The three countries of the desert region to the east and south of the Freistfell mountains of Ilauris are dominated by the Telsiq faith. This faith venerates water and fire as the source of all things. As they say, ‘Water is life. It is the spring that tames the heat, slakes the thirst, cleanses the body. Fire is life. It is the flame that tames the cold, cooks the food, and cleanses the soul. Without water, there is only death. Without fire, there is only cold. Without water and fire, there is nothing.’
Without any gods, the religious practices of the Telsiqars aren’t uniform across the region. The only thing everyone agrees on is the Fire Dance. The Fire Dance is, appropriately, a dance performed around a fire. Traditionally, only women perform it, and they are given the title of Firedancer. There are eight individual dances, each of which corresponds to a phase of the moon, and is danced on the day that phase is most prominent.
Aside from the desert itself, no other factor unifies these three countries. Border skirmishing is common, especially along the Kalik River, a wide wall of water anyone would be a fool not to covet in the arid sands.
Serescine is the most powerful of the three nations in terms of actual military strength, but it lacks a strong central authority. Instead, it has several warlords (they use the term ‘Caliph’) who rule over their own portions of the land. The rule of law varies from one Caliphite to another, but most have the same core of statues.
Serescine is referred to as a single country as a matter of tradition. There was once a Sultan who ruled over the whole of the country by fear and force. The Sultanate lasted in one form or another for nearly 300 years, until some 400 years ago. At that point, the Sultan was a young, foolish man who was too busy indulging his whims and wants to pay attention to unrest that led to his overthrow. Unfortunately, those who performed the coup weren’t up to the task of holding the rule themselves, and it dissolved into the current conditions.
Caledina is ruled by a Sultan, with a male hereditary tradition of rulership. Its warriors are fierce but few, almost all of them absorbed by fighting with the various bands of Serescine. The country is known for its slave trade, and women are considered property of their fathers, brothers, or husbands, regardless of caste (with the exception of Firedancers, who are treated similarly to nuns). The laws are not limited to citizens, of course. A foreign woman is well advised not only to travel with at least one man, but also to keep herself dressed as modestly as possible, unless she means to sell herself as a whore.
Mateqa is ruled by a group of Firedancers who veil themselves and dress so alike that they are essentially interchangeable in the public eye. These five women are the latest in a long line of Firedancers to rule the country, a tradition that spans the last 250 years. Prior to this, the country had a male hereditary rule. They have a healthy trade tradition with the halflings on their borders and are also known for their female warrior caste. The people of Mateqa are the most fervent Telsiqars, and women dominate all positions of power.