Pleasure is Truth
Ruler: Nerqahn above, Tarqahn below.
Example Names: Sujin Cahaya, Netra Katil, Udaya Eka, Rattana Talvar, Som Sanghani, Rada Bati, Kiet Vibawa, Rachane Batari, Nara Gaira, Metika Datala, Rudet Daggu, Saranyu Vangi
The island of Subin, once known as the Singing Isle, has been populated since the golden age of the Urul Imperium, home to human, Tamaa, and Oneiri alike. The histories of the island trace lineages back for millennium but while the seeds of the Subin culture were planted in the distant past, its current condition is the result of relatively recent events, including unification of rule under first the Tarqahns and then the Nerquahn.
Ecstatic: Priest chemists with access to a variety of mind and body altering drugs that grant altered states to themselves and their followers. Weird, trippy, consciousness modulators and spiritualists.
Rashasa: Sacred storytellers, courtesan priests, and physicians skilled in medicine who practice holistic healing methods. Intelligent and charming healers of both body and mind.
Subin is a large island located on the southwestern coast of the Aeldan continent. Subin benefits from generous climate, an abundance of natural resources, and relatively few threats. As a result of the wealth and safety of the island and the enduring remains of Urul infrastructure the people of Subin have ample time to pursue lavish, pleasure seeking lifestyles. To those outside of Subin it is often envied and derided in the same sentence, seen as a self-absorbed paradise wasted on the indulgent, though few recognize the effort that goes into this appearance. Subinese power comes primarily from its exotic and highly valued exports and has largely avoided the attention of larger powers due to its remoteness and the subtle maneuvering of its rulers. Subin has the largest single population of Tamaa in all of Aeldos.
Subin is ruled regionally by a figure known as the Nerqahn or Nera and locally by their chosen representatives the Tarqahn or Tarqa. The Nerqahn is a divinely chosen leader determined by occult ceremony once every thirty years or upon their death. By tradition and religious law Nera rule from the city of Subin and are treated as emissaries of the Ayr and granted absolute power to guide Subin, making them responsible for overseeing the defense and prosperity of the whole culture. They manage this through two primary mechanisms; edicts and the appointment of Tarqahn.
Tarqahn are regional lords personally chosen by the Nera. Often, but not always, from a prominent and wealthy family, the Tarqahn focus on specific cities, settlements, or roles as directed by the Nera and are expected to work with the Sects that make up the population of Subin.
Sects are local groupings organized beneath powerful, wealthy, or influential patrons. No sect may exist without the permission of the Nera and an officially designated patron, and each individual Sect is organized around some specific function; Religious sects around a particular interpretation of the edicts of the Libertine; Trade sects around specific vocations such as farming or metalworking; and personal sects around the personal power, charisma and influence of the patron themselves.
A unique aspect of Subin governance is the role beauty, sex, and addiction play as a result of widespread worship of the Libertine. At all levels ones fitness for their position is associated as much with their physical beauty as any skill and the concept of ‘loss of face’ is taken quite literally; patrons who age poorly, are disfigured, or who fall out of current fashion are readily abandoned and it is considered appropriate to choose subordinates and patrons based as much on their skill in the use of seduction, sex, intoxicants as any other meaningful or tangible skill.
Despite these potential structural limitations the Subinese leadership has proven adept at navigating the turmoil in the neighbouring culture of Nehep, using the crisis of its occupation by Ossandria to expand their influence via Ketha cults and infiltrators and plant seeds of control within Nehep using favorable trade policy.
As noted, Subinese culture places a high value on pleasure and the pursuit thereof and the culture is highly permissive and open, tolerating behaviour and indulgence that would be seen as problematic elsewhere.
One example of this is the widespread use of mind altering substances from psychotropics and dissociatives to sedatives and stimulants. The prevailing attitude towards such substances encourages their use and sees experimentation, experience, and the pleasure of others as a religious imperative and a moral good.
All forms of entertainment are also highly valued:
- Dance and acrobatics are highly refined, with Subinese physical performers considered the apex of skill across Aeldos and Subinese Tantisja and Ackrobates treated as celebrities.
- Storytelling and theatre is another valued endeavour with many patrons in constant competition to produce the most opulent, engrossing, or epic performance for the pleasure of the Nerqahn.
- Musicians from across Aeldos find Subin to be a welcoming home where their skills are often far better rewarded than in other locales.
To outsiders, Subinese behaviour can seem either relaxing and enthralling or indolent and narrow minded, and the experience of Subinese pressure to seek pleasure can be either liberating or alienating depending on viewpoint.
The cultural infatuation with pleasure has led to considerable stratification in Subinese society, with a lower class primarily composed of the wretched and addicted while the upper echelon is composed of the most beautiful, callous, and cunning.
The accurate reporting of history is not particularly valued in Subin; instead the Subinese prefer their histories ’embellished’ and the result is an unreliable historical record at best. What documents and evidence remain suggest that the modern Subinese are descended from the scattered survivors of the Urul cataclysm driven into the wild during the fall. The current capital city of Subin, built atop the skeleton of the first age Sige city of Subinar is said to have been depopulated by rampant illness and the city lay unoccupied for centuries. Humanity only reclaimed dominion over the ruins after multiple centuries spent avoiding them due to their residual stigma and new inhabitants; feral Tamaa. It wasn’t until the rise of Aiat Talvar, first Nerqahn, who it is claimed was ‘gifted the power of Aia’, that the Tamaa were restored and the rise of modern Subin began. The histories from after this period recount a litany of improbable or unverified events from titanic creatures crawling from the sea, to repelled invasions from mythical peoples and even encounters with the Ayr, with each tale shining some favorable light on the ruling Nerqahn of the period.
The people of Subin are well known for their hedonistic behaviour but what is less well understood is that much of their behaviour is enabled by labour saving first age relics, from the rare such as fertile spiral towers, intact rail carts, material reclamation devices, and largely functional desalinization systems, to more common features like working drainage and waterworks and intact orick roads. As a result the people of Subin enjoy excellent defensive, transportation, water and drainage, and agricultural infrastructure that significantly increases hygeine and reduces labour required to maintain the state. These features are what enable the Subinese to pursue ‘recreation’, in particular in the form of drugs.
Examples of common Subinese intoxicants include:
- Kaya, smoked as a ‘spiritual cleanser’
- Psilocybin mushrooms and Subinese Honey used for ‘expanding experience’
- Deroer and Hobrood used for elevating mood
- Resin, used as a euphoric and commonly paired with other recreational activities
- Ketha, used to trigger group disassociative hallucinations for religious experience
- Perspect, a euphoric stimulant used broadly and in some cases as an actual currency
As should be obvious, the Alchemists of Subin demonstrate masterful control over their creations and are capable of manipulating human and non-human biology with almost engineered precision and artistic grace.
Given the lack of stigma attached, few ever seek to leave their altered states. It is only through encounters with outsiders that most Subinese encounter the concepts of addiction or sobriety and even then, and despite the negative effects of many Subinese drugs, few choose to alter their behaviour and fewer still survive the the attempt. This is because the powerful drugs of Subin have a terrible cost for those who cease taking them. A typical Subinese experiencing true and full sobriety for the first time can expect a variety of awful withdrawal symptoms and most spend weeks or months swinging between suicidal catatonia and hysterical rage as a result.
One result of the Subinese fascination with biology, chemistry, and physical indulgence is an extremely robust knowledge of medicine. In addition to a robust knowledge of curative substances, Subin also has developed surgical, optical, dental and psychological knowledge, only exceeded by the city state of Selene. Some of the best known surgeons and doctors in Aeldos hail from Subin, including artist surgeons who can ‘enhance’ the physical features of their patients using a combination of deft surgery and skilled application of various drugs.
Subin lacks robust industrial capacity and instead operates primarily as an artisan craft-culture where most objects are made in small batches by individual or small cooperatives of skilled craftspeople. Subinese craft including pottery, paintings, glasswork, jewelery, sculpture and metalwork is highly focused on aesthetic and Subinese products are widely considered extremely beautiful and valuable and sought by collectors from across Aeldos.
As an island culture Subin maintains notable military, trade, and aquacultural fleets that secure its coastlines, deliver its goods abroad, and extract ample food from the mostly calm waters that surround the isle. Beyond this, they maintain only a small standing military which is only notable for two features:
- Alchemically Enhanced Soldiers: The use of alchemy is a key feature of the Subinese army and most soldiers utilize utilize powerful painkillers and hallucinogens to increase their ferocity, durability, and survival. Unfortunately this advantage is significantly undermined by limited numbers, low discipline, and poor coordination.
- The Ardea: While many Tamaa are content to revel in the general adulation and infatuation of the Subinese people, lavished with attention and gifts, some pursue more active roles as defenders of Subinese culture. The Ardea are Tamaa who specialize in war and combat, learning to use their natural resilience and Ayr-given abilities to make themselves dangerous adversaries of any who might threaten Subin.
Religiously, the people of Subin are predominantly Decarist, offering broad worship of the Ayr, but there is a significant portion who are devoted of the Libertine nee Deviant and who consider it the patron of both Subin and its Tamaa population. Many Subinese also share a belief in reincarnation that is found less frequently abroad.
While many a voluptuary dreams of reaching the Singing Isle, and the people of Subin are quite welcoming to outsiders (particularly those who bring stories of the world beyond the island), few travelers ever reach Subin. The journey is dangerous and requires crossing either the desiccating heat of the Scouring Sands and the crushing tumult of the southern seas and passage is prohibitively expensive.
Tamaa Integration: The Tamaa are a fundamental element of Subinese culture, acting in a variety of capacities as advisors, entertainers, and agents to the rulers, and wielding incredible power both directly and indirectly as a result. Between the value placed on their physical beauty and abilities, the value placed on their religious associations, and their potent abilities that trigger infatuation and addiction to those around them the influence of the Tamaa cannot be underestimated.
Welcoming: Subin welcomes any who abide by the Nerqahn’s edicts, including quasi-humans who are often shunned or attacked elsewhere. Obviously Tamaa and Oneiri find particularly warm welcomes but any quasi-human willing to serve a Tarqahn or powerful patron is apt to quickly rise to positions of considerable power.
Baths: The Subinese have a deep affection for public baths and every city has its own opulent public bathing area that acts as a communal hot spot for the citizenry.
Sex: As might be expected from a hedonic culture, Subinese people place few taboos on sex and are far more fluid regarding gender, intercourse, their interaction, and their roles in society. Sex in Subin is seen more as a mechanism for pleasure and the concept of monogamy is considered needlessly restrictive. A sexual invitation in Subin is roughly equivalent to an invitation to dance, drink, or share a meal elsewhere.
Tasp: The aspiration of Subinese culture is the device known as the Tasp, an rumored first age artefact said to grant total control over the pleasure centres of a target or users brain. Texts suggest this can be done overtly or covertly, allowing for subtle conditioning of targets and many Subinese propose that the device already exists and is in use, while others ceaselessly search for a working example or the mechanisms to recreate it.
Poison Maidens Known locally as Vishakanyas these are a uniquely Subinese political tool. These beautiful young women are treated regularly with rare toxins and poisons using first age technology and techniques. Initially maidens are given the ability to incapacitate or intoxicate their enemies but over several years their toxicity increases until they are possessed of a touch that can kill. These maidens are typically trained in secret and used as assassin-concubines to kill their enemies. Only a handful exist and all are said to be under the direct authority of the Nerqahn.
Hasbacks: Horses in Subin are rare, typically imported, and mostly the property of the wealthy. Instead, most trade and transport is conducted on foot or using large placid rodents known as Hasbacks. This highly social species is easily trained and can grow as large as a pony, and serve much the same purpose. Hasbacks are herbivores well known for their calm demeanour and good nature.
Gear: As an isolated nation with a cultural aversion to war and an affection for the aesthetic, Subinese armament tends to be beautiful but impractical. Most examples are elaborate and exquisite but difficult to maintain and less rugged than others. Subinese conflicts tend to occur at sea or on the coast where more practical defenses and weapons are employed, but even then the Subinese often utilize mercenaries to ensure victory. Subinese naval officers wear clever uniforms and rely on ranged weaponry but when pressed will fall back on Nehepi melee gear and armour. Subinese guards and the limited soldier class are frequently found wearing armour encrusted in adornment and equipped with thin and heavily embellished blades.
Pleasure, Exploration, Experimentation. The Subinese are true cyrenaic hedonists, connoisseurs of pleasure interested in the pursuit of all possible pleasures and the encouragement of others to do likewise.
Spices, Drugs, Pepper, Salt, Tobacco, Precious Gems, Alcohol