Fireborn: Dark Phoenix
The island nation of Korakova has a long and chequered history; it was founded in 200EI, by far the earliest true settlement in North Encyron, and it was founded explicitly as an independent nation – unlike all other Encryonian colonisation, which began as trade posts and later became independent.
The founders were a circle of expert mages from the Cis-arbinan Sheikhdoms – by the time of Korakova’s founding, the once-powerful kingdoms of the Sheikhs were falling apart under the onslaught of the rising Empire, and magecraft seemed under threat – the Empire controlled it far more strictly, for religious reasons, than the Sheikhdoms did.
One grouping of lifelong wizards decided they could not risk remaining – they had no official name and were little more than a gentleman’s club, but unofficially had been referred to as the Brotherhood of Colours thanks to the coincidence that of of their four leading members, three were called White, Green, and Black. Many of the Brotherhood claimed direct patrilineal descent from the Court Mages of the First Empire – a fact which earned them grudging quasi-respect in the loosely-religious Sheikhdoms.
The founding myth of the Empire was that the First Empire fell apart because the last Emperor Kazad III was corrupted and driven mad by abuse of magic, and that magic should only be used by the pure and faithful – though the laws have relaxed in the last half-millennium, at the time it was an article of unchallengeable law. In the Empire, their loudly-proclaimed millennial roots would earn them persecution or even death.
Hence, in the dying days of the Sheikhdoms, the Brothers pooled their resources, liquidated their local assets, loaded up fleets of ships with their families, followers, servants, and provisions, and set sail seeking unclaimed land far from the Empire. They represented much of the pinnacle of magical talent in the Sheikhdoms at the time; within a decade the last Sheikhdoms were falling, and it is supposed that the loss of the Brotherhood was a death knell.
They travelled first to the east, then around the coastline of South Encyron and along the coast of what is now the Bay of Kitantha; finally, they came upon an island that they named Korakova (after Janus Green’s stillborn daughter) and set up their settlement, far from the reach of rivals and authorities.
By 350EI, Korakova was a widely recognised nation, and the ‘Brotherhood’ had transformed themselves into a heavily patriarchal mageocratic republic, ruled by the “Prismatic Circle” – not the world’s first mageocracy, but certainly the longest-suriving and sole survivor as of 1932EI. Their symbological learning was second to none, and they made many fortunes trading symbols across the world, naming their prices. Such was their reach in the era, they were even allowed significant control over their own local branch of the Church of Talras – an unprecedented demand, met with equally unprecedented acceptance, largely thanks to Imperial fears that the Korakovans might ally to Encyronia against the Empire. While perhaps overblown, the Empire knew its navy had little chance of mounting an effective invasion against a distant island if Encyronia chose to intervene (which they would, not wanting rivals to get established in North Encyron); and feared its enemies gaining exclusive access to powerful sources of magic.
In Korakova itself, in its first-millennium heyday, some of the most expert symbologists in Korakovan lands were ennobled and granted entry to the Circle, expanding it from four members to ten; and in honour of each event, they granted a new, colour-based familial name to those so ennobled, founding new dynasties and rivalries along the way.
The growth of the North Encyronian colonies relied heavily on the Korakovans for a hundred and fifty years after Encyronia committed heavily to the colonisation effort in 450EI, and Korakova found itself with both Encyronia and the Empire attempting to curry favour with it – the Prismatic Circle managed these competing rivals with expertise that made them a preeminent regional power. It is said that North Encyron’s independence movements failed between 600EI and 1000EI because Korakova supported Encyronia’s control of the region; and only succeeded afterwards because Korakova chose to permit it.
The fall of Encyronia marked the end of Korakova’s golden age being the kingmaker of the region; the Empire lost interest in the absence of major rivals, and sybmological trade had become sufficiently widespread in other regions that Korakova no longer had a monopoly on either powerful symbols nor on expertise. Their power waned relative to their neighbours, as the growing colonies began steadily exploiting their new Treaty-of-Grelda-guaranteed borders, which included a fair amount of land grabbing and unexploited lands that they could still tame and use for their own ends. Korakova’s preeminence had earned it many enemies; and after being stung in diplomacy many times until 1200EI, it retreated into insular isolationism. The return of their navies to port in this era allowed piracy to flourish in the wilder, ungoverned seas, and it proved a scourge ever since, curtailing North Encyron’s importance as a centre of trade and slowing their development significantly.
Korakova itself, though, remains ruled by the Circle and has long driven out the worship of “Imperial Gods” such as Talras; the populace are encouraged to worship the Circle as a pantheon of gods, and only Kitantha’s worship is permitted there besides the cult of personality surrounding the Circle. Most of the populace are dirt-poor and ruthlessly repressed. By contrast, the Circle’s families remain amongst the world’s single richest, ruling their island from the Tower of Light in the capital, Kalvandra (its white colour and ruthless detatchment of its rulers, has led it to be nicknamed the ‘Ivory Tower’). Unlike many government chambers, entry is not permitted to any bar the members of the Circle and their apprentices (firstborn sons except in exceptional circumstances, which the Circle must either approve or in some cases, enforce). The lower tower, the Palace of Colour, is the closest even their servants and remaining family members may approach.
Technological advancement and industrialisation has long been opposed by the Circle, with the perverse effect that it is increasingly known that Korakova has plenty of valuable mineral deposits that are unexploitable without outside help – help which many nations hope to persuade Korakova to accept. Korakova thus lacks infrastructure almost entirely and is now one of the world’s least-developed nations. Rumours from tradesmen suggest that famines and starvation are still problems here, even though such things have become incredibly rare in the new, industrialising world.
Despite this, Korakova retains a certain mystique; an ancient land of mists and mysteries and magic, where foreigners are not permitted to set foot. Legends tell of buried treasures, mystical creatures, ancient secrets and forgotten gods; to such an extent that the reality would be mundane even if only half the stories were true.
New Urgen is the only nation that seems to have made significant progress in breaking past Korakova’s trade and political barriers, and in gaining influence there; and the reverse is also true, with Korakova peddling influence in New urgen with surprising skill once again. Although the two immediate neighborus have obvious reasons to work together, it is not entirely obvious why Korakova should have taken New Urgen seriously while rebuffing deals with larger power blocs and more reliable allies, both regional and global.
Korakovan law does not even permit peasant Uruk to own property; Dragonborn that are not claimed by anyone can be claimed as slaves by the State.