Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Gazetteer of the Wasted Lands 4: Ashurii

Ashurii is a country that really consists of two smaller city-states and a number of towns and villages between. These two city-states are Babyl in the south, and Qandar in the north. Both share a common racial culture and ancestry, and have similar pantheons of deities. With the preponderance of barbarian activities in the north, and the mad kingdom of Hastur to the east, it made sense for Babyl and Qandar to link together in a common legal and defense system. Thus it was decided that Babyl, the larger of the two cities, would be the capitol, with its Caliph ruling with equal pull as the Caliph of Qandar, and three additional Caliphs being chosen from amongst the smaller towns and villages in the land to give voice to these lesser communities.

Decadence and corruption are rampant in Ashurii, but rather than being a quiet rot that takes the country from within, these aspects of Ashurii society are accepted as part of the culture and in the open. This acceptance of open decadence allows the populace to deal better with its negative aspects, curbing the destructive and entropic effects such behavior has on a society. It is not uncommon to see people walking the streets in various states of undress, and adorned in precious metals and stones. The most prominent and beloved deity in the Ashurii pantheon is known to the Babylim as Ishtar, and the Qandarim as Innana, and is a goddess of passionate love, sex, war, and magic, and it is her influence that permeates Ashurii society.

Indeed, possibly due to their open and accepting ways concerning all lifestyles and preferences, Ashurii is a melting pot of races, and hobbit, elfin and dwarven exiles find a home in Ashurii. Dwarves in particular can make a good living as artisans and merchants, as their skill in creating weapons, armor, and even toys and baubles makes them a valued commodity. Halfling exiles farm patches of land on which they grow lotus, poppy, cannabis, and other intoxicating varieties of flora which can be sold at a premium in the red light district. Elves, of course, are widely revered for both their sensual natures and their ability as infiltrators and spies, and can be found plying their trades both political and personal throughout Ashurii.

The aggressive nature of the Ashurii people leads them to engage in constant border skirmishes with the Hyperborians and Fennokarelians, who seek to defend the hobbit communities which form a border between the northern and southern kingdoms. Rather than conduct open trade with the hobbits, the Ashurii would rather conquer their lands and control the agricultural source for the region.

Population Statistics

Population by Age:
0-14 years (infant to adolescent): 400,000
15-64 years (young adult through middle age): 900,000
65 years and over (elderly): 250,000

Racial Breakdown: Khemite 73%, Atlantean 5%, Thule 6%, Ashurii 4% , Southern Barbarian Tribes 10%, Other 2%
Religions: Babyl: 80%*, Qandari: 80*% Old One Cults: 4%**, Zartoshtan Cults: 20%, Other 19% (*There is some overlap between Babyl, Qandari, and Zartoshtan cults, with many people worshipping deities from both pantheons. **Many followers of the Old Ones worship in secret and worship other gods on the surface or in addition to their Ancient One overlord.)
Languages: Common Merchant 80%, Ashurii 100%, Thule 10%, Atlantean 10%, Khemite 20%
Government Type: Oligarchial Caliphate.
Capitol: Babyl
Heraldry: A black five-headed dragon on a field of crimson.
Military: All able-bodied men aged 15-30 are eligible for conscription at any time, and within two days an army of nearly 250,000 can be called into service. At any given time on a moment's notice there are approximately 25,000 active duty personnel who act as law enforcement, defense, and peacekeepers.

Legal System: The active military doubles as town guard and police.

Crime and Punishment: Punishment is harsh but generally fits the crime. Theft is punished by the removal of the hands, for example, and sedition by the removal of the tongue. Murder is punishable by death. When a person is accused of a crime he goes before the Caliphate who view and weigh all evidence. Every citizen is granted the right of legal representation during this process.

The Gods of Ashurii
As there are no Middle Eastern deities in Supplement IV, the Gods of Ashurii are drawn from Deities and Demigods, in addition to the usual independent research sources. Many of these beings have fair write-ups on Wikipedia for further reference. Also, The Dragon #12 has an entry on the Persion Mythos, from which the Cult of Zarathustra is drawn.

Gods of Babyl
The Gods of Babyl are known collectively as the Akkadian gods. No one knows the origin of this term, though some believe that Akkadia is the realm that they inhabit, while others believe it to be their surname.

Anu - The lord of Heaven and chief deity in the estimation of the Babylim, Anu appares as a powerfully built man with bronze skin, a breeze constantly blowing through his hair. It is said that in life he suffered terrible magical assaults from demons, and thus as a god has the ability to destroy any who would use magic against him. He is believed to have stood face-to-face with Azathoth itself and emerged sane, with power over the heavens and Earth. Some believe it was Anu who called down the fiery mountain from the sky that changed the stars, putting the Ancient Ones into an enternal slumber.

Ishtar - The goddess of passionate love and war. Ishtar appears as a stunningly beautiful woman, clad in sheer garments and a golden circlet, and carrying a blue crystal scepter. The golden circlet gives her power over the minds and hearts of men, and allows her all of the powers of her enemies in battle, while the scepter enables her to sacrifice spell levels for pure direct-damage energy. It is said in life that she was a temple prostitute to Shub-Niggurath, who slowly gained power and control over the entire priesthood through her subtle machinations. When the Ancient Ones slumbered, she used all the secrets she had gleaned to ascend the Celestial Stairs and claim dominion over the passions of men. Ishtar is one of the most physically powerful of the gods, though she doesn't look it, appearing supple and frail. She is driven by her passions and lust, and is wont to take a lover one day, promising him power over all the kingdoms of the earth, only to turn on him and make war against him the next. As fickle as the goddess is, she is not evil, and tends to mourn the death of even a former lover-turned-rival. She drives a chariot pulled by seven lions, appearing on the battlefield as an inspiring vision to her troops, and a terrifying one to her foes.

Marduk - The patron of the city of Babyl, and a god of penance and punishment, Marduk represents the controlled chaos of civilized life and harsh justice. It is said that in life he was constantly pulled between the comfort and luxuries of the city, and the wild, untamed wilderness. He is a god of severe justice, and the general of the heavenly host, who defeated their mother, Tiamat. Marduk is invoked when sentences are handed down to criminals. It is said that Marduk possesses the Tablets of Destiny, upon which the entirety of the cosmic balance is inscribed, thus giving him authority over all the gods.

Druaga - Druaga is the lord of devils and demons, a being of pure evil whose very appearance is an abomination. His sins are lost to the mists of time, but it is known that he was once the owner of Ishtar's blue crystal scepter, and that he covets its return. His true form is so hideous that those who view him turn to stone, and he rarely appears in person, preferring to possess others. He is whispered to have the power to turn any man into a demon under his control.

Kingu - the god of betrayal and incest, he was the general of Tiamat's legions, the only god of the Akkadians who stood by her side when she turned on her children. He is also whispered to have been his mother's consort, and in possession of the Tablets of Destiny later taken by Marduk. Following the war, Kingu was thought slain, but still operates in shadow, the patron of thieves, spies, and assassins. He constantly plots to regain the tablets from Marduk. Kingu does not have statistics in Supplement IV or DDG. It is suggested that the statistics for the Norse god Loki or the Egyptian god Set be used if stats are needed.

Nergal - The lord of the underworld and god of death, Nergal appears as a dark-skinned man with jet-black armor, his eyes glowing red. To gain Nergal's favor, all one can do is kill, sending him more souls for his black realm. Nergal aids his worshipers in battle by raising powerful fallen heroes of their enemies to fight for them.

Tiamat - The mother of serpents, dragons, magic, and the sea, it is said that all of the Akkadians are descended from Tiamat. Eventually, Tiamat turned on her children and made war against them, calling forth storms from the skies, powerful and dark magics, and sending legions of demonic forces against them. It was Marduk who led the other Akkadians against their mother, and with the help of his sister Ishtar managed to weave a powerful enchantment that turned Tiamat into a dragon and banished her to the seas, where it is said she became the mother of all dragonkind. Tiamat is the embodiment of primordial chaos, and some believe that if she is not herself a mask of Nyarlathotep, that she serves as his consort.

The Gods of Qandar
While the Akkadians form a family of deities that deal with broad concepts of good and evil, the Qandarian gods, while they share some of the same deities between them, deal largely with elemental forces.

Enlil The god of air and war, Enlil is the ruler of the Qandarian pantheon of gods. He appears as a wiry, bearded man wielding a stone axe and wearing a bronze helm that attracts and deflects all damage in battle. As a god of the air, Enlil can call forth the power of storms, including lightning, wind, and thunderclaps that shake the land. For all his control over war and battle, Enlil is a noble god, who champions war for noble causes. He possesses the Tablets of Destiny, the stone slabs upon which the cosmic order is etched, and which give him power over all the other gods. These he took from Kingu following the battle against Tiamat.

Enki The god of rivers, fertility, wisdom and magic. The brother of Enlil, Enki appears as a naked, green-skinned man with water plants for hair. He is known for his obsessive and violent hatred of demons and undead, and will go out of his way to see these creatures destroyed every chance he gets. His followers, powerful magicians and clerics, carry out this mission in the world, never passing up an opportunity to defeat and destroy undead or demons.

Inanna Inanna is another name for Ishtar; the goddess serves in both pantheons, though when she appears as Innana rather than a circlet and scepter, she wears a golden hairpiece and wields a double-bladed brass hand axe. Often she will appear as both incarnations simultaneously, with all the trappings of both.

Kingu - Kingu is identical to his Akkadian counterpart, save that the Qandarian myth cycle holds that it was Enlil who killed him and obtained the Tablets of Destiny, rather than Marduk. It is possible, given the tentative connections between the two pantheons, that Enlil and Marduk killed Kingu together and each has a portion of the tablets.

Ninhursag - the goddess of nature, fertility and fortune, she is a patron of druids and mothers as well as being a deity of the earth and gravity. She is elfin in appearance and strikingly beautiful, always barely clad in skins and cloth woven of plants, with ivy and vines woven through her hair. It is said she has absolute power over plants and beasts and can even coax trees to move and talk, and that she controls the forces of physical attraction that bind men to the earth and draw certain metals together. Ninhursag uses the statistics of both the Sumerian goddess Ki and the Sumerian goddess Ninhursag in Deities and Demigods--consider the two different deities as different manifestations of Ninhursag.

Sin The god of the moon, Sin always appears as an old man with a flowing beard, bathed in a soft, blue glow. He rides a winged bull. As a lunar deity, he represents the waxing and waning of mystical power, and his priesthood is a mystery cult that consists largely of women. Many elves worship Sin, as he represents shadowy dealings and secret trysts. While neither evil nor expressly the enemy of his brother Utu, Sin does tend to attract those who prefer to remain out of the light, and many of his followers are less-than-savory types who deal with creatures of the night. This makes his followers often clash with the followers of his brother.

Tiamat Identical to the Akkadian Tiamat, though none of the Akkadian gods appear in the Qandarian myth. It is possible, thus, that the Qandarian gods share a direct familial relation with the Akkadians, the participation of each branch in the war with Tiamat blurred with the passage of time.

Utu The sun god and brother of Sin, Utu represents fire, illumination, justice, and the implementation of law. Staunchly neutral in almost all respects, he is the only god with the ability to overrule the decrees of Enlil, if they would upset the cosmic order. Like Enki, Utu abhors undead as an aberration against nature and charges his clerics to destroy all creatures of darkness. Unfortunately, this somewhat figurative charge is often taken literally by his followers, who tend to mount crusades against mystery cults and even nocturnal animals such as bats and raccoons, any that can be taken to figuratively or literally prefer shadow to light.

The Cult of Zartosht
Zartosht is a mysterious figure, a cleric who heads a mystery cult that is growing in power, popularity and prestige amongst the people of Ashurii. This cult rails against the rampant corruption, degredation, and decadence of Ashurii culture, warning that a great battle between the forces of good and evil approaches and lines are being drawn. Within the cult itself lines are drawn between worshippers of the good and evil deities.

The most startling thing about the Zartoshtan cult is that it is purely dualist, with only two true deities, though armies of lesser divine beings known as Spentas and Daevas (angels and demons, respectively) serve each god and wage their war across the cosmos, these lesser deities being the children of the true gods.

The cult's growing popularity, particularly amongst the wealthy and powerful, has Ashurii leaders concerned, and it may be only a matter of time before Zartoshtans are declared heretics and outlaws, hunted by the more open Ashurii clergy.

Interestingly, Zartoshtans are more than willing to assimilate common Ashurii deities into their worship, presuming these deities to be truly Spentas and Daevas in the service of their two true gods.

The statistics for the Zartoshtan cult can be found in The Dragon #12. More information on Zoroastrianism, the religion upon which this cult is based, can be found on wikipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoroastrianism.

Ormazd - The wise lord, father of all that is good and just and light in the world. Ormazd is a god of pure goodness, love and light, but nevertheless a warrior and champion of the downtrodden and those who struggle against evil. His power is limited only by his equal and opposite, his dark brother. Zarathustra preaches that in the end of days Ormazd will defeat Ahriman once and for all, ushering an age of a thousand years of light and peace.

Amongst Ormazd's servants are the angels Vohu Manah, his right hand and the great historian of men; Aha, the angel of truth; Kshathra Vaira, who champions might, majesty, dominion, and power; Armaiti, who represents faithfulness, harmony and worship and is a patron of mothers; Haurvatat, the angel of integrity and her sister Ameretat, who represents immortality, and Sraosha, who represents obedience. Ormazd has many more children--these are but a few.

Ahriman - The angry, or wicked one. Ahriman is the source of hate, rage, violence, murder, jealousy, and all that is evil in the world. His servants seek to spread pain and suffering, and those who serve him do the same, believing that the only way to avoid suffering oneself is to spread suffering amongst others. Like Ormazd, Ahriman has many children, among these Aeshma, fury; Azhi Dahaka, Deceit; Saura, anarchy and misgovernment, and Akah Manh, vile thoughts.

1 comment:

  1. Hey this is good stuff. Keep on writing!

    Ancient Babylonia settings rule!

    ReplyDelete