Imperial Protectorate of New Owangru

You can tell an Owangrun by his huge tongue, overdeveloped from constant licking of Haciki boots.
– Vanni saying

An agent of the New Owangru Society of Exploration and Adventure, with Lodosi longshot.
Credit: Thomas Dimitriou

The Imperial Protectorate of New Owangru is a liminal place. Geographically, it is situated between Modui’s three major biomes – the savanna of the Swaying Veld to the north, the rainforest of Modui’s Heart to the west, and the pampas grasslands to the south. Societally, it could be said to sit between the continent’s future and its past. Here, the human culture of the Haciki Empire meets the mabish ways of Old Owangru and the Vanni Clans, their intermixture giving rise to something wholly unique.

Three centuries ago, the area that would become the Protectorate included the Kingdom of Old Owangru and Silent Bell Reach, territory of the eleventh Vanni Clan, the Misijadi. This changed during the Great Expansion, when Haciki legions pushed the borders of the Empire out in all directions, seizing and subjugating Moduin polities that had previously existed for millenia. After a meager defense, Old Owangru surrendered when the Haciki captured the ancient capital of Mmiri-Daal. From there, the Empire had an ideal vantage from which to launch its invasion of the Swaying Veld.

The Vanni jagun of Silent Bell Reach proved fiercer opponents then the knights of Old Owangru, however, and Hacik’s advance was slowed considerably. The stubborn defense of the Misijadi gave the other Vanni Clans time to convene and plan a coordinated counterattack.

As the other Clans strategized, the fighting in Silent Bell grew more and more desperate. The Haciki took to burning entire towns and executing civilians with little pretext. In return, Haciki prisoners-of-war were tortured and killed, their mutilated remains strung up as macabre warnings to their compatriots. Nevertheless, the imperial legions pushed forward, eventually laying siege to Misijad, capital of the Reach.

By the time the other Vanni Clans had raised an army under the banner of the Butcherbird, the capital’s walls had been breached and the Misijadi ohun had been killed. Haciki forces ransacked and burned the city, going so far as to pull the sacred Unrung Bell from where it hung in the Sanctuary of Misi, sending it rolling down the temple stairs, its tortured peals reverberating through the city for the first and last time.

These savage excesses did not cow the remaining Misijadi; rather, they only seemed to harden their resolve. Haciki camps were raided nightly: soldiers awoke to burning tents, hobbled horses and slit throats. Every town the Empire took was defended by its inhabitants to a mab; even children took up small practice bows against the invaders. By the time the legions had reached the border of Broken Shield Reach, the countryside behind them was a burned and blackened abattoir.

Silent Bell Reach was the last Moduin polity to fall during the Expansion. When Hacik invaded Broken Shield, they were met by the Vanni coalition forces and thrown back after a series of disastrous defeats. The ensuing peace talks were tumultuous, mainly due to the fact that the clans, their common enemy vanquished, fell once again to squabbling. The Kalajadi of Broken Shield took the opportunity to ensure the destruction of their ancestral enemies in Silent Bell, demanding that any territory ceded by Hacik be incorporated into Broken Shield rather than go towards the reestablishment of a Misijadi homeland.

When the new maps were drawn up, Silent Bell was gone. Half of the Misijadi’s land was absorbed by Broken Shield, and the other half added to Old Owangru to create the Imperial Protectorate of New Owangru. The stateless Misijadi either swore allegiance to the Empire, adopted the ways of the Kalajadi, or fled into the jungle.

In the three hundred years since its founding, New Owangru has become a uniquely dynamic place. Though the population is majority mabish, a steady stream of humans have settled in the Protectorate, particularly in the capital of Mmiri-Daal and its environs. Intermarriage between mab and human – rare in other parts of Modui – is relatively common, and a growing segment of the population is half-mab.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a nation founded in such violence, one can find different opinions about what it means to be Owangrun among the citizenry. For many, the excesses of the Expansion are ancient history, and they consider themselves proud subjects of the Queen-Navarch. For others, the destruction of Old Owangru and Silent Bell are the scarred heart of the Owangrun experience. Among these, there are even some that still practice the ways of the Misijadi, though they are a persecuted minority; most citizens of the Protectorate observe a faith that combines elements of the religions of both Old Owangru and Hacik.

The history of Owangru’s relationship with the Vanni Clans – especially those that border it to the north, Broken Shield and Rainrest – is one of mutual enmity and small-scale conflict. Though there have been no all-out wars since the Expansion, skirmishes and raids are not uncommon. Tensions are further exacerbated by the expeditions of the New Owangru Society of Exploration and Adventure (usually referred to simply as “the Society”). The stated purpose of the Society is to provide guides for well-heeled Haciki who wish to tour the Swaying Veld; however, it is an open secret that these “safaris” are little more than high-society hunting jaunts, their participants looking to bring home a haul of horns, tusks and pelts as trophies.

Sometimes, the expeditions are after even bigger game; knights will contract with the Society to carry out a “Questing Hunt,” a tradition whereby a member of one of Hacik’s chivalric orders will attempt to “slay” one of the “monsters” that roam the Veld. Of course, from the Vanni perspective, these unique creatures are not monsters at all. Rather, they are Oldbeasts – ancient megafauna that have existed alongside the clans for centuries. Some are even considered sacred, and defended accordingly.

While the population of New Owangru is majority mabish, a large number of crocotta live there as well, many of whom find work as agents of the Society. Credit: Jurijus Chitrovas