and so, as night falls on Ersod,
the city and tourists come out to work and play.
In the City of Endless Nights, as the moon rises over the chilled sands, the glow of the gaslamps and magical braziers turn the cityscape a hue of violet as god-fearing merchants open their food carts to hung-over customers and wayward priests, from across the sea and desert, seek out carnal delights in the brothels-- taking part in act that would curl the beards of any king in Thule. Across the courtyard, a fire-breathing tiefling juggler collects coins from a crowd of children while his partner picks the pockets of their wealthy parents. And, as a gypsy tells the fortune of a young noble couple traveling on their honeymoon, a curious djinn watches and considers how he will benefit from the misfortune he is envisioning for them.
By the time the sun rises in the east, the city will fall all but silent again, until the day's heat wanes.
That is a Zafarian city today. But to understand the present, we must look to the past...
And they weathered many small wars against Ptah-Hamut, especially as that lands became entrenched in an even more despicable state.
They joined the nation of Zafaria and together the free peoples of Jalatia and Nadjabad have become a small but powerful nation by controlling the Great Western Isthmus and the Zafarian Sea.
Freedom is the promise of Zafaria. A collaboration of former slaves who rebelled against their masters, Zafaria, made up of the mountainous peninsula of Jalatia and the desert coast-line of Nadjabad, is a place where all peoples are free and equal. People are free to live their lives, as they see fit, without the oppression of government or gods, and every man, woman, and child can seize the opportunities that come with this freedom. Few nations welcome outsiders so willingly. Especially the beaten, the tired, the poor, the homeless, and those tossed aside by neighboring nations are welcome to the shores of Zafaria. These people bring their traditions and their values and add them to beautiful hodge-podge of cultures and creeds. Between the white-squared clay buildings, they form a mosaic of broken tiles from a thousand worlds in a thousand colors. And yet...
In Zafaria, coin is king.
As any Dhole will tell you, "it is a dog eat dog world".
GEOGRAPHY & ARCHITECTURE
Zafaria's geography is one of contrast:
The ability to turn away invaders is the proud heritage of Jalatia.
Ersod, described in the introduction, is a unique city that survives on the edge of the Wailing Desert. Originally built by a wealthy bandit king, it is only operational during night. During the day, inhabitants stay inside their homes to wait out the unbearable heat. At night, the city comes to life. It survives as a vacation destination for the wealthy and criminal. It is well known that many powerful criminal networks have enterprises based out of the city. In fact, many believe that the city is secretly ruled by a small cabal of devils that use the city as a way to lure valuable souls to their doom.
They are a constant threat kept in check that make their homes in the deep deserts and bad-lands of Nadjabad and Tazlan. The two most common hives known by the Nadjabadi are the Red Mantis that are the most aggressive, attacking Nadjabadi settlements, and the Black Mantis that are often found patrolling the desert. Their alien nature makes them difficult to predict.
POPULATION DEMOGRAPHICSThe demographics of Zafaria are broken down into the regions of Jalatia and Nadjabad but it is important to remember that this region is almost always experiencing an influx of new migrants from abroad. Dwarf expats of Smolder have come to Zafaria and found work with their various skills but also taken a particular interest in sailing. Half-elves and elves can be found here for the economic opportunities. New beastfolk come from Tazlani and Hamutia but this region has large populations of dhole (dogfolk) sailors. The dhole consider themselves Zafarians as they came over with the first and second wave that colonized Zafaria.
Jalatia: 80 % human (primarily Zafarian with a large population of Thule migrants), 5% half-elf and elf, 5% dwarf, 5% beastfolk (primarily dhole) and 5% misc.
Nadjabad: 70% human (primarily Zafarian with a large population of Hamutian migrants), 15% dhole, 5% other beastfolk (primarily catfolk), 5% half-elf and elf, and 5% dwarf.
GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
There are two ruling powers in Zafaria:
The local nobility, a warrior class, made-up of families that enforce law, collect taxes, and hunt down the worst criminals are found in every settlement. They are an elite class that, in exchange for land and wealth, serve as protectors of the people. From an early age they are trained in the ways of court, from passing judgement on criminals to making alliances with neighboring lordships, and in the ways of combat, mounted, archery and swordplay. These lords are given a wide birth and follow strong codes of ethics. To fail to follow the code of ethics and lose the respect of the people will inevitably lead to your replacement. This is seen as the natural state of leadership, especially in Jalatia, and, by holding themselves to such high standard, Jalatian lords consider themselves a cut above the savagery and ignorance of Thule nobles.
While the war-lords have respect, true-power is arguably in the hands of the merchant lords.
All religions are practiced freely in the region, but Zafarians themselves have mostly abandoned the religion of their slave masters. There are still those that follow the Hamutian gods, such as the Dhole who worship their patron god, but many decry the Hamutian gods as imposters. Instead, many Zafarians have forged new traditions and/or adopted the religious practices & gods of Thule and Saesun.
MILITARYZafaria is a reactive military state. They do not seek expansion. Instead, they seek to protect their holdings and provide a safe & prosperous environment for their merchant ships. They are famously neutral and do no interfere in the quarrels of their neighbors. They did not intervene in the imperial invasion of Albyon nor do they pick a side in the constant back and forth between the Hamuts. They prefer to take advantage of these opportunities by investing in trade rather than military and therefore do not have a particularly impressive military. Instead, they prefer to rely on the difficulty of their home terrain and their own clever diplomacy (money speaks) to prevent conflict. That said, Zafarians are ready to defend themselves.
The military of Zafaria is reflective of the government: there are local militias led by war-lords that form armies to contend with invasions and monstrous threats. There are also the merchant fleets that serve as a swift and flexible naval defense against pirates and foreign fleets.
Ironically, the pirates that make their homes in coves throughout the Zafarian Sea serve as a deterrent against invasion. They often seek to take advantage of foreign fleets that wander into their waters, using their home advantage to pick away at straggling ships, in a sort of semi-patriotic show of solidarity against empires that would threaten the freedom that the pirates value as much as the merchants do.
ECONOMYCoin is king in Zafaria. Trade is everything.
The merchants of Zafaria trade goods between each other until they can take the best and most desired goods to foreign buyers. They primarily seek out managing trades of "exotic goods". Nobles and commoners alike in the northern continent seek the fruits, spices and dyes of Hamutia and the Hamuts and Imperians welcome furs, livestock and grain from the northern continent. If their was less hostility in Sublanarya, it is unlikely that these traders would make nearly the profit that they do.
Zafarian merchants and sailors spend their profits in port cities, many sending back money to their families while laboring abroad for months or years at a time, and has led to the laissez-faire attitude of the region. Everyone is out to make a fortune at the expense of others and the wealthier you are, the more you have at your disposal to increase your wealth. This is the reason for so much poverty in the region. This also the region there is so much crime. And crime on the high seas means pirates.
The most heinous being murderers who show no mercy to their victims and, perhaps worst of all and most forbidden, slavers. Despite slavery being illegal in Zafarian waters, the threat of pirates and other criminals who kidnap and sell people to the Hamuts and other inscrutable markets is very real in this region. So much so Iaurdin have been known to send crack teams to rescue those captured abroad by these slavers. They use a mix of magic and martial might, usually with teams of special trained eldritch knights and dragonborn stormtroopers, to swiftly punish any criminals foolish enough to take Imperial citizens against their will. A disdain for the institution of slavery is one of the major points of diplomatic agreeability between Zafaria and the Iaurdin Empire.
FOOD & ENTERTAINMENT
Zafarians are known for knowing how to have a good time and throw a good party.
It helps that they have access to goods from every corner of Sublanarya that means that they have access to the best booze, fruits, vegetables, grains and spices that they shave off of their trade goods going back and forth across the Zafarian Sea. Their gourmet habits involve traditional Hamutian cooking with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, flat breads, rice dishes, meat on spits and lots of spice. A Zafarian would find most Thule cooking to be bland and flavorless compared to the fresh and well-garnished dishes of their homeland. And due to their sea-faring culture, fresh sea-food is also guaranteed in local taverns and food stands in every port.
And I realize that prostitution is a weird note to end on but hey, what can I say, the Zafarians are a passionate people.