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The Kingdom of Floating Arby Geoff Gander
Ruler: King Qissling (MU 28, N): Although acknowledged throughout Floating Ar, and the rest of Alphatia, as the king, Qissling is really a monarch in name only. Heir to a dynasty that stretches back to AY 1100, Qissling is the last direct descendant of his line, and, with no children, or interest in them whatsoever, that line will likely die with him. Qissling has no real leadership or social skills; his passion (or what passes for it) lies only with deepening his knowledge in the more obscure aspects of air magic. His is very pale-skinned for a common Alphatian (he hardly ever leaves his laboratory), and, in those rare moments when he does speak with other people, he appears to be having an entirely different conversation - unless the subject is air magics, in which case he is completely focused. Consequently, the actual business of running the kingdom falls to Qissling's numerous advisers, as well as his distant cousin and probable heir, Qirklin.
Familiar quote: "Social interaction? Tried it once; couldn't see what all the fuss was about."
Qirklin of Skyvale (C 20 of Valerias, L): Qirklin is the heir to the throne of Floating Ar, being a distant cousin of the current king, Qissling. He currently rules the floating island of Skyvale, which is the traditional seat of the Aran royal line. A devoted cleric of Valerias, Qirklin is amused by, and embraces, the frailties of mortals - strong emotions are, in his view, what animate people, and lead them to perform the greatest deeds and most horrible crimes. Something of an amateur philosopher, Qirklin can discuss this topic for hours on end with anyone who will listen (many do, but mainly out of politeness). He is a tolerant man, and he does, like his patron Immortal, give in to his passions and impulses - he is very fond of games, duelling, and romance (he has sired many children with numerous lovers, many of whom he has chosen to acknowledge as his own). Unlike the king, Qirklin is a very observant man, and has, in fact, quietly taken up many of the duties inherent in ruling the kingdom.
Familiar quote: "Nothing moves one so much as passion, yet it often brings about one's downfall. Valerias works in wondrous ways!"
Felldorian of Haaken (MU 10, C): Felldorian is the younger brother of Haldemar, the renowned prince who commands the famous skyship, the Princess Ark. The likeness between the two men is almost incredible - Felldorian can be distinguished from his brother by his jet-black hair (he lacks Haldemar's white streak), and his slightly shorter stature (he is 5' tall). Having grown up in his older brother's shadow, Felldorian is eager to prove himself to his family, and he spends much of his time experimenting with new skyship designs - all in the pursuit of a skyship that is faster and more manoeuvrable than anything else in the skies, which, he hopes, will help him make a name for himself. Unbeknownst to him, he has already acquired a name of sorts, "The Sky Terror", among the elite of Floating Ar, owing to his habit of "buzzing" other skyships while flying his latest designs.
Familiar quote: "Watch out! Coming through!!"
Haldemar of Haaken (MU 21, C): Aside from Ar himself, Haldemar is probably the most famous person to come from this kingdom. His exploits as captain of the Princess Ark are almost legendary in many Alphatian circles, and some of the younger skyship captains look to him as a source of inspiration. Although seldom seen in the kingdom, Haldemar has been known to appear at social gatherings hosted by the more influential aristocratic families.
Familiar quote: "Does adventure ever truly end on Mystara?"
Tanaran Keltander (F 7, N): Tanaran, a member of the kingdom's pegataur minority, is the general of the Aran army. By no means the most experienced soldier, Tanaran is nonetheless devoted to his kingdom, and he has proven himself to be a motivated individual who strives to get things done - a quality the king values, as Qinn would like his army to be more effective. There are some elements of Aran society, however, who see the general as an outsider appointed to watch over and control the kingdom's levies of low-class dregs - a job no one else wants. Such views are expressed behind the king's back, but most Aran aristocrats are aware of them, and prefer to stay silent on the matter. Tanaran is a distant cousin of Santarian Keltander of Serraine.
Familiar quote: "What one man sees as insignificant or deteriorated, I see as having potential for growth."
Floating Ar is unique among the Alphatian kingdoms, in that it was created as a means to advance its king's goal of attaining Immortality. To understand how the Arans think, it is necessary to understand their history. The founder of the realm, Ar, pursued the Path of the Paragon, which required that the seeker of Immortality changed the land around them, as a show of their power and influence. This Ar accomplished handily, and soon after completing his feat, around AY 250, he became an Immortal of the Sphere of Energy. His successors lived on, perpetuating a dynasty that lasted another 850 years. The last of the old kings of Floating Ar, Rykoth, was killed by Argonathian spies during a minor skirmish with that nation.
In the early years of the kingdom, the entire population lived on floating islands, primarily because Ar deemed that it should be so, but also because, in AY 500, the rise of Argonath rendered the lands below unsafe. For centuries, Floating Ar remained neutral in the numerous conflicts during those early years, but eventually sided with Alphatia when it became clear that it could gain lands from Argonath by doing so. Floating Ar was formally tied to the empire around AY 1000, and gained its first surface-level territories in AY 1013. By AY 1216, with the partition of the fallen kingdom of Assambura (formerly eastern Argonath), Floating Ar assumed its presented borders.
The vast majority of Floating Ar's population remained on the islands until only recently. The old policy was maintained to ensure that the slaves and servants would remain dependent upon the aristocracy for imported food and other essential goods (some islands were used for agriculture, but the yields were never sufficient to feed the entire population). In AY 1908, King Qillum decreed that, outside of areas currently urbanised, all floating islands within the kingdom's borders would be set aside for the personal use and enjoyment of the aristocracy, while the lands on the surface would be opened up for settlement and cultivation. This move was intended both to make Floating Ar self-sufficient, and to maintain distance between the aristocracy and the commoners. Within 20 years, thousands of slaves and servants had moved to the surface, founding the town of Reer, and turning Ceafem, Arreghi, Ailpon, and Skyreach Town into the thriving towns they are today.
This history has contributed to the unique mindset of the Arans today. Commoners in Floating Ar are not abused as they might be in other Alphatian kingdoms; instead, they are largely ignored by the aristocracy. When they are thought of at all, commoners are seen in much the same way as one might view a tool - useful, necessary in many ways, but not something to which one pays any real attention. Likewise, many Aran commoners do not think much about the affairs of the aristocrats above them - they do as they are told, and aside from that, keep to themselves. These attitudes are largely a product of the separation of the classes from each other, and, historically, of the high levels of control exercised by the aristocracy. When the commoners were living on the floating islands, they were punished for disobedience by being thrown to their deaths. As such, stuck high in the air as they were, the commoners' very lives depended upon staying in their masters' good graces, whereas the aristocrats were free to treat their slaves and servants in whatever way they wished. Now that most commoners live on the ground, there is relatively little contact between the classes - orders are passed down, and tax money and other goods are passed up. It is not unnatural for aristocrats to spend their entire lives on the floating islands, without ever setting foot on the surface, and for commoners to go through life without ever seeing an aristocrat. Thus, it might be said that there are two kingdoms of Floating Ar - the upper and the lower.
Owing to its nature, the landmarks of the kingdom are its assorted floating islands, which range in size from a small house to several miles in diameter. All told, roughly 50,000 people live on the floating islands, of which the most notable ones, mainly those more than a mile or so in diameter, are listed below:
1. Ambelethmir (approx. 15 sq. mi.): This roughly crescent-shaped floating island is covered with verdant grasslands, broken by the occasional stand of oak, maple, and apple trees. It is home to an ancient Aran family descended from a wizard named Ambel, who was one of Ar's apprentices. The only structures of note here are the family estate, and the homes of favoured servant families, many of whom have worked here for centuries tending the family apple orchards. In total, there are roughly 160 people living here. The House of Ambel is notorious for its low tolerance for unexpected guests.
2. Dordellen (approx. 10 sq. mi.): This floating island is cylindrical in shape, and possesses a fairly wide range of terrain features, including hills, forests, streams, and plains - some of which were sculpted by magic. Dordellen is uninhabited, save for a wide variety of birds, fish, and other animals - all of which are creatures native to the Alphatian continent. It was "created" in AY 1757 by Rehallen of Dafe, a mage from the kingdom of Haven who had developed a strong admiration for, as she called it, "Nature's palette". Her vocal opposition to the destruction of pristine wilderness around Aasla (to make room for a series of themed palaces and manicured gardens) forced her to seek exile in Floating Ar. So grateful was Rehallen for the offer of sanctuary in Skyreach, she offered to create a veritable sky island of paradise for King Qisst, as a monument to his generosity and kindness. Until that time, Dordellen had been covered with orchards and servants' huts, but after the king gave his approval, the inhabitants were forced down to the surface, and Rehallen restored the island to its original wilderness state - with the addition of a few "enhancements" (such as cutting additional streams and raising more hills) to increase the variety of terrain types. She then imported animals from all over the Alphatian continent to populate it. Since that time, Dordellen has remained a private nature preserve owned by the ruling family, strictly for the enjoyment of the aristocracy, although in more recent years the kings of Floating Ar have begun to hunt there for recreation.
3. Haaken (approx. 8 sq. mi.): The roughly circular, floating island of Haaken is home to the well-known aristocratic family that produced Haldemar, the famed explorer and captain of the Princess Ark, and his less well-known brother Felldorian, the aptly-named "Sky Terror". Covered for the most part by rolling, lightly forested hills and scattered streams and tiny lakes, Haaken is largely pristine. The only structures of note are the family estate itself, situated atop a large hill, and the small village, named Colbin, that lies beneath it. All told, about 100 people live here, most of whom are employed by Haldemar's family in various capacities.
4. Jordamur, Greater (approx. 15 sq. mi.): Greater Jordamur is a roughly oval-shaped island, dominated by low mountains along its western side, which give way to rolling hills, and then light forests, towards the east. Along the steep valleys in the middle, vineyards have been staked out, and much of the floating island's population of 220 busies itself with growing the grapes that will eventually be pressed into the Aran ice wines now becoming popular among the more refined palates of Sundsvall and Aasla. The winery is owned by the wealthy House of Jordyl, a family with a long tradition of winemaking (they emigrated from Arogansa over 450 years ago). Over the centuries, starting with Jordyl himself, they have developed techniques - magical and mundane - to allow grapes to flourish on their island. Although Greater Jordamur is the seat of their family, most of the aristocrats spend their time in Skyreach or Sundsvall.
5. Jordamur, Lesser (approx. 0.5 sq. mi.): Little more than a floating rock, compared to the other islands, Lesser Jordamur is unique in that it orbits its larger companion, with each revolution taking three days. The island is roughly spherical in shape, with a flat top covered in short grasses and the occasional shrub. The only notable feature here is a lone wizard's tower, located in the middle of the island. This tower is home to the reclusive mage known as Kerdollen the Silent, a long-standing member of the Grand Council. Kerdollen lives up to his name, having not said a word in over 30 years - even during his infrequent visits to Sundsvall. He is not renowned for being a congenial host (intruders have been teleported one mile away, thousands of feet above the ground), but his knowledge of air magics is said to be formidable.
6. Pildergif (approx. 10 sq. mi.): This floating island is roughly circular in shape, and is covered by dense stands of oak and birch. It is home to a reclusive band of elves of the Erenith clan, from Shiye-Lawr. They bought the island from its original owner about 200 years ago, and proceeded to plant and magically grow a dense forest. No one knows exactly how many elves live here (the most reliable estimate is somewhere between 50 and 100), and the elves will not allow anyone not of their own clan (this includes other Shiye elves) to land here. The elves are, in fact, members of an ultra-conservative faction within Shiye society, who felt that their kingdom was becoming far too open to foreign influences. They decided to build a new society in as remote a place as they could find, and have largely succeeded.
7. Skyvale (approx. 35 sq. mi.): This irregularly-shaped floating island is the largest ever created, and was claimed by Ar, centuries ago, for his personal domain. Although the current ruling family claims descent from Ar, this is in fact untrue; Ar's line died out centuries ago. Originally a floating island of gentle, forested hills, dotted with the occasional small mountain, a large portion of the most desirable land is now covered with the estates of many aristocrats who wish to get away from the hustle and bustle of Skyreach. The buildings and avenues of Arator, known commonly as, "The City Built by Ar", are largely uninhabited and in ruin. Few people venture too deeply into that dead city, which was intended to be the capital not long after the kingdom was declared. Following a poorly documented catastrophe circa AY 800, Arator was abandoned, and most of Skyvale's inhabitants moved to other islands. Skyvale remains the seat of the ruling family of Floating Ar (acquired by Qissling's ancestors in AY 1100), although it is a shadow of what it once was. About 1,800 people live here, mostly the servants and slaves of the various aristocrats who keep private estates here.
8. Skyreach (approx. 4 sq. mi.): The circular floating island upon which Skyreach, the capital city of Floating Ar, is built is quite flat, and covered with verdant grasslands and the occasional stand of oak. Much of the island, however, has been taken up by the city itself, whose 25,000 inhabitants busily go about their lives, all the while carrying on as though their city was just one of many in Alphatia, and not a city floating several hundred feet above the ground. Notable sights include the royal palace (constructed of white marble, it levitates 100 feet above the ground), and the so-called "flying gardens" (actually named the Royal Garden of Ar, this attraction consists of over 2,000 varieties of plant life, collected from locations all over the known world, arranged in floating displays). Outside the walls of Skyreach, herds of pegasi graze contentedly, under the watchful eyes of pegataur guardsmen.
There are several towns of note on the ground level of Floating Ar, which is home to most of the kingdom's mundaners. The towns listed below can be found on the maps in the Dawn of the Emperors boxed set. As of AY 2000, the kingdom of Floating Ar had a population of 150,000.
Ailpon: This large port town of 5,100 is home to one of Floating Ar's two naval bases. From here, Aran vessels patrol the eastern half of Crystal Lake, as well as monitor traffic from the neighbouring kingdom of Ambur. Ailpon is also noted for its large marketplace, where produce (largely apples, but also ciders and apple wines) grown in the eastern portion of the kingdom are sold. One member of the Grand Council, Dyelmar the Reclusive, lives on a private estate a few miles north of town.
Arreghi: This is a rather rustic town of 3,300 people, roughly 30 miles from Floating Ar's border with Foresthome. Due to its proximity to the great forests of its southern neighbour, the main industry in Arreghi is forestry. It is here that most of the timber used for construction in Floating Ar, Ambur, and eastern Frisland is collected. On a daily basis, great barges, loaded with logs, make their way north along Crystal Lake, ending up in Starpoint or Reer. Arreghi is also known for its woodcarvers, whose handiwork can fetch high prices in the markets of Aasla and Sundsvall.
Ceafem: Ceafem is the largest settlement on the surface level of Floating Ar; it is home to 6,300 people, most of whom are employed by the kingdom's fishing industry. On days when the wind blows from the east, the reek of the Crystal Fish Market, which runs almost the entire length of Ceafem's lakeshore, can be smelled by the western town gates. Here, freshwater fish of all sorts (prepared in dozens of ways), as well as other products of the lake, can be bought at reasonable prices. Ceafem is also home to part of Floating Ar's navy; it is from the town's naval base that the western half of Crystal Lake is patrolled, with special attention directed southwards, to potential incursions from Foresthome.
Skyreach Town: This town of 1,900 is an oddity in that, contrary to the traditions of the kingdom, it has been built beneath the floating island that is home to the capital city of Skyreach. No one today knows why Skyreach Town was founded here, but for the longest time it was little more than a crumbling, unmanned keep surrounded by a handful of shacks and other outbuildings, and largely populated by unmarried, retired soldiers. All that changed in AY 1908, when the surface level of Floating Ar was settled in earnest. Today, most of the people are employed as cargo handlers, using simple cranes and pulleys to lift barrels and crates up to, and down from, waiting skyships - this work is done only for the benefit of Skyreach itself; goods destined for other floating islands are not allowed to pass through Skyreach Town. Aside from a few good taverns, this town's other claim to fame is that it is the last taste of civilisation for westbound travellers until they reach the town of Sanaz, in Frisland
Reer: Reer is unique among the towns of Floating Ar in that it was founded as a result of the decision in AY 1908 to force many of the kingdom's commoners to settle the surface level of the kingdom. Today, most of the town's 3,900 inhabitants busy themselves with loading the freight coming north from Crystal Lake onto wagon trains headed for Frisland or Ambur. Another locus of activity in Reer is the so-called Ambur Market, where merchants (both reputable and shady) from that kingdom set up stalls for the first and last day of each month to sell goods from their kingdom - theoretically at cut-rate prices. Although it is possible to get good deals on many Amburian goods, the merchants are sharp, and if they can squeeze a few extra coins out of a customer, they will.
A further 79,500 people are scattered throughout the countryside, most of them working on farms, or on the few estates situated on the ground.
Although the kingdom's military focus has largely been on its sky navy, for obvious reasons, Floating Ar does maintain a small army, which is based on the surface level. Based in Skyreach Town, the Royal Army of Floating Ar occupies itself primarily with keeping the king's peace among the surface level population, which consists almost overwhelmingly of slaves and servants, plus a handful of gentry. Since the aristocracy lives for the most part on the floating islands, and since the sky navy is by far a more prestigious branch of the military, few aristocrats choose to serve in the army, which means that its officer corps contains many spellcasters deemed to have little potential for advancement in society, or who angered a political rival so much that they are serving in the army as a penance or as a means of escaping notice. This does not mean that Floating Ar's army is wholly ineffective, only that it is below average in terms of troop quality and leadership.
Floating Ar also possesses a small navy, based out of Ceafem and Ailpon, whose duty is to ensure the kingdom's sovereignty over Crystal Lake, which lies almost entirely within its borders. Its most common activity is deterring foreign (mainly Amburian) fishing fleets from venturing too deeply into Aran territorial waters, and ensuring that all merchant vessels crossing the lake pay the applicable duties and taxes levied on them. Floating Ar's northern shores are largely uninhabited, and are patrolled by Ambur and Frisland on occasion.
The colours of Floating Ar are sky blue and yellow. The colour blue symbolises the open skies, which many Arans see as their domain (rightly or wrongly), while yellow represents the sun, shining down, unobstructed, onto the floating islands.
The flag of Floating Ar is sky blue in colour, with no adornments or designs of any sort. It symbolises the sky, which has been claimed on several occasions by Floating Ar as its territory.
What others say about the Kingdom of Floating Ar:
Minister Glorin Hammerhand of Rockhome: "If I ever wanted proof that those Alphatians are damned fools, I can find it in Floating Ar! What were they thinking, creating a kingdom up in the sky?! What's to stop some idiot from falling off, I ask you? Just as flighty as humans everywhere else, I say.
Pharimor, Lordpriest of Isoin: "It is not natural that Man should live in the skies, which are properly the domain of the birds and other flying creatures. The people of Ar spit in the very faces of the Immortals themselves through their refusal to obey the natural law of all things, and for this they shall suffer, and their bejewelled palaces shall crash to the ground."
Calandrian of Sundsvall: "Floating Ar is itself one of the crowning achievements of the Alphatian people. The very monumental nature of the task, and its permanence, is, in itself, proof of how attentive and disciplined we can be. The kingdom is an imperial treasure that must be seen!"
Dafelldarath of Spearpoint: "I went to Skyreach once - wonderful city, and unbeatable views! Too bad about the altitude sickness, though; I think I may have hit some poor sod down below. I'd go if I were you, though."