|Current Ruler:||Ishkal Wen Nan Liwan|
Xiunhai-La is an island nation far to the east, past the continent of Mwayambi and even Nipangu, and is generally only reachable by air or by sea; mostly by air because the country itself is elevated several feet off the ocean's surface. It is a lush, somewhat quiet country that only experiences two seasons due to its placement on the planetary divide. The floating islands, born of a supernatural volcano, are rich and fertile, sustaining a dense population.
Xiunhai-la is the only other nation in the known world besides Azaan with the technology to create airships. While Xiunhai-la is somewhat isolationist and fiercely protective of its unique natural resources and intellectual property, Xiunlani tongs can be found in many large urban centers in the occident.
The land, geologically, is characterized by perilous mountains and rock formations, and most of the livable land is on the top of everything else: plateaus, cliffs, and so forth. The island nation is also known for its various floating islands and its lift-stones, and it is no wonder that Xiunlans are pioneers in making and flying airships and other structures that sail the winds, lifts, and scaling devices.
Summers tend to be hot, but breezy. Storm season is extremely rainy, and traversing around the country during this half of the year is dangerous without an experienced guide, something that isn't hard to find. Xiunlans are accustomed to the weather and the terrain and are trained to travel throughout from birth. Cliffs, plateaus, and inhabited locations are connected by a series of bridges worked into the natural rock formations which spring and arch from the base of the island several feet below. These are also coupled by hang-lines, especially in sloped areas, mounted on steel and rock for a quicker scaling/bridging alternative. Depending on where the person is, this distance between the livable land and the base can range from just several feet to hundreds of feet, particularly the Palace of the Falcon's Dawn, which serves as the nation's royal court and where its ruler resides.
While some areas exhibit signs of urbanization, especially in the central capital city of Kai Naptra (located at the base of the mountain where the royal court stands), most of the nation is agricultural, local farmers having incorporated advanced irrigation techniques (most notably pipe networks from nearby to far-reaching water sources) and cross-planting, as well as crop rotations. Terrace farming is popular due to the mountainous state of the country, and crops are easily categorized within 'steps' carved directly out of whole mountain sides.
Crops consist of corn, barley, wheat, rice of all kinds, and so forth, mostly grains, though they are hardly ingested in their pure harvested form. Most of the wheat and rice crops are converted into dry noodles before they are sold. Vegetables, herbs, and fruit are also grown and sold. Local medicine men/women are extremely knowledgeable about herbal remedies, usually brewed in tea or administered raw. Creating herbal hybrids is also common, usually through magical means, so medicine men/women also tend to be experienced alchemists and mages.
Rare trees, flowers, and animals make their home in Xiunhai-La as well. Shenshu trees are indigenous to the area, producing a fragrant, durable, white wood used for most exported crafts. Depending on the woodworker, the final product can be either heavy, or light, though the wood is mostly used for decorative purposes, sculptures, and musical instruments, but never for furniture. Black Lotus shrubs are also plentiful. They grow in Xiunhai-La, and while beautiful and fragrant, they are extremely poisonous if the extract in the petals and leaves is ingested. Most Xiunlan overseas assassins are particularly fond of the poison since the antidote is rarely found outside of Xiunhai-La. Ponchu leaves are used to make excellent red or blue-violet dye used extensively in the garments of the royal court. Ponchu blossoms are often used to brew naturally sweet tea from the nectar-bubbles located within the bulb, and the flowers themselves are traditional decorations for native confections.
Xiunhai-La is also a land of floating rocks, especially in the higher regions of the country. The main skyport/boundary (Yensho Gate) is built right on top of a particularly large, floating rock island that serves both as a docking place for most foreign airships, and as the main entrance or exit to the country. The island is also surrounded by other floating rock islands which make up the entire Gate, closely monitored by branches of the Imperial Guard and connected to each other by lift-stone bridges and hang-lines. Traveling airships are required to check in their cargo and their ships on a skyport island before they are allowed to enter the country, making their customs policy one of the most stringent in the world, especially for food products and imported vegetation. Smuggling illegal products in the country is often punishable by torture, prison sentences, or death.
The lift-stones are the primary 'ingredient' of sorts in Xiunlan airships, and manufacturers have developed extensive magical techniques in order to carve out whole lift stones and fuse them with wood and steel to make whole ships. Maneuverability and activation mechanisms are taken care of by rune spells carved into the rock-base and a metal trigger etched with runes to complete the spell. Mechanical/magical engines are also geared to work with the lift-stones' magical properties, as well as with the winds, which are vital for actually steering the ships into the right course. Their navigational systems are highly dependent on compasses, maps, and the skills of trained navigators dubbed Star-Readers or Astrolographers, who incorporate various astrological patterns in the sky and the time of year in setting a particular course. Defenses are usually taken care of by mages trained in the offensive and defensive practices of sorcery.
Xiunlan airships come in a variety of sizes. Airships built to carry a crew of more than twenty people take years to build, and large, Imperial battleships can take a decade or two to build. Small sky-cruiser types are more common around the country, used by border patrols and the merchant class to transport their wares from one part of the country to another, or beyond if they choose. They usually carry from one to a maximum of six people.
Windsailers are also common, their designs adopted from observing bird species on the island, especially birds of prey that tend to glide through the air rather than flap their wings regularly. These airships are mostly used to cross large gaps between a higher region to a lower one, and they are mostly made of sturdy wood enforced by steel and waterproofed, light canvas stretched tightly over the frame. They are popular with younger Xiunlans who want to cross gaps quickly. Imperial archers also use them extensively in coordinating aerial projectile attacks.
Mechanical lifts are also common around the country, especially for regions that are extremely steep and hard to climb, mostly operated by gears and insulated metal cables. Hang-lines and hang-line towers are derived from nearly the same design, where an individual can 'slide' through cables using a steel hanger (a triangular piece of metal, shaped from a single rod and twisted in a fashion to form an open loop at the end of the angle) that is commonly found in the possession of Xiunlans who travel back and forth between regions every day.
Government and Politics
The seat of the monarchy has been with the Laiku-Nan family for generations, and the heirs to the throne are determined by whoever inherits what natives simply term as 'The Sight,' latent psychic and telepathic abilities, and some degree of telekinesis passed down to only one child every generation of Gan Laiku-Nan's--the first ruler of Xiunhai-La--mystical blood. The reigning monarch, has always been characterized by blind, sightless eyes of a pale-blue color, and due to the fact that the leader of the monarchy in a particular era has always been physically blind (oftentimes mute as well), no matter the sex or age, a special form of martial art has been developed in order to synchronize it with the ruler's Sight abilities. The First Lords and Ladies of Xiunhai-La in history were always reputed to be several of the most powerful telepaths in the world. Whoever inherited the gene was the heir, and this has always been undisputed. Whoever was discovered to have the gene among Gan's descendants was dubbed the First Lord/Lady, or 'Ishkal,' the official title of the nation's ruler.
The descendants of the first family, in contrast to most Xiunlans, are also set apart by silvery-white hair occasionally streaked with pale or deep blue, and blue or green eyes. Like most monarchs, he or she also has a council of advisers and someone appointed as the First Lord/Lady's Voice (termed since most of the Ishkals were blind AND mute), who acts as his/her most trusted adviser. Traditionally, the Ishkal's Voice was a title given to the highest ranking general of the Xiunlan military, or the Ishkal's husband/wife (the Imperial Consort), but this has been curbed from time to time as no one can really choose who the Ishkal trusts and who s/he deems capable of helping him/her with the affairs of the country.
Notable Government Officials
THE TWELVE BLOODLINES OF GAN LAIKU-NAN: Liwan, Wu, Sepata, Rolon, Hayen, Lanuo.
Currently, the Ishkal of Xiunhai-La is a young, unmarried woman named Wen Nan Liwan.
Though most of Xiunlan martial arts focus on hand to hand combat, it isn't limited to that, and some weapons are incorporated in the techniques of some disciplines. While there are different styles, practiced by families or concocted by masters who are knowledgeable enough to create their own styles, most are derived from the seven major disciplines, unless one counts the eighth which is exclusively practiced by the First Lord or Lady.
Swan's Flight - Characterized by fluid movements and dance-like steps. The core lesson of this discipline is to trick the eye of the opponent and to determine an individual's muscle control. The slowest of the seven disciplines, it is often seen as a 'basic' discipline to be learned. Most Xiunlan children growing up are introduced to it, and they have to master it before moving on to a 'higher' discipline.
Tiger's Run - Characterized by hands positioned with curved fingers instead of fists, and movements tend to be reliant on the speed of the individual and his ability to switch from one attack to another to accommodate the opponent's movements. The core lesson of this discipline is how to read and anticipate an opponent's movements before he or she even attacks.
Society and Peoples
Xiunlans, like Elves, tend to respect nature highly due to the geographical conditions where they live, though they are hardly vegans. Xiunlans particularly love their meat, so much that trained cooks are noted for knowing how to prepare any meat dish perfectly. It is a nation where livable land is limited, and surrounded by ocean, so they need to coexist with their natural resources so as not to use them up.
Because of the strenuous terrain they live in, Xiunlans, male or female, tend to be skilled mountain climbers. Most of them are also knowledgeable in some sort of martial art, be it one of the seven major disciplines or a private, family technique. They bear resemblance with their Nipangui brethren, characterized by dark hair and almond-shaped eyes, although red hair is, strangely, somewhat common.
They are also taught from childhood to honor their elders, and speaking against their own parents, no matter how insufferable they are, is enough grounds for disowning an heir until they prove worthy enough to get back under their parents' roof. In return, however, Xiunlans consider children to be the keys of immortality, vessels of their own spirit even if their corporeal bodies are laid to rest in the earth, so they take good care of their own children, sharing a bond of mutual respect. Orphans are usually taken in by other family members or sent to live in surrogate families who are honor-bound to take good care of the child as if their own. Leaving an orphan directionless means leaving his/her parents' spirits adrift, and thus damned in the next world.
The upper class live in the more elevated lands, and nobles' estates are situated around the citadel which surrounds the Palace of the Falcon's Dawn. It is customary for noble sons and daughters to be sent away for a year to live amongst the middle and lower classes in the lower regions to establish relations and learn a commoner's every day life. This hiatus occurs usually between the ages 16 and 19.
Traditional greetings, and gestures of thanks are often unspoken. 'Hello' and 'Thank You' share the same gesture of pressing both sets of fingertips to the forehead while bowing from the waist, and sweeping the palms outwards with the fingertips outstretched on the way back up to a full, standing position.
The local language is called Xiunlani, though there are other forms of the language adopted in the twelve regions, so each has their own local dialect. Since their society is mostly trade-driven, most Xiunlans are also knowledgeable in Common creole trade language.