Government Style: Theocratic Monarchy
Ruler: The Paladin Queen, Her Holiness Ferina dai Dessa
Population: 3 Million
Forge Magic: Common
National Symbol: A horizontal greatsword over a sunburst.
Humans were long-established on Mazhan before its unification into a single nation. The five city-states of Malachite, Crucible, Vision, Tower-Shell, and Tempest contended for control of the island for ages. Isolated from the mainland by miles of ocean, they were culturally very similar, though they would have killed an outsider for saying so. Then Keheia dai Dalya, Iron Lady of the Crucible, went to the city of Vision and ascended to its monastery, barefoot and wearing a shift woven of nettles, to seek the blessing of the monks – to seek peace. They cleaned her sword in water from their sacred spring, gave her armor of iron-plated leather, and sent her forth to unite the Mazhani. Her forces waited at the foot of the mountain, half a day from Vision, and so it may have been with some cynicism that the monks conferred upon her the title of Paladin Queen.
She took this title and charge seriously, however, and returned to the lowlands with a new dedication. At Tempest, she drew the city’s champion into single combat and slew him. She spared the city’s army and invited them to join her battle-host. Tower-Shell heard tales of this battle, and the soldiers found that they could raise no hand against her when she strode through their lines. She raised her blade to challenge Tower-Shell’s champion, but his will failed him and he shamed himself, falling to his knees before her. When he had pledged himself to her, she granted him absolution by permitting him to fall upon his sword.
Finally Malachite stood alone. Keheia’s battle-host surrounded the city, and she entered the governor’s negotiating tent. The governor poisoned her drink with a strong dram of the vilest poison man has ever known, but she drank it as though it were clean water. The assassin that hid within the tent, waiting to strike, found at the last moment that his blade had rusted away to nothing. With growing frustration, the governor uttered a dreadful curse against her, invoking names that no mortal should name. Keheia bowed her head politely and asked that he reconsider his hasty decision to make war against her. Thwarted at the last, the governor fled from the tent and into the wilds, and the Paladin Queen claimed dominion over all of Mazhan.
In the centuries that followed, each ruler chose as his or her successor the most enlightened warrior of his or her followers. The island had many Paladin Kings along with the Paladin Queens, and it was during the rule of one of the Paladin Kings that the city of Anathema was founded. The Paladin King Kahar don Teived ruled that it was morally untenable to execute heretics and blasphemers, who might yet be redeemed, and thus ordered their exile to a small island near Mazhan, where they could contemplate the errors in their thinking.
The first Paladin Queen declared herself the fount of all honors, so that all official positions came from royal decrees and reverted to the Crown upon the death of the honoree or the monarch. Inheritance of every kind flowed to the monarch, to be reassigned to deceased’s descendants in whatever measure the monarch saw fit. This incredibly high level of centralized authority drove the national ethos of service. This ethos dictated that one should honor one’s ancestors by seeking to equal and surpass their service to the Paladin Kings and Queens, yet serving with humility. The Mazhani system of patronymics for men (don) and matronymics for women (dai) reflects this cultural obsession with honoring one’s ancestors. The last element of any Mazhani name is the city of one’s birth (or the city closest to one’s village).
The people of Mazhan were fishermen, farmers, and tradesmen. The right to train with the Blades of Mazhan was a high honor reserved for those who demonstrated a measure of spiritual awareness and unswerving loyalty to the nation, in some cases even when that loyalty was at the expense of the monarch.
Appointed officials had the right to keep a retinue of warriors trained by the Blades, though many also hired less elite guards. A complex relationship existed between the warrior and his employer; until such time as he was declared to be in disgrace, the warrior had the right to seek favor elsewhere. If the official declared him to be in disgrace, he was cast out, and could not seek legitimate employ elsewhere on Mazhan, except within Anathema.
The prospect of exile to Anathema was very frightening to the average Mazhani, but it was seen as pressure valve for those who could not handle the demands of honor and loyalty. Some who lived in Anathema believed they could use the island as a foothold for a rebellion against Mazhan. They did not realize until too late that other exiles were willing to pay any price to redeem their honor.
Mazhani knew little of alchemy, ritualism, or inscription, though forge magic was treated as a respectable trade. The monks dwelling in Vision were the only significant practitioners of ritualism or inscription. In Anathema, there was a dark and secretive sect that practiced alchemy, particularly poison-making. If a Mazhani had no honor, he might turn to the House of the Silver Web to sell him a measure of poison, or to disappear the target completely.
Faith and Religion
The people of Mazhan regarded their rulers, Paladin Kings or Paladin Queens, as mouthpieces and servants of the will of Heaven. The ruler was not intrinsically divine, but held the throne as long as Heaven permitted it to be so. Dogma stated that the people losing faith in a Paladin King was one of the signs that the favor of Heaven has been withdrawn, so even as a Paladin King demanded loyalty, he also had to court it.
The people of Anathema, found guilty of heresy or blasphemy, followed other traditions. The way of the Ivory Sun appealed to those who still believed in the core of Mazhani dogma but rejected the Paladin Kings.
What makes Mazhan great?
The Mazhani possessed a deep pride in their people and traditions, and thanks to their isolation those traditions have endured since time out of mind. They were solidly united in service to their Paladin Kings and Queens, and those monarchs in turn served their people and the will of Heaven with grace and dedication. Honor and obligation bound everyone together, from the highest to the lowest, save the outcasts of Anathema. Though spell-lore, alchemy, and other arts were little known, the monks of Vision possessed a deep spiritual wisdom not seen among other humans of the First Age. They gave great honor to the warrior's way; the Blades of Mazhan were an incomparable achievement in their time, the world's first warrior order. Correspondingly, they also achieved great things in the craft of Forge Magic.
What makes Mazhan less than desirable?
In their isolation, the Mazhani knew little of the people and the traditions of other countries, and their practice of many forms of magic was primitive compared to Endeiras or the mainland. The people of Anathema represented a festering wound in Mazhani society, in a constant state just short of open defiance of the laws of the Paladin Kings and Queens. Almost everyone accused of heresy, blasphemy, or non-capital crimes found themselves sentenced to transportation to Anathema, nearly always a life sentence. The code of honor and obligation was unforgiving, and many good warriors fell into dishonor as a protest of conscience against their lords.
Theme & Costuming
Mazhan’s theme can be summed up in two questions: “What if Japan had been off the coast of Europe instead of Asia?” and “What if Joan of Arc had been Japanese?” Mazhani characters explore the possibilities implied in a fusion of these cultures.
We encourage Returned players to wear tattered, stained, or dusty clothes when they rise out of the Grim Prison. However, Returned wear whatever clothing they can come across thereafter, possibly recreating the styles of their forgotten homelands. Mazhani style was a fusion of Japanese, Chinese, and Standard Fantasy. Clothing heavily featured loose vests, shirts, and trousers in linen, tighter, more closely fitting silks, and elegant patterns. Armor can range from samaurai-plate to typical chain mail-- whatever is most comfortable for fencing and swordplay. Tied knots and clasps were common adornments. Hair sticks featured in hair styles of both men and women. A common jacket style worn in Mazhan was similar to that of the Chinese. The wrap-style jacket in silk was also very popular.
Returned hailing from Mazhan pay two fewer points for Short Sword, Longsword, or Bastard Sword, though they only receive the price break once, regardless of how many skills they purchase.