Creation Et All/Blessed Isle
This is the continent-sized island located at the center of Creation. Surrounded by the Inland Sea and weeks distant from the closest Threshold port, the Blessed Isle is the center of the Realm and the unquestioned dominion of the Dragon-Blooded.
Prefectures are small territories on the Blessed Isle that were governed by the Empress through her appointees, the prefects, who still rule their territories in her absence, simply reporting to the Deliberative instead.
Each prefecture on the Blessed Isle consists of one city, seven to twelve small towns, their dependent villages and the surrounding wilderness. On average, each prefecture is about 100 square miles in area and contains a population of several hundred thousand people. The prefect is appointed (formerly by the Empress, now by the Regent) to be the region’s chief administrator and judge of last resort. She is also responsible for appointing the governors, who are the judges and administrators of each district in the prefecture. The prefect and her governors have clear chains of command and precise areas of responsibility, but the prefect has overall authority for all the Realm’s officials in her territory. If a tax collector in one village in an outlying district is corrupt, the Magistrates will assume the prefect is corrupt also and may take appropriate actions, from demotion or dismissal to exile or death. Few prefects are Dragon-Bloods (they usually only govern the dominions on the Blessed Isle). Most prefects and their assistants come from the mortal patrician class and are sponsored to their assignments by a Dragon-Blood or a Great House.
Prefectural assignments are rarely sinecures because there is all sorts of local trouble that needs to be dealt with. Bandit gangs are more common since the Empress vanished, for instance. The bureaucracy always needs to be monitored for corruption and indecency. Wild animals occasionally attack farmers or their crops and need to be destroyed. Roads, bridges, shrines, fortresses, and canals need to be kept in repair. Crops need to be harvested, and taxes must be collected, always.
Since the Empress disappeared, the work of running a prefecture has become considerably harder. In addition to carrying on all their usual work, the prefects must now also curry favor with whichever Great House is the largest leaseholder. Officially, all the land belongs to the Empress and everyone pays rent for their land. The Great Houses are now trying to free themselves of these payments, however, which is emptying the prefects’ coffers. It is difficult to dispense justice in the name of a vanished Empress or an empty throne.