The Widow Harun
The Gezer Region
Automatic Languages: Gezerite
Bonus Languages: Mulhorandi, Durpari, Celestial, Shaaran
Regional Feats: Education, Luck of Heroes, Militia
Equipment: (A) masterwork Shotel and Ishilunga; (B) any two 2nd level divine scrolls
The hidden empire of Gezer is the most fantastic of the nine realms of The Tuigan Empire. Gezer is located on the eastern slope of The Dragonsword Mountains, where the land forms a high-altitude plateau before dropping to The Plains of Purple Dust. This area, so unlike the steep, craggy and monster infested peaks of the western slopes, is dry but suitable for agriculture. In these highlands, the Gezerite people may have lived for millennia.
In a desolate northeastern area of the Dragonsword, there is an ancient Mulhorandi obelisk known as The Stone of Kest. Almost twenty three centuries old, the heiroglyphs on the obelisk are a history of the Orcgate Wars from the Mulhorandi perspective. More importantly, they make reference to several monotheistic tribes said to live in the area at the time, who seem to resemble the Gezerite people of today. Incredibly, it is said by the unknown scribe that the Mulhorandi encountered these people already farming the highlands when the empire of Mulhorand first expanded into the area. If true, the Gezerites were once contemporaries of the long-lost Imaskari, making their home one of the oldest continually inhabited human nations on the surface of Toril.
Whether or not they have an ancient pedigree, Gezer is unique in another way. The country practices a monotheistic religion related to that of The Golden Water region but more conservative. The priests of Gezer, known as the Ge’ez, preach that The Adama is not just a unifying spirit, but an actual overgod much like Ao. All other gods of Faerun are considered archangels at best, or pagan fictions at the worst. After all, point out the Ge’ez, even during the Time of Troubles not all the gods were actually seen. Clerics who claim to be followers of this or that ‘god’ could actually be getting their power from anywhere, even demons. Only The Adama actually rules the universe. The evidence of this is that The Adama sent a son to live on the surface of Toril, where he preached the true religion, was killed, and resurrected by the power of The Adama to show the Gezerite people that they should not fear death.
Gezerite traditions about this individual, whom they call Tariq Dede, are more scripture than history. But if he lived at all, it seems to have been many thousands of years ago, before their nation was unified. According to the scriptures, the prophet was born in western Mulhorand, traveled extensively there and throughout the former Imaskari region, and preached the religion of his father everywhere he went. The theocrats of Mulhorand captured, interrogated and executed him in a gruesome public display, but not before a small cult of his followers had crossed The Dragonsword Mountains and settled among the proud tribes in the eastern highlands. Some time later, according to the Ge’ez, a man named Lalibela became king of the tribes when he called upon Tariq Dede for help in battle with a rival. Lalibela painted his shield with the symbol of Dede (a cross to represent the five directions of the universe: north, south, east, west, and the center) and was victorious, becoming the first Emperor of Gezer and making the worship of Dede the only religion of his realm.
Whether or not this is the true religion, it is a fact that Gezerite priests are uniquely powerful among the religions of Faerun, especially over undead (priests of Tariq Dede turn undead and cast spells against undead at double caster level). Their nation has been oddly fortunate in other ways as well. For reasons lost to history, no dragon can attack a Gezerite. The sages of Mulhorand speculate that an ancient blood debt is involved, but whatever the reason, not even the great wyrm blue Dragons of the mountains, otherwise so steeped in evil, have ever attacked this reclusive people.
The Plateau of Gezer has the best climate on Faerun for growing coffee, and this is the tiny empire’s main export. Most is drunk in Mulhorand and points east such as Shou Lung. Little Gezerite coffee ever reaches The Western Realms, but even there (with a little effort) one can find gourmands who are familiar with it and willing to pay up to 50 GP per pound of beans. The beans can be bought inside Gezer for 1 GP the pound, making this an extremely valuable caravan commodity.
In war, Gezerite troops are of two varieties. Cavalry, which is composed of aristocratic individuals and nobles, are mounted on fine horses, often the Calimites which are raised on ranches outside Gondar. They wear polished steel breastplates with the Cross of Dede on front and back, and typically carry lances and longswords. They are fond of brightly colored pennants for their lances and decorations for their horses, favoring the colors red, green, black, and yellow. Foot troops, who are often farmers (and sometimes conscripts) typically wear padded armor made of quilted cotton in a checkerboard pattern of black and white squares, which is traditional. They carry a tower shield called an Ishilunga, which is a cowhide stretched over a large square wooden frame. The pattern of spots on the hide is how each regiment is distinguished from the others. These troops carry a weapon called a Shotel, which is a sickle-shaped blade the size of a longsword, used for striking around an enemy’s shield. For ranged combat, other troops are employed, typically small boys, who wear no armor and use slings, never bows, which they fire by emerging from a rank of foot troops and then filtering back behind them to reload.
Gezer is a feudal society, in which all power inheres to the person of the Emperor, who owns all the land in the empire. The Emperors create nobles from aristocratic families; today, there are dozens of degrees of nobility in Gezer, who enjoy a profusion of different rights and privileges dealing with taxation, farming, exporting, and the right to wives and concubines of varying status. The one condition common to all the nobility is military obligation. Each noble family must provide a certain ‘levy’ of men in times of war or when called by the Emperor; the size and composition of the levy is fixed for each individual. Gezerite nobles enjoy the arts of war and typically ride to the Emperor’s service in person as cavalry, but they also conscript farmers from their associated villages to make the foot troops required.
Only the church is exempt from the feudal structure of life here. Each church owns its own land and sometimes also the fields or villages nearby. The Ge’ez themselves are not only exempt from taxation by the Emperors but also the recipients of a variety of church tithes assessed on all levels of society. The church as a whole is likely wealthier than the Emperor. Individual Ge’ez are not obligated for military service but the clerics resident in each noble’s domain often find it wise to accompany him to battle. This is especially true since the clerics are guardians of a type of artifact known as a Gezerite Cross, an extremely powerful talisman against undead. There is one of these in every church in the land, and nobles prefer to have the Cross at the head of their armies when they go to battle against the undead of Rurikan.
Despite all this taxation, Gezer is not a poor land. The soil is dry but fertile, and harvests of the local grain (called Teff) are always abundant. Gezerite farmers produce dozens of warm-climate fruits and vegetables and raise fat cattle and sheep on all the available land. Even the poor here eat well, especially because charity is enforced by the church. Gezerite food is rich with butter and made extremely hot with peppers, ground spices and fresh herbs in numerous varieties. There is a strong tradition of meatless dishes since well over half the year is holy days declared by the Ge’ez, during which the people must fast by avoiding meat. Milk and cheese are made and eaten in great amounts, and so is a honey wine called Tej.
Local resources include extensive gold mines in the mountains, which are controlled by various nobles and regional churches, and at least one diamond mine, which is the property of the Emperors. The location of this mine is kept secret, and there are persistent rumors of other, ancient diamond mines deep in the mountains, which are said to be abandoned and free for the taking. In addition, the tree whose resin produces frankincense grows only here in all of Faerun. Finally there is a well-established salt trade between Azulduth, where caravanners scrape the flats or obtain rock salt from small, wretched mines, and the southernmost Gezerite outpost of Addis, where it can be profitably sold to members of the Ge’ez. The salt is then resold throughout Gezer, where there is no local source. The Ge’ez monopoly on the salt trade was granted ages ago and is now one of the only means of support for the church at Addis, which is otherwise little but a dusty pilgrim stop.
Other settlements include Gondar, the capital (which is closed to foreigners and unbelievers), the second city of Nazret where caravanners obtain Gezerite coffee at the export market, and Axum, a village northwest of Addis at the center of the Empire’s best coffee plantations.
The current Emperor of Gezer is Tewodros, who is one of The Nine Noyan and an enemy of Rurik in the Great Khan’s court. In 1416 Tewodros was responsible for opening the hidden empire to the outside world. He judged that the presence of large numbers of Tuigan and Shaaran nomads on the plains east of The Dragonsword Mountains for the first time made it impossible for Gezer to escape the notice of Jebe Khan. However, his ancient pride made it imperative to establish first contact on his own terms. Tewodros summoned a number of copper Dragons and assembled all his most handsome nobles, whom he ordered to equip themselves in their most splendid armor, ride their finest Calimite chargers, and bring their war elephants draped in gold and jewels. The Emperor also conscripted the most powerful clerics of the Ge’ez and instructed them to wear their most imposing vestments and bring the richest Gezerite Crosses in the land. Accompanied by the Emperor himself in his green, black and yellow robes of office and gold headdress, this glittering party rode to Jebekhanbalik to present themselves to Jebe Khan and seek ‘admission’ to his empire. The Emperor and his highest nobles and clerics landed on dragonback within sight of the Khan’s tent. Their arrival left the Tuigan dumbfounded and convinced that Gezer was a vast and wealthy land, especially since they bore many rare and expensive gifts, including sacks of coffee. As he had planned, Tewodros was made one of The Nine Noyan and enjoyed good relations with the Great Khans from then until the present day.