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Yavdlom (Serene Divinarchy of)

Location: Continent of Brun, southern half of Serpent Peninsula (including Thanegia Island).

Area: Approx. 240,000 sq. mi. (621,600 sq. km.).

Population: 1,000,000.

Language: Yavdlom.

Coinage: Yavdlom does not mint its own coins, but foreign currencies are accepted at face value.

Government Type: Divinarchy (rule by sages and soothsayers), nation is divided into numerous dominions.

Industries: Trade, agriculture (mostly fruits, nuts, and vegetables), and fishing.

Important Figures: Msiba Jahi (Bwana Ramla (Great Prophet), human, female, P18 of Yav), Kondu Paka (Bwana Gwaride (Great Guardian), human, male, F16), Jibada Yavswano (Mokuba (Ruler), human, male, F7)

Flora and Fauna: Covering much of the southern portion of the Serpent Peninsula and Thanegia Island, Yavdlom is filled with thick jungles and foul swamps. The coasts are dominated by vast mangrove swamps, fed by the thousands of nutrient-laden rivers, flowing from the central highlands of Thanegia Island and the Nakakande Rain Forest on the mainland. Further inland, sunlight is almost completely blocked out by the dense canopy of vegetation high overhead, and where light does filter to the jungle floor, a great profusion of bushes, vines, and thorns makes overland travel extremely difficult. The Okwonga Lowlands, along the southernmost portion of the peninsula, are a vast swamp, choked with mangroves and mud.

Just as Yavdlom is blessed with rich vegetation, it is also teeming with animal life. Deep in the interior jungles one can find herds of triceratops and packs of tyrannosaurus rex. Also present are hundreds of varieties of snakes and birds, as well as various types of wild boar, deer, elephants, and predatory cats-including displacer beasts. Also known to inhabit the Nakakande Rain Forest are several tribes of trolls and jungle orcs, and some tales are told of green dragons making their homes far from prying eyes. The great swamps of the Okwonga Lowlands are no less populated-here, one can find tribes of lizard men and orcs, as well as scattered gatherings of Mugumba mud-dwellers. It has also been said that a great black dragon makes its home somewhere deep within the swamps, feeding off of anything so foolish as to venture near its lair. Among the less sentient inhabitants are water termites, hydrae, giant leeches, purple worms, snakes, and crocodiles.

Further Reading: Champions of Mystara boxed set, Voyage of the Princess Ark series, previous almanacs.

Description by Marina Takanitas.

I have travelled the byways of the Serpent Strait, that narrow body of water separating the Serpent Peninsula from Davania, for only a few years, but visiting the odd yet wonderful realm of Yavdlom has always been full of new experiences. Whether one seeks high adventure, bustling ports, or relaxation, Yavdlom has much to offer the visitor. I shall try to do it some justice in my description of this exotic nation, but I feel one must go and see its rare beauty for themselves, in order to fully appreciate the simplicity and complexity of this land and its people.

The Land

Ask any person living around the western Sea or Dread what comes to mind when they picture an untamed, fearsome wilderness, and they will likely say "Yavdlom." It is not by coincidence that this is so. Few other lands in the region contain so much diversity and density in life. Much of the country that is not swampland is rugged and hilly, covered by dense foliage. One would think that such a land could not be inhabited by civilised folk, but it is indeed. Scattered throughout the jungles of Thanegia Island, and along the coast of the peninsula, lie the towns and cities of the people of Yavdlom.

As mentioned earlier, Yavdlom is spread across two landmasses-Thanegia Island in the south, upon which most of the populace lives, and the southern portion of the Serpent Peninsula. Separating the Sea of Dread from the Izondian Deep, Yavdlom receives a large amount of stormy weather, particularly in the summer months, when monsoons sweep in from the seas to batter the coasts. The three-month long wet season, during which a drenching downpour is almost guaranteed every day, combines with the tropical climate to produce a land of dense jungles and seemingly endless swamps. So fertile are the soils here, that more than one harvest per year can be coaxed from them.

The People

If the land of Yavdlom appears unique, the people who inhabit it are doubly so. They are generally tall and slim, with very dark skin and tight, curly hair. Veteran merchants and explorers, who claim to have plied all the major seas of Mystara, say that in the far east there are many such dark-skinned people, just as the Pearl Islands are home to them as well. Almost all of them possess slightly pointed ears-a clear sign that, at some point in their past, extensive contact with elves occurred. The one thing that stands out the most among the people of Yavdlom is that a high proportion of them appear to be gifted with mental powers of precognition to some degree. Those who have the strongest powers are placed in the ramla class-a class of seers and advisers who use their abilities to guide the people along the best path, yet ensuring that the fundamental balance between light and dark is not disturbed. At least, this is how I understood it.

Those whose abilities are very weak or nonexistent are largely relegated to the layman class. These are the commoners, if you will. Among these people, however, are drawn the nobility of Yavdlom. Those of the ramla class are forbidden from interfering in the affairs of the nation, lest, according to the Precepts of Yav, they use their powers to further their own ambitions. Instead, the ramlas go out among the populace, searching for those laymen who, according to their predictions, will make a difference. Thus, there is a clear division among the laymen-the tukufu (those who matter) and the ogwambe (those who do not). Tukufu candidates are sought out whenever a prominent post becomes available, and indeed they are strongly encouraged by society to fill those posts-they would otherwise be denying their own fate, it seems. There they remain in their position, until the ramlas determine that whatever purpose, for which the tukufu had been chosen, has finally been fulfilled. Thereafter, they lose their status, and become what is known as swetanga, which appears to have the same level of prestige as a knight in other realms.

Even after my time in Yavdlom, I still find I cannot quite accept the cold logic of such a system. Certainly, it produces the best candidate for the task at hand, but I find it unpalatable that so many people-the ogwambe-are simply written off as being of no significance. It is said that the ramlas are as unfathomable as they are wise. This I believe.

If there were one word I would use to describe the People of Yav (as the folk of this nation call themselves), it would be "serene." Guided by the members of their ramla class, the commoners go about their lives, secure in the knowledge that all will happen as it is fated to be. This confidence gives them the air of being content, as though, compared to those of other nations, they have few cares in the world. I do not know the truth of this, but many of them do appear to have a certain degree of fatalism. Very often I heard such phrases as "It was meant to be" or "Fate has decreed that this should be so" while walking the streets of Tanakumba. For all that, however, the People of Yav are not an idle folk, nor are the commoners the slaves of the ramla class.

Recent History

The precise details of Yavdlom's history are lost to us today, but it is known that the people who call themselves the People of Yav have lived in this region for a very long time-at least a thousand years or more. This ancient period of settlement is largely a mystery to Yavdlom scholars today, though there is evidence of widespread settlement-perhaps over a larger area than currently controlled by the nation. This, in addition to the discovery of underwater ruins, has led some people to conclude that there was once a great civilisation on the Serpent Peninsula, but a disaster of some sort brought it to an end.

Much of recorded history in Yavdlom-at least, that history which is studied most often-dates from the legendary time of Yav, the first great leader. It is said that some great disaster, perhaps the one that produced those ancient ruins, forced the ancestors of the modern People of Yav to flee westwards to a new land, where they sheltered until their leader, Yav, determined it was safe to return. Upon returning, he issued his people a set of rules, known as the Precepts of Yav, to govern their behaviour. All this was said to happen many centuries ago. The time before the introduction of the precepts is viewed by many, especially those of the ramla class, as a dark age, where the People of Yav fought as common beasts, and did not aspire to anything.

Yavdlom's contact with the nations of the Old World officially began in AC 852, when Minrothaddan explorers discovered the "most limpid city of Thanopolis," which we know today as Tanakumba. In those days, when the city had only just been founded, there was little more than the Azizi Berungi and a collection of houseboats and huts on stilts. Since that time, Tanakumba, and the rest of Yavdlom with it, has grown into a prosperous place, with traders from Kastelios, Sind, Minrothad, Ierendi, and other lands vying for a share of the lucrative trade in sugar, coffee, cocoa, and other exotic goods.

Don't Miss

Perhaps the one thing that stands out most in Yavdlom is its capital city-Tanakumba! Home to over 25,000 people, this is a city that never sleeps, as people constantly go about their business. Founded some 200 years ago, during the birth of the modern nation of Yavdlom, Tanakumba is a unique city, representing the past and future of these people. Spread among roughly 50 islands, and nestled in the midst of a great delta, modern Tanakumba is built atop the half-sunken ruins of a much older city, whose inhabitants remain largely unknown to this day. Some of the ancient stone buildings have been restored, however, and these tend to dominate the city's islands, surrounded by more modern wooden ones. Visitors will also notice the graceful bridges that connect most of these islands, and many of these have sections that can be raised or lowered magically to allow tall ships to pass through them.

What visitors will notice most, of course, is the Azizi Berungi, the dwelling place of the great prophet. It is truly a miraculous building, dominating the centre of Tanakumba through its sheer size and wonder. Standing 200 feet tall and made from one giant conch shell, this great palace contains twenty floors-enough room for the great prophet and a host of administrators and servants. The fact that it is one giant conch shell, however, is what astounds all who see it. At its very tip-indeed, at the tip of all shell towers in Tanakumba-is a small chamber known as the Nuru wa Ukweli, or "fire chamber." Here, a flame is kept burning at all times, symbolising wisdom. On a clear night from on high, it is an impressive sight to look down into the city, and see these fires burning in unison-like hundreds of tiny stars twinkling above the water, their light reflected in the canals and waterways.

Do Miss

Just as Tanakumba is well worth the visit, one would do well to avoid the under-city that lays beneath it. When the city was constructed some 200 years ago, great petrified wooden platforms were laid out, along with the numerous islands, as the ground upon which all buildings would be constructed. What lies beneath is a foul underworld, reputedly inhabited by the desperate, the shunned, and the criminal. I learned from a talkative local that the underworld is said to be a vast warren of tunnels, containing building foundations, sewers, and even the half-buried ruins of the ancient city that was said to have existed here long ago! No one appears to question whether or not such a place truly exists, though I have heard that few who venture into the bowels of Tanakumba ever return.

Another place to avoid, but one that is not acknowledged for a different reason, is the town of Gwondoya. Situated on the western coast of Yavdlom, on the Serpent Peninsula, Gwondoya was founded circa AC 920 by a large group of Yavdlom settlers and traders, eager to carve out a new domain for themselves, and to open a convenient port to attract merchants from Slagovich. This is where all official mention of Gwondoya ends; within ten years of its founding, so I am told, nothing was heard from the town or its inhabitants. Over the ensuing years, parties have ventured there to determine Gwondoya's fate, but few have returned. Those that did so reported that the town is strangely intact, with no signs of damage. They uncovered no signs of neglect; everything had the appearance of being untended only for a few moments. What was missing where the inhabitants. So sinister is the tale, and so strong is the feeling of evil in the area, that no native of Yavdlom will willingly go there; nor will they speak of it. A perplexing tale, to be sure, but perhaps one would do well to heed the words of the natives.