Even in a nation of thieves, grifters, fast-talkers and bargain breakers there must be one to rule, and that man is King Ishvara. Or that’s how it seems, at least. Known as the Night King or the King of Dancing, King Ishvara is the epicenter of a constant party that has been going on since the day after he was coroneted. Lasting well into the morning and moving on during the day, the eternal party travels from town to town, across vast deserts drawing incredible crowds and gaining as much coin as it wastes on wonderments and frivolities. It’s said that the constant flow of free alcohol is the only thing keeping Isem’s crime rate so low. Of course, the King of Isem is lord in name only. Most commoners will bicker and argue over the fact but it isn’t exactly a secret that the real power in Isem lies in the Council of Nine. A member is selected from one of the nine major cities in Isem by the other members. A 2/3’s majority is necessary for a new member to be allowed to join. Each member is required to have a representative from each of the workman’s guilds with chapter houses in their cities, and are supposed to report progresses, shortfalls and excesses. They create job openings and give research grants to those with inventive or promising ideas.

For the most part though, all of Isem is governed locally, the person with the most wealth or greatest military force leading. Generally these men are smart enough to know that the only way to get money from those they lord over is to let them go about their business. Stupid tyrants do not last long in Isem.

The Bervan Nomads are a different story, however. Desert people through and thought, the Bervan Halflings are as harsh as the land they call home. Bervans do not follow Isemish law except within city limits, and consider all lands that are not within city limits their territory to do with as they please. They follow strict codes of honor and rarely deviate from custom, and though nearly all are skilled warriors they are not prone to starting fights. Still, it is highly recommended that you never make a Bervan angry. Each Bervan clan has a clan cheif, selected by some unspoken right, and each sept has a sept chief, chosen by their clans cheif and wise ones. Leading the Bervans just as readily as the chiefs are the Wise Ones, advisors and caretakers all, the Wise Ones command just as readily as the Clan Chiefs do.

Most Zozman Changlings live within either Isemish or Bervan society. Rumor speaks of a Zozman community somewhere in the Wastes. If it is out there, none who still live speak the truth of it.

Fun, Profit, and everything in-between.

Isem is a land of merchants and profiteers, but the trades they sell have to come from somewhere. Crafters of every kind filter there wares to the rest of the world through Isem. Runefausti goods can be sold in Whitecloak lands or Valguard if sold through an Isemish merchant. Wares get to where they should because they should, and the Isemish people know commerce like the back of their hands. Most anything can be gotten in the depths of Isem, but the best good go on merchant wagons to be sold in foreign countries. There are a few things though, that Isem does better than anyone else.

Booze – Isem makes the best tasting ale on Cerin and the second best wine you can find on this side of the Adranin. There are nearly as many types of ale in Isem as there are breweries, and they have a larger population of brewers then most countries have of soldiers. There is no limited drinking age in Isem, but it’s a sign of passing into adulthood when a man gives a boy a beer instead of a cup of wine. The incredible amount of alcohol in Isem has lead to a strange occurrence. Barfighting competitions. When you ask someone to a duel in Isem, they arn’t going to fight you with swords or knives, and they don’t expect honor or recompense. No, Isemish Dueling is a show. You grab whatever is nearest to you, loudly and flashily fighting one another till someone calls it quits or you run out of booze. Isemish Duelists are prized entertainers in Isem. Of course, it can be quite a shock for an Isemish lad wandering Valguard getting challenged to a duel by a noble. You’re trying to break a bottle over his head for laughs and he’s trying to slice you in half with a two-foot long razor blade.

Creatures – Isem has the best animal traders and breeders in Cerin. Isemish warhorses and guard dogs are of the finest caliber, the strongest stock. Of course, if you don’t know enough about what you’re buying they’ll give you some half-trained mule or mewling pup, but if you want the best you have to go through them. Their exotic animals often end up in menageries, as most countries prefer to use horses and mules as beasts of burden. Grolm (lizard jumping-mount), Verdal (climbing-mount), Raken (flying-mount), To’raken (giant flying-mount), Serk (desert-swimming mount), Keltarin (desert-worm) are common sights in Isem, but the To’keltarin and a few other creatures are to large or too dangerous for any but the Bervans to handle and raise.

Mages – The great nation of Isem has no official mage college, but like almost every other profession in Isem, the have a guild and several guild chapter houses. When the local apothecary just doesn’t cut it, or the government owned spell-slingers cant be bothered, you call in the Mage Guild. Any service for a price and we do mean any. Want to spend a night with your favorite lovely that doesn’t even know you exist? Whether we charm her, craft a powerful illusion or just make a golem you can have that thing you’ve always dreamed on. All prices are non-negotiable and subject to illegality charges and other various tax related increases. For battle, for love, for protection or malediction the Mage Guild will take care of your every need, provided you’ve got the coin. Generally though, the creepy or unsavory jobs are given as punishments for wrongdoers or failures, leaving the real talent to do the important things.

Mercenaries – Since the Bervans harshly restrict the size of Isemish military forces, many young men and women wishing to take up the sword are driven to various Mercenary Groups or Raider Bands. The Bervans don’t take kindly to this, so most bands either move in small clusters or don’t stay within Isems borders often.

Thief Catchers – The great nation of Isem has no official law enforcement, but there are those who take up the call and use their native-born talents for stealth and guile to hunt those that would commit crimes. Thief catchers all share a common name, but share little bond besides the title. They are one of the few professions in Isem that has no guild, and generally attach themselves to some particular lord or another to maintain steady income. It’s not unheard of for several Thiefcatchers join efforts for a particularly difficult job, or at the very least share information with one another, its just not common. They’ll take any job anywhere for any person, but most need proof or the time to gather it before they’ll take someone in. Though theif catchers have no set uniform, they generally carry two non-lethal weapons (one of which is a sword-breaker) and one weapon suitable for deadlier combat.

The spirits above

No single religion is prominent in Isem. Along with everything else, religion is more or less anything goes. Good Gods, Bad Gods, the gods of the crazy people that talk to themselves, temple shrine and practice for each and every one have their place in Isem. The Isemish people have almost as many gods and ways to worship them as they do different kinds of ale. Well, almost as many.

How a trickster deals with war and battle

War? Are you joking? Somebody could get hurt doing that sort of thing. Skirmishes, however, should be over before the enemy has time to react, using the lay of the land, dangerous beasts or stealth and guile to take them out before they have the chance to be a threat. Be it range or magic or a knife in your back, surprise and trickery are the keys to the hall of champions. A battle avoided is almost as good as a battle won in the eyes of the Isemish. Combat is ugly, filthy, tiresome, and bad for business. See it before it sees you, get it over with, and get back to work. Honor and dignity are a fools dreams, bare your shimmering blade for all the world to see means the arrows find you sooner in the glare.

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