ELESSA: Locations and Glossary

TERMS

Airmen: In full, called “Her Lady Elessa’s Aircraft and Zeppelin Pilot Force”; as a result, frequently shortened to AZPF on military documents and badges, but called the Airmen by most people. The Airmen are the newest division of the Elessan military, only being formalized away from Cavalry and Gunners in 1910, and are still building both their reputation and ranks. Airmen are highly respected by civilians due to the spectacle of both airplanes and zeppelins, but don’t always get along with other branches of the military, particularly Infantry who think they’re showboaters. (Granted, a lot of them are.) While like all branches of the military, they have representatives in Den Elessa, a vast majority of Airmen operations occur in Toltberg, outside the city proper (although within the county).

Anbarin: What we call ‘electricity’, the force created through charged particles and current, and used in more and more of Elessa to power lights, vehicles, and other devices. Anbarin, steam, and clockwork are often combined as well as competing, and the increased use of anbarin has sent the demand for coal, oil, and metals skyrocketing.

Clans/clanspeople: A term referring to the people who lived in Elessa prior to the arrival of the Elessans 600-700 years before. Traditionally and legally, there are five clans, although this isn’t really accurate; this numeration includes the Kanet‘, the Shuyeda, the Dani’it, the Fule, and the Tosaka. This excludes the Sigaros (also spelled Tsigaros, Tsigaroi, Sigaroi) who are related to the Tosaka, and also lumps in the Tosaka with the others, despite the fact that the Tosaka are actually not indigenous to the area; they simply arrived prior to the Elessans, travelling from the south with the Sigaros arriving later, and are just on much better terms with the four clans than the Elessans have ever been. As a result, the status of the Sigaros is a bit questionable, and kind of depends on who you ask. Additionally, the term ‘clanspeople’ isn’t the most popular with the clans themselves, largely because of how it lumps them all together – and the confusion it creates with their own internal clans and tribes, since the separate ‘clans’ as defined by Elessa are ethnic groups. (For example, the Kanet’ all speak the same language and have a similar religion, but especially prior to Elessan arrival, would identify themselves by their own clan – i.e. Lakaǩ’ Ląkaǩ’ or Shelash’ Kekash’ – long before Kanet’ came up.) These days, there’s a reasonable amount of clan solidarity, with the notable exception of the Shuyeda; while individual Shuyedans do alright especially if they’re no longer affiliated with the Shuyedan main authority, the Shuyeda clan and the others do not see eye to eye and aren’t likely to any time soon. By sharp contrast, the Kanet’ and Dani’it are closely related and will generally see each other as family, albeit distantly; the marked differences in their customs are more sources of humour (and mild annoyance, on Zurkanet’ parts) than conflict. Usually. One thing does bind them all together. They are all really, really tired of Elessans.

Commander-in-Chief: One of the three highest leaders of the country, and the highest rank in the military. The Commander-in-Chief (or often just “Commander” or “High Commander”) is chosen by the the Military Assembly made up of the fifty currently-serving Generals from one in their number, and holds the rank for five years at a time; however, there are no term limits, and it’s rare (and disruptive) for Generals to actively vote out a sitting Commander unless he’s done something truly egregious and unpopular, especially since it requires not just a majority but a majority of 75%, not 50+1. The Commander-in-Chief has direct control of the military, and as such, does not have jurisdiction over Parliament or the Prole Assembly. (Ideally.) Additionally, while acting as Commander, manor family members cannot be the sole holder of any of their family estates – although given the nature of their family ties, this mostly amounts to names not going on deeds.

Feral magic: The original form of magic, feral magic is wild and uncontrolled power; nature at its worst, rather than its best. (At least from the Elessan perspective.) While feral magic isn’t intelligent per se, it can possess animals and create monsters of a type, which usually set out to wreak destruction of their own. While feral magic can possess humans (and when a human tries to use it, it gladly does so), it burns through them within minutes, hours at most. However, it affects humans in other ways, including magical sicknesses and will’o’wisp fogs. Elessans consider feral magic an active enemy, and have been researching ways to kill it rather than just fend it off for centuries – with notable progress.

Gunners: In full, “Her Lady Elessa’s Artillery and Explosives Force”. Frequently called Artillery or AEF on military documents, but called Gunners by everyone else. Gunners are tasked with cannons, rockets, bombs, grenades and other types of artillery – as such, they’re frequently sent to the front lines with only some higher-ups in Den Elessa, although off-duty Gunners often stay in the barracks. While Gunners are well-respected, it’s a running joke within especially the combat branches that Gunners lose their hearing within the first year on the job, and often transfer to a different branch afterwards. This isn’t always true, but it’s common enough that the AEF is always hiring. The Gunners test out artillery in an area of Bruin with the blessing – and mild frustration – of the nearby Baers and Niemens, although it helps that Niemenses are overrepresented in Gunner ranks.

Infantry: In full, “Her Lady Elessa’s Infantry and Arms”, but referred to as INA on documents to avoid confusion with IA, Internal Affairs. Referred to by most people as either infantry or foot soldiers, although Infantry themselves tend to find the second demeaning. Infantry soldiers are largely non-commissioned with a few lower-ranked commissioned officers in command, leading to the perception of them as less trained – however, it’s simply that most infantry either aren’t looking to get promoted, or are commoners and can’t be promoted any higher than Warrant Officer without a sponsor to begin with. In part, this is related to Infantry’s relative accessibility; while the military will train people who are clearly gifted in one thing or another, Infantry requires the least baseline knowledge/training and the least funding. If you’ve never fired a gun or held a sword before, Infantry is easier at least to get started in. …Predictably, they’re treated pretty awfully by other divisions, although this varies.

Internal Affairs: In full, “Her Lady Elessa’s Internal Affairs & Criminal Investigation Command”, or IACIC; technically, Investigations and Internal Affairs share a division, but have become increasingly separate to the point where there have been calls from both divisions for an official separation, and on documents, it’s more common to see IA (Internal Affairs) and IC (Investigations and Criminal Law). Internal Affairs is responsible for investigating crimes or violations within the military itself, from human resource issues to court-martials to murders between personnel. Off the record, they’re also responsible for spying on members of the military they have reason to be concerned about – whether it’s because they’re not patriotic enough or because of supposed divided loyalties.

Investigations and Criminal Law: One of the only divisions that’s liked by almost everyone (except IA), Investigations and Criminal Law is the other half of IACIC and usually referred to on documents as IC, by everyone else as just Investigations. Responsible for crimes that are beyond the purview or capabilities of local or military police, Investigations often finds itself dealing with spree killers, serial killers, high-profile kidnappings and heists of military or manor-family property. It’s also one of the few military divisions to report equally to the Commander-in-Chief and to the Judge, since the Judge is responsible for criminal law and punishment within Elessa and Investigations’ purview is not limited to military only. Despite the divisions and enmity within IACIC, there have been efforts at reconciliation – for example, the extremely loving couple of Roxanna Olivadocht Baer and Thomas Karella-Baer work in IC and IA respectively, and haven’t so much as stabbed each other yet.

Judge: The Judge is one of the three triumvirs, the highest leaders of the country, and elected by Parliament – the assembly of the Manor Family Representatives. As such, the Judge is always a member of a manor family, while the Commander is only normally such by dint of the military’s rules of promotion. Like the Commander, the Judge is elected for five-year terms, although after the Forrath dictatorship, there have been motions at work to suggest term limits. (The current Judge Garrow is approaching the end of a second term.) The Judge has dominion over the manor families and the matters of Parliament, which include broader civilian laws, cross-country line issues, trade and commerce, criminal law and – most importantly – the Thaumaturgic Colleges and other institutes of higher learning.

Manor Family: One of Elessa’s twenty (actually, currently twenty-one) noble/aristocratic families. The manor families were supposedly among the first to land when the Elessans first made it to the new continent, although most people (even within manor families) will admit that that’s probably bullshit; in addition, the number of manor families has changed through the years, with a few families disappearing completely over centuries. (One of those are the Bjornsens, where their name simply died out.) The number of twenty has been consistent for about 150 years, though, which makes the current situation of twenty-one difficult (created by Forrath’s attempted genocide of one family and uplifting another to manor family status, only for the family’s sole survivor to revive his line as much as possible). The manor families hold an immense amount of power in Elessa; Parliament is made up of two representatives from each manor family, only manor family members and the people they directly sponsor have access to the military academy and by extension, commissioned ranks in the military, and while there is a rising merchant class, 70% of Elessa’s land is owned, directly or indirectly, by manor families or by the government with only 30% in private commoner hands or unowned. (Note that that doesn’t mean they have any idea what it is they own. Many of them have never actually been to the places they own.)

Military Assembly: The assembly that selects the Commander-in-Chief and makes decisions about the military-at-large, made up of the fifty ranked Generals. While this isn’t enforced, roughly speaking, there will be six Generals per county (other than Den Elessa, making eight rather than nine), representing NatSec, Infantry, Gunners, Airmen, Thaumatists and IACIC respectively; the last two are from varying divisions but tend to be Den Elessa’s home Generals. Military Police is commanded by either the region’s Infantry or NatSec General; R&D, being centered in the capital cities, generally answers directly to the Commander or whoever the closest General is. While the Military Assembly has no legal requirement insisting that the Generals be manor family members, as of yet, no commoners have reached full General rank. Neither have any women. (Scheffen, predictably, aims to change this in one fell swoop, but you probably guessed that already.)

Military Overseer: In cases where an area either does not have a mayor or reeve, or their mayor/reeve has been deposed or removed, a military overseer is installed; in other cases, where there has been unrest or difficulty, an overseer is installed alongside the mayor/reeve to watch and call in troops if necessary. In most cases, overseer positions are temporary, but for larger, more sparsely-populated rural areas, they can be more permanent installations. Etamara is notable for being run almost exclusively by military overseers, with the exception of the municipality of Avolara, its capital city.

Military Police: In full, “Her Lady Elessa’s Law Enforcement Agency”, or LEA on documents. The country-wide military division in charge of policing and ‘normal’ crimes, as well as other crimes like fraud, theft, arson, rioting, etc. While there are local police divisions that are not military – particularly in rural areas – they report to the Military Police. Military Police are usually non-commissioned officers, much like Infantry, and for many of the same reasons – a lot of them work in the areas they’re from, and if they angle for promotion, it’s through impressing someone from a manor family.

National Security: In full, “Her Lady Elessa’s National Security and Defense Agency”, NSDA on documents and NatSec to most people. National Security are – bluntly – the spymasters and anti-terrorism agents of the Elessan military. Feral magic falls under NatSec’s purview, as does anything concerning the Advolks, foreign nationals, spy rings and other threats to national security in general. Like Investigations, NatSec often reports just as much to the Judge as to the Commander-in-Chief, although it varies on a case-by-case basis. Most of NatSec’s work is centered in Den Elessa with separate units located in “hot spot” areas, and it follows a different unit structure than combat divisions, with more commissioned officers in single units and a more vertical chain of command. While this usually works out, it makes their collaborations with Infantry, Gunners or Airmen sometimes difficult; rank is more rigidly obeyed in those divisions, and it can take some effort to make the different standards work together.

Parliament: The Parliamentary Assembly of the manor families elects the Judge from among their number, and is made up of two representatives from every manor family, for a total number of forty; currently the number sits at forty-one, with the Judge Garrow as the only current Garrow representative until the newly-21 Coben sits in on the next Parliamentary meeting and brings the number to forty-two. Parliament is responsible for passing motions and laws concerning the country as a whole, trade, the Thaumaturgic Colleges, feral magic, criminal law, and regulations around the manor families vs. commoners.

Proletariat Assembly: Also called the Assembly of the People, this is the largest of the three assemblies of Elessa’s governmental structure. Each of the eight non-capital counties are divided into eight districts, and there are two representatives from each district, for a total of a hundred and twenty eight; Den Elessa is treated as four districts with two representatives each, bringing the total number to a hundred and thirty six, with the Tribune as a tiebreaker as needed. (In the nearly-twenty years since the Den Niederung disaster, its sixteen seats have sat empty out of respect; there have been discussions about how to move forward, but no solid action yet.) In some ways, the Prole Assembly is more powerful than Parliament and the Military Assembly, by sheer force of numbers; it also passes and votes on laws concerning public education, infrastructure, healthcare, Guild regulations, poorhouses, social programs and other things that Parliament and the Military Assembly don’t see as tremendously important, but in the large scheme of things, keep the country functional.

Reeves & Mayors: The local/municipal-level leaders. Mayors are the leaders of towns and cities, such as Den Arden, Den Elessa, Drijkanberg, etc. Reeves are smaller-scale, and usually are in charge of villages or broader rural areas; reeves often are put in charge by a manor family rather than elected, too, and have different direct authorities. Aside from that, however, they largely function the same way.

Research and Development: In full, “Her Lady Elessa’s Scientific Research and Development Agency”, SRDA on documents, R and D to almost everyone else. Research and Development are a mix of contracted non-military scientists and military researchers/engineers/scientists, designing weapons and other forms of technology for military use. RnD often works closely with Thaumatists and particularly Sparks; they’re happy to build whatever Sparks need, when Sparks can’t do it themselves.

Sheriffs: Unranked leaders of local, non-military law enforcement. Often holdovers from areas that were annexed into Elessa, and headbutting between sheriffs and military are common.

Thaumatist: Anyone who uses structured magic, or thaumaturgy; can also refer to soldiers from the Thaumatist division, since a vast majority of recognized thaumatists are military, and ones who aren’t are often referred to as Thaumatist-Independents instead. There are three (previously four) recognized schools of thaumaturgy, each with their own College; Smokework, Mirrorwork and Songwork. The Thaumatist branch’s full name is “Her Lady Elessa’s Thaumaturgic Order”, and does not operate the same way as the other branches – instead, the Thaumaturgic Order is a free-floating division with members assigned to and equally part of multiple different divisions – for example, Rook is both a member of National Security and of the Thaumaturgic Order. However, when the chains of command come into conflict with each other, Thaumatist-Soldiers are expected to follow the Thaumatists and not their other division in cases where rank is otherwise equal.

Tribune: The third of the triumvirs, the Tribune is elected by the Proletariat Assembly and is the “voice of the people”; a representative intended to speak for the proletariat, or commoner, population. While the Tribune has existed for about 200 years, his power has ranged from a figurehead only to overwhelming; the current Tribune, Elias Weiss, leans very close to the latter. The Tribune is, legally, not permitted to be a member of a manor family, although the current Tribune is exploiting a loophole that allows a disowned manor family member to take the position, with surprisingly good intentions, and is elected for seven-year terms instead of five in order to “balance out” the always-noble Judge and the de-facto always-noble Commander. In terms of legal powers, the Tribune’s dominion includes civil law and property, social programs and education, hospitals, poorhouses, and the various guilds and unions within Elessa proper. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the triumvirate, despite the “balancing” intended, the Tribune is frequently outvoted when it comes to issues requiring all three.

Triumvirate: The name for the set of three leaders governing Elessa – the Tribune, the Judge, and the Commander-in-Chief, representing the proletariat, the manor families, and the military. For many of the highest decisions of the country, all three have to weigh in; however, two can outvote the third.

Places

Anselm: The northernmost county in Elessa, and the home of the Yasara Mountains, which go from the northern Elessan border down through Meergaarten and into the Pari Jungle. The Yasara Mountains are notable for having essentially a miniature ecosystem of their own, a blend of the cold habitats at high altitudes and the swampy tropics lower down. Anselm’s capital is also called Anselm, and when distinguished they are called County Anselm vs. City Anselm. Development in Anselm is ongoing, although over the last two decades there has been strong resistance from both the local Dani’it clanspeople and Elessan commoners in the region.

Bruin: Elessa’s northeastern province, Bruin is the most heavily forested part of Elessa, dense temperate woods giving way to medium-sized towns dotted throughout the county and connected by train, carriage-trail, and well-trodden pathways. Of all the provinces, Bruin has the most comfortable balance between the natural world and the humans living there, possibly due to the careful rule of the large and sprawling Baer family over most of the south-eastern region, and the reclusive Niemens family watching over the north-west. Traders in timber, pelts and meat, both families are invested in keeping their business profitable – and preventing the other family from overcutting and destroying their own business. Bruin’s capital city is Baerelen, which isn’t named by coincidence.

Den Elessa: Both the capital city of Elessa and the county which contains it; the county also includes the minor satellite-towns of Toltberg and Kiesland. Den Elessa trends more north than south, giving it a more temperate-cold climate than the southern counties, although evidence from some foundational and graveyard digs indicate that at least for some time, the area was much, much colder. Historical records even back this up, indicating that when the Elessans first arrived, Den Elessa was cold enough to necessitate the construction of the First Wall, a now-mostly-ruined fortification wall ringing around parts the original city center, to break some of the cold gales. Den Elessa is the center of government, and includes the Military Centrum, the Palace van de Säulen (the Judge’s residence), the Palace van de Zwaarden (Commander’s residence), the Palace van de Mensen (Tribune’s residence), the three assembly-houses (The House of Parliament, the House of Generals, the House of the Proletariat), and the four Colleges (The Bard College, The Smoke College, The Spark College, and the now-abandoned Cutter College)

Den Niederung: Previously named Koquelveld, the easternmost province of Den Elessa was wiped out in a horrendous disaster during Forrath’s reign, around 1903. Mostly plains/prairie, swamp, and woodlands, the Koquelveld settlers were encouraged to push forward into the forest and set down more permanent holdings with the modern tools coming to hand – concrete foundations, railroad tracks, and others. The Kanet’ tribe who lived in the area, Lakaǩ’ Ląkaǩ’ (Tooth and Claw, vertalingen Lakakh Laikakh) warned them off with growing concern, but Forrath and other parts of his government threatened the Kanetaz to back off, and even accused them of hiding resources. What happened next is unclear — only that what was initially perceived as a normal storm (and summarily ignored by those in charge) turned into what was noted down by historians and first-hand observers as ‘the wrath of God’. Some escaped; the vast majority didn’t, and Den Niederung’s capital city, several towns, and over a thousand people were destroyed/killed. Additionally, many survivors fell ill with a disease that was treatable, but not curable, and always fatal in the end. The Den Niederung disaster was one of the most important events in turning the tide against Forrath; while public attitudes against him had been steadily turning, the Den Niederung disaster rattled even the faith of his most loyal defenders in manor family ranks, such as the Bergens and Rivieres.

Elessa: The state of Elessa (the main location of most of our story), follows the western coastline of the continent, bordered by Celabria, Kallisto and Vijarok to the north, Tundok, Malayur, Ezo and Zhuolu to the east, and Zur, Tsetserleg, Jayanthi, Ardashir, Kumari Kandam and Hayasa-Azzi to the south. Of these, only Jayanthi is bigger in landmass and population (Shashanka, south of Kumari Kandam, is smaller in landmass but larger in population, albeit with severe issues of overcrowding). Part of Elessa’s sheer size is that for centuries, it has followed an aggressively imperialistic doctrine, annexing bordering territories and using the resources it holds as leverage. Elessa also holds the distinction of including almost every kind of major biome within its borders; you can end up in deserts, temperate forests, freshwater lakes, swamps, grasslands, rainforests, and mountain regions all without leaving the country. However, this is both a blessing and a curse – while it’s gifted Elessa with a tremendous amount of natural resources, it’s caused problems as Elessa tries to move into the modern age and install transportation around the country. Huge swaths of the country are still largely inaccessible and cut off to anybody but those who already live there. (And, although not everyone realizes this, plenty of people are invested in keeping it that way. Modernization doesn’t benefit everyone.) Elessa is divided into nine counties; Den Elessa, North Zweispar, South Zweispar, Den Niederung, Forcett, Meergaarten, Bruin, Anselm and Etamara.

Etamara: The only one of Elessa’s provinces to not have any direct border with Den Elessa, Etamara was created for what, on paper, look like altruistic reasons; land set aside for the five clans. In practice and in the details, however, only Etamara’s county- and municipal-level governments have much input from clanspeople, and it has the highest number of military overseers of any of the counties. Additionally, while it’s true that clanspeople in Etamara enjoy more legal freedoms in perspective, those freedoms include things like the right to vote, the right to speak their own language, and others. Things have improved over the last ten years outside of Etamara, mostly due to Garrow’s stubborn refusal to let Forrath’s viciousness continue, but Etamara itself is still neglected and prey to the local overseers and military’s biases and whims. The capital of Etamara is Avolara.

Forcett: Elessa’s southwest province, and the smallest save for Etamara. Forcett was largely part of Meergaarten until a large portion of territory was annexed from Tsetserleg during Forrath’s reign, and so the region is still finding its feet, with tensions between various ethnicities still an ongoing problem. This is especially true in Alkmer, which was previously a border city, and still behaves like one even though the new border is miles away; Alkmer is where Elessa’s organized crime thrives, manipulating tensions between Shufennese, Nguan, Elessan, Zurkanet’, Shuyeda, and others. The capital proper is Arlogne, although it’s far less active a metropolis than Alkmer. Forcett’s terrain is a mix of marshland, temperate rainforest, and scrubland, making the ongoing efforts at modernization mixed, although individual cities are some of the more modern in Elessa; it’s just getting between them that’s the problem.

Meergaarten: The most western of Elessa’s counties and the one with the most coastline, Meergaarten is the home of the Pari Jungle, Bay Frosch, the Adwegen Swamp and numerous other hotspots of feral magic and paranormal oddities. As a result, Meergaarten has a both paranoid and blase attitude towards the strange, more readily accepting its presence albeit as a constant danger. Meergaarten’s capital city is Ghannenberg. The Pari Jungle is also home to the Fule people, who keep out outsiders almost as religiously – if less violently – than the Shuyeda. (Hallucinogenic darts do wonders for making sure people never actually find out where you live.) Despite this, many of the Fule leaders actually have a trade relationship with nearby towns and sometimes bring goods into Ghannenberg itself, cultivating the air of mystery around them to get good prices on their wares. Also, for fun.

North Zweispar: One of Elessa’s nine counties. North Zweispar’s capital city is Drijkanberg. North Zweispar is the most immediately south from Den Elessa, and is a mix of prairie, scrubland, temperate forest, and – further south – rocky desert. North Zweispar is particularly known for its stands of fir and pine, which – despite the name – are not found in the Southern Zweispar. North Zweispar is one of the more developed areas of Elessa, but the development drops off strongly at about two-thirds down the county, continuing into South Zweispar; this is a combination of different population distributions making it difficult to reorganize into cities and railroad depots, and a fairly sharp shift into loose and gritty sand that loves to jinx most construction projects.

South Zweispar: Bordering North Zweispar and Etamara, South Zweispar is a mix of prairie and desert, with very little shade and a few fertile areas quickly snapping up by farming communities (one of which is the capital city, Haberjasse). While the soil in the grassland areas actually isn’t bad for farming once you learn how to do it, few Elessan farmers are willing to enduring the daytime’s blistering heat and nighttime’s punishing cold when there are so many better options; as a result much of the South Zweispar landscape is still untouched, or used instead for mining, arms testing, and prison complexes. The Shuyeda still occupy large swathes of the Zweispar desert, moving from one hidden settlement to another, and are famously antagonistic to most Elessans; only one trade company successfully does business with them, and others who have tried have gotten arrows or spears to the face or horse for their trouble. South Zweispar mines produce a large portion of the nation’s tin, copper, iron and lead.