In The Heart of the World
The Jangala Empire was once a mighty empire, and the sworn foe of the people of the Empire of the Heart. But those glory days are long in the past.
What was once a mighty empire covering a vast territory of jungle cities and verdant farmland is no more. A terrible curse struck the Empire some five hundred years ago, transforming the citizens of the empire into half-human beast men. Only one in ten humans was left un-affected.
In the ensuing chaos, the empire divided along new racial lines, and soon, a vicious internecine struggle for survival began, which rages to this day. Whatever humans remain of the Jangala people have reverted to primitive savagery in their attempt to stave off destruction.
There are several factions:
The Scaled Ones – this includes all manner of nagas, yuan-ti, lizard-folk, and were-beasts. The scaled ones have developed a hatred of the warm-bloods and fur-skins, and any mammal caught entering their swamps and festering jungles will soon have cause to regret it. It is said they are lead by Kul-ir-Kurutee, the Cold-Blood, a terrifying general with a taste for the flesh of children.
The Vanara – the vanara are an innocent, mischievous and surprisingly noble race of monkey-men, who have a flourishing civilisation in the treetops of Jangala, far from the deadly races who control the jungle floor. The Vanara are one of the few Jangala tribes who trade with the people of Xin, and they are known for being cunning wood workers.
The beast-men – The jungle floor, however, is dominated by a much less friendly class of creature. The beast men include ratlings (nezumi), hyena-men known as Liègǒu, were-beasts (wolves, panthers, tigers, bears, boars, rats) and above all, the sinister Rakshasas, masters of horrendous black magic, and schemers beyond compare. The rakshasas are the most organized of the denizens of Jangala, and thus the beast-men are the most numerous and most powerful faction. None know for certain what these diabolical spirits have in mind for the rest of the world, but it is doubtless malevolent. Lucky for all, then, that they are consumed with scheming against eachother, and the other assorted tribes.
All other beast-men either serve the Rakshasas faithfully, or out of fear. Those few nezumi who resist the will of the Rakshasas have fled to the border provinces of Xin, where they are regarded as especially undesirable pests. Rumours persist among the superstitious and the sage alike, of a faction of powerful and benevolent animal shifters, who desire to bring order and justice to Jangala. These Bian-Shing-Tua are said to appear to aid the righteous and worthy. Official sources dismiss them as myth.
Kenku – The kenku bird men are said to dwell in the highest mountain ranges and valleys of Old Jangala, where they practice swordplay and spellcraft with equal verve. They are the most reclusive and secretive of all the tribes of Jangala, and none can be sure where their true allegiance lies.
There are rumours of even stranger things to be found in the Southern Jungles. Mighty khan-lizards thunder across the great plains, it is said, and one brave explorer reports that packs of savage scaled jackals with claws like scimitars prowl the jungles to ambush the unwary. The parents of Xin warn naughty children that the Rakshasas will steal them away in the night for slaves and foodstuffs. The mighty Empire of Xin is content now, to let the ruined Empire of Jangala fester and rot, and the tribes of savage animal men fight among themselves. But should Jangala ever unite, and stir to wakefulness of the outside world, Xin would be in terrible danger. For that reason, a clever Emperor always has one watchful eye on the mysterious jungles to the south.