Wednesday, September 19, 2012

G is for the Garriga Mountains

The Garriga Mountains extend north to south, from their southern shores on the Mezzovian Sea (where Iclezza sits at their eastern feet) to the Shutrak Savana far to the north.  Geologically, they are quite obviously a continuation of the Romeu Mountains to the south of the Mezzovian Sea, and the Tolosa Isles with make an irregular dotted line through the waters to connect them.  The Garriga Mountains are ancient granite and limestone mountains, worn somewhat smooth by millenia after millenia of erosion, yet still dififcult to cross, and widely considered impassible by wagon or caravan until fairly recently.  The mountains are almost completely covered in dense oak and hickory forest, with pines and hemlocks at higher elevations.  There are, however, many mountains are are either grassy or heath "balds"--they are not above the treeline, and yet trees refuse to grow on their summits.  The balds tend to be good locations for hunting large herbivores; it is believed that their continued eating of saplings is what keeps the summits in their "bald" state.

The slopes, many creeks, streams, and rivers, extremely rock-strewn terrain, and thick forest have made the Garriga Mountains extremely difficult to penetrate by any other than small groups of outdoorsmen, survivalists, or trailblazers.  For many years, villages and farms in the foothills to the east had to travel southward to Iclezza, board a ship for a short journey westward, and then undertake yet another long journey northwards again to reach a counterpart village or farm in the foothills to the west.  For those who find the prospect of a long overland journey daunting, the mighty Tec and Volo rivers run through the foothills on either side of the mountains (and very roughly parallel to them) and are navigable.  Nevertheless, the prospect of an extremely long journey to cover a relatively short distance between two points was prohibitive.

Finally, an explorer name Cade d'Oceil found the route known today as Cade's Gap, a pass through the mountain that, with a bit of work, yielded a serviceable road that can accomodate wagon and caravan traffic.  The road is quite winding, and is occasionally washed out after the frequent rains that blow through the Garriga Mountains, but when properly maintained, has greatly expanded the ability of the rural folks who live in the foothills to trade with each other, to pass through the mountains more frequently, and even to take advantage of the land within the mountains itself.  Although the mountain slopes remain thinly inhabitated, a number of coves, or sheltered and enclosed valleys, dot the range, and many of them feature somewhat thickly settled farms, cleared valley floors, and villages.  Many of them style themselves after the iconic imagery of Cade d'Oceil: dressed in buckskins and wearing a cap made of the fur of a coon or fox, tail still attached and hanging down the back.

Nominally the entire mountain range is claimed by the Terrasan Empire, and is part of the High Lordship of Iclezza.  However, as one travels further north along the foothills, and further into the heart of the range itself, the less one encounters folks who acknowledge Terrasan lordship, who follow Terrasan customs, who speak or name their children with the Terrasan tongue, or who resemble the typical Terrasan ethnicity.  This land has traditionally remained a redoubt of the balshatoi ethnicity, or Dunners, as they call themselves, after a word in their own tongue.  Many such dunners are in fact "hybrid" both in custom and in blood with Terrasans, but as the separatist "Matter of the North" grows as a political force in the lands near Iclezza, even the bronzest and darkest of folks, who speak only "hillbilly Terrasan" are turning their hearts towards their assumed Northerner heritage, and looking less towards Terrasa for leadership.  Many of the inhabitants of the Garriga Mountains are indeed quite notably not Terrasan at all, and remain relatively "pure" Northerner; one of the few such places left in the Terrasan sphere of influence.

The mountains themselves are not terribly difficult or dangerous to traverse on foot for those who know somewhat of wilderness survival and travel.  What is more concerning is, perhaps, the tendency of local powerful matriarchs and patriarchs to enter into feuds with other groups.  The so-called hillbillies of the Garrigas are often suspicious of strangers, and at times a state of cold warfare exists between small groups of the dunners and others.

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