Monday, July 23, 2012

The Alphatian Province of Arogansa -- Updated July 27th

Bluenose Area
Arogansa is first and foremost, at least from the point of view of those who may benefit from it, a realm where one goes for rest and recreation.  It offers in good faith, if the price is right, anything ranging from mindless entertainment to secluded serenity.  Phantasmal fakery defines the most popular and affordable attractions.  Yet, those whose arcane skills and standards of living permit may experience profound and perhaps life-changing events at the more exclusive estates.  Nonetheless, beach-going wizards, their families, their retinues, fun-seeking bachelors, sight-seeing sages, underage warlocks celebrating their season breaks, and overworked enchanters swirl together amid a debauchery of high fashion and utter snobbery. Truly idyllic and enthralling palaces remain within the sphere of the wealthy wizardkind and select ecclesiastics of eminent talent.  For the masses of native workers, alas, it imposes a humble life spent hiding from sight until summoned.  They remain entirely at the service and mercy of the ruling class.  All said, Arogansa embodies all that is fabulous about magocracies, and all that is deeply reviled.

Aside from all the glitz and excitement, one should notice seven military wards.  The first five guard the Great Gouge and three small craters partially filled with bubbling tar.  There was a time when flesh-craving horrors crept from these dismal depths, and clashes were as common there as monsoon rains in Ochalea.  The region has been at peace for many generations, but wizards are slow to forget and wisely maintain a solid watch.  Other important military marches are the Sixth and Seventh Wards on the western border.  In a realm whose hinterland is at best sparsely populated, hills and forests always remain sources of trouble.  The Arogansa Range is no exception, but this isn't the entire story.  Important mines of magnetite and arcanium lie there.  These minerals are crucial for the production of alloys capable of boosting arcane potency.  Behind their jovial (if snobbish) façade, the ruling class jealously guard these minerals and access to them.  More valuable than gold or gems, they lie at the heart of Arogansian upper class.

Aristocratic domains and private estates are nested between the military marches, the River Thera, and the coasts.  They represent a pecking order not unlike those prevailing in other realms.  Mechanics governing wizardly titles and estates are, however, a bit different than traditional apanages, such as baronies and counties.  Although nobility remains entirely hereditary, the size of the land attached to the title and the degree of aristocracy may all change over time.  What determines one's place in the Arogansian establishment includes wizardly ability, the size of territorial holdings, diplomacy, and lifetime achievements.

Inheriting a title is a crucial event affecting the formal standing of a dominion, as a successor rarely matches a predecessor's skills.  Some allowances are made to be fair.  However, if the successor stands too far below the predecessor's status, a demotion may be in order.  Failure to reach the predecessor's status over time, inexcusable crimes, involvement in a felony, or dismal mismanagement also are grounds for demotion if not banishment.  A non-wizard cannot inherit a nobility title and attached lands.  Catastrophic demotion involves loss of some or all lands, which are set up as one or more Vice-Coventries.  The Council of Seven, composed of the realm's seven top mages, chooses the new dominion's leader.  Aristocratic hierarchy is listed below with approximate equivalents.  A "Vice-" prefix connotes a lesser degree, while "High-" infers a greater status (usable for for all titles except Archmagency), for a total of nineteen discreet ranks.
  1. Coventrie (Barony--address as My Lord/Lady)
  2. Conjuracy
  3. Theurgy (Marquisate--address as My Lord/Lady)
  4. Thaumaturgy
  5. Sorcelry (County--address as Your Grace)
  6. Wizardate
  7. Archmagency (Duchy--address as Your Highness)
The king and queen are addressed as Your Majesties or Your Royal Majesties.  Princes and other members of the royal house are addressed as Your Royal Highnesses.

These titles are crucial in that they determine access to Arogansian magnetite and arcanium.  Shares of this ore, called Potencies, come in tenths of the mines' entire monthly production.  Aristocrats may purchase as many Potencies as they are entitled to, provided any are available.  Highest titles are served first, and Potencies are payable to the Royal House of Potencies.  Arogansian monarchy does not pay for its purchases, but remains limited to what its original title allows.  An Archmagency commands as much as three Potencies, a Wizardate two, a Sorcelry one, a Thaumaturgy one half, a Theurgy one tenth, a Conjuracy one twentieth, and a Coventry one hundredth.  Naturally, if the top few nobles purchase their entire allocations, none is left for their peers.  It is rare when they all do at the same time or for very long, so eventually, Potencies become available to the lower tiers.  Unsold ore is auctioned off by the ounce to petty landless nobility (and there are plenty of those) or sold at negotiated prices to high-paying Alphatian aristocrats outside Arogansa, usually the Imperial House of Thera.  It is illegal in Arogansa to trade privately in Potencies.  Any ore purchased must be kept, processed, or donated to the Royal House of Potencies.

The Vice-Wizardate of Scarabellyn enjoys an unusual status in that one of the mines lies within its borders.  This does not change its access to Potency, and royal guards still monitor local output.  This results from a long-ago negotiation between the monarchy and the earlier High Sorcelry of Scarabellyn.  When the ore deposit was discovered, a dispute flared between the two houses.  It was resolved when Lord Scarabellyn agreed to relinquish ownership of the mine, in exchange for which he earned his Vice-Wizardate.

Before moving on, a note about royalty in Arogansa is needed.  When a royal dynasty ends, the Council of Seven chooses a new monarch.  It isn't necessarily one of their own, since rivalries among the councilors is often fierce and merciless.  Rather than allowing a monarch to spring from the upper ranks, a coalition of weaker members may succeed in putting a lesser aristocrat on the throne.  This is the case of King Matterdy of Arogansa, Arbiter of Taste, and Lord of the Coventrie of Yalastrian.  

Although the monarchy confers great powers, wealth, and responsibilities, King Matterdy has his hands full with two disgruntled Wizardates and a borderline-hostile Archmagency.  The Royal Palace is located just outside the capital city, at Crown-on-the-Hill, an enclave in the midst of the Archmagency of Merlioness, an unfortunate state of affairs.  Psychologically at least, it bears a significant effect on the monarchy's diplomacy.  At his current level of wizardly expertise, Matterdy comes off as an upstart and a weakling in the eyes of many.  He presides at the Council of Seven, but cannot vote since technically he is merely a coventrie's lord.  Nonetheless, he does wield the authority to veto title elevations or demotions.  As can be expected, there are some who would benefit from seeing the House of Yalastrian extinguished.  As a result, none among the royal family are safe.  They survive thanks to the old coalition watching out for them.  Chief among this cabal stands Lord Scarabellyn, the other grey eminence behind the throne.

In addition to seven military wards, there are two Coventries, one Conjuracy, two Theurgies, one Thaumaturgy, one Sorcelry, three Wizardates, one Archmagency, and a dozen autonomous estates.  The latter answer only to the crown, for which they generate income.  The estates are exclusive palaces with extensive grounds designed to attract and entertain the highest paying wizards in the empire.  In almost all instances, estates are created when an aristocrat cedes some land for that purpose, generally in exchange for a title elevation.  Estates occasionally fail commercially and are seized by the crown.  Seized estates may be attributed later to an adjacent dominion as a reward or through negotiation.

House of Eternal Lore: is a sprawling library heaven.  Sages and alchemists abound, as well as a host of arcane creatures whose duty is to serve the guests.  Crystal balls, enchanted suites, testing laboratories, conference halls famous for the yearly Warlocks' Symposium, and a vast chamber for purveyors in magical devices and wizard tools are available to support anyone's magical research.  The estate is otherwise a peaceful retreat where a wizard may find absolute peace and quiet, in addition to unbreakable anonymity.

Elven Palace: this estate focuses on the needs and aspirations of elven wizards. Non-elves must demonstrate a reasonable command of elven culture to be admitted.  Poetry, art, communion with the spirits of nature, control of the elements, swordfight mastery, the perfection of elven metallurgy, and fey archery are among subjects covered here.  Elven grand-masters and outer-planar beings serve as instructors and guides to attending guests.  Scientific excursions to the Wooddrake Preserve are permitted under strict conditions.

Woodrake Preserve: is actually not a private estate.  A Royal Charter was obtained to set aside the forest as a place for wooddrakes to thrive.  As part of the arrangement, the earlier High-Theurgy of Llyndemar obtained its elevation to a Vice-Thaumaturgy.  Although sponsored by the Elven Palace and the Royal House of Arogansa, the park is presently closed to the general public.  Ranger serfs, druids, and wizardly sages look after the drakes well-being.
           
Hook Haven: is a fisherman's timeless paradise.  This secluded mountain island features a large fisherman's lodge and individual cabins scattered throughout the island.  All fantasies are fulfilled, including conventional fishing, live or phantasmal, of all fish breeds, large and small, common or exotic, and aquatic monsters.  The hobby can be satisfied from shore, from surface or flying vessels, or underwater for the more daring.  The true aficionados can be recognized by fishhooks and magically animated lures which adorn their wizard hats.  For the right price, time alteration enables guests to extend their stays without affecting their normal life obligations.  At Hook Haven, there is no end to a holiday if one isn't desired.

Serenity Manor: is perhaps one of the better known guest houses.  The country lodge is fit for royalty.  Its main purpose is to organize soul-searching journeys to Serenity Crater, which has existed at this place since ancient times.  A crystal-clear lake filling the crater exceeds the capabilities of a more common crystal ball, if peered into.  Only experienced spellcasters can withstand its power and control it to unveil their inner secrets.  A mysterious stone monument stands atop the stone formation at the center of the lake which allows the more powerful spellcasters to commune with the dead.

The Stag House: stands as one of the shallowest and frivolous sources of entertainment in Arogansa.  It is the place where those soon to be married, man or woman, bury their bachelorhood.  Racy shows, rambunctious parties, erotic experiences, naked chases through the woods, and other activities performed with reckless abandon are the stuff of the Stag House.  Snobbism and most forms or social restraint are promptly shed in this estate.  Hypocrisy and established conventions lead most to publicly condemn the establishment as scandalous, although the quasi-entirety of native aristocracy has visited the place under false identities.

Evergreen: one of the more curious establishments, delves into the secrets of eternal youthfulness.  Evergreen is a fantasy spa, complete with steam baths, luxury mud pools, otherworldly massages, cosmetic alterations to the face and body, all of which endeavor to soften or reverse the injuries of time upon one's flesh and mind.  Naturally, this most expensive service relies on arcanium alloys dissolved in waters, creams, and phylacteries.  A Royal Charter entitles the managing aristocrat to purchase Potencies as a Conjuracy would, in order to run this ultra-select business.  Oddly enough, Evergreen also operates one of the best gastronomic establishments in Arogansa, serving all sorts of exotic dishes, magical or not, with calories or without.  Multi-layered drinks and culinary concoctions are specialties enabling patrons to experience the most divine flavors imaginable.  Unlike the Stag House, it is the place to be seen.

Bluenose Beach: refers to the coastline from Perponaz to Dhobig.  Naturally, the most popular and prestigious area centers around the city of Bluenose.  The coastline is home to several major estates.  Nautilus Manor features a large, luxury submarine and year-round underwater cruises to Seashield.  The Bluenose Beach Estate actually counts three associated palaces: Sand Castle, which allows guests to shape their own dwellings, Starfish Palace, which uses phantasmal magic to recreate a safe and enthralling aquatic environment, and Seahorse Palace, where one learns to ride live giant seahorses and play with bluenose dolphins (summer season only.)  The extensive estate includes sand banks a few miles offshore and a gorgeous lagoon enhanced with evocative magic painting breath-taking sunsets against a fabulous backdrop of stars and planets.  Farther east stands the House of the Seven Seas, a must for lovers of regattas offering an unforgettable kaleidoscope of grace upon the seas or across the skies.  Finally, east of Nasperid lies Treasure Palace whose theme is pirates, spectral naval battles in which guests may participate, and buried treasures.  The hoards are real troves of gold and gems that lucky guests get to keep. Naturally, it's all reflected in the price.  A succession of public and private beaches stretch between the major estates, ranging from idyllic settings to some of the tackiest establishments in Arogansa.

Crystal Palace: is exactly what it sounds like--a fantastic abode made of crystal, mirrors, dizzying force fields, and solid light.  Despite its translucence, the palace sparkles and shimmers with rainbow-like rays sufficient to enable complete privacy in one's quarters.  Crystal Palace is best known among the rich and fabulous for the game it hosts.  It consists in hitting a magical ball with a club, called a mashie-niblick, sending the sphere across ranges looping across the sky and around the clouds, before ending in a mind-wrenching spiral back to the palace.  Wherever the ball goes, players must follow.  It is a game that blends both hand-eye coordination and social graces.

Divination Estate: concentrates on the concept of Immortality as wizards understand it.  A guest may focus on learning more about the Paths to Immortality, questioning one's own motivations, or reflecting upon the intent of the spheres, their place in the universe, and other philosophic issues.  Divination is a great part of this learning process.  On a more lighthearted side, phantasmal suites may be booked to enact hypothetical endeavors such as completing immortal quests, trials, testimonies, and tasks.  They are designed to teach a better understanding of the purposes of immortality.  Naturally, true Immortals quietly monitor the establishment, watching whom they know to harbor great potential.  Although very rarely, an Immortal may surreptitiously "hijack" a phantasmal suite to fulfill whatever divine schemes.  Naturally, this was never proven, although some of the less unwitting actors do harbor strong suspicions.  The Divination Estate is the only major establishment fully open to non-wizards.

Blinkwoods: were once part of a popular establishment whose magic went out of control.  The place is now closed, ruined, infested with strange beings, and lost amid a magically mutated forest.  None of the neighboring wizardates or successive Royal Houses were able to undo the occult damage.  It wasn't for lack of trying.  Although lying within the borders of the Wizardate of Festerilandus, none of the forest within twenty miles of the ruined palace is actually under anyone's control but its monstrous denizens'.

Arogansa -- Mapped with Hexographer


Click HERE to view or download this map.

Update: fixed error with trail between Avrads and Limi.  Replaced trail with paved road, 07/27/2012.