“The Monarch is Eternal,” was the motto of the founding house of Albethia. It has been adopted by the two bloodlines that have taken up that mantle since then. Only those of the scholarly or dynastic bents actually know that the bloodlines have changed.
In fact, many people do not know when their Monarch actually changes. The factor that causes this? The Mask of the Monarch.
The Mask’s origins predate the era of the First Lord, as his blood wore the mask in battle for generations. The Tradition of The Mask and the story behind it are grist for the bardic mills. Everyone of the Lands has heard one of the dozen or so of main versions stories, each of which contain some grains of the truth (The noble house, the battle mask of tradition, The First, his Son, the bluff of the embassy, the ride in the dark, the illness, The Brother Lost, and the tentative alliances, all key parts of the story). The actual tale has been lost to all but the Monarch’s personal chronicles in the bardic deluge.
That Lord, of course, led the Nobles and forged what we now know as Albethia. He became The First Lord, The Monarch.
Since then, all rulers of the country have worn the Great Mask. Only those in the court really know when the ruler changes, when the mask is transferred from the once reigning monarch to the new monarch.
The Mask itself is made of silvered steel. It resembles a simplified face: eyes, nose, cheeks, mouth. At the eyes, there are rectangular slits. The eyes of The Monarch are partially obscured by these slits, helping to mask the emotions (and identity) of The Monarch. There is a rectangular, semi articulated mouth slot, that allows The Monarch to eat. The mask is more of a helmet, actually. It covers the entire head and is fairly adjustable. Once put on, it is locked in place by complex mechanism using a noble signet ring. Once on, it is said to never be removed except upon death.
The Monarch is always an imposing figure. The Monarch, in public (and many times in private) wears the purple cloak of office, whos hood is worn over The Mask. The Monarch wears appropriate clothes or The Armor of Throne, (matching Armor that is said to be so finally articulated that a pin can not be slipped in the joints).
The Mask makes the wearer’s emotions nearly unreadable. There is no revealing face or eyes. The Monarch’s voice is altered by the mask, making identifying who is the Monarch was and determining the emotional state of the Monarch difficult. This makes negotiating with The Monarch disconcerting. It is one of the “advantages” The Monarch has.
It is said, “To take up the Mask is to become the Monarch, and all that entails”. The press of legend and history is said to change the wearer. They become more than what they were (and some say lose themselves in the process). They have taken on the mantle of greatness. The Mask of the Monarch is physically impressive it is true. However, the legends of the Monarch; the daring, cunning, and power of the Monarchs past inspires confidence and fear beyond that of what a normal person could expect.
The People believe in the Monarch and that belief empowers the Monarch. This is not a magical process; nothing so crass. This is knowledge and acceptance that the country believes in The Monarch. That belief is the power of the Monarch, lending strength of will and confidence of action. It is not just the people of Albethia, others believe in the Power of the Monarch as well. This belief weakens them when they face this imposing figure.
Various Rumors and Details
There are tales of substitute masks and subterfuge of one person wearing the mask while the Real First Lord is free to do other things. Such things are only rumor and speculation, based upon some of the grains of truth of the bardic tales.
While the First Lord is for life, some say a First Lord has “retired” and allowed a younger sibling, child, or regent, to take over. This has never been confirmed by the Royals.
Tradition says that “There is only one mask”. Royal courtiers have noted that there have been changes in the mask, which either implies a magical power or artistans secretly making new masks. One of the associated rumors is that part of the original mask is always incorporated into the new masks.
It is also said that one of these masks is missing. They are still searching for it. For the wearer of that mask could easily take over part of the country and create a civil war in Albethia.
There have been female monarchs who have worn the crown. It is the existence of female monarchs that have put to rest the idea that The Monarch is immortal. (Some say it is just a trick of magic or temporarily having a woman wear a mask while The Monarch still ruled from behind the scenes, and that the Monarch really is immortal).
There is a crown of Albethia, worn at state occasions to imply rulership to foreigners. It is worn over The Mask.
The Monarch always has a successor chosen. That name is given to a few trusted aids who have “the key”. It is they who remove the Mask and grant it to the successor. Some are said to have a ceremony. However, bardic tales say some find themselves with the Mask of the Monarch on when they awaken in the Monarch’s bed chamber.