Riedra

Once Sarlona was a land of many nations. These kingdoms had their heroes and gods — a host of proud and unique traditions. Fifteen hundred years ago, a force reached out of nightmare to claim Sarlona. Over the course of two centuries, the Twelve Kingdoms of Sarlona were shattered by war and psychic subversion. The Inspired rose among the ruins and forged a new, unified kingdom from the wreckage — the vast empire known as Riedra.

The provinces of Riedra were largely based on the original Twelve Kingdoms of Sarlona that they had replaced. Dor Maleer shares a border with the Tashana Tundra — a border that has been slowly shifting north over the centuries. Prior to the Sundering of Sarlona, Dor Maleer was a loose federation of clans of many races, including Akiak dwarves, Qiku shifters, and half-giants. During the Unification, the humans and shifters of the region were absorbed into the Riedran empire. The dwarf population of Dor Maleer was virtually exterminated in the Night of Razor Dreams. Dor Maleer is the Riedran frontier, and its people are not as fanatically devoted to the Inspired as their counterparts are in many of the southern provinces. Maleeri are more tolerant of nonhumans than most Riedrans, though dwarves typically receive an unfriendly reaction. Although they perform what agriculture they can in the harsh environment, the Maleeri are primarily hunters, and they respect such skills. Traditionally, anyone who brings meat to a Maleeri village is invited to stay and join in the meal.

The coastal nation of Rhiavhaar was the homeland of Lhazaar, the “explorer” who paved the way for the human settlement of Khorvaire. The sailors of Rhiavhaar often took to slaving and piracy, and Rhiavhaarian ships were feared throughout the Sea of Rage. Today this region is the westernmost outpost of Riedra, and authorized trade with the Kingdom of Q’barra and the Lhazaar Principalities in Khorvaire passes through the old Rhiavhaar port of Dar Ulatesh. Rhiavhaar is an important hub for the Riedran Navy — known as the Harmonious Sail — and a gateway to Khorvaire, so significant military forces are deployed here. The Thousand Eyes — the Riedran secret police — are especially active in this region. The province of Rhiavhaar includes the Aventus Islands, which serve as a staging area for the Harmonious Sail. These islands hold ruins of the lost aventi nation, but the Riedrans shun these areas. Although the province seems to be under the thumb of the Inspired, having a high concentration of spies and secret police, the Rhiavhaarians are not as devoted to Riedra’s way of life as the Corvagurans. A variety of dissidents hide here.

Khalesh was once a theocratic nation dedicated to the worship of the couatl, with a long history of crusades. During the Sundering, it was revealed that many of the noble families of Khalesh were actually shulassakar. The Inspired combined the general disdain for Khalesh with fear of these alien creatures, and the Khaleshites were largely exterminated over centuries of war. The humans inhabiting the region today are mostly descended from resettled people transported into the province from the west. The Khalesh region includes a number of couatl ruins from the Age of Demons. The Inspired work to suppress knowledge of these ruins, which are hidden in wild zones and protected by the Edgewalkers. The people of Khalesh know that “demons” (actually the benevolent shulassakar) once ruled their land. As a result, they are especially devoted to the Path of Inspiration, believing that great faith is required to resist the temptations of the altavars. They shun the ancient ruins and do not assist those who want to explore them.

The Nulakesh Empire dominated central Sarlona for centuries before the Sundering. Nulakesh lacked the magical or philosophical sophistication of many of the smaller Sarlonan kingdoms, but it had a large, dedicated population and extensive natural resources, along with a superbly disciplined army. Nulakesh went through many periods of expansion and decline over the centuries, and it was fading when the quori came to Sarlona. Dream manipulation helped inspire the Nulakeshi war leaders to reclaim their ancestral glory and, later, to convert the disgruntled populace to the Path of Inspiration. The strong martial tradition continues to the present day, and much of the Harmonious Shield is recruited from this province. The Nulakeshi despise nonhumans; as a result, shifters and ogres are rarely deployed in this province by the Inspired. The Nulakeshi are deeply devoted to the Inspired, and the daily exercises of the peasants often have a martial theme. Many people who would be farmers in other provinces are instead trained as warriors.

Borunan is the homeland of the ogres, another intelligent race native to Sarlona. It is a barren and hostile region, spread across the Andnemun Desert and the Kelshak Mountains. Before the Sundering, the ogres had a brutal and aggressive culture, dominated by powerful oni lords. Despite their martial might, the ogres rarely threatened the other kingdoms; the Borunan clans considered humans to be unworthy foes and devoted their energy to internal struggles. Over the course of the Sundering and the Unification, the ogres were brought under Riedran rule and forcibly converted to the Path of Inspiration. Those who resisted were killed or driven into Syrkarn, where they spawned the mongrel ogres, or eneko, through interbreeding with that land’s half-giants. Today the ogres are a surprisingly peaceful folk, their warlike culture expunged by the Inspired. Although ogres form the bulk of the population in Borunan, all villages have Chosen overseers, and human and shifter troops are found in the bastion cities. The people of Borunan tend to be cheerful and straightforward. Feats of strength are admired; a human is not expected to match an ogre but still earns respect for proving his prowess. Athletic events typically include weightlifting and throwing contests.

The pre-Unity people of Ohr Kaluun were driven by a thirst for magical knowledge and a deep paranoia that spread through every level of society. The islands’ wizards and priests sought power at any cost, and their pursuit of dark magic often set them at odds with Khaleshite crusaders and Pyrinean scholars. The Kaluunites devoted vast resources to fortification and security, creating labyrinths reinforced with steel, stone, and magic. Unfortunately for them, however, these static defenses could not protect them from the quori, who used dream manipulation to turn Kaluunite factions against one another. Today the mazes of Ohr Kaluun are vast ruins, shunned by loyal Riedrans. The Inspired wield considerable influence on Ohr Kel, the largest island of the chain, while many of the smaller islands are uncivilized by the standards of the Inspired. These places are home to smugglers, monsters, and the dark Riedran dissident group known as the Heirs of Ohr Kaluun. Adventurers seeking to enter Riedra by stealth might be able to find assistance at a smuggler’s port. However, the Riedran military is always hunting for these criminals and safe havens frequently move about.

Worship of the Sovereign Host takes many forms in different cultures, but the religion as practiced by most of the humans of Khorvaire can be traced back to the Sarlonan kingdom of Pyrine. The Pyrineans placed great value on wisdom and philosophy, and Pyrinean tutors and priests served in courts across Sarlona. However, their faith failed to protect the Pyrineans from the quori. During the Sundering, the Pyrinean church was torn apart by schisms and heresies, and Pyrine was crushed by the forces of Nulakesh and Ohr Kaluun. Although most of the libraries and temples have been destroyed, explorers might be able to find hidden vaults of knowledge or ancient shrines providing new insight into the worship of the Sovereign Host and the development of that faith. The Pyrinean love of philosophy has made them devoted to the Path of Inspiration—although not as aggressively fanatical to the doctrine as the people of Corvagura or Nulakesh. Many Riedran clerics come from this province. Pyrine is one of the most peaceful provinces of Riedra, and the Thousand Eyes and the Harmonious Shield have a reduced presence in this region. Even though they are dedicated to the Inspired, Pyrineans are not as hostile toward foreigners as other Riedrans are; many Pyrineans enjoy having the opportunity to proselytize and discuss their faith with outlanders.

A land of lush jungles and fertile plains, Corvagura is in many ways the heart of Riedra; it has the highest population density of any region in Sarlona, and both the Riedran capital city of Durat Tal and the primary port, Dar Jin, are located here. The people of Corvagura once served a tyrannical dynasty of sorcerer-kings, but the Inspired helped overthrow these dictators. In addition to having the highest population of the eight provinces, Corvagura also has the greatest number of psychic monoliths (hanbalani), a fact that undoubtedly contributes to the fanatical loyalty of the inhabitants to the Inspired. Many branches of the Unity are based in the bastions of Corvagura. A few of the other bastions are dedicated to research; noteworthy subjects include behavior modification, eugenics (specifically, the breeding of improved vessels for the Inspired), and planar theory. Politically and in terms of population, Corvagura is the crown province of Riedra. The inhabitants are deeply devoted to the Inspired, and the bulk of Riedrans who are allowed to interact with foreigners — including most sailors and merchants — are Corvaguran.

In the steppes and savannah of what is now Syrkarn, Mae Khree, Sunyagir, and Lamecha effectively orbited the more powerful Khunan, carving out specific niches for themselves (agriculture for Lamecha, the breeding and training of Sarlona’s finest horses for Mae Khree, and the mining of iron, mithril, gems and other precious minerals for Sunyagir). At the same time, each nation made a point of maintaining armies and magical might just powerful enough to keep Khunan and the northern nations from getting any expansionistic ideas. All three kingdoms were wiped from the face of Sarlona by the Sundering.

Today, Riedra’s eight provinces — Borunan, Corvagura, Dor Maleer, Khalesh, Nulakesh, Ohr Kaluun, Pyrine, and Rhiavhaar — are divided into territories known as spheres. A sphere is a circular region centered on a fortress-city called a bastion, which is ruled by a particular Inspired lord. The territory takes its name from its master—the city of Durat Tal is in the Sphere of Surasek, in the province of Corvagura. All Inspired hold the title of Lord or Lady; the ultimate leader of a bastion carries the title of Eidolon.

The typical bastion is a metropolis, and many of them rival Sharn, the biggest city in Khorvaire, in population. They are centers of industrial production, supporting the bulk of a sphere’s troops. Surrounding a bastion is a network of villages, spread out in as orderly a manner as possible, taking environmental factors and resources into account. A sphere contains dozens of villages. Most villages focus on agriculture and simple industry. Although some variance in styles and customs exists from province to province, villages within a sphere are virtually identical. No thorps, hamlets, or towns can be found — when a populations rises to a sufficient level, the Inspired draw off the excess to create a new village. Riedran villages are functional and ascetic in design. The community is centered around a building that serves as a dining hall and a public assembly, where people gather to listen to the sermons of the local priest or to hear stories of the glorious deeds of the Inspired. Villagers live in communal dormitories, with separate houses for children.

While Riedra has no lightning rail, villages and spheres are linked by a comprehensive network of maintained roads. The Inspired also have a secret system of psionic teleportation circles at their disposal, passing through the central hub of Durat Tal. The number of gates is limited. The Inspired can teleport cargo directly from Dar Jin to Durat Tal, but getting those goods to the village of Keloor, for example, requires a caravan.

The rulers of Riedra are the quori. All important decisions concerning the fate of the nation are made in Dal Quor. The bastion lords do not gather in Riedra to debate policy, because such councils are held in Dal Quor. To a foreigner, it seems that the bastion lords and generals of the Harmonious Shield operate unilaterally; however, they all act in perfect accord with the plans formulated in the Plane of Dreams.

While the destiny of Riedra is set in dreams, a complex bureaucracy manages its daily affairs. The Inspired hold the top tier. A powerful Inspired noble rules each bastion city, and Inspired serve as generals, ambassadors, inquisitors, and high ministers. Although powerful, high-caste Inspired are rare, lesser Inspired serve throughout Riedran society, in positions where trust or psionic power are required. Beholden to the Inspired, the Chosen dedicate themselves to being worthy of inhabitation by an il-altas. They manage the bulk of the administration of Riedra, also serving as officers in the military. The Chosen, unpossessed human vessels for the quori, serve as the overseers who govern most villages. The most important positions are granted to Chosen who served as Inspired before their quori spirits moved on to other hosts; after decades of possession, the minds of these individuals have been molded by the quori, and they are fully trusted by the Inspired overlords. Whether Inspired, Chosen, or commoner, Riedrans serve in one of four groups: the Unity, the Thousand Eyes, the Harmonious Shield, or the Dreaming Dark.

The population of Riedra is overwhelmingly human. Still, a few nonhuman races have been incorporated into Riedran society over the course of centuries. Members of these races can be seen in most bastion cities. Constant indoctrination and psychic reinforcement have drilled the concept of spiritual evolution into the Riedran consciousness. As a result, the typical Riedran ogre truly believes that he is inferior to the average human, but that he was born an ogre to fulfill a specific piece of his destiny. As strange as it often seems to travelers from Khorvaire, many members of these “lower races” are the most loyal servants of the Inspired. They believe they have farther to go in their spiritual journey and must work that much harder.

According to the Path of Inspiration, the changeling stands between humans and the Chosen. His ability to assume different identities is a tool to help him escape the prison of himself. He is preparing for the selfless service that is required of the Inspired, and eventually to abandon the body completely and become pure spirit. Changelings are raised in the service of the Thousand Eyes, and they spend most of their time hidden within the populace, assuming whatever identity serves the needs of the Inspired. It is an austere, ascetic life. A changeling should have as few attachments as possible and be ready to sacrifice everything — name, identity, possessions — at a moment’s notice. A changeling in his natural form is treated with both respect and a slight degree of awed fear by the common folk. He might not be one of the Chosen, but he is a superior being and, most likely, a member of the secret police called the Thousand Eyes. This attitude serves to keep the changelings from using their abilities against the Inspired. The typical changeling believes that he is a hero on the verge of apotheosis. Some manage to avoid or overcome this indoctrination, but a changeling caught working against the Inspired receives no mercy. Riedran changelings are usually rogues, monks, occasionally mastering the arts of the assassin. A rare few are trained in the psionic arts.

So few in number that most Riedrans do not even know they exist, elans hold the essence of quori spirits condemned to eternal impotence for crimes against the quori, often involving endangering the stability of Riedra. Elans undergo the same indoctrination as other nonhumans, believing that they can reclaim the evil spirit within through noble action — a true indignity for the powerless quori, who can only watch as the elan draws on its power. Some elans, whether by force of will or remnants of a rebellious nature, ignore the Path and flee. Those who remain are most often assigned to the Edgewalkers, where their durability is vital.

The Path of Inspiration teaches that savage and simple souls are incarnated as beasts. The shifter stands at the threshold of humanity; he has earned the shape of a human, but he must prove himself lest he regress to an animal form in his next life. Almost all Riedran shifters are part of the Taskaan Legion (also known as the Savage Legion), the ruthless shock troops and household guards of the Inspired’s army, the Harmonious Shield. Each shifter line is tied to a particular il-altas and serves the Inspired lord that currently channels that spirit. The Taskaan uniform includes a leather collar bearing the sigil of the lord of the line. Life for a Taskaan shifter centers on war, and the greatest desire of the Taskaan soldier is to die in direct service to his master. Such a death is the surest path to spiritual advancement in the next life. The breeding and training programs of the Taskaan shifters focus on physical attributes. Members of the Savage Legion are typically fighters and barbarians, though some of the Inspired train their “hounds” to be rangers. Considered subhuman, a Taskaan shifter acting in the name of his Inspired lord nonetheless gains the authority to challenge even one of the Chosen. This is a source of great pride for the Taskaan. They are slaves. Like the other inhabitants of Riedra, however, they revel in their chains and pity their “free” cousins.

Over the course of many centuries, the ogres of Borunan have been conditioned to abhor violence. The strength of an ogre is a gift to be used in the service of the nation, not squandered in brawling and battle. Most ogres are devoted to heavy labor, and they are often found serving as miners, lumberjacks, masons, and in other roles requiring strength, endurance, and patience. Taskaan ogres are usually fighters or barbarians; they lack the sophistication required to master more complex vocations. Eneko — the mongrel ogres — are left to their own devices in Syrkarn. They are rarely allowed to exist in Riedra except as members of the Savage Legion. The Path of Inspiration teaches that the oni, once the ruling class of Borunan’s ogres, is a vessel for a lesser altavar. That fact explains the oni’s arcane powers and fiendish appearance. According to the Riedran doctrine, the oni has been crafted as a prison for the altavar; if the oni lives a noble life of service to the Inspired, he can actually redeem the evil spirit trapped within him. Such a tremendous victory surely earns the oni great advancement in his next life. Of course, the evil spirit tempts the oni, encouraging him to use his power for personal gain or even trying to get him to turn against the Inspired. To do so might bring power in this life, but it forever dooms his soul. Regardless of conditioning, oni are constantly watched by the Thousand Eyes, the Inspired, and by their own kind. Combining intelligence and power, oni fill many roles. Still, the Inspired are unwilling to trust them with true authority. Oni are usually trained as fighters or monks. The most skilled serve the Taskaan Legion and the Thousand Eyes, while others help to coordinate the civil labors of their less intelligent ogre cousins.

Finally, to a Riedran, no one in his right mind turns against the Inspired. Those who do are clearly victims of influence by the altavars. Someone has to help these victims if possible, or do whatever is necessary to ensure that they do not threaten the spiritual advancement of other innocent souls. Those tasks fall to the Thousand Eyes — Riedra’s secret police force. The Thousand Eyes administers justice across Riedra and maintains the reclamation centers. Public agents of the Thousand Eyes — easily identified by their green uniforms and golden badges of office—can be found throughout any bastion city, and people take comfort in knowing that these guardians are always watching. Far more dangerous, however, are the secret members of the Eyes. Nearly anyone in Riedra could be an agent of the Eyes. Furthermore, even when no one is around, certain clairvoyant psychic abilities allow the Eyes to see the deeds of malefactors.

Agents of the Thousand Eyes are typically humans, Chosen, or changelings. The bulk are simply civilian observers, who used their crafts or professions as a cover. More capable agents tend to be rogues or monks, specializing in observation and stealth. Chosen and especially honored changelings are trained in the psychic arts. When force is required, the Thousand Eyes calls on Bastion Guards or the Sleeping Sword, but it also maintains a covert corps of changelings who serve as psychically-powerful assassins.

The city of Dul Zeer is the Thousand Eyes’ greatest stronghold. Here, a network of special psi-crystals allows agents to scry across the continent, and psionic teleportation circles let them dispatch forces to any bastion-city or kintam. Agents in villages can be alerted through dreams broadcast from Dal Quor or the closest hanbalan monolith. In an emergency, Inspired psions can teleport forces to the site of a disturbance using these circles. It is very difficult to do anything in Riedra without coming under the gaze of the Thousand Eyes. The High Minister of the Thousand Eyes is Lady Sharadhuna, a ruling kalaraq-caste female Inspired.

The final and perhaps most sinister organization that plays a major role in the lives of Riedrans is the Dreaming Dark.

Riedra

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