I have a section on my website about the history of Grevared, but it dawned on me that I haven’t really said too much about the cultures that make up the world. So, today we’ll look at the Xaggarene Empire, the country that is featured in Wolf in the Shadow and Rise of the Mad Gods: For Love of Her.
The Xaggarene Empire is the most technologically advanced of all the nations of Grevared. It sits south of E’ma Thalas, home of the elves, and it is the country that is most predominantly human. It is ruled by an emperor, a direct descendant of Arronax Billinghurst, who is credited with building the first generator and uniting the human tribes. The emperor has absolute power, but emperors in the past have been swayed by the suggestions of others, particularly high-ranking members of the Arcana Maximus. In fact, Emperor Lazarus Billinghurst was persuaded to sign an edict banishing all those of magical blood. This led to a mass exodus of wizards and witches, and many of them were killed by Arcana Examiners. This is how Ravyn Grimsbane, mother of Gwennyth Grimsbane, wound up in E’ma Thalas. It is also why the Shadow Walker guild headquarters is in Corleon.
The Arcana Maximus and the worship of Inyokamor, the great snake who holds the lands of Grevared on her coils, are the predominating religious beliefs. There are some others, but these are discouraged, often forcefully by Arcana Examiners, particularly in the two largest cities, Sangeron (the capital) and Freywater. There’s a lot more variation in the smaller towns and villages. Black Crystal, for example, is home to a large contingent of Harmarayon, a somewhat insular group that believes the Arcana’s disposal of human spirits is evil.
But that’s just broad topic stuff. In my upcoming book, Gwennyth Grimsbane, a wizard from E’ma Thalas, visits Sangeron for the first time. She describes the city in the following paragraphs:
“From the deck of the ship, Sangeron looked like nothing more than a collection of boxes crowded together and covered in a black cloud of coal smoke. Noises like I’d never heard before assaulted my ears and rattled my nerves.”
“The town passed by the window, and the diversity of the buildings and people boggled my mind. I’d never seen the like of the dresses worn by what I assumed were the more affluent women. They were beautiful, with flared skirts trimmed in lace and ribbon, and the sheer variation in color was riveting. Likewise, the leather trousers, shaved heads, and tattoos that covered others took my breath away, especially being from Crowrest, where so much of our culture was based on that of the elven people. We lived a simple life in harmony with the forest around us, something I wasn’t sure the people of Sangeron even remembered how to do, not if the filth and clutter around me were any indication of their mindset.”
And this is just a taste of the diversity of the Empire. On the one hand, there are generators that provide electricity, the University that produces highly educated individuals, and factories that produce things like Fizzy Drinks. On the other hand, there are small towns where oil lamps are still the norm and most people live off the land. A railroad connects all of these, and the sound of steam engines is common. Besides technology, though, there is little uniting the humans of the Xaggarene Empire, other than the emperor’s rule. In Freywater and Sangeron, there’s little sense of community outside of one’s small area, and those who are different tend to be suspect. The small towns are not as harsh, and people there come together a little more, but it’s nothing like the common beliefs seen in E’ma Thalas or the Kingdom of Emerell.
It’s funny. Until I sat down to write it out, it didn’t dawn on me just how little commonality the people of the Xaggarene Empire have with each other. Even sitting here thinking about it, I don’t feel a sense of common culture or common good like I do with the other countries; it feels more like a random group of ants tossed together, yet they are a country, and communities exist. It makes me wonder if maybe some of the things going on underneath the surface (I won’t give spoilers) may have something to do with it. It’s something to consider, and it will give me several hours, at least, of things to think about as I delve ever deeper into this world.