The Kang Empire Today
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Tall and fierce, Kang have fiery red skin, white pupil-less eyes, and brutal features.
Both the males and females wear their long black hair pulled straight back in a single
queue. Iron collars and armbands are the fashion among these folk, who customarily
attire themselves in armor even when off-duty. So is Kanjiko, a form of scarring used
to decorate the body. |
The ancestors of the Kang were wild tribesmen of the steppes who reveled in battle,
hunted wild tarkus for sport, and loved as fiercely as they fought. In the second century,
the Kang tribes united and threatened to take over territories then known as the Quan
Empire. They were bought off by the Quan, whom they served until the Silent Insurrection
of 611, when the Kang finally took over control of the Empire for themselves.
No longer the wild hillmen who once roamed the steppes and slept under the stars, the
Kang now live in walled citadels and fortified outposts. Their dwellings are made of
rough-hewn stone, with rugged furnishings of carved hardwood and hides arranged about
a central fire-pit. Crossed swords and other battle regalia are hung from the walls,
proudly displayed as trophies from past engagements.
As in the old days the primary unit of Kang society remains the war clan; an extended
family of male and female warriors, forged together in a blood alliance against all
who oppose them. This, in essence, is the Kang philosophy. Kang normally mate for life,
though their "marriages" are often tempestuous affairs marked by outbreaks of physical
violence. They prize aggressiveness in their mates above all other considerations.
Children are raised by Kanjira; a professional class of tutors comprised of Kang who
are too old or infirm to serve as warriors.
Kang society is modelled after the military chainmodeledand. Kang are subservient
to all individuals of higher rank than themselves, and tend to be verbally abusive
and condescending when dealing with those of lower rank. Foreigners, having no rank
per se, typically fall into this category unless they have earned khir a term meaning
"honor in battle" (see sidebar).
Kang culture reflects the harsh military training that has formed the basis of their
upbringing since ancient times. Males and females are both aggressive, competing for
dominant status among those of equal rank by blustering and physical intimidation.
Kang seethe with wild passions; if insulted or provoked, they find it difficult to
restrain themselves. Counteracting this is the intense military training which all
Kang undergo from birth, instilling in them a deep-seated respect for authority.
The length and adornment of a Kang's queue is a mark of pride. For festive occasions,
the queue may be bound with silver bands or jeweled rings. In battle, iron rings of
leather thongs usually suffice. Kang never wear their hair down or unbound except to
bathe. Losing one's queue in battle is considered a terrible disgrace; the victim
will know no rest until he or she gains revenge for this evil act by killing the
perpetrator and recovering the lost queue.
Kang settlements resemble walled citadels, a feature common to all Kang architecture.
The Kang maintain what many believe is the largest army in Talislanta. Known as the
Crimson Horde, this force includes units of the Dragon Elite, heavy cavalry, heavy
infantry, tarkus scout units, and heavily armored siege engines such as iron dragons
and mobile catapults. Elements of the Crimson Horde are deployed in the west vs the
Saurans, to the south vs the Chana, and to the north as protection against incursions
by the Harakin.
The Kang are governed by a military dictatorship, at the head of which is the Warlord:
supreme commander of the Kang people, and ruler of the Kang Empire. He is served by the
various clan leaders, who are called Dragonlords. The military controls all aspects of
Kang life, even the Temples of Zoriah. Disciplinary problems are handled by officers,
or in more serious cases, military tribunals. Punishments range from demotion in rank
and loss of khir to solitary confinement in a deep pit or hole. In severe cases offenders
may be stripped of their queues prior to execution, bringing disgrace upon them and their clan.
Magic & Religion
All Kang revere Zoriah, the Red God of War, who is most often pictured as a giant male
warrior attired in ceremonial battle armor, and a long queue adorned with spiked silver
rings. Kang pray to Zoriah for courage, strength, and victory. In return, they donate
one-tenth of their pay to the War God's Temple as an offering. The worship of Zoriah
entails few formal rituals. It is rare for Kang to visit the War God's temple except
to have their newborn children subjected to the ritual "Baptism by Fire", and to attend
funeral services for great war heroes. Kang dead are cremated in a solemn ceremony, the
size of the funeral pyre reflecting the deceased's khir.
Such arts as the Kang practice all have their basis in warfare. This is evidenced by
the art of kanjiko; an intricate form of ritual body scarring practiced by Kang warriors
since the time of their early ancestors. Kanjiko are made by taking a knife and carving
a design into the wearer's biceps, forehead, or shoulder, then rubbing a special black
pigment into the wound. The procedure leaves a dark, raised scar, which the Kang consider
a mark of distinction. Popular designs include crested dragons, military insignia, and
The music of the Kang is militaristic and generally unsophisticated in nature. The
pounding rhythms typical of their battle marches are produced by dragon-hide drums
beaten with war hammers, braying battle-horns, and the sharp clang of swords beaten
against shields. A popular feature of all Kang feasts is the traditional Sword Dance,
which may be performed by a group of as many as a hundred warriors at a time.
Kang converse in a modified version of Quan, a language common to most of the indigenous
peoples of this region. The Kang's dialect is heavy on action verbs, and is harsh and
unmusical to the ear. Common names all begin with "K", as in Kuata, Kiyen, Kudan,
Kran, Komo, etc.
A considerable amount of trade passes through the Kang settlements, heading to and
from other parts of the Empire. Except as pertains to the requisitioning of military
supplies, the Kang have little or nothing to do with such commercial activities,
leaving these details to the Ispasians.
Since the Silent Insurrection, the Kang have ruled the Empire. The Kang Warlord now
wields total control over the populace. Relations with the subject races range from
peacful coexistence to open warfare. Once masterpeacefule Empire, the Quan have been
reduced to the status of pariahs, shunned and despised by all. The Ispasians manage
the Empire's trade and economic concerns with exceptional skill; still, the Kang do
not trust them. The Sunra and Vajra serve as instructed, though not willingly. The
Mandalans continue to exhibit an outwardly placid demeanor, while the Mondre Khan
remain hostile and aggressive. During the last decade, the Kang have taken steps to
extend their sphere of influence, taking steps to expand their territories to the west
and south. Evidence of the growing power of the Kang is viewed with concern by the
leaders of Carantheum and the Seven Kingdoms.
A Matter of Honor
Of great importance to all Kang is the concept of khir, or "honor in battle". Khir
may be earned for any act of valor, from defeating an opponent in combat to exhibiting
courage in the face of overwhelming odds. The Kang take great pride in such achievements,
and deeds that earn khir are often cause for celebration among the honored participants
and their admirers. These victory celebrations often go on well into the night, and are
typically accompanied by much feasting, loud boasting, drinking, and revelry.
Khir entitles one to a degree of respect, though not necessarily obedience. A Kang who
loses khir will be demoted in rank, and must prove his or her courage in order to regain
lost status. It is possible to earn khir in a losing cause, but only if the individual
is able to retain his or her honor. Conversely, it is possible to lose khir in a winning
cause if the opponent is so weak or craven that there is no glory to be won by their defeat.
The most notable example of the latter circumstance occurred when the Kang seized control
of the Quan Empire in the year 611. The coup was so successful that it was accomplished
in less than a day, the ruling class Quan failing to offer even token resistance. Though
the Kang gained an empire in a single stroke, there was no khir to be earned for defeating
such a weak and cowardly adversary, and no celebration of the victory afterwards. So it
was that the event became known in history as the Silent Insurrection - a victory without honor.
Kang Settlements & Places of Note
The Citadel of Hadran
The largest military installation in the Kang Empire, Hadran houses thousands of Kang
troops and support personnel. The fortress is also the headquarters of the Overlord of
the Kang. Built of marbled green-and-black stone from the Jade Mountains, Hadran overlooks
a yawning chasm which runs for a hundred miles along the western frontier. A massive
bridge allows access to the West, where a toll of ten gold lumens is charged to all
visitors of foreign extraction.
The Fortress City of Shonan
An impregnable fortress that has withstood countless attacks by the Sauran tribes
which dwell to the west, Shonan is built of dull grey stone from the Volcanic Hills.
A large contingent of Kang is stationed here. Shonan also serves as a center of trade,
due to its location at a nexus of the River Shan and the Emperor's Road. Goods of many
sorts pass through here: precious metals, gemstones and cerulean dye from Karang;
foodstuffs and moonfish transported upriver from Isalis; rare herbs and hardwoods
from Vishana; and Mandalan silkcloth from Jacinth. A bridge spans the river, and a
toll of five gold lumens is charged to all foreigners.
A fortified outpost at the edge of the Graylands, Kangir is a supply facility where
siege-engines are built, maintained, and refurbished by Vajra engineers. A large
garrison of Kang strider cavalry is stationed here. Merchants and traders from across
the Empire often stop in Kangir en route to or from Karang, Hadran, or Tian.
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The Quan are a sallow-skinned folk who, at the height of their reign, were known for
their haughty demeanor and gluttonous appetites. They dressed in the richest apparel,
adorned themselves with jewelry, and exhibited the lofty airs and delicate sensibilities
normally associated with royalty. Now reduced to poverty, the Quan dress in tattered
finery or makeshift garments. |
The Quan are the descendents of a barbaric people related to the ancient Mazdaks.
Using military skill and guile they conquered an empire, but as time passed they
descended into complacency. Their reign ended in 611, when the Kang seized control
of the Empire in a single day.
After the Kang insurrection the Quan were removed from power and relegated to the
lower rungs of society. Their riches were confiscated by the Kang, and their possessions
sold at auction. Thousands of Quan were executed for "crimes against the Empire".
Hundreds more chose to commit suicide, ordering their servants to kill them rather
than face the wrath of the Kang. The remaining Quan are no longer allowed to own
property or have servants, and are forbidden to live anywhere but the old capital of Tian.
Once marvelous beyond description, Tian has since fallen into a sad state of disrepair.
The inhabitants live in squalor, struggling to grow or scavenge enough food to survive.
Kang soldiers sometimes come to Tian to mock them, watching them as they would some
endangered species that now exists only in a zoo. Costly marriage festivals, once a
tradition among the Quan, are now a thing of the past. A simple ceremony, attended by
the families of the bride and groom, suffices. Children who were once raised by slaves
and servants are now raised by their parents, as they were in the old, pre-Empire days.
The old traditions from the days of the Empire are gone, little more than memories.
Left to fend for themselves, the Quan have had no choice but to work or starve. More than
a few chose the latter course, but those who did not wish to die have gradually begun
to re-learn the skills once practiced by their hunter-gatherer ancestors, though only
to a limited extent; there is precious little to hunt or gather in old Tian.
The Quan have no trade ties with the other inhabitants of the Empire, most of whom
still despise the former tyrants. As a result, they must grow their own food and make
such items as they require.
Prior to the insurrection, Quan society was governed by a rigidly enforced caste system
headed by the Emperor and his family, who were known as the Grand Elite. No longer do
the Quan have an Emperor or ruling family. Instead, the Quan are now governed by a
Council of Advisors, who help maintain order in the old city and serve as a makeshift
judiciary. Their actual power and influence are limited, due primarily to a lack of
resources and the severe restrictions placed upon them by the Kang.
Magic & Religion
The Quan were never religious, the concept of worship being without interest to these
folk, who considered themselves akin to gods. Since their fall from power some Quan
have begun to turn to religion for comfort and guidance. A cult based on ancestor
worship is said to be slowly gaining adherents. Though the Quan once interred their
dead in lavish tombs and mausoleums, the dead are now buried with little ceremony
in unmarked graves.
During the Empire period the Quan developed a taste for fine art and for superbly
crafted goods. However, the Quan of the present age cannot afford such luxuries.
Having gained some appreciation for the arts, some Quan have taken to painting,
sculpting, and even composing music.
The Quan speak both the Quan tongue and High Talislan, but prefer the latter, as
it is more refined. Despite their fall from power, the Quan retain something of
their former attitude of superiority. Most still use the elaborate titles that they
bestowed upon themselves during the time when they were rulers of the Empire. Thus,
even the lowliest Quan are referred to by such flowery acronyms as "Splendid Jade
Potentate", "Munificent Lotus Personage", and "Wondrous Sapphire Excellence."
By Kang decree, the Quan are prohibited from raising any kind of military force. A
small volunteer militia exists for the purpose of repulsing wild animals that find
their way into the city.
Since their fall from power the Quan have been cut off from the outside world. Never
well-liked during the days of Empire, the Quan have received little in the way of
sympathy from other nations, and nothing but scorn from their former subjects. They
are a race of pariahs - isolated, powerless, and viewed as outcasts in their own land.
The Golden City of Tian
Former capital of the old Quan Empire, Tian is situated on an island within a man-made
lake, and is accessible only by boat or windship. The city was designed by Mandalan
architects at the command of the Emperor of Quan, who demanded that the new capital
surpass in beauty all of the cities of the Empire even that of the Mandalan city of
Jacinth. Once considered the most splendid city on the continent, Tian has now fallen
into a state of disrepair.
Places of Note
The Emperor's Road
This highway spans the length and breadth of the Kang Empire, from Hadran to Ispasia,
and from Karang to Vishana. Heavily-armed Kang sentinels patrol the Emperor's Road at
The Imperial Canal
This man-made waterway links the River Shan to the Gulf of Tian, and was built to allow
access to the lake that surrounds Tian. A system of locks and channels, operated by a
group of Vajra engineers, allows traffic on the canal to be strictly monitored.
The Forest of Tian is as odd a place as one may find in Talislanta a man-made woodland,
comprised of orderly groves of silver deodars and shade trees, separated by neatly mowed
grass trails, and stocked with tamed animals of many sorts. The Quan aristocracy had
this place "built" for the pleasure of the Emperor, who once came here to hunt "wild"
game. Left untended since 613, the region has begun to revert to its natural state.
The trails are overgrown, and the animals gone feral.
Tucked away in the far-northern corner of the peninsula, Ispasia is a small citystate
known for its beautiful architecture and stately ambience. The city was annexed by the
Quan in the early days of the Empire, but allowed to retain its prosperous mercantile
government and culture. The same conditions have remained in effect since the Kang came
to power, for the Ispasians are integral to the prosperity of the Empire.
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The Ispasians are a folk of slender physique, lemon-yellow skin and expressionless
features. They dress in robes of fine silkcloth, upon which are indited elaborate
sigils representing their respective family crests.|
Some believe the Ispasians are descended from a race of neomorphs created by the
ancient Archaens. The Ispasians themselves deny the validity of these theories,
citing certain documents which they claim establish the separate and distinct ancestry
of their people.
The Ispasians are a people who have prospered through their mastery of financial matters
and transactions. They live in manor houses set within the walls of their well-manicured
and tastefully landscaped estates. The typical Ispasian manse has circular windows of
rose colored glass, a pagoda-style roof, slender white columns, and a flight of white
stone stairs leading to the entranceway. Their homes are decorated in rich, yet elegantly
understated, style. Typical amenities include a large sitting room, parquet floors
carpeted with rugs imported from the Desert Kingdoms, and furnishings upholstered in
the finest Mandalan silkcloth.
Ispasian marriages are treated as a merger of two families and their fortunes, and are
negotiated with the usual Ispasian discretion and attention to detail. Children are
raised by servants of foreign extraction (typically Mandalans), and begin schooling
in financial matters at age three. Ispasians drink rare wines from fluted crystal glasses
and eat the finest foods, but never to excess. Their one weakness is the desire to acquire
things of value and beauty.
The Ispasians bear a reputation as cool, calculating businessmen. Unlike the Farad
they do not deal in contraband goods, or in small quantities of goods of any type.
Instead, Ispasians prefer to deal in large-scale investments and commodities. The
Ispasians serve the Kang, helping them manage the Empire's finances; discretion is
the watchword in all their transactions. Ispasian agents are known to travel across
the extent of Talislanta, and are believed to have clients in such far-distant lands
as Faradun, Rajanistan, and Kasmir of the Seven Kingdoms, among others.
The Ispasians have an insular society. Cooperation is more important than individual
achievement; the welfare and prosperity of the Ispasian people come first. Ispasians
claim to have no personal feelings towards clients, and prefer to maintain a "cool"
exterior, seldom showing outward emotion except when under great stress. It is the
custom of these folk to regard all relationships as business transactions.
Ispasia is ruled by a mercantile autocracy, at the head of which is a figure called
the Najdak, who is served by a Board of Advisors. Together, they devise strategies for
investment and acquisition that are faithfully followed by all Ispasians. The Board of
Advisors handles all matters pertaining to "violations of Ispasian ethics" (a term
considered an oxymoron by some). Offenders may be punished by demotion in status, or
may be fined. Violent crime is virtually unknown among these folk, who keep their
emotions in check at all times.
Magic & Religion
Ispasians have no religion; the concept does not interest them. Few of their people
are known to practice magic. Instead, they prefer to hire magicians when in need of
such services. The dead are placed in jade and gold sarcophagi, rich yet tasteful in
design, and laid to rest in their family's mausoleum.
Though they have a great appreciation for fine art, music, and fine crafted goods, the
Ispasians themselves have no interest in the creation of such works. The Ispasian
attitude is, why waste time creating art when one can acquire it, and also earn a
profit from the investment? Priceless antique vases, examples of fine sculpture,
paintings from past eras, and other works of art and collectibles are much sought
after by Ispasians.
Ispasians are well educated, and are fluent in both Quan and High Talislan. Common
names start with the prefix, "Isp" (meaning, "respected one of Ispasian lineage"),
as in Ispal, Ispmar, Ispan, Ispmir, etc.
The Ispasians have no military of any sort. They rely upon the Kang for their protection,
assured that their value to the Empire is sufficient to guarantee their safety.
Ispasian agents regularly travel to foreign lands in order to acquire commodities and
make investments. The Najdak and his Board of Advisors play an important role in
determining the value of currencies, commodities, and assets; by manipulating vast
sums of money around they are able to exert great control over the Empire's economy,
and the economies of foreign nations as well.
Since the fall of the Quan, the Ispasians have taken on a more important role in the
Empire. The Najdak sits at the left hand of the Kang Warlord, acting as his chief
advisor on all issues related to trade, commerce, food distribution, the requisition
of supplies to troops and fortifications, tariffs, tolls, and a hundred other non-military
concerns. The Ispasians handle all of the Kang's financial concerns, and do so in an
An Ispasian Viewpoint
The Ispasian agent Ispal, speaks on his people's view of the Kang Empire:
"The Empire is not a monolithic entity, as it may appear to those who look upon it
from the outside. Rather, it is a mosaic of different cultures, each with its own
beliefs and aspirations. The Mandalans are like the wind and rain, gradually wearing
down the walls that imprison them, until one day they will crumble. The Vajra are earth
and stone; dark and deep, with memories as old as the world. They lurk below the surface
until the time when they will erupt, like a sleeping volcano. The Sunra are like a river,
whose many tributaries want nothing more than to run free to the sea.
"The Mondre Khan are the beast that sleeps by day, and comes forth by night from the
depths of the forest, to strike fear into the hearts of men. The Kang are fire; always
burning, consuming all in their path. Like flame they must always feed, for if they
cease to do so, they will die. The Quan were once like this, but now their fire is
extinguished, and all that remains are a few wisps of smoke.
"My people are different from the others who dwell among us. The wind fills our sails,
and the rain waters our fields; we use earth and stone to shelter us, and to build
things of lasting beauty. We drink from the river, and leave the beast to roam in the
forest as it will. And we feed the fire, for it warms our hearths, and lights our way."
The Citystate of Ispasia
Surrounded by walls of white jade, this wealthy citystate is the only Ispasian settlement
in Talislanta. Its architecture is rich and impressive in scope, though not ostentatious;
in this regard the city reflects the nature of its inhabitants. A large contingent of
Kang guard the gates, and are stationed in a nearby barracks facility tastefully concealed
by shrubbery. At the center of the city are the lavish estates of the Ispasians and their
families. Their Vajra and Mandalan servants live in a small district located outside
the city proper.
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A golden-skinned folk, the Mandalans are slender of build, with almond-shaped eyes and
pleasant features. It is the custom of the males to shave their skulls, while the females
do the same, leaving only a top-knot of long, black hair. Both sexes wear lose fitting
robes or pajama-style garments, typically of silkcloth, a material which is common in
the regions in which the Mandalans live.|
The origins of the Mandalan race date back to the Forgotten Age, when their nomadic
ancestors migrated from the Opal Mountains and established permanent communal settlements
along the eastern coasts of what is now the Kang Empire. Here, the Mandalans established
a peaceful society devoted to the cultivation of the mystic arts and sciences. The arrival
of a succession of hostile nomads ensued soon afterwards, from the Zhan to the Mazdaks,
and the Quan. Each in turn subjugated the Mandalans, who offered no resistance. Each,
in their turn, eventually grew complacent and were overthrown by other peoples. Only
the peaceful Mandalans remain as they were before.
The Mandalans have an advanced and enlightened culture centered amidst the pastel spires,
arches, and promenades of the coastal city of Jacinth and outlying regions. Those who
live in Jacinth serve as artisans, scholars, and historians. They live in simple but
elegant dwellings made of parchment stretched over wood frames, with rock gardens,
meditation areas, and shaded arbors adding a sense of serenity and beauty to their
surroundings. The remainder of the population is scattered throughout the countryside,
making their home in small villages. They live in rustic dwellings of artfully woven
reeds and thatch, and work as farmers, herders, and weavers.
Mandalans place great emphasis on the family. Marriage is considered a bonding of
bodies and souls; a sacred trust and covenant between the participants. Ancestors
and elders are respected; several generations often live together in the same home.
Children receive care and instruction from their parents, grandparents, and often
their great-grandparents. All Mandalans are vegetarians. They subsist on a diet of
grains and fruits. Mandalan green wine is a favored drink.
Under the Kang, the Mandalans continue to be virtual slaves of the Empire. They obey the commands of their Kang masters without question, never showing signs of overt emotion. Yet in the countryside strange events continue to transpire for which there is no explanation: a barge carrying a shipment of weapons sinks below the waters of the Shan river; a group of Kang trackers disappears without a trace; Kang troops are repeatedly inconvenienced by washed-out roads, collapsing bridges, and other logistical nightmares. Meanwhile, the barbaric Harakin clans gather along the northern borders of Quan, waiting and watching, while the Mandalans remain, passive and aloof...
The Kang allow the Mandalans a degree of self-rule, mainly because they consider the Mandalans to be no threat to their interests. Jacinth is run by a democratic People's Council comprised of representatives from all walks of Mandalan life: artisans, musicians, artists, poets, and scribes. All matters are decided by popular vote. Rural villages are also governed according to the same principles, though on a smaller scale.
Magic & Religion
Mandalans worship the deity known as Creator, but observe no formal rituals. Worship is centered around meditation, and is considered a matter between one's god and one's self. Mandalans bury their dead in a simple ceremony, erecting a small shrine of river stones and flowers on the grave of the deceased.
Mandalans have a deep respect for the arts, which they believe enhance the appreciation of beauty inherent in the natural world. They practice painting, sculpture, calligraphy, and decorative crafts such as weaving silkcloth. Many Mandalan families keep silkwyrrms as pets, and produce their own silk. Reading and writing poetry is also a favorite pastime. Mandalan music consists of simple but pleasing melodies, with a strong but understated rhythmic pulse underneath. This reflects the Mandalan virtues of outward passivity and inner strength. Common instrumentation include the madao (a two-chambered flute), silk harp (the seven strings of which are made of silkwyrrm thread), and mandola (a long tube filled with smooth river pebbles).
The native tongue of the Mandalans is Quan, though many also speak either High or Low Talislan. Common Mandalan names are hyphenated, as in Shan-Yan, Xhan-Han, Zen-Shen, etc.
Mandalans have never had an army, and have no interest in military matters.
Mandalans are the most productive of the Empire's citizens. They create many useful wares, including silkcloth, pottery, glassware, jewelry, tools, implements, furnishings, and many different types of art and decorative crafts. In the rural areas they grow and harvest crops of many sorts, make wine, weave baskets, and herd domesticated animals. Mandalans transport their wares across the Empire, traveling by river craft, carts, and wagons.
To many Talislantans, the Mandalans appear weak and submissive, unwilling to offer
even the slightest resistance to those who have invaded their lands in the past as
well as the present. While there is considerable evidence to support such a view,
this perception of the Mandalans is in many ways inaccurate. Practitioners of an
ancient mystical discipline, Mandalans abhor violence, considering militarism to be the domain of unsophisticated and primitive peoples. Yet despite a great aversion to physical violence, the Mandalans are neither weak nor entirely submissive. It is no accident that they have survived centuries of oppression, or that their culture has endured long after the demise of the warlike races who have conquered their lands and subjugated their people. Rather, over the course of many centuries, the Mandalans have developed a unique methodology for dealing with repressive regimes; a philosophy based upon the principles of passive resistance, and the concept of the Mystic Warrior (see sidebar).
The Legend of the Mystic Warrior
In Mandalan lore, the Mystic Warrior is an ideal, symbolizing the indomitability of the spirit. It is the unshakable belief of the Mandalans that, though their people may be enslaved and oppressed, their hearts and minds shall always remain free. Thus, in the Mandalan perspective, no enemy can ever truly conquer their race.
For the vast majority of Mandalans, the practice of this philosophy is limited to various subtle forms of passive resistance. The Mandalans are most ingenious in this regard, and seem to possess a limitless ability to influence, misinform, and misdirect their oppressors without arousing suspicion in themselves.
In rare instances, a Mandalan may actually adopt the physical persona of the Mystic Warrior. Operating in total secrecy, these individuals often engage in more overt forms of resistance, including acts of sabotage and other secret activities. According to legend, those who heed the call of the Mystic Warrior become as the wind; their presence felt, but never seen. Such is the aura of mystery that surrounds these individuals that the Mandalans do not even admit that they exist.
The City of Jacinth
Once the center of Mandalan culture, the coastal city of Jacinth is now a resort area for Ispasians and visiting dignitaries. A large number of Mandalans still live here, serving as slaves of the Empire. In Jacinth are found ancient collections of scrolls and books, and gardens of crystal dendrons, mosses and prismatic blossoms. Elite units of Kang guard the city from attack by land, and Sunra dragon barques patrol the harbor. The pleasure barges once owned by the Quan are now owned by Ispasians, who use them primarily for entertaining wealthy clients.
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Sunra are graceful in stature, with silver-scaled skin and deep-blue eyes. The customary mode of dress for both males and females consists of a simple robe of Mandalan silkcloth, sandals, and a silk headband. |
The Sunra are a semi-aquatic race whose origins predate The Great Disaster. Their ancestors, the Sun-Ra-San, once ranged the Far Seas in glittering dragon barques, hunting sea dragons and trading with far-distant lands. Now the majority of the Sunra population is housed in the Coral City of Isalis, as subjects of the Kang.
The Sunra of Isalis live in graceful dwellings carved from great mounds of coral and decorated with shells. They subsist primarily on kelp and algae, which the Sunra serve in soups, broths, and stews; Sunra food is always high in liquid content and, by the standards of most other folk, very salty. The combination of fluids and salts enables Sunra to function out of water for extended periods of time without experiencing discomfort.
Sunra society is centered around their extended family groups. Sunra couples mate for life and beyond, swearing eternal faithfulness even in the afterlife; the marriage ceremony is called a "merging of souls". Children are raised by both their parents and grandparents. Training in Sunra culture, astromancy, and other skills begins at age two.
The Sunra have a great love of learning. Their children are taught to read and write at an early age, and are given basic training in the various crafts and professions practiced by the Sunra people: sea-farming, astromancy, ship-building, piloting se craft, etc. Once this general education has been completed, Sunra schools allow students to concentrate on a preferred subject or subjects, as they wish. Sunra have long wished to regain their freedom, but for the present they remain subjects of the Empire.
Sunra believe that the souls of their ancestors reside within Moonfish, and so will never harm these creatures. They believe that anyone who captures or kills a Moonfish will suffer a terrible curse; in fact, the Sunra say that this is what happened to the Quan, who once kept Moonfish as pets. While many scoff at these claims it should be noted that, not long after the Silent Insurrection, the Kang forced the Quan to release all their Moonfish into the River Shan, and thereafter made it illegal to own or eat Moonfish.
Sunra sea farmers and fishermen supply much of the Empire's foodstuffs. Their mariners pilot the great barges that ply the River Shan from Tian to the Inland Sea, conveying shipments of goods across the Empire and beyond, to distant ports such as Tarun, in Faradun. However, no Sunra ship is ever allowed to sail beyond the Inland Sea unless escorted by a sizeable contingent of Kang guards.
The Kang have allowed the Sunra a semblance of self-rule, within certain limitations. Sunra are permitted to run their city as they choose, provided they remain in compliance with Kang law. The Sunra have an egalitarian democracy, a tradition that goes back to their ancient sea-faring days. Their leaders are elected by popular vote. The individual designated as ruler is accorded the title, "Eminence"; his or her panel of eleven elected advisors is called the Sunra Council. The Kang allow them to adjudicate all matters that occur within the walls of the city of Isalis. Offenses that occur outside Isalis are handled by the Kang.
Magic & Religion
The Sunra worship an elemental ocean deity named Aqus. They have a great love of the sea, and revere the Moonfish as an avatar of their elemental deity. Priests and priestesses of the sect are aquamancers. Sunra take their dead aboard a dragon barque for burial at sea. In this way they believe that the spirits of the dead may be reborn as moonfish.
Sunra artisans are skilled in the creation of various practical wares and works of art, using coral, shells, and other products of the sea. The music of the Sunra, like that of their ancestors the Sun-Ra-San (q.v.), is haunting and often filled with sorrow.
Though the Sunra have an ancestral tongue, Quan is the language most commonly spoken by those who live in the Kang Empire. Common names are hyphenated, begin with "Su" (males) or "Sa" (females). For example: Sur-Rin, Sun-Ran, Sut-Ra (males); Sar-Rin, San-Ran, Sat-Ra (female).
The Sunra maintain a large fleet of dragon barques, but are restricted by from sailing such craft anywhere but the Inland Sea and the River Shan except under the direct supervision of the Kang military. Since the Kang know nothing about marine navigation, Sunra pilots and crews are used to transport their troops when waterborne operations are deemed necessary. The Sunra are the finest sailors in the known world, using astrolabes to navigate according to the position of Talislanta's twin suns and seven moons, and are able to read the currents and tides.
The Sunra serve the Kang not out of loyalty, but because they fear that if they did not, their oppressors would dam the River Shan, causing the Inland Sea to go dry. It is no secret that the Sunra yearn to swim free, as they did in ancient times. Given the opportunity, some believe that the Sunra might rebel against the Kang. The Kang know this, and have attempted to placate the Sunra to some extent by allowing them a greater degree of autonomy than they had under the Quan. So far, these measures have served to maintain order, but some wonder for how long.
The Coral City of Isalis
Beside being home to the Sunra, the Coral City of Isalis hosts the Empire's vast flotilla of dragon barques, merchant skiffs and fishing boats. A reef serves as the foundation for the city, which is fashioned of pink, blue, red and green varieties of coral. Its "streets" are narrow waterways which course among the elegant coral structures. Sunra sea-farmers ply the shallows around the city, harvesting kelp, algae, edible mollusks, and other aquatic foodstuffs.
Places of Note
Located in the hot and humid jungles of the far south, Vishana is a Kang military outpost situated on the River Shan. Soldiers from here are sent to patrol the Emperor's Road, though the task is made difficult by wild beasts and marauding Witchmen. The Kang trackers and cavalry which patrol the Empire's southern borders have a particular loathing for duty here. To instill enthusiasm among the troops, the fort commanders offer a bounty of a hundred gold lumens for each Witchmen head taken on jungle patrols.
Set in the Jade Mountains, Vulge is manned by a contingent of Kang trackers and their beasts. This outpost is among the least favorite assignments for Kang troops, owing to its isolated location and the close proximity of Nagra spirit trackers, exomorphs, and winged vipers.
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The Vajra are short and squat, with barrel-like torsos and heavy limbs. Their bodies are covered with overlapping orange-brown plates, which form an effective natural armor. They dress in loinclouts and wide belts, donning cloaks for ceremonial occasions. Their tough, scaled hide renders them impervious to cuts and abrasions, and serves as a natural form of armor.|
The ancestors of the Vajra once dwelled beneath the Opal Mountains and Vajran Hills, in the northern part of what is now the Kang Empire. They were originally subjugated by the Quan, who captured a large clutch of hibernating Vajra young and threatened to kill them unless the adults surrendered. Fearing that their species might be driven to extinction should such a catastrophe occur, the Vajra acceded to the Quan's demands. Following the Silent Insurrection of 611, the Vajra became subjects of the Kang.
The Vajra once lived in subterranean settlements that resembled intricate tunnel-mazes, designed, excavated, and polished with meticulous attention to detail. The passageways and caves were illuminated by globular masses of phosphorescent fungi, suspended from the ceilings. These settlements resembled underground hives, with separate chambers for the hibernating Vajra young, the Queen, the workers, and the soldiers. They population subsisted on a simple diet of mosses, lichen, and mineral-rich water from underground streams, springs, and lakes.
Since their subjugation, the Vajra have been forced to live in tunnel-complexes built into large mounds and hillocks. In order to ensure the loyalty of their workers, the Kang hold hibernating Vajra young captive in locked iron vaults until they have hatched. The Kang employ Vajra engineers as miners, road workers, and builders. They are paid a nominal wage, but are often treated like slaves.
Vajra regard their entire race as a single family; the propagation and protection of the species are vital concerns to these folk. Vajra males court the females, who may mate with as many males as they please. In Vajra society the ability to have many offspring is highly valued. Females give birth to a clutch of up to four fetal young, each resembling a scaled impling enclosed in a translucent but durable egg-sac filled with nutrient fluids. The young remain enclosed with their egg-sacs for a full year, slowly growing and developing into young adults. During this period of so-called "hibernation" that Vajra young are extremely vulnerable. At the end of the year the hatchlings claw their way out of the sac, emerging as fully-developed, "young adults".
Vajra once used precious and semi-precious stones as currency. The Quan robbed them of their wealth, and ever since Vajra have been forced to use the Empire's currency.
Prior to their subjugation the Vajra were ruled by a matriarchy, with each hive-settlement governed by a Queen. The Quan prohibited the appointment of Queens, a policy which the Kang continue to the present day. Even so, females continue to hold great influence among their people, and their advice is sought whenever important decisions must be made.
Magic & Religion
Vajra revere the earth goddess, Terra, whom they regard as the Great Elemental that dwells within the world of Archaeus. Prior to the subjugation of their people, Vajra would gather together in great numbers and offer prayers to their goddess. Now, such practices are forbidden by the Kang. Even so, Vajra priestesses are said to still hold services in secret underground shrines. Vajra bury their dead deep in the earth, their ancestral home.
Vajra excel at all manner of earthen and stonework construction, engineering, and excavation. While most of their work is intended to be functional in nature, many Vajra stone-carvings have a definite aesthetic appeal as well. Vajra appear to have no musical tradition.
The Vajra speak a dialect of the Quan tongue, and have deep, resonant voices. Common names usually have three syllables and begin with the prefix, "Vaj" (meaning "of the Vajra"), as in Vaj-Do-Rahn, Vaj-Nan-Sa, and Vaj-Kron-Do.
Vajra once built impressive underground fortifications that were manned by well-armed contingents of male soldiers. Such defenses are no longer permitted under Kang rule. Instead, Vajra camps are guarded by contingents of Kang.
Vajra are normally quiet and introspective by nature; "as solid and enduring as stone", as they say. Stoic and exceedingly durable creatures, they can tolerate considerable physical and emotional stress without complaint or apparent ill effect. However, there is another side to the Vajra psyche that is rarely seen by outsiders, called the Dark Fire (see sidebar).
The Vajra have no relations with other nations. They are on good terms with the Mandalans and Sunra, though formal relations with other subjects of the Empire are forbidden. Vajra still bear much resentment for the Quan, though they now regard their former masters with something approaching pity.
The Dark Fire
Vajra culture is rooted deep in the elemental earth of Talislanta. Like stone, Vajra strive to be placid, enduring, strong, resolute. Like earth and soil they strive to be fruitful and nurturing, providing a medium for growth and new life. But there is another side to the Vajra, about which little is known. For deep in the subterranean realms of their homeland, where the light of the twin suns never penetrates, is a place of perpetual night and burning, smoldering magma. This is the Dark Fire, a molten heart of darkness that exists not only at the center of the world, but also in the soul of every Vajra.
In Vajra culture, the Dark Fire is neither good nor evil. It simply exists, as do all things in nature. Vajra keep the Dark Fire deep within in them; they say that it warms their hearts, illuminates their souls, and prevents them from losing their way in the darkness. Under normal conditions the Dark Fire is always hidden and kept under control. However, if subjected to prolonged periods of severe stress or torment a Vajra may lose the ability to control what lies within. Like a volcano, he or she may erupt in a frightening display of violence and destructive force: clawing through stone, breaking free of the strongest restraints, exhibiting an almost elemental power. During such times a Vajra may kill or destroy without remorse, perform feats of incredible strength, or suffer grievous wounds and injuries without apparent effect. The Dark Fire lasts but a few moments, and often less than this. Once it is over the Vajra's energy is spent and he or she will lapse into unconsciousness. Death usually follows soon afterward, for once the Fire is extinguished, so too is the Vajra's life force.
The Vajran Hills
The traditional territories of the Vajra, the Vajran Hills are rich in minerals, timber and other natural resources. After the Quan annexed this part of their Empire, the Vajra were deported from their subterranean homes and taken to slave camps near the Opal Mountains. Their underground settlements were sealed, and have never been reopened. Many are believed to contain old Vajra treasures that were hidden from their enemies.
The Citadel of Karang
Located to the north, Karang is a walled citadel built to safeguard against incursions of barbaric Harakin from beyond the Opal Mountains. Many Vajra miners live in the sub-levels of t .›his ponderous structure, which is crisscrossed with catacombs and tunnels after the Vajran style. Precious stones and metals from the mines are stored here until they can be shipped by caravan to Shonan. Kang trackers patrol the outskirts with deadly hunting beasts called tarkus.
|The Mondre Khan|
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The Mondre Khan are squat and powerfully built, with leathery skin, a mane of coarse black hair, and a long fringe of fur running down the back of the legs and arms. They dress in hide loincloths and bits of leather and plate armor stolen from the Kang.|
The Mondre Khan are believed to be related to the Beastmen of Golarin, or perhaps the Wildmen of Yrmania. The Mondre Khan scoff at such claims, and have their own theories on the subject of their ancestry (see sidebar).
Nomadic hunter-gatherers, the Mondre Khan travel in tribes of up to forty individuals, subsisting on wild mountain berries and fresh game. They are hardy creatures who require little in the way of nourishment and can travel long distances on just a few scraps of food. Tribes camp in the mountains, finding shelter amongst copses of trees, in caves, or beneath rock overhangs. Their camps are always well concealed, and are temporary at best; bands move on after a day or two in order to avoid being detected by the Kang.
Mondre Khan tribes are basically extended family units, though survivors from tribes decimated by warfare with the Kang or illness are usually welcome. Unlike Beastmen packs, bands of Mondre Khan rarely engage in hostilities with each other, for the reason that they regard the Kang as their mutual foe. Mondre Khan mate for life, and are very devoted to each other. Females usually give birth to twins. Both the male and female protect their young with their lives.
Savage and feral by nature, Mondre Khan exhibit the ferocity and cunning of wild beasts when on the hunt or in battle. They find it difficult to repress their bestial side, and may react in the manner of wild animals when cornered or subjected to extreme stress. Conversely, Mondre Khan show great kindness and compassion for their young, and appear to harbor deep feelings for their mates and loved ones. This dichotomy seems to be ingrained in the Mondre Khan persona, and their people's struggle with the duality that is inherent in their physical and emotional make-up: on one side, the man-like creature striving to achieve a higher state of consciousness, and on the other, the wild animal driven by primal urges.
Mondre Khan possess the ability to make crude weapons, tools, and armor, and know how to cure hides and work them into useful articles. Some of their works exhibit a rustic or primitive sense of aesthetics. They make no music save for the mournful howls of those who have lost a mate in battle.
Magic & Religion
The Mondre Khan show no signs that they practice, or have any concept of, any sort of organized religion. Neither do they seem to know anything of magic, though some believe that they have the intellectual capacity to learn such talents if given the opportunity. The dead are eulogized, then cast into the communal fire.
Each Mondre Khan clan has a single leader; typically, a strong male or female whom the others have come to trust and respect. The leader's main responsibilities are to keep the tribe safe from discovery by the Kang, to plot guerilla-type attacks against the Kang, and to settle disputes. The leader also resolves all disputes within the clan. Individuals guilty of an offense against another member of the tribe may be attacked by their peers and banished from the tribe.
Mondre Khan communicate in a snarling version of the Chanan tongue, and in sign. Claw markings made on the trunks of trees may indicate the beginning of a written language; if true, this would be regarded as an important development by certain Talislantan scholars. Common names are comprised of two syllables, the second ending in "iz", as in Kaziz, Hakiz, Kadiz, Nagiz, etc.
The Kang consider the Mondre Khan to be akin to wild beasts, and hunt them down like animals. Holed up in their mountain retreats, the Mondre Khan have waged a successful campaign against numerically superior Kang forces for over four centuries launching surprise attacks against merchant caravans, stealing military supply wagons, and repeatedly raiding the mining settlement of Ku-Chang. Though outnumbered and poorly equipped, the Mondre Khan are experts in the art of covert warfare and have generally fared well against the Kang.
Mondre Khan clans occasionally barter with each other, trading provisions, tools, and weapons. Mondre Khan do not use coins, which to them have no value.
The Mondre Khan are the avowed enemies of the Empire, whose forces the Mondre Khan have successfully resisted for centuries. The last indigenous people to avoid subjugation by the forces of the Empire, the Mondre Khan have proved to be a resourceful and dangerous enemy. They have no known ties with other nations or peoples, though covert relations with the Mandalans and Vajra may exist.
Legend of The Forest King
Among the Mondre Khan there is a legend of such great antiquity that some say it is little more than a racial memory, borne in the blood of those whose ancestors survived The Great Disaster. According to some, this legend states that the first Mondre Khan - a creature called Khadiz - once lived far to the west, in a great forest that formerly covered much of the territories now known as the Western Lands. Known as Forest King, he was the master of all other creatures, great and small.
One day, while Khadiz was out hunting in the forest, he was set upon by a group of hairless beasts. These creatures were not of the natural world; they had neither claw nor fang, but carried terrible weapons of cold iron and fire. With black magic they captured Khadiz and took him to a strange place, where he was forced to lay with one of the hairless beasts' females. The King of the Forest died soon afterward, his vital energies stolen and his spirit broken. But before he died Khadiz cursed the hairless ones, that the seeds they had sown would one day bring a bitter harvest. So it was that from this unnatural union the Mondre Khan were born into the world, to reap vengeance upon those who murdered their King.
Though most Talislantan scholars tend to dismiss the legend of the Forest King, some believe that like most myths the story has its basis in fact. If so, then the creature called Khadiz may well have been a Jaka; one of the Beastmasters of the Northern Forests, from whom the title "Forest King" could easily have been derived. This being the case, it would follow that the Mondre Khan were sorcerous hybrids created by the ancient Archaens; the "hairless beasts" mentioned in the legend. Said the noted naturalist Thystram, regarding the legend and its possible ramifications: "It is at least an intriguing theory."
Places of Note
The Outpost of Ku-Chang is a mining installation where crews of Vajra slave laborers exhume gold and silver, crystals, cinnabar, antimony, and a half-dozen varieties of precious stones. A garrison of Kang warriors and trackers keeps the Vajra in line, and protects this vital installation from Mondre Khan raiding parties. Crag spiders, cave bats and other dangerous creatures occupy the caves and gullies of the plateau. Kang patrols comb the heights by day, but do not dare to venture forth at night.