The Southern District of the Stone Throne is currently experiencing substantial (albeit hidden) political turmoil. The current Phraya of the District is Isal Sat'psa Balin, but he is both frail in physical health and visibly, publicly senile. And has been since before his appointment to the position. He's a figurehead, and everyone knows it. Worse (and the cause of all the problems)--he did not appoint an heir before suddenly being struck down with his current infirmity. His 18 children have spent the last 6 years since the fall of the Dark Lady (and likely several more before that) scheming, blackmailing, and otherwise contesting for the position of the next Phraya of the Southern District. Now it's down to four major candidates. These are the ones described below.
First, a lesson about Isal Balin and how things got to this point.
The Sat'psa clan was the original ruling family in this district since the Cataclysm until recently. About 50 years ago, when Isal Balin was a young adult, an upstart named Il'ka took power with the connivance of the then-reigning High Priestess. Balin's father, the rightful Phraya fled into exile along with much of his immediate family. Il'ka proved to be a brutal man who ruled with an iron fist. Balin joined the military and served with distinction in the first wave to clear out the Northern District for settlement. He formed a blood bond with two other soldiers, a common man named Po and a Ba slave named Apa. Disregarding rank, status, and even caste, the three of them pledged to become one family--each would take care of the others until they died.
Under an assumed name, the three of them returned as minor nobility (except for Apa, who was given honorary clean status) to the Southern District years later with their families. True to their promise, the families all became one. When Po died, Balin married his wife (along with his then two other wives) and adopted his three children as his own. Same with Apa and his brood by a human woman. All in all, Balin had 26 children (his own and adopted) by 9 different women (4 wives and 5 concubines). His eldest died to Il'ka's brutality; his youngest, Isal Kham Dara is a woman of about 25 years.
8 years ago when the Dark Lady overthrew Il'ka and became Phraya (although she was never formally accepted as such), Isal Balin was not among her sycophants. In retaliation, she cursed him with her fell magics, turning his hale frame and sharp mind into near-drooling idiocy and physical inability requiring help for even the most basic needs. Since then, his family has watched over him. No one wants him to die yet--there isn't a clear heir and without one, the Queen's Fang is likely to select someone from outside the family as the next Phraya (a fate none of them, no matter how much they detest each other, want).
By Balin's will, selection of a new heir can only come by general acclaim from three groups. First, the candidate needs a clear majority of all the nobles of Luang rank or above (ie those with land of their own). These votes are taken each season, and candidates can acquire proxies from other nobles. Second, they need letters promising a certain threshold of financial support from the Lai of the District. These letters can be withdrawn if the grantor no longer has the funds to supply them, which makes economic warfare a big part. Third, they need the support of a majority of regional delegates chosen from the common caste (with two chosen from the Ba at large). Most candidates presume that, once they have the other two locked down, they can intimidate (or bribe) the commoners into supporting whoever they choose.
Isal Kham Dara (Luang)
The clear favorite among the common classes (who sadly don't get a vote), Isal Dara is a young, pretty, half-elven woman about 25 years old. As the youngest of Isal Balin's brood, she was married off to another minor noble (hence the different family name) who is a total non-entity. She favors simple, but beautiful and finely-tailored garments with little overt ornamentation. Trained as a wizard and alchemist, she specializes in the creation of potions and oils to cure diseases and treat infirmities. She's also noted for her illusion powders (cosmetics by another name). She runs a set of low-price clinics and gives away much of her products to the poor. Most of the other nobles disdain her, figuring that the good will of the commoners (who aren't even in her land-holding) means very little.
She lives on an estate several miles south of Kel'al'ar, although she maintains a city residence as well. Unlike most of the nobles, she leans very heavily on Ba servitors, including the Unclean. Most of her personal bodyguards are Ba, including several of the ophidian breeds. Politically, she's progressive and favors relaxation of caste restrictions and more integration in society. This does not help her support among the Isal caste, but does gain her favor from the commoners, the Ba, and the Lai caste.
Of the four, she is the weakest by conventional measures. Her candidacy is considered a joke by many but especially by Isal Ichiru. Strangely, Isal Kala is most wary of her candidacy. Isal Dao and she are bitter rivals and have hated each other since they were children. In return, she is most fond of Kala, but dismisses Ichiru as an old-timer with nothing but toadies and no real vision.
She boasts the enthusiastic support of about 60% of the commons, but falls short of the required amount of Lai support and commands only about 10% of the Isal vote.
Update as of early summer 211 AC: Isal Dara has suffered severe mental trauma due to a spell gone wrong (although rumors paint a darker tone) and has withdrawn both from the succession race and from public life. Her assets are being managed by the Temple.
Isal Sat'psa Kala (Luang)
Isal Kala is the only one of the candidates who is not a blood relative of Isal Balin. She was born a Lai (from a banking family), but married one of Balin's sons, an older gentleman by the name of Dar. It was not a love match--the impoverished Dar needed financing from Kala's mother, and the price was Kala's ennoblement. Dar is only known as being the first (and only) victim of a political assassination for the heirship, a deed that was tracked back to another candidate. At that point, the Fang laid down the law. The offending noble was stripped of rank and banished to the west (into the Bloodthirst Wildlands) and the other candidates were placed on notice. Any more killings (or other major violations of the law) and the Fang would choose a new Phraya...and all of them would no longer be nobles at that point.
Kala chose to continue her husband's candidacy, backed by her family's immense wealth and connections. Known for being harsh but fair, she is a plain woman in her mid-fourties. Although she has no children of her own, she has adopted several from other families. Unconcerned with status or glamour, she is very focused on economic practicalities. Most of the nobles are in debt to her, and her support has aided the Lai caste tremendously. As a result, she currently is well over the mark for Lai support. She, like Dara, has very little Isal support--only about 20%. The commoners are neutral to her, both appreciating her focus on improving the lives of everyone and fearing her inflexible sense of justice and apparent lack of mercy. She commands about 20% of the total there. Politically, she favors economic development without concern for rank or status, although she favors the Lai over the commoners. She and Ichiru are economic rivals and have a respectful hatred; she despises Dao as a slimy, image-focused politician.
Isal Sat'psa Ichiru (Phra)
Isal Ichiru is the front-running candidate among the more traditional people (especially the landed nobility). An older (late 40's) man, his source of wealth is a collection of productive mines (iron and gold), as well as a half-interest in a dwarven-run foundry/smithing venture. He is quite wealthy, extremely traditional, and known to be brutal to those who work for him. Balding and heavy (for a serpent-kin), he has a rotating collection of young beauties on his arm at events--none of them last very long. As one of the older sons of Isal Balin, he considers the throne his birthright.
Ichiru believes in caste and caste privileges and is highly resistant to change or disruption. He lived through Il'ka's and the Dark Lady's reigns by being willing to sell to anyone and his brutality fit right in with their oppression. He has approximately 0% support from the commoners and the Lai caste fears his rule tremendously, as he's known to run roughshod over them, including rarely paying full price for goods. The only of his competitors he is even slightly concerned with is Isal Kala, who she hates. Dara is not even worthy of contempt, and Dao is "that slimy good-for-nothing".
Isal Singh Dao (Phra)
Isal Dao presents as a reformer to the commoners and Lai, while playing the part of traditional noble with the nobles. His domain is furthest from Kel'al'ar and is centered around the port/fishing town of Meas'sraat. Of all the candidates, he's the largest land-holder. How he has the wealth to compete with the others is unsure--his only notable business venture is a popular (throughout the kingdom) and diverse chain of brothels and entertainment houses.
Dao is in his mid thirties and known for being a sharp dresser in the latest fashions. His clothes and manner are always top-notch, but his essential slimy-ness oozes from every pore. He always knows the right thing to say to butter people up. He and Isal Dara are bitter rivals, both accusing the other of misfeasance and sponsoring raids into the other's territory.
Of note, in 208 AC there was an incident in one of his minor towns that required adventurer intervention--it had had been taken over by a cambion who was trying to breed a half-devil army. His response to this crisis was...muted, to say the least. In the aftermath, he moved in and "cleaned up". None of the witnesses ever reported any problems after that.