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BLACKHEART (Kingdom of)
Location: Northwest centre of the floating continent of Alphatia, south of Frisland, east of the Kerothar Mountains, west of Alphas'ar and north of Shiye-Lawr. HW
Area: 74,326 sq. mi. (192,505 sq. km.).
Population: 45,000, including Shraek (pop. 15,000). [Population figures are tentative, pending census. Ed.]
Languages: Alphatian (Arogansan dialect).
Coinage: Alphatian Standard: crown (gp), mirror (sp), judge (cp). Blackheart sees no need to mint coins. Indeed, Blackheart mints no coins of its own, but rather accepts the coins of other Alphatian kingdoms.
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. Payment of taxes and fees by the mages, including the "tower tax" (which actually applies to all types of structures built by the various wizards) insures that the kingdom will stay out of their affairs and leave them alone. Those who fail to pay often receive unwelcome visits. There are also tolls to enter Shraek, as well as surtaxes on all transactions conducted in that city.
Government Type: Monarchy, member of the Alphatian Empire.
Industries: Magical research, privacy, herbs.
Important Figures: Belgoroth the Lamer (King, human, male, C14).
Flora and Fauna: See Alphatia.
Further Reading: Dawn of the Emperor boxed set, previous almanacs.
Description by Zweibelterm.
Blackheart is another fine example of the variation within stability that the Alphatian system provides for. I am told that in some lands Blackheart is considered a dark pit of wickedness, but I can assure you that Blackheart is as friendly as any other Alphatian kingdom. Blackheart is home to wizards who come here to build laboratories away from meddlesome eyes, allowing them to practice magics not considered fashionable elsewhere. Here, by custom, each aristocrat's estate is run like its own nation, with its own laws, keeping supervision over its own subordinates. The King, Belgoroth, only intervenes if the wizards become too destructive, but even then wide latitude is permitted. Blackheart truly exemplifies the freedoms of the aristocracy, as they may have as many liberties and rights as they can gain by magic, without restriction or imposition except by someone who proves himself superior through his own innate force.
As a result, the kingdom is dotted with labs, wizard's towers, hidden underground laboratories, and has become a critical centre of magical research in Alphatia, a realm at the forefront of the pursuit of magical excellence. This shows just what true freedom for those who can benefit from it can bring to a society. While the subjects of many of these experiments are not volunteers, of course, everyone recognises the benefit of these researches in the advancement of magical knowledge. If there is one danger in Blackheart, it is the forests, which are filled with failed experiments expelled from estates by wizards and escapees. None the less, Blackheart is a most popular place for reclusive Alphatian spellcasters to live.
Blackheart has one major settlement, Shraek, a foreboding and imposing city warded by a curtain of black obsidian more awesome than anything the pitiful Azcans can dream of. Here is where the king presides, and where meetings and exchanges take place. [Though Zweibelterm seems to like this place, I find it a lot more ominous. Where Arogansa is an unfortunate example of what Alphatia can be, Blackheart is really a stain of shame upon the empire, where wizards can capture and experiment on innocents with impunity, even supported by the nation's authorities. I value the pursuit of magic as much as the next Alphatian, but here the effort goes too far even for me, and I know that many other Alphatians feel the same way though most hesitate to express that opinion in public. Freedom and liberty to pursue the studies of magic are fine ideals, but just as often, if indeed not more so, Blackheart seems to be place where that right is violated as often as it is followed, and it is a place where a philosophy of "might is right" seems to flourish. I'm not at all surprised that the Shiye-Lawr elves to the south have strong feelings against this nation. I'd recommend anyone to stay well clear of this place or you could end up being the next experiment of one the wizards who live here... or the dinner of one of those experiments- possibly even a horrible one that failed and was then let loose to roam the forest. Aritmanes.]
I would actually caution to most readers that Blackheart is the one kingdom in Alphatia that should be avoided. But if you do visit, Shraek is certainly the site you should see. It is unlike most Alphatian cities in that it is dark and gloomy rather than shinning and beautiful. You will need a guide, as by order of the king the city's streets are twisted and winding, crossing and re-crossing each other. Buildings are built wherever there is room, with disturbing fashions of architecture. The population of Shraek consists mostly of those operating its businesses (hidden libraries that charge steep fees for admission, taverns, inns, discrete meeting halls, alchemist and poisoner's shops, zzonga dens by the score, sages offices, and a very busy crematorium for disposal of the bodies of the recently deceased) and mercenary adventurers.
Most of Blackheart if you're uninvited. The inhabitants come here for seclusion, and tend not to like people wandering around their lands without leave. Elves especially should exercise caution here, as they are often harassed due to the traditional friction between Shiye-Lawr and Blackheart. You should also take care in the Ugly Wood, as it is known to have dangerous monsters wandering therein which beset the unwary and unprepared.