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About Esterlen

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    works like a demon

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    Goran Goldhand
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  1. interesting series of events

  2. Why should I love God? He strung up his only son like a side of veal. I shudder to think what he'd do to me.

    1. argonian


      Classic Arian L.

    2. Gavin_


      Proverbs 9:10

    3. sami03


      Silence woman. If your kind didnt bite into that damn apple I wouldnt have to work an 8 hour job.

  3. Life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone

  4. TALES FROM THE TERRA DEL SUR The Accountant 22nd of Horen's Calling, 1917 On a pleasure barge somewhere in the Sarissan Delta, in the west of the Terra del Sur "More rum, Your Magnificence?" Nor'ogg the Ogre's appetites were commensurate with his choice of watercraft, and so the obese greenskin took up a new chalice of rum as swiftly as he had drained the last. Around him, his court were gathered on the deck of the opulent vessel, strewn about lounges and divans in the fashion of a Rhenyari pipehouse, hard timber covered by plush cushions and the most exotic of fabrics. This ship was as broad as any frigate, but not nearly so tall, with the waterline barely below the guardrails. The sun was beating down upon them all. It was only early afternoon, and the ogre-lord was probably approaching his fiftieth cup. For those unaccustomed to a being of Nor'ogg's size, that would have been a sight to behold, but Vihai had watched this spectacle for nearly three years now. The Ogre was several tonnes of trembling, sweating fat, too immense for his legs to bear him upright and wrapped in a billowing purple robe the size of a marquee. He had not always been this way. In his youth, Nor'ogg had been a svelte swashbuckler based out of Freeport, but with the ill-gotten riches pilfered from merchant ships sailing the Kahaen he had built a criminal enterprise enough to satiate his gluttony tenfold. While he had learned the Common tongue at a young age, now he did not trouble himself to speak it. His every order was conveyed to his court through a goblin translator, skilled in interpreting his master's peculiar dialect of 'the Blah' and positioned perpetually by his throne. Today was a day for leisure, and so the greenskin's orbiters had been forced to 'carouse' with him all day. It was the sixth such occasion this week alone, and the ogre pirate had spent the whole morning bellowing drunkenly, tormenting his servants with whips and prongs for his own amusement. Three had gone overboard today, but thankfully, the sharks had only taken two. That was Nor'ogg's rule - if you survived the sharks, you would have a day of clemency until the next time you caught his eye. Before he took up the role of Nor'ogg's accountant, Vihai had never encountered such a grotesque creature. Come to think of it, he had never done much accountancy either. But how hard was it, really, to do an ogre's books? 'One of the finest minds of Almaris'? If only you were here now, Cyril, to see me so reduced. The sun's rays were exceptionally strong at this time of the afternoon, and Vihai - a pallid-skinned mali'aheral of Ah'Larihei - was sweating beneath his white kaftan, almost as much as his corpulent master. The accountant's face was flushed red and wind-burnt, but at least the Sarissan Delta was calm today. The barge drifted along a canopy of sea-green, the music played by Nor'ogg's personal entertainers emanating across the waterway. In these parts, if it wasn't the sharks or the sun, it was the tropical cyclones, and if it wasn't those storms, it was the deadly Sarissan Fever. A bite from one of the alien insects of the west of the Terra del Sur was all it took, and within a few weeks, you'd be dead from all manner of purulent discharges. Why can't it take me? Why am I still in this hell? "Er, segnor Vihai," a slightly-accented, whispering voice interrupted his daydreaming, under the foreign twangs of Nor'ogg's music. "Disculpa. I have the documents." "You do? We left you on the dock at Lurin. How the hell did you get back aboard?" snapped the accountant, his neck cracking as he turned to face the figure who had crept up behind his divan. It was Arrimadas, who he understood to be in the pay of those reprobate scholars at the Royal Balianese Academy. Sometimes they had helped one another at Nor'ogg's waterborne court, sometimes they had hindered one another. Like so many people the high elf had met in this situation, Vihai hoped that one day the Balianese spy would meet the ogre-lord's sharks, though preferably after he could provide no more help. "Ai, segnor, I have them, but never you mind about that," affirmed Arrimadas, nodding obsequiously. He was always polite, but Vihai knew deep down that the antipathy was mutual. "There is a letter from a, ah, a Sir Paul Montalt." "What?!" hissed the accountant, snatching the pile of letters from the Balianese desperado. "Give me that." "It is from your letterbox, back home. You can have it, but you must remember this favor from Arrimadas." "Ti, ti, of course, I never forget a thing." The music, juxtaposed with Nor'ogg's drunken whooping and rumbling laughter, was sufficient to drown out their clandestine conversation. The high elf fumbled with the letter's seal - already broken - struggling to prize open the envelope with his clammy fingers. He glanced up furiously to Arrimadas, preparing to reproach him for opening his correspondence when he saw that the spy's features were not what he remembered. This was not the furtive, low-born renegado he had spent the last few years working with at Nor'ogg's enterprise. He was still tanned, and clearly of Balianese stock, but this new Arrimadas was a dignified gentleman, with an aristocratic bearing and black hair graying around the ears. What delirium is this? Has the Fever finally come? Vihai had wished it upon himself before, but now it was here, he was not so certain. "You should have done more, Adrasto. I always trusted you, after all," said Constanz-Anton, his presence as domineering as when he lived. Vihai stood there dumbfounded, his mouth agape, but finally the high elf mustered the courage to speak. "I tried, I - but why didn't you just do what I said?" he offered in gibbering protest, nervously fingering the hilt of his sabre. "What are you talking about?" demanded Arrimadas, and thus the mirage was dispelled. "The heat must be getting to you, segnor Vihai. Or your venerable age." "Ti... the heat. That's it," sweated the beleaguered mali'aheral in relief. "Thank you for the letter, or graza, as you people say, but go away now. I must read it." And as Arrimadas turned and left him to recline in his divan, so Vihai read, growing increasingly uncomfortable with every line of Montalt's circulated polemic. This was impossible. It had almost been eight years, but Montalt had destroyed the country to save her throne, and now this? What in the world had happened while he had been offshore? Vihai stood up from the plush chair, secreting the letter within his robes and downing a finger of rum. With this movement, all the eyes of the court in the immediate vicinity now gauged him warily. He heard Nor'ogg rumble unintelligibly over the music, and a wavering, goblinoid voice slithered into his ear. "His Magnificence would like to know where you think you are going, accountant," prattled the ogre lord's interpreter. Though the corpulent pirate's throne was near to Vihai's divan, and he had clearly noticed that something was wrong, Nor'ogg was so insensate on drink that he could not have properly deciphered the conversation with Arrimadas. "Latz'dreenk wit'oss, twegyzh!" chuckled Nor'ogg in his bizarre tongue, slapping his chalice against his enormous belly. The high elf could feel the barge rock from port to starboard with every one of its owner's sudden movements. "I have been made aware of an emergency with our accounts receivable. By your leave, I'll address it forthwith below deck." The excuse was thoroughly unconvincing, but the accountant's face was a mask of iron. After a few ponderous moments, the ogre nodded his assent, returning his attentions to his carousing, and so Adrasto Maeyr'onn departed to plan his escape. @Eddywilson2 @Andustar @excited @Da_Emperors
  5. OPEN LETTER TO THE ROYAL DUANA On Foreign Policy Luis Francesc Jacint-Almeida i Martin Royal Balianese Academy 14 Tobias' Bounty 1916 IC | 49 BA VIVA AL REGNE! To the esteemed dones and donas of the Royal Duana, God save the King and blessings upon your houses. By way of introduction, I am Luis Francesc Jacint-Almeida i Martin, known more commonly simply as Almeida, and I am a senior academic at the Royal Balianese Academy. My father was an Imperial settler, but I was born in Atrus, and raised as part of the first generation of new Balianese. The corpus of my work relates mostly to anthropology, culture, history and economics, and that being so, I am loath to venture into the realm of politics. However, so great are the concerns of many at the Academy that I felt it necessary to voice them on my colleagues’ behalf, in the setting of this published open letter. I am writing to you today with respect to the crisis unfolding in the Heartlands. The parties involved in this civil unrest I shall not name in the first part of this letter, because their identities are irrelevant to my fundamental concerns. As you know, while Atrus and the Terra del Sur have thrived under the rule of the Balianese, the Heartlands have contemporaneously evolved increasingly towards dystopia since at least the time of Fratricida. To quote my esteemed colleague, Guillermo Ruttledge, ‘it is said the sun is blotted out by the towers of keeps and manors’. Urbanization has culminated in a greatly depressed quality of life for the average Heartlander, who now leads an existence that can only be described as nasty, brutal and short. Having lived there as an expatriate for several years in the service of Constanz-Anton, I know this both personally as well as theoretically. As Balianese, these lands may comprise our ancestral origin, but they are not our home now, and have not been for some time. "Al Bicolore" (The Bicolor, representing fe, stat i prosperitat.) Therefore, it has concerned myself and several of my colleagues at the Academy to hear rumors that the Royal Duana is contemplating a military intervention in the Heartlands on behalf of the so-called ‘King’ of the Aunishmen. If this is true, it is, put simply, a streak of foreign policy madness, and is one we are desperate to warn you against for a number of reasons. Tin-pot dictators and petty tyrants have risen and fallen in the Heartlands, many of whom last less than a decade before they are expunged by their own miserable people. Meanwhile, we have enjoyed untold stability and peace in our slice of the world. Hence, I must ask you these questions: What cause could we possibly have to sacrifice the lives of Balianese soldiers so that these glorified ‘chieftains’ may rule an extra five years, before their inevitable deposition? What cause, beneficial to our foreign policy, do we achieve by such an action? What do we gain except the eternal acrimony of the insurgents? In what scenario do we benefit more? That where we send our boys to die in a land we were forcibly exiled from, in order to nebulously ‘keep the peace’ there? Or where we continue to build our own country towards prosperity, among fellow Lotharistas? Of course, that is the purely utilitarian argument. An ideological position can just as easily be asserted: that of the reprehensible character of the self-declared ‘King’ of the Aunishmen, and that of his well-documented antipathy towards the Balianese people and ruling dynasty. This imperiled ‘monarch’, if one can call him that, commenced his reign by breaking a treaty co-signed by the late king of Balian, His Majesty John the First. After being elected as president of the Harvest Confederation, a union bound together by constitutional documents affirmed by all the monarchs of Canondom, he immediately and unilaterally declared himself ‘king’ of a polity hitherto only referenced in Holy Scrolls, and proclaimed no treaty bound him. Those who opposed this brazen violation of law were henceforth deported. He was saved from his own people only by the malaise of contemporary Haeseni foreign policy. Thus, he proclaimed himself restored to a throne his last ancestor held centuries ago. In the intermittent time, his family had been reduced to the status of woodland-dwelling bandits out in the Cragenmarch, admixing with all manner of highwaymen and criminals. Having spent his formative years raised on tales of Johannian greatness and Novellen perfidy, in between bites of hardtack and roasted rat, this glorified desperado developed a hatred for all Balian represents. For decades, his goal was the extermination of the royal dynasty that rules our country, and still this is evident in his rhetoric. After a storied career as a terrorist living in a cave, he managed to connive his way into a throne through pure circumstance, and now expects the faithfulness which he refused to give any other ruler. As Balianese, we appreciate merit, diligence and loyalty. I was initially uneasy when I heard that the Royal Duana’s foreign policy was realigning to treating such a person with kid gloves, but I contented myself with the fact that at least the Aunishman’s rhetoric against Balian would subside. As it happens, old habits die hard. Despite the signing of multiple treaties with the Royal Duana, the new Fratricida of Aaun has done nothing to moderate his own anti-Balianism. Every third sentence he utters, he proposes the eradication of all Novellen ‘usurpers’, condemns the ‘tyranny’ of our predecessor realm, the Petrine Empire, and lauds himself as the glorious liberator of humanity. Even today, in the context of a full-scale revolt against him, he smears his opponents as ‘Imperials’, ‘Petrines’ and ‘Novellens’ as if these labels constitute the worst a person can be. His contempt for our country, and our heritage, has not reduced despite the favorable treatment the Royal Duana has offered him. Given that he was a key part of the initial Harvest Confederation incursion against Atrus that led to the response of the Canonist princes, this should come as no surprise. Never has he shown any contrition. He has managed to evade all justice for that offense, purely through chance, so why now should we risk Balianese lives to help him continue in his ways? (A depiction of the Harvest Confederation’s attack on the Baron of Castelorena’s wedding in 1891.) But perhaps most significantly, there is no reason to suggest that this dithering chieftain is in any way competent. Having inherited - through connivance - the territory developed by his predecessors, his only resource has been to strip off these land assets and grant them to more capable men. His rhetoric, condemning the Petrine Empire for its predominantly successful policies and instead espousing the absolute rights of vassals, has backed him into a corner where he simply cannot be recognized as a ruler at all. There is no concept of what it is to be an Aunishman. There are Adrians and Minitzers and Viennese (though only a handful), but not a single Aunishman. It is a national fiction bastardized from centuries old religious texts, and over the course of his powerless ‘reign’, this ruler has done nothing to develop such a thing. Conservative estimates indicate that only 2-3% of Aunish commercial activity takes place in a territory the ‘king’ has any control or influence over. The remaining 97-98% is instead facilitated by his vassals, the bulk of which is under the control of the insurgents who have so far only defeated him in battle. What kind of sovereign is so jeopardized that he controls only his palace at Vienne? It is true that Adrian commerce has flourished, but the King of the Aunishmen has never encouraged it with a single coin. We Balianese should bear no will against this Sarkozic rebel, for he has simply capitalized on the system - or lack thereof - maintained by his erstwhile master. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, this sovereign has doggedly clung to these ideologies out of sheer, acrimonious spite for us Balianese and our Petrine ancestors. Now, his realm is imperiled because of this intransigence. It is not our role, given all the factors I have enumerated, to help him out of this mess of his own creation. His Majesty, the late John I, understood the truth of the Aunishman’s dilemma. I pray that you esteemed dones and donas of the Royal Duana may advise his heir of his father’s own wisdom. Vale, Almeida “Resistiré!” (I will endure!) A Balianese folk song, derived from one of the ancient proclamations of Peter III, Holy Orenian Emperor.
  6. "There will be no unified government of the Commonwealth under this plan, save the Regent and her deputies," Adrasto Maeyr'onn had spoken to the gathered attendees, the drafted document brandished in his right hand. "Each partition will have its own government, of whatever form it desires, provided it is cogent with the treaty." Between the vicious acrimony of the two spouses, the screaming of the soldiers outside, the taciturn glares of Sir Paul Montalt and the rambling irrelevancies of the King of Balian, the mali'aheral had at times felt that had he, Dame Catherine, and the priest, Blackwater, were the only people in the room interested in peace. "Who're you, again?" spat the Archduke's retainer, the von Draco man, his voice filled with venom. "You're no Petran!" The obvious insult stung him, but fundamentally, that was a good question. Why am I here? This is not my home. The Furnestock woman was the only person who could have solved this madness, and Adrasto had spent hours in her manse, convincing her to come out of retirement to mend these divisions. Against all odds, he had succeeded - though it required some manipulation - but with the valahan, it always did. The high elf knew enough about her history to know that her brothers had killed one another forty years earlier, in a conflict not dissimilar to this one. In her elder years, she clearly regretted not doing more to prevent it. The negotiations in Valfleur had gone on for days, with the captive Archduke held at sword-point by Montalt's retainers. Against all odds, they had succeeded. Blackwater was an expert conciliator, and unlike Adrasto, he was a human and a local. When he spoke, he did so with such gravity and rhetoric as to enrapture all in the room. This priest has some wits about him, and is more useful than most. The attendees signed their names on the bottom of the document prepared by his secretary. The Princess will reward me for this, I'm sure, he thought pompously, puffing himself up like a Celiano'rese peacock. He thought of the new kaftans he could now afford with her bounty, made of the richest Fi'andria fabrics. Like most high elves, pride was always his greatest vice. Adrasto the Chancellor... ne, Adrasto the Peacemaker... Dame Catherine's reputation in the Commonwealth was enough that all, eventually, acquiesced. All except the manacled Archduke. "I will consider these terms overnight. I am leaving now with the King of Balian," he said, standing up from his seat. "You know that it is not that simple." The high elf struggled to contain his rage, flashing a nervous smile as his heart sank. But his tone was acidic. "Before the good Blackwater intervened, you were as good as dead. Do you not recognize this?" "I cannot sign these terms as a slave and feel good about them," argued the Archduke. "I am not imploring you to feel good about anything," hissed Adrasto, through gritted teeth. The elf's masterstroke was falling apart before his eyes, all because of one man's lunatic intransigence. The small state of Petra could not survive this division. He was pleading now. "I am asking you to save your own life, and save the Commonwealth." 9th of the Sun's Smile, 1909 A few months later "Routed," reported Sario, a goblet of wine clasped in hand. "The Archduke?" inquired Adrasto, his blond eyebrow raised. The Princess had ostensibly forgiven him for this failing, but he knew not what standing he now had at her court. The Maeyr'onn worried that nobody would ever again listen to the architect of negotiations as aborted as those were. "Disappeared. Probably dead in the fighting." "I did everything I could for him," concluded the mali'aheral glumly. "In the end, he could not see the reality of the situation. He was blinded by emotion, with not a shred of pragmatism to bear. Let this be a lesson to you, my son, about the Maehr'sae Hiylun'ehya."
  7. It's an innovative idea in theory, but it is not one conducive to the staff-recognised LotC rules system. The fundamental reality is that the office of 'OOC Nation Leader' or 'PRO', as interpreted by staff, is functionally absolute, with pretty much no considerations on the IC context ever taken into account. The only rights that can really be extended to the populace are those which come from the PRO, who can then take them back at any point. The infrastructure of rules that we have today (And have always had, to be honest) treat PRO as an effectively inalienable position. Yes, a coup can technically be called, but the PRO holder retains the position (and therefore legitimacy as the 'OOC Nation Leader') until such time as they're defeated. Bearing this in mind, I think the closest you can get to a democracy on LotC is a constitutional monarchy, with the PRO holding substantial reserve powers. But that creates an alternate dilemma - why would any elected government work for this constitutional monarch and govern their realm for them, when they know they exist purely at their whims in the fashion of any other ruler with absolute power? This is what the PRO system engenders. However, I could see the prospect of a democracy becoming much more viable if there is a rule change which takes into account roleplay when determining how much authority a PRO actually has. As many on this thread have mentioned, there are also substantial issues with OOC social cohesion which come with elections. These issues are aggravated when juxtaposed with elections IRL, because RP characters care about a different set of problems than real-life voters do. Most voters in the real world tend to care about kitchen-table issues above everything else - am I getting a raise, what are my taxes like, what is my healthcare situation, how is inflation affecting the cost of living, etcetera - but these dilemmas are almost totally irrelevant in the context of Minecraft RP. The stakes are higher and everything bends towards becoming existential - for example, is this candidate, if elected, going to get us into a war that will destroy our nation? Is our activity going to decline? Moreover, everyone personally knows everyone, so old acrimonies and rivalries play a much greater role. Running open elections also requires an obscene amount of administrative work that most playerbases simply do not have the capacity and resources to handle. I think Oren was the best placed of any group to actually do that, given the amount of dedicated bureaucrats who were working there, and even then it was a serious struggle.
  8. Almeida reads the encyclical published by the Balianese government from his oubliette-like chambers in Valfleur, quietly longing for his homeland. At the time of his studies under Ferraz, the nature and purpose of a city government in Atrus had been a hotly-debated issue among the other academics at the Royal Balianese Academy. Now, Almeida was sorely interested to see that the realm of his birth had implemented the arcane Gradic Rights, the same principles that half-soused old Ferraz had prattled about for hours at his infamous 'educational dinners'. Where had such a stroke of literacy come from? Had the King finally deigned fit to listen to the Academy? He wasn't certain, but made it a private mission to find out.
  9. Hi Mio, merry Christmas and I hope you have the time to read this. Tiles ought to largely follow geographical features that occur naturally, like rivers, mountains and so on. Everything else you mentioned I’m fairly agnostic on. One factor I think is critically important is ensuring that multiple tiles are available to nations and perhaps even settlements, if you’re feeling generous. A lot of people who are complaining about nations occupying tiles and not cultivating them may have little memory of the hell that was last map, where each nation was limited to a single tile as part of some bizarre admin innovation that wanted to force every polity to be a city-state, so that the rest of the world could be kept available for the ultra-liberal charter system. These charters, most of which were niche and unsustainable, pretty much always died after a short time and polluted the world with ugly, empty towns and castles, never to be confiscated until Grool became admin and cracked down on the practice. This is a terrible system that not only resulted in so much of the map going unused, but also deprived nations of the choice to use it even if they wanted to. Instead, everything was crammed into a single tile, leading some areas of the map to have incredibly concentrated landscars and others to be perpetually empty and desolate. I want to see vast states with a number of different ecosystems and towns, not an urban agglomeration crowded into a single tile. The Helena-Rubern-Reza-Palatinate-Owynsburg-Avalain-Morsgrad megapolis was one of the ugliest, most immersion-breaking features I’ve ever seen on this server. Yes, nations having so many empty tiles is not ideal, but it’s infinitely better than the alternative. If you can’t come up with a fair mechanic to incentivise them to develop outlying tiles (And no, I don’t think increasing the bar for acquisition will necessarily help this), the status quo is preferable to reverting to last map’s kleinstaaterei. I think that the issue of nations not effectively developing occupied tiles could be easily remedied by some other suggestions I’ve made on prior feedback threads, such as having direct warps to nation capitals from CT. Under the current system, there is a perverse incentive against developing any land that’s too far away from hubs - speaking as someone who has been involved in this in the past, a lot of potential developers are not prepared to take the risk on building a town or estate too far from a spawn hub. If you were to change the system so that players spawned directly in front of nation capitals from the CT, that ‘hub’ effect then becomes applied to the nation capital, something which makes perfect sense in RP - the areas closest to the capital are the most inhabited, whereas the population becomes sparser as you venture further into the frontier zones.
  10. To the historians Justinian of Susa and Adolphus of Suffolk, I have followed your writings with great interest since the release of your first volume those decades ago. It is of core importance for all societies to chronicle these events thoroughly so that they may be preserved for the next generation, particularly in a time where a void of literacy exists across the lands of Almaris. I have waited until your final volume to make my comment. Though you write with the ardour of a true scholar and in many cases excellent analysis of those lost days, in my view, this eleventh volume is insufficiently critical of the ultimate cause of the end of the Orenian nation-state. I am Drelyth Remnevani of Clan Ipos, and I remain until my dying day the faithful servant of my beloved master, Manfred of Arichsdorf, who was the greatest man of that era. It was I and loyal Volker who served him whilst the first stones of Arichsdorf were laid. He may not have loved us the most - that honour can only have gone to the Margravine - but he loved us the longest. I served him in all capacities, but predominantly by keeping him abreast of the affairs of the capital city and its Aster Court. It was no secret that my master did not have a high opinion of Peter of Petra. But unlike any other in that time, he saw Frederick Fratricida for what he was. Had he been around to resist him, Manfred of Arichsdorf never would have accepted his accession to the throne. I had tried to warn the Margravine of this, but I was far too late. That wretched politician Azor, may Velulaei curse him forever, had separated me from my master through deceit on a fool’s mission overseas. By the time I returned, it was done. I shall bear the shame of that failure until my clansmen place my ashes in a funerary urn. May the Kheltiruai forgive me. Frederick Fratricida - the Felon King - was no tragic hero who suffered from poor circumstances, but a liar, a deceiver, a kinslayer, a usurper, a demagogue and an incompetent to boot. The lands of the Orenii have had good monarchs and bad monarchs, but the most unworthy of the throne are those whom drive the state into its dissolution. Even Philip Priestlover, for all his cardinal sins, does not bear that shame. There was a time after him where the Orenii had restored their pride - a time that was squandered by Fratricida, and has never since returned. The Felon King was simultaneously ambitious, cutthroat, lazy and inept, a mixture of vices that ought to have excluded him from the rulership. As a youth he spent years sabotaging his own father, Philip III, even amidst the height of his popularity and victories in the Sinner’s War. When his father gave him some task to carry out, he would support this responsibility enthusiastically in the halls of power but later deliberately sabotage it, so as to weaken the country and prepare it for his coup. Afterwards, he would crawl back to the Emperor with some nonsensical story of how he had done his best, of how valiant he had been. Yet, it had broken his heart because it still wasn’t enough! The false tears and the melodrama sickened those who knew the truth of it, of which my beloved master was one. Good men died and they would forever stain his conscience. His hapless parents reconciled with him every time. Fratricida was an inveterate liar, capable of spinning the most self-serving yarns and making them sound convincing. It was hard to feel anything other than loathing when the man’s lies condemned ordinary, decent soldiers to his overweening, misplaced ambition. He would portray furious agreement with his father’s counsellors, spurring them to take some destructive action - for example, when he urged his parents to set aside the Basrid woman betrothed to his elder brother, or when he campaigned against the Duke of Cathalon in an illusory attempt to support my master in his feud with him - and then after a course was set, he would comfort those who had been disillusioned and draw them into his faction with honeyed words. A coward was a coward no matter how he chose to dress up his spinelessness. Only worst of all, this coward had nothing that he really even believed in - no great programs, reforms or miracles to save the country. Only his own ambition, which he spent his youth flattering and deceiving to fulfil. When he achieved power, promising his ‘strong kingdom’ over a ‘weak empire’, he did not know what to do with it. His strong kingdom, high off the bloodshed of the Brother’s War, turned out to be the weakest of all, and fell apart within less than twenty years through his monumental misrule. Almost two centuries of Petrine monarchs had steered the ship of state through crises upon crises, and the state had continued, only to be degraded in a few decades by this felon. He was the king of naught but false promises, a fact I do not find reflected enough in your work. I know that Manfred of Arichsdorf would not have allowed this embarrassment to happen. He would have put the Felon King down and restored the dignity of the human lands. When he was taken from us, there was no obstacle to Fratricida’s designs. It eventually fell to the men of Acre, and even to Karl of Haense, to deliver justice for his crimes decades later. By that time, the damage to the Heartlands had become irrevocable, but it was justice all the same. May the Kheltiruai bless them for that small mercy. My grandfather lived in the time of Peter II, that forsaken emperor from the fens of Mardon. He was well-acquainted with his brother, the flayed Prince Philip Owyn. Fratricida was no figure worthy of any esteem, but Peter II reborn as a usurper. Your attempt at balance in your writing, while admirable, is misguided on that account. Blessings of the Kheltiruai upon you. Regards, D.R
  11. Kaedreni Dice Poker --- Luis Francesc Jacint-Almeida i Martin Royal Balianese Academy 13th of Harren's Folly, 1903 TABLE OF CONTENTS I. Introduction II. Summary III. Hands I. INTRODUCTION Dear reader, Throughout my travels across the known world, I have, to my veritable shame, frequently become distracted by the sundry activities of many taverns and gambling houses. But there is one such game which has fascinated me like no other - the art of Kaedreni dice poker. Like many such games, many of the rules and protocols for playing dice poker are spread by oral tradition, having been amended and evolved depending on the speaker or the context. In the setting of my academic work for the Royal Balianese Academy, I felt it would be constructive to codify these rules and produce a guide for playing the game to those unacquainted with it. Yours sincerely, Almeida OOC: II. SUMMARY History As its name would suggest, Kaedreni dice poker in its current form was originally a creation of the Kaedreni around the early 1400s, themselves the descendants of a mixture of Aeldinic peoples. Unrefined forms of the dice game are mentioned in literature as being played by a broad swath of the indigenous inhabitants of Aeldin, however, it is fundamentally incontrovertible that it was the Kaedreni of yore who popularized its most widely-accepted set of rules. Since that time, Kaedreni dice poker has been spread around the taverns of the known world by Kaedreni landsknecht-mercenaries (themselves infamously dissolute gamblers), with people of a broad variety of social classes and races enjoying its thrill. Rulers of Kaedrin - such as Adrian the First of the 18th century - played it with their aristocracy, and soldiers played it with one another in their barracks. Rules In Kaedreni dice poker, each player possesses five six-sided dice. The game may be played by two or more players, and while there is theoretically no limit as to how many may participate, a game of more than four may become increasingly cumbersome to administer. In the case of a match where the stakes are currency, the game begins with the placing of an initial bet (i.e the ‘blind bet’) by the first player. Moving clockwise in a circle, each subsequent player may decide whether to raise, accept or pass. Each player may only raise the blind bet once. Players who pass on the blind bet are out of the game before it begins. For example: The first player then rolls his five six-sided dice (/roll 6 x 5). For example: The second player then rolls his five six-sided dice (/roll 6 x 5). For example: This continues until each player has rolled their set of dice, with each roll being stringently recorded. The game is ultimately won on the basis of the strongest hand. In this example, John has rolled a one pair of fours. Michael has rolled no hand, but the game is not over. For more information on hands in Kaedreni dice poker, see the section at the end of this document. At this point, the players are again given the option to raise the bet, accept, or pass (and therefore forfeit the game before the final stage). For example: In this example, the stakes are now twenty-five coins, and so begins the ‘re-roll’. The first player now decides which, if any, dice he wishes to re-roll. Players may re-roll one, two, three, four or all five of his dice, with any combination he so chooses, with the hopes of getting a better hand. If a player is confident with the hand of his initial roll, he may re-roll none. For example: The second player then re-rolls his choice of dice. As with everything in this game, what dice he chooses to re-roll are stringently recorded. For example: This continues until each player has re-rolled their selected dice, if any. As Kaedreni dice poker is won by the strongest hand following the re-roll, and a five-high straight is stronger than a one pair, Michael has won this game despite possessing no hand on the original roll. If at the conclusion two or more players have the same hand, the highest numerical value hand wins the game. If the game is played with no stakes or with a non-quantitative item as the prize, the system of raising the bet is obviously omitted. III. HANDS The official rank of hands from lowest to highest is as follows: No hand - five mismatched dice forming no sequence longer than four. Pair - two dice with the same numerical value. Two pairs - two pairs of dice, each showing the same numerical value. Three-of-a-kind - three dice showing the same numerical value. Five-high straight - all five dice showing a numerical value of one through to five. Six-high straight - all five dice showing a numerical value of two through to six. Full house - a pair of one numerical value and a three-of-a-kind of another. Four-of-a-kind - four dice showing the same numerical value. Five-of-a-kind - all five dice showing the same numerical value.
  12. Cuisine of Valfleur and Upper Petra --- Luis Francesc Jacint-Almeida i Martin Royal Balianese Academy 19th of Tobias’ Bounty, 1903 TABLE OF CONTENTS I. Introduction II. History and Context III. Use of Produce and Ingredients IV. Local Dishes V. Beverages I. INTRODUCTION Dear reader, As an author under the auspices of the Royal Balianese Academy, I have decided to engage in an anthropological study of the gastronomy of Valfleur and Upper Petra. In my view, cuisine is one of the core aspects of culture, yet I have found that it is seldom discussed or published in academic circles. While I am originally from Atrus in the southern realm of Balian, I have lived in Valfleur as an expatriate now for some years, offering me an insight into the relationship between the region’s local people and their unique gastronomy. Having studied classics under the eminent Mariano Saturnino Ferraz at the Academy, upon matriculating I emigrated to Valfleur in the retinue of Constanz-Anton of Balian, who shortly thereafter wed the Archduchess Renilde and took up in Her Grace’s court as her consort. Since that time I became enamoured with this foreign land and accordingly, I desire to add to the corpus of works concerning it. Yours sincerely, Almeida OOC: II. HISTORY AND CONTEXT Upper Petra refers to land upriver of the River Petra, on both sides of that great waterway, which combined with the downriver Lower Petra forms the cultural Heartlands of humanity. Though the broader Upper Petra is politically divided, the traditional capital of the region is the city of Valfleur, from which the Commonwealth of the Petra is governed. The inhabitants of Valfleur and Upper Petra descend mostly from Heartlander Imperial settlers who internally emigrated there over the course of the last century, and this is significantly reflected in the local cuisine. Many culinarily elements, for example the significant use of garlic, are inherited from the lost Empire - however, in contrast to the delicate ‘haute cuisine’ formerly enjoyed by Imperial high society, the gastronomy of Upper Petra is extremely rustic and influenced by a strong local agricultural industry, featuring many hearty and nourishing dishes such as soups, stews or roast meat. The neighbouring Haeseni have also influenced the region’s cookery, such as through the omnipresence of cold-weather staples such as bread and potatoes. (Pastoral scene in Upper Petra.) The titanic River Petra plays a quasi-mythological role in the culture of Upper Petra, including in its gastronomy. In addition to providing an abundance of fish from its own waters, the river irrigates the lands of the valley in abundance, resulting in fertile soil and a temperate climate perfect for sundry agricultural ventures. Farming is the core of the region’s economy, and local produce amalgamated with historical eating preferences and habits has shaped a unique ‘peasant’ cuisine. The Petran philosophy is to take advantage of all boons offered by the land, for example by using all of a carcass rather than discarding parts regarded as less appetising. This originates from the area’s settler history, in the times where wasting anything edible was highly inefficient. Likewise, meals are very important to the culture of Valfleur and Upper Petra, with lunch in particular often taking an almost ceremonial aspect. This is related to the Commonwealth’s cultural emphasis on chivalric virtue and hospitality, hearkening to knights and other gentrymen hosting banquets for their guests as a social occasion. Though a portion of the region identified as Upper Petra does not fall within the borders of the Commonwealth, my understanding is that culinary practices in these areas are heavily influenced by Reinmarine-Haeseni settlers, and so the focus of this writing centres predominantly around the unique culture of the city of Valfleur. III. USE OF PRODUCE AND INGREDIENTS The agricultural context for the lands of Upper Petra gives host to a bountiful medley of local products, each of which play an important role in local cookery. A number of grains and legumes are produced by Petran farmers, including barley, beans and peas, however, the principal grain of the region is wheat. The bread that is made from this wheat is at the heart of the regional food culture, and is served as an accompaniment to every meal. As it is cheap and decently filling, the most impoverished of Upper Petra often eat bread on its own or soaked in rendered fat, but essentially every Petran regardless of wealth is raised on a diet heavy on the staple. Likewise, the most quintessential herb or spice employed in the gastronomy of the region is garlic, which finds a place in the majority of dishes prepared. This is a holdout from the old Imperial diet, which also made considerable use of this plant. Other herbs such as thyme, sage, parsley and rosemary are frequently included in local recipes. Spices such as black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, paprika and saffron are also prevalent, but these are rarely produced locally and are usually imported by foreign spice merchants, as they preserve well in a dried form. Dairy is another staple of the region, produced from local dairy cattle. Heavy cream and milk are included in many recipes around the Commonwealth, but the dominant form of dairy in the regional cuisine is butter. Almost everything in Upper Petra is cooked in butter, contributing to the richness of many meals. Cheese also plays an important role in Petran eating habits, with a number of local cheese varieties present in households ranging from soft to hard. For the most part, I have omitted cheeses from this document, as I do not consider most of them to be a ‘meal’ in the traditional sense, however a special note must be made as to their omnipresence in local pantries. Should there be demand for it, I may produce a more exhaustive guide to the cheeses produced in the valley. (The Petran hunter’s kitchen-table.) The abundant agricultural practices of the region also produce a wide range of vegetables, of which the most prominent in local cuisine are onions, leeks, carrots, tomates, potatoes, celery, cauliflower and cucumbers. The area’s temperate climate is reflected in the selection of fruits available in local greengrocers, mostly consisting of apples, pears, apricots, peaches and wild berries. Tropical fruits, such as those I have sometimes encountered in my travels to the Malinorese Peninsula, are practically unheard of. The preeminent meats produced by Petran farms are pork, chicken, duck and quail, and these feature in many of the recipes I have described in this document. Game meat is also extremely popular, a remnant of the original colonisation of the Upper Petra in Imperial times, when local farms were in their nascency and settlers would venture into the woods to hunt and forage. Boar, venison, pheasant and wild quail and waterbirds are all present to differing extents in the region, and all are hunted and prepared whenever available. With some exceptions, cattle in Upper Petra are traditionally used for dairy production rather than meat. Likewise, sheep are predominantly used for their milk and wool production, although mutton is sometimes eaten. Even the most basic recipes and cuts of meat are accompanied by local mustards, for which the region is globally regarded. Mayonnaise is also prevalent as a condiment. (Fisherman’s haul out of the River Petra.) As Upper Petra is a landlocked, inland region, saltwater seafood is essentially foreign to regional cooking, albeit it can be imported when properly preserved. As previously mentioned, the bountiful River Petra, from which the region bears its name, plays an important role in local culinary mythology. The fish and crustaceans of this titanic waterway feature prominently in a number of recipes. It should be noted that I have only included in this paper meals originating in the Upper Petra region centering around Valfleur. There are many dishes enjoyed in Petra originating in other regions or widespread around Almaris. This exclusion does not apply to beverages, or ingredients that have been imported and contrived into local recipes - many well-preserving products such as paprika, saffron, tinned sardines, salted herring and more are not produced locally but are still frequently employed in regional gastronomy, imported from trading partners such as the Balianese, Haeseni or Sedanese. IV. LOCAL DISHES Portions Boelle de caucher Boelle de caucher - or hunter’s sausage in the common tongue - is a sausage made from wild boar, red wine, paprika, garlic and sage, encased in entrails. It is served grilled or included in other dishes, though in Valfleur I have encountered one eatery which served it sliced into thick chunks and sauteed in wine, which they called ‘boelle de caucher au vin’. Though the ‘hunter’ in its name refers to the wild boar, the limited availability of this meat has meant that in practice, cheaper boelle de caucher is made with the more common pork. Cassol au Valfleur An incredibly rich and flavorful casserole, cassol au Valfleur is a classically nourishing dish cooked in an earthenware pot in the oven at a low temperature. It is usually prepared from a base of white haricot beans, confit of duck, pork belly, boelle de caucher, garlic and rosemary, topped in the pot with a crust of breadcrumbs. The rendered fat of the meat imparts a rich, luxuriant flavour to the beans, and this must be considered my favourite dish since I emigrated to Valfleur. Confit Confit is a broad culinary term which refers to cooking slowly at a very low temperature, but in the context of Petran gastronomy it specifically refers to the cooking of meat using this method. Chicken, pork and more exotic meats can all be cooked in this manner, but the most noteworthy in Upper Petra is confit de canaud, which is the confit of a local breed of domesticated duck. To prepare a confit, the meat is typically salted, seasoned with herbs and slowly baked in an earthenware dish while submerged in its own rendered fat. The final product may be eaten as is, included in another dish or grilled to provide it with a more appetising crust. Contornice While the word contornice refers only to quail in the Petran dialect, in a culinary context contornice refers to a quail prepared in a specific fashion typical of the kitchens of Upper Petra. The quail is a bird frequently farmed in the region, and contornice is a dish consisting of a whole quail, stuffed with butter, garlic, thyme, breadcrumbs, mushrooms, onion and lemon juice, roasted and served with bones intact. While cheaper, more common and more accessible than chicken, quails are obviously much smaller, and I have witnessed a single knight consume several in one sitting with great gusto. Char de brochet The pike, or brochet in Petran, is a fish with an almost mythical reputation in Upper Petra. A large carnivorous fish and apex predator in its environment, local folklore portrays the pike as the king of freshwater and the ruler of the waters of the River Petra. A fisherman who hooks a pike is frequently given the most sport of any freshwater quarry, with the powerful fish often aggressively resisting capture. Char de brochet is a steak of pike grilled with the backbone in and seasoned with garlic and lemon, served with boiled potatoes. This dish is commonplace on the tables of the bourgeoisie, gentry and nobility of Upper Petra. Char de canaud A classic and simple dish on the Petran table, char de canaud refers to the sliced and fried breast of a specific variety of domestic duck indigenous to the region. The breast is minimally seasoned and unlike many other meals is not cooked in butter or any form of oil, as duck is considered sufficiently fatty as to grill well in its own rendered fat. To facilitate this, it is cooked initially skin-side down. Char de canaud is often served with a side of salad or roasted vegetables, and is the quintessential main course on the tables of Upper Petra. Gardespau Gardespau, which means ‘soldier’s peas’ in Petran, is a thick soup made from dried green split peas, thyme, garlic, smoked sausage and ham hocks, which impart a rich flavour to the otherwise bland peas. It is served prior to a main meal and often accompanied with bread, and its name derives from its simplicity and inexpensive ingredients, which have resulted in it being culturally identified with a common soldier’s rations. Gull’s eggs Gull’s eggs are an extremely rare delicacy which I have encountered only amongst the halls of high society in Valfleur, more reminiscent of the high cuisine of the old Empire than the typically rustic gastronomy of Upper Petra. They are the eggs of a specific breed of gull located only in the Heartlands, and are rare on account of the limited breeding season of these birds and the small size (typically no more than four) of their clutches. They have an incredibly rich and creamy taste, wholly unlike the egg of a chicken or quail, and are served as an appetiser hard-boiled and accompanied by pink trout roe. Feie In the Petran dialect, feie refers to liver, which is prepared in a number of different fashions in the local cuisine. The liver of pigs, chickens, ducks and geese may be ground into a pâté, mixed with butter and brandy and spiced with pepper. This is known as feiepast, and is frequently served spread over bread as an appetiser or snack. Alternately, char de feie refers to a slice of liver that has been grilled in the fashion of a cut of meat, which is more commonly served as a main portion. Feiepast-en-crot A seasonal dish consumed in holiday banquets celebrating St. Emma, feiepast-en-crot is the aforementioned pâté of liver (typically of a pig) mixed with pieces of hard-boiled eggs and cooked in a puff-pastry crust. Many variations of this dish can be prepared, including with pieces of cured meats or nuts, with the only ‘core’ elements being the feiepast and the pastry. It is served at banquets in loaf form and sliced for each guest. Jardinier Jardinier, which derives from the Petran word ‘jardine’ (common: garden), refers to an assortment of vegetables pickled in white wine vinegar, mustard seeds and black pepper, subsequently served as a side dish. This medley typically includes onions, celery, carrots, cauliflower and cucumbers. It is a side dish that imparts an acidic quality to meals but is rarely eaten alone. Rout au chevalier Translating approximately to ‘roast in the style of a knight’, rout au chevalier is the centrepiece of a traditional banquet in Upper Petra. It refers to a whole roasted boar or pig, cooked for a long period in an oven heated by coals until tender. The roast is usually seasoned with onion, garlic, sage and apples. As a whole animal is fairly expensive, rout au chevalier is designed to be shared and is carved at the banquet table, making an impressive spectacle for feast attendees. The name of this dish derives from the knightly pastime of boar-hunting, as an entire carcass is typically only available to hunters who pursue their own game, with a whole beast not normally sold by local butchers. However, it is worth noting that I have encountered this dish cooked with a whole goat or even a goose a handful of times since I arrived in Valfleur, suggesting a relatively recent change in traditional attitudes. Maumenne Maumenne is a very simple dish of chopped or ground meat in a gravy spiced with garlic, wine and cloves, served over a slice of country bread or in a sandwich. The type of meat may be almost anything, however, chicken is most common. Though I have not been able to find the origin of this dish’s name, it is commonly eaten in the region as a snack rather than as a formal dinner. As a result, it is associated with workers such as soldiers or farmers who may briefly stop their activities for a quick meal, rather than those who engage in the ceremony of a Petran feast. Paulanier This dish was the favourite of its namesake, Paul Salvian, the first Archduke of Petra. The dish that eventually evolved into paulanier was originally much akin to the other nourishing stews prominent in the region, however, the Archduke’s expensive palate added an element of luxury that has turned the meal into a status symbol enjoyed mostly by wealthy gourmands. Despite this, it is traditionally always served in a trencher of bread rather than a bowl, which I speculate to have originated from the Archduke’s unrefined Savoyard education. Most recipes for paulanier include a medley of local fish, including rough-hewn chunks of trout, perch and pike, along with the meat from freshwater crustaceans including crabs, shrimp and crayfish as well as regional vegetables such as leeks, carrots and onions. This is bound together in a thick chowder of heavy cream and butter and spiced with black pepper, garlic and saffron, the latter of which constitutes the most expensive component of the dish. Much like Paul Salvian himself, paulanier can be considered symbolic of the River Petra and the bounty it provides to the valley. Picerbon de Garmont Picerbon de Garmont, meaning literally ‘ham from Garmont’ or ‘Garmont ham’, is one of the locally-cured meats prevalent in the region. It is made from pork which has been dry-cured - the leg of the animal is placed in a barrel of salt for up to two weeks to absorb as much moisture as possible, after which the salt is wiped off and the legs left for a much longer period to hang and cure. It is always sliced thinly, and may be eaten alone or with bread. I admit that the latter method is my preference, and has constituted one of my preferred appetisers in my time in Valfleur. The best Garmont ham is made from pigs who have been fattened primarily on acorns, which imparts a unique flavour to the meat. Poein While in the Petran dialect directly translating only to ‘pudding’, poein refers singularly to blood pudding or a blood sausage, a dish that exists in many forms amidst the various cultures of the world. In Petra, this is the only form of pudding commonly eaten, so this word is readily understood - however, sweet puddings from other regions are also translated as poein, which was a source of cultural confusion for me when I first visited. This dish is locally prepared with the blood of a pig, thickened with oatmeal and seasoned with garlic, black pepper and onions, and then bound with an entrail casing. It is served in the form of a sausage and often accompanied with roasted apples. Potage de necour One of the many rustic soups consumed by Petrans, potage de necour is a rich bisque made from the meat of the necour, a freshwater crab that predominantly inhabits the River Petra from which the valley derives its livelihood. This meat is cooked with butter, heavy cream, Valfleur mustard, garlic, paprika and a splash of dry sherry along with the roe of the crab. The addition of the latter ingredient typically necessitates that potage de necour be made exclusively from female crabs. Valfleur mustard Although technically not a meal in its own right, Valfleur mustard deserves a mention as a type of condiment typical to the region of Upper Petra. This pale yellow sauce is manufactured in Valfleur from black mustard seeds and white wine, with less vinegar than a typical mustard, resulting in a creamier yet more acidic taste. It is typically sold in jars exported the world over and served as condiments for meats, or developed further into other sauces or vinaigrettes. Desserts Galistel de Peter III Galistel de Peter III, or ‘Emperor’s cake’ in shorthand, is a cake made predominantly from ground almonds, eggs, sugar, cinnamon and lemon. Though this may seem unremarkable, the name of this dessert comes from the symbol always dusted onto its top with a silhouette of powdered sugar - the Renatian cross centred by the eye of Providence, the personal symbol of Emperor Peter III. It is accompanied well by coffee, but is also often served as a dessert at dinner parties. Pere au vin A rustic dessert consisting of locally-grown pears poached in red wine and spiced with cloves and cinnamon, pere au vin is very common at the table of every Petran partial to sweetmeats. It is usually served in a bowl accompanied by either custard or cream. Pere au vin is particularly prevalent around the early winter, both for its warming qualities and on account of this time being the traditional harvesting period for local pear orchards in the Petran valley. Quesse de Moere Cheese, which is typically eaten following a meal as a savoury dessert, features extremely prolifically within Petran gastronomy and agriculture, but one variety bears ultimate prominence. Quesse de Moere - cheese from Moere - usually referred to in the shorthand simply as Moere, is a semi-hard blue cheese made from sheep’s milk. Like all blue cheeses, it contains an edible mould. Coming from the Terra del Sur, I must confess that this was unappetising to me when I first encountered it, but I have since developed a taste for this salty, crumbly cheese with such a distinct taste. Moere is frequently served with bread, and while I have included it as a dessert, its applications are far more broad. Tarte de beau Translating directly to ‘berry pie’, tarte de beau is a pastry filled with mixed wild berries and served sliced as a dessert, often with cream or custard. Due to the proximity of the Upper Petra to Haense, I speculate that this dish finds its origins in that northern realm’s prikazberry pie. As prikazberries do not grow in the temperate valley surrounding Valfleur, I have only ever seen tarte de beau prepared with the far more common wild blackberries, raspberries, blueberries or blackcurrants. V. BEVERAGES Arentanian Correctly referred to as ‘Arentanian-style wine’, or simply Arentanian, this term refers to wine made from grapes farmed in the traditional style of the region. This name actually comes from the old Empire, where wine was produced in the alpine region of Arentania grown on steep vineyards that cascade down the sides of mountains. Today, the production of Arentanian wine is replicated in the Petra river valley, and while it may theoretically use either white or red grapes (called Arentanian-Blanc or Arentanian-Rotes respectively), the wine is almost always dry rather than sweet. It is worth noting that Arentanian-Rotes made in Upper Petra is frequently referred to colloquially as ‘Petran Pinot’, but this is something of a misnomer, as its manufacture is not limited to pinot-style grapes. Coffee Though a drink imbibed for centuries by Qalasheen, coffee only became popularised in Heartlander culture in the 1700s with the advent of coffee-houses in the bustling metropolitan Imperial capital of Helena. As everyone reading this would likely know, it is made from ground and roasted coffee beans filtered through water and occasionally drunk with milk. When I first arrived in Valfleur, coffee was fairly uncommon, however since that time beans have become increasingly imported from my homeland of Balian, where they are produced en masse by the local Qalasheen industry. While in Atrus coffee is consumed after essentially every meal, I have found that the Petrans mostly partake in it in the morning with breakfast. A local specialty is coffee with a shot of Temeschine. Creme de ribes Creme de ribes, usually simply referred to as ribes liqueur or ribes in the shorthand, is a potent liqueur distilled from blackcurrants that grow in Upper Petra. It is a sweet, viscous, dark red drink which can be imbibed straight, or mixed with white wine and served prior to a meal. There is a certain cultural import on the process of drinking creme de ribes - for example, it is frequently used for ceremonial purposes to welcome foreign diplomats immediately after they have presented their diplomatic credentials to the ruler of the Commonwealth. A small glass of ribes served to a guest also indicates the extension of guest right. Johnsblood rum When Emperor John I died on the banks of the River Eroch in the 16th century, a colonial rum merchant who found his remains preserved them in a barrel of dark spiced rum. Since that time, Johnsblood has referred among human polities to a particular variety of dark rum flavoured with cloves, vanilla, cinnamon and cardamom. Rum is not produced locally in Petra, but Johnsblood remains a popular liquor served at parties and feasts. Sherry Sherry, a fortified wine made from white grapes, is an alcoholic beverage which has been consumed by the humans of Almaris for centuries, widely considered to have been introduced from Aeldin around the time of the Fifth Empire (c. 1520s) with the associated influx of migrants from that continent. Since that time, a number of different philosophies behind the production of sherry have been proliferated around the various realms of man, from the sweet Balianese sherry to the dry sherry of the old Empire originally imbibed in the parlours of Helena. All styles are appreciated in Petra for both drinking and culinary uses. Temeschine Named in tribute to the parent house of the Archduchess’ House of the Petra, Temeschine is a local liqueur made from hazelnut and vanilla soaked in a basic spirit. It is typically drunk straight, as a dessert following a meal, though may be added to coffee or even used culinarily in the preparation of sweets. “The soul of a nation is found in their food.” The Princess Alexandria Karina of Haense, Cuisine of Hanseti-Ruska, c. 1780s @UnBaed
  13. This is something which I thought about myself - and I think warps to nation capitals and settlements might do a bit to alleviate. For example, currently, the most ‘natural’ thoroughfares (in terms of those with the most logical footfall) are the roads between hubs and nation capitals. Under the current system, a nation’s government has no incentive to allow for a town to crop up on that thoroughfare. The risk is likely that this kind of placement would detract from the capital’s activity. As an aside, this also exacerbates the massive phenomenon of city-statism that has plagued us for the last four or so years. I have been playing long enough to remember a time where most nations had over two (in many cases, something like four!) decently active settlements within them. However, my logic is that if you have the warp directly to these commercial centres from the CT, that risk is eliminated. Every entrant comes straight to the nation capital, so it literally cannot be ‘disadvantaged’ by any other town’s position on the road. From there, the natural thoroughfares (which, on Almaris, run from hub-nation capital) become nation capital-nation capital (or other settlement etcetera).
  14. I would suggest a combination of: 1) Warps directly from an off-map CT directly to nation capitals and settlements (no hubs). In my opinion one of the most grotesque consequences of hubs has been the urbanisation around these areas - many further off areas of the map run completely fallow and are written off as de facto ‘unusable’ while the ‘meta’ for settlement building is being as close as possible to a hub. This makes very little sense in RP, as hubs are generic, uninhabited no man’s land. This used to be the case with the on-map CT as well, which is arguably just as unpleasant for the map. But if the warps were to go directly to RP hubs, it would likely have the effect of centering this ‘congregation’ more organically around actual commercial centres. Moreover, in theory, it helps new players find the RP quicker. 2) Some sort of mechanic to make these warps one-way only - in terms of a limit on SSing back to the CT and using it as the primary means for instant travel across the map. The king’s delegation should be riding to their location, not mass SSing to the CT to get a warp because it may be more efficient. 3) Roads should go exclusively between nation capitals, settlements and other towns or villages - no ‘roads to nowhere’ or ‘theme-park’ settlement placements. Settlements in the context of good world-building generally originate on natural trade routes and thoroughfares, which means roads ought to go through them rather than veering off to dead-ends. Ultimately, all settlements should be connected by roads but this doesn’t have to be a highly artificial ring-road in the unfortunate fashion of last map.
  15. The news travelled swiftly through the city of Atrus, gossip spreading across winesinks and markets like wildfire. Oliveira, a lowborn Balianese corporal, heard about the result of congress after-the-fact from his colleagues in the army - he had been assigned to keep watch on the parapets and so had missed the dialogue in the Palatio Monterosa. “So much for the dragon of Alstion!” laughed Oliveira in the taverna that night, “This one is more akin to a worm, verily!” A roar of laughter emerged from the group of rough-hewn soldiers. “Worms don’t run, they wriggle. And that family are more bandits and hill-folk now than anything else. Their legacy is long lost,” dismissed the battalion’s resident know-it-all, the bespectacled and humourless Mazalin. The third soldier, Neziera, chastised him with a gentle knock. “Lighten up! Besides, our prince Constantine spoke well and true. The pride of Balian, that one.”
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