Each of the peoples and cultures that make up the Kingdom of Calibran have their own system of government, and methods for choosing leadership. The minotaurs rely on a council of elders and the wise. The dark elves are a theocracy, with a High Priestess delegating authority in a complex dance of politics. Humans, those most irrational of beings, depend on the happenstance of heredity, only slightly more reliable than the pure anarchy of the goblins.
The Marked System, by contrast, was designed to ensure that the most fit for rule would sit the throne, and that no one people could take power over all the others.
Lord Aramnor, the hero of the Battle of Farsalon and the first Dragon King, was wary of all the arrangements for passing down authority that had been conceived of before he came to the throne. He felt each was open to manipulation, and could result in ultimate authority resting in the hands of the venial, power hungry, and self-interested. Moreover, each could result in one race taking the throne and keeping it. The dragons would have been replaced with other masters, and the dream of a united Calibran would end in ruin.
Concerned with the succession of the Dragon Throne, then, Aramnor went to Almorwen , an old noble elf that was considered the wisest of his race. The Throne should be passed between the strong, wise, and selfless, Aramnor said. Moreover, it should be possible for a member of any race to ascend the throne at any time. This would serve as a check on those who might use position of authority to advance their own race above others, or abuse a hereditary enemy.
Almorwen considered the problem, and eventually proposed an idea. He was a wizard, and so naturally his solution took the form of magic. He would design, with help, a great spell that would seek out those who had the potential to rule wisely and well, and had the qualities a good king would require. These candidates would be marked from birth with the symbol of the kingdom, a coiled dragon restrained by a sword.
To become king, a Marked candidate would have to undertake a quest: they must kill a dragon. At that time, the threat of dragons was still large in everyone's mind, and it seemed fitting for each king to preform the same act of bravery the first had. In addition, it would demonstrate the candidates' bravery and ability. It was unlikely one person could accomplish this task single handed, and so they would have to assemble a group of people willing to support them, and risk their lives on behalf of the Marked candidate. These tasks were all considered part of the test to prove worthiness to become king.
Almorwen assembled a team of wizards, sorcerers, and shamans to prepare and cast such a spell. It took years for the wise old elf to be satisfied with the spell's construction. Aramnor spent that time convincing each of the races that it was a workable plan, and that it was to their advantage to agree to follow a Marked candidate when one finally ascended the throne.
Eventually both tasks, magical and political, were complete. Almorwen willed the spell into being, and Marked children began to be born. Aramnor ruled until one was old enough to begin the quest and completed it successfully. He then stepped down from the throne and disappeared into private life. In this he has set the tradition for each of the following kings. Very few, once they have been replaced, remain active in public life, and those generally on an informal basis.
It is not unusual for most citizens of the realm to see two or three Kings in a lifetime. It is remarkable for a king to rule for more than two decades, and equally remarkable for one to sit the throne for less than five years. This has happened only a few times. The constant, to the long lived dragons, slaughter is a matter of concern to many. The dragons themselves do not enjoy being the objects of the quest, and many worry that dragons that might otherwise be friends to the mortal races are forced into being enemies as a result of the quest's requirement.
The Quest Edit
Marked children are not common, and the birth of one is a notable event. The family is instantly catapulted into a sort of minor celebrity and petty nobility. The child is considered valuable, in a sense, as it is a chance for that particular race to have one of their own rule the kingdom. The marked child is raised, in part or in whole, by the leaders of that race, and trained from birth to complete the quest and rule well once they have done so. Many candidates are laden with spells and magical artifacts before they set forth on the quest.
A group of loyal companions is assembled. Sometimes a group is brought together by those training the Marked candidate. Other candidates eventually assemble their own group of friends and allies. More often than not the companions are all drawn from the same race as the Marked candidate, so that a human candidate has a group of human companions and an elven companion has a group of elves to assist them. There have been, however, candidates that have drawn from several races. Hesleof Obella is remarkable in that he had several different races represented among his companions. As each marked candidate is determined by the spell to be honest, charismatic, and noble, they invariably win the loyalty of their companions.
In any case, every quest has two events that must take place. The first happens when the Marked candidate comes before the currently reigning king or queen. The spell allows for the transference of knowledge from the reigning monarch to the candidate, so that they may benefit from the wisdom and experience of their predecessors. A Dragon King or Queen cannot refuse a candidate when they come forward to receive the wisdom, whatever their status and whether they have a group of companions assembled to assist them or not. As the Marked are chosen by the spell for their nobility, honesty, and lack of ego, there has never been a case where a sitting monarch has refused to transfer wisdom, or give up their throne. More than anything else, the transference is a chance for the Dragon King or Queen to give a candidate their blessing and the benefit of their experience.
Having received that wisdom, the candidate sets forth, searching for a dragon to kill and the means to kill them. That is the second event. A candidate is not considered worthy to rule until they confront and defeat a dragon. The course the quest takes after receiving the wisdom of previous kings has never been the same twice. Each dragon is an individual, and most be hunted and brought to battle in its own way, weaknesses found and exploited, desperate gambles made and won.