Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sunday Sneak: Far Ralashar

The Satrapies of Ralashar spread out upon a dry but verdant plain. Short grasses grow in profusion, as do tall trees with wide leafy canopies. The rivers that run out of ancient Synd are thick with good volcanic silt, leaving savannas where-ever they run. Black pepper vines grow in profusion, and vast spice plantations make up the northern stretches of the realm.

In the south are the deep lushwoods and the Red Hills which separate the high plains of Ralashar from the Red Desert. Ancient Shushite temples and ruins are scattered across the landscape, as this was the site of Shushor in ages long past. Mugharian Aspect-Temples can also be found here, and the Ralashite ports swarm with Zeshimite and Mugharian ships.

There is no land in the north so close to the south: Ralashites have rose-colored skin and dark eyes like Mugharians and Zeshimites, the rare few having eyes of amber. Magic is practiced somewhat more in Ralashar than in other lands in the north and though it is still wondrous, it is far more common and accepted.

The Khsrat river was once known as the Shushain, and for much of its history the Ralash Highlands were part of Shushor. The ancient Shushites are thought to have been a branch of men descended from Zeshimites who crossed the Red Desert in the days before Zesh himself came to power. The kingdom spread to the edge of the Synd and westward to the Sea of Daggers, encompassing the narrows from one shore to the other. They built in red sandstone, littering the countryside with arches, temples, and roads. The worship of the thousand Aspect-Gods spread through the entire region, though Shushor proper never expanded beyond the highlands.

The Shushite empire fell into collapse during the Fifth Age; the Syndic dragons diverted the Shushain away from the highlands; with the main river of the plains drying up, political instability shook the empire. The Satria Naraksura, known as the Great Reformer, confiscated great tracts of land from his nobility and used the incomes to dig a channel from the basaltic mountains of Synd to carry the runoff water into the northern fields. Naraksura was eventually slain by agents of Night—the shadows known as rakshas converged on him and slew him in his palace to sew disorder in his kingdom.

Shushor collapsed after Naraksura’s death into a network of warring satrapies. The Syndic dragons released the dammed Shushain, having no fear of the broken satraps. The ancient capitol of Sataspura was abandoned and the satraps became semi-independent rulers of their own domains. There was a long period of dissolution until the early Sixth Age when the dragons of Synd waged their violent war against the elves in the west.

During the Elf-Dragon War the Shushites united under a last satria—Minakshi, who fought in desperate defense against the draconic armies which raped the northern plains for food and gold. Minakshi himself was cut down by the dragon Azkath. By the lurid light of the burning manors Shoshana the Rayan led those who would go out of Shushor, leaving it to the hidden survivors and the wolves.
It took two centuries for the population to recover to sustainable levels and even then Ralashar herself wasn’t founded until the mid-Seventh Age. Khewedi stragglers and onyx city settlers joined the native Shushites to make what is now known as Ralashar. The language has changed a great deal since the days of Shushor, and the people are no longer recognizably Shushite. The sandstone ruins are worn down, shadow-haunted, and empty.

The kingdom of Ralashar can easily be divided by geographical region: the northern plains are loosely organized plantations known as satrapies. The satraps are powerful nobles, rulers of vast rural estates who command great power in the kingdom. Each of the mighty satraps has a nearly endless coffer from his spice empire as well as a massive workforce in the form of the achuta, unfree farmers who cannot leave the estates; they are bought and sold like slaves, though any Ralashite will angrily explain the differences between slaves and the achuta (which are very very similar to slaves).

The Ralash Highlands have outlawed the practice of keeping achuta and are home to a different type of nobility altogether. The rulers of the cities are known as mahana. Citizens of the cities are called sahavale; a different set of laws and customs applies to them. High mahana are entitled to sit before the satria himself. Lastly is the satria proper: the equivalent of a king or an emperor.

There are many mahana, but only a few satraps. The satraps form an official body known as the High Council, which has binding authority over the satria. The sahavale have an informal council, which has no official authority but which the satria is bound to hear.

Despite the great and overwheening power of the satraps, the satria has historically been able to control enough of his kingdom to make his decisions like a petty autocrat.

The satria maintains a private military force in the form of his palace guard, which can number in the thousands. These soldiers are always the first dispatched if there is a crisis, from outlawry to invasion. Satraps keep similar (but much smaller) forces of their own composed of fighting-achuta on their own estates. Each city is required to raise a number of men as well, in case of invasion.

Ralashar is infamous for paying mercenaries to serve as the leading forces in most of its wars, however. There is a brisk trade between the Free Cities of the East and the Ralash Highlands, companies criss-crossing the Trade Sea from Zemm to Ralashar intent on seeing some of the fabulous wealth the satria is said to have at his command.

The Ralashite Mindset
Ralashites think of themselves first and foremost as inheritors of ancient Shushor. They live within sight of glorious ruins, and have a deep cultural well to draw upon. They are decidedly un-Varan, living in a region that was never dominated by the Milean Empire at any stage nor any of the southmen cities. They have no connection to Mercantis or Vaer, stand independently of High Aellon, Byblos, or Llernea. Indeed, Ralashites tend to see themselves as a sixth great culture that has long been forgotten by the north.

For this reason they are extremely defensive about their practices to outsiders, and very quick to snap back at practices they find barbaric. Ralashites are also exceedingly patriarchal, and cling strongly to the worship of the Aspect-Gods even though the rest of the north worships the Aelio.

  • Ralashites do not practice partible inheritance. Satraps declare their most favored child to be their heir, leaving the rest penniless. This leads to the profusion of sahasi, or “soldiers of chance,” noble heirs with pretensions to high lifestyle that sell their swords for gold.
  • It is a common custom for married or celibate Ralashites to wind their heads in turbans.
  • Nearly all Ralashite magi maintain a strict celibacy, fearing physical intimacy reduces the potency of their power—a belief that comes from Khewed.
  • Ralashite magi do not adhere to the scholastic division of the Art, but rather have developed a completely separate philosophy focused on the four elements.
  • Bells are sacred in Ralashar, and none are ever rung lightly.
  • Ralashites speak a form of the desert tongue of Khemret (Red Khemret) and Ralashite magi use the ancient language of Shushor: High Suss’reth.

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