Shiar

To live in chaos and ignorance is not to live at all.
— Shiari scripture
  Shiar is a strict matrilineal monarchy located on the western coast of Takawaoku, where it sits between the 'inner sea' of Paiyu'um and the boundless waters of the open sea beyond. Irezut, Areshket, and Nahazam are amongst its northern neighbours, and the country maintains a tense and antagonistic relationship with southern Osori. The climate is known for being lush and bountiful, and benefits greatly from the shielding its northern mountain range provides from the hot desert winds. Due to its favourable position and relatively stable political situation, Shiar has maintained one of the largest populations in all Takawaoku - a feat to be proud of, in recent struggles.   To travellers, Shiar is best known for the extensive lists of rules its inhabitants - visiting or permanent - must follow, alongside their great prowess in the magical arts. Unlike many nations in northern continents, Shiar does not discriminate between arcane and divine magic, seeing both as equal in the procurement of knowledge. The country holds a number of educational institutions designed for the betterment of magical knowledge and study, accessible largely to citizens of Shiar. Outsiders generally may obtain access to these institutes through a series of tests and payments, and must adhere to the Queen's Word whilst in attendance, with a number of extra provisos set out for outsider students to adhere to in addition to the traditional code.   Shiar's past is young in comparison to nations like the Aletheian Empire; the current monarchist system has been in place for six centuries, compared to the millennia of others. Prior to the country's unification under Queen Khairah I, the area was a number of split states recovering from the collapse of both Methelzim and Ramzn, and reeling from the impact of a horrific series of hurricanes and drought. The rising queen, as a refugee from Areshket, brought both prosperity and stability to the area with her merchant-family's wealth and magical skill, and united the states with promises of peace and knowledge - promises that the population of Shiar agree she has fulfilled. This faith in their first queen has transferred down the line to the current Divine Queen Asfiya II and her heiress, Holy Princess Chandna.   The capital of Shiar, Masdarat, sits at the edge of the Inner Sea of Paiyu'um, and functions as the Queen's personal seat of military and trade power. It is the most populous and most powerful of Shiar's four cardinal cities. Following its example as the other cardinal cities, in order of population, are Tijadhan in the west, Muharib in the south, and Alharis in the north. By design, these four cities provide stability to their local regions and protect against outside forces.

Demography and Population

We are one people. If I am veiled and hidden, if runes shield my face, what species would you guess I am? I could be a tiefling as easily as a human. Do not judge.
— wise woman
  Shiar's populace is predominantly human, with significant orc and halfling majorities. Planetouched beings and hybrids of all sorts are exceedingly common; half-elves who feel out of place in Rhaead often travel to Shiar, as the two countries remain on pleasant terms. Catfolk, kitsune, and other bestial races are also more prevalent in Shiar, having immigrated from Ahtiraq, Tevairai, Keselam and other places both across the Inner Sea and from the scalding north or mountainous south.   Relative peace has remained within the populace despite the cultural clashes of so many different species, helped massively by the rules laid out in the Queen's Word. Veiling one's appearance or utilising runic magic to disguise oneself is seen as commonplace, and it is considered rude to enquire after the truth of someone's appearance - or to ask them to raise their veil. Nevertheless, issues do arise. These are quickly dealt with by the Queen's Angels.

Religion

The Queen's word is absolute. We must not sin, for committing sin is to dirty her word and her gift. But when we fail, for we are not perfect, we may repent and become clean once more by knowledge, by service, by atonement.
— Shiari citizen
  The state religion of Shiar is one all citizens are expected to follow and respect. Personal beliefs are understood and permitted, so long as the worship of personal idols does not impede faith and worship of the Pantheon of Learning. Said Pantheon is comprised of a number of deities from across the world, and as expected, particularly includes those from Takawaoku. The list of deities respected and worshipped by Shiar changes according to the current political situation, and reflects the needs of the nation; in times of drought, Gozreh may be added to the list, for instance. There are some deities that have never left the list: these include Nethys, Sivanah, Lissala, and Asmodeus.   Each month is dedicated to a specific god from the Pantheon of Learning, with some bearing similarities to the calendar popularised in the northern reaches of Istralar. There are also numerous festival days and celebrations around various deities, all of which are expected to be faithfully adhered to by the entire populace. In addition, the Divine Queen herself is worshipped through the first month of each year, and the birthday of every past Divine Queen is occasion for celebration. The Divine Queen is a holy figure all unto herself, and though not expected by the Queen's Word or other laws, most citizens of Shiar maintain a shrine to the current Queen in their homes alongside their shrines to each true divinity.   The religious aspects of the Queen's Word are some of the most important, defining how each citizen must dress to show respect, and the daily acts of worship they must perform. All inhabitants of Shiar must wear translucent veils across their faces in honour of Sivanah, for instance; this also doubles as a method of preventing the spread of illness.   Daily worships begin with the rise of the sun and involve personal prayers and thanks to the gods, followed with a small, mandatory session of study and relaxation before the day may begin. The midday worship is loud and communal, culminating in feasts held by towns and cities in unison - granting all a break from work, and rejuvenating minds. At night, the worships are again personal - venerating one's chosen deity before rest, and seeking the blessing of kind dreams from the Pantheon. It is during the night rituals that citizens are expected to paint runes of warding and protection on their palms and doors to keep away any night-roaming demons.

Education

How are we to remain the jewel of Takawaoku if our brains are dull?
— rhetorical question to a small school child
  As can be determined from the prior discussions on this topic, Shiar places extremely high priority on education - almost as high as they do on religion. Whilst the nation's many research academies have already been mentioned - and are, indeed, a source of international fame and progress in both scientific and magical fields - it is important to remember that Shiar considers education a fundamental basic in society. Children begin attending state schooling at age 5, and may only leave formal education at age 13 if they have secured a long-term apprenticeship with the approval of their parent or guardian. Orphans are not uncommon in Shiar, and often need the income apprenticeships offer. As many guardians to these orphans are either in charge of orphanages or involved with the school system, it is considered valuable to sign them away to apprenticeships so that they may receive the dedication they need to grow.   Magical education takes a slightly different form. Due to Shiar's reverence for magic, a class schism has formed between those with magic and those without. Students with magical aptitude are granted free scholarships and training in magical academies across the country, often being transported away from their families to properly learn how to control and utilise their powers. Those particularly powerful will usually receive offers of apprenticeship from higher-ranking mages, thus elevating their status. Through this system of magical schooling, most magic-users in Shiar have little contact with the mundane, and usually gather exclusively in the country's largest cities.   This schism proved to be particularly problematic when Gaia's Lament set in and sealed the Southern Continent's ability to teleport or grow food with magic, as the majority of politicians had fallen quite out of touch with the mundane way of doing things. Thankfully, the exception to the politics and apprenticeships of most magic users were the druids. Those in tune with the natural world eschewed cities and schools in favour of more tribal gatherings and traditional ways of doing things, and quickly set about aiding the Divine Queen when Shiar first plunged itself into mass hunger. It was through their devotion and efficiency that the country was spared excess starvation, and the druidic lessons have taken priority across all magical academies - as have courses on mundane agricultural planning. After all, nobody is certain how long the Lament will last.

Never Live a Lifeless Day

Founding Date
4985
Capital
Predecessor Organizations
Demonym
Shiari
Government System
Monarchy, Absolute
Power Structure
Unitary state
Currency
Gold
Legislative Body
the Queen's Eyes
Judicial Body
the Scales of Sin
Executive Body
the Queen's Angels
Official State Religion
Official Languages

Slavery

  Slavery is considered commonplace in Shiar. Slaves are typically brought in from other countries - such as Osori, Shiar's current target in matters of war - though free individuals may choose to sell themselves into slavery (an act often done to atone for severe sins). Slaves handle much of the menial work in larger cities. Shiari slaves are typically treated far better than many elsewhere due to legal mandates on work hours, working conditions, and places of rest; this does not spare them from brutal punishment, or from other abuses that can be well-hidden from the eyes of the law. Slaves are marked by their runic collars and the binding runes emblazoned on their wrists, back, and forehead. These marks are typically placed by state magicians, and bind the slave to the owner's command unless the command would be significantly detrimental to themselves.   Slaves are often well-educated to help in matters of reading and writing, and may obtain freedom through their dedication to work. After fifteen years of labour, a slave may petition the state for freedom, at which time their cause will be considered. In the majority of cases, the slave is granted freedom along with any immediate family members (e.g. significant other and children), though often the slave in question remains with their existing employer and receives a salary and promotions instead. Upon gaining freedom, a slave's runic brands are dispelled and the collar removed. Some keep the faded remains of the brands as a reminder.

Cover image: Photobash ft. Library Books by Hanhula
Character flag image: Flag of Shiar

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