THIANA, THE CHARACTERS' WORLD
Thaiana, the characters’ home, is a world divided into five pieces. Exactly how this has come about doesn’t need to be recounted here, but I expected you can guess anyway. War, as usual, played its part, but also the growth of the new steam power has helped separate the world into the two roles so loved by civilisation, the haves and the have-nots.
The Five Kingdoms of Thaiana have little in common, bar the fact that the whole of Thaiana is, at the point that our story is being told, undergoing something of a revolution.
The discovery of the steam engine, and with it the mass manufacture of clothing and goods, and the ability to travel and trade with distant lands, is having the same polarising effect that the discovery of farming had many hundreds of years before.
Classes are changing. Power is evolving. History is being written, and it certainly seems that Cerne Bralksteld is going to be the victor...
The Five Kingdoms of Thaiana:
- Ota’ari, The First Kingdom /oh’tar’ay/
- Penqioa, The Second Kingdom /pen’qwa/
- Ehinenden, The Third Kingdom /aye’nen’dun/
- Cairranbia, The Fourth Kingdom /kai’ran’bee’a/
- Voriias, The Fifth Kingdom /vorh’rye’uz/
Ota’ari has fallen on difficult times. Once a major empire, its fortunes have been greatly affected by its own stubborn refusal to centralise, and its tempestuous relationship with the Second Kingdom, Penqioa, whose borders encircle the majority of the near landlocked Ota’ari.
To date this relationship has remained stable. Ota’ari fears the loss of their trade routes, and Penqioa the loss of the much needed advances that come from the universities of Ota'ari. How long this delicate balance will last if (or, more likely, when) Ehinenden overtake Ota’ari in terms of steam development remains to be seen.
Luckily for Ota’ari, although now fallen on hard times, it still carries with it the cultural capital it garnered as a result of its universities and, in the last century, the discovery of steam and clockwork powered machinery.
Very little is known about Penqioa, and most of what is known is more fable than fact.
It is said that dragons still exist there. It is said that the capital city, Meng-quxio, is made of gold and jade, and that the elders have the secret of eternal youth. It is said that they have weapons that could level any of the cities of the other Four Kingdoms, if they ever choose to do so.
No one has yet managed to say why, if they have so much wealth and power, they choose to hide away from the world.
Either way, what is certain is that Penqioa is a private place. It is a secretive land that refuses all but the most cursory dealings with the other Kingdoms, though they do enjoy a slightly less frosty relationship with Ota’ari, built mainly on proximity rather than a shared respect.
In and of itself, this tendency to ignore the rest of the world shouldn’t necessarily caused any problems, but Penqioa controls most of the coasts in the east, and Ota’ari therefore is reliant on the royal family of Penqioa to allow them to trade via the seas. Sea travel is not the only method of trade, to be sure, but it is certainly the easiest, even before the steamer ships took control of the oceans.
Every few decades a member of the Penqi royal family is sent out in envoy to the other Kingdoms, where he or she may stay a year or two in each ruler’s court, bargaining trade deals, sharing in medical, cultural or technological discoveries (of which Penqioa has shamingly few) and then return to their homeland, never to be seen again by the outside world.
The river Ehi, for which the Kingdom is named, runs from the oceans of the northern shore in a thick line through the country to the Edge of The Known World, known locally as the Edge. It branches off in thin, intricate fern-leaves, feeding the whole country and ensuring that more years than not the crops are good and the animals watered. As a result, even before the steam technology reached their shores, Ehinenden had grown to both rely on and worship the water.
It is possibly for this reason that steam-power was not discovered here, and also why so many elder Ehinens distrust it. After all, the steam engines are powered by the torture of the water: one only has to listen to the pipes and funnels scream to know that.
Ehinenden is a country shaped like a bean, with a wide, rounded back and an inverted, slender front, facing towards the Shared Sea. From this, the country is divided into three counties, Caer Marllyn in the north-west, Marlais in the center, and Sausendorf in the south-east. Each county, although staunchly loyal to the concept of Ehinenden as one country, is fiercely independent of its neighbours. The result of this is something of a kaleidoscopic culture. The image is whole, certainly, but made up of thousands of individual fragments. All it would take is one good shake to break the whole thing apart.
Caer Marllyn, in which The Fairy’s Tale is set, is a large county made up of smaller, semi-independent kingdoms and fiefdoms. The largest of these is Cerne Bralksteld, which occupies the land at the top of the country, north-west, near the landbridge to Voriias.
Cerne Bralksteld is an ever-growing city, having embraced the advent of steam power: the Baron of Cerne Bralksteld was, of all the ruling families in Ehinenden, the only one to truly see the possibilities presentment by steam, and as such created huge, underground manufactories. This expansion has turned Cerne Bralksteld into the largest and wealthiest of the Ehinen cities, and is powered not only by the Baron’s foresight, but also (and it should be noted, mostly) by slavery.
Indeed, most materials are now produced in Cerne Bralksteld, from metalwork and textiles to the engines for the steam ships, most of which are then sold via the treasury to the Ota’ari and Penqioa Steamer Company (commonly referred to as the O&P).
The second fiefdom of note in Caer Marllyn is Llanotterly. One of the oldest kingdoms in Ehinenden, it has now fallen on hard times, mostly as a result of its reckless and irresponsible royal family. Its new ruler, King John, is said to be something an uneducated wimp, having not been afforded the expensive Ota’ari education most rulers in the region enjoy.
Cairranbia is a Kingdom made up of a series of small islands, situated in the south of Thaiana, between the coasts of Ehinenden and Penqioa. Once a vibrant and lively country, now very little of the local culture remains.
Tua Alvistes, the central island, is an exciting, dangerous place where, it is said, pirates are made. Marisanto, the second island of note, is the rainbow of Thaiana, both in terms of flora and fauna, and also in the clothing and brightly painted plaster that adorns the wide, veranda’d houses.
Cairranbia has not fared so well in the race towards mechanisation. As a result of this, the language, Cairi, and the culture are dying out as more of its citizens look outwards for their livelihoods. Still, something of the original spirit of the islands can still be found, especially on the smaller twin islands of Sal Dorma and Sao Dorno. It is here that many of the wealthier families travel on their annual tours, hoping to take the waters and sample – in dilute and seemingly without irony – the local history and culture.
There are two major cities in Voriias, both situated on the coast, called Skjnelia and Bjonvikon. Voriias is a dangerous, depressing land, beaten firstly by the cold, bitter climate and secondly by the hard, inhospitable ruling family, who still hold strong to the belief that all Voriians are equal and thus should all pay an equally large amount of their earnings to them.
Ostensibly these tithes would then be divvied up amongst the country as a whole, but, as you have probably guessed, the reality is very different.
The people of Voriias are a thick skinned, cynical race, and a great advertisement for how the human spirit, no matter in which reality it finds itself, can find the bitter humour in any situation.