Sultanate of Symidia
“Life is a wheel, my friend. Part of the time you are out in the sun and then it turns and you are down in the mud. Your wheel will turn again.”
– Symidian thief to a victim, as he relieved him of his purse
Symidia is a land of extremes. The birthplace of the Symker people is bounded by an icy north, the impossibly high and volcanic Barrier Peaks to the west, the Typhoon Sea to the east and an enormous and forbidding jungle to the south. Symidians are caught between the earthquakes and eruptions of the peaks and the typhoons and tsunamis from the ocean. Minor natural disasters are almost a way of life and the more terrible ones are defining events in Symidian history. Each of Symidia’s current cities have been rebuilt dozens of times and many are now gone that could not be rebuilt. The larger eruptions and tsunamis are the cause of the great westward migrations of Symker people. These dangers long ago gave the Symidians their fatalistic view of the world, and this view has been carried westward into the other Symker nations.
Of all the Symker peoples, the Symidians are most strongly tied to the Cycle of Life. It defines them not just religiously but throughout all aspects of their lives. While other cultures speak of people following one path or another, such a choice is a central aspect of Symidian civilization. From birth, Symidians are placed in one of six castes. The castes, the ways of the Tiger, Falcon, Horse, Scarab, Swan and Jackal, correspond to the six parts of the Cycle of Life and define the caste member’s role in society.
The castes can be confusing to outsiders, not for the least part due to their titles. Tiger-caste members serve in the Symidian army, but in that caste can be found soldiers who ride horses and use the bow. Scarab-caste members are the laborers of Symidia and may be found at a blacksmith’s forge or mortaring a wall as often as working a field of crops. Horse-caste members include ship captains and drovers.
As with any society, some members fall through the cracks. Those for whom a caste is never chosen or who are rejected by others are known in Symidia as Untouchables. Untouchables find their place as chimney sweeps, rat catchers and gravediggers.
Symidia is ruled by a Sultan, a hereditary leader. The Sultan is often of the Tiger-caste, but not always.
Symidia’s symbol is a hexagonal shape, reflecting both their religion and their caste system, alternating the red of the volcanoes of the Barrier with the gold of the plains.
Symidia’s military is based on feudal service. The Emirs owe a division of troops to the Sultan in wartime. The divisions are made up of noble cavalrymen, less armored than western knights, but using both spear or lance and bow, foot soldiers from the cities, and a guard regiment of maiden warriors. The Sultan can also call upon a regiment of war elephants and his Immortals, swordsmen sworn to live and die at his command. Often when Symidian armies are put into the field, the Emirs allow the recruitment of Untouchables to serve as a screen to the main force. Those that live are sometimes permitted into one of the castes.
The Symidians worship the Kexvar’iss (“the Cycle of Life”) each part of which is represented by a Face. The Faces are six aspects derived from the old gods, but without the Gaal whose aspects include greed, hunger or chance. The Faces are the six forms man travels through in his life. Symidian priests guide the faithful through these forms.
The dead are buried with elaborate ceremonies along with their most significant material possessions. The ceremonies mark the entrance of the deceased into the afterlife and the elevation to the ranks of respected ancestors. There is feasting, singing, and drinking both prior and after the burial. It is common for the warrior’s fallen horse to be included in the grave. Meaningful worldly possessions have a soul of their own that go with the departed.
Friends are permitted a token of remembrance from their comrade. The remainder of possessions would go to the surviving family. It is considered rude and selfish to argue over items from the dead.
Untouchables are cremated, a fate considered horrible.
View of Outsiders
To Symidians, there are two types of outsiders: Grular and everyone else. Grular is the only nation to share a land border and all land trade with Symidia must pass through Grular. While some Symidians might wistfully daydream of riding the open plains of Grular free of the cares of a civilized life, most disdain the tribes as barbaric and cruel. All other outsiders are distant sources of sea borne trade, with their cultures misunderstood by any but the most learned, but with their coin and goods always welcome.
Mating Rituals and Customs
The nobility are permitted to be polygamous. Marriages within the nobility may be for love, but are usually arranged with the help of the priesthood. Attempts to breed for magical traits are common in the royal family line. Marriage is considered to last into the afterlife. Divorce is not possible in noble marriages.
Common marriages may be arranged for the mutual benefit of both families, or by order of the Sultan as part of a breeding program, but are also often the result of simple love. Dead relatives are frequently consulted on these matters. Divorce may occur if both families agree to it, which may result in compensation for one of the families.
It might be difficult to imagine such a physically large country being isolated, but all Symidians know of the outside world comes from merchants braving the caravan routes across Grular and ship’s crews. The people are especially fascinated by animals from other lands and many popular entertainments include exotic creatures on display or battling themselves or men from the ranks of slaves and Untouchables. Each of the cities has both an arena and a zoo.
What is valued by this society?
Symidians value comfort over most other things, both those things that bring a comfortable life and being ready for a comfortable afterlife.
Symidia exports ivory, spices, silks, and slaves.
Symidia occupies a significant area of Isarchael. The climate varies from near arctic to tropical jungle. Typhoons are common along the coast. Snow, hail, strong winds, and thunderstorms are common across the central plains.