Monday, January 16, 2012

Nûmidëa

Nûmidëa

Geography
Borders
Nûmidëa is an island in the Worldsea, situated off the western coasts of Danannsidhe and Sildara. The human nation of Nûmidëa, whence it gets its name, occupies the entire southern half of the island, with its northern border being the Rushing (Asca) River. North of the river is the forest of Illithëon, wherein dwell the Elves of Illithëon, a large colony that existed before Men ever arrived on the shores of the island. The nation of Nûmidëa is approximately 550 miles across at its widest, and 400 miles from the Asca River in the north, to its southern shores.

Features and Landmarks
As noted, the Rushing River forms the northern border of the land, while the remaining borders are simply the island shores.

Nûmidëa has two mountain ranges. The Red Mountains stretch from the island's westernmost point, along those shores and all the way to its northern tip. The Eagle Spire Mountains run along the southern edge of the island, from west to east, almost reaching the Kingfisher Bay.

There are three large rivers in Nûmidëa. The Copper River is the largest, both in breadth and depth, flowing slowly northeast from its source in the central part of the Eagle Spire Mountains, to its mouth in the Kingfisher Bay. It gets its name from the way in which sunlight reflects off the water, having a coppery tint. The Rushing River runs shallow and fast for most of its length, though not so shallow as to allow an easy fording save in a few places. It is almost as long as the Copper River. Its source is in the Red Mountains, and its mouth empties into Kingfisher Bay. The smallest is the Whitefall River, running from the southern tip of the Red Mountains, curving around south and west through the Goldwood and into the Worldsea. The Whitefall gets its name from the way in which it descends from the mountains in a series of lively falls, before reaching the western plains and meandering its way to the Sea.

There is one large forest in the nation of Nûmidëa, along with a plethora of small woods spotting the landscape. In the southwestern region is the forest called Goldwood, named after the leaves of the golden sycamore tree which dominates the region. North of the Rushing River is an even larger forest, the Elvish colony of Illithëon, a nation unto itself and not further described here.

Climate
Being an island nation at a mostly temperate latitude, Nûmidëa can have some strange weather patterns. Seasons are mild, with neither great highs nor lows in temperature. Summers are warm and humid, but tend to cool off at night. Winters are cool, with some snow but it rarely sticks for long. It does rain quite a bit, however. Due to the high humidity year-round, it tends to be quite foggy from autumn through to spring. The coldest days will bring the fog down as rain, snow or frost. The summers are generally warm enough that the fog lifts early in the morning. With the wet climate and moderate temperatures comes great wealth in growing plants and trees of all sorts. Nûmidëa has been called a gardener's paradise for that reason, and there is great truth in the statement.

Cities
There are three major cities in Nûmidëa. The capital city, Hightower, lies on the southern shores of Kingfisher Bay, along the western shore of the Copper River. Graystone, the second-largest city, sits on the northern shores of Kingfisher Bay, and is split by the Rushing River, but joined by three great bridges allowing traffic to pass freely across. This is the only city or region where Men are allowed (by treaty with the Elves) to settle north of the Rushing River. The third-largest city is Kings' Reach, which lies on the western coast just north of the Goldwood, on the Whitefall River.

Politics
National
The nation is ruled by a hereditary king. There are literally hundreds of noble families, most of them very minor but a few long-standing houses wield a great deal of influence. The family heads of most families are dukes (and duchesses), while the major house heads are called arch-dukes. Each family has one or more family members, courtiers, representing them at the royal court. Further, there are several powerful guilds with their own representatives. But it is the king who rules, and he makes this plain to all, every day. He is a hard man, but just, and believes that he does everything for the good of his nation and people. By and large, he is simply following in an excellent family tradition of strong kings who know whom they serve (namely, their subjects).

Regional
The many noble families of Nûmidëa are all landowners, and as such, govern their own lands with a large degree of independence. The king may be a strong ruler, but he deals mainly with national and international affairs, not the details of each duchy. It is this effective delegation of authority that allows him to focus on large domestic and foreign affairs. As for the duchies, each is governed by the family that owns the land, and the duke or duchess who heads that family. It must be understood that the noble families do not own all the land under their governance: rather, they own a large portion of farmland and pastures for themselves, plus most of the non-agricultural lands (forests, swamps and other lands mostly left to the wild). The remainder, which is usually the majority of a duchy's acreage, is farmland owned by free commoners. The free commoners pay taxes to their duke, who in turn pays taxes to the king, based on the total arable acreage of their lands. There may also be non-farming land owned by commoners, such as a small plot for a house and/or business in a town or city, or a mine in the hills, or even just some forested hunting property. In any case, there are many commoners in the nation who own small pieces of land.

Local
Within each duchy are many towns and villages, each of which exercises a small amount of autonomy under the guidance of their duke. Typically, these towns and villages have both a duke-appointed shire-reeve (or sherrif), and an elected mayor. Any landowner may vote in the mayoral elections, and only landowners may run for mayor. Free commoners who own no land have no such rights, and therefore the social pressure to own even a small piece of land is very great. The sherrif is expected to enforce the king's law, as well as ordinances enacted by the duke. The mayor, too, enforces the king's law as judge and jury, and also acts as a go-between for the people and their duke. The mayor has no right to enact laws, he can only enforce those laws set by the duke or the king. Nevertheless, it is not uncommon in any town or village for there to be certain written or unwritten rules, rules which are agreed-upon and understood by all the locals, and quietly explained to travelers and newcomers. There may be signs posted, but since many people do not read, the general expectation is that visitors will have them explained by the locals. These rules have no legal weight, but they do carry the heavy weight of social pressure and tradition, which are generally enough to keep people “in line”.

International
Internationally, Nûmidëa is sometimes looked down upon by the continental nations of the West. They are viewed as country bumpkins, and outcasts, descendants of people who fled civilization long ago and never attained to the heights of their mainland cousins. To some degree this may be true, but neither have the Nûmidëans fallen to the levels of corruption and depravity of those nations who would presume to judge them. This attitude is mostly prevalent among the eastern nations of Vilandria and Cychlos, less so among Nifflgarde, Danannsidhe, and Sildara and the Vales.

Among its allies, Nûmidëa counts Sildara and Danannsidhe. Nûmidëa came to the aid of Sildara a long time ago, when Vilandria thought to make an empire for itself and tried expanding its reach westward across the Graywall Mountains and into Sildara. They never got beyond the Vales, for Sildara and Nûmidëa stopped their advance – but they did not go so far as to expel the Vilandrians from the Vales, and that land was left to its own devices until Kevin of Whitebridge finally led a rebellion that drove them back across the Graywalls once again. Nifflgarde also once tried to expand their borders under a single great king, and they started by invading Danannsidhe. Nûmidëa came and helped the Dedannan people to repel that invasion, and the great king was deposed shortly thereafter, returning the country to its scattered small domains loosely organized. The people of Nifflgarde didn't hold a grudge against Nûmidëa, and the two nations freely share trade to this day.

Nûmidëa maintains friendly but neutral relations with Nifflgarde and the Vales. As mentioned, though Nûmidëa did once aid Danannsidhe in stopping a Nifflgarder invasion, the people (and their several kings) did not hold a grudge, and today they maintain friendly but neutral trading relations. The Vales are not a strong enough entity to forge alliances with any nation, and so they remain friendly but neutral to all, insofar as possible.

Vilandria hates and despises Nûmidëa, though they have never been directly at war with one another. But they never have gotten over their defeat at the borders of Sildara by the Nûmidëan alliance, and nurse that grudge to this day. Vilandrian law forbids trade with Nûmidëa, and in fact Nûmidëans themselves are forbidden from entering the country. Nûmidëa has no such laws to reciprocate, and mostly just laughs at such an attitude. Cychlos also despises Nûmidëa, for the reasons given above that they consider the Nûmidëans to be a backwards, oafish people. It's not so much a matter of politics as it is cultural differences, but it colors their politics in that they remain but neutral toward one another, when they acknowledge the others' existence at all.

Of the nations further east, Qôphir, Tulan and Parth, there are no political relationships between them and Nûmidëa.

Economy
Exports
Nûmidëa does brisk trade in precious metals, gold and silver mined from the Eagle Spire mountains in the south. The gold and silver ores, highly refined in nearby villages and towns, is transported down the Copper River to Hightower, and exported for use by jewelers and smiths throughout Aerde. In fact, the standard Nûmidëan minted coins are so pure, they are actually worth more than their weight (by a full tenth, no less) in standard merchants' gold or silver. Some men even collect Nûmidëan coins, saving them against the possibility that they will grow in value over time. Others melt them down, mixing in lesser metals in order to synthesize a larger amount of standard merchants' gold or silver. For such, their wealth does not increase in the process, however it is often easier to trade using the accepted standard, than to try and haggle the higher worth of the Nûmidëan coin. The Nûmidëans, for their part, maintain a stubborn refusal to debase their wealth to match that of other nations. It is telling of their attitude, that because they can do it better than anyone else, they consider it their natural duty to rise up to that ability.

Nûmidëa also does a small trade in cut and uncut gemstones, coming from the same or nearby mines with the gold and silver. These tend to be of average quality, the Nûmidëans having not developed much in the way of the jeweler's craft.

Wool is another large export of Nûmidëa, and though less glamorous than precious metals and stones, it is by far their greatest export. The sheep of Nûmidëa tend to produce thick, heavy wool, and the yarn and cloth produced from raw wool is no less thick and heavy. Whether carded, spun into yarn, or woven into fabrics, the wool of Nûmidëa is known for its quality in making warm and sturdy garments of all sorts. Nûmidëa is also known for its black sheep and their wool, which is unique in all the West. While most people and markets prefer the whitest wool they can find, Nûmidëan black wool has a niche of its own and no real competitors.

Imports
Nûmidëa is a basically self-sufficient nation, when looking at the staples needed for survival and even some luxuries. The island itself provides all the natural resources needed for farm and pasture land, lumber, stone and metals, and what cannot be found on the island can be (and is) done without by most. That said, there are still many commodities imported from other lands, though none of them have any great effect on the economic strength of the nation. From Nifflgarde come the great pelts and furs of wolf, silvertip bear, fox and mink. From Sildara come high quality treated leathers, saddles for horses of all types, and rough-cut maple, which isn't found on the island. From Vilandria (always by way of proxies, due to Vilandrian law), merchants bring patterned carpets of exotic fabrics, to cover the floors and walls of the wealthy, and to make clothing for the nobility and the wealthy, and also finely-cut gems and jewels, of far better quality than what can be found or made within their own nation. From Cychlos comes white marble and granite used for building, cut in large blocks and shipped across the Worldsea in huge vessels that are barely seaworthy once laden with such cargo.

Religion
Not sure what to do with religion at this time. Is the world mostly monotheistic, or polytheistic, or what? It is certainly old enough that there would have been much opportunity for syncretism over thousands of years, to the point that no nation would really have its own god or gods, but rather the gods would likely have been merged across cultures and religions into a few recognized powers of greater or lesser influence. If a monotheistic religion is present, it may coexist peacefully with the other religions if there is a generally recognized “father” god that could be recognized as also being the “one true God”. All lesser gods would then be recognized as lesser, created beings, still powerful in their own right but subservient to the Creator. Conversely, a monotheistic religion may be antagonistic towards “false religions” and “false gods”, spawning religion wars akin to what we have seen in our own recent history. Maybe there could be some of both – again, like what we see even today between Islam and other religions (whether mono- or polytheistic).

Society
Class Structure
Nûmidëan class structure is fairly liberal, as far as things are defined among the nations of the West. People are largely free to buy and sell property, gather wealth, and pursue their dreams as long as they don't trample on the rights of others to do the same. The noble families are only a vestige of the former feudal class structure, for they are no longer even the majority of land owners. Rather, sharp-minded merchants and conservative farmers own the majority of usable land in Nûmidëa, having bought it over the years from the noble families who had run up many debts for various reasons. In spite of the economic changes and pressures exerted by the new “middle class” of free commoners, the nobility still reserve some privileges for themselves, such as the right to govern as dukes and duchesses, to advise the king as courtiers and ministers in various capacities, and to perhaps even put one of their own on the throne – if they can show a strong enough familial relationship. While certain rich merchants and large guilds also exercise political influence both nationally and locally, that influence has no legal or official backing. Of course, the influence that wealth provides can often be more powerful than a legal title or rank.

Values
The Nûmidëans, even though they have gone (and are going) through great changes in their society, are still quite conservative in their values. Most people are family-oriented, placing their own desires second to the good of their immediate and extended family. Nûmidëa is also a very religious culture – whatever that religion happens to be. But the religion, as such, carries great weight among the masses of people, providing rules and regulations for moral and ethical living, toward which many, if not most, aspire to do their best.

Taboos
Nûmidëa has what might be called a “biblical” standard for morality, again based upon their very religious culture. They occasionally have gone so far as to outlaw some activities which might be considered (in other cultures and nations) private affairs among consenting adults, but these laws are generally not enforced except in extreme cases.

People
Appearance
Nûmidëans as a people are generally tall, men around six feet and women around five and a half. They have light bronze to pale skin (largely depending on their latitude, and how much sun they get), and hair color runs the gamut of platinum blonde to dark brown, straight to curly. Eyes are the same, with perhaps a slight majority having blue or gray. Men usually wear either a goatee or beard, kept short and well-trimmed.

Dress
Nûmidëan men generally wear a basic woolen tunic and breeches, with a hooded cape, gloves and calf-length or higher boots (even when not riding). Women wear simple dresses with a fitted bodice, also with hooded cloak, boots and gloves. The reason for the heavy clothes is that Nûmidëa is a very rainy and foggy country, and it is very difficult to stay dry without wearing multiple layers of clothes. With the rain comes much mud, thus the need for high boots at all times. Clothing colors tend toward dark primaries (blue, violet, dark red, forest green), mixed with gray and black.

Culture and History
Nûmidëa is the second-oldest nation in the West, after Cychlos, and it is presently the most powerful. It arose from the ashes of the Shandollëan empire (which had controlled the entire northwest part of Aerde, except for the Cychloan city-states), over 1,000 years ago when that empire was overrun by the hordes of darkness led by the arch-lich Narghûl.