I’d never really thought of any trends across the various countries/peoples in the novel, but answering my friend Juliana’s questions about them made it very clear that there is one.
1. Cedeirans follow a strict monotheistic religion that abhors any trace of the (non-divine) supernatural, punishing all natural-born mages with death, thus forcing them to conceal their abilities or flee society altogether. They are in particular virulently racist towards Elentians of all nationalities and outright genocidal towards dryads. The very large Cedeiran nation is controlled by the small ethnic minority who “unified” Cedeira.
2. Elentians are snobbish towards all non-Elentians. Moreover, western Elentians (Marelians and Derians) are highly xenophobic towards eastern Elentians (Nerocnans), whom they regard as power-hungry, untrustworthy, quasi-foreign imperialists.
3. …In all fairness, Nerocna, as the premier successor state to the Elentians’ empire-in-name-only, used its security and power to establish a very real empire. They conquered all the countries along their border and turned them into provinces and protectorates. They regard western Elentians as uncivilized bumpkins at best, and often outright barbaric, and themselves as the true heirs to Elentium. The dream of Elentian reunification is overwhelmingly a Nerocnan dream, envisioned with Nerocnan leadership.
4. Although western Elentians think of Nerocna as a byward for corruption, the Derian court is infamously cutthroat and decadent. They were the last of the Elentian nations to form a sovereign state because it consisted of three warring factions for centuries, finally united through tragedy, a handful of political missteps by one party, and significant Marelian involvement. And although all Elentian society is matriarchal, it’s at its most severely so in Deria. They’re perpetually squabbling with Cedeira over a strip of fertile land on their border, but otherwise detached from international affairs beyond some basic solidarity with Marelia.
5. Where Deria is isolationist, Marelia is severely, inflexibly so. Without any particular quarrels with Cedeira, they keep the shared border heavily fortified and warded just in case (which does nothing to warm relations). Their southern border is too long to defend quite so obsessively, particularly as Marelia has the lowest population density (by a long way) of any of the Elentian kingdoms, but they strictly enforce it. When an epidemic struck the neighbouring kingdom of Nyalai and victims fled across Marelia’s border for refuge, Marelian forces pushed them back into Nyalai…
6. …which is a horrifying theocratic dictatorship. Most Nyalain people live in abject poverty, while embezzlement and corruption are so rife in what passes for their government that it’s impossible to so much as register a complaint without bribery. The vast majority of Nyalain wealth (such as it is) is concentrated in the hands of a small number of superwealthy aristocrats and priests.
7. There’s a place in Marelia called the Valley of Bones, which is exactly what you’d think it is. It’s covered in a mix of human and dragon bones, as it was the site of a horrific battle between dragons and the Cedeirans who then lived there. The Cedeirans, driven south from their homes, won with terrible casualites and their homeland devastated by dragonfire. Finding that Elentian colonists had taken up residence in the unscathed parts of the homeland, and that the Elentians were “witches,” they relentlessly hunted them, as well as the dryads who continued to bar entrance to the great forest, one of the only places unscathed by dragons.
8. The dryads habitually loathed humans and dragons alike, lacing their forest with so many protective enchantments and spells of confusion/illusion that it was called the Wood of Ishtanan (euphemistically translated as “illusions,” actually “nightmares”). Their standard policy was to kill anyone who set foot in the forest for any reason. Cedeirans did succeed in destroying part of the forest and the Elentian colonies, at which point the dryads and Elentians banded together and routed the Cedeirans, driving them south and preventing them from ever returning to their home.
9. The dragons, meanwhile, had fled the entire western continent (Lakhassa) after their defeat by the Cedeirans, and they settled in the cliffs and mountains of the southern desolation of the eastern continent (Ikkeia). The region was called Trevalya and people did actually live there, displaced by the incoming dragons. A culture of dragon-hunting evolved, with some dubious success. Ultimately the dragons, always struggling to support their population, completely eradicated the Trevalyans. The dragons allied with the Nerocnan tyrant Maurdith in exchange for promises of fertile territory, but upon Maurdith’s defeat were magically sealed into Trevalya, where they have remained for the last five hundred years, struggling with their ever-increasing numbers and ever-decreasing resources.
10. The Nerocnan protectorate of Khaer, which spawned the scandalous Archprelate Zhia Andastal (née Ji Val-lhanne) and her ambitious Andastal-Lelane relations with her, has for centuries carried on a bitter enmity with the Irolai, the people of neighbouring Irol, a province of the Aenerelian Empire. Relations between the Nerocnan and Aenerelian empires are tense at the best of times, but the Khaeri-Irolai attempts at mutual extinction have pulled their respective empires into incredibly destructive wars—dragging the other subject peoples with them.
11. Speaking of the Aenerelians, they are probably the least directly classist of any of Lhûn’s cultures, as their cultural philosophy adheres strictly to the tabula rasaview that character is entirely determined by upbringing and education. Consequently every Aenerelian’s future is laid out in infacy and early childhood, and they’re raised for it in communes with others selected for the same path. The only exception is the emperor, who is raised alone in a private compound, his upbringing dedicated entirely to training him for his position. To avoid any damaging influences, he is never permitted to leave the compound, nor are anyone but the highest ministers permitted to enter—and the slaves, of course. Crime of any kind is regarded as an abhorrent aberration, and harshly punished; all criminals are sentenced to enslavement, the conditions and duration dependent on the nature of the crimes, and controlled by a small subset of natural mages to ensure their compliance. Unlike Nerocna, Aenerelia has no protectorates, only provinces, and these systems are applied throughout the entire empire, not just Aenerelia proper.
Aenerelia regards Nerocna as incompetent, unenlightened, and depraved; Nerocna regards Aenerelia as a nightmarish dystopic hellscape.
…This list is not comprehensive, but you get the idea.
Nobody is pure!