Del'Marah is the rump of a once vast empire that covered most of southern Aestis
. Its hinterland is largely made up of vast grassy plains, with fertile farmlands in the west and cold deserts and rocky hills spanning over the East.
Del'Marah is one of the wealthiest nations in Aestis, with armies that other martial powers like Dran and Ghotharand
could only dream, and a fleet that only the mercantile republics of the Molvar could match in size and quality.
Unfortunately, Del’Marah’s military strength is already committed to its large borders which defend against the Virefolk in the south, the Haatchi to the North, the Kingdom of Del’Vettor to the west, the rift valley of Trothkhannan
in the east, as well as occasionally being split among the rival factions in Del’Marah’s tumultuous political system.
The main source of Del’Marah’s wealth is actually the unglamorous Dupra beet, a root that produces most of the sugar on Aestis as well as alcohol and dye. Gold and gems are also mined from the Minnah and Queling hills respectively. Then there are the herds of the plains and the fine silks produced in farms near the mighty Rath river, that all contribute to Del’Marah’s prosperity and riches.
Del’Marah is ruled by a combined Emperor and religious protector figure known as the Del’Marahai from the city of Del’Marah itself. The empire has many religions, and is surprisingly tolerant of other faiths, but the state religion is Phefism. Practitioners of Phefism believe in a form of divination using symbolic counters that can be interpreted at home, or for greater accuracy by Judges who are raised and trained in the crater city of Phef at the dead centre of Del’Marah.
In the ancient past, what we now think of as the modern Del’Marah Empire belonged to shifting empires scrambling for control of the wide plains. Chief amongst these powers were the Sul’a, who centred on the city of Minnah, and built some of the first urban settlements on Aestis.
Then there were the Hrakk, who expanded along the river Rath from the Kourik sea to the Queling hills. East of Hrakk and South of Sul’a were the Virish, a plains people who centered around the city of Dal’Anane. Within their territory was the semi-autonomous city of Phef built in a chain of craters called the Celestial footprint, and home of the arcane Phefist judges. Finally, Cherin, originally centred at the city of Hos before being driven back to a city that would become known as Cheris’Mar by the aggressive actions of the rulers of Hrakk.
At the height of the Arc Empire, a large army under the command of a Drannic general known as Shalish was sent to acquire the wealth of the region. Shalish was canny and co-opted the tribespeople of the Queling hills to act as mercenaries against the hated Hrakkite civilization that had displaced them.
The invaders quickly overran the Northern Hrakkite subkingdom and established a base at the city of Sheng. Shalish captured most of the Duprabeet harvest that summer and used it to bribe local leaders into submission. The Queling mercenaries were promised land around Sheng and became known as the Sheng’Ha, or Sheng Landsmen.
While the Hrakk planned a counter attack, Shalish sent emissaries to Cherin inviting them to take advantage of their former aggressors with the caveat that the waters of lake Chalse and the river Rath from there to the sea would be Arc territory. While reinforcements arrived from Dran and even Arc, the Sheng’Ha, now enthused with the promise of success and material wealth, were ordered by Shalish to raid neighbouring Sul’a based on good intelligence that a famine had sapped the strength of the Sul’anese army.
By the end of Summer Sul’a had capitulated, sending gold and slaves to Shalish for a promise not to attack, and while Cherin and the Hrakkite rump state were fighting a border war, Shalish sent his reinforcements south and seized Chalse’Mar, the great capital and trading port of the upper and lower Hrakk Kingdoms. The Sheng’Ha, no longer needed in the North, defeated the Cherian vanguard on the river Hantha and forced the Cherian king and his surviving men to retreat into Virish.
With the wealth of Hrakk and very favourable trade deals coming from Sul’a, Arc was keen to continue the campaign and bring the whole region to heel. More troops were levied from Teor, Hothis and Harenis all keen for a piece of the action. Shalish moved on Cherin the next spring, not secure enough for an invasion he burned Hos to the ground and took many slaves from the surrounding regions.
Shalish had not yet struck Virish as the landlocked kingdom between Sul’a and Cherin had a known weakness, the city of Phef was a holy site for the region with only the southern Hrakk and the Queling people not followers of the religion. Shalish planned to take an army of Arc soldiers, Quels and a small force of Katak heavy horsemen from southern Hrakk, whom he had paid, and attack the city with siege engines. If his army on the plain could simply outsize the enemy, they would be forced to yield, or see their beautiful religious city fall into flames.
The following year Shalish began his Phef campaign but it was not as easy as his previous conquests. Phef lay at the end of a trail of large craters from a meteor shower named the Celestial Footprints. The local allied army made up of Cherin and Virish forces, with some Hrakkite mercenaries who could stomach fighting for their old adversaries, forced Shalish to fight a guerrilla campaign around the craters and hills of the Footprints.
Shalish responded by using his catapults to destroy the sacred sites that the local people believed were caused by ancient gods walking across their land. By the time he got to the crater of Phef his army had been reduced, but the locals had lost much more and were exhausted by endless mini sieges and seeing their heritage destroyed.
A faction of the Judges of Phef, the leaders of the religion and the lords of the city opened the gate and allowed Shalish entry, and Shalish agreed to spare Phef if they defied the King of Virish and brang the local populations to order. Shalish fought on for another two years mopping up his adversaries, finally defeating an allied force of Virish, Hrakk, Cherian and even Sul’an warriors at the battle of Minnah in which the last free Satrap of Hrakk, the usurper Autarch of Sul’a, and the king of Virish died and his young son Molan was taken as a slave.
His conquest complete Shalish ruled as a defacto Emperor of the region known as the five crowns for twenty years, sending enough loot back to the Arc cities to keep them interested but also lining his pockets and turning the austere Hrakk capital of Chalse’Mar into a glittering metropolis.
But like all dictators his greed got the better of him in the end and his desire to make himself wealthy meant cutting ties with Arc totally and acting as an independent kingdom. Arc recalled his legions and much to his surprise some of them did leave. Shalish retained a core though and still had his Sheng’Ha and local mercenaries.
What Shalish did not realise was that Molan of Virish had been sold to the Sheng’Ha and had become their leader taking on the name of Delvor. Delvor used his position as military escort to Phefist judges and regional Satraps to conspire against Shalish and, shortly before Dupra harvest season, launched a series of attacks against him.
With the Satrap of Virish, his father’s former chief advisor who held a long-standing hatred for Shalish, Delvor ordered his small peacekeeping army to attack a Drannic legionary garrison near the river Hantha. Meanwhile a large force of light troops who had been gathering in secret in the Minna hills around a village called Afra ranged into Northern Hrakk and seized the harvest.
Delvor set fire to the Drannic barracks in Chalse’Mar and marched his Sheng’Ha into the royal palace and massacred Shalish’s family and the loyal guards before capturing the King himself. A week later Shalish was taken to the victory tower he had built overlooking the river Rath and the Chalse estuary.
The large nine columned monument was designed for him to be able to see as much of his kingdom as possible and had also been used to throw dissenters from, as a way to execute them, and as such had become known as the High Martyrium. In full view of his subjects Shalish was beaten and humiliated being lifted to the top of the Martyrium by rope which was then severed by Delvor’s sword causing the King to fall nine stories.
Miraculously he survived and Delvor returned to the ground where the leaders of the revolution watched patiently as the old King died slowly and in agony over the course of an hour.
Delvor quickly turned to punish those who had served the King loyally and invited the Phefist judges to become the spiritual leaders of his new empire. Though native rulers were guaranteed for each region, all would be subservient to him. Delvor quickly brought the Queling hills into the empire and massacred the native tribes of the neighbouring region of the Vire who had plagued his father’s kingdom for so long.
Southern Hrakk, which had been radically altered by the Arc invasion became Delvor’s personal kingdom and was renamed Del in his honour. Similarly, the capital city of Chalse’mar was renamed Chalse’Marah, the suffix of Mar meaning city and Marah meaning city of cities (The Del’Marahans still refer to Arc as Arc’Marah). On Delvor’s death the city was renamed Del’Marah.
The empire expanded into its neighbour to the west, Drin, creating the Satrapies of Del’Mudir and Del’vettor, which would later unite the warring tribal Kingdoms of the Molvarian peninsula into the Satrapy of Coranthia, founding the City of Oad’Mar and Mol’Mar, now known as Oadryfe and Molvar City.
Though always racked with internal strife, inevitable for such a large and unwieldy empire, and marred by political intrigue, Del’Marah remained a powerful state until the era of history known as Sam’s March. King Samuel DeHauer of Pelonastrius was fearful of the empire’s continuing expansion so sent emissaries to the region to offer an alliance to the troublesome and restless Satrap Edik Kettyn of Del’Vettor and the tribal Queen of the High Karezim of the Molvar.
Sam planned to invade and use local allies to carve his own empire in the region. The campaign, however, was a disaster. The Molvarian free army struggled due to bickering amongst themselves and eventually most of the non Karezim tribespeople went home. Kettyn promised to send troops but had ideas of his own and actively hampered communication between Samuel and his Karezim allies, and sent letters to both Emperor Gos of Del’Marah and King Samuel promising to fight for them at the battle of Sandling gorge. The roughly equally sized armies ended up bogged down in quagmire and suffered horrendous losses. Samuel retreated with his army in tatters and Kettyn surrounded the gorge and killed the Imperial soldiers and their emperor.
The only successful action of Sam’s allies was that of the free Karezim forces who fought alongside the Brandt family of Pelonastria and defeated reinforcements from Viceroy Uika of Del’Coranthia at the battle of the Breyga Gate. The war was devastating for the region; Del’Vettor became independent and Del’Mudir withdrew from the emperor in shame.
The Satrapy of Del’Coranthia (The Molvar Peninsula) collapsed and soon most of the Molvar had returned to native hands. Del’Marah retreated back to its borders and waited a number of years before again flexing its strength on the land in the region, and instead turned to the sea where it became a bitter rival of the Serene Republic of the Karezim, also known by its more popular title ‘The Vertical Republic’.
The collapse of the empire in the west immediately sparked a civil war that saw an end to Gos’s royal Molani lineage. Crushed at the second battle of Minnah, the royal family was replaced by the cadet branch of the dynasty, the Alanda family, and the head of their family, Prince Calis, was crowned as Emperor. His Descendant, Emperor Iblim is the current ruler of Del’Marah with his son, Prince Muzsephanda (More commonly known as Muzz).
Alongside the loss of the Molvar and Del’Vettor the smaller western state of Del’Mudir also gained independence during the conflict that became known as the Western Wars. Del’Mudir right across the river from the city of Del’Marah itself has since swayed between being a free state and a client.
Del’Marahan society is ruled from the Imperial Palace at Del’Marah by the Emperor and his advisers which, alongside various ministers and generals, includes the Satrap of Del’Marah (Effectively the mayor of the city), high ranking judges of the Phefist religion, the Emperor’s immediate family, including at least one of his siblings, and usually most of his children.
Power beyond the capital is delegated to regional Satraps. A Satrap acts as a prince-governor of a region of Del’Marah. Most Satraps begin their careers as compliant members of the royalty of the constituent nations of the Empire. Those that gain the favour of the emperor are summoned to the capital and ordered to swear fealty to the Del’Marahan throne, abandoning their original royal titles.
In Del’Marahan law nobody is able to be a Satrap and a member of the royal family at the same time. When such occasions do occur, the member of the royal family is given the rank of Viceroy, such as Viceroy Uika of Del’Coranthia Emperor Gos’s youngest brother.
The City state of Phef, home of the Judges of Phef, is run by the elder Judges in much of the same way the Satrap of Del’Marah rules the capital. Satraps are chosen directly by the emperor, usually, but not always, by picking the most capable member of the current Satrap’s family.
The Judges, on the other hand, select 6 of their own rulers and 3 are appointed directly by the Emperor. Satrap’s are allowed to choose an envoy to the court from their own retinue that acts as an Ambassador between them and the Emperor himself.
Regionally local leaders of towns and tribes are appointed to interact with the Imperial bureaucracy, this is either a chieftain or a chosen adviser of the chieftain. Local provinces are bound to provide taxes in the form of coin or needed resources as well as a number of able bodies to the regional Satrap, the Satrap in turn is expected to do the same for the emperor.
Outside the regional capitals and port towns most of the imperial subjects are either farmers, soldiers or nomadic hunter/gatherers. As well as the Imperial infantry, there are also the elite Sheng’Ha shock troopers, mainly drawn from the Hrakk and Sul’a, and the Afrads, a highly skilled mixed set of tribal light infantry and bowmen who primarily hail from Virish, Sul’a and Cherian.
Horse units are divided into Hetar, the lighter fast cavalry who fight with bows and lances, made up of a mixture of plains warriors, the ‘Del’Haatchi’ of the Queling Hills, who are the personal retinue of the regional Satrap’s cavalry. Then there are the Katak, heavily armed and armoured imperial lancers trained, and paid for, directly by the emperor.
Until recently, the Kourik sea was a Del’Marahan lake but the collapse of the western empire has led to the successor states taking a large chunk of this title. Del’Mudir was a powerful naval force in the years following Sam’s March, largely due to the Imperial fleet being anchored there prior to the collapse. Though Del’Mudir let this title slip, the Vertical Republic quickly took its place, and now as a smaller but more dynamic navy of the region based around fast galleys, galleots and galleasses using innovation, quality control and professional crews as their benchmarks.
In contrast the Del’Marah navy relies on convicts and slave rowers, and their large and clunky biremes, triremes and quinqueremes, despite being powerful and difficult to bring down, are heavier and less capable than the Vertical Republic equivalents. The loss of the recipe of Hrakkite seafire to the Vertical Republic has further robbed the Empire of their main advantage of being able to squeeze bellows of burning viscous oil at their enemies at sea as a supreme weapon of terror.
Further to this, the Kingdom of Molvaria, known more commonly by its nickname the Horizontal Republic, based on the rougher and more open Dorling sea has taken ship building to new heights developing cog and caravel type vessels that can traverse deep waters without fear.
Del’Marah is an immensely wealthy power but draws a lot of wealth from a rather humble source. The Dupra beet commonly grown all over the Hrakk and Del Satrapies and in Western Cherian and Virish produce over half of the sugar produced on Aestis and is exported far as Del’Marahan ships can carry it.
The plant is also a source of dye, fodder and alcohol, Dupra rum is a popular drink across the continent especially in sea ports where taverns can get first choice over the batches they purchase. Ruby Rum is one of the most popular upmarket brands and Purple Rum or ‘Imperial’ made from a rare species of the planet, can command the same price per bottle of the trading ships that bring it to shore.
Black Beet is a thicker almost cordial like drink that is commonly drank watered down and can be thickened up and used as medicine or even a sealant glue. Red Rum also known as Old Red or Millander, after the concentration of red haired people in the Mill Lands is by far the most common brand and a bottle can be afforded easily by sailors and commoners alike.
Del’Marah is also rich with mineral resources, the gold and silver mines along the Minnah hills still provide precious metals, but have become increasingly harder to work in recent years, and the gemstones found in the Queling Hills of the North, through frequent Haatchi raids, provide their own difficulties. In the Del Satrapy are petroleum pits where Seafire is extracted as well as products to protect ship hulls.
The wide plains provide excellent grazing for herd animals with a tendency for cattle in Virish and ungulates in Sul’a, this has always made it tempting for deep Haatchi raids into Virish to steal the valuable cows and buffalo.
Del’Marah is also a producer of silk, primarily in the west and along the river Rath and on the Kourik coast where creation, sale and transport can be optimised. Del’Marahan silk is considered to be of excellent quality due to centuries of wide scale production and competitiveness amongst the silk houses of the Rath and the Kourik.
Del’Marah is abundant with a flowering shrub called the Baddow plant, that acts, when ingested as an appetite suppressant and produces a euphoric effect. The leaves, commonly known as chew are given to workers and soldiers as it is habit forming and helps with concentration and compliance.
Withdrawal can cause paranoia and aggression, but it is so easily grown that never has been a concern to the ruling classes of Del’Marah.The flowers of the plant can also be brewed into a tea that has hallucinogenic properties. This is often given in diluted doses for pain and high fever but stronger doses are imbibed by tribal shamans and Phefist judges alike to help connect with the higher and lower realms.
Places of Interest
Del’Marah is the glittering heart of the empire. Formerly known as Chalse’Mar, the capital of the Southern Hrakk, it became Chalse’Marah and finally Del’Marah when Emperor Delvor the Great died. Del’Marah is built on a defensible rocky peninsula where the rivers Rath and Sheng meet and just before they empty into lake Chalse. Del’Marah overlooks the Kingdom of Del’Mudir, a sometimes client kingdom of the empire that sits on the other side of the broad river Rath. Del’Marah is one of the oldest permanent settlements south of the Arching Mountains rivalled only by Minnah.
The city is divided into 3 distinct districts. The Chalse district, which is the original city defended by the Chalse wall and contains the High Martyrium, a monument to the kings of old and the highest free-standing structure in the empire. The next section is the Shalish district, mainly constructed during the reign of Shalish of Dran, Delvor the Great and Delvor II.
The Shalish district contains The Marah, the official name of the royal palace, a vast, classically Hrakkite building surrounded by ornate gardens and high walls the western side of which were the Chalse Walls. The Shalish district is also home to Minnah Park, a large public common bequeathed by the Empire to the people for hunting, sports and duelling.
To the North of the district is the Autarch’s bridge, across the river Sheng into the Hrakk Satrapy and the only route out of the city that does not follow the three main land roads out of the city. The Shalish district is bordered in the east by the Shalish wall and the Imperial Dock, a former swamp, expanded and converted into a shipyard.
The final region, the Gemde District, is a modern, more gauche part of the city squeezed between the Sheng and the Imperial Dock, it contains the city garrison building and the city’s shortest but strongest and most modern set of walls the Oren wall. The wall is dotted with three large gatehouses each servicing one of the land roads out of the city; the Sheng Road to the north, the Minnah road in the middle and the Phef road to the south.
The River Rath
Once the great divide between the east and west parts of the Empire, the Rath now marks the western limits of Del’Marah from the Queling Hills to the Kouric sea. The capital city itself sits on the confluence of the river Rath and the river Sheng a short distance before lake Chalse. As well as the capital and the biggest lake in the empire the Rath is home to the cities of Harath’Mar, Calis’Mar and the Dupra Lands, a particularly fertile piece of the empire devoted to the cultivation of the famous Duprabeet.
The second city of the Empire, Minnah sits at the foot of the Minnah hills and it is the capital of the Satrapy and former nation of Sul’a. Minnah has gained its material wealth from the mines of the neighbouring hills and trading the cattle raised on the vast plains of Sul’a and Virish. Minnah is an even older city than the capital and has monuments and catacombs are of immense interest to scholars from beyond the borders of the empire. Minnah is also the centre for research on Amarah in Del’Marah and most of the armies that patrol the rift valley of Trothkanan and are trained in fighting semi-magical beings.
The Celestial Footprints and Phef
Across the plains of Virish are a line of dozens of craters caused by an ancient meteor storm coming to ground there. Most of the craters are barely visible now but some still remain, many are considered to be sacred sites, none more so than the holy city of Phef, the centre of the Phefist religion.
Located in the far east of Sul’a, and indeed the empire at the far end of the Minnah hills, is the last outpost of Vrai Dendall. Vrai Dendall is officially the capital of the Satrapy of Del’Vire.
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