The Dim Wastes
Depending on who you ask, the Asad came into being either 1800 years ago, or 1100 years ago. In the present day, the distinction matters little. Ancient Riyaqa was a patchwork of warring factions, pocket empires, and walled off kingdoms. A number of wealthy families in the south eventually managed a tenuous truce, and created a framework of laws to maintain the peace between nearly 100 ruling great houses. As a matter of technical accuracy, this was the earliest incarnation of the Benisaga Nation. To those who have lived under Benisaga rule their entire lives, the transition from power that moved between royal families to power that moved between appointed representatives of many of those same families was not especially significant. Thus, to the majority of Riyaqans (just shy of 60% live in Benisaga lands), the Asad got its start 1800 years ago.
To the rest, a formal agreement to a lasting peace came about 1100 years ago, by representatives sitting down at a huge table a few times a year to hash out problems and adhere to the judgement of peer review. The resource drain of constant border warfare had stretched many great houses to the breaking point. Most noble houses have a story claiming responsibility for the historic decisions that followed. However it was first introduced, an idea gained traction: invite outside city-states to the same table that brokered an impossible peace between the Benisaga great houses. The first meetings of the Asad were held in the oldest coastal city in Riyaqa, and the organization bears its name to this day. Although the actual meetings tend to move around the continent, very important meetings and their attendant votes are still held in Gol Asad.
Ostensibly, the Asad exists and functions independently of the regional factions and national allegiances of its members. A member from one Benisaga satrapy owes no more allegiance to another Benisaga satrapy than they do to a Khasif city. In reality, representatives from various areas often vote as a bloc on key issues, frequently placing regional interests above others.
Appointment to the Asad is a lifetime post, or until voluntary retirement. There is a huge amount of variation in how each city or region selects its representative. Every five years, the Asad meets in Gol Asad to offer prayers to the gods and to select a new Speaker. This Speaker then oversees functions of the elected body for the next five years. His or her last official order as Speaker is to accept the results of a decisive vote for a new Speaker.
At the order of the Speaker, the Asad typically meet on each solstice, and at each equinox, for a total of four meetings annually. Each meeting may last anywhere from a few days to a month, and concludes when every issues before the Asad is either voted upon or tabled. Emissaries carry the results of votes back to the cities and various regional authorities, where they are put into practice.
Effects of Occupation
The Alhena Empire occupation of Riyaqa had an obvious and devastating effect on the central government structure of Benisaga. Following quickly in the wake of military devastation, the empire set up local governors to maintain law and order. Although given a free hand in many respects, the governors were all prohibited from interfering in any way with the function of the Asad. Some went so far as to publicly punish Imperial Regiment soldiers who impeded emissaries of the Asad.
For most purposes, the Asad continues to function much as it did before the occupation, although many seats have changed hands since it started. Imperial governors work hard to maintain the legitimacy of the Asad in the eyes of Riyaqans. Some believe this is simply a ploy, intended to lull Riyaqans into a false sense of security while their cultural identity is subverted by foreign invaders. Others hope for the best, believing that the emperor in his far away city really does intend for this all to end one day.
The most drastic effect of the occupation on the Asad has been the decimation of Benisaga military power which occurred in the opening months of invasion. Before that, the Asad largely depended upon the Benisaga military forces when threat of arms was required to see an issue through to its conclusion. Now, various private forces from powerful city states in the Javad Collective fulfill that duty in the rare case that the Imperial Regiments do not step in to quell unrest.