The Axos Citadels are located to the south east of the Empire sharing a border with Skoura and Urizen. 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.
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they closed their borders, most of what is known of their society is based on written works nearly a century and a half out of date.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 characterize 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.
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 theorize 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
The Axos do not trade with the Empire. The Axou have close ties with the Skoura who they rely on for many raw materials. 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 Asavean Archipelago and 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. Prior to 307YE the Axou were 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.
Axou Religious Beliefs
The Axou are known to have a series of spiritual beliefs based on the relationship between body and soul. They are known to dig vast mausoleum warrens beneath their Citadels where the dead are interred, and it is believed that they consider the passage of the soul into the Labyrinth of Ages to be a bad thing. Like many orc tribes, they are believed to revere the spirits of their ancestors to an unhealthy degree.
Axou mystics use all manner of divinatory methods to seek to communicate with the spirits of the dead - cards and runes are common, especially runes carved from the bones of dead people. They are also known to pursue visionary trances, and in the past have sought access to Liao specifically to seek contact with dead spirits. Even the most sensible-appearing Axou will make offerings to the spirits of their dead ancestors who they appear to believe cluster around their living descendants at all times - the most common offerings appear to be alcohol and food mixed with the fresh blood of the offerer.
It is important to the Axou that the bones of the fallen are taken back to the citadel - parallels are drawn with the Marcher desire to be interred in Marcher soul. Following skirmishes with the Empire the Axou have been known to pay for the safe return of their fallen soldiers, and are known to honour every agreement they have made with Imperial troops designed to allow themselves and their opponents to recover the bodies of the dead and injured. On the rare occasions that Axou mercenaries have fought alongside Imperial troops, this single-minded desire to recover the bodies of the dead has lead to occasional problems - Axou troops will often take foolhardy risks in their pursuit of their dead comrades.
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 it's 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 Kaele and Sorin.
Axos appears to be made up of six areas of land equivalent to an Imperial territory. 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 Ipatovo; 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 it's 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 that is presented here, and it is very unlikely that any background that includes periods of time spend in Axos will be accepted. This may be subject to change based on activities that take place during the game.