The Haighlei Empire is described as being composed of Six Nations. One of the kingdoms of the Haighlei Empire is named Ghandai, and the citizens of this nation have a true-black complexion, which means it must be assumed that since only two nations of the Haighlei are on the main continent, Ghandai is one of the four remaining nations that are on the continent to the south of that one.
One of the Six Nations of the Haighlei Empire is named Nbubi.
All natural-born citizens of the Haighlei Empire have black skin – not brown, not painted, and not sunburned their complexion is actually, genuinely black -- they are taller than the Kaled'a'in to a very noticeable degree, and have finely-sculpted features, but their facial features are described as being "not as hawklike" as those of the Kaled'a'in. In Khimbata, the Haighlei complexion is black, but in Haighlei nations even further south than this, the complexion is actually true-black, having a bluish tint to it.
High-ranking Haighlei officials tend toward clothing that is woven in incredibly detailed geometric patterns, and the Haighlei envoys' garments are noted for being of warm colors – specifically, bright yellows, reds, and oranges. The envoys also differ from the sailors guiding the ship by which they arrive, in that they are wearing robes which fasten high up on the side of the neck, with the opening running down the left side of the front, as opposed to down the middle. The robes of the envoys have high, stiff collars which matched the cylindrical hats they are wearing, and they are noted as wearing heavy, jeweled brooches that rest on their breasts and shoulders, with heavy, matching brooches centered in each hat.
The hair of the Haighlei is described as tending to be as "tightly-curled as a sheep's fleece, but so black that it swallowed up all the light." No garment made in the Haighlei Empire sports fewer than at least three separate colors, that those colors tend to be harlequin-bright, and that they favor at least four kinds of fabric – silk, raime, the finest linen imaginable, and a sort of gauze woven from what is described as fluffy plant fiber. They favor fluttering robes, draped gowns, and billowing trousers.
Haighlei sailors dressed in white breeches, most with colored cloths on their heads and colored sashes around their waists, and every crewman had an enormous knife in their sash, as well as having brought many spears. Haighlei naval vessels are described to have three masts, several sails striped in red and white and augmented by a network of lines and rope-ladders, with the hull painted red and blue, as well as having a raised, house-like structure in the center of the deck, this with windows and one door. It is unclear if the red, white and blue markings are a standard of the Haighlei Empire, or of King Shalaman’s individual nation of that Empire.
The capital city of King Shalaman, Khimbata, is noted as having strange and fascinating architecture, and as being a voyage of two weeks by sail south from the Kaled'a'in city of White Gryphon, sailing south along the coast of the Western Sea. The architecture is described as having an oddly organic feeling, with pronounced wood-grains, a seeming prohibition on any exterior surface ever remaining unornamented, and with the swirling curves being covered in mosaics and the sculptured reliefs of plants, birds, and animals. It is also noted that there were seldom found any straight lines, and that there are gentle curves in place of corners and the junctions of walls and ceilings. It is furthermore noted that these always form arches, with the ceiling sloping gently upwards, and that at the top of every room there is always a lamp shaped either like a flower or a globe, and right angles aren’t seen anywhere in Khimbata, or presumably the rest of the Haighlei Empire. The private rooms are also described, to all seem to be decorated in pastel colors, and to include ingenious ways to at a minimum, simulate coolness – gauze curtains to reflect the worst light, with huge windows and balcony doors to catch the slightest breeze. It is also noted that the fabrics themselves are light and airy, smooth and soft to the touch, which is just as well given that Khimbata also lies in the heart of the jungle, and it is the most northerly of all of the Six Nations of the Haighlei Empire.
In public areas, the Haighlei love of color runs riot, and their love of the jungle is also clearly evident. The public rooms, at least in the palace, sport huge, lush plants placed where sunlight could reach them and accompanied by fountains, or pools containing lazy fish having gold, black and white markings, while the main rooms are described to have walls covered in brightly-multicolored mosaics, and the passages between them are cool, dim, and of a deep-green wall coloring.
The Haighlei simultaneously abhor change, and also adore it. In Haighlei culture, change comes only when the gods wish it, and then, only when the gods are so desirous of it that they come right out and say it; or, when there occurs the Eclipse Ceremony, which is held once every twenty years, and only in conjunction with an eclipse which happens once every similar number of years, and then, only so much change as is proportionate to the amount of the sun covered by the eclipse, can be allowed to be implemented into their culture and society. It is stated that this is how it has been for untold centuries prior, and that the kestra'chern who appear in the Haighlei society, are the kestra'chern of two centuries ago, or more: the most pampered members of the very elite nobility, and never, ever seen by the peasantry. It is also clarified that at some point the holy writings, which forbid change in strictest terms, were changed to include the Eclipse Ceremony, because someone, somewhere at some point in an unknown number of years before, realized that cultures can stagnate, and the society bearing that culture can rot from within, without some degree of change.
The Haighlei are an extremely literal people: they will tell you exactly what they mean to do, not a bit more, and not a bit less, but this is also subject to the modification of how one feels about the person – if one were to ask a Haighlei citizen who is indifferent toward the person to guard their pet, he would guard their pet, but ignore the thief stealing their purse.
The Haighlei are not by nature a peaceful people, that they are in fact quite warlike, and that only their law makes them more inclined toward pacific negotiation of problem. Traditionally, in the Haighlei culture, every chance to make war, within the law, is most times eagerly seized upon, as long as the war itself would not be considered illegal by Haighlei customs.
When a man proposes to a woman in the Haighlei culture, the bride-to-be accepts the proposal of her betrothed only in her own home, or in the case of a guest at court, only in her chambers in the palace or her gardens in the palace (which are found to be connected directly to that room, presumably). This is an old custom, dating back to days when the Haighlei themselves were barbarians, and at times kidnapped one that they wished to wed. In making the groom come to her, unarmed and alone, the bride is therefore prevented from being coerced into acceptance.
Lifebonding is a rare occurrence in the Haighlei Empire, and one that bears tremendous significance to the whole of their culture, and those who are Lifebonded are what the Haighlei call loriganalea, a word which means "soulbonded." It is believed that Lifebonded pairs are united within a sacred bond – a marriage made not for lust, power or convenience, but rather one made by the gods, themselves. The Haighlei holy texts are very clear about this: anyone who interferes with such a bond will bring the "curses of the ages" upon whoever attempted to break this bond, and that whosoever helps to break it, or fails to aid the bonded pairing, will likewise be cursed. Additionally, if the one who tried to interfere in the bond is a ruler, the said curse would fall upon the whole of the people of that ruler, and all would suffer as the curses of all of the gods of the Haighlei – and all of the curses of the gods of foreigners in the case of interference in a foreigner’s relationship of the nature that is described as loriganalea – would fall upon the whole of that ruler’s demesne. Even in purest ignorance of such a bond, if the potentially offended party does not forgive the offender’s transgression, there would still be the gravest threat of those curses still being visited upon them, for ignorance does not excuse the interference.
When a child is born who possesses the Mage Gift, a child of this sort is taken from their parents by the government at the age of seven, similar to how Spartan boys were taken in during the golden age of Spartan culture, and the family receives a dower-portion as a compensation for the loss of a child. The child is then taken and raised by the priests, and taught absolute obedience to a degree which is unheard-of outside of the Haighlei Empire, and it is stated that females of the Haighlei apply themselves to their studies better than boys, so females conclude their education when they reach sixteen, on average, as opposed to boys, whose education is finished at eighteen. At the end of this, they are returned to their families – either as priests (or priestesses) themselves, or as Scholars. The child is also watched – far more closely than many of them realize – and if the child is flawed in character, if the child is a habitual liar, a thief, or a child who uses their Gift without express permission and-or to the harm of others, the child is “removed,” “from the school and from magic,” “completely.” Since any Gift is functionally a channel inside of the mind which is open if one can use it, this implies that the Haighlei have a manner by which to take an open channel and to permanently and forcefully close or block it.
This removal does not mean the killing of the individual, but in many ways, it may have been better for the individual if they had been executed: they can no longer touch magic, and then as soon as that is done, they are returned to their family in disgrace, for everyone knows that the person is fatally flawed, and will trust the person with nothing of any consequence, and when grown, they will not ever hold any position of authority within their rank. Additionally, if their rank is low, they will be allowed to only the most menial of labors, and then under only the strictest of supervision. If, however, their rank is high, they will be similarly under constant watch, and will serve their family as little more than as an idle ornament, for none would wed them with a mark of such disgrace upon them. It is declaratively indicated these rules are applied to all, and even members of those families of the highest caste (even the royal family) are not exempt from this.
Those Gifts which constitute what is called Mind Magic in Valdemar (which does not exist, at the time of this novel, as a point of reference), are a form of magic which is even more highly prohibited than the Mage Gift. Those abilities a Valdemaran would call Mind-Magic are, in the Haighlei Empire, forbidden to all but the priests, and then only to those who are called to special responsibilities, primarily Truthsayers.