|Other names||Westerlings, Westlanders (in the Northlands)|
The Azadi are the people of a powerful empire from a continent several days' travel to the west of the Northlands, whose capital city is Sadir. It is also the name of their empire. The Azadi are a matriarchial society run by a group of empresses known as the Six, though a shadowy male figure called the Prophet is also a guiding influence. Oddly, for an Arcadian empire, they have developed sophisticated technology.
The Azadi were not featured in The Longest Journey. The closest mention is a snippet from Jemein the Discoverer's Travels in the Northlands where he mentions the Far West, to which he was "carried on good will and Destiny by Shadow Ships, to the strange and unknown cliffs of a World unseen by most, a World of an unfamiliar Tongue and customs, a World of Great Wonder and Mysticism." The Alatien also have a legend about a beautiful princess from lands far to the west.
Ten years ago, the Azadi came to Marcuria during the Tyren occupation. They drove out the 'trolls' and seemingly annihilated the race, leaving a garrison in Marcuria to protect its people while they finished the Tyren off. Gradually that garrison grew to a larger and larger population, and the Azadi began making their influence felt. Despite their insistence that they are not a conquering force, the Azadi are now effectively occupying Marcuria in place of the Tyren.
Many Marcurians have welcomed the Azadi presence. They shattered the Tyren and shared their technology, and the ever-present soldiers are a small price to pay for stability and peace. Others, however, especially the magical population, see the Azadi as an insiduous threat. The Azadi fear magic, and that means the non-human and magical races (collectively "Magicals") are forced to live inside a ghetto under the pretence of keeping order. For a few of the more prejudiced humans, this is a good thing.
Not surprisingly, an underground movement of Rebels has sprung up with April Ryan as one of the figureheads, whom the Azadi know only by reputation as the Scorpion. The Azadi's religious intolerance led them to scatter the Sentinel and demolish their temple. The Rebels are interested in a huge tower the Azadi have almost finished constructing on the very same site, as it presents a clear focus for their activities. The Prophet seems to be behind the building of the tower, and is anxious that it be finished in time for its planned inauguration by the Six.
Curiously, when April follows the Prophet into the ancient ruins in the Underground Caverns she discovers the Dream Chamber directly beneath the tower, and can discern a depiction of the tower carved on the outside. It is entirely possible that the construction of the tower on this site is what drew the Azadi to Marcuria in the first place. The epilogue to Dreamfall sees the tower surrounded by the swirling form of what appears to be a Chaos Storm, and a woman's laughter is faintly audible in the background.
The Azadi have a complex matriarchal society where women make up the entirety of government, leaving men to military matters. The Six empresses form the top of the hierarchical pyramid, while the 36 empty seats in the Council Room are probably filled by the "Council" Kian mentions.
Commander Vamon suspects that someone powerful protects Kian Alvane, "Someone inside the Sixth Circle". Kian himself uses this term to refer to the where War Garden is, and that person is arguably his mentor, Garmon Koumas. It can be assumed (but not taken for granted) that the Sixth is the innermost of six circles, in which reside the War Garden, Apostles, the Council, and the Six themselves.
The governor of the Azadi forces in the Northlands is Sister Sahya, whose title is "Emissary". Although obeisant to the Six and the Prophet she seems to have her own agenda, as is evinced in her distrust of the empresses' sending of Kian to deal with the Scorpion. Indeed, it may be assumed that women of power are referred to with the honorific epithet "Sister", while Kian's recognition of the handmaid who summons him to the Council Room as "Child Ena" would seem to indicate that those younger females who have not yet attained a station bear the title "Child".
It is not spelled out but there appears to be a caste distinction, as when Vamon complains of Kian's elevated position despite being an orphan. The Azadi obviously do not discriminate by birth when it comes to talent, but that does not mean there is no ill feeling from high-born people to low. This might indicate that their society has only recently (say, in the last few centuries) changed from an oligarchy to a meritocracy. They also appear to be matrilineal, as Vamon refers to Kian as a "motherless boy".
The Azadi refer to themselves as 'Trueborn', although the exact meaning of that term is still the subject of speculation. Regardless, it means that 'ethnic' Azadi are considered of a higher station than that of provincial citizens.
Brian Westhouse has visited the Empire and its capital Sadir, and reports on the good hospitality of its citizens. He does note, however, that as a man he was somewhat restricted in his movements, but being as he was of the human race, he was treated fairly well.
The Azadi are near-fanatically religious and worship an unnamed Goddess. Though they try to convert via sermons, the Six also have a more to-the-point approach, using Apostles such as Kian to convert with steel. The Azadi believe this ensures rebirth into a perfect afterlife. April is able to overhear one of the soldiers cursing "Azmael", and it is possible that this is the name of their Satan (from Hebr. 'opponent') figure. They also refer to the Scorpion as a "daemon".
Despite their religious convictions, or because of them, the Azadi have a pathological aversion to magic, although their own ranks are stocked with powerful thaumaturgists. Na'ane suspects that their fear of magic extends only so far as that which they do not control. The fact that they do not only fear magic and magic-users, but also the magical races may indicate that the Azadi also fear anything they do not understand.
Everywhere the Azadi go they bring their steam technology with them. This technology provides several modern conveniences such as the swift Cloudships and Benrime Salmin's beer tap, and has given rise to a whole new kind of merchant. April guesses that some other uses might include to "heat houses, flush toilets, generate power". She does worry about their ubiquity, however, and the fact that they seem to keep operating at night when people are in bed. There are even machines on the houses at Crab Bend, a Marcurian street which is now deserted, so their purpose may not be entirely servile. April and Na'ane note that the technology "combines magic and technology", and some fans have speculated that, given the dream conspiracy, they may be being used to harvest the dreams of Marcuria's citizens.
Iron seems to be much more available in the Far West than in the Northlands, and the Azadi make extensive use of it in their machines and weapons. Interestingly, as Brian Westhouse discusses with Benrime Salmin gold seems to have replaced the Aren as currency in Ayrede. This may be due either to the Azadi having imposed it upon them, some Arcadian glitch with Gordon's having ascended the Tower in the Guardian's Realm, or perhaps just a simple inconsistency between TLJ and Dreamfall.
The Azadi's military roles seem to be filled by males. The Commander-in-Chief of forces in the Northlands is Commander Vamon, whereas Kian represents the Apostles, an elite group of assassins. The two served together at some point in the past, although under what circumstances we do not know.
Azadi citizens (including Ayredan provincials) are eligible to join the army at the age of 14, although it is curious that Chawan, apparently human, was enslaved and forced to fight for them. This may indicate that his people are a magical race of some sort, or could just be the legacy of a past imperial policy. A typical tour-of-duty is 6 years, and will often see soldiers sent to far-flung provinces like Ayrede.
Of Azadi tactics we know precious little, although we witness two military exercises. The first is the skirmish in a Northlands forest (possibly Riverwood), when April's band of 4 Rebels engages an Azadi squad of the same number. These Azadi appear to be a scouting party, but they are unprepared for the conditions and they are too heavily armoured to move effectively. The second is the raid on the Rebels' Swamp City, in which many soldiers and a small fleet of Cloudships take part. Command Vamon himself leads the attack, probably to have the pleasure of arresting Kian. At the time of Dreamfall, an extra contingent of several thousand soldiers is expected in Marcuria in time for the inauguration of the Tower. They will undoubtedly be housed in the new Barracks. While it is being built, the army makes camp in tents on Tower Square.
Law and Order Edit
The omnipresent soldiers keep Marcuria a safe place, unless you are a Magical. They frequently raid the Magic Ghetto under the pretext of finding terrorists.
When someone is arrested by the Azadi, they are held at the old prison of Friar's Keep before being sent to Sadir for trial and, invariably, beheading. Although Friar's Keep is still administered by native Marcurians, there is always an Azadi soldier present, and the prison has become little more than a glorified way-station for political prisoners.
Beheading is the favourite punishment of the Azadi: employed for treason, heresy and witchcraft. Their punishment for smuggling is the binding of the hands and feet before being weighed down with metal and dropped into the ocean. However, Kian finds the prospect of hanging - once a common punishment in Marcuria - to be barbaric.
Given that the Azadi have begun their conquest of the Northlands, one might assume that they have complete control of the Far Western continent. We know the names of only two of their cities: the holy city of Sadir, built on a delta at the conjunction of six rivers, and another city named Tahran.
The name Azadi may have been inspired by a fictional game in the Iain M. Banks novel The Player of Games (1988), in which the name Azad (a. Azadian) translates as 'machine' or 'system' and is the name of an extremely complex game, and also the empire it holds together. This would obviously match nicely the Azadi's reliance on technology in Dreamfall. Given the several references to Persia (azadi is a Persian word, and Tahran is the capital of Iran) and their Islamic aesthetic, however, the greater influence would seem to be from there.
During production the Azadi were named 'Taherans' in the script and concept art, and so it is possible that at some stage that Azadi city served as their capital. Before release, Ragnar confirmed that this was only a working name.