Friday, April 7, 2017

The Free Markets & Free Peoples of Zafaria: Jalatia and Nadjabad

The infernal heat keeps the people asleep all day
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...

The two large southern continents of Sublanarya are referred to as Hamutia because, for thousands of years, both continents were under the hold of the Hamutian Empire. The Hamutian Empire was a polytheistic monarchal empire in which two kings, two siblings (male or female), ruled on either side of the Hamutian Sea. This empire was built on military conquest, control of valuable resources like drinking water and arable land, and the institution of slavery. It was a powerhouse that survived the Wyrd Wars and continued to dominate the region afterwords. But, as time came to pass, so did the union between Western and Eastern Hamutia.

A civil war broke out between two sibling kings; the western king Ptah-hotep and her brother Jahangari II. Even the Hamutian Pantheon itself split. To the west of the Hamutian Sea, the land became known as Ptah-Hamut, ruled by the all-mighty Pharoah, and to the east lies Raj-Hamut, ruled by the more democratic Rajah and his council of princes. As the war waged on, the slaves of the Hamutian Empire took advantage of the chaos to revolt.

The slaves escaped to the sea and colonized coasts to the north-west of Ptah-Hamut. They had no singular traditions or identity, having been bred from generations of defeated tribe speople and criminals from throughout Hamutia, and so they forged a new cultural identity. They called themselves the Zafarians or "The Unbending." They lived of the inner sea, which came to take their name, and became a prominent nation of merchants. They named their new home on the coast Nadjabad or "the Place of Hope".

And they weathered many small wars against Ptah-Hamut, especially as that lands became entrenched in an even more despicable state.

During the Second Dar Age, a snake cult took control of the pharoah's court and put their god-king, Apep, above all others on Narya. Eventually, the cruelty of the snake cult caused a second slave rebellion. They overthrew the insane cult and reinstalled the pharoah to his throne. As a reward for their nobility, they were offered their freedom. But many of the freed slaves did not wish to continue to be part of a system that continued to perpetuate slavery and instead left for Zafaria. This second wave, bringing their engineering and combat skills, from being forced to build complex architecture and fill out the armies of the snake cult, built walled towns and forts in the mountains of Jalatia on the south-western peninsula of modern day Albyon.

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.

Today, the Nadjabadi and Jalatians are one of the most progressive cultures in all of Sublanarya.

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.

While this is a land of opportunity for all, it is not equal opportunity. If anything, those who come to Zafaria are prey for the true sharks that haunt the waters. Pirates, thieves, and crooked merchants rule Zafaria and take advantage of the constant influx of new victims, new targets, and new labor. While freedom is free in Zafaria, life is cheap. Resources are not as abundant as in more verdant regions of Sublanarya and locales are more apt to knowing the ins and outs of taking advantage of opportunities in the markets. Poverty is common, as common as the starvation and disease that are common in the clums of every village and city in Zafaria, and thus the cycle of crime is perpetuated. The only law is made-up of local militia organized by the wealthy merchant families and far too often are they more interested in catching thieves than preventing the kind of cruelty that turns desperate men cruel. That is the price of freedom in Zafaria. Every man for himself. Despite perpetrating slavery being illegal under penalty of death throughout the Zafarian Sea, ships with new slaves find their way to Hamutia every day.

As any Dhole will tell you, "it is a dog eat dog world".


Zafaria's geography is one of contrast:

Staring on the edge of the Albyon riverlands, Jalatia is a mountainous peninsula with rocky but arable land. On the border between Jalatia and Albyon is the Sanraffae Pass, a heavily river valley between two mountain ranges that provides much of the native lumber for building large ships, and the least hospitable border in all of Zafaria. The locals of Sanraffae guard the pass from all but small parties of merchants and travelers because, as the most easily traversable causeway into Jalatia, they are the first defense any potential Thule or Imperial invasion. Jalatia's interior settlements are built around mountainside castles ruled by warlords.

For example and of worthy note, there is the plateau city of Corzos; a massive fortress built from redstone and clay that can be seen for miles and is surrounded by a deep gorge. The inhabitants are miners and warriors who provide good iron and other metals throughout the region. The city is famously impregnable when need-be. They destroy the bridges when they fear invasion and have anti-siege weaponry that would make a dwarf king jealous. Corzos had, on more than one occasion, turned away dragons with their anti-air trebuchets and catapults that are used to launch explosive and caustic materials at the flying wyrms.

The ability to turn away invaders is the proud heritage of Jalatia.

Along the coast, where the weather of this region is more hospitable in both Jalatia and Nadjabad, are any number of port towns and cities that serve as home bases for the fleets of Zafarian merchant sailors to rest between voyages and sell their goods. These Jalatian settlements (Mazetti, Gre Je Serra, Mole, Cruza Je Luz) and all across the coastline of Nadjabad (Jabar, Umenarjad, Nuqat, Mala-Kut, Ruwalla and Azemnajad) form a powerful economic network. The architecture in these port towns are built in a way that reflects the diversity of backgrounds with lots of exotic colors and designs making them a sight compared to the clean cityscapes of Saesun or the drabbness of Thule. Still, these settlements are often overlooked by an old castle that serves as a safe-haven for Zafarians during times of war and a barracks for port militia.

The settlements of the interior of Nadjabad are sparse. Few would seek fortune or home in the desert but these walled villages and towns have found a way to survive the heat. Usually built along river-ways or around oasis, most of these settlements serve as military and trade outposts throughout desert. The exceptions to this rule are the palace homes built by wealthy merchants wishing for some seclusion, mining and fuel depots (since much of the lantern oil in all of Sublanarya comes from desert mines) and the crown jewel of the desert, the city that never sleeps, Ersod.

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.

Speaking of doom, the border of Nadjabad and the main barrier to land invasion is an unforgiving series of deserts. The most legendary of which is the Wailing Desert. The Wailing Desert smells of sulfur and is a hard and harsh landscape only broken up by small boiling hot geysers. The water of these geysers evaporate as soon as they surface and give the land a seething appearance. This region is uninhabitable.
The wildlife of Jalatia is similar to mountainous regions throughout the Realm (the northern continent). The mountains do provide many secluded valleys and peaks for dangerous monsters such as wyverns and rogue dragons that prey upon the goats and deer of the region. Meanwhile, in the deserts of Zafaria, any number of horrors, natural and ancient, can be found wandering the deepest parts of the desert such as giant scorpions and lizards. The Zafarian Sea itself is also a host to any number of impressive sea creatures from giant squid and eels to the legendary turtle dragon Mohgra that make up the tall tales of Zafarian sailors.

Besides the ever-present threat of beastmen, the unique threats to Nadjabad are the myriad undead that wander from ancient tombs and keeps throughout the region from long-dead empires and the Mantis. The Mantis are large tribes of insectoid bipeds that resemble a mix between humanoid ant and praying mantis. Each individual is part of a larger hivemind. The intelligence of individuals is proportional to the number of surrounding Mantis and their distance from the hive queen. The Mantis are usually accompanied by other large insectoid threats and are known to ambush their pray from quickly dug burrows.

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.

The 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.


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.

Most ships in the Zafarian Sea are pledge to the fleet of an ancient merchant family. These merchant families collect fees from the captains in their fleet in exchange for their leadership, their knowledge, and their protection. Each merchant fleet is a company and the merchant family that rules it are the chief executive officers that set the path of those beneath their rule. They set standards and rules that all captains within their fleet must abide. They also give specific tasks and routes to their captains, rewarding the most qualified and their most favorite compatriots, and build a merchant empire. All of these merchant fleets are expected to compete but come together quarterly to discuss the best way to deal with foreign powers, monstrous threats, and slavers. Despite the merchant lords standing for some semblance of law and order on the sea and in the ports, it is not unheard of for the lords to count pirates as their allies and to scheme against one another.

The rivalry of merchant lords has allowed professional assassinations to become a daily threat to the nobility. These assassins are warriors and thieves, professional killers, who are hired by merchant lords to intimidate and eliminate their rivals. Some say there are secret orders of assassins that influence politics for their own benefit.


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.

Clerics and paladins are popular in Jalatia. The mountainous region's secluded nature has allowed many monasteries to gods like Tammuz and Bellero to survive undisturbed. These holy sites serve as sanctuaries and schools for those wishing to practice their faith. The locals may often have their own name and interpretation for various gods but they are still the same gods. They often depict the gods more romantically in their art, with romantic features, but also give them features of hamutian religious figures, such as multiple limbs popular in the Raj-Hamutian art.

For example, Kleeona, the goddess of love, is depicted as a matronly figure in Thule but, in Jalatia, she is depicted a rosey maiden with six or eight arms. There are countless erotic statues of the goddess in Cruza Je Luz, the City of Love. It is believed by scholars that this version of Kleeona is a fusion between passed down traditions of Zafarians and the metropolitan attitude of modern worshipers.

Others seek out the tombs and ruins of the region, searching for answers of long-buried religions, but all they may find there are the undead and cults that threaten to consume them in equal measure.

Zafaria 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.
Some critics of Zafarian's capitalism say "anything can be bought in Zafaria". This includes small armies of well-trained mercenaries. Zafarian militiamen often form small bands of mercenaries and seek fortune abroad. Zafarian mercenaries have made a name for themselves as professional soldiers but only a fool would expect them to risk life for a client that isn't willing to pay them handsomely.

Coin is king in Zafaria. Trade is everything.

Zafarian merchants are responsible for transporting the bulk of goods throughout Sublanarya and their entire way of life revolves around trade. Zafarian sailors are masters of the high seas and their neutrality makes them welcome in more ports than any other nation's ships. They can be found in ports from Free Harbor to St. Shaffer's Pointe. Their ships come in all size and shapes, usually traveling in small groups for support, and can be spotted by their brightly colored sails.

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 goods laiden ships that frequent the waters of Zafaria have made it a prime location for a pirate culture, made-up of buccaneers, rogues and cut-throats. Pirates seek out information in towns about the latest trade routes and upcoming shipments in the hopes of intervening between the ships departure and destination. These pirates can be rather bold but are usually profiteers that can be reasoned with. It is no secret that merchant lords make alliances or pay pledge to pirate lords to protect their ships or, worse yet, attack their rivals. The criminal element of Zafarian trade is another symptom of the freedom of the area since there is not a naval force that can properly respond to all but the most heinous crimes of 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.


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.

Also, in every port, free markets and free peoples mean lots of venues for entertainment from shooting galleries where you can rent a crossbow to race tracks with horses, hounds and large flightless birds. And, of course, in every port village there is at least one brothel for a sailor to throw away their coin. The libertine nature of this region means that travelers can expect to find any manner of exotic entertainments that wouldn't be found in brothels of Thule.

And I realize that prostitution is a weird note to end on but hey, what can I say, the Zafarians are a passionate people.

No comments:

Post a Comment