The region, Haddán, is an equatorial collection of sophisticated autonomous city-states on the strip of costal land west of the Kelarh Mountains, dominated by a hereditary aristocratic caste called the jédayk. Each city is nominally ruled by a gálul jédayk, a High Prince. The people of Haddan are called the Hadn or Haddanái, and the common tongue among the cities is a’Hadnai, simply ‘the language of the Hadn.’ The written language is called a’Gheza, a graceful syllabic script highly evolved from the old Masanáni pictographs, the oldest form of writing in this part of Surátha.
There are eleven major Haddanái cities, primarily strung out along the coast with a few clustered around the river Hadd and its many tributaries. On the other side of the mountains lies the Qad or a’Fal desert, a vast expanse of sandy waste populated only by the scattered Falkaydn tribes; barbarous, illiterate nomads who eke out a meager existence on scrub and lichen and speak the crude dilaect of a’Falái, unintelligible to the ear of civilized peoples.
To the south lie the enigmatic Kingdoms of Gold and Ivory, nestled in tropical jungles. On its northrn coast is a fertle area occuplied by the Holy Kingdom of Ar-Knest, ruled by a God-King and peopled by a folk even more insular than the Hadn.
The religious life of the Eleven Cities revolves around a trinity; the Sun God Ílraj, his wife Hadda the Sea-Mother, and his sister and occasional lover Áresti, the Goddess of Night and Opulence. Various barbarian deities are worshipped by foreigners in the port cities, but these are deeply marginalized and frequently the subject of persecution. Minai the Moon-Goddess, daughter of Ilraj and Aresti, is known and is considered marginally acceptable, but she has no organized church except among outsiders. In most parts of the region, the Temple of Áresti is the most powerful and popular. The priesthood is regarded as an honorable pursuit for all castes, even the nobility, although the highborn are often inclined to dismiss such things as a sop for the masses. Among the higher castes women gravitate toward the Temples more than men, but there is no caste of priests; those within a Temple hierarchy retain their birth caste, and the chain of command in each Temple reflects this.
Culturally, the Hadn are very insular; the Principalities are an epicenter of high culture, and foreigners are barbarians regarded with idle curiosity at best. Society has a deeply-rooted caste structure, with the noble jedayk caste in the dominant position. The jedayk originated as a priestly class within the faith of Ilraj but has evolved in a primarily secular aristocratic direction, and there is no longer any assumption of religious affiliation attached to that station. Members of the Hadn warrior caste are skilled riders; only peasant chaff would fight on foot. Horsemanship, archery and swordsmanship are considered honorable pursuits in sport or war. The merchant caste, below the warriors, is made of traders and craftsmen, and makes up a substantial part of the city population. Of all the merchant subcastes, the Constables, Salters and Horsetenders are the best-connected, if not technically the highest. Beneath the merchants lie the peasant (or worker) caste, subservient to all except the casteless, who may be treated as property. Both the merchant and peasant castes are divided into many specialized subcastes; the higher castes are not so divided. The slave population is not very high, as persons may only be enslaved judicially; no one may sell themselves into slavery, and there is no powerful slave trade bringing chattel in from foreign lands. Performing tasks outside the purview of one’s caste is not strictly forbidden, but it makes one unclean, after which one must be purified at a shrine of Hadda, or by bathing in the Great River itself. In general terms the noble and warrior castes are considered the higher classes, merchants and peasants the lower.
Laws are in theory discussed and refined by the noble caste and submitted to the authority of the Prince for review and approval, after which they take effect. In practice the power of individual Princes is sometimes limited, while in other cases a forceful Prince can enact laws against the will of the noble caste.
Justice is administered by Magistrates selected by the Princes from the warrior caste; punishments are typically harsh, with imprisonment, torture, branding or mutilation even for minor crimes, enslavement for serious offenses, and for the most severe crimes the penalty is death by strangulation, with beheading reserved for those of the warrior caste (and the occasional Prince.) For members of the warrior and princely castes, death is the only sentence administered; minor crimes are typically overlooked, and lesser penalties are seen as deeply dishonorable for both the criminal and the presiding magistrate. Prisoners, and sometimes slaves, are often worked to death in the vast salt mines near Jarhaddi, or set to tasks ensuring a similarly short lifespan.
Within the confines of the caste structure, gender roles are relatively fluid (women born into the warrior caste often become warriors,) and within the broad merchant and peasant classes there is an ability to move between subcastes, all of which are technically regarded as equal in station. There is also a process called saukaytn by which a member of the warrior caste can be permanently adopted into the jedayk, including the spouse and progeny of the one so honored, but the practice is administered with the assent of the Temple of Ilraj and is thus rarely done. The ideology behind the caste system is primarily religious, and dates from the time when Ilraj was the dominant deity of the region; even today, the Sun Temple is a staunch supporter of the caste tradition to the point of being somewhat more reactionary than the general population, even to disallowing members of the lower caste into their priesthood, a practice which has resulted in dwindling Temple attendance despite strong connections with the highborn.
Marriage between castes is a cause of scandal for those of higher station, and typically results in the ‘exile’ of both parties from the Temple of Ilraj, but if they are adherents of Aresti or Hadda this is of little consequence. Children of such a union are born into the caste of the mother.
Literacy is very high among the noble and warrior castes, and common even among the merchants; the Hadn have a strong tradition of learning and education, although these things are considered above the station of the peasant caste. Medicine, metallurgy and astronomy are especially advanced in the region, although practitioners of the latter are often suspected of ties to the forbidden faith of Kurayt, the outcaste half-brother of Aresti, who is Lord of those things that hide unseen in the darkness.
Foreigners are typically regarded with suspicion. Two foreign groups have established themselves in Haddan, however; the Malhaddish Spice Company, an outland trading conglomerate which has bought acceptance with the liberal distribution of coin, and the recently-arrived Selurean Embassy, initially met with hostility until it was realized that they were moon-worshippers and thus marginally enlightened (if a bit thick.)