Sunday, July 9, 2017

Valley Kingdoms: Sifekgae, General Information

Wondering what the hell is going on with these blog posts? Well, head on over to this here post to get a general feeling for the Valley Kingdoms. If you'd like to read the other Valley Kingdoms pages, you can click the button up top or just follow this link to the index.
Light brown: Hills, Yellow-brown: regions of heavy cultivation

Kingdom of the Throne
King Izeid II, b. 1168, r. 1189
Geography and General Information

Sifekgae is divided into a number of small lordships, most no larger than 10 miles by 10 miles or so. These lordships are the descendants of the territories controlled by the former warbands of shipfolk that settled the coastline. The kingdom is also mentally divisible into several major regions; the first is Shalpirith, the royal demesne, ruled from Vabaten by the aging King Izeid the Second. Other regions include the Cirran Peninsula, Valley Country, the Pirian Plains, the Tamadar Bay, the Western Highland, the Great Araden Wood, the Vale of Piris, the Cheset Fen, the Ruban Highlands, the Northern Marches, and the Nithis March, also called the Nithis Narrows. Each of these areas will be addressed in turn.

Ethnically, Sifekgae has pockets of wandering folk, particularly among the hilly regions. These are former natives of the area who were never fully settled by the Sifik empire and, like the wandering folk of the other kingdoms of the valley, share a unique but interconnected ethnic identity. They call themselves the Rarun, which in their tongue means "they who walk." They are to be contrasted with the seafolk who live on boats and rivers -- there are few of these in Sifekgae, as the new lords from the ships drove most of them out after their invasions.

Fethas, who take their name from the mythical sea-monster forebearer of Izeid I, comprise the bulk of people in Sifekgae, no matter their ancestral heritage. The only other recognizable kingroup from before the landing of the Fethas are the Great Sifiks, who retain power in some of the marchlands. These are nobles who trace their heritage back to Sifhem itself, and prefer to retain old Sifik customs. The Great Sifiks stand in sharp contrast to the Fethas, posturing themselves as heritors of an older, more mighty, and more noble tradition. However, in recent generations, Great Sifiks have been dying out -- not that they have been having less children, but those heritors of the Great Sifiks have more and more been identifying as Fethain and attending the king's royal court.

Fethain Culture.
The Fethas are essentially a warrior culture, like most of the Valley. They have inherited a healthy respect for wizards, and as such permit the sages who claim descent from the High Wizards of Sifhem to have prominent places at court. Fethas nobles dress in bright colors, made from expensive dyes, and wear knee-length tunics with tight hosen. Breeches are considered barbaric (though they themselves wore breeches when they first game to ruined Sifhem), and longer dress is considered effete.

Unlike the other Valley cultures, the Fethas have no long-standing history of ruling queens. As such, though women can hold property and title, they are much more constrained in Sifekgae than in other realms of the Valley.

Fethas culture focuses on martial prowess and loyalty, both in inter-personal relationships and political ones.

Great Sifik Culture.
Those who still call themselves Great Sifiks can be immediately singled out by their dress. Great Sifik nobles tend to wear long ankle-length tunics; they are often mocked for their "retiring" style, and they are generally taught to read, a rarity in Fethas culture. They preserve an ancient respect for the Empresses of Othan, and thus are unlike the Fethas in that women have full rights in Sifik law. Generally, Sifik written law only prevails in the Northern Marches.

Wanderer Culture.
Wanderers are not quite as mobile as they sound. They live in small, decentralized communities, with elders acting as their leaders, rather than lords. The kings of Sifekgae have been forced to recognize this way of life as legitimate, much to their cost. Wanderer townships are mostly concentrated in the Valley Country. They have very little social hierarchy, although most Wanderers are fanatically devoted Sivans and will follow the word of a Sivan priest before they will listen to the word of a king.

Wanderers are also a storytelling culture. While most of the Valley Kingdoms have a strong tradition of oral storytelling, the Wanderers in particular host storytelling competitions at their village centers in the summer, and their high poets are revered above all other members of their society. Indeed, Wanderers are far less martial than Fethas or even Great Sifiks.

Sifekgae is a feudal kingdom, strongly reliant on the individual loyalty of its lords to their king. Izeid is well-loved by most of his people, and is considered a fair and upright overlord. The laws of the kingdom are primarily inherited from old Sifhem, and King Izeid maintains a whole chancery of notaries to digest and distribute it. Literacy has increased to be somewhat more common under King Izeid, as he often requires written replies to his own letters and commands.

Court is held at Vabaten. No longer do the kings of Sifekgae maintain their courts at the various coastal strongholds, but rather every lord is required to attend the General Thivatin which is held twice a year. The General Thivatin is a gathering also of the mightiest interests in Vabaten, and serves as a ratifying body for the king's decrees.

Justice is done according to Sifik law, and King Izeid has trained a whole corpus of magistrates. These magistrates are also his personal retainers, and are dispatched to each lord in turn to do the king's justice. There are usually twenty such knights at any given time, known as the Knights-Justice. While the transgression of certain crimes are left to the local thivatin assemblies, the most grievous may only be presented to a Knight-Justice and the court he convenes in the locality.  This courts have come to be known as Kingscourts.

However, Sifekgae is riven with conflicts of the law, as the conqueror Fethas never had a written law, and several generations have gone by with the locals adhering to the old Law of the Chiefs. Thus, while a strong promulgation of Sifik law does exist, judgments are also made pursuant to local common law as gleaned by the Knights-Justice from elders of the community, or from a vote by the local thivatin assembly.

Generally, the geography of the kingdom is divided into low population inland areas and the remains of the great old Sifik cities on the coasts. Sifekgae is much less well-populated than Sifhem was, and most of the old imperial roads have fallen into very bad repair. The only cities that remain even shadows of their former selves are Vabaten and Medolin.

Like their more powerful rivals at Medenleb, the High Wizards still stage a yearly pilgrimage to the Black Stone for their apprentices. However, they are much reduced since the days of Sifhem. In the modern era, the High Wizards are a secretive, withdrawn, and much-maligned sect. Other kingdoms see them as serpents, coiled to strike at the heart of Ya, while King Izeid has made good use of them. Many lords of Sifekgae, indeed, pay the Wizardry Tax to the throne for permission to keep their own pet wizards near.

None now know the power that remains in the High Wizards, but it does not do to test them. They drink strange concoctions and are always brewing madness out of herbs in their bubbling retorts. They rarely work magic, and indeed seem to do anything they can to avoid it, but rumors say that they still have some quite powerful spellcraft, and where they ever moved to, they could change the tides of a battle, a war, or of fate itself.

The Isle of Shalpirith
Shalpirith is a royal demesne, administrated entirely by the royal household of King Izeid and his knights. Royal wardens control the land, much of which is given over to farming to support the court. The island is hilly, filled with winding valleys and ravines, and those are occupied by a great many shepherds and drovers.

Though the court is fed by Shalpirith, the Royal City of Vabaten must import food from the continent. The only remaining road on Shalpirith is the grain highway that crosses the Darish Straits, over the monumental ancient Sifik bridge that spans the water.

The last High Wizards also have their home and central meeting place on Shalpirith, hidden somewhere in the royal hunting grounds, which have become known as the Wood of the High Wizards for that very reason. These are an old and hoary preserve, dominated by massive trees that were old when Sifhem was young. The forest has always been protected by emperors, kings, and potentates, and remains so to this day.

The Cirran Peninsula
On the far side of the Darish Strait stands the old city of Cirr. Like most of the coastal Sifik cities, it was raided nearly continuously in the period leading up to the founding of Sifekgae. The Lord of Cirr is a powerful person in the peninsula, but only one of four lords in the region. The peninsula is one of the few regions that, like Medolin, remains under heavy cultivation by farmers.

Cirr has a thriving market, but little else. It is a collection of about 8,000 people in the old city center. Stone ruins surround the city proper, and are often used by the locals as quarries. The peninsula proper is divided more or less into a cultivated region on the eastern side and a forested region on the west. It's most powerful lord, Crioch, is only slightly more influential than Lord Malgos of Etriel, who commands the loyalty of all the farmlands north of the Cirran Wood.

Because of its position near the Valley Country, there are a fair number of raids down into Cirr by bandits and rogue Wanderers. For this reason, most Cirrans have a strong dislike for the Wandering Folk, and they suffer a fair amount of discrimination in the townships of Cirr.

Crioch, Lord of Cirr
Dasmas, Lord of Dariesh
Tirovin, Lord of Calmost
Malgos, Lord of Etriel

Valley Country
Valley Country is an extremely difficult to pass region; it has no roads or clear trails, and is shot through with deep gullies and high hilltops. These range from lightly wooded to very heavily so, mostly with pine, juniper, and and northern hardy oak. Bronze- and Ironwood is also found in great quantities in the Valley Country.

The region is ruled by five Great Sifik lords and two Fethain lords. There are long stretches belonging to the Wandering Folk and their decentralized towns. These communities are mostly appointed Royal Wardens to administer them and ensure that their lord treats them well. There are no major cities in the Valley Country, and it is haunted by bandits and outlaws.

Deniot, Lord of Malmis (Great Sifik)
Coros, Lord of Temm (Great Sifik)
Lemogar, Lord of Filith (Great Sifik)
Tuvor, Lord of Sem (Fethain)
Maldohere, Lord of Prothas (Great Sifik)
Eldogar, Lord of Maas (Great Sifik)
Thudein, Lord of Jorat (Fethain)

Pirian Plains
The Pirian Plains provide food for much of the rest of the realm. This is the site of Medolin, the largest city outside Vabaten, and the location of the yearly Medolin Fair. Two great lowlands are interrupted only by the Middling Hills between them, and the thirteen lords of Pirian gather every year for the Fair at Medolin, each contributing to the draw of the great fair.

The Pirian townships have mostly preserved their shapes from the Sifik period. These small villages and towns are grouped together in manors of 3-5 villages under the authority of a local knight (also, confusingly, called a Lord's Warden). Each lord, ruling over a demesne some 250-400 square miles, controls many of these manors, and owes service of his knights to the crown (the so-called knight's fee, 40 days of unpaid military service).

Medolin is a large walled city, well-known for its linen and cotton industry. Medolin cloth is shipped all over the Valley. It also plays host to the Merchant's Courts, where fair business and inter-kingdom laws are decided during the celebration of the fair.

Savalis, Lord of Medolin
Tria, Lady of Alcai
Venir, Lord of Morred
Thonis, Lord of Aldir
Mavos, Lord of Tiriot
Thirik, Lord of Malan
Thraya, Lady of Timort
Amirath, Lord of Arolin
Korath, Lord of Avisus
Mira, Lady of Toravin
Fora, Lady of Stavin
Nonir, Lord of Ariot
Valin, Lord of Halled

Tamadar Bay
A region that focuses around the old city of Tamadar, which is now little more than a glorified fishing village on the shores of the bay, this region also encompasses the old cities of Erano and Avomel. Of the three (known as the Three Cities in Sifekgae), Avomel retains the most of its old glories. Ancient Sifik monuments still stand there, and the city actually retains its ruling thivatin, one of the few Sifekgae cities to be ruled by an elderfolk council instead of by a lord.

This region has poor soil and its people tend to be fishers or herdsmen. Numerous small sandy islands off the coast provide for good oyster hunting ground. Of course, there are many coastal and even inland farming villages, clinging to the earth. Scratch-ploughs predominate here.

Western Highland
The Western Highland is another wild region, taken over with grazing and Wanderers. It is nearly uncontrolled, with only a handful of fortified manors and a few castles amongst its wild uplands. It is well-known for its herbs and lavender.

Great Araden Wood
This heavily wooded area is culturally focused around the Royal City of Araden, which is ruled by its own thivatin, much like Avomel. The city itself holds a franchise to a huge territory, the size of a lord's demesne, and commands taxes like a lord. It is the only city in all of Sifekgae that trades with the inhumans of the lands beyond the sea, and one of the few seaports in the Valley open to folk from beyond the mountains.

The wood itself is a peaceful place, having been well-groomed and well-settled in the Sifik times. Portions of it are reserved for royal hunting, and Araden keeps the rest clear of bandits and outlaws with their legendary Araden Guard, who are drawn from the wealthy children of the city and trained as soldiers.

Vale of Piris
Another forested region, this one wild and uncontrolled. Like the Marches, the Vale of Piris lies at the very frontier of Sifekgae. It is a deep wood, hard to travel, and rumored to be filled with spirits. They say the gods are strong in the Pirinvale, and that they still scrutinize the world there and act within it. It is also rumored to be wrapped in sorcery, and to hide renegade wizards who seek refuge from the High Order.

The Lords of Piris are a strange lot, but brave. They hunt bear and boar recreationally, and for that reason often think of themselves as the natural enemies of Nithisgae, whose heraldic sign is a bear. They are eager warriors, and excel in the tournaments when they are held throughout the kingdom.

Cheset Fen
A religious refuge, where Yasivan priests hid during the sea invasions, Cheset Fen is known for its Sivan temples. On a lonesome mound in the center of the swamps there stands Isma's Hideaway, a temple renowned for its beauty, stained glass, tapestries, and vast library. Though outlaws also lurk in the fens, the fen lords do their best to root them out.

In the northern fenland, the ruins of an old Othan city can be seen, slowly sinking into the swamp, some miles downstream from an ancient and cracked Othan dam.

Ruban Highlands and Northern Marches
Marcher lords rule these lands. Both regions are rough hill country. The Northern Marches play host to many Wanderers, while the Ruban highlands see almost none. Both are heavily militarized, although the castles in the Highlands are much larger and tend to be self-sufficient.

The demesnes in these realms are both parceled out to the most loyal knights and lords of the realm, as they border the inhuman lands of the Outside and protect not only Sifekgae, but the entire Valley. The Unified Temple sends money and aid to the marches as well, and pilgrim-mercenaries known as Flails, who serve in the castles and fortresses at the borders and help fight inhuman incursions into the Valley.

Nithis March and Nithis Narrows
Both these regions focus around the Lithas Castle, the linchpin of Sifekgae's defenses against Nithisgae. These regions are caught between the hills, the mountains, and the sea, making them narrow but important. Bones litter the fields of the Narrows and are still tilled up at the Field of Sighing where the great armies of King Azar's were finally halted.

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