As I told you in the previous The Story of Astraterra post, the world of Astraterra consists of shards of a broken ringworld connected together by a vast blue sky and the ancient fargates. This time I’m going to tell a bit more about those islands and the different cultures inhabiting the islands.
The Sea of Stars
Together, the atmospheres of the islands form the Sea of Stars, the space between known islands. It is an expanse of blue sky, formed of breathable gases, where sunsailing ships ply the winds. As in the ocean, the Sea of Stars also has its weather. Huge cloud masses and climate fronts traverse the Sea, bringing wind, thunder, and calm. The farther away from the islands a ship sails, the thinner the atmosphere becomes. This can be seen in the darkening of the sky and felt in the cooling of the air.
The borders of the Sea limit where the sunsailing ships can travel, because at its utmost edges, the atmospheres thin out to nothing; the air is barely breathable, the shadows of the dark sky is freezing cold, and the glare of the sun burning hot. Beyond the borders of the Sea of Stars there is only a dark, unfeeling eternity where no life can exist. For this reason, most sunsailing captains keep to the charted routes of the Spiral and Belt, and only the most experienced or foolhardy will dare the narrow straits at the edge of the Tempest, plagued by pirates and e’teep bugs. Only a madman will try going through the Tempest and the Vortex, but of course, there’s always someone to try.
The Powers of the Belt
The islands and continents circling the Sun on a stable orbit are known as the Belt. The Belt is the cradle of Astraterra’s civilization and ruled by its three largest countries: the Kingdom of Escalon, the Malorian Empire, and the Arcadian Dynasties. In addition, there is a large swath of contested territory, the Wasteland, which both the Escalonians and Malorians are racing to claim. The Wastelands are just that, barren and inhospitable, and settling them is not a simple matter. However, the rich deposits of etherium on many of the islands have encouraged many to try their hand at mining. The etherium rush has created many a boomtown in the the Wastelands.
The Kingdom of Escalon
The center of power in the Kingdom of Escalon lies on the twin islands of Escalonia. At one time, they comprised one continental plate, but generations ago, an earthquake broke it apart. The halves settled only a few hundred meters from one another, and the resourceful Escalonians have bridged them in many spots over time.
The kingdom is divided into twelve principalities. Each principality is governed by a prince, and the head of the entire state is King Arthur IV. On the Belt, Escalon borders the Arcadian Dynasties and the Wasteland. Its territory also encompasses two archipelagos in the Spiral, the Breeze Archipelago and the Pacific Arm. Both are important trade routes.
The Kingdom of Escalon has always supported the star knights and played an important part in the founding of the Star Guard. Star knights are still trained at the Star Fortress of Presidium in the Breeze Archipelago, the oldest and greatest fortress of the star knights. Escalon is also known for the skill of its alchemists. Escalonian alchemists keep to the traditional ways, where a master passes her knowledge to an apprentice.
The Malorian Empire
The Malors originate from the small island of Malor, known for its trading fleet for as long as anyone remembers. They were wearing their natural resources thin, however, and trade did not provide a solution. The old merchant council was replaced by a military government that went on to conquer many of the nearby islands. The Malorian Empire is now governed by the Republican Senate, chaired by the Head Chancellor Tiberon von Nero.
Malor has always been a progressive nation, and it is no wonder they are the most industrialized of Astraterra’s countries. No other people uses steam engines as much as they do. Steam engines make their factories more efficient, their ships faster, and their war machines more dangerous, but they also use up etherium quicker than they have time to enrich.
The factories are not Malor’s only advanced feature. The Republican Academy has made sciences of alchemy and steamworking and educates scientists and alchemists to design and develop ever more advanced steam engines and ways to use etherium.
To satisfy their ravenous hunger for more etherium, the Malorian Empire has expanded its borders repeatedly in the past few generations, conquering less powerful nations and subjugating them as its colonies. The colonies are stripped of their riches and resources, especially etherium, and forced to serve the mighty of the Malorian Empire.
Of late, Malors have become more and more arrogant in their search for etherium, and their patrols and etherium mines are now a nuisance for explorers. Malorian garrisons, work camps, and mines are nowadays a frequent sight in the islands of the Spiral and they grow ever closer to the Tempest. Malors also seem to be on the lookout for tech treasures and other devices of the Ancient, all the way in the Tempest and even the Vortex.
The Arcadian Dynasties
Queen Ludiana of Arcadia is likely the most famous of the rulers of Astraterra. Though she enjoys the attention and gladly appears in public, her vanity is not the reason she is popular. Queen Ludiana is known as an obsessive player of games. A determined and absolute monarch, she has made playing games an important part of her nation’s public life, trade, and even judicial process. An Arcadian citizen may entertain herself with a myriad of games and sports, but may also have to play a round of dice roulette to settle her final bill in the bazaar. Someone accused of crimes may find himself a playing piece on doom chess, where the final sentences are determined by success on the playing field. Coincidentally, trials are public and very popular with the audiences. The Queen herself watches doom chess often – especially if there are well-known or exotic individuals among the accused, such as explorers from faraway lands.
Arcadia is the smallest of the three great nations of Astraterra. It borders the Kingdom of Escalon, but not the Malorian Empire – yet. The Arcadian Dynasties controls one of the six arms of the Spiral. The Islands of Fantasia are officially under the Queen’s rule, but in practice the region is so wild and untamed that her power is nominal. The islands are inhabited by many kinds of creatures, such as fairies, satyrs, centaurs, and chimeras.
The Wastelands is a wild region of the Belt, between the Kingdom of Escalon and the Malorian Empire. The two powers have long disputed the region and several attempts have been made to settle it, but the native barbarian tribes have made things difficult enough that nobody has any desire to try inhabiting the deeper regions – especially since the back country is not known to hold anything worthwhile, such as wildsilver or etherium.
The Spiral consists of six long, narrow archipelagos extending from the Belt into the Tempest. The islands are inhabited by many smaller or neutral nations and states. They are also liberally populated with tempest pirates and the nomadic stormfolk, who make daring journeys into the Tempest and the Vortex, close to the Sun.
There are many unexplored, drifting islands and abandoned rocks in the archipelagos of the Spiral. They are in constant motion, drifting ever closer to the Tempest. Many islands that have been pulled too close to the Tempest have been abandoned, and their inhabitants have moved to the Belt or another island. Some of the migrants have stayed in the Spiral, still seeking for a new place to call home.
The Iron Arm
For the most part, the Iron Arm comprises cold and barren rocks. At first glance, they seem a lifeless desert, but if you know where to look, you may find the subterranean cities of the cavens within the chilled stone.
The cavern cities are fortresses, cleverly built into the cores of the islands. They have their own gardens, marketplaces, harbors, and apartment areas. Light and warmth are provided by the huge block of etherium that resides at the heart of every city. The cities are also filled with machines and gewgaws, and steam engines and gearworks of every kind are an everyday sight in a cavern city.
The Breeze Archipelago
Breeze is a windy, stormy archipelago. It is the home of the mightiest of Astraterra’s military fortresses and the headquarters of the star knights, the Storm Castle of Presidium.
Most merchantmen avoid Breeze due to its weather, but nowhere on Astraterra are flying fish as abundant as these islands. Most of the successful towns and villages in the region are fishing ports that sell their catch to Escalon and Arcadia.
The Pacific Arm
The islands of the Pacific Arm are mostly warm and tropical. The only surviving city of the Ancestors, Port Arco, is located here. It is the shape of a crescent, and much has been built on its foundation since the Ancestors abandoned it a thousand or more years ago.
Port Arco is located at a key spot between the Malorian Empire, Iron Arm, and the Kingdom of Escalon, making it a linchpin of trade and shipping. The amount of merchantmen also lures in many storm pirates hungry for their wealth.
As you can guess, Port Arco is also rich in fargates, most of which probably haven’t even been found yet. The lower reaches of the city mostly remain unexplored and unmapped. Below the busy streets of Port Arco there lies a bewildering network of tunnels where regularly maintenance workers and explorers find new paths into hitherto undiscovered parts of the complex.
The Islands of Fantasia
If you like surprises, you should head to the Islands of Fantasia. It is an eccentric, even strange place that is home to a rare diversity of animals and chimeras not seen anywhere else in Astraterra. On the green fields and meadows of Fantasia, you can find wild herds of unicorns. Winged horses fly over the white clouds, and the beautiful woodlands echo with the sound of satyrs’ pipes.
Solara – the Doomed Isles
What’s left of the Solaran Archipelago has been abandoned centuries ago. Solara is the former home of the solars, who left it after it drifted into the Tempest. There are only a few islands left, and even they are being dragged in. The final islands still have some solar ruins on them, but they have mostly been stripped of everything valuable. Now they are home only to storm pirates and all kinds of creatures native to the Tempest.
Cornucopia – the Malorian Colonies
As per the name, in its heyday the archipelago of Cornucopia used to be a fertile land, with abundant etherium. In just a bit over one hundred years, the Malors have exhausted nearly all of the etherium with their strip mining operations and cut down every last forest. Now, Cornucopia is a grotesque shadow of what it once was. Its islands have been robbed of their natural wealth and left empty and barren, and their native inhabitants live in exile or slavery.
The Tempest is a region of stardust, asteroids, and uninhabited islands around the Sun, constantly beaten by storms and battered by meteors. On its edges dwell storm pirates, etherium trawlers and foolhardy explorers. Deep within, there live the mysterious e’teep bugs that sometimes raid the Spiral.
The Changed Lands
For reasons unknown, the Tempest changes the places that get drawn within it. Over decades, the animals become larger and more ferocious. Their shapes twist into strange and unique new forms. The Changed Lands are an area of the Tempest where plants are unnaturally large, insects are giants and every creature you run into is dangerous than the one before. It is said that the biggest, meanest beasts of Astraterra live in the Changed Lands.
The Soot Isles
The Soot Isles are just that, smoky, sooty, abandoned islands that have drifted into the Tempest. They are former Malorian colonies, mostly robbed empty. For reasons that only the Malors know and aren’t telling, they were stripped in a great hurry and many treasures were left behind to wait for their finder. Over the years, all kinds of creatures have made their nests in the mine shafts that dot the isles.
The Great Hives
The Great Hives are located in a foggy and warm area of the Tempest. They are the fortresses of the terrifying e’teep bug folk. It is believed that this is their original home, from where they have since spread to everywhere in the Tempest. This region is covered in dense jungle and quite frankly swarming with e’teeps. The only way to get about the area without being detected is to cut one’s way through the densest thickets. A sunsail will immediately attract attention, and soon an angry swarm of soldier e’teeps will descend to turn the uninvited guests away.
The reason anyone would want to come here is the glowhoney that the e’teeps manufacture. It is a bluish honey that glows in the dark, and is known to have properties that extend life and cure sickness. It is the best possible raw material for making healing potions.
The pirates plying the trade routes at the edges of the Tempest long ago founded a hidden harbor for themselves. Its location is known only to pirates and other outlaws. Few honest folk would voluntarily seek out Port Shade. But if you need to find the meanest robber in all of Astraterra or someone to lead you safely through the Tempest, there is no place better.
Between the Tempest and the Sun, there lies the Vortex. It is full of pieces of the Belt slowly drifting into the Sun, asteroids, and other space junk. Few dare pass through the Tempest into the Vortex, but those who do and live to tell the tale come back wealthy beyond belief. They tell stories of islands roasted by the burning solar winds, untouched ruins of the Ancestors, and the strangest of monsters and other creatures that dwell in them.
Next: The Heroes of Astraterra (Coming soon)