The Staff and Flag Pathfinder
An ancient kingdom of arid deserts and exotic cities, Qadira is the westernmost satrap state of the Padishah Empire of Kelesh. It thrives on trade but longs for war. As the saying goes, “All caravans come to Katheer.”
All along the seacoasts, the ships of Qadira ply their trade, carrying the goods brought by camel and f lying carpet from lands further east: silks, spices, and salt, as well as the exotic magical luxuries for which Qadira is known— silversheen blades, healy myrrh, and heatstones forged along the volcanic mountain chain of the Northern Zho. Qadira is not the wealthiest of lands in the Keleshite empire, but even its relatively enormous frontier cities possess wonders that much of Avistan can only wonder at, from its peacocks and f lowering trees to its animated siege engines and well-disciplined ogre mercenaries.
In Katheer’s canyon-like harbor, the nation’s vast navy of white-sailed dhows rests at anchor. The Qadiran f leets are wellmanned and well-maintained—as the satrap knows, no frontier kingdom can neglect its defenses, and its wooden wall of ships is the first line of defense in the west. Its ogre raiders, f lying carpet scouts, and camel cavalry are defenses in the north and east against Taldor and various desert giants, bandits, and nightprowling ghuls. Dozens of abandoned towers, fortresses, and even entire cities litter the northern border of Qadira and are swept beneath the sands to the east, each the breeding ground of monsters and bandits. Within its living cities, the honorable knowledge of the cult of Irori is often turned to corrupt purposes, and everything beneath the sun of Sarenrae is a threat. The servants of Kelesh keep their blades sharp.
Government: The government is concerned with its rivalry with Taldor. Most recently, Qadira invaded Taldor in 4079 and shattered Taldor’s imperial ambitions. Although this lies 600 years in the past, the border is still tense and it is clear that Taldor’s nobles hope to someday attempt to exact revenge on Qadira’s northern borders. Piracy of the two nations upon one another’s f leets is more than common, and is a routine cost of shipping in the region.
Taldor and other nations on the Inner Sea and Obari Ocean fear the ambitions of Xerbystes II, the young satrap of Qadira, who wants to prove himself through a regional war and needs wealth to pay for it. He works as the hand of Kelesh’s emperor, given free rein over local affairs in exchange for an annual tribute of 13 golden bulls and 300 concubines for the vast pleasure palaces of the imperial heartland. Because of Qadira’s strategic importance, however, Xerbystes bows to the imperial will in matters outside his borders, such as piracy, trade, and war with Taldor. In those matters, his vizier Hebizid Vraj serves as the emperor’s hand. Since Qadira’s generals also follow orders from Kelesh, Xerbystes cannot have the war with Taldor he craves. He makes do by giving his heroes—a group of nobles and advisers called the Peerless—ever more difficult tasks in his service.
Katheer: Glorious Golden Katheer, the city of 10 million smells and a thousand, thousand caravans, is a place like no other, full of every spice, every race, and every magic, and home to the largest population of camels beyond the Kelesh homelands to the east. The palace of Xerbystes II stands here, as do dozens of academies of mathematics, philosophy, and learning. In the schools and bazaars, the activity is great and many foreign scholars frequent Katheer’s libraries. The busiest places of all, though, are the port and the camel pens. Ships sail to Quantium, Katapesh, and Absalom daily. These include dhows across the ocean and a small number of enchanted sandships—able to sail above the dunes and powered by elemental winds—across the desert sands.
Dozens of schools contend in Katheer for students. The greatest of Katheer’s colleges is the Venicaan College of Medicaments and Chiurgery. Founded in ages past, the healers from Venicaan’s halls are one of the hidden advantages that Qadira holds over Taldor, where the healing arts are much less advanced. Both magic and herbalism are combined here in vast halls to save the lives of soldiers, where they rest only so long as needed until they can fight once more. The more recent accomplishments in this line are related to the healing of camels and horses, a specialty always in demand, either by caravan-masters or by cavalrymen.
Within the palace, a hundred princes and princesses contend for the favor of the satrap, for he alone grants the commissions for the most valuable caravans back to the imperial heartland: salt, spice, silk, heatstones, and a dozen more goods besides. The wealth and strangeness of the place sometimes overwhelm visitors, but the Keleshites laugh: “This city is a pigsty compared to the Empire’s heart!” Perhaps mere modesty, but the empire has many Satrapies, and Qadira is by no means the largest.
Gurat: The city of Gurat is home to scholarly colleges and a strange prophet. The prophet is the Mouthpiece of Gurat, an ancient cyclops who serves the emperors of Kelesh as an oracle— perhaps the only one left after the death of Aroden. Visitors are not allowed anywhere near the Mouthpiece, who is guarded by a thousand deafened eunuchs. The city of Gurat is also known for its weavings, many of which are enchanted as flying carpets of various sizes.
Omash: The other city of note in Qadira is Omash, along the northern border with Taldor. It is primarily a fortress city, and marks the eastern end of the Satrapy’s patrols. It is from among the dozen schools of war here that the satrap personally chooses the guards for his palaces, the elite soldiers of his armies, and a few of his famed Peerless.
Sedeq: The settlement of Sedeq, south of the Zho Mountains, is a place of warm breezes, lush gardens, and frequent desperate pleas and screams, for it is a settlement of the Qadiran slave trade. There, captured slaves are broken, shorn, and made ready for sale. Few escape.
Al-Bashir: The greatest ruins in Qadira lie deep in the desert and are often inaccessible when dunes cover them. The one exception is the oasis of Al-Bashir, which lies at the center of many stone walls beneath a towering cliff at the feet of a Zho escarpment where the River Pashman touches those heights. This city is avoided by caravans heading to Katheer from all points east, for it is home to a roosting colony of hundreds of harpies, whose songs bring herds of antelopes and entire camel trains to ruin. The treasure piled up at its heart is also rumored to be immense, although no one has found a way to slay enough harpies to make it possible to carry it home. The satrap has tried to clear the ruins several times with small armies, but he accomplished only the creation of new generations of widows. For now, he saves his strength.
Shadun: The other famous ruin is the city of Shadun, somewhat east of Gurat, from whence are derived the people who bear its name. They abandoned their terrace farms along the hundred green trails and riverbeds of the Pashman watershed long ago, when the Zhonar and Zhobl volcanoes first stirred and threw great wastelands of ash and dust over their oncefertile farmland. The fate of the Shadun people themselves is unknown.
The Cult of the Dawnf lower is very popular among the Qadiran dervishes and military, and its leaders have long had powerful voices in the satrapy. Indeed, their call for an invasion of Osirion led to Keleshite dominance of that region and their meddling in northern Garund long ago also reshaped the region. Sarenae’s followers are much less eager to turn their goddess’s wrath against anyone but Taldor these days.
Gorum and Abadar are also popular in Qadira. They are seen as twins here—when one ascends, the other declines. Thus, the two priesthoods despise one another. In the current, long lull in hostilities with Taldor, the once-favored war god, Gorum, is in a period of decline, despite the satrap’s wishes. Meanwhile, Abadar continues to be popular among the people and seems every year to increase his dominance.
The arrival of new ideas and new cults from the East is almost as common as the arrival of camel f leets and silks. A small group calling itself the White Feather Monks recently arrived with such a caravan, teaching peace and serenity to those who listen. Their meditations and prayers are closely watched by the satrap, who fears any new faith or idea as potentially dangerous until his people can investigate its leaders and find them worthy. As pacifists, the WhiteFeather Monks face a long struggle to win the satrap’s good graces, for he has little use for those who cannot feed his war machine as he prepares the next offensive against Taldor. Some believe these monks are simply another cult of Irori, but others believe their origins are much older and more dangerous, perhaps related to the lost cult of the Peacock Spirit or to Roidira, a figure called the Dark Sister of Knowledge.