The Rivers Kingdom

The Rivers Kingdom is a comparatively small country in the west-central region of the Wild Continent in the world of the Shine Cycle, as you can see on the map (remember that this map has south at the top and west to the right). Because it’s the setting of much of one of the planned books I plan to talk about in the next few months, today I’d like to briefly describe this country.

Its name comes from the large number of rivers running though the country. Both of its neighbors to the east and west, the Jynx Empire and the Elemental Empire, are quite mountainous, and the land to the north is a high steppe, while the other countries it shares borders with are lowlands. Because of this, four major rivers rush through its long valley from north to south, diverging near the southern border, and countless tributaries come down from the mountains to join the eastern and western rivers. In the south, where the country extends more to the west, and the gradient from the mountain range claimed by the Elemental Empire to the three southern neighbors is quite steep, several smaller rivers flow through; that region is noted for its impressive waterfalls.

The facts of the geography of the Rivers Kingdom make it in yearly, if not quite constant, danger of floods. And with the number of rivers, dams have never been seriously considered as a way of solving the problems those floods bring. But nearly every other possibility has been at least tried in one area of the country or another. In the southwest part of the country, near both the stone-exporting Elemental Empire and the Dragon Empire, the inhabitants build strong stone cities that include large and deep artificial channels for the rivers to run through. In the northeast, towns often feature buildings raised up off the ground on stilts or pillars. And in the southeast, farmers use a system of levees and drainage channels to direct the rivers—even at flood—to where they choose and away from anywhere they need to stay dry.

But even with the precautions taken throughout the country, floods still happen, and cleaning up after them and making necessary repairs and preparations for the next round costs money, sometimes a great deal of it. Because of this, and the danger of attacks from the Dragon Empire, occasionally from the Jynx Empire, and from time to time from the northern nomads, the Rivers Kingdom has one of the strongest central governments, or federal systems, in the Shine and Wild Empire. It exacts a fairly heavy tax (compared to other regions of the Empire) every year, which it saves until repairs need to be made after floods or invasions. And each region of the kingdom has a very strict building code, which holds any builder who fails to meet the code liable for any damage (from fire, flood, or collapse, for example) linked to that lapse.

The Rivers Kingdom is an agriculturally rich land—if not, perhaps, as rich as even some of its neighbors, because of the frequent floods and because of how much of its land is noticeably sloping. It is also noted for certain kinds of livestock, including horses—the northern reaches of the Rivers Kingdom are the one place in the Empire where horses to equal those used by the northern nomads can best be raised—and (among other river fauna) hippopotami.

There are a few dwarven settlements in the more mountainous parts of the Rivers Kingdom, and the dwarves have often lent their expertise to the construction of cities, retaining walls, canals, and the like. By longstanding treaty, they have chief responsibility for keeping watch on most of the eastern and western borders, since they have underground rooms high up in the mountains, and even higher towers on some peaks, that can see farther and more clearly than any human settlement could reach. The dwarves have also diverted some of the tributaries coming down from the mountains for their own use underground.

The northern part of the Rivers Kingdom, coming gradually down in elevation from the high steppe, is shared between human beings and centaurs, in whose care much of the kingdom’s wealth of horses is raised. Because the kingdom is not large compared to most of its neighbors, and what land there is suffers from the constraints of the multitude of rivers, centaurs and human beings have had to learn to get along with more frequent contact and (for the centaurs) somewhat less freedom to roam from place to place than they might like. For these centaurs the land is in all other respects nearly ideal, but it’s somewhat confining, so there would be some friction if not for the determination on all sides to get along as friends in the face of the pressures of nature and neighbors.

Do you have any thoughts about the Rivers Kingdom?

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