Sirison is a land defined by its history. Many people keep to ancient customs laid down in bygone ages. Rulers from the past are buried in monuments of staggering size and detail, their glory scarcely dimmed by the passing centuries. Foreigners are shunned, exploited, or ignored, for how could modern thinking from younger lands compare to the wisdom of the ancients?
Beneath this reverence for antiquity lie many mysteries. Long-dead pharaohs stir within their burial chambers. Evil men turn to snakes by moonlight. Unaging monks gaze at the heavens from monasteries that touch the clouds. And hidden treasures lie untouched beneath the sands, awaiting discovery by those daring enough to brave the perils of the desert. Wonders abound, leaving little doubt why the people of Sirison regard their home with awe and reverence.
Opunin is the dominant language of Sirison, with dialects varying significantly by region. Cirth is likewise common, particularly in the port cities and Rohikhand, where education is prevalent. The monks are also known to be fluent in Drakeric. Traders in the Shadelands and Orissa often learn Takral due to trade with Tarkalsys, just as traders in Vostour learn Tceril due to trade with Lower and Upper Metsar.
Humans, ixifar, and uordeq are the most common races of Sirison, with uordeq more prevalent near the Shadelands and ixifar more prevalent near Perrasson and along trade routes. Ifrit are common in and around the desert. Empyreans are dominant in the monasteries of Rohikhand. Mau are uncommon but treated as royalty in Goa. Several communities of smallfolk and oreads dot the otherwise human empire of Vostour. Other races are practically unheard of, and may be met with intolerance or superstition when traveling through Sirison.
Sirison is divided into six distinct sovereignties, most ruled by a monarch of royal lineage if not divine authority. These include the sultana of Goa, the sultan of Orissa, the prince of Valadraz, and the elders of Rohikhand, who maintain delegations to negotiate trade and settle disputes between their kingdoms. The emperor of Vostour has joined these discussions only recently, and the dwarven governor recently replaced the uordeq king at the bargaining table. The khans of Perrasson have long sought legitimacy through such official recognition, but have always been spurned as thieves and lowlives.
The lands of Sirison feature a diversity of beliefs. The citizens of ancient Kalf-Gi were known to revere all of the Ageless Ones equally. Many in the present age claim to keep to these "old ways," rejecting the Ascendants and the Stewards as upstarts. Of those who don't, Mynra is often favored, particularly in Goa, Orissa, and Valadraz. The empyrean monks of Rohikhand seek enlightenment through the Forsynteril and Githal. The ixifar caravans keep to Ivelis and Istensia. The uordeq of Sind and raiders of Perrasson chiefly call on Tenaebrus, Thirsife, and Secronus. The cursed folk of Berar are said to serve monstrous immortals such as Hexadus, Hursisa, and Sylfare. The people of Vostour are unique in their reverence for ancestors rather than immortals, a custom that has come into conflict with more widespread doctrines along with the recent influx of trade there.
- Berar - The cursed lands of Berar, though lush compared to much of Sirison, are avoided by travelers. Tales tell of villagers who, seemingly innocent by daylight, transform into giant snakes after nightfall. Anyone foolish enough to stay the night are captured and sacrificed to dark immortals in temples deep beneath the earth.
- Goa - The sultanate of Goa was founded by survivors fleeing the destruction of Kalf-Gi. It’s people still hold to many of the ancient customs, serving their mau sultana and her kin as divine rulers. Though the country prospers on exports of luxury goods such as gold, linen, and pottery, the royal family retains most of the wealth while the citizens, who are little more the indentured slaves, languish in poverty.
- Kalf-Gi - During the Age of Wonders, the kingdom of Kalf-Gi was the greatest in the world. The great river made their lands lush and fertile, the people were happy and prosperous, and the pharaohs ruled on high as the chosen emissaries of the immortals. The kingdom fell into decline when the last dynasty of pharaohs embraced the dark arts as a means to attaining immortality. Kalf-Gi has been barren ever since, its river run dry, its cities swallowed by the dessert. Only crumbling monuments and hidden tombs stand as testament to its former greatness.
- Orissa - The port of Orissa is known for its bazaar, which features wonders and spectacles from all across Orn. Performers charm snakes, juggle swords, and walk on fire while merchants peddle exotic animals and priceless artifacts from bygone ages. It is equally well known for its crime, however. Many a traveler has been robbed blind while watching a performance or conned into buying a phony magic carpet. Officially, the city is ruled by a sultan, but it is widely believed that his vizier holds all the real power.
- Perrasson - Perasson is less a city than an amalgamation of encampments housing the many desert bandits and ixifar caravans who pass through the area. Stories say it began as a place where escaped Kalf-Gi slaves could meet and start a new life. It has no laws beyond a set of customs based on freedom and mutual respect, nor any official rulers. The leaders of the largest raider camps are sometimes given the title of Khan, however, and afforded a respect similar to nobility.
- Rohikhand - The monasteries of Rohikhand are a splendor to behold. Nestled high in the Starreach Mountains, they represent the largest community of empyreans in Orn. The monks who dwell there lead lives of meditation, serenity, and study, boasting libraries and producing philosophers famed the world over. The eldest monks are said to be thousands of years old, with memories reaching back as far as the Vedrischtal.
- Sind - Until recent years, Sind was an uninhabited expanse of desert known only for the giant scarabs, scorpions, and other vermin who lurked in vast underground hives beneath the sand. When the spans opened, the uordeq of Tarkalsys seized the opportunity, clearing out the infestation to establish a homeland of their own. The Shadelands have since been occupied by the dwarves, though many of the uordeq still living there plot to rise up and reclaim it as their own.
- Valadraz - The gardens and fields of Valadraz boast exotic plants found nowhere else in Orn. Its healers are likewise renowned, specializing in leeches, needles, dragon’s yolk, and other bizarre techniques in their pursuit of a universal medicine. This is because their monarch, the Masked Prince, has promised rich rewards to anyone who can lift the affliction that haunts his family and prevents him from ascending the throne.
- Vostour - Safely secluded from the rest of Sirison by the Starreach Mountains, the empire of Vostour has developed a xenophobic culture rich in ceremony and tradition. Their emperor is served by an elite warrior caste known as samurai, who have stood guard over the country for many ages. Only recently has the emperor opened the borders to trade with the outside world, where there is much demand for Vostonjin silks, spices, and fireworks.
- Antlions - Travelers have much to fear from normal quicksand, but the presence of antlions make it especially dangerous. Swarms of these creatures have been known to burrow their traps beneath camps in a single night. Giant varieties can accomplish similar feats by themselves. Unwary travelers are captured beneath the sand to be devoured at the antlions’ leisure.
- Djinnis - Legends speak of lamps, rings, and other seemingly mundane objects crafted by high magic to serve as prisons for djinnis. One has but to rub such an object to force the djinni contained within to appear and serve. Djinni are always resentful of their bondage, however, and seek to bend their master’s wishes against them. Attaining such an item, then, often proves to be more of a curse than a blessing.
- Font of the Phoenix - Somewhere in the desert of Sirison is a fabled oasis ruled by a benevolent phoenix. Those who drink from the water are said to gain the phoenix’s blessing and enjoy long life. The Font is difficult to find, however. Many believe it moves with the shifting sands, only appears at certain times of the day, or only appears to those who are worthy. Travelers have died or been led astray by mirages in pursuit of it. Many ixifar lead their nomadic lifestyle in the slim hope of chancing upon the Font, believing the phoenix to be their ancient progenitor.
- Kaiagu - The citizens of Vostour tell tales of colossal monsters who dwell in the deep sea, slumber within volcanoes, or soar upon the heavens. Once every few decades, the Kaiagu meet and do battle throughout the countryside, wreaking havoc and leveling buildings in their wake. The Vostonjin are careful to pay tribute and respect to these creatures in the hopes that their villages might be spared.
- Magic of the Sands - The ancient seers of Sirison were said to possess power over the dessert, allowing them to weave the heat into vast mirages, make armies invisible to the naked eye, and shape men and monsters from sand alone. Some say the “miracles” of the ancients were nothing more than illusions of this sort.
- Mummies of the Last Dynasty - For centuries, the pharaohs ruled the kingdom of Kalf-Gi with wisdom and kindness under the blessings of the Ageless Ones. This ended with the pharaohs of the last dynasty, who burned the temples and declared themselves the only beings worthy of veneration. The people were enslaved and forced to build monuments to honor the pharaohs’ greatness. No longer blessed by the immortals, the pharaohs embraced the dark arts instead, mummifying themselves and their servants as a means of attaining immortality. Many slumber deep within their tombs, beings of immense power who covet their treasures and curse any who dare to disturb their rest.
- River of Dust - A south-bound river once ran past Kalf-Gi, making the land lush and fertile. Legend says the pharaohs’ thirst for eternal life led them to suck the river dry, causing the civilization of Kalf-Gi to fall into ruin. The bed of the former river remains a lifeless place to this day, touched by a foul curse that has not dulled with the passage of time. Some say the spirits of Kalf-Gi slaves still haunt the river, and that any who cross it after nightfall will pass into the land of the dead.
- Sphinxes - Sphinxes are astral spirits bound by powerful mages to protect sacred sites throughout Sirison. They appear as lions with the heads of men and speak only in riddles. Those clever enough to solve the riddles are deemed worthy and granted safe passage. Those who fail to answer correctly, however, meet a grim end at the hands of the sphinx.
- Tuurgen U’aat - Literally, the “words of Aat” but more often referred to as “Aatian script,” the Tuurgen U’aat are a complex pictographic language often found within Kalf-Gi tombs and ruins. Aat is believed to have been a pharaoh of the first dynasty and is credited with the development of the system, though little else is known about him. The language itself has not be used for ages. Even with magical help, few alive know how to translate it.
- Vale of Gold - The first pharaoh of the last dynasty sought to pillage the sacred burial tombs of his predecessors, tear down their monuments, and burn their remains. Instead of doing his bidding, those faithful to the old ways moved the old pharaohs to a hidden place where they would rest for all of time. It is said they formed a secret society to guard the vale and its riches from any who might desecrate the sacred crypts.
- Dune-driven - A term for wanderlust, often used negatively to imply careless or foolish enthusiasm for travel.
- Frog Eater - A derogatory term for anybody unfamiliar with Sirison and its customs, typically reserved for foreigners. Due to certain plagues of legend, the appearance of frogs is considered an ill omen. To eat a frog invites even greater disaster and demonstrates a suicidal lack of common sense.
- Shecrediil - Spiced crocodile meat, roasted on a spit and shaved for serving. It is especially favored within the camps of Perrasson, where sharing shecrediil is considered a gesture of friendship and peace.