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Hovath is a lawful theocracy and the Pharaoh is the supreme theological and governmental authority in the country, and he rules strictly. Harsh penalties are imposed for anything the Pharaoh deems harmful to his people; perjury, murder, the Black Arts, and wizardry all are punishable by death. Clerics are supreme in Hovath, provided they observe the proper rites; otherwise, they are deemed heretics, to be burned at the stake along with wizards and sorcerers.

The people of Hovath are a tall, dark people with heavy black hair, usually worn short, and dark, shiny eyes. They are strong, but only average when it comes to quickness. The bow is a favored weapon, as is the spear, but for close work they prefer a knife or short sword. Clerics are numerous among the populations, outnumbered only by fighters, and there are many rogues — even though theft is a capital crime. The few wizards and sorcerers in Hovath are still alive only because they are well hidden; death is the automatic sentence if one is captured.

The climate of Hovath is hot, but the people are well adapted to it and spend the middle of the day napping rather than fighting the heat. Hovath is rich in natural resources, but her riches are not apparent, since most of the luxuries generally associated with wealth have been declared sinful by the Pharaoh. Many valuable minerals are exported from Hovath, but the wealthy have very little to do with their money except to count it and pay taxes. The Pharaoh uses those taxes to build hospitals, roads, schools and temples. Of course, the hospitals also are used for such operations as removing a wine-drinker’s nose, and the schools teach only what the Pharaoh believes – with the result that a number of lessons blatantly contradict what students can readily observe outside the classroom. Disagreeing with a priest-teacher is also a crime.

The most devoted of the priests are neither clean nor well groomed, a fact attributed to their concentration on higher things at the expense of worldly concerns. In Hovath is it claimed that you can smell a truly holy teacher from 1,000 feet away – more, if you are downwind.

There are two major reasons why Hovathians venture to Kesmai. The first is to win honor for the Pharaoh by proving that his adherents are stronger and braver than anyone else, because they follow the pure way the Pharaoh has set for them. The second reason is to get away from the Pharaoh. There is much dissatisfaction in Hovath, but it is totally disorganized. Most citizens are afraid to speak their minds, even to their closest kin, for fear of the many spies the Pharaoh has among the population. The Pharaoh encourages this fear, believing that fear is a good method for keeping his people on the path that is best for them — which is, of course, his path. The Pharaoh also has a cadre of powerful assassins who aid him in his plans, assassins who are just as fanatical as he. Their method is to attack from behind, using a curious weapon consisting of a thin wire with a wooden grip on each end. Once this wire is looped about a victim’s neck, death is certain. But even with this powerful tool of oppression, the dissatisfaction is still silently building, and may someday ignite into a bloody civil war.

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