Jack Shear’s post on the Ghael Isles is here. This is one of the country descriptions for my upcoming book on the World Between. This is a draft.
There is a dream-like quality to Scarabae. Fey-touched nobles serve the Church of the Lady, and rule from manors overlooking the enchanted woods. Wicked aristocrats and spellcasters lurk in the shadows, striking at the Church and its followers. Vows bind nobles beyond death in protecting their lands. In Scarabae, nothing is as it seems, and making assumptions (especially assumptions that allow violence) is always the wrong move.
Not-France. This nation is carefully balanced between four powerful neighbors. The ruling class developed a gender-neutral knighthood founded in an ideal of respect, with balancing ties to the fey and to the Church of the Lady. Concerns of history, diplomacy, and supernatural pacts require Scarabeans to be diplomats to manage competing demands. Ability to use violence is necessary to gain traction at the bargaining table, but it is never the first choice. No culture here is dominant enough to be dismissive of the others, and the past is very present.
The Sun King or Sun Queen (currently Liza VI) rules a feudal network. The ruler is usually one who has quested for the Grail, found it, and returned it to the Lady by dropping it into the pool in the King’s Cathedral in Foret Tour. Only nobility may make pacts involving their lands, so all legal agreements go through the ruler at whatever level is appropriate. This is a cautious result of millennia of tricky bargains.
Scarabaens are tall, with straw-blonde hair, big noses, weak chins, and blue or green eyes. They are wishy-washy, their promises full of caveats and wiggle words, but they are true to the letter of what they promised. They have an unnerving inability to be exclusively loyal, always entertaining other offers. They would rather read and sing than fight and rut. They take themselves and their honor and the honor of their families too seriously, but they are difficult to provoke. Once roused, they have an uncanny focus on punishing the offender, after which they tend to let grudges go. They tend to have a neutral or positive relationship with the dead and undead from their country, every old house has an ancestor or two floating around.
Trade with the fey, quality broadswords and chain mail, romantic ballads and poetry, diplomacy, elite warriors, fine wine, heavy fabric and tapestries.
Carrefour. The capitol and trade center of Scarabae. The Sun Queen rules from this city, and it is famed for its diversity of architecture, its hundreds of museums, and its variety of foods.
Chantiernaval. This port is the center of Scarabae’s naval strength. The shipyards produce vessels that ward away Frostreave raiders, and sail all the way around Midian to the Sea of Sothak for trade in the south.
Foret Tour. The Forest Gate is an ancient city, full of illusions and cryptic mysteries layered upon one another. It is the spiritual center of Scarabae. Legend has it that you can contact any otherworldly creature from someplace in Foret Tour.
Valencira. The Two-Faced City is known for being fortified to either protect against Midian or protect Midian from eastward threats. This city has many fine schools for diplomats, and it is as far out of Midian as many nobles there are willing to send their children. Valencira is the center of Scarabae’s military tradition, from personal combat to army movements and command to naval engagements.
Porte. The Southern Shield is a fortress settlement designed to keep undead corralled to the south, suppress aggression from the west, stop raiders from the coast, and check demonic warbands from the Iron Principalities.
Alertier. This port on the western edge of Glasslake is the center of espionage between Scarabae and the rest of the World Between. Intrigues abound, diplomacy happens under the table, and there is the occasional stabbing. It is also a major trade city, getting goods from Midian and Scarabae to markets eastward.
Talonback Woods. These woods are the heart of Scarabae’s supernatural allegiance. Here, the fey enforce their claims as promised by the Maron family of Foret Tour, centuries ago. Here, the demonologists, wizards, and witches of the Crimson League based in Carrefour unleash their monstrous summonings and smuggle demons and their masters (or slaves) from Caligari and the Iron Principalities. Here, the knights questing for the Grail seek adventure and clarity. The forest is deep and rugged, littered with shrines to the Lady, tiny villages, fairy circles, and dark altars. The Veil is thin here, allowing many supernatural energies to ebb and flow over the centuries. Were any one faction to gain supremacy here, the character of the whole nation would shift.
Collines Brouette. These rugged hills to the south are the traditional resting place for kings and war leaders of Scarabae, including warriors from the World Above. The practice of raising barrows ended in 5,710 when the Warmaster of Dust and his necromancers landed in the barrow hills and raised the Slain Kings. The bolstered army nearly enslaved all of Scarabae with the local honored dead leading a vast army of remains. When the army reached Carrefour, King Louis the Holy confronted the army. In a stirring passionate speech to the barrowdead, he reminded them of their allegiance, their oaths, and their honor. The Scarabian dead turned on the Warmaster of Dust. After the battle those that remained returned to their barrows in a ghostly tide. Now they defend the hills from other dead that seek to enter Scarabae from the south. Still, they are not happy or restful, and any adventurous warm-blooded soul venturing deep into the hills for an overnight stay is unlikely to return.
Plaines Choc. The “Clashing Plains” in eastern Scarabae are fertile for farming, and often serve as battlefields with Caligari or the Iron Principalities. Food grown on these plains helps feed Scarabae’s neighbors; one of the greatest deterrents Scarabae has against war is to threaten to cut off the food supply. Any farmer who has been on the land for generations is able to recite the various significant military clashes that happened on fields he works.
Legend of the Wounded King. The Ulverland, Lady, and fey traditions all have variations on the legend of the Wounded King. The Sun King was wounded by evil, and could not recover without drinking from the divinely infused cup. So the knights sought the cup. Nobles who are confused or in emotional pain sometimes take leave of their responsibilities to seek the Grail. The few who find it can take it to the King’s Cathedral in Foret Tour and drop it in the Well, where it heals all present; that rare individual is likely to be the next ruler. For most who survive, the quest teaches them something about themselves and their dilemmas, and brings a measure of peace.
Ulverland Influence. Ulverland occupied Scarabae from 3,950 to 4,440. In that time, the traditions of the Father and Family religion were somewhat entrenched. Scarabae won its freedom by allying both with the fey of the Shae Isle and with the Church in Midian, both elements driving the invader out (and resulting in mixed loyalty.) Even now, Scarabae must maintain good relations with Ulverland to neutralize a neighboring threat, and to cooperate against Frostreave attacks on both their coastlines.
Midian Influence. Midian only has one border on land shared with a neighbor. They cannot understand why Scarabae is not slavishly loyal to the Church of the Lady and rejects all lesser alliances and beliefs. That is tiresome and frustrating for those in Scarabae. However, a strong cultural element is profoundly connected to the Lady of the White Way, and to the Church. Because of that, Midian and Scarabae will always have a common ground and they will be able to fight for common cause, even if egos and policies over the centuries cause their political interests to drift apart. In 5,212 the “Traitor Knights” of Scarabae rebelled against Midian’s rule, over taxation and theology and other issues. They rebuilt diplomatic relations quickly once they had independence. Scarabae needs Midian’s promise of military support to maintain other diplomatic relations, and Midian needs the food grown on Scarabae’s fertile plain to survive.
World Below Influence—the Scarlet League. During the Third Crusade, the righteous army from the World Above marched east. When they reached Scarabae, there were many tense situations where the forces of the Lady of the White Way decided whether or not Scarabae was still faithful (considering the pacts with fey and Ulverland occupation.) During this process, many powerful and influential people were executed, trying to make Scarabae’s nobility fall in line with Midian and the Church. A number of independent nobles, and some that were actually evil, banded together and formed a secret society called the Scarlet League. These free thinkers resist the church at every turn, working to minimize its influence among the influential of Scarabae, resenting the iron inflexibility of their neighbors to the southwest and the Church of the Lady. Targeted by inquisitions, rejected by those who define honor by the standards of the Church, these subversives have worked for centuries to turn Scarabae away from being a Land of the Lady. They harbor wizards, witches, anarchists (as long as the anarchists agree nobles should rule), rogue scholars, and all sorts of white collar heretics.
Fey Influence. During the Age of Compacts, the city of Foret Tour was ruled by the Maron family. The Maron Duke made a compact with the eldritch forces of the Seelie Court, giving them the Talonback Woods as a sphere of influence if they would help drive the Ulverlanders from Scarabae. Over the next decade, the necessary stones, lines, and circles were placed and enchanted. The resistance to Ulverland rule strengthened in the forest. With glamered stealth, the rebellion took Carrefour and Chantiernaval, driving Ulverland’s forces back across the Moon Sea and forcing those trapped in Scarabae to flee into Caligari. Since then, the fey presence in the Talonback Woods has flavored the politics, culture, religion, and history of Scarabae.
Damsel of the Lady. This highly controversial tradition involves a girl born with bright red hair and remarkable mystical talent. No test can confirm whether her gifts are genuinely from the Lady of the White Way, or some eldritch fey trick. These women are revered as avatars of the Lady of the White Way by everyone but skeptics. They have tremendous powers, and often help knights who search for the Grail.