History of the Shining Land
The Golden Rule ("He who has the gold makes the rules") applies in the Shining Lands perhaps better than anywhere else in Faerûn. Wealth might well be the driving factor in the politics and power structure of most other nations, but nowhere else is that fact so openly embraced.
The nations of the Shining Lands look at politics in slightly different Ways, as described below.
Durpar: The people of this nation so completely buy into the idea that wealth is synonymous with power that they have established a government based solely on affluence, with the leaders of the richest chakas forming the nation's ruling body. This system is not nearly as corrupt as it might appear. Although it behooves every chaka to amass as much wealth as possible to earn a seat on the council, doing so at the expense of solid business practices inevitably backfires. A chaka that produces shoddy goods and overcharges for them might gain a seat for one season, but such tactics would soon become known, and the offending chaka could well crumble from the ensuing fines and lost business. The citizens of Durpar are shrewd, and they understand that shopping is more than just procuring goods - it's also a means of voting for council members. No chaka on the High Council can remain there long by engaging in shady contracting practices, either. Contracting one's own chaka to perform street cleaning or some other public function won't work unless the chaka has the means of getting the job done right. The people of Durpar won't stand for any affront to the Adama, so the members of the High Council must act in the public interest.
Despite the inherent checks and balances on the system, the politics of Durpar are not entirely nonpartisan. On the contrary, the various nawabs constantly plot and scheme with one another to incorporate favorable trading conditions for themselves and their allies into the laws and contracts. Perhaps the most recent - and possibly the most stunning - display of politics in Durpar was the High Council's recent decision to relocate the capital from Heldapan to Vaelan, a move that most Vaelenor consider a true feather in the city's cap, though the citizens of Heldapan still scowl about it when the issue is brought up.
Estagund: Since Estagund is a hereditary monarchy, its power structure isn't quite the same as Durpar's, but the result is similar because the kajah of Estagund draws his power from wealth. Not only is he the wealthiest individual in Estagund, but he is also the kingdom's war leader and the supreme commander of the Maquar. The heads of the various wealthy chakas do wield considerable influence in government, but they act as an advisory council at best; the Rajah functions as a true monarch.
Var the Golden: Also a monarchy, Var is ruled by Supreme Potentate Anwir Duprestiskava. Just below him, three powerful factions - the hajwas, the nawabs, and the janas, constantly vie with one another for supremacy. Each faction is powerful enough in its own right to unseat the ruler if it could focus on that goal, but Anwir avoids that outcome by playing one against the others in an endless political game. If not for this incessant power struggle, life in Var would be a lot more like that in its neighbor states.
The hajwas, or landed nobles, have the most wealth in the form of property and trading investments. The nawabs, leaders of the various chakas, argue constantly with the hajwas for a greater percentage of the profits because they make the deals and do all the work of shipping the goods to market. The janas, or priests, want to see the wealth reallocated for the glory of the Adama and spent as they see fit. After all, without their divine guidance, there would be no wealth to enjoy - or so they claim.
Veldorn: In the Land of Monsters, the power structure is simple: The beasts rule as much territory as they can, and all who oppose them are brutally eliminated. No love is lost between the rulers of Veldorn's various city-states, either. If greater threats from beyond their borders did not occupy much of their attention, the monsters that control this region would tear one another apart. But because a few of them have the foresight to understand the fate that awaits them all without cooperation, they have forged a loose alliance in which each watches the others' backs. So far, this system has worked, and the beast-leaders otherwise leave each other alone to conduct their affairs.
History of the Shining South
The region around the Golden Water began as a fertile land well suited to the nomadic lifestyle of the many human tribes that roamed its coasts. Over time, these tribes tired of skirmishing with one another and suffering the depredations of other, greater nations, so they settled into more permanent communities, where trading became a prominent occupation. Today, the, inhabitants of these nations are considered some of the best hagglers in the world.
|Imaskar falls. Left without guidance, the subject-states of Durpar and Gundavar (present-day Estagund and Var the Golden) fall into barbarism.
|A series of skirmishes between Mulhorand and Durpari barbarians occurs. Many Durpari tribes are wiped out; others are reduced to a few families.
|Heldapan is founded as a fishing and trading center.
|Vaelen (currently known as Old Vaelen) is founded as a trading center on the site of a natural spring.
|Vaelantar (currently known as Vaelan) is built as a fortified trading post.
|Klionna (currently known as Chavyondat) is founded as a fishing and trading center.
|Year of Clipped Wings
|Kingdom of Durpar is founded under Maharajah Udandwi, uniting all the trading communities along the northern coast of the Golden Water.
|Year of Able Warriors
|Satama, a Durpari trader, begins preaching the Adama.
|Year of Vindication
|Satama is named Maharajah of the Kingdom of Durpar.
|Year of Sand Shroud
|Veldorn tribe - the most prominent in the region between the Golden Water and the Curna Mountains, as well as along the Liontongue River - declares itself the Kingdom of Veldorn. Vaelen is designated as its capital.
|Year of Unfriendly Ports
|tribes in Gundavar are united under Rajah B'heshti I, and the Kingdom of Gundavar is founded.
|Year of Myrmidon Maid
|A formal alliance between Gundavar, Durpar, and Veldorn is established.
|Year of Boneblight
|Tribesmen in western Gundavar revolt against the Rajah and found the Kingdom of Estagund.
|Year of Close Scrutiny
|Rajah Marak III of Gundavar invades Estagund in an attempt to reunite the two countries.
|Year of Tortured Dreams
|Rajah B'heshti II relinquishes claims on Estagund, changes the name of Gundavar to Var, and declares the Adama the official state religion.
|Year of Bitter Fruit
|Barbarians from Ulgarth begin raiding Durpari cities. Such raiding continues for the next millennium.
|Year of Bloodied Pikes
|Thultim, the seventh king of Estagund, dies heirless. A succession war breaks out, and Estagund disintegrates into a collection of city-states.
|Year of Defiant Stone
|Durpar, Var, and Veldorn establish formal trade relations with Mulhorand.
|Year of Prowling Naga
|Beholder clans descend from the Curnas and conquer Assur, enslaving the humans and establishing themselves as princes.
|Year of Smiling Princess
|Durpari forces unsuccessfully attempt to free Assur from the clutches of the beholder princes.
|Year of Iron Colossus
|Assurian beholder princes conquer Vaelantar and Ormpé. Veldorn is referred to as the Land of Monsters by Maharajah Waileen I.
|Year of Wolfstone
|Several demons appear in Ormpé and defeat the beholder princes in a battle for control of the city.
|Year of Awakening Magic
|Durpar makes a second attempt to free the coastal cities of Veldorn from monster influence and is again repulsed.
|Year of Dun Dragon
|city of Vaelen is overwhelmed by werecreatures led by a wererat prince. Thousands of refugees continue to flee to Durpar to avoid the monster incursions.
|Year of Riven Shield
|A trade dispute sparks the first Mulhorandi-Durpari Coin War.
|Year of One's Tears
|Maharajah Waileen V of Durpar dies without heirs. A High Council of the eleven wealthiest merchants is established to maintain calm and order until a successor can be named.
|Year of Awakening Treant
|High Council of Durpar is formally recognized as the official form of government in Durpar.
|Year of Barren Chamber
|Estagund is conquered by the Arkaiuns of Dambrath.
|Year of Dead
|Var is conquered by the Arkaiuns of Dambrath.
|Year of Gnashing Tooth
|Durpari cities of Sandrun, Pharsul, and Morvar are sacked by the Arkaiuns of Dambrath.
|Year of Waving Wheat
|Estagund regains its independence from Dambrath and unites under King Bonrial. Var also declares its independence, and the noble, merchant, and religious factions begin squabbling over who will become the new Rajah. The Golden War begins, named for the endless wheat fields where much of the fighting takes place;
|Year of Melding
|Muwadeen, a retired sellsword from Estagund without ties to any of the three Varan factions, negotiates peace among the janas, nawabs, and hajwas. In a rare moment of agreement, all three factions ask Muwadeen to serve as Supreme Potentate of Var, with a council of advisors from each faction to counsel him.
|Year of Floating Petals
|Estagund and Var skirmish over water rights along their common border.
|Year of Heavenly Rock
|Durpar negotiates an armed peace with Ulgarth.
|Year of Pirates' Trove
|King Selkarin of Estagund attempts to invade Dambrath and is slain. His brother Hedgita ascends the throne, the kingdom in shambles.
|Year of Crimson Magics
|Jeradeem Seltarir, a nawab of the High Council of Durpar, negotiates the purchase of the throne of Estagund from financially strapped King Hedgita and places his oldest son Numambi on the throne as Rajah.
|Year of Tempest
|Rajah Numambi Seltarir of Estagund establishes the Maquar as both an elite military body and a public works force to aid in getting the economy moving again. He also renames the capital Chavyondat, after his first daughter.
|Year of Dark Rider
|second Mulhorandi-Durpan Coin War erupts over tax rates. Wererats of Vaelen attack several military caravans from both sides during the fighting.
|Year of Twilight Campaign
|Mulhorand attacks Vaelen to destroy the wererat presence there. The city is reduced to rubble, but the werecreatures remain in force, mostly underground.
|Year of Chevalier
|Saed, formerly a nawab on the council of Turelve in Durpar, is transformed into a vampire and flees to the destroyed city of Vaelen, where he quickly assumes control.
|Year of Auril's Absence
|beast-chieftains of Veldorn are united under Saed, the vampire lord of Vaelen.
|Year of Chaste Maiden
|Combined forces from Durpar, Var, and Estagund drive the beholders out of Vaelantar and Assur and send them fleeing west, toward the Toadsquat Mountains.
|Year of Consuming Glory
|Durpar/Var/Estagund forces defeat the demons of Ormpé and scatter them northwest, into the wasteland there. Humans begin to resettle the vacated cities.
|Year of Portentous Waters
|Durpar makes its first attempt to reopen the trade route with Mulhorand by sending an expeditionary force to clean out the monsters of Veldorn. The attack fails because every monster of power comes to the aid of the others.
|Year of Howling Hourglass
|blue dragon Anwir Dupretiskava slays the Supreme Potentate of Var. Disguised as a human, the dragon claims to be a distant cousin of the old ruler and gains the throne.
|Year of Cold Soul
|Durpar and Estagund make a second, joint attempt to clear Veldorn of monsters. The march into Veldorn territory lasts only 3 days before the Durpari are forced to turn back.
|Year of Tankard
|first Durpari merchant ships return from Maztica with trade goods.
|Year of Unstrung Harp
|High Council of Durpar votes to relocate the capital of Durpar to Vaelan.
|Year of Rogue Dragons
|Merchants of the Shining Lands travel as far as Waterdeep, the Utter East, Zakhara, and Maztica to procure wares for other markets.
The formal power structures of the nations known as the Shining Lands differ more than any other shared feature. Though to all outward appearances the almighty coin is king in Durpar, Estagund, and Var, the truth is a little different. In fact, each kingdom approaches government from a slightly different perspective.
Durpar: Compared with the citizens of other countries along the southeastern coast of Faerûn, the people of Durpar live almost autonomous lives. Though the citizens consider adherence to the Adama to be of paramount importance for maintaining peace, harmony, and a sense of accomplishment on both a personal and a national level, the people of Durpar are generally free to conduct their business and personal affairs as they see fit.
The nawabs of the eleven richest chakas in the country form the High Council of Durpar, the ruling body of the nation. Seats on the council are filled annually, according to the chakas' reported assets, and the leader of the wealthiest one becomes the Grand Nawab of Durpar. The current grand nawab is Kara Jeratma (LG female human aristocrat 4/illusionist 10), who is not only the wealthiest member of the High Council but also one of the wealthiest individuals in Faerûn.
The people of Durpar accept the High Council's authority because they believe that its members act in the best interests of the country. The logic behind this assumption is purely mercantile: The council members have already proven their business acumen by accumulating the vast fortunes necessary to gain their council seats in the first place. Predictably, their decisions tend to benefit their own chakas, but from a business viewpoint, what's good for them is likely to be good for the rest of the chakas as well.
In theory, the nawabs are empowered to make only the decisions that are necessary to keep the kingdom's infrastructure operational and its economy running smoothly. For example, they can collect a modest tax on every sales transaction to fund public works. With these funds, the High Council contracts various chakas to protect the population from invasion, keep the streets clean, maintain the public buildings, keep the peace, and so forth. In reality, the eleven wealthiest people in Durpar have quite a bit of political pull, so they can influence many other chakas behind the scenes. Recently, several of the nawabs on the High Council managed to swing a vote to move the capital from Heldapan, its traditional location, to the newer city of Vaelan. The nawabs who voted in favor of this change all maintain their chakas along the old Veldorni region of the Golden Water, and a new influx of wealth from mines in that area enabled them to earn enough seats on the High Council to pass the measure. Thus, those chakas stand to gain improved trading conditions and can reward their own favored chakas with juicy contracts for public service.
In the same way that the High Council manages the affairs of the entire country, individual councils - each with eleven nawabs - control the operations of the individual communities where they are based. The only requirement for earning a seat on such a community council is that the chaka's headquarters be inside that city's boundaries. Only rarely do nawabs of the High Council also sit on community councils. Though they are certainly eligible to do so by virtue of their wealth, they are usually far too busy to manage multiple council positions. But when the High Council's membership shuffles because of a sudden change in wealth status, the nawabs unseated from the High Council tend to take a sudden interest in their local ones.
Estagund: In this kingdom, the rajah maintains control over the country, but he relies heavily on the assistance of his advisors landed nobles who also happen to be the heads of Estagund's wealthiest chakas. Though the power rests in the hands of a hereditary monarch rather than a council of the wealthy, as in Durpar, the royal family also controls the wealthiest chaka.
In 1026 DR, Jeradeem Seltarir, considered by many to be the most uncanny trader in the history of the Durpari people, actually purchased the throne of Estagund from King Hedgita for precious gems with a total value in excess of a million gold pieces. Jeradeem promptly placed his second son, Numambi Seltarir, on the throne as rajah. This new wealth allowed the formerly impoverished Hedgita to become a landed noble and an advisor in Numambi's court, and the change allowed Estagund to dig its way out of financial squalor and become a respected trading power. The Seltarir family has ruled Estagund ever since, and neither its power nor its wealth has waned. The current rajah, Ekripet Seltarir (LG male human aristocrat 5), is a young but energetic ruler who works hard to see his nation prosper.
The one true force that allows Ekripet to remain in power, even when his decisions are unpopular with the nobility, is the Maquar. A wise legacy from Numambi, who established the organization in his earliest days as rajah, the Maquar is a cadre of hand-picked soldiers fiercely loyal to the throne. Though some units of the Maquar have been placed under the command of various nobles to protect the countryside, they never move against the throne, regardless of their commanders' orders to the contrary. The current leader of the Maquar, who answers directly to Rajah Seltarir, is Indamu Podo (LG male human fighter 8/Maquar crusader 6), a dedicated soldier who has trained for the position since childhood. Though Ekripet nominally commands the Maquar, he considers Indamu a close friend and carefully considers his advice in all military matters.
The nobles are sometimes referred to as hajwas, though that title is formally used only in Var. Many are longtime landholders (descendants of the original nomadic tribes that first settled the region) who have amassed their wealth from centuries of farming. Others are the new rich - the offspring of merchant princes who used their profits to purchase baronies within the last few generations. These two groups often find themselves at odds with one another, and the rajah must occasionally settle disputes between rival nobles who like to look down their noses at one another. When they are not arguing, the nobles manage their holdings much as they see fit, though they are still constrained by the tenets of the Adama and by the good business practices it requires. In a way, the common folk of Estagund exert a degree of power over the nobles because, should a noble not provide the safety, infrastructure, and incentives for trade (low taxes) that the people expect, they can simply relocate to a barony that does.
Var the Golden: The government of this peninsular country is by far the most convoluted and controversial in the three trading nations. Supreme Potentate Anwir Duprestiskava is nominally the head of state, but realistically, the three factions (the hajwas, the nawabs, and the janas) that vie for influence with the ruler wield almost as much power as he does. This unstable triangle spawns constant maneuvering, infighting, and outright conflict among the factions, and the potentate typically plays the role of peacemaker.
The hajwas are traditional nobles, hereditary landowners who have invested most of their wealth in their property and in business. They want to continue to control the wealth of the nation the old-fashioned way, with the common people working the land for the nobles' benefit. Any landed noble is automatically part of the hajwa faction should she choose to participate, but the owners of the larger holdings have considerably more influence within the faction than those with smaller holdings.
If Estagund were a more agrarian country, the hajwas would undoubtedly hold sway over the other two factions and have the potentate's ear. But since Var's economy has expanded beyond agriculture, the nawabs (merchants) have gained an equal footing in the politics of the country. The nawabs have established a stranglehold on Var's trade industry, including the export of grains and vegetables from the nobles' land. The merchants identify most closely with Ddrpar's business empire model and would like to see their own nation mimic it. Any merchant headquartered in a Var port may participate in the Nawab Council, as the faction is called. As in Durpar, the eleven wealthiest merchants form its ruling body. All other members may only discuss issues and advise their leaders.
While the other two factions bicker over the nature of business, the janas strive to refocus the country's ideals on higher goal. The janas, or priests of the Adama, are much more powerful here than they are in the other kingdoms of the Shining Lands. The janas established a foothold during Var's early days as a nation, when Rajah B'heshti II, a devoutly religious ruler, lavishly donated to the temples of the Adama. The rajah encouraged the priests to preach that the pursuit of coin at the expense of mutual well-being was the basis for the rift that divided old Gundavar into Estagund and Var. The janas gained their greatest level of power during the Arkaiun occupation by appealing to the common folk who toiled for the benefit of others. Even after the withdrawal of the Arkaiun occupying force, the janas remained on equal ground with the hajwas and nawabs.
Wedged in among these three factions is the Supreme Potentate of Var, a hereditary ruler who must constantly perform a subtle balancing act to stay in power and keep the country running. The leaders of the three factions established the monarchy as a means of ending the Golden War - a battle for control in the power vacuum left behind by the withdrawal of the conquering Arkaiuns of Dambrath. Realizing that no faction would support a leader from either of the other two, all three wisely agreed to bring in an outsider to become titular ruler. Though the monarchy is hereditary, no potentate with ties to any of the three factions may take the throne. Thus, the title does not always pass from parent to child, though as far as anyone other than the potentate knows, it has always remained within the same family.
Few people realize that the current Supreme Potentate of Var, Anwir-Duprestiskava by name, is actually an ancient blue dragon playing at being human. Though he is a powerful creature in his own right, he is coming to understand (after nearly two hundred years on the throne) that the forces of public opinion and the wealth of the populace can be much stronger influences on the course of events than a single being - even a dragon. On occasion, Anwir has been forced to eliminate - sometimes very unsubtly - his most outspoken opponents. Now and then, he orders the assassination of a particularly charismatic figure with no strong ties to him, or even one of his allies, simply because the individual could unbalance the trio of factions that he manages to keep at odds with one another. Such heavy-handed tactics work only because on the surface, it is not always clear that the outcomes favor him, but many suspect he has had a hand in them nonetheless.
Veldorn: The Land of Monsters is hardly a nation at all, though it began its existence as the fourth trading power of the Golden Water region. Indeed, its borders no longer resemble those of the former human kingdom; they have migrated north and west because of Veldorn's continuous conflict with Durpar, Estagund, and Var.
Each center of civilization in Veldorn is an independent city-state ruled by some fell creature or group of creatures. All that has kept these beasts from falling to the armies that march against them from time to time is the alliance they have established with one another for mutual protection.
But the Land of Monsters isn't made up only of horrible creatures out of nightmare. The general populace of each center of civilization (to use the term loosely) is usually composed of more common sorts of folk. Plenty of humans still live in Veldorn, though many of them are indentured laborers, slaves, or outlaws who have fled other realms. Numerous humanoids who find the rulership of beholders, dragons, werecreatures, and vampires to their liking also dwell there. The beast-chieftains (as the residents of nearby countries have named the monster leaders) rule with an iron fist, running totalitarian states where might makes right and the economy is based on raiding caravans and communities on the fringes of other civilizations.
In Veldorn, the traditional power structure has been turned upside down. The criminal elements - such as the thieves guilds, evil arcane conclaves, and groups that might become fringe societies in other cities - are in charge, and the righteous defenders of the downtrodden have been forced underground to fight for freedom in secret.
For the most part, the trading nations of the Shining Lands have no enemies. Only those who oppose honest trade, such as thieves, can expect to incur the wrath of the governments in these countries. But Durpar, Estagund, and Var the Golden all oppose the monsters of Veldorn, which wreak havoc on any trade that flows northwest toward Mulhorand. Though a few military clashes have occurred between countries in the Shining Lands, most of the conflict occurs in the marketplace, where competition for the sale of goods can be fierce.
For its part, Mulhorand instigates hostilities almost as often as it welcomes the trade goods that the Shining Lands send its way, primarily because of quarrels over tax and coin exchange rates. In addition, the peace that has existed for some time between Durpar and Ulgarth is a guarded one, for those two nations have a history of conflict that many citizens cannot forget. But both Ulgarth and Mulhorand recognize the greater benefit of trade over war, and their leaders work to keep relations with the Shining Lands favorable. Only Dambrath could be considered a true enemy of the Shining Lands. Its leaders - both the Arkaiun tribes of long ago and the Crinti of modern times - have a history of invading the three trading nations.