The Realms of Shabak

Salvaged remnants from the Temple of the Grand Vizier

On a recent visit to Shabak I journeyed to the great halls of the Grand Vizier, the pre-eminent authority on that enigmatic realm. To my dismay I saw that the halls had been abandoned and plundered. No longer were those works that had shed so much light on Shabak available.

I saw it as my duty to try to salvage what I could and present it here. Should the Grand Vizier one day return, then they will find their reightful home once again:

 

 

HISTORY


Shabak is an ancient nation, with a history rich in intrigue, war and mysticism. Here, scholastically inclined travellers may peruse the history of the Principality. To read to your heart's content, simply click on the tome below.



THE HISTORIES OF SHABAK

The people of Shabak record their histories by the reign of the Princes which ruled. To view a summary of the Prince's reign, click on the Star of Shabak bearing their name below.

GAVRAO I
(1437-1498 O.T.)

NUNO I
(1498-1502 O.T.)

JANAO I
(1503-1548 O.T.)

BELA I
(1844-1885 O.T.)

GAVRAO IV
(1995-1999 O.T.)

NUNO III
(1999 O.T. - 5 A.C.)

PALOS I
(5 - 45 A.C.)

GAVRAO IX
(221 - 244 A.C.)

PALOS V
(357 - 381 A.C.)

NUNO XXII
(381 A.C. - Present)



GAVRAO I (1437-1498 O.T.)
"FATHER OF THE NATION"

History knows the founder of Shabak as Gavrao I, but it is entirely possible that this was not his name at all, and that he and his son were renamed Gavrao by Gavrao III in an attempt to lend his regime legitimacy. Despite Shabak's fine scholastic tradition, very little is known of the early history of the Principality, and what there is shaky information based on myth, hearsay and word-of-mouth.

Gavrao I is believed to have led a band of followers across the Northern Ocean to land near what is now Bakulan. The origin of his sailors is hotly contested, but many scholars now believe that Gavrao I originated from near the Giant's Teeth, although some believe they might have been refugees from the Old World. Whether Gavrao held noble rank is also questionable - some have claimed he was likely a simple sailor, or even a pirate!

What is known is that Gavrao and his followers were fierce warriors. Despite revisionist history by some Shabaki scholars, it is believed that their original intent was nothing more than piracy. However, plans to plunder and flee were foiled by the hand of fate. Gavrao's men found the villages they raided under attack by Orcs, and they were soon fighting alongside the native villagers. Their plans for flight were dealt a further blow when a three-month storm grounded their vessels. By the time they were able to sail away, Gavrao had decided that this new land held a potential far greater than hit-and-run piracy could furnish.

The invaders occupied several small villages, overcoming counter-attacks by the Orc tribes and local warlords. At first, Gavrao and his followers were able to exploit divisions among the local warlords by exploiting divisions among them. When the warlords began to realise they faced overthrow and united against the invaders, Gavrao's Principality already controlled most of Northern Shabak, including the Melgov Forest, the Fields of Woe and the Drakwood.

The Wars of Unification, as they are now known, dragged on for almost a century, but Gavrao I's forces never suffered anything more than minor setbacks. Many of the local warlords chose to serve Prince Gavrao rather than fight to keep their own small feudal kingdoms. Some were impressed by the Prince's ability to hold off the Orc raiders, others by the invaders' fighting skills, and still others simply sought to ally with the winning side. Sadly, Gavrao I was killed during the Wars - he was slain by an arrow during an uprising by Orc prisoners south of Barlamma, in the Fields of Woe - an area which earned its name after the death of the Prince.

NUNO I
(1498-1502 O.T.)
"THE STORM PRINCE"

Nuno I continued his father's reign almost without pause. Less of a warrior than his father, but more of a politician, Nuno I was instrumental in entrenching the power of the nobility - some of whom were the followers of his father, some of whom were the original feudal warlords of Shabak. Nuno I was a worshipper of the storm god Kulak (or Kukalak as he is known elsewhere in Allansia), and is often known as the 'Storm Prince'. He laid the foundation stones for the mighty Temple of Kulak in Bakulan, although it was not completed for more than two decades. Sadly, Nuno I's lack of martial skill proved to be his undoing. While leading his armies in battle in the Storm Fields, he was slain by an enemy arrow.


JANAO I
(1503-1548 O.T.)
"THE UNIFIER"

The younger brother of Nuno I and son of Gavrao I, Janao I was as great a warrior as his father. A follower of Telak, the warrior god, he nonetheless allowed the Church of Kulak to flourish, overseeing the completion of the Temple of Kulak in Bakulan in 1519. Janao I saw victory in the Wars of Unification, and is known as the Unifier. It was he who, after the battle of Cothlee, when he overran the last major army of the feudal warlords, proclaimed the Principality of Shabak - although the Principality's borders were substantially smaller than they are today.

True to his martial nature, Janao continued to lead the troops of Shabak to war even after the Unification. His foes were mostly the various Orcish tribes, and the mysterious civilisation which existed in the Plain of Bones. It is from the histories of the time that the Plains Dwellers are known to the historians of Allansia, although the reports of the Shabaki are somewhat biased. Janao I viewed the Plains Dwellers as poor warriors, often commenting that they seemed to prefer priestly pursuits. Despite this, the various wars with the Dwellers were inconclusive, and despite several battles over what is now the Green March, the Shabaki Empire gained only small areas of territory.

Janao's wars against the Orcs were far more successful. He drove the Orcs of the Jagged Fang and the Bronze Dagger from the Shabak Peninsula, and they have never returned in force except during the War of the Wizards. Small tribes continued to exist in the Ulakbad and the Blackleaves, as they do to this day, but they were mere nuisances to the Prince's reign. It was also Janao who began the practice of enslaving Orcs and their inhuman relatives, which continues to this day and forms an important part of the Shabaki economy.

Janao died in 1548, although many believe he was senile for the last decade, with practical rule passing to a Council of Dukes. Whatever the case of his early years, it is known that the Unifier died in bed.

BELA I
(1844-1885 O.T.)
"THE BLOODY"

Bela I's reign is not remembered fondly. Bela was a disciple of Skotas, the God of the Oceans, and brought religious intolerance to Shabaki politics for the first time. Even now, Bela's name is invoked by Shabaki mothers to frighten their children.

Bela proclaimed the worship of Skotas (known as Hydana to the rest of Titan) as the one true God of Shabak. Although he did not go so far as to demand that other Churches cease their worship, he demanded that they submit hefty tithes, and that they yield much of their land to the Prince. Many of the powerful Nobility were followers of such influential Churches as those of Telak, Fourga or Kulak.

When the Prince's armies tried to seize land, war occured. The final straw came when the Priests of Kulak were evicted from the Temple of Kulak in Bakulan and it was converted to become the Cathedral of Skotas. Even know, the seizure of the Temple is seen as a dark chapter in Shabak's history.

The War of the Holy Ones lasted for twenty years, and ended in victory for Bela I. Reprisals were bloody, as many of the rebel Nobility were executed or fled overseas. Despite the internal turmoil, the enemies of Shabak failed to capitalise on the war. It seems that the Plains Dwellers were already in decline - it is possible that they were experiencing a similar civil war - and the Orcs were suffering from the trepidations of human invaders from the North. However, raiders from the Gibrak Plains area did prey on coastal shipping along the Bay of Kulak.

Bela I's contribution to Shabaki history is hotly contested, to this day. Although he weakened the state considerably, his promotion of the Church of Skotas began the strong traditions of seafaring which have flourished over time and are now responsible for Shabak's prosperity. Furthermore, the bloodiness of Bela's religious intolerance have meant that, after his death, the lessons learnt at his hands have ensured that the Churches of Shabak remain remarkably tolerant of one another.

GAVRAO IV
(1995-1999 O.T.)
"THE DEFENDER"

Gavrao IV was an unremarkable ruler who had the misfortune to govern Shabak during a remarkable time. The War of the Wizards did not ravage Shabak as strongly as it did other areas of Allansia, but it the Principality still suffered, and its isolation meant that the nation was forced to face the challenges of Chaos almost totally alone.

The first signs of the War came when unnaturally strong storms blowing from the South-East destroyed much of Shabak's Navy. Mariners from Khul reported a great darkness gripping the continent. However, Gavrao IV had no time to worry about events in distant continents - the Orcs of the Greyspire and Scarthorn Mountains were growing restless, and darker forces than the Orc's traditional shamans rallied behind them.

The Orcs exploded from the Scarthorns in 1998. Despite attempts by Gavrao IV to ready the noble armies, the Orcs' first impulse saw them surge across the Green March, their armies reaching as far as the Storm Fields. The numerous Orc and Goblin slaves who served in the cities of Shabak simultaneously rose in revolt, aided and abetted by Orcish shamans who had snuck into the slave encampments in the months prior to the invasion. Many troops needed to turn the march of the Orcish armies were tied up suppressing slave revolts.

For the first time in nearly a century, Gavrao IV donned his Princely army and led his troops into the field. He met the Orc Warlord Krazhayk in combat in the Storm Fields at the head of the mightiest army Shabak had ever fielded. Gavrao IV met Krazhayk in personal combat and, despite fighting bravely, was slain. However, his sacrifice inspired his Generals to great victory, and the Orc army was defeated.

Gavrao IV's reign was cut short, and many a bard has penned a song or historian a thesis pondering what he might have achieved for Shabak had the forces of Chaos not cut him down in the prime of his reign as a Prince. Despite this, the Defender, as he is forever known, is eternally remembered as one of Shabak's greatest heroes.

NUNO III
(1999 O.T. - 5 A.C.)
"SCOURGE OF THE BRONZE DAGGER"

Having seen his father, Gavrao IV, cut down by the Orc Chieftain Krazhayk at the Storm Fields, Nuno III, only nineteen at the time, became the new Prince of Shabak. His greatest challenge was, at first, not the Orcs, but a cabal of noblemen who sought to install one of their own as Protector and Regent for the duration of the war, sidelining the Prince's power. Nuno challenged the Dukes to to explain his actions, and, when they refused to acknowledge him, personally slew their leader, Duke Moniz, in a swordsman's duel. Although some among the Orcs were glad to see the Shabaki divided, others feared the strong leadership Prince Nuno would bring. They were proven right.

Nuno fought a holding action against the Orcs while he martialled Shabak's strengths. Refugees from the Plains Dwellers were formed into units thirsting for vengeance against the Orc hordes. Spies encouraged squabbling between the Jagged Fang and Bronze Dagger tribes. The magicians of Shabak were put to work, researching new and mighty battle magic to combat the shamanist sorcery of the Orcs. The priests of Telak, Fourga and Kulak prayed to their gods for similar favour.

The campaign was hard, bloody, and suffered numerous setbacks, but Nuno's charismatic leadership rallied the nation. Skilfully exploiting the setbacks Chaos was facing across Allansia, he drove the Orcs back across the Green March, all but destroying one of the two tribes, and thus earning himself the name Scourge of the Bronze Dagger. Nuno III was slain at a battle near the city of Tempest, but his legacy - victory against the hordes of Chaos - was intact.

PALOS I
(5 - 45 A.C.)
"THE SILENT PRINCE"

The cousin of Nuno III and nephew of Gavrao IV, Palos I was no warrior, and his main task was to rebuild Shabak following the victory of his predecessors. History records Palos I as a careful, almost timid man who never truly grew accustomed to the accolades granted him. He was named the 'Silent Prince' due to his tendency to be soft-spoken, and to allow others to talk without interruption.

Palos was forced to redistribute land among the nobility, as so many of the previous Lords had been killed during the wars, many without heirs. Palos made a conscious decision not to favour those Lords who had fought well during the War of the Wizards, or to punish those who had tried to depose his cousin. While this ensured that he did not create large noble estates, it was also seen by many of the Warrior-Dukes as something of a betrayal. Many see this as the beginning of the weakening of the Shabaki Nobility which has led to the current unique government system. Now, Palos I's reapportioning of the estates is seen as necessary - at the time, it was highly unpopular.

Perhaps the only thing that saved Palos I from being overthrown was the fact that few of the Dukes wanted to be seen to be moving against the throne so soon after a war. Some less cynical historians claim that the warriors of Shabak were genuinely weary and would likely have refused to fight. Palos I may have been unexceptional in his own lifetime, but in modern Shabak he is seen as one of the pillars of the Principality. He died in his sleep.

GAVRAO IX
(221 - 244 A.C.)
"THE FOOLISH"

Gavrao IX is remarkable largely for his incompetence. While not a foolish man, history records him as being singularly unsuitable for the role of Prince - he was vain and had a tendency to meddle where it did not concern him. Strangely, Gavrao IV's weaknesses turned out to have a positive effect on the Principality.

Mismanagement by Gavrao and his Advisors led, despite growing trade with the Isles of Dawn, the Old World and Western Allansia, to recession. Famine and disease were rampant, and many of the Dukes were beginning to openly discuss revolt. Gavrao IX was offered a chance to save face by a coalition of the newly prominent merchant class.

Composed of scholars, financiers, sailors and merchant adventurers, this group proposed that day-to-day political power in Shabak - including the ability to collect taxes, grant business licenses, administer financial transactions and loan money - be delegated to the Electors of the various towns. These Electors had always existed as royal appointees, but they were mostly simply concerned with graft. This consortium of prominent citizens was able to sway the Prince, despite protests from the noble classes.

The new system proved a success. The Electors were able to reduce corruption in a way that distant royal authorities had not had the time or inclination to do. Financial transactions were dramatically speeded up, and merchant activity began a boom which has not receded since. Gavrao IX's reign saw the beginning of Shabak as a mercantile and seafaring power to match Rimon, Halak or Blacksand.

PALOS V
(357 - 381 A.C.)
"THE BEAR"

Famous for his campaigns against the Jagged Fang Orcs in the Sembian Lowlands, Palos V was famous as a General before he became the Prince. Known as "The Bear", Palos V was famous both for the lengths it took to anger him, and the terrible fury he released once provoked. On several occassions Palos V struck courtiers or noble supplicants, at one point even killing the Duke of Czeras following an argument over the Duke's right to dock his personal boat in the naval docks.

Despite small campaigns against the Orcs, Palos was unable to indulge his thirst for martial adventure, and disliked dealing with the Electors. Although he had little sympathy for the land-owning nobility, Palos disliked the Electors even more, often being frustrated by his inability to control the various town council. "I am nothing more than an inept matron in a schoolroom full of too-precocious children" Palos is reported to have said - a quotation which many of the Electors have taken as a compliment.

It was following a major dispute with the Electors of Bakulan over the right of the Prince to grant exemptions from taxation that Palos moved into retirement. Although the Electors did not actually demand that he abdicate in favour of his son, it is widely believed that their pressure was responsible for the Bear's decision, in an unusual fit of good grace and savvy, to retire in favour of allowing his son to rule. Palos maintains his role as an elder statesman of the Principality, and often concerns himself with military matters, particularly the expansion of Shabak's powerful navy.

NUNO XXII
(381 A.C. - Present)
"THE WISE"

The Bards of Prince Nuno's court have acclaimed him 'Nuno The Wise'. It remains to be seen whether history will gift him with as sympathetic a nomenclature. Nuno came to the Prince's Throne following his father's abdication in his favour. Raised at the Collegium of Bakulan, Nuno is a sorcerer of some small skill and a scholar of note, particularly on the rebuilding of Shabak after the War of the Wizards.

Nuno is considered highly acceptable by both the Electors and the Nobility. He is a very charismatic man, capable of smoothing troubled brows and finding compromise in seemingly intractable disputes. On the whole, he is a man far more suited to the current role of Shabaki Princes than his father, who bears his son's success with considerable ill grace. In fact, Prince Nuno's willingness to play the Elector's system rather than oppose it or remain aloof from it makes him arguably the most powerful Shabaki Prince since Gavrao the Foolish.

In keeping with his collected nature Nuno has avoided unecessary war and instead sought profit by expanding trading ties with Western Allansia and Khul, with only limited success. However, Nuno's visit to the Court of Femphrey in the Old World was a spectacular success, the Shabaki Prince's one-year residence providing increased interest in trade with Shabak among Old World nations. While some express doubt at Nuno's ability to cope with a major military crisis, few argue that he is well suited to the currently booming Shabaki nation.

 

 

Culture & Government


The people of Shabak are prosperous and inclined to leisure. The warm climate makes for a lifestyle many would see as indolent, and it is not unknown for some Shabaki towns to shut down between two and four hours after midday as the inhabitants nap through the hottest hours of the day. Their skins are an olive brown, their hair usually a deep black, and their eyes brown, although some blue-eyed Shabaki do exist (and are often rumoured to have the Evil Eye). It is not uncommon to find men of other races in the ports of Shabak, but demi-humans such as elves and dwarves are quite rare.

Shabak, as a merchant culture, is also a slave-keeping one. There are two types of slaves - native Shabaki who have sold themselves into slavery, usually to pay a debt, and non-human slaves, usually orcs and goblins, taken as slaves in war. Both types are surprisingly well provided for and the non-human slaves, many of whom have been in slave families for years, are not unhappy with their position. Slave-keeping is most common in the large towns where slaves are manual servants - they have been found to make inefficient miners and farm workers.

The nation has a large peasant class, mostly centred in the less prosperous, more rural West of the nation. Shabak's peasants are quite well off, not suffering from the feudal rule common elsewhere in Titan. The main crops are wheat, corn and cotton.

Shabak is a Principality and it does have a nobility, but they are not as powerful as elsewhere on Titan. The Shabaki nobility, while wealthy, have mostly used that wealth to become involved in the thriving trade of the nation's city ports. Some of them are uneasy regarding the rise of the non-noble elite, but most of them are happy to do business with them. Although wealthy, they have no political power due to their noble status, although many are influential in Shabak's army.

The merchant class are the lifeblood of Shabak and tend to dominate the nation's government. Shabak has a very decentralised government structure - each major town is ruled by a council of wealthy citizens, known as 'Electors'. These Electors, who are judges, tax collectors and governors, are officially responsible to the Prince in Bakulan but can, in practice, do what they want. Some Electors are very corrupt, some are exemplary. Their positions are purchased for a fee from the Prince, and as such, only the wealthiest can join the Elector Council. Important settlements in Shabak include Shalabak, Bakulak, Tempest, Zhenir, Barlamma, Lorika, Varna and Kelbakna.

The Court of the Prince is the seat of nominal power, but beyond control of the navy and army, Prince Nuno XXII is mostly secondary to the various Electors. Although the Court is usually held in Bakulan, it can set up wherever the Prince happens to be - there is no official capital. However, as the supreme Judge of the land, he is able to resolve disputes between Electors, and this is probably his most important political function. Prince Nuno, who is only twenty-two, is a more canny politician than his father, Palos V, who tended to fight the power of the Electors. Palos, who abdicated in favour of his son two years ago, continues as one of the Prince's most trusted councillors.

Religion is not particularly powerful in Shabak. Kulak - the Shabaki name for Kukalak - is a respected diety, due to the preponderance of storms. Glantanka is also powerful, as are The White Lady, Fourga and Skotas (their name for Hydana). Most towns have a patron god - Tempest, unsurprisingly, owes fealty to Kulak, while Glantanka is worshipped chiefly in Bakulan. Most major cities have a temple, and there is little conflict between members of the various religious faiths beyond competition for land and government monies.

Shabak has a strong academic tradition, and scholars and magi have frequently been influential in government. There are organised schools of magic in several of the major towns and, while great sorcerers tend to scorn them as producers of 'workaday' magicians, they play an important role in town life. Mundane schooling is also popular, with an emphasis on mathematics, astronomy and navigation.

 

Geography


A land of varying contours, Shabak has two main characteristics: it is warm, and it is stormy. The climate is substantially warmer than that encountered by visitors from North-West Allansia, and during summer it can often be unbearable to non-natives. The Shabaki have long adjusted to this, taking a nap through the worst part of the midday heat and working into the evening. The storms are another common characteristic. Shabak sits at the intersection of wind fronts coming north and south, and as such is plagued by heavy storms, particularly during spring. These tempests are of a fury virtually unknown elsewhere in Allansia, and most hillsides have four or five trees which have been split by lightning. This area is particularly bad in the high moor known as the Storm Fields, and along the coast of the Typhoon Straits.

Eastern Shabak is slightly cooler than the rest of the nation, and hillier. There are two major sets of mountains - the mineral-rich Bronze mountains near Bakulan, and the more foreboding, snow-capped Ulabak mountains, home to several wild orc tribes, further South. Several forests, mostly of dark pines, can be found in this area. The Melgov Forest is often used for hunting trips by nobility, while the Drakwood and Blackleaf are more oppressive and often used as refuges for orc tribes or bandits.

Western Shabak is dominated by the vast, fertile plain known as the Green March. The breadbasket of Shabak, this area is not as dry as the East, caught by storms between the Typhoon Straits and Mercucian Bay which bring frequent rains. The farmers who inhabit this area are salt-of-the earth folk, often suspicious and superstitious, and contemptuous towards the Eastern Shabaki. However they are loyal to the nation as a whole, their discontent usually taking the form of grumbling about taxes rather than rebellion.

Further west, the land becomes higher, drier, and less fertile, before eventually fading into the Great Western Plains, or the Plain of Bones as other Allansians know it. This area is infertile and barren, inhabited only by the marauding tribes of Tiemuraz.

A notable feature of the landscape of Shabak is the ruins which dot it. It is not unusual to find a decaying stone tower or building standing alone, or being used as a barn or warehouse. On many occasions clusters of buildings, and even whole cities, can be found. These ruins are particularly common along the East coast of the nation. The Shabaki are quite dismissive of them, although the larger ruins are often avoided as sites of 'Evil'. Most scholars believe the ruins date from the Irritarian period, although they do not match elven architecture found elsewhere in Titan.

 

History to Today

Shabak was once merely farmlands inhabited by ranchers and herders with little time for trade or politics. Although the climate was idyllic, barbarian raids, the tempestuous weather and the presence of numerous orcs and goblins prevented any large scale civilisation.

Shabak was conquered in 1450 OT by invaders from the North. This small group of warriors, who made the then-tiny settlement of Bakulan their capital, are of unknown origin, although many think they were raiders from the Giant's Teeth, or even refugees from the Old World. Their first ruler, Gavrao I, intended to simply plunder and flee, but a combination of a raid by orcs, which forced them to fight alongside the villagers, and a storm which confined their light ships to harbour for three months caused them to stay, and grow fond of this warm land and its friendly people. They called their nation Shabak - a word meaning 'Happy Land' in their language - and set about uniting the peninsula.

The Wars of Unification were brief, lasting only 50 years. Even when the local lords united they were unable to stand up to the Shabaki's more organised troops. Prince Nuno I, son of Gavrao, stopped his troops short of the Western Plains after conflicts with the civilisation which thrived there at the time. Shabaki records are sketchy, but it is believed that several wars were fought before the eventual collapse of the Plain-dwellers and the transformation of the Plain into the waste it is today.

Shabak remained a peaceful society for several years, but the explosion of mercantile trade, particularly with the Old World and the Isles of Dawn, came in the next two centuries. The Shabaki have always been great sailors - the presence of the Marluk and the harsh storms which whip the peninsula meant they had to be. Soon Shabaki sailors were putting in in Femphrey, the Giant's Teeth, Rimon and Halak, and even the Isles of Dawn, where the Prince was able to obtain a contract with the Emperor to trade with the Isles - the only nation on Titan to do so.

This explosion of trade wealth led to a rise to power of the merchant classes and a booming of Shabak's towns. The system of Electors had existed for centuries, and had served as a model for other nations, notably Femphrey, but the formalisation of the power of the Electors was proposed by a council of learned citizens to Prince Gavrao XI one hundred and fifty years ago. The Prince, a greedy man eager for the money the Elector system would earn him, agreed. Since then Shabak has prospered. There has been some conflict between the landed nobility and the merchants, and between the rich, mercantile East and the poorer, agricultural West, but skilled leadership and booming trade have meant it is minimal.

But the threat of the Western Barbarians continues to grow. Recently these raiders, swelled by criminals exiled from Shabak and escaped non-human slaves, have come under the leadership of an enigmatic warrior named Tiemuraz, who is rumoured to have vowed to destroy Shabak.