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The Hule Gazetteer (1013 AC) v1.0

by Daniel Boese

Hule (Hagiocracy of)

Location: Continent of Brun, northwest of the Great Waste.

Area: 256,000 sq. mi.

Population: 1,000,000. Hule's population is a mosaic of cultures that have been assimilated into the Hulean way of life. Roughly 65% are human; 30% are humanoids (primarily bugbears, gnolls, kobolds, ogres, and orcs); and 5% are demihumans (dwarves, elves, gnomes, and halflings).

Languages: Hulean (official), plus dialects of many cultures.

Government Type: Hagiocracy (rule by holy men).

Coinage: Lira (gp), kuru (sp), piastre (cp), gems

Industries: Agriculture, textiles (fine cloth, wools, etc.), glassworks, trade, conquest.

Imports: Common metals, fish, salt, spices, silk, dye, tobacco. Imports as much Red Steel as possible.

Exports: Grains, vegetables, meat, wood, textiles, glassware, gems

Merchants from both Sind and Yavdlom occasionally trade with Hule, but not often. The Black Mountains provide a formidable obstacle to trade across the Great Waste and Yavdlom seers caution their people against associating with Hule's ruling "Holy Men."

Taxes: There are two major taxes in Hule: a Net Worth Tax of 5% assessed every two years and an annual Tithe to the Holy Men of Hule (10% of yearly income). Hule's major roads have toll gates every 24 miles, charging 1 cp per person and 2 cp per large animal. Tax evasion is punishable by compulsory service to the Holy Men in Darkwood.

Geography: Hule, also known as Great Hule and the Sanctified Land, is a large, well-populated nation northwest of the Black Mountains, and north of the Savage Coast's city-states and Savage Baronies. It stretches from the edge of the Black Mountains to the Risilvar Escarpment in the south and the Dravish Steppes in the west. Its southern border includes a tiny slice of coastline, just north of Slagovich, giving the nation access to sea trade. Much of Hule consists of low, rolling hills blanketed by farms and pastures. The farmland is dotted with small and simple villages and farming communities. There are also several larger towns, bustling centres of trade.

Notable Sites: Western Hule encompasses roughly half of Niwhelm, the Dark Wood - a great oak forest still mostly primeval. The wood contains Lake Tros, also known as the Lake of the Deeps, a large (4,500 sq. mi.) and seemingly bottomless freshwater lake.

Greatrealm, known to some as the Temple of Death, the Master of Hule's capital city, is a huge temple complex lying on the shore of Lake Tros. It lies away from the cities, and people seldom visit it. From here the Master watches over his country and the progress of any wars in progress. His desires are made known to the people by the Diviners or other messengers.

Flora and Fauna: Hule's civilised lands are home to an odd mix of humans, demihumans, and humanoids, with humans prevailing by only a small margin. The nation's borders encompass many wilderness areas as well, including some foothills of the Black Mountains. Nearly every creature native to the continent of Brun can be found in Hule.

Society: Hule is a hagiocracy, a government run by "holy men" and clergy. Only humans are active in the government, although the non-humans may act as advisers to a high official. The rulers are people of greater-than-normal religious faith, from all walks of life. They lead lives that are the supreme examples of their religious teachings. A person does not have to be a cleric to be powerful in the government; any person who is shown to be specially favoured by Bozdogan may rule.

The people of Hule are divided into many classes - holy men, diviners, hermits, prophets, clergy, and commoners - listed in order of most important to least important.

Holy Men are the rulers, individuals who - if not actually clergy - have been somehow touched by the Immortals. The Holy Men make up most of the bureaucracy and all of the nation's administration. There are an inordinate number of thieves among the Holy Men, too. Holy Men are especially favoured of Bozdogan, and they occupy official positions in Hule's ruling class. Unmistakable signs help determine who is favoured, such as being incapable of ever uttering the words "yes" and "no," "black" and "white," or "is" and "have," or the inability to use the letter "e" or numbers of any kind, etc.

Diviners are similar to police. They travel the country freely, often in disguise. When not disguised, they wear uniforms that consist of a red robe and black mask, a mace, and carry a crystal amulet. These officials have two important duties. First, they search for criminals. Criminals include not only thieves and murderers, but also those who have "wrong thoughts." Wrong thoughts are considered to be those against the state religion or those who cast doubt on the "miracles" of the holy men. All clerics who do not belong to the state religion are "wrong thinkers". All people who follow other Immortals, or no Immortal are "wrong thinkers." All magic-users are "wrong thinkers," except those working for the Diviners or the clergy. The second duty of the Diviner is to find worthy candidates for government service. If they find a particularly holy person, they bring him before the leaders of Hule for testing. Because the Diviners are both dangerous and rewarding, the common people both fear and respect them greatly.

Hermits are those people who claim to have had a vision from Bozdogan, instructing them to live alone in the wilderness. Hermits may live under all manner of conditions - sleeping on thorn beds, living with beasts, or eating now meat. As a custom, they do not shave or cut their hair. Peasants sometimes seek out hermits for guidance.

Prophets travel the countryside, and while not government officials, are recognised for their great wisdom and judgment. They act as judges in important cases that the local authorities cannot solve, and though they have no real power, their decisions are almost always accepted. However, like the common people, they can be arrested or rewarded by the Diviners. As a custom of the land, all prophets travel with a dog and a young boy who carries a lamp.

Clerics operate the local temples and shrines. It is their duty to guide and instruct the people. They try to bring out the "holiness" in each person, so they might prepare some fore testing by the Diviners. All clergy have normal clerical abilities as regards spells and fighting. They too can be arrested or rewarded by the Diviners.

Commoners are just that, farmers, soldiers, merchants, or crafters. Most follow the state religion and lead relatively peaceful lives - until called to war - and strive towards greater "holiness." Almost all are Chaotic alignment. A smaller number of people are Neutral, and an even smaller number are Lawful. These people are normally labourers, servants, or foreign traders. They are looked down upon, but are considered necessary. A few, more vocal than the rest, are treated as outlaws or traitors by the society. These include clerics of other religions, most magic-users, and simple bandits.

The non-humans do not fit into this class system. The humanoid tribes living within Hule's borders are nominally independent, although they find it profitable and convenient to ally themselves with the Master of Hule, the highest of the holy men. All the humanoid groups seem to live and work together to some degree, although they often feud and raid one another.

The leader of Hule is a mysterious individual known only as the Master; the absolute dictator of the land. The Master leads Hule's holy men in preaching an unusual philosophy of lies and deceit. They honour many Immortals, though the Immortal Bozdogan (Loki, Prince of Deceit), whose symbol is a mechanical puzzle-cube, is foremost among them. Loki has manipulated the people of Hule to create a bureaucracy of liars and thieves. Political intrigue is rampant in Hule, and to unite the nation, the Master sometimes finds it necessary to create an outside conflict. This has led to Hule's participation in wars with all its neighbours, including the city-states and the Savage Baronies of the Savage Coast.

The true goal of the Holy Men is to acquire for Bozdogan (or his Immortal companions) the greatest number of followers. That is done through skilful deceit, which is a holy act in itself. Bozdogan is believed to have found a way to nourish himself from his followers' trickery. Every time someone deludes someone else, Bozdogan gains some sort of arcane power. The greater the number of people involved and the more subtle the duplicity, the more "food" for Bozdogan. Petty lies or blatant frauds are worthless in this respect and could cause unrest among the people; such are frowned upon by the Holy Men.

The Holy Men maintain civil order and the "orthodoxy of thoughts," providing enlightened rulership of the land through deceit. In Hule, lies area holy thing, and certain types of untruths constitute ritual acts in the Bozdogan philosophy. To qualify for holiness, lies must ultimately perform at least one of the following functions: Bring new followers to adopt the ways of Bozdogan; Uphold and further the expansion of the Great Hule; Uphold and further the goals of the Holy Men; Bring the downfall of foreigners, infidels, or "wrong thinkers"; or Acquire wealth in the name of the Temple of Hule, usually by trickery, theft, extortion, and so forth.

According to a Hulean lawyers' manual, if someone can prove that certain lies were perpetrated for one of the reasons given above, any kind of misrepresentation, libel, or deceit becomes perfectly legal and even praised. Those who think differently are "wrong thinkers" and are sent to the temple to learn the error of their ways.

Of course, it is wise not to lie inconsiderately; a lie is a double-edged weapon. It is ill advised to lie to Holy Men, and among Holy Men it is heretical to lie to a superior - which explains why the Hulean ruling class is so rigidly classified in a complex, extremely detailed hierarchy.

Grand deceit of the more subtle and daring kind, especially involving a great number of unsuspecting people, is what truly makes the stuff of the legendary Hulean heroes, such as Hosadus, mentioned hereafter. The best deception remains the one where the victim is ultimately content and largely oblivious.

Customs: In most ways, the people of Hule are like all others. They work for a living, eat, sleep, and have entertainments like all other people.

Religious services are held every night in Hule, and commoners usually attend these twice a week.

Once a week, local clerics lead processions through the town or village, searching for signs of local "miracles" - events beyond the power of all known magic. These processions are usually small celebrations that involve drinking, dancing and music. If a "miracle" is found, a court is held to determine the truth of the "miracle."

All animals, except dangerous ones, are treated with respect. The peasants are never sure when an animal might be a holy man in a miraculous disguise.

"Wrong thinkers" can be sentenced to "instruction." Instruction means the person is given to someone to be trained in the right ways of thought. Such training is normally hard labour. Any person convicted of a crime other than "wrong thinking" can be declared innocent if he can show that his actions were directed by Bozdogan. Likewise, any person can be declared guilty or innocent if the judge has a vision from Bozdogan.

Evil humanoids are treated with care and respect, out of fear. The peasants never know when a tribe might make a raid and do not want to provoke the humanoids.

Demihumans (dwarves, elves, gnomes and halflings) are very rare and are objects of curiosity to the humans of Hule. The evil humanoids will instantly dislike them, of course.

History: Much of Hule's history is shrouded in mystery. According to the teachings of the holy men, Hule was founded by human followers of the Immortal Bozdogan sometime before 1500 BC. Bozdogan taught them all they needed to know to fulfil their destiny - to spread Hule's philosophy and prosperity throughout the world. Hule has occasionally shrunk as a result of invasions or wars, but its slow expansion has mostly remained unchecked. Hule's borders have slowly expanded, as the holy men (assisted by Hule's warriors) have helped neighbouring cultures join Hule and become assimilated to the Hulean way of life, forming a mosaic of micro-cultures. Only the barbarians to the north resisted.

For centuries, the people of Hule prospered, expanding their borders in every direction but north. In 1271 BC, a great goblin horde, the Wolf-Riders lead by the bloody Wogar, drove through Hule. They ravaged Central Hule, slaughtering many people and enslaving others - including a young holy man named Hosadus. Late one evening, Hosadus accidentally overheard an old goblin shaman mention the Blue Knife, an ancient relic the goblins had been after for centuries. The quest for this object had brought them to Hule.

Hosadus walked up to Wogar himself and declared the Immortals had sent them to him, for he, he said, knew of the Blue Knife's location. He /animated/ a simple sword enchanted with /continual light/, then had it hover in the dark over his own hand as a "omen" of the Immortals. That feat impressed the goblins beyond all hope of their realising his trickery.

Hosadus said the Blue Knife lay beyond the Black Mountains to the east, then beyond the Great Waste. There, they should seek the holy relic. Two thirds of the horde moved on, spurred by the unexpected revelation, while the remainder stayed in Hule as followers of Hosadus. Since then, descendants of Wogar became the mainstay of Hosadus' Honour Guard. Their symbol is a blue dagger pointing down over a sable background.

Other humanoids settled in Hule over the centuries. At times, friction between Hule's human and non-human populations led to aggression, but for the most part there was peace - except to the north, where the barbarian hordes remained a continual threat.

Around AC 600, the northern barbarians united into a tremendous army that nearly overran Hule. With city after city falling, Bozdogan revealed that he had reincarnated Hosadus. The legendary hero combined warfare with trickery and deceit, and drove the barbarian hordes from Hule. He founded a fortified temple as huge as a city to serve as his capital in Darkwood. Since Hosadus' return, Hule has managed to regain all the territory it lost in the barbarian assault, and has slowly continued to expand its borders in all directions but north.

Most recently, the Master of Hule (believed by some to be Hosadus himself) sent his minions across the Great Waste to conquer the eastern lands. He gained control of Sind in AC 1005. From there, his humanoids, janissaries (Hulean cavalry), and Desert Nomads drove into Darokin. Armies from Darokin, Karameikos, and the Five Shires managed to drive the Desert Nomads out in AC 1006, but the Master's forces continue to occupy Sind.

Hule is currently at peace with the nations of the Savage Coast, recovering from the last set of wars. Huleans still plot and spy, however, and minor events related to Hule occur all the time, especially in the city-states and Savage Baronies.

The Master is currently very much in control of Hule. Much of his armies rely on humanoid tribes, particularly goblins, though a vast corps of dervishes defend the many city-temples. Among these dervishes are a number of elite troops armed with red steel scimitars. These dervishes have regularly repulsed barbarian incursions from the north, thanks mostly to their red steel equipment.

The people of Hule view the brutal and bloodthirsty northern hordes as a great peril and have justifiably feared them throughout their history. Hulean literature depicts barbarians as faithless, ignorant brutes incapable of understanding and adopting the subtle ways of Hule. It would be safe to presume these barbarians nourish a particular hatred for the bizarre practice of Holy Deceit that clashes with their simple, straightforward customs. For them, Hulean-bashing is both a useful and praised activity.

Sources: module X5, Temple of Death; Poor Wizard's Almanac III; The Voyage of the Princess Ark part 20 (Dragon #173); Red Steel box; Champions of Mystara box.