Ar'Ethmet

It is important to understand that the previously entertaining manner of the Guide will be difficult to maintain, because Ar'Ethmet is a country of such dullness that the author finds himself struggling to stay awake as he pens these pages on its customs, peoples, economy etc. In fact, many sufferers of insomnia make pilgrimages to Ar'Ethmet to cure themselves of said illness.

This major facet of Ar'Ethmet life and culture is not solely the result of the peoples' worship of such a strict, puritanical and unimaginative God (Clovis); nor alone is it the inhabitants lack of any discernible sense of humor; nor their eternally warlike nature, causing them to be interested in naught that does not relate to impaling, disemboweling, beheading and other such noble warlike pursuits; nor their firmly held belief in the evils of alcohol; nor the inability of any visiting national to differentiate between the men and women (due to both sexes having a similar over development of muscle). Rather, it is peculiar and oppressive synergy of the above. A depressing interaction of different facets of a culture which, rather like dysentery, war, and famine, combine to dissolve the bounds of society.

Like the counter balance on the swing arm of a crane or the opposite face on a coin, this powerful country both tempers Aereolus' ambitions and is itself held close. Ruled with a tyrannical hand from the capitol city of Minh, this country is a militarized, religious state. The present Dynasty has been in power for the past 337 years, since the failure of the last heir of the previous, C'klet, Dynasty to pass Q'Ahrta's Fence. Fran, the Lord General, is the forty first member of the lineage of Cine

While having the smallest population of any country in the Crescent Lands, it has the largest standing army. Its heavily armored hoplites are respected and feared by its neighbors and its heavy horse regiments are among the best in the Lands. It is unofficially estimated that the population of Ar'Ethmet is between 7 and 10 million, but accurate figures are difficult to gather since the government has been known to hinder gathering of such statistics, even by minstrels.

Ar'Ethmet has two major cities: Minh and Tellura. Minh is the capitol city of Ar'Ethmet and Tellura, at time of publication, has an uncertain status.

The martial nature of Ar'Ethmet has been shaped by geography more than any other factor. Being centrally located in the Crescent Lands, it has been frequently beset by foes. The coastline of the country, except at Minh and Tellura is poorly suited for harbors and ship anchorage. Ell'ans current scours the coastline, leaving an expanse of shear cliffs and mass wasting. This lack of potential harborage, continual harassment by the GloomRim Mountain hill tribes and the denizens of the Myceum Hills has shaped a land bound martial culture.

Along with the lack of natural harbors, the soil of Ar'Ethmet, except around Tellura and the F'Tlit Plain on Ar'Ethmet's northern border with the Serranthro-M'lethet, is both rocky and acidic. While this creates some of the most splendid (and unappreciated, at least by the citizenry) autumnal foliage displays in the Crescent Lands, it makes farming a harsh and unproductive affair. Over thirty percent of agricultural produce must be imported.

Ar'Ethmet does have the blessings, though, of having some of the largest and highest grade iron mines in the Crescent Lands. Both the southern faces of the GloomRim and the Myceum Hills have large, thriving iron mines. Lead, coal, and onyx mines are also plentiful. Also, because of the plenitude of rivers spanning the country, water power for mills, forges etc. is common.

The Imperium has universal conscription. A citizen is conscripted at 11 years of age and it lasts till the soldier reaches 16. After reaching this age of conclusion, only those soldiers showing superior aptitude in a range of both physical and mental tests are allowed to continue in the armed services. Ninety percent of all conscripts request the test (called Q'Ahrta's Fence). Only 10-15% pass. Unlike other armies in the Crescent Lands, nobility has no reflection on rank. In fact, a noble offspring who fails Q'Ahrtas' Fence loses his or her title and rights of inheritance.

With their fervently martial culture and the common held belief that might does make right, magic is frowned on. Except for the Mages' Guild at Tellura, magic is not practiced and practitioners or the mystic arts have been beaten and lynched by the citizens and soldiers of Ar'Ethmet In fact, much of the friction between Tellura and the rest of the country comes from Tellura's support of magic.

The only religion of Ar'Ethmet is Clovis. The pontiff of the religion resides in Minh and is called the Arbat Mach (The Right Hand [of Clovis]). He rules his worshippers with the same iron will as the Lord-General of Minh rules the Ar'Ethmet. Unlike many other branches of Clovis, that tolerate the less venal CHAOS worshippers, Ar'Ethmet Clovis worshippers are encouraged to attack CHAOS worshippers anywhere located, even in other countries. Not surprisingly, this has made these worshippers very unpopular outside of Minh.

Ar'Ethmet has a rather formalized and stratified social system which is best symbolized by the peculiar system of fortified roads which connect most areas of this country. Spanning the country are a networks of roads, called the Leopold Way. This system was name after Lord General Leopold III, who commissioned there construction 331 years ago. This is the same Lord General who also developed the countries unique system of currency.

The Leopold Ways are granite thoroughfares raised, at their greatest height, ten meters above the ground and having a similar width. They are built in peculiar stepped fashion. The lowest step is set flush to the ground and each succeeding step is raised three meter above the previous one, to make four landings in all. Thus, looking from one side of the Way, the road will appear to be a ten meter high crenellated wall and, looking from the other side, a half completed ziggurat. The ten meter wall like side is so constructed as to face out toward hostile areas or regions, thus ensuring an expansive array of fortifications throughout the country. This segregation of the wall into four distinct smaller roads, by creating steps, also has the effect of reinforcing the social order.

The highest level is reserved (on pain of death) for use by nobility, ranking military officials, and couriers. The next highest step is used by soldiers and priests of Clovis. The road just three meters above the ground is reserved for citizen of the Imperium. Finally, the ground level road is reserved for foreigners and merchants. The drainage systems on the Way is a physical representation of the Ar'Ethmet social system, because it sluices all refuse from one level to its lower, level. This has the effect, especially during the rainy season, of making the lowest rung of the Way both hazardous and unpleasant.

Built at twenty five mile intervals along these thoroughfares are fortified watchtowers (O'tk Lura [Knots of Clovis]) housing a small contingent of soldiers, usually 25. Every 125 miles, a particularly fortified watchtower rests with a much larger complement of soldiers, usually a 50-100.

Another peculiarity of the social system, further emphasizing one's place in the order of Ar'Ethmet, is the badge of identification every citizen and visitor must wear. This badge is a woven belt called a DiObi (Place Belt). Any visitor on entering the country is questioned about his or her profession and purpose for entering the country and then must purchase a DiObi that represents his status. This belt is woven with symbols and colors denoting a person's proper place in the social order. Giving false information when purchasing a DiObi is punishable by execution.

Anyone riding a war-horse is assumed to be a warrior and is thus given the DiObi of an alien warrior. Alien warriors are prone to challenge in Ar'Ethmet. If the owner agrees NOT to ride his or her war-horse, they can receive a merchant's DiObi, and thus not be subject to martial challenges.

As if a final peculiarity in Ar'Ethmet's social system were needed, the military has a unique manner of demonstrating hierarchy. This ranking is evidenced by the number of swords a soldier or officer is allowed to wield/own. A soldier of the greatest ability is allowed to wear three swords: MiUrn (Soul [of Clovis]) short sword, Aki (Touch [of Clovis]) longsword, and Fan'Sut (Wrath [of Clovis]) greatsword. Three Swords (as these warriors are called) are trained in fighting two sword using the MiUrn and Aki (and in rare cases the Aki and Fan'Sut). If an Ar'Ethmet warrior disdains an opponent, he will fight using the least effective weapon. A truly insulting gesture, on the part of a Three Sword, would be to fight an opponent with the MiUrn.

Less able, but still extremely dangerous, are the Two Swords who fight with the MiUrn and Aki. Finally, the common foot soldier, One Swords, fight with just the MiUrn. While this may put the soldier at a disadvantage in some combat, the citizenry of Ar' Ethmet believe this creates more valiant and skilled warriors.

The loss or theft of any of these three weapons (particularly the MiUrn, which is believed to house the soul of the warrior owning it) is a matter of great loss of face. Ar'Ethmet warriors will track a thief with a peculiar tenacity equaled only by Borealan blood feuds. When committing ritualistic suicide, warriors of Ar'Ethmet disembowel themselves using the MiUrn.

Unlike any other country in the Crescent Lands, Ar'Ethmet does not use specie (coinage) as medium of trade. Internally, only Script is used. Script is paper currency. The government of the country artificially values Script at some rate based on the Aereolan Copper. Citizens of the Imperium are not allowed to own specie and, while foreigners are welcome to spend it in the country, they will receive change or payments in Script. Since Script is almost worthless outside of the Ar'Ethmet, most traders try to either get payment in trade or use the Script to buy goods in Ar'Ethmet. The base note of currency, the Leopold, is valued by the Imperium at one Aereolan Copper.


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