KESH, KINGDOM OF THE SUN
The origins of Kesh are shrouded in myth. It is known that the Huranians were building mud-walled towns and just beginning to divert river water for irrigation, the Aeoninans were primitive shepherds and shorebound fishermen, and the Koths were still stone age savages in the North when the Keshites raised cities and massive stone monuments in the desert. At its height, Kesh ruled an empire that reached from the cities of Ammar westward along the Inner Sea coast to the Western Straits. Three thousand years ago, the slave armies of the Priest-Kings built massive-walled Khem on the coast and dug the Grand Canal southward to the Great Oasis, where fresh water welled up from the earth to make agriculture possible. Aeonian merchants from Khosos traded at the port of Khem and caravans linked that city to Isfar in the South and distant Huran. Keshite armies, led by squadrons of war chariots, ranged unchallenged from the edge of the Great Desert to the feet of the Smouldering Mountains. Under the Priest-Kings' rule, Kesh became the greatest civilization of Men.
But, all empires decline and when Tharsis rose and sent her navy and legions eastward, Kesh was old, tired and unready for war. The last Priest-King, Thun-Knephet, the Ninety-Ninth Mortal Incarnation of the Sun God, committed suicide as Imperial Legionnaires breached the walls of Khem. Kesh became a vassal kingdom of the Empire of the Inner Sea with a puppet ruler appointed from the old nobility. During five centuries of Imperial rule, the kingdom was squeezed for every resource by her Imperial overseers - grain, gold, salt and slaves. When the Empire collapsed, Kesh was destitute, her army nothing more than a ceremonial palace guard, her people worn, bitter and leaderless (the puppet king had fled with the Imperial army). Poverty, famine and civil chaos followed as nobles fought over the scraps of a plundered civilization. Nomad raiders swept across the desert at will and pirates ruled the port of Khem. Then, one day, the ancient Keshite priesthood, exiled to the south during Imperial rule, proclaimed a miracle. The Sun-God had seen the suffering of his people and determined it to be enough. The Hundredth Reincarnation of Re' had been born in the city of Ramis and the rule of the Priest-Kings was restored ...Anak-Thaton Re' (The Sun Reborn) was twelve years old when he rode a chariot through the gates of Khem at the head of an army 10,000 strong. Warring nobles, peasants and desert herdsmen had flocked to him during his journey north. Keshite mercenaries at Carthene deserted and marched east when word reached them. The pirates and brigands who occupied Khem were driven from the city. Ships burned in the harbor and foreign temples, homes and businesses of Imperial citizens were burned and demolished. Those who had collaborated with and profited from Imperial occupation were executed en mass - drowned in the Grand Canal or hung by their feet from the city walls until dead. The Royal Palace, abandoned and looted of its treasures, was reoccupied and Imperial slaves were freed. With the monarchy restored and the priesthood once more in charge of government administration, Kesh began to rebuild. Immediately, work began on a third Great Pyramid to join those of Menaton and Akatenthis, the First and Fiftieth Priest-Kings of Kesh.
Over the last 200 years, Kesh has striven to regain her position of prominence among the nations of the Inner Sea. Anak-Thaton Re's son, Ketnu-Anaton, rebuilt the Royal Army and restored the old military order of provincial governor-generals. His successor, Nar-Pharaz, began the reconstruction of the ancient desert fortresses that guarded Kesh's borders in the old days (Amran and Keph-Het have been completed). The One Hundred and Third and One Hundred and Fourth Priest-Kings, Pharaz-Knaru and Anath Nar-Phaton, sought to expand the kingdom's borders and reclaim lost territory. Presently, the Thyrenian province of Asharon is in dispute, claimed by Damarea but occupied by Keshite troops, while the far southern border of Kesh is virtually non-existant. Tribesmen of the Haffar cross the frontier at will, raiding desert caravans and striking occasionally as far north as Ramis and the Great Oasis.
GOVERNMENT: The One Hundred and Fifth Priest-King of Kesh is absolute monarch and high pontiff, considered the mortal incarnation of the Sun-God, divinely appointed to rule*. He is supported by a vast bureaucracy of priest-scribes and minor officials and the ministries are well-established and hereditary. The nobles of Kesh, the Gnomarchs, are predominantly administrative, charged with managing commerce and agriculture in their assigned lands. The Priest-King's Royal Governors hold real power beyond the walls of the capitol, serving at His pleasure and His alone. Many of them have been promoted from the ranks of the military and their loyalty is to the Sun-God's Son, without question.The military might of Kesh, as in the old days, is based on highly mobile troops - war chariots, desert cavalry and nomad auxiliaries - combined with disciplined infantry spearmen. Fortresses throughout the kingdom are the keystones of defense, though many have fallen into ruin. Greatest of these are the massive fortress cities of Akum-Gath, Akum-Re and Ramis. The capitol itself is well defended, its great harbor guarded by the island fortresses on Kethmos and Issos (Aeonian names that have come to replace whatever names were given them). The kingdom's great weakness is her lack of a navy. Keshites have never been seafarers, and the King maintains only a few galleys and warbarges for transportation of troops along the coast or on the Grand Canal. Aside from these, ships are limited to merchant galleys and lateeners.
CHALLENGES: Kesh must trade, firstly. Her resources are too limited to enrich the treasury without solid commercial ties. Salt and slaves are the most readily available goods, though demand for the latter is limited. Kesh's gold was plundered by the Empire and (it is popularly believed) rests in the Royal Treasury of Isthia, today. Secondly, Kesh needs to reestablish the old system of tribute from neighboring kingdoms such as Isfar and the city-states of Ammar (Thyrenia). The mere threat of military action brought steady gold into the treasury in the old days. But, unlike then, there are new rivals on her borders, namely Carthenia in the west and Sharaaz in the east. The Haffar must be subdued to secure the southern border and the nomads of the Western Desert could, potentially, be put to use against Carthenia. As in the old days, the kingdom's greatest potential asset abroad might be the Aeonians, who can lend their sea-power in time of war ... As for Isfar in the south, that ancient kingdom has refused tribute since the Priest-Kings returned to power, even defeated a Royal Army sent by Anath Nar-Phaton at the Battle of the Kafari River only five years ago.