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The Hinterlands

There are four commonly known lands surrounding the Caliphate of Shalazar:

The Wild Wastes of the North

To the North lie the bleak and freezing lands of the Horse Barbarians, who roam at will across a plain too vast for man to cross alone. It is said that these nomads are violent and quick tempered, and fight amongst themselves over women or horses or imagined slights, and that traders who venture amongst them take their lives in their hands. They are pale of skin and hair, and the few nomads who appear in the slave markets of the bazaar, have an unearthly pale blue gaze. It is a rare sight to have a nomad in the slave markets, and fortunes have been won or lost in the bidding, all that a great family might boast of such a slave.

But traders who come back from such ventures are laden with rich goods, dragon horn, leather work, and fine beading, furs and ivory. The trip must be a cold and lonely one, in fear of sucking tar pits, and ice storms that flay the flesh from a man's bones, but the rewards for some have proved the hardship worth it.

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The Mysterious Hidden Lands to the East

Far to the east is said to lie the strange and quixotic Empire of Jade. The Empire is said to be at the end of a journey full ten weeks in length, crossing burning deserts and high airless mountains, through passes that thread treacherously through the mountain tops. Although the secrets of the Empire are said to be arcane and wondrous, it is a journey which can be undertaken only by the most hardy and enduring. It is also said, though many cannot credit such a tale, that in the Empire, men are the leaders, and that an Emperor sits on the Throne of Jade. Others scoff at this, as being the product of traveller's tales and exaggeration. Almost beyond belief is another rumour which circulates about the Empire, namely that they do not worship Shaliq, but seek wisdom instead from their own ancestors, a barbaric practice that surely cannot be credited.

The Empire provides rich trade goods for those that can make the journey however, the best quality silk comes from the Empire, excellent gems, carved stone and fine alchemical powders. Also slaves - stocky, dark haired, slant-eyed peasant stock for the most part, with their hands and feet dyed with saffron and turmeric to indicate filial respect - hence they are often called the 'yellow people'. The craftspeople of the Empire are also known for their intricate and delicate clockwork - a product of their society some say, which is also rumoured to be run with remarkable precision and order.

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The Dreadful and Terrible Jungles of Punt

Little is known about who or what live in the depths of the lush jungles of Punt to the south of Shalazar. Trade goods flow freely from its secretive depths, skins of exotic and gorgeously coloured animals, whether furred, scaled or feathered, expensive perfumed woods, dark-skinned slaves, cinnabar and musk. Also more dubious substances that are traded in the more shady areas of the bazaar - ingredients for spells of wizardry or possibly for the darker arts: dragon feathers, poisons, suspiciously soft leathers with their own tattoos, exudations and collected effluviums of creatures and other things only whispered about.

The tales brought back by traders are confused, some talk of enormously tall thin tribesmen with snakes instead of hair; others whisper about tribes of murderous pygmies, no higher than your waist, who drink the blood of children and are always hungry. Punt is used by mothers to frighten their children into obedience, in fairy tales everything mysterious and evil comes from Punt. The truth may be different but only the most enterprising traders make their way to anything more than the edge of this mysterious land.

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The Wide Free Ocean and Islands of the Archipelago

To the west of Shalazar is the Ocean of Ahmad, wherein lie the myriad islands of the Archipelago. It is said that you can sail the Ocean until you fall off the edge of the world, or spend your lifetime visiting the islands and grow old and grey before you could set foot on them all. The peoples that live there are a tough breed, many of them sailors, swarthy of skin, roughened by wind and rain, flashing jewel-studded teeth, and ears ringed in gold. Men and women like this can be seen trading on the docks of Shalazar every day, selling fish and whale blubber, carved walrus tusks, fantastic shells and pearls--and slaves. The mariners of the Western seas are a hard lot, it is joked that they would sell their own grandfathers for gold. But the wide ocean promises much, many a young lad or lass in Shalazar has dreamed of signing on one of the mysterious and exotic ships that ply their subtle trade up and down the coast. Stories are told of the freedom to be found among the islands, in a small land you rule yourself. Many have left to find this dream, in small boats or large, a family, a clan or an individual. Who knows what happens to them?

And then there are the lights of the far horizon. Some seasons, at twilight or midnight, beautiful flashes light up with sky with emerald or citrine, or carmine light. What makes these shows, more fantastic than the finest fireworks? It is said that powerful sorcerers, and worse, have taken to the West. Perhaps this is evidence of some wizardly battle? Or the clash of mighty dragons? Or Djinn playing in the stars? No-one knows, but the lure to find out is powerful and ever-calling.

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