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 The Middling Lands

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PostSubject: The Middling Lands   Thu Aug 21, 2008 11:47 am

The Unassailable North is home to many clans of hardy, free, savage peoples. In general they are more superstitious than their southern neighbors and less accepting of things from Across-the-Sea, though what they lack in tolerance they make up for in strength, cunning and an enviable practicality. Beyond their lands lies the Frozen Pole.

Collectively, the city-states of Syssiphoor and Syphillume, and the Principality of Asp make up the Snake States, which are located in far southern reaches of the Middling Lands. Syssiphoor and Syphillume sit in the flood plain of the brackish River Twist. Both are corrupt bureaucracies overrun with serpent cults, slaves, and slavers; all addled by the drugs appropriate to their station. Each city maintains a navy which doubles as a slaving fleet. Coiling in a rain forest plateau above them is the Principality of Asp, a place of greater purpose than the indulgent cities below, ruled by a Queen of dubious morality and mortality. The Snake States are generally unpleasant, full of eunuchs, lies and treacheries; the land crisscrossed with slow, swollen rivers and tarry black lakes full of poisoned water. Beyond them lies the Burning Pole.

Directly west of the port and for some miles to the north and south lies the central part of the Middling Lands. Residents of the port call it the Clutch, after the way the locals there hold onto the memory of the World Before. Villages in the Clutch tend to have word names; Song, Hearth, Forge, Ocelot. Not coincidentally, Song is known for its singers, Hearth for its food, Forge for its ironmongery, and Ocelot for its custom of citizens wearing animal masks and indulging in baroque, stealthy games. Some philosophers say that The World Before wasn’t broken in just a physical sense, but an ontological one as well. The Clutch is covered with ruins of language, and the Meanings contained therein, which stick out of the psychic landscape there like statues half-buried in the sand, which cast an influence over was built in their shade. Seen from the Other Side, Forge is almost unbearably hot, with a constant clangor that makes conversation with the Dead all but impossible. Hearth has the smell of a wondrous feast hanging in the air, while Ocelot has a bloody great cat wandering about and chewing up souls.

The River Livia runs through the Clutch. According to popular opinion it alone nourishes the fertile land there, even though the Ossuary Flow runs through as well. The Livia originates beyond the Great Girding Forest, in the Highlands of the Border with the Interior, at a place called Maiden Lake. The Lake does, in fact, boast a magical maiden. Some call her Livia, others, Plurabelle – she of many good graces – and insist that the entire river is her body. Legends say that heroes come to her for her blessing, and, more importantly, for her magic sword. Her relationship with these heroes is ambiguous at best. She’s called both “Kingmaker” and “Kingslayer”, and is described as both supremely chaste and a devil in the sack. And while her blessings flow free and easy, the sword is never given. It is always rented or leased, for an undisclosed but presumed terrible cost.

West of the Clutch on the edge of the Interior lies the Great Girding Forrest and the Border Kingdoms. It’s a region rich with warring feudal states, knights, and magical forests, the kind of place where men hunt stag-gods, maidens and each other. In the Border Kingdoms all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average. This is probably due to its proximity to the Interior. Despite their obvious qualities the men of the Border Kingdoms often seem lost in the port, as if in a fever dream.
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