Proper Name: Sultanate of Zeif
Ruler: His Omnipotence, the Glory of the West, the Sultan of Zeif, Murad (LN male human Ftr15)
Government: Independent feudal monarchy with hereditary ruler; advised by a grand vizier and the Diwan, a semihereditary bureaucracy; royal line has uncertain claim of descent from ancient Baklunish Empire royalty, but still claims to rule all civilized Baklunish lands; noble families are all related to the royal family in various degrees; religion is subservient to the state
Capital: Zeif (called Zeif City in the east)
Major Towns: Antalotol (pop. 10,700), Ceshra (pop. 16,600), Dhabiya (pop. 14,900), Zeif (pop. 43,500)
Provinces: Thirty-eight timars (rural fiefs); cities and towns, and surrounding lands, are governed by beys, deys, emirs, and pashas (including the capital, administered by a pasha for the sultan)
Resources: Foodstuffs, gems (III), horses, livestock
Coinage: Magus (pp), efrit (gp), marid (ep), djinn (sp), dao (cp)
Population: 1,628,300—Human 88% (B), Orc 10%, Halfling 1%, Other 1%
Languages: Common, Ancient Baklunish, Baklunish dialects, Halfling, Orc
Alignments: LN*, N
Religions: Istus, Al’Akbar, Mouqol, Geshtai, Xan Yae, other Baklunish gods
Allies: Tusmit (sometimes), Paynims (sometimes)
Enemies: Ekbir (sometimes), Tusmit (sometimes), Ket (sometimes), Paynims (sometimes), Knights of the Watch
Overview: The Sultanate of Zeif is the largest single nation of the Baklunish. Its northern and eastern boundaries are formed by the Dramidj Ocean and the Gulf of Ghayar (the Janasib Isles remain stubbornly independent), while its eastern border is formed by the Tuflik river. Grasslands give way to fields along the Tuflik, and in most of the area north of the town of Antalotol. Zeif’s climate is balmy along the coast, though her interior has cold winters and very hot summers. Zeif’s broad southern border is the open plain, still dominated by the uncounted tribes of Paynims.
The Sultanate of Zeif is the greatest of the successor states to the ancient Baklunish Empire. It has been the dominant force in the Near West for almost nine centuries, and it is still the pre-eminent nation of the Baklunish. Zeif has no great range of hills or mountains to define its territory, but the long valley of the Wadi Khijar serves to separate the eastern from the western lands of the sultanate. This valley runs from the Dry Steppes of the Paynims to the northern coast of Zeif. At one time a mighty river coursed through the Khijar Valley, but now only seasonal runoff normally flows over its rugged bed. In fact, the Wadi Khijar is dry for most of the year, though the valley may flood for weeks at a time during the rainy season.
The Paynims roam freely across the border, for many are mercenaries in the service of the sultan’s armies and so are seldom questioned. They are expected to carry the badges of their mercenary units, but these are easily obtained—legitimately or otherwise. Few others travel the plains, though caravans still trek to distant Kanak on the shores of the salt-lake of Udrukankar. Many caravans employ Paynim guards, but this is seldom proof against attack, for the Paynims war upon each other as readily as upon outlanders. Towns like Antalotol and Barakhat still profit from such caravan traffic, but none compare to the city of Zeif, on the green waters of the Dramidj.
The different regions of Zeif are also distinguished by the quality of their soil. The northeastern portion of the country makes up the tilled fields of Retsaba, where almost all Zeif’s farmlands are found. Across the Khijar Valley in the rough and uneven northwestern lands are the mines of Vaar, from whence a wealth of chrysoberyls is taken for the sultan. South of both regions are the uncultivated grasslands called the Timarral; again, the lands to the west of the Wadi Khijar are generally rougher than those to the east. Finally, the harsh Plain of Antal is part of both the Paynim lands and the sultanate. It tends to be a lawless region, serving as a battleground for nomads and bandits, as well as other predators.
Sea trade is vitally important to Zeif, and her coastal cities are by far the most prosperous. The greatest merchant fleet in the western Flanaess is that of Zeif. These ships travel to all the nations of the gulf and throughout the islands of the Dramidj Ocean. Her war fleet is also imposing, but it is divided among the many ports along the vast stretch of coast it must patrol. Special attention must be paid to the Bakhoury Coast client states, whose loyalty to the sultan is ever in doubt. Heavy cavalry patrol the land routes between major settlements, and heavy infantry are garrisoned in the larger towns.
The people of Zeif place great importance on personal honor and family position; to them, any loss of reputation in the eyes of their fellows is the greatest calamity. Among themselves, the citizens of Zeif speak the Osfaradd dialect of the Baklunish language, but with infidels they will deign to use the Common Tongue of the Flanaess. Only the well educated are truly skilled in the use of Ancient Baklunish, making it the domain of the scholars, officials, and nobles who use the classical language in their professional affairs.
Government in Zeif has many layers. The ministers of the sultan’s cabinet, or The Diwan, all hold the title of Vizier; the Grand Vizier is the highest-ranking minister in Zeif, and he answers only to the sultan himself. The power of the viziers is legendary, and most of these scholarly officials are also wizards or clerics. The military of Zeif is very strong, yet because its supreme leader is the sultan himself, their interests suffer when his attention is distracted. High in the ranks of the military are the Spahis, the knights of the sultanate; they are landed gentry of wealth and position, but without the discipline of the Farises of Ekbir. The alliance of merchants, called the Mouqollad Consortium, is perhaps the next greatest power, for they too have wealth, though no authority. Finally, assassins and spies are also plentiful in Zeif, serving any number of masters or causes.
Politically, the sultanate is laid out in a haphazard-seeming assortment of lesser territories: pashaliks, beyliks, deylik’s, timars, and the odd emirate or sheikdom. In theory, the sultan is the unquestioned ruler of all these lands, but in practice he must contend with opposing forces among his nobles and within his own government. These forces can range from local administrators and rulers all the way to the ministers of the Diwan, and even to the grand vizier; but most insidious of all are the intrigues of the harem and its denizens, led by the matron sultana.
Zeif has a significant minority of orcs and half-orcs, the distant descendants of nonhuman mercenaries used by the old Baklunish Empire before the Invoked Devastation. These tribeless nonhumans have become fully integrated into the state, though most are within the lower class. A number of noted generals and spies of Zeif were obviously half-orcs.
Locations and Settlements of Zeif
The Sultanate of Zeif boasts some of the most populous cities of the Baklunish West, each with a host of intrigues and interesting locales. From the crowded avenues of the capital to the desolate, airy markets of Antalotol, Zeif offers countless opportunities for an adventurer to make a profit, and to get himself in a great deal of trouble…
History: Ozef the Warrior founded this state upon a coalition of nomadic and sedentary peoples in the region of the old Satrapy of Ghayar. With his Paynim army he defeated and destroyed each of the Imperial Pretenders, ending their evil regime and stopping the terrible blood-tribute of the Satraps. In its place he declared the Sultan’s Truce between clan, class and race. Unfortunately, Ozef’s reign was cut short when he was devoured by a dragon turtle in the Dramidj. The administration of the government was then assumed by the Diwan under the guidance of the Grand Vizier, in the sultan’s name.
Ozef’s great-grandson, Jehef the Splendid, restored the authority of the sultan by gathering the support first of the military, then of the merchants. Under military administration, his rule extended from Ket to the Bakhoury Coast, and all the lands between. The legendary wealth and sophistication of his court marked the cultural high point of the sultanate. He was also the last sultan to have the full allegiance of the Paynims. Perhaps his most lasting monument is his combined palace and capitol, Peh’reen.
Following the death of Jehef, his grandniece Ismuyin assumed office as the only reigning sultana of Zeif. She continued most of her uncle’s policies, but she also reached an accord with the civil government to restore the viziers to their old authority. Her government concluded treaties with the gulf states of Risay and Mur, as well as some Ataphad city-states. Diplomatic relations were established with the matriarchs of Komal, though no formal alliance was ever achieved. Growing tensions with the Paynims erupted into sporadic conflict along Zeif’s southern border, while a few of the Bakhoury emirs openly accommodated piratical strongholds.
For the next several centuries, Zeif faced challenges from her neighbors on land and sea. The Zeif were usually triumphant, yet the sea-lanes continued to grow more dangerous, as did the plains. The marauding of the Paynims became so incessant that Sultan Melek II sought a permanent solution in the form of nomads from southern Komal, beyond the Gulf of Ghayar. The Brazen Horde were a nation long at odds with the Komali, and they found the promise of new lands to be irresistible. Their relocation to the plains bordering Zeif was intended to provide a buffer zone between the indigenous Paynims and the lands of the sultanate, and the strategy was briefly successful. The differing nomads warred upon each other for decades before they reached an accommodation.
In the aftermath of this immigration, a horde of displaced Paynims left their ancestral lands, invading Zeif, then Ekbir, and finally emerging in the steppes beyond the Yatils to menace the peoples of the central Flanaess. The provinces of Tusmit and Ket were lost to the sultanate as well, reducing Zeif’s eastern borders to their current limits. Diplomacy proved ineffective in restoring these eastern holdings to the sultan’s rule, and several expensive military disasters caused the government to abandon efforts to regain these lands.
All of Zeif’s maritime interests were threatened by her seafaring neighbors, particularly Komal in the western Dramidj. The Battle Beneath the Waves saw a force of Komali and allied merfolk defeat Zeif’s assembled fleet in the Qayah-Bureis islands, vastly reducing Zeif’s naval presence in the Dramidj. The emirs of the Bakhoury Coast took advantage of Zeif’s weakened sea power to declare their own independence, also seizing the Janasib islands in the process. Zeif slowly reestablished control along the coast, but groups of buccaneers and pirates stubbornly held the Janasibs, defying the sultan’s authority down to the present day.
The government of the current sultan has attempted to assert its authority over all the territories once held by Zeif. Only the pasha of Tusmit and a few Paynim rulers have sworn loyalty to the sultan, and he might not be willing to go to war to press his claims. Zeif has not been directly affected by the Greyhawk Wars, beyond a decline in trade with the central Flanaess nations for several years. Many unresolved conflicts exist with other western nations, but the tendency here is to watch and wait; the sultan grows old and uncertain, and the struggle for succession will occur soon enough.
Conflicts and Intrigues: Bakhoury Coast emirates are near rebellion. Janasib corsairs are rumored to be negotiating an alliance with Komal. The royal harem might be the current headquarters of an assassins’ syndicate. Foreign spies, especially from the Ataphads and Komal, are suspected everywhere.