Shorafa (The Lost Shorafi Empire)
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Ages before the modern-day realm of Vilzar came into existence, the Sea of Sand was ruled by an ancient and glorious civilization called Shorafa. The ancient desert people that built this fantastic empire were known as the Shorafi. The Shorafi Empire lasted in one form or another for 2,073 years. The famous Pharaohs of Shorafa were immensely powerful in both arcane and divine magic, and used those powers to build great pyramids and huge cities.

Sages disagree on exactly what happened to the Shorafi people, but long ago, their culture and their empire collapsed and very soon after, their cities were abandoned. The single greatest Shorafi city of Tanif was consumed by a terrible sandstorm, and the Shorafi city of An-Khara was abandoned for centuries until its ruins were taken over, rebuilt and greatly expanded by early nomadic tribes of Vilzari. Throughout the Sea of Sand, there are still many ruins and relic of the once-great Shorafi Empire; the earliest human empire known on the continent of Corwyn.

THE SHORAFA EMPIRE IS FOUNDED


The history of Ancient Shorafa is incredibly lengthy, as the desert empire existed in one form or another for over 2,000 years. Sages agree that the Empire was founded in the year 1077 of the Second Age by a Shorafi tribal leader known as An-Arak, but from there, details become a bit more complicated, and theories among sages and scholars vary. Unbeknownst to most, An-Arak himself was merely the pawn of a much greater power—a mysterious being that came out of the depths of the great desert and called himself Marzok. According to legend, upon their first fateful meeting. As soon as he first saw him, young An-Arak knew to trust—or at least to fear and respect the stranger. For Marzok’s skin was of an unnatural violet hue, and his eyes appeared to be made of solid gold, lacking both pupil and iris. He bore riches the fledgling tribal leader could scarcely fathom, and his entire being surged with both divine and arcane might. When An-Arak asked the stranger where he came from, Marzok responded in cryptic riddles, and when An-Arak asked the stranger what he was, Marzok only said, “I have come down from the Sun to be your God and King.” It was through Marzok, that An-Arak soon gained all of his magical powers, and so he heeded his newfound master’s wishes without question.

Marzok commanded that An-Arak keep the god-king’s identity a secret from his comrades, and he instructed him on the methods he should use to unite the warring Shorafi tribes spread across the Sea of Sand. With Marzok’s help, An-Arak showed his people the true meaning of power, by easily defeating all the other rival desert tribes and beating their leaders into submission. An-Arak’s success against his rival was due to only one factor. He channeled the divine powers of Marzok through his own body to destroy their armies. This terrifying display of magical power was more than enough to unite the Shorafi tribes under a common banner, and within 60 years, An-Arak founded his desert empire and named it “Shorafa.” He soon built the magnificent palace of K'Nar Marom in the city of An-Khara, named it his capitol and ordered the famous Scarab Throne to be built there. That throne would be the seat of Imperial Shorafi powers for the next two millennia.

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After assuming the Scarab Throne of Shorafa, An-Arak took for himself the title of “Pharaoh,” and became the first “God-King” of Shorafa. He called his lineage the Khufu Dynasty. Under the Pharaoh’s rule, the small city of An-Khara grew into a thriving metropolis along both banks of the Shorafa River, in no small part thanks to Marzok’s secret interventions. An-Arak eventually came to rely on Marzok for all matters pertaining to his fledgling empire, but after the city of An-Khara had become self-sustainable and An-Arak had grown old as its king, he found that his divine master had left him, and would no longer answer his summons.

Indeed, Marzok had somehow risen to divinity. To repay his new Sun-God for his deeds, Shorafa’s First Pharaoh commissioned construction of a magnificent temple dedicated to the All-Seeing Eye, solidifying Marzok’s godhood by installing him as Shorafa’s official patron and marking the beginning of the First Age of Shorafa. This great temple was built in the shape of a gigantic step-pyramid; covered in exquisite black marble that reflected the sun, and bearing runes and glyphs dedicated to Marzok. The temple pyramid was the site of many thousands of sacrifices to the Sun-God, and its vast inner chambers held looted treasures beyond imagination. The Shorafi called this pyramid the "Temple of the All-Seeing Eye." But after the fall of Shorafa, the pyramid was rebuilt, and re-named by its new Vilzari owners; it then became known as the "Pyramid of Velok."

AGE OF DESTINY; THE FIRST ERA OF SHORAFA


Legends say that from his otherworldly realm in the heavens, Marzok the Sun-God proudly gazed down upon the empire he had helped to fashion. It was through his hand that An-Arak’s daughter and royal successor; Quateeri; known as the Naga Pharaoh, rose to power in 1136/2. Through this scion, the Sun-God and his ‘All-Seeing Eye’ would let all men know the fickle power of magic. Marzok haunted the Naga Pharaoh with violent visions and nightmarish prophecies until the Sun-God instilled within her destructive rage that would nearly send the empire the Shorafi had created spiraling into oblivion. It was the first time Marzok’s temple would see destruction at the hands of one of his chosen leaders, who set the great monument afire in protest against her haunting visions.

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Thankfully for the fledgling empire, Marzok chose to take a more hands-off approach to the management of his empire in the coming centuries. After the Naga Pharaoh perished in the temple fire wrought by her own hands, the people of An-Khara rebuilt their temple to Marzok and his All-Seeing Eye, this time enlarging the glorious pyramid dedicated to their nation’s founder, Pharaoh An-Arak I, in hopes of cementing his place in history and supplanting the memory of his destructive successor’s. For several centuries, ambitious pharaohs ruled over An-Khara and commissioned the construction of countless new settlements and expansive tombs to their own honor, carving out their marks all over The Sea of Sand region and beyond in the form of titanic pyramids, monolithic spires, tall obelisks and sprawling underground crypts the size of small cities. Few rivals posed any significant threat to Shorafa during this time, and those that did were swiftly vanquished at the hands of the Empire’s mighty god-kings—pharaohs who adopted the term in reverence to their favored patron, Marzok. Their impact on the world around them could be felt even thousands of miles away, as was the case with Horak; called the Pharaoh of Forgotten Plagues, who with the help of his necromantic advisors; Ahriman and his demon-worshiping Usiji Cult, effectively brought about the defeat of Shorafa’s most powerful neighbor; Nimbor. Up until this time, Nimbor, too, had been a great power and Shorafa’s greatest rival.

The Pharaohs achieved this victory over Nimbor by unleashing the deadly Night Plague upon the Nimbori people and bringing the once-mighty nation of Female priests to its knees. Shortly after the defeat of Nimbor by Horak; the Pharaoh of Forgotten Plagues, his successor, Setirah; the Conquering Pharaoh made a bold choice. She then banished Ahriman and his Usiji Cult to the nigh-endless deserts to the west. Setirah then went on to defeat the Tekritian League, and greatly expand Shorafi territory.

With all its rivals defeated after a series of brilliant military campaigns, Shorafa reached the peak of its power by the end of the Second Age. By the Dawn of the Third Age, Shorafa controlled vast territories throughout the Sea of Sand, the Erehui Valley, and what is now Eldara. Shorafa also gained dominance over all six city-states of the Tekritian League which, during this time, were essentially reduced to a collection of servitor states controlled by Shorafa. With all rivals conquered or bullied into submission, Shorafi dominance spanned the Sea of Sand, south into Avokhar, and west across the Shining Sea.

At the same time Shorafa had its greatest military victories, it was also undergoing an equally important cultural transformation. The establishment of the city of Sekh; the city of Wisdom, heralded an unprecedented boom in the arts, technological advances, and cultural milestones, and an unprecedented building program began, leaving scattered monuments across the Empire that have endured to the present day. Other cities of Shorafa, later consumed by the desert were: Ostrum, Ak-Su Tamen, and Ta-Sheri.

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Unfortunately, the splendor of Shorafa’s First Era was not meant to last. In 299/3, the rule of the benevolent and wise An-Khemet; the Song Pharaoh, came to a bloody end on the blade of a dagger. That dagger was wielded by his assassin and successor Jeteeri; the Insatiable Pharaoh, who effectively ended all of national Shorafi prosperity the Song Pharaoh had instigated. Jeteeri was merely the first in a long line of cruel and decadent rulers, whose gluttonous appetites and dim-witted advisors contributed extensively to the empire’s decline. During Jeteeri’s reign from 299/3 to 335/3, she ordered his legions to raid no fewer than half a dozen of Shorafa’s previous emperors’ familial tombs, gaudily bedecking himself in all manner of pillaged jewels and throwing the mummified corpses of his forebears on massive pyres in the central plaza of An-Khara. Some sages believe that it was during Jeteeri’s reign that some of the first vengeful spirits of Shorafa’s deceased god-kings stirred awake and rose to un-death, angered at the hubris and dishonor of this new breed of pharaoh. When pharaoh Jeteeri’s body was found mutilated and bound to the tallest Obelisk in An-Khara one morning, few Shorafi were surprised at the slaughter, and it was only with great hesitation that Jeteeri’s eldest son; Azdari; the Cautious Pharaoh succeeded the Shorafi Scarab Throne.

Needless to say, the rule of Azdari was marked with markedly less arrogance than that of his father, but he was never able to recapture the glorious past of Shorafa. For more than a millennium afterward, Shorafa continued to decline. Successive pharaohs’ knowledge that their forefathers might be watching them in the forms of undead mummies and angered spirits did little to dissuade future generations of greedy rulers from their capricious ways. Instead, it only inspired a fatalistic ideology in pharaohs’ minds, causing them to think about their roles in the afterlife even more than they did their existences on the Material Plane. Shorafa’s pharaohs quickly became obsessed with the idea of life after death, as well as what station they would occupy in the Night Lands, after their spirits had left their mortal bodies.

Though all Shorafi pharaohs from this point on took great care to inscribe their tombs with messages to whatever spirits came to claim them and filled their burial chambers with heaps of accumulated wealth, perhaps none have left their mark so brazenly on Shorafi history as the infamous Unholy Pharaoh; An-Hepsul, who maintained his throne via well-hidden lich-dom for nearly 4 centuries, from 699-1075/3. It was under the foul lich’s rule that Shorafa reached its most decadent and unstable condition since the nation’s founding. It wouldn’t be long before a group of wise and powerful god-kings took the throne and brought prosperity to the desert empire once more. Eventually in 1075/3, The Eternal Pharaoh was overthrown by an alliance of four regional leaders, who later came to be known as the Four Pharaohs of Ascension, and the darkest days of Shorafa seemed at an end.

AGE OF THE BLACK SPHINX; THE SECOND ERA OF SHORAFA


By the late Third Age, Shorafa was in a truly dire state, as its people had been effectively split into four separate factions, each aligned to one of the four dynasties contending for ruler-ship of the empire. As the region stood on the brink of civil war, the main contenders of the dynasties struck a deal, and came to jointly rule Shorafa as the Four Pharaohs of Ascension in 742/3. Rightly paranoid of betrayal, the four made a powerful pact that sealed their fates together, ensuring that should any pharaoh betray the others, it would spell the downfall of all four of them. Under the rule of these four powerful god-kings: Hetshepsu; the Fiend Pharaoh; Hezeret; the Radiant Pharaoh; Anok-Fero; the Cerulean Pharaoh; and Renodi; Pharaoh of Numbers, Shorafa once again began to flourish and rose to a new state of prosperity, bringing about the nation’s Second Era, also known as the "Age of the Black Sphinx."

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Among their many accomplishments of the Four Pharaohs was the construction of the new city of Tanif in 802/3; by far the greatest of Shorafi cities. Tanif was so magnificent, it was soon named as Shorafa’s new capital. The Pharaohs of this era also managed to finally destroy the neighboring Tekritian League, which had served as a useful vassal nation in past centuries, but proved much more valuable when conquered and absorbed into the Shorafi Empire. Ever more magnificent monuments and tombs were built by the Pharaohs during this period, including the greatest of all; to Hakotep; the Sky-Pharaoh. The downfall of the Four Pharaohs however, brought about the end of the Age of the Black Sphinx, issuing in once again an era of decline overseen by self-righteous and incompetent pharaohs.

The conquered lands of the now-defunct Tekritian League fell into barbarism shortly after the pharaoh at that time, An-Keret, failed to replace the region’s assassinated governor in 270/4. So it was that, with little more than a whimper, Shorafa succumbed to its own hauteur and wastefulness once again. Shorafa was further weakened when it got itself involved in a deadly conflict with the neighboring southern nation of Sha'Dur called the War of Scorching Flame. This conflict dragged on for over 60 years and Shorafa was left bankrupt at its conclusion.

In 407/4, Shorafa felt the sting of its self-neglect most clearly when Nimbori operatives—seeing an opportunity to free their long enslaved realm of Nimbor from the grasp of the dying Empire—infiltrated the Shorafi royal palace and murdered the ruling Pharaoh Menedes III; and his entire family. Soon after his murder, Nimbori agents, working with cultists of the Dark-God; Karaash; then unleashed the terrible Plague of Madness upon the Shorafi people.

Over a period of twenty years, tens of thousands died, went mad and killed themselves, or went on murderous killing sprees. The empire devolved into competing factions; constantly at war with one another. The final blow came in the year 430 of the Fourth Age, when a gigantic sandstorm that lasted an entire year consumed the Shorafi capitol city of Tanif. With this catastrophe, along with the murder of the Last Pharaoh, the capitol city of An-Khara became abandoned and the Shorafi Empire completely collapsed into barbarism and warfare for the next 300 years.

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Because most of the lands that once composed Ancient Shorafa are covered in the ruin-burying sands of windswept deserts, both tombs and cities lie beneath them. The new civilization of Vilzar that took the place of Shorafa is nothing like its forebears, being greedy, brutal and prone to superstition.


FAMOUS PHARAOHS of the Khufu Dynasty: