A few weeks ago, in my description of the Imperial Cathedral in Capitol, the capital of the Shine and Wild Empire, the country with which my Shine Cycle is most concerned, I mentioned in passing the Blessing on the Sunshine Kingdom, the kingdom in the Empire in which the capital is located. Today I’d like to describe that kingdom’s geography and climate in somewhat more detail.
I’m sorry to say that I don’t have maps yet, other than the map of the whole two continents I posted two and a half years ago. So description will have to do. (And I’m now working from a sketch that is not necessarily consistent with that old wide-scale map—bear with me.)
As you may recall from that map, the Sunshine Kingdom is in the shape of an arrow pointed east. The borders were drawn to conform to natural boundaries (rivers, lines of mountain peaks, etc.) where possible, and to be straight lines otherwise, while including cities and villages settled from portals within the kingdom and not towns settled from across the sea (the Bow remains formally a colony, however much autonomy) or from portals outside its borders.
When the country was founded, these borders were formalized, the Charter defining its government given, and the Blessing—of long and invariably sunny (yet appropriately warm or cool, days) without any reduction of water received by the ground (rain and snow being replaced by dew, fog, and frost), so long as the kingdom is faithfully governed by the Charter and gives faithful service to God—pronounced all in one brief ceremony. The only alteration to any of this since has been an amendment to the Charter vesting executive power in an elected king. The Blessing has also shown itself in an unusual “willingness of the land to be worked,” both in agriculture and into excellent roads requiring little maintenance.
The kingdom’s size is estimated to be about 40,000 square miles; at some point (probably just before the arrival of the Chosen), its population was about 1.4 million people.
The terrain generally rises as it moves west from the sea. The western end of the country is largely mountainous, dominated by the lines of peaks that guide the widening of the borders and by a large, high plateau extending only a little beyond the border. At the “nock” of the arrow of the country, the center of the western border, is a fairly large lake fed by several springs, called the Keystone Lake. Several rivers flow from this lake in various directions: those going roughly north and south form the borders until they pass through the Border Ranges, and the Great River flows east.
After a brief distance flowing straight, picking up the essential (and “metaphysical”) qualities of the region, it slows down and meanders back and forth across the plateau, through a living petrified forest—the quality of the mountains, transmitted through the water, cause most trees that die and many mature trees to calcify, as surely as if a cockatrice had breathed on them. The water can sometimes be used to the same effect on other items, but not reliably. This power of the water ends where the river cascades over the edge of the plateau in a grand waterfall. A long spiraling staircase is cut into the rock on either side of that cataract to allow travelers to pass up or down the cliff, and beyond each staircase a rope elevator to raise or lower larger loads is maintained.
After that, the Great River flows fairly directly east for a while through a more ordinary forest, joined periodically by various tributaries, as the land slopes slowly down. Eventually the terrain changes to a prairie and the river slows and winds back and forth again, until it meets the sea at Capitol.
Other major cities include Luddington, some distance to the southwest of Capitol; Sanctum Blanc (the premier member of a transnational league of cities, of one of which Penelope is by “now” baroness) not quite on the northeastern shore of the Keystone Lake; and a city which is either called Myrriddium or Myrrddicefn (the latter coming after a critique partner objected to a Welsh-sounding name with an utterly non-Welsh ending), of which Faith is duchess, on one of the Great River’s southern tributaries, just north (downstream) of the southern border. That last city was founded only a few years before the civil war, but fairly quickly eclipsed the nearby town of Mages’ Vale.
The kingdom is divided into various “states,” “provinces,” and “regions.” There are some governmental or otherwise political differences between the terms, but I’m not yet at all clear on what they might be. (Perhaps those are three governmental levels, as if the “regions” of the United States (Midwest, New England, Great Plains, etc.) had separate governments between the state and federal levels.) Their borders were essentially fixed soon after the Charter, as were their names not much later. These names, like the name of the kingdom itself, are ones that modern politicians might wish to regret, but like the kingdom as a whole both tradition and the value of the attendant blessings ensure that they are essentially immutable. Two of the most prominent (in my notes, at least …) examples of districts at that level include the Royal Region (which encompasses both Capitol and Luddington) and the Monarch Butterfly State (so named because its first settlers came upon field after field of the creatures on their arrival, and their delegates to the convention that was given the Charter had no clear direction and were partial to a touch of whimsy; the blessing that accompanies the somewhat embarrassing name is that butterflies and all similarly benign or necessary insects flourish there, which makes the state a contender for the title of the kingdom’s “breadbasket” despite being not entirely ideal for standard agriculture in the area of climate).
The only desert area in the kingdom is along the northern border with the Bow, where the Blessing, and the moisture from the ocean, can’t overcome the dry winds blowing over the border from the west and the shade of the (low) mountains to the east. But the desert is balanced by a small jungle area in the south, where the mountains are beyond the western rather than the eastern border. In that jungle the mist and fog each day are so thick that they are essentially indistinguishable from rain as they drip from the trees.
Any comments or questions?