Dongxi Lu is something of a masterwork on the world of Yijian: a multi-ethnic (in this case multi-species) empire maintained by a single emperor for a period of thousands of years on end. Sometimes in name, sometimes in fact, but the whole of the Eastern Sea now pays homage to the Kyôngbei in the great city-state of Tsengjeng. The Orc empire of Maashkur, the Halfling lands of Mallaborna, the petty dwarves kingdoms of the mountains and the gnomish roaming cities of the grasslands, even the dragon colonies in the icy wastes–all these places pay homage to Dongxi Lu, the “Road to the East from the West”. Division is by race (nyiyn-chyóng) and by caste (lau-chyóng), and movement through either of these is somewhat difficult–but it is possible, over several generations.
Provinces are divided roughly by what era they were introduced into service.
- The heartland is by now almost entirely dedicated to the capital city of Tsengjeng, an enormous and yet beautifully-structured enterprise with ten different layers, each reserved for members of a specific caste-value (lau-kghei). The view of the Great Tower, which is imbued with a special magic that allows every human within the bounds of the empire to understand each other regardless of language, stands as tall as the Empire State Building and is made of magically-reinforced bands of marble, ebony, and granite that shine at night from within. Try to move past the bottom ring as quickly as you can; they’ve yet to develop a police caste that can sufficiently deal with all of the stuff that goes on down there. The upper three rings–the Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth–are guarded by sphinxes, on account of the holy relics moved there during the 23rd Century from the mountains to the south. (There’s a whole book about it, with a monk, a dragon, and some very annoyed lycanthropes.)
- The Independent Cities are those lands surrounding Tsengjeng, first brought into a mutual alliance of elven leaders and their human subordinates. None is quite as rich as Tsengjeng, but each is responsible for the maintenance of certain “daughter colonies” (jyáng-dìy) out to the east (at least the ones that haven’t declared themselves independent subjects of the empires). The petty feuds of elven and human clans have long since subsided, but there are still mixed attitudes towards the other races. Some cities, like ‘ínliym, do not tolerate even half-elves within their borders; others, like Liègǔ, are more than happy to allow quarter- or even eighth-breeds to mingle and marry.
- The Suburbs (Chhwan-jyeng “village-cities”) are the next in line, those city-states not part of the First Alliance but brought in through alliance and/or conquest in later times. Such alliances may be as much as 3,500 years old, and by now most of the Suburbs are as developed and as gentrified as the Independent Cities, and even are involved in colonial enterprises.
- The Dragon Vassals of the north, who paid homage to the troupes of migrating dragons every year as they passed through the mountains, were added to the empire on the condition that they be free to practice (and spread) their faith. It has been 3,000 years, and the Way of the Dragon has waxed and waned across the centuries, but still maintains a certain amount of power. The Old Coalition, to the south, were those who sought liberation from the Orcish empire of Maashkur; one by one, they were brought out from captivity, and given over to the administration of the Independent Cities, who considered them dèi-jyeng “little brother cities” and allowed for trade and exchange. And the Smuggler’s Archipelago was at one time the source of the worst pirates in the Eastern Sea. They are now the main base of the Dongxian Naxy, the island culture as dedicated to the sea now as it always was.
- The Bloodless province (Pyúmhwēt) used to be ruled by vampires, who have over 2,800 years been conquered, subjugated, successful in rebellion, held responsible for the slaughter of a great many of their “cattle of the sun” (i.e. diurnal sapients), nearly driven to extinction, and finally permitted into polite society so long as they stick only to animal blood and coconut milk.
- The entire Orcish empire of Maashkur, which gives its name to the six provinces, was at one time the greatest enemy of Dongxi Lu (at the time called Beinan Lu, “the road from south to north”). Following a strict martial code, which would later be borrowed into the empire, Maashkur was in the end defeated by both the factionalism of the various states who wished to be rid of the tyranny of those in the tent-capital of Guulkar (including a temporary and volatile army of trolls), and by the sorcery of a new lau-chyóng within the empire, the Warlocks (who were taught their craft from members of the Old Coalition). In time, the Maashkurites would come to forgive the empire, and although they have occasionally sought independence through violent means (always violent, but not always life-threatening), they remain proud members of Dongxi Lu for two and a half millennia. For a time they were acceded the highest honours of all, when Empress Sharluum of Maashkur Province took her place in the Tower twenty-four hundred years ago–but that was but a brief sojourn into global dominance. No half-orc has reached such heights since, at least not in Dongxi Lu.
- The Sunrise Island territories were originally used as a naval base for the invasion of the eastern portions of Maashkur, but quickly developed a culture of its own (the local one of the gnomes notwithstanding). The island itself is now the main airship hub of the empire.
- The Eastern Expanse used to be much larger than the small province it comprises today, settled in the 29th Century, but most of the territory was taken by the cult of the Yuan-Ti.
- The Webless provinces (Pyumwáng) lie in the far north, and used to be home to five massive colonies of ettercaps. These were cleared starting twelve hundred years ago, and six hundred years after the last known ettercap was found and killed life is well. The people of these provinces are cold (in more ways than one), secretive, and have an annual tradition of jumping on spiders. (To be fair, they normally pick the bigger ones.) These are under the indirect control of ‘ínliym.
- The Outcrop provinces lie furthest to the north, and are centred around two lakes of some size. Once the centre of a coalition of humans, gnomes, and dwarves, these were outright conquered in the 31st Century, with a triple combination of firearms, disease, and dark magic. Still fiercely independent to this day.
- The Snakebite territories were originally part of the Eastern Expanse, but the transformation of a group of dragon cultists into snake cultists led to the creation of the Yuan-Ti, a three-caste race of human-snake hybrids. Empress Undulova decided, seven hundred years ago, that it was better to make peace with the new cult and place them in charge of the territories they commanded. Later rulers doubted the efficacy of allowing people who wished to copulate with snakes, of all things, to rule, and for a time the Yuan-Ti were oppressed by orc volunteers from Maashkur and a few spare dragons. They have not forgotten this.
- The Salamander territories, known for their worship of couatls and their armies of trained cockatrices and wyvern mounts. These were conquered only in the past five hundred years, the three lordships (or six, or twelve, or twenty-five, or two) having previously managed to repel all invaders for millennia. (Thankfully there haven’t been actual salamanders here for centuries.)
- The three Snowland provinces didn’t have spiders, oh, no. The first settlers there instead had to put up with remorhazes…thankfully, four hundred years is more than enough time (and cannon-toting airships more than enough firepower) to sufficiently deal with the threat. Polar bears knocking down garbage cans is still a problem, though.
- The Moon Kingdom seems peaceful enough, except for the ridiculously common curse of lycanthropy affecting some 45% of its inhabitants. The Bears have striven to maintain peace, and they and enough Tigers allied with Emperor Aruanda IV to beat back the Wolves, Rats, and Boars. There are debates among the Carnival of Animals (the heraldry of this country is by necessity rather important) as to whether the latter three groups should be made to undergo euthanasia. Currently a were-bear by the name of Lord Yash resides in the Ninth Ring, and is known for giving children rides on his back at parties. Parties of rakshasas coming in from the south and infiltrating the Tigers may cause some trouble in the future.
- The Easterly Lands, the most recent colonies along the coast of the far east of the One World, are a mere hundred and fifty years old. The inhabitants further inland are demon-worshippers, and it’s all the Dongxians can do to keep their own sanity, let alone convert the natives away from these terrible practices.
The emperors and empresses (kyôngbei) who sit upon the throne in Tsengjeng are elected from among a collection of Cardinals (chhyo-kyi), each linked to the ruling families of the empire and each holding the others as equals, at least in theory. The kyôngbei may marry and bear children, but their primary responsibility is the conduct of rituals and ceremonies to keep the apparatus of empire alive.
The races of the empire are:
The castes of the empire are:
- Priestly Caste: this also comprises the scholars of the empire.
- Magician Caste: the ranks of this caste are filled with magic-users from warlocks to druids. In recent years most emperors and empresses have been chosen from this caste.
- Merchant Caste: people may join this caste easily (but not for free; there’s an entrance fee) and seek out profits for the empire.
- Outcast: those who serve no purpose in the empire, save perhaps as serfs, thieves, or minor servants with no great duties upon them.
- Warrior Caste: those dedicated only to fighting for the glory of the empire.
TO BE CONTINUED.
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