Guidebook
Foreign Lands


Ilium is surrounded by numerous foreign lands, which are explored here. More may appear here in the future. Feel free to expand on this information in the Worldbuilder.

Most Serene Republic of Kankai

Inspired by Japan and merchant republics. Far to the east and slightly north of Persad lies the Republic of Kankai. Kankai is a series of small islands located west of a larger continent. It is highly urban compared to most of Ilium. A mercantile trade republic, Kankai has a society that is very distinct from that of Ilium. Society is far more stratified than in Ilium, even though it does not have the same number of noble titles and ranks. In Kankai, there are technically only two social castes, the nobility and the commoners, but each of those groups is highly divided based on wealth, occupation, and ancestry into dozens of unofficial classes of varying power. The social classes themselves are divided based on family groups, who are nearly constantly jockeying amongst each other for greater power.

Commoners in Kankai generally have greater freedom, economic opportunities, wealth, and political power than those of Ilium. They largely work as sailors, artisans, salt farmers, and fishers in the city of Kankai. Sailors and artisans are most organized into guilds, which allow the commoners to collectively organize and assert their power within the Republic. Guild members are generally of higher social rank than those outside of the guilds, and the various guilds themselves are ranked based on their social status. Officially, it is impossible for a commoner to become a noble, but it is far from rare for wealthy commoners to buy their way into the nobility. On some occasions, commoners will also be elevated to the nobility due to their service to the republic.

The nobility of Kankai is a far larger body than that of Ilium, consisting of a few thousand members. Every single noble over the age of majority, twenty-three, is able to debate and vote on affairs of state in the Assembly, or Kokkai, though in practice only a small minority attend its meetings. The privileges of the noble class are minor compared to those enjoyed by the Ilian nobility, with their control over the Assembly being more or less the extent of their power. That said, most noble families are far wealthier than most commoners, and a few families from the nobility hold a de facto monopoly on trade.

The main political body of Kankai is the Assembly, which is responsible for voting on legislation, appointing officers to other political bodies, and voting on foreign policy. As stated above, the Assembly has thousands of members, but there are rarely more than a few hundred in attendance at any time. The leader of Kankai is called the Taisho, who is elected to serve for life by an incredibly byzantine process of sortions and elections. After their election, the Taisho is presented to the entire populace of Kankai, who must consent to be governed. Though the supreme leader of the Republic, the Taisho actually has little power to set government policy. Most governing is done through the body that ostensibly advises the Taisho, the Council of Eleven, who are responsible for administering the Republic and setting government policy when the Assembly is not in session. Other political bodies include the Committee of Judges, who oversee the Council of Eleven and prosecute government officials after their terms in office to ensure they have done no wrong, and the Committee of Elders, who oversee and proof legislation before it is formally submitted to the Assembly.

Kankai culture shares some similarities to Zhaoshangese culture, which has led some scholars to speculate that Zhaoshang was once a colony of Kankai in the distant past. This theory is generally rejected by Zhaoshangese scholars, but is incredibly popular among the Kankai. Fashion generally favors long silk garments, wrapped around the body. Given the cold weather, especially in winter, these are often worn over heavier clothes, but to be seen wearing rougher fabrics in public is seen as a sign of barbaric behavior. Good behavior and manners are governed by a number of unspoken customs, transgressions of which can be disastrous for one’s social standing. Rice is the staple crop of Kankai, though it is often imported from either the East or from Ilium. Fish is the primary form of meat enjoyed in the republic, and it is often enjoyed cooked in thick sauces among the poor and raw, sliced fine among the wealthy. Desserts are commonly made from sweet rice or rice flour, and are often made with a mixture of savory and sweet flavors.

Artistically, the Kankai tend to favor depictions of nature, often juxtaposing the serenity and violence that can be inherent within it. Kankai landscape painting, which is highly valued in Ilium, often include images of human activity and human construction, but even when an historically important event is depicted, they rarely serve as the artistic or thematic focus of the work. The human form is often reserved for sculpture, rather than painting, though sculpture is rarer and usually only used for public displays rather than private collections. Calligraphy is considered a high art, with skilled calligraphy of poems or excerpts of longer texts often adorning walls next to paintings. Poets tend to favor incredibly short poems, dealing with topics concerning nature and our place in it. Longform literature tends to the form of the novel and often deal with topics involving familial and political intrigue and the adventures of merchants on the seas.

Stateræs, or the Faith, is the dominant religion in Kankai, first brought to the islands about four hundred years ago by Zhaoshangese merchants. While maintaining the same religious texts and the same basic principles of the faith, Kankai Stateræs is distinct from that practiced in Ilium. Where the complementary nature of duality is the primary focus of Ilian Stateræs, in Kankai the contrast and conflict in duality is central. This is seen in the conflict between the land and the sea. While both are seen as necessary for life, the belief that the sea will eventually consume the land leads to the belief that one aspect of the duality will eventually consume the other. While things can be done to stem the tide, to try and maintain the duality, time will eventually lead to the collapse of the duality, and of the world. This does not lead to vast differences in how the religion is practiced, but it does foster a greater interest in reptilianism and a more pessimistic, fatalistic worldview.

Names from Kankai consist of a family name followed by a given name; thus they appear "backwards" to Ilians.

Norvik

Norvik no longer exists as it once did. Originally, it was once the name of a people and realm that ruled over what is today called Norvik, as well as parts of western Zhaoshang and northern Lucenna. Most of Norvik was destroyed and disbanded by Iliana the Conqueror; what remained of those people had departed and conquered the island of Gardrika by 180 IA.

Now, Norvik is the term for all lands north of the empire (including Gardrika), and "Norviker" is considered a derogatory term. Some scholars and Ilian nobles contemptuously call Norvik the Hundred Realms, or Ekatarchy, for Norvik’s tendency to collapse into many, petty, competing fiefdoms.

Norviker culture is frequently derided as barbaric and backward by Ilians. Primary reasons for this are their agnatic inheritance laws, the tendency of the region to fall into civil war, their use of wooden architecture, and their religious traditions. In addition, those clans of Mora’amyn who retain their nomadic culture are seen as examples of Norvikers being unable to construct anything of any permanence. Despite this, Norviker technology is not much inferior to Ilian: they are capable of crafting steel, managing centralized empires (while they last), constructing great cities, and long distance trade. Norviker painting is often derided for using wood as a support medium and being unrealistic, while it is in fact highly detailed and stylized.

The Norviker diet primarily consists of millet and rye along with tubers and root vegetables. Game meat is common for both nobles and commoners, though the former enjoy it in greater volume and more regularly. Goats, yaks, and caribou are the most common domesticated animals, but are mainly kept for milk or as beasts of burden. Bitter herbal teas with yak butter are a common drink year round but are particularly enjoyed in winter. Beer is the most common drink among settled people, while the nomadic peoples typically enjoy fermented mare’s milk. Distillation does exist, but the “hard water” made from it is most commonly used for its medicinal properties.

Dvorjard and the Hundred Realms

Inspired by Russia and the Heptarchy. The Dvorjard have long lived in the north, though prior to Iliana’s conquest they were subject people to the Norvikers. When Iliana destabilized the Norviker empire, the Dvorjard were able to exert their influence over parts of Norvik, ruling small, independent realms amid the remnants of the Norvik Empire. Their power and influence would wax and wane over the hundred and fifty years after Iliana’s conquest.

Politically, the Dvorjard can be considered a single realm or people, however it often collapses into anywhere from a handful to hundreds of squabbling petty fiefdoms. Because of their custom of equal inheritance to all male children, even the death of a peaceful king will herald another descent into chaos as his sons struggle for power, waging bitter wars against their brothers. Women are regarded as lesser than men, and many Ilians find their practice of multiple wives, royal harems, and almost total lack of female rights distasteful.

When the realms are not united, they quickly fall into infighting as their realms are split into even smaller fiefdoms when their sons inherit. This has lead to much derision from Ilians, who mockingly call this part of Norvik the Hundred Realms, or Ekatarchy.

Society is organized loosely and not as rigidly hierarchical as Ilian society. There are class distinctions between the warrior class and agrarian classes, but within those groups there is not much stratification, except between rulers and the ruled. These class distinctions exist between both the settled and nomadic peoples, but tend to be more rigidly enforced among the settled than the nomadic. Between the settled and nomadic peoples there are some hostilities, especially since local princes tend to grant greater privileges to the nomadic people at the expense of the settled.

Dvorjardian religion is a monotheistic faith called Voskiluv. It revolves around a single, all encompassing creator god who engages in a cycle of creation and destruction. Their religion primarily emphasizes the need to appease a deity whose anger at the imperfection of what he has created always results in his destruction of the world. This results in a great fear of sin and a religion that demands piety and purity of behavior and soul. Ilians tend to view it as barbaric for its strict rules of behavior and see it as particularly intolerant and dictatorial. The clergy of Voskiluv are organized into a hierarchical system, with local priests overseen by regional elders, themselves ruled by great elder elected from their number.

Dvorjardian names are quite complex to outsiders, though the given name followed by family name structure is the same as Ilium. The head of the family, usually male, takes the "true" name, while family members add suffixes based on their rank, like so:
Base name: family head (almost always male), Ivanov
Suffix -a: wife or wives of patriarch, Ivanova
Suffix -ovich, -evich, and -ich: sons and subordinate males, Ivanovich
Suffix -yevna, -ovna, and -ichna: daughters and subordinate/harem females, Ivanovna

Mora’amyn

Inspired by the Mongols. In the plains of the old Norvik Empire, today eastern Zhaoshang, lived a people called the Mora’amyn, a nomadic people who were never well integrated into the Empire. With the collapse of the Empire, the Mora’amyn were able to exert control over the plains in the chaos and anarchy that came with Norvik’s collapse, the long establishment of Ilium, and the civil wars that took up early Ilian history. However, a century after the establishment of the Ilian Empire, the Principalities of Zhaoshang and Lucenna entered into alliance to conquer the rich, fertile plains of the Mora’amyn, and by 130 IA, the Mora’amyn were driven north, into the cold tundra of Norvik, where they entered into conflict with the Dvorjard.

By 150 IA, the Mora’amyn had been absorbed into Dvorjard, with Mora’amyn clans as tribute states. By 180 IA, the Dvorjard with the Mora’amyn as their elite troops had conquered Norvik, establishing themselves as the dominant power north of Ilium. Mora'amyn bands sometimes serve the Dvorjard, but rogue groups have been known to harass both Ilians and Dvorjardians because they desire to have their land returned to them.

Like the Dvorjard, the Mora'amyn are patriarchal, though their women are afforded more rights and are quite progressive compared to Dvorjardians. They are famed for their horsemanship and their expertise in warfare, particularly bowmanship. However, they have not fully recovered from their initial fall hundreds of years ago.

Names used by the Mora'amyn consist of a given name in addition to their clan name. Two people who have the same clan name are not necessarily related by blood, though clans are considered a type of family.

Gardrika

Inspired by Vikings and Celts. Before the rebellion of Iliana, the Norvikers ruled over much of what is today northern Lucenna and western Zhaoshang. But with the rebellion and conquests of Iliana, they were left with a smaller, much weakened realm in the distant north, centered in their ancestral homelands. The Norvikers retained a small realm there for a time, until they were later expelled by the Dvorjard around 180 IA. Following the migration and conquests of the Dvorjard, the Norvikers chose to depart their homelands rather than be subjects to another people, the pride of Drottinn Oestenn leading them out of their cities and fields onto ships. From there, they sailed to Gardrika, a large island off the west coast of Zhaoshang. After a number of campaigns with the five duchies therein, the Norvikers managed to conquer the five Gardrikan duchies by 310 IA, uniting them into the one realm that exists today.

The people of Gardrika share certain traits of the ancient Norvikers and certain traits of the native Gardrikans. The realm is primarily agrarian with a few small cities, mostly located on the eastern coast. There is a small amount of trade with the mainland, but the primary purpose of these coastal fort-cities is to serve as a defensive network against foreign aggression and as bases for raids on Ilium. Their economy is largely based on the farming of wheat and potatoes, grazing of sheep and cattle, and cheesemaking. Gardrikan cheese is favored by some Lucenni and Zhaoshangese as an exotic delicacy, though most find it disgusting.

Ilians believe Gardrikans are barbaric, though this is mainly due to the relative poverty of the island and its more rustic nature. Class distinctions between the nobility and peasantry is fairly minor, with it not being uncommon to see even earls among the peasantry at local taverns and, in times of hardship, working the fields. It’s only among the coastal elite, who live off of raiding, that there is a large distinction between the nobility and rest of the people. Culture in Gardrika is also often seen as inferior to that of Ilium, with literacy absent except among the very highest nobility and priestesses. Most of their literature is still engraved in stone or metal, literacy being rare enough that there is no need to use simpler, less permanent methods of writing. Art is frequently highly symbolic and indecipherable to those from outside of Gardrika. Gardrikans farm but also use their specialized ships to conduct raids along the coasts, usually in the more vulnerable Norvik mainland, but sometimes also along the western coast of Lucenna.

In Gardrika, it is believed that most magic is worked by fairies, and thus that it can be accomplished by appealing to them: however, it is a dangerous game, because some fairies are tricksters. Thus, it is thought that magic should be performed in groups, because larger numbers are more difficult to fairies to fool. Gardrikans chant and sing while performing rituals to ensure things like a good crop and healthy children.

Individuals who practice magic, at least the way it is seen in Ilium, are unheard of. Individuals in Gardrika who practice magic are generally believed to be untrustworthy or foolish because they are susceptible to fae. Proof of such magic actually working is nebulous at best and mostly involves small rituals like weaving spells into cloth or carving runes.

The most potent form of Gardrikan magic is known as seidr-dreaming. As they believe heavily in destiny being predetermined, some individuals may have visions (either asleep or awake) that show hints of what is to come. Because it is thought that anyone can receive a seidr dream, interpretations vary wildly, though there are occasionally people highly regarded as seers for making consistently accurate predictions.

Gardrikan names consist chiefly of a given name. Those from famous families, such as the royal family, will have a family name like Ilians. Gardrikans who are not from an important family use "av (of) _____" as their surname, which causes Ilians to assume that nearly all Gardrikans are bastards. Among their own culture they often refer to each other by an epithet instead of a surname.

The Nafya

Inspired by the Bedouins. The Nafya are a nomadic people who dwell in Albahlnar, the vast desert south of Nejem. They primarily organize into clans, led by a matriarch. The Nafyan clans predominantly live off of herding, traveling between oases to graze their herds. Before the unification of Nejem, they also played a large role in trade, conveying goods across the desert when there was a great amount of conflict among the Nejemese. They still engage in some trade, particularly with unique items found only in the desert and around oases.

Nafyan society is relatively egalitarian, without any solid classes. Power only comes from influence and prestige, not from ancestry, and wealth is usually held in common by clans. Despite the fact that this is seen as anarchic by Ilians, there are actually a great deal of unwritten laws regulating behavior and ensuring peace and order within the clan. It is the responsibility of the chieftain, usually the oldest woman capable of leading the clan into battle, to ensure that these laws are kept, and her word is held as especially holy and wise within the clan. That said, all clan affairs are usually held to a vote among all female members, with the chieftain’s word only holding great sway. Males are expected to follow orders and may move to different clans for marriage.

Nafyan religion is monotheistic, shamanistic and animistic. They worship a single sky deity named Tinjra, who is held to rule over the world. She rewards the good and punishes the wicked, and is said to grant visions to her vessels on earth, the chieftains of the clans. However, in addition to worship of Tinjra, the Nafyans also pay great respects to their ancestors and to the spirits of animals that are particularly important to their people, mainly horses, camels, goats, and sheep. Sacrifice is central to their religious practice: when animals are slaughtered for the clan, they will take the strongest horse and camel of the clan and offer their blood (and therefore soul) to Tinjra by boiling it away while grinding their bones and mixing the dust into the sand, to feed their ancestors. Prayers are often a personal affair, though on certain holy days the chieftain will lead the clan in prayers to Tinjra and to their ancestors for a strong herd and plenty of green grass.

Nafyan culture is seen as incredibly barbaric by Ilians. In addition to scorning the Nafya’s matriarchal society, Ilians see the Nafya’s lack of long-term settlements and lack of writing as savage. However, while it’s true that the Nafya lack printing and have very few written works, they do have a written language and there are a few books, mostly of a religious nature that are kept by the clans. Ilians also scorn the Nafya’s lack of “art,” though the Nafya put great care into their production of good for day to day use and are known to produce beautiful textiles, weapons, bone tools, and leather goods. The Nafya are also known for their steel production, which contains beautiful patterns within it that resemble flowing water. Their goods are often valued by Ilians, though merchants tend to hide their Nafyan origins, since no one would want such products made by barbarians.

Nafyan names consist of a given name in addition to their clan name. Two people who have the same clan name are not necessarily related by blood, though clans are considered a type of family.

Totlakah

Inspired by the Mexica (Aztecs) and Mayans. In the far west, past the Ocean Iumentis and numerous uncharted islands, lies another continent. The largest and most powerful example of civilization on this continent is Totlakah, an empire smaller than Ilium but very powerful regardless. It is centered in its capital city of Totlikatl, built on a manmade island in the middle of a lake and surrounded by rainforest. Most famously, they are the only civilization that successfully rides and lives peacefully with dragons.

Totlakahan social structure consists of three castes: the clergy, the nobility, and commoners. Within each caste there are a number of sub-classes which determine how a person is treated by others. Commoners include craftsmen, merchants, farmers, warriors, and more. Maize and beans are the cornerstone of the Totlakahan diet and economy, though many other crops are produced, including chiles, tomatoes, potatoes, peanuts, and more. A traditional drink known as chocolatl is made from cocoa beans, and flavored with peppers and spices to offset its natural bitterness.

Obsidian, volcanic glass, is used for tools and weapons due to its sharp edge and enduring nature. Totlakahans also produce very beautiful, colorful, and lifelike art, such as carved and painted stones and pieces incorporating animal parts such as dragon feathers and other natural items such as coral and jade.

One notable facet of society is the slave class, which is the lowest rank of commoner. Though slavery is legal in Totlakah, it is not hereditary, slaves can earn their freedom in a number of ways, and the law affords them some rights and protections. Social mobility is relatively easy within Totlakah; a commoner who has made significant achievements, especially in war, can hold offices and be afforded honors that are usually associated with the nobility.

Totlikatl is a fairly stable city, but the empire itself is not. Its size often waxes and wanes depending on the ability of its mostly centralized government to control outer territories, which consists of peoples who do not explicitly identify themselves as Totlakahan, and are often used as slaves. Due to the prevalence of warfare and constant need for new blood, warriors are held in high esteem, and childbirth is viewed as a type of war. Gender roles within Totlakah are somewhat comparable to Ilium, where men are typically assigned to physical tasks and women to mental tasks, but they are far less rigid and harshly stereotyped.

The Totlakahan religion and how it relates to dragons is the beating heart of Totlakahan society. They are extremely fascinated with the heavens and skies, and as a result have developed an extremely accurate calendar system which predicts celestial events far into the future.

It is believed that the sun and moon are gods that will stop moving across the sky if they are not replenished with a constant supply of offerings, especially blood. Some Ilians believe that Totlakaha exclusively sacrifices human flesh; while humans are indeed sacrificed, this is far less frequent than the more common offerings of food, animals, and other items.

Dragons have long been thought to be the children of the gods who act as messengers between the mortal and the divine, and in ancient days, they were respected, but highly feared. Humanity and dragonkind warred endlessly, with dragons attacking settlements and humans having to defend themselves or eat dragons for food, angering them into attacking again and again. Humans would sacrifice their own in an attempt to please the gods and dragons, but the animosity continued regardless.

This cycle was broken when a human child found an injured infant dragon. The human took in the dragon and nursed it back to health, and they grew up together, coming to mutually respect each other as intelligent beings. This was how the art of dragon taming was perfected– the dragons are not tamed at all, and are not viewed as pets or possessions by Totlakahans. Instead, they are viewed as an equally intelligent race.

Now, Totlakahans and many species of dragons live harmoniously, assisting each other in many facets of life. The most famous of these are the flyers. This consists of a human and large flying dragon forging an incredibly trusting bond, and results in the human riding the dragon for both enjoyment and practical purposes. Dragon riders are the most respected type of people within Totlakah because they are believed to have a special connection with the gods.

Dragons pervade numerous aspects of Totlakahan culture. Flat-topped pyramids, which were originally built as temples, now serve a double purpose as dragon landing sites. Totlakahans wear few clothes (or what Ilians view as real clothes) and decorate themselves to look more dragonlike with using paint, tattoos, headdresses, jewelry, and other items that incorporate dragon feathers and scales, furs, and other natural items. Totlakahans and dragons have also come to trade customs and habits such as body language; for example, dragons have learned to bow in respect and humans imitate their sounds.

This has resulted in them appearing incredibly animalistic and primitive in the eyes of Ilians, some of whom say they even lie with beasts. Despite this, Ilium has long attempted to copy the art of dragon riding, always meeting failure due to their lack of understanding for Totlakahan ways. Attempts to employ Totlakahans and their dragons en masse have also failed because most of their people dislike the vastly different culture and even the most strong-winged dragons are not able to fly across the ocean.

Totlakahan names are given to children with deliberate meanings in mind, based on the specific calendar day in which the child is born in conjuncture with religious and superstitious factors. Names translate into natural elements or other descriptors, such as “Warrior Heart” or “Jaguar Paw.” Formal Totlakahan surnames do not exist, though epithets and locations are occasionally used.
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