Shaintar Legends Awaken: Agents of Flame
• Capital: Kal’Zaketh
• Population: Over 4.5 million (mostly human)
• Dominant religion: Worship of Ceynara as the Goddess of War, with other Demon Lords acknowledged as subservient deities.
• Government: Totalitarian empire that controls the northwestern portion of the main continent. Very much a militocratic autocracy, with strong feudal practices.
• Warrior society; Warlords rule over all with a mighty and feared army, and true societal distinction can rarely be achieved outside of military service. A caste system exists; it is somewhat fluid at the higher levels, becoming stricter the lower one goes. Slavery is legal and widely practiced.
• Diverse economy, with a heavy focus on mining and manufacture, especially for materials for war. Numerous houses make excellent money contracting out portions of their forces as mercenaries throughout Shaintar.
• Humans are the primary and dominant race, with the core bloodlines elevated over those that were subjugated in ancient times. Non-humans are exclusively slaves and can have no other role.
In the cold, hard lands of the north, dozens of warlords unified their clans and did battle for the right to rule. Eventually, one rose above all others, and out of that conflict was born the greatest empire Shaintar has ever known. Huge in scope, covering vast territories, the Empire is ruled with an iron fist. The strong are valued, the weak subjugated or cast aside. Only warriors may truly rule at the highest levels, and Ceynara (known by most as the Queen of Hell) is worshiped as the Goddess of War and Patron of the Empire. Other races, as well as human bloodlines that are not favored as truly Kalinesh, are enslaved and put to work in the fields, mines, and mills of the realm. Those who are deemed worthy are sent into the Blood Pits, fighting one another and all manner of terrible creatures for the entertainment of a harsh and decadent society. On the outskirts of society, there remain Kalinesh clans who remember a nobler, more honorable time, and dream of a day of reckoning.
The Empire remains very militaristic in its design. The Tor-Eleran (“Army of the Empire”) is the true power of the society, and Warlords rule over all. There are nobles, but only those with rank in the Tor-Eleran have any real standing. There is also a fairly strong, separate caste structure within the Empire’s society. At one time, it was observed almost religiously. In recent centuries, it is more a matter of tradition than slavish adherence at the upper levels, though things remain very strict at the bottom rungs of the ladder.
For a culture that worships conflict, it should come as no surprise that the main form of entertainment (for the castes who have the time and resources) is gladiatorial combat. The Andak-cros – “Blood Pits” – are the centerpieces of the decadent culture that sits atop the Kalinesh social order.
In ancient times, it became a common practice to force prisoners of war to fight one another for their freedom, or else to fight some powerful creature like a bear or mountain lion. All of this was done both as a function of warrior custom and because many of the clan chieftains and their cohorts enjoyed the spectacle. Eventually, as a society began to develop and there were laws to enforce, criminals found themselves battling for the right to live. Events began to be planned around these battles, ultimately becoming festivals to which people would come from miles around. Permanent facilities were built near towns and villages, and regular contests were scheduled.
The Andak-cros were born.
Every city and town in the Empire has a Blood Pit, and most of the larger cities strive to make theirs the most majestic and spectacular in the land. Regular events are held at least weekly, with a major festival surrounding huge battles and special contests about once a month. Warlords have stables of warriors that they pit in regular tournaments against each other, competing for opportunities to have their warriors present at the Imperial Grand Tournament held every year in the capital.
In many ways, the Blood Pits have become the center of upper caste culture in the Empire. Along with the events go carnivals, feasts, and all-night orgies. For certain events, the acolytes get involved, conducting mass ritual sacrifices and enacting powerful demonic rituals. Needless to say, this suits both the Emperor and the Queen of Hell just fine.
Not surprisingly, there is a real gladiator culture attached to all of this. The best warriors are treated like heroes, with cults of personality associated with them. Most of them embrace the culture to one degree of another; after all, it‟s the best life they can hope for in an otherwise very bleak environment. All they have to do is keep winning and keep surviving to keep enjoying a relatively pleasant existence between events.
Of course, survival is by no means an easy feat. Not only does the typical gladiator have to struggle against fellow warriors, he must also face whatever monsters of Flame and Darkness the Az-Junin and Az-Agkar have decided to put on the field that day. Childer are regularly fielded for bigger events, meaning a minotaur or thratchen may well stride out to face all comers. Every once in a while, a minor demon might take the field, either out of boredom or as a punishment for some transgression committed within the infernal ranks.
Oddly enough, there are those who actually fight in the Blood Pits willingly. As mentioned before, the Az m‟ Dair (the Lords of War) regularly enter Blood Pits to challenge groups far larger than the unit they field, all in the name of honing their skills and proving themselves worthy to be one of true elite. Additionally, Andak-cros seneschals have taken to paying mercenaries to fight in special events, mostly in order to mix things up a bit and provide more skilled opponents to watch. These mercenary companies have even begun to develop their own followings and rivalries, creating the basis for a whole new level of competition and tournaments.
Women can achieve status in Kalinesh society, but must strive hard to do so. It is a very rare thing to see a female Warlord, and she will likely be the most dangerous human being you’ve ever met. Strong women are highly desirable, because they lead to strong bloodlines. One of the constant battles within any Kal family revolves around what to do when a woman has achieved distinction on the battlefield: does she do her duty to her clan and remove herself from the field of honor to make babies, or does she continue to achieve glory for the Empire?
Farmers and craftsmen, merchants and bureaucrats are all accepted and even valued to some degree within the Empire. The standing lines of nobility remain primarily to provide a foundation of organization to run the various levels of the government, freeing the military leaders to focus primarily on their strategies and external matters. However, it is common knowledge that even nobles are considered very lowly if they have no military service to refer to in their history, so anyone even remotely capable of wielding a sword or bow (or catapult) puts his or her time in the Army to ensure a higher social standing.
Non-humans are at best slave labor in the Empire. It is possible to achieve a fairly high level of value as a slave, especially if that individual possesses a particular talent or craft skill. Alternately, superior skills in the gladiatorial Blood Pits can purchase a relatively comfortable lifestyle for a survivor. In the end, though, slavery is slavery, and there are more yokes in the Kal-a-Nar Empire than anywhere else in Shaintar.
Traveling Through the Empire
Entering the outer lands of the Empire isn’t particularly difficult for an individual or small group, especially if such a group is trying to maintain a low profile; such is the vastness of the land. However, there are plenty of border patrols, many of which employ ratzin (rat-like Childer) to sniff out and track newcomers. Worse, entire bands of Childer, whether left over from some acolyte’s summonings or caught between wars, are encouraged to roam the borders and remote areas and deal with “undesirables.” So, too, can Kalinesh mercenary companies earn additional pay, turning in heads for bounties, or bringing in live prisoners, if questioning might be useful. Only those traveling under Imperial protection are safe when making their way through the Kalinesh lands, which is just how the Tor Mastak (the Imperial security service) prefers things.
Anyone wishing to travel officially in the Empire must come in through normal means – road or ocean port – and be accompanied by Imperial soldiers (and usually a bureaucrat or three) wherever they go. Such escorts will usually exact certain forms of payment, and practiced merchants willing to do business in the lands know to bring appropriate bribes and gifts.
Those who don’t come to do business had best be skilled at stealth and subterfuge; being a non-human will make things nearly impossible in all but the most rural and remote areas. Most Imperial citizens will turn in a suspicious person without hesitation, for if the Tor Mastak ever discovers that someone saw potential invaders and said nothing, they are packed off to one acolyte or another to be used for sacrificial magic.
Assuming you are able to travel the lands without being accosted, you will discover most of the outer farmlands are fairly typical for a feudal system. Many families share living and working spaces. They toil from sun up to sundown, working the lands and other tasks of their farms and fields, all under the watchful eyes of those who serve the ruling lords. The land is hard, as are the people, but left alone to their work and themselves, they tend to form close and comfortable communities. Even the slaves are fairly well cared for and treated as part of the community, so long as the work gets done and the lord is satisfied with the results. This is generally true for the more outlying areas of the Empire.
In areas where the lord is less pleased, the circumstances are far worse. Beatings and even death are part of the daily experience. Slaves are sacrificed in public demonstrations, where a local acolyte exhorts Ceynara to give strength to the community to better serve the Empire. In the worst circumstances, one or more of the family or community leaders is sacrificed, and a successor is named, with the warning to perform better or face the same consequences. The bodies of sacrifices are left out for days to remind others of what may happen.
Villages and towns are less prone to such things, but by no means immune. Strangers are dealt with brusquely, with an emphasis on getting business done and over with. No one wants to fall under the scrutiny of the Tor Mastak, and anyone who speaks too long to strangers is very likely to do just that.
You are far more likely to run across military in urban settings, and they will tend to be raucous, jovial, and brash. Anyone perceived to be an outsider will be treated with suspicion; if such a person is perceived as weak, he may well find himself treated very roughly.
If a stranger to the lands can find his way to one of the larger cities, he‟ll likely do a little better for himself. The upper castes actually enjoy showing off for new visitors and, given any novel reason at all, most lesser lords or well-placed fanar will take in travelers from afar and host their stay in the city. Such a visit will be resplendent with decadent dining, perhaps a full-blown orgy (complete with social warfare and backstabbing aplenty), tours of the more extravagant shopping plazas, and at least one visit to the local Andak-cros – the gladiatorial “Blood Pits.”
It is there that both the splendor and the horror of the Empire are most clearly shown. Draped in finery and jewels, sloshing expensive wine and wasting gourmet food, those of means revel in the horrific deaths of slaves and captured warriors at the hands of demons and magically altered beasts. Anyone with even a spark of the Light or a thread of Life running through his soul will be repulsed, and in his revulsion he will find terrible danger, as he is surrounded by an entire society that is antithetical to his way of life.
History of Kal-a-Nar
Over 2000 years ago, the barbaric Human tribes far to the north began to coalesce into a more militaristic society ruled by several chieftains and clan elders. Ever stronger warlords gained control over more people and territory, subjugating the weaker peoples in their regions and building larger and more powerful armies. By enslaving the dwarvish populace of the Everwall Mountains, they were able to obtain armor and forged weapons, thus increasing their capabilities for war immensely.
It took more than 700 years for them to finally unite under one banner, that of the Vos-Dair-Az (Grand War Marshall) Jolokas ki Grilnas. His brilliance amongst his peers won him every major battle he ever fought. He parlayed this brilliance into political stratagems that ultimately created the Eleran m’ Kal-a-nar, the Kal-a-nar Empire, with himself as its Emperor. It is worth noting here that Kal-a-nar means, literally, “The People of Glory.”
After many years of warfare against all who would oppose them, the Empire sprawls across vast distances. It dominates the most of northern part of the main continent, and it spreads out along the western side about halfway down the continent. Entire societies have been engulfed within its control, most of which have been turned into slave cultures. Some of these people include the Everwall Dwarves, the Fae of the Forever Forest, and countless Goblinesh gathers. At one time, the Empire included most of the Youlin Aradi of the Eternal Desert as well.
For good or ill, the Empire is considered the cradle of human civilization. This is where they began, and where those who would go on to create the Kingdoms of Olara and Galea, the Malakar Dominion, the Freelands, and the Prelacy of Camon fled from during the Great Exodus.
The last outpost of the Kal-a-Nar Empire in the
Eternal Desert, Kal ‘Montak is fairly atypical as far
as Kalinesh cities go. More cosmopolitan by far than
most Imperial holdings, there are actually sections of
Kal ‘Montak where non-humans can travel openly,
without fear of enslavement.
This is more a matter of practicality than offcial
policy; in truth, the law of the Empire still stands in
the city, and if there is a conﬂict between non-citizens
and Kal citizens, it is certain that that the matter will
be judged in the favor of the Kal. However, the AzRi who rules the city and surrounding area, a nonwarlord named Fenrikas ki Arkor, has a great deal of
support for his tolerant policies within his city.
The main reason Fenrikas has not lost his head
taken and a more traditional ruler installed is the sheer
volume of useful information and trade that comes
through Kal ‘Montak. It has become a key center of
trade for anyone who is willing to do business with
the Empire, yet would never dare to enter another
part of its lands.
Everyone who lives in Kal ‘Montak understands
the unoffcial rules that allow the culture to remain in
place, and ﬂouters of the system will be dealt with to
ensure business can continue as usual.
Even the Tor Mastak, feared secret police of the
Empire, operates within the accepted culture of the
city. This is, of course, a matter of some convenience
for them; for in Kal Montak they can learn much
they need to know to serve their mandate to protect
the security of the rest of the nation.
An empire as large as that of the Kal is difficult to control, and one of the more useful tools to effect that control is fear. No organization causes more daily fear in the lives of the Kalinesh than the Tor Mastak, the “Sword of Truth” that serves as the law and security service for the Emperor. Their agents answer to no one save the Emperor himself, and by their charter, even he is subject to their scrutiny (though for obvious political reasons, they avoid doing this to any degree that he is aware of).
The leader of the organization is considered equal in rank to the Vos-Dair-Az, even though the entire agency is no larger than a kantor. Though they use the same rank structure as the rest of the Imperial military, no one outside of the Tor Mastak dares to assume authority over one of its agents. A typical unit encountered will be the size of a squad, with Andak-Gols as the “rank and file,” led by a Dair-Kron. The Tor Mastak does this so that even their lowest operatives can assume command of a regular army unit with little trouble.
Tor Mastak officers are trained to be ruthlessly efficient, and only the most loyal servants of the Empire can hope to be accepted into the ranks. They are the elite of the Empire, trained in all manners of combat, stealth, subterfuge, survival, and counter-insurgency. Equally gifted in urban and wilderness settings, some believe Tor Mastak officers are the most elite and capable soldiers in all of Shaintar.
Not surprisingly, adepts are actively recruited into the ranks of the Tor Mastak. Their abilities to read minds and uncover secrets serve the goals of the organization perfectly. There are many high-ranking officials within the Tor Mastak who are also accomplished in the Way.
Their mandate is at once simple and intensely complex. They are charged with seeking out and destroying all enemies of the Empire. It is their job to minimize the influence of unwanted outside sources; a Tor Mastak officer is expected to slay any druid or priest he encounters in Imperial lands, without hesitation. One of their most infamous tasks is that of tracking down and slaying any escaped slaves or prisoners. The Tor Mastak acknowledges no boundaries where this mandate is concerned, willing to send agents into any nation of Shaintar to execute those who seek to flee the authority of the Emperor.
The other elite force of the Empire, the Tor Sadais is the Emperor‟s personal kantor. Only the greatest warriors of the Kal are permitted to serve in its ranks; candidates are recruited from each and every unit of the Empire. In this way, the Emperor ensures that the best of the soldiers in his armies serve him directly. Warlords quietly grumble about the practice, fully acknowledging the shrewdness of the move.
Within the Tor Sadais is an even more elite unit, a dren-ultor of Dair-Kron-ranked soldiers who may well be the most skilled and dangerous warriors in the world. They regularly enter the Blood Pits, minimally armed and armored, to fight against 5-to-1 or greater odds as a matter of training. They are the Az m‟ Dair, the “Lords of War.” Though there is no knighthood in the Empire, these warriors are every bit the equivalent. Intensely loyal, driven by honor and glory, and having each sworn a vow to die in battle, every one of these men and women are powerfully dangerous foes. The very rumor of their presence on a battlefield is enough to break lesser units.
The “Lords of Magic” have long held a powerful place in the Empire. Functioning as both priests and arcane masters, the Az-Junin influences every level of Kalinesh society. While the Tor Mastak may wield fear like a shepherd’s crook, the Az-Junin instills absolute terror in the citizens. Its members are the granters of Ceynara’s strength, but they are also the enforcers of her vengeance. The Goddess of Might demands sacrifices, and the weak are to be culled from the People of Glory to feed her hunger.
The Az-Junin functions more like a guild than anything, and no one practices any form of magic in the Empire without being a member (save those who are part of the hated Az-Agkar). This means there are sorcerers and adepts in the ranks, though the vast majority of the members are acolytes. Non-acolytes rarely attain any major positions of power or influence within the guild, so most are members only to remain legal while practicing their arts. Adepts, in particular, will often seek to join the Tor Mastak, where their gifts are far more appreciated.
With their dual roles, the acolytes of the Az-Junin maintain both temples and chapter halls. The former are where they gather the faithful, remind them of their duties to Goddess and Empire, and conduct the important sacrificial rites of their society. The latter are the places where Az-Junin members meet to share information, form plans, experiment, and otherwise conduct the business of the guild.
The Az-Junin can be found at all levels of the government. They’ve worked long and hard to establish themselves as ministers, advisors, and counselors to all who lead the Kalinesh people. This gives them an inordinate amount of influence over the entire political spectrum. Naturally, they like it that way, though it means there are more than a few outside of their organization that see them as rivals, especially the Tor Mastak.
At one point in their bloody history, a faction within the guild thought it wise to curry favor with both the Emperor and the upper castes of the Kalinesh. They wanted to accomplish this by entering champions into the Andak-cros – the Blood Pits. Conducting terrible arcane experiments on beasts and sentient beings alike, they were able to field horrors and monstrosities against the warriors of the Pits. This has proven terribly successful, and many a brave warrior-slave has died horribly at the hands of some Az-Junin abomination.
The very existence of this guild is one of the great mysteries to the Kalinesh people. In 2110 AC, Harkor ki Doman (who remains Emperor to this day, more than a thousand years later) accepted a petition from a group of ex-patriot necromancers fleeing their homeland of Shaya’Nor. Apparently in great disfavor with the rulers of the Shadowlands, they offered their services and loyalty to the Emperor in exchange for sanctuary and protection. To the shock of even his closest advisors, Harkor agreed, even going so far as to allow them to form a separate guild from that of the Az-Junin, one headquartered in Kal’Prin.
Rumors have long abounded as to why he did this. Some fear that his greatly extended life may have more to do with his alliance with the Az-Agkar – the “Death Lords” – than with his powerful demon bond. The Tor Mastak went so far as to launch a major investigation. Interestingly, Harkor permitted it to go unchecked for a time. When the investigators could find no evidence of his betraying his fealty to Ceynara, he had the entire upper echelons of the Tor Mastak purged and sacrificed to her.
The matter was dropped after that.
Dropped, that is, by the Tor Mastak, but not by many of his subjects. The most blatant rejection of his actions came in 2562, when the Grand Warlord of the South, Soman ki Akara, declared that the Empire had fallen into ruin and shadow and that he would separate his lands from it. Even with a terrible civil war fought over their presence, still Harkor has not moved an inch in his commitment to let them have a role in his empire.
It is clear, in fact, that the Az-Agkar enjoy considerable favor with the Emperor’s Court. Grudgingly, others of the nobility have come to accept and interact with them, and their guild is now a fully integrated fixture within Kalinesh politics. They have contributed quite a bit to the furthering of the Empire’s interests, as a matter of fact. They’ve helped counter no less than six major plots involving Shaya’Nor, as well as ending a trade war with the Malakar Dominion with rather rapid and permanent results.
There is a terrible rivalry between the Az-Agkar and the Az-Junin. Not surprisingly, the larger and elder organization sees an upstart with no legitimate claim on its position, while the newer, much smaller group sees a serious threat to its survival. The conflict between the two groups is constant and bloody, which the Emperor tolerates to a great degree because he feels it makes both groups stronger in his service. So long as they avoid open warfare, he will let them continue to struggle against one another (yet another shrewd move on his part to keep challenges to his rule to a minimum).
One arena the Az-Agkar has been able to directly challenge the Az-Junin in fairly is that of the Blood Pits. They have begun fielding highly altered undead and Darkness-corrupted creatures to match the demonic monstrosities of the elder guild, making for some rather intense contests that the entire upper crust of Kalinesh society has come to anticipate with great and terrible voracity.
The story of the Unchained begins as the story of one man, Jerik Tul. It is told by bards who learned it first from the current age‟s most well-traveled and prolific bard, Michael Longteller:
“The Kal-a-Nar Empire exists under a strict caste system that has little opportunity for personal achievement outside of the military. Only through the path of a warrior can one hope to ascend beyond their station, and even then such advancement is often over the fallen bodies of comrades and commanders. The military holds sway over all else in the Empire, and the demon-enhanced Warlords are supreme over everyone save the Emperor himself."
“At the bottom of the social order of the Empire are its slaves – those captured from other lands, as well as anyone who is not human within the Empire’s borders. Once born a slave, there is no escape from the hard life of a slave."
“No escape, save the Blood Pits."
“There, in the arenas that are scattered across the whole of the Empire, slave-warriors and vile creatures battle to the death for the amusement of the Empire’s citizens. The Az-Junin and Az-Agkar tamper with beasts and beings alike to create ultimate warriors, making it so only the most powerful and skilled combatants can ever hope to survive past their first competition."
“The supreme among these fighters know that they fight for the only prize worth winning in the Empire – freedom. Those that last through the course of an entire season are promised their freedom, as well as a raise in status and the opportunity to advance in Kal society (unless they are non-humans, in which case they are simply freed and banished to the Southern Kingdoms, where they are far more welcome)."
“Only one man has ever defied this process, choosing instead to use his freedom to win the same for all his brethren, as well as all the Kalinesh people. “That man is Jerik Tul…”
“The Dregordian warrior known as Sskolloss, a hero to every member of that reptilian species that had been captured and enslaved by the Kal, lay at the feet of the one man who had ever beaten him in the Blood Pits. Jerik Tul had just won the Imperial Grand Tournament, and it was now his right and his duty to slay his opponent and claim his prize – freedom, and the title of Sadar Nom to elevate him in the caste of the people. Instead, he spared the Dregordian, helping the lizardman to stand. As a gasping hush fell on the crowd, he addressed the Emperor himself."
‟This day, I take my prize and I leave this place. Call me what you will – it means nothing to me. This day, I am free, and every free breath I take will be for one goal. One day, I will see all of you free, as well."
“He turned to walk out of the arena, and even as a hundred soldiers moved to stop him, the Emperor waved his hand to stay them. He told his advisors, “He will not last one month. Let the people hear of his failure after he has been given a chance to try. It will be a much greater lesson for them.”
“This was one of the Emperor’s most painful mistakes, for Jerik Tul did not fail. In fact, his rebellion has grown impressively over the last few years. Now he is the Empire’s greatest enemy…”
The Unchained began as a small group of talented and dedicated individuals following the one man to ever reject the gift of the Emperor upon winning the Grand Tourney. Jerik Tul has made good on his promise, and instead of failing, he’s managed to start gathering a real following. Some estimates put the numbers at mere hundreds, while some believe there are thousands of followers and supporters of the Unchained.
Jerik’s stated goal remains the same – to free all of the Kalinesh people and lands from the chains of the Emperor and the acolytes. Needless to say, he’s become Enemy Number One as far as the Tor Mastak is concerned, and much of their efforts are dedicated to finding and destroying him.
Unfortunately for them, his list of friends is growing larger every day, and now includes people coming from the Southern Kingdoms to offer their services in the greater cause.
Mercenary Companies In The Kal-A-Nar Empire
It bears noting that there are more mercenary companies whose origins lie in the Kal-a-Nar Empire than anywhere else in all of Shaintar. This is especially true in recent years, for while the Empire has remained in a relatively peaceful footing (biding its time for when Ceynara rises again), the thirst for conflict and battle has not subsided in the Kalinesh people.
Most of these companies move southwards, eventually setting themselves up in the Malakar Dominion, in the Wild Lands, or along the southwestern coast of Shaintar. Those that remain, however, have plenty to do. Many noble houses in the Empire have cause to conflict with one another, but they do not dare use Imperial soldiers to enact their agendas. As well, many of the non-military lords and high-ranking merchants don’t have direct control of any army assets. The mercenary companies, however, do very nicely for the needs of such people.
In addition, the Empire places a rather sizeable monetary compensation on the line for protecting is sovereign borders. There are some mercenary outfits that make the majority of their money on capturing or killing those who enter Kalinesh lands illegally. Elven heads, in particular, gather a very handsome price when turned in at the appropriate offices.
The most infamous mercenary outfit in the Empire is the Maelstrom. It is, in fact, a small army, with headquarters in the Empire (Kal’Rogar), the Malakar Dominion (Trinigar), and the coastal city of Paradise. The leadership of the Maelstrom is comprised of devout acolytes and warriors who are sworn to Ceynara; in fact, they have all enacted a ritual that bonds their soul to her service, which gives them some power in this life and the chance for exalted service (or eternal torture, should they fail) in the next. Ironically, most Kal warlords and military leaders see the Maelstrom as a bunch of religious zealots, barbaric and vicious beyond even their standards. The Maelstrom, in turn, sees the average Kal soldier as weak and uncommitted to the greater glory of Ceynara and the Empire (in that order).
Nonetheless, the Maelstrom is highly respected and prized by the Emperor. It is a not-so-secret fact that he has used them to enact Imperial agendas and tasks when he did not wish to officially involve his regular forces.
Zovos-Dair-Az (Supreme Warlord, Emperor of the Kalinesh) Harkor ki Doman has held this title for over one thousand years. He’s considered more demon than man (or, perhaps due to his unusual connection to the Az-Agkar, something far worse). He’s almost never seen. Many actually believe he is dead, with a secret cabal ruling in his name. This would be far better for everyone than the actual truth…
Vos-Dair-Az (Grand Warlords) There are three Grand Warlords Farak ki Turosk, commanding the West; Jolokas ki Harkor (Harkor’s son, named after the first Emperor), who commands the Heart of the Empire, the north-central region; and Unikon ki Yolot, who commands the East. There was a fourth Grand Warlord who commanded the South, in the Eternal Desert. Since the Tantor-voshnos (“The Dread Betrayal” of 2562 AC), when the Vas-Dair- Az m’ Surnas (Grand Warlord of the South) Soman ki Akara declared the Eternal Desert his own, he has not been replaced. It is said that the Emperor has declared the title will go to whoever wins the Desert for the Empire. The Vos-Dair-Az are considered Az-ri (High Lords). They command the vos-daizars, the over-armies of the Empire.
Az-Ri (High Lords) This is the highest caste of nobility. The Az-Ri govern the regions, and almost all are also Warlords. Those that are not gained their title from some political maneuver or financial expediency, and are considered lesser than the Warlord that serves that region by most of the populace and other nobility. Though rare, more exist now than have in the history of the Empire. The increasing influence of the vos-fanar (the elevated merchant class) and the power of trade has steadily improved the lot of many non-military noble houses over the last few centuries. Developing a successful economy has ironically eroded the power of the Warlords over the non-military nobles to a degree, a situation that continues to brew a highly volatile recipe for conflict in the Empire’s future.
Dair-Az (Warlords) These are the commanders of the daizars – war clans of the Empire. Many Dair-Az serve also as Az-Fal, and are considered to be of that caste of nobility.
Az-Fal (Lords) The middle rank of nobility. Az-Fal rule over city-states, or oversee larger regions containing more rural areas.
Dair-Kan (War Commanders) These are who command kantors, the largest unit within a daizar (essentially, a division). Dair-Kan are considered Az-Dren for class purposes.
Az-Dren (Demi-lords) This is the lowest rank of nobility in the Empire. They rule towns. Most of the time, they are placed in other bureaucratic positions that are too important or require too much status for non-nobility. Of course, there are many Az-Dren who are in the military or in the Imperial Court.
Dair-Gol (War Leaders) This is the next rank down. Dair-Gol usually command yanar, brigade-level units in the daizars.
Dair-Endar (War Chieftans) The next lower rank, often found commanding ultors, the battalion-level units of the daizars.
Sadar-Nom (“Celebrated Name,” a High non-lord) Sadar-Nom is the highest caste attainable by anyone not of noble blood. Celebrated heroes, great artisans, or very successful merchants are often elevated to this caste. The Emperor must approve any such appointment.
Dair-Kron (War Captain) The rank of those found in command of company-level units, called dren-ultors.
Andak-Gol (Battle Leader) The lowest officer rank in the daizars (the equivalent of a lieutenant). The units they normally command are called mantas.
Vos-Fanar (High Merchants/ Bureaucrats) These are truly successful merchants that have attained great wealth. In ages past, this caste could only be achieved by inheritance and blood, though it’s always been possible to be awarded it by bringing great wealth to the Emperor. Nowadays, it
is increasingly possible to be awarded this status by an Az-Ri or well-connected nobles, making the Vos-Fanar the fastest-growing social group in the Empire. This caste also represents the highest non-noble functionaries of the government. Those of truly traditional thinking consider that the greatest tragedy of the modern Empire lies in just how many of these people exist.
Vos-Inikar (High Artisans/Craftsmen) Only the greatest and most successful artisans may attain this title, although the caste is hereditary for a line once it is attained. The only crafts considered worthy of the caste are weaponsmiths, armorers, builders, and engineers. As an example of how valued a Vos-Inikar weaponsmith can be, a small but very bloody war recently broke out along the south-central borders as an Az-Ri purchased away the services of the renowned Thulmos Clan from a rival Warlord. One of the sons of the clan finally agreed to return to the Warlord’s service in order to bring peace. Though many things have changed in the Empire, these tradesmen and artisans are held in great esteem and are almost zealously defended.
Mas-Gol (Squad Leader) These are the sergeants of the daizars. They lead units called mas.
Dren-Fanar (Low Merchants/ Bureaucrats) When no one was paying much attention, this caste managed to become the largest in the Kal-A-Nar Empire. It’s influence over the day-to-day well-being of the Empire is far greater than those in power would ever believe.
How Many Regions? How many Az-Ri? It’s pretty fluid and based on a political climate of a chaos-inspired competition. A war-driven society tends to be mercurial at best, and the Emperor not only tolerates this, but also encourages his lords to compete for power and favor, multiplying the problem. At any given time, there may be dozens or a hundred regions, it’s a matter of expediency for a GM to Andak-Tor (Soldier, “Battle Sword”) These are the rank-and-file troops of the daizars. Any Kalinesh man (and those few women who dare) with dreams of becoming more than what they are will spend time wearing this uniform.
Dren-Inikar (Low Artisans/Craftsmen) As a general rule, anyone in this caste (which includes candle makers, cartwrights, thatcher, and an endless number of related pursuits) prefers to remain unnoticed. They do as they are required, get paid for their efforts, and go about their business, much as they do anywhere else.
Thomarin (Farming Landowner) Precious few outside of the nobility own land in the Empire. Those that do usually fall into one of two categories. Either they earned the privilege through many years of excellent service, or they started farmsteads in very difficult or dangerous areas where the Empire is attempting to spread its influence. Thomarin are all too aware of the tenuousness of their position; at any time, a lord or military official might choose to seize their lands for any reason. They tend to be reclusive and prefer to scrape out what living they can in the far reaches of the Empire, staying out of sight if at all possible. Occasionally, a highly successful Thomarin will find himself assigned a garrison of soldiers and elevated to Az-Dren or even Az-Fal status should his farmland and area become important for some reason.
Dremarin (Retainer/Servant/Worker) At the very bottom of the social order of free folk, the Dremarin usually console themselves with the truth that what they are doing is at least marginally better than dying in a Blood Pit, on the front line of some far-flung war or being a slave.
Vos-Ulin (High Slave) Gladiators, noble servants, and those that work within upper-level positions with some responsibility are of this caste. Vos-Ulin are treated relatively well and are valued by their owners. Not surprisingly, very few Vos-Ulin are non-human, and those that are usually have some extraordinary gift or reputation associated with their status.
Dren-Ulin (Low Slave) The lowest of the low, they have no status or worth. The life of a Dren-Ulin is often short. They clean sewers, work the mines and fields, carry heavy loads, and get fed to demons. Upon their backs, the Empire is built. For the entertainment of the decadent nobility, they die in the Blood Pits. Should anyone figure out a way to raise them against their masters, the Empire would see its end.decide how large or small an Imperial region is and who is currently ruling it.