The Sheeresh Matriarchy
Location: South-by-southeast of the Known World. The Sheeresh Matriarchy occupies both the southwestern Great Desert (where it borders the Nesaigh Kaern) and the former human land of Beranar, northwest of Illucien. The Beranian coastline lies just southeast of the southern end of The Maze.
Climate: Dry and arid within the desert, and warm but temperate closer to the coast.
Government: Rule by skill and status. Females of the lizardfolk race own all property and administer all government in Sheeresh, and are chosen for their station by the status earned by their mate-circle. The Supreme Matriarch, master of this pyramid-like social order, is then the female of their race with the most wealthy and accomplished males mated to her. As a result, this position is highly unstable, and can shift hands suddenly and without warning due to the elaborate rules of lizardfolk status.
The western Great Desert has long been the homeland of the lizardman race. Once a group of unallied tribes, the lizardfolk have since been brought together in the tight social order of the Matriarchy for quite some time. Dwarven mountain-kings have historical records detailing a long war between the Matriarchy and their Holds over a millennium and a half before men set foot in the Known World. While relations between the dwarves and lizardfolk have long been cold following that brief exchange, the Shien of the Deep Desert to the north have been the greatest adversaries of the Matriarchy in recent centuries.
Surrounded by the mountains The Divide on two sides, and the Matriarchy and the Dwarven Holds to the south and east, the psionically-gifted warriors of the Shien have proven themselves very dangerous opponents over the past several centuries. Shien raids are quick, fierce, and brutal, with three or more lizardman deaths to each Shien. Even given these odds, young and unmated lizardmen flock to the north of the Matriarchy, hoping to prove their skill in combat and earn admission into a mate-circle. Occasionally, members of the Shien race have been known to slip past the Matriarchy (presumably through the peaks of the Neisagh Kaern) and attack travelers within the main body of the Great Desert. Luckily, such groups appear infrequently, and in small numbers.
Strangely enough, it was the lizardmen’s willingness to fight (and die) against the Shien that saved them from enslavement under the Great Dominion. Rather than put their own soldiers or slavestock in harm’s way, the Dominion readily agreed to surrender the essentially useless land of the western desert to the lizardmen in exchange for their continued guard against the Shien. This arrangement has functioned excellently for both parties, and has even helped trade by providing lizardmen as a cheap force of local guards for those merchants unable (or unwilling) to purchase slave guards for their caravans.
As slave riots during the Collapse threatened to tear Beranar apart, its king made the choice of turning to the neighboring Matriarchy for help. This rash decision helped the nation to survive much longer than it should have by employing large numbers of lizardfolk mercenaries, but Beranar eventually fell just over a century ago. Most humans in the area have since fled to other nations. The lizardmen mercenaries, however, have chosen to remain and claim the region as a part of the Matriarchy, even though bands of former slaves still roam throughout the remnants of Beranar.
The process of mating is essential to the way of life in the Sheeresh Matriarchy. Young male lizardmen can be found throughout their lands (and even in more remote areas) attempting to prove their skills and earn fortunes in gold in order to attract a prospective mate. Females, in turn, are expected to be carefully discriminate in selecting males for their mate-circle, allowing in only the best available. Although lizardfolk mate for life, few weak or infirm males survive for very long, and are typically murdered by members of their own circle, all seeking to come closer to the coveted position of first male, chosen as the favorite mate of their female.
Ssissirii (capital): Home of the Supreme Matriarch and her closest subordinates, the city of Ssissirii is a hotbed of silent competition. Leading females of the city are always on the lookout for new additions to their circle that could help them climb ever closer to the coveted position of Supreme Matriarch. Unmated males exist in Ssissirii in greater number than in any other place in the Matriarchy. Most male lizardmen returning from battles in the north make a trip to the capital to show off their proven abilities to high-ranking females. Only a handful will be chosen, but those not selected typically leave within a few weeks, returning to their home town or village.
Surphek: Once a Beranian port, Surphek has since become part of the Matriarchy and the closest port to the south of The Maze. A longtime stopoff point for gnomish guild ships stocking up on supplies, Surphek is also well-known for its new-found smuggling activity. Many eager males have been attempting to trade in dwarven goods to make their wealth. Although most dwarven holds refuse admission from lizardmen traders, a few items have begun to make it through the lands of the Matriarchy nonetheless. Thankfully, both the guilds and the traders have been careful to remain discreet as possible in this exchange, but should it become common knowledge in Illucien, the entire Matriarchy could be in danger.