The first light, the first hope
uld Cervia was the first nation-state on Excilior. It was founded by the mother of all casterway societies - Cervia Polonosa - and for nearly 500 years it reigned as the greatest nation on the planet. At its peak, Auld Cervia accounted for the entire land area of Islemanoton.
Although there is a modern nation known as Cervia that still maintains clear roots to this society, it should not be confused with the ancient civilization of Auld Cervia. Modern day Cervia is to Auld Cervia what Italy is to the ancient civilization of Rome.
Being the first formal civilization in the world, Auld Cervia had several critical moments in its early history and its exact founding date is dependent upon what one considers to be included in the process of establishing a nation. Cervia's first act of nation-building was to establish a permanent base at the mouth of the Setrio River in 11 AoC. This is now marked as the founding of the great city of Setrinano. Setrinano would go on to be the capital of Auld Cervia throughout the nation's history. However, in 11 AoC, it would have been a stretch to refer to this... base camp as a full-fledged city. And although Setrinano and Auld Cervia would essentially be the same thing for many years, no one at this embryonic moment in history bothered to think of Cervia's fledgling output as a nation. Even after Setrinano had been firmly established, its citizens routinely referred to it merely as a city - not as a nation in its own right. Throughout Cervia's life, she, and those around her, would continue to refer to their society as Setrinano. It wasn't until a year after Cervia's death that her daughter, Hineia, decreed - with the backing of the city's high council - that their society thereafter would be known as Cervia. Of course, they did not, in those times, refer to their nation as Auld Cervia. The "auld" addendum was added many centuries later, after the Age of Cervia had ended, to distinguish between the initial, ancient nation-state and its successors who have also been known as Cervia.
It's clear to me now that the desperate demeanor of these men is fed by their realization that there are no women to be found. With no women, there are no children. And with no children, every man acquires an implicit realization that he has nothing to live for other than his next meal.
Cervia Polonosa, The First Mother, 15 AoC
rom the time that The First Mother understood the true nature of Excilior's population and the mechanics of excilation, she realized that the planet's birthrate would be the primary obstacle to the establishment of any stable, long-term civilization. Specifically, before her arrival, the birth rate was zero. This was an obvious side effect of the fact that all of the casterways being deposited on the planet's surface were men. Unbeknownst to her at the time, even with a population of fertile women, the Plague of Men would provide another obstacle to the establishment of a stable population.
Plague of Men
Incredibly, Cervia herself bore eight children - and they were all girls. But sadly, she seems to have been the only person throughout history to have accomplished such a feat. Even her daughters bore male children at a rate consistent with the Plague of Men. This meant, as a practical matter, that the population's growth rate in its early years was severely impaired.
When she arrived on the planet, Cervia estimated that there were possibly as many as 10,000 casterways living across Islemanoton and small parts of southwestern Islegantuan. Once she had established the fragile village of Setrinano, and once word spread that there were women in this village, she herself estimated that as many as 90% of the population made their way to her outpost. Of course, there weren't nearly enough women to satiate even a tiny portion of those lonely men, but witnessing a city on Excilior that actually had women - any women at all - had the practical effect of instilling hope. For many of those men who hadn't already lost their humanity, it had a civilizing effect. It made them want to work together again, even if it wouldn't directly be their children and their genes that would ultimately populate the planet. Nevertheless, maintaining any kind of stable population was extremely challenging in the early years of the colony. The high council of Setrinano did its best to take periodic censuses. They were keenly worried that a single catastrophe - a plague, a razer, whatever - would wipe out their entire civilization. The following are some of their estimates for Auld Cervia's population over time:
Notice that more than 100 years after the founding of Setrinano, the population of women had risen to a couple hundred, but the overall population of the settlement had fallen to nearly half its original level. Several factors contributed to this: After a period of initial euphoria, some of the men who had joined the original city-state left to make their way, alone, back in the wild. Several waves of disease swept through the camp during that first century. And of course, once the casterways had come to identify the realities of the Plague of Men, it became clear how difficult it would be to establish a viable population.
Nevertheless, as the proportion of women in the young city slowly grew, the population did stabilize and, eventually, rose accordingly. Two hundred years later, its population still hovered around 10,000. But a century later, the population had ballooned to more than 60,000. The last century of Auld Cervia's history was one of explosive population growth. By the end of the Age of Cervia in 479 PE, there were more than 4.3 million citizens. They had established numerous cities and their ranks stretched from the northernmost points of The Hinterlands to the southern limits of Islemanoton.
If the council doesn't find something soon on which to disagree, I might be forced to manufacture a controversy - to keep us all from dying of boredom.
Erie Faolin, Auld Cervian citizen, 155 AoC
s the unquestioned first governor of the settlement, Cervia Polonosa showed little desire for autocratic rule. She deemed it critical that the population of her fledgling outpost felt that they had a say in the laws and policies of the camp. The desperate survival realities of early life on Excilior also made it more beneficial if everyone in Setrinano was "rowing together". Cervia often preached the necessity for cooperative living and she actively discouraged the private hoarding of land, or any other resources.
With this legacy in place, Auld Cervia's first two hundred years were characterized by a "tribal council" style of rule. The council met often. It featured, at times, as many as fifty permanent members. The meetings were open and raucous and they would often go on for hours. Many citizens viewed them as the best entertainment available. It wasn't until the population began to boom after 230 AoC that these forms of government became unwieldy. A growing citizenry needed more efficient decision-making processes and it was no longer feasible to believe that everyone on the large council truly "knew" or "understood" all the needs of the people. So rather than face a revolt, the council decide to name a formal ruler with the authority to make swift and decisive decisions.
Queen of Cervia
In 232 AoC, Mizele Portier became the first Queen of Cervia. Although the system of rule, from this point forward, would accurately be defined as a monarchy, the Auld Cervian approach to monarchy was decidedly more egalitarian than other ruling system deployed by other countries since. The high council was never disbanded - although it did shrink. Throughout the Age of Cervia, the council would continue to have a central role in politics. And all future monarchs were chosen by that same council. There was no recognized birthright in the succession practices of Auld Cervia. There were several instances when a queen's daughter was chosen to succeed her, but this was never thought of as her natural right. In fact, there were several instances when a queen's daughter wished to be considered for succession, and the council informed her that the deceased monarch had already told them that her daughter was not fit to rule.
uld Cervia's formal defenses were quite scant. Although this may be surprising, it makes sense when analyzed further. When Cervia Polonosa first returned to Islemanoton, she had no shortage of potential aggressors to deal with. This was true on a personal level, as men were not shy about openly attacking her for their own animalistic desires. But this was also true on a societal level, because the early instinct of other casterways was to raid and undermine her settlement.
Based in the Trees
But she recognized that the primitive "culture" was not in a state that would support a standing military. Nor would they be able to muster the resources to build hearty, permanent entrenchments. Instead, she demonstrated to everyone on the continent that her Lightriders presented a formidable military force - even if they were, essentially, a militia that would only be mustered on an as-needed basis. Then she taught her own people to build upon, and live in, the branches of the mighty canopeia trees that dominated the terrain. This meant that any potential attackers had to approach their settlements from below. Plenty of putative raiding parties were called off within minutes once the Auld Cervians had sounded the alarm and began raining arrows, boulders, hot pitch - anything, really - down upon the attackers' heads. This meant that Auld Cervia's defenses weren't really based upon battlements or physical structures. Rather, they were based on keeping a ready supply of missiles with which they could repel any aggressors.
uld Cervian architecture, and indeed, all Tallonai architecture to this day, is dominated by two central themes.
First, it is striking for the fact so much of it is based in the majestic canopeia trees. Auld Cervians did not live entirely in the trees and, when necessary, they certainly built structures on the ground. But the vast majority of their architecture is built directly upon the epic branches of those regal trees. Deploying complex networks of bridges and walkways, it was not uncommon to see large city sectors constructed entirely upon the branches. This meant that Auld Cervian's could go days without standing on the ground, if they so desired.
Second, Auld Cervia was the first society to discover, and deploy en masse, the process for curing bloodwood. "Regular" wood - from a broad array of trees - is, of course, a solid choice for many construction processes. However, bloodwood, when properly cured, takes on amazing qualities that allow its use in ways that most would never ascribe to wood. After going through the curing process, bloodwood doesn't just become stronger, it actually gets lighter. This allowed the Auld Cervians to create structures that looked far more ambitious in size, and extreme in design, than most would assume for an ancient civilization. Like so much else in Auld Cervia, these innovations are tied directly back to The First Mother. After her exile on Islegantuan, she came back having acquired the knowledge to cure bloodwood and she immediately understood its advantages. She also established the practice of building - and even, living - directly in the trees. The casterways she'd previously encountered had all been hewing almost exclusively to the ground. Although this was a natural choice, because they had probably never lived in trees before, Cervia recognized it as a gross misuse of the forest's resources. Furthermore, she realized that those limiting themselves to ground level were abandoning the potential for a key tactical advantage when dealing with aggressors.
ecause Auld Cervia eventually covered the entire continent of Islemanoton, their geographies are the same. In the northern reaches of present-day Poglia, there are tropical rain forests. Throughout the rest of the continent, all coastal regions are dominated by temperate rain forests. Inland, near the junctions of present-day Cervia, Ponia, and Catro, temperate deciduous forests dominate the landscape. Islemanoton has no true mountains to speak of. But in the center of the continent, in the highlands dominated by present-day Catro, forest elevations reach a peak of 928 meters.
he most valuable natural resource in Auld Cervia was bloodwood. It was such a superior building material that it essentially became its own form of currency in the realm. The bloodwood tree is not limited to Islemanoton, but it was exceptionally plentiful in Auld Cervia's forests. This gave them a valuable vehicle for trade when other nations around the Dropship Seia started to surface in the latter half of the Age of Cervia.
The nation was also enriched through their access to, and knowledge of, the bronz horus. Bronz Horuses can be found on other continents, but it was the Cervians who knew how to tame them. And how to ride them. While this gave them a frightening advantage in tactical military affairs, it also gave them a skill set that was supremely marketable. The bronz horus riders became a wealthy caste in their own right, and their influence over Cervian society would last far beyond the crumbling of ancient Auld Cervia.