Alvari, people of Alvara: Alvara is a nation that occupies the entire eastern continent. It is green and hilly with few forests. Mountains lie to the southwest, making sea deployment to Khemeret difficult. Winters are short and mild though the summers can get sweltering and humid. Native Alvari have light skin with aquiline noses and dark hair. As more and more cultures get absorbed, an Alvari can look very different from the standard from a thousand years ago. Some very foreign looking people even serve in the Senate nowadays. They have a single Emperor and a Senate beneath him, to ensure the will of the people is represented to him. Their armies are the largest and most organized in the world. Their patron god is Ios, but they also acknowledge the ‘divinity of the Senate’, resulting in the Imperial cult. Men and women serve vastly different functions in society. Men are the leaders, the warriors, and protectors. Only they can hold office or run business. A woman’s task was to be a faithful wife and mother, the hardest jobs of all.
Arcma: The capital of Alvara. It is situated on three hills, each one taller than the next. Great bridges connect the hills and they are so admired by engineers across the world that they are spoken of with reverence as the Three Bridges of Arcma. The Imperial Palace sits atop the highest hill.
The Eclipse: The agents of the Eclipse are said to have served Nephtet-Ka. Stories say that they turn into animals and can meld into shadows. Deadly assassins and clever spies, they worked in the shadows during his rule and swore to continue working towards his return.
Embalmer: Priests of Enu-Bal, they tend to the dead and ensure both body and spirit return to the Final God. Their knowledge of anatomy and physiology is only matched by Entikythan doctors. They create the fellahin through an intensive process and command it to do the bidding of the living. Embalmers also are responsible for releasing the fellahin ‘to go west’ once they’ve served for seven years. They also rent out fellahin to non-priests, only asking for a donation to the temple.
Entikythans, people of Entikythos: These people are characterized by their shortness, their olive skin and thick dark curly hair. They were the first to discover many things: democracy, military strategy, engineering, philosophy, medicine, and learning. The Entikythan homeland is a group of rocky but verdant islands to the northeast of Alvara. The seas are treacherous, resulting in the people becoming skilled sailors and clever engineers. However, they were conquered by the Alvari centuries ago and are widely kept as slaves though there are many Entikythan freemen in the Empire.
Enu-Bal: Known as the Final God, he is the lord of death. While the other gods of Khemeret have fantastical forms, there is no shape to Enu-Bal. He requires no worship but also isn’t a god to answer prayers. It is said that he taught Nephtet-Ka how to create the fellahin to use as a source of labor. He provides releases the necessary khemu every seven years with the black flood of the Neferamtat river.
Fellahin: A reanimated corpse. It has no mind or will of its own but diligently follows the command of whomever holds a heqa scepter or rod. In Khemeret, they are used primarily for hauling goods and materials. They always wear plain bronze masks that cover their entire heads. It is to show that people are all the same in death but mostly to hide their frightful faces. They also are good at guarding property and, occasionally, individuals. Normally, a fellahin has little combat prowess but the sight of a masked and armed corpse is enough to make most attackers shy away. They were useful on farms and ranches as well, being more agreeable than donkeys and oxen. Having one was a display of piousness and wealth until they were finally outlawed by the Empire.
Gusaan, people of Gusaanlund: These tall, fair, hardy people are from the far south where ice and snow cover much of the land year-round. Gusaanlund expanded beyond their native islands and now holds a large chunk of what was once Alvari’s southern shore. They are proud, stoic people who value strength and valor above all else. Since life was hard enough within Gusaanlund, there was no division of labor between the sexes. Everyone toiled and if there was a job needing to be done, whoever was available did it. Women could lead but they had to be harder and stronger than the men most times. The Gusaan are classified into two kinds, “shore people” and the original “mountain people”, they often fight with themselves as much as the Alvari. Traditionally, the Gusaan worship the ocean as the provider of all things and the destroyer of all things. Their belief system isn’t so much a worship as a nationwide passive-aggressive relationship. Gusaanlund, the home of the Gusaan is a large cluster of small rocky islands. Growing crops is difficult, raising animals is just as hard so its people naturally turned to raiding and piracy. Their seamanship is matched only by the Entikythans. On the largest island is the mountain Solsaklaani, said to be the tallest in the world. It is also the afterlife for the bravest and most accomplished, for it is the farthest away from the ocean one can get.
Heqa Scepters: The tools used by Embalmers to control fellahin, even ones they didn’t make. They are about as tall as a person, thin, and black. The top has a wedge shape to it while the bottom is pronged. Embalmers make them out of khemu and their own blood as a final test of mastery.
Ios: The god of the sun first originated in Entikythos. He embodied all that was good, righteous, strong, and virtuous. He was a god among many, but he became the chief god in the Entikythan pantheon. When the Alvari Empire invaded, they took the idea of Ios and slowly, over many years, formed him into their own god. He was no longer the chief god, but the only god. He became the protector of the Emperor and also of all mankind. He abhorred the way the Khemari used the dead and called for cremation of all bodies so that the ashes might rise into the sky and join him in the sun.
Khemari, people of Khemeret: From Khemaret, these people are from the vast desert to the far west of Alvari. They are one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Their society sprang up around the long sacred river Neferamtat. It would turn black every seven years with a thick, viscous substance called khemu and it is believed that to ingest it would ensure eternal life. Their engineers would design impossible construction projects, but through the tireless power of the fellahin, they actually came into existence. Men and women are, in most cases, seen as equals. Both can own property and businesses, become community leaders, and participate in the leading of worship. Their skin ranges from light brown to nearly black. A few extremely light skinned people can be seen, and they are probably descendants from a previous, largely forgotten people that were absorbed when the Khemari took power. Hair is usually dark and coarse, but the occasional child is born with red hair, which is regarded as a curse. Most men shave off their hair while women wear theirs in elaborate styles.
Khem-Seshen: The fabled old capital of Khemeret is where Enu-Bal is said to have touched the earth when he collided with the world. Though it looks to be many different buildings, it really is just one structure all connected underground. It is all made of the same material, a shiny black rock that swirls and whorls naturally. The stories say that the whole capital is just the body of Enu-Bal as it slumbers. It had been abandoned until the great exodus of Embalmers that occurred when their worship was outlawed.
Khemu: The slimy black substance that fills the Neferamtat river every seven years. It is extracted from the water by the Embalmers and is distilled into a purer form. It is very sensitive and if it is not distilled exactly right, it will ignite in the sunlight. Embalmers fill a corpse with khemu and, after several days, can command the black substance within. In all reality, Embalmers don’t command the dead bodies. They control the khemu inside of it, having attuned their will to it using the heqa scepters.
Neferamtat: The largest, longest river in the world resides in Khemeret. The Khemari civilization grew and developed along its life-giving banks. The river flows west to east and floods every year, providing plant life vital water. Every seven years, the goopy black substance known as khemu comes along with the flood. The river is also seen as a goddess and is presented as a woman bearing a sickle.
Nephtet-Ka: The legendary pharaoh of Khemeret is said to be the first Embalmer. He taught his people how to raise and use the fellahin and he ushered his kingdom into a golden age that abruptly ended when the Alvari invaded and killed him. Before he died, he swore that he would return to bring his people out of persecution and would be brought on the river. Scholars cannot agree on when his rule exactly occurred. He is also known as the Black Pharaoh due to his mastery of the khemu.
Niwat-Sep: The current capital of Khemeret. It sits in the delta on the eastern edge of the country. It is close to the Pons Pontus, the land bridge that connects Alvara and the desert kingdom.
Salt of Ios: A glimmering white crystal powder that disperses khemu like soap disperses grease. How it is manufactured is a closely-guarded secret, but it is said that the Sibyls make it. The Alvari living in Khemeret during times of the black flood use it to purify their water.
Sibyls: A specialized priest of Ios. This all-women sect They are sworn to vows of chastity and poverty. Their close work with the Salt of Ios causes discoloration of the hair, skin, and eyes so some priestesses will appear blind or have the white hair of old women. They study the sun and attempt to divine the future in their dreams. For their god, they have sworn to destroy the fellahin and all unnatural creatures that walk in the state between life and unlife. With a wave of their hands, they can cause a fellahin to expire.
The Silence: It is the “sound” that khemu makes within a person. All khemu is said to come from Enu-Bal, therefore all khemu is connected. Messages and commands can be sent through the Silence directly into someone’s sense of hearing. Only a true master can speak through the Silence and there are stories of those who can subjugate living people using the same technique.
Vashi, people of Vashkadu: They are not a part of the Empire but are happy to trade their exotic spices and fabrics with the awed Alvari. The journey east to Vashkadu was fraught with great peril so the Emperor wished for a sea-route that has yet to be found. The Vashi people themselves are very strange to the Alvari, in that they do not worship any god. They acknowledge all gods and no god. For them, there is only the Wheel, the never-ending process of life, death, and rebirth. They have no priests, but they do have their own variant of mages, who work miracles and wonders using what they’ve learned about the natural world. They don’t scoff at the idea of gods and they believe there are many paths to Truth. They are a short people, with skin ranging from Alvari light to Khemari dark. Their hair is equally as varied. Though there is no difference among genders in Vashi politics, business, or privilege, there simply are more women than men. The huge country of Vashkadu has only recently become known to the Empire. It lies far across the eastern ocean and Alvari cartographers aren’t sure exactly how large it is. The Vashi aren’t forthcoming with that information either. It boasts a variety of climates, from harsh steppes and steep mountains; to hot jungles and muggy swamps.
Uskandr: High hierophant of the Embalmers. He lives in the dead city of Khem-Seshen and gives his orders and guidance through the Silence, the “sound” made from a person’s internal khemu. Few have seen him and fewer yet know he has been the hierophant since the Embalmers’ beginning. He changes his name every few decades to facilitate the illusion. His true motives are unknown.