I’ve been working on some of our existing PDF entries – specifically the incomplete gazetteers. Just to clarify, I’ve not changed anything significant, just filled in some of the missing details and where necessary tweaked to match the newer information. This is not about invalidating earlier work, just adding to it.
This also isn't quite so polished as the Motmurk redux, but hopefully I'll get round to that shortly.
No actual changes here, as the existing information was more scant than in Motmurk. All I've really done is add names and places, although I've moved the 'Hermit Dynasty' slightly forward in time so its ascention is after the Schism and its end is the War of Iron. I've also made efforts to 'justify' the Shorykan government's Lawful Evil alignment without making them Zentarim, Fu Manchu, or steriotypical communists or samurai... even if they are our 'oriental' Province and some similarities to the real world are inevitable
Proper Name: The Everlasting Empire of Shoryko
Provincial Government: Oligarchy
Leaders: The Immortal Phoenix Emperor Koryao XXXVIII, Dowager Courtesan-in-chief Baduknuna, Prime Minister Shirkah Chuje.
Provincial Capital: Jeongak, the Singing City
Major Cities & Towns: Longdar, Mount Oriaguz, Myzapha Bay, Na Long, Mudang, Uruf-Nin
Districts: Aisutott Islands, Balnára, Eigamaurn Mountains, Kergyt Steppes, Nem Nevû, Oriaguz
Resources: Alchemical Materials, Mining, Silk
Population: Human 99%, Other 1%
Languages: Common, Celestial, Ogre
Alignment (Populace): Lawful Neutral
Alignment (Law): Lawful Evil
Faiths: The Divine Phoenix Karibitenka (an aspect of Rialondru) is the patron of Shoryko, but Iaphithos has also risen to prominence in the last few hundred years, buoyed by the increased power of the administrative class.
Shoryko is a windy island-continent, swept by arctic winds from further north. It is blessed by hot springs and mineral-laced waters, and cursed by earthquakes and volcanoes. Forever seeking stability in a chaotic world, its people have long since turned inwards creating a society built on rigid castes and fervent xenophobia. Although obedient to the dictates of the OCA, Shoryko desires above all to be left alone.
Life and Society
Life in Shoryko revolves around the needs of the nobility: lavish estates, elaborately laid-out cities, and the provender farms that inevitably surround them; terrace-gardens and rice-paddies stretch for many miles around each city, with every scrap of available land dedicated to feeding the populace. Historically, Shoryko has always struggled to feed its people, and still only manages to support its cities by utilizing every scrap of soil. A combination of pollution, natural disasters, and prejudice against the farming classes has meant that even with modern knowledge and technological assistance, its agricultural production is less than it could be. The poor suffer most from these policies, by the deliberate action of the higher ranks, but its not without purpose:
Shoryko divides all people into strict social groups, divided economically, legally, and politically from one another. Movement between castes is almost impossible, despite OCA attempts to break the system in favour of a more egalitarian outlook.
There are four primary castes:
Those Who Rule - The Mafura, named after the elaborate jeweled robes worn by nobility. This caste is reserved for the noble families of Shoryko. Only they are permitted a family name based on lineage. Mafura have almost unlimited power over the Uram, save where the OCA forces otherwise.
Those Who Labour - The Uram, literally, ‘people of a bitter life’. Commoners. They have numerous restrictions and in some cases it is still virtual slavery. Commoners are permitted a ‘family’ name only of their city - or in modern times of their merchant cartel - which they are then obliged to honour and obey at all times. Merchants find themselves relegated to this class, but as long as they do not present themselves as greater than the Mafura, they are relatively free. Uram are forbidden from luxury goods or lavish displays of wealth, so merchants must conceal their riches from the outside world; luxurious linings inside plain coats, bountiful gardens inside austere-looking estates, and gold and jewels hidden in secret vaults.
Those Who Pray - The Chuje, priests and monks. This is the only caste that can be entrered into by choice as well as birth, but in practice it is only welcoming to nobles or those born to traditional Chuje families. All clergymen must maintain a strict monastic discipline (at least in public), and those of noble birth must also give up their family name, taking only Chuje (‘the devout’) in its place – although many do not severe their family bonds in any way except symbolically. Because of their higher status, many bureaucrats have joined the church of Iathiphos to increase their status. As a result Shoryko is filled with low ranked and inpious clergy.
Those Who Cannot Be Trusted -The Dirai, foreigners and prisoners, especially political activists and those who otherwise disturb the sanctity of the state. They have almost no rights in society, and Shorykan law classes them almost as antipodes.
There are numerous additional castes within each broad category, and many are highly specialized: There are some small families of retainers whose only purpose is to weave scarves for a certain noble house for example, but since joining the OCA Shoryko has made some efforts to standardise its social structure, at least in theory.
Various races can be encountered in major cities (especially Na Long and Uruf-Nin), but they usually have specific business and don't stay longer than they need to. Few places elsewhere see many non-humans, and fewer still make them welcome. The Shagai-Ka (Aisutott minotaurs) are one of the rare native races to carve a niche that accepted by Shoryko’s humans – but only because their land is isolated and inhospitable. Ogres have also carved a niche for themselves, based on their strength and the reputation that they're simple minded; most work in lowly professions, including the underworld. Shoryko also has a few kobolds, dwarves, and orcs working its mines, but conditions are usually squallid.
Aside from these examples, other races remain few and far between
The underworld houses of the kou’Koryao (‘against Koryao’) are something of a special case in the caste system. As criminals they are firmly members of the Dirai, but their leaders are (originally anyway) of the Mafura caste and so they remain according to Shorykan law. Although no one expects or allows criminal lords to carry themselves openly as nobles, the ruling families of the underworld are accorded a strange respect (and respectability) by Shorykan society. See the ‘Enemies of Harmony’ chapter for more detail on the kou'Koryao.
In ages past the Shorykans worshipped a variety of spirits, from actual gods to far more humble Outsiders. With the coming of the Harmonium, these Spirit Kings begane to be slowly folded into worship of the Lords of Order (espeically Rialondru), but in many places their worship went largely unchanged and the OCA didn't mind this, since the vast majority championed represented lawful behaviour. After the Schism however, devotion to the Spirit Kings was deemed "examplar worship" and forbidden alongside the worship of the Seven and the Nine. Shoryko fought long and hard to be exempt from this policy, but failed. Its responce was outward conformity, a few legalistic proclamations to explain the new situation, and then it basically ignored the issue. The Hermit Dynasty also came to power in responce to the OCA's 'blatant disregard for our culture' - leading to Shoryko's famous period of self-imposed isolation.
In modern times Shoryko 'worships' only the Lords of Order, but the Spirit Kings are still revered and form a vital link between the people and their gods. They have officially been transformed into messengers of the Lords, not worshipped in their own right, and their feast and festivals are either secular affairs or connected with faith in the gods. In secret and in rural areas however, active worship of the Kings continues unabated.
Shorykans have always prized order, but also central to their spirituality is the concept of Manzyt (Sweetness) and Parzhyt (Bitterness); a dualistic belief that all of life can be divided into two ‘tastes’ – the sweet (pleasant, positive, accommodating) and the bitter (unpleasant, destructive, harsh). These forces are not antagonistic and certainly beyond mere good and evil, and a balance must be maintained between them at all times. Thus peasants are forced to live a life of harsh labour and poverty, while nobles enjoy luxury, beauty and art. In their minds, each caste is fulfilling its given role in maintaining the cosmic balance of Manzyt and Parzhyt.
The Immortal Phoenix Emperor heads the Province from his specially-built capitol Jeongak, a city-sized palace catering exclusively to the needs of the emperor and his Council of Kings. Although Shoryko is theoretically a monarchy, the actual power of each emperor varies greatly. A client king, cabal of noble lords, or the head of the Shoryko bureaucracy often seizes unofficial power during the transition from one incarnation of the emperor to another. Regardless of who rules behind the throne however, every emperor is accorded perfect courtesy and respect; he is after all the continuing reincarnation of the First Emperor, who was descended from the Divine Phoenix Karibitenka and whose soul is reborn upon his death in the imperial harem. Karibitenka and the faith of Rialondru are largely indivisible in the Shorykan mind, although the exotic rituals of the Divine Phoenix dominate the former’s temples.
Current monarch is Koryao XXXVIII, a pudgy young man on the cusp of adulthood. His power has been whittled away by a succession of Regencies, and power is currently divided between Baduknuna (an ageing courtesan of the former emperor and mistress of the harem), Prime Minister Shirkah Chuje, and a shifting alliance of nobles from across the state. Despite his reduction in temporal power however, the Phoenix Emperor remains a powerful religious figure – leader of the Shorykan churches and ambassador between Shoryko and the Lords of Order.
Beneath the emperor are his Client Kings, each ruler of considerable lands. Beneath each Kings are noble houses that have vied for power since the very inception of the empire – and who show no sign of stopping their games. The nobles compete endlessly for power, and are so inter-woven that every House has a decent claim on the local kingship. They also battle for the honour of ‘advising’ the Emperor, believing that their city is the greatest and most cultured in all Shoryko. Cooperation between kingdoms is notoriously poor, with many noblemen and women touchy about their honour, dismissive of that of others, and with a penchant for duels of both sword, politics, and scandalous gossip.
Forming a buffer between the Noble Houses and the common people is the infamous Shorykan bureaucracy. Since nobles consider basic administrative duties to be beneath them, the bureaucracy has become both indispensable and a powerful political force – albeit one forced to conceal the majority of its powers and maintain official subservience to the nobility. But the truth is that the ‘new nobility’ of administrators now rival the nobles in influence.
Shoryko’s relationship with the OCA is notoriously prickly. The empire signed up peaceably to the Alliance of Harmony, but late in the day and (allegedly) with only superficial allegiance; Shoryko promised to be quiet and productive and in return the Harmonium promised to leave it alone. Some in the Alliance felt that they should have pursued a more aggressive policy in ensuring that Shoryko joined the Pax Harmonium with greater than lip service to its ideals.
The truth however, is that Shoryko is quiet and productive, and a firm proponent of order. Shorykan society is in fact even more ordered and strictly controlled than other nations on Ortho.
Shoryko is a land of severe and changeable weather: In summer the temperatures can reach more than 40°C and in winter the temperature can sink as low as -50°C. High winds are common, often freezing gales from the far north and storms off the polar sea. In previous years the wind was seen as the harbinger of the Chaos Lords and this belief persists among the Chujé and Mafura, but with smog choking the nation’s industrialised cities, the spirits of the cleansing wind is starting to be viewed far more favourably by the lower castes.
At her heart of Shoryko are the Eigamaurn Mountains, the ‘Mounds of Glory’ upon which Shoryko’s ancient heroes were burned. The Mounds are considerably lower in stature than the peaks of Keln and Motmurk, and their black slopes rumble periodically, venting foul yellow gasses and brimstone smoke. The Shorykan word for hell means literally ‘under the mountains’ and beneath the peaks dwelt all kinds of monsters of Shoryko’s past – both real and imaginary. Despite their relatively low elevation, the Eigamaurns are far from hospitable, with earthquakes, choking fumes, mudslides, and biting winds all frequent hazards.
Beyond the mountains, Shoryko is a mix of rolling hills and windswept plains, some barely habitable thanks to a few centuries of heavy industrial run off. Unseen by most of the world (and its own ruling caste), Shoryko is one of the worst industrial polluters on Ortho. The Uram and Dirai live in smog and polluted squalor, while their betters dwell in areas of natural beauty where its death for lesser castes to trespass.
Shoryko’s coast is a notoriously convoluted mix of fjords and high-sided estuaries, replete with hidden coves and secluded beaches (if it were not so isolated then surely smuggling with become a major problem on every border). Being sheltered from the weather, these bays are usually home to a noble estate or monastery. In massive campaigns of forced social movement, the Uram have been largely pushed into cities, towns, and provender farms. Families who persist in trying to live a simple life in the wild are swiftly declared Dirai if they come to the state’s attention – and promptly moved to a workhouse. Nevertheless, a few communities have managed to survive in isolated areas, usually by bribing local bureaucrats to leave them alone.
West of the Mounds of Glory are the Kegyet Steppes, a land (and people) considered ‘troublesome’ by the powers that be. The Kergyet ‘barbarians’ prefer to live a nomadic lifestyle in their windy grasslands, and are persisting despite decades of prejudice and programs to ‘civilise’ or destroy them. Fortunately the steppes contain few resources worth plundering and the nomads simply melt into the grass when the local Harmonium goes hunting for them.
The chill cold of the far northwest is known as the Balnára Region. Perpetually frosty and often buried by snow, the Balnára is home to a hardy rough people who scratch a living from the sparse earth - but are far more famous as whalers. Fishing and whaling villages dot the inside of the great Bay of Balá, shipping their goods (especially whale ivory and ambergris) to more civilised regions, but despite their economic contribution, the people are considered even more barbaric than those of Kergyt. The truth is they are far more like their southern cousins than prejudice would admit, and the real contention is that the people there often have mixed Shorykan and Ulfrheim blood, and an unseemly acceptance of foreign ideas.
Beyond Shoryko proper are the Aisutott Isles, whose name means ‘The Icegripped Land’ because in the coldest winters it is sometimes grasped by ice sheets stretching down from the polar north. Frost Giants and White Dragons frequently troubled it in time past, but the monsters of the northern ice have long ago retreated or been slain.
The Aisutotts are smaller in both numbers and stature than regular Shorykans, which most experts ascribe to their hard lives. All the Aisutott noble Houses were long ago exiled there by Koryao the Great; nobles who refused to submit to the first Eternal Emperor but would not slink away as outlaws. Despite their status, the Lords of the Aisutotts live much as the commoners do, scraping a life from seal-hunting and fur-trading, their castles built around hot-springs and volcanic pools.
Also living on the isles are the Shagai-ka, a race of shaggy, long-horned minotaur. They build twisting maze-like structures from ice that are both home and temple for their kind, and they revere (and also hunt) the mighty elephant seal. Few in number, the Shagai-Ka live separate from but peacefully alongside the Aisutott humans, one of the few humanoid races to find acceptance in the Eternal Empire.
Jeongak, the Singing City
Jeongak is the capitol of Shoryko, home of the Eternal Emperor and a site of sacred union between the people of Shoryko and their gods. Sprawling over a series of picturesque valleys resplendent with green ferns and breathtaking waterfalls, it is a tribute to both the ruling caste and the principle of Manzyt – beauty, ease, and serenity are its watchwords and those who disturb its sanctity are swiftly ejected.
Essentially one enormous temple to the Eternal Emperor and his divine patron Karibitenka, no expense has been spared in making it the epitome of style and luxury. Behind the scenes, an army of commoners toil to produce music, perfume, clean clothes, hot and cold running water, and other ‘necessities’ for the royal household. All the classes of Shoryko work ceaseless to make Jeongak a paradise on earth.
Jeongak is called the Singing City because it is never silent. Chimes hang ready to catch the faintest breeze, gongs ring out the time, and there is no hour of the day or night that is not accompanied by song and chanted prayer.
The Mounds of Glory
Before the coming of Koryao the land was famed for many heroes, who tamed the primordial wilderness. In these times the Eigamaurn Mountains were home to a variety of powerful spirits and gods, who gave their patronage to the ancient heroes. The Divine Phoenix Karibitenka was but one of many spirit-gods worshipped by the first Shorykans.
When men and women of particular notoriety died, they were interred in great tombs cut into the mountainside near the Eigamaurns’ peaks, to rest within sight of their supernatural patrons. After Koryao and the coming of Harmony, this practice slowly faded away but many tombs still remain in high and inaccessible places, final resting place of Shoryko’s most ancient luminaries... and perhaps their supernatural patrons as well.
Na Long is Shoryko’s greatest port and most cosmopolitan city. Sitting on the eastern coast facing Voll, it trades with its former ‘protectorate’ with something approaching rare respect for the ancient lineages of Voll’s proud nobility. Although of course Dirai in the eyes of the elite, the Lords of Voll at least show proper pride in their status and history, and the strength to go their own way in the face of OCA opposition. Ironically, two of Ortho’s most isolationist nations are close allies with each other in the council chambers of the OCA.
This relationship was almost ruined when half a century ago, when the master of House Tokui (the ruling family of Na Long) married a Vollite princess against all Shorykan custom and tradition. Even more surprising was that Lord Utoi and his barbarian wife were able to cling to power, and even able to secure the succession of their half-Vollite daughter Tánaiste, who to this day rules House Tokui – although many ascribe this to her marriage to the fearsome Lord Reppai, a master swordsman known for his keen sense of honour. Together this pair are working to make Na Long more open to outsiders, but progress is slow and beset by their political enemies.
Kingdom of the Swollen Mountain
Mount Óriaguz sits in the isolated northwest of the Eigamaurn range, thankfully far from civilisation. Here the ogre race has its ancestral home and the only nation ruled exclusively by and for them.
Most ogres have heard of Óriaguz, the great kingdom of their kind in the mountains of Shoryko, and dream of going there one day. Outside of Shoryko the mountain is regarded as a virtual paradise (especially among the besars), where you can eat, drink, and brawl all day, and find willing companionship every night; an ogrish heaven on earth. In reality the Kingdom of Óriaguz is an unwilling and unwelcome client state of Shoryko, its raeya leaders answering to the Eternal Emperor and OCA authorities. Unlike the rest of the world, here there are whole clans of raeya who provide their nation with bureaucracy and leadership, operating in an alliance of mutual necessity that succeeds despite constant barely-constrained loathing for each other – a triumph of harmony, if ever there was one. Only a relatively small number of raeya from Óriaguz have actually joined the Harmonium but they assure the central authority that they and their people are loyal. Nevertheless the Harmonium maintains a few regiments of hardened troops to ‘advise’ the ogre elite in ruling their people.
The ogre kingdom makes no secret of its dislike for smaller races, and takes only minimal steps to accommodate them, save to scrupulously prove that there is no worship of Szin’anya Mara - or indeed, any Szin’anya Mara at all. As far as Oriaguz is concerned, OCA Laws should be upheld, taxes should always be on time, and anything else is their own business. Ironically, it’s exactly the same attitude as that of their human neighbours.
Physically Mount Óriaguz is a storm-wracked peak of dark stone, one of the largest mountains in the Eigamaurns. Far from civilised Shoryko (a situation everyone is happy with) it lays at the centre of a scattering of ogre-populated mines, farms, and villages – each ruled by a raeya family appointed by the king. In the turbulent world of ogre politics the actual ruler of a village can change quite often, but this doesn’t concern the king’s ministers. They appoint a whole family as overseers and as long as the new ruler is from that family they don’t care who signs the reports and sees that the taxes are loaded. Conversely if a ruler fails the king, then it is their entire family who lose their position. This forces the raeya to work together, and it seems to work.
Although several provender farms cling tenuously to the outside of the mountain, the city of Óriaguz is actually carved from the black rock beneath it. Ogre carving skills were once somewhat primitive, but in recent years the ogre kings have tempted dwarven architects to the kingdom, and as a result Óriaguz has taken on a more majestic, sweeping style. Only the uppermost levels are normally accessible to foreigners. Visitors are ‘discouraged’ by various means to keep out of the deeper corridors, where the ogre young are raised.
The current Queen of Óriaguz is a glowering middle-aged raeya called Yuutho, just passing out of her physical prime. She rose to power in what amounted to a (relatively) bloodless coup against her uncle, but by the time the Harmonium became aware of the change, he was already installed and assuring the OCA that matters had been cleanly resolved. Fortunately Yuutho is herself is a former Hardhead who enjoyed a glamorous career before returning home to ‘retire’ her uncle.
Lake Ksahro is the greatest lake in Shoryko, once home to immortal water spirits, now long since departed. Great stinking cities now dot its coast, belching smoke into the air and chemicals into its waters; Ksahro is now synonymous with disease. Its workers experiencing the very worst of ‘the bitter life’ that Shoryko can get away with. Their labour provides goods for higher castes and use in trade, but at the cost of the environment for leagues around. The upper echelons are so dismissive of the region’s problems that the cities have become known as Nem Nevû – nameless cities.
Longdar was once the greatest city of the Nem Nevû Region, raised from stones pitted and stained by the pollutants it pumps into both the air and the waters of Lake Ksaho. It was the first and proudest ‘industry city’ of Shoryko, a metropolis powered by pumps and waterwheels drawing from the lake, which it extended out over, built on a series of platforms supported by massive stone pillars. As the lake dried up and the waters receded, it left Longdar stranded high above what’s now a salty, polluted marsh. They call it ‘the long legged city’ now in mockery.
Its water-machines have been replaced by steamhorses and manpower drawn from the wretched poor, but the populace still has a desperate air; the most prestigious craftsmen and factories have already moved on to other cities, and Longdar is beginning to starve. Many of its populace have abandoned the plinths to live in the marsh below, subsisting as eel catchers and bird hunters. Those who remain above cling tenaciously and pray for something to revive their fortunes. Its patron spirit was once Lord Issui, personification of lake Ksahro itself, but in recent times he is believed dead, dying, or corrupted - a source of great shame upon his former people.
Not everyone in Shoryko is blind to the ecological changes that are racking the volatile land. The people of Mudang, City of Wonders are not only aware of the problem; they are trying to do something about it.
It is said that Mudang was founded by three dragon brothers, and their magic made the city wondrous to behold. The descendents of these Dragon Lords still rule in a triad: House Hriyu, House Ryuzhra, and House Kageru, all famed for sorcery and heirs that still show the blood of dragons. They lead a great conclave of the wise and knowledgeable called the Sanbune, whose job it is to debate the changes to Shoryko’s ecology and how best to fight them. The Sanbune’s agents continually rove the countryside far and wide, gathering reports and solving what ecological problems they can.
Powerful magics both arcane and divine are a common sight in Mudang, and the people greatly prefer magecraft to technology. As a result the place has an ancient, traditional, feel for most Shorykans, and a reputation for miraculous magic being used in every facet of daily life. This isn’t quite true, but magic and mages (and clerics and druids) take pains to make their city the greatest in all Shoryko (and hence, the world) through their arts. Mudang also hosts the greatest college of the Choir in Shoryko. Its spirit patrons are the three celstial dragons from which its Lords are descended.
Myzapha Bay is a wide, warm curve in the southern coast, protected by hills and warmed by underwater vents. Here the nobles of Shoryko come to preen and strut, and squabble in power struggles and rivalries that make sense only among themselves.
The ‘city’ of Myzapha is really nothing more than a series of interconnected parks, springs, temple grounds, and noble estates, with numerous Licensed Quarters providing diversions between them. It is a city devoted to pleasure and the finest things in life – things enjoyed only by the Mafura. Everyone else in Myzapha Bay serves their whims.
Discreetly hidden from view by newly planted ferns is the city of Old Myzapha, which was swallowed by the sea two decades ago. The nobles (most of whom lived in hilltop estates anyway) simply abandoned the coastal town and built another, leaving Old Myzapha to the mercy of the waves. Half buried by sand and waves, much of the town is visible at low tide, and in the absence of its original owners a small band of Mer have set up in the ruins. Their status remains unclear, but they are going to extraordinary lengths to be cordial with their aloof and arrogant neighbours.
The Bay is also home to the famous Rainbow Carp, a celestial fish that brings joy, wealth, and wishes to any who catch it but release it. Many nobles spend their days idly fishing for the legendary spirit (who its said, enjoys this game), and many commoners secretly prowl the waters at night looking for it as well, hoping to join the Mafura by means of its magical wish.
At the centre of the Balnára Region is the island-city of Uruf-Nin, centre of trade with Ulfrheim, the Seaborn, and a fair number of Mer. The ‘City of the Tall-Walking-Wolf’ is rough but prosperous, and all three of its constituent races rub shoulders, although not altogether happily.
Uruf-Nin and its noble Houses are closely watched by the other noble houses because of their ‘foreign pollutants, barbarous ideas, and cursed disease’ – they are rarely welcome at court and have never seized the power behind the throne. Despite this, the people and their lords seem strangely content; of all Shoryko, Uruf-Nin is the most tolerant of cities.
The nobles of the remote northern province of Shoryko claim that their homeland is the birthplace of humanity on Ortho, and consequently home to the purest bloodstock of that race. Their claim is naturally disputed by many and quite likely impossible to prove, but none of the historical or archaeological evidence gathered suggests to the contrary.
Myths about the prehistory of Shoryko are prolific and varied, from great cities forged from solid gold and dweomercraft to unenlightened tribes scratching in the dirt with sticks; it all depends on where you go and who you ask. In many cases, a city's own legends are the same as those as the next city over, with names changed and identities switched to place the city's forefathers in the triumphant role and the local rival as the pitiful victim; the only universal factor is an innate superiority of the Shorykan race and distain for any other. Shoryko notables assert that a common truth exists in all these legends and that only the details have been lost to time, but most outsiders treat Shoryko’s prehistory as a fanciful tale.
The First Kingdoms
Civilization came to Shoryko with the domestication of rice, lentils and millet. Such crops both allowed and, in time, required humans to settle in villages and towns to tend the fields - even moreso to manage irrigation and dam works and get the best yields from each year's harvest. Proper tending of such elaborate agricultural works required a high degree of training and specialization in the people of Shoryko - laborers with the strength and endurance for long manual labor, engineers trained to manage the upkeep of the irrigation works, capable warriors to defend against marauding monsters, and so on. Those city-states that practiced careful and structured segregation of citizens into assigned roles nearly from the point of birth prospered. Those that did not entered the dustbin of history.
Though strife and struggle were by no means unknown in Shoryko's early days, serious conflict between the city-states was rare. This was due simply to the harshness of early life, and the inability of any single kingdom to spend time and resources on wars of conquest. Raids, challenges between single champions, and diplomatic exchanges and marriages of state were common in these early days, as a way to manage conflict without the waste inherent in all-out warfare.
Wars of Purity
Of course, such a state couldn't last. No one is yet sure whether the slow growth of civilization and stability in Shoryko inspired some nameless ruler to begin war for its own sake, or merely allowed armies to march in response to some unknown slight, but the Wars of Purity began nonetheless. They began as all-out combats between neighbors, with no fixed alliances and no certain enemies, but soon evolved into a more formal, structured setup in which each faction had its own key members, preferred weapons and tactics, and reasons for battle.
The Wars of Purity lasted for decades, as each faction battled on with the intent of achieving primacy over all Shoryko. None of the alliances proved to be clearly superior to any of the others, or managed to achieve a lasting advantage in the Wars; any that did seem to have such an edge quickly found all the other states turning against it. Such it was that much of Shoryko was laid waste, and weakened against invasion from both without and within.
Before the states of Shoryko could destroy themselves, however, a hero-king emerged - Koryao the Great, he who would be known as Heir of the Phoneix and First Among Kings. A figure out of legend, he realized the danger that Shoryko was in, and schemed his way to prominence in his home kingdom, then used alliances with both mortals and spirit kings, carefully-managed dissent among enemies, cunning strategy, and raw military might to achieve dominance over all the warring states. Subjugated rivals were treated honorably, encouraged to join his coalition rather than be ground under; capable opponents were allowed to surrender with generous terms rather than suffer a painful, protracted war on their home soil. To unify all of Shoryko was the work of a lifetime - but before his death, Koryao the Great had assembled an empire to pass to his sons like none ever conceived of before.
The Golden Age
The heirs of Koryao built on the legacy of their great sire, to turn the many cities of Shoryko into a single nation. Trade in crafts and specialty goods was encouraged, along with the deepening of art, literature and culture. Binding oaths and carefully arranged intermarriage between prominent families was also used to deepen ties and block the resurgence of conflict. Gradually, a unified society began to emerge, with all the nobles of Shoryko's many cities all seeking a common good.
The effort to create a single nation in Shoryko did have one other lasting consequence - the creation of an explicit caste system out of the many different traditions of hereditary role inheritance. The need to determine proper precedence, propagate order across the land, and determine exactly who was best suited to be elevated into the ruling interests of the new nation lead to a web of social and legal strictures becoming formalized, and many different privileges, rules and taboos becoming propagated. The inflexible structure of the castes became the central motivating force in Shoryko culture, dictating their own internal politics as well as their response to the outside world. Ingrained in the modern psyche of most Shorykani is the belief that breaking from the caste tradition brings ill luck and tragedy.
Rise of the Harmonium
When the Harmonium first began its rise to power some five hundred years ago, Shoryko was already a unified, wealthy and powerful kingdom, and had been so for several generations. Its wealth, prominence and culture had caused it to become insular and isolationist, however, mostly uncaring of the outside world, and so chose not involve itself in the Wars of Unity against Alzrius, Thaera, and the elven nations.
Only after the Harmonium had unified much of the rest of the planet did Shoryko enter into diplomatic negotiations, accepting peaceful membership in the Harmonium in exchange for relative internal autonomy.
The entry of Shoryko into the Harmonium proved to have limited effects for both sides. Military advisors and recruiters entered into the largest cities, as did trade factors seeking to encourage the flow of goods between Shoryko and other provinces. Neither met with much success however, as the strict caste system of Shoryko and its immense concentration of wealth and power blocked most attempts at change or progress. Temple authorities met with more success, and Shoryko eventually accepted the Lords of Order alongside (and eventually instead of) its own Spirit Kings, but their influence was still largely limited to having these teachings co-opted into the established culture.
The elite of Shoryko did choose to participate in the larger government of Ortho, sending representatives to the Council of the Quarters, but did so mainly in the interest of blocking any incursion by their neighbors. With such matters being few and far between, the council members soon found ample opportunity to enrich themselves through the use of their offices. Such behavior has continued through to the present day and given Shoryko a poor reputation in the wider world; the notables of Shoryko itself care not, as long as the wealth that former Council members garner is used subtly and doesn't disrupt the rulership within the province itself.
When worship of Shorykan examplars was outlawed after the Schism, despite all the efforts of its dignitories and demagogues, the Mafura and Chuje (and by extension, all of Shoryko) were outraged. Shortly afterwards, the nation fell into the hands of these advisors, who urged a withdrawal from Orthorian affairs for the good of the state. Stopping just short of outright abandonment of the OCA, Shoryko closed its borders to all but the most necessary contact with the central authority "for a period of spiritual reflection and renewed harmony". This period is known as the Hermit Dynasty, and most modern Shorikani have mixed views about it.
Crisis of Faith
The last major upheaval within Shoryko occurred just over two centuries ago. As the Eight Lords came to dominate Shorikan religion, disagreements between the different temples rose steadily towards crisis point. Representatives of each deity disagreed on whose doctrine should be preeminent, and political maneuverings of the elite only compounded this problem. Precepts of each faith promoted at different times to justify some social stratagem or the advantage of particular noble cabal, but the core problem was undeniably with the temples themselves:
Priests of Didairdin and Rialondru insisted on a strengthening of the local caste system, with the top nobles always being correct by definition; those of Tyerusus disagreed, promoting an ironclad system of laws applied equally and without exception. Iathiphos’ church in turn pushed for more power in the national bureaucracy, and Alae's embattled hospices called for more harmony between castes. Such a conflict might have come to nothing, had not the clergy of Saeduenical intervened, arguing for investigation and discovery of all acts, ever, regardless of criminal intent. The dispute that broke out was bitter and unquenchable, and soon escalated into open conflict.
The ensuing struggle lasted for decades, and was fought in nearly every form imaginable - from conflicting exhortations shouted in the temple square, to attempts to enshrine some key canon precept in secular law, to covert warfare and destruction of a rival's properties and treasures. The noble interests of Shoryko refused to involve themselves in the main, fearful of being seen as openly opposed to any single deity or finding themselves on the losing side, and blocked peacekeeping efforts proposed by the Harmonium for much the same reason. The crisis ended mostly out of mutual exhaustion, with no real compromise ever presenting itself. To this day, the temples of Shoryko are weakened and mutually suspicious of one another.
One thring the crisis did achieve was removing the advisors of the 'Hermit Dynasty' from power. Its cabal (heavilly involved with the churches) were eliminated by the Mafura in a progrom designed to coincide with the new ecclesiastical 'peace.' Under a new, more secular cabinet, the Empire became a little more open and involved in OCA affairs. It had to be: the War of Iron began and everyone on Ortho had to contribute aa much as they could.
The Modern Age
Modern Shoryko is a little more open than its predessessors, but still finds foreigners and OCA influence barely tolerable. Factions within both the Mafura and Chuje (backed by the bureaucracy) work tirelessly to keep out the rest of Ortho out, but merchants armed with OCA laws continue to draw a trickle of trade and ideas into the country. he result is that Shoryko now has an unheard of two major trading ports - although niether of them is thought well of. Desire for social advancement and change is ruthlessly suppressed by the government, but the hardworking lower classes persist in trying, however dangerous that can be. The OCA would dearly like to intervene, but as long as Shoryko remains ordered and peaceful, its hands are tied.
Plots and Rumors
Modern-day Shoryko is a land in which turmoil simmers below the surface. Though it appears peaceful and industrious, danger and strife could potentially erupt at any time, unconstrained by the peacekeeping efforts of outside forces. The present 'Eternal Emperor' is an underage figurehead, controlled by regents after his predecessor died in mysterious circumstances; the nobles that control him might seek a more pliable tool at any time. The different temples are still at one another's throats, each dominant in different cities and covertly struggling for overall prominence in Shoryko. The effect of the larger Harmonium hierarchy remains shaky and uncertain, but is slowly gaining faith among the lower castes and may become viewed as a threat. Exactly what the future holds, no one can say...