To my mind, one of the most interesting, yet one of the most unexplored areas of the world of Fighting Fantasy is the civilised western part of Khul which is governed by the Council of Seven, who rule from the capital of the area, Ximoran (see Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World, p. 24/39 (large/small format)). We can, following the practice of Titannica, call this area the Ximoran Protectorate. Other than some information in Titan, which I'll discuss further below, we learn almost nothing about this part of Titan other than a few crumbs of information in Scorpion Swamp by Steve Jackson (US) and a fair bit more about the area around and south of Neuburg (especially in Peter Darvill-Evans' Beneath Nightmare Castle and Portal of Evil). In this post, I'm going to explore this part of Khul and see what we can learn, and offer some suggestions of ways we might develop this area further for our own adventures and stories.
Let's start with Steve Luxton's map of Khul in Titan. Titan (pp. 24/39) suggests that the Ximoran Protectorate stretches from the River Swordflow in the south to the Coast of Sharks, with the Council of Seven made up of representatives from the seven main cities: Ximoran, Anghelm, Buruna, Djiretta, Kalima, Kelther and Neuburg. We know from Portal of Evil that the Protectorate extends some way south of Neuburg, but it is unknown whether it extends far beyond Djiretta to the area of Shantak Bay.
South of the River Swordflow lie the lands of Kazan and Gorak, which I'll talk about more in later posts (as I will also do for the lands around Neuburg), and the forests and jungles north of Lake Mlubz, which are largely unsettled. This huge expanse of territory, bounded in the east by the Mountains of the Giants, in the north and west by the sea, and in the south by the River Swordflow, looks like a land of lush river valleys, ancient forests (some fans have equated the large forest in the northwest of the land with Mithrir Forest, mentioned in Daggers of Darkness, but this is only conjecture), rolling grassy plains, and teacherous swamp (see my previous post for a reanalysis of the geography of Scorpion Swamp though). It's obvious that there are many more towns and villages in the Protectorate than are marked on the map (which only shows the main cities and the two villages which appear in Scorpion Swamp) - see the Background section of Scorpion Swamp and the map accompanying Portal of Evil for some indications of this. Otherwise we know very little about the geography of the area, though thankfully we do know more (though still not a lot) of the history of this part of Khul (see Titan, pp. 24-5/39-41, 38-41/73-83, 43/87). In outline, the kindgom of Klarash, named after the dynasty of the same name, grew up in the area, centred on its capital, Shakista (near where Ximoran later lay). At its height, Klarash extended from the north coast to Yaziel and Hyennish in the far southwest. The Spawning of Chaos in Khul almost ruined Klarash for good, but it survived the convultions which destroyed much of the rest of the continent, though it had lost its southern territories around Zagoula and Shakista had to be abandoned due to the ruin caused by the forces of Chaos. A new capital was built at Ximoran, and it looked for a short while like Klarash might return to its former glories, but then the last King of the Klarash dynasty died without leaving an heir, and the lands became ruled by the Council of Seven. Instead of a unified nation, the result was a loose confederation of lands united under a governing council and notionally under the protection of Ximoran.
Interestingly, The Fighting Fantasy 10th Anniversary Yearbook adds a few choice details to the history of the region. The Yearbook records that the last king of Klarash was called Orien, and that he died in 81AC (After Chaos), on the 20th day of Nature's Curling. Nine years later, the Yearbook records, the 'Queen of Silver' was banished from Ximoran (on the 6th day of Forests Golden in 90AC), and in 103AC the Riddling Reaver was unmasked in Ximoran on the 2nd day of Watching. These last two events are fascinating if rather enigmatic - who was the 'Queen of Silver', and what was the Riddling Reaver doing in Ximoran? It's tempting to connect all of these events, since the Yearbook considered them (and only them) important enough to record. Perhaps the Queen of Silver was Orien's dowager queen (though not of the Klarash line herself), who may have found herself in conflict with the new Council of Seven. And perhaps the Riddling Reaver saw a situation here which he could work to his own unknowable advantage. I like to think that perhaps he posed as a (false) claimant to the throne, Perkin Warbeck style, maybe even supported by the Queen of Silver, who had become seduced by him. None of this is canon of course, but it certainly makes for an interesting episode in the history of the Ximoran Protectorate.
Actually, the impression I get from the Ximoran Protectorate is of a land not dissimilar in some ways from George R. R. Martin's Seven Kingdoms from his A Song of Ice and Fire series (spoilers ahead, just in case you haven't read all the series yet). Okay, so there's no king or ice wall and frozen north, but there are lush river lands (see, for example, the area north of Ximoran, which reminds me of Martin's Trident and Riverlands), a possible pretender to the throne, fAegon style (in the form of the Riddling Reaver), and seven semi-independent sub-kingdoms and a council which is no doubt the scene of scheming and intrigue (especially if we go back to the times after the death of Orien). I'm not suggesting that Ximoran should be based on Martin's Seven Kingdoms, only that we might be able to model it partly on that. And, of course, I'm not suggesting that Martin drew his inspiration for the Seven Kingdoms from the Ximoran Protectorate, even if there are tiny bits of evidence which might, maybe suggest that Martin drew inspiration here and there from Fighting Fantasy (e.g. the deadly poison, the Tears of Lys, which we can compare with the Black Poison of Lisz from Daggers of Darkness, and the name Sansa, which is obviously close to the name of the first noble of Kharé). One further aspect of Martin's Seven Kingdoms that we might also be able to incorporate into the Ximoran Protectorate is the chivalry, gallantry, and knightly society which is such a keystone of his work. There isn't actually anywhere in Titan where knights and their courtly deeds take centre stage, and I wonder whether Ximoran might be the place for it. We do have some evidence of knights in Khul, for example the tourney in Daggers of Darkness, the knights of Zamarra (I like to think of Zamarra as an early outpost of Klarash founded by adventurer knights, now gone its own way), and the Order of Knights Errant from Dave Morris's unpublished Fighting Fantasy gamebook, The Keeper of the Seven Keys, and I can't help feeling that the Ximoran area might be the source of all this on the continent. Anyway, it's just an idea, but I think a settled land combining elements of what we know from canon FF sources, and inspiration from Arthurian legend and A Song of Ice and Fire might make the west of Khul a really rather interesting place. What do you think?