Thuria and Beyond
Anshan is a warm land whose inland regions are largely stony, infertile and sparsely populated. The coastal area is more hospitable and a number of city states are located there.
The mostly dark-haired, dark-complexioned Anshani people speak a variety of tribal languages. A number of culturally distinct human tribes live in different parts of the Anshani empire, including the Bajkari, the Kaklani and the Zariri.
A love of decorative art is one trait shared in common among both the nomadic tribes and the civilised city dwellers of Anshan so virtually everything made is attractive. Even the most common items, such as bags to carry produce to the bazaars, are decorated in some way. Even riding horses, camels and other beasts of burden are decked out in woven finery. All but the most humble buildings tend to be decorated with ornate carvings and hung with colourful silk banners. Not only the visual arts are prized in Anshan, so poetry and story telling are time-honoured traditions. In the larger cities, huge crowds sometimes gather to pay tribute to the most skilled tellers of legendary tales.
Another trait common to both Anshani city-dwellers and nomadic tribes is the importance accorded to family ties. Villages are built around the family unit, with most residents being kin to the village elder. In turn, in the tribal areas of western Anshan, these village elders are related in some way to the more powerful tribal chiefs whose word is law. Even In the larger cities, very large family groups remain close-knit, with members of a particular family living together behind the walls of a private compound of buildings or occupying adjacent properties in a neighbourhood dominated by their group. Each head of such a family group is known as a Kan.
The civilised peoples of Anshan living in the cities and in the cultivated lands around them practise an honour code built around notions of family honour, pride and hospitality. Family is more important than the individual. Family defines the individual. Personal honour is also family honour and vice versa. First and foremost is an Anshani’s immediate family. His most intense loyalty always lies here, and then out to other kin, on out to the most remote clan member, then out to the Emperor. Insults must be paid for, no matter how great or how small. Hospitality is also important to the Anshani. Generosity is honourable, so food and drink must be given to anyone who comes to them in peace. All guests must be protected, so the Anshani take responsibility for all who are in their homes. Their honour depends on this. Once a person is a host’s guest, that person is safe, not to be poisoned or betrayed, nor can the guest harm the host.
Heavily influenced by the Vendhyan religion, the Anshani people, regardless of tribal affiliation, tend to be fatalistic, willing to follow whatever fate they believe their gods have given them. Fate is important to the Anshani and they believe the gods command their destinies, both as individuals and as a nation. They do not get depressed at the dooms they see before them, just accepting of them. It is with this fatalistic outlook that the Anshani have observed and accepted the rapid rise and the strange whims of their God King.
For millennia, the rulers of Anshan remained relaxed about the religious practices of the people. Temples to gods of Vendhya coexisted with shrines honouring the practices of obscure shamans and ancestor worshippers. In recent years, however, the God King Xerchanas has declared himself to be divine and has forbidden the worship of all other deities. In the capital city, particularly, temples have been demolished or taken over by the new cult of the God King. Only in remote tribal areas and in Anshani cities rather far from Anshanar do many people dare to defy the God King’s edict openly.
Anshan is an ancient land, ruled for millennia by a single dynasty whose vast, ornate palace sits at the heart of the decadent city of Anshanar. Anshani rulers style themselves as emperors and have long harboured ambitions to grow their influence east into Vendhya, west into the dark lands and north into the lands surrounding the Vilayet Sea. The latest in this long line of rulers is the cruel, debauched God-King Xerchanas.
Anshan has been steadily building its military might since the time of Darshanas. Under Xerchanas the God King, the build up of fighting forces is continuing at an accelerated pace. In addition to building up regiments of fighting men drawn from the various tribes of Anshan, Xerchanas has a penchant for exotic, terrifying additions to his forces such as armoured elephants, rhinos and other giant beasts.
One particular unit is greatly feared across Anshan – the elite warriors known as the Immortals. Fanatically loyal to Xerchanas, these black-garbed fighters go into battle under black banners, wielding curved swords and wearing grotesquely grimacing silver masks. Under their masks, the Immortals have horrifically scarred and burned faces, their teeth filed to sharp points to resemble the fangs of fierce animals. The scars and burns are inflicted deliberately with blades, acid and white hot metal – all part of the bizarre initiation rituals expected of recruits to this elite unit.
The natural border of Anshan to the north is formed by the Ilbars Mountains, an exceptionally long range of high peaks, beyond which lies a largely uninhabited wilderness of desert and steppes. To the south, Anshan is separated from the black kingdom of Nebthu by the Mountains of Gold. The south-western stretch of the Ilbars range is considered to be part of Drujishan, a cursed and shunned region of black rock said to be haunted by demons. Immediately to the east of Anshan, across a thickly forest range of hills, is the remote land of Venjipan.
Important cities in Anshan include:
In addition to the human settlements of this land, the ancient, ruined gnoll city of Veka-Kusa lies within the bleak, inhospitable wastes of central Anshan. Still inhabited by several thousand gnolls, this once-magnificent settlement is all that remains of a largely vanished gnoll civilisation.
Gnolls aside, none of the major humanoid races are native to Anshan. But monstrous humanoids are actively sought after for service in the armies of Xerchanas. Gnolls are feared by ordinary residents of Anshan’s cities but many of these creatures serve in the armies of Xerchanas. It pleases the God-King and his commanders to afford gnollish fighters the privilege of consuming the flesh of slain enemies.
Animals native to Anshan include camels, elephants and various big species of big cat.