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ALPHATIA (Empire of)
Location: Largest floating continent, in an equatorial orbit over the Hollow World. HW
Area: 1,968,134 sq. mi. (5,097,465 sq. km.).
Population: 5,097,000 (humans 92%, elves 2%, all other 5%; note that this is different from before because the "monster" population of Limn, which is over 4% of Alphatia's population, was unaccounted for in the previous breakdown). [Population figures are tentative, pending census. Ed.]
Languages: Alphatian (various dialects). Elvish (Shiye-Lawr dialect), Dwarvish (Denwarf-Hurgon dialect).
Coinage: Alphatian Standard: crown (gp), mirror (sp), judge (cp). Various kingdoms may mint other denominations in addition. Kingdoms tend to prefer coins of their own mintage, and charge conversion fees for coins from other kingdoms, especially esoteric coins. Coins of imperial mintage are accepted at full value throughout the empire.
Taxes: 15% income tax on everyone of servant status or higher. Slaves are counted as the property of the owner and the product of their labour is taxed as income for the owner. Individual kingdoms may also have some additional taxes.
Government Type: Imperial monarchy overseeing subject kingdoms.
Industries: Agriculture, crafts, herding, exploitation of magic. Various others in specific kingdoms.
Important Figures: Eriadna (Empress of the Alphatian Empire, Queen of Vertiloch, Queen of Alphas'ar).
Flora and Fauna: With its immense size and use of magical arts, Alphatia boasts a wide variety of plant and animal life. One may find examples of just about any life form known, as well as some previously unknown types.
Further Reading: Dawn of the Emperor boxed set, previous almanacs.
Description by Zweibelterm and Gerta Knutsdotter.
Zweibelterm: Most of the readers of this publication will recognise the Alphatia described herein, though it has been many years since it has graced the surface of the planet. Instead, the continent and people of Alphatia now preside at the centre of the world, orbiting the twin suns of the Hollow World. Each of the magnificent kingdoms that compose this majestic nation shall be given its due in a separate entry, but in this entry I shall endeavour to instruct the barbarians with a thorough overview of our empire as a whole, and of the Alphatian people.
Readers familiar with Alphatia as it was on the outer world will find most features, especially geographic ones but including most demographic features, to be exactly the same as they were, without alteration. Similarly, our society remains as it always has been, operating in accordance with long-established customs which you should familiarise yourself with before attempting to visit.
Gerta Knutsdotter: I submit to both the Lighthouse and to this Mystaran Almanac my assessment of Alphatia compiled as a result of my travels and studies of that empire. Alphatia is a powerful and technologically and magically advanced empire set on the Hollow World's largest floating continent. I must note that the Alphatian people almost uniformly treated me throughout my visits to their lands as at best a quaint curiosity and at worst with scorn as a barbarian. While such attitudes are found in other lands, such as Nithia and among the Azcans as well, the Alphatians seem to have taken these attitudes of racial supremacy to uncommon extremes, expressing unusually high degrees of contempt for "barbarians," especially non-spellcasters. I am lucky in that, after having observed their Alphatian Neatharum in earlier years, I at least knew the Alphatian tongue, for it is said that almost all Alphatians will not permit foreign languages to be spoken to them. I should note that there are two basic versions of the Alphatian tongue. One is "archaic Alphatian," supposedly the oldest known version of the language, in use today by Alphatia's aristocrats as a mystical, arcane language and used at social functions by them as a sign of distinction. The other is "common Alphatian" in a variety of dialects, the language of everyday use spoken by average Alphatians.
The Land (Gerta Knutsdotter)
The empire of the Alphatians consists as I said of the largest of the floating continents. The continent contains almost every type of terrain save for deserts, with large areas seemingly affected by magic (either mortal or Immortal. Some plant varieties seem to be alterations of types commonly found elsewhere, but changed to be able to exist in temperate climes where the continent is found). Alphatia is composed of rich tilled fields and lush plains given to pasturage or left in a natural state, forests large and small, rolling hills and several mountain ranges, from the large Kerothar Range which rivals the World Spine Mountains to smaller ranges like the Aasla Spur and Grey Mountains. Much of the land, especially in the places inhabited by the more powerful mages, has been landscaped by magic (see especially Vertiloch).
[Since I am from Vertiloch myself, I had better comment on this... To Alphatians Gerta's comments might seem a bit lacking here, but in all fairness, she never had the chance to witness the marvels of cities like Aasla or, especially, grand Sundsvall. Many of our greatest achievements and monuments were lost to the destruction of these metropolitan cities. Though we Alphatians haven't greatly changed the very landscape around us (at Landfall our ancestors settled in the lands that best suited them, so little change was needed), the best way to witness our achievements was to see our cities. In a great number of these, one can still witness our impressive construction techniques. Many a time have I seen foreigners enter Sundsvall and nearly lose consciousness [kaleidoscopically clashing colours and images have been known to induce vertigo. Ed.]. It is difficult to grasp, much less describe, the utter beauty and majesty of our structures and towers-the vast buildings, some heavily decorated with infinite details that confound the mind itself, while others were slick and solid, like huge, carved stones of basalt or obsidian, yet in all colours possible. Like I said, the greatest of these marvels have been lost to posterity, but some examples can still be witnessed in a fair number of our cities. Though this naturally means that Gerta must have witnessed at least some of these, I don't hold it against her that she doesn't offer any great description for the simple reason that doing so is exceedingly difficult. I have participated in the construction of such structures myself, and yet I find myself unable to offer a description that would do these marvels of magic justice. In fact, I fear than even a bard or other skilled storyteller or author would not be able to truly capture in words the very majesty of Alphatia's achievements in this case. We really would require an extremely skilled artist to accomplish such a feat! Aritmanes]
There are a number of rich river valleys and three large lakes (Llyn, Crystal, and Shiell). Because it is a floating continent, there are no seacoasts. But the continent seems formed as if there should be seas, as if those living here expected there to be seas, and the habitation pattern reflects this (with most settlements clustered along the continental rim, almost as if they were built as ports facing a now vanished ocean). There are beaches aplenty, but without the water this seems to have caused some disruption. Resorts are seemingly built overlooking the void, as if they were originally built facing seas. This might be because the Alphatians consider themselves masters of aerial magic, and thus build their dwellings like those of eagles, perched on the ledges. But various details, small and large, seem to belie this. More on these discrepancies between the two versions of Alphatia's origins will be explored later, but for now I shall give just one small example. Leaping dolphin motifs are common in places like Bluenose, and some areas seem to lack sufficient food, as if they were expecting a harvest from the sea or imports from beyond.
[This lack is somewhat made up for by use of the large lakes to replace this lost resource, as Crystal, Shiell, and Llyn Lakes in due time pick up the slack of providing maritime relaxation and some variety of fish. However, unfortunately, the varieties are still limited to freshwater catches, which is a pity and an imposition upon our refined palates. Still, other things have filled this lamentable gap, as well as the gap in available imports of exotic foods, but still the absence is felt, especially among the common people who cannot avail themselves of such substitutions and whose diets and livelihoods sometimes depended upon these lost resources from the seas. Also, an oddity perhaps is that despite the lack of surrounding seas, the Haunted Marshes remain well-watered in southern Vertiloch and southeastern Haven. These marshes are said to be not only the haunt of various monstrosities, but also the abode of lawless types who seek to escape just punishment in the wetlands. This is fine by me, as it usually saves us the cost and imposition of a trial, as these villains become prey to the monsters that lurk therein. Zweibelterm.]
Indeed, the inhabitants seem to recognise a disconnection between their pattern of settlement and their current needs. The settled areas are along the rim of the continent and the interior lands are sparsely inhabited in most cases, but this pattern of settlement is undergoing change as a result of perceived reality, with a notable migration towards the interior beginning, apparently all of the sudden.
In Alphatia, with a few exceptions, most of the land is sparsely inhabited and left in a state of wilderness, with population clustered in a few places, in concentration around the cities and towns with nearly empty lands between these population nodes. This is much like Nithia, where most of that empire's land is virtually uninhabited, with people living clustered along the Nithia River. But in Nithia this is a matter of climate and terrain (with the uninhabited lands being wasteland), while in Alphatia this seems to be a conscious policy rather than a result of the environment, as the wilderness areas are usually good lands. In Alphatia people tend to live mostly in and around the cities. The wizards build their estates in these areas, where they meet and socialise and conduct various businesses in common (like magical research). The commoners live clustered in communities around them. They work either as part of the wizards' households, or as all those around that produce the food on nearby plantations and craftsmen who create the products that are needed to support the aristocrats and the society in general, working as farmers, fishermen, and craftsmen. Many of them work for the wizards, while some are members of the freemen.
Thus most commoners live in or around the cities, and they are forbidden from settling farther from them. The rest of the land is left unsettled as wilderness, resulting in a low population density in Alphatia as a whole. There are some densely populated areas, and clusters of habitation, but around these are vast wilderness areas, used sometimes as hunting preserves and the like. In these unsettled lands, the aristocrats are free to build additional estates. Thus as they grow in power and wealth, the aristocrats tend to accumulate more estates; estates in the cities for socialising with each other, and isolated estates to conduct their more private researches and affairs undisturbed. They keep minimal staff in these more rural estates (servants and slaves only). Rarely do they allow communities to build around their towers and mansions; everything the wizard needs for his research or comfort is brought from a city by his staff or by his magic).
Blackheart is the most extreme example of this pattern of settlement, but it holds true in most kingdoms to a lesser degree. The exceptions are numerous though. Besides the demihuman kingdoms (Shiye-Lawr, Stoutfellow, and Limn) and Stonewall, they are: Haven: because of the project of beautification of the land cities tend to sprawl far and large, and most wizards have estates in larger numbers in the cities and less as hidden labs in the countryside. Ar: With most of the aristocracy gone and the commoners left to themselves, and the need of other kingdoms (primarily Stonewall) for large supplies of food, the fields have been mostly turned to grain production and previously unexploited land is being tilled as well. Bettellyn: there are more cities and towns in that kingdom than in most, so that there is less land left for hidden labs; besides, the kingdom is not so popular with wizards, because it is more clerical than most would like it. Randel: basically standard, except that people here are more militant and large areas are given over for military exercises; large swaths of the countryside are still left for the wizards, though. Alphas'ar: is becoming normal, but is still underpopulated both in terms of cities (the exception being Andaire) and hidden towers (they used to be imperial facilities only), and some wandering, isolated persons who try to avoid attention. Vertiloch it seems was densely populated until recently, but seems to have lost most of its inhabitants to some cataclysm.
Also, the land itself seems fractured in some places, as if recently affected by a series of great earthquakes or by some other cataclysm or disaster. As for the popular versions of what caused this, see below.
The People (Gerta Knutsdotter)
I will limit myself to a general overview of the Alphatian people here, and then discuss things separately as I describe the individual kingdoms that make up Alphatia. As I noted, Alphatians are a haughty and conceited people, who speak condescendingly to foreigners, which they almost universally consider uncouth barbarians. They are extremely proud and conceited regarding their civilisation, deeming it vastly superior to everyone else's. Only the Nithian ambassadors seemed to be excepted from this attitude and treated with respect, perhaps because the two societies are both very magically oriented, with the difference being that the Nithians' society revolves around Immortal magic while the Alphatians' society is more dedicated to arcane magic. Never the less, this attitude is something one must keep in mind when travelling here, as one must be acclimatised to the attitudes that will commonly be expressed. They simply do not believe any other people measure up to them, and often denigrate other societies as if it were simply a given that no one but themselves had achieved anything noteworthy. While this is, as I said, an attitude that is found in other nations as well, the Alphatians seem to have pushed this attitude to exceptional lengths, and never even pause to consider that expressing it might be taken badly by others. Even their currency says "Alphatia Above All."
Alphatia is dominated by two human races, the "common" and the "pure" or "high" Alphatians. Common Alphatians (also called Cypri) have golden to coppery brown skin like Azcans or Nithians, gold, brown, or red hair, and brown, gold, green, hazel, or amber almond-shaped eyes. They tend to be tall and slender. The so-called pure Alphatians are less frequently found. They have pale skin like Antalians but with bluish tints, black hair, and black, blue, or purple eyes. They are also usually tall and slender. There are also elves and some other demihuman races in parts of Alphatia, but these largely live in their own kingdoms and almost nineteen out of twenty Alphatians belong to the two human races described above. Almost singularly among civilisations, the Alphatians have no marriage customs. This can make their family lives complex and even bizarre to others. They are also quite brazen in their sexual mores. I cannot tell you the number of times I was boldly propositioned by an Alphatian who thought I would jump at the offer to be his courtesan simply because an aristocrat was extending his favour to a barbarian commoner, and seemed affronted when I declined.
Alphatian society is built around magical talent and magic use. Newborn children are tested for magical ability, with those who are found to have the ability being sent to one of Alphatia's many fine magical schools and universities. Thus there are not only many mages among the Alphatians, but an extraordinary number of them become quite powerful. The Alphatians like to enhance their art, theatre, and other entertainments with lavish displays of magic, and their more skilled elites enchant items on a wide scale for the purpose of entertaining and fascinating each other. Their use of magic on such a wide scale is captivating in many ways, and is one of the hallmarks of their civilisation. They have such a surfeit of magic that, at least among the aristocracy, it is a backdrop of their enjoyment of life, though most of the applications they put it to do not have much practical use as such, but are certainly awesome. Some of these items, especially the skyships they seem almost obsessed with building and which can be compared to Nithia's hover barges, could no doubt be quite potent in war, however, though most of the Alphatians do not seem to be very warlike, with some notable exceptions.
The Alphatians have their own set of Immortals, but largely seem disinterested in venerating them and are not very pious. Unlike most priesthoods, especially the Nithians with whom the Alphatians seem to have some affinities, the Alphatian clerics seem more interested in the power and status they gain through the favour of their Immortals, than in the teachings of those Immortals. Some kingdoms (again, notably Stonewall) are exceptions to this general lack of interest in matters of faith, but overall it seems most Alphatians pursue clerical studies not out of reverence but for access to the spells, and thus status, that such study gives them. The Immortals seem to accept what they can get, or so it seems, tolerating a lower level of devotion than in most lands.
Alphatians who can afford it, mainly aristocrats but wealthy commoners as well, go in for extravagant makeup and hair styles, but prefer simple, elegant jewellery. Theatre and arts, especially magically-enhanced ones, are commonplace. Alphatian architecture is quite well developed and advanced, with towering structures common. Magic is used extensively in the building of monumental buildings frequented by the aristocracy and in the construction of their abodes. A wizard's friends often contribute to such construction efforts, sometimes adding little touches or practical jokes to the project. Powerful magics shape the nature of entire cities, creating wondrous structures. Living dioramas, permanent illusions, and pyrotechnic displays are among the most respected art forms. Music, gambling, and a game known as hard-ball which has some similarities to the Azcan game of tlachtli (though without the ritual sacrifices of losers) are among the other forms of entertainments relished in Alphatia. Alphatia's economy is strong, built as it is on two factors: cheap labour in agriculture, mining, and crafts (slaves and servants) combined with magical disaster relief as needed. Their economy seems to have been even stronger once, but it seems to have experienced some economic setbacks recently, with the destruction of two major cities and disruption caused in the wake of the earthquakes or cataclysm (depending upon which version of recent Alphatian history you find most plausible-see below). Alphatia also has trade guilds that try to make sure they get good wages for their members and high tariffs imposed on imported goods, but except for the magically-oriented ones these guilds don't have much influence.
In Alphatia, the sexes are considered equal and treated as such, with no discrimination, unlike in Milenia or Antalia where doctrines of male superiority predominate and subordinate the women. But one should not get the impression that Alphatians are egalitarian in other respects, for their society is based on a hierarchy of race (Alphatians above all others) and a social hierarchy almost as firmly entrenched and structured as that of Shahjapur.
The Alphatians prize the ability to use magic above all else. In Alphatia, the spellcasting aristocrats are chaotic individualists who have leisure and freedom of choice. They enjoy great wealth and prestige, and though some start off with little more than the robe on their back this soon changes as the society revolves around them and their well-being. The lifestyle of many of the aristocrats in Alphatia is more sumptuous than that of similar classes in many other nations in the Hollow World with the possible exception of Nithia, due to their access to magical devices that enrich their means of entertainment and enliven their leisure. All non-spellcasters are destined to serve in some capacity or another. Great power is possessed by individual spellcasters. Alphatia is a land where such exalted kings can make a whim a law, if only for a day. The Alphatian Empire is maintained through fear and intimidation, eccentric blood ties, and sheer magical might rather than managerial efficiency and impartial law as in Nithia or Milenia. Those who lack the ability to cast spells have a status similar to Azcan commoners (the tlacotin and maceualli tenant classes of Azca being rough analogs to Alphatia's slave and servant classes). The servant class is not bound to the soil, but they must, like the maceualli tenant farmers have a master and they do pay taxes. But, unlike the more successful maceualli, the Alphatian servant class never owns land. These commoners, the slave and servant classes, would be called a helotry in Milenian or thralls in Antalia. Most aristocrats who ponder the question believe that everyone is happy and contented with this system because it has lasted a long time, while others simply think everyone must be because they are, and it is true that most of the servile classes are resigned to their lot. But it might be on account of the fact that hardly anyone, especially among the commoner classes, has any basis of comparison of their social structure with others, as a result of the insular nature of Alphatia. In Alphatia few people have any true knowledge of foreign lands [like Karameikos or the Five Shires. Ed.], but instead simply dismiss them all as barbarians unworthy of consideration or emulation, and thus they wouldn't know how their lives compare to the lives of others. Some kingdoms, Stonewall comes to mind and to a degree Randel and Greenspur as well, are more hospitable to non-spellcasting commoners, and this might be why Stonewall, though a tiny kingdom by Alphatian standards, is its most heavily populated one. But in most of Alphatia the distinction is a sharp one: spellcasters form the respected aristocracy, and most others are in thrall. My lack of ability to cast spells, as a "mere" warrior, was a handicap in my studies, as I was constantly treated as an inferior, and with the exception of the few kingdoms mentioned above this made it somewhat difficult on occasion to gain access to information, because of my status as a "mundane barbarian." They often judged me not on my own merits as a knowledgeable scholar in my own right, but simply on my lack of magical ability. Therefore I might recommend that in the future a spellcasting scholar be sent for further inquiry into Alphatian society, but I do think also that the experiences one has in this society as a non-spellcaster are worthy of relating, and are also an important aspect to be studied. It is hard to forget how things are when one is experiencing things directly, and this I think gives my report added accuracy and depth. Between the enthralled classes and the aristocratic classes are the commercial classes-the freemen and gentry, whose social role is similar to that of the Azcan pochtecatl. As social class is of utmost significance in Alphatia, I shall discuss each class at further length.
Like the Nithians, Azcans, Milenians, and my own people, the Antalians, the Alphatians have slavery in their society. But it might aptly be said that the majority of their people are held in thrall, because all but the aristocracy and wealthier commoners must have a master over them. There is no such thing as free-agency for average people within Alphatia, thus making their society closer in some regards to that of the Azcans than that of Milenia or even Nithia. This is indicated by the titles of the classes in which most Alphatians fall: slave and servant. In Alphatia, some slaves seem to be of their own race, but many also appear to be Antalian, Jennite, or Milenian [these would probably be from Norwold, Esterhold, or of Minaean or Thyatian descent. Ed.] and other exotic races. The slave is property, as in other nations we are familiar with, but as in all nations it differs in its particulars. An Alphatian slave is little more than a mule-few are permitted to learn, few ever even hold coin, and none have a possession they can call their own. Even touching a weapon is a death sentence for them. An Alphatian slave's life is often like the lot of the most wretched slaves in other lands, such as the tlacotin of Azca. Some slaves do have relatively less burdensome lives, serving as nursemaids, house slaves, or concubines, but for most life is backbreaking labour from youth until death. Any aristocrat can slay them out of hand though they must compensate the owner for destroying her property, and by imperial law runaways are executed. Even the slaves of Milenia are treated better than this, for unlike Alphatian slaves they cannot be killed or maimed without cause and are permitted to have some minor belongings of their own. The laws of Alphatia, especially the ones pertaining to weapon use by slaves, seem to have been put in place as a precaution against uprisings.
The servants are somewhat better off, being more akin to thralls in other nations. They may not own land, and must belong to the household of another. Their main advantage is that they are permitted to change masters if they can find one willing to take them on. Some servants work for no more than room and board, the same that most masters in Antalia or Milenia provide to their slaves, but sometimes with a salary in addition. The Alphatians, their aristocrats at any rate, often see this system as very enlightened compared to other nations, as no one "wanders aimlessly," but rather all are employed because all must either have a master or be one. By most accounts, nearly seven out of ten Alphatians belong to either the slave or servant classes. [I doubt these figures are entirely correct. Twenty percent, meaning two out of every ten Alphatians, are wizards, yes, but that does not include clerics like myself or other spellcasters who would also be aristocrats. Aritmanes.]
In between the aristocracy and the enthralled classes are the freeman and gentry classes. The wealthy commoners have this status, though they are relatively few since the aristocracy naturally does what it can to concentrate wealth in its own hands. Many if not most explorers and itinerants [she means adventurers. Ed.] belong to the freeman and gentry classes, and those who do not aspire to join it as soon as they are able. Less than one person in ten seems to belong to the freeman class, a name that indicates that this is the first rank at which an Alphatian is considered to have freedoms. Freeman status is achieved by owning a shop or business of some kind, and they do not have to belong to the household of a higher-status person. They may own slaves and have servants in their households, but must make enough money to keep their business registered with the empire, or they will have their businesses stripped and find themselves reduced to servant status. It is not unknown for aristocrats to use their better connections to do this to mundane competitors, driving them out of business to eliminate unwelcome competition. Sometimes, even, it is said that such aristocrats then buy up the forfeited businesses and find a way to get the old owner to be their servant and operate it for them. Far fewer belong to the gentry, with many of these seemingly the progeny of aristocrats, children of theirs who lack magical ability and thus are endowed by their families with 10,000 gp in a bank in order to keep their status close to their families, and allow them to mingle with aristocrats in social affairs.
All spellcasters, and only spellcasters, in Alphatia are aristocrats. They lead lives of freedoms and pleasures more luxurious than can be found in most other nations because of the magical devices that are often available for their enjoyment and entertainment (not all of the aristocrats have these things, but an unusual number create large items, like rolling palaces or flying yachts). Only the aristocracy can wear the spider-silk robe that is the distinctive garment of Alphatia's elites. Many study arcane matters throughout their lives, becoming accomplished spellcasters, while others simply learn enough magic to be accorded privileged aristocrat status, and then move on to other pursuits. Lords, ladies, princes, princesses, kings and queens are the ranks of the aristocratic class that have governmental roles. These serve much the same functions as rulers in most lands, administering and governing the empire and its kingdoms. All these people must be spellcasters, naturally, with one exception. In the Kingdom of Stoutfellow, a kingdom of dwarves, gnomes, and hin within Alphatia, the current queen is a warrior. The demihuman inhabitants of that kingdom do not seem to have fully adopted the customs of Alphatia, but indeed seem to be recent arrivals from elsewhere, operating almost as if under a distinctive charter.
Alphatia's legal system follows this bifurcation between the classes, with a different code for commoners and for aristocrats, and different penalties depending on the status of the victim. While some might think that they would expect a higher standard of behaviour from the aristocrats, who are deemed in other spheres to know better, this is not the case. Penalties for aristocrats are significantly more lax than those for commoners. They make frequent recourse to ESP in their proceedings, relying on magic to produce accurate results. But many less reputable types who I had occasion to interview said that because of the widespread faith in and dependence upon magic, this causes the authorities to underestimate common intelligence, skill, and guile. Indeed, in my travels I found this to be true, as I was able to acquire information supposedly kept in great secrecy just by applying a little creativity. Also, Alphatia does not seem to have imprisonment as a penalty, as many nations do-they impose fines, corporal punishment (lashes), confiscation (including enslavement), and death. Imperial law concerns itself with preserving the status quo. It protects the status of wizards and sets the scale of social hierarchy used throughout Alphatia, decrees how matters of succession is to be handled and establishes imperial taxes. Beyond that, the kings have wide discretion on other laws (civil and criminal).
As I mentioned above, there seem to be two distinct accounts of Alphatia prevalent among its people. Most believe Alphatia was always here, though they have difficulty explaining their history and background. This last shouldn't be too surprising, as most people in many lands are unfamiliar with history. However, in Alphatia those who believe Alphatia was always where it is have trouble explaining episodes which took place in their own lifetimes and which they experienced. For example, they believe that much of the damage that can be seen here and there throughout Alphatia was caused by a series of major earthquakes, but have trouble putting things into context and there are odd gaps and discrepancies in their accounts. Pressing them on these things seems to disturb such people. On the other hand, there is a different, and though outlandish, more consistent and thus more plausible account of Alphatia's history and background, the version held by the more experienced and accomplished Alphatians. In this version, Alphatia was until very recently a continent like most others on the surface of another world, surrounded by seas. This Alphatia was part of an even larger empire (indeed, it was its core), and recent events (described in detail by in the attached account of Zweibelterm) led to a great cataclysm resulting in the destruction of that empire and the transfer of the continent to where it now resides. While it isn't uncommon for the nations of the Hollow World to have in their lore legends of having existed in another world in the past (the Azcans come to mind), I can think of no other where there are two such competing versions like this. Also, those other nations which have such beliefs in their lore date it back to the misty, almost mythical past, and not so close to current times.
The People (Zweibelterm)
Alphatians are a justly proud people, set apart from all others by their refined and ancient civilisation and its exalted traditions. We had mastered magic and the other arts while most of your ancestors were living naked in rude huts or dwelling in caves. The example of our culture is emulated by all who have a pretence of civilisation, but none have come close to our achievements. So read my words, transcribed though they are in crude Thyatian you may still yet benefit from them.
Alphatians divide our people by class and race. The Alphatian people do not mix with esoteric and unaccomplished foreigners as the degenerate barbarians, especially the Thyatians, do. The Alphatian people are composed of the original, or "pure" Alphatians-pale of skin, dark of hair, and fair of eye, and of the descendants of the Cypri, who are now known as "common" Alphatians-copper-skinned, they are the more usual type of Alphatian who is encountered. There are some dwarves, gnomes, and elves in Alphatia now, as well as an entire kingdom of what some would call "monsters." The elves do intermingle somewhat, but for good reason most of these demihumans are kept in their own kingdoms, where they can serve Alphatia but live in their own ways. Indeed, one piece of advice comes to mind which I shall generously share with you barbarians who may visit Alphatia: be sure you know our language, as few commoners and no nobles, except for the most permissive, will suffer to have other, lesser languages spoken to them. Sure, we cannot expect you people to be able to fully master our complex and beautiful language, but still you must do your best.
Alphatians are also, as I indicated, divided into several classes, on the basis of an enlightened social hierarchy. At the top, as is only natural and appropriate, are those who have the blood and talent for magic, which is naturally and properly paramount in determining one's status within society. Why others, with the exception of the Glantrians (who learned from the degenerate Flaems anyhow, and have created a twisted and imperfect replica of the Alphatian social order), do not see fit to structure their societies on the natural order of things, recognising the superiority of those who can wield magic, is beyond me, but it probably has to do with the envy that those without the talent have for their natural betters. Thus they try to pull down what should be exalted, while civilised people, by which I mean Alphatians, do not succumb to such base and spiteful influences. In most Alphatian kingdoms on the continent, the aristocratic class forms some twenty percent or more of the population, a far higher proportion than the so-called aristocracies of other nations. But our aristocracies are also a natural one, based on a demonstrated talent for spellcasting, not some ephemeral achievement that may not be indicative of true superiority. Another difference is that the ruling classes of other nations are all expected to administer to the task of government whether they have the inclination for it or not. This is not so in Alphatia, where the bulk of our aristocracy neither has nor desires a role in political policy, but would rather be given personal latitude and freedoms. What their position affords them is not government station in most cases, but rather the freedom to do as they please and, instead of mere administration or input into decision making, they devote their time to developing their aptitude for magic, which is what we want. Of course, some of our aristocrats, the lords and kings and up to the empress herself, do devote such time as they must to ruling, but this only involves a small fraction of our aristocracy, with the majority free from such cares and concerns, as I have described. But the aristocracy pays the lion's share of the taxes submitted to our national and imperial treasuries each year, as we have the most to offer. Thus, it can never be said that we avoid our responsibilities.
Our system evidences great care for everyone, far different from flawed societies that do not provide a proper structure and thus wind up with discontent and strife. The proof of this is that our empire has withstood the test of time without interruption or upheaval throughout the centuries, stable and unchanging, while those nations who cleave to plutocracy, believing that wealth derived from being a successful merchant is an indicator of a capacity to rule, are young and ephemeral. Still more has it shown its manifest superiority to systems that grant a useless "citizenship" to anyone and everyone but then fail to provide them with direction and purpose.
The People (Aritmanes)
I shall try to limit my comments for the sake of brevity, though I do feel there are some matters that I need to address here. Most importantly, we Alphatians are often seen as arrogant and haughty by outsiders, which is frequently a surprise to us. Many of us may indeed make the mistake of automatically assuming that we're superior to other cultures, but given the great achievements and learning of our empire and how we have surpassed the accomplishments of others over the long life of our nation, I really do believe that this is at least understandable. However, it is surely not correct to simply assume that we discriminate toward all... [I know how I was treated, and most of the people I saw who were of obviously non-Alphatian background were generally treated even worse. Gerta Knutsdotter.] After all, we did incorporate Thothia into our empire when we met their people (though contact with them is now lost to us). We did deign to allow elves to settle and even establish their own kingdom. We even let dwarves, hin, and gnomes enter our empire and set up their own kingdom under their own laws, where they know their place, and though the vast majority of Alphatian aristocrats dislike Stonewall due to its pro-commoner policies, we still allow the nation to exist. This does, at least to me, show that we show some acceptance, if only to people like the Thothians, as they share our pursuit of magic [actually, Thothians are dedicated to the pursuit of mysticism, not magic. Ed.]. This is exactly where I think most uncomprehending outsiders misunderstand us-they fail to see that, as an empire, we put the pursuit and exploration of art above all else-magic being the grandest art of all, and so, naturally, has with the greatest priority focused upon it! This means that we require all within our empire to aid in this endeavour, even those who have not been fortunate enough of having been born with the gift of spellcasting, who must then serve the attempt in whatever other capacity in which they are able. This is an ancestral trait of our people which predates our very arrival on Mystara all the way back to Old Alphatia where all our people had knowledge of arcane magic. This was not possible on Mystara, but rather than have our traits die out, our ancestors modified the new empire to take this into consideration and then based our society on those conclusions so that our desires for the pursuit of magic has survived and even flourished-to deny our magical heritage is to deny that we are Alphatians! Those best suited to pursue this are wizards, and so all that can, which are about twenty percent, will become wizards in Alphatia. Those who lack these skills can instead become clerics, such as myself, and though we do lack the true creativity and freedom in our magics that wizards possess, we can still contribute to the greater pursuit of magic. Still, many who cannot be wizards still do not choose to be clerics (even those who have the option of doing so), which I really think should be taken as an indication that life as a commoner isn't quite as bad as some foreigners seem to think, even though it does mean living a life of servitude to at least some degree. [Though this might be more due to the general lack of devotion to the Immortals than anything else. Truth be told, most Alphatian clerics become such in pursuit of spellcasting ability, to escape the life of a commoner, than due to reverence for the Immortals. Ed.] I've lived all my life in Alphatia, and I've rarely, if ever, witnessed evidence to suggest to me that the general populace is greatly dissatisfied with their lot. Some are, naturally, but on average I get the impression that we're all, including the lower classes, proud of our empire and its achievements-our understanding and use of magic, our impressive construction techniques, and our rich accounts of history which are written with great accuracy as a consequence of the fact that Alphatia was a learned empire which predates our arrival on Mystara [though these versions are self-serving, as most nations' histories are, and all nations believe their histories are more accurate than those of their neighbours. Ed.]. Though aristocrats are those who probably have the best opportunity to study history (as they are usually the ones writing it in the first place), our people are not quite as unenlightened as some foreigners seem to think. We do nothing to hide history, and our history even reflects those parts that do not reflect well on our empire, such as the events that predated our arrival on Mystara [though most Alphatians seem to believe a version of their history which appears to be at odds with actual reality, and are kept in the dark about the true history by conscious choice of Alphatia's leaders as a deliberate policy. Gerta Knutsdotter.]. This was indeed an unfortunate and unwise part of our history, but rather than ignore and suppress it, our ancestors decided to learn from it and base the new empire on the mistakes that were made at the time instead, thus attempting to turn the mistakes into strengths.
Foreigners are also typically appalled by our laws, which admittedly favour those who know magic (the aristocrats) over those who do not (commoners or lower classes). Still, though these laws may seem lacking, one must remember that we're generally a people marked by strongly individualistic and even chaotic traits and as such have little respect for strict enforcement of rules [on themselves. I have witnessed how harshly they impose them on their lessers. Gerta Knutsdotter.]. So though a law may grant an aristocrat the right to abuse his slaves, it is by no means given that he or she will do so, although there are, sadly, many cases where this is indeed true. We Alphatians do not wonder so much about these laws that foreigners find so harsh because, we do, in fact, expect them to be harsh so that the freedom of the aristocracy will not be limited by these. But I firmly believe that it is a misinterpretation to believe that because these regulations exist as written that this indicates that the great majority of our people will abuse these to their limits. Many do, but then again, many do not. Naturally, such a system may cause friction where two or more aristocrats are involved, for which the practice of duels has been developed, so that two aristocrats could duel each other for a solution when they could not decide on something. Indeed, there are even stories which claim that such duels have even been conducted over the claimed mistreatment of members of the lower classes, but then such stories are rare [actually, the aristocrats tend to duel each other over disputes between themselves and often because of petty personal feuds, like many Antalian warriors. I have never witnessed, or even heard, of a case where a duel has occurred as a result of disagreement on imposing punishment on a commoner, and commoners I asked about this idea just laughed. Gerta Knutsdotter.].
Recent History (By Zweibelterm)
The Alphatians have a long and magnificent history, a history of wonder and triumph, but we shall not dwell on the past glories and successes of the Alphatian people here. You can find extant histories of our accomplishments and deeds elsewhere, and if you are unable to, then that is a sign that you are unworthy to do so. So instead of spending my valuable time on the distant past, I shall just give you an accounting of our more recent experiences.
All are aware, I trust, of the war that was launched on the benighted Glantrians due to their practice of dangerous magics twisted by Entropy and on account of their wanton, unprovoked destruction of the glorious city of Aasla as a result of their jealousy of our magical and artistic superiority. This jealousy is what caused them to turn to forbidden magics in the first place, in a desperate attempt to outdo us, and it is what caused them to destroy the most brilliant jewel in the Alphatian crown, wondrous Aasla. [Though Aasla was indeed a city of wondrous magical achievement, it still could not best Sundsvall. I remember these parts of our history well as there was a great dissent within the Order of Alphatia as to whether we should support Eriadna and oppose Glantri or keep out of the whole affair. Many of the more experienced of our order surprised us all by saying that we should fully support the empire in its stand against Glantri, which was shocking to many of us given Immortal Alphatia's peaceful traits and general reluctance to support any imperial tendencies of conquest. Aritmanes.]. Faced with these things, we had no choice but to declare war upon them, in an effort to remove their blighted presence from the world. Disturbingly, but really unsurprisingly, the venal Thyatians and grasping Heldannic Knights decided to meddle in affairs beyond their concern just as they had a century and a half ago when we were first poised to bring the region now known as Glantri into our fold. They inappropriately intervened once again in the war on Glantri's behalf, thus becoming the tools of the Glantrians in this conflict. Though I did not fight in this war, since some of us had to keep an eye on things at home and support the war effort in other ways, I know some of those who did, including my elder brother, Cratham, and I have heard their accounts and shall altruistically impart them to you.
The meddling interventions of the Thyatians and the knights in Norwold threw it into discord and strife for the duration of the war. Because of this, as well as the destruction of our largest and best-prepared skyship fleet at Aasla by the nefarious and vile Glantrian opportunists, we were compelled to alter our strategy of war, and were diverted into a costly but uniformly successful war of attrition against the enfeebled Thyatians. We overran West Portage only a few months after war was declared, then pushed forward over the next year until we were at the outskirts of Redstone. The siege of Redstone and Newkirk lasted six months, until our war machine smashed the defences of Newkirk, capturing it. After this victory proved our dominance, the Thyatians in Redstone surrendered. Meanwhile, the Glantrians once again proved the kind of people they are by seeding Alphatia, even unto our mighty capital, with terrorist teams. Even those savages had to know that such methods could not win the war for them, but their destructiveness knew no limits. This caused many of us to stiffen our resolve to crush them, and this was when my brother joined our Grand Imperial Forces. But it also, oddly and bizarrely, caused some dissension and opposition to the war among our own people, especially the Shiye elves, though their forests were not even affected by these Glantrian terror-strikes. The Thyatians stubbornly held out in the northern head of the Isle of Dawn until Eruul Zaar of Helskir wisely defected from their teetering cause in exchange for the title of king and the hand of Thincol Torion's daughter. This allowed us to finish off their last major strongpoint on the island. Though they clung to the Shadow Coast in the south, that was not strategically important.
After grinding them down on the Isle of Dawn from victory to victory, brushing aside the barbarian armies in every major battle as the Thyatians' so-called empire fell apart around them with even Thincol's friend Stefan Karameikos knowing the wisdom of making an accommodation with glorious Alphatia, we were finally in a position to send a fleet against Brun. Envoys sent to attempt to reach an accommodation with the Ethengar barbarians for the destruction of our mutual enemies, the blindly fanatical knights of Heldann and dark wizards of Glantri, were, for some reason, never heard from again. [I have no knowledge of this, though it wouldn't surprise me. It is indeed a sad truth that Alphatian wizards are so blinded by their own powers and magical skills that they frequently act superior to all others. Such behaviour is accepted and actually even expected in Alphatia, but it's probably not a good idea to carry such attitudes along if one travels outside the empire, particularly to a place like Ethengar where, from what I understand, they have little respect even for their own wizards. Given that the Ethengars and Heldannic Knights went to war over such attitudes toward each other, it is easy to imagine that such Alphatian wizard envoys might have seemed quite arrogant to the Ethengars. They then likely decided to show them just what they thought of such superior behaviour, just as they did to "superior" missionaries from the Heldannic Knights years before, and which caused the war between their people. Aritmanes.]. Therefore, since we were now in a position to kill two dragons with one meteor swarm, having partially restored our sky navy during the war and bolstered our fleets, we instead decided to finish off the weakened Thyatians before completing the task of eliminating Glantri for its crimes against us. The accursed Thyatians foiled our attempt to land on their shores in the summer of AY 2008 [AC 1008. Ed.] through guile and perfidy. My elder brother, Cratham, was serving on a skyship when the Thyatian dogs intercepted our forces in the Sea of Dawn. It was a mighty clash, which we would have won easily as we had the previous battles if it were not for the treacherous tactics of the Thyatians. As a result of these diabolical tactics, my brother's diary describes a bloody clash, and he saw many a skyship destroyed and transport sunk, though indeed we paid them back for every life they took. But in the end, we had to withdraw back to the Isle of Dawn, our first setback in the war. Never the less, they could not thwart us for long. Six months later, after some diversionary feints towards Heldann and Dawnpoint to keep the insensate enemy off balance, our forces were landed in Ylaruam, easily seizing Cubia in the face of weak Ylari resistance. Our military machine then rolled triumphantly into Thyatis again, smashing into the disordered and confused Thyatian forces and overrunning Tel Akbir. The vile dogs refused to give in, however, in their stubborn ignorance they always failed to recognise when they were bested, thus forcing us to kill more of them than would have otherwise been required. They fought on doggedly throughout most of AY 2009 [AC 1009. Ed.], even though no one would help them. This caused much suffering and waste of life, and led to an increase in the misguided discord at home over the progress of the war, with some going so far in their complaining as to undermine the effort. They brought their fleets down to Vanya's Girdle at Port Lucinius, covering direct access to their filthy capital, and our navies could not press them back from the channel as we did during the earlier Spike Assault. Therefore, we resolved to continue the march overland, to push them back and defeat them bit by bit.
Our forces pushed forward inexorably. The Thyatians, in their barbarous ferocity, battled us to a standstill outside Kantridae, but we brought in reinforcements and went around them, because at this point the pathetic Thyatians did not have enough troops to block every avenue of advance. They refused to budge at the Kantridae River, but again we brought up fresh forces, forded upstream while our massed forces rolled into them at the point of contact itself, and they were forced to cede the field. Thus we had isolated the city of Retebius as their army fell back. But the defenders behind the walls, though now largely youths and old men, forced us to assault the city, as we could not afford to leave it as a strongpoint in our rear where they could harass us. Though costly, the assault was successful, but the skyship my brother was serving on, the Aaslan Fury, was destroyed here. He survived, but had to fight the rest of the war from the ground. In addition, unfortunately, this delay allowed the defeated Thyatian armies to withdraw from Retebius before we could finish the curs off. But they could not stop us from marching in triumph down the road towards Thyatis City. All throughout this period, the treacherous Thyatians had been sending infiltrators into our camps to murder our officers and heroes, though they knew they could not win and these attacks were only provoking our justifiable anger against them, causing retribution to attempt to compel them to desist. At this point in the war, one such incursion of assassins found my brother Cratham, and though I am told he took several of them with him, my brother and the head of our house was laid low. So here his diary of the war ceases, and I must rely upon the accounts of others, brief though the rest is.
We washed over Thyatis with ease, reaching the banks of the Mesonian River. There the Thyatians' depleted armies, slightly bolstered by reinforcements from Glantri and some Heldannic Knights, attempted to face us again. Many foolish Heldannic Knights are said to have charged prematurely, and were swallowed up by our vast and victorious forces, and slain to a man (I am told that among the Heldannic Knights these men are seen as some sort of heroes. The true heroes are the winners). The Thyatians seem to have treacherously abandoned even their allies during the charge of the knights, withdrawing their forces across the Mesonian River or through River Guard Town into Thyatis City. Their ships patrolled both the Mesonian and the girdle, and our triumphant generals were coming up with a plan for crossing the river and assaulting their capital when the Thyatian Emperor finally recognised the folly of continued resistance. A treaty of peace was signed, though for some unknown reason Eriadna agreed to terms wherein we would withdraw from Thyatis, rather than finishing them off! For this, my brother died? But, never the less, in it the Thyatians were forced to allow our armies to continue across their lands unopposed, on our march to Glantri. I suppose that if the war had run its natural course, we could always have returned to the matter of subduing Thyatis once and for all later, treaty or no. So I must assume Eriadna had good reason, and I do suppose subsequent events proved her wise to want to reach, and eliminate, Glantri as quickly as possible. So she ordered our forces to advance as rapidly as they could through Thyatis and Karameikos, and to push through the Five Shires and Darokin (which had neither the strength nor the will to prevent us from doing so), and on to Glantri.
For, just as our armies had crossed over the Mesonian River and were moving through that part of Thyatis which they call Kerendas, the vile Glantrians put to use the very forbidden magics that this war was fought to prevent them from developing. Knowing what was about to happen, they foolishly provoked us by destroying our ancient capital, Sundsvall, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, and murdering our empress. Just as an ode could be written for beautiful Aasla, one could be written for Sundsvall, the City Built by Magic, the product of two millennia of civilisation, destroyed in the blink of an eye by the Glantrian savages. The sinister magics caused magic to fail for a week. In Thyatis and Karameikos (where the vanguard of our forces had already reached and crossed the Rugalov River), skyships crashed, at times even on bewildered troops. Instructions could not be received or messages sent through the usual magical means to home, so the commanders had to decide on their own. Most decided to push forward as fast as possible into Karameikos, lest the perfidious Thyatians take advantage of the lack of magic as an opportunity to attack our troops. Other commanders, though, sought to withdraw to a defensible position and await instructions. Still others stayed where they were, likewise awaiting orders. The Thyatians seemed too stunned by their recent defeat and too weakened to even dare to attempt their usual treachery and try and take advantage of this situation, which was a good thing for them, as we could have easily taught them a lesson had they forgotten already. [I think Zweibelterm is forgetting here that Thyatian wizards and priests would have been hit just as hard by the lack of magic as we were at the time. This is a common mistake to make for Alphatian wizards, who frequently tend to forget that Thyatis had many skilled spellcasters of their own. Aritmanes.] [Something does seem to have taken place somewhere, however, as surviving Alphatians after the war, either as refugees settling in Karameikos or troops taking service with Thyatis or on the Isle of Dawn, do not account for nearly the entire Alphatian army prior to the Week Without Magic. Many were killed when magic failed and skyships tumbled from the sky, but still more seem to have been killed during the week itself. Ed.]
Eventually magic returned and we discovered we had a new ruler, as Zandor declared himself emperor. He ordered the war to go on, though some thought this rash. He sent orders to the generals, commanding them to continue on through Karameikos and push through the Five Shires and Darokin, as was the original plan, with Glantri as their ultimate goal. But he also summoned the Grand Council of Wizards, so hot tempered was he that he sought instant revenge and retribution to be visited upon the Glantrians, heedless of the consequences. Some of the council refused this order, seeing it as rash and intemperate, and indeed advocated negotiations to end the war. These he ordered into exile. But most submitted to his order, knowing that though it might be precipitous, the Glantrians had earned whatever fate we would visit upon them. The Grand Council undertook rapid preparations, and then left to destroy Glantri City just as they had destroyed our two greatest cities.
But then the Glantrians once again, as some had feared they would, unleashed their insidious magics. Though the surface world entered a dark age as a result of the unbelievable orgy of destruction they unleashed, the Immortals saw fit to preserve us from this fate, and saved us. We found ourselves, as befits the Followers of Air, elevated to a new status, our continent floating suspended over the Hollow World, inviolate from the savagery of the barbarians. Unfortunately, our council was scattered or cut down by the bloodthirsty Glantrians, and our armies stranded in Karameikos, where many, I have been told, decided to settle temporarily.
For most Alphatians living upon the floating continent, their memories have been altered to remove any traces of their existence upon the surface world. Only Alphatia's more knowledgeable and experienced persons retain the true memories of Alphatia's past. For the unaware, Alphatia has always been in Hollow World and the sinking has been replaced by false memories of massive earthquakes and fierce firestorms. This has also done much to explain missing friends and family members: either killed during the war, killed during the sinking and not revived, and those stranded on the surface world.
For those Alphatians aware of Alphatia's real history, the empire is full of inconsistencies with its rewritten history. This noble lie has been embraced by the masses, despite the numerous inconsistencies that surround them. Perhaps the powers that altered their memories are just so powerful. Perhaps the masses are too busy in their duties to dwell on matters beyond their limited perspectives. Perhaps they do recognise them, but subliminally the real truth is too difficult to remember or believe. Whatever the case, most Alphatians have no memory of the events surrounding our movement to the Hollow World, and indeed think we have always been here. The glories of our true past, and the comparison that can be made between our migration from Old Alphatia to Mystara, remain beyond their comprehension. We are now adjusting to our new position at the centre of the world, just as we adjusted to the move from Old Alphatia to Mystara, and have quickly begun to re-master all the magics we are familiar with but which for a brief span of years were denied us. Thus the cycle of our history is renewed.
Regardless, the general population has been stripped of its knowledge of the Great War: the costly victories, the submission of Thyatis, the goal of Glantri at hand, and the treacherous sinking caused by the Doomsday Device. Still, for most of these types, the common servitors, it is not necessary for them to know, and was not even before-their role is to serve, and to know what they need to perform that role. It is the aristocracy's role to know of history, so that we may guide policy with wisdom. Still, it is a curious and interesting anomaly, worthy of study. To them those events have been replaced by the false memories of massive earthquakes and blistering infernos. Their individual lives and recovering from these catastrophes has occupied the majority of their time. Buildings have had to be rebuilt and deceased nobles have had to be replaced. However, life must and does go on. For those like myself that are privy to Alphatia's true history, the time since the sinking has seen us overseeing the recovery process. This not only includes repairing the physical damage; it also includes familiarising ourselves with this Hollow World and its attributes. Recovery is not a massive unified project. Recovery is focused on restoring Alphatia's prestige through the rebuilding of its majestic sky navy and similar endeavours. Even now, years since the sinking, there is still much damage about. But already we have a new and worthy capital rising in Alphas'ar at Andaire, just as we built Sundsvall after Landfall. Eventually these projects will be addressed. However, true Alphatians do not dwell on such gloomy matters, but rather keep their gaze elevated.