The Tarka are a sentient, and thus highly mutually competitive race. Due to this, they have suffered from political struggles for power, even though their government in the long run has been incredibly stable.
Their current ruling dynasty has been in power for nearly 10,000 years, and previous ruling clans have not been eliminated, but rather relegated to rule different segments of the empire.
How succession of power is handled depends on the court. Standard genetic succession is common to five of the nine empires, but there are two in which emperors are chosen by clerical bodies and three in which the ruler ascends by merit.
Those who are able to converse in Kona Kai, "the High Speech", are likely to be family of the Nine Emperors or the Supreme Commander.
The one thing to keep in mind is that the majority of truly brutal politics among the Tarka tends to be among the women, at any level of society. The men either stand below or above the majority of the most vicious and bloody political infighting and struggle.
For example, the Supreme Commander makes use of and is supported by the nine most powerful females on the planet — scientists, historians, military commanders, daughters of the Kona. There is very rarely a great deal of love lost among the Nine — they are all vying for influence and resources for their own agendas. Sometimes their agendas mesh, but often they do not.
The warrior caste will want more ships built, the merchant caste will want more trade, the philosopher caste will want more research, etc. — and some of these women also personally loathe one another, beyond even the historic and class conflict they may be heir to. Major changes of policy may be accompanied by formal duels or attempted assassination.
The Nine Emperors Edit
The Nine Emperors, although each is easily as powerful as any Human who has ever carried that title on Earth, are all effectively peers. Try to imagine that a Roman Caesar, a powerful sultan, the High King of Britain, the Emperors of China and Japan, and Montezuma of the Aztecs all knew each other, met once yearly to discuss trade and affairs of state, and were separate–but–equal parts of one world–spanning (or multiple–world–spanning) civilization. This will give you a good view of how the Nine Emperors work together.
There is rarely friendship among the Nine Emperors. The current dynamic is based on mutual respect and common interests. Each Emperor sets domestic policy for his region/caste. Only the Supreme Commander can chart a course for the entire species.
The Supreme Commander Edit
The Supreme Commander is the head of the Tarka military caste. Since all members of the military caste answer to him and since the arts of war are forbidden to those of other castes, there is no real war among the Nine Emperors. They do not command armies, and cannot arrange large scale invasions or even repel such invasions — no soldier will obey them unless the Supreme Commander orders it.
Like the Nine Emperors, the Supreme Commander is also a Changed male, with one or two legendary exceptions.
It is extremely rare for any Tarka to become Var Kona without being a master strategist, tactician, and political manipulator in their own right. Military genius is such a necessity to succeed in the position that it is actually one of the few roles of open authority that has ever been occupied by a Tarkasian woman — this being the famous Sara Jar'dok, who took the Steel Throne at the dawn of the Tarkasian space age. Her book on strategy and tactics, "Var Kona", is a philosophical and practical manual which reads as a combination of Machiavelli's "The Prince" and the works of Sun Tzu or Miyamoto. She is such a legendary figure among Tarka that many military caste families name their first–born daughter after her.
The Supreme Commander rules by superior intellect, strategic and tactical acumen, leadership ability, charisma and sheer dumb luck. If you want to know how such a Tarka rises to the top in each generation, ask yourself how a Julius Caesar, an Alexander, or a Napoleon comes to exist — and then imagine that the position those men occupied was traditional rather than self–created.
At this particular juncture of history, a council of nine females supports the current Supreme Commander — although not always each other. Four of the nine are daughters of the Kona caste, including one of the characters from The Deacon's Tale, Sara Mak'Kona. She is the eldest daughter of the Empress Ma'ak, and heir to the empire of Lokor — although obviously, Sara aspires to a greater jurisdiction than one little continent on one little world.
When you play Sword of the Stars as the Tarka, you should by default consider yourself the Supreme Commander, the overlord of a very ancient and highly bureaucratic society. If you want to more easily imagine yourself the Supreme Commander, imagine that every time you click a slider bar in one direction or another, standing behind you nine women exchange quick glances. At least one will be smiling triumph — and one or more of the others will try to conceal the fact that they are fuming in defeat.
Judicial System Edit
The Tarka have a police caste, which is separate from the army. They are a powerful force on the Tarka home world, universally feared and respected, and empowered to investigate and prosecute crimes which range from a gutter brat stealing trifles to the indiscretions of an emperor. Even the military cannot directly oppose them, although the two castes are rivals in many respects. The police must be more subtle in their use of force, and the military have less authority in matters of law. They do not report to the military or the executive branch of government, but to the judicial branch and the people. They can be removed from a post by popular vote, and drummed from the caste by internal vote.
Ultimately, any strong emperor or supreme commander must have ties to the police caste — it is impossible to rule without their support. Many emperors have been police caste members, although it is rare to "cross over" from police caste to military, as a good deal of mutual mistrust exists between the two.
The police caste has its major base of power on the home world, and the military tries to block and hamper their expansion to exercise jurisdictional power on colony worlds. Unfortunately, once any Tarkan colony reaches a certain size, the citizens call for the police to establish a presence — their power and authority is slowly growing throughout the empire, and the jostling for power between civilian and military authorities continues.
A Tarkasian police officer with an equivalent rank of detective would be a Sippa. Her inferiors, if they were on friendly terms with her, would tend to call her "daiko", "boss".
The police caste remains focused on enforcing law upon the soil of any Tarka world, not in the space above. The military caste would certainly be very surprised to find that the police caste had managed to break their assumed monopoly with the shipwright's guild — unpleasantly surprised — and angry.
The most the military can do, if they wish to avoid police interference in their affairs, is try to cover up evidence of a crime. Once the crime is reported, they are subject to the jurisdiction of the police and must submit to the authority of the judiciary. Even the Supreme is not immune, unless he dissolves the judicial system entirely.
Trial by jury, ordeal, single and group combat, and augury are all known. The method of adjudication must be agreed by both parties, or trial by jury is the default. There is a system of advocacy in place for virtually every form of trial, and many of those who leave the military have been known to become advocates in trials by combat.
The Tarka recognize war crimes of various kinds, most of which are analogous to those we recognize presently on Earth, with perhaps rather more emphasis placed on rendering any area permanently unlivable.
The Tarkasian military in virtually any game of SotS is guilty of every crime known to their people. For canon purposes, assume that a human player is a rogue Supreme who has dissolved the judiciary and driven the police into hiding.