Friday, February 25, 2011

Dark•Heritage: Calça, the "forgotten province"

Keisa Alawasmu turned to her shaggy companion with a smirk. "I don't think they like your kind here, Najat."

The young wildman growled deep in his throat like an animal, snarling at the suspicious faces all around him. His hand drifted slowly towards his gunbelt, but stopped when he saw the angry eyes of the native Calçans, who were reaching for their own weapons--hunting rifles and old swords mostly, but deadly enough. Especially when there were close to thirty of them.

"Look," Najat Chuluun said placatingly, raising his hands in a friendly gesture. "We don't want any trouble. We're just passing through."

The locals starting jeering. "Nobody comes to Calça who doesn't want trouble. Nobody else remembers that we're even here. And especially nobody crosses through the Bisbal Forest unless they come directly from one of the bandit companies. You two better start talking, and your story better be good."

Keisa looked like she'd just been slapped in the face. She put her hand to her chest and mouthed the word, "me?" stunned that she was just as suspect as her shaggy friend. But when the local spokesman cocked his rifle, she started talking fast, hoping that the story she was making up was good enough...

When the Terrasan Empire's reach was at its greatest extent, it was conquering and settling lands far to the north of the Mezzovian Sea, coming into conflict with Untash and Tazitta Tribesman, and even the Baal Hamazi empire itself. Old cities that had been capitals of earlier kingdoms, like Razina and Iclezza, were conquered and expanded, and Terrasans flooded the area bringing their language, their culture, and their architecture. However, the lands to the west of the Bisbal Forest, nestled between what was later named the d'Acs Sea and the Vajol Downs, were almost completely uninhabited. The forest opened up into green meadows and rolling hills here, and to farmers from Terrasa--or to northerners looking to leave the increasingly Terrasanized northlands, it was highly desireable land. An archduke was appointed to govern this new territory, and it was given the name of Calça. For several generations settlers moved into this land, mostly farmers, and while it was never a rich or populous land, it was fertile and easily self-sufficient, and wine and olives and other crops grown in Calça were exported throughout the Terrasan sphere of influence.

As Imperial reach was strained, however, merchants and Imperial officials became more rare. About a hundred and fifty years ago, Imperial attention was drawn to the Pirates' War, as it was called, which ended with the declaration of Porto Liure as a free city-state right smack dab in the middle of the Mezzovian Sea, on the Tolosan island of Gandesa. Resources for Calça were appropriated for the war effort. For a time, Archdukes continued to administer the province, with his personal guard serving as soldiers and constables of a sort, but when the last Archduke died mysteriously fifteen years ago, his twin heirs never seen publicly and suspected of being demons, any official government collapsed completely.

This lack of imperial attention made the shadowy Bisbal Forest an attractive destination for bandits and other outlaws. As they became increasingly more dangerous, the roads connecting Calça to the rest of the empire gradually closed and fell into disuse except by the strongest and most well-armed of caravans... which themselves had little incentive to undertake the hazardous journey. The local Calçans found that they were under seige themselves from the bandits, and organized local militias to fend them off on the eastern edges of their province. Unpaid rangers were commissioned by the local rural village and town heads, and were seen by most as heroic figures. Rangers traditionally can request food and shelter from any homestead and Calça and except in situations of extreme hardship, can expect it to be gladly granted; their service to the area is seen as invaluable.

Today, Calça remains mostly rural. Small farming communities, logging communities on the fringes of the forest, and even fishing communities on the shores of the d'Acs Sea dot the area, but there are no large cities or population centers. The Archduke's old town, Baix Colomers, is the largest in the area, but it's still only a few thousand people. Because it's so cut off, and has been for some time, Calça is sometimes called "the forgotten province" when it is, in fact, remembered at all. The locals are tight-knit and suspicous of outsiders, as in their experience very few people come to Calça for any good reasons.

That has partially started to change, however. A number of bandits, and the young descendents of bandits from the forest have tired of their hard-scrabble, violent lifestyle and have gradually trickled into Calça to settle down. For the most part, these folks pretend to be local Calçans from a far-off village or hamlet, but more and more the locals see through this. They are reluctantly welcomed after a long period of time during which they are seen as objects of extreme suspicion. Perhaps more disturbing to the locals is a trickle of refugees from the north, crossing over from the Downs into Calça. It doesn't help that these people are very foreign; they don't speak the Terrasan language, or even the balshatoi language very often, they dress funny, and many of them are clearly descended from daemons. While awareness of the wider world is not something that most Calçans can boast of, at the same time, they are one of the first groups to start to get garbled and incomplete reports of what is happening in the northlands of Baal Hamazi and the supposed rise of Hutran Kutir--but they are at a complete loss as to what's to be done about it.

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