Fundamentally opposed to the Aeultian Empire and any outside forces that threaten their sovereignty, the people of Escia have a reputation for stubbornness, bravery and indifference in the face of death – thanks in part to the warrior monk philosophy imported from Lhasa several hundred years ago and their history of almost continuous warfare against their much larger and more powerful neighbors.
Abhorring the use of magic spells in combat as cowardly and dishonorable, Escian Warriors protect themselves from magic with the use of powerful talismans that were, along with the Shaosi martial arts system and warrior monk philosophies, incorporated into their culture from Lhasa. As such, they have excellent relations with the country that inspired and refined their martial culture, and the Lhasian pleasure quarters in the capital is a highlight for any visiting merchant or dignitary.
Escian society is highly regulated, but despite having a strongly defined caste system, is surprisingly egalitarian and has a sophisticated system of customs, laws and codes of conduct designed to prevent abuse of power, corruption and crime. Just below the elite scholar caste, the warrior caste, who make up some 2.5% of the total population, enjoy many privileges and both men and women of the warrior caste are trained in their distinctive national blade, the Castir – from as soon as they are able to walk.
As has been the case more often than not since as far back as anyone can remember, Escia is once again at war with the Aelutians in a series of low level border wars and skirmishes that have been ongoing for several hundred years. These wars have become highly regulated over the centuries, with both sides adhering to a code of warfare preserving the basic dignity of combatants who surrender and attempting to limit full scale bloodshed by formalized battlefield duels and challenges. For despite their warlike nature, or perhaps in part because of it, the Escians are an honorable and cultured people.
In recent months however, the war has taken on a darker tone as the Escians trained new elite shock troops to break the defensive line at their border and have sent the Imperials reeling as they lay siege to the disputed and strategically important Windkeep Fortress, to which the Escians lay a historical claim that they will never willingly renounce..
Population: Approx 5 million, mostly concentrated along the fertile arterial river and the cities of ocean hold and the capital, which next to Lhasa, is one of the most densely populated cities on Eletreus. 45,000 Lhasian immigrants.
Military: 125 units of 1,000 battle hardened men and women born into the warrior caste (125,000 soldiers total). Strong but primarily defensive navy that patrols the coast.
Racial Characteristics: Physically, the people of Escia resemble the (living) inhabitants of the Lands of the Dead, with dark skin, hair and eyes (Escia was originally a breakaway settlement of ancient Khartoum that declared its Independence some 1,600 years ago). With a large Lhasian community in the capital, many modern Escians also have Lhasian characteristics such as almond shaped eyes and less body hair than the native Escian population.
Language: Escian. The scholar and the warrior castes also learn the languages of their enemies and polyglots are extremely common among the educated classes. Due to Lhasian influences, several hundred words of Lhasian origin have entered the vocabulary, mostly to do with spiritual matters and the fighting arts, but are pronounced in such a way as to be unintelligible to native Lhasian speakers who have not spent time among the Escians.
MAJOR TOWNS, CITIES AND PLACES OF INTEREST
STORMYARD: Named thus due to the frequent gale force winds that assault it from across the seas, it is the second largest city in Escia and has strong trade ties to the Land of the Dead and the entire West coast up to Silverleaf.
RAGEREST: Primary supply for Lumber and a nexus point for grain crops in the surrounding region. Also the birthplace of the undefeated Escian Sword Master Champion, Akissar.
ESCIA CITY: The walled capital, with walls almost as impressive as their bitter rivals in Paragonia – the city of Escia is home to the Royal Escian Military Academy, the Grand Temple of the West following the Lhasian monastic tradition and the ‘Lhasa Pleasure Quarters’ which is home to some 15,000 Lhasian immigrants. Total population, approx 250,000.
MIDMORE: This large town/small city is the center of the bread basket in Escia, with barges bringing supplies from the town and surrounding villages, hamlets and farmsteads.
ULENTOR CITADEL: Positioned to allow garrisoned troops to respond to threats from either the East or the West. Equal size and exact same appearance as its twin, the Eryas Fort.
ERYAS FORT: Positioned to defend against invaders from the land and the sea and has the largest deployment of Naval forces and is physically an identical copy of Ulentor Citadel (both were made at the same time).
CRAGBURN: A large town/small city that serves as the nexus point for several nearby mining towns extracting average quality iron ore and rich gold deposits. As the quality of the steel in Escia is not particularly high, most of their steel for making weapons is imported from Lhasa.
OCEANSHIELD: Basically a naval base with a small city that grew up along side it, the primary industry is fishing, diving for pearls and Opal mining (Opal being found exclusively at this location in Escia, and highly valued by their nobility).
SPIRITBAY: Another seaside town, though slightly more vulnerable to coastal raids that Oceanshield or Eryas Fort. The people of Spiritbay are well known for their stoic nature and many of Escias champions, both past and present, hail from this small but influential town.
THE BARE WASTES: A trade wind desert, the land of the Bare Wastes is dry and solid, almost like concrete and melted glass. The land and climate is so harsh that plant and animal life has a hard time making a foothold here and the only human inhabitants are small tribes of Nomadic Dervishes who have eked out a miserable existence here since time immemorial.
THE SAVAGE FRONTIER: Another band of desert with a single road winding its way to the capital, the Savage frontier is only slightly more hospitable to life than the Bare Wastes and contains many an unmarked grave of Imperial soldiers who attempted to invade the Kingdom.
RIVERSTAND: Riverstand is dominated by a massive fortified tower that has clear line of sight for miles around the only ford in the river (only cross-able at low tide) and has been and continues to be the scene of countless battles between the Escian Army and Imperial Forces. To the West, impassible swampland. Despite being besieged more than a dozen times, the tower has never fallen. These days it is used as a forward base as the Escians have driven the Imperial forces far from the border and continue to gather momentum, pushing them back towards Windkeep Fortress to the North East..
THE ESCIAN CASTE SYSTEM
The Escian caste system is considered quite rigid with little to no upward mobility, but is based not on the circumstances of birth but rather on individual merit, and within one family it is quite possible to have members of every caste. Indeed, children are considered to be ‘casteless’ and receive universal education until they are 16 years old, at which point they are tested in the ‘rite of passage’ and assigned further tertiary education and training appropriate to their new caste (in theory it is possible to decide to select a lower caste than the one assigned, but this is rarely exercised).
Because of this web of familial and other social connections between them, the castes usually regard one another with respect, knowing that their nation would not be able to function without the castes both underneath and above themselves.
At the very top of the Escian caste system lies the scholar elites, who are assigned positions in the government, temples and universities. These elites make up less than 1% of the total population, but are subject to many checks and balances to ensure they live up to their role as wise and benevolent leaders. As such, these people carry the weight of responsibility on their shoulders, and treat the castes underneath them as teachers would regard their students.
The caste below the statesmen and peoples of religion and learning are the warriors which make up approx 7% of the total population, but only a third of which are active military combatants (2.5% of the total population, the highest in all of Eletreus).
While warlike to their core, the Escian warriors are also expected to be highly literate and are famous for ‘battle poems’ which are short 5 line poems written by a warrior when he does not expect to come back from a given battle (indeed, nothing is more frightening on the field of battle than an Escian warrior who has made peace with death – coming back after having compiled a battle poem is a disgrace). The warriors also have a code of honor, though it does not commit its warriors to suicide after a dishonorable action like the Samurai Bushido. The code dictates that one must be able to make full use of their skills and abilities in service to each other and their country, which usually results in many soldiers forming bonds of brotherhood with their squad-mates. Most instances of dishonor could be forgiven via battle prowess or other achievements instead of suicide, which is the second most important part of the code; the value of life – and Escian warriors are taught to always be courteous and respectful, even to their enemies.
Originally, there were only 3 castes, the scholars, the warriors and the commoners, but over the years the commoners were further refined into two additional castes, the first of which – just below the warriors in status – are the merchantmen, talismancers, and craftsmen. This caste is relatively young in comparison to the others, only introduced after Lhasian trade-ships arrived in Escian harbors and brought Talismanic magic into their borders around 1300 years ago. They are expected to contribute to their country either by bringing currency and items into their borders or creating talismans, weapons and armor in order to aid the warrior caste.
Finally, the labor caste. This caste, though the lowest of the low, is further divided into two; True Escians or Outsiders (prisoners of war). True Escians who belong here are usually those who cannot properly wield the Castir due to being exiled or dropped out by their respective martial arts schools and have no skill that belong in any other caste. True Escian labors usually sell their services in the building of structures and architecture.
Outsiders, or prisoners of war, are usually put to work in order to pay for their status as prisoners. The Escians realized that by capturing enemy soldiers and using them as labor would drastically increase their ability to construct fortifications and buildings and sustain the war effort. Though one would expect a proud warrior-civilization would be merciless to their prisoners, the Escian code of honor emphasizes the value of life, which means that they believe that both their own people and their enemy would have skills that are useful to their nation. This results in Outsider labor camps actually being quite habitable and quite unlike concentration camps, with the prisoners compensated fairly for any work they are assigned to. There are no slaves in Escia. Many of these prisoners usually find that life in Escia is a lot more comfortable than a career ending in death as a soldier. In fact, there were a few former prisoners who decided to make their own businesses as architects and skilled labor in Escia, eventually finding success, recognition and wealth they would otherwise never attain in their career as soldiers. Outsiders are usually treated with indifference by the other castes.