Friday, April 28, 2017

The Twin Empires of Hamutia: Ptah-Hamut and Raj-Hamut

Today's subject is of two lands. Separated by a sea, each empire claims dominion of the world: in the east, where the sun rises, is the lush tropical mountainous river-princedoms of Raj-Hamut [rahj-ha-moot], also known as the Emerald Empire for its natural riches and, across the sea to the west, is the cradle of human civilization, built along rivers in a harsh desert, the Empire of the Divine Sun, Ptah-Hamut [puh-tah-ha-moot]. These two states have opposed each other for over two millennia, even pitting their gods against each other, in a struggle for power not only in the material but the spiritual spheres. These two empires, the twin empires of Hamutia, or simple the Hamuts, were once one in the same.

Three and a half millennia ago, on a habitable green spot of land along the River Yor, a small settlement grew and flourished in the inundated plains until it became established as the first Sublanaryan human city of Aneb. The peoples of Yor River built their burgeoning empire upon the ruins of civilizations lost to time or record in a place they call the Valley of Dead Kings. Building upon this history, in the land they called Ptah-Hamut which translates to "the divine lands,  they created their own empire with their own god-king, the first "pharaoh", Namor-Ra.

Namor-Ra's descendants would be treated as living gods, directly receiving their authority from Ptah-Horus the Sun-Wielder himself, and protected by their will. To venerate their gods, those of heaven, Hamut and the underworld, they built great monuments to the gods and impressive tombs to house the remains of the pharaoh and his subjects.

To build these wonders, the Ptah-Hamuts used their wealth of resources to feed great armies and enslaved the "lesser peoples" of the continent. Eventually, their conquest spread across the sea to the east and they established the second part of their empire-- Raj-Hamut "land of princes". This was a means to an end:

In the third and a half millennium of the second epoch, the god-king Herezbek had twins: a girl T'Chalthra and a boy Magarda. The former was born first and therefore it seemed her birthright was to be his successor. These twins were not the first royal twins; the god-king's line had seen many twins born to Hamut before and, inevitably, there was conflict. Assassinations, attempted coup de tats, and even small civil wars had been fought over the throne. Herezbek's solution was to create a new kingdom for his son to rule. This prevented civil war and, to further protect the throne of Ptah-Hamut, the eastern continent became a land split between princes, also called rajahs or sultans, with a maharaja or grand sultan at the top. By dividing the roles of leadership, this created more positions and less intense rivalry for the position of god-king among the royal line.

From that point onward, the first born of the god-king was the heir to the throne of Ptah-Hamut. If the god-king had twins, the second born would become the heir of the reining maharaja. The majaraja's firstborn would be his heir, if not supplanted by the pharoah's twin child, and/or his other sons would be rajas of small princedoms of Raj-Hamut. The rajas battle for control of their small kingdoms but all under the command of the maharaja in the capitol of Kuthkuta.

This created a unique balance of power between members of the royal family that would last for several centuries until the god-king Nexret had twin daughters Wadjet and Nekhbet. This was a problem for a variety of reasons.

In six centuries, the religious practices and beliefs of Raj-Hamut created a culture that was much different than the home culture. The rivalry between princes and disdain for the "rule of the foreign god-king" created a rift that was reflected in their religious beliefs and cultural customs. And, in all that time, Raj-Hamut had never had a female ruler and the maharaja Bara, with the backing of the armies of the princedoms of Raj-Hamut rebelled against the ma'at or "divine order" of Ptah-Hamut's reign. The resulting civil war lasted for decades and had many epic battles. By the end,  Bara, Wadjet and Nekhbet were all slain, as well as many other princes and royalty. The result was that the two empires permanently split, bitterly, and remain rivals to this day over dominion of the divine kingdom of Hamut.

From this war sprouted the divine Cult of the Two Ladies. This cult says that Wadjet and Nekhbet ascended to godhood as consorts of Ptah-Horus and that they watch over the royal family of the god-kings. They are represented in the headdresses and iconography of the pharaoh as a vulture and cobra. They are also considered to represent the promise of a reunion of the two kingdoms.

The war also sprouted the first slave rebellion. The slaves that fled during the civil war formed the first wave of colonists of modern Zafaria along the Nadjabadi coast.

It was during the following between the following period, between the 57th and 60th centuries, that the cult evolved so that a serpent, the supposed descendant of the cosmic serpent and Wadjet, calling itself Apep II became the new pharaoh of Ptah-Hamut. Snake cults are a constant in Hamutian history and this one managed to sit itself upon the throne. Apep II was a serpent of gargantuan size, power and intellect. Only through a rebellion led by slaves, who would later become modern Zafarians who settled in Jalatia, was the snake cult overthrown and the pharoah's line properly restored.

But the god-king's empire has been in decline ever since that indignity.

It was during the post-split that came the era known as "classic Raj-Hamut". During this time period, there were many legendary wars fought between demons, gods, and heroes. The most famous heroes was the avatar of Sahasranama the Preserver, Rama the Warrior, who was exiled as a prince, and eventually fought a war to rescue his wife Sita the Devout, who was an avatar of Padma the Lotus-Dweller. There was also Krishna the Beautiful who was a sage prince who overthrew a cruel raja and tutored other princes on appropriate behavior. Such education, via a spiritual awakening from rediscovered history of ancient Hamut, reformed the spiritual lives of Raj Hamut with teachers like the latest avatar of Sahasranama, Prince Siddhartha the Awakened Soul.

This cultural revolution has allowed Raj-Hamut to flourish as an empire of individuals. But have they too began to fall behind the rest of Sublanarya?

GEOGRAPHY & ARCHITECTURE

Hamutia is a vast region stretched across two continents and different regions represent a variety of environments that vary intensely across each expansive landmass. If there was anything that immediately distinguishes the region and separates it from the northern continent of Sublanarya, is that Hamutia is significantly warmer and hosts a variety of greater extremes on that end of the climate spectrum.

In Ptah-Hamut's interior, the center of their power and kingdom, along the River Yor, the longest river in all of Sublanarya, are the god-king's people. Most of the villages and towns built along this region survive on the seasonal whims of the River Yor. They depend on the flooding and receding of waters to enrich their farmland. Without the fresh waters of the river, the literal lifeblood of Ptah-Hamut, these settlements would not survive. The river is home to dangerous animals itself such as crocodiles and hippopotamus. Of the cities along the river, the most well-known and important is the capitol of Aneb in the Ptah-Valley.

Aneb is the oldest human city of Sublanarya and is a sight to behold; over the millenia, each god-king has contributed to the city that now sprawls across the Valley of Dead Kings. The whole place is built of bricks, columns and arches of white, gold, black and red with statues of gods and god-kings throughout. Surrounding the city are the tombs of the god-kings, massive pyramids and mausoleums protected by divine magic and temple guards (for as long as the magic runes can last and the guards are paid), that loom as ancient wonders of the world. Today, the next pyramid is being built for the late god-king Nexret II and living pharoah Nebercissa.

Beyond the river, Ptah-Hamut is dominated by the deserts, collectively called the Great Sand-Sea. This super desert is split into five smaller deserts: the Silver Desert of Tythas fills the northern half of Ptah-Hamut with large sand dunes, sand storms and not much else, providing an excellent physical barrier to land invasion form the north. The Golden Desert of Ozura is the second largest and very hospitable, surrounding Aneb and the Valley of the Dead Kings, and has many oasis and rock outcroppings that provide shade to travelers. To the west of Aneb, the White Desert of Sekhmaa is also habitable with grazing lands and herd animals that are hunted by lions and cheetah. To the southwest of Aneb is the Crawling Desert, with red sands and the threat of Mantis ever present and to the south east, the Black Desert of Set is a hostile land with high, hot winds, giant scorpions and shifting dunes (a popular place to exile criminals).

Those who survive in the desert do so by clinging to springs and oasis they can find and/or moving from livable scrap of land to livable scrap of land. These desert dwellers must avoid the dangers of the desert and the slavers of the pharaoh while surviving the harsh weather. After all, in some parts of the Desert-Sea, it is said that the heat reflected off of the sands can roast exposed flesh.

The port cities of both Ptah- and Raj- Hamut are notably tropical, usually built where the river meets the sea such as in the cities of Itzarna and Undai. These cities reflect a greater variety of architecture, usually incorporating culture from both sides of the sea as well as from places as far abroad as the Imperium and Zafaria. The cities are very vulnerable to weather of the Hamutian Sea that shapes Raj-Hamut.

If Ptah-Hamut measures its calendar in dry and wet seasons, the flood cycle of the River Yor, Raj-Hamut measures its seasons by the monsoons that make this region the wettest in all of Sublanarya. Raj-Hamut's climate is not affected by the nothern winds that sweep across the Hold, since they are blocked by a series of mountain ranges across two continents, and, combined with the stormy weather from east-traveling winds across the Hamutian Sea and from the Sea of Mists, creates an intense tropical climate. The mountainous nature of the region does allow for a number of unique and small biospheres, such as deserts and even snowy mountains, but the dominating feature across Raj-Hamut are the jungles and rain forests.

The reason that this land is called the Emerald Empire is that is filled with lush jungles thick with exotic wood, fruits, vegetables, and, per the name, mountains rich in mineral, metal and gem stone wealth. The jungles of Raj-Hamut are obstacles difficult to muster and travel can be difficult between major settlements. A thorough knowledge of the roads and paths, which are dependent on seasons, is vital. For this reason, most peoples of Raj-Hamut rarely travel outside of the safety of the region surrounding their village. Furthermore, the dangers of the jungle create complications in warfare and for would-be escaped slaves who might run directly into the jungle's diverse and deadly environment filled with tigers, elephants, crocodiles, apes, bears, wolves, giant snakes and more.

The most legendary and dangerous region of Raj-Hamut is Devibala, the Island of Small Gods, which is a sacred place forbidden to all but the natives and believed to be visited by the gods. It is also home to giant beasts, demons, spirits, and other threats that make it inhospitable and the misty island is shrouded in mystery.

The architecture of Raj-Hamut ranges from the small huts and log-walls of jungle villages to the grand spectacle of white marble, golden leaf and brilliantly colored art. The latter, in the form of tapestries, flags and mosaics, are possible thanks to the exotic minerals and dyes of the region and are commissioned by competing nobility as a show of wealth to their rivals, to woo potential consorts, or to please their subjects.

POPULATION DEMOGRAPHICS
The demographics of Hamutia are broken up into Ptah-Hamut and Raj-Hamut. The most notable difference is the lack of classic "demi-humans" such as dwarves or elves in this region. Dhole also make up a considerable amount of the population of Hamut.

Ptah-Hamut: 80% human, 10% dhole, 5% catfolk (cheetah, lion), 5% other.

Raj-Hamut: 80% human, 10% dhole, 5% catfolk (leopard, tiger), 10% other (including yuan-ti haathraji (elephant folk), and aarakocra)

GOVERNMENT & POLITICS

The government structures, that is the ruling power, behind both empires is reflective of their similarities and differences:
 
In Ptah-Hamut, the pharaoh is a living god-king. The god-king can be male or female but is always referred to as "he" and dresses as a male. His will is absolute and can literally, through the force of his lessers obeying his command, move mountains. The royal family is raised in the palace and are an extremely tight-nit group that is separated from the unclean masses. Royal children, boys and girls, are raised in the subjects of religion and military since that is their major concerns. Primarily, the god-king's family, who all interbreed, are primarily concerned with maintaining the ma'at or "divine order".

They represent ma'at by wearing special vestments and decorations representative of their own divinity and participating in many special rituals meant to reflect that history of their gods and the journey of the afterlife. This sets forth an example for the masses. One such example is the Boat Festival of Yasar. In the festival, the pharaoh's river fleet travels down the river, lit with lanterns and divine magic, and at the end of the journey he tosses a box filled with a offering in parts, representing Yasar's body, into the river. It is not unheard of for the offering to be the recently dead body of a servant of the god-king. Human sacrifices are generally frowned upon but not unheard of in this kingdom. After all, the interpretations of the will of the gods is in the god-king's hands and a mad king does come along.

The pharoah is aided by Ptah-priests, made up of scholars, scribes and acolytes, who protect and guide the god-king's vision. The Ptah-priests are primarily men, abstinent from acceptance into priesthood, who serve in the temples. Their leaders, usually picked as favorites by the god-king as "high priests", serve in the royal court as advisors. They are extremely influential and often shape the kingdom as much as their master. After all, the god-king rarely has any first-hand experience of the day-to-day life outside of the palace and rely on the priests not only for their education but updates on all possible happenings throughout Ptah-Hamut and abroad.

The god-king sets forth laws and decrees, the priests refine them and export them throughout the kingdom from Aneb downriver, and the local authorities, usually made-up of local prominent leaders, merchants, priests, and retired military officers enforce the will of the god-king. Criminal law is very absolute and unforgiving in Ptah-Hamut.

Thieves lose fingers or hands, heretics lose tongues and murderers are tossed to the crocodiles.

 Raj-Hamut is more reflective of the independence of their nobility:

The various rajahs rule over their princedoms as they see fit, only beholden to the maharaja, and means that things vary greatly from princedom to princedom. After all, if only military action, which is especially rare on the behalf of the maharaja, or threat of revolt are the only thing that prevent a sultan from becoming too greedy than things can become dire quickly. Popular revolts are often led by the priest caste against cruel princes and neighboring rajas are expected to keep their brethren in check but a powerful enough raja is immovable except by divine intervention..

RELIGION


The core mythos and practices of the religion of Raj- and Ptah- Hamut have already been heavily discussed in A House Divided: The Hamutian Religion.

The most important take away from that is that the difference between their religions is the absolutism of Ptah-Hamutian interpretation and the multiplicity of different views by Raj-Hamutian religion. Ptah-Hamuts believe in the very black and white order of the universe and Raj-Hamuts have an evolving dialogue on their place in the universe. The latter extends to any number of cults and spiritual schools that permeate through out Raj-Hamut. The variety can be staggering with priests to any number of unusual cults and dead religions.

Ancient temples are found in the deepest parts of the deserts and the densest jungles that hold all manner of secrets from the first epoch.

MILITARY
This region is steeped in military history with many battles and wars and yet, in recent years, have quickly began to lag behind the advances of modern combat. That said, they have one major factor on their side that have always worked in their favor: the sheer numbers that compose their national military.

Ptah-Hamut conquered their lands by overwhelming tribes and lesser civilizations with a combination of chariot cavalry, archery, and their sheer numbers. The sheer size of their military, on land or by river, is something to behold. Their numbers are kept strong by a large military built up of professional soldiers in volunteers who, during the rainy season, have nothing better to do than train in combat if they already don't have engineering jobs building monuments. A military career is considered the noblest of professions in Ptah-Hamut and those who die in combat are honored greatly. War heroes are celebrated in their home cities and the honored dead are often mummified and preserved alongside their god-kings to protect them in the afterlife.

 Raj-Hamut has bolstered their own armies, which are more divided, with a variety of unique weapons, siege warfare, and exotic battle animals such as elephants. The warrior caste pass on the career, from father to son, for generations and serve a rajah until death. Their skill comes from experience in spats between neighboring princes, as well as the holy imperium and, when the maharaja musters the princes to a cause, he can bring about a military capable of challenging Ptah-Hamut.

But a large army of professional soldiers isn't enough.

They also have large armies of slaves.

In both places, able-bodied male slaves are bought up for various armies, trained in combat, and put on the front-lines. Those that survive combat are well-rewarded and, if not dying "a glorious and honorable death", maybe even receive freedom in exchange for their services at the end of a successful campaign.

ECONOMY

The first thing that comes to the mind when many think of Hamutia is slavery.

Slavery exists throughout Sublanarya, but only in Hamutia is there such a profound history and culture that promotes and patronizes the slave trade. The "livestock" in this despicable trade are caught by professional mercenaries and pirates, bought from criminals and warlords, children sold by their parents and/or conquered by the Hamutian military. These unfortunate peoples are then transported to a major slave market such as in Itzarna or Undai. From there, individuals and slave merchants buy the slaves at auction to be sent to the four corners of Sublanarya.

These slaves are usually broken by the slave merchants before being resold again. Most of these slaves wind up as laborers in mines, quarries, farms, lumber yards and other difficult places throughout Hamuta. Others are trained for military service or gladiatorial arenas. Females, children and exotic specimens usually wind up in the hands of wealthy nobility to serve their masters as attendants, maids and company. Some unlucky women are forced into selling their bodies by brothel masters. The only opposition to the cruelty of the slave trade comes from abroad, especially from Zafaria (although Zafarian pirates are part of the problem) and the Iaurdin Empire (who are hypocrites that send criminals to die in the Dragon Mines of Smolder).

In Hamutia, slavery is just seen as part of the nature order.

Outside of the slave trade, the primary economy of each region comes in the form of material wealth from their respective lands:

In Ptah-Hamut, the same deserts that make survival such a challenge also provide quarries of good stone and metal that they send far abroad. Slaves are forced to work in these mines, until death.

Taxes in Ptah-Hamut are collected, it is worthy of note, in the harvest. The government pays for labor and services in exchange for larger shares of this grain that they divide among the leaders of the various cities and settlements who then divide it back among their people.

In Raj-Hamut, the Emerald Empire is a extremely rich in resources with good lumber, fruits, vegetables, dyes, textiles, and more that are highly desired abroad.

Both Raj-Hamut and Ptah-Hamut rely on Zafarians to export their goods abroad.

TRADITIONS, ENTERTAINMENT & FOOD

While Ptah-Hamuts are slaves to their traditions, Raj-Hamuts revel in the pageantry of their traditions.

There are various festivals meant to celebrate or recreate the legends of their gods throughout the year and they vary greatly from region to region. These festival often involve parades, singing, dancing, theater and good food. They are considered good luck as they ward off evil spirits and it is the duty of the priest class to find patrons to organize these events. For example, weddings elsewhere are generally dour and blessed affairs, Raj-Hamut weddings involve choreographed dancing and elaborate dress.

This is all indicative of the strength of these communities in face of the difficulties that would divide them.

THREATS 

In a land that manipulates the forces of life and death to achieve a better outcome in the afterlife, undeath is sure to be at the end of many a tomb corridor.


Mummies and zombies are a serious concern in Ptah-Hamut. From time to time, a mummified noble arises, raising up an undead army, and wreaks havoc upon the people. Such threats are seen as a failing of the people to properly carry out funeral rites and maintain tombs.

Meanwhile, in Raj-Hamut, the jungles, mountains and ruins provide an excellent place for cadres of yuan-ti, snake people, to build small and dangerous empires. Some people with yuan-ti blood are said to live among the general populace, some long ago freed from the slavery of their ancestries and others acting as spies for the former rulers of ancient raj-hamut.

And beyond the known threats of undead and serpents, there are so many more terrible monsters that lurk just beyond the next dune, the next hill, and the next jungle.

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