Zuulaman is a land of rich history and tradition. The series of islands that make up the Territory are located along the eastern coast of Dhemlan. The Territory is mostly made up of temperate forests and thick mountain chains which makes farming difficult, so the economy of Zuulaman comes largely from fishing, silk production, and pig and beef farms. Zuulaman's chief agricultural crop is rice, which grows in land that has been terraced up the mountainsides, or in marshy flatlands near the coasts. Other crops not uncommon to the island Territory include potatoes, sugar beets, mandarin oranges, cabbage, wheat, barley, soybeans, and tea leaves.
The climate in Zuulaman tends to be temperate in the spring and autumn, but quite hot and humid during summer and quite cold and snowy during winter. Spring is the most pleasant season in the Territory, with warm weather that is not too hot, light and infrequent rainfall, and a beautiful blooming of cherry blossoms at the beginning of the season. Summer starts with a dreary rainy season, and when the temperatures rise in the later part of the season, most of the Territory becomes very hot, wet, and humid. To escape the summer heat, many Zuulamanese head up to Kyushu Province, the northern-most island of the Territory, or up into the mountains, where the temperatures are cooler. Autumn brings back more temperate climates and a beautiful display of colors as trees shed their leaves. Winters are bitter and cold, with heavy snowfalls in the mountains and lighter snow in the lowlands, but the southern island of Zuulaman, the Province of Omyakudo, remains more temperate with far less snowfall during the winter and becomes a popular vacation spot at this time of year.
The forests of Zuulaman are filled with conifers, evergreens, and many different varieties of less hardy trees. Since many of these forests encircle sacred regions, there are many very old groves and forests that have few living creatures, save the tigers that rule these forests. The mountains are the oldest parts of Zuulaman, including the highest peak, which is where the Dark Altar in Zuulaman is located. The mountains hold many monasteries where the Priestesses of Zuulaman cloister themselves.
Zuulaman's people are traditional, stoic, and mostly close-minded. They tend to universally be dark-haired, olive-skinned, lightly-built, and on the short side, with dark, almond-shaped eyes. Non-conformity, either physically or mentally, tends to be met with a great deal of hostility. There is a strict Protocol that dictates interactions between castes, genders, and those of lighter and darker Jewels, and if it is ignored, save among those who are closest to one another when that veneer of proper behavior can be pulled aside, it is considered quite rude and disrespectful.
Life outside of the Court is far more relaxed than that within. The common people treat one another with cautious wariness, but can be counted on to aid one another at the expense of one's self. Family is above and beyond the most important thing, but that is in the sense of family honor as opposed to family well-being. They are a people who mean well, but can easily run roughshod over the non-conformers for the betterment of the Territory.
Money is scarse. The aristo class is made up of less than 10% of the population, and many of them are families who were given land as their own many years ago, but who have little money left. The oldest families are expansive, and it is considered fashionable for the family name to relate to the oldest family ties one can trace, rather than a more modern surname. The peasant class is large, with a small but wealthy merchant class in between. </br></br> In Zuulamanese tradition, when two people wed, the surname adapted is that of the more influential family or the partner that contributes the most to the household, be that the male or the female, and any children of the couple will carry this surname. Given names are almost always traditional Zuulamanese names, and the meaning of the name and which characters are used to spell it hold great significance. When speaking to one another, the Zuulamanese address others by their family name and an honorific, unless the two speakers have a close enough relationship that using given names are more acceptable.
|The Territory Capital: NARITA|
|The capital city is a port city along the shores of the largest island of Zuulaman. It is an enormous city, but it is not where the Court resides. Nagaokakyo Palace is further inland on the same island, but a quick trip on the Winds from Narita. The capital of Narita is a place of thriving economic endeavors, but it is not a place for aristos. Those with money tends to move away from the city, taking to the trend of large estates with small towns grown up around them in the country. This doesn't mean that the aristo class do not keep small city homes, for the rare occasions that the Queen and Court take residence in the old Nakatako Palace; this is usually for one or two major celebrations a year. The city itself is built with buildings, altars, and shops all built very close together. It goes out rather than up, however, as it was once obviously a fishing village that simply kept growing and growing.|
Zuulaman is a land of tradition, but traditions that have been sacrosanct for generations have been broken, leaving the land broken in turn. By tradition, each Queen of Zuulaman and her closest advisors are chosen by the visions of a coven of Black Widows known as the Yumemi. The Yumemi are exceptional at discerning the caste of the children brought before them, able to declare the caste when the children are still extremely young.
When a new Queen is chosen, the Yumemi select four Guardian Ladies – a Queen, a Priestess, a Black Widow, and a Healer – as companions to the Queen. The Queen and her Ladies are raised together, and will one day be called up by the Yumemi into a Court of a province, district, or the territory. The Yumemi Queens are well known in Zuulaman, and it is customarily known who is chosen as heirs for the thrones as an added measure of peace and security. The younger Queens will train with their older counterparts for years before assuming the actual throne, if possible. The Queens are considered precious, chosen by the Darkness, and sometimes have been turned into figureheads by their Guardian Ladies or Blood Triangle, but never have been a target for violence.
It was, therefore, a world-toppling shock when the heir of Queen Yukiko Kimura was kidnapped, brutally raped, and murdered. The culprits were discovered to be Hayllian, and the insult sparked off a war. The war was brief, in the face of Hayll’s military power, and Zuulaman lost. Hayll withdrew, leaving an enclave behind and extracting a heavy war tithe from the Zuulamanese government in place of a full occupation. The people of Zuulaman, resentful of the foreigner’s continued presence, responded by turning to isolationism, and ignored the presence of the Hayllian enclave as much as possible.
The Yumemi proclaimed a new heir, the niece of Queen, Ayame Kimura, and Zuulaman entered a period of reconstruction, patching its tattered people and land back together without the assistance of outsiders. The Hayllian enclave offered assistance, but was rebuffed out of the legitimate fear the assistance would come with a high price.
Reconstructing Zuulaman was not a simple or clean process. Villages throughout the territory bickered and fought over limited resources, placing inordinate power into local rulers and siphoning it away from the Territory Court. The Territory Court assumed that, as the economy was straightened out, and the shortages ended, the fighting would end as well.
Rebellion fomented for thirteen years, marked by scattered flare ups between districts and domains, and largely ignored by the Territory Court until someone, finally, poisoned Queen Yukiko. She died slowly, painfully, and her attacker was not found. It was assumed that the murder was at the hands of a ninja, though none of the clans took credit or blame for the act. That wasn’t unexpected, though. Ninja were, after all tools of greater powers, like a sword or arrow. The assassin had been hired, and no one knew by whom.
Ayame Kimura, as chosen heir, took the Territory Throne, and ruled for two years before the sporadic revolts flared up into a full rebellion. Queen Ayame’s Consort, a Purple Dusk to Sapphire-Jeweled Warlord Prince named Jin Hatsuharu, turned on his Queen, imprisoning her in Nagaokakyo Palace and took the throne for himself. He blamed the rule of the Queens for fifteen years of unrest and hardship, and he drew enough male warriors of Zuulaman behind him to overthrow the rule of the witches.
The Yumemi-chosen Queens were hunted down within a few months and either slaughtered or enslaved. Jin Hatsuharu then began looking towards the Hayllian enclave, plotting how to throw them off the islands – alive or dead. While he plotted, the Yumemi – what was left of them, for some had been caught and summarily executed by Hatsuharu’s men – collaborated in secret. The Queen was trapped, and the Warlord Prince’s new order would destroy the land in time. Something had to be done, and the Yumemi selected a new Queen to stand against him. Her name was Nana Suzaki, and she held an Opal and a Sapphire.
She and her Guardian Ladies gathered at the capital and fought their way in to challenge Jin Hatsuharu. He fell, jewels shattered by the stronger Queen, and took his own life rather than live to be executed. Ayame Kimura was freed, and abdicated her throne to the new queen. She no longer had any desire to rule Zuulaman, and further left the Territory to heal and find a new path in her altered life.
Nana Suzaki took the throne and ordered a purge of the males that had been disloyal during the revolution. They were hunted as they had hunted the Queens, and many were killed. More of them were broken and left to live with their dishonor.
Within a year, another tragedy struck and Hikari Ando, the Guardian lady Ka, was assassinated by Witchblood poisoning. There was little doubt some of the Hatsuharu sympathizers had survived, but the Court knew Lady Ka’s death was just as likely to be linked any number of other places. The Court was the rightful leader of Zuulaman, chosen by the Darkness, but the years of war had taken their toll on the morale of the people.
A new Priestess was sent to complete the Queen’s Guardians, and replace Lady Ka, and Queen Suzaki accepted her fully. The other Guardian Ladies were not so quickly accepting. Still grieving the unfair death of their childhood friend, they were wary of the new Priestess, her quick arrival, and the fact that she was not purely Zuulamanese. There were assassins on the loose, none of them had been caught no matter how they threatened the ninja of Kagetorii, and paranoia was creeping inexorably through the Court.
A year to the day of the Lady Ka’s death, the assassin struck again, and this time it was the Queen. The Guardian Ladies, realizing that the death of the Queen meant that the Yumemi would be distracted just long enough to select the Queen’s replacement – and more importantly their replacements – decided to act. They decided that the Yumemi were pulling Zuulaman’s threads too much, and that their traditions were broken. They banished the Yumemi from the palace, and set the Queen Guardian into temporary position while the other three searched for a new Queen.
They found their new queen cloistered on Zuulaman’s southern island, Omyakudo, within the Amane Shrine. Shiori Seito was a blind Red to Gray-Jeweled Priestess Queen, and she accepted that the Darkness had chosen this path for her when the Guardian Ladies came to her. She accepted the offer to become the ruler of Zuulaman.
With the Gray-jeweled Queen on the throne, the Guardian Ladies assured of their continued positions, and the Yumemi banished, Zuulaman settled into another round of reconstruction. Queen Seito decided that the xenophobic isolation of the past should be loosened, and extended fellowship in the form of limited trade treaties with Dhemlan, and a few other Territories. Her hope was that the increased trade would bring in much needed resources and money to the economy of Zuulaman.
Not everyone is pleased with the decision to reopen the borders, even if only a little. The Hayllians still maintain their enclave, and outsiders have always spelled trouble for Zuulaman. Most vocal of their discontent is the province of Kyushu. Kyushu is ruled by a Warlord Prince, not a Queen, and there are rumors that the surviving Hatsuharu rebels found refuge there. Worse, Kyushu has made no secret that it does not think Queen Seito's appointment to the throne was the Will of the Darkness. They watch closely for her to misstep.
The stress of the situation - a country still locked in economic turmoil and with rumblings of rebellion echoing on its far shores - has been taking its toll on the Queen lately, and her health is declining. She stands tired, and sallow, and her Guardian Ladies are concerned. Worse, there are reports of attacks on the young Queens chosen by the Yumemi, and some are looking to the Guardian Ladies and the Queen as the culprits. Others look to Kyushu, and their treasonous ideal of a ruling Warlord Prince with a Consort Queen. The uncertainty gnaws at the people's morale and it seems only a matter of short time before old, scarred-over wounds reopen and Zuulaman is awash in violence and blood again.
|The Territory Court|
Shiori Seito (NPC), Ruler of ZUULAMAN