Irzal

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The Province of Irzal
Allegiance Sirdabi Caliphate
Capital Fazhali
Governor Ya'qub ibn Yeshrab al-Tawwila Bey
Demonym Irzali
Official Language Sirdabi
Official Religion Azadi
Currency fals/dirham/nour
Native Heritages Irzali, Sirdabi

Formerly the heartland of one of the greatest empires of ancient times, the province of Irzal is still a proud and prosperous land whose culture and learning have played a vital role in the Sirdabi Caliphate. Occupying an expansive territory east of Eladjit and north of Rahoum, Irzal has always served as a crossroads between different cultures, uniting influences from Riendu and Altaruleska with Near Ruleska and the Adelantean Basin. It is the second-largest province of the Sirdabi Caliphate after Rahoum itself, and much more heavily populated despite the challenges of its arid and mountainous terrain.

Geography & Climate

Upper (Northern) Irzal Province, Sirdabi Caliphate
Lower (Southern) Irzal Province, Sirdabi Caliphate

Spreading across a large area south to north and featuring sweeping changes in elevation across that expanse, Irzal is a land of great topographical and climatic variation. The province is conventionally divided into Upper, or northern, Irzal, and Lower, or southern, Irzal, reflecting not just the respective positions of these two regions on the map but also the increasing elevation of the province from south to north. Irzal is predominantly a land of mountain and steppe plateau, but it also encompasses desert plains and hills, fertile river valley, and lush forests, which altogether create a uniquely diverse flora and fauna. During the days of the empire it was customary to divide Irzal itself up into several provinces, called ostan, and these administrative divisions have been retained under the caliphate.

Irzal is desert on its southern margin, in Almahd Ostan, where scorching sand and gravel plains bleed into Rahoum with little sign of any official border. The river town of al-Bilaal, on the banks of the Ennescu, has served as something of a gateway between the two lands since long before the caliphate united them, and has been the scene of frequent strife and skirmish as well as a locus of cultural exchange during more peaceful times.

Khurbad Ostan to its east benefits from its proximity to the Gulf of Khurum, which provides some small relief from the baking heat as well an outlet for maritime commerce, although the harbors for both the city of Awrazat and smaller al-Siraz are naturally poor ones. Awrazat is, however, known for being a very pleasant place to spend the winter, thanks to the moderating influence of the Gulf and the arid bulwark of the Aterousa Mountains that deflect aside the last currents of the cold winds that ravage the northern regions of Irzal.

Enneskul, Yerand, and Anjand are considered the heartland of Irzal, and together make up the region containing most of the province's population and farmland. This is a temperate region overall, hot in the summer and chilly in the winter, with moderate precipitation. Enneskul begins in the lush upper floodplain of the Ennescu River, and the Valley of the Emperor in the south is especially fruitful. Grain crops flourish here, along with fruit trees, melons, and a wide variety of vegetables. The modern-day capital Fazhali sits at the northern edge of the valley, just where the Horsebreaker Hills and the foothills of the Tin Xubariya Mountains nearly touch, and the land begins to rise up in rolling hills towards the Plain of Coils and the great bend of the Ennescu.

Across the Horsebreaker range, Yerand Ostan lies upon a broad plain embraced by the Aterousa Mountains on the south and the lower reaches of the great Tin Chalun Mountains on the east. Yerand is a more arid landscape than Ennesukul and lacks the additional irrigation of any major rivers, so the crops grown here tend to be grains and root crops better adapted to the drier conditions. This is also excellent country for the raising of livestock, and large numbers of the lyre-horned Irzali cattle as well as sheep, goats, and horses are raised here. Defying the productivity of the rest of the ostan, the Plain of Bardaya is actually a small pocket of desert tucked into the southwestern corner of Yerand, filled with drifting white sand that melds almost indistinguishably with the dusting of snow that sometimes settles upon it in winter. East from the market town of Nandahr is Nishkol Pass, which cuts through the southern Tin Chalun to connect present-day Irzal with the land of Nishkol which once was also part of the empire.

North of Yerand, across the Burnished Plain and up through the Whisper Hills, lies Anjand Ostan. This region occupies the central Firwanya Plateau, where the climate is cooler and the seasonal rainfall more generous. The ancient capital of Irzal, also called Anjand, sits just above the banks of Deepfire Lake, whose waters stay warm year round. Despite the higher elevation Anjand's winters are less harsh than might be expected, as the ostan is sheltered from the frigid north winds by the Windbane Range that form the leading edge of the highlands beyond. Between Deepfire Lake and the steep slopes of the Tin Chalun range just to the north and east is the legendary Forest of Eremish, a nearly primeval wilderness that has served as a refuge for abundant wildlife and a hunting ground of emperors for millennia.

Above the Windbane Range is the ostan of Sharvayeh, the first of the true highland regions of Irzal. Although higher overall than the rest of the province save neighboring Chalbad, Sharvayeh features numerous changes in elevation, from the sheltered Shahr Valley that lies directly behind the Windbanes, to the windswept expanse of the Rostab Plateau. Though still warm during the summer, the region avoids the blistering heat of the lowlands, and spring and fall are very pleasant seasons with relatively regular rainfall. The winters, however, have a deep bite to them, and snowfall is common during the coldest months of the year, especially up in the mountains and upon the higher plateaus. The Shahr Valley is the mildest area, and much of the ostan's agricultural production is here. The main road through the region, the Way of the Mountain Kings, winds across Sharvayeh's level expanses on its way to the Tin Chalun, while the Miralaj Road treks over the Rostab on its way to the Emirate of Eladje.

East of Sharvayeh lies Chalbad Ostan, the furthest and most mountainous of all the regions of Irzal. Winters here are quite harsh, the summers mild and lovely but short. On its western edge, Howling Wind Gap regularly pours forth a bitter torrent of cold wind, channeled directly from the high open steppelands of the north, and it is this frigid blast that tends to keep Lake Maznir largely frozen for several months out of the year. The city of Khusrilad on its south shore also bears the brunt of these cold currents of air, and its hardy people have constructed a large earthwork around much of the perimeter that helps to blunt the wind's force. North and east the fearsome heights of the Tin Chalun Mountains tower over all, their higher peaks forever snow-covered and often shrouded in storm clouds. Wending its way bravely through their heart is the ancient Durvashah Pass, the Pass of the Dwarven Kings, conducting intrepid travelers beneath the gaze of the mighty peaks and eventually -- with luck -- to the lands of Altaruleska.

People

The majority of the people of Irzal province are themselves Irzali, well mixed with the Sirdabi who settled there following Irzal's absorption into the Sirdabi Caliphate many generations ago. The Irzali are a quite diverse people, having absorbed numerous other heritages into their own bloodlines over the years, and they can be found pursuing a huge range of lifestyles all across the province. Although they are most famed for the learned men of the cities -- scribes and scholars, geographers and astronomers, physicians and poets and more -- the vast majority of Irzali are humbler sorts who make a living close to the land, raising a variety of crops and tending small numbers of livestock in their mixed farmland. Upon the Rostab Plateau some Irzali lead a more tribal lifestyle not dissimilar to their Temulen neighbors, while throughout the province merchants and artisans help supply not only Irzal but the entire caliphate with luxury items and fine craftwork.

Ethnic Sirdabi bloodlines are most common in Almahd and Khurbad, the desert regions bordering Rahoum where the two heritages have long mingled and intermarried. However a Sirdabi presence also remains strong in parts of Irzal where resistance to the caliphate was strongest, representing the descendants of Sirdabi tribesman who were settled in the trouble spots of the new province in order to keep the population pacified. Most of these Sirdabi have been settled in the area for so long that they long ago adopted the ways of their new home and, also intermarrying with the locals, have become scarcely distinguishable from native Irzali. As in the rest of the caliphate, Sirdabi are scattered widely Irzal about as merchants, imams, and scholars as well.

Due to the fact that so many ancient routes of travel and trade pass through Irzal, numerous other peoples can be found throughout the province in small numbers. Small communities of Xiuren merchants and diplomats can be found in the larger cities, particularly the capital of Fazhali and the eastern city Nandahr, while a few Temulen herders make their home on the Rostab plateau and on the steppes of Chalbad. While Cherchek angrosh from the Tin Chalun were once commonly encountered in the days of the early caliphate, they are now seldom glimpsed even in the mountains and remain little more than an unnerving presence haunting the passes. Nevertheless, Lake Maznir in Chalbad is still remembered as the the dwelling place of the Cherchek poet and satirist al-Mazni, admired even today as one of the greatest poets of the caliphate.

Economy

Unsurprisingly for a land of such variety, the economy of Irzal is also quite diverse. Its greatest fame comes perhaps from its central place on the far-flung trade routes linking the lands of Riendu with those of Ruleska and the Adelantean, and its equally far-ranging merchants have always been an object of admiration and envy. Valuable and exotic goods from many lands pass through Irzal along with the caravans that carry them, and the Irzali themselves have both the wealth and the taste to purchase some of these goods for their own homes.

Contact with Riendu also led early on to the establishment of Irzal's own native silk industry, which has flourished in the middle regions of Irzal for many hundreds of years. Anjand province is well known for its silk workshops, and the town of Lalezah produces what are widely considered to be the best silk carpets in the entire caliphate. As great lovers of fabrics and fashion, the Irzali also weave a great many textiles, some of which are sent around the caliphate in bolts, others used locally to produce stylish garments for local wear.

Another fine product for which the province is renowned -- if a somewhat more controversial one -- is Irzali wine. Despite the fact that imbibing alcohol is prohibited by the Azadi faith, wine produced in Irzal is popular throughout the caliphate among those with a less orthodox outlook. Many of the best wines come from vineyards in the Whisper Hills, including the famed Black Whisper wine from the nearly black grapes that are grown there. Ennescul produces several light and fruity wines such as Golden Note and Ridma's Kiss, while the singular Firewine comes from the Shahr valley. All of these are greatly prized by Irzali of all social standing, and many small villages will pool their resources to buy the best vintages for a local wedding or festival. In Irzal, however, even the most common variety of wine tends to be superior to the most expensive wine of other lands -- or so the Irzali themselves claim, at least.

Irzal's economy is also fueled by its mines, which produce not just silver but also a variety of precious and semiprecious stones, including emeralds, eaglestone, and lapis lazuli. Chatrud in Almahd is not only a mining town but a center for silversmithing as well, and much beautiful jewelry is made in both Fazhali and Endruz. The natural resources of the province also include highly fertile soil in the Ennescu floodplains, and somewhat less rich but well-drained land in the hills and steppelands. These help Irzal to grow a wide variety of foodstuffs, especially the melons and other fruits for which the province is also well known. Although it does not produce enough grain for export, it is fruitful enough to allow a large amount of agricultural self-sufficiency.

Religion

The most ancient faith of Irzal, Elestaarianism, is still practiced in some parts of the province even in modern times. Though the number of its adherents has vastly shrunk since the days of the Irzali Empire, the old religion has seen a gradual but steady revival over the last two centuries, and even though there are still relatively few Elestaarians in the country they do once again make up a noticeable presence in the province. This is particularly so in the traditional stronghold of the faith in the eastern part of Irzal, especially Nandahr, as well as in the area surrounding the Eaglestone Mountains where the greatest of the remaining fire temples is still located. Fazhali, too, has its own local communities of Elestaarians, as well as a more modest fire temple set discreetly amidst the hilly parkland of the capital's pre-Azadi religious district.

But as elsewhere in the caliphate, Azadi is the chief religion practiced in Irzal and the official religion of state. For the most part the faith is practiced similarly to other parts of the caliphate, but as in Tessere there is an emphasis on holy men and women who are viewed in a similar light as saints -- persons of great piety whose lives (and tombs) are associated with miracles. Irzal has also contributed greatly to the more mystical aspects of Azadi, a body of diverse practices broadly referred to as Pure Note or Taahiri Azadi. This is not a separate sect but rather a certain way of approaching Annur and the Perfected Song, with an emphasis on asceticism, meditation, and a personal striving towards purity and oneness with the Song that underlies all existence.

At certain times throughout its history Irzal has been associated with Rajidism, which is considered a separate sect of Azadi. Rajidis believe that the caliphate should only be led by individuals chosen for their supreme virtue and wisdom according to earliest custom, and present faithful Azadi with the duty to oppose caliphs and their governments when they diverge from the fundamental ideals of piety and community set out by al-Azad himself and his early successors. Although Rajidism originally grew out of orthodox opposition to the decidedly unvirtuous caliph al-Hamoun in the late first century N.D., and was at the time not particularly associated with Irzal, since then Rajidis have tended to attract people who oppose Sirdabi rule in general, which prominently includes Irzali as well as Tessouare of the far western caliphate. Although purity and morality are rallying points for the sect and many of its adherents truly believe in a return to the practices of the early caliphate, others view it more instrumentally as a means of achieving independence. Nevertheless Rajidism is not considered a true departure from the correct practice of Azadi, and it has enough respected and prominent adherents to ensure that only Rajidi communities considered uniquely threatening to the caliphate are stamped out.


Cities & Towns

  • Fazhali, the greatest city of Irzal and sometime capital of the former empire, sprawled elegantly out across the low hills above the Ennescul.
  • Al-Niqud, high up in the foothills of the Eaglestone Mountains, where Mt. Humashah soars above the greatest of the remaining Irzali fire temples.
  • Al-Siraz, a dusty little fishing town and caravanserai remote from virtually everything of importance.
  • Anjand, the old capital of the middle Irzali Empire, poised just above the shores of Deepfire Lake.
  • Arghaya, nestled at the head of the Shahr Valley, known for its firewine and fragrant argha lilies.
  • Awrazat, a harbor town just above the Gulf of Khurum, better known as a wintertime retreat than a port.
  • Chatrud, famed not only for its mines of both practical and precious metals, but also for its lavish silverwork.
  • Endruz, another former capital of the old empire, spectacularly set above the mouth of the Ennescu's Blazing Gorge.
  • Khusrilad, a town embattled by cold winds and increasing barbarian incursions, but nevertheless a destination for the cultured during the Mazni Poet's Festival.
  • Lalezah, the silk capital of Irzal, where the caliphate's finest rugs and tapestries are woven.
  • Nayak's Crossing, once the site of many great battles, now a modest little town with a large population of mixed Sirdabi and Irzali lineage.
  • Raf Jalul, an island town located at the convergence of the Ennescu and Eaglestone Rivers, known not only for its eaglestone but also for its skilled river pilots.
  • Nahrbata, the gateway town to Nishkol pass, now troubled by barbarian incursions from the east.
  • Nandahr, a market town for goods passing through the Nishkol Pass, as well as the site of much informal diplomacy between diverse cultures.
  • Sheherbad, a town with a sizeable Khurshek Angrosh population, descendants of the slaves who long ago built the Eagle Path high across the cliffside of the Blazing Gorge.
  • Shulghar, a windswept plateau town best known for its annual horse fair that draws together steppe tribes and merchants from across the eastern caliphate.
  • Silent Watch, a spartan desert outpost guarding the road to Saramat.
  • Tishbal, a tidy little hill town best known as the home of the renowned Whisper Hills vineyard and winery.
  • Urdakan, a farming and livestock raising town known for its lyre-horn cattle, Urdakhan horses, and two-humped Bardayan camels.

Points of Interest