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The Great Families

Note: Because players will be allowed to take on the role of Emira, the information about Emiras and Great Families should be taken as provisional.

The wealth of Shalazar derives primarily from land: she who owns the land can draw from it, and controls both the landed peasantry and the water that flows through it. In addition, the owners of land can tax merchants, traders, and artisans who live within their districts, generally ten percent of their labours paid annually.

The domains of the Great Families within Shalazar normally grow organically as the influence of the family itself waxes and wanes: in the centre of each domain sits their Palace, most often surrounded by a garden; outside of that is a marketplace, favoured farmlands, and areas for warehousing; and finally, a series of roads connects each district to the farmlands immediately outside the city walls that provide the bulk of the Family's income. The Emira of the great family, of course, rules within the Palace.

The relationship between the twenty-four outlying cities and the Great Families is one of great complexity, but in its simplest form, each of the cities is ruled by a Steward belonging to one of the families, who reports to the Emira of the Great Family. It is between these cities that the military rivalries of the Great Families are played out-each has a military, generals, and the ability to project force against each other (although none are of the level of the Calipha).

Each Family is alike in its dependence upon farmland and agricultural income for the bulk of its wealth. However, the story of how each family acquired its land is very different, and this has left its mark upon the nobility within the house.

Number in parentheses after the house name is the rank and power of the family, with one as highest.

The Bountiful House of the Jerezad (1)

Emira: Sakhara

The Jerezad are an angry house. They stood on the brink of dominating the Caliphate, but misfortune, betrayal and religion combined to shatter their hopes. They still stand among the Great Houses, and many feel that they will seek to rise again.

As traders, the Jerezad have always known how to be flexible. As the winds of religeous intolerance blew, the Jerezad have bent. At least in public, they are highly authodox, giving generously to the priesthood. As a result of this, they have received unofficial but lucrative trade concessions with the Yildun.

The rise of the Bookwala did not merely split the house, it also took from them one of their most prized possessions; their trade monopoly with Punt. While they still control the principal caravan route, and have built a sizable dominion on the far side, the Bookwala's have discovered a new maritime trade route to Punt. To try and overcome this, the Jerezad have begun to conquer and enslave the tribes of pigmies. Though some, especially the Bookwala, have attempted to complain, the Jerezad claim that they are doing their religious duty by converting the heathen by force. The Jerezad still have a monopoly on trade with the Jade empire.

Emira Sakhara is generally a wise and careful ruler, but she does not have the respect and power within and without the family that her mother had. The death of her father during the Bookwala uprising left her with a viscious hatred of the Bookwala, that is only partially under control. His death also removed the Jerezad's greatest military leader, and without him she has been unable to make major military gains.

the Yildun (2)

Emira: Madaara

Of all the Great Houses, the Yildun count themselves the oldest. Supposedly, the first of the generals sent by Calipha Adara to pacify the barbarians was an Yildun, and they take great pride in the 'purity' of their family line.

The women of the Yildun are closely tied with the priesthood, and many of those who walk the upper sanctuaries of the Great Temple are bound to them by blood. It is not scripture, or even tradition, but for the last eight generations nearly half of the Council of Elders, which leads the Great Temple, have been born of Family Yildun.

Within this family, tradition is of the highest importance, and a strict adherence is required to all the laws of both Shaliq, and of the interpretations of her acts that have been handed down through the Temple over countless generations. The family has great influence in interpretations of religious law, and within the Courts of Justice. Now that the Calipha is a blood-relation, and heavily influenced by their teachings, the Yildun have secured a majority on the Council of Elders.

The family's income is almost entirely agricultural. They get along well with the Jerezad, but most other families find them too strict. With the ascencion of Calipha Amlatta to the throne of Shalazar, the Yildun's political influence has become almost unmatched, and they have much to do with the harsher social and political climate within Shalazar. After the collapse of the Great Family of the Izar, the Yildun gained control the city of Mudjaadan.

Emira Madaara, at age forty-five, is nearing the prime of her influence: she has ushered in an age of power and influence to the Yildun, and is well-respected within the Family. She took control when her mother, the Emira Nadia, withdrew from political life and took orders in a convent in the city of Asalah. Madaara is said to lean heavily upon advice from her mother, in much the same way that Calipha Amlatta is said to lean upon advice from Madaara.

the Hadar (3)

Emira: Bahiya

The Hadar have retained their strength and reputation as the most physical of the Great Families, in both the marital and the martial sense. Men within this family are encouraged as children, rewarded in adulthood, and chosen as husbands based on either their flawless good looks or their physical prowess. The women, in turn, are singular hostesses and diplomats, as well as strategists of the highest order. Since the rise of the Yildun to power, the Hadar have found themselves requiring increased political shrewdness and cunning to avoid potentially damaging diplomatic problems, and accusations of unholy excesses.

Accordingly, the Hadar have enjoyed mixed fortunes in recent years. After the fall of their house, many of the Izar married into the Hadar and the family strengthened its military vigour, now backed up with the weaponry and techical genius of the mechanomancers. However, the Hadar, with their open opposition to the Yildun's hard-line fundamentalism, had genuine cause for concern when Rasheeda ascended the throne, and a new heavy Yildun influence in the royal court became apparent. This, many fear can only worsen under the her daughter Amlatta. Consequently, many of the family nobility have had to tone down their excesses in the City of Shalazar itself, however, the rumour is that the city state of Tobrukh, just off the coast of Shalazar, has become a refuge for those Hadar seeking full indulgence in their desires, though its great palaces and gardens are protected by high walls and entry is strictly prohibited to anyone but Hadar nobility, and their invited guests and slaves.

Emira Bahiya is reknowned for her beauty and political astuteness, like her mother, the former Emira Sameera, before her. However, she has escaped inheriting her mother's fiery temper, and realises in these present times that the survival of her house must come first, so does her best to maintain good relations with the court and her House's decriers.

The Adventurous House of the Bookwala (4)

Emira: Yamada

The youngest of the Great houses, the Bookwala split from the Jerezad some 25 years ago. Yamha Bookwala became the 1st emira of the new house, and her marriage to Dunn al'Ashkenz soon brought that old but failing family under her wing. Her daughter, Emira Yamada, now rules a new and vibrant family, where the trade skills of the Jerezad mingle with the wisdom of the Ashkenz.

The first flowering of this merging was the creation of the new sea route to Punt. With this, they were able to breakthe Jerezad monopoly on Puntish goods. The Bookwala work hard to maintain good relations with the pigmy tribes in their areas of influence, and as a result have more success in aquiring the rare and the luxurious. However they cannot match the output of the slave worked Jerezad gem mines. Persistent claims by the Jerezad that the Bookwala have aided pigmy rebellions have never yet been proved.

the Fesk (5)

Emira: Ramasha al Fesk

The Fesk have benefited from many events of late, including both the fall of the houses of the Ash-Kenz and the Zaniah, particularly the latter. It has always been thought that the Fesk's moderate interests in fishing and farming cannot seem to account for their profit or connections although, suspicions which have grown considerably of late. One theory is that, with many of the usurous family of the Zaniah married into the Fesk for refuge from their death penalty, the act of money-lending has now been added to the Fesk's selection of dubious or illegal interests.

As head of this somewhat mistrusted house, Emira Ramasha is desparate to improve what she perceives as now decidedly frosty relations between her family and the heavy Yildun influence within the Calipha's court. To this end Ramasha has made big shows of Fesk contributions to the temples and any cooperation between her house and the Order of Khal'Nayak. So far her efforts have been met with distinct indifference from the more cynical of the Yildun, but the natural optimist in the Emira hasn't given up hope yet...

Lesser Families

The Lesser Family of the Ruchbah

Emira: Yamha

For a century, the Ruchbah were known as the "Fruitful" House, and were traders second only to the Jerezad in power and stature. Their skill as merchants was only surpassed by their skill at intrigue and power politics, however, which proved to be their downfall. Within the space of a year, one Emira of the Ruchbah was driven mad, and another assassinated by forces within the House. Despite the new Emira Sousserah's effort to reform these tendencies, the rot had set in, and infighting stripped the family of much of its influence. In Year 15 of the Reign of Calipha Rashida, they lost their status as a great family, to no one's particular surprise.

Many of the former members of the family joined the royal court, particularly those skilled at Palace intrigue. The newest Grand Vizier is a former member of this family. But there is still a small palace area and some lands controlled by the family proper, fought over to this day by some of the squabbling descendents.

The family is currently 'headed', such as it is, by Yamha Ruchbah, the daughter of Sousserah, who inherited her mother's kindness but little of her political skills.

Izar, Ash-Kenz, and Zaniah

Three great families have fallen away to nothing in the years since the Age of Wonders. The Izar fell after the city of Barminta was destroyed in a mysterious explosion. The Ash-Kenz, long in decline, finally had their status withdrawn, and most have married into the more prosperous Bookwala. The Zaniah, stripped of their privilege to lend money at interest, were annihilated, although some of their men managed to marry into the Fesk.

Yildun Hadar Bookwala Fesk
Lesser Families