Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Western Baronies: Ecology

The climate, terrain, and environment of Marikuhl is as varied as its inhabitants, ranging the gamut from chill and frozen northlands to steamy tropical jungles to enormous mountains and everything in between. The original settlers from the Old World landed on the coast and simply made their way inward, creating “bands” of habitation from north to south along the continent. A few later colonies followed the rivers to more inland areas, creating habitation further into the continent than the originals had managed to reach.

Toward the northern end of the continent lay the mountain ranges that shelter Marikuhl from the Asatru barbarians. While the northmen sometimes come across the peaks, they prefer the open seas, so imperial territory officially extends right up to the slopes themselves. In the south, imperial dominance runs to the gulf and adjacent plains that connect to Teotihuacal. Technically, Marikuhlian lands traverse the Galatean continent from east to west, but everything west of the great Corundum Mountains is baronial territory and dealt with in its own section.

In the north, the area surrounding the Greyshield Mountains is rocky, interspersed with thick coniferous forests. This area is cold most of the year, and snow falls for over half of it. The region is not quite tundra, but it approaches taiga at its worst. This area is home to animals of enormous size, gigantic versions of more common beasts such as wolves, elk, eagles, and even badgers. Such dire animals are noted for their ill tempers and territoriality. The northern provinces are also home to several related humanoid races possessing shaggy fur and foul dispositions. Collectively known by their Ko’Manna name of saskatch, they are noted for devouring human flesh and being a constant threat to exploration.

As one travels south along the coast, the area quickly becomes warmer and wetter, due to the influence of the mild ocean winds. During the autumn, these coastal regions are often flooded or swamped by huge storms, but the weather is calm during the rest of the year. These areas are home to heavily lumbered deciduous forests, and much of the central coastal region is tamed. A few strange beasts remain in the forests, preying on lumberjacks and other woods folk, but this area—close to the imperial capital of Vasting—is one of the safest in the country.

Further south from this are the sandy coasts of southern Marikuhl, and inland from those lay balmy wetlands and hot swamps. These regions remain extremely dangerous to outsiders, home to any number of venomous snakes, giant insects, water-dwelling humanoids, huge reptiles, and—supposedly—degenerate cannibals living in the depths of the swamps. From the early days of exploration, a great many people died in despair in these areas, giving rise to groups of abominable undead, men and women who died in such anger and pain that their corpses rose from the muck to destroy the living.

Inward from the coastal provinces is a small range of mountains called the Ironweals, home to much of the mining industry in the empire. At one time, this area was the sole supplier of corundum to the empire, but as the mines have dug deeper, the mineral has become more rare. Underground beasts and strange humanoids have forced the empire to permanently garrison much of its standing army nearby to protect its mineral interests, and the miners themselves have had to become proficient warriors to avoid death at the hands of hideous monstrosities. The surface region is home to mixed coniferous and deciduous forests, as well a large number of lakes, rivers, and springs. Goblins and goblinkin are particularly common in the Ironweals.

Past the Ironweal Mountains, the land becomes more level, finally flattening out into broad, vast plains, interspersed by rocky plateaus and mesas, occasionally broken by wide chasms. This area is home to all manner of big cats, such as lions and leopards, as well as huge birds and stranger beasts. A few unusual humanoids dwell in this region as well, but most of them are far more shy than the eastern ones and avoid contact with humanity whenever possible.

In the far south of the plains region, just before reaching the sea once more, the land abruptly rises and falls in a series of ridges. This area is heavily forested, creating a large jungle region that eventually ends at the southern inlet of the Atlantean Ocean. To the west, the region drops off into tropical plains and grasslands, eventually giving way to the lands of the Teotihuacal. The Marikuhlian jungles are full of arboreal life, such as apes and tree cats, as well as a large population of reptilian humanoids, such as lizardfolk and kobolds.

When the first settlers colonized Galatea, they found an untamed wilderness, full of possibilities and dangers. The Ko’Manna had learned to live alongside nature, taking only enough to survive and moving on when the land needed time to recover. They understood the dangers of the local flora and fauna—and of Galatea’s other inhabitants. While the Ko’Manna were the only native humans, a great many other intelligent races lived in Galatea, and still do in many places.

Though the Ovidian settlers have long since become the Marikuhlian peoples, though they have lived on Galatea for seven centuries, they are still ignorant of many of the land’s greatest mysteries. The Ovidian way was to build large, crowded cities, and the original settlers followed suit. Safety in numbers was the keyword of early settlement, and even today, most Marikuhlians live in or near large cities. While Galatea’s resources have been greatly strained and deeply damaged by the number of people living there, huge tracts of untouched wilderness remain between the Marikuhlian cities, places where people fear to travel.

The Ko’Manna were justified in their fear and respect for the natural world—the Galatean ecology is a dangerous one to the uninformed or the arrogant. When the Marikuhlians unified and expanded, the threats did not go away, they merely consolidated at the edges of civilization. Even now, there remain vast regions within a few hours’ ride of a major city that no living human can claim to have seen. Every day the Marikuhlians extend their conquest of nature a little further, but nature is hardly giving up without a fight.

1 comment:

Ishmadrad said...

Thanks for sharing all this work with us! So strange you got almost no comments about that. Your blog is cool, and your SW creations are quite useful and balanced.