The Shadows of Caesovinia
Perhaps the two most appropriate words to describe the Sultanate of Great Arazi are ‘old’ and ‘rich’. The Dev’Arazi Sultanate, as it is usually known, spreads from northwest to southeast along the western rim of the Tayyir Althar, or Golden Crescent (the name for both the mountain range and the peninsula it forms). The great city of El Kharbah thrives at the Sultanate’s centre; prosperous from sea trading and busy with more than a million inhabitants, and tens of thousands more merchants, travellers and pilgrims besides. Its vistas are dominated by glittering palaces, colossal temples, towering walls, grandiose fortresses, sprawling shanty town tracts and huge, teeming bazaars.
The Sultanate dates all the way back to the days of the Caesophinian conquest, when Arazi, a trader-turned-visionary, managed to unite the cities of the Tayyir Althar under his rule as Sultan just three years before the Caesophinian conquest came. But rather than rallying for a grand last stand as the Caesophines had expected, Sultan Arazi, remembered today as ‘Arazi the Clever’, used the newly united Tayyir Althar’s strength to negotiate favourable surrender terms, allowing his Sultanate to carry on as a tribute state rather than a subject region.
By the time the Caesophinian Empire collapsed, the Sultanate was well and truly strong and stable enough to carry on, business-as-usual, and they have been ever since.
The Sultanate is a major trading power, with strong, far-reaching war fleets to protect its interests at sea. Those interests are mainly in gold, precious gems, and most contentiously, slaves. The entire Dev’Arazi social order is built around a complicated caste system, and slavery sits at the bottom as the foundation of it all. Slavery has over time become intimately bound up with Dev’Arazi culture, philosophy and religion, quite apart from the healthy profits it makes.
The current and one-hundred-and-sixty-second Sultan is Pasto III. He mostly typifies the Sultans of the last few centuries; rich, pragmatic, conservative, pious, traditionalist and lacking in any imperialist ambitions whatsoever beyond sustaining the Sultanate’s comfortable status quo as profitably as possible. So far as he stands out at all, he is known for being staunchly anti-emancipation, coming down hard on slave revolts and spending generously on lavish public entertainments to keep lower castes content.
Dev’Arazi has a long and bitter historical grudge with most of the fiefdoms of Hathjahaga; trade and treaties are tenuous and treacherous at best, and ever-changing tides of small wars and proxy-wars have been literally constant for the past three hundred and twenty years. The rivalry is mostly over trade, though, and the princes of Hathjahaga would be practically friends and kin to Dev’Arazi compared to the wizards of Palonia.
Arcane magic is evil by definition in Dev’Arazi, mages and ‘emancipation agitators’ are all bundled up into ghoulishly exaggerated and viciously slandered stereotypes, and Palonia itself is condemned as a city of demons and demon-summoners. Pious fervour has grown and ebbed over history, and each peak tends to have produced a militant inquisition and crusade attempt across the desert to attack Palonia. Needless to say, Palonia remains unscathed, and each crusade has gone down in history as another sad lesson in futility to be forgotten all too soon by a new generation of fervent faithful.