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The Monzagian Banat

by Christian Constantin

Location: Continent of Brun, in the Converted Lands at the north of the Dark Wood, and south of the Zdrednayan forest(Map)

Area: About 59 500 sq. mi. Population: 96, 000 humans (50% Monzagians, 40% Antasynians, 10% Huleans,) plus some elves. Language: Monzag, Shqradër, and Hulean. Coinage: Antasynian and Hulean coins.

Government Type: Hulean protectorate. Monzag is strictly administered by the Hulean military administration, parts of the territory are considered as under the martial law.

Industries: fur, timber, animal breeding.

Important Figures: Döskender Sengor (C23, of Orcus), Hulean governor of Monzag; Balàzs Khuen (M7), exiled king of the Monzags, Etrit Verkunj (M17), head of the Antasynian Reunification Front; Piri Gazdag (C21, of Freyja), head of the Lawful Brotherhood in Monzag

Description: It is hard to see Monzag as an homogenous and unitary state, in fact, it can be seen as the superposition of two cultures, one urban and Antasynian; the second rural, semi-nomadic, made of the Monzags. The first culture is concentrated in the Kereçul River valley and in the westernmost campaigns of Monzag, and the second is seen mostly at the fringes of the Zdredanyan forest and in the valleys of the smaller Crisöl and Tio rivers.

Geographically, Monzag can also be divided in two: in the north, the forest hills that progressively leave way to the great Sdredanyan Forest, and, in the south, the large valleys blooming with crops and densely populated. In the north, the hills are the hideouts of the last semi-nomadic Monzag tribes and the small valleys protect the settled Monzags. Along the River Kereçul, bigger settlements are home to a mixed population of Antasynians and Monzags, the firsts forming a larger proportion of the population as one goes to the west.

Most of the boundaries of Monzag were artificially drawn by the Hulean administration in a pledge to ease the administration of the land. However, besides the eastern frontier with Hule, which roughly represents the historical western border of Karsun, the other frontiers are more blurred than useful. First, the western border with Antasyn is constantly disputed by the local Antasynian population, which is looking for the reintegration of all of their folk inside one territory. Secondly, the southern border with the Dark Wood doesn't represent any historical reality but only the Master's wish to create a buffer zone around his Greatrealm temple complex. And, thirdly, nobody in Monzag, at least among the semi-nomadic population, has accepted that Monzag could be separated from the folk of the Zdredanyan forest, who are the close cousins of the Monzags. In fact, the northern frontier as seen on the Hulean maps is more representative of the extent of the Hulean control than of the land the Monzags see as theirs.

On average, Monzag is a wet but cold country. It shares the same weather pattern as the Zdredanyan Forest: in winter, cold and humid winds charged with snow come from Brun's hinterland. Spring and fall are rainy and see mild to cold temperatures; fog during these seasons isn't uncommon. Summers are hot but the humidity level remains high even though the sun is more present over Monzag during summers strong thunder showers usually follow a long period of warm and humid temperatures. This weather pattern helps the development of a large spectre of insects (mosquitoes, flies of every kind, etc.), which are common in the forests as well as in the northern valleys.

The two groups of people in Monzag come from very different stocks. The Antasynians share with their brethren of the east the same Yazak origin and their types and looks may be as varied. The Monzags, on the other hand, are of Neathar/proto-Ethengar descent so they have the same pale complexion and hair and slightly slit eyes as their Sendaryan cousins. Both peoples do not dress the same way, nor do they eat the same food, thus even a stranger can easily differentiate a Monzag from an Antasynian.

For the Monzags the forests are like homes: they provide food, shelter and revenue (from the trade of furs). Few of the Monzags have accepted to settle down and to cultivate the land the way the Antasynians live. They prefer a semi-nomadic way of life in which they live of cattle rearing (reindeers, ponies, forest buffaloes) into the forests and fishing while they also keep small patch of lands open for crops. Even though the forests keep most of their appeal for the Monzags, things are changing. The younger generations seem to prefer the slow rhythm of the peasants' way of life to the hardship of the herders' life. Many Monzags now live in the cities, be they of Antasynian origin as Debredladany or Szekçarlit or of pure Monzag foundation as Pusztök. As people prefer to stay away from the foresters' life, the links with the Sendaryan tribes are severed one after the other. The most pessimistic of the Monzag herders say that in one or two generations only the elders and a few clans will even remember that the people of the north are the Monzags' cousins.

One could say that two cultures are clashing in Monzag: the old urban and feudal culture of Antasyn and the more flexible and anarchic way of the forest herders. This would be to oversimplify the situation. Indeed, many Monzags have decided to settle down and to quit their small ponies, but they haven't merge in the Antasynian culture as well. In fact the urban population is slowly building a new culture made of parts of the foresters' heritage and parts of the Antasynians'. The Monzags have adopted most of the Antasynians agricultural techniques and have developed a urban culture that looks like the one they had nearly destroyed when they came in the region. They have not, however, adopted the rural customs of the Antasynians (such as the division of the land in Bratjrak or the Code of Lek); instead, the rural populations have kept most of the ways of the nomadic populations of the Zdredanyan Forest.

For the Antasynian, the real alien is the people of Monzag, and Hule is just a minor problem. Also, throughout history the relations between the Huleans and the Antasynians were far better than the relations between the Huleans and the tribes of the Zdredanyan Forest who were most of time raiding against the Northern Hulean holdings. These two facts help explain why the Huleans granted a lot more rights to their Antasynians subjects in Monzag than to the Monzags themselves. Indeed, for the Antasynians, the administration is nearly as lax here in Monzag than in neighbouring Antasyn. Timars are granted to loyal Antasynians, their children are sent to Jandak through the devshirme and a large autonomy has been given to the municipal councils of the major cities.

The situation in the northern lands, peopled mostly by Monzags, is at the opposite: the Huleans administer the lands as their own possessions, they have ousted the traditional Monzag landlords and nearly enslaved the local population. Herders are being forced to settle so that the Holy Men may have a accrued control over them and the contacts with the northern tribes are forcefully discouraged, a policy that doesn't keep the Monzags from crossing the border more or less freely. At the religious level, the Holy Men haven't followed a mass conversion policy toward the Monzag people because it probably would trigger a confrontation with the followers of the Way of the Law (the majority of the settled Monzags), but it is closely monitoring any relation between the Monzag clerics and the outer world.

During the monarchic period of Monzag, the only time the Monzags were headed by a modern-looking state, the Monzag king's decisions, Ibrany, were helped by a council of nobles - clan chiefs who had distinguished themselves in the fights against the Antasynians and the Huleans- which met regularly in Debredladany. Of course, when the Huleans invaded the territory of Monzag, this council has been disbanded and most of the nobles were either decapitated or forced to exile. Most of these nobles' descents now form the main body of the resistance in Monzag. The Huleans are in a permanent state of war against them and most of the province's production is allocated to the low-scale war. Currently, the rebels hold most of the Kadrulay Hills and keep some strongholds in the Tio River Valley. The rebels have crowned Balàzs Khuen, a young mage who, according to the oracles, is supposed to lead a victorious war against Hule as the King of the Monzags. His kingdom is, in fact composed by little more than the Oroul Hills and his capital is a fortified camp situated deeper in the Zdredanyan Forest than any Hulean soldier ever dared to go. Twice in the last 30 years the rebels have besieged Fort Zamgulak, though they haven't been able to shake Hule's grip over the region, neither do they have been able to stir up a significant rebellion among the Hulean-controlled Monzags. Recently, the arrival of a group of Dvinzinian missionaries has promoted religious zeal among the Monzag patriots. Intolerance toward other faiths than the Way of the Law is growing among the members of King Balàzs' court and calls for a crusade erupt more and more frequently.

History: Compared to its southern neighbours of Antasyn and Bulzan, the history of Monzag as an autonomous state have been brief, but plagued by wars and marked by the grandiose reign of King Ibrany The Wise. Monzag's history begins in 576 AC when a dozen of the eastern Sendaryan Tribes unite under the rule of the Monzags. For a long time the Monzags, who were living at the southern edge of the Zdredanyan forest, were looking south to the riches of the lands of Antasyn and Hule. But they knew that, if they were to benefit from these riches they needed to ally themselves with the other tribes and gather many warriors. The impetus for the confederation of the forest tribes came from the outside: in 571 AC, the united tribes of the northern nomads invaded the Midlands. The invasion sounded like an opportunity for the Monzags and they rapidly built an alliance with their cousins of the northern steppes. Strong of their new alliance, the Monzag used it to destroy the tribes opposed to them or to submit them to their rules. The union of the Monzag tribes was also made easier by the action of the Loyal Brotherhood, which used the religion to bring the tribesmen together around the hatred of Hule's Temple of Chaos.

When, in 578 AC, the nomads of the Midlands launched their assault against Hule, the Monzag were at the head of a confederation of tribes counting more than forty thousand warriors in its ranks. Contrarily to most of the northern nomads who penetrated deep in the Hulean Basin, the Monzags chose to advance toward the heart of Antasyn. There, they plundered the Antasynian cities and wreck havoc in most of the valleys. For about 35 years, Antasyn's army waged a all-out war against the Monzags only to be beaten 613 AC when they won the siege of Gjitra and plundered the capital of the Antasynian kingdom, thus destroying the heart of the monarchy's power. The death of Antasyn's king during the siege destroyed the Antasynians' will to defend their homeland as they drifted in an internal succession struggle.

From 613 to 629 AC, the new rulers of the eastern part of the Antasynian lands established a relative peace. During this period, the Monzags ruled their new possessions with an iron fist. Most of the indigenous Antasynian population was kept as slaves and the Monzags were merciless when meeting resistance or protest. The confederation of tribes that made the conquest of Antasyn possible did not survive long though: in 618 AC, the new possessions were split into a dozen small states and soon old conflicts developed along the ages-old rivalries of the tribes.

Taking advantage of the internal divisions of the Monzags, Migen Xhul, the new king of Antasyn tried to free the lost territories from the Monzags' yoke. In 629 AC, he launches a major offensive against the Monzags' principalities. At first, this offensive was met with great successes, and Prijderel is retaken in less than six months. Soon the Monzags saw that, if they were not able to overcome their disputes, they would loose much of their new possessions. A council of the tribes is hastily organized in 630 AC and Ibrany Svarcz, chief of the Varganz, is elected at the head of the new united Monzag tribes. This decision will bring rapid successes to the Monzags who will be able to turn the tide of the war at the siege of Debredladany: the Antasynians will never be able to take back their ancient capital. This siege will be prolonged for more than a year, but, aware that Hule is slowly building the roots of a new empire under the rule of the Master, both the Monzags and the Antasynians found that a peace treaty would be better than a war that would make them easier preys for their big neighbour.

Impressed by Ibrany's exceptional leader skills, the Monzags chiefs accepted to submit to his authority, thus bringing in the Monzags an era of peace and prosperity for the following 30 years. A Hulean plot brought an end to what could have been one of the most enlightened reign of the modern Converted Lands: in 662 AC, the daughter of the Antasynian king is murdered while in Debredladany for diplomatic reasons. The Master's agents manage to disguise her murder so that the Antasynians see the action of the Monzags behind this assassination. Out of rage, the king of Antasyn declares war to the Monzags. Both country will rapidly find themselves locked in a war of position with none of them gaining the upper hand. This stalemate will continue for more than eighty years of more or less intense conflict. It became clear, however, that the Antasynians were unable to win and, in fact, that they were loosing ground. Seeing his armies loosing on most of the fronts, King Migen II of Antasyn asked the Master for help, help that will be more than happily granted by the Master who was waiting for any pretext to intervene in the region's affairs.

In 746 AC, for the first time the Monzag will face the despised Huleans when they will enter Monzag's territory in an answer to the request of Antasyn. The war that will take place during the ensuing 130 years will leave Monzag bloodless and exhausted. At first the Monzags did manage to keep the Huleans at bay, but it became clear that they were no match for the Master's hordes. It took 15 years for the Huleans to take control of the major cities of Monzag, but they soon discovered that to take the cities was only the easy part. For years the conflict continued while the Monzags were doing a pretty effective guerrilla against the invader. Only in 873 did the last Monzag warlord surrender. So that was the way the Huleans saw it because many noble had run into the forest and were regrouping in the Zdredanyan forests. For a while the new rebellion was too weak and divided to inflict great pains to the Empire, but about a century later a new generation of leaders was able to build up a new united front. This new generation is also actively seeking alliances abroad and building up a new network of resistance throughout the Monzag society.

In 873 AC, nearly a century and a half after their intervention in Monzag, the country became a province of the Hulean Empire ruled by the Holy Men sent to Debredladany. Since then, the Huleans' only interest has been to secure their hold on the territory. The Master became the sole landowner and his administration manages about 20 percent of the land for its own benefit, apportioning the rest among Antasynian and Hulean soldiers and civil servants. These new landlords are interested mainly in squeezing as much wealth from the land as quickly as possible and most of them do not live on their lands and resort to locals for the administrative chores. Wars, slave taking, and the emigration of nobles who lost their land depopulated much of the countryside.

In the last thirty years, the exiled nobles and rebels have been more assertive and Monzag once again has become a major thorn in the Master's foot. Their raids against Hulean positions have claimed many lives among the Master's troops and have more than once disrupt the communications between Hule and the Converted Lands along the Northern Military road. However, even if they have gained in strength and organisation, the rebels do not represent a significant threat to Hule's control over Monzag yet. Nevertheless, the Hulean troops haven't been able to crush the rebels and many punitive expeditions never came out of the Forests.

Religion: The Monzags, at least in the campaigns, are very devout peoples. Since they only have been recently converted, they strictly follow the Way of the Law. Their faith is, however, somewhat different from the Way of the Law in radical societies like Dvinzina. Many old shamanist believes are still present in today's cult in Monzag. Also, the deities of this pantheon who are normally associated with the forests or nature tend to be more worshipped in Monzag than the other one of the Way of the Law. Furthermore, Ordana is seen by the local clergy as a legitimate member of the Pantheon, something that would be seen as an heresy by fellow members of the Lawful Brotherhood outside Monzag.

Even though, the Monzags follow the strict discipline of the Way of the Law, their cult is somehow less organized than in other countries where it is the major religion. There isn't an all-powerful clergy like in Dvinzina or Sardjikjian. Most of the priests move from one community to another preaching the Teachings of the Righteous to them. There isn't a strict line of command between the church's head and the local clerics. Of course the link between the religious orders and the state is nonexistent since the Hulean code of law is applied in this colony as well as in the others, but, even before the Hulean conquest, there was a clear separation between the political/judiciary and the religious power. Of course, during these times, clerics were invited to give their advice in case of a trial but their opinion wasn't the last word as it may be in other countries.

This cultural dilution of the religious power in the Monzag's society might be changing. Indeed, in the free lands and in Balàzs' court missionaries coming from Dvinzina are gaining more audience and power. They tend to teach a more radical brand of the Way of the Law than the traditional Monzag clergy did. They also have tried to expulse the clerics of Ordana and the druids from the courts, though they face growing opposition from the natives. With them the worship of Odin or Thor have had more appeal in the Monzag population than ever. They also keep a tighter control over their cleric and their followers. Because of this evolution toward a more radical Way of the Law, it is quite possible that the rebels will have difficulties to impose themselves as the legitimate rulers of their own people if their rebellion is ever to succeed.

Notable Sites: The capital, Debredladany, used to be Gjitra, the Jewel of Antasyn, but centuries of war and numerous sieges have destroyed most of its beauty. The ancient royal palace of the Antasynians kings served the same purpose under Ibrany's rule. However, it was partially destroyed when the Master's armies took the city and, since then, the remaining wings have been used as barracks and stables by the Huleans. Now, the most impressive building of Debrdladany is the Fortress, a castle entirely built with black sandstone which towers above Debredladany slums. It is the house of the Hulean military administration of Monzag, but it also harbours the Antasynian city council, which is under constant threat from the local Monzags.

Szekçarlit is in an even worse shape than Debredladany. It is a city without much of a history but became Hule's major stronghold in Monzag. Most of its population came in by forced exile when the Huleans were cleaning the campaigns of any signs of the rebellion. From 815 to 860 AC, hundreds of Monzags were displaced from their homes and villages of the northern valleys to what only was a castle at the end of the paved road. At first, the city wasn't more than a big camp, but now, the Monzags have been able to adapt and the city benefits from its strategic location.

Besides being a major centre for the trade in furs, Pusztòk is little more than a big village. It used to be the capital of one of the principalities during the first years of the Monzags' reign, but now it is a city located far from most of the economic or political activity of Monzag. Also, Pusztòk is the last rest for the Hulean armies going north and many humanoid detachments have ravaged it over the years of Hulean control. Nevertheless, this city is the hub of the new network of patriots that the rebels are trying to build.

The Kadrulay hills are high hills covered with evergreens. They are the main entry points for the rebels and the Sendaryan tribes when they raid the region. It is also the home of the self-named count, Belà Telek, a powerful Monzag noble who didn't give up the fight against Hule. He his renown mostly for his habit to impale all the Hulean prisoners he takes. For a while, most people thought that he had died, but he recently made a comeback on the Monzag scene. The Huleans tend to leave him and his army alone. He has had contact with the rebels, but the latter stopped to use his territory to mount expeditions into the Hulean possessions since many became vampires after a short stay in the count's lands.

Even deeper in the forest, is the capital of the rebellion: Fort Balazs. It is there that the young king holds his court. It is also the headquarter of the resistance. Actually, more than 5,000 peoples live around the castle and in the neighbouring valleys. The relations between the rebels and the natives are a little frisky: previous attempts to convert them to the Way of the Law as taught by the Dvinzinians have resulted in disputes. However, the common hatred of the Master stops both sides to be aggressive one against the other.