In conjunction with the Kingdom of Makan, the Aparni Kingdom is also one of the most influential in controlling trade between the Western Lands and Eastern Lands. Their influence is much greater than their size would indicate, which has unfortunately also resulted in the forces of darkness giving them more attention. As a result, the two nations have established a world spanning network of agents and assassins who hunt down and eliminate threats to their safety and stability before they can harm their people.
Nations Name: Kingdom of Aparni
Form of Government: Monarchy
National Symbol: Rearing horse with three stars
National Colors: Purple and Blue
Leader(s): Valagash VIII
Population: 1.4 million
Military Strength: 60,000
State Religion(s): Non-Desolate Ones,
Primary Products: Dates, Embroidered Silk, Tapestries, Horses
Secondary Products: Coffee, Fruit, Preserves, Nuts, Saffron, Camels
Encounter Frequency: Low except along Askuzoi Steppes (Medium)
The Kingdom of Aparni was formed when several Aran tribes broke from the confederation of the Kingdom of Mayda and migrated westward, settling in the Sarayu river valley near Samskara. While they initially clashed with the bellicose inhabitants of Zataputra, they soon established diplomatic relations with them, each side respecting the others prowess in battle and forthright natures. Zataputra controls land access to the Western Lands, and the Apurni are able to leverage by escorting the Makan and Mayda trade caravans who wish to skirt the Askuzoi steppes, as well as serving as a hub for further transport eastward.
The conquering of the Kingdom of Makan causes great concern in Aparni, and Arshek VI takes action to prevent his kingdom from sharing a similar fate. Besides building up his already large veteran force, he confers with allies in Zataputra and other Samskaran states and secures promises they will lend aid. When the Mayda do invade, he fights a running war, avoiding a set battle and instead raiding their supply lines, harassing their troops, and in one particularly humiliating encounter, capturing the Shahanshah’s uncle and cousins for ransom. He returns them in exchange for a truce, but is not surprised when Shahanshah Vardiya breaks the truce in a sneak attack. Arshek retreats westward, leading the Mayda into a trap where their army is forced to attack him in a narrow valley, and are then attacked by Zataputran archers from the valley rim, as well as boulders and nets dropped from above. Vardiya’s forces retreat with heavy losses and the war soon ends, with the Mayda holding a long grudge.
The Aparni military is kept sharp due to constant raids from the Askuzoi, as well as their role as hired caravan guards, ranging as far inland as Toichous and the steppelands inhabited by Atli and Aztai nomads, which are often plagued by roaming demons and creatures, as well as the fierce, territorial nomads themselves. This readiness is tested when the War of the Gods and Desolate Ones sees voidspawn released into the world, and the turmoil caused by the destruction of the Ayasa Kingdoms in northwestern Samskara. The Shah orders his soldiers to be vigilant and assist any citizen in need, while also sending his agents to ferret out hidden cultists and necromancers.
The next four centuries see the Aparni resisting incursions from the Askuzoi, repelling additional aggression from the Mayda Empire and expanding their influence on the West-East/East-West trade routes. The merger of Zataputra into Vistra Restra allowed for even more opportunities to expand trade from Samskara. The arrival of Maz-Torgoth results in the swift fall of Mayda and the Akkyrian Empire, forcing Arshek XXXII into hiding. From hiding his remaining forces harass the Empire forces, accelerating this once Maz-Torgoth is assassinated and his Warlords split the Empire. After Warlord Damasias disappears, Mayda, Makan, Aparni and Kolkhis revolt. Arshek XXXII reappears to retake Aparni. Many Empire troops desert, and the border region between Aparni, Vistra Restra, and Askuzoi plunges into wild, lawless chaos. The Vistrans and Aparni pull back, leaving the area to it’s own devises. Eventually an outcast Askuzoi clan unites many of the stronger elements to establish order and drive out Empire remnants. The chief of that clan marries his daughter to the exiled 3rd son of Arshek XXXII and their descendants live there till the present day, calling the area Azvarastra.
In the period after liberation, Aparni and Makan develop close ties, with Aparni supporting Makan’s independence from Mayda, and Aparni troops forming the core of the caravan guards that allow Makan merchants to gain such a hold on trade. The increasing influence of Toichous is seen in the rise of the Tsarumani, a powerful block of Askuzoi tribes that cause concern in Aparni and Makan. Several wars are waged to reduce the power of the nomads, but Toichous financial, material and sorcerous support prevent any real gains. In 194 BH the kingdom experiences a succession crisis after the death of Arshek LXXV until a faction of nobles supports the crowning of Arsheka I as queen. A decade later, she is assasinated, along with her son, Arshek LXXVI. Aparni descends into civil war, with each size blaming the other for the murders. Eventually Orodek I is crowned after providing evidence that showed his rival had arranged the killings. The Arasek dynasty is ended, the Orodek dynasty begun. Some supporters of distance relative of the Arshek dynasty continue to agitate for their rule from Udaya Rastra, but are assassinated and Orodek rule is consolidated. Less than two centuries later, Orodek VIII, known to history as Orodek the Great will be crowned, his leadership and advice crucial to how Aparni and nearby nations respond to the arrival of the Host.
The arrival of the host sees Aparni and Makan overwhelmed with refugees, as tens of thousands of Slowani pour south through Askuzoi lands. The Mayda Empire directs many of them toward Makan, knowing that they lack the resources to keep them at bay. The Shah of Makan dips into the royal finances and hires every free ship in the Gulf of Spices and bribes many communities in Yaksum, Nyeni and Samskara to take in refugees. Orodek VIII assists, convincing the Samskaran states to assist. Several thousand Slowani are allowed to settle in Aparni, but unable to take all, some are turned back toward the steppes. Aparni and Makan lend troops to the Mayda Empire to assist in the offensive Mayda and Akkyrian troops have launched against the Empire
Orodek VIII, having been briefed by his agents revelations of Empire spies and assassinations in the Akkyrian empire consults with both the Sharrum and the Shahanshah of the Mayda empire to discuss what to do about the Empire. He suggests bold action is needed, lest Maz-Torgoth be allowed to pick apart his enemies one by one. With his northern border secured by the fall of Medgeheima, and the fading power of Tse’tah, the fall of the League will allow the Empire to then focus all of it’s efforts on their empires. Sharrum Samnu-bani pledges his support to assisting the League, while Shahanshah Kurus IV pledges his support conditionally, asking for additional time to shore up support among the Xsacapavan who hold provinces along the Empire border or near it and will be tasked with supporting such an effort. With agreement to allow this, a pact is signed, and Orodek is tasked with visiting other nearby kingdoms to coordinate assistance. After the Akkyrians and Mayda engage the Empire, Orodek VIII taps into his treasury to hire additional Samskaran and Yaksumite mercenaries to help in the drive along the coast, as well as working diplomatically to convince Onadan to allow privateers to use it’s harbors to prey on Empire vessels. He narrowly avoid assassination by agents of the Empire, a loyal servant spotting a manservant speaking in the market with strange foreigners and alerting his captain of the guards. The Empire loses several networks of valuable agents, including one in the Royal College. Orodesk dies in his sleep at the war’s conclusion, exhausted by the last two decades effort.
After the war, the Aparni work to restore order, especially in Azvarastra, hiring mercenaries to help end the internal strife. In 90 AH Aparni agents detect and eliminate Desolate One cultists planning on assassinating the king. Information is shared with Makan and Mayda in an effort to find more hidden followers of the Desolate Ones. A little over a century later, the small Aparni navy joins the fight against the Black Banner, assisting the Makan navy. A century after that, Aparni cavalry locate and eliminate Returning Lords cultists preying on trade caravans. Secret documents are found and brought back to the capitol. Orodek XXIII is informed that the cultists are trying to bring back a lost god by sacrifice. He informs Shah Shahak the 5th in Makan. Aparni and Makan spies begin to work with Samskaran and Tiāncháo agents to stamp out the cultists, who seem to be thriving and well funded.
The Maydan-Empire War of 358 AH, the formation of Gui Guo in 363 AH, and the continual threat of Desolate One cultists results in the Aparni and Makan rulers forming a secret organization to monitor the fell powers, disguised and hidden among the merchants and caravan guards of both nations. This organization soon expands to monitoring events across the whole known world. In 397 AH the Aparni merchants establish a trading enclave in Khungo, a rare solo venture for the nation. In 487 AH, they also found a jointly held enclave in Rodos, to serve as their hub for trade in the Eastern Lands. In 532 AH, the Brotherhood of the Black Banner reappears, especially targeting Makan merchants. Besides Empire support, they are also assisted by the Magocracy.
In 581 AH Orodek XXXXVI dies without a direct heir, leading to a more distant relative rising to the Aparni throne. Valagash I is crowned, ending the Orodek dynasty, and beginning the Valagash dynasty. In 652 AH, riots in Tyrinos result in most foreign merchants leaving, causing hardship for the Hegemony city. Aparni guards are able to escort most of the Aparni and Makan merchant families safely from the city, killing several dozen rioters in the process.
During the recent 3rd Void war, the Makan and Aparni supported the Mayda Empire, but their main focus was on removing the Black Banner fleets profiting from the war. Recently in 721 AH Valagash VIII celebrated the 25th year of his reign by throwing a grand ball. Some elements of Aparni society feel that the nations wealth and isolation from the Empire and greater threats has made it complacent.
Aparni like to dress in ornate but practical clothing. V necked tunics and jackets are worn, belted at the waist, with knee or calve length trousers tucked into footwear. Men will usually wear a soft cap, women a headdress with a rear hanging veil to shield the hair and neck. Wealth will determine the material the clothing is made off, with silk for the richer people, and cotton or felt for the less affluent. Both sexes tend to wear some form of jewelry.
Aparni cuisine is very reliant on lamb, goat and chicken for meat, with much less fish than Makan cuisine. Many dishes include onions, fennugreek, beans and spices from Samskara. Weak beer, fruit juices, syrup drinks and wine popular drinks, but coffee is the beverage of choice, as well as an important export.
The Aparni allow the worship of most non Desolate One gods, but are especially fond of Artavans, Baêshaza (Bagula), Pathan (Diavasi), Dãmi (Goban), Tkaêsha (Leisana), Kaiti (Lubyati), Asha (Tassein), and Sehkhwāharān (Three Sisters). Thieves are severely punished, and the gods who they worship are not mentioned aloud or named.
The Aparni could have an even greater role in trade, but are more comfortable in letting their Makan neighbors take the lead, while providing the vital protection and caravan logistics in exchange for a sizable share of the profits. There is an active merchant class in Aparni, but they are not as dominant in the social structure as in Makan, and Aparni in general prefer to “get their hands dirty”.
Major cities in the Aparni kingdom include Arshek, the former capitol and where rules are still crowned. Tesibon, the largest city and where most foreign visitors travel to in the middle of the country, and Marv, the fortified outpost along the Askuzoi border where caravans set out from or arrive from the west.
The military of the Kingdom of Aparni is heavily biased toward mounted units, due to the distances they must cover, and the focus on caravan protection. The majority of the armed forces are mounted archers, armored in scale covered leather and armed with scimitars and compound bows. About a quarter of the army is heavy lancers, with head to to metal scale armor, barding for their horses, and armed with scimitars, maces, lances and large shields, with a bow for backup. Militia and garrison troops are usually dismounted horse archers, with some additional spear fighting training.
Shah Valagash VIII:Shah Valagash VIII is recently celebrated a quater century of his rule, most of it during the 3rd Void War. A softspoken man of refined tastes, he is also willing to make the hard decisions needed as Shah, and has chosen the best and brightest to serve as his councilors. He has heard the whispers that Aparni is not as strong as needed, but knows that many do not see what occurs in the shadows or in far away lands. He has worked tirelessly with Shah Arjuna XII of Makan to expand their network of agents, and the Aparni have provided much needed muscle to the network, responsible for removing threats before they can reach their own lands.
Mother Barsine, High Priestess of the Sehkhwāharān: Many who meet the elderly Mother Barsine do not realize the reach of her influence, or connect her with her youthful exploits as the head of the Sehkhwāharān temple’s militant order, the “Steppe Sisters”. The Sehkhwāharān have charged their mortal followers with the protection of women in all stages of life, from birth to the grave, and in Aparni their influence is very strong. While the Sehkhwāharān has councils devoted to assisting the poor, helping widows in need, and handling the burial of devotees, the Steppe Sisters are charged with finding and bringing to justice all those who have committed crimes against women because of their sex. Rapists, wifebeaters, and molestors of all types are hunted down, even if they flee into the steppelands. The Steppe Sisters are also considered one of the best scout units available to the Aparni army, resulting in sizeable donations from the Shah to the temple. Mother Barsine is the latest in a long line of her temple to have the ear of the Shah, which is why Aparni has such a repuation for the independence of it’s women, many of whom serve in the army, navy or hold positions in government or trade guilds.
Master Marduniya, Merchant Prince: To the general public, Marduniya appears as a fat, soft (his name even means soft and mild) man of leisure, living off the wealth created by his father and grandfather. In reality, he was groomed by his father to replace him as the master of spies for the Shah. Marduniya lets others underestimate him, using his reputation as a hedonist to explain his visits to foreign lands to check on the network of spies, agents and assassins that guarantee Aparni and Makan safety. He has known Grand Captain Bahtaawar for decades, and they trust each other as much as two spymasters can, but have the utmost respect for each other’s abilities. He is younger by a decade and has promised to help her protege develop into a worthy successor. A secret that even most of his agents do not know, is that Marduniya is also a skilled magi, specializing in scrying and sorcery. More than one assassin has had a quite profound final revelation.