The Imperial Curia is an noble order of administrators and bureaucrat-scholars who maintain the highest echelons of the Imperial government. They are responsible for the record-keeping, taxation, and management of Empire property: as such, they form one of the main branches of power for the Empire, besides the Legion, the nobility, and the provincial governors. Their noble titles, originally granted on the basis of merit, are the equivalent of those held by the Colo-Nordic Lords, the Nibenese Battlemages, or the provincial appointed nobility.
The Curia's power rests with their mandates, administrative powers, dreamsleeve communication network, and their records. With the stroke of a pen, a magistrate can annul trade rights, impose tariffs, delay or hasten much-needed infrastructure works, or cancel the wages of a Legion cohort.
Being an administrative nobility instead of a landed or martial one, the Curia has its own ways of exerting power. Personal properties of the Emperor, from hunting grounds and palaces to mines and workshops, are managed by Curia administrators who receive (or embezzle) parts of these estates’ profits. The Curia also maintains a growing network of Praetoriums, Prefectures, and Consulates throughout Cyrodiil, which act as nodes in their network of records and informants. A growing number of these offices have taken control over local towns, by buying or usurping the privileges of impoverished nobles.
While positions in the administration should theoretically come from merit, many of the older Curia families have a de facto hereditary position, to the annoyance of newer members. In this, they are often indistinguishable from the martial and arcane nobility they seek to replace. These old Curia families are strongest in the Heartlands cities.
The administration of the early Empire was not a professional system: authority rested with the ruling caste (be they nobility, priests, or battlemages), who outsourced their duties to servants and palace eunuchs. During the early Second Empire, this apparatus underwent a rapid modernization spurred by the needs of Reman’s conquests and the enlightened government ideals of the Akaviri. The Emperors, who required a strong bureaucracy to finance their wars, instated a new order of administrative nobility on the same level as their martial and arcane counterparts. Despite much animosity between the “quill-princes” and the older orders of Colovia and the Nibenay, the courts of administration quickly became essential under the Akaviri Potentates.
The influence of the Curia grew with the start of the Third Empire. To prove his dominance over the defeated provinces, Tiber Septim ordered state archives from across Tamriel to be seized and transported to the Imperial City, where they would be united in a universal archive mirroring the singular Empire of Tamriel. These became known as The Concordian Archives. Chest after chest of documents were tossed into the bottomless vaults of White-Gold Tower, where they remain to this day. The Curia's reach over Cyrodiil and the provinces also grew, with the Prefecture system first taking hold, and Curia outposts being founded in Imperial power centers in the provinces such as Old Ebonheart, Firsthold, or Solitude. The Emperors and Elder Council initially saw the administration as a tool under their control, though some have since come to regret the gradual increase in influence the quill-princes exert over the Empire's affairs.
As a “modern” institution, the Curia aims to establish a meritocratic bureaucracy which is to control all branches of the Empire. Rank progression in the Curia is based on the Imperial Exams, an civil service examination system based on technical expertise as on a notion of culture and higher education in the arts prized by the Curia. This system helps forge a common culture and legitimize stheir authority, though critics claim it focuses too little on practical knowledge, stifles creativity and encourages blind obedience. It should be noted that, while the Exams cannot be circumvented, the children of existing Curia nobility have clear advantages simply by growing up inside the common culture of the Curia. Bribery and corruption are but too common, creating de facto dynasties of administrators.
The Curia is presided over by a triumvirate of Exarchs who sit on the Elder Council. Each governs a different branch of Curia authority, creating an uneasy balance. While there are other Exarchs, most hold only minor responsibilities. In general, the Exarchs and upper Curia nobility hail from the ranks of the merchant aristocracy and upper middle class, though they are quickly developing into a class of their own.
Parcemon XXI Corax is the Exarch of the Palatial Estates. His branch manages the Emperor’s personal properties, as well as the system of Prefectures. The Emperor’s estates include the summer and winter palace, mansions and gardens in the Imperial City, and palaces, suites and forts in the provinces owned by the Emperor. It also includes hunting grounds and other demesnes, such as the Imperial Reserve. The Prefecture system is the factual administration, distributed across Cyrodiil: local Prefectures report to Praetoriates in major cities, which report to Consulates in regional capitals. While the Prefecture system was intended for record-keeping, it has since become something like a nascent civil government. Corax is the leading voice in expanding the Prefecture system across the province, disenfranchising older nobility in the process.
Una III Siraphus is the Exarch of the Red Treasury and the Emperor’s account books. She originates from the ranks of the Imperial City’s merchant nobility, and as such enjoys the trust of the native financial sector -- she has good relations with both the Briricca family and various Zenitharite/Claviculite factions. She is also responsible for the Emperor’s personal industries, such as his silk-houses and weaving schools -- prestigious institutions that many Imperials automatically associate with wealth and splendor. Additionally, some industries that occur on grounds owned by the Emperor are also managed by her, for instance the marble quarries in the Imperial Reserve (though the Reserve itself is managed by Corax, her rival/colleague).
Tarquin CVII Tricho is the Exarch of the Concordian Archives. While his duty seems more limited than that of his colleagues, Tricho has developed an insidious grasp on both political and arcane power by exploiting the plundered knowledge in his archives: illuminated heraldic accounts from High Rock, Altmer genealogies, baskets filled with Redguard memory-stones, thick vellum account books of the Camorans, clay tablets from Elsweyr, Dunmer burial codices, knotted Xipi cord-records from Argonia, iron-clasped oath-books from Skyrim, etc. Most of it remains untouched, but even the sliver of material appraised by Tarquin gives him access to a wealth of information - often literal, as he is not above selling documents. Few dare to challenge him. Tricho is associated with an extremist subfaction within the Curia seeking to establish an all-powerful bureaucratic arcano-autocracy above the Emperor and Elder Council.
Other duties of the Curia are managed by minor Exarchs or Consuls, some of whom are under the official oversight of one of the three arch-Exarchs, some of whom are more-or-less independent. Besides mundane duties such as the oversight of the waterways, internal audits, support for census and excise, land registries, and organizing the Emperor’s charities, the most notable sub-branch is the Meditations Office, which provides support for Dreamsleeve communication, ghost-facing, and the Elder Council’s arcane logistics. This office retains a number of full-time meditator-mediators who support the network and aid those members of the administration and council who struggle to use the Dreamsleeve independently.
They also maintain the Curia’s secret Memory Palace, a special application of Dreamsleeve missive architecture used to store information too dangerous to entrust to paper. The Palace is "physically" accessible through meditation practices and drugs, though this is dangerous: as a Dreamsleeve artifice, it is a refuge for ghosts, moths and memory whispers. It is also used to imprison dangerous, yet useful psyches -- some Tharnite minds were secretly transposed there before their execution.
Provincial affairs and departments (such as for instance the Morrowind branch in Old Ebonheart) are managed by Proconsuls, appointed by the Council. Such provincial departments tend to be much less developed than their Cyrodiilic counterparts, as many duties there are managed by local authorities, the nobility, or the Census and Excise office.