The Calla Lowland is a broad valley between between 40° and 52° north latitude, 21° to 33° east longitude on Zoka. Bordered by the Ilætî Sea to the southeast beyond the Kethis Ridge, the jagged Enzor Crags on the west coast, the mangrove swamps and Jinfonth mountains to the south, and wild grasslands to the northeast, the Lowlands are a relatively placid region well-suited to farming. The Tempis River watershed serves as a major highway for the area, providing a direct route from Benîs in Szurgiki to New Fara on the shore of the Ilætî Sea.
Lying in the temperate zone in the rainshadow of the Enzor Crags, the Calla Lowlands are given to cool summers and mild winters. Cloud cover is common, with morning fogs often not lifting until after noon in the far west of the valley and beyond the Crags. A warm, dry summer and moderate winter can be found throughout the coastal areas of the Ilætî Sea, and the hills of the Eowa Forest between these zones have long, warm summers with frequent thunderstorms and occasional tornadoes, and cold winters that blanket the land in thick snowfall. This region is generally inspired by France and the midwest United States, while the southern area evokes the bayou and Everglades of the southern United States.
Flora & FaunaEditThree distinct strains of native grapes make the central valley the location of several legendary vineyards and wineries, and the Lowlands are famed as well for a variety of flax that holds dyes well and has strong fibres.
The coastal areas of the Ilætî Sea are known for their fig and olive trees, and a rumpled, craggy terrain that affords little purchase to much other vegetation, excepting scrub, thornbush, and Stunted Shearpine. Feathery-tipped grass can be found directly along the coast, and higher up among the occasional plateau higher up on the Ridge, though the upper area of the inland slope has a number of hardy breeds of conifer that are renowned for having no desirable traits for any use by civilised industry.
Between the central valley and the rocky area surrounding the Ilætî Sea runs hill-country where grows the great Eowa Forest, home to a variety of majestic conifers and a large number of deciduous species (oak, maple, ash, birch, beech, hazel, and hornbeam, to name a few), turning into wetland containing mangrove swamps and peat bogs fed by the Aisis River towards the south, ending at the feet of the Jinfonth Mountains. The Eowa Forest is presently a faint memory of its former expanse, the apocalyptic event that gave the Ilætî Sea its current coastline and greed of settlers seeing the wood only as a resource both reducing the ancient woodland to an eighth its greatest extent.
Deer, wolves, rabbits, foxes, owls and songbirds can all be found in abundance in the central valley and hill country of the Calla Lowlands, and mountain goats populate the craggy coastlines. Will-o'-the-Wisps, undead, mosquitowasps, and sabre-tooth sloths are significant dangers to be aware of when venturing into the southern wetlands, while purported xenophobic tree-nymphs of varying mien, mischevious winged pixies, and fearsome werewolves are said to dwell in hidden places among the central woodlands, making these areas avoided by most humans.
The Fenwall Kingdom's buildings are best described as 'Industrial Byzantine'. Glooming, ash-caked edifices crowd Lyr, and squalid tenements and ghastly forgeworks the hallmarks of its cities. Much of its open space is reined in by tight fences of stone and iron, farmland parceled into secure, efficient blocks.
New Fara is resplendent with adventurous new architectural styles, most of its buildings featuring radical designs and open spaces that eschew privacy while conveying a sense of strength against adversity. Frank Lloyd Wright would likely find comfort in Midar's capital city.
The cities of Pana, having ready access to the wealth of lumber acquired from the Eowa Forest, are generally built with timber-frame construction similar to New England Colonial style.
Deep within the twilight gloom of of the Eowa Forest is hidden an architectural marvel–a cluster of trees whose natural hollows and crevices have been shaped over the course of centuries by the Elder Wood Elves. Cozy apartments high above the ground are linked by sturdy, narrow bridges and platforms crafted by weaving the living branches together rather than hewing and dismembering dead wood. Spacious cellars among the roots lead up through the heart of the trees in winding passages that rarely afford admittance to more than one abreast at a time. The intricate woven designs of the elven knotwork are distinctive and often crudely imitated by artisans of all creeds, but the singularly delicate craftwork born of the hand of a Wood Elf that retains strength and resiliency is almost never seen outside their secretive home.
Most of the buildings in the rest of the Calla Lowlands are stout frame structures with thatched roofs and stone walls, possessing cellars and secret underground cubbies in which safety can be sought during attack or violent weather.
Due to its desirability as bountiful farmland and open space, many groups have sought to stake their claim in the Calla Lowlands, leading to a number of small, independent nations constantly vying for power over the region, which is broken into a number of small nations.
Coragh, the central kingdom, is led by a council of landowners that maintain its control of the most fertile land by economic influence and strong diplomacy, and a well-trained army. Generally speaking, the farmers of Coragh are content enough with their lot, acceding to somewhat extortionate taxes in exchange for freedom to do what they want as long as it doesn't disrupt the status quo, with no raids or invasions by extranational powers.
Fwth is a wealthy merchant-state adjoining Szurgiki, acting as a mediator for the flow of trade between the Floeni and Ilætî Seas and the rest of the Lowlands. Its location is ideal for a hub of commerce, making it very influential compared to its size.
Pana, on the other hand, is in some ways the mirror of Fwth; it lays claim to a good deal of land, but its low population and rockier soil where the terrain isn't lifted into clusters of boulders overlooking the Ilætî Sea give the country a shabby appearance and reputation. Its people are fatalistic, and the hereditary Kings and Queens share this attitude by their lassez-faire approach to all things; the apathy of the citizens who manage to just get by with living is amplified by a sense of empathy for the nation's royalty, whose 'grand palace' is barely larger than the capital city's modest inn.
East and West Ensith are two siblings forever at war. Originally a single nation, disputes over land, water rights, taxation, petty political feuds, and splintering of the factions governing the country led to a bitter struggle which carries on to this day. In fact, the 'two countries' are each barely a loose cooperative of small provinces with ever-shifting borders, 'East' and 'West' only considered by outsiders to match what seems the largest schism in the idealogies of Ensith's people.
The Fenwall Kingdom is an ancient theocratic realm, its origins dating back to a loose patchwork of villages before the time of Aerin. Lyr was its heart, a crown jewel on a low mountain in the middle of a great plains, and the nation originally spanned between the Tempis and Aisis rivers. The weight of time and the fall of Aerin have reduced the Kingdom to a shadow of its former glory.
Midar, Free State. Too long suffering in bondage and squallor, an army of dispossessed peasants and disgruntled cogs in the Order of the Flame's machine who wanted more out of life arose and fought a bitter war across a score and seven years, finally extracting a settlement granting their freedom and nearly half of what remained of the Fenwall Kingdom. They spread to the northeast across an empty moor, securing a new nation centered on the Tempis River. The capital, New Fara, is a bustling seaport whose gleaming marble structures and monuments attest to the hard-won independence of Midar's people, and there are a number of flourishing musea and libraries that strive to promote the country's ideals of freedom, solidarity, and equality.
Governance of Midar and processes requiring hierarchy are performed by a loose network of a random selection of citizens whose minds are temporarily linked while deliberation and decision-making takes place. The group is deliberately chosen in a way that every citizen is given an equal role in running the nation, so no one individual's personal idealogies can unduly influence things or allow gaining a foothold of power over others.
Luz is a minor province formerly associated with Pana, populated by rough, uncultured peasants with strong ties to the Eowa Forest; many can count at least one dryad, fey, or wolf-kin in their family lines, and they tirelessly work the ruined soil, hoping one day to restore some of the glory that the Eowa once claimed across Luz. A certain amount of animosity is held by the Luzza towards Pana, as the ravaging of their land was by two generations of Pana royalty eager to increase their wealth without consideration for those harmed, but time has softened the resentment, as did the formal apology and granting Luz' independence by a more recent, gentler king.
Diplomacy & EconomyEdit
Coragh's strength in the region is owed to the fact that the council knows who to bribe, and where to send their thugs to convince to accept their terms when this fails.
As the region's trading hub, Fwth's coinage is accepted as the baseline currency for dealings in the region, remaining fairly stable in value in contrast to the other nations' currencies that fluctuate wildly with the tides of political intrigues and caprices of environmental factors. Rather than use precious metals which can hold worth far different from the official value of a coin, Fwth's bank issues different denominations of trade tokens, fired bits of ornately-etched ceramic infused with distinctive layered Qi patterns that are easy to identify but incredibly difficult to duplicate.
Pana and Fwth both are amicable as Midar's neighbours, welcoming the people more open-minded than the dour Flames, trading with and savouring the vibrant, active Midarians' way of life. Coragh, on the other hand, sees the young political entity as a threat, and ongoing strife makes the shared border a dangerous place indeed.
Despite its chaotic political landscape, Ensith lays claim to being the source of several goods popular throughout Paradigm, and were it to unify might have the clout to absorb Coragh into a single economic powerhouse. Of course, Coragh's rulers are well aware of this, and do their part to ensure Ensith's provinces remain embattled.
History & FactionsEdit
During the tumult of the chaotic reign of Aerin, the nation of Nain crafters residing in the southern parts of the Jinfonth Mountains was besieged and reduced to rubble, the complex series of chambers and tunnels deserted and forgotten. Goblins have since occupied the depths of the mountains, whose tunnels wind all the way under the stone to the north side of the Jinfonths. After the apocalyptic upheaval that brought the Ilætî Sea to Lyr's doorstep and drowned nearly a third of what was at the time named simply Calla, a grim bog filled the southern area of the country and brought a scourge of pestilence and restless dead.
Great was the struggle by the Senate to maintain order and fight back the encroaching darkness; finally they succumbed to the entreaties of the Order of the Flame, a rising religious group that deified power-over-nature, and handed control of the nation to the fanatical lot. Once given free reign to manage affairs, the Order began constructing a great wall at the border of the Fen, consuming lives–both of worker and political foe (this included much of the former Senate)–nearly as much as stone and mortar, and laid the fallen into the very foundation of the structure. At the completion of the Fen Wall, the Archsmith himself consecrated the barrier, and his body was sealed into the final keystone. To this day, the wall has held strong, allowing naught unliving past its breadth.
The Orders of the Fenwall Kingdom are more accurately described as religious sects than factions as are known across Paradigm, serving as functional arms of the Kingdom's sociopolitical system.
The Order of the Flame has its origins in the proto-religious deification by early Calla Lowland inhabitants of the power of the communal fire to act as a defense against the mystical, often malevolent forces teeming in the untamed wilds. Its symbol is a red stylised open flame over a pair of thick horizontal lines, and its members are called Firestokers. With time, this deification cemented itself as a fundamental philosophy for some, who drew together and devised elaborate rituals and a Byzantine hierarchy of influence. As more time passed, and greater influence over nature was found in the taming of the land with plough and domestication of animals, the Order's influence waned. It receded into an insular cult-like entity until it saw an opportunity to reassert itself after the incursion of undead and disease into the kingdom of Calla; flame, after all, was the single most effective weapon against these foes, and even the simplest peasant could understand that fact.
After using their accumulated knowledge of how to strengthen metal, mud-brick and stone to erect the fortified wall at the edge of the Grim Fen, and imbue it with Qi in a way that presented a fiery shield to the onslaught of death, the Order entrenched itself as a stern, unyielding authority that would endure even unto the present day.
The Order of the Plough deals with administering and developing the Fenwall Kingdom's agricultural assets, devoting its resources to creation of new hybrid crops and livestock. Its symbol is a falconox drawing a plough through a furrow, and its members are called Cultivators.
The Order of the Key is the intelligence-gathering arm of the Fenwall government, its symbol a horizontal golden key; it has eyes everywhere among the people, its agents (called Seekers) sowing suspicion and paranoia, and doing its best to ensure no secrets are kept from it by the proletariat. When a Seeker uncovers information a citizen is trying to keep to themselves, it is a point of official policy to spread the knowledge as an insidious rumour, publically humiliating the target. The upper echelons of the Kingdom, on the other hand, use secrets and blackmail as a sort of currency, applying the power of the Seekers in a perpetual game of chess. At least one high-ranking member of the Order of the Key was instrumental in establishing Midar, their defection giving the rebels a point of leverage as well as providing the fundament of Midaran social philosophy–complete freedom of access to information, without shame.