Galiana writes "A description of the area across the Gulf of Ghayar from Zeif and the Bakhoury Coast, beyond the edge of the Flanaess. From a campaign that has run for nearly 30 years. Done in LGG format.
The Imperial Caliphate of Istustan
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.
Proper Name: The Empire of Istustan
Ruler: Her Serene Imperial Highness, Grand Calipha, Servant of Istus, Siani Mehani Roxana al Isfahani (Fighter 5/ Corsair 8/Sha’ir 20/Divine Oracle 4)
Government: Imperial Monarchy, probably hereditary though Siani is the first Empress to reign and her current designated heir is her sister, the Shazah Amira. Advised by a Grand Vizier and a Council of appointed members consisting of both noble and common people, as well as demihumans. Claims no direct lineage to the ancient Bakluni Empire, though has reinstituted ancient Bakluni religious and other practices with certain exceptions. Claims the Dry Steppes south to the Sulhauts, west to the Doomspires, north to the Dramidj, and east along the western coast of the Gulf of Ghayar excepting only the Matriarchy of Komal.
Major Towns: Aghrapur (pop. 52,000), Afyal (pop. 20,000), Chosroes (pop. 38,000), Isfahan (pop. 90,000), Sassan (pop. 29,000).
Provinces: More than fifty towns and cities with their adjoining lands are ruled over by various Emirs, Beys, and Pashas, while the capital has a Shah who is also the Grand Vizier and oversees the city for the Calipha.
Resources: Iron, Gold, Silver, Platinum, Gems (IV), Horses, Camels, Livestock, Fish, Foodstuffs, Textiles.
Coinage: Temples (pp), Spindles (gp), Falchions (ep), Jars (sp), Moqs (cp)
Population: 2, 523,800 – Human 85% (B), Demihumans 10% (E,D,H), Geniekind 4%, Others 1%.
Languages: Common, Ancient Bakluni, Bakluni dialects, Olven, Dwur.
Alignments: N, LN*
Religions: Polytheistic in the ancient manner…Istus, Xan Yae, Al Zarad, Geshtai, Shirin, other Bakluni Deities.
Allies: Komal (usually), Paynim (sometimes), Celestial Imperium (sometimes)
Enemies: Zeif, Orcreich, Celestial Imperium (sometimes), Bakhoury Coast (sometimes)
Overview: The Empire of Istustan has grown to be the largest Bakluni nation known on Oerth, eclipsing the former holder of that distinction, Zeif. It’s boundaries are the Dramidj in the north, the western coast of the Gulf of Ghayar to the east, excluding Komal but including Aghrapur, the southern boundaries of the Plains of the Paynim, the Ullsprues in the east, Sulhauts in the south, and the Doomspires in the west. Much of the realm is desert or dry steppelands dotted about with an occasional oasis, the single most notable exception being the Tingris River Valley, which is lush and productive. The climate here is cool and pleasant along the coasts, hotter and humid along the river valley, and deadly hot and dry in the interiors. This pattern varies but little year round. Water is very important here and most routes across the Empire move from oasis to oasis to ensure a good supply of it. The great Silk Road from the Celestial Imperium runs through the southern sections of the Empire, the Bedihan Desert, an arid zone which gives way to the dry steppes as one travels eastward.
The Paynim and Steppe nomads roam freely through the lands without hindrance, the only real sign of Imperial authority being the beacon towers along the borders, the guards that patrol the caravan routes, and the palace at Kanak near Tovag Baragu.
Trade is of vital importance to the empire, especially for wood, so the fleet is strong and well appointed. Most wood comes from Telchuria in the north, and from Orcreich across the Doomspires. Second to this is Istustan’s control of the Silk Road, named for the fact that almost all of the silk found in the Flanaess gets there along this road. Tariffs and tolls are the largest quarrelling points between Istustan and the Celestial Imperium. Trade in this, as well as porcelains and other goods from even further west and south, is strictly monitored and controlled.
Istustan’s armies are very well disciplined and highly trained, incorporating many units of demihumans and geniekind. An Elite Camel Corps ride the deserts and caravan routes and units of light cavalry archers patrol the roads and steppes. Desert Olve comprise units of archers and light scouts, while the Dwurfolk lend iron hard units of heavy infantry...most of them trained as mamlukes. Heavy cavalry tend to be rare and composed of cataphracti. The main cavalry forces are light archers and medium lancers with units of chariots for shock value. All major units have at least one mage or sorceror attached. Many of these units, and all of those made up of geniekind, are commanded by tasked genies with great experience at war The Istustani intelligence organ, the Golden Sands, is amongst the best at what they do. Heavy infantry garrisons the forts and outposts, while medium and light cavalry do the majority of the patrolling.
Government in Istustan can best be described as a Monarchical Beurocracy. At the head is the Imperial Calipha, who involves herself deeply in the day to day running of her realm, followed by the Grand Vizier, who sees to the more mundane aspects of dealing with the beurocracy, advising the Calipha, and seeing to it her wishes are heeded. The Council is advisory and appointed rather than hereditary in nature, and advice from the councillors is listened to closely. The Council consists of the heads of the various cities and towns, tribes, and military sections, as well as the Patriarch of Istus, Matriarch of Xan Yae, and others.
The true machinery of government is the Beurocracy, which takes care of the day to day operation of Empire. The setup is interwoven and complex to avoid disruptive power struggles and plotting. The body is answerable to the Calipha and her Grand Vizier.
Istustan, unlike Zeif, has a significant minority of demihumans, mostly desert Olve and Dwur, but also of geniekind, tasked and free. This is one of the areas in which this empire differs from that of the ancient empire of the Twin Cataclysms. Another area of difference is the presence of large numbers of Sha’ir, who tend to be regarded as intermediaries or ambassadors to geniekind with the Calipha regarded as the representative of geniekind to humankind.
History: What would become Istustan started out as a collection of villages and towns created by Bakluni people fleeing the Ancient Empire as the war with the Suel heated up. Amongst these were a relatively large number of Sha’ir, seeking peace from unending requests to bind and use geniekind for the wars. These people fled to the north and west rather than the east as the legendary six Houses did. Turned away from the coast by the Komali, who wanted nothing to do with people from the warring nations, they continued around the small realm, many dying in the deserts. However, as time passed, the Janni that lived in those places began to speak with the Sha’ir, telling them of a river valley wherein shelter could be found. Eventually, these wandering groups of people from a mixture of the Houses of the Bakluni Empire found the valley and settled there, building small towns and villages. This was the valley of the Tingris, as the Janni called the river.
Out of gratitude, the Sha’ir in the various towns were made ambassadors to the Janni, and sought their help as they struggled those first years. But the valley is extraordinarily fertile and in time these towns and villages became prosperous. Some wars were fought between these settlements, but on the whole the Sha’ir and their Janni companions kept the peace.
Eventually, as trade became more interlocked and the people flourished, cities began to be built. During this time the first of the fierce raids from Orcreich poured over the mountains called the Doomspires. For a while an evil cycle of building, destruction, building went on. Finally, the Sha’ir summoned genies to their aid, and along with the Janni, put a stop to the raids into the Tingris Valley itself, though they continued unabated outside this zone and the mountains (with their wealth), were to all intents and purposes off limits to the Riverine People.
Some of these genies were bound into service, and with the passage of the years, became specialized at their tasks, and these became known as tasked genies. Slowly these sorts of genies became a part of most elements of Riverine life. This way it remained for long years, quiet and isolated, a rare raiding party from Zeif, or raids along the outlying areas, internecine troubles the only things to break the cycle. Then came the Zeifan colony at the mouth of the Tingris, and the tax collectors and orcish soldiery.
One by one the towns and cities came under Zeifan sway, until those remaining became all too aware of the need to stand together. So a council of sorts was formed, with the Sha’ir as advisors to it and geniekind. No one leader could be decided upon as the ancient Bakluni concern with status began to assert itself when power was in the offing. In the end, the Council of the Riverine People was formed, and under this oft contradictory organization, a stand was made at Chosroes and a great battle fought. The Riverine armies lost, and retreated to Sassan, closely followed by the Zeif orcish forces. The Sha’ir summoned genies to war, something they were loathe to do at the best of times. It was at this time that a group of Olven folk arrived, declaring they would aid the Riverine people in their stand. These unlikely allies made their stand just east and south of Sassan and after three days of hard fighting, defeated the orcish mercenaries and drove them downriver. This site is today known as the Sassanian Mounds, for the number of burial mounds made there afterwards.
The Zeifan troops retreated to their coastal city and closed the gates, but the Djinn and Marid conspired with the Riverine people to effect entrance to the lower areas of the city, and the city was sacked in several days of fighting. As the remnants of the Zeifan forces took to ship, the Komali fleet discovered and engaged them in a running fight that took them far from the shores.
After the fighting the Council was made permanent, as the Sha’ir and genies advised that only in this way could they defend themselves with any hope of success in future. The great city the Zeifans had begun was cleansed, and emptied, only temples to the ancient Bakluni gods being built there.
So it remained for a long time, until portents were seen in the stars, and the Sha’ir muttered of the Sleeping One and the temple of Istus was seen to glow in the eventide. A strange restlessness descended on the region, the Olve of the desert seemed to suddenly vanish away south. Orc raids came down the headwaters of the Tingris for the first time in the memory of ordinary humans. It was not long after that the largest incursion yet occured, the orcs completely overunning Edirne and halfway to Sassan, when the Calipha appeared. At that time she was rumored to be a Sultana or some minor noble exiled from Ekbir….but she, and her half-elf companion, came upon the fighting and turned the tide with fell magics and great prowess. With them came large numbers of desert Dwur, and the full measure of the desert Olve.
The Sha’ir spoke of her in hushed tones, and afterwards as she built her home in the city now called Isfahan, the Patriarch of Istus and the Matriarch of Xan Yae proclaimed her Grand Calipha and the other Sha’ir directed the genies to build for her a palace in the city, and a terraced garden for her pleasure. It was the genies themselves who told the local Sha’ir that the Calipha was of their blood and it ran strong in her veins.
Under the Grand Calipha, the Riverine Council became the Riverine Council of Istustan, her half-elf companion became her Grand Vizier, and the Empire was established as many tribes and nobles came to swear service to her at her coronation. Currently, roads and buildings are built, laws enforced, and the Riverine Bakluni given a voice and the ear of their Calipha once each moon. She does not show territorial designs, though she is known to defend what she has vigorously and is, by all accounts, a very active and shrewd ruler. She is known to the have the allegiance of the Mahdi of the Steppes, a large number of the Paynim clans, the Olve of the desert, and geniekind.
Conflicts and Intrigues: Mur and Zeif try to play Istustan against the middle, Zeif hires corsairs to savage Istustani shipping, as well as hires Paynim tribes to attack the precious silk caravans. The Celestial Imperium continues to try to get agents into the Calipha’s court and the orc tribes in Orcreich are a constant threat. The Emir charged with holding the pass through the Doomspires there seems to have aspirations to empire himself. Black robed cultists are seen on occasion and have been called responsible for one failed attack on the Calipha as she was on her way to the Temple of Istus.