Climate/biome: Arid; coastal sandy desert and savannah with seasonal rivers
Population density: High; heavily concentrated in large cities
Common Inhabitants: Abilen
Uncommon Inhabitants: Equitarn, humans, orcs, realm
Rare Inhabitants: Eladrin, soratami, elves, wu-kan, kobolds, drow
Ashar is the homeland of the abilen, a land separated from the rest of Alm by a vast sandy desert. Forced into isolation during the War of Empires, today it is the undisputed centre of trade between all nations.
Ashari citizens belong to vast merchant dynasties, typically of abilen stock—though, due to a social tradition of wives’ families adopting their husbands, non-abilen do appear in the hierarchy here and there. Families are businesses, and businesses are family—and negotiating the subtle social rules of Ashari high society is as great a challenge as any outsider is likely to face.
Disregarded by both the gnollish and eladrin empires, Ashar was left uninhabited by sentient creatures until the abilen—driven from their homes repeatedly by unending war—took refuge here. Finally safe from the clashing empires, they built their nation slowly, carefully discovering what resources the desert had to offer, learning the patterns of its growth and decline. By mastering the use of their seasonal rivers for agriculture, they found they could create abundance of produce, including a great many crops found nowhere else on Alm.
Ashar also traded eagerly, with anybody who wasn’t directly involved with the war—the nomads of the Grasslands, burrowing kobold scouts, exploratory wu-kan ships, even drifting Rogue Islanders. And out beyond the desert, they watched the war burn on.
When the new power of Brandeis suddenly put an end to the war, Ashar found its time to blossom. The Ashari emerged into the newly-forged peace with an array of exotic goods the empires had never known; new fruits and spices, richly crafted fabrics and dyes, domesticated beasts, and fascinating games and gadgets. Today, its wealth is vast and its reach long, and its former oppressors regularly find themselves confounded by masterful trade deals.
Ashar maintains peaceful—if not always friendly—relations with all Almish nations. Even the Aurites, who dogmatically regard abilen as soulless sub-humans, understand that they rely on goods which ultimately come from Ashar.
Sharing a strong cultural taboo against warfare, the abilen prefer to flex their muscle in the form of treaties and tariffs—an arena where their mercantile might makes them the enduring favourite.
Ashar also owns the satellite state of Nasirah, a smaller settlement in the Northern Grasslands which represents the onetime ambition to create an Ashari empire. The plan was long since abandoned, as alliances proved much more sustainable than colonisation. However, Nasirah itself has stayed under Ashari control, if only because its goods represent considerable convenience for the nomadic Grasslands tribes.
Finally, Ashar shares joint control of Faradh, a territory connected to the Parosean land bridge, with a human government. Though technically its own city-state, Faradh is governed by the merchants who sustain it, who are mostly also Ashari citizens.
Persons of Note
The current ruler of Ashar (and Head of the Ashari Trade Union, naturally) is one Misha Aalya, the matriarch of Ashar’s largest and most powerful family. An gloriously fat abilen woman with a reputation for conducting herself in a manner just on the near side of appropriate, she is often underestimated by those who don’t know her reputation; that she leaves unwary negotiators in her wake like the so many salted fields. Folk say she approaches trade the same way Brands approach drinking (at which she is also, apparently, very accomplished).