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The Lotus Empire is characterized by complex social structures in a feudal society, where allegiances and precedence can change frequently. Political intrigue, violent rivalry, and economic ventures can change the landscape of power in an instant. However, one form of power broker is constant: The great trading houses. These powerful houses control trade, typically jealously guarding their monopolies - with arms if neccesary - and command vast silver fortunes to rival or surpass any prince or feudal lord. It would be folly for anyone to challenge the position of a great trading house, but on the other hand, they can be powerful allies to anyone with ambitions of power. Everything has a price, though... The trading houses are commanded by an almost impenetrable inner circle, the doings of which are guarded secrets. In most cases, only family or the closest trustees are invited into the sanctum of power. Around mercantile hubs, one will often see elaborate pagoda houses to rival or surpass the nobility, in which the dealings of the trading house is conducted. Rumour has it that the recent expedition to El Oleonda was instigated by direct command of the great trading houses, the exact purpose still unknown... ________________________________________________________ My entry for cat A - I am quite happy with it. The roofs where fun to build and are inspired by the Chinese new year sets. They are a bit structurally weak, and the ornaments in the corners are... rather unstable - they were the biggest challenge of the design.