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Ylaruam

by Christopher Richard Davies

While GAZ2 The Emirates of Ylaruam was largely a worthy follow-up to the original Gazetteer, there were several serious problems with the product. First of all, it instituted what could be considered the first major change from what had previously been thought of as canon -- except that changing the name of the country from a singular Emirate to a plural Emirates is actually pretty minor. But GAZ2 didn't even attempt to incorporate the Lost City of Cynidicea into the back-story of the region. It also neglected to describe the native Immortals of the region (the Immortal Guardians) in even the same minimal detail that the Immortals of Traldaran Karameikos received. Finally, while it gave a great deal of detail to one particular village in Ylaruam, it didn't describe or even name any of the regional rulers, or the Sultan, leaving that entirely up to the DM.

Interestingly, GAZ2's background would be largely ignored in later products. The region's complicated political situation was passed over in the Almanacs, with the Sultan described simply as "a direct descendant of Suleiman al-Kalim", without consideration for the implications thereof. As well, the character of Thanatos, introduced in this almanac as an Immortal who "was not unfaithful to his followers; indeed, he was too faithful in his attempt to save them", would be revised into an Immortal who had been betraying the Nithians from the first, deliberately perverting their culture to force the other Immortals to destroy it. (As this earlier interpretation of Thanatos' motives is rather more interesting, it's canon for this revision of Mystaran history -- and another Immortal takes many of the more modern roles suggested for Thanatos.)

[*] By AC 1000, the Emirates of Ylaruam are in a state of flux and change, as the Council of Preceptors wanes in power and influence while that of the Kin of al-Kalim waxes. Ironically, the Preceptors have no one to blame for this turn of events but themselves. Five years before, when the former Sultan went to his reward, they sought to conciliate their rivals in the Kin by appointing to the position a direct descendant of one of al-Kalim's several adopted children. (He had no children of his own; the Kin descend from members of his family, not al-Kalim himself.) Ali ibn Faisal had shown considerable ability and dedication as a Provincial Secretary, but would probably not have been chosen ahead of several other candidates if not for this desire to achieve a compromise with the Kin.

This has proved to be a terrible error of judgement, for the power has clearly gone to his head. (It has been suggested that whatever ability that Ali showed as a Provincial Secretary was largely the ability to take the credit for other people's work.) Nor has it achieved the reconciliation that the Preceptors hoped to achieve -- if anything, the leaders of the Kin were contemptuous of Ali's pretensions towards being a desert-born warrior (when in fact he'd never actually been in battle) and spurious claim to descent from al-Kalim. Furthermore, Ali has cheerfully ignored the advice of the Council of Preceptors, and actually gone further.

Several times in the last few years, he has delicately hinted to his Grand Vizier, Osman ibn Alyoob, that such and such a member of the Council of Preceptors has outlived his usefulness ... with somewhat predictable results. While Osman initially welcomed these tasks as a way of increasing his own influence over the Sultan while decreasing that of the Council, he has since come to realise that he doesn't actually know how to stop Ali from following his more outrageous impulses. Osman strongly suspects that Ali could just as easily arrange his Grand Vizier's removal by offering the position to one of Osman's own secretaries, and would do so without a second's hesitation. (He's right; moreover, he's right about the sort of people he's employed as secretaries.)

Ali's long-term goal is to stock the Council of Preceptors with people who are personally loyal to him, who will then sanction his own appointment of his son as a designated heir to the Sultanate. The fact that Fate has not yet granted him a son doesn't greatly trouble him -- it is inevitable! Until then, he will settle for the current Council of Preceptors viewing his younger brother, Mohammed ibn Faisal, a Prayer Leader in Ylaruam, as the most logical candidate to succeed him. (He considers the notion that anyone would view this mild-mannered individual as preferable to him to be absurd. Yes, he is really that stupid.)

Meanwhile, the Kin, led by Sayid al-Naji, the Emir of Abbashan[1] (and a direct descendant of one of al-Kalim's sisters) are beginning to reap the benefits of their new access to the coastal trade. They regard Ali as little more than a joke, but are not yet confident enough to try and overthrow him. So they watch and wait, as do most of the other Emirs. The trade routes of the east and the north are becoming more and more unsafe, while the south has always been a bit tense. Furthermore, many Ylari heroes who favour the Preceptors are finding reasons to travel abroad -- providing a good reason for them to be in adventuring parties outside of Ylaruam.

[*] The Eternal Truth was founded on Suleiman al-Kalim's ultimately pragmatic belief that the actions of mortals in life mattered more than their choice of divine patron. In his encounters with the Immortals, he had come to realise, more than most of his people, that they were worshipped in many lands under many names. That said, he didn't exactly pass this realisation on to his followers, trusting that those who needed to achieve it would do so on their own. The Immortal Guardians described in his text were the Immortals worshipped by the Alasiyan people since time immemorial.

The oldest of them is, of course, al-Kalim's own patron, the Old Man of the Sea. (His name, Kor[2], is thought to be too holy to be pronounced by the laity.) Most followers of the Eternal Truth recognise that the Old Man of the Sea is the same Immortal worshipped as Protius in Thyatis. This is an exception to the general rule that they don't recognise other Immortals as "local versions" of their own patrons. For example, a follower of the Eternal Truth would never consider that the Thyatian Immortal Valerias is the same entity as their own Selan the Beautiful, associated with both the moon and the desert rose. (The fact that Valerias' priests and priestesses engage in ritual sex would put paid to any association that might occur to them.)

According to traditional Alasiyan belief, Kor and Selan are the parents of the twin sons Hajama (the Courageous; aka Halav) and Najm (the Adventurer; aka Minroth), as well as the daughter Jauhar (the Bountiful; aka Djaea). Present in their beliefs, but no longer as widely followed as they once were due to their lack of connection to the divine "family tree", are the brother and sister pair of Hakiyah (of the Sea Breeze; aka Calitha Starbrow) and Haku (of the Desert Wind; aka Korotiku), and the solitary patron of knowledge, Zann (aka Noumena). The latter group are still quite popular among the Makistani, who often make the central "family" of the Immortal Guardians slightly absurd figures in their stories. The Old Man of the Sea, for example, while treated as the solemn source of all wisdom in Alasiyan myths about him, will sometimes be portrayed, in Makistani stories, as someone whose only claim to wisdom is his advanced age, and thus as one capable of as much folly as any old man ... particularly one with a beautiful young wife, like Selan.

While Immortals viewed as "Thyatian" are seldom popular in Ylaruam, Asterius still has some following, particularly in Nicostenia. (These followers are still also followers of the Eternal Truth, though the Abbashani might argue the point.) The only Immortal associated with the Thyatians who is explicitly condemned in The Nahmeh is Vanya -- or "the Bitch", to use one of the more printable epithets that describe her. As the Alphatians never bothered to spread the following of their patrons in their colonies, they're little known in Ylaruam and thus neither hated nor well-regarded.

Meanwhile, the Magian Fire Worshippers believe that they're honouring Rathanos, as their forefathers did before them and as the Fire Worshippers of Thothia do today. They are, in a word, mistaken. The power they worship is one of deception and trickery, and while he's associated with fire, the fires are not those of the world, but of a different kind entirely ... the fires of the Nine Hells. Asmodeus will be discussed in a separate article to come later.

[*] As for Cynidicea, the timeline of this culture, as presented in The Dungeon Master's Guide to Cynidicea, is entirely canon for this material.

[*] It's a bit of an exaggeration to claim that an artifact hidden in the necropolis near Surra-Man-Raa causes everyone who comes within twenty-four miles of it to forget everything that they know about Nithia. The Immortals are generally more subtle than that. What the artifact does do is make it harder for those within that radius of the artifact to think about Nithia, and makes it harder for those examining the ruins to gain any understanding. Harder - but not impossible. As a result, sages of the Known World have generally worked out that there was an advanced culture based in Nithia, roughly 1000 years before the rise of Thyatis, but have not been able to learn very much about it.

[*] Barring PC intervention, the future of the Emirates involves an almost certain alliance with the Desert Nomads when they invade Darokin. Since Thyatis will either be neutral or preoccupied with a war with Alphatia, the Ylari forces will strike west, besieging (and probably taking) Selenica before moving on to attack Canolbarth, home of the hated and feared elves. However, this attack will likely come at the same time as the rising of the shadowelves, who will -- after expelling the Alfheimers -- promptly fight back very viciously against any new attackers who would try to take "their" homeland from them. Against this foe, and lacking support from the Master, whose focus is entirely on Darokin, the forces of Ylaruam will probably be driven back to Selenica. Depending on what accommodation the Council of Darokin reaches with the shadowelves, the Emirates might keep Selenica or be driven further back to the old borders. Either way, the disastrous rout will be the end of Ali ibn Faisal's ambitions, as well as his life. Rule will likely pass to the Kin, who will end the alliance with the Master after communing with the Immortals and realising that he's bad news. The borders will be closed, and Ylaruam will enter a long period of stagnation.

Footnotes

[1] The Emirs are named -- for the first time! -- and given cursory game statistics in Poor Wizards Almanac II. While in some cases I'm modifying their names slightly, to make for a better "feel", I'm otherwise sticking with this information.

[2] Most of these names will doubtless seem familiar to those acquainted with Al-Qadim and the land of Zakhara. This is deliberate. However, I'm not sticking any modules from that era in this region. A certain trilogy of "Intermediate" modules is set in the Emirate of Nithia, however.