Note: Technically, the 'Meridians' are the places on the Tarrasque's body where a immoveable harpoon has been sunk, while the immoveable harpoons themselves are the magical item controlled by its respective command words. However, sometimes the term 'meridian' is used to refer to the physical object of the harpoon, or even the Binder-Lord controlled ‘zone’ around it.
Each of the 13 immoveable harpoons that have been sunk into the Tarrasque, binding it in place, is controlled by a command word. Knowledge of each of these command words is a closely guarded secret, not only due to the practical dangers of
someone unbinding the Tarrasque (as the Circle of Release intends to do) but also due to the fact the knowledge of a command word is woven into the formal notions of power within the City of Salt in Wounds.
Command Word Possessors
In theory, each Binder-Lord or Lady is the 'possessor' of the command word that corresponds to their house's meridian. As possessor, they are the only individual legally entitled to ever 'use' the command word and it is in this quality that their formal authority rests. None save the respective Binder-Lord 'possessor' may ever use the command word to unmoor or remoor their respective harpoon under penalty of truncation. The last individual to do so (and suffer the penalty) was Ex-Master God-Butcher Helenie.
Command Word Confirmers and Safeguards
However, each meridian command word also features a minimum of four others (Master God-Butchers, well connected merchants, and other Binder-Lords) who act as 'confirmers;’; individuals who are aware of the command word, but are charged with using that knowledge to 'check' the knowledge of a Binder-Lord or teach it to a new Binder-Lord (and so are integral to managing Meridian House succession). Binder-Lord and Ladies usually pass on their command words to their successors well before they themselves step down as part of the process of establishing their heir apparent. Most commonly, this honor is bestowed upon the first born of either sex, but sometimes it is granted to a different relative or -even more rarely- an unrelated individual who has been adopted into the Meridian House, usually as the result of some great service.
While uncommon, coups are possible. The first step of which is to discover the respective meridian command word. After this, the original Binder-Lord or Lady has to be deposed, and then the would be successor needs approval from 3 out of the 4 confirmers (a ‘confirmation’). Any individual who is able to gain a (secret) command word, overthrow a Binder-Lord or Lady, and politically secure a confirmation quorum is generally accepted as possessing all the necessary skills to excel as one of the new oligarchs of Salt in Wounds.
Extensive use of memory magic (like Modify Memory) or compulsion magic (like Geas) is used to prevent 'leaks' and limit knowledge or use of command words.
Other Sources for Command Words
In addition to residing in the minds of their respective confirmers and possessors, command words can be found in the following places:
- The command words are magically woven into the immoveable harpoons themselves. In addition, they also are embedded into and act as the command words for a number of 'secondary' magical items unique to a few of the Meridian houses (crowns, scepters, weapons, etc). There is a rumor that an otherwise unremarkable halfling wizard named Patrega Thatchthumb operating in the Throat bazaar has created a device that can extract a magical command word from the item it controls.
- Command words are sometimes possessed by disgraced or otherwise replaced confirmers or possessors. Some of these individuals are vagrants in distant cities, some are prisoners, some of these individuals are half-insane hermits living in the wildlands. Many of these individuals have had their memories magically altered, or are under a compulsion to reveal their command word(s) only under very specific circumstances. Learning the identity, whereabouts, and communication conditions of such individuals represents a massive magical or academic undertaking.
- In the rarest of cases, command words are written down (generally only for volatile Meridian Houses which have experienced succession crises or by Binder-Lords who wish to flaunt security conventions). Such instances are under heavy guard, usually secreted in a vault complete with magical and mundane countermeasures to oppose would be thieves.
- Certain command words can be obtained (for an exorbitant fee) from one of the half dozen information brokers operating within the city.
Releasing the Tarrasque
While sometimes their ritualized political use obscures this fact; the harpoon command words are the true keys that could unlock the destruction of Salt in Wounds and the reshaping of the world. All major factions and power blocks have an incredible interest in controlling knowledge of the command words. Only the Master God-Butchers (in their role as confirmers and only collectively as a group) possess all 13. In addition to this, they also control physical access to each of the harpoons (except for the 12th, which is currently controlled by the Marrow Miners) and could therefore release the Tarrasque immediately, with little trouble if they so desired.
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