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Description of the Isle of Cestia:by Geoff Gander
This article will describe the various major towns and cities that are visible on the maps of the Isles of Cestia, Oceania, and Everfeed. The use the information below, just locate a numbered dot on the map, and find the same number below, where you will find general information about that settlement.
The land known by many as the Isle of Cestia is an ancient and mysterious place. Far from being a disease-ridden jungle infested with savages, Cestia is the home of four sophisticated nations, from the northernmost nation clockwise they are: Morovoay, Ambiroa, Manakara, and Androkia in the south. Of these four, Manakara and Androkia span the southern two-thirds of the island from east to west. The remaining two, Morovoay and Ambiroa, divide the northern third of Cestia along a north-south line.
Of these four nations, only one of them, Androkia, is peopled by those of Neathar descent; the inhabitants of the other three are of Oltec stock. Of these four nations, Androkia is also the oldest, being a remnant of the lost nation of Varellya, which centred on what is now the Vulture Peninsula, many miles to the south, across the Gulf of Mar. More information on this will be presented in the history section below. The other three nations were founded by the descendants of Oltec refugees from the island of Oceania, who had fled to Cestia during times of trouble in the distant past.
The vegetation present on the Isle of Cestia is typical of that found in tropical regions. Along the coasts one finds palm trees growing along sandy beaches in drier areas of the island, and in swampy regions mangroves line the murky shores, their roots intertwining like a maze. Towards the south, in Androkia, the forests give way to grasslands, and here one finds scattered marshlands mixed with tall grasses. Towards the interior, the foliage becomes more dense as trees and bushes take over; much of Cestia's interior is taken up by lush tropical rainforests. In the foothills of the mountains the canopy thins out, and mixed grasses and shrubs take over. These continue up the slopes for hundreds of feet, until only grasses remain, and these thin out long before the snow-capped peaks draw near. Also present on the island are numerous forms of exotic plants, such as amber lotus flowers, grab grass, strangle vines, and treants.
The Isle of Cestia is tropical, lying very close to Mystara's equator. Daytime temperatures range from as high as 40 degrees Celsius during the day, and can go as low as 20 degrees Celsius at night. Due to its closeness to the equator, and the ubiquitous presence of humid tropical winds from the southeast and west, there is very little seasonal variation in terms of temperature; the winter months have average temperatures anywhere from two to seven degrees Celsius lower than those during the summer months. Also because of these winds, Cestia is very humid and wet - rainstorms are a common occurrence, and often provide some relief from the temperatures and humidity. The only exception to these norms are the southern plains, which are occupied by Androkia. Here, the climate is drier, but just as hot as elsewhere on the island.
Cestia is home to a large variety of animals, most of which may be found in other tropical regions of Mystara. It is home to all varieties of tropical birds, including more exotic ones such as giant eagles, hawks, and rocs. One can also find alligators, wild boars, jaguars, tigers, hippopotamus, snakes of every kind, gorillas, chimpanzees, termites, and turtles. Among the rarer creatures that can be encountered on the island are aranea, gator men, lizard men, mugumba mud-dwellers, and primitive tribes of rakasta. The mountainous uplands near Cestia's centre are known to be the home of a large family of green dragons, as well as griffons and harpies.
Many ancient cultures have occupied the lands of Cestia over the course of history, most of whom have long since vanished. Among the more recent are various lizard man kingdoms, the Varellyans, and the four modern Cestian kingdoms. Before the Great Rain of Fire, the Isle of Cestia was a peninsula, connected to eastern Davania by a narrow, rocky land bridge, which was filled with hills, passes, and valleys. This land bridge was shattered during the cataclysm of BC 3000, and it sank into what is now the Pass of Cestia. Even so, the waters in this area are considerably shallower than those towards the north or south, and pose a threat to unwary sailors.
In the years immediately preceding the Great Rain of Fire, several primitive lizard man kingdoms flourished in the region. Though they spent a great deal of time warring upon each other, a balance was maintained. This ended during the upheavals following the Blackmoor disaster, as the shift in the planet's axis changed the climate considerably, making it impossible for the scattered kingdoms to maintain their civilisations. When the first human settlers arrived in that time, they found no trace of these kingdoms, save for isolated groups of lizard man tribes, whom they ignored.
The first postcataclysmic settlers of Cestia were the Varellyans. The great Varellyan adventurer, Androk Thran, discovered the island circa BC 1500. Not long afterwards, the city of Androkia was built in his honour, and soon afterwards the entire island was given that name, as a full province of Varellya. Androkia was a vitally important part of Varellya. It supplied the growing empire with both common and exotic wood, precious metals, fish, and food from its many farms along the southern and eastern coasts. During Varellya's zenith, circa BC 1400 - BC 1200, Androkia was the wealthiest province in the empire.
The decline of Varellya began around BC 1200, when Oltec inhabitants of the nearby island of Oceania, with whom the Varellyans traded, began to migrate to Androkia. They spread tales of fearsome "Night Dragons", which destroyed their cities and ravaged the countryside. They were accepted into Varellyan society, but they did not abandon their culture or their traditions, and the Oceanians tended to live in their own neighbourhoods. As the centuries passed, and Varellya sank ever further into decadence, the people of Androkia decided that they should sever ties with the rest of the empire, and go their own way in order to preserve themselves. As a result, in AC 126 Androkia declared independence, which it won in AC 159, after a bloody civil war.
Although Androkia had won independence, conservative elements of the Varellyan population of the island noted that, over the past thousand years, the Oceanians, being more prolific, now comprised almost half of the new nation's population. While they did not see this as a problem when Androkia was part of the larger Varellyan Empire, they began to feel as though they would soon be outnumbered. These conservatives began a campaign to incite hatred against the Oceanians, telling Varellyans that their darker-skinned neighbours did not fight as hard for independence, that they were plotting to take over Androkia, and that they had no respect for Varellyan culture. Within decades, Androkia collapsed into a bitter civil war, which resulted, by AC 219, in the beginning of a Dark Age for Androkia. Of the nearly two million inhabitants on the island, less than 400,000 remained, and almost every town and city lay in ruins. Varellya could not send aid, as it was too busy entering its own death throes as an empire.
By AC 450, some semblance of civilisation had returned to Androkia, and from the ashes four kingdoms had been formed: Androkia in the far south, comprised of the remaining Varellyan inhabitants; Manakara along the middle, a prosperous Oltec kingdom; Ambiroa towards the northeast; and Morovoay along the northwestern coast. An uneasy truce exists among these nations to this day, though it is frequently broken by border wars. By the time the four nations were formed, most inhabitants called the island "Satosya", a Varellyan word meaning "Land of Strife". Explorers from Thyatis came across the island in AC 679, and, after learning of the island's name, pronounced it as "Cestia". This the name used among most nations of the Known World today.
The Nations of Cestia:
Cestia, with over 1.6 million inhabitants and measuring over half a million square miles, is divided into four nations: Morovoay, Ambiroa, Manakara, and Androkia. Each of these is described briefly below:
Area: Approx. 125,720 sq. mi.
Population: 250,000 humans; 5,000 lizard men
Languages: Cestian (Morovoayan dialect)
Coinage: None, barter is the method of commerce
Government Type: Monarchy (tribal chieftains have a great deal of autonomy)
Industries: Agriculture (tropical fruits and vegetables), some fishing, hunting (primarily wild boars, but also crocodiles, alligators, and deer)
Important Figures: King Korbaka (human male), Queen Umay (human female)
Description: Morovoay is a long, thin nation, stretching along the northwestern coast of Cestia. Much of its territory is taken up by the jungles that cover much of the island, but overall its terrain slopes up gently from the coast, and then quickly becomes very hilly. Hundreds of tiny rivers cut through the nation, providing Morovoay with well-irrigated soils. So productive are the soils that most farmers can get two, or even three, yields annually.
Morovoay's main industries are agriculture, fishing, and hunting. Essentially a society of farmers and hunters, it has no real wish to deal with the other nations. Most of the people here live out their lives in relative comfort, never far from the jungles that feed them. As a neutral nation, Morovoay is at war only with those nations that have attacked it. Hence, it is at war with Ambiroa, with whom it has numerous territorial disputes, and Androkia. The inhabitants of this nation are of Oceanian (Oltec) stock, and have coppery skin and dark hair. Morovoay's main Immortals are Vaati (Vanya), Isonara (Ixion), and Tamarepna (Ordana).
Area: Approx. 80,820 sq. mi.
Population: 230,000 humans; 1,500 aranea
Languages: Cestian (Ambiroan dialect)
Coinage: None, barter is the method of commerce
Government Type: Monarchy
Industries: Agriculture (mainly corn, but other vegetables present), fishing, hunting, shipbuilding, war
Important Figures: King Orkanajee (devil swine)
Description: Ambiroa lies on the northeastern coast of Cestia, and it is centred on Nakar Bay. The smallest of the Cestian nations, Ambiroa was left with the poorest land when the nations were forming. Although rich by Known World standards, Ambiroa's agricultural yields are nowhere near as great as Morovoay's. Ambiroa's main resource is its fisheries. The waters of Nakar Bay are filled with fish of all sorts, and the sands at the bottom are dotted with oysters, providing for a healthy supply of pearls.
Ambiroa also has bountiful hardwood forests, which the Ambiroans use for shipbuilding. Among the Cestian nations, the Ambiroans are the best seafarers, having maintained their sailing techniques from the days when their Oceanian ancestors migrated to Cestia. Some of their larger ships are comparable to those of the Known World in terms of hull strength and size. Since it has fewer resources than its neighbours, Ambiroa has long coveted the lands of Morovoay and Manakara, and has on occasion raided the coastal towns and villages of the other two, as well as Androkia. In these raids, the Ambiroans also take slaves, whom they put to work on their farms, and eat on occasion. Ambiroa has also fought numerous border wars with Morovoay, in the hopes of securing vast swaths of prime agricultural land. To date, these invasions have failed. The Immortals worshipped in Ambiroa are Akka-Maa (Atzanteotl) and Vaathana (Wogar).
Area: Approx. 215,520 sq. mi
Population: 650,000 humans; 8,000 lizard men; 2,000 gator men
Languages: Cestian (Manakaran dialect); lizard men dialects also common in rural areas
Coinage: Wara (gp), Kosaah (sp), Burusi (cp)
Government Type: Monarchy
Industries: Agriculture (primarily corn and rice, other vegetables common), fishing, herding (mainly pigs, but also some cattle), mining
Important Figures: King Mananjary (human male)
Description: Manakara is the largest Cestian nation, and it is also the most advanced of them all. It occupies the largest share of the Cestian Range, the mountain range in the northern part of Cestia, and has rich deposits of diamonds, silver, and platinum. Much of Manakara is covered by dense jungle, though there are several large cities scattered throughout. Large numbers of fish also swim in its coastal waters.
What sets Manakara apart is the fact that, unlike its neighbours, it has managed to preserve some Oceanian magic, which is largely of a defensive and elemental nature. As a result, although it has frequent wars with Ambiroa and Androkia, its mages have been able to hold off the opposing armies, even when the enemy outnumbered the defenders. Manakara's magical knowledge was enhanced even more when Haldemar voyaged to the capital city of Tulear in AC 965. Mages from both groups exchanged some of their knowledge during the visit. Generally, the people of Manakara are peaceful, content to live off the land and trade with their peaceful neighbour, Morovoay. As tales circulate about nations on Davania, an ever increasing number of Manakarans are starting to sail further afield, in the hopes of discovering more of their world. The Immortals worshipped by the Manakarans are Alfasha (Alphatia, introduced during the Alphatian visit) and Tamarepna (Ordana).
Area: Approx. 130,210 sq. mi.
Population: 500,000 humans; 2,000 aranea
Languages: Androkian (related to Varellyan)
Coinage: Currency used consists of old Varellyan coins scavenged from ruins, in gp, sp, and cp denominations.
Government Type: Theocracy (leading clerics rule as a council)
Industries: Agriculture (primarily grains), fishing, herding (primarily cattle), mining
Important Figures: None known
Description: Of the four Cestian nations, Androkia is unique in that its people are of Varellyan stock, being fair-skinned and dark-haired. Most Androkians subsist on farming and herding, and those living along the coasts make a living from the bountiful seas. The soils are fair, and there is an abundance of animal life, allowing the Androkians to live quite well. A large potion of the Androkian Range, the southern mountains of Cestia, lies within this nation's borders, rich with gold deposits.
Androkia is also unique among these four nations in that it is not a kingdom, but a theocracy. An elite clique of powerful clerics rules this nation, and they pronounce daily what the populace is to think and do. Although few people actively follow the rulings of the clerics, centuries of being ruled by them has left its mark on the people. Many Androkians are highly xenophobic, and would sooner attack a Cestian of Oceanian descent than talk to one. As a result, Androkia is at war with all the other nations on the island. The clerics are dedicated to resurrecting the Varellyan Empire, which they believe was the pinnacle of civilisation, although it was not centred on the worship of those Immortals they venerate today, as they seem to think. In fact, little lore from Varellya has been preserved in Androkia, leaving the people with a mixture of myths and propaganda as a basis for their nationhood. The Immortals worshipped officially in Androkia are Akka-Maa (Atzanteotl) and Thamarassa (Akhor-Kh'a), although many villagers privately venerate Tamarepna (Ordana), and Vaati (Vanya).
Descriptions of Settlements on Cestia:
1. Tulear (pop. 12,000): Tulear is the capital city of the central Cestian kingdom of Manakara. Nestled in jungle-cloaked hills, Tulear is almost impossible to see from above, carefully concealed as it is with foliage and camouflage measures, and buttressed by formidable walls. It was established circa AC 200, originally as the meeting place of local Oltec leaders. Frequent, and devastating, Night Dragon raids in that period forced the various clans of the region to band together in order to survive. To lead them through those tough times, a king was nominated to guide them, but over time that role became formalised, while the role of the individual clan leaders was reduced. It was then decided that Manakara should be a kingdom, with Tulear as its capital. Since then, Tulear has grown into a prosperous city, filled with artisans, smiths, weavers, leatherworkers, and miners from the nearby hills. Rich deposits of gold and rubies have added to the city's wealth, as well as made it a target for Androkian and Ambiroan raids. It is near here that the River Kera finds its source - the quickest means of reaching Mahajanga on the coast.
2. Mahajanga (pop. 7,000): Also known as Manakara's "second city", Mahajanga is the kingdom's largest port. Founded in AC 480 on the ruins of the Varellyan port city of Saram, Mahajanga has long served as the primary eastern port of Manakara, as well as Tulear's gateway to the sea, by way of the River Kera. Originally unfortified, Mahajanga relied on the use of camouflage and magic to deceive raiding Night Dragons whenever they flew nearby, but a devastating Ambiroan raid in AC 716, in which almost one-third of the populace was taken away to be enslaved, forced the locals to reassess this idea. Now, Mahajanga has formidable stone walls, disguised from above with shrubs, large boulders, and the like, to foil future raids, of which there were many. Most of the inhabitants make their living from fishing, farming, and mining gold in the nearby hills. Recently discovered veins of silver and iron have also led to the growth in the number of smithies, as well.
3. Ankavandra (pop. 5,500): Lying only a few miles from the Ambiroan border, Ankavandra is a large, well-defended port town. When it was founded in AC 370 on the ruins of the Varellyan port of Vorondor, the builders ensured that it would be well-protected from all forms of invaders, whether human or not. During those years, Night Dragons plagued eastern Cestia, and in order to better disguise the city, its walls and were cleverly built to resemble natural cliffs and crags, and a great deal of plant cover was used as well. These precautions did not prevent invasion, however; in AC 715, an Ambiroan army punched through defences to conquer Ankavandra, which then endured a 40-year occupation. The people of Ankavandra vowed that this would never happen again, and as a result magical defences have been added. Most of the people living here either serve in the Manakaran navy, which operates a base here, hunt for oysters in the shallow beds offshore, or till the fields inland.
4. Tsirampany (pop. 2,700): Founded circa AC 320 on the ruins of a large Varellyan naval base, Tsirampany has long been a centre of fishing agriculture, and shipbuilding. It is here, on stone quays built by the Varellyans long ago, that Ambiroa's warships are constructed. This town also houses a large portion of Ambiroa's armies, who live outside the stone walls protecting the townsfolk from land- and sea-based attacks. Unfortunately, Tsirampany lies on a barren stretch of coastline; no large trees can be grown here. As a result, there is little the town can do to defend itself against Night Dragon raids, when they occur.
5. Andazaka (pop. 8,800): The capital of Ambiroa, Andazaka occupies a narrow spit of land jutting into Nakar Bay. So large has the town grown that entire suburbs have been built upon stilts and platforms, jutting far into the bay itself. Founded in AC 190 on the half-sunken ruins of the Varellyan city of Arondan (destroyed by an earthquake in BC 67), Andazaka was originally a meeting place of the Oltec tribal chieftains who would forge the nation of Ambiroa. It was one of those chiefs, the ancestor of King Orkanajee, who murdered his political opponents, and forced the other tribes to submit to his authority. Today, Andazaka is a lively centre of oyster hunting and fishing, as well as the crafting of pearls and gems found in nearby ruins. Being the capital of a nation with many enemies, Andazaka is also heavily fortified, having submerged spikes and chains at regular intervals, an imposing gated wooden palisade blocking off access from the mainland, as well as keeping large tanks of salt-water carnivorous fish, which are sometimes released to "finish off" drowning opponents. Andazaka also has Ambiroa's largest slave market, where prisoners of war are sold to the highest bidder. Those deemed unsatisfactory are either eaten, or fed to the fish as entertainment.
6. Tolaira (pop. 3,800): A port town of middling size, Tolaira houses a large portion of the Morovoayan navy. Unlike Matirako, which many consider to be its sister town, Tolaira has little in the way of commerce and wealth. Since its founding circa AC 650, Tolaira has been the frontier with Ambiroa, and the first Morovoayan settlement to feel that kingdom's wrath whenever a conflict erupts. There is a distinct demeanour among the people here, as though they know that the next Ambiroan raid will happen before long, and once more they will have to fight for their lives, or flee. This town is on the traditional invasion route of Ambiroa, and it was briefly ruled by that kingdom for a time (AC 910 - 922), and the people remember the brutality of the Ambiroan occupation. Most of the people here make a living from fishing, farming, or producing textiles.
7. Amanara (pop. 1,700): This medium-sized town is a regional hub in Morovoay's domestic trade. The modern settlement was founded circa AC 860 by farmers and fishermen, ranging further from their home villages, but it is built atop the foundations of an older settlement, the Varellyan city of Astarr. Astarr was a great port city, with over 50,000 people within its walls. Ships laden with rare spices and other goods from foreign realms regularly docked here, adding to this city's already tremendous wealth. Those days ended when Astarr was destroyed in AC 217, during the civil war which all but obliterated culture on this island. Today, the Oltec inhabitants of Amanara go about their daily lives, unaware of what lay beneath the foundations of their buildings. Visitors will find little of interest here, unless they wish to trade in the local market, where they can obtain locally-grown foods and fresh fish, as well as simple artwork and other crafts.
8. Matirako (pop. 2,200): This large port town is the main hub of commerce in southern Morovoay, as well as the main destination of Manakaran traders. The town was founded around AC 690, but only recently has it become important, due to increased trade between Morovoay and its southern neighbour. Its shops are known throughout northwestern Cestia as being places where the most precious, and the rarest, goods may be found. Because of its importance, Matirako is home to a large portion of the Morovoayan navy, and as a result has docking facilities much larger than its population warrants.
9. Ambastalasha (pop. 3,900): Ambastalasha is Manakara's largest western port; all goods destined for or coming from the Davanian mainland arrive here first, before anything else is done. As a result of its importance, this town is heavily fortified, with imposing stone walls surrounding it on land, and an intricate array of submerged stakes and chains guarding it from the sea. Since its founding circa AC 400, Ambastalasha has been a meeting place for Manakaran and Morovoayan traders, where their wares could be exchanged in safety. Here one can find goods produced by these two nations in large amounts, though the Ambastalashan merchants are notorious throughout Cestia for driving hard bargains.
10. Kart-Hadasht (pop. 8,300): In its heyday, circa BC 100, Kart-Hadasht was a great port city, home to over 100,000 people. It was the main exit point for people leaving for the Varellyan mainland, as well as the primary gateway to Cestia. That golden era ended in AC 208, when the city fell to one of the warring ethnic Varellyan factions struggling to control southern Cestia, bringing Kart-Hadasht's 400 year history to an end. It was not until AC 373 that anyone returned to the city to resettle it, and even then Kart-Hadasht did not grow beyond being a coastal fishing village until AC 620. Today, Kart-Hadasht is once more a growing port. Much of the old city has been reclaimed from the wilderness, though many ancient suburbs and satellite villages remain forgotten. There is a bustling local market here, where passers-by can purchase many different kinds of freshly-caught fish, as well as locally-grown vegetables. Kart-Hadasht is also the place where the more moderate Androkians can be found, due to limited contacts with various cultures on the Davanian mainland. As such, it is here where those opposed to the theocracy gather, planning a strategy to take control of the nation.
11. Gades (pop. 6,500): A mining and agricultural town since its founding in BC 400, Gades served for many years as one of the larger rest stops on the Great Road, a massive paved road that stretched north-south along Androkia when it was part of the Varellyan Empire. It was never a place of prominence during the height of Varellyan power, but during the civil wars which racked the island following Androkia's independence, it served as a bastion of Varellyan power in the face of the numerous Oltec forces. No less than five times was it unsuccessfully assaulted, and as a result it is among the few settlements that did not require extensive reconstruction. Today, it is once more a town of miners and farmers, supplying Androkia's coffers with gold and silver. The people of Gades are very xenophobic, refusing to deal with anyone who is not of Varellyan stock.
12. Mogador (pop. 11,200): Founded as the town of Androkia in BC 1500, Mogador is the site of the oldest modern settlement on Cestia. As Androkia grew into a mighty city, as well as a provincial capital, the local rulers gradually began to see themselves as the equals of their masters in Varellya proper. This pride and rivalry with the mainland was also a contributing factor to the civil war, and the genocidal policies pursued against the Oltec community was also driven by Androkia's leaders. The city's role as a crossroads of commerce and history ended with the fateful sack of Androkia in AC 207, which razed the city to its foundations. In AC 321, the surviving Varellyan inhabitants of Cestia decided to form their own nation once more, under the guidance of senior clerics of the various faiths practiced at that time. Androkia, as the former capital of the province, would be the capital of their land once more, but it was named "Mogador" - a means of severing ties with a past that was seen as decadent. Today, Mogador is growing slowly as a capital and port city, but compared to its ancient glory, it is but the merest shadow of its former self.