Ashoka

Kestrel Sumner
Citizen of the World
Joined: June 17th, 2004, 9:25 pm

July 23rd, 2008, 8:44 pm #1

ASHOKA
Government
Type: Totalitarian Dictatorship
Head(s) of State: Neriasis
  • Title: Moghul
Relations with Other Countries?
  • Angkar: Ashoka's relationship with Angkar remains fairly cool, for Neriasis is nearly oblivious to the fact that Angkar even exists. Likely this will change with time, but due to the country's location it will likely remain at the low end of Ashoka's attention for a while. Though trade lines have a possibility of being mended and expanded upon in time.
  • Morrim: Neutral and somewhat off Neriasis's radar but not to the same degree as Angkar. He is aware of its existence and also aware that an alliance with Morrim would be beneficial should Soto become unruly. Thus potential talks of alliance or reciprocated neutrality are likely in the future.
  • Soto: One might call the relationship between Soto and Ashoka strained. They have long butted heads over governmental ideals, and to make this worse, there is the petty squabble between Neriasis and Councillor Aniketos Hesperés. It does not help that Neriasis's only potential ally on the council, Galena Barillus, has disappeared and his actions in taking over Ashoka will only help to reinforce Aniketos' negative perception of him, in a fashion that could easily sway others to see the new leader of Ashoka in the same light as Councilor Hesperés. Potentially this animosity could lead to the two countries cutting each other off from trade or starting a war.


Geography
Capital City: Eldahar

Notable Cities:
  • City of Oracles
  • Etruria
Climate: Ashoka's general climate is much hotter than that of the rest of Soare—it is, after all, a desert. Within the Takar Desert itself, there are really only two seasons: hot and "cold," meaning that it is typically arid and rarely sees precipitation, although in the winter it is rather temperate. When the desert does see precipitation, it rains violently in a massive downpour following a long dryspell.

The No'bu Jungle in the southern portion of the country sees a different climate. Here it is hot and humid. It rains frequently and violently and there is little variance in temperature throughout the year.
  • Seasons:
    • Spring:
      Desert: Cooler temperatures, although still relatively hot. Violent, heavy downpours following long dryspells.

      Jungle: Hot and humid with frequent, violent rainstorms.
    • Summer:
      Desert: Extremely hot and dry. Violent, heavy downpours following long dryspells.

      Jungle: Hot and humid with frequent, violent rainstorms.
    • Autumn:
      Desert: Extremely hot and dry, although the temperature is beginning to cool some as winter approaches. Violent, heavy downpours following long dryspells.

      Jungle: Hot and humid with frequent, violent rainstorms.
    • Winter:
      Desert: Cooler temperatures, although still relatively hot. Violent, heavy downpours following long dryspells.

      Jungle: Hot and humid with frequent, violent rainstorms.
Terrain: Ashoka is, for the most part, composed of sand. Large cresting dunes compose the vast majority of the country's eastern, western, and northern parts, with the dense and humid No'bu Jungle to the south, bordering both Morrim and Soto. Running across the southern border of the desert where it eventually transitions into the jungle are the Xeric Scrublands. These are followed by the Badlands, which run up the coast of the Tamarind Bay. The Badlands are rocky compared to the desert and are home to the Origa Canyon, which runs towards the east where it empties into the Tamarind Bay. There are a few oases located within the Takar, the most notable being the Eldahar Oasis as well as the Ikioi Oasis to the north.

Notable Landmarks:
  • Ikioi's Oasis
  • No'bu Jungle
  • Tamarind Bay
  • Xeric Scrublands
  • The Badlands
Vegetation: Vegetation in Ashoka is thickest around the oases, where one may find palm trees, which create shade for the more delicate fruit trees, such as peaches and figs. Grasses are also dense here, but may also be found more sparsely across Ashoka. There are also cacti that dot the landscape, especially in the Xeric Scrublands and the Badlands and act as a source of water for thirsty travellers who have lost their way, or for the desert tribes. Vines, tropical trees, and other low-lying plants compose the No'bu Jungle, and are often very dense, making it a very difficult place to travel. Many strange and exotic plants also populate the No'bu, some of which are even highly dangerous or poisonous.


Economy
Exports: Beads, enchanted items, glass, incense, ittar, opium, palm oil, salt, sandstone
Specialities: Enchanting, glass-making, salt mining
Agriculture: Farming occurs in pockets throughout the desert where there is water to be had, but there are more closer to where the bay is, especially around Etruria. One of the most important plants grown in this area is the palm tree. However, the Ashokans mostly breed domesticated animals like camels, goats, and some sheep. This an especially common practice amongst the nomads.


Military
The northern territories of Ashoka have a military tradition distinct from those of its immediate neighbours, Morrim and Soto. Like Soto, its early history is punctuated by a series of small scale conflicts. These conflicts were rarely centred around killing or subjugation, rather they were concerned with herd rustling between nomadic tribes and tribute extortion by city-dwellers and nomads upon one another. The balance of power was always in flux, and as such the Ashokan desert produces a hardy people, well suited to the rigours of war.

Ashoka only truly coalesced into the modern state following aggression from its south-eastern neighbour, Morrim. During the Origa Wars and the later Dark Conquest, Ashoka's troops were comprised of rather irregular volunteer forces - men and women banding together from both the cities and the sands in common cause, their lack of discipline more than made up for by their unique cultural advantages.

Under the auspices of Orion de Lacey and Sophia Orjtarn, the cities have become heavily militarised. Conscription is basically in effect for most adult men, with only a few select artisans and merchants exempt - creating a pool of disciplined infantry. From on the burning sands, the Moghul is able to levy fierce, if undisciplined, cavalry and skirmishers. This, coupled with generations of herding traditions, gives the northern desert state a well-balanced force that can move with alarming speed.

While mercenaries are somewhat welcome in Ashoka, Orion de Lacey limits their use by the state due to their loyalty to coin, rather than himself. They can still find employment as caravan guards or as heavy cavalry, but the militarised nature of the Ashokan state means that these opportunities are few and far between.
[+] Spoiler
Ashoka’s cavalry forces are exclusively the domain of the desert tribes. On the desert dunes the camel reigns supreme - horses are not the most dependable creature in the desert, owing to a lack of high quality pasture. This gives the Ashokan cavalry an advantage against other cavalries, as horses fear the smell of camels, although they are slower on the charge than their equine brethren.

Few tribes are overtly loyal to Orion, and many are either directly bribed or intimidated into service. They also lack a rigid command structure, making them slightly unreliable in battle. Although these troops are levied, their riders exist in harmony with their mounts in their daily life. This makes them expert riders, and they are brutally effective with their scimitars at close range. However, they lack both armour and discipline, and their loyalty to the Moghul is not assured - expect no heroic last stands from them.

The Ashokan military also lacks any heavy cavalry, armour being more of a hindrance in the desert than a help. This shortfall is occasionally made up through the use of mercenary troops, usually from Morrim.
[+] Spoiler
Since his ascension to the throne of Ashoka, Orion de Lacey and his High Inquisitor have instituted a militarised state in the cities. All adult men, with a few exceptions, are expected to serve in the city militias, with their duties rotated out every six months so as not to disrupt the labour force too much. Armed with spears and shields, they are drilled exclusively in unit tactics - individual valour is thoroughly discouraged. The secret police have their eyes constantly on the citizenry. Disloyalty amongst the infantry is punished by execution and torture. This makes the Ashokan infantry nigh-on unbreakable in combat - to retreat means death regardless - but slightly inflexible and tactically unimaginative.

The officer corps is made up of two kinds of men - those deemed excessively loyal to Orion, and those who the Moghul has exceptional leverage over, such as family men. Promotion, while ostensibly meritocratic, is weighted heavily in favour of how controllable to candidate is. As such, the Ashokan officer corps is mediocre at best.

Regiments are overseen by members of the Inquisition, with the Inquisitors able to veto the orders of the officers - fearsome and individualistic, sponsored by Sophia Orjtarn herself and appointed by Orion, they are effective fighters. However, this can make them somewhat unpredictable in a military context - talents in individual fighting, assassination and subterfuge and interrogation don't necessarily correlate to a sound grasp of tactics. However, under their auspices, Ashokan infantry carry out their duties with zeal, for fear of reprisal.

For light infantry, the Moghul usually scours the poor communities of the Origa Ravine and the Xeric Scrublands. Wood is something of a luxury resource in Ashoka, and as such the sling is favoured over the bow. This makes ammunition plentiful, but on the downside the range and penetration of the missile troops is compromised, and their lack of discipline means they will run at the first sign of menace.
[+] Spoiler
Ashoka is Soare's leading producer of blackpowder, which they utilise prodigiously through the construction of large bombs. Following the Dark Conquest, a large amount of Morrimian siege equipment was left in the cities, the most prominent being the trebuchet - these bombs are launched by the catapult with devastating effect, although with limited accuracy. Leading members of the Inquisition are armed with grenades, giving the already tough Ashokan infantry even more bite.

Due to Orion's terrifying reputation, Soto is reluctant to commission any cannons for the Ashokan state, and as such they are almost unknown in the desert.
[+] Spoiler
The Moghul has made strides in establishing a navy in a land where previously there has been no maritime traditions. Although nascent, progress has been good and Ashoka now fields a fleet of two-decked dromons. These ships are smaller than the Sotoan or Angkarian galley and lack a ram, but are equipped with a bank of oars and a lateen sail, making them more nimble than their heavier counterparts. They are equipped with ballistae, and crewed by marines who fight effectively with javelins and scimitars.

To make up for a lack of heavier ships, Orion has devised a rather devastating trump card - the fire ship. Usually old merchant vessels or captured pirate ships, these are stripped of all fittings and loaded with blackpowder. They are towed by the dromon, set on fire and loosed at the enemy fleet, where their explosions can wreak havoc.

Piracy has been stamped out effectively by the Moghul, as the Navy patrols diligently in Tamarind Bay. Ashokan shipping is still something of a target, however, as the waters surrounding Morrim are fairly lawless.
[+] Spoiler
The use of magic is strictly controlled within the borders of Ashoka, despite the presence of the City of Oracles. Most Ashokan graduates from the academy in the City of Oracles, and even some foreign graduates, if they’re skilled enough, are drafted into the Ashokan military or Inquisition. Orion maintains a very small cadre of battlemages, adept in elemental magic. Though women are very rare in the rest of the Ashokan military, some do appear as battlemages. The desert tribes often bring along their own shamans for conjuring and healing purposes.
[+] Spoiler
The Riders of the Wind

Situated on the outskirts of Eldahar is a curious building - tall, wide and circular, and punctuated at regular intervals with gaping holes, like an oversized dovecote. It is, in fact, an artificial eyrie where the past generations of Moghuls have domesticated rocs - huge, hawk-like birds with the strength to lift sheep and small cattle. Orion de Lacey, in his usual fashion, has chosen to militarise the use of these birds with resounding success.

He has trained trusted members of his Royal Guard to ride them, armed them with bows and long lances and armoured them in chainmail of burnished brass. They are terrifying in concept, able to sweep over enemy battle lines to harass supply lines and can scout effectively, if obviously. In battle, the rocs can swoop down at any moment, rending with beaks and claws before grabbing soldiers and soaring upwards, the rider peppering arrows all the while, causing panic and dismay to enemy forces.

Though they are powerful, their numbers are limited to two dozen and they are very susceptible to missile fire. This is small solace to their vulnerable enemies, however.

Culture
Nationality: The most apparent feature of the city-dwelling Ashokans is that their skin is brown and often deeply tanned. Their hair is also typically dark; black is the norm, but paler shades can be found. As far as the nomads of Ashoka go, the men tend to be very burly, the women slightly less so. This can be attributed to the fact that children as young as three or four are expected to help around camp. The tribesmen are very hard workers and tend to be very serious, somewhat diplomatic, and honourable, though their ways of life and the wars between their tribes are often seen as barbaric by others. Meanwhile, the city dwellers are nothing like these men and women, and while similar in appearance, the citizens of Eldahar tend to be tall and lithe as opposed to shorter and more muscular. They are also paler because they get less exposure to the sun.

National Designation: Citizens of Ashoka are known as Ashokans.

Religion: The rituals pertaining to the principle deities of Ashoka are often bloody and violent—at least, as far as the tribes are concerned. They believe heavily in the many gods, their major ones being Kahlil, god of the hunt, Aten, god of the sun, Nailah, goddess of procreation, life, and the soul, and are often found praying to them several times a day, although they have official ceremonies at dusk and dawn. Human sacrifice is practised with some frequency, and the so-called "victims" are almost always willing volunteers—except in cases when a city dweller, especially an Eldaharian one, is captured. These instances are rare, however, and it is believed that a volunteer sacrifice is more favoured by the gods than an unwilling one. Animal sacrifices are almost never done due to the scarcity of food in the desert.

Whether one dies by human sacrifice or a death due to war, murder, or natural causes, a funeral pyre is constructed for the deceased, to send them to the afterlife, where a new set of deities will preside over their souls, including Fukayna and her husband Teremun, who preside over the afterlife . Here, a feather is weighed against the dead's heart by the goddess Ma'at to decide if they will continue on into a peaceful existence in a land known as the Sha'ariam Fields, or if their soul will be devoured by the god Kahlid. A heart that is lighter than Ma'at's feather will be sent on, while a heart heavier than the feather will be destroyed. The latter is a fate reserved almost exclusively for the morally corrupt of society. It is believed with certainty that when Orion and Sophia die, their souls will be a thousand times heavier than Ma'at's feather.

Ceremonies in the cities, chiefly Eldahar, are considered more "civilized" than those of the desert dewellers because they do not condone human sacrifice within the walls of the cities. Instead, they have replaced human sacrifice with animal sacrifices, as a way of making up for their transgression. The tribes, however, and especially their religious leaders, still believe that this is not good enough and that the gods will punish the city dwellers for their hubris and foolishness.

Education: Most nobles know how to read and write, regardless of which tier they belong to, while almost none of the lower classes do because there is no affordable or government-instituted system of education. The tribes have their own written language consisting of symbols and figures that are hardly studied by any city dweller.

The City of Oracles is the most well-educated area of Ashoka because of the academy there, which is dedicated to training mages from all across Elenlond. While this doesn't directly spread to the general populace, teachers from the academy tend to retire and tutor at a relatively low price, meaning that education is much more accessible to residents.

Society: Ashoka has no "official" class system in place, but there are two divisions to its city-dwelling society that are quite clear cut and nearly impossible to pass between: the rich divison, and the poor division. It is largely because of the rise of the cities within the country and the introduction of a sedentary lifestyle that there's such a chasm between the two. Within the rich division there are the mages, high nobles, nobles, and lesser nobles, almost all of whom live either in Eldahar or the City of Oracles, and whose wealth continues to accumulate at the same time that the poor continue to grow poorer. Mages are counted among the rich because it takes a great deal of money to both live in the City of Oracles and go to the academy there. Lesser nobles are more wealthy compared to commoners, but within the rich circles, they are considered to be on the cusp of poverty.

Commoners, street rats, and slaves make up the poor of Ashoka. Street rats, notably, are the disease-riddled youth of the cities between the ages of 10 and 30 whose parents either passed away and there were no other family members they could live with, or whose parents abandoned them, for a number of reasons including but not limited to parental negligence, poverty, or the fact that the child was unwanted an unwanted pregnancy. Many street rats quickly learn how to be adept thieves, some even going on to become assassins and, by extension, a member of Sophia's Inquisition.

The hierarchy of the nomads is quite linear and lacks the rich/poor distinction of the cities. At the top of any given tribe is the chieftain, below him anyone who chooses to counsel him, fiollowed by his priests and/or priestesses and shamans, and then the remaining members of the tribe, all of whom are ranked equally.

Because the city dwellers believe that they are "better" than the nomads—living a sedentary life with permanent shelter, food, and clean water that requires substantially less effort to obtain—city dwellers tend to come across as a bit pompous, treating others not unlike the way a nobleman in Morrim might treat a serf or a slave. The Eldaharian city dwellers are especially known for this. After all, they live so close to the palace and, more importantly, the Moghul. Even the lower-ranking Eldaharian city dwellers tend to act more entitled than they actually are, especially to nomads or foreigners.

This attitude is not seen as much in either the City of Oracles or Etruria, as both cities possess markedly different cultures from the capital city. Because the City of Oracles is mostly populated by mages studying to hone their craft, there are unspoken rules about respect and deference, depending on how skilled one mage is compared to others: the more proficient the mage, the more respect he or she is shown. Etruria lacks a distinct social structure due to its status as a port city—and thereby being a place where different peoples of different nationalities and beliefs stop for relatively brief periods of time—making it, perhaps surprisingly, a rather tolerant place. But that may also be because pirates frequent it and there are enough cutthroats who stop in to make residents keep their heads down.

In comparison to the city dwellers, the Ashokan nomads are a much humbler people, due partially to the internal teachings of elder tribe members, but also because acting deferent tends to help keep interactions and trading smooth between tribes and city dwellers, on the rare occasions that a nomadic group and city dwellers mingle. It is this deference, too, that has perhaps helped to stay Orion's hand from having Sophia's assassins wipe them out completely, as he was wont to do during the beginning of his reign. It also helps that they tend to stay as far away from Eldahar as possible, mostly to avoid drawing the ire of the Moghul. Despite their general kindness towards one another, some tribes have been known to bicker incessantly, sometimes even breaking out into open conflict (and frequently physical) conflict with one another. Tribes possess their own internal hierarchy dependent of those found in any one of Ashoka's three major cities.


History
Long ago, the nomadic tribes of Ashoka were the only ones to populate the rolling sands. In these early times, the tribes were often embroiled in wars against each other. The only time they ever seemed to know peace was when they met at an oasis, for the single law common to all the nomads was that no violence could occur by the sacred waters of an oasis. One such oasis was the Eldahar Oasis. The nomadic tribes flourished especially in this area, so that was where the most conflict tended to occur. Eventually, war singled out the dominant parties until one man eventually came to have power over the other tribes in the area. It was also declared that he had power over all the tribes of the desert, though this power was merely nominally and not yet practically applied. This ruler was called the Moghul.

The first Moghul, Murat Elissin, ruled from 546 BR to 533 BR, and in this time convinced several tribes to settle down at the Eldaharian oasis. Using stone that was both imported and dredged up from the sands, the city of Eldahar was germinated. While those who stayed sedentary were the most loyal to the Moghul, many nomadic tribes still identified themselves with the nation of Ashoka, especially when it was convenient for them to do so.

As the nation's power began to grow, so did their influence, but at a snail's pace. Independent of the government in Eldahar, the City of Oracles came to be. Its settlement was rather spontaneous: it was discovered that the area had an undergound source of water that never seemed to dry and that there was a strange sort of magic lingering in the air. Thus it attracted many mages and seers and seduced entire tribes into switching to a sedentary life. Here, more than around Eldahar, there was a lot of conflict between the members of the city and the nomads. These bloody struggles continued for many years.

In 171 BR, Morrim began to encroach upon Ashokan land, focusing on the region between the Origa Ravine and the Tamarind Bay. At this point, the Ashokan nation had yet to exert power over even the Xeric Scrubs, so the tribes in these areas were forced to face the threat on their own and succumbed quickly. It wasn't until the mid 160s that the Ashokan government began to take notice of the Morrimian incursion. By the end of the decade, the Moghul Farid Modammun famously declared to the populace: "If we stay blind to these intruders, then soon we may not have eyes to see with."

Moghul Farid made pacts with the tribes closest to the Morrimian threat, namely those in the Xeric Scrubs, the Badlands and the northern peninsula. Just about the entire desert had become unified, especially after the City of Oracles joined the Ashokan nation. An alliance was also made with Soto, which was also threatened by the Morrimians. The two nations coordinated a war against the Morrmians. The Ashokans fought to beat them back beyond the Origa Ravine while the Sotoans sought to expel them from their own country. They assisted each other's armies, trading troops and communicating regularly.

By 145 BR, the Morrmians had been chased past the Origa Ravine. A truce ended the First Origa War, as Moghul Farid had died and the ascendant Moghul, Tural, most desired peace. Ashoka began to recover, and while the majority of Ashokans remembered that the Morrimians still had some of their land, Moghul Tural was insistent on lingering in peace, perhaps because he doubted his abilities to command an army. However, the one person most insistent on war was his wife, Fatima.

In 127 BR, the Sotoans requested to have Ashoka's friendship once again to continue the war with Morrim, as they had had a quarrel with the country in the newly discovered land of Angkar. Moghul Tural refused, but he died mysteriously that year and it just so happened that his three sons were indisposed or refused to take the throne. Thus Fatima took the throne, becoming Ashoka's only ever female Moghul, and spearheaded the cooperation with Soto that became the Second Origa War.

It took six years to topple Morrim. The empire was felled, with no more possessions in Ashoka, Soto or Angkar. Ashoka reclaimed the land that contained the Morrimian-dominated town of Etruria, which was incorporated into the Ashokan nation. In 121 BR, the Mianorites appeared in Soare, and like the rest of the continent, Ashoka was affected. Moghul Fatima died mysteriously, and it was about time according to many people. She had served her purpose in launching the nation into war and once that was done, her sovereignty was considered by many to be embarrassing.

In the confusion that surrounded the Mianorites and their gods, the Ashokans lost some of their unity. With no cause to rally against, the city-dwellers and nomads were often in conflict, as they had such widely differing views on the world and could hardly come into contact with each other without violence. The sacred law of oases was forgotten, for any settlement at an oasis inevitably learned to hate the nomads.

In 4 AR, Morrim was conquered by the Banshee King, Andromalius. He then used the Morrimian army to storm Ashoka and laid a successful seige against Eldahar, but abdicated shortly before taking Soto, thus ending his Dark Conquest. The control of the country was then handed to the Governor of Ashoka, Orion de Lacey, who acquired the title when he promised to help Andromalius with the seige; he became Moghul following the banshee's disappearance.

Eldahar was nearly destroyed during Andromalius' seige of the city. Within his short reign, Orion has successfully rebuilt the damaged parts of Eldahar, including the palace, and has completely flipped the country on its head. Thanks to the sudden strengthening of the military and the institution of the Inquisitors, the quarrels between city-dwellers and nomads have lessened. But this has come at a price, for the people are watched, monitored, and persecuted in silence. While the country still appears to be a monarchy, Orion has turned it into a totalitarian dictatorship.
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