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Introduction

The Kurasian Empire, or as it is more commonly known as Kurasi, is a shadow of its former self, but you wouldn’t know from the people’s reactions, due to the majority living a comfortable, decadent and affluent lifestyle. Although an Empire, it is an Empire only in name, and the ruling elite consists of a Council of six ‘Merchant Princes’, whom form a plutocracy and make decisions for the Nation as a unit.

Despite not being part of the High Kingdom, Kurasi benefits from a great deal of trade opportunities, and is easily the wealthiest most affluent nation in existence, behind the Queendom of Aridia. That said, the Kurasi culture is so centred around business and the mercantile, that even the wealthiest Aridian would come off worse in trading with a Kurasian.

The majority of the Kurasian people consist of the cunning, silver-tongued and decadent Mau, a race descended from the first Human’s who undertook the Joining with Feline’s in the distant past and much like the Naga, have become an individual species. Other racial members of the Kurasian Empire consist of mostly Humans, but anyone who can make profit is welcome.

History

Supposedly descended from a roving band of Nomads who settled in the Golden Sands, the first Kurasian’s were arguably the precursors to the Mau. Although they are simply called the ‘Ancient Kurasians or Mau’, these people assuredly settled in Ancient Kurasia due to the sheer amount of  rich Gold and Gem veins that existed at the time.

At some point in the Ancient Kurasian’s history, the people developed a culture for Gold and Wealth, and many in an attempt to become the wealthiest and most cunning of merchants undertook The Joining with feline species such as Cats, Lynxes and more rarely Tigers, to become cunning, smart and thrifty.

Many thousands of years before recorded history, despite being centred around wealth and trade, Kurasia was actually ruled by a Monarchy of sorts, the Maahes (King) of the Ancient Mau being a line of Tiger-like Mau who ruled through both Wealth and Ferocity over the rest of Kurasi. Somewhere along the line, the Ancient line of the Maahes and Tiger-like Mau were overthrown and driven to extinction by the wealthiest Kurasi Merchants and their vast, mercenary armies, and thus the Merchant Council was formed.

From then on, Kurasian “nobility” no longer existed and instead wealth was revered by all. For many hundreds of years the Merchant Council was an effective form of Government, their decisions leading to more and more lucrative infrastructure and trade, allowing the general wealth of the populace to keep increasing. However, as the Kurasian lifestyle became more and more decadent, the Merchant Council became less interested and effective in Kurasi affairs, and soon the natural reservoirs of wealth began to dry with the depletion of mines.

In a time called the Great Depression, Kurasi borders were raided by Nomadic Tribes from the Steppes for their crafts and remaining wealth. Kurasians in turn were unable to fund a suitable mercenary force from within their borders to combat the Steppe Hordes, and much of Kurasi land was lost to the Nomads. Despite this great depression in the economy, eventually the Queendom of Aridia and the Kingdom of Avalon, allies in their conquest of known lands referred to as the Landmarch, encountered the Kurasi and were overwhelmed by the wealth the Kurasi people possessed. Knowing full well that even a weakened Kurasi mercenary force was enough to give the Aridian-Avalonian joint armies a run for their money, the budding High-Kingdom agreed to “tolerate” the thrifty merchant people in a tentative pact of nonaggression and mutual trade. Kurasi in turn was able to turn this seemingly simple pact into a beneficial situation, as the trade not only brought in more income needed to fund the armies against the Steppe Nomads, but also allowed them to recruit from deadlier pools of potential mercenaries, such as the legendary Gautlonders and the Avalonian sellswords. Eventually, the roaming bands of Nomads were driven from Kurasi lands by a joint war effort between the High-Kingdom and the Kurasian Empire, though the latter had suffered considerably.

Regardless, Kurasi still held sway over an ever increasing economy. The richer the Kurasi got, the less likely the High-Kingdom wanted to engage in all out war with them, and a very strenuous but mutually beneficial relationship formed between the two Nations.

Culture

First and foremost, the Kurasi culture is focused entirely around money, or more specifically, profit. No greater concept exists in the eyes of Kurasians, and as such their entire society has formed around the acquisition of this precious commodity and has been this way for thousands of years, even when the Maahes of the Ancient Mau ruled.

As such, Religion within Kurasi is very limited. Although many people are spiritual, it holds no place in society except personally, though there are some who see Religion as the best business to be in. Whilst many follow the true faith of the High Kingdom, the Ancient Kurasian Pantheon still exists in some form within Kurasi society, in that the worship of exaggerated Feline Gods and Goddesses and evil Canine Demons and Spirits are still practiced. The Kurasi Pantheon is extensive, and many of the old gods are considered obsolete in this day and age. To an extent, the Kurasian Mau also revere the Sun and the Moon, in that it is believed the way the Sun and Moon are situated in the sky will determine the ‘breed’ of Mau that are born, as either Cat, Lynx and so on.

The Kurasi in general have come to have a deeply embedded respect for Feline kind, in particular the Cat. The majority of Kurasi see the Cat, and in extent the Mau, as embodiments of what a good Kurasi should be. Cunning, clever, aloof, and so on. .

Kurasi society consists of “Houses”, but not like the Avalonian Houses. A House acts more like a Business than a dynasty in Kurasi, as to be part of a House is to be running it, or be in the service or contract to it. Prestige is based on wealth, and wealth alone, and Kurasian society is mostly individualistic, in that one will often put their own well being and happiness far above others, even family/friends. Indeed, ‘relationships’ in general  are approached much like mutually beneficial contracts.

Many Kurasi adhere and even commit to memory the Kurasian Rules of Trade. Although these are not explicitly legal or enforceable and are often contradictory, it is generally accepted they form a good basis on which to trade. Culturally, it also great sign of respect between Kurasi that instead of introductions, that the two parties each engage in a small barter or trade of little to no value to better get to know each other. For outsiders to not do so is considered quite rude, even though more often than not outsiders will be ripped off easier than fellow Kurasi.

Excessive Wealth will potentially offer the opportunity to become one of the Merchant Princes of the Merchant Council, simply by proxy. The Wealthiest are automatically selected the Merchant Princes, unless they decline. As such, the Merchant Council is constantly chopping and changing members. That said, it is also known that sometimes the wealthiest individuals simply decline the title of Merchant Prince and its subsequent responsibilities, simply because they cannot be bothered. As such, the Merchant Council is mostly ceremonial, though they do have the power to call a meeting and decree on national affairs.

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