Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold: The Immortal Khanates of Maliph

The Immortal Khanates of Maliph
Alignment LN
Capital Blacksakhr
Ruler Shah Karim Venomfire of the Dying Tree
Government Plutocratic Military Oligarchy
Demonym Maliphate, Maliphi
Adjective Maliphi
Languages Malic, Tomish, Auran, Ignan, Terran, Aquan
Religions The Twins, Shraxes, The Machine

South of Ith lie mountains, hot deserts and cold steppes.  The Khans and Sultans of Maliph control the spice and sugar trade, which has established plutocracies that rule.   It is a harsh land, whose people rely on faith, reason and cunning to survive.

History
In an age prior to the Tomasi empire's rise, most of Maliph was covered in thick jungle.  Only a set of mountains broke the jungles and forests.  The city of Rruk could be found deep in these jungles, a set of massive ziggurats used as a site for dark bloody rituals by an Aether-blooded and his cult.  Called Uron the Blooddrinker, he and the archmage Ith fought in a terrible duel, turning the jungle into vast deserts.  None of that jungle ever recovered; only sand, dunes and rock remains.

Ith left the ruined lands behind.  The Maliphate Tribes fended for themselves in the harsh terrain.  Generations would pass as they struggled to survive the new vast desert that had been carved out for them.  Various sultanates and city-states arose in the south.  These southern powers were keen to manipulate their northern kinsmen into constant war, often baiting them against roving tribes of monsters.  This changed with the rise of Alghar Nephillim of the Sun Rose Clan.  Nephillim was a half-giant, whose band nearly died after a raid in the Blacksakhr wastes.

Within a decade Nephillim united the northern Maliphate clans in a horde.  He had allies amongst giants, sphinxes and even a Aether-Blooded who joined his cause.  A band of skinwalkers and their Weretiger leader allied themselves with Nephillim, calling him their Khan as well.  Nephillim rode south, and sacked every southern city.  He slaughtered their leaders and established Khanates in his wake.  Nephillim established the position of Shah.

This wouldn't prevent years of infighting and civil war.  The Khanates never spent more than a decade in peace.  It wasn't until the city of Blacksakhr had been built and the wisdom of the Sphinx Ystara created the current system.  Dominated by trade over military conquest, each Khanate shared rule.  This balance of power has worked to keep Maliph stable over the last two centuries.

Maliph controls the spice and sugar trade, a fact that the other powers work to undo, with varying degrees of success.  Othebea and Maliph have gone to war numerous times over it.  Maliph uses slavery to obtain all of its sugar and spices, although the nature and form of it varies from Khanate to Khanate.  Most slavery in Maliph isn't chattel slavery, but instead freedom can be purchased rather easily.  Maliph still prides itself on its military hordes, many of whom who hired themselves out as mercenaries during the Revolution Wars in the north.

Government
The immortal plutocracies of Maliph operate in a Byzantine set of bureaucracies, structured around the Khans themselves, who chose a ruling Shah from among their number.  The Shah rules for only a decade before another is selected.  Each khan has incredible autonomy, often only being restricted by the word or power of the Shah.  Each khan leads their own Khanate, holding territory and influence over one aspect of Maliph itself.

Most of the Khans are not human- immortal monsters of one kind or another that have managed to obtain control of their own Khanates.  Their clans vary greatly in how they are managed.  Mutual peace is maintain through the centuries old Covenant that Ystara had created in Blacksakhr.  The only problem with the old systems in Maliph is that they are slow to react to a crisis.  Nothing large or horrible has happened of late, but the Khans fear the spread of ideas like the Revolution amongst their people, potentially giving those who worship Shraxes a means to cause larger trouble.

Geography
Almost all of northern Maliph is dominated by a vast sandy desert.  With salt flats, canyons and a variety of petrified forests, this region has long been a harsh environment.  The various mountains in the region have long been mined out by prior civilizations, leaving barren wreckage scattered throughout.  Ancient cities and other ruins dot the landscape, but most Maliphi chose to not violate such places, believing it to be a violation of the tenants of the Black Rose to even step inside such places.

The various rivers and lakes of Maliph, to the south, provide for populous cities.  These cities serve as the mercantile center of Maliph, coordinating the spice, sugar and slave trades.  With river deltas, cooler climes and grassy steppes, southern Maliph has huge herds of all sorts of fauna not seen anywhere else in the world.  These cities are part of a trade network that often ends at Crux, bringing to that city wares from all over the southern part of the world.

Inhabitants
Although a harsh land, the Maliphi human tribe has long adapted to it.  Sphinxes, lycanthropes of a desert kind (werelions, werehyenas and werecrocodiles to name a few), gnolls and giants all call the area home.  The land is also home to djinn and other elementals, drawn to the latent magic left over from ancient empires now long lost.  The Maliphi are used to all of these, sometimes being well known for being able to get so many different kinds of monsters to work together with them in communities.

Of course, any willingness to work with the likes of what other nations see as monsters has had always been controversial.  Othebea and Ainesian states have declared crusades against Maliph more than once during its long history, often out of insult at the site of a minotaur or some other bestial figure being allowed to be part of a community.

Religion
Maliph, quite like Othebea, holds the Twins in the highest regards.  Unlike Othebea, Maliph's exposure was at the hands of the Herald Malkith, a hound-headed celestial.  Malkith taught the importance of various taboos to the Twins, many of which the Maliph hold to, even if they don't consider themselves religious.  Maliphi, for example, do not eat pork or shellfish, nor do they tolerate the touch or exposure to the dead.  They always praise the Summer Rose at sunrise, and always praise the Black Rose at sunset.  Maliphi always are charitable to guests, always willing to provide food and time to complete strangers if asked.

There are no Ursyklon in Maliph.  None at all.  There are ruins of their empires from long ago.  Some Ursyklon journey south to see them, but most never trouble themselves to migrate into Maliph at all.  Ursyklon don't speak about the subject, but they seem to be fearful of the ground in Maliph, as though it were cursed or haunted.

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