The Golden Circle are kingdoms with which Amber has special trade relations. Most of them are allies of Amber to some degree, although relations with a few of them fluctuate a lot. Many of them lie across the ocean from Amber, and are listed here. The Golden Circle Shadows near Amber can be found here.
Jeff has made us a very nice map of some of the Golden Circle Shadows beyond the ocean. Thanks, Jeff!
Jeff's Big Map!
The Outer Golden Circle Kingdoms:
Historical/Fictional Inspiration: 18th-19th century Western
Population: 800,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber: 2 weeks sailing from Amber Port
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.
Ashante is a four hundred mile long strip of coastland running east and west that turns into jungle and swamp as you move inland about a hundred miles. The ground dips as you move inland as well; the shore has several hundred foot high cliffs in most places, although deltas have formed around the major river mouths. Four major rivers empty out of the swamp through the highlands into the ocean; a small trading city stands at each delta. At its northern end, the highlands can be mined for a variety of precious metals.
The capital of Ashante is located a few miles from the coast in the eastern mining regions. It is itself named Ashante, and is home to twenty thousand people, surrounded by a great wooden palisade on the southern side of the Negir River. Ashante Port stands at the bottom of the cliffs, below Ashante falls. The Ashante have built a great water powered elevator that uses the power of the falls itself to lift and lower people; even Amberites consider it an impressive feat.
This strip of coast was home to four small states, each based along one of the rivers when Amberite traders arrived. These states became wealthy middlemen, importing spices and ivory from the interior and selling it to the Amberites, then getting luxury goods from Amber for themselves, and various bulk goods to sell into the interior. This went on for centuries, and slowly the coastal states began to drive back the forest and drain the swamp, expanding their lands.
Then one of the forest tribes, led by a man named Ashante who had spent some time serving as a guard for one of the Amberite trading posts, took Amber's military methods and taught them to his tribe. He led them down to conquer the northernmost state, captured its capital, and renamed it after himself. He then demanded that the other states submit to him.
They refused, and the Thirty Years' War began. They called upon Amber for help, so Amber sent an army to their aid. Diseases and the heat destroyed it. They sent a second one and it died off too. Amber then had to abandon the coastal states to their fate. Ashante conquered them all, then signed a trade treaty with Amber.
For centuries, the Ashante have flourished, creating a bustling, energetic trading society whose nobility has become increasingly commercial. There are signs of trouble on the horizon, however. The Ashante nobility has lost much of its military prowness, and only the inability of the forest tribes to unite have enabled them to hold back raids from the swamps. The monarchs have become fat, happy, and lazy, sitting on their Golden Chair only a few hours a day and spending the rest playing with their concubines. King Mali IX seems content to breed and eat, doing little else. The government has become increasingly corrupt as a result. Trouble is likely to come just as soon as the forest tribes find someone to unite them.
The Ashante produce gold and silver in their mines, bring down ivory and spices from the interior, and produce quality dies and enough sweet potatoes and yams for a dozen shadows. They trade these to the Amberites to get iron goods (they lack a plentiful source of iron), cloth, and various luxuries: tapestries, wine, mead, honey, books, paper, and other such goods.
The Ashante military is well-adapted for its environment. The Ashante fight nearly naked because it's too hot to do anything else. They make very high quality wooden shields which are usually brightly painted, and fight with spears, hurled javelins, and hand axes for close fighting. The officer corps isn't up to its old snuff, and the soldiers have gotten a bit lazy, but they're still fairly well disciplined, organized into units of 10, 100, and 1,000, and trained to use horns and flags to pass orders along the line. They also possess a corps of archers who use Amberite style bows, one of Ashante's innovations. The archer corps remains quite elite. There is a tiny cavalry corps used for scouting, but horses have trouble handling battle-level exertions in the heat and humidity.
The Ashante worship the High Skyfather, Ashakante, and the Orizons of Holiness who serve him. Ashakante wars endlessly with the Orizons of Unholiness who serve the Devourer who lives in the spaces beneath the surface. This tends to make devout Ashante nervous about mining. They have abandoned human sacrifices since their conquest of the coast and now sacrifice animals. The King is also the head priest of Ashakante, and Ashante, who founded the kingdom, is now one of the Orizons of Holiness. The Orizons each watch over various specific virtues and aspects of life, and there is a very complex mythology dealing with them.
In recent weeks, shadow raiders with cannon from 'Galicia', whatever
that is, have begun to raid Ashante for slaves and gold.
Historical/Fictional Inspiration: Pulp Hong Kong
Population: 1,000,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber: 2.5 weeks
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.
A city just on the very rim of the Golden Circle, Cape Westb'ryport is a city out of adventure serials of the 1930s. Pirates from Cathay, Lipun, Hang-Kung, and other more western Shadows regularly put in, or try to raid shipping off of it. Large merchant houses, like the KTC, run regular shipments in and out, and regular airship service has just started up...which, of course, has led to the introduction of Air Pirates!
The shadow has peculiar physical laws, particularly pertaining to airflow designs. Biplanes are the most high-performance type of plane, although it's also possible to build and fly huge, lumbering flying fortresses. But only if you use lots of exposed rivets. Belt-fed machine guns work fine, but without the belts they fail. Ack-ack guns must always produce black clouds of flak. Painting a fierce or whimsical design on your plane makes it fly faster. No rockets of any sort are possible, unless you're a renowned pilot or genial old tinkerer, in which case you can pull the Red Lever on your modified P-48 Flying Swan, 'Emiline,' in cases of certain death and active the Experimental V-88 Rocket Turbo Jet. This will always allow you to escape or otherwise foil your enemy, and will also cause you to lose your beloved plane.
Flying objects can defy weight-lift ratios and aerodynamics if they use enough volatile fuel, use enough rivets, and look like they were made with under 1940s tech.
Cape Westb'ryport itself sits on the inside of a long bay, which opens out between two cliffs. While quite wide at the bottom, the clifts get rather narrow at the top. You can count the black burn marks from pilots who tried unsuccessfully to fly between them.
The city is a bustling, glittering, squalid, active place - think 1930s Hong Kong. There are a few skyscraper-type buildings in the center of the city, a racetrack, elegant, art-deco clubs, opium-filled gambling dens, the Imperial Museum, rickshaws...
At the very edges of the Shadow's seas is Nightmare Reef, wrecker of ships and home to numerous pirate atolls.
Inland from the city is thick, sweltering jungle, pocked only by a few
volcanos and lagoons. There are said to be ancient temples here, possibly
from the Pre-Logrus Civilization, possibly from early Shadow migrations
around Amber. Adventurers occasionaly mount an expedition to loot one.
Sometimes they even come back. But not very often.
Historical/Fictional Inspiration: China
Population: 160,000,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber: 2 weeks
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.
Cathay is reached by sailing straight east from Amber to the Isle of Emeralds, then circling around it to sail north east until one reaches a place where the coast runs north and south. Here, the land is a 1500 mile long great coastal plain rising gently hundreds of miles into the interior, where it turns into hills, and then mountains. Rivers run westward from those mountains, creating vastly fertile zones through the plains, and the largest concentrations of population live along them. Passes leading into the mountains eventually lead to Hang-Kung along Unicorn Tracks.
North of the Yangzee river stands the Great Wall of Ch'in, a several thousand mile stone wall that stretches from coast to mountains, intended to block out the Ungol nomads who live in Ungolia, the increasingly frozen steppes which stretch northwards to a land of ice beyond the wall.
Moving south, the Sung, Ming, and Can rivers run into the sea in that order. The capital of Cathay is Mingjing, the great port city at the mouth of the Ming River. It almost rivals Amber itself in size and beauty, home to hundreds of thousands of people. It is laid out like an octagon, with the Ming River running through the middle. The Imperial Palace of Cathay sits on an island in the middle of the river, in the center of the octagon. Major ports sit at the mouths of the other rivers as well.
When Amber's ships first found this land, it was inhabited by hard-working farmers who grew rice, millet, and wheat along the many long river valleys which cut through the plains. They were ruled over by chariot-riding aristocrats who were descended from the northern nomads. Amber built trading cities at the mouths of the major rivers and taught advanced arts of metal working and shipbuilding to the natives.
The result was anarchy, as rising merchants and artisans clashed with the nomads, culminating in a crisis in which iron wielding, horse riding nomads descended on the divided Cathayan kingdoms. They cried out to Amber for help, but Amber was unable to provide adequate help. This created a lot of resentment, and eventually, when one of the local kinglets, the Ch'in, managed to drive out the nomads, they adopted an isolationist policy, restricting trade with foreign lands to a single city and building the Great Wall across their borders to keep the nomads out.
The Ch'in dynasty finally collapsed after four centuries of becoming increasingly degenerate. Civil war broke out as various nobles fought for the throne. Two hundred years of chaos ensued, the Time of the Six Warring States, as each of the major provinces became independent. Nomads broke through the Great Wall and conquered two of the provinces. This finally ended when Prince Beitung reunited the lands, crushed the Ungols, and revived the Empire.
The Beitung dynasty has ruled Cathay ever since, presiding over a new age of peace and prosperity and trade. For the moment, Cathay looks outwards, gathering in the resources it will need to fulfil the Beitung dynasty's dream of pushing beyond the Great Wall and finally bringing the northern nomads to heel. Since he came to the throne forty two years ago, Emperor Chou III has been successfully making war upon those nomads.
Cathay has become a powerful empire under the Beitung dynasty, rivaling even Amber for wealth and power. Its trading vessels ply the major sea lanes blazed through Shadow by Amber's traders, competing in a peaceful manner. Cathay is a powerful, but tolerant land where a thousand cults flourish side by side and philosopher bureaucrats study the wisdom of the past and improve on it. It uses a civil service system based on examinations (although the exams test your ability to paint, quote philosophy, and write poems more than your governing skills). Cathayans are especially noted for their medical and alchemical skills.
Cathay has friendly relations with Hang-Kung, one of its major trading partners. It has some trade and contact with Sind and Siam as well. Thanks to its support of Amber during the Annadil Crisis, it now controls several minor Lipunese islands and has extensive trading privileges in Lipun.
There is a large Cathayan quarter in Amber City itself, called simply the Ward of Cathay, where the many rites and practices of the complex and confusing Imperial Cult of Cathay are followed. Smaller such quarters exist in every city the Cathayans trade with.
Cathay has a large and powerful army which focuses on cavalry to enable it to cope with the Ungol nomads. These cavalrymen train with lance and bow, using light armor or none, since most armor can't stop arrows from Ungolian bows anyway. They also maintain heavily armored foot units for dealing with the mountain tribes to their east.
Cathay has, in recent years, claimed the Ungolian steppes closest to
the Great Wall with great success. However, many of the tribes have
simply retreated away from the wall, and the new colony towns whisper of
rumors of a great Ungolian warlord who has arisen, Mogli Khan, who will
soon lead the tribes to glory.
Historical/Fictional Inspiration: Holy Roman Empire (Name
is Canonical; Caine died here, but nothing is really told of it in the
Population: 200,000,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber: 3 weeks sailing time
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber. The time flow was once much faster, but now seems to have plummeted down to match that of Amber
Daiga's home shadow is shaped roughly like Europe, the Middle East, and Northern Africa combined. The bodies of water all have different names, but the same shapes and connections. Great deserts border the land on the east and south, full of nomads. Unicorn Trails lead across those deserts, eventually connecting to Cathay and Sindh.
Daiga's capital, Argos, is home to three hundred thousand people. It is located roughly where Constantinople/ Byzantium/ Istanbul is located on Shadow Earth. This beautiful city is paved with gold (literally), and noted for its many beautiful temples and its great harbor where much trade takes place.
Bratislavia (geographically similar to France) and Prezyml (Morocco) are the two major locations of Amberite trading posts.
Daiga has six thousand years of recorded history, and untold thousands of years of stone age life before that. When Amberites first arrived, various bronze using empires had arisen and were competing for control of the land. Amber traded with all concerned, setting up trading stations around the lands.
Time passed swiftly, and the Iron Age began. Iron wielding nomads swept out of the eastern deserts and conquered everything in the name of their gods, uniting the entire shadow into one empire, the Empire of Daiga. This empire then tried to send armies along the Unicorn Tracks to invade other shadows. But these invasions failed, in part due to Amberite intervention.
Then for a time, the Daigan emperors turned to art and culture and building, and many beautiful things were created. But these emperors let too much authority slip out of their hands, and the land began to fracture as governors turned into hereditary nobles and began consolidating their own power blocs. The final stroke came in the War of Brothers, when two Brothers fought for the throne, and the winner was forced to grant away many powers to the major nobles who had supported him. They became the Electoral Lords, gaining the power to choose future emperors. Imperial authority has declined ever since then, and the major lords are increasingly independent.
In 1292, Vlad Haufsbert IV died, triggering a war over a disputed election. The Emperor of Daiga is elected by the thirteen Electoral Lords, hereditary Princes whose services gained their ancestors the right to vote on who becomes Emperor. Four of the Electoral Lords are Theocrats, the leaders of the major sects of the Empire, three are Grand Dukes of the Empire, three have gained the title of King for themselves, and the last three are actually united in the Haufsberg dynasty itself: the Kingdom of Bratislavia, the Grand Duchy of Prezyml, and the March of Wistula, all of which are controlled by Vlad Haufsberg IV himself. However, Bratislavia was on the verge of revolt against the Haufsbergs, who had exploited it oppressively...and in theory, Bratislava elects its own King. The Diet (parliament) of Bratislava elected the Grand Duke of Lotharingia, Ludwig II, as king of Bratislavia instead of Vlad's heir Boris Haufsberg. Ludwig II then convinced a bare majority of the other electors to elect King Augustus the Fat of Anglia as the new Emperor.
The result has been an all out war for the last forty years. Events have gradually spiraled out of control, and now the Imperial Church has schismed, many of the Kingdoms and Grand Duchies are splintering, and war drags on eternally.
Daiga is a disaster area. Much of the land is a burnt out wreck. The new peace is fragile, and may or may not hold. Prince Mikage, sent to settle the struggle, kidnapped all of the Electors and locked them in the Raatshaus until they elected a new Emperor, then forced them all to swear sacred oaths to abide by the election. When Grand Duke Ludwig II attempted to renege, he melted into a puddle of goo. This has left the remaining electors loathe to break their oath.
King Augustus the Fat of Anglia has emerged as the new emperor, but it's considered that the Haufsbergs are likely to make another bid for the throne, as he seems likely to die soon, and his adoptive son lacks Augustus' own reputation as a warrior.
Daigans follow a faith somewhat similar to Islam. There are five major schools of interpretation. Four of them are represented by the four Theocrats. The fifth is a revolutionary sect, which proclaims the comining of the Hamdi, a messianic figure who will institute the Kingdom of Heaven. It periodically flares up when new would-be Hamdis arise.
Daigan military forces vary greatly in quality and size by region. Typical forces consist of well-trained medium cavalry, crossbowmen, and pikemen.
Grand Duke of Lotharingia, Ludwig II
Ludwig II, Grand Duke of Lotharingia is the most Machiavellian, most scheming duke ever to walk the shores of Daiga. If he'd have met Machiavelli, he would have become his friend, while seducing his mother and trying to find a way to depose him of his power. That's how he managed to gain the sympathies of many of the Electoral Lords in his bid for succession of the emperorship over the other major power players, the Haufsbergs. Thus he surprised everyone when he threw his support to King Augustus, though it surprised few when he then betrayed Augustus to Boris, then Boris to Augustus again, and finally simply accepted the title of Emperor from the Theocrat of Koln.
He stands a good six feet seven inches, and is rather formidable opponent with the crossbow. He's come in second place to Ota Tenjou in the three times they've managed to meet in the semi-annual Daiga Games. He had dark hair and eyes that have been described as blue and piercing. (This description was from his mistress, who later perished in a carriage accident.)
His colors, when he manages to bother to dress in them, are royal purple
and sandy beige. However, he's usually dressed
comfortably in an outfit similar to that of a relaxed insurance salesman.
All the better to mess with your perceptions by.
The famous Grand Duke is now a puddle of goo and likely to remain so.
Historical/Fictional Inspiration: Classical Greece
Population: 1,000,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber: 3 weeks sailing time
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 2 days in Amber.
Euboea is southeast of Amber, several weeks sailing time, on a huge mountainous island the size of England divided into many small valleys, each of which is currently a city state. It has a Broken Pattern, which is located in the basement of the citadel of Lacryis, the main city of the Boetian League (of seven city states) which forms the largest of the eight leagues into which the city states of Euboea are divided. Once Narwhal Currents connected it to many other Shadows, but now only the one to Amber survives.
Long ago, Euboea was a powerful commercial empire centered around a Broken Pattern. Adepts of that Pattern led Euboea's fleets through Shadow, enabling them to grow greatly in wealth and power. They began to conquer other Shadows. When they encountered Amber, they assumed it would be more easy meat. The Euboean wars were one of the fiercest struggles of Amber's history. Finally, a horde of sea-going barbarians descended on it from Shadow and sent it back to the Bronze Age.
During the Annadil Crisis, Demetrius, Tyrant of Syracuse, managed to unite the Euboeans and led a fleet against Amber...right into the Rebman shadow storm. After that disaster, the fragile unity collapsed, and the Euboeans resumed pointless internal struggles.
Modern Euboea is divided into many squabbling city states, unable to unite effectively, in part because Amberite diplomacy ensures it stays that way. They are trapped in the Bronze Age, selling ores, wine, and wool to Amber in return for spices and other luxuries. Each city state is a semi-oligarchy, ruled over by ten to thirty thousand citizens who rule over non-citizens and slaves who usually outnumber them at least three to one. Each city is ruled by oligarchic democracy; every citizen is qualified to attend the assembly which approves laws and elects the council that formulates law proposals and runs the city day to day. However, most residents have no political rights.
The city states are united into a dozen or so leagues of various sizes, usually organized around a shared patron diety and shared rivalries with another league's members. Every four years, each league celebrates a large athletic and religious festival where their alliance is reaffirmed.
Euboean city states have citizen armies; a random draft selects citizens in times of war, and a smaller body is drafted each year to act as police and garrison strategic points. Different cities select their generals in different ways; most choose a member of the Council by lot. They form large bodies of highly disciplined spear and shield wielding foot in bronze breastplates, arm guards and metal 'skirts'. The richest citizens provide cavalry services, but the terrain of Euboea is poor for cavalry operations. The poorest citizens become archers and slingers.
Each city has its own patron god, and each league shares a patron as
well. Other gods are revered, but recieve no active worship except
in crises if they are not the patron diety. There are usually eight
to ten major festivals and a fair number of minor ones which provide a
break for everyone from the daily grind of work. Euboeans treat their
worship as half an excuse to party, and half a business contract with the
gods: we worship you and you help us in our daily lives. The
Euboean gods have been known to show up and break windows or worse when
the humans fall down in their half of the deal.
Historical/Fictional Inspiration: a crosss of medieval Japan
and Viking Scandinavia
Population: Roughly 600,000
Travel Time from Amber: 2 weeks
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber
Frostspire is actually the name of the leading Kami of this Shadow, applied to the land as a whole for ease of reference and the fact that its Golden Circle status stems from the marriage of Prince Shizumaru to Priestess Rimururu, former shrine maiden of Frostspire.
The shadow is largely arctic/subarctic in nature, full of fjords and foothills, rising up to higher mountains in the far north, land of the Frost Giants. Along the coasts, where it is somewhat flatter, there are many towns and villages, tending to cluster around the Kami. Rivers flow from high in the mountains down to the sea, probably sourced by springs and then further fed by snow runoff in spring through early fall. These areas are also just barely warm enough to support varieties of hardy crops and grains that flourish quickly in the limited growing season.
As one heads south, the climate grows warmer until it reaches Sahara-like
levels; this region is uninhabited, as the populace is largely adapted
to the cold. This region has expanded northward since the loss of Rebma,
but concerted efforts using magic (some say a flawed Water Demijewel is
involved somewhere) spearheaded by Princess Hiko and Prince Shizumaru have
contained matters. In fact, the balance of increasing warmth limited by cooling measures has actually increased the amount of arable land suited for growing more food. Not too many residents have taken advantage of this fact, though, as the hope remains that the Water Pattern will someday be restored, and they don't want to be caught in the returning cold once that happens.
The Shadow overall is much of a flatland--going to the extreme east or west brings one to an endless ocean.
For centuries, the humans who have lived here have formed clans mostly in small villages, although particularly fruitful growing areas turned up larger towns and communities. As most of these were coastal regions, a large part of their energy was devoted to reaping the ocean; as a result, they became skilled seafarers and fishermen, in their longboats driven both by sails and oarmen. They formed small alliances, raided rival alliances, broke alliances, feuded a little, reformed alliances.... All of them, though, would band together against the rampages of the powerful Frost Giants who occasionally wandered out of their mountains.
This continued for quite some time, and there were never really any attempts by a charismatic central leader to unite the towns or anything like that. Also, most residents were unable to travel through shadow; those who could were usually holy men and women of the kami, who were mostly concerned with serving their gods and not wandering out unless specifically instructed to do so for whatever reason. Shadow travellers have arrived in Frostspire over the years, but there was apparently little to interest them, and they did not stay here too long. Indeed, most residents were ignorant of the outside world; ask the average resident about Amber, and he would stare at you blankly.
This changed in the days of the Annadil Crisis. The meeting and romance of Prince Shizumaru and Priestess Rimururu, perhaps the cutest courtship in Amber Royal history, gave this shadow a solid connection to the outside world.
A Narwhal Current has now been forged into Frostspire, and the residents are becoming slightly more cosmopolitan. One of the more ingenious ideas has been to take some of those mountains that had been secured from the Frost Giants and turn them into ski resorts, though most locals can't understand why these crazy foreigners want to hurtle down a mountainside on two slats of wood. Cross-country skiing has been a time-honored way of traveling, yes, but downhill is, for them, the domain of adolescent dares and stunts. Still, you do what takes in money. The other thriving business is the export of seafood, particularly the giant crabs that flourish in the deep cold waters of their ocean. Also, mining efforts in certain areas have turned up some rich deposits of ores and minerals of a quality higher than much of what comes out of shadow.
This exposure to the outside worlds has made some changes in politics
of this shadow, of course. Intervillage raiding has diminished considerably,
as the residents direct their energy to more commercial endeavors, like
the ones mentioned above. Also, the fact that the newly discovered mineral
wealth might attract some unwanted attention has made the people of
Frostspire realize that they might have some more common enemies in addition to the Frost Giants. As a result, a loose federation has formed among all of the various towns and villages, with a council of representatives from each meeting regularly in the town of Frostspire proper. The longboat fleets have been organized into a navy of sorts; after working out some kinks, it has proven itself to be quite a good one. So far, there has been no need for it quite yet, as most potential invaders find it too cold and rugged to be worth raiding and/or occupying. Plus, the close and personal attention paid to Frostspire by Prince
Shizumaru and a few other Amberites are another discouragement.
Still, the basic nature of the citizens of Frostspire has not changed
too much. They are, at heart, relatively simple folk who, although they
do enjoy the status of being a recent addition to the Golden Circle, are
mostly content to fish, serve their kami, and occasionally attack each
other with axes to blow off steam.
Historical/Fictional Inspiration: Korea
Population: 4,000,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber: 2 weeks
Time Differential: 3 days here equals 1 day in Amber.
Hang-Kung is a great peninsula, about six hundred miles long and three hundred miles wide, crooked like a dog's hind leg. The spine of the peninsula is a range of hills which occasionally rise into mountains, and are rich in minerals and usually well forested. The hills slope down on all sides into coastal plains, except in the north, where they rise into mountains. Several Unicorn Tracks lead through these mountains which eventually connect to south-eastern Cathay and western Siam. Land access to Hang-Kung is only possible via these Unicorn Tracks, unless one enjoys mountain climbing. Hang-Kung is, theoretically speaking, east by southeast from the Isle of Emeralds. Sea access inevitably leads you into the great Maze of Coral. Coral reefs surround Hang-Kung for a width of two hundred miles on all sides, and only those who know the right routes can thread their way through the reefs without sinking and being eaten by the carnivorous coral itself. Native guides are thus a necessity.
When Amber's trading vessels first came to this land, it was inhabited by stone age tribesmen who worked great wonders of magic by drawing great figures in the dirt and empowering them to perform magical tasks and tattooing animals onto themselves to gain the powers of those beasts. Amber founded a few mining colonies and traded for furs, but largely ignored the land in favor of trade with Cathay. They did discover the Unicorn Tracks connecting the two lands at this time. This lead to the tribesmen using them to raid Cathay, which was not the idea.
Eventually, they irritated the Ch'in dynasty to the point where Emperor Han personally invaded Hang-Kung and conquered it. It remained a stubborn, fractious province, however, hard to hold because time flowed three times faster in Hang-Kung than in Cathay. Still, the Ch'in persisted, and eventually managed to throw a veneer of civilization over the land. The natives took the things they liked and ignored the rest, developing a new civilization that took some of the best of their traditions and Cathayan lore, science, and engineering.
Then when the Ch'in collapsed and the Warring States period began, a governor of one of the five prefectures of Hang-Kung, Dragon Rider, the local head of the Cult of the Dragon, led a revolt against the powerless Ch'in. He soon became King of Hang-Kung. The Dragon Rider Dynasty still rules Hang-Kung. His Serene Majesty, Pin-Yan VII, has ruled for the last fifteen years from the Dragon Palace of Five Mirror City, inheriting the throne after his father, Pin-Yan VI, had a heart attack and died.
Millions of people live in Hang-Kung, mostly in the coastal lowlands, although extensive mining operations continue in the hills and mountains. The capital is Five Mirror City, home to a hundred thousand people. It is laid out like a wheel with a piece missing from it (where the harbor juts into the wheel), with the Royal Palace of Hang-Kung at the hub of the wheel. It is but a pale shadow of Amber itself, but worth visiting for the food (or if you want a tattoo). A dozen or so cities in the range of 20,000 people exist along the coasts near major routes through the Maze of Coral, flourishing on trade with other nations.
The primary religion of Hang-Kung is a modified version of the Cult of the Dragon, which sees him as the leader of a group of five animal-gods, over whom he rules as Celestial Emperor of the Heavens. The other animal gods are Shark, (Lord of the Waters), Tiger (Lord of Hunters), Dog, (Friend of Man), Phoenix (Lord of Flames). The High Priest is named Yuien-Ko.
Lipun and Hang-Kung have fought several wars in the last century, and Hang-Kung now has the upper hand, gaining control of important fishing islands after the Annadil Crisis and gaining favorable trade concessions from Lipun.
Isle of Emeralds
Historical/Fictional Inspiration: Ireland in the Middle
Population: 1,300,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber: 1 week by sea
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.
The Isle of Emeralds is a green and pleasant land about a week's sail straight east from Amber. It is an island about 500 miles long and two hundred and fifty miles wide, roughly oval shaped, pointing northeast and southwest. The northwestern side of the island is a highland of mountains and hills, which then gently shade off into downs then flatlands in the remaining three fourths of the island. The mountains and hills are very, very rich with mineral wealth, especially emeralds. Rivers run down into the rest of the island from these highlands. Much of the interior is thick forest, with the coastal regions turned into farmlands.
The High King's Palace of Emeralds stands in a five mile across clearing in the heart of the Forest of Emeralds at the exact center of the island. It is surrounded by the city of Tara, home to fifteen thousand people. It is not the largest city on the island, but it is the capital.
The largest city is Milesia, the Amberite trading city on the center of the eastern coast of the island. It is home to forty thousand people, and sits at the point where Narwhal Currents to Hang-Kung, Cathay, Amber, Sind, Siam, and Lipun converge. As a result, it is a bustling trade center. The region around Milesia controlled by the Amberite government is known as 'the Pale'.
When Amberite traders first arrived, the inhabitants of the Isle of Emeralds were divided into seventeen squabbling tribes who rode around in chariots whacking each other, then dipping the severed heads of their enemies in lime and using them as thrown weapons. Their legends, recorded in six traditional lays, claimed they had come to the Isle of Emeralds from the east in great boats (now mysteriously vanished) and fought a thousand year war with the Firbolg, twisted monstrous inhabitants of the island. They then settled down to a steady diet of killing each other and fighting to become High King.
The Amberites built a trading city and named it Milesia, and began to trade with the natives. The tribe from whom they rented the land decided they'd rather plunder the city for its wealth, so Gendo sent Drake with an expeditionary force and exterminated that tribe down to the last dog. Rather than getting angry, the other tribes gained a new respect for the Amberites, who they had previously seen as cowardly merchants, soft and weak.
Those tribes closest to Milesia benefited from Amberite trade, and the Amberites worked to strengthen those tribes and build friendly ties with them. Armed with iron weapons against bronze users, the result was the rise of those tribes to dominate the island. Over the next few centuries, four kingdoms arose, with a fifth small kingdom which belonged to whoever held the title of High King.
Most of the history of the Isle of Emeralds since that day has consisted of the four kingdoms beating each other up for the High Kingship, and the rulers of the kingdoms trying to keep all their clan chief vassals in line. Amber has largely stayed neutral in these struggles, except during the War of the Five Dead Cows two hundred years ago when a disgruntled king attacked Milesia because it had sold weapons to his rivals as well as to him, and during the invasion of the Sea Peoples in 1265 to 1273.
The Sea Peoples have abandoned their assault on Amber, but this seems to mean they've decided to turn their attentions more wholeheartedly to the Isle of Emeralds. Virtually every year since 1265, there's been a major raid somewhere on the island, although they've become more cautious since the destruction of much of their forces sixty years ago. The king of Munster has allowed a group of the Sea peoples to settle around Clontarf on the northern side of the island, in return for protecting his coasts against raids. It seems to have worked so far.
The Isle remains divided into four kingdoms, plus the High King's Desmene in the center. The four kingdoms roughly form triangles, coming together at the High King's domain of Tara. The northeastern end of the isle is home to the sailors and herders of Ulster. The western highlands form the kingdom of Connaught, poorest but most defensible and best able to shield itself from the Sea Peoples, who no longer even bother trying to raid it. It is also the least unified, with its clans and tribes barely giving lip service to their king. The eastern seaboard is the wealthy agricultural lands of Leinster, which now controls the land approaches to the Milesian Pale and makes a lot of money off internal land trade as a result. The southern lowlands are home to metal crafters and weavers, the kingdom of Munster, also noted for its cheeses. They control a fringe of the highlands which they heavily exploit for its mineral wealth. They're also building a strong navy aided by the Longarm clan of the Sea Peoples who have settled around Clontarf.
High King Ian O'Connel, son of Brian O'Connel, rules the island in theory from Tara. He is also king of Leinster. It is an open secret that, like his father, he wishes to establish the High Kingship more firmly in his family and eventually convert the Emerald Isle into a kingdom on the model of Amber. The other kings for obvious reasons, wish to resist this, but also know that division in the face of the Sea Peoples could lead to disaster. It remains to be seen how this will turn out, though the necessity of unity against the Sea Peoples seems to be aiding the O'Connels.
Emerald Isle armies have two basic components: a levy of poorly trained footmen with spears, javelins, and slings, and elite armored cavalry recruited from the noble families. Their cavalry is the equal of any Amber has to offer, while their footmen are only marginally more threatening than angry sheep. To say they are wretched would be a compliment. Most battles are settled by the two armies agreeing on a place to fight, meeting, charging, and fighting until one group of cavalry flees, leaving its foot to be slaughtered.
Milesia relies on moderately trained pikemen, longbowmen, and small bodies of light cavalry used for scouting. They also maintain a very small navy, but usually call on the Admiral of Mystara for help in a crisis.
The folk of the Emerald Isles worship the Tuatha de Daanan, the deified heroes who led them to the Emerald Isles and fought against the Firbolg. Their legends speak of a coming apocalyptic battle in which the Firbolg will return from the grave to try to reclaim the island, and in theory their internecine wars are supposed to help prepare them for that day. They also worship the goddess Tara, who is the goddess of the island itself. The High King becomes her husband when he is crowned, and thus her high priest.
Historical/Fictional Inspiration: Japan
Population: Roughly 5,000,000
Travel time from Amber: 2 weeks
Time Differential: 1 week here equals 1 day in Amber
"There has to be something wrong with that place. I just know
it. It's like what you'd get if Karl Marx and Ghandi got together
with Yukio Mishima to design a perfect society, and it actually worked.
I know my granddaughter probably means well, but it always creeps me out
to visit her there. Where's the corruption? Where's the subterfuge?"
Kenshi may either be a living example of Motoko's basically benevolent character, or a somewhat disturbing glimpse into the workings of her mind. It depends on who you ask.
There are two "official" ways to enter Kenshi. The first is to simply teleport in using cross-Shadow Sorcery. The second is to sail to a small, unremarkable island some distance off the western coast of Lipun and pass beneath a succession of seven ceremonial tori gates, shifting Shadow using Pattern all the while with the intent of reaching Kenshi. This will deposit you, eventually, in the main shrine of the Imperial Palace.
Geographically, Kenshi resembles Lipun: an archipelago with one large central island (an almost perfect crescent seen from high enough above), six smaller ones (two on the crescent's concave side, two on the convex one, one on each tip), and dozens of tiny islets. In all directions beyond, the ocean is limitless, bountiful beyond measure with the harvest of the sea, astonishingly beautiful, and somewhat desolate.
The land is mountainous, but not too mountainous--there is enough farmland on the fertile plains to provide food for everyone in combination with what the sea gives. There are great forests, and lakes placid as mirrors. The northern island is a cold land of high mountains, but beautiful still. It is all beautiful, in a crisp, sharp, hard-edged way that sometimes seems painful to the eye in the manner of too-bright light.
The capital city is Hinokagami, the Mirror of the Sun, a great metropolis in the middle of the central island which contains the at its centre the Imperial Palace, Hinomanako, the Eye of the Sun. There are two more large cities on the main island, almost equidistant in opposite directions towards the two points of the crescent from Hinokagami, and each of the six smaller islands also boasts its own large capital city. Beyond that, existence is primarily rural, with small villages and farming communities, each one self-sufficient in a way that would make Karl Marx break down and weep for joy. The cities are centres of learning and culture, supported gladly by the work of the rural people.
Kenshi is rigidly hierarchical. One is either a noble, or one is not. The nobles are leaders and soldiers--although there is little need for the latter, as no foreign enemies are capable of reaching them and they have no interest in ruling any lands beyond their own. Those who are not nobles are merchants, bureaucrats, peasants, scholars, and everything else.
The nobles are proud, strong, fair-minded and absolutely incorruptible, seeing it as their duty to rule the country with justice and benevolence. "The duty of the strong is to protect those weaker than them," is the most-quoted maxim among them.
Everyone else is humble in a completely non-servile way, respectful of the nobles, and just as devoted to the country. The relationship is utterly unequal in theory (nobles must, so the laws say, be absolutely obeyed) and should lead to constant class conflict due to abuse of power. In Kenshi, it simply does not. "The highest blossom of the sakura tree would wither and die if not for the roots beneath the dirt."
In Kenshi, everyone knows their role, everyone likes their role, and everyone sticks to their role. They are tradition-minded, entirely self-sufficient, in no danger of running out of living space at the moment (and if they ever are, some say that the Eternal Empress Motoko will stir the waters with her sacred sword and raise new islands), and generally one of the most happy, contented populaces to be found anywhere.
The constant comment Motoko seems to get from her relatives is, "It's very... nice, but it wouldn't work in the real world." This generally causes her to shrug and say that this is the real world's problem, and she and her people seem to get along just fine. In her absence, the country is administered by a council of the highest-ranking nobles who are, of course, efficient, cooperative, and quite selfless.
Happy the land without a history. The people of Kenshi would agree with the people of Lipun that 'May you live in interesting times' is a curse.
Kenshi continues to be ruled by the Eternal Empress Motoko, when she is not busy in Amber or preventing her foolish relatives from dying horribly somewhere.
Magic works well within Kenshi, drawing on the powers inherent within the landscape that figures so prominently in the official state religion (which everyone practices faithfully and happily). Technology does not work at all. Pattern, Sorcery and Trump can reach in and out, although Motoko frowns very heavily on any of her relatives drawing trumps of locations within Kenshi.
Other means of reaching through Shadow are barred. The time differential is usually keyed so that one day in Amber equals one week in Kenshi, although given the land's absolute self-sufficiency and almost total isolation, Motoko has no hesitation in increasing or decreasing it as needed to serve her needs.
Her vengeance upon anyone who disrupted Kenshi's existence would be swift, sure and total.
Historical/Fictional Inspiration: Japan
Population: Roughly 5,000,000
Travel time from Amber: 2 weeks
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber
Lipun is an archipelago of moderately-sized and small islands. There is one main island in the rough shape of a crescent, a pair of smaller ones to the south, and one to the north. Among these, a large number of small islets are sprinkled throughout. The islands push up against the coral reef which separates it from Hang-Kung on the west; to the east is open ocean. As these are all islands, no Unicorn Tracks are to be found. Narwhale Currents link Lipun to Amber, Hang-Kung, and Cathay.
A mountain range runs along the edge of the curve of the main island, like a backbone. They rapidly slope down on the western side into spreading plains, which reach to the sea; this is the main farming region of Lipun. On the other side of the mountains, there is some plains area, but not as much. Many of the ore mines are located around here. The two islands to the south are generally flatter and more wooded. The northernmost island rises to a high peak in the center, and slopes down on all sides. The colder climate there makes grain farming a bit prohibitive; most people there concentrate on fishing or mining.
The capital city is Daikyou, a city on the western plain, near the Senzui River. In its center is Ishishiro, the castle of the ruling Warlord. Spreading out from it are quarters of the lesser nobility and chieftans, who also serve as the administrators for the country, then commercial and residential areas. Peasants and farmer types usually only come into the city to trade and such during the day, and go back to the countryside at night.
The earliest recorded natives in the region were only barely out of the stone ages and working with metals (though at a level which seemed somewhat more advanced than it should have been) when Amber explorers arrived. Some level of magic was known--that involving drawn pictograms. The majority of this population seemed to share many physical traits as those in Hang-Kung and Cathay, as well as the magic, so it was surmised that they originally came from there. However, there were physical distinctions between the Lipun islanders and the rest, particularly in peoples in the northern reaches of the islands. In addition, the language was radically different in nature for the most part, despite some measure of borrowing.
Amber established a few trading outposts here, for some of the unique crops and metal ore deposits in the region. This resulted in rather quick advances forward in technology and culture for Lipun, and awoke an ambitious nature in the native population. Soon after acquiring seafaring ships greater than their own fishing boats, as well as a small military force, they made an attempt to invade Hang-Kung, in the days before Cathay took the peninsula. This failed, but the often vicious conflict left a scar on the collective memories of both countries.
Lipun turned its attention next on Cathay, which was a big mistake.
Cathay easily defeated Lipun in a series of battles, and drove Lipun's
ships back to the islands. Fortunately, the larger state was not particularly
interested in invasion, and merely demanded tribute, which Lipun grudgingly
paid for a few decades. Cathay didn't seem to notice when they stopped,
which felt like an insult to the ruling warriors of Lipun. This led them
to turn inward for a century, isolating themselves from the rest
of the Shadows. Only Amber had much contact through two trading outposts it maintained during this time. While this occurred, a small civil war broke out among the warrior lords of Lipun. One, named Yoshitane, won, and united all of the islands under his rule.
An attempted invasion by a more adventurous Cathayan general during the Time of the Six Warring States forced the outside world back on the Lipunese. A great storm which, for some reason, could not be magically averted, destroyed a reinforcement fleet sent by that general, however, and Lipun easily beat the invaders. This led some Lipunese, including one of the more powerful generals, to believe that they were divinely chosen, and they decided to invade Hang-Kung again. This time, they managed to capture a small amount of it, naming it the Kankou Province. They held onto it for some time, until an alliance of Hang-Kung and the new Beitung ruler of Cathay drove Lipun out. All of this added to the rancor between Lipun and the other two countries.
This rancor turned deadly for Lipun during the Annadil Crisis. The Warlord threw in with Annadil, only to find himself first defeated by an alliance of Cathay and Hang-Kung, then crushed utterly by an invading force from Amber, led by Princess Shinobu. Warlord Mitaka attempted to commit suicide, but was captured by ninjas from House Izumi, who turned him over to Princess Shinobu. She hanged him like a common criminal in the center of Daikyou, and his skeleton still hangs from the gibbet forty years later. Most of his family commited suicide, the rest hang in a circle around him.
Princess Shinobu declared an imperial restoration, pulling Emperor Nagai away from his paintings, and much to his surprise, placing the reins of authority in his hands. Disgruntled members of House Sakai tried to have Shinobu assassinated, so she killed the entire House down to the Daimyo's flock of nightingales, his wife's pet cat, and the hunting dogs. Sakai House is still a burnt out shell, riddled with unburied bodies now rotted away to skeletons, a dark place of nightmare no one visits. Four other heads of Houses were requested to commit suicide for their complicity and did so.
The Emperor decided to appoint a Prime Minister on the Begman model, chosing Prince Asuma of House Shinohara, one of his nephews, to hold the job, and began the task of adapting Lipun more fully to the world around it.
Lipun has been forced to make major trade concessions to Amber, Cathay, and Hang-Kung, which has caused much festering resentment among the nobility. Many of the minor islands have been ceded to those three powers to build bases. In most cases, the previous inhabitants of those islands were little bothered by the new bases as most of the ceded islands were lightly occupied if at all. However, the Amberite naval base on Nokina island has caused some problems, as some hundred thousand people live on the heavily farmed island, and they are rarely amused by the off-duty hijinks of the usually bored and horny marines and sailors from the base.
Things would probably be worse for Lipun, but the appointment of Prince Shizumaru as ambassador to Lipun has largely eased many tensions. The Prince has worked to stabilize the new regime and prevented Amber's traders from exploiting the Lipunese too heavily.
Still, the land remains torn by tension. The older houses which benefited under the rule of the Yoshitanes are constantly intriguing against the new Prime Minister and against Amber. It is whispered that some of them have turned to the arts of Leng to find a way to expel the hated foreigners and overthrow Houses Shinohara and Izumi, who now dominate the land.
Prime Minister Asuma of House Shinohara is getting old, as well as his wife Noa of House Izumi, and he faces the problem of having only a daughter, Ryoko, unlikely to be accepted easily by Lipuner society as his heir, but he doesn't trust his nephew Mendo to take the job. What will come of this remains to be seen.
Lipun is a land of skilled metalworkers and artists. They also reap the treasures of the ocean, and are known for their seafood, flavored with unique spices native to the islands. Despite the fact that they have antagonized their neighbors and many other members of the Golden Circle, their goods are still highly valued, and a grudging amount of trade continues.
Their land troops are trained in the use of swords and bows, and to a smaller extent, lances. They do not have much in the way of cavalry. Their navy is large and quite skilled, which befits an island country with expansion on its mind.
Lipun's religion is somewhat different from its neighbors. A few of
the residents follow the spiritual ways of Hang-Kung and Cathay (without
any real fear of persecution, fortunately; no one really minds much, and
they _are_ few), but most worship the native Kami--gods and goddesses of
the islands. The sun, the moon, the stars, the forests, the mountains all
kami inhabiting them. As a result, the Lipunese have a certain respect for the land and nature, taking care never to take too much without giving back, for fear of drawing divine wrath.
Historical/Fictional Inspiration: Sailoon (Slayers)
Population: 6,000,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber: 4 weeks sailing from Amber
Time Differential: 4 days here equals 1 day in Amber.
This is a recent addition to the Golden Circle. For four millenia, it was sealed inside a barrier that prevented the entrance of Pattern users. Kozue found a way to batter down the barrier and opened it to Amber's trade. It is a world straight out of a medieval fantasy novel, full of orcs, elves, dragons, fish-men, and very powerful sorceresses. It continues to flourish, though there are increasing problems with the cult of Shuma-Gorath.
Historical/Fictional Inspiration: Thailand
Population: 8,000,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber: 3 weeks
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.
Between the Tenyama Range and the Holy Mountains lies Siam, the Land of a Thousand Temples. The Tenyama range forms the western border of Siam, a land of steaming jungle highlands cut through by fertile river valleys. These rivers empty into the sea along a seven hundred mile long coastal plain covered by farms and cities. The Holy Mountains rise along the eastern border of Siam, eventually joining with the Tenyama range to the north; these mountains are full of monasteries and temples and holy hermits. Unicorn Tracks lead west through the Tenyama Range to Cathay and Hang-Kung, north to the Plateau of Leng, and east to Sind.
Much of Siam is still untouched jungle; only the river valleys and lowlands have been cleared and turned into farmland. The Royal Capital, Siamkow, sits fifty miles into the jungle up the Siam River, which roughly splits Siam in two. It is essentially a giant temple complex half a mile across.
For untold centuries, the people of Siam grew crops and did the will of the gods, divided into hundreds of petty states ruled over by king-priests. Traders from Amber came and founded trading cities along the coast which gradually took control of the lowlands. A different trading company controlled each city, and they squabbled among themselves. But they did not penetrate the disease ridden highlands and jungles.
Then the Chosen One came from Sind to the east, a disciple of the Enlightened One. He called the peoples of Siam to the Way of Light, and his words spread throughout the land. There were wars as some of the corrupt king-priests tried to resist the spread of this faith, but the Chosen One's followers could not be defeated. Finally, at the battle of the Siam river, the heretics were crushed, and the Chosen One became the first King-Priest of Siam.
He built his capital at the battlefield, and took wives, raising up children. The eldest, Nimya, became the second King-Priest when the Chosen One finally died, and he demanded that Amber hand over the lowlands to him, for the sacred land of Siam had to be brought under one roof and one faith.
To the surprise of everyone, Gendo abandoned the lowland cities to their fate, in part because these cities paid no taxes to Amber and had been using their wealth to meddle in internal Amber politics. Amber was also fighting two simultaneous wars already at the time as well. This incident has made many speculate in recent years whether the Kashmir Trading Collective may suffer that same fate.
The uplands and the lowlands didn't get along very well, and the result was a series of civil wars that paralyzed Siam for nearly two centuries. Finally, the King-Priests had to give practical autonomy to the coastal port cities, and the people of the lowlands were allowed to incorporate their traditional religious practices into the Way of Light.
The result has been the fragmentation of the Way of Light and of the nation. The King-Priests are increasingly impotent, swaddled in religious duties that keep them too busy to run herd over the regional temples which become increasingly independent and deviant in practices. Every five minutes, a sage seems to descend from the Holy Mountains, bearing new ways of enlightenment. Meanwhile, the coastal cities flaunt their irreligiousness, wealth, and connections to foreigners.
The highlanders continue to live in their traditional ways, following the Way of Light and giving deference to the saffron-robed monks who practice its strict disciplines. The Way itself is rather like Therevada Buddhism these days, when practiced in its pure forms. The lowland 'Broad Way' sects are beginning to infiltrate the highlands, however. Temples own the best land in the highlands and dominate the local communities, owing allegiance to other temples, in a sort of feudal arrangement.
The lowlands are dominated by great merchant families with their plantations and by the artisans who fill the cities. These plantations grow spices, fruit, cotton, silk, and other luxury goods for export. Five major port cities jostle to dominate the land and compete with each other, but unite against outsiders. Each is ruled by an oligarchy of the most powerful merchants.
The army of Siam consists of large, ill-trained peasant levies led by elite corps of warrior monks, who are deadly in hand to hand combat. They use little armor due to the constant heat and humidity. The military arts have been neglected in Siam, except for unarmed combat, which has been developed to a high level. The peasant levies, while mostly useless in field battles, are capable of nastily effective guerilla warfare, which has enabled them to repel many an invader over the years. The lowland cities each maintain a small force of armored foot and cavalry, and a small fleet of efficient, well-armed ships.
Siam now controls the Bengal provinces of Sind, thanks to aid given to the Kashmir Trading Collective during the Annadil Crisis. The current King-Priest, Bagok, is known to have his eyes on more of the remains of the Nogul Empire as well.
Historical/Fictional Inspiration: Eighteenth Century India
Population: 60,000,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber: 5 weeks
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.
Sind is most easily reached by sailing straight east from Hang-Kung or Siam or by following a curving Narwhal Track through the sea that heads south by southeast from the Isle of Emeralds. Sind is a vast land to the east of Siam, separated from it by the Holy Mountains which form its western border. Unicorn Tracks run through the mountains, connecting the two shadows. These mountains are full of monasteries and temples and hidden sacred communities. Foothills gradually sink down into a great plain. It's eastern border is a vast desert caused by the Tagus Mountains, which run along the coast to the east of Sind. Northern Sind gradually dries out and turns into steppes inhabited by nomads; Sindhi legends claim the steppes eventually become wetter and turn into forest far to the north.
North and central Sind is a mixture of gentle hills and plains, forests, and farmland, cut through by many rivers which flow out of the steppe to the north or out of the Holy Mountains. Three great rivers, the Indus, the Ganges, and the Bengal run through northern and central Sind to empty into the Bay of Kashmir to the west and the Sindhi Sea to the east. Southern Sind is a vast triangular peninsula, a thousand miles across at where it joins to the mainland, narrowing to its tip a good fifteen hundred miles to the south. Southern Sind becomes hotter and hotter as one moves south, rising into jungle highlands before dropping down into a large swampy delta at its southernmost end. Many rivers cut through southern Sind, few of them very large.
Once, there was a time of peace and light in Sind, a time when the gods dwelt among men and taught their secrets to them. But the gods quarreled and made war with weapons of unimaginable destructiveness. They destroyed most of the world, sinking it beneath the waves. But the great god Sind saved his native land from destruction, erecting mountains and steppes and desert to keep out invaders and preventing the seas drowning the land. Then he ascended into the heavens, for it had been shown it was not safe for gods to dwell among men.
For many years, those humans lived in peace, the silver age when great cities rose and the arts and sciences flourished. Men waxed in wisdom and strength, and began to believe themselves gods. They ignored the warnings of Sind and his children, the new gods. Finally, they tore themselves apart in a great war between two religious sects. And when the land lay prostrate, the nomads of the mountains, desert, and steppes poured down with their great wains and cavalry and conquered the land.
The dark-skinned Naryans became a ruling warrior elite over the lighter-skinned previous inhabitants of the land, the Kro People, who were reduced to becoming peasants, traders, and untouchables. Gradually, a caste system arose, in which priests, sorcerors, and warriors ruled over artisans, traders, and peasant, each caste bound by various duties and rights, rigidly segregated.
The traders of Amber first arrived along the western coast of Sind, a region known as Kashmir, centuries ago. They brought new ideas, which destabilized Sindhi society, for Amber had no caste system, and its traders followed other gods. New cities dominated by trade arose and Sindhi ships began to ply the seas. Two centuries of turmoil followed in which new sects arose and the merchant class threatened to overthrow the priests and warriors. The Way of Light, similar to Buddhism, arose, challenging the need for the priestly caste at all.
The period of turmoil ended when the Noguls descended from the steppes and simply conquered most of Sind. The Noguls had come to adopt the religous beliefs of Sind, and they moved to crush the increasingly militant Way of Light, forcing it out of much of Sind (and resulting in some of its disciples going to Siam and conquering it). They also crushed the merchants, despising them. The result was a brutal feudal empire ruled by ruthless, uncultured warriors.
The Nogul dynasty did the usual 'nomads take over a civilized nation thing'--they became decadent. More and more power slipped into the hands of the regional governors, who eventually set themselves up as Kings.
Sind is now divided into three dozen squabbling kingdoms under the nominal rule of the Nogul emperor, who mostly sits in his palace and plays with his concubines. Bengal province has been taken over by the Way of Light and is in open rebellion to the northwest. And along the coast, a new problem has arisen...
For centuries, a collection of merchants held a joint monopoly on trade with Sind--the Kashmir Trading Collective. They originally operated out of a small peninsula of land rented from the various Sindhi governments over the year. This land, the city of Kashmir, is technically part of Amber so long as the leases continue to be paid. For centuries, the merchants simply traded with the Sindhi.
Then, eighty years ago, the new Rajah of Kajakastan decided to conquer Kashmir and add it to his realm, ignoring the leasing of the land by the Nogul Emperor to Amber. The KTC hired mercenaries, defeated the Rajah, then conquered his lands. Amused by this, the Nogul Emperor made the Guildmaster of the KTC the Governor of Kajakastan.
Over forty years, a series of wars added six more provinces to the lands controlled by the KTC, and with the accession of Emperor Mahal, this led to a crisis, as he sought during the Annadil Crisis to destroy the KTC once and for all and rebuild his empire. Unfortunately for him, Siam came to the aid of the KTC, and he was conclusively crushed at the battle of the Ganges. He died in the battle, leaving a child heir, who has grown up to become a worthless, drunken sot, exploited by a handful of sqaubbling Rajahs who try to use him as a tool to dominate each other while the KTC nibbles away at them.
Sind is divided between the KTC and its five subject provinces, its eight allied provinces, the seven province/kingdoms which remain 'loyal' to the Nogul Emperor, three provinces known collectively as Bengal which are now ruled by Siam, and seven provinces, located mostly in the distant jungles of the South, which have formed the Kro League.
Kashmir Trading Station, often called simply Kashmir, is a thriving city of a hundred thousand, including a strong contingent of Cathayan traders who have been allowed to settle here, although they can't join the KTC. It is ruled directly by the KTC council of merchants, a self-selecting body, and by their appointed Governor-General, who leads the KTC's armies.
Sindhi armies typically consist of elite lightly armored cavalry, highly trained professional archers, and vast hordes of poorly trained footmen with spears. Battles traditionally were determined by the cavalry.
All of this is changing as the KTC's professional armies have demonstrated their ability to annihilate traditional Sindhi armies. They rely on lightly armored but well trained masses of pikemen who can reduce cavalry to carven chunks of meat quite effectively, backed up by horse archers, foot archers, and cavalry which while inferior to that of the Sindhi, can hold them long enough for the archers to do their work.
Religiously, most Sindhi follow any of hundreds of sects which are united
by shared mythology and philosophy, and are quite similar to real world
Hinduism. The Way of Light remains common near the Holy Mountains,
and is the official religion in the three provinces of Bengal.
Historical/Fictional Inspiration: Early Modern Poland
Population: 10,000,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber: 3 weeks sail to the south.
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.
Wroland is reached by sailing southeast of Amber to the Isles of Wro, then making west by southwest to the north coast of Wroland. This is the only known way of entering it through Shadow; efforts to take a more direct route simply put you in Therin instead. Wroland has a hundred mile stretch of coast which is is the northern end of a hundred and fifty mile long stretch of land which connects to the main body of the nation which is in the interior. The Wistula river runs through the center of the country and up the Wistula Corridor to the sea, emptying into the Sea of Wroland. Wistula Port stands there, and most Amberites never go further into the interior. A Narwhal Current runs from here to Amber.
If they did, they would pass through flat farmlands until they reached the main body of the nation, which is roughly oval. It's about three hundred miles wide north to south and five hundred miles west to east, with the Wistula corridor jutting north from the western end. Many rivers run through it from the south and east, most of them eventually running into the Wistula or into the Pripet Swamps which run along the coast east of the Wistula corridor. The Yizniki river forms the eastern border, while the curving Gazpatch mountains form the western and southern border. The land gradually rises west, south, and east, turning into hills in the south and west. Most of the interior is gently rolling plains, covered with farms and orchards and patches of forest. Eastern Wroland is heavily forested. Unicorn Tracks eventually lead to several Shadows which are great plains regions, home to horse nomad tribes and farmers along the rivers.
The capital is Wroclaw, situated on the Wistula, near the geographic center of the country. It is home to three hundred thousand people, a bustling center of scholarship, artisans, and noble houses. The Great Diet of Wroland meets here, and the Royal Palace, a gleaming three tiered mountain of marble dominates the northern half of the city. It is a beautiful sight.
At some distant time in the past, this land was inhabited by primitive workers in bone and stone, but then the bronze wielding Wro tribes descended upon them, conquered and enslaved them. They built up a great feudal kingdom, which had broken up into its constituent parts by the time the Amberites arrived. They built Wistula Port and began to trade with one of those kingdoms, Little Wroland. Little Wroland blossomed and used its new economic might to gradually crush the other kingdoms.
For centuries, Wroland flourished in what is now called the Silver Age. Then the Carnacki came, pouring out of the east. They plunged the land into two centuries of warfare, conquering half of it, which they built up into the Carnacki Empire. Gradually, the Carnacki settled down and became more civilized. Finally, the two lands were united by the marriage of the Wroland heiress to the Carnacki heir. This began the Carnashi Dynasty, which ruled for two centuries.
Then, the last of the Carnashi died without an heir. This crisis was solved by the institution of an elective monarchy, chosen by the nobility. This solution held the land together, but at the cost of the monarchy having to trade away more and more power at every election...
By 1292 AY, Wroland was paralyzed by the 'Golden Freedom' the right of any member of the Diet to veto any act of the Diet. This prevented Wroland meeting its responsibilities during the Annadil Crisis and provoked a civil war. The country was on the verge of collapse when an Amberite army led by Prince Ramon landed at Wistula Port and marched into the interior. The rebellious nobles were hunted like dogs and eventually driven off into the wilderness.
What followed was the Diet of 1295, called alternately 'The Good Diet'
or 'The Black Diet', depending on who you ask. The king 'politely'
asked the Diet to abolish the Golden Freedom and put through fundamental
reforms, now known as the 'Constitution of Sigismund'. When a member
of the Diet attempted to use the Golden Freedom against the measures, he
mysteriously rocked into the sky through the roof, landing in the Vistula.
This was taken as an omen from the gods, or perhaps just a warning from
Amber. The measures passed, transforming the nature of Wroland, perhaps
Wroland is a now hereditary monarchy ruled by squabbling nobles jealous of their privileges and resentful of Amber for recent forced governmental changes. King Sigisimund II of the House of Wroznecki rules the land with the counsel of the Diet, divided into two houses. One house consists of a hundred nobles elected by the nobility of the twenty five provinces, and the second house consists of a hundred representatives from the fifty chartered cities, and two hundred elected representatives from those who meet the appropriate property requirements in the twenty five provinces. Each province has a smaller scale version of the national Diet as well. New law and new taxes require the consent of both houses and the King, but certain laws and taxes are fixed, requiring the unanimous consent of both houses and King to be changed. These fixed revenues provide greater stability for royal government these days.
Wroland produces a lot of raw materials, food, metals, and excellent musicians. Printing presses are known here, making it a major source of books for the Golden Circle.
The Wroland military consists of very excellent heavy, medium, and light cavalry. Light cavalry are horse archers and scouts, medium and heavy cavalry wear chainmail and plate respectively and charge with lances. They are usually backed up by mostly useless peasant levies of spearmen, and well trained forces of archers and pikemen from the cities. Most of the nobility are soldiers in service of the greater nobles.
Wrolanders worship the Phoenix of Wroland, who led their ancestors here and the Pegasus of the Carnacki, who led the Carnacki to Wroland. Contemporary stories claim the two are married, although it remains unclear which is wife and which is husband.
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