The Cintran Wars
Rose of the Desert Background
Far to the western edge of the Empire lies the storied province of Za’har. It is the intersection of four distinct cultures with an ancient history of its own. The province used to house one of the twin capitals of the ancient Quinn Empire – a proud civilisation which was devastated in the ‘breaking’ almost at thousand years ago.
The Quinnese were an old and tired civilisation when conquered by the Edirn Emperor Rudolphus the Stern almost six hundred years ago. The conquest was almost bloodless. The last of the Quinn emperors was a boy of only 6, with a Grand Vizier ruling as his steward. The story goes that, as the Empire approached, the Grand Vizier offered to surrender the army to Rudolphus for a hundredweight of gold. The Emperor instead offered a hundredweight of silver to three of the generals. They took the Vizier into custody and presented him, along with the keys to the capital to the Emperor. Rudolphus promptly had the Vizier and the Generals beheaded for treason. Then took the Quin Boy Emperor as his adopted son.
To the west lie the endless grassy steppes of the Zerrikanian horsemen. The larger tribes, closer to the Empire, are technically Imperial citizens and are somewhat civilised. However, over the centuries, they have shown remarkably little interest in settling down and enjoying civilised life. Further out are the independent tribes who are in contact with the Imperial Zerrikanians and the Empire as a whole. They are collectively referred to as “Zhu Shu”. Further still live the horsemen who have had little such contact, referred to as “Sheng”; they live out their lives in the endless steppes with little contact with the outside world.
The tribes constantly war among themselves and they raid other countries adjacent to their territories but the Empire is largely protected. They are fierce horse archers and a truly formidable force on the battlefield. Their strategic speed, discipline and organisation, as well as their fluid combat tactics are, by common consent, unmatched in the modern world. Zerrikanian horsemen have formed a key part of Imperial military for centuries.
The tribesman have their own mysterious culture, the tribes are entirely mobile. They do have a settlement far out in the steppes known as Kallaratta where there is a large gathering of the tribes every decade. Once every year one of the major tribes holds a great feast known as the festival of Strength and Beauty.
To the south are the deserts of the El’harrim people. Some of them are nomadic bedouins but, on the other side of the Sehanoor Desert they have robust and ancient kingdoms. They are skilled, savvy merchants and do much trading with the Empire. An endless stream of caravans flow into the Za’har province (and beyond) across the dismal desert.
At the centre of the otherwise sparsely populated province is the Walled City of Zahariim, also known as the Rose of the Desert. It is a large trade hub always bustling with El’harrim, Zerrikanians, Quinnese and Imperials. Many also travel to Zahharim in hope of accessing the ancient library – one of the largest in the world or studying at the venerable (and famously selective) Institute of High Magics. At the centre of the city there is a Grand Palace surrounded by pools of water produced by the incredibly teeming spring – an exit of an underground river. The palace, remnant of the ancient Quinn is said to be one of the wonders of the world. Some of it’s architecture cannot be replicated even to this day.
The governance of Za’har is unusual by imperial standards. The city (and for all intents and purposes the city is the province) has a complicated and famously bureaucratic power structures balancing the many constituencies and power centres. The Za’har people in general and Zerrikanians in particular are almost fanatically devoted in their patriotism to the Empire. They engage in ostentatious display of loyalty with moth houses flying the imperial flag (something not seen in the imperial city) and all meals are began with a toast to the Empress. Every noble family and merchant clan sends at least one son to join the imperial military. However, they are also very jealous of their prerogatives.
Therein a system has developed where the Empire, every 20 years or so, sends a Governor of sufficient aristocratic rank. The governor lives in splendid accommodations in the Grand palace and has the theoretical authority over the province. Practically, his only function in to be feasted with increasing ostentation by the various factions and power groups and attend an endless string of ceremonies, festivals and religious rights of every kind. The city is actually ruled by the Assistant Governor selected by the city itself. By long tradition the Assistant Governor, Treasurer, Grand Capitan of the City Guard are of different ethnicities: Quinnise, El’harrim and Imperial. The Imperial Military ensures that the Commander of the local forces is always Zerrikanian.
With a steady flow of horse archers for the ranks, open trade routes and a steady stream of tax revenue (only modestly skimmed by the various bureaucrats) the Empire never saw a reason to change this arrangement…
The primary industry in Za’har is without a doubt trade. However, there is also significant mining activity. There are significant iron deposits in the hills and mountains in the area. There are also a number of brine wells creating a significant amount of salt using ancient Quinnese methods. Even though some farming does take place the soil is not particularly good for farming. But there are large pastures in the endless grassy plains.