Location: South-southeast of the Known World. Illucien lies due south of the Dwarven Holds across The Great Desert, and shares an eastern border with Ceracia.
Climate: Sub-tropical. Illucien is not touched by the dry winds of the Desert, and cool winds from the west keep it very warm, but pleasant, throughout the year.
Government: Weak monarchy. Officially, Illucien is controlled entirely by its king. In truth, however, most of the nations wealth (and resulting power) lies with the nation’s merchants. These merchants keep the royal house on a tight leash, and are not above veiled threats, intimidation, and assassination to meet their ends.
During the time of the Dominion, Illucien existed as a secondary trade partner with the dwarves to the north. While most dwarven trade was split between Illucien and its neighbor to the east, Ceracia certainly received the greater amount of it. Throughout the history of the Dominion, the various kings of Illucien made regular concessions to merchants in an attempt to bring more of this wealth to their kingdom. Such concessions included everything from military aide for trade caravans to a decrease in taxes for merchants. Unfortunately, few new traders were willing to abandon their lives and much shorter trek across the Desert in Ceracia even for such grants as promised by the Illucien kings.
As The Church of Light closed Ceracia’s borders for trade, however, Illucien found itself with more merchant traffic than it had ever desired. Ceracia’s few surviving merchants quickly moved to the country, and the dwarves quickly shifted all their exchanges to the south. It was at this point that Illucien’s many concessions came back to haunt it. With few taxes to pay, Illucien merchants quickly grew incredibly rich, typically making more gold in a month than the kingdom collected in half a year. Soon, single merchants possessed treasuries larger than those of entire royal families.
Several Illucien kings have since attempted to reinstate taxation of trade within the kingdom, but all have discovered the unfortunate power now wielded by the kingdom’s merchants. Whenever an act of the government in Illucien threatens to challenge the wealth of its merchants, one or more of them have applied that same wealth in “persuading” the king to return things to their proper order, as the merchants see things. Such persuasion can mean the kidnapping of friends and loved ones, the death of one member of the royal court each night, or even assassination of the current king. Often such assassinations can continue through several coronations until a new monarch is crowned who sees eye-to-eye with the merchants. As a result, the status quo in Illucien rarely changes for more than a month or two at a time.
The commoners of Illucien make barely enough to survive, and spend their whole lives in the shadow of the merchants’ wealth. Most resent their bleak existence, carrying out their day to day tasks in silence. Some, however, seek a more enlightened path, abandoning the material greed of the merchants for quiet contemplation.
Always a spiritual people, various monasteries have existed in Illucien ever since it was first founded. Teaching enlightenment through an abandonment of material existence and martial prowess, these ancient institutions now find themselves flooded by those seeking to join their orders. Though many are turned away, a scant few become enlightened masters of physical combat. Although the majority of them will spend all their lives in a monastery, attempting to reach total enlightenment, a scant few leave, to use their talents to better the rest of the world and seek such enlightenment outside of monastery walls.
The vast wealth and open spiritualism of Illucien place it in a dangerous position with Ceracia as its neighbor. Unsurprisingly, the Church of Light would dearly like to occupy their neighbor and bring them into the Light (and Quelios, as well). Fortunately, they lack the funds to do so, at least for the time being.
Kar-Salam (capital): Walking through Kar-Salam gives the impression that the capital was constructed as a metaphor for the current state of affairs in the country itself. Most of the sprawling city is comprised of crude stone buildings, occupied by the common folk of the nation. Moving toward the center of town, one is awed by the fantastic palaces of some of the wealthiest merchants, especially when a visitor realizes that the largest outdo even the royal palace by far. Situated among giant merchant estates, the king’s palace itself seems entirely out of place, being only half the size of some of the larger estates.
Irut: Resting on the northern border of Illucien, the great stone arch on the north side of Irut stands as an entryway to the nation for many trade caravans. Most of the city proper is taken up by stable-yards and inns for travelers, as they rest before traveling to the ports in the south. Looking below the surface of the city, however, one finds many seedy locations, such as the taverns of the northwest quarter, where lizardmen mercenaries gather to be hired by outgoing merchants; or the many hidden thieves’ dens, where cutpurses and bandits gather to make plans on how to attack caravans or individual traders.
Zarthos: Standing as the closest port to Murai in Illucien, Zarthos is nearly as active as Irut. Home to one of the largest guild chapterhouses outside of Murai, Zarthos is a place where deals are made and broken. Gold and silver flow from hand to hand like water, and paid killers and pirates await those unwary in their deal making.
Xiost: Placed in the east of Illucien, far from the capital and most trade routes, Xiost is little more than a village built around the Xiost Monastery, home of the monastic Order of the Golden Bough. One of the largest of such retreats, the Monastery of Xiost can trace its history back to its founding by the very first king of Illucien. And, although they claim to care only for the knowledge found in nature itself, the oldest members of the Golden Bough all care deeply for the plight of the current line of kings. Should the aide of their sect ever be necessary for the royal family to shake off the yoke of merchants, it is very likely that the monks of the Golden Bough will make their services available.