Climate: Sub-tropical. Hot, humid springs and summers, as well as mild, wet autumns and winters mark the seasons in Murai.
Government: Guild-managed oligarchy. The entirety of Murai is owned by one trade guild or another, wholly and completely. Local government is defined by the Murai Charter, which establishes that any lands owned by a guild within Murai are their own sovereign territory. No guild can attempt to assert control within the areas that are the property of another guild. This near-anarchistic order is balanced out by the executive body of government found in the Directorate and the Director himself. Chosen once every five years by a vote of the heads of every gnomish trade guild in Murai, the Director has monarchical powers throughout the nation. Among these powers are the ability to establish taxation of trade, resolve inter-guild disputes, to provide for both a local guard force (to maintain order) and a national military, and to appoint and manage the members of the Directorate to assist in these pursuits. Fear of members of the Directorate Guard, arriving in blue and gold-slashed coats, is often more than enough to cause the members of squabbling guilds to settle their differences quickly.
Situated just southwest of Denar, with shores on both the inner and the Burning Seas, Murai was the trade center of The Great Dominion, before The Collapse. When the gnomish shipping and trade guilds were first established, their central chapterhouses were constructed within the ports of Murai. Providing both the easiest destination for the riches of the south, as well as the only solid link between the capital of Denar and the area of the Known World that has come to be known as The Lost Kingdoms, this nation knew only riches and prosperity under the Dominion. However, that all changed with The Collapse.
Near the end of the Slave Rebellion, the dangerous Army of Freed Ones (comprised mostly of elves) threatened Denar, the very heart of the Dominion itself. Following a long, bitter series of battles that were very costly for both sides, Sharian soldiers finally led the Army of Freed Ones into a rout, pushing them southwest, through the lands of Murai. Seemingly broken, the Army dispersed, leading many men of the Dominion to believe that the Rebellion was nearing its end.
Although demoralized and scattered, the Army of Freed Ones was anything but broken. With more traditional military options closed to them, the mages of the Army were given free reign to pursue their previously disregarded suggestion, to forever dislodge a portion of the Known World, purging the least populated land mass of the continent of the taint of mankind forever. Later human scholars would argue that the talents required in the magical undertaking of the Sundering were simply beyond the skill of these mages, and that they were either aided by Quelian demonists, or were demonists themselves. Regardless of the source of such power, the result is well known.
As the first of the final blows of The Collapse, the lands of Murai and Denar began to shatter and quake, slowly sinking beneath the salty waters of the seas they bordered. Murai, however, suffered the most immediate damage, as the magics called upon in the Sundering tore great fissures across its rolling plains. In a short few hours, the nightmare of the Sundering was finished, leaving only a warren of cliff-sided islands (later to be known as The Maze) where Murai once stood.
Following this chaos, the survivors of Murai found themselves in utter anarchy, attempting to flee for their lives as their former slaves (and countrymen) began committing open acts of banditry and murder. If not for the gnomish trade guilds, the history of this nation would end here. Suffering nowhere near the loss of lives and property experienced by those living inland, the trade guilds employed their own guards in maintain order where they could in Murai. With the loss of the southern ports, the guilds required only their principal cities in the north to continue their trade, and focused most of their restoration efforts there.
Shortly after the final dissolution of the Dominion, the Murai Charter was established, defining the lands controlled by the guilds and the role of their government within Murai. Although only a tiny fraction of its former size, the new nation of Murai remains as large a center of trade as its elder incarnation ever was. It is said that the Known World spins about Murai, for without the trade of the guilds, many of the nations would suffer and die.
Life within the guild-controlled lands is dark and day-to-day existence is a struggle for survival. The guilds control their lands with a tight fist, often charging exorbitant taxes for those living there. Those operating prominent businesses often pay these dues bitterly, but those not so fortunate can quickly find themselves out on the street, thieving to survive. For their part, the guilds fight amongst one another constantly, arguing over lands owned, prices charged, and deals made. Trade is not just a way of life for the guilds, it is the way of life. The signing of a trade agreement is as likely to draw spies and assassins as the signing of a peace treaty, when dealing with these powerful entities.
Ebessia (capital): Located on the western shore of the peninsula of land claimed by Murai and still connected to the swamps of Denar, Ebessia serves as the center of politics and guild business within Murai. The one area of land owned by no guild, Ebessia contains chapterhouses for every established guild capable of constructing one in the city. The huge halls of Ebessia clatter day and night with heated arguments over goods traded and accusations of smuggling and piracy.
Loradon: Loradon serves as the public face of Murai to most of the world. Owned by the Anchor and Gull Trade Guild, Loradon rests on a series of deep, wide bays on the northern edge of the largest island in the Maze, just on the borders of the Inner Sea. Most of the city is made of storehouses and inns of all kinds, but most visitors will find themselves drawn to The World’s Exchange, a colossal market built around all of Loradon’s ports. For those that look hard enough, it is possible find almost anything in the Exchange.
Malverai: Across from Ebessia, on the steep shoreline of the peninsula touching The Lost Kingdoms, Malverai is like a darker twin of Ebessia. Within this city, exchanges between guilds are often made, and questions of legality are not often asked. Owned by the Singing Eel Guild, Malverai is often thought of as the port of smugglers. The Singing Eel does not help this impression very much itself, coming close to being found guilty of such acts itself on numerous occasions. Malverai does, however, serve one legitimate purpose, serving as the nearest major city to the Utopi Jungle to the southwest, many explorers and scholars pass through it while gathering supplies for an expedition.
Lugios: Lugios may have an even worse reputation than Malverai. Its tiny island is located deep in The Maze, just barely within Murai’s borders. The cliffs of Lugios Island are so sheer that it offers no natural port. Those docking there must anchor their ships on long wooden piers and access the city proper through shoreside caves leading up to the main surface of the island. The entire island of Lugios is the property of the Seahawk Trade Guild, often suspected of acts of piracy within The Maze itself.