Monday, November 18, 2019

Hegemon - The Phoenix Empire of Berytos

J. M. W. Turner, Dido building Carthage, or The Rise of the Carthaginian Empire, 1815

I'm running a Godbound campaign based heavily on ancient civilizations and their mythology inspired by the wonderful lore of some nations of the Dominion series by Illwinter, my favorite fantasy MMOs, and the awesome creations of Kevin Crawford. The result of this mesh of ideas has been a blast at the table so far and my fledgling pantheon of would-be divinities is already interacting with big players in the region. One of the factions that is featuring heavily so far Berytos, the Phoenix Empire, so I thought I'd explain their vibe and flesh them out. 

Berytos is mainly flavored after the Phoenicians and other Mediterranean seafaring peoples. Think sea peoples of Canaan, Phoenicians and Carthaginian and the cities of Byblos, Tyros, Sidon, and Carthage as important sources. Picture Carthage's founding and the Ba'al worship of the Canaanites.  

Their gist is that they're a literal "phoenix empire" that was destroyed and reemerged as a conglomerate of numerous coastal city states. It is a now cultural melting pot influenced by several other key players along the Telkios Sea. 

A Punic gilded bronze cuirass from Ksour Essaf, 3rd-2nd century BCE. (Bardo National Museum, Tunisia)

The Risen Phoenix

Even the most meager of chronicles of Creation before the Last War recounts the tale of Telkhines, titanic storm demons whose great civilization of Therodos once ruled the waves. The Telkhines ruled over the peoples of the coast and there these slaves learned great lore both ancient and terrible. From the Telkhines these servants learned of exquisite shipbuilding techniques, how to tame the tumultuous seas of Creation, and supreme mastery over metals mundane and impossible. 

This changed when the Pantokrator, the One, during their construction of the Heavens and their taming of Creation, struck down Telkhines for their obsession with Stygian magicks and threatening to prolong the Age of Chaos. The One sundered their bastions, drowned their cities, and the Telkhines were either slain or imprisoned in the lowest circles of Hell. The great Kingdom of Therodos was cast beneath the waves. 

When divine punishment was meted out, the mortal survivors of the now lost kingdom fled. Lead across the angered sea by the Storm Callers, greatest disciples of the Telkhines, some escaped the judgement. Though their might couldn't endure the ravages of the Last War, the echoes of this enclave lived on. Armed with the knowledge of iron-crafting and the magical might of the newest generation of the honored Storm Callers, new colonies were founded on distant shores. Like a phoenix, the dying empire was reborn.  

Much has changed since then. After the shattering of Creation and with their Telkhine gods either dead or shackled in Hell, the humans sought divine leadership. They found the Melqarts of grand Hinnom. One of the colonies was situated near Ashdod and the bloody cult of the Melqarts soon spread through the Phoenix Empire. In the capital colony of Berytos, a great temple to the Melqarts was built, the Temple of Fire and Storms.

But soon another power found its way into the cult. Refugee Colossi, great men of the Machakan royal family, arrived in Berytos and established themselves as rulers of the bloody cult. Their sorceresses claimed divinity and called themselves Brides-in-Waiting. Now Berytos is a seafaring people led by sorcerer-queens from the great temple in Berytos. Since then Berytos has been an accomplished practitioner of war, acquiring new territories and resources, and safeguarding its vast trade network in the Telkios Sea. 

Slowly, the prophecies are being fulfilled. Melqarts of Hinnom have come to claim their brides and feast on the blood of sacrifices. Now in the grand city of Berytos, a terrible queen and a fell king rule.