A Most Excellent and Informative Guide to the Places in the World
Promising to, within a Few Short Minutes, Teach Anyone of Any Skill or Intelligence or Lack Thereof the Basics of the Nostramar Sea and the Surrounding Lands
It has been my experience as a most Excellent Teacher of the Geographical Arts that people comprehend best when they hear Stories that tickle their Fancy. To that end, I have gathered Important Information about the local industries and events that may help my uneducated readers Learn the geography of our Glorious Empire and those regions not yet belonging to her.
We will begin in the north-east with perhaps the strangest residents of our world,
The Lizard Folk
The larger city of the lizard folk, on a peninsula also called Aarhus. Foreigners are not allowed to enter the city proper and must stay in a walled section of the port, to which the lizard folk may come to trade. Their buildings beyond the port have a strange green shimmer to them, leading to some speculation that the region may be rich in precious or semi-precious stones. Their merchants are very interested in imperial textiles, as the lizard folk have only recently taken an interest in clothing of any kind and prefer luxury items for their experimentation. The lizard folk keep slaves of their own kind or others captured trespassing. Not much is known about their captivity except that it must be hard and strange.
A small town west of Aarhus, including a small market town and more mingling between the locals and traders than at Aarhus. If you can understand their strange hissing accent when they speak Common, this is the best supplier of coal and graphite in the world. Only since opening trade with the lizard folk have we seen the miraculous invention of the pencil and improved heating for even the poorest of our imperial citizens.
The Northern Free Cities
Like all of the purchasers of our trade, the Northern Free Cities are primarily interested in our manufactured goods and southern agricultural products: printed cottons, tea and fruit, paper, books, metalwork, fashionable furniture and textiles, cut gemstones, and artwork, among many others.
Alvik is up-mountain from colonial Keswick. These are a rough people dedicated to mining salt and herding goats and sheep. Their chief craft, used to fill the long winter months, is to produce quality warm woollens, which are revered by explorers and sea travellers, including a distinctive knit pattern depicting snowflakes and, occasionally, sheep. In the long summer days, they harvest salt, which provides a significant portion of the slat trade on the Nostramar Sea, and a much purer variety than the southern salt flats of Molina.
Trade from Kallax passes primarily through Carlyntown and New Evendon. It is a large settlement dedicated to gold and silver mining. The Kallax Springs are considered the purest water in the world, and small crystal bottles of the waters are purchased by wealthy invalids throughout the known world in the hopes of curing their internal afflictions. Of note is a mountainside where a flash freeze nearly one thousand years ago froze several hundred people and animals in a sheet of ice. They are still visible from the main travel road to New Evendon, preserved in a haunting tableau, one reason perhaps why few but locals make the trek up to the eerie city.
Inland city, a source of amber, bone, furs, and knotted wood from the deep forests, as well as iron ore and other harder metals. Occasionally a resident of Arnberg will emerge from the deep forest with a strange glassy wood, petrified eons ago in the fluctuating ices to the north. The polished wood-stones are considered sacred to Amonte, and are often carved into statues and alter tables by our superior imperial craftsmen.
Tannheim marks the pass into the Tannhall Mountains. It is primarily important for logging, providing much of the paper for the flourishing publishing trade here in the empire. Once a power in this region, due to its central location, Tannheim has declined in regional power since the loss of its last chief one thousand years ago. Legend has it the one to find him and put his soul to rest will prove themselves worthy to wield the mystical powers of the Tannheim chiefs.
The northernmost known human habitation. In the winters, they produce highly-prized carved bone handles for knives and swords—the emperor himself wears one. In the summers though, they spend most of their useful time mining. The storytellers of Norlang Trask tell strange tales of ice-men even further north, a region they call Alfheim. The descriptions seem to match the elves of old, but if so they rarely emerge from the ice sheets beyond the forest these days.
The most developed of the Northern Free Cities, and generally the least cooperative of our empire. It marks the end of the northern overland trade route and provides the shipping line to the Northwestern isles. It also controls the world’s most extensive diamond mines, usually called Ice Diamonds. You may recognize these because the medallion in the centre of the imperial crown bears one as large as a man’s fist. One day Vallir will be seized and brought to heel, as it has been known to provide haven to dirty pirates. They are entirely to blame for Admiral F. V. Bristol’s difficulty eradicating piracy on the island of Oaxaca. Ten years ago he cleared them out entirely, but instead of scattering they took refuge in Vallir and returned within months. Poor Admiral Ellsworth and his son, Rear Admiral Dancliff F. Bristol, have been coordinating the ongoing efforts to root out the evil vice of the greater islands to no avail. Children, remember it is disrespectful to joke that the “F” stands for “failure”—or any variation thereof—it stands, of course, for “Fulton,” a very respectable and hallowed family name, as I can personally attest as a friend of the Bristols.
Peninsula of the Halflings
I am sure there is something noble about the contentment and utter lack of ambition or drive among the Halflings. They are a little people of small pleasures and simple joys. Both Biggleswade and Little Wolsingham sit on natural deep water harbours, so they are often used as ports of origin for merchants avoiding taxes and tolls elsewhere. If by some act of god or man you find yourself at this edge of the known world, there is one thing worth a night’s entertainment: three times a year, a fish-eating competition is held for all challengers, and the winner becomes the headman for the following months until the next competition. Apparently a goat won twenty years ago, but speechless races have been disqualified since, on the grounds that they are not qualified for the position. The local legend holds that the competitions consume half of the total fish exports from Las Tunas, although this must be an exaggeration.
The most that can be said for Little Wolsingham is that it is more metropolitan than Biggleswade. About the only arts scene to be found on the peninsula is the local flute-playing at harvest dances. No doubt charming to the rustics. If you are blown off-course by a difficult wind from the east on your way to Haven, it is worth your while to land in Little Wolsingham rather than put down anchor to the north of Oaxaca, at least until the valiant Bristols evict the pirates for the last time.
The Shallow Isles
The Shallow Isles are so-called due to the impossibility of landing a large ship on any of them; they are protected by substantial coral reef rings and can only be visited by fishing boat. No effort has been made to conquer them for the empire because they do not have much of value except what they already bring to the market town on Inagua. On market days, Inagua is overrun by the small colourful boats of these islands, and the traders camp for miles around the town.
Their primary contributions to trade are fish, coral, lizards, tropical fish for pets, and several extremely valuable dyes: a purple made from squid ink and a false gold made from shellfish.
Though no imperial citizen has yet travelled to the island, it is known to be the origin of the poisonous and evil drug known as Spinola, or Sleep of the Dead, because the Spinola fish whose spurs supply the poison can be found only here. It is of particular interest to the dirty pirates on Oaxaca, and should be avoided by all law-abiding and conscientious citizens.
The principal western free port, Inagua was the seat of the kings of the old kingdom in this region. It is still covered in the ruins of temples and palaces, none of which have been repaired by the small year-round population on the island. Once a month, a huge market is held in the town and the traders camp in the nearby ancient plazas. Once a year there is an extravagant Festival of the Dead, a filthy pagan festival but a sight to behold, to be sure. The Muerte Priests are said to have found a dark magical means to raise skeletons not only in mindless animation but in a facsimile of life.
Inagua is the meeting place of several legitimate sources of trade—the Shallow Isles, Vallir, and the colonies at Fishguard and Tenby-on-the-Sea—but is also the chief trading port for the dirty pirate haven at Anegada. It is a mélange of stolen spices from Oaxaca, the drugs, seafood and dyes of the Shallow Isles, and the diamonds, furs, bone goods, and wools of the north. Imperial ships introduce goods from around the empire.
León and Manzanillo
León and Manzanillo were once powerful city-states ruling over a large portion of the region, but as the waters rose they became divided from each other except for a rocky land bridge. They are still led by a democratic parliament of all landowners.
Despite their proximity to the cold fjords near New Evendon, León and Manzanillo maintain their warm climate due to a powerful tropical current that keeps their waters warm. Their most interesting export is exotic birds of many kinds, some primarily edible delicacies and others primarily pets. They also host some strange small mammals, including a miniature but silken-haired pig called the Manzan Pig. Manzan Pigs can be trained to do tricks and run races, so there are touring shows of Amazing Manzan Pigs.
There is said to be a rich underground temple on León—the ancient stories describe it to be plated in gold, with one chamber made entirely of faceted rubies—but it has not yet been found despite extensive mining for semi-precious stones.
Los Roques was once the holiday island for the rich of the northern Nostramar, but it now has only a small population. Ancient stories about the smaller islands in the Los Roques chain describe cataclysms of fire and smoke that consumed entire cities and set off a tidal wave that reached as far as Inagua. Los Roques has rich obsidian mines, and the town of Gran Roque, led by Jordán, Prince of Los Roques, has remained neutral in all regional and imperial disputes in order to serve as a re-stocking point for ships travelling long distances across the Nostramar.
The inhabitants of Snug Corner live in small villages only, and claim to be the inventors of cheese. This extravagant claim has never been proven, but it must be admitted that they make incredible cheeses for such a small island. They are also famous for their orange and lemon trees, since most of the sailors who made it to this northeastern corner of the Nostramar had scurvy, which the locals kindly cured. Now all imperial ships carry a barrel of Snug Corner Oranges to avoid just that fate. Curiously, the people of Snug Corner have no boats at all, not even for river crossing. They seem to have no concept of flotation whatsoever, and are superstitiously afraid of the water. They regard anyone who takes to the water on a sailing vessel as foolhardy and supply them with whatever they need out of sorrowful pity.
The Imperial Colonies and Ports
The Imperial Colonies are largely farming communities governed by a central fort protecting a trading port. They administer official trade in their regions, levying taxes on behalf of the emperor and guarding trade routes, as much as possible, against piracy or foreign interference. Many of them are built on the ruins of ancient cities and palaces, since these often held the most defensible positions.
Tenby-on-the-Sea—Governor Evander W. Simmons
Fishguard—Governor Meliara “Jet” J. E. T. Olivier
New Evendon—Governor Orville G. Wellingham
Carlyntown—Governor Elliot “Ellie” R. Gramby
Keswick—Governor Aliana Q. Manderly
Uno, Dos, Tres, Nombres—Governor Anders Justinian Arthur Xanderson (AJAX)
Tesoro—Governor Iver P. J. Fox
Providencia—Governor Eleanora K. Landry
Oaxaca and Her Islands
Governor Alexandrine G. Erindale
The chief city on the island of Oaxaca and the jewel in the crown of the empire. The island is largely given over to spice plantations and produces much of the spice trade for the empire. Its warm and lush climate is more suited to this than any of the mainland agricultural regions available. Unfortunately, the pirate haven to the north is a blight and must be eradicated as soon as possible. The Governor at Haven, Governor Alexandrine G. Erindale, is the most powerful of the colonial governors; since her husband Arcturus Erindale was killed trying to attack the pirates at Anegada on land, she has been the leader of efforts to have Admiral Bristol demoted for his failure to destroy the scourge of piracy.
Oaxaca has five outlying islands, each serving as an outpost of Haven and a secondary port, and all under the direction of Haven’s governor. They are Ola Vide, Cortina, Barahona, Providencia, and Guardelavaca—the story goes that the locals gave their port such a long name because otherwise it would be too small to show up on a map.
The first point beyond the empire reached by explorers. It is too barren to support year-round habitation, but it does have a source of freshwater and is therefore invaluable for imperial ships making a full crossing of the Nostramar. Few ships have ever stayed overnight, as there is no need. However, a storm once kept H.I.H.S. Silvernose grounded for two days on Midway. Its sailors mutinied and insisted on sailing into the storm to get away, claiming they heard singing voices in the wind at night. The ship landed safely at Guardelavaca despite the storm, but all sailors now have a superstitious fear of Midway at night.
Lands of the Dwarves
Not much is known about the inland capital of the dwarves, except that it is called Skiathos and is led by King Nykodemus Tassos, whose names mean “victory of the people” and “harvester.” Naming is very important to the dwarves and every important object, dwelling, or tool has its own personal name, similar to the way all imperial ships are named and are thought to have personalities. It is thought that the Lizard Folk may have an overland trade route with the dwarves, but all attempts to reach Skiathos from the south or west have been swiftly repelled.
Traders may make contact with dwarves in the port of Peri-Skiathos, our “outer Skiathos,” which is politically considered a part of the dwarven capital, but is down by the coast instead of up in their impenetrable mountains. Similarly to the Lizard Folk capital, visitors are only allowed within a walled area around the port. Dwarves highly value privacy and independence, and this same mindset extends to every dwelling and building produced by them. The first room in any building is called the Domatio. It is usually empty or furnished sparsely, with all valuable or personal objects withheld for the private rooms of the building. Visitors are only admitted beyond the Domatio when they gain the status of family or close friend.
It is generally known that the dwarven lands were once much larger, and it has been posited by an eminent imperial historian that the ancient mines and treasures of the dwarves might be underwater and well off their coast, but no one has yet found a way to explore the possibility.
Dirty Pirate Nests
The less said about the dirty pirates, the better. They have their filthy nests at Anegada, Freeport, and Port-Imperial, all of them using stolen imperial armaments and the fortifications of once-great imperial ports to evade our fated supremacy. Have no fear, children, the Bristols will see an end to this reign of terror and see our merchants safe and confident once again.