Khemet is mentioned only a couple of times in the text. It is described as ‘ancient and corrupt’, and then ‘fallen’1. The simplified Parsantium adventurers map depicts Khemet as a desert and oasis zone west of the Pillars of Heaven Mountains with a west coast on the Corsair’s Sea. Parsantium is way to the north, many days’ travel. Away to the south and west through particularly difficult desert is Qadisa, a jewelled oasis in a fertile river valley.Referring to the Sarantium map, Khemet occupies the area of roughly Soriyya and Amuz.2
Khemet, we allow, is based on Egyptian themes. This means that religious life was strong with the people, and that their place in creation was strongly tied to the seasons. Let’s suppose that the same general situation existed as in the historical model: that the civilisation of Khemet was based around the annual flooding of a river fed by the Pillars of Heaven. This flooding created great agricultural bounty but required enormous effort to dam and channel the flow. Failure to do so meant the water escaped over the flood plain to the sea and people starved. Over the centuries a society evolved that ritualised this process and Khemet grew comparatively rich and cultured. They were isolated by the desert, the mountains, and the sea.
When Rezana was founded, Khemet was already an ancient civilisation. Pharaohs ruled the land. This position was hereditary and succession was generally a stable affair, interrupted only rarely when no heir was apparent and dynastic infighting disrupted the kingdom for a year or two with civil war. For the most part, life was a gentle progression, generation on generation.
The Pharaohs of Khemet were divine in that they were assumed to be directly descended from their immortal and transcendent ancestors, the gods, put on earth to perform the rituals that evoked the sun to rise and the Kushh to flood. More or less isolated physically and intellectually the Pharaohs and their advisors saw themselves as occupying a tiny centre of the world, surrounded by harsh environment and barbarians. In such a claustrophobic environment they developed increasingly sophisticated and bizarre beliefs and rituals concerning the afterlife. Mummification of the aristocrats, most specifically the Pharaohs, become an overriding concern, as did the storage of their remains in complex, trapped megalithic structures. Entire schools of thought grew, eventually incorporating all fields of magical research. Preservation of the Pharaohs’ bodies, and minds, and spirits was the goal. These magical colleges attracted students from around the world and the legends of their findings, powers and manifestations obsess magicians to this day.
No one knows for sure when, but the texts in the hidden libraries of the Esoteric Order of the Blue Lotus hint, at some time between the years 400 and 600 on the Rezana calendar (a period suspiciously empty of other notations for Parsantium) as being the cataclysm. All communication between Khemet and the rest of the world ceased. Refugees told mind-warping stories of reality-tearing forces; the dead rose from their graves and the living fell in their thousands as if poisoned. The university city of Qandir, also called the City of Brass, disappeared from the land with a scream that blinded everyone that heard it. Expeditions to the kingdom either never returned, or came back shattered and depleted, telling tales of monsters that no military force could defeat. 1,000 years have passed, and the kingdom of Khemet is a cursed and shunned land. The passes through the Pillars of Heaven are treacherous because of the foul spawn that crawl up from the deserts. Trade with Qadisa is done by sea, bypassing altogether that blighted stretch of coast where no living creature tills the soil, but observers out to sea swear that they see movement amidst the rubble, and complain of terrible dreams.
The Esoteric Order of the Blue Lotus sponsors expeditions into Khemet to research and to return with artefects. This has been so for many centuries.
1 Khemet is an expected incorporation of the typical fantasy tropes of mummies and skeletons. From a miniatures point of view the Games Workshop faction of the Tomb Kings of Khemri is clearly the model, either intentionally or by convergent evolution.
2 Notes on maps: I have used one of the official Parsantium maps available from Richard’s web site, but I have also used a map contained in the novels Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay. By accident, design or subconscious emulation these two maps are exceedingly similar. So much so that I use them interchangeably, explaining away subtle differences as local errors of translation, ignorance, or merely representations of from different time periods. Where there is a difference between the two I choose the interpretation I think is better for the story. For example, there are Pillars of Heaven mountains and these do lead to Sampur (India). There is a Caliphate in North Africa, and Bathura and Rezana are cool names. The former western (Roman) Empire of Bathura sounds a lot better to my ear than Rhodia. The detail around Saradia, Trakesia are just so much more inspiring than ‘Gloomtangle Forest’, though, so I go with the Sarantium one for things like that. Ultimately, it’s a fantasy world and these maps were not compiled using satellite technology. They are approximations.