Extant information on Hekuba can be found in S7S, p. 78.
What Hekuba Is Like
A small cloud-island, in the Deasil High Layer and near to the Edge of the World, Hekuba is a small, very flat, cloud-island, covered in vibrant green foilage. Other than the Hekubans themselves, thousands of types of insects comprise the predominant form of animal life here, ranging in size from that of a dust-mote to a small pony (the empusa, a type of large mantis that hunts in packs).
Hekuban History in Brief
Hekuba was first settled centuries ago as a small Viridese colony. The Barathi blockaded the island (for unknown reasons) and later invaded the island shortly after. They were repulsed at great cost: the destruction of all available skyships. The aftermath of war, disease, famine, and simple bad luck decimated the male colonists. The surviving prisoners of war, trapped on Hekuba, were forced to unite with their captors, and become part of Hekuban society, so that all could survive.
When contact with the wider World resumed, Hekuban culture had changed from its antecedents.
How Hekuba Is Ruled
Hekuba is a matriarchal and female-chauvinist society. A feudal monarchy, it calls itself a "Queendom" rather than a "Kingdom"; and has been ruled by the current royal family for the past eighty years. The Queen rules, supported by three Varquisas, each supported by four Countesses. The rest of the population is made up of Jann (peasants) and slaves.
What the Hekubans Are Like
Hekubans are incredibly adaptable. They vigorously, and with remarkable speed, rise to the challenges that beset them. This is one reason that many philosophers of the World believe that Hekuba will soon cease to be simply a Minor Island and become one of the major nations of the World.
Hekubans tend to keep their own counsel. They quietly wait, with almost unbelievable stillness, for their opponents — in war, trade, love, and peace — to make a mistake, show a weakness or vulnerability, or otherwise slip-up. Then they strike, lightning-quick, with great force. A Hekuban warrior prefers to attack unexpectedly, or from ambush.
Hekubans are a highly visual people. They create vibrant art — paintings, sculptures, pottery, dance — that is meant to be seen and appreciated by the eye for than other senses or the mind. The small population of native alchemists have developed the widest and richest spectrum of color (paints, dyes, glazes, etc.) in all of the 7 Skies, and Hekubans relish using all of them on their clothing, furniture, and artwork.
As noted above, Hekuba is a female-chauvinist culture. While they don't necessarily view males as a "weaker" sex, Hekubans do consider them "valuable": too valuable to "waste" in intensive or dangerous professions (politics, warfare, alchemy, construction, trade, etc.). There are no male aristocrats on Hekuba. Hekuban marriages are polyandrous: a wife can have multiple husbands.
(Interestingly, pregnant females are "downgraded" to a lesser status when in their period of childbearing, for much the same reasons. They are now "more valuable," and must be protected from all dangers.)
And yet, Hekuban men are not quite property. All Hekubans engage in elaborate courtship behavior; the sorts of high romance that would warm a Colronan Royalist's heart — if the gender roles were not reversed.
Typically, autumn is seen as the "Season of Love" and, after the harvests have been brought in, the entire island is given over to romantic pursuits: festivals, gala balls, assignations, and outright wooing. Many duels are fought between Hekuban females over the attentions of their swains.
Hekuba & the Church
Hekuban faith revolves around folk rites based on fertility, healing, and prophecy. Novice priestesses and monks, usually Gifted (Unicorns and Merhorses) serve an apprenticeship with one or more older Priestesses or Monks, before choosing to become a wandering cleric or settle down in a community to serve their needs.
The Church considers the Hekubans as pagans or heathens; the Church is currently sending missionaries to the island to study their beliefs in order to better convert them to the True Faith. For their part, the Hekubans don't really care about the Church.
Hekuba & the Mystical
There are less than a half-dozen native Hekuban koldun. However, a surprising proportion of Hekubans are Gifted — with a supermajority of those being blessed with the Gift of the Merhorse. Hekuba does have a small number of skilled alchemists.
Given the lack of koldun, Hekubans treat visiting kolduns (even male ones!) as holding a "courtesy rank" of status close to that of Countesses, in an attempt to get them to stay on their island.
Opinions of the Other Nations Regarding Hekuba
The Colronan Kingdom refuses to formally recognize Hekuba as a nation; Hekuba returns the favor. (However, the attitudes of individual subjects of the Kingdom and Queendom, when regarding the other, run the gamut from "sheer horror" to "unnatural fascination.")
Given Hekuba's mineral wealth, the Sha-Ku will always trade with them… but (depending upon whether or not Hekuban artwork is in fashion at the moment) are either gratified or discomfited by the Hekuban's intense interest in their ruqs and ruqriders.
What’s Happening Now On Hekuba?
A mysterious koldun known as "The Blue Skull" is the lynchpin of this effort, yet has never contacted his fellows in the koldun Fraternity to mention the opportunity. It is possible that he wishes all of the glory for himself, but rumor whispers that he has… other designs.
A Hekuban sculptor in bronze named Adede of the Strong Fingers has suddenly become a favorite at the Barathi Empress' court. All across the World, collectors are now clamoring for her work. Vast sums are being paid for even minor artworks. Alas, her masterpiece — The Foaming of the Sea of Tears — was captured enroute to Barathi (and the Empress!) by an unknown Ilwuzi pirate ship. The artist, the Empress, and the Queen of Hekuba are all furious, and offering great rewards to those who recover the sculpture and/or capture the pirates.
Travelers' Comments on Hekuba
I shall not return there.
— "Baroness" Karlinda
Queen Ofelia's plaintive requests for my aid in her little empusa folly is starting to tire me. Still… she offers much. Perhaps I should reconsider.
— Red Lizabek of the Songs
I like it here. Plenty of room to… develop things.
— The Blue Skull