The Empire of Splendour once encompassed many lands, but in the 63rd Regnal Year of Emperor Received Wisdom it has shrunk to a mere four heartland provinces.
Utashar is the core of the Empire, where the Imperial Palace is located. Outside the ring of mountains that hide the Imperial Palace from the populace is the capital city, Reflected Glory. This is a crumbling ruin of its former powerful self, with pockets of lawlessness ruled by criminal gangs and whole city blocks returned to agriculture or dereliction.
The Nine Spirits River runs through the heart of Utashar, irrigating the many rice paddies and wheat fields. Where it meets the sea it passes through the City of Ten Thousand Ships, the primary Imperial port (especially now that Llaza has become independent). Ten Thousand Ships is well known for its island prison, The Fortress, and its temple to the sea gods.
Settlement of Utashar goes back to centuries before the Empire existed, when small kingdoms and petty warlords vied for power. Remnants of this time remain in the form of earthworks and tomb mounds of the minor kings. Many of these have been dug up for use as soil, plundered or torn down but some remain. The tomb mounds are so ancient it takes a trained eye to recognise them as anything other than grass or tree covered hills.
Ut'Bharma is a province to the north of Utashar, in the uplands of the Throne of Heaven Mountains. It is a land populated by herders (of goat, sheep, yak and tembu), tea growers, yana mystics and political exiles. The mystics mostly follow a philosophy known as the Way of Six Energies, that involves focussing on one's innate powers and channelling chaotic energies into directed, concordant forms. It emphasises meditation and inner peace, but it has spawned a fighting style known as Ibhesh-Yana that gives its practitioners supernatural powers of movement and evasion.
Dronistor lies to the west of Utashar. It is a rocky land rent with canyons and badlands. Its indigenous inhabitants are the Dron, humans with vibrant orange skin, blond hair and blue eyes, who are fully integrated as Imperial citizens and may be found anywhere within Imperial lands. The dron live in cliff-dwellings built up the sides of the canyons, and love flying. They have tamed a form of giant bird, the aadrul, and are also experienced in building gliders and other unpowered flying machines. Every year they hold a festival called the Day of Flight, where teams compete to build gliders that can travel the furthest or the fastest.
The largest settlement in Dronistor is Sunset Canyon, where a huge temple complex dedicated to the Divine Emperor as sun god is located. Although Sunset Canyon and Dronistor are still nominally loyal to the Empire, a considerable number of small seperatist groups exist, mostly acting as bandits. Also growing in popularity is the Cult of the Morning Star, a mystery cult that believes the morning star to be a harbinger of a figure they call the Sun to Come. The Empire views this with much suspicion.
Last, and least, of the Imperial provinces, is Vorsheeva. This is a rocky promontory to the south-east of Utashar, seperated from the Empire by the rebellious Anhoi provinces. Vorsheeva is a mountainous country with little in the way of natural resources, except for a few minerals that are easier to find elsewhere. It is home to the non-human race of durdrn, tall and long-limbed humanoids with twin prehensile trunks and a reputation for being rather foolish and inept. This prejudice has led to them being treated as servants and slaves in the Empire, although a few have found full citizenship.
The foremost city of Vorsheeva is Huldress, a small port city inhabited mostly by humans and durdrn. Despite their general lack of aptitude, the durdrn make excellent sailors, as evidenced by the sole durdrn hero, Shegu, who built a fleet of enormous colony ships and set sail to explore the Unknown West. The vorsheevans farm the coastal margins and harvest sea food.
Former Imperial Provinces
There are many lands that can claim to be former Imperial Provinces, Vassal States or Ally States. The ones closest to the heartlands include the following:
Oksa is an island nation off the tip of Vorsheeva, comprised of the five smaller nations of Uuksam, Linlin, Nasholin, Poeni and Pelagin. Uuksam is notable in that it is a democracy, of sorts, whereas the other nations remain kingdoms. Oksa has a mountainous central region surrounded by fertile plains, producing both ores and agricultural produce, including the famous Pelagin wines.
The Merchants League has a strong presence in Oksa, being instrumental in its war of independence. The Empire originally gained a foothold in Oksa as a mediator in a war between the five kingdoms, and remained as overseer. When the Oksan nation of Linlin tried to assert its freedom it was cruelly supressed by the Imperial general 'Bloody' Vandru. The resources of three powerful merchant clans, the forerunners of the League, undertook a bold project that involved building a fortified city in secret and moving the entire population of Port Linlin into it virtually overnight. Port Linlin was left a smouldering ruin by the impotent rage of Vandru, but the fortified city, Turuk, remains.
Turuk is treated as a neutral capital city by the five Oksan nations, each having a zone of the city under its control. Disagreements over borders, resources and ancient blood feuds held in check under Imperial rule all returned with independence. Guided by the League, however, the hostilities are subsumed to spying and espionage in Turuk rather than open war.
Thellingerstan lies to the north-east of the Empire, at the headwaters of the Near Anhoi river. It is a small kingdom in a glacial valley high in the Throne of Heaven Mountains. Thells are tall, red-blond haired and fair skinned, considered barbarians by the majority of Imperial citizens. Twins are common and considered lucky. Like the dron, the thells have tamed giant eagles as riding animals. Thellingerstan is home to the Caverns of Seltak, icy caves where three mystic hags answer questions...for a price.
Nirhamsa is nestled in the junction of the Throne of Heaven and Three Sisters mountain ranges. It is a prosperous region famed for its jade and its agriculture. The forested hills of Niranim hide many ancient ruins. Across the river from the capital Corbasal lie the battle-haunted Plains of Pesh.
Kronlordan is another highland nation, in the Three Sisters Mountains, relying mainly on sheep for its economy. Kronlordan gained independence easily. Although it is technically a military dictatorship it has so far been a benevolent one. Sited at the highest point of hilly Kronlordan City is the famed covered marketplace of the Emporium.
Tibrafes is a city in the meads of the Anhoi, famous for its leather and its perfumes (an industry initiated to hide the smell of the leather works). Together with Kronlordan the two nations form the Meadow Flower Alliance.
The Ashoyin Protectorate is a region where the Near and Far branches of the Anhoi converge. It is a war-torn land, with several city-states divided between outside forces. The legal ruler, August Minister Es-Gadar provoked unrest through harsh taxes, and some questioned his legitimacy as ruler since the authority originated from the Empire which no longer controlled Ashoyin. Rebel forces under General Chandrat drove Es-Gadar into exile in Llaza but his mother, Dowager Lady Temusha remains to command resistance against Chandrat.The war has been marred by purges of supposed enemy supporters on both sides and the rule of law has collapsed allowing bandit groups free reign to prey upon the common people. One city, Zeihar, has formed the Zeihar Alliance with smaller towns, claiming neutrality between the two main sides. The Jade Sword is a bandit group that now protects the peasants against the armies of Chandrat and Es-Gadar. It is rumoured that the Merchant League and the Empire are playing out their hostilities using the Ashoyin factions as intermediaries.
On the fringes of the Anhoi region lies the city of Nyerdhan, last refuge before one reaches the Wasted Lands, ruined by the tlaxu invasion and never re-settled. Nyerdhan is a city of dikes and bridges built to withstand the regular floodings of the Anhoi.
Denra-Lyr is the name of a people and their land, on an island in the Southern Sea. They share the land with the salsham'ai. The Denra-Lyr have five tribal kingdoms ruled by a high king, but since their occupation by the Empire the tribes are torn between traditionalists and those who wish to become more like the Empire.
The Necklace of Plenty is a chain of islands that stretches into the southern sea, rich in precious minerals, exotic foods and hardwood. Its myriad islands have never fully been conquered by anyone, and it is now divided between many merchant clans. The Tuuma Cormayr pirates rule a large portion and are the bane of League shipping, having the supernatural aid of giant whale spirits. At the southernmost tip of the Necklace is Corapeti, a large island with mysterious giant ruins, divided by a huge wall.
In some cases, the Empire attempted to conquer lands, but failed. They left their mark anyway. Such a land is Or, now a part of the Technocracy of Hudan. Or and its varied peoples were protected by a powerful god-spirit called The Shao, whom the Imperial armies could not overcome. Magician adventurers eventually managed to destroy the Shao, and in so doing changed the nature of magic on Or. The power of magic no longer flows freely there. Power is locked in the minerals, in the water and in the plants and must be released through alchemy. In place of normal magic is a dangerous void known as The Shadow.
Larger nations refused to join the Empire peacefully and could not be defeated in war, and so they became nominal allies of the Empire. These include the Khazarate of Vaarta to the west and the Queendom of Mopendor to the east. Many smaller nations managed to evade the Imperial grasp through tribute, remoteness or lack of value, including Obrenaja, Fon and the magical chaos of Kam-Ultdour.
(c) 2006 The Creative Conclave.