Harkovast- the forum

harkovast at 12:53PM, Feb. 8, 2011
posts: 5,198
joined: 10-12-2008
Since one of them cropped up in the comic and (even though no one asked) I thought now would be a good time to talk about the Al-Saigal. (Besides which, I haven't added any new info on here for ages, so it is about time I set that right!)


The Al-Saigal have an appearance similar to tigers and have a culture stylistically based on medieval Islamic nations.
Their magical elements are fire and air.

The Al-Saigal hail from Jaydia, the continent to the north of Vellastrom. Here they are one of the four powerful nations that dominate that part of the world.
The land of their kingdom is hot and arid, bordered by the western ocean on one side and the great middle desert on the other.
Above all, the Al-Saigal are a people of faith, worshipping the war god Thane.
Their beliefs regarding Thane are rather different from those of the Darsai in Vellastrom. They consider Thane to be a singular being, with no wife (or any other relatives) and also consider physical depictions of him to be idolatry. Idolatry is considered a very serious sin amongst the Al-Saigal and extend to avoiding all pictures of people or living things in their art. Instead they favour elaborate abstract designs, patterns and calligraphy.
The rules by which the Al-Saigal are laid out in the Seven Tomes of Immaculate Law, which are considered the divinely mandated word of Thane. These sacred texts lay out a life style of piety, cleanliness, self discipline and the virtue of martial prowess in the holy cause of Thane.
Outsiders often find the Al-Saigal life style to be oppressive and joyless. The Al-Saigal have strict dietary laws regarding what they can eat, are banned from alcohol, yowboo or any other recreational drugs, prohibited from premarital sex, and prohibited from art that represents living things or music that is about anything other than the veneration of Thane.
However, to the Al-Saigal this is simply the moral way to live ones life.
Hedonism and giving in to base urges is the type of filthy behaviour that might be expected from foreigners, but a clean, honourably people are above such things.
Living amongst the Al-Saigal can be difficult to outsiders, as they are easily offended by anyone disrespecting or breaking any of their religious laws. However, they also have a strong tradition of hospitality. A guest of an Al-Saigal is under his hosts protection, with Al-Saigal even going so far as to endanger their lives to protect someone that is staying under their roof.
The Al-Saigal are, like the Darsai, a warrior people and much of the power in their nation rests with their elite warrior caste- The Sipahis.
These men are the social equivalent of the Darsai knights, being feudal warriors, granted the income from a section of land in exchange for their military service and loyalty.
In battle they make use of bows fired from the saddle as their primary weapon, their arrows enhanced by magic to fly further and faster and to burn the flesh of those they strike a searing heat. The Sipahis as highly mobile and extremely lethal in battle, unleashing volleys as they gallop by, skilfully wheeling away to avoid any counter attack. Though the bow is their primary weapon, they will also make use of the scimitar or lance, especially for running down enemy archers or charging an enemy already weakened by their projectiles.
Sipahi steeds are a combination of Suss birds (fierce and brave, but expensive in Jaydia and poorly suited to the hot, dry climate) and Hanups (slower and more timid, but far cheaper and much more hardy under the desert sun.)
The Sipahis owe allegiance to the Sultan, who is the monarch and hereditary ruler of the Al-Saigal. The Sultans are believed to be descendants of the first prophets of Thane, who brought enlightenment to their people in ancient times.

Al-Saigal society makes a strong distinction between men and women.
Men's roles are working, fighting and leading, while women should remain in the home, raising children and caring for their mans needs.
The Al-Saigal believe their society treats women with proper respect, venerating them, protecting them and not encouraging them to behave like whores as the women in other parts of the world do.
It is considered inappropriate for Al-Saigal women to show their ears or faces in public, and out in more rural areas this even goes so far as to mandate they dress in all covering robes and hoods.
It is generally considered taboo for a woman to travel outside of her home alone or in the company of any male who is not a direct relative or her husband.
Al-Saigal consider homosexuality to be an abhorrent sin, and it carries the death penalty. The same applies to other sexual misconducts, such as adultery or premarital sex.
In the case of a man raping a woman, the man would be put to death if the woman was married, as would the woman (both being punished for adultery.) If the woman was not married, the man can avoid a death sentence if he makes a payment to the woman's father and agrees to marry her.
Obviously, the role of the Sultan, the positions in his government and the rank of Sipahi are open only to men.

The Al-Saigal have no tolerance for slavery, and are notable for taking no part in the slave trade that dominates much of Jaydia's economy.
This goes so far as to not allow ships transporting slaves to dock in their harbours and any slave brought into their lands will be immediately freed as soon as their situation This is often a symbolic gesture, as the freed slave, with no where to go and no source of income, will often be forced to return to their masters.
However the Al-Saigal are not welcoming of run away slaves trying to escape into their country, as they do not desire an influx of pagan foreigners putting a burden on their society, and generally do their best to discourage, if not outright ban this practice.

The Al-Saigal nation is large and powerful, with a very sophisticated system of government, economy and infrastructure, having made great strides in areas such as medicine, astronomy and mathematics that are beyond anything seen in Vellastrom.
Its people are intolerant of others ideas and their attitude to foreign nations is mistrustful and often aggressive, but they are also hardy, brave and pious, with clear morals that they rarely compromise even in the face of death,

For more Harkovast related goings on, go to the Harkovast Forum
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:18AM
Canuovea at 7:53PM, Feb. 21, 2011
posts: 287
joined: 6-25-2010
I've had an interesting thought, which carries on from the idea raised in the LOTM thread.

Some could say that the use of a culture “similar” to medieval Islamic nations can be seen as denigrating Islam if the Al-Saigal prove to be shown as “villains” as the one appearing in the comic was. Now, this can be said for any culture represented in the comic.

Personally, I don't think this is the case as all. I like how the separate cultures have been handled and I think their interaction and style are marvelous.

What I find curious is not the similarities between the Al-Saigal and medieval (good to point the medieval part out) Islamic nations, but rather the differences.

So, what differences have you made between the two and why? I could pick some out, but I'm curious about what you think are the important ones.
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:18AM
harkovast at 5:33AM, Feb. 22, 2011
posts: 5,198
joined: 10-12-2008
Oooh I dunno.
I didn't really think of them in terms of how they differ from real medieval islamic culture, I looked at it more in terms of what aspects of that culture were interesting and unique and how would I want to include them.
One clear example I can give is that the rule regarding paying a father if you rape his daughter and then marrying her is not from Islam. That is actually a law laid down in the bible (in Deuteronomy). I thought it was such a strange and (to me) alien way to deal with rape that I wanted to include it, to demonstrate their different view of gender relations.

The reason you might feel a bit weird about the Al-Saigal in a way you don't with regard to the other races in Harkovast is because insulting or mocking Islam has been a big deal in the news lately (teddy bears called Mohamed etc).
Now if you look at it, the Tsung-Dao culture borrows concepts from Buddhism (seeking enlightenment, reincarnation etc) but no one has said “Hay, might that be seen as insulting Buddhists?” This says more about the sensitivities of our own society than those in Harkovast.
Lots of the religions in Harkovast are inspired by elements of real world religions, why would I over look one of the largest religions in the world when doing that?

The depiction of the Al-Saigal in the above description is pretty neutral in tone.
I am not trying to sell them to you as wonderful, or criticise them for being evil.
They have elements in their society that to modern sensibilities might seem bad, but so do all cultures in Harkovast.
Take the Darsai- the medieval western europe culture.
They are war like, worshipping a god of war and living under a feudal system of government. Those are definitely NOT what I would call positive traits or things I would like in my own society.

The Al-Saigal have a lot going for them as well- they are brave, clean, honest and their society is more advanced than anything the Darsai have come up with.
When Ishagra was saying in Harkovast that she wanted to go back to civilisation she really meant it! Most of Vellastrom seemed pretty backwards and chaotic compared to where she was coming from.

Ishagra was a bad guy, but that was just because she was a mercenary, not because she was Al-Saigal. Her religion or culture didn't really feature in why she was in the wrong.
By the same logic, we have only seen two Golta so far (the most American inspired culture) who are the LEADERS of these mercenaries who are bringing in weapons in order to help the Heretic over throw the Tsung-Dao government (All just so they can get paid!)
Now one could leap in at this point and say Harkovast is meant to be anti American.
The person saying this would be an idiot, but they could make the case more than they could that the Al-Saigal are insulting Islam.

Later on the story absolutely WILL feature good Al-Saigal and good Golta, but due to the nature of the story I cant have good and bad examples of races show up right at the same time (we have also yet to see a good Junlock! A race who were at one point described by a character as “monsters without any culture or religion of their own!” Am I commiting blood liable against the ancient gauls?)Sometimes you have to wait for the balance of the depiction to be restored, but with the exception of the Nameless (who are more of an absence of culture) and the Knarl Empire, I dont really intend to depict any culture as being right or wrong. They just are what they are. Its really up to the reader to determine which of them he or she agrees with.

Two key points I want to get across-
1- The Al Saigal are NOT muslims.
Their religion and culture are inspired by elements and concepts from medieval islamic society, but unless you think Muslims have 7 holy books and worship the war god Thane, then they are definitely not Muslim. Because of this, some elements of their culture will probably be nothing like Islam at all.
In the same way, the Darsai are in many ways nothing like Medieval Europe and the Golta are wildly different from real colonial America, medieval Islam is just a starting point for ideas.

2- The Al-Saigal draw on a medieval society for inspiration.
If the Al-Saigal are a statement on modern Islam, would that make the Darsai a statement on modern europe? Or the Nymus a statement on modern greece? The society they are based on has not been around for hundreds of years, though elements of it may still exist.

Historical Islamic societies are a rich and fascinating source of ideas for this kind of world building and (Thane willing) I will be happy to continue to mine them for concepts.

For more Harkovast related goings on, go to the Harkovast Forum
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:18AM
Canuovea at 2:29PM, Feb. 22, 2011
posts: 287
joined: 6-25-2010
Ah, so you slipped some ancient Jewish law in there too! Clever, clever… Did you know, people make so much fuss about the 10 commandments, but it turns out that there are far more commandments in the Torah (Old testament, whatever we wanna call it, but Torah is shorter), around 300 of them? And then there is the Talmud as well? I didn't know that until last winter.

Now Hark. I've got Roman blood, and I swear, if the Ivos aren't portrayed in a positive light I'm going to get all offended… Just kidding.

I know that Harkovast generally borrows interesting stuff generously (as it should), and I have no problem with Islam being used as one of the sources. I'm not Islamic though, so I suppose my opinion on the matter can't be entirely trusted. Though I must say, I found that Teddy Bear thing to be hilarious. I can be somewhat callous sometimes it seems. I just can't understand the fuss, I'm too different in thought I suppose.

I remember when I saw the Tsung-Dao I thought “China!” Then I saw more and thought “Japan!” There really are bits and pieces from everywhere, yet I didn't think “Buddhist!” I had my brain looking for ethnic basis, not religious ones. But for the Al-Saigal I thought “Islam!” not “Arabs!” Odd.

So, I wonder how much the religion has to do with cultural identity in Harkovast? I bet they are pretty linked, but Al-Saigal worship Thane, though a slightly different Thane then the Darsai, and they are different culturally and have a different set of elements (though fire is still there). I am curious, could a person change religion but keep their other practices, or vice versa? What would happen if a Darsai still believed in and worshiped Thane but behaved like a Tsung-Dao or Nymus in other ways?

What other religious influences are we going to see here? Manicheanism? Is anyone Atheist or Agnostic? (actually I think there might have been one of those, but I can't recall it at the moment!)
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:18AM
harkovast at 3:23PM, Feb. 22, 2011
posts: 5,198
joined: 10-12-2008
There are a few atheist/agnostic societies (three I can think of off the top of my head.)
The Tolpish stopped worshipping their gods due to the great many hardships that befell them leading them to decide their gods were useless, plus the influence of the Knarl Empire on them.
The Knarl themselves don't have any gods either.
The Wu-Yao don't consider it proper to worshipping anything, and that a man should be his own master.
The Levengroust considered it offensive to talk about the afterlife and were instead focused on the power and advancement of The Reich.

(There is a load of info that wont mean anything to anyone for about a million years!)

Generally speaking magic and culture are pretty closely tied, so it would be hard to follow another religion while sticking to the culture and magic.
You really cant half ass it when it comes to adopting a different culture and trying to learn its magic.
Tsung-Dao are more Japanese than Chinese (The White Kingdom is more Chinese) but as you say its not an exact cultural fit. There are plenty of concepts they have that are not from Japan or simply fantastical and made up.

For more Harkovast related goings on, go to the Harkovast Forum
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:18AM
Renard at 7:04PM, Feb. 23, 2011
posts: 102
joined: 1-11-2010
The Reich?

Suddenly I'm picturing Sir Muir going mano a mano with a Panzer.
Sweat save blood, blood saves lives, and brains save both. -Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:18AM
Canuovea at 1:09AM, Feb. 24, 2011
posts: 287
joined: 6-25-2010
Well, Panzer means Tiger, right?

And the Al-Saigal are Tigers, right?

So maybe you'll get your wish!

(Okay, even I know I'm being stupid)

And it kinda is sad that every time the word “Reich” Pops up the third one totally overshadows one and two.

Actually the Levengroust sound similar to the Golta, except the Golta aren't so much concerned with expansion, just paranoid defense. The Golta almost seem Stalinist actually, hmm. Seems like many groups decide to invest all their energy into the wellbeing/power of their state/polity! But I'm pretty sure thats just what things seem like, not necessarily what they are.

Another question, is there a certain culture/people that doesn't actually have a state of their own and are stuck wandering around in other people's lands? Kinda like how the Jews were scattered about? That could throw a wrench into the pretty divisions on the map!
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:18AM
harkovast at 3:47AM, Feb. 24, 2011
posts: 5,198
joined: 10-12-2008
There are a couple that are more mobile.
The Xateem are nomads that roam the deserts of Jaydia and have no fixed location.
The hordes of the Dol-Kim roam around the White Kingdom, waging war on pretty much everyone else.

Most of the others are fairly stationairy. There are nomadic tribes of the Ano-Chee but they still remain without in their own terriroty, they just dont have permanent settlements within it.

I should point out that Reich means empire in german (not nazi germany…and certianly not panzer tanks!) The Levengroust's leader was known as the Kaiser, so you can probably figure out a few things about their culture right there.
Funny someone sould compare them to the Golta, as they did have a few things in common (Most noticiably, the Levengroust used Technology Magic, though they combiend it with Death rather than Fire.)

I need to add the Levengroust (along with quite a few others) onto the “all the races and their magic chart” as its looking a bit incomplete now!

For more Harkovast related goings on, go to the Harkovast Forum
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:18AM

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