Monday, February 13, 2012

Sildara

Geography

Borders

Sildara is located in the southwestern region of the continent, stretching further south than even Cychlos or Vilandria, and almost as far west as Danannsidhe. The land forms three broad fingers out into the seas, one on the south directly into the Inner Sea, one pointing west into the Worldsea, and the third forms the northern promontory of the two Pillars of Heaven, the natural gateway from the Worldsea into the Inner Sea. Its northern border is shared with Danannsidhe, following the line of the Hale River. Where the river flows out of the Silverspire Mountains, the Sildarans count their border along the southern edge of that range, tracking around the southern shores of Lake Silvermere to the Aelfwine River. Although there is no nation directly east of the Aelfwine, Sildaran influence is generally considered to end at that point, with a broad wilderness extending thence further east and north into the confluence of the Silverspire and Seawall mountain ranges, and the beginning of the Vales region. Where the Aelfwine joins up with the Upper Vineland River, Sildaran influence extends generally south to the Seawall Mountains, and thence turns westward, following those mountains all the way to the Worldsea. Though Sildara's southern border is technically the shoreline along the Inner Sea, they do not attempt to control that region beyond the mountains, as it is too wild and difficult to maintain. West to east, Sildara is about 1000 miles across, and from north to south it also stretches about 1000 miles.

Features and Landmarks

Sildara has two mountain ranges that form part of its northern and southern borders. The Silverspire Mountains are the source of the Hale River, as well as the source of the great Lake Silvermere, which is fed by three rivers and several large glaciers. Sildara has several mines in the western Silverspires, producing mainly gold, silver, copper and tin.

Lake Silvermere is the largest freshwater lake, almost a sea, in the West. The water of that lake is cold, yet flows freely year-round. Though chunks of glacial ice can be found floating in the lake year-round, even in the high heat of summer, it does not freeze over in the winter as smaller lakes do. Sildara's border follows the southern shores of Silvermere, as far as the Aelfwine River. The Sildarans maintain open trade and political relations with the Elefdar of Ildallïe there on the lake, in the free city of Amyntas.

Sildara has two large rivers, one forming its northern border from the Silverspire Mountains to the Sea, and the other flowing east to west through its midst. As mentioned, the Hale River flows out of the western Silverspires, and thence west and a little south to the Worldsea. Sildara has a large port city, Castor, on the Hale River at its mouth on the Sea. Sildaran influence extends a short distance north of the river, perhaps a day's ride, near the city. Further east, there is little of interest, and the Sildarans call the river their northern border. From the point where the Aelfwine River joins the Upper Vineland River, it flows through the middle of the country and all the way to the Worldsea, as a great artery of lifeblood to the rich farmlands north and south. The Vineland River (both Upper and Lower), and the Vineland region, get their name from the many vineyards growing throughout the region along the river's great length.

There are two forests in Sildara, the Alder Forest along the southern shores of Lake Silvermere, and the Farwood in the far southwest point near the Seawall Mountains and almost reaching to the Pillars of Heaven. The Alder Forest, so named because of its expanses of red, white and black Alder trees, stretches almost the full length of Lake Silvermere, making much of the lake's shoreline wild and difficult to reach, much less tame. This fact has prevented Sildara from exercising more influence over the lake and its inhabitants, and allowed the free city of Amyntas to maintain its status as a neutral entity. The Farwood is hardly known or noticed by most Men of Sildara, and is so named simply because of its great distance from the capital city.

Climate

Sildara is in the southern temperate region, with a generally warmer climate than that of the northern countries, although it spans such a great distance from north to south that the full range of seasonal changes and weather can be experienced within the country. Along the western coasts the weather tends to be more even, with warmer winters and cooler summers, but further inland the seasonal changes are more distinct and temperature swings more extreme. The northern latitudes get a full winter with heavy snows and cold winds from the north, while the southern latitudes are warm almost year-round, with snow only rarely.

Cities

Sildara has several large cities. Castor, named after one of Sildara's oldest kings, is the northernmost, on the mouth of the Hale River at the shores of the Worldsea. It is a large port city, and a central hub for many eastern nations wishing to trade with the West. Most ships bound for Nûmidëa, Danannsidhe and Nifflgarde, set sail from (or at least re-supply at) Castor. The capital city of Linden is also a port city, at the mouth of the Lower Vineland River on the shores of the Sea. This was the first city built in what is now Sildara, when it was still an unexplored wilderness at the edge of the known world. Further up river, at almost the far eastern border of Sildara, lies the city of Deepfall. This city spans the great falls separating Upper Vineland from Lower Vineland, with great stone quays around the lakes at the head and foot of the falls. The High City of Deepfall surrounds the quays at Upper Vineland Lake, and the Low City does the same around Lower Vineland Lake. Deepfall's primary reason for existence is to facilitate river trade up and down stream, by transporting goods back and forth by wagon between the upper and lower lakes. 

Politics

National

Sildara is ruled by a hereditary king, the ninth in his family's dynasty since their ascent over one hundred twenty years past. There have been a total of five dynasties in the history of Sildara, and none of them transferred power peacefully. Sildara has thus been victim to its own internal strife and civil wars more than any other nation in the West. Under the king are several layers of nobility, from dukes, to barons, to knights. Commoners, of course, are the majority of the population. There are a large number of serfs in Sildara, bound to their local manors (and lords) for life as are all serfs. Though serfdom is not exactly an honored position, serfs do have legal rights as Men and are not considered slaves. The strength of the king varies widely with his charisma, strength of personality and force of will. It can also vary with the strength of the dukes and duchesses who are legally beneath him but who in reality must support his reign if he expects to be king for very long. The king is technically the head of the army, and by tradition he leads it into battle when the country goes to war with another nation. In reality, Sildaran kings usually select a Champion to serve in their stead, while the king directs the war from the rear.

Regional

Sildara is largely divided into manors owned by dukes (a manor is a fiefdom given by the king). There is plenty of wilderness in the country of Sildara, but a large part of the arable land is well developed, such that the king rarely has need to develop new manorial fiefs for loyal dukes. He can simply recycle old ones that have gone fallow for one reason or another, typically the death of a duke with no one close enough in the family line to take his place, and none worthy to be granted the land. Dukes rule their manor lands almost completely independently of the king, but also receive little help when they have troubles such as brigands. Management of the manor is typically delegated to barons appointed by the duke (and sometimes by the king). Poor dukes may only have a single manor, and one baron (or none at all) over the entire estate, while wealthy and influential dukes may have multiple manors and many barons each managing their own fiefs within one of those manors. Knights can also have their own fief granted by the baron or the duke above him, although most live in the baron's manor estate and own no estate.

Local

A manor may have one or many villages, towns, and even cities within its area. The manor estate is the place where the local lord, usually a duke, maintains his manorial court. Such a court is not too different from the king's royal court, it is simply at a lower level. Towns and villages are centers for trade and crafts, places where farmers (the free men, not serfs) can bring some of their produce to sell or trade for other goods, and craftsmen and merchants can bring their goods and find a steady market. If the village is small, it is likely ruled over by the local baron or duke, but larger towns often elect their own mayor, or have one appointed by the local lord. They may also have an appointed shire-reeve (a “sheriff”) for enforcement of local laws and keeping of the peace.

International

Internationally, Sildara is known as a wealthy and cosmopolitan nation. It has a loose alliance with the Vales, and more formal treaties with Danannsidhe and Nûmidëa. It is the sworn enemy of Vilandria, and Vilandria shares that enmity, although they have no laws barring Sildaran entrance into their country, unlike those against Nûmidëans. Cychlos tends to look down upon Sildara and all other nations of the West except perhaps Vilandria, as being immature upstarts compared with their own older civilization. Nations further out on the rim of Western civilization are quite aware of Sildara as a trading hub and transportation center for goods and people traveling all around the world.

Economy

Exports

Sildara is a wealthy nation due in part to so much trade being conducted within her borders (and the taxes gleaned thereby). But in addition to that, the country has a few extensive resources which it exports to other lands. Among these are several varieties of maple wood, from rough cut lumber to finished boards. They also grow some of the healthiest cattle and horses in the West, and export both the animals and animal products such as rough hides and tanned leathers. Nûmidëa in particular imports many of these goods, but they can be seen being bought and sold among all the nations of the West.

Perhaps the thing Sildara is known best for, however, is its own silver and gold coins being the international merchants' standards for coinage and values. The coins from all other realms in the West are valued in terms of how pure they are, and how much they weigh, relative to the Sildaran silver double-eagle and the gold crown. Even nations with coins more pure than Sildara, such as Nûmidëa, have their coins valued as a small multiple of the Sildaran standard rather than as a standard themselves.

Imports

Due to the vast wealth of the nation, virtually every item in the world that can be bought and sold in the world, is done so somewhere in Sildara. Certainly the port city of Castor is a hub for international trade and importation, but the capital (and also port) city of Linden is not far behind in both wealth and influence. When it comes to imports, the majority of items imported into Sildara are small, and of great rarity and value in the world, such as diamonds and other difficult to mine stones, or rare spices such as black pepper from the far east. The other extreme would be items made cheaply by slave labor in other nations, and imported into Sildara as inexpensive copies of the more expensive real items. There is a fiber that can be made into a cloth similar to silk but neither as soft nor as flowing as the real thing. It is sold in Sildara in large and inexpensive bolts, for those of lesser means to be able to make their own fake silk clothing and appear to be wealthier than they are. This is but one simple example, though many others could be found.


Religion

Sildara is perhaps the most secular nation in the West, save for Cychlos. Religion certainly has its place in the country, but it tends to be more ritualized and compartmentalized, such that certain high holy days are national holidays, but their sacredness is often marred by drink and debauchery among the citizenry. While the vast majority of Sildarans would say they believe in the One God and perhaps even the lesser gods or saints, for most of them the actual influence of religion and gods upon their lives is minimal, if it exists at all.

Society

Class Structure

As mentioned previously, there are multiple layers of nobility in Sildara, from the king to dukes to barons to knights. Among free men who are citizens but not nobles, are the merchant class, the craftsmen of many different professions, and some free farmers who own their own land. At the lowest stratum are the serfs, tenant farmers who are bound to a manor and its lord and do not have the right to travel or leave that manor. They are allowed to keep some personal property, and have most of the legal rights of citizens, however they have sold some of their rights, as well as the produce of their hands, in return for guaranteed room and board from their lord. Most people would not willingly sell themselves into serfdom, but rather it comes about due to familial hardship, sickness or injury. Those who are able, will buy out their serfdom contract as soon as they can, but in reality this is a rare thing. Most serfs, once sold into that bondage, die in the same position. But they generally do not die hungry, or without a roof over their heads, and for some that may be all they hope for.

Values

Sildarans value wealth and a “good deal” over just about anything else in their lives. If they can negotiate a good deal for some item or service, it is a good day. “What profit is there in it?” is a common question in Sildara, asked when the individual considers a certain proposal to be of little value. This may come from a merchant, from a noble, or even from a serf. No matter the social class, thought of profit and value tends to be foremost in their minds.

Taboos

In a nation of such vast wealth and secularism, there are few taboos to be found. Even breaking one's word or breaking a contract can be seen as “sharp business” and admired, rather than condemned as it would be in most other nations. To the Sildaran who values profit above all things, paying a legal fee or penalty in order to break a contract that is losing them money, may be seen as simply the cost of continuing business – the honor of one's name doesn't even enter into their thoughts. 

People 

Appearance

The Sildaran people are mostly have a medium of complexion (though some are pale with freckles), with brown to red hair and blue, green or brown eyes. Most men prefer to go clean-shaven – in fact, Sildarans tend to do exactly the opposite of their cousins in Nûmidëa. They tend to be average height, men about five and a half to six feet tall, women five to five and a half feet.

Dress

Clothing is serviceable, tunic and hose for men, long dress with fitted bodice for women, and most people also wear a cape or cloak for protection from the elements. High boots are common for both sexes, as are gloves. Colors tend to be basic browns and reds, black/gray/white, or frequently combinations of these.

History

Sildara broke away from the Nûmidëan empire several hundred years ago, and though there has been much blood spilled over their borders in the past, at present the two nations enjoy neutral relations. Many families have members in both nations, and relatives have often fought relatives in those border clashes, so the present peace is good for them. The king of Sildara is a weak man, prone to sicknesses and fits of madness, and so the entire royal court is presently on edge, waiting to see who (if anyone) will intervene on behalf of the nation and assume the throne. At the moment, the major noble houses are maneuvering for position, but it is expected that within the next year or two, one or more of them will make a grab for power. Civil war seems likely at this point, and Nûmidëa and Nifflgarde are both trying to stay out of the way, even while being wooed by the major noble houses. Meanwhile, even though rumors exist concerning these matters, most of the common citizens have no idea that their lives are about to be overturned by the rising tide of events.