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Ochalea (Exarchate of)
Location: Island south of the Isle of Dawn, north of the Jungle Coast, west of the Pearl Islands and southwest of the Alatian Islands. SD
Area: 190,054 sq. mi. (492,240 sq. mi.).
Population: 130,000, including 52,200 in the capital Beitung.
Languages: Ochalean (majority native language and official language of the bureaucracy, related to Alphatian but considered its own language), Thyatian (Thyatian common trade dialect) and Beizhuan (minority linguistic group in the south sharing a common set of symbols and most grammatical form with Ochalean but having a more musical tone).
Coinage: Teng (5 gp), yah (1 gp), dih (1 sp), diao (1 cp). Ochalean coins are octagonal with square holes in the middle and four characters as markings stating value and dynasty. A number of mintings are still in common circulation. The Thyatian standard coinage is also freely accepted in the Beitung area and free trade ports without having to exchange it at a royal bureau: emperor (pp), lucin (gp), justiciar (ep), asterius (sp), denarius (cp). Use of foreign coin outside free trade ports and Beitung is strictly illegal.
Taxes: 25% income tax collected quarterly on the aristocracy, nobility, and wealthy; 20% income tax collected quarterly on everyone else (Va. 1, Ya. 1, Fy. 3, and Ei. 1). Thyatians abroad must still pay their taxes. Expensive and magical items are also taxed 25% of their worth. 10% imperial commercia sales tax on all goods except for food, clothing and fixed assets; levied on imports, rebated on exports. Tax on slave owning equal to 50% of the slave's value annually. Property tax levied based on quality of land, roughly 6% of its value annually.
Government Type: Exarchate, semi-autonomous dominion member of the Thyatian Empire.
Industries: Agriculture (wheat, rice and exotic fruit), textiles (hemp, silk, richly dyed cotton and linen).
Important Figures: Teng Lin-Dieu (Exarch).
Flora and Fauna: Civilised regions of Ochalea, including the extensive rural farmlands, are mostly free of monsters. This is a situation that is rapidly changing as the frontiers are now being pushed back to make way for agricultural development. Dangerous creatures encountered include ghouls and other undead, weretigers, tigers, panthers and the rare purple worm. Also common are sheep, goats, dogs and snakes.
Intelligent monsters include many kinds of ogres found throughout Ochalea while lupins and rakasta often roam the Grasslands of Chi and are becoming more recognised in urban centres. Dragons, while a prominent iconic fixture of Ochalean culture, are rarely seen although rumours persist that they walk amongst the people everyday or stand, invisible, perched atop palaces and monasteries.
Further Reading: Dawn of the Emperors boxed set, previous almanacs.
Last Year's Events: None to report.
Description by Demetius Vannopolus.
Ochalea is a large island in the southern Sea of Dread, slanting between the southwestern corner of the Isle of Dawn and the continent of Davania. Ochaleans, though seemingly of mostly Alphatian heritage, have their own unique and intriguing culture, and eschew their historical connections with Alphatia. For a brief time following the War of the Wrath, Ochalea was a sovereign kingdom independent of Thyatis. This situation changed quickly as most nobles and trading interests pressured the courts to return to a favourable trading position with the Thyatians.
Some speculate that Ochalea derives its culture from a people aboriginal to the island that predates Alphatian landfall. Recent archaeological adventures are beginning to provide some insight into this situation. Careful examination of the official records of Ochalea's dynastic rulership reveals distinct changes, which indicate some censorship has occurred with each successive dynasty. This has been more and more the case since the Thyatian hegemony has had its impact on Beitung's ruling class.
Ochalea is a large island kingdom, consisting mainly of volcanic rock and hills. Most of this land is suitable only for grazing, with only patches of agricultural land. However, this past year has seen large swaths of forest cut down to make way for ambitious agricultural projects. Although little of this land is in productive use yet one can expect a large amount of rice, wheat, flax, hemp and cotton to come from these in the near future.
The Shino-Gawa Shingao River crosses through the island, starting from the hills around the town of Wongzhao Tsushao (Wangzhao Zuchao), then down to the lake around the town of Chungkiang Li. From this lake, the largest one in Ochalea, the Shino-Gawa (Shingao) empties into the Sea of Dread. The enormous flood plain of the Shingao (a.k.a. Shino-Gawa) River produces the majority of Ochalea's foodstuffs. Although this and other similar areas only cover a small proportion of the land of the island, due to the island's large size and the fertile soils they nonetheless produce enormous amounts of food. The productivity of the land is due in large part to the mineral richness that comes from the volcanic soils as well as the annual infusion of nutrients from the monsoon and flood season. Also grown here are fields of flax and cotton, which where once exported to the city of Thyatis and then made into fine linen and cotton cloth, but are now increasingly refined in Beitung and other native Ochalean industrial centres. Mulberry, cherry and apple trees are grown in groves in and around Beitung, the village of Wu Li and many other settlements. This only enhances the strange beauty of the land and architecture as there are many parks and flowering tree-lined boulevards in the established urban centres. Silkworms are cultivated here, with the raw silk being sent to Beitung where it is spun into silken cloth of all varieties.
It was once believed that a small Ochalean population allowed the nation to pursue a placid environmentalism, but it is now believed that the rural farmers and settlers were never included in prior census reports, thus exploding the population by a significant amount. What are today magnificent, steep-sided hills were once volcanoes in the distant past, but are now completely inactive and have been so for most of recorded history. Despite this lack of volcanic activity, there are regions in the south where weak earthquakes are quite common.
For quite some time it was believed that most human and demihuman Ochaleans lived in and around the Beitung Savannah in the north, while the non-human inhabitants only occupied the Chi Grasslands Savannah in the south. The southern grasslands, however, are gradually being transformed into jungle rainforest due to southerly ocean currents, which warm Ochalea's shores and bring abundant rainfall.
Ochaleans appear to be of common Alphatian ethnic origin, with coppery skin and fine facial features; however, over the passing centuries of contact with outsiders, this is less and less the case in the more cosmopolitan center of Beitung: Thyatian blood freely mingles with a good 10% of Beitung's population, and foreign fashions and customs are well known. In general, the Ochaleans are a scholarly and religious people who place great importance on learning and proper behaviour. This stems from a great respect for history, the ancestors of the people and their ancestors' accomplishments. The large numbers of priests, who are held in high esteem here, have helped turn this nation into one of the most educated on the Known World. To them falls the enormous responsibility of conserving tradition and preserving the long and proud history of the Ochalean people. The long-standing following of the traditions of the Immortal Koryis (known as Koryu-Si or Koryieu-zi (koryiu-tsi) in the native tongue) has also made them seem at first appearances as very quiet, polite and peaceful. This belies the long-standing martial traditions within the society, to say nothing of the populist hero-worship of rebel monks, bandit champions and the officially despised disguised-heroine.
Although recreational activities common in the rest of the Known World, such as drinking, gambling and gladiatorial death sports, are illegal here, they are nonetheless just as common. Conversely female prostitution is not illegal at all and a great many poor fathers sell their daughters to brothels. The traditional Ochalean vices abound aplenty in the trade port lands of other nations. Many enterprising trade houses from Thyatis, Minrothad and Ierendi make a fortune within the special trade regions leased to them by regional governors and the exarch's bureaucratic court system. This is not popular with a large portion of the devout populace, but since many Ochaleans indulge in such vices, and both foreigners and local nobles profit from it in a free trade port, it is currently not being addressed by the royal court system.
Violence is not part of the Ochalean way of doing things. They detest violence in all its forms and prefer civilised discussion and negotiation to solve any problem. However, an Ochalean negotiation, while exceedingly polite, is filled with subtle insults and increasing volume. What would be considered a terrible argument that would lead to drawn steel on the streets of Mirros or Darokin is nothing more than spirited bargaining to Ochaleans.
Setting them apart from their Alphatian origins is the Ochalean belief in the equality of all men. Strangely enough, this only applies to males and is literally the equality of all men, and not the equality of women or even children. In a purely functional and social instance there is no difference in the amount of respect shown the exarch from that shown a common peasant. All justice is made equally available to all people regardless of social class. However, the graduated system of bureaucratic fees for standard services, licenses, documents, and other sundry government-regulated functions effectively separates the rich from the poor.
Women have traditionally been given subordinate roles in Ochalean society. The women's place is to support their men in every way possible. One might call it their holy duty to sacrifice themselves in a daily fashion to ensure their men succeed. Depending on the household this can be no different from the old proverb, "Behind every successful man there stands a woman," or "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world," but all too often it becomes a form of untaxed female slavery. Although, as Thyatian citizens, women are no longer bound by ancient laws, most still feel beholden to family duty and customs. The role of women is to ensure the home is maintained, the children are cared for, and that the husband always has enough to eat and is worried by nothing. It is not uncommon for a woman to wait until her husband is finished eating before she eats, even if it means nothing is left for her. In these cases a woman makes a most awful "soup" by pouring hot water over the dirty dishes or boiling bones with bark and leaves... provided the bones have not been thrown to the family dogs. Women, whether they be wives, daughters or sisters, are commonly considered no more than property of the senior male. Consequently, there are more arranged marriages in Ochalea than elsewhere in the Thyatian Imperium or the Known World. Amongst the nobility and gentry this is to secure alliances or trading partnerships, as well as the exchange of sometimes-significant dowries or the bridal price if the girl (or accompanying dowry/alliance/partnership) is particularly beneficial to the groom or his family. Throughout their lives Ochalean women are ruled by the stringent traditional duty and have little or no choice in anything. Foreign women of significant economic or noble status (and I might add sufficiently strong will) should not find much trouble in cosmopolitan Beitung where Ochaleans have adapted quite well over the centuries to dealing with foreigners. However, in more provincial surroundings, foreign women should travel only with men they trust implicitly.
The characteristic Ochalean architecture of tiered stories and peaked, slanted roofs is less common in the rural areas, where bamboo structures on stilts with thatched roofs predominate in the warm areas. These are typically present in flood areas. On elevated plains and the mountain foothills where, although snow might be rare, the temperature drops to nearly freezing during the winter, you can find fired, mud brick structures amongst daub and wattle huts. Few rice-paper walls or doors will be found in either of these areas, reserved mostly for the more affluent parts of the urban centres. Indeed, much of the urban centres, particularly Beitung with its continental influences, benefit greatly from high-quality, fired mud brick and granite stone construction. Interior walls of the middle class and higher, however, will likely be found to be of the rice-paper variety. Even the poorest home will have some sort of garden that is decorative, religious and functional. The design is always in accordance with the Ochaleans' devout sense of harmony with the Immortal law. Every stone, every patch of bare earth and every plant or animal (such as a frog, butterfly, fish, or cricket) is placed in the garden according to some ineffable rule of harmony. The poor will grow some small fruit or herb good for making a medicinal tea, while the lower-middle to upper-middle class will grow vegetables, fruits and flowers for eating, tea, and medicinal use. Even the poorest Ochaleans grow some vegetable or herb in the dirt of the roadside in the cities.
Although Ochalea has apparently been avoiding foreign contact and has little notable recent history, appearances can be deceiving. The decade following their independence was apparently spent sending secret trade envoys and missions of exploration to many nations and unknown lands. The slow trickle of their distinct crafts that have been appearing in continental markets for the past decade is an indication of this crafty trade. They cannily avoided involving themselves in the Final Alphatian War, further proving their separation from their forebears. The appearance of an Ochalean expeditionary force in support of Eusebius during the Crown War Rebellion is intriguing to say the least, as it is contrary to the Ochalean positions of non-violence and isolationism.
While Ochalea's capital of Beitung is a unique beauty, its modern-era architecture is heavily influenced by continental, particularly Thyatian, standards. Of greater interest to those seeking the real Ochalea are the numerous provincial capitals, with each having its own distinct, regional character. While no city is as large and grand as Beitung, the lack of any nod to Thyatian styles is refreshing, and seeing the rest of the exotic kingdom is indeed a joy. Even though the magnificence of the Koryieu-Tsi Temple in Beitung is without equal, with all its multitude of statues to the Immortals in various apses and chapels, one should not overlook the innumerable roadside shrines both inside the city and in the countryside. Typically, local monks and wandering clerics care for these, and often the most important are surrounded by a monastery with an attached temple. All are open to the public at all times.
For those seeking rougher entertainment the free trade ports along the Sea of Dread Coast, which cater to "privateers" and traders from Davania, Minrothad, Ierendi, and parts beyond, offer all manner of continental services at bargain rates.
The heated debates begun a year ago concerning the origins of Ochalean culture have not waned in the slightest. An increasing number of authentic historical scrolls have been brought forward, much to the chagrin of many court attendants and the Royal Office of Cultural Conservation. There are many wild theories floating around the courts and universities, and it is rumoured that Exarch Lin-Dieu can barely tear himself away from listening to scholarly debate and studying these scrolls in order to govern the lands. One theory purports that the main Alphatian group that founded the former empire used Ochalea as a dumping-ground for certain undesirables, including members of a non-Alphatian ethnic group and a previously unknown Alphatian group. This is contrary to the accepted history that those lacking any arcane talent colonised the land. Rumours will be rumours, though, and the Ochaleans love to listen to news and tell tales. It should come as no surprise that stories filter out of the trade ports and provincial areas with tales of Skothari-like artifacts or Ethengaresque carvings of horses. With the continued deforestation for agriculture and the increasing speculative exploration into the Ochalean interior, it is likely more and more will be uncovered, making the coming decade an interesting time to live.