The Mershael first appeared in the year -750, sailing into harbors on the northern Ryshael coast in majestic ships of aqua and silver. No one knows from whence they came, or what subsequently happened to the ships that brought them. Arriving during the Traazorite rebellion against the Krai-Jan, they profited from the confusion to seize land for their own by aiding the Traazorites in their long and vicious uprising, thus securing an ally in their new land and earning themselves a home through sacrifice and bloodshed.
After the Traazorites gained their freedom, the Mershael King and the Sun Emperor forged a peace between the two fledgling nations. Eventually the Traazorite Empire solidified and thoughts of expansion soon led to inevitable conflicts with many countries, including Mershael. The Traazorites were uncomfortable with any nation so closely bordering their own that was not a puppet or lackey to their wishes. The Mershael are fiercely independent and are slow to trust. The Traazorites invaded again and again, but were confounded by the hills and rough country. The beguilements the Mershael placed upon their capital have made it impossible for foes to find the heart of their kingdom. Armies that have penetrated into Mershael soon encounter this phenomenon and end up turned around and are incessantly sniped and ambushed by Mershaelen Hunters.
Little information has found its way outside of the Shrouded Kingdom about the origins of the Mershael. Questioning of captives by other factions yields no result, even under duress. It can be assumed that only those of the Royal Household and those of high station may be able to provide insight into that question. The most logical rumors all date back to the first years of their appearance. These tidbits all come from various Traazorite dispatches during the establishment of the Traazorite-Mershael Alliance. The Mershael claimed to have come from a continent to the East and fled an invasion or coup. This rumor has never been backed by a second source nor have any of the descendents of the first king verified this information. In current times, it no longer seems as if the Mershael are strangers to western lands, so the question only appears in the minds of scholars and spies.
The Mershael are currently led by King Kurgonn and his wife, Queen Lindira. King Kurgonn is a bit more aggressive than his predecessors and has raised some alarms in the Hall of Lords. The Hall serves as an advisory committee to the King and Queen and helps administer the government. Many policies are decided in the Hall, but the King has the power to disregard their wishes, although if he abuses his power, he can be removed from office. Though known as the Hall of Lords, there are fourteen other members that are not Lords of great stature. Each of the great cities and the surrounding provinces is run by a Reaver. The Hall of Lords consists of twenty members, which include the six Reavers, six other nobles of various stature that have a hereditary responsibility, the six Masters that must serve the Kingdom as well as manage their Order and a representative from the Menders and the Artificers. Many of the Masters are also sons and daughters of former Masters and those jobs have achieved a near hereditary status.
In 1008, Kurgonn is King of Mershael.
Although many heraldic symbols are used in Mershael for honor guards and a variety of other purposes, the most common and the one identified with the Mershael when they take the field of battle is the Silver Dolphin. The background is sea green and the dolphin is usually silver. The symbol will often be outlined by a color unique to each Reaver, the Royal House or various other bodies able to support or hire troops.
Although their society places great value on the arts, religion, magic and a variety of other interests, the Mershael are a borderline martial culture at heart. They learn from a very young age to master the sword, dagger and bow. It is not only a necessity of race survival, but a societal obligation and symbol of status. The Taumari, or sword of the warrior, is the weapon of choice in Mershael. Long, slightly curved at the end and with a sharp stabbing point at the tip, the weapon is best used with two hands. Many a Mershaelen soldier will spend a year’s salary to upgrade his common weapon with one of superior craftsmanship or strength. Swords are such an important item, that almost all houses have swords of their ancestors that decorate their homes in places of honor. They are willed from father to son or friend to friend, serve as prizes in great competitions and are given by the King for service to the Kingdom.
The military is a professional army and navy composed of all volunteers. A reserve force can be marshaled in each province composed of veterans that have already served their socially obligated time in the military. The common footsoldier in the army is most often armed with his Taumari, his bow and a fighting dagger. The Mershael commonly disdain the use of shields unless some special circumstance requires them. Like most modern militaries, the Mershael have a variety of specialized units: dedicated archers, foot knights and skirmishers. Some units will train with a spear, javelin or other weapons more commonly found in other countries.
The army has a mounted arm as well, although small. The Border Guard is an example of an elite mounted unit. Armed with the lance and Taumari, the charge of the Border Guard can be as fierce as any military’s shock units. But they are more typically used in a harassing and flanking role or as a deterrent to enemy scouts than as shock troops.
The Mershael rely on their speed to outflank enemies on foot and prefer to fight in hilly or rough terrain. The most common tactic used is to send a couple of volleys of arrows into the enemy and then quickly charge into hand to hand combat. When facing mounted opponents with superior mobility, the Mershael are at a distinct speed disadvantage and tend to avoid large fights that leave their flanks vulnerable. Tight formations of trained troops with missile weapons and armor also present a problem and are typically harassed with flights of arrows and avoided until more favorable circumstances increase their chances of success.
The Navy is also a professional force. They patrol their coastal waters heavily armed with ballista, armed sailors, elite Boarders and an encyclopedia of well-trained and practiced tactics. While they have many disadvantages on land, the Mershael are at home on the seas. Deep sea and coastal patrols keep their waters relatively clear of enemy navies and pirates. They use dolphins to scout for them, so have a distinct advantage over enemy ships not able to employ masking magic. Many pirates will attempt to harpoon dolphins on sight, afraid that the creatures are the herald of their demise at the hands of the Navy.
The Mershael venerate their ancestors. It is quite common to see a relic of their ancestors displayed in a prominent spot in the house of a Mershaelan family or even in the barracks of their soldiers. While not quite worship, they commune with their ancestors through prayer for guidance and fortune in their lives. Their priests seem to have taken this a step further and are able to call forth the spirits of their ancestors to aid them. This aid takes many forms, including healing, assistance in various tasks and to fight for them.
When a Mershaelen dies, he or she believes his spirit goes to rest in the Hall of Eternity. The Mershael believe when time ends, all the souls of the dead will be faced with a trial and then move on to the next phase of their existence. What this trial is or why it is necessary is speculated on by all Mershael, including the priesthood. Every soul they have ever called upon for service has confirmed the existence of this mysterious place and the giant robed figure that sleeps at the end of the main hall that they refer to as the Sleeping Guide.
A priest in Mershael is called a Mender. Each of the cities has a Rector and they are all led by the High Rector. The army and navy also have detachments of Menders and a Rector each. There are also quite a few priests that travel between smaller towns or are on special assignment. The primary goal of the priesthood is to mend the mind, body and soul, or aid in the process so all Mershael are capable of reaching the Hall of Eternity.
It should be mentioned that not all Mershaelen souls reach the Hall of Eternity. Those souls that have betrayed their ancestors or their people or performed other ignominious acts have not appeared in the Hall. Where they go is not spoken of in public and may not be known. Two old Traazorite scholarly texts speculate this may tie in with why the Mershael first appeared in the west.
Mershael do not fear death, yet they do not welcome it. Life on Faelon is an enjoyable task to gain their place and status in the Hall of Eternity and the times beyond. To die honorably is to achieve Ascension and safety for their soul.
View of Outsiders
The peoples of Faelon are viewed mostly with indifference by the Mershael. Only a few chosen foreigners have seen the capital city of Bellamere and that is not a common occurrence. Their relationship with the Traazorites is a complex one, having had common cause and alliance with them on more than one occasion, yet always dealing with the treacherous empire in a most guarded manner. The Mershael have established strong trade ties with many of the coastal nations and have bestowed a favorable trade status on a handful of reliable foreign trading nations and consortiums.
Mating Rituals and Customs
The strict schooling common amongst Mershaelan families keeps most of the young near their families until they reach their majority. When they are of age, they must serve a term in the military. After these tasks, many tend to wander, taking jobs in foreign countries, hiring on as sailors, traveling to far off universities, training with foreign masters; any kind of task that is productive, yet allows them to see the world or something new.
Marriages are sometimes arranged between noble families, but the general populace usually seeks mates based upon mutual attraction and love. Families tend to be large with more than one generation often occupying the same dwelling.
Males and females are seen as equal but different in Mershaelan society. Each performs different tasks according to traditions. Many of the household traditions are similar to that of anywhere in Faelon, but others can be quite different. Males make up the bulk of the army, females the navy, yet both sexes can be found amongst each service.
Every Mershaelan family is a member of a House. A House is a familial, societal and political entity that works towards the advancement of itself and its members within Mershaelan society. A House is somewhat like a clan, or a royal line in other cultures. Houses that have proven themselves or achieved great status have been rewarded with more powerful, prestigious and responsible positions within the kingdom. Sometimes the ambitions of some houses interfere with what is best for the kingdom, although the competition is not as fierce as that of other cultures.
The talents of athletes, singers, actors and dancers are near as highly esteemed in Mershael as that of a famous warrior. One of the true passions of the Mershael is to watch the pit fighters. Like most residents of Faelon, the Mershael have an arena dedicated solely for the use of gladiators. The Mershael prize art and will often spend a large percentage of their income on paintings, statues, musical instruments and literature.
What is valued by this society?
As relative newcomers and aliens in a land with few natural allies, the Mershael treat their security and survival not with complacency, but with a focused importance. All citizens that contribute to the protection and advancement of their society are given respect according to their contribution.
They have strong loyalties to their family, their ancestors, their Houses, their King and their country. Status is gained by perceived achievement in those categories. All Mershael differ in ability and desire to advance socially and politically, but it is not uncommon for a wise farmer with a daughter that is a Blademaster and two sons in the army to be more highly regarded than a wealthy merchant who has secured a source of rare or valuable trade goods.
To an outsider, they are often contrary in their beliefs. To serve their country is an honor, yet also a social obligation. They place great value on experiencing new things, obtaining beautiful and unusual art and a host of other pleasures, yet they all know that none of it will accompany them in Ascension so often they gift outrageously expensive items to friends, family or a worthy stranger.
The Mershael are a self-sufficient society. They are able to grow, hunt or fish for all of their dietary needs and they also produce a good variety of famous wines. Their hills provide them with most of the iron they need and a few precious metals. The forests and jungles to the south provide them with wood and various herbs. If there is one weakness in the Mershael to be exploited, it would be their desire to trade for precious things only available in foreign lands. It is not greed, but the desire to see and experience new things. Mershaelan traders have the ability to make deals with the most stingy of traders on common goods, but they are continually bested while bartering for goods not readily available to them or luxury items.
There are six powerful Masters in Mershael whose Orders are responsible for its six chief products: Trade and Fishing, Forestry, Mining, Wine, Government service and Farming. The Masters themselves are of varying amounts of importance depending on the stature of the individual heading that order at the time and any alliances he or she may have.
The currency of Mershael is strictly based upon its closest civil neighbor, the Traazorites, for practical purposes. The minting is different, but names, weights and sizes are the same.
The land of Mershael is located just to the East of the Northern tip of Ryshael bordering the Chalamis Sea facing the continent of Isarshael to the north. It is a hilly country that has small areas of lush farmland located in low valleys. Much of the hilly country is grassy and suitable for grazing or terrace farming. To the south and southwest is the Traazorite Empire. To the southeast are forests and jungles. The northern coastal area contains only two natural harbors with most of the remaining coast composed of imposing cliffs. A mountain range divides the Kingdom of Mershael with the arid lands to the east. Rugged low hills provide a natural defense from the Traazorite Empire to the south and west. The mountain range provides the source of fresh water that feeds the local rivers and streams.
The climate is mostly moderate with warm to hot summers and rainy winters. Occasionally snow falls in the hills to the west with most of the snowfall occurring in the mountain range to the east.