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Ancient Dazazin States
The lands of the Dazazin Empire have long been dominated by the powers of Zhakrin. Three factions of this faith exist in its landscape: The Black Order, the Bleak Cabal, and the Pale Lords. The Black Order is by far the most powerful and wide reaching, this is the progenitor of all other Zhakrin faiths. Their center of power is Zurak Zudam. The Bleak Cabal, whose power centers in Al-Taram, seeks to embrace undeath and to understand what lays beyond the veil of life. The Pale Lords wish to enslave the power of death and undeath, turning it into a tool for the living, towards immortality. Their center of power is the Citadel of Aurum, also called the Tower of Enlightenment.
The Cabal and the Lords respectfully do their best to not meddle in the affairs of the Black Order, whose numbers are far greater, but secretly hatch and engage in a thousand, thousand plots against the Order to maintain their intelligence and position. In turn, the Black Order does not tolerate action by the Bleak Cabal, although they grant some grudging respect if only for the power behind either of the lesser sects – besides that their numbers are so few in comparison.
Uniformity in public is a virtue, but in private the Dazazin are colorful. Zealots abound and participating in the worship of Zhakrin is mandatory. Heads are bowed to the Isle of the Dead – Holy Zeboab – at every twilight, with very few exceptions. Agents of the Black Order are everywhere and it is a good thing if one can recite the Black Oath or recite the Nine Holy Edicts on demand. For anyone who has spent a few weeks in the empire this is not an onerous task since many of the edicts are engraved into the stone of public buildings.
A strong caste system exists, with priests and members of the Order standing above all that are not a part of Zhakrin’s dedicated worshiping body. They dominate the political scene without exception, creating a de-facto Theocracy at whose head is the Great Lord, the Alz Alif, Mantos Mathenwye, and to a lesser degree the Nine Divine Testates who act as governors of the empire.
The colors of the empire are rich, expensive, yet muted out of respect for the powers of Zhakrin, and fitting for an empire that has endured for many thousands of years. Black is a holy color, reserved for those favored by or who have dedicated themselves to Zhakrin. There are a great many laws, anyone of which you can be prosecuted for at a moments notice by a zealous priest, but most people consider the majority of these laws to be intended for the priesthood – which side of the street to walk upon, which foods are holy, which days one must fast. Although many notable exceptions abound which are indeed strictly enforced, such as high holidays or public dress. The covering of the face in public is a sign of modesty and virtue. Many Dazazin are shy of foreigners. Tattooing is a popular trade, but a personal one whose exposure is reserved for certain holy people and for entertainers. Jewelry is popular and quite common. The average citizen of the empire is much wealthier than those of many other parts of the world.
Largely human, with a smattering of Galiadre and Lerether. Half-breeds are even less tolerated in the empire than they are among non-human cultures, often put to death at childhood. Dwarven craftsmen are scattered about. However, non-humans who join the Black Order are treated with the same respect accorded to all other members and given equal opportunity for advancement based on merit. Many outsiders call the empire home. Enslaved elementals serve the powerful and maintain the cities. Genies serve as otherworldly advisors and assistants to the governors and Jann roam the streets performing tasks for their superiors. Intelligent and tasteful undead who adhere to the will of the Black Order can be seen walking the streets occasionally. Undead are seen as holy servants sent back from the afterlife to continue Zhakrin’s holy work.
Dezeri is the common tongue, a language frequently punctuated with the shua sound and slurred syllables, which when rapidly spoken sounds like a river of sliding consonants. Locals ruthlessly prey upon and are often disrespectful to those who cannot speak the native tongue well. The holy of Zhakrin speak an ancient dialect of this, only taught to ranking members of the Order.