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MERIANDER (Kingdom of)
Location: Bellissaria, west of southern Skothar, southeast of Aquas. AS
Area: 92,034 sq. mi. (238,368 sq. km.).
Population: 100,000 (15,000 in Alchemos).
Language: Alphatian (Bellissarian dialect).
Coinage: Alphatian Standard: crown (gp), mirror (sp), judge (cp).
Taxes: 15% income tax on everyone of servant status or higher, and an import/export tax of 2% on magical items and components, and 1% on all other goods (Naycese kingdoms, Karameikos and Thyatis excluded). 10% of tax revenue goes to the Naycese treasury, and an additional 10% is spent on military forces in the name of the confederation.
Government Type: Monarchy, member of Nayce.
Industries: Agriculture, alchemy, education.
Important Figures: Hubertek (King and General).
Flora and Fauna: As with all Bellissarian kingdoms, there are no indigenous monsters, most animal life being brought in from elsewhere. Of course the presence of the mages in Alchemos may warrant more unusual creatures due to summoning and creation magics.
Further Reading: Dawn of the Emperors boxed set, previous almanacs.
Description by Adoramar.
I've only just arrived in Meriander to begin my apprenticeship to become a mage in Alchemos, but some correspondents asked me to describe my first-hand impressions of Meriander anyway. First of all, Meriander is one of the more prominent kingdoms of Bellissaria, even before the main continent of Alphatia sank, because of the very object of my own journey here-the University of Alchemos. Even before the war, the university was noted in the Alphatian Empire, which is unusual for Bellissaria where most people just want to be left alone, and it says a lot about the respect it had earned. The rest of Meriander is much more common for Bellissaria.
From what I've seen myself and learned from Nellideris, a fellow student native to Meriander, the kingdom is largely covered by grasslands, but there are apparently also forested areas south of the town of Cairnport as well as in the central hills. To the far east lies the port town of Seahaven, which is Meriander's gate to the east to places like Minaea. Generally, the land is placid and peaceful.
The main object of interest is clearly the capital of Alchemos, where the university lies. Generally, people assume only alchemy is taught here, which is very incorrect, although it is true that alchemical endeavours are indeed the specialty of many mages who live here. Experimentation is fairly common here, and some claim that parts of the city are routinely damaged or even ruined by failed experiments. I'm not sure if that is accurate, but when Master Ronterm took some of us on a trip to a local alchemist, an explosion suddenly shook the tower we were in and flames were suddenly all around us! Master Ronterm ignored them completely, but Brandenrul and I had to jump out the window! Fortunately, Brandenrul, a senior student, took his Basic Aerial Magics course last year, so when we jumped out the window, he cast his featherfall spell, and we floated harmlessly to the ground. Master Ronterm later told us that we had never been in any real danger because he was with us, but it was still an unsettling experience I would prefer not to repeat...
Outside of Alchemos, most people in Meriander are commoners. Yet I know from Nellideris, Brandenrul, and others that the university is far more than merely a respected institution here; it is rather an object of national pride throughout the Kingdom of Meriander, so even in the south, in places such as Seahaven, or so Nellideris and Lomatax tell me, people think the "northerners in Alchemos" are aloof and patronising, yet they still seem to think of the university as "their pride" and "their achievement."
In Alchemos itself, this pride is obviously even more pronounced. By imperial law, the university must accept any potential student wishing apprenticeship and deemed fit to receive it by the Evaluation Guild. Because of their pride over the university, one might think the people of Meriander would be reluctant to share their university with students of magic from other Bellissarian nations. This is far from the case, quite the contrary. More than once did I hear someone mention to me, "Ah, so you're one of those outlanders we're going to teach magic..." Sometimes this was spoken with a humorous tone, but sometimes people meant it exactly as it was said. I protested this, but Lomatax, a fellow student, told me not to take it too seriously, because those who would say so and mean it would usually be wizards who learned magic, yet failed to distinguish themselves among the mages of Meriander. The real problem with that is that such people are frequently the ones, as I soon learned, who end up teaching at the university, so foreign students should be prepared for a certain condescending attitude from their teachers. This is not common, though, and there are certainly also teachers who are very fair in their treatment of students.
Apart from the university itself, Alchemos is still a city steeped in magic and the pursuit of it, and as one might guess, the creation of potions is a particular specialty here, so it is possible to get some very nice magical potions, concoctions, elixirs, oils, or other mystical liquids at a reasonable price, and due to the national pride, it is virtually guaranteed that such items will be genuine-Alchemos, and Meriander in general, are very particular about their magical heritage, so they take a dim view of frauds and charlatans in this matter. I witnessed an example of this first hand-a man was trying to sell some items in the marketplace which he claimed were magical and spoken very highly of. He was clearly a foreigner, so few took notice of him at first, but after a little time, he gathered quite a crowd around him, as he continued to praise his wonderful goods, such as a broom that would sweep by itself and a robe that repelled dirt by itself, which he demonstrated by throwing dirt at the robe and making the broom sweep. Some people took interest in this, which turned out to be very unfortunate for the foreigner, because one of the potential buyers cast a spell and then loudly declared that the man was a charlatan having cast undetectable auras on his items and then used cantrips to "demonstrate" their value! The crowd was furious and for a moment I feared what they would do, but one cast a spell that left the fraud rigid while the rest took rotten fruit and other ruined foodstuffs from merchants on the market who were only too happy to participate themselves, and they then threw these at the helpless man. The city guard soon stopped by and after some people in the crowd explained what had happened, they took the charlatan into custody...
Most of Meriander's history is no different from that of the rest of Bellissaria until the Great War ended. During the reign of the mad Emperor Zandor, Queen Drulivia was forced to abdicate and leave the throne to Hubertek, a commoner in command of the armed forces, but it seems that little changed for the people of Meriander. Hubertek has retained his position, which may actually appear a little peculiar in a kingdom of mages, especially since many here feel that Alchemos is the true successor to Sundsvall as the primary site of magical pursuit in the empire now. Still, Hubertek has done well, though from what I hear his dedication to do away with the traditional Alphatian laws that permit only spellcasters to be aristocrats has earned him some political enemies among the more conservative wizards.
Alchemos, and especially the university, are definitely the places to see in Meriander. Much of Alphatia's greatness was lost when the main continent sank beneath the waves, but here one can practically taste what the Alphatian pursuit of magic is really all about, and the city is even more receptive to travellers than most places in Bellissaria because the locals love to demonstrate their skills and achievements where magic is concerned.
Not much... Beyond Alchemos, or so Nellideris tells me, the rest of Meriander is more Bellissarian in the sense that it is very similar to what one would typically find in more common regions or kingdoms of Bellissaria. At least, from how Nellideris describes it to me, it sounds very much like my own native Horken, so there shouldn't be much to worry about. In Alchemos, I suppose you might want to watch out for mages, especially if you're a commoner. Not all of them are benevolent or even above mistreating people for the sake of their magical experiments, I fear. If you sail from Seahaven, be wary of Minaean pirates-I've heard some very nasty rumours about some of those.