Estalia is not one kingdom but more than two dozen, riven with blood feuds, politics and shifting borders. Along with a massive chapter on its two great cities, Magritta and Bilbali, the unstoppable Craig Oxbrow takes us on a tour of more than twenty of the major ones. Ancient Agarre has fallen so we start with B and go to Z, and here for you is the top and tail of that alphabet.
Official Name: Most Royal Kingdom Of Badajoz
Ruler: Philippe IV de Los Cabos
Government: Prince’s court, supported by Hidalgo landowners
Capital: Los Cabos
Free Towns: Nerja
Major exports: Shipbuilding, salt and pickled fish, shellfish, pearls, angora, wool, leather
Heraldry: Three ships with white sails in a red field under a golden half sun.
The Land And Its People
The southwestern edge of the Estalian peninsula is hot, dusty and inhospitable. Most of the people of Badajoz cling to the coast, where the fishing fleets and oyster nets support the principality’s tenuous economy. In the centuries since the first Crusades many of its harbour forts have fallen into disuse, and fishing, shipbuilding and trade with neighbouring kingdoms keep the subjects of the Throne of Pearls well fed. Goatherds and drovers work in the reddish Miramar Hills and the dusty plains encircling them, coming to town to trade meat and wools for fresh and dried fish.
Seat of power for the kingdom is Los Cabos, a city renowned for its mariners since Reman times and a strategic point that every invading army and navy has fought over for just as long. Legend has it that Myrmidia herself founded the city, the first ship launched from the bay being carved by the maiden goddess herself from a single Encina Oak tree.
The great explorer Vespuce Lustros was a son of Los Cabos. The explorer’s second voyage set out from the city aboard Badajozian ships. To this day the Lustrian Treasure Fleet uses the bay as a winter berth, helping to defend the coast from Sangria pirates and Araby corsairs drawn by the wealth flowing through the city. The Pearl of the Western Seas attracts many adventurous spirits as it revels in its richest years since the first Crusade.
This success has also reinvigorated Nerja, the chartered free town to the northeast of Los Cabos known for its salt and pickled fish, and San Pedro del Sur, a market town in the foothills of the Miramars and a place of pilgrimage due to its healing spring, known as the Tears of the Little Sister.
“The Throne of Pearls, city of wonders! You can keep Magritta, it’s got too many hills anyway.”
Cristóbal Villalobos, shipwright
“Behold the Asustar, the greatest pearl ever found, centre of the crown jewels, to be worn whence our most noble prince takes a wife.”
Condesa Violeta Della Sur Della Shallya, social climber
“The Maiden General herself was the first to sail from this bay, sirs. We defend this land with no less ferocity.”
Dolorada Della Charybdim, pirate hunter
“They build good boats, I grant them that.”
Marco Colombo, Tilean explorer
I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In
The Treasure Fleet is due to return in days, augurs and carrier pigeons confirming that it has left La Isla Atalaya. The city is in a rush to make ready for a grand festival welcoming the conquering heroes home. And, naturally, pirates and pirate hunters alike wait to make the first move. In the midst of all this, the captain of the harbour watch is found murdered. Suspicion falls on agents of the Sangria pirates, and the city swings from hysteria to paranoia. Who killed the captain and to what cause?
A Chill In The Water
All along the Costa del Sur there have been strange reports of fishermen and shipwrights disappearing by night. Then one of them manages to stumble into a dockside taverna, clutching his side and ranting of men with the heads of trout attacking with tridents and nets. Is any of this true? And if so, what do the sea folk want with men? And what does the Kraken have to do with it?
Official Name: The Holy Kingdom of Zatifa
Ruler: King Ernesto Puente Eboro
Free Towns: none
Major exports: Bookbinding, printing, glassware, wine, sugar and honey
Heraldry: A purple field with an open white book in the upper left quadrant, a golden hand on the right half.
The Land And Its People
Zatifa is a small kingdom north of the Mendora plains, which carried on almost entirely unmolested throughout the Crusades and the years since. However, some centuries ago, heir to the throne Prince Ildefonso was orphaned in a border war and essentially raised by his tutor, becoming a uniquely learned young man. The Scholar Prince ordered that Zatifa become a seat of learning, and set about building the renowned University of Gualcazar.
Today, in the midst of a peaceful, largely rural kingdom with lush vineyards and large apiaries, Gualcazar is rivalled on the Southern Sea only by the Pavona Collegio in Tilea, drawing scholarly children from the finest and noblest families in the Kingdoms, and attracting brilliant minds to teach, research and invigilate there. Centuries of genius have contributed to the reputation, architecture and landmarks of the city and the kingdom as a whole, and clever students from all backgrounds are drawn to the idyllic riverside Puente Eboro campuses. It is possible to see the heir to the throne of Lysboa or Cabria debating Classical theatre with the daughter of a Tarroccan merchant.
Unfortunately, even guarantees of safety cannot entirely ensure that the rich and powerful, or the poor but brilliant, are entirely safe. Some say that the politics of the Peninsula for the next generation are played out in the Puente Eboro.
Worse yet, as any seat of learning will, it also attracts those who seek knowledge for darker purposes. Vampires dwell in the hidden underground libraries, and a group of students and tutors dedicate their nights to hunting down the unholy Necrarchs who seek to usurp the city of learning.
“This is the greatest scholarly city in the Old World. Despite what those Pavona dogs think. We’ll see who wins the boat race next year!”
Jacinto de Silve, Rower
“Knowledge creates and draws in secrets, mysteries, things that we should research and consider before taking action.”
Guillermo del Arboleda, tutor of the Physical Sciences
“There are vampires. We should kill them.”
Melisende De Matorral De Niro, student of Classical Linguistics and vampire hunter
“The Known World is definitely doomed.”
Enrique Miguel Ezquerra de Molena, Invigilator in history and classical studies
The Puente Eboro Four
A group of clever students have been recruited by agents of a rival kingdom to spy on the heir to their own land. While they have little to report, the scandal of revealing this could damage the University’s reputation, and helping to conceal it could lead to the spies going on to positions of power. The Dons of the University would like a third option…
Gualcazar By Night
A college town with vampires lurking underneath trying to take over the world is really bound to see conflict. Throw in rich and powerful people as targets for the undead, and ancient lore hidden in the massive college libraries, and trouble is sure to follow. Thankfully, the mortals have an edge when one of their number is discovered to be an heir to the power of the Andanti, an ancient Estalian line of vampire hunters.