The Ashen Kingdom
The Ashen Kingdom
The Ashen Kingdom is an absolute monarchy located somewhere on the Endless Plane. It is bordered on the north, west, and south by the Forest. Its eastern border is marked by jagged cliffs and the Frothy Sea. The Ashen Kingdom is a collection of eight semi-autonomous states. The capitol, of the Kingdom and Black Plain, is Greystone.
In -8 AK, the original battalion arrived after being scattered at the end of the Final Confrontation. This group of 214 soldiers quickly established the stronghold that would someday be Greystone. They spent eight years learning how to survive in the Forest before clearing enough land for growth and stability. The monarchy was officially established in 0 AK with King Terret I.
The Ashen Kingdom is so named because of the sheer quantity of ash generated by its citizens, something that was much more apparent when the Kingdom was smaller. The early settlers regularly noted how pervasive ash was not just in the fields and farms, but in the cities and buildings. The name gained more relevance when it was discovered how effective ash is at deterring weak Forest spirits.
The original battalion was completely unequipped to survive the Forest. Upon arriving, Captain Wigram Terret, later King Terret I, records that eight men and six women were lost in the first half-hour. Three more men and two women disappeared in the first night. Literate members of the battalion refered to the first several weeks in the Forest as “a personal hell,” or a “series of escalating tortures. Each seems surely to be the worst and greatest possible, but still a greater horror follows.” It was not until the tenth day in the Forest that the decision was made to no longer concentrate on finding an exit, an activity that would have obviously been fruitless, and to focus instead on defending the remaining 145 men and women and diminishing supplies. By this point the survivors had learned the value of fire and the necessity of purifying wood for use in construction. The initial structures were simple towers and walls intended to provide some buffer from the Forest at night.
Within four years of fighting, the group was reduced to 137 and enough area had been cleared to provide farmland and grazing space. There was talk of forming a governing body and moving away from martial law. All such talks ceased when it was discovered that the Forest had spawned a Witch. The battalion’s miraculous victory over this Witch is well documented. Traver Sethet, the mage largely responsible for that victory, would later found the first Mage Academy.
In 0 AK, the decision was made to found a monarchy and Captain Wigram Terret was unanimously voted King. King Terret initiated the majority of the governmental processes that exist today. He was also the first King to formally declare War. The tradition of a ten year peace was a luxury that would not occur until 108 AK.
The Eight States
Black Plain – the area cleared by the original battalion and their children.
Redwater – the second major land grab so named for the numerous waterways that were bloodied during the fighting.
The Northern Wall – the northernmost expansion, and the most recent.
Western Wall – the oldest border state, renowned for wool and silver mines.
Green Hills – the southwestern state named for the green rock that turned out to be verdigrised copper.
The Kingdom is still small enough that there is no appreciable difference in climate from one border to the other. Winters are very cold, often dropping far below freezing temperatures, and wind storms are common. Hail and sleet are not uncommon, but rarely occur more than a dozen times over the four winter months. Snow is extremely rare, and is viewed as a potent omen of both good and ill. Spring is short, and mercifully so given the amount of rain that typically occurs. Temperatures rise into the low sixties and there can be as much as four inches of rain each week. Summers are relatively dry, but rarely do temperatures rise above eighty degrees. Fall is obviously a dangerous time as many trees in the Forest begin changing colors and migrate during this time.
It is important to note that the earth and air are noticeably colder the closer one gets to the border and the Forest. There have also been very brief showers in the heart of the Kingdom that produced almost no ill effects, suggesting that if the Kingdom became large enough, the central states might be free from many of the dangers associated with rain.
The king, currently King Maris the Mystic, is an absolute ruler. While he has the technical authority to make any decree he wishes, he is often severely limited by tradition and practicality. It is rare for a king to enact radically new laws, and almost impossible for him to directly contradict tradition. He is often limited by the power and cooperation of the nobility. The king is dependent on the seven barons to muster the large armies needed to wage War, and must often make concessions to one noble to obtain help reining in another.
The nobles themselves function with limited autonomy in the governing of their respective states and estates. Governing practices vary from region to region, and even from father to son.
The Ashen Kingdom has a very limited economy. Restricted to those foodstuffs that arrived with the original battalion, trade is limited to crafted goods.
Metal coins are used as currency. Gold Royal Lanterns and silver Queens are minted by the king, but the coin of the people, the copper Seal, is minted by the Barons at their discretion. Craftsmen often deal in Queens, but is essentially only the nobility that will pay with Royal Lanterns.
Most states in the Kingdom are heavily agrarian. Only Black Plain, the Coast, and the Green Hills have more urban than rural centers. All able bodied men are expected to train for and serve in the army at some point and all women are expected to give birth to as many children as they can. Any given state’s expected draft and requested army size is based off census data. Thus, the king and the nobility are invested in maintaining accurate census data. Typically a Kingdom-wide census is conducted in the year before a War.
With a true war economy, the citizens of the Ashen Kingdom have neither time nor money to spend on entertainment. However, the importance of feasts and holidays was recognized centuries ago, and there are dozens of minor half-days and days of rest. The two main holidays are Ziztheth’s Day and the Night of Mourning celebrated on the Summer and Winter Solstice, respectively. The agrarian culture has produced a number of popular ballads and chants that are sung by field hands as they work. Stories, particularly fairy tales and legends, are popular among children and adults alike. Many taverns pay noted story tellers to simply occupy a bench and entertain patrons.
Art and poetry are appreciated by the nobility, particularly female nobility. Male nobles are generally more interested in stone and metal work. Particularly skilled blacksmiths and carpenters are prized. It is not uncommon for such craftsmen to be sponsored by individual nobles for decades.
The average citizen will be trained in his or her parents work, though naturally gifted children are occasionally apprenticed to craftsmen. Few citizens learn to read, write, or add beyond what is needed for daily business. Nobles are educated by tutors, and often attend one of the mage academies, even if they lack any real magical talent, because of the quality of education. The Mage Academies are repositories of the collective knowledge of the Ashen Kingdom. Only the royal libraries and the libraries of the Church of the Flame rival the Academies’ book collections, but access to the royal and religious libraries is heavily restricted.
The Ashen Kingdom is stuck in the Bronze Age, but not by choice. Iron deposits don’t exist with the borders of the Kingdom, making trade with the trolls almost prohibitively expensive. Most technological advancements are militant in nature, and most of those are focused on fighting an enemy that builds no fortifications and is resistant to most types of damage.