The Axos Citadels are located to the south east of the Empire on the far side of Urizen, and sharing a border with Skoura. Their name refers to the chain of citadels that protrude from the crags that line the coast. A people with an ancient history, the Aneleito Axou, or Merciless Axis, are an allegiance of sorcerous city states each answering to a sorcerer king. The Citadels have fierce rivalries with each other, but stand together against the barbarians and the Empire. Due to the catastrophic losses they have suffered, they are more given to diplomatic outcomes and solutions. They have developed strong cultural ties with the people of the mountain in Skoura, trading with them for ore and stone in exchange for military aid and sorcerous assistance.
Never particularly friendly to the Empire, they politely closed their borders against Imperial traders in 207YE. Prior to that there had been a few border skirmishes, but given their closest neighbours were the Urizen, these skirmishes rarely came to anything. In 330 YE, diplomatic overtures from the Senator for Spiral were sent into Axos but rebuffed; it is believed that the Urizen were attempting to arrange a joint defence of that beleaguered territory but no records exist one way or another.
Of particular interest to Imperial citizens are the Axou ports which are open to trade with the Empire.
The people of Axos are well educated and have a reputation for being cunning, pragmatic and arrogant - convinced that their way of life is superior to all others. Recent information about the Axou is sparse; since they closed their borders, most of what is known of their society is based on written works nearly a century and a half out of date.
Their population is almost entirely concentrated in their massive citadels. Very different to the measured open spaces that characterise Urizen spires the diplomat Mercadia de Sarvos wrote in 196YE "It is as if someone has taken the city of Tassato, or perhaps a nest of vipers, and built it into the side of a mountain." Of the people, Savella of Stormspire wrote in her short treatise Studies of the Axou "It is as if someone has taken all the misplaced confidence of the most boastful citizen of the League, mixed in the worst elements of the parochialism of the Marches, and then forced thousands of them to live on top of one another like rats!"
Culture and Customs
Like their neighbours and, allegedly, distant cousins the Urizen, the Axou are steeped in magical tradition. It is believed that their culture is strongly influenced by their mystical beliefs in - some might say obsession with - death and what happens afterwards.
In person, Axou usually appear friendly and welcoming, but to Imperial citizens often seem superstitious and unpredictable. They are known to have made a great study of summoning and communicating with the spirits of the dead - a practice they call necromantia. Their skills in this area rival and in some areas exceed the knowledge of the Empire.
The people are grouped into clans known as Ile, which appear to be organised in a very hierarchical fashion. In each Ile there is a circle of sorcerers known as the Ilae who are responsible for leading their household and holding its secrets. Amongst these, an Ilarch is chosen to lead the house and represent the Ile to the Commander of the Agema Guard. One Ile within each citadel is pre-eminent. The Ilarch that holds the Throne and the Crown of the citadel take the title of Grand Ilarch and have undisputed control over the citadel.
In Winter 382YE, Axos became one of the initial signatories to the Liberty Pact. Even before signing the Pact, the Axou tended not to keep slaves - although slavery was not illegal. They were not above selling captured orcs into slavery in Jarm or Asavea, but there were comparatively few actual slaves in the nation itself. The Empire spent several years agitating the Axou to abandon slavery, culminating in the invitation to attend the anti-slavery summit and the opportunity to join the pact. With the aid of the Commonwealth and the Sumaah Republic, the all-too-real risk of civil war was headed off and the nation began to transition to a slightly more egalitarian model.
Today, the Axou rely on an ambitious underclass eager to work for any wage or the possibility of patronage from one of the great clans or houses. Drug use is common among the lowest tiers of Axou society, and there are also popular arena combats in which teams of volunteer warriors fight in specially designed gladiatorial contests - sometimes to the death although more often not - against each other, thrill-seeking foreigners and savage beasts for purses of gold and the adulation of the masses.
The lowest rung of Axou society, however, is occupied by the orc slaves freed as a consequence of signing the Liberty Pact. There is a great deal of suspicion and fear of orcs among the people of Axos, and the Grand Illarchs immediately passed a series of draconian laws to define the place of orcs in their society.
The early Nikitis Axou or Victorious Axis were a nomadic people who navigated the Skoura plains using a series of peaks along the coast as markers for their hunting patterns. Over time, monuments were built on these peaks, then settlements, then the Axou Citadels that stand today. Imperial scholars theorize that the original Axou were cousins of the modern Urizen and Navarr, although the Axou have denied this repeatedly. There is some evidence that exiles from the nations that would become the Eastern Empire found a welcome of sorts in Axou, and many Ile have Highborn, Dawnish and Urizen ancestors. Unfortunately these exiled Imperial ancestors tend to have left dark reputations for heresy, criminality or sorcery behind them in the Empire, a fact which has in the past caused some tension with the Axou.
During the time of Emperor Nicovar the Axou closed their borders; two years later they launched an unexpected attack into the Imperial territory of Spiral. The attack was eventually rebuffed, but seriously damaged relationships with the Axou from that point onwards. The motivation behind the Axou attacked are unclear, but it seems likely that it was an opportunistic activity by a single citadel looking to gain access to Urizen magical resources rather than a concerted effort of the entire nation.
Axou Military Concerns
The armies of the Axou consist of the Agema and the Toxatai, heavy and light skirmishers respectively. Many Toxatai are magicians as well, wearing mage armour on the battle field. Agema by contrast are usually fully devoted to the fighting arts. Crescent shaped shields, long thin swords, and sorcerous rods are the weapons of choice among the Axou, although both the Agema and the Toxatai are known to make good use of compact bows before engaging in melee.
Axou forces are often supported by small numbers of elite magical troops known as Tavos Ageli. These creatures are identified by their heavy armour and the face-covering masks that they wear. Urizen sentinels who have faced them in battle say that they appear to be moderately intelligent, or at least cunning, and appear to possess both great strength and barely controllable blood-lust. Their exact nature is unknown. Some scholars theorise that they are similar to the husks created with Quickening Cold Meat, most likely preserved human corpses possessed by more powerful Winter spirits; others believe they are similar to the undying soldiers summoned with Clarion Call of Ivory and Dust, perhaps the result of an enduring pact with an eternal such as Sorin or Kaela.
Axou Economic Concerns
For many years Axos did not trade with the Empire, instead relying on close ties with the Skoura for many raw materials. In 380YE, however, a thawing of diplomatic relations following Imperial aid during the Druj Siege of Ipotavo and the subsequent Liberation of Kaban saw the port-citadel of the Towers of Kantor opened to Imperial traders.
The citadels that lie along the coast are known to make use of fleets of dark-sailed ships that have been encountered as far afield as the Asavean Archipelago and the Principalities of Jarm. They are known to trade extensively with the Sarcophan Delves. It is believed that the jungle-like forests of central Axos are a hostile environment with few raw materials, a serious problem for a nation with as much interest in magical implements and robes as the Axos. The Axou are known to offer a particularly good price for Imperial dragonbone. They are also believed to have little access to weirwood, and are known to import much of the mithril they require from Skoura in return for access to the fine white granite with which they build and expand their citadels.
The Axou have a reputation for being duplicitous and untrustworthy in matters of trade, but this may be based on a misconception. While the nation is united in matters of self-defence the individual citadels - and often individual families within them - see to their own trade agreements and one family or citadel rarely feels bound by an agreement made by another Ile or Ilarch.
Following their ratification of the Liberty Pact, Axos has curtailed much of its trade with the Principalities of Jarm, but seeks ever closer ties with the Sarcophan Delves and the Empire.
Axou Religious Beliefs
The Axou are known to have a series of spiritual beliefs based on the relationship between body and soul. During the Summer Solstice 381YE, then Cardinal of Wisdom Agnetha de Rondell extended an invitation on behalf of the Assembly of Nine to Axou scholars prepared to visit Imperial institutions of higher learning and share information about their peculiar faith. The Empire now has a much clearer insight into the the peculiar - and almost certainly blasphemous - Axos religion.
Axou Magic Traditions
The magicians of Axos appear to be as competent and talented as their Imperial counterparts; if they have a weakness it is that each citadel and in many cases each Ile jealously guards its own magical lore. The Axou are known to make regular deals with the eternals, especially those of the Realms of Autumn and Night. Their interest in necromantia means that several seek out specific Winter eternals whose interests align with their own - especially Kaela and Sorin.
Axos appears to be made up of several areas of land equivalent to an Imperial territory. Following the visit of Eleri Sweetwater to Axos, three of the territories have been named; Kabanja in the north-west where stand the Tunnels of Kaban, the Gates of Ipotavo, and the Spires of Solokha; Thronaskoni in the south-east where the Towers of Kantor, Chambers of Issyk, and Halls of Maykop are found; and the great forest Visokuma which is believed to be occupied by an immense vallorn.
Each citadel is believed to be situated on the mausoleum of the founder of the structure, and is named for that founder. The land that surrounds the citadel shares the same name; so the Tunnels of Kaban control an area of land called Kaban. The six citadels of Axos are:
- the Towers of Kantor; which has the closest ties of any of the citadels with the Skoura
- the Chambers of Issyk; perhaps the most active of the citadels in external trade especially with the Principalities of Jarm.
- the Tunnels of Kaban; known to be almost constantly at war with the Druj barbarians.
- the Gates of Ipotavo; like the Tunnels of Kaban engaged in war with the Druj.
- the Halls of Maykop, believed to have the largest necropolis in Axos and be home to the most advanced practitioners of necromantia.
- the Spires of Solokha; while this is the closest citadel to the Empire, it is believed to have been abandoned or destroyed at some point after the closing of the borders.
Look and Feel
Axos in Play
Axos lies near to the Empire, and the Axou speak the language known as Imperial, represented by English. Axos does not directly border any Imperial territory, and its people are insular - much of the information presented here may be a century or so out-of-date. The Axou are not at war with the Empire, but they are not friendly, either. Imperial player characters will not have greater knowledge about Axos than is presented here, and it is very unlikely that any background that includes periods of time spent in Axos will be accepted. This may be subject to change based on activities that take place during the game.