Joined: 07 Mar 2008
|Posted: Wed Feb 23, 2005 9:29 am Post subject: Culture Focus: Lifarian League
|Here's part six of the Cultures Series. Sorry it's been delayed, I wasn't at home yesterday or the day before.
Lifarian League: The Rewards of Patience
Lay of the Land:
The Frostmire is a treacherous land of permafrost and bogs covered most of the year by a layer of frozen mud of variable thickness. For a brief period once per year, this mud liquefies for the duration of the summer. When this happens the Frostmire explodes into life as seeds long dormant spring into rapid action and plants bloom and grow at a rate unknown in the world (except for the Blood Vine).
Travel in the Frostmire is dangerous, as layers of snow and ice can sometimes cover untold depths of sucking mud which can pull down and drown a cow. Most of the lands are beyond the tree line, and the landscape is broken by shrubs and snow drifts rather than trees or mountains. It is said that if one travels far enough south into the Frostmire, one comes to the ice under which the ocean itself flows.
Game is scarce at any time of the year, and the livestock of the League farms spend most of their time indoors. Large animals stalk the Frostmire, but they are so rarely seen that few stories agree upon their forms. The skies spend much of their time overcast, but few flakes of snow make their way to the ground below, let alone hail or rain.
There are twenty cities recognized in the Lifarian League of Firm Friendship. The most powerful and prosperous of them is Chienfu, but for historical reasons Lifar is the seat of the trade council and is the nominal leader of the League.
Most buildings are composed of frozen clay which has been magiced into an icy permanence which does not melt or allow heat transference. The architectural styles are usually dependent upon having very thick walls, and the rounded buildings are often built right next to each other or even on top of one another. The coral-like aggregations of buildings in major cities can be seen for many kilometers in every direction. The icy clay material is shockingly sound absorbent, and there is considerable privacy despite the fact that one person may have to climb up a ladder placed upon another person's house to get to their own.
Small villages dot the landscape anywhere where pockets of potentially arable mud can be found. These villages range from single family holdings to housing hundreds of inhabitants, and are so numerous that collectively they account for nearly forty percent of the 1.2 million humans who make the Frostmire their home.
The location of underice pockets of quickmud surrounding settlements are generally unmarked, and the services of a native guide are suggested for those attempting entrance or exit from a settlement of any size in the Frostmire. Nevertheless, the villages and cities are unwalled save for Trandan and Siazar, both of which are in the extreme south, far beyond the reaches of any people against whom such trappings might be useful.
The growing seasons in the Frostmire are very short, and all of the farming is performed within the period of the thaw – which is sometimes as short as 80 days (and sometimes as long as 120 days). During the thaw, intensive growing programs are undertaken all over the League, and vast amounts of rye, cabbage, triticale, pumpkins, and hay are grown during this period. All vegetable goods are magically preserved and kept in extremely cold silos for their period of storage.
Livestock is mostly cows, which are fed on hay and rye stalks all year long and housed in heated barns. Milk, and variants thereof is a staple food source of the League, and its preserved forms are a serious source of cash export. The League uses a multi-tiered tin and silver coin form of exchange. But most people use paper-based system which guarantees the backing of various amounts of coinage for convenience.
Law and Order:
Aspiring to rulership is a death offense. Or rather, if you want to advance to the rank of
zyanzyun or hural must undergo a test in which the prospective new leader is staked in a bog and allowed to freeze over. Those whose mastery of their ghost allows them to climb out of the bog as bog mummies are able to pursue careers in government, but the vast majority of test takers never emerge (whether they still live beneath the ice is a matter of contention to this day).
Ghost Magic is the cornerstone of life in the League cities. With new grain being largely unavailable for up to a year after harvest time, the ability to preserve things is paramount. And the Lifarian League excels at the magics of preservation. Using special Ghost magic preservation techniques, rye flour can be kept edible and fresh for years.
But the preservative techniques are not only performed upon food, but also upon tools and even people. The leaders of the League are almost universally bog mummies – people who have been frozen solid in the mire beneath the snows and subsequently torn themselves out as blackened and leathery creatures that are as hard and unchanging as the permafrost that lies beneath the iron meadows. Those who have achieved the status of bog mummy are loathe to share their secret techniques – and so not everyone who thinks they've mastered the arts actually has by the time it's really important.
Members of the League also have access to a number of special snow and ice manipulation powers. The League traders are uniquely capable of traveling on top of ice and snow without falling through. Residents of the Frostmire are masters of the magic needed to identify mud and ice as well as securing themselves and their property whilst on it. Even ice can be preserved, and Lifurian Icemud construction techniques are legendary throughout the lands to the north.
The Lifarian League of Firm Friendship has several systems of authority which operate in parallel. Conflicts between them are frequent, but usually resolved without bloodshed.
Every major city has its own Zyanzun, a lord who holds all temporal authority which does not relate to trade. A Zyanzun can be selected from any person who has even a drop of blood from the royal family of the old empire. Only people who have royal blood are allowed input into the choosing of the new Zyanzun. Every major city also has a number of delegates to the trade council. These delegates are called hurals, and their appointment is democratically elected by residents of the city who are not of royal blood. The council then appoints representatives in each city who are perform the council's will. Zyanzun serve for 20 years, hurals serve for five years, and the representatives of the council serve until the council recalls them.
The villages outside the major cities are governed by appointments from city governments. Which city government appoints the leaders of which village is based on historical relationships and is often in no way connected to distance or current trade relationships. Villagers have no input input into the Royal or Common governments.
The Trade Council has two sectors: the Lifanyuan, which governs external trade; and the Lifanhan which governs internal trade.
Someone who is nominated for a position as a zyanzun or hural cannot refuse the honor, and need not have to have put themselves forward as a candidate prior to their selection. Individuals who have won this honor have been known to flee the League rather than assume the lofty place of power. The most powerful and ancient of the Zyanzun of Chienfu has reigned continuously since before the institution of mandatory bog staking for prospective holders of the title. Her icy beauty have named her “The Snow Queen” in children's tales, and she no longer goes by her given name in conversation. While she is still subject to a choosing every twenty years, the royals confirm her position without fail.
The League has a special body called the Lifanyuan which governs all external trade and has offices in all major League cities. Every city also has an aristocracy composed of Zyanzun. External trade, as defined by the Lifanyuan includes warfare and diplomacy. According to the Zyanzun, however, war and peace are not trade related matters and fall under their jurisdiction. As such, alliances are not always acknowledged by every level of the government – making international relations with the League somewhat confusing. Separate peaces and agreements with individual cities within the League are standard practice.
Last edited by FrankTrollman on Sun Mar 01, 2009 9:44 pm; edited 1 time in total