstantial, with the main to being the prevalence of marriage to multiple men especially among women who don’t own land, and the levels of education especially of those not closely related to the chieftain.