Atlas Rules Resources Adventures Stories FAQ Search Links
The Elven Principality of Belcadizby Jennifer Guerra
For a view of the fountain at the palace of Alhambra (104k), click here.
For a view of the courtyard at the palace of Alhambra (134k), click here.
For an external view of Castillo Monteleone (69k), click here.
Ruler (Titles): Carnelia de Belcadiz y Fedorias (Princesa de Belcadiz, Marquesa del Alhambra, Chamberlain of the Land, Vice-Queen of Monteleone)
Royal Family: Immediate family includes Doña Maria (daughter), Don Carlo (son-in-law), Don Miguelito (son), Don Sancho (son), Doña Leontina (mother), Don Diego (brother), Don Ricardo (brother); plus various distant relations (all of Clan Alhambra is somehow related).
Capital: Nuevo Alvar (New Alvar), population 5,000
Belcadiz is a temperate realm of rolling hills and dry, though not arid, soil. Conventional agriculture is thus difficult in this principality, but the elves have made the most of it, cultivating grapes, olives, and fruits. Belcadiz also encompasses a large stand of forest running to the Vesubia river valley; while the forest is protected by royal decree, the princess and her forebears have been known to sell small tracts of the tall oaks for lumber in tight economic times. The southern Colossus Mounts, which border the principality, have made those troubled times more rare in the past century, since the elves discovered (and maintained mines for) gold and silver there.
Imports: Grains, stone, wood, gems, textiles, perfume
Exports: Fine metalwork, precious metals, weapons, wine, olive oil, cured meats, lace, pottery, fruits
Perhaps because of the benign climate, the Belcadiz tend to get up later in the morning and stay out later at night than the rest of their Glantrian neighbours. Shops and businesses are usually open from 9 am to 1 pm, close until 4:30 or 5 pm for the siesta and then open again until 8 or 8:30 pm, although it has become more and more common for businesses to stay open through the traditional siesta hours. Business establishments are usually closed for a day-and-a-half per week, most often Loshdain afternoon and Soladain. In general, the nightlife in Belcadiz is quite intense, the bars and dance halls staying open long past midnight. In summer, they often stay open until at least 3 or 4 am. In Nuevo Alvar, there are many places that stay open until dawn, or later.
Visitors who can afford top-of-the-line accommodations may want to stay at the paradores. Paradores are a small group of government-run hostels, very popular among the Glantrian nobility because of their fine atmosphere and excellent Belcadiz hospitality. In many cases these are restored castles or other historic or scenic sites.
For the foreign merchant, or even the casual shopper, Belcadiz has a long tradition of making high quality leather goods, clothing, embroidery and lace, jewellery (especially gold and silver), blown glass and wonderful, unique pottery. Other items to look for include antiques, the famous porcelains, and musical instruments (Belcadiz guitarras are world famous).
The best way to get to know the inhabitants of Belcadiz is through their festivities. If there is something in the Belcadiz character that makes it stand out, it is their particular feeling for a feast and their way of celebrating it. There is hardly a free day during the year, and particularly much to choose from before and after harvest time. Each village has its own feast, whilst other cover the whole of the principality. A list of the most important festivals of the year:
Monster Hunt. The days leading up to the Glantri City Monster's Fair (Vatermont 14-18) are filled with hunts in the Belcadiz woods and hills for exotic creatures and raucous feasting afterwards.
Carnival. The carnival takes place around the Vernal Equinox, as it precedes the planting season. There are some celebrations in most towns and cities, if not a procession then an evenings entertainment in the municipal hall and the election of the "Carnival Queen." The Carnival at Fedorias is one of the most dazzling and elaborate of those celebrated in Belcadiz. Other outstanding Carnival celebrations are those at Rota, Vega, Medina, and Nuevo Alvar.
Semana de la Senora - also known (for wider, non-religious, Glantrian consumption, as Spring Fair) is the most outstanding celebration, with beautiful processions and images of venerated Immortals that are taken through the streets amid popular devotion. The different fraternities responsible for these processions in each town represent the social and professional sectors. The most outstanding holy week processions are in Nuevo Alvar, though the spectacle is worth seeing in any town or village.
Xeres Horse Fair. In Yarthmont, the town of Xeres holds its Horse Fair, where the best horses of the whole area are on show; Glantrian nobles from every principality are seen at the fair, bargaining for the finest elven steeds.
The Patio Contest (5th to 15th Yarthmont). A competition to find the best florally decorated private court yard in Nuevo Alvar.
The Rocío Pilgrimage. Towards the beginning of Klarmont, El Rocio pilgrimage each year assembles nearly one thousand people in a small hamlet where, since 280, an image of La Senora del Rocio (Lady of the Dew, believed to be an aspect of either Valerias or Calitha) has been venerated. Pilgrims on foot, on horseback or in carts and from all over Belcadiz transform the scenery of the area into a landscape full of colour and animation.
Summer Ferias. Every town and village in Belcadiz has its own feria, or fair. A traveller with much stamina could spend the summer following them. The 'day fair' takes place it the streets of the town itself. Tables and chairs are set up and the bars serve food and drink in the street, music plays from every corner. People of all ages sing and dance. Guests are always welcome. The night fair is usually in the recinto ferial just outside the town, with much the same activities, lasting late into the night.
Feria de Toros (Felmont 14). The Belcadiz release bulls into the streets of Nuevo Alvar and prove their bravery by running with them. Elves abroad in Glantri City spend the day partying and hunting down monsters in the city's canals.
Bullfighting. Year after year, art, festivity, ritual and technique meet, from Flaurmont to Sviftmont during the bullfighting season. The most important ones take place in spring, coinciding with the larger fairs. (See below for more detailed information on bullfighting.)
Grape Harvest. At the end of Fyrmont and beginning of Ambyrmont, when the grape harvest starts, there are feasts in all the wine-producing areas. The best known are those of Montilla and Xeres.
11th Eirmont is when pigs are traditionally slaughtered in rural towns. The feasts organised for the occasion are eminently gastronomic affairs.
Winter Solstice Eve is the quietest evening of the year in Belcadiz (aside from, in recent years, the eve of the Day of Dread). Even most of the bars are closed. It is an evening reserved for a family dinner and gift-giving among relatives and friends to commemorate the past year.
Verdiales Music Festival in Nuevo Alvar, on 26 Kaldmont. Musicians from local villages wearing a distinctive dress and unusual flowery headgear compete in a traditional music contest. (This festival, until AC 1010, was held on the evening of 27-28 Kaldmont, as a year's-end celebration.)
Bullfighting is certainly one of the best known Belcadiz popular customs. Bullfighting has a long history in Belcadiz culture, as bulls played an important part in the religious ceremonies of "Los Viajeros" (see the History of Clan Alhambra for details). The origins of the Plaza (bullring) probably are not the Oltec ball court/amphitheatres, but rather the Destrezan temples where those ceremonies of otherworldly origin were held. While the religious significance of the bull goes back to Los Viajeros, it was the later Eastern influences that converted it into a spectacle. During the fifth and sixth centuries it was customary for the aristocracy to torear on horse's back. This was called suerte de cañas. In 8th century this tradition was more or less abandoned and the poorer population invented the bullfight by foot. Romero de Belcadiz was a key-figure in laying the rules for that new sport.
To its fans, La Corrida is considered an art rather than a sport, about the passion and challenge of man fighting against beast. It is an archaic tradition that has survived as a monument to the strength and spirit of the Belcadiz.
A corrida starts with the paseillo, with everybody involved in the bullfight entering the ring and presenting themselves to the public. Two alguacilillos, on horseback, direct themselves to the highest-ranking official there and symbolically ask for the keys to the puerta de los toriles, the door leading to the bulls. When that door is opened and the first bull enters the ring, the spectacle starts. It consists of three parts, called tercios, separated by horn-signals. There are three toreros (bullfighters) in each corrida, and each will have to torear two bulls. In the first tercio the bullfighter uses the capote, a rather large cloth in bright purples and yellows.
The second part is known as la suerte de banderillas. Three banderilleros have to stick a pair of banderillas into the attacking bull's back.
In the final suerte suprema the bullfighter uses the muleta, a small red cloth. He has to show his finesse, his mastery of the bull, and establish a symbolic symbiosis between man and beast. The corrida finally ends with the torero killing the bull with his sword.
Flamenco is a genuine Belcadiz art. It exists in three forms: Cante, the song; Baile, the dance; and Guitarra, guitar playing. The Dom (who have always been welcome in Alhambra lands) are very often named as its fathers, and while this is not entirely true, it is certain that the Dom played an important part in flamenco's creation. But the popular songs and dances of elven culture have also influenced Flamenco considerably.
The first written reference to Flamenco appears in 474. Its cradle was most probably the place where, between 485 and 560, the first Flamenco-schools were created: Nuevo Alvar and the Dom-influence village of Triana. In this epoch Flamenco dance started to establish itself firmly as a staple of fashionable dance halls and festivals. Early Flamenco seems to have been purely vocal, accompanied only by rhythmical clapping of hands, or toque de palmas. It was left to dedicated composers to introduce guitarra to the style. During its Golden Age (650-720) Flamenco was developed in the capital's numerous music cafés (cafés cantantes) to its definitive form.
While Flamenco remains popular in Belcadiz to this day, most elves feel that the art's "heyday" has passed. Co-opted by foreign musicians, Flamenco has taken on a new, worldly, influence that traditionalists abhor. But the art, being such a part of Belcadiz life, will not die, but will instead likely enjoy a resurgence of popularity among elves desiring to "reclaim" it, after its popularity among humans has faded.
Food and Drink
by Eldram Henries, a traveller from Fenswick
Belcadiz food? Hmm...well, so few small Belcadiz towns have proper restaurants that are up to much anyway - what people do here when they want to eat out is order tapas. Tapas are the tasty tidbits you are always served free with each drink, one of the nicest things about travelling here! When you want to have a meal, you simply take a table and order a ración (portion) of the various tapas. Usually a few raciones plus a dish of salad and bread will do a hungry couple very nicely. The custom here is for everyone to eat from the same dishes by jabbing what they want, elven style, but if you ask for individual plates they'll be brought to you. Most taverns offer a variety of tapas, including sautéed mushrooms, marinated olives, fried fish, chunks of delicious domestic cheese, and sausages simmered in sherry. And then there are eggs. The Belcadiz eat a lot of eggs, but not boiled - they either fry them (huevos fritos) or make a tortilla, which is similar to an Averoignian omelette, with potato and onion. Ham is the great delicacy here, but not the cooked kind I was used to. The local cured variety is called jamón serrano, mountain-cured ham. Try a bit to see if you like it, it's delicious but takes getting used to; the elves like it on the pink, raw side, but in the cities you can get the more cured varieties. Ideally, jamón should be a little sweet, rather than salty. There are also several varieties of pork sausage, mainly chorizo (spicy and tender) and salchichón (drier and very similar to Caurenzian salami). Beef is something of a luxury here and called ternera, which means veal although real baby veal is unknown. You can get lamb chops in most eating places: chuletas de cordero. They mercilessly over-fry them, too much for my taste.
As for wines and beers, white wine is vino blanco, and red is vino tinto, and despite the popularity of whites in the rest of the Principalities, red is the way to go here in Belcadiz. The elves are known for their red wines, especially the fine, aged varieties, labelled as gran reservas. The elves don't usually drink sweet sherry, although it can be found. The favourite is the dry, pale variety, and if you want a glass just say un fino. Most restaurant-bars will prepare you a sangría, but a less sweet and much more refreshing drink is the very popular vino de verano (summer wine) which is simply cool water and red wine.
In these parts bars sink or swim here not on the quality of their drinks, but on the quality of their tapas, which should be hot, and different for every round of drinks. Listen to the barman shout to his wife in the kitchen: "Tres segundas" (three seconds) or "Cuatro primeras" (four firsts) - they have the various tapas of the day numbered so that you can have 5 or 6 drinks without getting the same thing to munch on.
Another of the great treats in Belcadiz - gotten anywhere, not just at tapas bars - is the pan con aceite. A roll is nicely toasted in two halves and then spread with crushed fresh tomato pulp and olive oil, and a light sprinkling of salt. It sounds terrible, but once you try it you never want anything else!