City of Crypts
A Brief History of Midia
Brief History of Midia
The term Midian Empire is something of a misnomer, as for most of its 5,500 year existence, Midia was a league of city states united by culture, language, and religion, rather than a centralized bureaucracy under an absolute monarch, though that would finally change during the reign of Ashak the Great. The ruling dynasties of each city would fight each other as often as outsiders, and whichever city state was dominant, would be acknowledged as leader, and its monarch would be considered paramount over the others.
The Midian tribes were among the second wave of humans to migrate to Mhara from Cythera proper. The preceding tribes remain fairly unknown to history, their culture, gods, and appearance are a mystery. All that is know is that they had Stone Age technology and were semi-nomadic, much like the Comryn who directly preceded the Midians. Along with the Methrani and the Ruthani, the Midians settled into the grassy plains and hills that used to be the Serpentine Empire of Ythraag. The Methrani settled in the southern areas, near the Malaval who eventually enslaved them, while the Ruthani dominated the east and the island archipelagos that snaked back to Cythera. The Midians pushed on to the Sea of Shadows in the West and settled along the fertile shores.
The Midians first encountered cyclopean ruins of rough stone, mostly menhirs and stone circles, left by a stone age tribe that had occupied the site ahead of them and who had vanished completely, their identities lost in time. They also found strange towers and serpentine ruins as well, the remnants of the Ythraag capital. Since the area was ideal for a city, the Midians founded their first, called Mitanni. Soon others were settled nearby, notably Dzherkhoz, Syrakh, Uraam, and Samaris. Mitanni became rivals with Samaris, which was located across the Sea of Shadows from Mitanni. They fought several wars over the course of two centuries, before Samaris domesticated the horse and began to field chariots. This spelled disaster for Mitanni, when King Urush-Shamash-Shesti III the Warlord sacked and burned Mitanni to the ground, taking all the survivors back to Samaris where he built a special ziggurat to sacrifice King Mathaghar-Amn-Korath of Mitanni and his nobles to the Talathos. He then commemorated the occasion by building a massive arch covered with friezes of the battle, an arch celebrated in ancient literature.
The remaining Midians schemed for 3 centuries and a half, from Syrakh, Myrakh, and Uraam. This loose alliance of city states and ruling families expanded into the coalition of nine founding Midian city states, including the above three plus Dzherkhoz, Irel, Mandahar, Urmaan, Shadath, and Iraam. This coalition overcame Samaris when they discovered the alchemical process for creating Midian bronze. Their bronze clad spearmen and archers overcame Samaris’s chariots, and in return, Asheron I urel-Khadeth the Great sacrificed King Shamshak-Urak-Shesti V and his entire populace to the Talathos, in the new erected Temple of the Wyrm, and razed Samaris, leaving behind only a single obelisk carved with cuneiform in Midian A, proclaiming his victory.
Asheron I refounded Mitanni, naming it Midia, after the tribe itself, to serve as a unifying cultural point for the coalition of city states dominating the western plains of Mhara. He also centered the priest hood of the Talathos there, making it the religious capital also in an attempt to unify the Midians, an act that would have dire consequences for Midia later on. The now ten cities became the dominant power of the area near the Sea of Shadows, and starting with Asheron, the concept of one king being paramount, and the empire bound together by culture, religion, and blood ties of marriage between the ruling families became the rule. The royal dynasty would last for four or five rulers, before being replaced by military coup or intermarriage, though as time went on assassination also became a common method of dynastic change.
At this time, the nine leading families, the royal rulers of the Midian cities, engaged in a ritual that would have dire consequences for Midia in the future. Using ancient Illithid magic, and influenced by the alien designs of the hibernating Illithid God-Brains, they attempted to obtain eternal life, so they could rule as immortal kings and queens. Instead, they were possessed by ancient Illithid horrors, becoming the undead Mindwraiths, plaguing Midia with their eternal scheming and deviant views. These monstrosities would end up guiding Midian politics for three thousand years, until finally defeated and imprisoned by Emperor Ashak the Great.
As Midia expanded in its first millennia, called the Old Empire period, its ability to grow was checked on its western border by the elves. Attempts by Samaris, Ilkharaam, and Midia to expend across the burned lands were thwarted by the Elven Empires, leading to Ilkharaam’s destruction by the elves, and resulting in a protracted series of frontier skirmishes that would eventually evolve into the Man Wars. On Midia’s north western borders, an similar problem existed with the dwarves, and the south western borders were contained by the Malaval, leaving only eastward expansion for the Midians.
This eastern growth was at first against the related Midian cities of Ulthaar, Keshaan, Shuvaan, Khurgaal-aarak, Zaraam, Khoraazam, and Khamash. Under the Old Empire, the growing league of cities made war on each of these city-states and subdued them, destroying some, but co-opting others into the growing Empire. During this time the new royal families of the annexed cities were added in, while the power of the central kings was slowly strengthened by successive dynasties, though the position still remained elective by the ruling families. Thus, on top of the ancient Nine Royal Families, a further Fifteen Great Families were added, creating a bewildering web of alliances and schemes as all competed to be King of Kings, all the while not noticing how the priesthood of the Talathos became more and more the arbiters of Royal succession.
The last part of the 1200 year period of the Old Empire was dominated by vigorous political dynasties, notably the ur-Mordaam of Midia itself, who ruled for the last three hundred years of the Old Empire. They slowly consolidated their power, bringing all the families to heel through marriage, alliances, and out right blackmail, until finally Akhabar III ur-Mordaam the Fist of Zalkaar defeated King Zargos-ban-i-Elaam the Black Flame of Khahandath, a Midian city that was the last Midian rival of the Empire. His prestige, and control of the victorious army, enabled him to secure the succession for his family, ending the tradition of elected Kings of Kings. In its place, he declared himself Emperor of all Midia, and Favored of the Talathos. This combination of religious and military power ended the Old Empire and ushered in Midia’s transformation into the Middle Empire.
The period of the Middle Empire lasted for 1500 years and was characterized internally by the rising centralization of the Midian state, though the now hereditary position of Emperor was still seen as first among equals among the Lesser Kings who still led the Great Families and the Royal Families of the Great Council. Even though the Emperors were official Chief Priests as well as Emperors, the fickle Talathos still managed to manipulate politics through the Mindwraiths to depose any family that didn’t measure up to their plans for Midia, the most notable being the murder by summoned fiends of Emperor Shushak-il-Akaar V the Gentle, the only good aligned Emperor of Midia. This weeding out forced the Throne to pass through many new dynasties, with the succession being set by marriage and ability to trace a bloodline back to Akhabar III, an easy task given the Midian custom of intermarriage and royal incest.
Externally, Midia turned its attention to the East, to the cities of the Ruthani and remaining Methrani, notably Agadir, Mogadir, and Irad. Irad, the only Methrani city to escape Malaval enslavement fell after two centuries of war, while the capture and destruction of Agadir and Mogadir, the center of a rapidly developing Ruthani civilization, followed by the horrific sacrifices of over half the Ruthani population on Mhara, who were despised by the Midians for their worship of Rynia the Earth Goddess, so traumatized the Ruthani that they ended up rejecting all trappings of urban culture and became wandering nomads again, fighting a losing battle against the Midians, who raided the Ruthani tribes for slaves.
The Middle Empire reached its heights under the brilliant, ruthless, and ambitious il-Kethri family of Ophir, who’s first ruler, Mahad-il-Kethri I the Ruthless, built on the Ur-Mordaam family’s centralization program. The army and bureaucracy were professionalized, though the nobility were still considered the elite of both services, and the road system and irrigation network expanded on. At this time also, the various classes of Midian society were identified, ordered, and catalogued, producing a caste system that stabilized Midian society. Also at this time the long time Midia custom of wearing masks, dating back to the ancient tribal days when leather masks helped keep out the poisonous magical dust that sometimes drifted from the Red Wastes to the south west, was standardized and even incorporated into the Midian religion. Every category of Midian wore a mask to show their status. Commoners had brass, tradesmen bronze, craftsmen and merchants copper, lesser nobles wore silver, greater nobles and the Royal families wore gold. After Akhabar III’s ascension to the throne, the Emperors and his family wore platinum. To set soldiers and priests as castes apart, soldiers wore iron masks, while priests wore electrum. After Ashak the Great’s succession, the truly mightiest Midian Emperor’s wore Mithral masks.
The il-Kethri family reached its zenith when Ashak the Great ascended the throne. The greatest of Midian rulers, he had the distinction of being the first and only Midian Emperor to be the Chosen of Zhon the Pale Lord. Like his patron, Ashak was ambitious, organized, and ruthless. He conquered the remaining independent city states of Zhuruk, Jhambar, and Kuth, as well as subduing Midia’s last great non-Midian human rivals, the sprawling empire of Ethbaar, along Mhara’s south eastern coast, and Imaris, along the north eastern coast. He also subdued the wild forest tribes of Zhahan, located in the north east portion of Mhara, and began to colonize the west coast of Cythera proper, where the Ruthani wandered among the lands the Selphorim had abandoned in their decline following their civil war. He even defeated the Mindwraiths, discovering the corrupted undead horrors with the aid of the priesthood of Zhon and imprisoning them in a tomb from which he believed they could never escape. Having accomplished all this, as well as transforming Midia into a true, centralized empire, he was deposed and entombed alive by his daughter and wife, Kitara-Imani-il-Kethri, the Hateful, and her lover, Shanazhar kel-Balak, the Foul. Kitara herself lasted no more than a dozen years before Shanazhar did the same to her, casting off the restraints of Midian culture and seizing the reigns of absolute power.
With Shanazhar’s reign ends the Middle Empire and gives rise to the Late Empire, a period of ever increasing corruption and madness, for Shanazhar was an Illithzhar, the foul hybrid of ancient Illithid and human, created by the Mindwraiths under the direction of the Illithid God-Brains to replace mankind with a new, pliant servant race for the antediluvian horrors, and allowing their foul god, Morkhaal the Deathwyrm, to finally destroy the other races of the world and escape his imprisonment by Orim the Ancient. Thus the defeated and imprisoned Mindwraiths had the final laugh, as their minions infected and corrupted Midia society from within. With Ashak, their greatest foe, out of the way, Shanazhar went to work on these projects with a passion, and soon Midia began to expand against the non-humans, using the vast wealth and power established by Ashak the Great. During his three hundred year reign, native Midians almost vanished, as they were drug down by their dark masters, or simply consumed by their own vices. When he was finally assassinated by Bashaan il-Maagaroth IV, the Demon Emperor, Midia entered into its darkest period, a 2500 year period of pure evil that would give the Empire its dark reputation that echoes throughout time.
While Midia waxed mighty, it was rotting on the inside. Its ruling councils became dominated by demons, Illithids, and Ythraag, while its armies were hordes of bred Slave Race and Talon troops, as well as undead horrors. Long-lived Necromancer-Kings ruled from Uraam, City of Crimson Pillars, or Syrakh, City of Shadowed Pools, while the priesthood of Morkhaal controlled the city of Midia itself, and their influence spread into Western Cythera to the borders of the Selphorim Empire. The Midians abandoned all subterfuge and worshiped Morkhaal, the Death Wyrm, openly along with his children, the Talathos. Hundreds of thousands of humans from the primitive tribes bordering Midia were sacrificed in the Temple of the Wyrm, or used as vile experiments in necromancy and crossbreeding with demonic races, while an equal number of non-humans burned in the Fire Pits of Arraghoshk, or were used to power Midia rituals of dark potency. Besides the Illithzhar, hideous crossbreeds of human and Illithid, the Midians created the Yuan-Ti, tainted with the blood of the Ythraag Serpent Kings. These two races eventually replaced the Midians themselves as the rulers of Midia, while the original Midians were destroyed by their own ambition and dark vices. The Midians also bred the Slave Race, a brutish blend of orc, ogre, and human, as slaves and warriors, and the Talon, a blend of demon and humans as a warrior elite. The Midians even coupled with demons, infecting their dwindling race with demonic madness and evil, or embraced undeath, ruling as cold, undying horrors, filled with hatred of the living. At this time, driven by the cold hatred of the god-brains and Morkhaal, Midia began warring on the Elder Races. Still recovering from the Chaos Wars against the Ythraag, the remaining elf, dwarf, and malaval empires were besieged and driven back, while the Selphorim were cut off from Mhara by Midian assaults on Western Cythera. These so-called Man Wars galvanized the ancient alliance of elves, dwarves, selphorim, and malaval into one last, great campaign. Despite being on the defensive for almost a millennia, the alliance gained ground, fueled by desperation and the emergence of the Seers of Orim, beings with strange white eyes who countered the magics of Morkhaal, as well as being aided by the remaining free Ruthani, whose druids brought the might of nature and Rynia the Earth Mother to bear against Midia.
Under assault from the Elder Races, Midia was finally destroyed after a five thousand, five hundred year reign. Midian cities were razed to the ground, and the wrecking of the eco-system of the Sea of Ashes and the Grey Wastes was finished. The Illithzhars and Yuan-ti fled, scattered before the victorious armies, and the few remaining human Midians became refugees, hunted by the vengeful Elder Races. Midia itself was buried by a massive series of malaval, selphorim and druidic spells that wiped out the ruling class, along with Rythulaan ban-Agor the Illithid, the last Emperor of Midia. Midia proper became a land of ghost-haunted ruins, shunned by the Young Races. Human survivors from Midia founded the Ancient Empires of Ur-nammu, Akaad, Khorzhar, Zhuvan, and Xushaan, while Yuan-Ti survivors founded Nharaak and the Talon settled the Empire of the Talon.
Of note among the Successor States was the Empire of Amaar. When Midia vanished, it’s cities and people turned to ashes by the vast fire elementals unleashed by the Malaval, vast, whirling tornadoes of flames that devoured and incinerated all in their paths, and the armies of elves, dwarves, and orcs sacked city after city, putting all to the sword, the scant survivors fled east, to the as yet untouched eastern coast of Mhara, where the eastern Midia cities offered some refuge. Many then proceeded to flee from there to the oversees colonies of Khorzhar, Zhuvan, and Xushaan, but many also stayed and attempted to bring some order out of chaos. The surviving nobles, both human and Illithzhar, formed a new government. A new council was chosen, out of the few surviving houses, and a new emperor was selected, Amal an-I Keth-Akar I. The great fortress city of Amaar was chosen as the new capital, and gave its name to the new empire. Unfortunately, the fire of the demi human’s anger burned white hot, and they were determined to eradicate all traces of Midia from Mhara, and they drew no distinction between the old Midia and the new. Worse for the new empire, the bulk of Midia’s military might had perished in the fertile heartlands, now a waste of ashes and sand. All of Midia’s arcane and divine might was destroyed with her temples and towers, her cities burned out shells of ruins, her vast armies of undead, fiends, and magical creatures slain, and her people, especially the high nobility, slaughtered. The new empire, long stripped of troops to shore up the western and southern fronts, had few resources to defend itself. For a little over a century and a half, it fought a losing battle from fortified cities, only to watch each one destroyed by the vengeful demi-humans, until finally Amaar itself was put to the sword and wiped out of existence.
What few survivors who fled, did so because they heeded the last words of the last Midian High Priest of Zhon, just before the deity quit the Talathos in rage at the destruction of his favored empire. Some used arcane magic to gate to the far east, where they founded Akaad and Ur-Nammu, while those with serpent blood fled to pre-dynastic Khorem, along with many of the sealed sarcophagi that held the few remaining, slumbering Coiled Kings of the Ythraag. Most refugees fled to Midia’s remaining colonies, Khorzhar(modern Tartessos and the Empire of the Talon), Zhuvan(modern Zarrana), and Xushaan(modern Arles and Albys.) There, the fractious remaining Midians lost themselves among their lesser kinsmen, who had interbreed with the local aboriginal humans of western Cythera and northern Kheros, as well as the barbarian Dalbryn tribes, who were just drifting in from the east, through the lands abandoned by the Selphorim, and who were employed as mercenaries by the Successor States.
Of Amaar itself, little was left except charred ruins. Though developed, it was not as prosperous or populated as central and western Midia. However, it didn’t suffer the utter magical devastation central and western Midia did either, so the land itself remained fertile, inhabited only by wandering Ruthani, and tribes of primitive humans descended from Midian slaves. When the Syralians established colonies on eastern Mhara millennia after Midia had been extinguished, they found some ruins, and on these sites founded their own cities. After Syralia’s fall, the Mharan colonies contracted into isolated, small kingdoms, that were absorbed into the growing Dark Realm, which itself was driven back by the first crusade. The crusaders established their own new kingdoms on the ancient city sites, some like Erad taking the old names as their own. Little remained of Amaar; scant ruins, and even scanter legends. Its cultural and archeological impact was mostly erased by war, and successive conquerors. It is now only a dim memory, of interest only to scholars, with none of the powerful ruins and sites that remain in the Gray Wastes.
Meanwhile, in undead Midia, the collection of the surviving great houses and the accumulated undead of millennia of Midian existence, a great civil war broke out, primarily over who’s fault it was over the loss of the Empire, but also since the cryptic Ban of Urush-Sharak, which stated that the ruler of the actual mortal empire was senior to the former rulers who embraced undeath, was now no more. This vast, violent convulsion occupied undead Midia, until the rise of the Dark Realm, which, under orders from the Talathos, drew undead Midia’s support and loyalty until the rise of the Pantheon and the first crusades.
Millennia later, after the Dark Realm rose over the northern domains of Midia, human stragglers from the First Crusade found the site of Midia itself. Unaware of the origin of the strange ruins they found rising from the grey sands along the shores of the Sea of Ashes, the wealth they found in the many crypts and dungeons attracted adventurers and explorers from all over the Western Bastion and Cythera. The city that grew up on the site of the excavations was called Asharan, the City of Crypts, after ancient inscriptions dedicating the city to Asheron I urel-Khadeth the Great, first King of Kings of Midia, and for the many tombs and crypts scattered about under the city.
Remarkably, for an empire of its vast size, Midia left surprisingly few cultural impressions overall. Western Cythera was never more than a sparsely populated frontier for the Midians, and what few cities remained were occupied by Zhuvan and Xushaan, sharing the magical devastation these two empire inflicted on each other. Though the odd solitary ruin may be found in Western Cythera, for the most part the only real Midian ruins are in what was left of the center of their empire, the Grey Wastes. As for Midia’s people, the few scant survivors who fled and founded the ancient human kingdoms of Ur-nammu, Akaad, Khorzhar, Zhuvan, and Xushaan were either destroyed along with their cultures, or absorbed into the general populace. Only Ur-Nammu and Tartessos makes some claim to Midian blood, though it is very thin, and only among the ruling houses, and the odd Midian claimant can be found in the Empire of the Talon. A few scattered villages located in the hinter land of Western Cythera are peopled by a dark skinned folk who speak a language related to no other in Cythera, but if these are Midia’s descendents, they are the final dregs of that once mighty empire, harassed by the Pantheon and slowly dying out. Also of interest are the Tarak, fierce tribes of desert nomads who wander the Grey Wastes and harass the Border Kingdoms. They speak a debased form of Midian, and wear pale leather and bone masks, a Midian custom, but no one can say for certain if they are Midian descendents or latecomers who adopted Midian ways.