The Cities of Zhun are a loose
confederation of city-states located on the Zhunite Plains of southwest
Nybelmar. They were initially founded
by the Krean people of the Twin Kingdom but in time
they have received a large amount of Anpagan
population as well. The Zhunite men are now the result of this confluence
between the two Nybelmarian nations.
Although they have declared their independence from the Twin Kingdom and the
Grand Empire of Krath in the second millenium b.S. and have claimed to be
autonomous ever since, they are largely under the influence of
Anis-Anpagan Dominion. The Zhunite states are a very
important commercial node in the trade between the western regions of
Nybelmar and the eastern ones. Their
cities are the last stop for the caravans taking the road to
Tyr Faerath but also for the ships
heading to the Anpagan ports. Also, in the same
Cities of Zhun, the goods coming from the east (be that via
Anpagan or via Anpagan
sea routes) gather to be traded further into the west.
Appearance. The Zhunites are usually of medium height, with a slender constitution. Their skin is fair yet tending towards brownish nuances; their hair is generally dark and they usually have brown eyes. They have a cheerful and loquacious nature, and always present a very good vitality.
Coat of Arms/Sign. A full golden coin with rays like those of the sun on an azure background seems to be the most commonly used.
Territory. The now independent city-states of Zhun are located in southwestern Nybelmar, concentrated around the coastal areas of the Zhunite Plains (“Moredein Palantith Zhunith” in the Santerran Tongue). To the south, west and north they border the frontier of the Grand Empire of Krath (which they were once part of). A very disturbed ballance exists between the Imperial mining facilities (to the north) in the Mountains of Rhmáktár (“First Fingers of the Earth” or simply known as the “Forefinger”) and the citystates to the south. The Last Grove, the great patch of forest north of Marmarra, as the name implies, is the last plot of woodland left on the deforested Zhunite plain after the Year of Darkness (or "the Breaking" - as the Year of Darkness is known in Krath).
The river bisecting the Zhunite plains into two halves on a vertical axis is the Great River of Kimb. The famous city of Kimbar takes its name from this gargantuan river, that the locals named after the most venomous snake of the once forested plains: “Kimb” (or “Cobra” in the Lillivear High Speech).
People. The Zhunites are a people born at the confluence of two great Nybelmarian nations: Anis-Anpagan and the Earth Empire of Krath. The Cities of Zhun were first founded by Krean colonists around 3.500 b.S., but as farming communities rather than cities. The nature venerating culture of the Krean also acted as a catalyst for settling various nomadic tribes inhabiting these vast plains. The name "Zhun" comes from the Krant words “Zéh” (to grate) and “hún” (a descriptive word for a soil covered rock). These roots, when combined as “Zéhné-hún” form the Imperial Common Speech word for “sand”. Thus, “Zhun” (accurately spelled as Z’hún) stands for “the people of the wet sands”, probably describing their beautiful beaches.
Later on, when the first contact between the Twin Kingdom and the Kingdom of Anis-Anpagan was established (after an Imperial Salutation Ceremony which the Krean, up to this day, prefer not to speak about), small Anpagan trading posts were set up in all Zhunite coastal settlements. In time, the connection between these two nations was strengthened. Hence, the Anpagans started to build their ships in the new Zhunite harbours due to the high quality and relatively low price of wood available in the area. The deforestations caused indirectly by the overzealous Anpagan traders led to unprecedented tensions in the relations between these two nations (especially with the Lillivear of the Krean people, who regarded themselves as the Wardens of the Land and saw Anis-Anpagan as a dangerous presence). Yet after a long time of turmoil (a period known as “the Zhunite Uprisings”), the Cities of Zhun gained their independence from the Grand Empire of Krath. This, along with the fact that the Kingdom of Anis-Anpagan itself was passing through very troubled times, has led to a massive migration of Anpagan refugees to the Zhunite Plains. Therefore today, the Zhunites are as Krean as they are Anpagan, retaining characteristics from both cultures.
Strange enough for a nation of farmers and traders, one might think, the Zhunite are regarded as a very sophisticated people. They seek beauty in everything they do; a beauty not as much of content but as of forms. The purity of forms is always all that matters for every Zhunite. They have very rigorous and complicated daily rituals (from the common act of washing to the elaborated habitudes of eating and drinking) and no few scholars have suspected that Zhunites actually practice their religion not because it presumes a certain system of beliefs to which they adhere but because of the rituals involved. One can also easily observe at Zhunites a deeply rooted cult of the human body. Every respectable Zhunite seeks to keep his body in shape not for any other particular reason than for the beauty of it in itself. They have a real obsession with cleanliness and they shun all those that do not present a well kept statuary body.
Generally the Zhunites are very friendly with the foreign travelers and they always enjoy parading with their supposed wealth trying to offer lavish gifts to their guests anytime is possible. Their loquacity and cheerful manner has always made them a very pleasant company and perhaps their unique trading talents stem from these features.
Housing. The Zhunites have adopted the Anpagan urban way of life, with several families sharing the same building. The usual Zhunite residential is a large square villa, with two or three stores, parted in apartments. Inside, the villa opens into a courtyard with a swimming pool in the center. Various plantlife are cultivated around the swimming pool (and generally everywhere, but that depends on each of the inhabitants' financial status). The apartments of these villas are offered for rent as only the wealthiest Zhunites can afford to pay the exorbitant price of a residential building and live on their own property.
Clothing. Given the hot climate and their cult for the human body, the Zhunite clothing is always as comfortable and as summary as possible. Generally, nakedness is not regarded as a shamefull state, but they never practice it on public spaces. The elderly usually wear large sheets covering their entire bodies. They are never regarded as "ugly" or "out-of-norms", but their beauty is recognized in the formal perfection of their past lives. White, gold and azure, seem to be their favourite colours.
Diet. The Zhunites have "borrowed" the special gourmandic nature of their Anpagan ancestors. Just like the Anpagans, the Zhunites cherish the times of day when they have to eat. Nonetheless their Krean roots are sensible as well. As opposed to Anpagans, the Zhunite have ritualized their dining habits to the extreme. Every type of meal has its own rigorous set of gestures and actions. Eating is an art par excellence for any respectable Zhunite. Yet there is no sacred symbolism in any of their eating rituals (and perhaps this comes as an Anpagan heritage too) just the "pure pleasure of an art that too few can understand in this world" - as they proudly state on each occasion.
Weapons. The Zhunites rely mainly on heavy infantry, using long spears, square shields and various leather or bronze breastplates. Metal leggings and arm protections also make up for the rest of their armour. Recently, they have also started to import and then to breed the locust wyverns of Orcal, using them as a quick-strike force or cavalry. On the sea they build some quite sturdy galleys (but only up to three rows of oars) but they have never been a match to the Anpagan mastery in this field (as the Zyloth Sea remains the uncontested dominion of the giant sea serpents and the Anpagan Pacifiers).
Occupations. Although the main bulk of the population is concentrated in the Zhunite cities, there are many small hamlets on the countryside: communities of farmers (mainly wheat growers, orange tenders, and olive cultivators) and sheperds (goats and sheep). With the ever busy Zhunite ports a class of workers specialized in carrying goods was also formed. Trading and everything related is regarded as a very respectable occupation. Clerics and various magicians make up for an important part of the population as well (though this happened only in the more recent history). Also each of the cities has a permanent militia in training, used as a regular army or for policing the streets.
Government. Each Zhunite City-State has its own autonomous government. Yet every town shares the same general structure. A council has the ultimate decision on the city's affairs. This council is formed by representatives of each of the noble as well as the wealthy families of the city. In other words, the cities, being important trading centers, might have wealthy familities that are not of noble origins in their councils. Their presence in the City Council allows for a periodic "refreshment" of the Zhunite nobility. At the beginning of their term, the Councils elect several executives, though they must always be of noble origins.
Only in times of great peril for the Zhunite area, the City-States form a common Council and act as a whole and coherent political body.
Production/Trade. Imports. The cities of Zhun acquire most of their raw material supplies (including blocks of marble, iron and various types of precious metals) from the Imperial Minining Facilities of Krath. Some cities (e.g. Cusca) also import several kinds of precious stones and glass from the Krean Twin Kingdom. An array of delicacies, perfumes and tobacco is also imported from Anis-Anpagan to fulfill the wealthy Zhunite merchants' luxury needs. Exotic Lillivear vegetables, fruits and flora are also in high demand. Although the cities try to restrain from buying finished goods whenever possible, many still import glass sculptures and a gamut of deadly poisons from the Krean as well as curious machineries from the Anpagan.
A detailed list of imports is given below:
Marble and iron, gold, silver ores (from the Krath imperial mining facilities to the north); green and black Krath gold (from the imperial mining facilities located on the peninsula’s mountains), various types of precious stones and glass (from the Krean Twin Kingdom)
Vegetables, fruits, herbs (from the Krean people), various types of delicacies (from Anis-Anpagan), tobacco (from the far east Nybelmar, via Anis-Anpagan), perfumes (actually the Zhunite Cities are the place where the Anpagan perfumes are fiercely competing with Krean ones).
Zhun was first founded by
colonists to serve as the Empire's backdoor farm. For centuries the cities of
Zhun have remained as the main supplier of wheat, olives and grapes in south
western Nybelmar. However, the chief
source of income for many cities remain their treasured amphorae of olive oil
and barrrels of exquisite wines. Clay and ceramic pottery as well as bronze
sculptures are also frequently traded items.
Before the deforestation of the Zhunite plains and the Fall of the Temple, wood, armour and weaponry were the three goods that made Zhunite merchants the richest traders of the West.
A detailed list of exported goods includes the following: Wheat (and other grains and fruits), olives, olive oil, grapes, wine, armuor and weapons, wood, sculptures (bronze), pottery (clay and ceramics).
Natural Resources. Before the deforestation of the plains wood and various orchards (including citrus fruits and vine) were common place in Zhun. After the unfortunate event, however, the natural resources of the cities were limited to metal ores, olives and quarry stones. A list of natural resources includes the following: Wood, olives, grapes, citrus fruits, grains, gold, iron, marble and bronze.