Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Alphatian Province of Haven

Mapped with Hexographer
This enormous map is available HERE.

The Alphatian Province of Haven
                                            In the own words of Vidalyon-the-Barber

As all Alphatians know, not only is Haven a place where beauty and color are worshiped, it also shines as the center of world fashion.  The latter stands as a towering achievement.  Forget the 3,600-square-mile mosaic face of the Immortal Alphatia imbedded among some of the region’s best farmland, or the three-hundred-mile rainbow arching over Haven’s heartland.  The most memorable artifact of all spirals 10,000 feet upward to bring closer to the immortal heavens the Great Temple of Fashion.

The entire realm and its population, from the lowly serf to the most elegant of wizard princes and princesses, gravitate around the production and enjoyment of all forms or art.  Save for the oldest towns, all others have been renamed to illustrate an aspect of the muses and their arts.  From the most obscure hamlet to the fabled port-city of Aasla, everyone strives to create something unique and marvelous, be it a particular lace pattern, a paint color, a sculpture, a musical composition, a poem, a hat, makeup for women, a perfume—no art is left untouched nor are there limits to one’s imagination, on a personal or collective level.  Art and prestige all come together once a year at the Haven Art Pageantry in Aasla, where the best crafts are celebrated and rewarded with riches and magic.  Yes, my good friends!  Call it silly if you wish, shrug if you must, but such is Haven, and the world loves it!

The Lay of the Land

There are three main regions in Haven, including the Boreal Stroke between Stoutfellow and Shiye-Lawr, the Austral Sweep, west of the Aasla Spur, and the Oriental Dab along the border with Vertiloch.  As for the Queen's Castle, it is located about fifty miles north of Aasla, directly underneath Haven's rainbow.  It can only be reached with a boat.

The Boreal Stroke: It is best known for the Star Shrines of the Muses.  The shrines are dedicated to the teaching and honoring of basic art forms.  Each is a village supporting the masters and their disciples.  As is common in Haven, the land in this area was altered on a grand scale.  Originally, an extinct volcano ringed with geysers dominated the area.  The mouths of the geysers were preserved while the surrounding area was turned into a star-shaped lake with a shrine at each tip.  Forests and hills rose from the ground, and new villages appeared to provide the massive art complex with all the services required.  Mind you, the therapeutic properties of the lake’s water and its mud are well known across Alphatia.

The Austral Sweep: Of the three regions, it is the largest, wealthiest, and perhaps best known overseas.  The sweep, as it is called by the locals, is home to the greatest port-city of Alphatia, the Rainbow Promenade, and the Great Temple of Fashion.  In the north, music and harmony are dominant.  The south is all about fashion.  Haute couture relies upon many of the basic art forms. Many a Havenite believes that masters have been blessed with a spark of the divine, and that their crafts bring humankind closer to immortality.

The Great Temple of Fashion sits atop an immense structure made of eight-mile-wide hexagonal stone formations summoned eons ago from the depths of Mystara.  Each rises 500 feet above the previous, spiraling inward until the last formation attains an altitude of 10,000 feet.  A stone ramp atop a marble archway runs to the top, allowing visitors on chariots or palanquins to visit the illustrious temple complex.  Naturally, it make take some days to reach the top, and many guesthouses with magnificent vistas along the way permit longer stays.  Glazed tiles of the appropriate hues cover the surfaces of the stone formations.  One is chosen each season as the dominant coloration for the latest fad.

The Rainbow Promenade remains no less fantastic an achievement.  It features two sets of seven colossal statues, each receiving and shooting back a massive beam of magical light.  At the points where they gather, the colored beams coalesce into a rainbow that arches high across the entire region, nearly as far as Mystara’s skyshield.  Beneath it lies a vast grassland and a very long lake elevated within a stone structure resting thirty feet above the ground.  This parapet forms the unique Speedway of the Wizards, a smooth stone track on which one can travel or race.  The Great Haven Race, whose prestigious trophy is highly sought after, is held each year.  Colorful bleachers are erected for throngs of cheering spectators and supporters.  The enchanted contraptions most often used on the speedway include two very tall wheels held together by a low-reaching copper frame.  A leather seat cradled within the elegant frame allows a wizard to recline.  A handlebar and footrests offer an adequate position to control the curious vehicle.  Goggles and stylish leather gear complete a racer's outfits.  Nightly races are most popular, under the rainbow’s shimmering glow.  The best contraptions can reach close to a hundred miles an hour.  Visitors in a hurry can otherwise stop at one of the surrounding shrines and purchase a ticket to visit the top of the rainbow, or just fly across the mighty arch in the blink of an eye.

The Oriental Dab: Dabbers like to think of themselves as the ultimate dancers.  More than one popular step originate from a Dabberite town.  Yet, the most endearing feature remains the immense face built upon their land.  It depicts the Immortal Alphatia staring at the celestial vault.  A thick and dark forest forms her hair, while her face lies within a pool of scintillating water.  Eyes, mouth, and facial details result from an immense mosaic that took tens of thousands of serfs to complete.  No matter how high in the sky, observers always feel that her eyes seem to gaze back at them.  South of Our Lady of Alphatia stands a great temple complex to honor Haven’s immortal patron.

Farther south lie the Haunted Marshes and Dirge Swamps.  Although the unfortunate terrain has prevailed there since ancient times, it has become haunted by the undead, sinister product of Haven’s culture.  With so many artists, it is unavoidable that some fail and decide to end it all in the marshes.  With such a plethora of exalted and distraught souls, many linger in undeath, hopelessly seeking to complete some unfinished masterpiece.  Havenian armed forces remain vigilant to prevent ghastly incursions into the land of the living.

So, you might ask, what of Haven’s Army?  Warrior-artists, say you?  How good could they possibly be?  More than once did the thought arouse a smirk or a passing sarcasm.  Indeed, uninformed, self-serving warlords beyond the confines of Haven have mocked Havenite martial might.  O ye of little faith!  How dare you think so little, mediocre spawn sprung from the murk of mediocrity!  How dare you speak so poorly!  The strong arm of Haven fares brilliantly, thank you very much.  It so happens that there is such a thing as the Art of War.  It has been studied and revered among Havenite military for centuries.  How could Haven have grown so much, were it not for its ability to carve a province from the wilderness, one so vast to stand at the fringes of Stoutfellow and Shiye-Lawr?  Its sheer size rivals that of many other realms in Alphatia.  Yes, Haven’s warriors are well acquainted with Borea’s disciplined art of parade, and impeccably-fitted uniforms and armor devised in the Sweep.  Yet Dabbers bestowed upon its ranks unique forms of combat that, to foreign eyes, might seem like a ballet—indeed, but a Dance of Death and no mistake!  Heroism is divine, and touching upon the divine rests at the heart of Haven’s society.  Trust me , my good friends.  If there is one topic that will make a Havenite’s blood boil, it is the frivolous and inconsiderate mocking of the realm's warriors.  Go ahead.  Give it a try and I’ll shave your head bald like a Minaean pirate's.

Special thanks to Janet Deaver-Pack for her unwavering support and gleeful participation.