Ziel began as a collection of ports scratched out of the rough volcanic terrain along the east coast of Sobukand. It was founded by sailors as they avoided the conflicts of the Kings Wars. These sailors originated from all over Sobukand and gathered sporadically in Ziel and lived in relative peace. This region is in the middle of the eastern coast and extends from just south of Dan Nan in Teyen to just north of the Svartump of Ostsorjund. Ziel is not a continuous region but the strong seafaring traditions of its people keep them connected well enough.
The Boiling MawThe terrain of Ziel is very rocky with volcanic debris and fissures. The region is small, only composed of five port cities and territory surrounding each of them. While ancient eruptions have made other regions fertile, Ziel remains filled with volcanic rock and soil that is porous and nutrient poor. This makes agriculture impossible on a large scale. The largest volcanic caldera is huge, continually erupting, and is known as “The Boiling Maw”. The area around this active volcano has grown rapidly over the last millennia and occupies what is still expanding as a peninsula out into the sea. Although the Boiling Maw is still actively erupting, the eruptions have not been violent for at least a century. Mostly the lava bubbles to the top of the volcano and then flows out to the surrounding land, eventually making its way into the sea. These lava flows have been mostly to the north east of the volcano and as a result there are no settlements in this area. Living close to an active volcano can be interesting at best and hazardous at worst. The open magma pools can be avoided easily enough, but an unseen lava tube can collapse under your feet without warning. The sea air usually keeps fumes and ash blowing out to sea, but times when the winds shift often require long stays indoors, especially in winter. The winter months in Ziel are mild but bring fairer winds which leaves ash and sulfur to rain down on the ports, staining the docks black with soot.
Kings WarsZiel began as several small independent ports. During the Kings Wars, overland trade became more difficult so much of the trade between the various regions was conducted by ship through this collection of port settlements. Though officially the borders of the Kingdoms were closed during the pitched battles, one could count on the neutrality of Ziel to continue to keep trade moving. That neutrality is one reason such a small region prospered, and why the sailors of Ziel have been allowed to remain as independent minded as they are. When the Kings Wars ended and the Empresses sent dignitaries to make a treaty with Ziel, there was some resistance. After weeks of meetings and talking, they finally reached an accord. Even so, there seems to be some flexibility in how the citizens follow Imperial Laws when there are no Imperial eyes watching.
MosfellCommodore Mosfell was the founder of the City of Mosfell. He was a captain of the ship, Mercy’s Wake, whose crew was from Sorjund. Rounding the continent they were forced by storms into The Cove. The seas were so rough, they immediately sought landing in the nearest shelter they could find. The Commodore was able to navigate and get Mercy’s Wake to shelter in a large sea cave. They dropped anchor and waited out the storm. Even so, the ship took damage that required a week or so to repair.. During that time, Commodore Mosfell explored the surrounding area. When the repairs were done, they sailed on. On future trips up and down the eastern coast, he and his crew found that this sea cave made an excellent place to shelter when the southern squalls would harry Mercy’s Wake. Eventually some passengers and crew and other sailors and merchants came to the sea cave and settled the surrounding area. Mercy’s captain felt connected to this place and decided to settle here as well. Once “Commodore” Mosfell retired, he became Mosfell’s first Harbor Master, passing the title to his son later in life. The title of Harbor Master became standard for each of the other city ports founded in the region. The Harbor Master of Mosfell today is a direct descendant of the “Commodore”. Mosfell is the largest and most southern port city. The City perches on a bluff overlooking the harbor. One must travel down the bluffs to get to the sea port, which is not part of the city proper. The sea port extends out from inside a large sea cave. This provides protection from rough seas and storms when ships come in to dock. Mosfell’s port is a major trade port. It has extensive markets and shipping warehouses that find their homes inside the cave. To a visitor, the port can be a bewildering warren of ships, docks, taverns and market stalls. The city proper, much like the port, hosts large markets for trade. Both Sorjund and Terradinum bring goods to Mosfell to be sold further up the coast. Salt water pearls are commonly found in Mosfell.
RagnarossRagnaross lies to the south of what was once an obsidian plain. The glassy rock extended for miles to the east and ends where the outflow of magma from the Boiling Maw ended its advance. This obsidian, or volcanic glass plain, was shattered when a centuries-overdue eruption shook the ground. The citizens of Ragnaross go on hunting trips to recover obsidian to be used as ornamental carvings and in rituals. The piers on the port side of the city are protected by a large series of natural reefs, feeding on the hydrothermal vents offshore. The vents give the area a haze of steam and fumes, making a mist which often obscures the docks from view from the Port City above and smells bad to outsiders.
Pakahin & TuriThese cities lie on either side of the Cragland River that flows from the southern end of the Dunbar Mountains to the eastern sea. The rapids of this river make for spectacular viewing, as waterfalls cascade all the way down to the ocean. Many of the waterfalls have pools full of freshwater fish called koi. The two ports lie on opposite sides of a shallow but wide waterfall that descends into the sea. This is called the Spirit Falls, for the white clouds of mist that settle around it. A bridge spans the river between the two ports.
HingaHinga is a city located on the only island of Ziel. It is said that this is the first city of Ziel because of its remote nature and the fact that sailors seeking to escape the Kings Wars founded it. While the other cities of Ziel try to fit in with the Empire and follow the laws, Hinga has its own form of government. If challenged, the leaders of the island will say they are part of the Empire, but in practice the island runs on its own and tries to avoid outside influence. The leaders of Hinga try to benefit everyone who lives on the island and presently the best way to do that is to not fight against the Empire too much. This is one of the largest trading cities of Sobukand. Unlike the rest of Sobukand, this island exists only to trade. There is no farming or production of other goods, just large markets where anything imaginable can be bought or traded. There are strict laws about property, thievery, and murder, but few laws about anything else.
IndustryThe region’s main resource is its markets for trade. If you are trying to find something, Ziel probably has it. Fish, pearls, obsidian, and citrus fruit are the only natural resources produced in this region. There are crafters who specialize in the shaping of obsidian into ornaments and sculptures which are desired by many other regions of Sobukand for jewelry or for use in various rituals.
Culture, Clothing, and Traditions
ContractsAs many of the folk are sailors, or former sailors, the people of Ziel have adopted legal contracts as a regular part their business dealings that mirror those from the maritime professions. The contract culture continues to be reflected in how the cities are run. Ports are run by a Harbor Master and the individual Captains agree to the contract they set for rules within that Port. Likewise, inland, the guilds and businesses form contracts with their members and employees. Contracts are taken very seriously and anyone who breaks a contract will find it hard to obtain another. Word of such transgressions travels fast in Ziel. Contract breakers lose much social status. In many cases, these people would not be able to find employment or even gain passage on a ship, at least not without paying up front.
Daily LifeThe majority of activity in Ziel is seen at the markets and at dockside. Ships of all shapes and sizes, from fishing trawlers to large cargo barges to sleek open water schooners all perch at the piers. Goods being offloaded are then moved via horse and cart through the streets to the markets. A bustling stream of dockhands see to the servicing of each ship, while the sailors themselves make fast repairs to ready for a new voyage. Merchants count their lots and match manifests, while on the outskirts of the city crafters carve, etch and sculpt the Obsidian common to the area. The notion of individual liberty has a long standing tradition in Ziel. Because contracts are entered by the free will of the participants each person is in charge of their own destiny. There is a strong belief that all people should have free will to agree to a contract or turn it down. Coercion is not tolerated and is has been punished by exile in the past.
InnovationThe peoples of Ziel enjoy the technological bounty of all of the regions. Often two or more separate and different innovations are combined into something entirely different and new by a quick thinking mind in Ziel. Navigation and seafaring is an art in Ziel few match.
NeutralityZiel prides itself on the neutrality it has observed throughout the history of Sobukand. They seek solace in the sea, with a philosophical notion about destruction and creation being so close to the volcanoes around them. A common view is that each person has a life story to tell and fate directs each person to their role in turn.
GamesThe people of Ziel spend their free time playing games. Liar’s Dice, poker, and many other gambling and non-gambling games are just a few examples. The art of exaggeration is also a known custom, wherein the telling of tall tales becomes a competition on its own and many hours are spent in revelry while each sailor tries to best the previous story. These stories are known to be exaggerated, and as such are not seen as lies necessarily. Dishonesty to one’s captain or crew is seen as a very grave offense, but within the context of these contests the bolder the exaggeration the better.
FoodFarming is all but unknown in Ziel, but some enterprising folks occasionally will find a wild grove of citrus fruit to harvest. The lack of suitable land and the ever changing nature of the landscape make it very inhospitable to such endeavors. Likewise, the cultivation of livestock is difficult. Most meats are imported, but one will find a couple goats and chickens here and there in the region. Horses are scarce, but some of the wealthier merchants have them to move goods from the docks to the market. Donkeys are more common, but are still not great in number. Many carts of goods are pulled by people hired to do so.
NamingSince the average citizen of Ziel might descend from any of the regions, most naming conventions are common. The northern cities have more influence from Teyen, and sometimes follow many of the same conventions. Notably Teyen family names are often used as a prefix, with those being used first and then followed by the personal name. Otherwise, it is common for the personal name to be followed by the family name. Surprisingly similar to Holthar, people of Ziel are not fond of fire, especially on ships. It is rare for a sailor or crew to be spirit bound to a fire spirit. However, that is not the case when one moves inland to the markets and cities. And as you get closer to the volcano association with fire spirits becomes more prevalent, but only with folk who were never sailors.
MusicThe music of Ziel follows the use of sea shanties to pace the work aboard ship. The tunes, easy to remember, offer a way to coordinate the push and pull of lines and cargo among the sailors. This trend is taken up on land, as the sailors spend their free time in taverns. Accordion, tin whistle and harmonica are some of the favored instruments. Chimes are also popular as they make music freely in the wind. Common instruments would be those easily carried aboard ship, and the songs mostly follow the theme of living at sea.
TraditionsColors have a great significance to the people of Ziel. Red is often seen as a color of warning. “Red sky in morning, sailor take warning.” A red sky can mean storms ahead, or it can also mean a volcanic eruption. Blue is by far the most common color among the sailors, as it symbolizes the sea and sky above which governs so much of the life a sailor. Sailors and merchants will wear something blue as a good luck charm. Other than those two colors, bright colors are a favorite because they contrast with the blue of the ocean and sky and some of the more desolate landscapes found in this region. Often sailors will tell tales of ships appearing out of the night mist, dark as night and crewed by the corpses of the damned. These ships are often talked about as part of a collection of ghost ships cursed to sail forever denied port or haven. Some brigands use these superstitions to strike fear into the unknowing. The locals of Ziel generally consider these stories to be false. However, if pressed on the topic they will generally express discomfort and will quickly change the subject. While there is no singular tradition to celebrate a birth in Ziel, it is generally a happy occasion and may be a time for anything from gift giving and parties to storytelling. Since many of the people who settled in Ziel came from different regions, families celebrate how their ancestors once did or create entirely new traditions. When a person dies, specific details of the parting rituals also vary, but most focus on sending the Ancestor Spirit away from the body. Generally, since the land is rocky and does not lend itself to burial; and large fires are not a good idea with the ocean winds, bodies are given to the water in some fashion. This can include anything from taking the body onto a ship for a burial at sea to placing in a canoe and pushing it out into the ocean. As you get farther south some families will also set the canoe on fire using a burning arrow once it is far enough away from land so as not to pose a hazard. The majority of Ziel citizens favor utilitarian clothes made of durable but colorful fabrics. Silk is not unknown in Ziel, but for clothing canvas and linen are favored over such delicate finery. The seafarers of Ziel claim that pockets were their innovation, designed to meet the need for places to keep small tools and trinkets when moving hand over foot in the rigging of sailing vessels. Likewise, footwear, though seldom worn on ship by the rank and file, became somewhat of a status symbol for those well to do, who wear more elaborate cuffs and boots reaching the thigh. The Swash and Buckle, referring to the down turned cuff and strap to keep it secured, is therefore another notable Ziel fashion.
HolidaysSea Home - The First day of January is celebrated in much of Ziel as the New Year and commemorates the Founding of Mosfell. The New Year is celebrated in most cities with fireworks and fanciful spirits of the sea, notably costumes of eels and sea serpents manned by long lines of partiers as they dance through the streets. In Mosfell the observance is more solemn, with offerings made to the sea and invocations to the spirits of the Ancestors. Ragnaross uses this as an excuse to drink heavily and count the midnight hour down to begin a day of revelry in which nothing constructive gets done. Docks close and no business is open, save for the city’s many taverns.
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