The Empire of Akan
It is believed that the god of Akan, named Olgi, the supreme god who rules over the heavens and the earth. It is believed that many centuries ago that Olgi descended from the heavens and gave Akan, a great hero and priest, divine revelations and sacred laws. The divine revelations - the Shirmeh - were given to Akan on tablets of silver, while the sacred laws - the Akseh - were given on tablets of gold. The revelations were only to be shown to the priests of Olgi and the laws were to be shown to and obeyed by the whole world. Akan is the father of the Akan-Ji, the people of Akan, and all emperors (called Orhan) of Akan are thought to be direct descendants of Akan.
There are numerous sacred laws, some of which are obeyed more than others as current culture and practicality dictates. Many of the Akseh are laws regarding crimes and punishments, most crimes in Akan are punished with forced labor for the state - essentially public service - often resulting in a life of slavery for severe crimes. There are also laws concerning holy days, cleanliness, honor, duty, and attitude towards non-believers. In theory, one is allowed to believe in gods other than Olgi and still be considered a worshiper - as long as you venerate Olgi first and foremost, essentially considering the other deities to be kinds of angels or non-omnipotent supernatural beings. Usually though, believing in other gods is looked at as uncivilized and superstitious.
According to the Akseh, pious worshipers of Olgi are not to have financial dealings with non-believers, called bashi. This law is very frequently ignored by most of the populace, it still makes life difficult for many nonbelievers living within the empire. The penalties for crimes committed against non-believers are less severe than those committed against believers. Also, only non-believers can be slaves - it is illegal to enslave a follower of Olgi. In theory, according to the sacred laws, the conversion of non-believers is highly desirable and should be easy. In practice, because slavery is such a huge part of the economy, official conversions have become a long and lengthy process usually available only to free people. Generations of slaves have been born, lived, and died with Orhanek Akan as followers of Olgi whose faith were not recognized because it would mean that they would have to be freed from their bondage. To convert to the worship of Olgi requires a special ritual called the deshiv, this is usually undergone by the children of free Akan-Ji on their 10th birthday but for converting bashi it can be done at any age. When children undergo the deshiv it is seen as a right of passage commemorating their young adulthood - it is also the minimum age of marriage. Temples usually charge a hefty some for performing a deshiv ritual, its not uncommon for financially struggling Akan-Ji to deny their children the deshiv so that they may be sold into slavery.
Believers in Olgi must maintain ritual cleanliness if they are to be worthy in the eyes of Olgi. This includes obeying a number of laws, all outlined in the Akseh. A man must bath after having touched a woman before he can attend church or a religion ceremony, particularly if he has had intercourse with her. Women on their menstrual cycles are not allowed to touch food that is to be consumed by other people nor to touch others if they can avoid it. Goats are dirty animals and their meat is tainted - because they eat garbage - thus one should never touch a goat or consume its flesh or milk. Cats are likewise dirty because they lick themselves clean and have thus consumed filth. Touching raw meat is unclean and requires a ritual cleansing of the afflicted body part. One must never consume meat which is more than three days dead even if it is preserved nor must one ever drink milk that is more than a day old - cheese and yogurt are considered disgusting abominations. Unclean jobs - such as those dealing with waste, garbage, dead bodies or animals, cleaning, or fecal material - are done by slaves or other non-believers.
Homosexuality among men is accepted among the Akan-Ji, especially respected is the relationship between a hulan (a teacher and mentor to young boys) and his student. Men may have male sex slaves in addition to wives and concubines. These male sex slaves are called kosemi. Even male slaves are allowed to take other male slaves as lovers, though female companionship is denied to them - if, of course, they have time despite their labors. It is common practice for pirates and sailors to take young slave boys aboard their ships for the use of sex, women are considered too weak to endure the sea voyages. Female homosexuality is frowned upon among the Akan-Ji, in fact female sexuality of any kind is seen as vile and sinful. To the Akan-Ji, a woman should submit to her husband or master's desires, but to have sexual desires of her own means that she will cheat on her master and thus is a dangerous and immoral woman.
The Akan-Ji believe that the afterlife consists of becoming one with Olgi, essentially one's consciousness is subsumed into that of Olgi and becomes all knowing, all powerful, and eternal. The self is preserved and yet expanded to include the infinite and all things will be known and all great experiences felt forever in a bliss that is beyond human comprehension. Nonbelievers, the bashi, are reborn as infants, given another chance to worship Ogli in the next life - Olgi is truly merciful. Those nonbelievers who have good hearts and gave of themselves for others, may be granted a deshiv posthumously, becoming one with Olgi in the afterlife. All zirli, slave warriors, who die in battle receive a posthumous deshiv if they die in battle - which is one reason they fight with such courage.
When one of the Akan-Ji dies, a ritualized funeral is usually held for the dead, sometimes a mass funeral is held after a battle. The funeral is meant to represent a kind of celebration as the Akan-Ji becomes one with Olgi, and the presiding priest emphasizes that the bereaved should be happy for their lost loved one. Bodies are usually buried in the ground or thrown into the sea at the end of the funeral - there are no tombs, gravestones, or markers to commemorate the dead. For slaves there is no formalized ritual unless it is a posthumous deshiv, more those who cared about the slave merely share a moment of silence and say a few words in remembrance before disposing of the slave's body. Male and female funerals are essentially the same aside from a few minor details, though the funerals of nobles involve far more pomp and circumstance than those of commoners and the funeral of an Orhan is cause for a nation wide funeral day.
The Akan-Ji believe in astrology and think that the future can be seen in the stars. Many eunuch scholars dedicate themselves to the study of the star's movement through the sky as well as the motion of planets. It was the Akan-Ji who were the first people known to have discovered that it is the earth that orbits the sun. All nobility within Orhanek Akan receive a highly detailed horoscope at the time of their birth which often guide their choices through life. Akan-Ji across the empire routinely consult astrologers for information of various kinds - both personal and global.
Mysticism outside of the realm of formal worship of Olgi and astrology is despised among the Akan-Ji. Practicing magic is a crime that is punished by no less than 10 years of imprisonment and harsh forced labor. It is believed that evil spirits called baylik haunt the world and can be summoned and bargained with by unscrupulous people, to do so is one of the worst sins - it is punished by execution. The practice of other religions aside from the worship of Olgi is frowned upon but tolerated among foreign nationals, conquered peoples, and slaves - though usually to become a truely free citizen of Orhanek Akan these people must cast off their primitive superstitions and accept Olgi.
The Caste System
Four is the sacred number of Olgi, for there are four divine revelations of Olgi, there are four cardinal directions, four seasons, four fundamental elements (light, metal, water, and breath), and four ages of the earth. Then it is only reasonable that the Akan-Ji, the people of Akan, are divided into four different castes, with each caste divided into four categories.
The largest caste is the chesi, women. The liri are wives to free men, it is their duty to give birth to commoners. The lani are slave girls, who are kept by noble men as servants and concubines, they are mere property and their children become slaves as well. Mai are noble women, the wives of the great and powerful, it is only they who can give birth to nobility. The last and most esteemed class of chesi are the omi - wives of the emperor, it is they alone who can give birth to a future emperor and thus are respected above all other women. A woman's caste is based on that of her father until she marries, then it is that of her husband.
The second largest class are the slaves, called the sebisi. The lowest of the sebisi are the fengu, the worker slaves. Fengu do much of the manual labor in Orhanek Akan, they toil for hours in the hot sun, row aboard Akan-Ji galleys, or quarry rocks for Akan-Ji public buildings. They tend to live short and unpleasant lives. Kunni are eunuchs, they serve the nobility as scholars, bureaucrats, and harem guards. Kosemi are male sex slaves. The last category of slaves are the zirli. A zirli is an elite warrior slave, taken as a small child and given intense training, they are among Orhanek Akan's most feared soldiers.
The third largest caste are the jebiji, common men. A azab is a peasant laborer, a farmer or craftsman who is not a slave but who pays rent to a land owning noble, they are much like a serf in many ways, a slight step above a slave. A sekbani is a warrior commoner, much like a mercenary who receives wages for fighting in a battle. A nizami is a merchant, the upper-middle class of the Akan-Ji, they own businesses or caravans and play a major role in maintaining trade in the empire. Timari are privateers, pirates, and sea traders - they also take a major role in capturing new slaves by raiding foreign villages.
The fourth caste are the solaki, the nobility. The sipathi are noble warriors, the flower of the Akan-Ji military and the most feared men in all of Orhanek Akan. The muradi are the priests of the Akan-Ji, the only people aside from the Orhan who are allowed to gaze upon the Shirmeh and to interpret its wisdom. The yiri are politicians, governors, administrators, and bureaucrats - they rule in the Orhan's place when he is too busy to be bothered. Finally there is the greatest of nobles, the Orhan himself, the absolute ruler of all of the Akan-Ji, high priest of Olgi and emperor of Orhanek Akan.
For the most part, a male Akan-Ji's place in the caste system is determined from birth or soon after. A deshiv can change the caste of a slave to that of an azab, while only the Orhan himself may change elevate a jebiji to a solaki. Technically, to change sub-castes requires the permission of the Orhan, though usually such permission is granted by bureaucrats in the service of the Orhan for a fee. There are different ranks within the sub-castes as well, though going into that much detail is a bit beyond the overview provided here.
Only free men, commoners or nobility, are allowed to have wives. Slave men are allowed no wives, though they may engage in homosexual activity which is not considered taboo. Common men are allowed to only have a single wife though they may have lani concubines if they can afford them, the wealthiest commoners may have a wife and many lani and the poorest often have neither. The nobility are allowed to have four wives each but may also have concubines based on their rank and wealth, it is not uncommon for a noble to have hundreds of concubines. The Orhan also may have four wives, but is likely to have thousands of concubines. Generally only the children of a man's wife will rise to their father's station, .
A woman in Orhanek Akan is essentially the property of her father or husband for her entire life. An Akan-Ji must buy his wife from her father or owner, usually for the price of a horse, and she must be obedient to him in every way. Akan-Ji women are also not allowed to learn to read, to speak in a church, to earn money in any form of profession, to leave the house unattended by a husband or male relative, or even to speak to a man without being spoken to first. While an Akan-Ji is not allowed to kill his own wife, he may beat her if she disobeys him or force himself upon her if she does not fulfill her sexual responsibilities. If a woman is raped by one other than her husband or owner, she is considered to be defiled and should be divorced by her husband for him to maintain his honor, though the crime is often not reported so that the woman and her family will be spared the shame and humiliation. One of the worst fates that can befall an Akan-Ji woman is divorce, where she is cast out without any possessions or future - a divorced women is not allowed to remarry or even to work, she must survive by begging in the streets, prostitution, or through other illicit activity.
At the age of twelve, young Akan-Ji commoners and nobility alike are sent off to learn a trade. The young boys, called belili, are adopted by an adult man who is responsible for teaching the boy in the ways of life including the proper way to fulfill his caste duties, this experience lasts for four years for commoners and eight years for nobility. This teacher, called a hulan, is usually of the same caste as the boy's father, though it isn't always that way. For commoners, this arrangement usually involves an apprenticeship. For nobility it may require that the father pay for special training for the belili including potentially a formal education by tutors as well as the hulan's other expenses. While the belili is under the tutelage of the hulan, the hulan will typically have sex with the boy, which is not frowned upon and is considered natural and even part of the education.
Muradi, priests, are generally the lowest ranking nobility. Nobles have many children by their four wives, and the majority of these children will become muradi. Muradi receive very little of their father's inheritance, only enough oney for the basic vestments of the clergy and a tutelage under a muradi hulan. Each town in Orhanek Akan, even tiny villages, will have at least one temple to Olgi, and every church will have at least one muradi. The muradi must conduct a prayer ritual each day at noon, when the sun is highest in the sky. The muradi is also responsible for blessing the sick, interpreting religious law, and teaching people about the greatest of Olgi and his representation on earth the Orhan. Koray muradi are high priests and are in direct service to the Orhan. They read and interpret the Shirmeh and Akseh and then help the Orhan make laws regarding the proper practice of the faith. The koray muradi are often the children of the Orhan himself.
The sub-caste of slaves are chosen by their masters, usually near adolescence when the master can possibly predict what talents the slave might have. Most male slaves who don't particularly distinguish themselves become fengu, the lowest cast of slaves who do menial jobs and whose lives are cheap. Young boys who show themselves to be strong and athletic are usually sold to the Orhan to be trained as zirli, sometimes the largest young zirli are castrated and turned into kunni falla. Young boys who show themselves to be particularly smart or knowledgeable are usually sold to universities to be castrated and trained as kunni scholars. The castration usually takes place around or just before puberty, giving the kunni high voices, hairless chests and faces, feminine or boyish features, and greater than average height with a frail build. Female slaves usually become serving women, harem girls, or prostitutes.
A major leisure activity in Orhanek Akan is spending time in a tolok, a place where men go to smoke tifi and have discussions or arguments about life, philosophy, politics, or the world. Tifi is a plant material which when dried and smoked is mildly mind altering, causing the smoker to experience feelings of happiness and relaxation. Men of all casts and classes are welcome at the tolok so it offers one of the only places were commoners and nobles may spend time and talk together as equals. Though arguments occur at the tolok frequently, these very seldom become violent in part because of the soothing effects of tifi and also because of the social stigma that disorderly conduct at the tolok brings. Sometimes, a particular tolok will serve food and alcohol as well as tifi, sometimes they provide other forms of entertainment as well such as a musician or scantily clad lani or kosemi dancers. The tolok is a place where deals are brokered or alliances made between important men of Orhanek Akan as well, sometimes it is a more important meeting place than even the palaces of the nobility.
Another important type of place within Orhanek Akan is the university, called a kadel. The a Kadel is a place primarily dedicated to research and study of the world, they are also repositories of knowledge. By the order of the Orhan, every kadel within the empire is to have a copy of every book ever written. In practice, this is difficult to achieve and smaller kadels often fall far short of their goals, but the oldest and largest kadels are some of the world's largest libraries. A kadel is primarily staffed by kunni, eunuchs who serve the role of scholars, teachers, scientists and scribes. The kunni living at the kadel dedicate their lives to study, research, and to passing their knowledge along to others. Nobility will sometimes go to live at a kadel for several years to pursue science and the arts, to study great works of literature, or to learn things which their hulans cannot teach them. Many people, sometimes even foreigners, come to Akan-Ji kadels in search of wisdom or knowledge, sometimes they come seeking treatment for diseases or medical conditions that are beyond the knowledge or ability of conventional healers. Usually, it requires special permission from the Orhan or his ministers for foreigners to get access to the knowledge or services of the kunni within a kadel. For citizens of Orhanek Akan, they may have access to the knowledge contained with a kadel for a moderate fee and the permission of the master of kadel. The master of a kadel is a particularly scholarly nobleman who is placed in charge overseeing all of the activities that go on within the kadel, this usually includes maintaining a security force to make sure none of the valuable items in the kadel are stolen or that none of the knowledge falls into the wrong hands.
It is rumored that women who have been divorced or those disobedient women who have run away from their rightful husbands or masters go to kadels to hide. Because the kunni have hairless feminine faces, the women can sometimes pass themselves off as eunuchs and live their lives at the kadel masquerading s men. The degree to which this happens is unknown, many believe that it is a myth as women are not smart or logical enough to pretend to be a kadel scholar.
When a nation or territory is conquered by the Akan-Ji, the native people are given a chance to gain citizenship and conversion to become Akan-Ji. Those who show great loyalty to the Akan-Ji conquerers - giving information, helping establish the ruling infrastructure, turning in dissidents, etc. are are not only given the right to convert but but sometimes may even be made into minor Akan-Ji nobility - especially if they were previously nobles or respected men of their lands. People who in general are well behaved and obedient are allowed to become citizens after paying a fee - a fee that most peasant families are only able to meet by selling one or more children in slavery to the Orhan or his representatives. Those who pay will become free citizens of Orhanek Akan, most like they will be azabs. Conquered people who cannot or will not pay or who come from communities who are unruly or disagreeable will find themselves made into slaves.
By Akseh law, torture is forbidden and punishments therefore usually involve fines, forced labor, or quick deaths. However, by a technicality, nonbelievers are exempt from this prohibition and are often subjected to extremely cruel treatment especially in times of conflict. Open rebellion, by slaves or by conquered populations, against the Akan-Ji is met with extreme brutality. If an Akan-Ji soldier is killed by guerilla or insurgent forces, then ten civilian women and children are killed by impalement - having a long wooden spike driven through into their rectum and through their abdomen, dying slowly over the course of hours or days. If an insurgent is caught, then he suffers that very same fate along with all of his family and relatives. Even during war, such cruelty strikes fear into the enemy - civilians by the thousands can sometimes be subjected to impalement or other grotesque and torturous fates. In using such extreme cruelty, the Akan-Ji hope to force a quick surrender and minimal resistance afterwards. Such severe treatment of conquered people has only been the policy of the Akan-Ji for the past several decades under the current Orhan, Merathet VII. Many muradi theologians have argued against such brutal practices, but their objections are often ignored or punished because they contradict the will of the Orhan.
The Akan-Ji are a people whose growth is weighted towards the top of society. The nobility each have four wives and each wife will usually bear many children - having children is one of the only things women are legally allowed to do. Furthermore, virtually all nobility and even a few wealthy commoners have concubines, most of whom with become pregnant from their masters as well. Because a balance must be maintained within Orhanek Akan, where the nobility remain a minority of the population and the slaves and commoners are more numerous, then station and caste must be somewhat fluid at least in terms of inheritance. Many children of nobility will find themselves as slaves or commoners, while many of the children of commoners end up as slaves. Of course, only one child of the Orhan typically grows up to become Orhan himself.
To maintain balance, there are many rules governing the fate of children born to the Akan-Ji. All children of concubines are slaves, slaves who belong to their father - this is the case whether the father is a commoner, noble, or the Orhan. A father may influence the role that his slave children must take - fathers who care for their slave children can often arrange for them to become kunni or zirli - slaves with some measure of safety and status. In the case of the Orhan, his slave children will virtually always receive such a benefit. For commoners, they must usually sell their slave children to pay taxes - as slave ownership is taxed by the Orhan. Though occasionally wealthier peasants may be able to keep several of their slave children. In rare cases, the parents of slaves will pay for the child to receive a deshiv - an official conversion that frees them from slavery.
Wives are officially required to give birth to free children, the liri bear common children, the mai bear noble children, and omi alone can give birth to an Orhan. Unfortunately for Akan-Ji children, many of them will never be allowed to achieve the social rank of their mother or father. The free people of Orhan Akan are heavily taxed, and the nobles tax the peasants under their reign to pay for their taxation, doubly burdening the poorest Akan-Ji peasants. There is a fee for the deshiv ritual that many peasants have difficulty paying and many forgo having their children officially adopted into the family to avoid this fee. Unfortunately, the tax on slave ownership begins to take effect once the child reaches the age of 10, after which point many parents are forced to sell their children into slavery or as wives.
Nobility face a different problem - it is often difficult to find a hulan who is willing to take in a child for noble training. A hulan may only have a single student at a time and the entire process takes eight years. Often a noble father must pay a great fee or offer special favors for a hulan to take in his son, and even though many hulans essentially trade sons, eight years each doesn't allow all of a noble's children to receive official training. A boy born to nobility cannot become a true noble or enter one of the noble castes without official training from a hulan - this means that many of a noble's children will be consigned to become peasants. Usually the noble father will help set up his peasant son with a good living for a peasant - his own land if he is to become an azab, his own caravan to be a nizami, his own weapons if he is to be a timari, or a horse and armor if he shall become a sekbani. One of the most common professions for the jebiji sons of solaki is service their father - a farmer on the noble's land, a mercenary warrior in his army, a seaman aboard one of his ships, etc. Sons of the Orhan's wives virtually always become nobles as few are rejected by a hulan, and the daughter's of the Orhan's wives virtually always are married to the higher nobility of Orhanek Akan.
Homosexual relations between men are highly romanticized and glorified within Orhanek Akan. As women are seen as intellectually and spiritually inferior to men, a relationship between men is considered to be far more emotionally satisfying than one between a man and a women. Love between men, called Solahula, is therefore considered the deepest and truest kind of love. Many poems, plays, and books have been written about the deep love shared between men, often moralistic tales about honor or sacrifice as lovers fight together on the battlefield or face life's problems together. Because many men within Orhanek Akan cannot afford wives or are not permitted them because of being a slave, homosexuality is often an accepted sexual outlet for such men - particularly for zirli who almost universality practice homosexuality to some degree. Of course, for free men, the belili - hulan relationship is considered a major part of life and growing up and generally the men share a deep friendship even after the apprenticeship ends.
There are numerous laws within Orhanek Akan regulating virtually every aspect of life. There are of course the sacred religious laws the Akseh, but for each Akseh law there are literally hundreds of pages of interpretations of Akseh law and thousands of secular laws. Because of this, a large number of kunni are bureaucrats and lawyers whose primary job is to make sure the laws are followed - though ultimately it is the job of yiri to enforce secular law and muradi to enforce religious law. The people of Orhanek Akan are heavily taxed - taxes are levied for marriages, for slave ownership, on land, on foreign goods, on income beyond a certain amount, and all sorts of varied activities. It is not uncommon for Akan-Ji businessmen to become unknowing tax evaders because of the complexity of the laws. Because of this, many Akan-Ji hire what is called a guthri, a kunni who specializes in study of the law, to help them balance their books and effectively pay (or sometimes evade) their taxes. Guthris work are kadel scholars and thus their fees go to fund the kadels where they study.
The highest ranking and most elite soldiers of the Akan-Ji are the sipathi. These noble warriors train from a young age in the art of combat. They are taught to ride and to shoot the bow and well as to fight in hand to hand combat and on foot. They also spend years learning other aspects of warfare - strategy, tactics, history, and about foreign nations armies. A sipathi must not only be an excellent soldier, but a scholar and philosopher as well. In addition being instructed in the above subjects, an aspiring sipathi must gain proficiency in at least four of the following academic fields : poetry, history, philosophy, calligraphy, art, linguistics (must be able to speak four languages), oratory, religion, the physical sciences, engineering, mathematics, music, astronomy, medicine and anatomy, logic, alchemy, animal husbandry, and law. The sipathi must also train his body physically as well - wrestling, hand to hand combat, archery, horse riding, running, lifting weights - many aspiring sipathi fail to meet the physical or mental requirements or both and well as the 5'11" height requirement. Those who fail to become sipathi must resign themselves to a boring life of being a muradi, yiri, or maybe even jebiji. Many young aspire to become sipathi - for they are admired among their people above all others save the Orhan himself.
Sipathi most often fight from horseback and are armed with a composite bow as well as a lance and curved saber. It is not unknown for a sipathi to carry a brace of pistols as well, despite being nontraditional this is becoming increasingly common. A sipathi's body is covered by a high quality steel coat of plates with an open face pointy topped helm. Their steeds are of the finest quality and usually wear no barding, they are selected for mostly their great speed and nimbleness - this allows the sipathi to serve the role of either light or heavy cavalry as the situation requires. Sometimes sipathi deliberately go into battle unmounted, in which case they usually carry a sword and target shield or a pole axe.
Zirli are the elite slave soldiers of the Akan-Ji. They are hand picked by sipathi from among the strongest and most spirited slave children. From a young age they are trained to fight and to kill, indoctrinated to give their lives for their master in battle and to not fear death. They are considered some of the bravest soldiers in the world and as a result are some of the most feared. They wear a long chainmail hauberk that covers their arms and legs as well as their chest, while over their chest they wear a steel breastplate. The also wear a chain mail coif in addition to a round topped open faced metal helm. Their weapons usually include a target shield and battle axe or a pole weapon of some kind, usually pikes or pole axes - often a unit will be mixed between zirli with shields and those with pole weapons. They always fight on foot. Very recently, some units of zirli are being armed with muskets with plug bayonets instead of the traditional close combat weapons.
The tugra are the elite bodyguard of the Orhan, chosen from the best of the best zirli and conditioned to give their life for the Orhan without a moment's hesitation. The tugra bodyguards wear long blue robes made of silk. Beneath these robes they wear light partial plate armor. They carry two short swords, each with slightly curved blades and a single razor sharp edge. They also carry short pole-arm type weapons, basically an ornate blade atop a six foot wooden shaft, called a hudhat. The ten tugra who stand closest to the Orhan, instead of the hudhat, carry large ovoid shields with which to protect the Orhan from harm and a longer version of the curved short swords.
The most common soldier in Orhanek Akan, the backbone of their military power, are the oglani - the concripted soldiers drawn either from the fengu or azab. These soldiers are drawn from the dregs of their society - the most unskilled slaves and lowliest impoverished peasants. These men are often given minimal training and sent into battle to die in droves. In past times the hordes of unskilled soldiers were often ineffective, as their ranks could easily be broken by contact with enemy or by taking too many casualties. This changed with the advent of the arquebus. After firearms were first developed and introduced to the Akan-Ji, they decided to adopt the weapon on a large scale. Akan-Ji craftsmen turned out tens of thousands of these weapons, becoming increasingly efficient at mass producing firearms the more they made. The Orhan at the time, or his advisers perhaps, had the brilliant idea of breaking down the production of firearms into multiple steps where a single craftsman only focused on a single step of the weapon's manufacture - giving the Akan-Ji the ability make arquebuses with factory-like efficiency. This enabled the Akan-Ji to arm the majority of the oglani with arquebuses, making them a force to be feared. Though the oglani were still relatively unskilled and easy to break, facing ten times your number of hand gunners is a threat to any force. Now, the arquebus is becoming obsolete and muskets are taking over - the oglani still primarily use arquebuses tough, as it is difficult for the Akan-Ji to completely change their system to create the superior firearm. For the time being though, the arquebuses suffice to make the oglani incredibly lethal in large numbers - particularly when they are backed by zirli with orders to kill any who retreat. Oglani typically wear no armor or sometimes heavy woven vests, they are usually armed with an arquebus along with a hand axe, dagger, or club. In the past, they were more commonly equipped with hand axes and wooden target shields, some still go into battle so equipped. Often the free oglani, pressed into battle by their lords, must supply their weapons at their own expense.
Sekbani are one of the most diverse parts of the Akan-Ji military. They are commoners, effectively mercenaries as they are paid by the battle and according to their ability in combat or method of fighting. The highest paid sekbani are horse archers, those who can bring their own horse and short bow to the battle and are skilled enough to use both at once. Light cavalry lancers, those who can run down fleeing troops or quickly flank the enemy are also highly valued. Not many peasant soldiers can afford their own horses though, most have to make do being foot archers, musketeers, or infantrymen. Most sekbani horsemen are wealthy enough to afford their own light armor, usually at least chain mail coats or sometimes breastplates. Infantrymen often aren't as lucky, many merely go into battle wearing thick clothing, though chainmail hauberks and coifs aren't uncommon sights.
Pirates of the Akan-Ji, the timari, virtually always go without armor - for obvious reasons. They tend to wield short hacking swords (essentially machetes) or battle axes in battle combined with target shields, though many practice archery as well and sometimes musketry. Its not entirely unknown for wealthier members of the timari to carry a brace of pistols into battle in addition or instead of the standard short sword and shield. Unlike many navies of the known world, the Akan-Ji navy relies primarily on galleys instead of sailing ships. They also tend to favor small and fast ships as opposed to large and heavily armed ones. The Akan-Ji tend to shy away from major naval battles and prefer instead hit and run tactics where the enemy is surprised or vastly outnumbered. The timari galleys are propelled by fengu slaves, the conditions which these slaves experience is usually so terrible that they seldom live for five years. As all navies in the known world do, Akan-Ji ships use cannons at a range to attack enemy ships, they often use chain shot to destroy enemy sails so that a ship can be seized instead of sunken. Timari, far more often than not, find themselves fighting against civilian or lightly defended targets - their primary goal is the acquisition of wealth and slaves, not to engage hostile military forces.
Nobles who have large harems often need protection for their concubines. The role of protecting the harems falls to a special kind of kunni eunuch called a kunni falla. These are selected from the largest, strongest, and most intimidating eunuchs. They are given training with weapons as well as wrestling and hand to hand combat. They usually go shirtless with steel bracers and half-helm which covers the top of the head. They carry large two handed weapons - the most popular being the gorut, a heavy chopping sword which is often used for executions. Though chosen for their size and strength, their bulk is often more for show than for ability in combat and its not uncommon for the kunni falla to disappoint their masters when they find themselves called upon to fight.
Odds and Ends
The Akan-Ji are naturally a dark skinned caucasian middle eastern looking people. They generally have black or dark brown hair, brown or black eyes, and swarthy or olive colored skin. Their hair is generally frizzy, curly, or extremely wavy. They tend to have larger down turned noses with a prominent arch, high cheek bones, and thin lips. Because the Akan-Ji have conquered and assimilated many other cultures and have taken in and bred with slaves from around the world, many Akan-Ji have foreign ancestry and don't always have the same features of their ancestors. Some Akan-Ji have straight hair, some have facial features that are distinctively foreign, a rare few even have blue or green eyes or lighter hair colors. There is no stigma to having unusual features or foreign blood - in fact - exotic traits are often seen as desirable. Because of the fairly high population density in Orhanek Akan combined with reliance on grains without a balanced diet, most Akan-Ji are short and scrawny - the average man being around 5'2" tall and the average woman being about 4'9" or so. The nobility, who have access to what ever food the could desire, tend to be about four or five inches taller on average than the slaves and peasantry. Eunuchs are the exception to the shortness of slaves, and the kunni are usually around 6' tall but slightly built and frail.
Through out the empire and among the castes, fashion varies tremendously. There are a few universals though. Colors are very popular among the Akan-Ji, and the more colorful and vibrant one's clothing is the higher rank one usually has. Slaves are forbidden by law to wear any colors other than gray, white, or brown. Free men often wear two or three vibrant colors on their clothing, while nobles wear elaborate garments of many colors including jewelry. Long flowing robes and billowing garments are popular as well, including poofy shirts and pants. Most free men have their ears pieced (often multiple times) and earrings are common, usually silver for commoners and gold for noblemen.
Men and women must cover their lower halves in public, to show bare legs is considered very rude and to show the feet or genitalia is particularly indecent. Akan-Ji men usually wear pants while women wear long flowing shirts with dark colored hose beneath to prevent anyone from seeing their legs accidentally. For women, the breasts must be covered in public, but generally more concealing clothing is considered more proper. Harem girls sometimes expose more flesh indoors - as long as no man can see aside from the eunuchs. The female foot is seen as particularly sexual and is almost never exposed to anyone but a woman's husband or master.
How men cut there hair is to a large degree based on caste and social status. Fengu slaves are required to keep their hair shorn short, as well as their beards. Kunni and kosemi both keep their faces shaved. Kunni shave their heads except for the top where they leave it several inches long or as a topknot. Kosemi grow their hair long, usually midway down their back, often keeping it in a ponytail or braid. Zirli slaves keep their beards very short and neatly trimmed and keep their heads shaved. Jebiji free men usually grow full beards but shave off their mustaches, they also grow their hair to about shoulder length and either keep it in a short ponytail or allow it to flow freely. Solaki noblemen grow full beards and mustaches or sometimes just a prominent mustache. Nobles also tend to grow their hair to about shoulder length or longer, though they usually have the hair put into many small braids. A popular style among sipathi is to have a large mustache and a goatee combined with long hair kept in three braids - two on each side and one in the back. Muradi usually have at least twenty braids and a full beard with mustache. Men very often wear hats, usually tall cylindrical or conic shaped hats that allow long hair to flow from underneath.
Women do not cut their hair in Orhanek Akan, it is considered to be taboo, so their hair grows very long. They keep there long hair in a single braid that usually extends past the waist, depending on the health of the woman's hair. The only time when a woman's hair is cut is as a punishment if she commits a crime and deserved to be publicly humiliated.
Among the Akan-Ji nobility, heraldry is extremely popular. Each noble family has its own crest, family colors, banners, and designs. In addition, each individual has their own heraldry device, sometimes animals, geometric patterns, symbols or pictures, etc. The Orhan also has his own heraldry, both personally and as Orhan. When nobles go to war, all slave and peasant soldiers serving under them are given a simple tabard to wear with his master's colors. Those soldiers serving the Orhan directly wear blue and or purple, the Orhan's colors. An Akan-Ji army is a beautiful, if frightening, sight to behold with its many colorful banners and brightly dressed soldiers.
There are a nomadic people who originate from within the lands now dominated by Orhanek Akan called the Daziri. The Daziri are distantly related to the Akan-Ji both in terms of blood and culture. They speak a similar language and even worship Olgi, though they are not members of the official church and thus legally considered bashi. The Daziri lifestyle is primarily based around extended families which travel the continent in caravans trading goods, herding animals and selling their byproducts, or working odd jobs as itinerant laborers. Because of hostility between the Akan-Ji and their western neighbors in Brewelos, often the main way that goods are exchanged between the western world and the Akan-Ji is by Daziri merchants who are grudgingly tolerated within the borders of Brewelos. In Orhanek Akan, the Daziri are generally well treated and respected, in other nations this is not always the case. In Brewelos there tends to be a general dislike of the Daziri as they are seen as allies or collaborators with the hated Akan-Ji, in Merkabah the Daziri are seen as worthless thieves and are often killed or driven out of villages by angry mobs or even the authorities. The Daziri culture is in some ways like that of the Akan-Ji, though they are much more laid back about religion, social conventions, and life in general. One glaring difference in Daziri society is that women are respected and given an almost equal role to men within the traveling groups, monogamy is likewise generally practiced among the Daziri instead of polygamy.
Daziri look similar to the Akan-Ji but have slightly darker skin and more tightly curled or kinky hair, usually allowed to grow into a frizzy afro or styled into dreadlocks for both genders. Both the men and women wear loose fitting pants and tunics that come down to about knee level. Because they tend to be poor, the Daziri clothing is not as colorful as that of the Akan-Ji, though in a family group they usually dye their tunics the same color to distinguish themselves from other Daziri clans.
The Secret Society - the Lehet
The Lehet are the secret servants of the Orhan, only the Orhan himself and top leaders of the government know more than the name of this group. They serve the Orhan as spies, assassins, mystics, and as a secret police force. They stop at nothing to serve the Orhan and the Orhanek Akan - they stop at nothing because they are bound by no law but the orders of the Orhan himself - they may also break divine laws which bind even the Orhan himself. The reason they can do such a thing is that they have no souls.
In a special ritual performed by the koray muradi or high priests and presided over by the Orhan himself strips the Lehet of their souls. These souls are then given directly to Olgi, becoming one with him. The Lehet is then left with only his mind and body and need not fear moral judgement or damnation - they can commit any act with impunity or break any social taboo, their souls are already one with Olgi so they have nothing to fear. The Lehet are completely outside of the caste system and do not have to follow any of its rules save one - total obedience to the Orhan.
Like many other groups in Orhanek Akan, the Lehet are broken down into four categories. There are the gameesi, assassins infiltrate enemy organizations and subversive groups, sometimes even the courts of suspect nobility within the empire. The solkullu are wizards, they practice vile magic and consort with demons and other unnatural things that would consign a normal human's soul to eternal torment. The hatissa are the women of the Lehet. Because they have no souls, the hatissa suffer none of the restrictions that other women do within Orhanek Akan - they may fight, can have sex with any man, may learn to read or right, they may even travel on their own without a man's protection. Often the hatissa are used as spies or seductresses, sometimes assassins as well - few enemies of the Orhan expect a women to be one of his agents. Finally there are the Gaffan - foreign nationals who live outside of the Orhanek Akan.
All of the Lehet are hand picked by the Orhan himself or his closest advisers and given rigorous training in their field of expertise. Solkullu are often drawn from the ranks of the kunni slaves, who are usually the scholars of the empire. The hatissa are usually drawn from the Orhan's own concubines, chosen for their skills at intrigue and manipulation within the surprisingly political and fractious royal harem. The gameesi are chosen from all walks of life, sometimes even particularly skilled criminals are given this option. To be a gameesi requires skill in close combat as well as stealth and the ability to manipulate and befriend others, many timari and even some kosemi seem to possess these skills. The Gaffan are usually spies and traitors from other nations who have sworn allegiance to the Akan-Ji in exchange for some reward - for some gaffan the soul removal ritual is merely a formality. Sipathi are ideal candidates for both gameesi and solkullu, since they excel at a great variety of skills.