The untamed highlands wracked by storms and ruled over by the myriad clans that are brave enough to call it home
The structure of Astara is largely a simple one - as a land ruled over by feuding clans and the Council of Storms, they are only a republic in the loosest of definitions as they almost always lack a president or central ruling figure to hold the republic together, meaning the country is often disparate and conflicted with itself. This proves to be both a strength and a weakness to the Highland Clans of Astara, who have long used their chaotic nature as a defense against those who would seek to oppress them, but have also felt its weaknesses in the political sphere as they have almost never found common ground with each other long enough to elect a singular representative to represent them on the global stage. Below are the various ranks of Astaran society, listed from most widespread and notable to the smallest and least used.
Governmental StructureAud Ri - The High King of Astara, also known as the supreme ruler of all the Astaran Provinces who is subject to no domestic authority. In theory they command the respect and fealty of all Clan Chiefs and Chieftains as the ruler over the provinces of Astara, but the seat is rarely filled - issues with Astaran Clan Politics that so frequently descend into violent feuds means that the disparate highland clans can rarely agree to or manage to claim the throne for themselves. Conversely, however, this means that when the seat is filled it is almost invariably filled with a mighty, fearsome warrior and powerful leader capable of earning the trust and respect of all the scattered Astaran Clans. The Comhairle nan Larganroch(Council of Storms) - A council held daily in the grand meeting hall of Glascolm Castle, ancestral hall of the Astaran High King as well as the most ancient and storied castle in most all of Zheng-Kitar, predating even the rise of the Spirit Kings. Made up of elected representatives from the countless Clans of the Highlands that make up Astara(From the largest to the smallest), the members of this council meet around the legendary Stone of Malroch, ancient stone slab used since time immemorial as meeting point and inauguration spot of Astaran Kings, to discuss matters of state and steer the direction of the country and its clans. Earning enough power and gaining enough territory to be recognized formally by the Council and allowed an elected representative is often seen as the true 'hallmark' of a clan's power and success - though all of the elected members of the Council live permanently at Glascolm Castle as pseudo-hostages to ensure the cooperation of all clans involved in the council, and are only allowed to leave when their term is up or on short vacations or recesses every few months or so. This was done in large part by the highland clans in an effort to curtail some of the notoriously brutal feuds between the clans over power and land disputes - and to ensure civil discussion between all involved parties. Clan - A term used widely in Astara to describe the various organizations that rule over its lands. A clan in Astara is notable in that it is not neccesarily a place of people tied together by blood; instead, an Astaran Clan is described as "a community that is distinguished by heraldry and recognized by the Comhairle nan Larganroch", with clans that possess recognized Clan Chiefs being considered a noble community under Astaran Law. Clans without a chief recognized by the Council of Storms have no official standing under Astaran Law, and as such all claimants to the seat of Clan Chief are expected to be recognized by the High King(Or the Council of Storms, in the absence of one) as the rightful heir to the coat of arms of the clan's ancestor which the claimant seeks to be recognized as chief of. Though clans once kept records of and demanded proof of blood lineage to the clan's common ancestor, this ended up proving too restrictive for Astaran Clans to survive - instead, clans developed a territory based on the native men and women who came to accept their authority as the dominant group in the vicinity. Because of this, clans are also made up of a large group of loosely related Septs(Dependent Families) who are tied together not by blood, but by willingness to serve the given clan and to tie themselves to its successes and failures in addition to the clan nobility(Descendants of the Clan's common ancestor). The Clan Chiefs - The heads of the myriad clans that make up Astara and that rule over its various provinces. These Chiefs, unlike the representatives of the Comhairle nan Larganroch, are less elected and more hereditary - the Clan Chiefs are typically the represenative and proven(or claimed) descendant of the clan's founder whom their given clan is named. The Clan Chiefs sit above the Chieftains and represent their entire clan in the Astaran Clan System - it is the duty of the Clan Chief to lead his clan into battle on both land and sea, and wield their immense political authority to oversee the province or territory which their clan controls. They can range from heads of the legendary Highland Clans that rule over the biggest province to the smallest clans that have carved out small but notable fiefs for themselves - all are equally respected, though the more land and territory a given clan has, the more influential and powerful their Clan Chief is respectively. The 10 most well-known and mighty clans that rule over the largest swathes of Astaran Land are known as the Deich Rìgh, or "Ten Kings". A Clan Chief is the only person who is entitled to bear the unchanged arms and armor of the clan's founder, and considers the clan to be their heritable estate. Chieftains - The heads of the branches of a larger clan, who serve the Clan Chiefs. They hold similar power to feudal lords, but are expected to lead their branch into battle similar to the Clan Chiefs, and to stand at the forefront of their branch's expansion and wield their immense power for the betterment of their clan and country. Much like the Clan Chiefs, they are not elected and are rather chosen for their position - Chieftains are responsible for choosing a second-in-command they thought was best suited to succeed them upon taking the seat of Chieftain, who was responsible for ruling in the Chieftain's absence and who would in time succeed them after tehir death or abdication. Tacksmen - Lesser gentry who work in service to the local lords of the area, who are responsible for collecting rent from those living within the lands of their given clan. They also act as estate managers, allocating strips of land as needed to the clan's members, lending seeds and tools for farming and arranging the droving of cattle across Astara for sale, taking a minor share of the payments made to the clan nobility. Additionally, they have the important military role of mobilizing the armies of the Clan, both when required for warfare and more commonly as a large turnout of followers for weddings and funerals - and traditionally, in the latter months of the year after the summer months, for hunts and sports in the legendary Highland Games. Sept - A simple catchall term for dependent families that rely on the Clan for protection, and who look to the Clan Chief as their head and protector. Unlike true blood-related clans, they need not be related by blood - any may be considered part of an Astaran Clan so long as they swear fealty and take the last name of the Clan which they serve beneath.
Societal RanksAstaran society is by and large the simplest in most all of Zheng-Kitar, as it is simply divided into three broad categories: Those who can fight, Those who cannot fight, and Those who have lost a fight and been captured. Laoch(Lee-och) - The able bodied citizens of Astara who are capable and willing to fight and engage in warfare and violence. Though technically nobility, their status in society is largely dependent simply on these two conditions and little else. Saorsa(Seer-sha) - The non-noble freemen, who typically own small farms of their own or work for a clan managing their farms and land as tenets and citizens. Contrary to what many assume and believe, they are not particularly hated nor discriminated against - they have the right to bear arms, represent themselves in Astaran Law, to recieve compensation for murdered kinsmen, and more. Gille(Geel-yuh) - Technically the 'slave' rank of Astaran society, though it is largely unique and not applied only to sentient creatures. Also a rank reserved for chattel or cattle(Both held normally and stolen from rival clans), this rank is often similarly applied to those who are defeated and captured in the bloody feuds that wrack Astaran Highland Clan Politics - those captured are made property of their captors, but are not treated as the slaves in other countries are; often they are given humane treatment and put to work for the sake of the clan that captured them, and are often eventually given the choice between formally joining the clan that captured them, waiting in the hopes of their former clan requesting their return, or even in some cases risking survival in the Astaran Wilderness alone(Though they are often armed before being released out of respect).
For information on their culture, see the "Shao-shara" section of the Shaoshuan ethnicity page.
Unsurprisingly to any who knows of the highland's politics(or historic lack thereof), the Astaran Republic rarely has a unified public agenda - because they so rarely have a High King with which to guide their global political agenda and world presence, they often have a dozen or more competing agendas from all the various Clans that rule the country's land which the country's ruling council, the Comhairle nan Larganroch(Better known to outsiders as the Council of Storms), does their best to focus and pursue. Most common of these disparate agendas is expansion, freedom, liberty from oppression, and valor proved through competition.
The history of the Astaran Republic is one of near-constant bloodshed and oppression - for much of the history of the Shaoshu Empire's Golden Age, the people of the Astaran Highlands were kept firmly under the yoke of the Shaoshuan Throne and the royal family, with the Shaoshuan monarch simultaneously acting as the ruling monarch of Astara. This was not without much uprest, however - the Astaran people have staged several legendarily bloody revolts and rebellion across the centuries to free themselves from the oppressive rule of the Shaoshu Empire, all of which failed until they only recently managed to reform their own national identity after the Empire's collapse...though it took them centuries to finally end their brutal feuding long enough to form the Comhairle nan Larganroch and become a true republic. However, the simple fact that the basis of the legendary Comhairle nan Larganroch - council which allowed the formation of the Astaran Republic at all - is based on essentially holding the elected representatives of the various clans hostage in the country's most famous and beloved castle to keep the country unified beneath one whole(Albeit fractured) banner to prevent bloody feuds between the clans should speak volumes of what 'politics' in Astara are truly like.
Demography and Population
The lands occupied by the Astaran Republic are for the most part the ancestral highlands that their people once ruled over long ago, before the Shaoshu Empire conquered them and subjected them to centuries of humiliating oppression.
The military of the Highlands is a loosely organized, chaotic mishmash of warriors who only rarely deign to don armor - instead, the warriors of the various Astaran Clans charge into battle wearing kilts and hefting enormous greatswords(Which they are largely belived to have popularized or standardized in ancient times). Their formations are loose and flexible, and they often forgo highly skilled tactics in exchange for all-out frontal brawls - though that is not to say that with the right leadership they are not capable of it, it is more due to the lack of reliable metal supplies that force the Astaran Clan Hosts to march into battle with what they have. In truth, despite this ragtag and loosely organized appearance, the armies of the Highland Clans are fearsome things indeed that are more familiar with any army on Zheng-Kitar at guerilla warfare, unorthodox tactics, and living lives of constant bloody battle - making them some of the most feared warriors in all the world for their sheer roaring battle prowess and bold-faced personalities, as well as incredible penchant for survival that has seen them survive and endure a half-dozen attempts by more formidable militaries than they to stamp them out or beat the fight out of them for good.
The Astarans care little for the trappings of religion - though that is not to say that they themselves are not spiritual nor religious. Instead, while they are in fact a very religious people, they believe the such things are private affairs not for the likes of a government to decide(Which they view as totalitarianistic oppression) - meaning that they often care little and speak little about their own religion or the religions of others; So long as the welfare of clan and country is upheld, they care little to speak about either.
Because they lack a true unified ruler or strong centralized government, the Astaran Republic has little in the way of foreign relations with outside nations - individual clans may have good or bad relations with outside powers, but the country itself often lacks the unified presence to have such relations, though rare exceptions exist.
Agriculture & Industry
While their more advanced industries are quite lacking compared to those of their more modern neighbors, Astaran agriculture and animal husbandry asre some of the most widespread and profitable in all the world - their farms and pastures produce some of the highest quality and beloved meat and grains ever. Though the Highland Clans themselves often bicker and fight and raid each other for such things, this has done little to change the fact that both Astaran agriculture and husbandry is second to none. And while they are known to have several mines and other industries across the rolling hills, none are as profitable or industrious as their central two described above.
Trade & Transport
There are almost no roads to speak of in Astara aside from simple farming roads and dirt trails often walked by others - even the likes of the Shaoshu Empire were never able to fully lay the roads they usually did in their conquered territories for fear of the wrathful raids at the hands of the Highland Clans...meaning the Highlands even now stand as untamed fields of green where trade and transport is done by wagon and caravan alone over dirt roads and grassy hills.
Education is almost unheard of in Astara - only the most highborn members of a Clan might have access to an education, and even then only a rudimentary one.
Astara is infamous for its lack of infrastructure - it sits wild and untamed, unsettled by any but the brutal and hardy Highland Clans that call it home.
No provocation unpunished.
The Astaran Highlands, The Highland Republic, The Azure Lands
Shao-sharan , Astaran
Head of Government
Only half jokingly is the currency of Astara commonly referred to as "Blood" - violence in Astara is both question and answer to most of the people's problems. However, in matters of coin, they tend to use the simple three-coin system(Copper, Silver, Gold) for the sake of simplicity and a lack of a strong centralized government to decide it for them.
Wool, Animal Hide, Grain, Seeds
Cloth, Ceramic, Woodworks, Furs, Metals, Silks, Wine
The Comhairle nan Larganroch, better known as the Council of Storms, sits as the neutral third party that oversees the Astaran Law that governs the dozens of disparate clans that rule the various provinces of the Highlands. Typically, they would be advisors to the High King of Astara, but since the seat of High King is so often empty, the council tends to do so themselves unless it is filled.
The Comhairle nan Larganroch, better known as the Council of Storms, is the highest judicial body in the country - though smaller issues are typically handled locally at the clan level.
While the The Comhairle nan Larganroch decides upon, writes, and judges over the laws of Astara, they rely upon the clans of the Highlands to enforce the laws they write whose elected representatives make up the council.
Pact of Mutual Assistance, Friendly
In a surprising feat of political skill by the current High Valkyrion of Kassau, the Matriarchy has earned the goodwill of the Highland Clans of the Astaran Republic - the two nations have bonded over their mutual distate for imperialism and the trappings of empires, and have forged a strong relationship thanks in large part to Naiara Zaragoza, the acting ruler of Kassau. The normally chaotic and anarchic Highland Clans that govern the Republic of Astara have thrown their promises of support behind the Kassau Government, making an alliance and promising mutual assistance should either country come under attack in force. The two countries have thus enjoyed a long and prosperous relationship in trade, politics, war, and more as fellow "brute cultures" that, despite enjoying and coming from a simpler lifestyle, have made a foray into the world of politics on the world stage.
Though many individual Astaran Clans hold opinions on the Principality(Typically negative ones, after the campaigns waged by the current prince's father against them), the countries as a whole is relatively neutral towards each other, and have never really made strides to meet on common ground beyond the formal introductions required by courtesy.
Though the Highland Clans of Astara are not really unified enough to present a solid 'diplomatic relation' of hostilty towards Shaoshu, the people of Astara on the whole have a strong distate for their Shaoshuan neighbors for their history of oppressing them and their country.