Kingdoms of Frandum - Valea

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Short history

Valea is said to be the most ancient kingdom of Frandum, and it seems that its fertile plains were the first area of the world on which appeared what can be called a civilization. Recent studies have discovered ancient settlements which date back to the end of the First Age, where history has long since turned into mythology.

Trusted records begin not far from the End of the Second Age, where they bring some reality into the legends of the heroes and battles of that era. The most commonly accepted version is that of a mosaic of small kingdoms eventually united by a dynasty, the family of Gwym, who haved ruled upon Valea ever since.

Dominating at the end of the Second Age, Valea slowly lost its edge during the Third Age, and its borders receded as its strength weakened along its decadence. Yet the evangelization of the people by the priests of Galanhir, which had begun under the rule of the first Gwym, prepared the Valean people for a reunification, which only needed an extraordinary personality to become a reality. It would be unfair toward Aemir I to tax his victories as being the consequence of the momentum of history, which was bringing Valea back to a predominant role: Aemir's own skills and bold tactics allowed him to unite the kingdoms of good and win an impressive series of victory all over the world. Yet his victory would have been senseless without the background movement.

Then once again, Valea grew lazy after it almost conquered the world, and its decline has come back more quickly than its glory. Today it is an old, choking kingdom which remains the biggest of the world only because no one dares attack it and its fame. More than ever, Valea is becoming a giant with clay feet.

Climate and geography

One of the biggest kingdoms of Frandum, Valea covers quite a diversity of climates, which range from the snowy buttresses of the White Peaks, where snow and ice cover the ground six months a year, to the mild temperate climate of the grassy plains around the Crossroads of Wildstone.

Raw materials and resources

Valea is a land of agriculture, and most of its resources come from the cultivation of its soil. The Valean production in terms of cereals is more than extensive, and a full third of it is exported to the surrounding kingdoms, which often lack cultivable lands.

Valea also produces fruits and vegetables, mainly through the orchards which surround the city of Agnor, and its vineyards produce one of the most renowned wines of the world. Lastly, the colder plains and hills of the north see a fair spread of breeding of sheep and cows, while reknown stud farms such as Weinster cover the western part of the kingdom.

The forests of Valea have long since been cleared for want of cultivable areas, yet some of them remain, next to the Dostenian and Phodelan borders, supplying the surrounding farmlands with game, wild plants and construction wood.

Metals are scarce in Valea, as only the mountainous hills of the north bear any significant mines, but even those are hard to work due to the icy weather there. The provisioning of metals has always been a recurrent problem to the kingdom of Valea, central to the world yet distant from any significant production areas. The hoarding of it by lords and later on clergymen has further unsettled the balance, and most of Valea's exportations are sold to provide the kingdom with goin metals (gold, silver), and the iron required by a still military society.

The Windchime plateau is the main source of building stone for Agnor, and its quarries product most of the building material needed by the lord's castles and the priests' cathedrals. The average Valean home is rather made with a combination of stone and wood, when they are not close to a major forest.

Without any direct access to the sea, Valea relies upon its neighbours and the trade roads for the procurement of sea products, which might explain why fish from all three seas are a choice dish for Valeans.

More elaborate goods are mostly imported by Valea in exchange for its excedentary grain, safe for fabrics, which are made by the cotton fields of the southern border, and contribute to the wealth of the kingdom.

People of Valea

Valea has always been, and still remains, the human kingdom by essence. It has been founded by humans, has assimilated surrounding human countries, and things don't seem to have changed much over the course of millenia. Even if the Valean army at its greatest has always recruited beings from every race, only a few of them have ever settled in the kingdom itself, so that the non-human districts of the Valean cities are often only small ghettoes. The few exceptions are several dwarven villages not far from the Carlenian borders, and elves near the frontiers of Phodela and Leavern.

Cities and countryside

There has never been room for cities in farming Valea. The first gatherings of people were keeps and castles where the people could seek refuge in times of wars. With time and the growing influence of their lords, castles could enlarge their walls to shelter several thousands people, but even Agnor has never had a true city around it, and today, only 20 000 people live around the ancient castle's walls. Valean live from the earth, and their poor industry cannot justify their moving into cities rather than gatherings of farmers.

Politics and laws

The feodal system revived by Aemir is now decaying and the clergy, which has benefitted from Aemir's fervor and efficiently spread Galanhir's belief in all layers of the population, has taken over. However, the clergy itself remains urban and stays hidden within the cities, repeating the same mistakes as the nobles did before, thus leading to regular uproars from the peasants.

The law is strict and follows the precepts of Galanhir: as a consequence, the social layers are closed, and few are the peasants who rise to any significant role in the society. Taxes are heavy on the people, synonymous of an inefficient state, and giving people even more reasons to revolt.

Wars and armies

Valea is mainly (and sometimes only) known for its army and its glorious military past. Countless wars have been fought for and because of Valea, and its history bathes in the blood of its people and most of all of its opponents.

But prestige is more and more the only thing that remains of the once great army which almost conquered Frandum at the end of the Third Age. Soldiers have not escaped the general derelictness which has come upon the whole kingdom, and the officers have become lenient, corrupt, and more and more inefficient, so that only its fame keeps Valea from being attacked and conquered.

Trade and craftsmanship

The Valean trade is more than basic, almost all the exchanges being based upon food or raw materials. Citizens of Valea import fine products from the surrounding kingdoms, and export the meager production of the local craftsmen. The only exception to this status is the market of fine swords, Valean smiths being famous for their mastership, knowing both how to make efficient blades and beautiful works of art.

Science and education

The educative system of Valea is based upon efficiency: students are rarely taught things which will be of no practical use to them, and it is useless to look for any other reason why the Valean people are often narrow-minded and tied to their traditions.

Scientists are rare in Valea, and discoveries uncommon, since only a few privileged people have any access to a non-practical education.

Religion and magic

It seems that from its birth, Valea has been related to the cult of Galanhir. Far from the fables telling Galanhir himself inspired the kingdom, it seems obvious that the first Valean society quickly organized itself around a class of clergymen who led the villages by preaching to the Lord of Light. Only later did the soldiers take over the ruling position, yet even they justified their wars by the common creed, transforming them into crusades against the worshippers of other gods.

Since the beginning of our age, the cult has begun to recede somehow, mainly on the borders, as the central government is more and more powerless to maintain it, and as the clergymen's fanaticism has become milder. Yet a vast majority of the inhabitants still believe in Galanhir.

Magic is a word unknown to the Valean commoner, who strives to take his living out of the soil. Only the educated or religious layers of the society have any access to magic, and even they do not pursue their studies very far. Even at the time of its glory, the Valean army had few clerics of its own, as most of them came from neighbouring good kingdoms.

Arts and culture

Safe for the occasional rule of an enlightened king, the Valean rulers are not very fond of art, considering it a waste of resources, which explains why Valean artists are rarely well known abroad, if known at all.

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