Introduction to Atheria: Kharidath

   For today it’s another article in the Introduction to Atheria series – this time a quick survey of Kharidath, the land of purity and solar magic. As always, the birthright packages can be found on the Races of Atheria page and the characters for the setting use the abilities from Eclipse: The Codex Persona, a classless d20 system (also available in a shareware version HERE).

   Kharidath is land of contrasts. Near the borders of Parack, where the ever-regenerating heights and perpetual rains of the storm domain send rushing streams and rivers through gorges and over precipitous falls, the power of the sun domain is muted, its purity broken into a rainbow of lesser magics and softened by the mists rising from the waters. Moving southward, the cool green meadows of the high valleys near the border plunge into steaming jungles overgrowing long-eroded heights as the power of the sun increases and the influence of the storm domain wanes.

   Still further south, the streams slow as they languidly pass beneath the cloudless skies of the Mri on their way through the coastal plains to the sea. Their waters, the fertile silt they deposit along their routes and in the marshes and deltas of the coast, and the unfettered radiance of the Mri Sun combine to produce some of the most productive farmlands in the known world – albeit in a rather limited area. Much of the population of Kharidath clusters on the more arid rocky outcroppings near the rivers or well back from the fertile zone along them, thus allowing the best use of the irrigable land for the growing of crops.

   Eastwards, water becomes scarce as the rivers drain to the sea to the west. The fertile river valleys and floodplains fades into grasslands, and thence into the Mri Desert and a scattering of oases clustered around the occasional springs. If you continue eastwards, into the heart of the desert proper, you will find an occasional scattering of towns which swiftly fades into the rocky wastelands and sandy reaches of the Mri.

   The great Mri Desert itself is, of course, the stronghold of nomads, hermits, remote monastic orders (as a rule, the more remote, the more insane), and rebels against the traditions of Kharidath – their survival made possible by the resistance to light, heat, hunger, and thirst which is a part of the solar birthright of the people who live here. Outsiders tend to find the heat, light, and desiccating winds unbearable, although a few visit the edges of the desert proper seeking to purify themselves through its power.

   Life in Kharidath is dominated by the temples, by the obligations owed to them, and by the Oath of Remembrance – which continues to hold after more than seven thousand years. That philosophy of preservation has come to permeate every facet of life in Kharidath.

   Troublemakers – such as children who refuse to honor the traditions, ceremonies, and obligations of the faith, who attempt to innovate, or who doubt the divinely-appointed order of life – are walled into cells at the edge of the desert and left to die. Given that the local birthright provides resistance to heat, and the ability to survive for lengthy periods without food or water, such individuals have plenty of time to consider and regret their folly – often long enough for other rebels who have escaped into the desert to rescue them. Such rescue is widely regarded by the people of Kharidath as a fate far worse than death, since such rebellion against the will of the gods is believed to condemn the rebellious ones to become demons, forever denied salvation. It is simply proof of the depravity of the condemned that so many of the condemned raise their voices in pleas for release or rescue when sealed within their tombs.

   Unlike most of Atheria, ordinary dwellings in Kharidath are normally built of solid stone, designed to last for centuries, and reinforced with priestly binding spells. Even the humblest of homes and crofts are built of rammed earth and sodded over, capable of lasting for several centuries with due care. A similar attention to detail pervades their other public works: “good enough for the moment” is not a phrase to be found in Kharidath.

   Politically the land is loosely organized into small holdings under various sorts of nobles – each with their own, rigidly-maintained, structure. In one realm only female warriors may rule. In another, squabbling swashbucklers maintain a loose dominion over a bustling town. In a third, the ruling mages ruthlessly enforce their will on the trembling slaves beneath their lash. Of course, such domains are generally tiny, and the real power in the land is held by the temple councils.

   The monetary system of Kharidath was apparently decreed by some god or goddess of commerce of the Ancient World: it’s a simple system of copper, silver, and gold coins and bars (with a few optional metals) with a fixed value-ration between the types of coins that disregards the actual value of the metals involved. At least as importantly, it’s actual units are far too large for most people to actually deal in – convenient for rulers, merchant princes, and adventurers with hordes of treasure, but relatively useless for the common folk. Given the small scale of the domains in Kharidath, the currency system is almost useless even for many of the rulers. Perhaps fortunately, most transactions are either made by barter or are so traditional that they are essentially carried out as rituals. Visitors are well advised to come up with enough monetary metals to simply make their own coins and bars: no one in Kharidath has any objection.

   The people of Kharidath speak an archaic form of Ikunn (for conveniences sake, names for characters from the region may be drawn from Old English sources), and virtually all of them can read – however, save for their carefully-preserved classical literature, liturgies, and other ancient materials, writing is forbidden in Kharidath. The people get around this to some extent with a system of hieroglyphic signs which each represent a particular idea, concept, or number, but the work-around is extremely awkward. Slavery is technically illegal in Kharidath in most of the little realms. In practice, they locals don’t recognize outsiders as people – they lost that status when they turned away from the ancient gods – and they can handle a variety of tasks which their laws forbid the locals to undertake, such as record-keeping, hence the local nobility and priesthoods import a trickle of foreign slaves for various purposes. They also recognize imposed servitude as a priest-directed penance for sins against the gods. Given that one or another of the ancient gods regards almost anything as a sin (and the fact that some of the priests are more than a little corrupt by outside standards), in practice slavery is fairly common. Whether fortunately or unfortunately for enslaved locals, enslavement in no way releases them from their duties to the temples and the gods – which is what takes up the majority of most peoples efforts in Kharidath anyway. The non-religious workload of the common folk is heavy during the times of planting and harvest, but relatively light otherwise; save for the occasional dredging of silt, most of the well-built works of Kharidath need little maintenance. Major construction is uncommon, and – while purity, speciality spells, and stone are useful goods, they generally are not exported in massive quantities. Given that the country is isolated by the Mri Desert, the domains of Storm and Destruction, and the spurs of the Rian Mountains, it is hardly surprising that it is almost entirely self-sufficient. It really has no other choice.

   In general, the progress of a year, or a life, in Kharidath can be marked by festivals, holy days, and ceremonies. There are ceremonies for birth, for the ages of 1, 3, 5, 7, and 12, for recognizing various levels of adulthood, for bonding a master an apprentice, for marriages, for particular days, for the seasons, for each of the gods, and for dozens of other purposes.

   The creatures of Kharidath and the Mri show a variety of adaptions, mostly suited to survival in a rather inhospitable environment. Interestingly, quite a number of them show momentary bursts of incredible strength, speed, and vitality – evidently somehow expelling all waste products from their system, focusing utterly on a particular goal, and fueling such as effort with solar energies.

   See also: The Unforgotten Gods – an article covering the ancient gods of Kharidath in detail.