Highland/Lowland trade

The resource differential between the lowlands city-states and the highlands of the Doon subcontinent drove economic development in both.

Geologically, the lowlands of Treveriane were mostly sedementary rock. Prevailing easterlies blew nutrients and plant matter to the fields, but the soil was largely devoid metals. Those same winds caused frequently flooding, and the tectonic instability that made Treveriane sink caused frequent earthquakes. The lowlands were thus a poor source of metals.

Meanwhile the highlands were rich in iron, nickel, and tin, and devoid of air. Agriculture was challenging, often impossible. The mountains broke up the wind, and much of the highalands were impromptu deserts, poorly watered. Often the best land was above the treeline.

The driving exchange is then food for iron. In years past it was food for tin and food for bronze. The lowlands have furthermore developed coking furnaces and foundries, but find that moving coal, including coke, is difficult to do up and down a cliff. The amount of iron that needs to be moved to create one unit of steel is significantly less than the amount of coal needed for the same. Now much of the flow of metal is iron down the hill, as it’s called, and food up it.

Geography of Treveriane

The Doonish plateau is a tectonic subcontinent moving south and subducting the great flatland plate that makes up Treveriane. To the north is the endless Fhysay, comprising more than half of the northern hemisphere. The Doonish plate moves at roughly two inches a year and is already piled on top of the Treveriane plate. Given the plateau’s youth and comparatively high-speed, it holds a distinct ecosystem. Life from the lowlands and deserts of the west and east, and south respectively have difficulty moving up, keeping the highlands ecologically separate. Average plateau elevation is between six and fifteen thousand feet above sea level, and the highest peak that has been measured is nearly twenty. The Palm, a midrange peak, has neighbors at least six thousand feet taller, and newcomers report breathing on the Palm is moderately difficult. Altitude sickness is known to be fatal. Generally the Doon’s highest plateaus are to the south of the central area, but the taller peaks are evenly distributed on the interior.

The subcontinent is defined by escarpments to the west, forming the walls separating the highlands from the lowlands. It is in these escarpments the canyon city of Ashirak crouches. Here the Treveriane plate is steadily sinking into the sea. The Bay of Dylath-Leen is a young sea, less than a millenia old, and deepening. Dylath-Leen itself is an old inland city that the sea has come for. Already it has become a port, and built on both plates, part of it sinks while other parts rise. The tallest peak on the escarpment is Rherm, which stands approximately ten thousand feet above the lowlands.

To the east the Doonish plate meets the great depression of the Karas. The center of the Karas depression is far below sea level, and the Doonish plate is climbing on top. It does not extend as far east as the Treveriane, and the rising floor of the Karas meets the eastern sides of the Fhysay in high cliffs. Without carefully examining rock layers and sedimentation, the distinction between Doon and Treveriane is difficult to see. The goblin-filled Typhanf Mountains that make up the barrier between the Karas and the Fhysay are a thin range elongated over thousands of miles. The peaks are far shorter than the mighty Doons but steeper. Made of softer rock, they are eroding faster and the canyons between them are deep, filled with the great trees on the south but bare on the north. The great Jymlin and Ghosthearts do not endure bitter winters well.

Directly south of the highlands are the flatlands of the Horned-Lords. Most terrain here is flat and blasted by heat. The prevailing winds run east to west, and therefore dump most of the moisture on the Arsae. The Arsae crests are famous for scavenging lower rain clouds from the sky. Thus little rain gets to the middle of Treveriane, a broad mix of equatorial grasslands and deserts. Rivers define ecological characteristics, but the rivers of the flatlands are notoriously changeable. Within a decade one can move tens of miles and deserts bloom while grasslands fall to gray dirt. The geographical oddity of the Gunerae hills which manacle the Gunnen River to a course and give it its name rise near the middle. Directly south of the Doon lies Wilno and the equally inexplicable Leng Plateau that rises as high as the Doon, separated from the subcontinent by roughly forty miles and completely distinct geology.

Far to the southeast of Wilno and the Doon plateau lie the elvish cities. Their forests follow the coast as it sweeps south and finally west, crossing the equator and catching the southern equatorial westerlies. The far southern coast is mostly smaller scrub and pine, existing between prevailing winds. The Knifehead deserts meet the Krassich ocean south of the Languid. Farther east lies the Emerald Ocean and Korgan. Meanwhile the Treveriane coast begins to sweep north as it continues west, passed the Spur of Tems and the Spike before cutting due north. There, in the Ungale Ngalnek, is the hottest of the flatlands. Tropical storms in the Korgan tend to move east to west, but upon passing the Spur and Spike, sometimes shank hard right, hooking around to smash the Ungale coast. This land is thus desert known to receive torrential downpours and unimaginable flooding. Rainstorms dropping more than three feet of rain within a few days are not uncommon.

The Red Guard and Greater Ashirai Empire naming and forms of address

The Red Guard call themselves Swordsmen or Reds, with Swordsmen (always capitalized) being the more formal term. Reds is diminutive and used by Swordsmen addressing Swordsmen. It is also used externally, but generally as an affront. At the very least it’s considered rude.

The nomenclature of the Red Guard is complex. The enlisted order of rank is Junior Swordsman, File Leader Swordsman, and Senior Swordsman. Junior Swordsmen and File Leaders are addressed by the Ashirai word for Swordsmen, Ve, placed before their name as a prefix. Junior Swordsman Pittin would be referred to as Ve Pittin, and upon being promoted to File Leader, his form of address is officially unchanged. A Senior Swordsman is called Svir, as in Svir Garin. Swordsmen omit titles for lower or equal ranked enlisted when talking informally, so Svir Garin would address File Leader Pittin as Pittin, and two junior Swordsmen would address each other by their names alone. File Leader Pittin speaking with Junior Swordsman Aryst would call him, ‘Aryst’ while Aryst would address File Leader Pittin as ‘Ve Pittin’ (He doesn’t because they’re on name basis*). This promotion is called making the Ve. File Leaders may also be called Stones. Senior Swordsmen are called by Svir by others of the same rank as well, but the less formal Head is also used. So Ve Pittin could be called Stones, and Svir Garin could be called Head. These forms of address are most common when the speaker does not know the other’s name.

The First Svir of a legion is a separate rank higher than Svir, and there is no informal means of address. A First Svir is called First Svir. Since there’s only one per legion, the presumption is that the speaker knows the appropriate name. If the speaker doesn’t, the name of the Legion, First, Second, Third, etc. may be appended as in First Svir Second Legion, but this is rarely necessary. Each city in the Ashirai empire provides one legion, so First Svir almost always provides sufficient specificity.

Red Officers are called by their titles. All officers are nobility, and therefore use an independent and complex hierarchy. Since the ruler of the Ashirai Empire is currently the Baron of Dylath-Leen and intent on keeping that title due to political reasons, the normal chain is broken. Noble sons that did not inherit the family titles, ie most Red Officers, use military ranks. Roughly, low officers are War Marshals, Higher Officers are Field Marshals, and the highest are Generals. However the Baron of Baroon is an active Red officer as are the Lords of Van and Tyr. Of note is that the Baron of Baroon is not the ruler of Baroon, a city of Lords with a King, whereas Baron Dylath-Leen rules Dylath-Leen.

In the Ashirai Empire it is common for the ruler of a city to take the name of the city. Thus Baron Dylath-Leen is the proper form of address for the ruler of that city. The Ashirai Emperor himself DOES NOT call himself Emperor Ashirak because Baron Dylath-Leen won’t let him. Baron Dylath-Leen does this to keep the latter in his place.

There is another Red rank: Al, the Swordmaster. What exactly Al means is a matter of some dispute.

*A special but enlightening case is the matter of Pittin and Aryst being on name basis. Pittin briefly tried to make Aryst call him Ve Pittin, but Aryst got him drunk and won his rank in a game of dice. The rank in this case was Pittin’s physical rank, two steel orbs (ne stones) on a plate to be worn affixed to the red cloak collar that Red Guards wear as a uniform. Aryst could have shown the rank to the paymaster and requested Pittin’s salary. If he tendered the stones, he could have drawn both his and Pittin’s salary for a year. The paymaster would then have endeavored to find out which File Leader lost their rank, and if successful, Pittin would have been demoted to Junior Swordsman. Furthermore, Pittin would be blacklisted for later promotions. On Pittin waking up, Aryst put it to him plainly, and Pittin forswore ever making the Junior Swordsmen give him his Ve again in exchange for returning his stones. A year drawing two salaries is a lot of money.

The Barons of Ashirak

The City of Ashirak, seen in yesterday’s map, is a canyon city between the lowlands and the high. A long embankment facing the prevailing winds from over the ocean makes climbing to the Doon plateau tricky under most circumstances. The winding canyon of Ashirak is one of the easier ways up and down. Because the ravine is bent in three places, winter snowstorms coming off the Fhysay and over the Bay of Dylath-Leen cannot blast the road. There is some measure of protection. Beginning as a trade point and financed by one of the ancient wonders of Pallas, the Clockwork Locks, Ashirak grew to financial prominence and expanded into conquest.

By law the Emperor resided at Ashirak to keep an eye on the source of money. However no one is so rich they can’t waste their money, and roughly one hundred years before Varad came to the Red Guard, the Baron of Dylath-Leen took the throne in a power play. In order to keep the Red and White guards from getting involved, the Baron provided plausible deniability in the form of political cover. To wit, the baron did not take the mantle of emperor. The emperor remained at Ashirak. It was merely a baron in Dylath-Leen.

The Baron’s power came from controlling the ocean trade. Between Dylath-Leen and Ashirak are two roads, the old and new. The old ran through the mountains, but this rendered it vulnerable to mountain interference. Recently the Baron of Dylath-Leen built the New Road. Staying safely in the lowlands, this allows him to control what gets to Ashirak and effectively irrigate or parch the Emperor’s fields of trade.

In order to maintain treaties with the highlanders, the fiction of sovereignty of the Ashirai Emperors is maintained.