The Emirates are a conglomerate of five city states located in the Northern part of South Reach. The cities are located along the north shore, or on the banks of the few great rivers that flow through this arid and desolate land. Each of the cities is a sovereign nation ruled by an Emir, but they all share the same culture, language, and history. While the Emirs often quarrel between each other, they are bound by ancient oaths of allegiance and familial dynastic ties.
The inhabitants of the Emirates consider themselves above other people of the world, due to their superior culture and customs. They are mistrustful of foreigners, and often even openly xenophobic.
Demographics and Culture
The Emirates are the home of the Deep Folk, the reclusive subterranean cousins to humans. Their ancestors founded the great cities and founded the dynastic families that rule them. Today they make up about 45% of the population, with the rest being almost entirely composed of baseline humans. The power is distributed unevenly among the races with most humans being lowly commoners or slaves, and most Deep Folk enjoying higher social status or holding aristocratic titles.
Emirates society is unique in that all citizens receive free, state sponsored education, and universal basic income. Thus, the society has developed a whole new class of people, known as Freemen - those who do not work, but instead spend most of their time on entertainment, or creating awfully sub-par works of art.
Citizens of Emirates are distrustful of foreigners, especially non-humans. While foreign travelers are tolerated in port cities, and can usually freely explore the open air common areas, they are usually not welcome in the subterranean regions where the Deep Folk build their dwellings. Non-citizens found in places they do not belong will quickly find themselves being escorted back to the docks by armed guard patrols.
Armed patrols are, in fact, a part of life in Emirates. The laws of the land are strict but unambiguous and fair. Citizens lead orderly, purposeful lives and are tend to be fiercely patriotic and loyal to their rulers. Failure to comply with the laws, or lapse of loyalty usually results in one of two punishments: loss of citizenship (and either banishment or enslavement) or early Public Service. To wit, Emirates have almost no prisons, save for those built to hold non-citizens.
The official language of the Emirates is Baku though it is used mostly used in religious rites, official proclamations and during legal proceedings, or when accuracy and terseness is required (for example when issuing orders). Most citizens prefer to use Common for casual conversations because it is less rigid, and more flexible.
Citizens of Emirates do not burn or bury their dead. Instead the bodies of deceased citizens are mummified using ancient sacred rituals and reanimated using necromantic magic so that they can perform Public Service. The process is mandatory, sacred, and overseen by the Companions of the Palid Mask. No one is exempt.
While alive, all Emirates citizens receive universal stipend, and enjoy access to free education and healthcare. Upon death each citizen is expected to work off their debt to society by entering Public Service. Their body is prepared by the Companions, and given a featureless Iron Mask, and become property of the city. If a citizen had children, their body is released from Public Service when said children die and replace them. When this happens, the public servant's Iron Mask is removed in a sacred ritual and replaced with a brass mask. They are then returned to the family, and tasked with serving their grandchildren. When one's grandchildren enter Public Service their body is finally laid to rest in the Catacombs.
Childless public servants usually work until their bodies are damaged beyond repair and unable to perform useful tasks.
The citizens of noble birth, who distinguish themselves with military service for their city are usually given Golden Masks instead of iron ones, and become The Royal Guard. They spend their afterlife serving and protecting the Emir.
Legends and Folklore
Part of the shared identity of all Emirates citizens is their common origin story, depicted in the Legend of Jakos.
Emirates citizens also consider themselves the inventors, and at the same time the world's best players of the team sport known as Kelosi. Each of the cities maintains professional teams, and the annual games are huge events. Many of the Emirates folk heroes are Kelosi players who either miraculously won games against all odds, or lost due to their hubris incurring wrath of the local Emir.
Politics and Government
Each of the Great Cities is a sovereign nation ruled by an Emir. While each city has own unique laws, and each Emir rules in their own unique way they all share the same amount of power. They're absolutist despots whose word is the law, and who are bound only by the most ancient and most sacred laws and traditions.
Emirs are equally beloved and feared, since they poses the power to strip any of their subjects from their Citizenship and either enslave them or force them into early Public Service for any reason.
The Great Cities
The Five Cities are: