Merren is a Midem country bordered on the west by Illena, the north by Oritan and the east by Soline. Rajel and the Sea of Islands are to its southwest, Tonga and the Mok Sea to its south, and Vaur and the Gentle Sea to its southeast. Over half the border is coastline.   It's nasty civil war and the corrupted rule of the despot are its current defining features.
all artwork by Shanda Nelson unless otherwise stated

Javone is captial in name only. Cilair, wishing to rid his family of associations with the despot, has chosen to relocate, though the exact place he plans to reside has yet to be set.
  The north is forested mountains in the Meygharkin Range, and contains parts of the Bane, a thick-growth, silent forest with a few trade routes, a couple of small villages, the city of Hendelven, and nothing else. The Jonna Foothills run across the country, with the trade city of Tindrel as the only large habitation. Central Merren is grassland and rich farmland, with two cities, Emphatrisse and Solarienne.   The Tavo River intercepts the Maerioh River south of Solarienne, and the Maerioh continues to the ocean. The semi-tropical Coastal Forest follows the southwest coastline to the southernmost tip of the country. The huge Gelthin Swamp is part of the Coastal Forest, and found east of Restik.  
The Bane, Merren by Shanda Nelson
The trees within the Bane grow close enough together the canopy blocks out most of the sunlight. Thick ferns and hardy shrubs occupy the ground. The forest is deadly silent, the only sounds from a bird or two, and the creaking of tree branches. Superstition claims that the silence is due to the presence of ghosts who congregate beneath the trees after having lost their way to the Abysses. These ghosts supposedly prey upon the living in revenge for their unlucky afterlife. It is why so few suvivied a trip through the Bane before the Jonna Empire established permanent trade routes.
  Merren has breathtaking landscapes, from the tall, snowy peaks of the Meygharkins through lush forests and farmland, to the vistas overlooking the Wanderer's Ocean. The beauty hides the harsh environments; the Meygharkins are tall and cold, the Bane a nightmare to traverse, the Gelthin Swamp a disease-ridden landscape with fierce predators, and the seaside near Qorum is home to the gentle shark, a ship-sized predator attracted to the abundance of smaller fish and sea mammals that swim the waters there.
The Dikalari, once a pilgrimage route for dragonpriest adherents, now funnels trade goods from Jonnta and to Rikondi. Tindrel is an important stop on this long, heavily used road.
  Merren's current economy is based on trade.   The two major ports are Qorum, on the eastern seaboard, and Javone, in the south. Javone rests on the Maerioh, and cargo is transferred there from ocean-bound ships to river vessels that take goods as far north as Hendelven, and vice versa. It is the central point for goods coming from Tonga.   Merren has several trade routes, including part of the Lower Trade Route, a Jonna Empire road built as a way to safely transport goods. It also contains part of the Dikalari, an ancient pilgrimage road that passes the lairs of all Five Dragons.
Hendelven is one of the most important trade cities in the Midem countries. It is the center for overland caravans traversing the Northern Trade Route through the Bane, and is the last stop on the Maerioh River for cargo ships. The despot heavily taxed the shipments that went through the city, thinking he could grow rich from the income. Instead the caravans found other routes.
  Merren began as an administrative state created by the Jonna Empire military in an effort to divide the Leandrein people, who were not shy about revolt. They divided them between three different countries; Illena, Oritan, and Merren, and placed strict regulations about who could cross borders.   General Juldaor magnanimously placed himself in charge of the newly created state of Merren. He divided the country into several provinces and subprovinces, handed leadership roles to his most favored men, and settled in a small seaside port town called Qorum.   His rule did not last long; the Leandrein, angry about their treatment by the empire, and incensed at the immediate and all-encompassing corruption of the leadership under Juldaor, banded together with other discontents and stormed Qorum. A handful of Leandrein rounded him and his advisors up, marched them to the border with Soline, threw them across and told them to stay there. Juldaor and his men headed north, but disappeared a few days afterwards. Most scholars assume the Soline general, Dravioh, got rid of an embarrassment, and do not believe his claims to the contrary.  
A well-known and respected Condi siojhetioh, Velsioh, took the reins. She showed compassion and empathy to the Leandrein, and helped smooth ancestral hatreds that many peoples within the new borders shared towards the more numerous, more war-like Leandrein. She proved herself equal to the task of uniting disparate peoples, and managed to make Merren a prosperous land during her lifetime. She settled in Solarienne, a central location, and made it her captial.   Her descendents ruled until the collapse of the empire. The Leandrein descendants revolted against the Jonna rule near present-day Tindrel. They were slaughtered, but their act lit the first ember of resistance, which slowly grew into an inferno. The Jonna rulers were banished and a once-prosperous native family, the Gelthin, claimed the throne. Their ascension marked a time of intense inter-country fighting, where they and their allies attempted to eradicate empire inlfuence from the land. Their main goal was to drive the remaining outland descendants back to their respective native countries and turn local properties over to Midem families. Two centuries later, they were soundly defeated by a coalition of Midem, aki n'di ori and Condi rebels, led by the Luthaerioh family. The remaining Gelthin were exiled to the southern swamplands, a place they would never prosper.
  The Luthaerioh did little better initially, but a strong leader, Pering, managed to unite the people under one banner three generations later. He initiated several trade agreements, including one that made Merren the sole port that Tonga would ship goods through. He founded Javone near an extant temple, and grew rich from the sale of exotic items that came from the southern continent by way of Tonga ships.   The Luthaerioh remained in power until 4300 AGI. At that time, an influx of western nobles fleeing warlord agression chose to settle in Merren. They wanted a safe land, and found the ruling family soft and weak, easy prey for murderous warlords. Casin, an ambitious oldest son from a once-prominent Amberfar family, married into the Luthaerioh, and quickly became a close and valued advisor to his father-in-law, who in turn, advised the king. His prompts convinced King Ardin to increase taxes and build up a standing army, despite the heavy resistance from nobles who considered it a threat. Ardin was murdered just before western warlords made it to the Merren borders from Oritan, and they met enough resistance from the newly-created army that they gained no purchase. Casin became a hero for his foresight, and the nobles who once opposed him made him king. The Luthaerioh hated the betrayal, but they had no backing and faded away, destined to become a small noble house in the northern trade city of Hendelven. Casin started the Ashter family dynasty.  
Modern Times
  The Ziohanexh are a class of high aristocrats descendent from the Luthaerioh and Ashter royal family members who did not become rulers. Most have a tangential link to the immediate royal family. In the past, many became advisors and high court officials. In the present, the despot nearly exterminated all of them, as eager as he was to eradicate anyone who might have a legitimate claim to the throne. It is a title now held by only a few remaining individuals, and they are not eager to promote their lineage, considering the harm it brought.
The ruling family again became weak and complacent, and in 5105, a distant royal cousin, backed by bloodmages, began a purge of the powerful nobles in Merren. Once the ziohanexh had fallen, in 5112 he ordered his army to attack Javone. The civil war did not last long; he assassinated the king and murdered most of the royal family, which gave him a direct line to the throne. He crowned himself in 5113.   A time of intense hardship ensued. The despot confiscated monies from noble and merchant alike, and sent the suddenly destitute to work in warehouses and on farms. He rewarded his backers with the land he had taken, and issued proclamations and reworded laws to steal as much money through taxes and outright theft as possible. He forced all trade to go through his ministers, and taxed the merchants so heavily most caravans stopped doing business in Merren. Products and food became scarce outside Javone and Tindrel.   Refugees to Illena brought tales of woe, but also of kidnappings and murders. Concerned for the safety of the border, King Shiel sent spies into Merren, and they returned with tales of bloodmages soaked in the death of the Merren people. He invaded. Illena liberated Merren in 5118, with the help of young, very distant royal cousins and their allies. Cilair and Jeysephen gave legitamacy to the invasion, and more Merrens accepted the Illenans as saviors than otherwise would have. The combined forces of Illena and Merren rebels burned the Javone palace to the ground and executed the despot, then began to hunt down the bloodmages.   Only then, did the populace learn the extent of the despot's corruption. As payment for their aid, he had sold his people's lives to the bloodmages so they might exact magickal power from the deaths. Those who had received the gifts of mansion and land from the despot had turned them into recepticales for bloodstones, random objects that collected the power and stored it for later use. They had expected those wells to keep the despot, and thus themselves, on the throne, and they needed a supply of bodies to do so. Despite the evidence, some still refuse to believe the horrors committed without their knowledge, and blame the Illenans for spreading lies as a way to justify their invasion. These people have formed an underground rebellion whose purpose is to drive the Illenans from Merren and place a proper ruler on the throne.  
  Prince-designate Cilair, though a distant descendant, is still a descendant of Casin, adding legitamacy to his bid for the throne. Once officially crowned king by concensus of the remaining nobles, he plans to discard the Ashter name and begin a new ruling dynasty. He has chosen Vaeyael as his family dynasty name, which means 'flourish' in Old Nae. He hopes the change will help differentiate his rule from that of his tainted predecessor.   While Cilair has vowed to help Illena destroy the bloodmage presence in Merren, many nobles have become suspicious about his motives since their caste became a target of the bloodmage purge. Rebels have seeded the gossip, claiming him an Illenan puppet, ready to destroy their country for the foreign good. He decided a more stealthy approach to apprehending the remaining bloodmages necessary, though King Shiel and his advisors wonder if the caution is the appropriate response.
Society and Culture
  In general, the culture of Merren resembles those of other Midem countries where the primary language is Jonnese (Diodan, Illena, Jonnta, Soline). They inherited their mutual cultures from the Jonna Empire, so have similar tastes in government, religion, music, art, and the mystery arts.   Too many with the means fled Merren when the despot came to power, leaving a void of mystery art and academic talent. Common craftsmen now create nearly all the art, and educating the populace has fallen to the civic-minded and reigious. Few engineers, architects and the like remain, so the remnants of local guilds are picking up the slack. Farmers have become far more important than before the despot, since Prince-designate Cilair does not have enough funds to purchase food from outside sources. Their work is now seen as necessary and both Merren and Illenan leaders have pushed a romanticised stereotype of those who work the land, hoping more people will move to the countryside and grow crops and tend animals.   While Midem people are still dominant, Condi and aki n'di ori have a greater say in communities because the despot silenced so many previous leaders. Aki n'di ori are especially eager to take a more active role in local government, since so many have lived in Merren for generations without the benefits granted their Midem peers. Some nobles and merchants resent the change, but any mention of reverting to previous ideals is met with scorn and hate, considering how the despot warped them to suit his power hunger.  
The Peoples of Merren
  Merren has a diverse population. The central regions are home to the Midem peoples, most of whom are descendant from the Leandrein or smaller native populations. Many Jonna Empire soldiers and mystery artists from various conquered countries settled there after retirement, and their descendants remain. Aki n'di ori are especially prominent, and large populations live in Tindrel and Javone. Most nobles have family roots in Teutche-speaking countries, and while exceedingly proud of their western ancestry, they tend to highlight their Condi ancestors more frequently as a way to link their families to powerful siojhetioh.
These peoples lived in harmony, more or less, until the despot came to power. Many Midem nobles, who resented outland descendents owning so much land, declared allegiance to him in hopes of obtaining some of that land and growing their personal wealth. Their greed was short lived, since the whims of the despot tended to yank gifts from his faithful followers at even the faintest hint of disagreement with him. Much of the land now sits fallow and empty, as inheriters have perished and pre-despot registries were destroyed, so previous ownership cannot be identified.   This has caused strife between a small subset of Midem people, who believe they are owed the land by default, and people whose families have lived within Merren's borders for thousands of years, but who are still considered outsiders. These Midem partisans desire to evict Illenans from their country, oust those who are not considered Midem, place a proper ruler on the throne and return the lands and communities to their rightful owners. While small, they are fanatic, and are beginning to cause more and more problems for everyone, inside and outside Merren's borders.

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