Azaan is a nation of artificers from a distant island. They have only recently begun to make their presence known in this part of the world, so much of the information presented here has been gained second hand. It may contain exaggerations, misinterpretations, mistakes, or outright fabrications.
|Current Ruler:||High Directorate|
In the island's distant past it was home to an magical empire that brought to heel all opposing factions under one rule of an iron fist, imposing its ideology and policies in a manner that inevitably led to an uprising that would bring about its demise after being overthrown by the beginnings of what would evolve into the current City-State.
The powerful upper echelon of the empire, through its magical merits ruled over the population and enacted policies that greatly benefited those apt and capable of the magical arts, which only included a small minority of the island's overall population. Within this much larger population, not only did grudges over such lopsided treatment take seed and germinate, but schools of thought that diverged from those of a magical nature took root. It's unknown how or when the principles of natural and unnatural law were discovered and fostered within these groups, but what is known is that they ultimate turned the tables on the magical empire from whose shadows it appeared.
The Principles of Natural and Unnatural Law, as it's now known amongst all Azaani, was a school of thought that inferred magic, at its most fundamental roots, was a stark alteration of base physical laws. In nature, things such as fire do not spring forth from nothingness, and the dead do not return to life, instead, it is only through the application of unnatural principles, in defiance and aversion to the natural principles that such things become possible.
With this discovery, the mundane craftsmen under the yoke of the magical empire began to understand that they could, through sufficient methods, assert natural laws to overcome the obscene changes the unnatural laws had on the world and return it to its former, and most importantly, natural state.
This line of thought alone could not turn the tide in their favour, however, the efforts and labours born from this could. They learned that the power of the sun could be 'distilled' and focused through lenses, the reflection and channeling of energies with the use of mirrors, the magnetic properties of lodestone and its outward effect on other materials, as well as the heat and energy generated by metals and stones placed under stress. With each new finding they accumulated knowledge, and the more knowledge they obtained the better they understood the natural world and its workings, and ultimately, how to overthrow the unnatural laws and return the world to its natural and rightful state.
This was by no means a painless and bloodless revolution, little by little did it gain ground, and ultimately the magical empire's own actions had sealed its demise. The magical elite were a small minority, no matter how large a blow they struck against those that stood before them, it paled in comparison to even the smallest of blows struck against them in turn, their numbers and power dwindling with each progressively stronger wave. The revolution ultimately swung in favour of the mundane craftsman, who shielded themselves from magical observances and prying eyes through the use of complex machinery, leaving them ample opportunity and time to plan in secrecy.
The magical empire was inevitably brought to heel, with generation upon generation of magical bloodlines sacrificed to the gears of progress to lay the foundations of a new society. As a new rule took hold of the island the Natural Laws were deemed the only true path, any and all religions and beliefs that strayed from it were ruthlessly stamped out from each corner of the island without exception as a dictatorship of an even more brutal design came into being.
Under the guidance of the Craftsmen, the island has developed into its current state. Today Azaan is dotted with complex tower-like machineries that flicker in the sunlight, masses of whirling mirrors and gems powered by the labour of beasts of burden pressed into service, both man and animal alike, with no scrying-glass able to resolve an image from within its borders.
Unfortunately, the mountains of Azaan begin to lose their metals, the forests of the island are all but gone, and still the City-State expands, and still it requires fuels and materials.
The City-State of Azaan is administered beneath a 'High-Foreman', a title bestowed to a man (or woman, the title remains the same) who is considered to be the engineer of the state itself. The city-state proper exists at the center of the Island of Azaan, being a good 50 kilometers wide, and 140 long. The apparent location of the Island is within the ocean, relatively far to the North-West of Arangoth beyond the South Sea. (This has proven difficult to confirm through magical scrying, a traditional method, for reasons outlined below, as well as the Azaani's self imposed isolationist policies and the fact they violently refuse any actual contact with their island.) All other political entities that exist on the island are under the dominion of the City-State.
The most intriguing detail concerning the features of this isolated island in the middle of the ocean is the fact that no magic functions on it, or near it. It's unknown how far from Azaan it reaches, as any attempts to discern such a detail requires observers to draw the ire of the Azaan for foolishly assuming they have any right to be in their claimed territory.
Government and Politics
Azaan is ruled over by the High-Foreman, who is advised by the 'Council of Peers', all positions in which are only filled with the most accomplished and educated of Craftsmen. These positions are hotly contested and are not determined by vote, but rather, by peer review at predetermined intervals. No single seat held by a council member, not even the seat of the High-Foreman themselves, are exempt from removal and replacement by someone that has proven themselves more competent for the task. Laws are made and acted on by the Council of Peers and the High-Foreman in an overall closed system, policies that stagnate the advancement of the Azaani machine as a whole are removed to keep the system running smoothly. Any ambassadors dispatched to other nations, a singularly rare occurrence, will ultimately be a younger craftsmen of repute likely destined for the Council of Peers itself.
The Azaan economy relies heavily on slave labour to process and power the vast amounts of natural resources necessary for continued growth and advancement of the machine of a nation. The island of Azaan itself has been heavily stripped of its natural resources, and as such relies on trade with foreign nations. The importation of resources is heavily restricted, and the Azaan are very specific in how, when and who is allowed into the expansive claim of their surrounding waters. Azaan does not have ports, and no foreign ships are ever allowed on the island, rarely are they even allowed anywhere near it. They import large quantities of food, mineral resources, and seemingly useless materials that nobody is really sure what its intended use is. Some believe these resources are used in manufacturing methods unknown elsewhere in the world, as there would be little other reason why the Azaan would insist on their purchase to begin with. The Azaani are "fair" in trade negotiations, in a sense, though most wouldn't consider it such. They always honour their agreements, albeit these agreements tend to come in the form of a merchant marine Azaani airship showing up, demanding trade goods at a price (often reasonable, to their credit), and then refusing any further negotiation beyond that. Smart traders will take them up on their offer, as it isn't unheard of that the Azaani will show up to collect their expected goods with payment regardless of whether or not the deal was finalized, leaving behind a smoldering crater with the cost of the goods left beside it. If you have something the Azaani want, the smartest possible move is to give it to them, because they can either pay you, or they can pay your corpse, it matters little to them which.
One of the largest exports of the Azaan are slaves. Where they come from and why they have them is nobodies concern but their own. More "civilized" nations are apt to frown upon this, however, in such cases the Azaan have other goods that are less offensive to their sensibilities. Azaan metallurgy is second to none and they do not share their methods, which means if someone wants their highly refined and top quality metals they have no real choice but to do business with them. It's been said that even if other nations knew their methods, none of them possess the machines and expertise capable of crafting such materials. Seeing as how no other nation has achieved the level of quality the Azaan produce, this might just be the truth.
The Azaan are, to an extent, willing to sell their expertise, though this should never be confused with them selling their knowledge. Being the best engineers in the known world means they have in their possession a unique set of skills that most nations will gladly pay for. Their technology is also not up for sale, it is however, available for rent under very strict non-negotiable circumstances. Any technology they provide to other nations is purely on a 'loan' basis, and with an expectation that it will be operated solely by an Azaani person or with them around to oversee its maintenance. To most this would seem like the Azaan are taking a leap in faith to whom they trust with their technology under the pretense that they won't be betrayed. That, however, is a foolish assumption, as they engineer planned obsolescence, so if their machines and technology aren't serviced by an Azaani craftsman in the right way, with methods known only to them, it ceases to function. Additionally, anyone attempting to scam the Azaan have learned, the hard way, that they do not take such betrayal kindly.
The Azaan also negotiate for passage through their territorial waters, beyond the reach of most other nations. It should be noted that this fee paid to the Azaan is not for protection, but rather, the ability for vessels to move through these trade routes without fear of reprisal from the Azaan themselves. This doesn't include potential pirates that prowl these waters, some of the more enterprising of which have learned that if they pay the Azaan fee they're practically free to do as they please to anyone else without them interfering. Those that stray into their territorial waters are either outright destroyed, or as is much more likely, have their cargo and crew become the property of the Azaan.
These, however, generally concern the Azaan practices within their own territory. Outside of their territory they eschew these strongarm tactics in favour of third party proxies and foreign mercenary forces. Chances are most will be entirely unaware they're doing business with the Azaan themselves through these channels, and even these proxies might not be aware they're working for the Azaan.
The weapons of the Azaan can be strange and almost alien to outsiders, which coupled with their isolationist policies and overall veil of secrecy, makes makes it unlikely that anyone truly knows what they're capable of. Massively complicated weaponry of seemingly exotic natures, fueled by beasts of burden, both animal and slave alike, as well as those powered by other far more complicated mechanisms and misunderstood technologies serve as an ever looming wall to those foolish enough to tangle with the Azaani within their territory. Rumours and whispers of failed attempts of conquest by other nations, crushed beneath the heels of machinery and cast into the depths of the sea are common place. Whether or not these tales are true, there is one detail that is: None wage war on the Island of Azaan and prevail. Whether or not this is true, or this detail has been passed down by generations, told and retold until it's becomes truth. Perhaps the Azaani have successfully convinced everyone such efforts are doomed to failure before they ever begin.
The only weapon that outsiders are likely to have seen (without subsequently being eradicated with extreme prejudice) are the personal staffs their Craftsmen carry everywhere with them, which are roughly the thickness of a man's arm, with a variety of complex mechanical devices built into them.
On Azaan Airships
The airships of the Azaan are highly refined hot-air balloons, powered by exotic gases of a nature that are closely guarded secrets. The hulls of these airships take their design from their water bound breathren to some extent, albeit outfitted with rudders and propulsion methods more conducive to air travel. Arrays of yardarms outstretched from their hulls are fitted with sails to navigate in a similar manner to any other vessel, while rotating propellers provide additional lift and three dimensional propulsion, resulting in rather nimble vessels despite their size. While expensive to produce and maintain these airships are not uncommon in Azaan itself, being the preferred method of transporting large stores of goods, as well as intercepting any vessels unfortunate enough to wander close enough to their territory. The airships themselves seem almost whimsical in the nature as they float through the air, though anyone that's been witness to the sheer amount of destruction they're capable of raining down upon enemy forces will vehemently insist otherwise. Tales abound of liquid fire that cannot be extinguished and sets the ocean itself ablaze, curtains of acidic clouds that peel the flesh from bone, and shells that detonate high in the sky and blanket large swathes of the ocean's surface with shrapnel are common horror stories associated with what few survivors live to tell the tale of tangling with one of these vessels. Some rumours insinuate that some unseen force upon the wind itself has left entire crews of unfortunate vessels dead without so much as a trace of violence upon them, robbed of their lives and leaving behind perfectly intact ships for the Azaan to claim as their own.
The Azaani, strangely enough, have no naval forces to speak of as far as surface craft are concerned. While this would normally leave most nations, especially an island nation, woefully unprotected, the number of airships they can field at any given time, given the brutality of these engagements, swiftly dashes the hopes of anyone thinking them incapable of defending themselves on the open sea, their reaches stretches far from the shores of the island of Azaan itself. On the highly unlikely chance that a ship could actually make it within visible distance of the island, they would be met by a very disturbing truth: By all accounts the island of Azaan is one giant, well fortified and well armed fortress. The weapons far too massive and complex to be carried by their airships can be found on its shores. It's said the armaments of their air vessels are capable of wiping out fleets, however, the armaments of their coastal defenses are capable of wiping out nations.
Other rumours insinuate that the Azaani possess vessels that, just as they navigate and dominate the skies above, have vessels that navigate the depths of the ocean far below its surface. This is, of course, purely unfounded rumour, though curiously there are tales of ships in their territory that have abruptly come under attack, only to vanish beneath the waves and leave behind dumbstruck sailors gazing up at the skies to find them empty of the Azaani airships presence they've learned to fear.
On Azaan Staffs
There's a symbolic relationship between a Staff and a Lever, and this seems to have started with the revolution that formed the City-State. Men working for the Craftsmen as assistants and apprentices would take as much as they could with them to build and repair siege weapons, and couldn't carry much weaponry or armour with them. Instead, the levers used to wind machinery became servicable clubs. As the machinery developed during the revolution, more force had to be applied, and longer levers were used. Often even if the crew had to abandon their siege weapon, they would take the levers with them - believing, a little erroneously, that they would act as symbols of natural law against magic. Regardless, this has evolved into the modern Azaan use of the weapons.
Typically arm thickness, the staffs they use are packed with machinery. While often encased in far lighter wood, the staff itself will contain all manner of blade and spring. A twist of a metal ring set in the staff may force spearheads in all directions from its tip, or release a series of cogs and springs that sends a bolt from its end with the same rough effect as a crossbow. Weapons that sprout folding blades to become a scythe one moment, a spear the next, and perhaps a halberd before flinging bolts or darts at foe were of great appeal to the post-revolution Azaan. These weapons, which are highly complex machinery, are both symbols of and bearers of the natural laws the Azaani espouse, to the extent that magical protections will often fail anyone hoping to shield themselves with the unnatural laws.
Most Azaan Craftsmen, the only ones who would be allowed to carry such weaponry, tend to build their own, however many dedicated to other sciences will purchase theirs from workshops dedicated to the creation of the staffs. One employed as a bodyguard and assistant, not an uncommon position, might build his entirely out of metal for durability.
Few Azaan would forego the carrying of such a weapon, primarily due to the relatively high danger in tempting the 'uneducated masses' to think they'd have any real chance in attacking their masters.
On Foreign Military Presence
The differences between the Azaan's military presence inside and outside of their territory is rather stark. Within their territory their military might is seen as an insurmountable wall, a behemoth of frightening strength and destruction. While their military prowess outside of their territory may occasional consist of a small attachment of airships launching assaults, it's a relatively rare phenomena for them to put their technologies and assets unnecessarily at risk with anything beyond minor offenses. Instead, owing to the natures of having very little concern for the value of life (or rather, non-educated Azaani life), their preferred method of involvement consists of carrying out their wills by contracting out third parties and mercenary forces. These are expendable resources and are easily replaceable, any losses amongst these hired factions far outweigh the potential losses of their technology and educated population they could incur.
The Azaani have found quite a bit of success in leveraging their wealth in this manner, as many have found they pay quite well for these services. If a nation finds one of their mining operations abruptly taken over by brigands, or other potential resources to which these forces don't particularly have any expertise or merit in controlling, there's a decent chance there's an Azaani funding their efforts, who will of course feign ignorance where their involvement is concerned. Plausible Deniability is one of the nations favourite tactics, as are funneling funds to contras of nations with whom they'd prefer had more favourable stances on trade and commerce with the Azaan nation.
Principle of Natural Law Versus Unnatural Law
The principle decrees that the application of 'natural laws' in sufficient complexity, such as the distillation of light into its various colours, has an affect in stabilizing the natural laws against any 'magical' acts, which are based around the 'unnatural laws', or considered disruption of the natural laws. A sufficiently complex pocket-watch, for example, would have the capacity to disturb low-powered illusions in the hands that hold them, and would be better equipped to survive the incineration of its owner in the event of fireballs raining from the sky.
The more or less absolute nullification of unnatural power would require far more. The distillation of light, alignment to the stars, careful usage of exotic minerals and alloys, exquisite demonstrations of balance and gear work - in short, suitable only for use in large buildings.
The Azaan are able to produce devices of a sufficient quality and complexity, possibly the upper limit, that in the size and complexity of a small building or tower-sized device no higher than 5-6 stories that could absolutely nullify magical activity within the building, and around it for perhaps ten to twenty meters. Beyond that magical activity would be mildly disturbed for another ten, and beyond that there can be no effect whatsoever. Far larger constructions would, obviously, have further-reaching ranges.
A man could, at best, carry enough such machinery to prevent one to scry his location, invade his mind or otherwise weakly tamper with him, though could do very little to fully prevent a determined magical attack.
Society and Peoples
In short, if one is not a craftsman or other person of education, you are dirt. Employment has more in common with slavery, and slavery itself is a relatively popular and common phenomenon in Azaan. The rights of the average citizen in Azaan generally have as their high point the right to own their own shoes. The particular low points include an inability to choose career paths, or enter any major school of education without sponsorship. Those who are craftsmen, and have completed an apprenticeship or stint as a student in regards to any major science, on the other hand, are a practical nobility. On a slight positive point, there's very little if any distinction between gender in terms of practical rights, and in terms of the number of 'educated' versus 'uneducated'. As it always has, however, the educated elite in Azaan are often less than one in ten people, at some points in their history dropping as low as one in twenty.
While access to education is extremely restricted based on birth, there exists no boundary that cannot be overcome by academic accomplishment. While uncommon, it isn't unheard of for someone from the lower rungs to work their way up to the very top of society, as social standing is based entirely off of these achievements. It's rumoured that a few people that have earned seats on the council of peers, and even more surprising, that at least one of the former High-Foremen was born to uneducated commoners one step above a slave, only to rise through the ranks and achieve the highest position in the land. The opposite is also true, those born in positions of social power are not exempt from this reality, anyone who cannot prove themselves in this system are ultimately put in the position they belong based on their accomplishments and merits. This is, of course, the highest of shames one can hoist upon their families, and chances are these failures will soon find themselves disowned and their existences disavowed if they don't correct these missteps.
The population of Azaan is relatively low, all things considered, this is most likely due to the fact that only the cream of the crop and highly educated are in a position to truly grow and prosper. This is, of course, coupled with the fact that slavery is common place and their lives are seen as expendable goods, ones that can be replaced, much like the cogs and gears can be replaced to ensure the machine that is the Azaan nation continues to run smoothly.
The Azaan's craftsmen are, in general, educated and skilled enough to be considered amongst the most achieved engineers in the world. (OOC Note - It should be noted: efforts in regards to the utilization of Steam-power or man-portable 'gunpowder' style weaponry are not only fruitless, but potentially impossible.) Chemistry is sufficiently advanced for the production of a wide variety of acids, gases and stable explosive compounds. The major technological advancements that the Azaan can be noted for are primarily in the use of Hot-Air balloon style airships, excessively complex clockwork machinery, and notably 'Clockwork Golems', which are capable of far more than the wind-up walking animals and toys the Azaan make. There is rumour that these 'Golems' are capable of speech, and perhaps even coherent thought.
There is some debate by those learned in the ways of machines in other nations, however, to the possibility of anything like this with machine alone, meaning there is likely far more behind this than is being made general knowledge. When pressed, the Azaan artificers responsible have only ever responded that it involves 'Trade Secrets'.
Rumours abound concerning exotic materials found only in small quantities on and around the island, which the Azaan violently covet and control. Amongst these are tales of lodestone with strange magnetic properties that allow the most complex of their technologies to function. This may explain, due to its rarity and value, why any sufficiently advanced technology of Azaan make rarely sees the light of day outside of the island, the potential loss of any quantity of these materials would serve as an irreversible blow against the overall technological strength of the nation.
The Azaani have their own language, however, it is rarely ever spoken outside of its borders. In the presence of outsiders it's uncommon to hear more than a few words, as it's considered anathema to share it with foreigners. The reason why is simple: What value would come from the words of a Craftsmen upon the lips of uneducated savages? None. The Azaani begrudgingly learn to speak the languages of those they deal with, and remain steadfast that outsiders should essentially consider it an "honour" to have a Craftsman speak their language.
One of the most pressing of unanswered questions concerns the fact that, despite being in possession of such powerful weaponry and vessels, why is Azaan not an expansionist, war-like nation? It seems odd that, despite having a reasonable chance at invading and imposing their wills on nations and continents across the waters from their isolated island, none in living memory have fallen prey to this possibility? There are documented cases of Azaan war efforts beyond their territory, however, they all have a single thing in common: The Azaan never permanently occupy foreign territory. When the Azaan war machine rolls out across the water, they attack, claim what they're after (often very specific resources), and then almost immediately pull up stakes and head back to their island. Despite the fact that they have such a high demand for resources despite their size, no operations are undertaken on foreign soil to claim them as their own beyond these intial maneuvers. Some debate that it's their xenophobic culture that keeps them from expanding further, while some theorize a far more damning possibility. All of the efforts that Azaan have undertaken to reinforce the "natural laws" of their island have had a profound effect on their ability to function elsewhere in the world, which is bathed and rooted in the "unnatural laws". It's possible that those mighty war machines and coastal defenses that keep their island safe from invasion simply cannot function beyond the influence of the 'bubble' of natural laws that envelops it. Is it true, perhaps, that the more advanced and complex their creations, the less capable they are of functioning beyond its purview? So far nobody has been willing to test their theory, because if it isn't true, they run the very real risk of getting on the wrong side of a powerful entity that has proven time and time again that they are willing to do whatever is necessary to continue to fuel the machine that is the Azaan.
Others theorize that the Azaan simply consider these expansionist tactics inefficient. The amount of resources and technology that would be required to take over and control a foreign entity outweighs anything they stand to gain from their claims over foreign lands. And when one takes into account the potential losses they might incur with failures it stands to reason they've preferred to hedge their bets on more subtle ways of getting what they want.