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  • The Dark Kingdom of Incense

    The Dark Kingdom of Incense encompasses the territories of Western Asia, and its territories stretch from the western border of Turkey to the eastern border of Iran, from the Caucasus Mountains in the north to Aden in the south. It is ruled by the ancient and nameless Queen of Sheba from the legendary city of Iram of the Pillars. She is advised by the wisest of Wraiths, among their number is King Solomon, and her armies are led by the greatest generals of the region, among their numbers are King David and King Saladin.

    During the time of Rome, the Dark Kingdom of Iron ruled much of the territory of the Dark Kingdom of Incense. The Wraiths of the Dark Kingdom of Incense retreated into the depths of the Arabian Peninsula and, when the legions of the Dark Kingdom of Iron tried to follow, they were destroyed by the cavalry of the Dark Kingdom of Incense. Since the Fall of Rome, however, the Dark Kingdom of Iron lost much of its territory, though it retains control over the territories controlled by the nation of Israel. In recent times, the Dark Kingdom of Iron attempted to conquer the Dark Kingdom of Incense through invading the territories controlled by the nation of Iraq, but they failed in their invasion and suffered one of their greatest defeats in recent memories as the Dark Kingdom of Incense destroyed a number of its relic warships. The Dark Kingdom of Incense is known for its Arabian Horses, its Meteoric Steel, and its Night Incense.

    When Arabian Horses die, regardless of where they were born or where they died, they appear within the territories of the Dark Kingdom of Incense and manifest intelligence equal to that of human Wraiths. The herds of Arabian Horses long ago swore fealty to the Queen of Sheba in exchange for their freedom from slavery and, in service to their fealty, they will choose Wraiths among the inhabitants of the Dark Kingdom of Incense to be their partners when they are called to defend the Dark Kingdom of Incense from invaders. The Arabian Horses have given the Dark Kingdom of Incense the best cavalry among the Dark Kingdoms, but the Arabian Horses will not leave the border of the Dark Kingdom of Incense.

    When meteors hit the Earth, their deaths will create masses of Meteoric Metal equal to the mass of the meteors before they plummeted to the Earth. When the Meteoric Metal is forged by the fires of the Labyrinth and mixed with the molten silver of the Labyrinth, the result is Meteoric Steel. Weapons forged by Meteoric Steel is no more effective than relic weapons, but they have one important property. They reduce the temporary Pathos of any Psyche Wraith (or the temporary Angst of any Shadow Wraith) damaged by the weapon by one per point of Corpus suffered by their target. Armor forged by Meteoric Steel is no more effective than relic armor, but they have one important property. They give one point of temporary Pathos per two points of damage soaked by their wearer when they wearer if attacker by a Psyche Wraith (or cause their wearer to lose one point of temporary Angst per two points of damage soaked by their wearer when their wearer is attacked by a Shadow Wraith). Meteoric Steel would be highly valued by any Wraith, but Meteoric Steel becomes hot to the point of burning Corpus when it is kept in close proximity to items forged from Wraiths, causing one point of irresistible Corpus damage per hour they are carried along with an item forged from Wraiths, so they are banned outside of the Dark Kingdom of Incense.

    When prayers are offered from the followers of Christianity or Islam (as well as the smaller religions associated with the territories controlled by the Dark Kingdom of Incense), the memories of the prayers collect within the sands of the Dark Kingdom of Incense, where they feed the growth of the ghostly plants that grow within the territories of the Dark Kingdom of Incense. Many of these ghostly plants are consumed by the Arabian Horses, but there are also fruits, grains, and nuts that grow from the ghostly plants that are consumed by the Wraiths of the Dark Kingdom of Incense (while they enrich the existence of the inhabitants of the Dark Kingdom of Incense, they do not provide any mechanical bonuses). Night Incense is created from some of the ghostly plants that are not consumed by Arabian Horse or Wraiths and, when it is burned, it creates an incense cloud that functions as a temporary Fetter for twenty-four hours (with a level equal to the number of sticks burned) where any Wraith can Slumber within (number of sticks burned) yards. In addition to allowing Wraiths to Slumber to recover Corpus, the incense calms the Shadows of the Wraiths and reduces their temporary Angst by one point per point of Corpus they recovered during their Slumber.

  • #2
    Interesting - I'd suggest thinking about how the Persian empires and culture play into this history though - that to me has always been the biggest blank space on the map (as even if we accept that Stygia was able to maintain its boot on Anatolia and North Africa after the loss of the Byzantines, that doesn't account for the vast portions of Persian territory Rome never ruled).


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    • #3
      If you want to have it ruled by the Queen of Sheba, you better include NW Africa. And it's sorta a hash to have her ruling something like Irem, which is, arguably at the opposite end of the Levant and would argue, probably for rulership by Aram or Shem. Or, better yet, by Baal, since that's a pretty generic title that could apply to a crap-ton of various mythological figures. Culturally and historically Anatolia has a lot less to do with the areas you're tossing together. In fact, Western Anatolia is effectively Eastern Greece for almost all purposes but modern division of territory.

      The entirety of your reasoning seems like it's the rise of Islam that is responsible for this new Kingdom. That's the fall of Roman influence in the area. Which argues for something MUCH larger than you're proposing. At the very least, it should take over all of North Africa and go all the way east to the borders of Swar. And if it's based on the spread of Islam, it should borrow from the relevant source material... Have a Prophet of some sort who could very likely be X person who seems relevant from the rise of Islam.... Tie in some version of Paradise as an exalted place to which only the most elect wraiths are permitted entry (their Stygia?)... Some remnants of the very deep underworld mythology in place (the Canaanite and Mesopotamian and ancient Hebrew afterlifes were pretty dismal... not unlike the Shadowlands as it is described), perhaps including "lost Dark Kingdoms" that tie into the same.... call the Shadows "ghul".... that sort of thing... It would definitely divide off Anatolia from the Dark Kingdom of Iron and set up the Balkans and Hellenic Peninsula and Spain as possible areas where there was/might still be some conflict... with modern Israel as a highly contested area right in the middle.

      Oh and LOTS of contention, as the various groups involved HATE to be tossed together. Persians don't want to be confused for Arabs, etc.

      I was initially wary of the idea of plants being involved. Since it seems to thwart the "hardness/solidity" of all the substances so far - Ivory, Iron (& Wire), Clay (which makes NO sense.... associating the peoples of Australia with clay? Why?), Flint, Obsidian, Gold, even Sand. And it seems a bit odd in an area that has lost most of its vegetation due to overuse and desertification, but, maybe, that's WHY it should be plants. If all the plants are gone, why wouldn't they be on the other side of the Shroud? But I still don't get incense as the "go to". Does it have some roll in the funerary customs of the area that makes it a lock? It seems just as likely that it would be the Dark Kingdom of Cedar or even of Grain/Barley/Wheat/Corn (original meaning, not as synonym for "maize"). Even better, maybe just toss the "Dark Kingdom of X" and just have a name like the Mirrorlands, the Sea that Knows No Sun or Swar. Maybe just "Aljann" or something.

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      • #4
        Well, incense was the major trade item of the area that is Yemen, the primary region of the Sabean Kingdoms that became known as Sheba. The rise of the Dark Kingdom of Incense would have started with the death of Gilgemesh, making it arguably the oldest of the Dark Kingdoms of the Old World. When Zorastranism became the dominant religion of Persia, he would have been supplanted in power by one of his subjects, the woman who became the Queen of Sheba, who negotiated the alliance with the Arabian Horses and founded Iram of the Pillars. Gilgemesh would be among her advisors, another former king who needed a place to be.

        The part about the Underworld being green though is quite interesting. The Shadowlands of Western Asia would be green and forested because they remember what they were before the dominion of Man. It is a compelling image and would make the Shadow lands appear to be Paradise.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Aya Tari View Post
          Well, incense was the major trade item of the area that is Yemen, the primary region of the Sabean Kingdoms that became known as Sheba. The rise of the Dark Kingdom of Incense would have started with the death of Gilgemesh, making it arguably the oldest of the Dark Kingdoms of the Old World. When Zorastranism became the dominant religion of Persia, he would have been supplanted in power by one of his subjects, the woman who became the Queen of Sheba, who negotiated the alliance with the Arabian Horses and founded Iram of the Pillars. Gilgemesh would be among her advisors, another former king who needed a place to be.

          The part about the Underworld being green though is quite interesting. The Shadowlands of Western Asia would be green and forested because they remember what they were before the dominion of Man. It is a compelling image and would make the Shadow lands appear to be Paradise.
          You notice how that's all over the place geographicly? Sheba on the south side of the Arabian Peninsula (which is why you HAVE to have eastern N. Africa in this mix as Sheba was more likely on the other side of the water, in modern Ethiopia, where there is evidence for female rulership in the other half of that culture). Then you are backtracking in time and space to Gilgamesh in Mesopotamia and into the Levant. Then over to Persia. Then blossoming out to include Turkey to at least Iran. It doesn't have the same cohesion as the formation of the Kingdom of Iron or the Yellow Springs. It needs one origin and then build outwards. Or it needs to stand on its own as a specific cultural oasis (like the Mirrorlands, Swar, etc.) And the second falls apart because of the variety of different sources you're borrowing from. That's why I'd pick the rise of Islam. There's definitely enough confusion around the early days of the faith that one could pick out SOME critical figure that might or might not be the ruler. And there are definitely some VERY interesting female figures from around that time or from previous eras who might step in and Take the Veil to become the "Veiled Queen" (or whatever). (Who knows, it might be Ereshkigal in disguise? Or even Inanna after adding a few bits onto her cycles (the Return to the Underworld... to find Gligamesh and make him hers once and for all... to throw down Nergal for his crimes against her sister... to take Ereshkigal's place because of the rotten way she was treated and, well, Ereshkigal LOST the underworld, why should she get it back?)

          Then you would have a region that was dominated by the Iron Kingdom with some trading of territory back and forth with whatever was in Persia. Or it would rule outright if Alexander's conquests were the key to bringing that region in. This would overlay some of the older, lost Kingdoms for the previous cultures (Kingdom of Brick for Mesopotamia? Kingdom of Cedar for the Levant? Kingdom of the Winds for Persia?), in the same way that the Iron Kingdom controls the Shadowlands of Egypt, but the Dark Kingdom of Sand is still right there just out of sight/reach.

          Then the Rise of Islam is shadowed by a parallel event of the Rise of the Dark Kingdom of Incense (to use the name as is).

          I am having all these really unpleasant images of wraiths being rendered down into fertilizer or trussed up around a seed and "planted".... I would say most of the plants would be ghostly... dark cedars with silvered leaves, twisted gnarled frankincense trees with black encrustations of ectoplasmic sap, fields of grey and white wheat and barley that sigh and shiver in a phantom breeze... Then, around the Court of the Queen, it gets BRIGHT and GREEN and, apparently, wholesome. Only, of course, it's NOT.

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          • #6
            Wouldn't be Duat as well since you said part of the territory is NW Africa.


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            • #7
              That is why I focused on Western Asia, as Northwest Africa is the Kingdom of Sand. The Kingdom of Sand would have followed the conquests of Ancient Egypt. While the two Kingdoms would have argued over Canaan and Syria during the 15th century BC, Punt (which would later joined the Sabaen Kingdoms) was greatly influenced by Egypt since the beginning. While the Dark Kingdom of Western Asia would have loved to extend their influence into Punt, they would have been resisting the expansion of the Kingdom of Iron long before they could have reasonably expanded. There would have also been the problems associated with resisting the expansion of the Dark Kingdom of Ivory.

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              • #8
                Eh.... There is very little that has ANYTHING much to do with Egyptian culture once you get south and east of Nubia. That area isn't even considered part of the Dark Kingdom of Sand's environs as is. They're Dark Kingdom of Ivory. The extent of a Dark Kingdom's influence has to have something to do with the extent of the culture that founds it. (That's why the Kingdom of Iron can arguably expanded past Iran into modern Afganistan & Pakistan through the conquests of Alexander and his successors). NE Africa has pretty much done it's own thing and was definitely the source of the Sheba mythology, which is one of your linchpins. It's like having the Yellow Springs have its key political figure be the Buddha.

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                • #9
                  Punt is probably not the source of the Sheba mythology, as Punt did not trade directly with the people of Israel during the time of King Solomon. Heck, by the time of King Solomon, the trade networks between Punt and Egypt had collapsed, which probably meant that the civilization of Punt had collapsed. The source of the Sheba mythology would have likely been the Sabaean Kingdom of the Arabian Peninsula (in modern Yemen), as they would have traded directly with the people of Israel during the time of King Solomon.

                  The Kingdom of Aksum, which reestablished the ancient trade networks, did not evolve until 100 AD, long after the Sheba mythology was created. Of course, the Ethiopians claim that it was the home of the Queen of Sheba, as well as the resting place of the Ark, but the dates conflict on it being the home of the Queen of Sheba (though it could potentially be the resting place of the Ark because of the Ethiopian Jews). Either way, it really does not matter.

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                  • #10
                    I'd have a more enigmatic figure like the Veiled Queen or Golden Emperor. That way, it's left open. I'd tie it into the Mesopotamian/Babylonian cultures or the Persian Empire and stick with one over the other.

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                    • #11
                      Well, it would have likely evolved because the Persian culture is younger than the Mesopotamian culture. I think it would be interesting to start with one of the Mesopotamian kings like Gilgamesh and evolve over time.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Aya Tari View Post
                        Punt is probably not the source of the Sheba mythology, as Punt did not trade directly with the people of Israel during the time of King Solomon. Heck, by the time of King Solomon, the trade networks between Punt and Egypt had collapsed, which probably meant that the civilization of Punt had collapsed. The source of the Sheba mythology would have likely been the Sabaean Kingdom of the Arabian Peninsula (in modern Yemen), as they would have traded directly with the people of Israel during the time of King Solomon.

                        The Kingdom of Aksum, which reestablished the ancient trade networks, did not evolve until 100 AD, long after the Sheba mythology was created. Of course, the Ethiopians claim that it was the home of the Queen of Sheba, as well as the resting place of the Ark, but the dates conflict on it being the home of the Queen of Sheba (though it could potentially be the resting place of the Ark because of the Ethiopian Jews). Either way, it really does not matter.
                        You're working with outdated information. The Sabaeans of Yemen don't really track culturally with the perception of Sheba, nor do they possess the resources that Sheba is alleged to have brought to bear for the most part. There is a mirror of the Yemeni Sabaeans in modern Ethiopia that are now considered to be a much more likely source. This is REALLY recent stuff (as in the the results have been published in academic journals recently and have been hitting the more publicly oriented and available magazines in the past few months)

                        One of the biggest nods would be the fact that there is NO evidence of females in positions of power, preferentially or typically among the Sabaens of Yemen, but there is a lot of evidence of possible "Queens" among the Ethiopean "Sabaeans" on a region by region and on a "nationwide" level continuously across both the landscape and over the entirety of the chronology, particularly since there are actually women given a rough approximation of that title. And this is present at all levels of society, e.g. inscriptions of personal names universally include matronymics above patronymics, for everyone from kings and queens on down. And you don't see ANY matrilineal information in Yemeni Sabaen names, even of females. Moreover there is a lot more evidence of centralization that seen in Yemen. So... They have queens, they have a realm and so on. And the Yemeni Sabaens don't. (There's a lot more information about this about how lifeways and artifact assocaition space utilization as seen in architecture, etc., bear this out, but... it gets fairly boring pretty fast.)

                        This is before Aksum. The dates track exactly. The cultural set up tracks exactly. The resources Sheba was bringing to the table track, particularly since the material culture, if not the social aspects of culture were continuous. It's just not really very likely that she came from Yemen at this point.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by adambeyoncelowe View Post
                          I'd have a more enigmatic figure like the Veiled Queen or Golden Emperor. That way, it's left open. I'd tie it into the Mesopotamian/Babylonian cultures or the Persian Empire and stick with one over the other.
                          I agree. If there's a Veiled Queen, rumors should abound about who she was in the Skinlands - the Queen of Sheba is one among many postulated identities. Others might include.... oh, I dunno Alexander's Roshana? The Prophet's daughter, Fatimah? One of the powerful Nabatean Queens? And on to more esoteric possibilties like the goddess of al-Lat after the loss of her sacred city (Mecca)? Ereshkigal? Even the Stygian's Lady of Fate, perhaps?

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Ajax View Post

                            I agree. If there's a Veiled Queen, rumors should abound about who she was in the Skinlands - the Queen of Sheba is one among many postulated identities. Others might include.... oh, I dunno Alexander's Roshana? The Prophet's daughter, Fatimah? One of the powerful Nabatean Queens? And on to more esoteric possibilties like the goddess of al-Lat after the loss of her sacred city (Mecca)? Ereshkigal? Even the Stygian's Lady of Fate, perhaps?
                            Including Persia, Scheherazade jumps to mind as a common claim.

                            What is the Dark Kingdom's regime's relationship to Islam? Do they incorporate it into their claim to rule? Or do they have a more hostile relationship to those promising some blessed afterworld, ala Stygia and the Heretics? If you lean more Persia in the power-base, same question with regard to Zoroastrianism.


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                            • #15
                              Well, I imagine that it would predate every Christianity, the Druze, the Greco-Romans, Judaism, Islam, the Yezidi, Mithrasism, Zorastranism, etc. It would be a place of religious tolerance because it would be perceived as Purgatory by its inhabitants. Transcendence would be the end of the sentence to Purgatory and an ascendency to Heaven while becoming a Specter would be a sentence to Damnation. The Labyrinth would be considered to be the highest level of Hell.

                              Islam would just be seen as another religion. The Prophet would be honored by the people who grew up Muslim, but they would know that they were lacking something or else they would be in Heaven. They would have proof that giving into anger and hatred would be a ticket straight to Hell, so I imagine that they would work on achieving Transcendence. Since Islam is only 1400 years old, the eldest Wraiths would also predate the Islamic Wraiths.

                              It is also important to remember that the large populations of Western Asia are recent phenomena, so the Wraith population will not reflect the recent changes in demographics. Iran's population in 1960 was 22 million, 30% of its current population of 75 million. Saudi Arabia's population in 1960 was 4 million, 13% of the current population of 31 million. Before 1960, the populations of Western Asia had more ethnic and religious diversity, and there were a quarter as people as in 2015, meaning that the Wraith population is likely much more ethnically and religiously diverse than the living population.

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