Continent of Dreams

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Re: Continent of Dreams

Postby Questers » Wed Dec 19, 2018 4:55 pm

It was common knowledge in the village that Adi had a mistress, but Sofiya did not believe it - or anything any other townspeople told her - until she found the evidence, which she did by reading Adi's "work" phone when he was flat out on the sofa from too much arak. She did not say anything, but decided then to take her revenge.

She went up to the old house, just by the side of the pepper plantation, and there she visited the witch, the bomoh. The bomoh eeked out a meagre existence by selling traditional potions made from unusual ingredients which all the townspeople swore cured things like gout and syphillis and bad dreams, but nobody went to that house without feeling a little bit on edge. Other than Sofiya, of course, who barged her way in on a morning and demanded the bomoh put a curse on her idiotic husband.

Not for free, the bomoh said. I need money.

I am a housewife and I haven't any money or anything else, Sofiya said.

In that case, the bomoh said, I want a new cellphone. Come back with a new cellphone, one of the ones I can watch Tairendian dramas on, and some of your husbands hair.

So Sofiya took out a loan in her husbands name and bought the cellphone and the hair and the bomoh went to work. A few days later, Sofiya went back, and the bomoh said - in time, your husband will wilt and die, like an old plant. Sofiya was happy with this. Not weeks later, Adi became ill. He was confined to bed, and drank only corn soup. Sofiya could not hide her glee. You are going to die, she said to her husband, you big fat lazy idiot, because the bomoh has put a curse on you.

Of course, Adi did not die, because people generally do not die from goat-curry and arak induced gastro-entitis, not even in Questers and not even in Herat, so when he was well Adi went to the local magistrate and told him that this bomoh had tried to put a curse on him. Well, look, the magistrate said, there's not really any proof that it was the curse, even if it was real, that put you under. Even your doctor says it's because of your lifestyle. But why don't you try to to the Duke, because if that bomoh lives on his land, she's in real big trouble.

So Adi took the day off work and went up to the Duke's political office and told the Duke's agent that this stupid witch had put a curse on him. The agent, being a Heratan himself, was sympathetic. It probably was the curse that made you sick, he said. (It helped that he did not know Adi). You never know what these bomohs are capable of. I'll see what I can do for you.

The bomoh's house, unfortunately for her, was on the Duke's land. She knew this, since she was paying rent to him, so the Duke's men came and bulldozed her house and took her to the court, where all the townsfolk declared that yes, she was a bomoh. So the Duke's men said, look, you agreed not to do this when you were living on His Grace's land, so we're going to put you in the stocks for three days. Which is what they did. After that, they kicked her out of Herat and now she lives, so they say, in a squat in Kuantan, where she still practices witchcraft.

For all his sins, Adi reformed and became a loyal husband to Sofiya. But when they tried to have a child, the child did not come. Somewhere out there, in a dirty Kuantan squat, there's an old bomoh, laughing her days away, and selling potions made of lemongrass to deaf children.
Continent of Dreams - Official Questers Canon Compendium

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Re: Continent of Dreams

Postby Questers » Tue Jan 22, 2019 10:17 pm

RACES OF QUESTERS - THE SIKHS

In the early 13th century, a man named Granth began telling people that all the Dharman deities were manifestations of a single, all-powerful creator God. For this simple heresy, he was torn apart by elephants. His idea, and his teachings, did not die with him. For two hundred years his followers, known as Sikhs, practiced their growing religion in secret. When the Great Horde arrived, however, the Dharman Crown abandoned the Sikh homeland, the Charnadaland. The Sikhs took their defence upon themselves, founding an armed brotherhood – the Khalsa - and repelling the Horde and establishing their independence. After the Horde retreated, the Dharmans came back, but they too were defeated by the Khalsa. Over the following centuries the Khalsa would time and time again be rallied to protect the new Sikh nation.

The Sennish settlers found in the Sikhs a natural ally. In 1731, the leader of the Sikhs, the Jathedar Singh, travelled to Landing where he met with the famous New Senland jurist Michael Blythe. They found much in common. The Sennish believed that an almighty natural power controlled the path of the universe, and attempts to resist this naturally ordained path was a deep moral folly. The Sikhs believed that there was one creator, that his form was unknowable, that his decisions could not be influenced by mere people. Attempts to direct the universe according to human desires was a deep moral folly. Blythe later wrote – “we have found finally a race with whom we can live peacefully in this dark continent.”

Peace was not on the menu. In 1751 Sennish militia seized the capital of Agra during a succession crisis. The Dharman Crown moved a huge host to invest the city; Sennish reinforcements marched down the Mogami river valley, aware that they were outnumbered by the Dharman army but, having decisively defeated them only a decade before, full of spirit. When they arrived they found, in the words of a literate corporal, “that the enemy is to us as ten is to one.” Blythe, in advanced age but yet present, told the troops to be steady; Providence would deliver them.

It was unlikely that Blythe knew that one day’s march to the rear of the Dharman Army was the Khalsa, and in force. Battle was given; trapped between two armies and around the city they had invested, the Dharman army scattered, and their Prince was killed. The Sikhs and the Sennish had realised that they had two more things in common: they could be counted on in a fight, and that they had impeccable timing. Although formal military alliance began in 1792, informal ties were built then, in 1751, when Agra was captured and renamed Jesselton.

Over time the Sikhs, like all other races in Questers, adopted the common law as their principle of social organisation. Today, the Sikh Khalsa is not an army, but an organisation of male Sikhs who have military training and who contribute a portion of their income to the common defence, who swear loyalty to the Jathedar-General and fealty to the Law. Although Praetannic literature refers to the Sikhs as a race, being a Sikh is dependent on membership of the Khalsa. It is unthinkable that a person whose father was a member of the Khalsa, who lives in Charnadaland and who speaks Charnada, would prefer to remain outside this group of people. More, it is unthinkable that he would allow his daughter or son to marry a Dharman. The old prejudice remains.

There are forty million Sikhs in Questers, a number which includes the children of Sikhs not yet old enough to join the Khalsa and the daughters and wives of Sikhs. Although Sikhs constitute only ten percent of Questers, they contribute more than four tenths of military spending and more than half of the peacetime Yeomanry are Sikhs on military service.

Two thirds of these forty million souls live in Charnadaland, in ancient towns and cities to which migration is difficult if not outright impossible. Their social order is based on moral instruction from the temples and the courts, their physical order on a large and well-drilled martial service, and their economic and political order on patronage by notable men of means, be they businessmen or priests of the Sikh religion. That religion, dear to the heart of every Sikh, allied to Sennish Providentialism and Malayan Agama, tells every member of its creed that its survival mandates the willingness of every able-bodied male to commit serious harm against its enemies, and that where its enemies appear, they should be quickly suppressed.

Sikhs appear everywhere in Questers. Their jurists give opinions trusted as far afield as Praetonia and North Point. Their soldiers guard the borders of the Commonwealth. Their business people trade across a vast ocean and everywhere inside a vast realm. Looking west out of the Charnadaland, a Sikh sees ten thousand miles of the Crataean continent, and living in it, billions of persons who in a moment might be persuaded toward his extermination. To his east, and against his back, lies the ocean. That these people threw their lot in with the Providentialists against a boundless continent packed with terrible enemies should surprise nobody. We might even view their loyalty to the Law as entirely predictable.
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Re: Continent of Dreams

Postby Questers » Tue Jan 22, 2019 10:36 pm

RACES OF QUESTERS - THE GORKAS

The Gorkas live in the highlands of Questers, and like all highland people they are very hardy, a little diminutive, and very traditional. They are few in number, but their reputation as soldiers, policemen, and general hard men is well warranted. They live between the land of low Dharman and the land of high Dharman, and their own interpretation of this religion makes them incorrigible heretics to both. Alliance with the Settlers and the Sikhs was therefore natural.

Central to the Gorka culture is the Gorka self-image. The low Dharmans, who live in the plains to the north, live as swarm insects, who, like good slaves, follow the every word of a charlatanic priesthood. They are dirty, agencyless, perhaps even semi-human. The high Dharmans, who live to the west, possess an entirely unjustified sense of superiority, and ought to be put down whenever the chance presents itself. Both, of course, are dangerous, potentially genocidal enemies, who have many times before waged war on the Gorkas and failed, often spectacularly.

Where the Sennish and the Sikh believe their military superiority is down to the natural course of cosmic events, the Gorkas believe merely that their repeated humiliation of both low and high Dharmans is because the Gorka race possesses manful self-belief, and that Dharmans are either anti-like slaves or haughty intellectuals, neither fit for the contest which a rough world imposes on biological life.

While the Sikh believes that the universe is on his side, the Gorka has no such delusion. He sides with, lives under, and protects the Law because the Law is for the moment winning, and that with such manful and loyal subjects as the natives of Haversham, Lahore, Pokhara and Jacksonville, it will likely win for a long time in future. But not forever. One day, it will disappear, as all things do; but the Gorkas will remain, in their highland home, until a race more suitable to the rigours of earthly life wipes out their men and impregnates their women. When that will happen, they are not sure, but their fatalism assures them it will — eventually.

In the meantime, they will continue to run up mountains for fun, to win drinking contests, to bring swords to gun fights, and to serve as the Guardians of Peace and the Law. No God commands them to do it, but it’s hardly a bad gig. It’s much better than living in Taihei Tengoku or under the Dharman yoke. Now that — that would be a truly intolerable fate.
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Re: Continent of Dreams

Postby Questers » Tue Jan 22, 2019 10:36 pm

Part of a series of a Praetonian travel magazine.

Arriving, the airport has one sign only - WELCOME TO NEW SENLAND. New Senlanders think that New Senland is the best place on earth and once this is agreed go about arguing which part of New Senland is the best place on earth. It was of course, not always the utopia they say it is. When the first settlers arrived at Landing they bought from the Prince of Mogami a plot of land that he thought good only for mosquito nests.

One hundred years later, settlements had popped up all across the Oryontic seaboard. Their names bore their heritage: New Haversham, New Kingston, Gannet Cross, Moncktown, Yorktown, New Perth, Bradford, New Ripon. The inhabitants were mostly Sennish, with the odd Cockay or Quiberonnaise. Thus they called their new home New Senland, and damned any natives who said otherwise.

Now even a Hindu New Senlander will make fun of a white Praetannic Sennish man. New Senland, he will say, is far, far better than Old Senland. For a start, it's cleaner. The New Senlander towns were built on the town corporation system, perhaps the first joint stock company in the world, in which common land like streets and sewers were owned by a corporation which any resident could buy shares in. Over time these town and city corporations built, planned, and administered cities like giant private concerns. Elsewhere in Questers this system has corrupt attributes: in New Senland it works without flaw.

Thus, most of the cities look the same. Their streets are old and narrow, and they hold heat too well. They are green and brown and moss comes up through the cracks in the right places. Street life is lively, loud, civilised. Eat chappatis dipped in condensed milk, or a New Senland classic - heaped mutton roghan ghosht, covered in herbs, eaten on the move in a pathetic polystyrene box. Take bright morning tea in hot-to-the touch metal pots. If coffee is your thing then here it is cooked thick and strong and by the gallon - it's not clear if New Senlanders ever really stop moving or working. Drink your beer in any of the hundred tiny street bars that pop up as darkness falls. Make a friend, and speak your mind: it does not matter, because the next day, everything is always forgotten. The chairs will be plastic - New Senlanders spend nothing on luxury and invest every dollar they ever see. An old joke says that a New Senlander pinches a penny from a friend. It's not for me, he justifies. It's for my bank.

Fortifications line the waterfront, bristling ancient cannon, looking over massive docks - New Senland became the wealthiest part of Questers from selling rubber to the home islands - and further up the coastline lie the ruins of an ancient dharmatic pantheon, barraged by timeless Oryontic waves. Drive up the quiet coasts and hear only the greetings of Oryontic seabirds and hear the prayers of the priests of the last millenia echo in your ears. Any old pillar about to fall to the sea might be four thousand years old. The history of this land is kept by the pride (or hubris) of its people and the indefatigable wealth of its old families. There are two big boasts in New Senland - I was here first, and I am a contributor to the Historical Society.

Syndicalism came here four years ago, but it didn't stay. Some New Senlanders barricaded themselves in their old forts and refused to come out. North Point warships resupplied them for seven months. Others simply shrugged. They ignored the Syndicalist militia and went about their old business. When the Old Senlanders came in their mighty grey warships and vomited tanks and guns and helicopters across this land, the New Senlanders were not grateful. You're late, they said. And in New Senland, that's a cardinal sin. The only thing worse than being late is not being from New Senland.
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Re: Continent of Dreams

Postby Questers » Wed Jan 23, 2019 3:13 pm

RACES OF QUESTERS - THE DHARMANS

The low Dharmans of Questers speak at least five different languages with many dialects each, and their genetics – where they are not admixed – portray wildly different racial backgrounds. Nonetheless, they constitute a single group, both in their own self-ideal and the views of those they think of as foreign. “The Dharmans of this country,” wrote a once famous man, “are thirty races divided by ten tongues, and unified by one clergy and one king.”

It was as accurate then as it was today. Thousands of years ago, Dharmat — a cosmic religion interested in the cause and effects of universal reality — arrived in Questers and eastern Crataea in general. The Questarians, who had their pantheons before, thought there was no big hypocrisy in melding the cosmic religion and their pre-existing Crataean pantheonisms, and so Low Dharmat was born.

The native Questarians had a vast Pantheonic empire stretching from modern day Landing, all the way to Nampatabad in the west. This empire did not have political dissent, because its people could not read, but it did have religious dissent; at any place and time a guru, an enlightened teacher, might appear, and he might teach dangerous enlightenment to anyone near him. Usually that dangerous enlightenment was that the Emperor was a fraud. In order that the state could have these gurus torn apart by tigers or their heads crushed over marble by elephants, the empire needed official rules on what was heresy and what wasn’t. In other words, Dharmat needed to become the state religion. To run this state religion, the Emperor needed a clergy. So with the birth of the clergy, Low Dharmat became its own distinct creed.

If religious and political dissenters could be brutally murdered at will and their torturous and bloodthirsty departure from the patterned rug of mortality made not just imperial law, but moral necessity, then the Emperor could finally let his subjects become educated. Across the land spread places of learning. The Dharmats learned, and mastered, mathematics, astronomy, astrology, cosmology, medicine, engineering, agriculture, physics and chemistry — all the things required for civilisation. The Empire spread over Questers, suppressing local resistance and annexing everything under its mighty umbrella. They became rich. They became targets.

When the Great Horde arrived, they sacked everything in sight, took all the food and murdered in their millions the local people. The Dharman state collapsed. Everything gained in the last millennia was lost in a century. When the settlers arrived, the Dharmans were helpless to resist; one by one, their vassals; the Gorkas, the Sikhs, the Malayans, the southern and southeastern peoples, all split away from them, and vengeful for their suppression, played a hand in the final dominion of the Dharman people.

Today, Dharman law and custom is in disgrace. Its edicts are difficult to enforce. No person needs to pay attention to any decision of a Dharman court that they do not really like. Dharman rules on finance, marriage, and public conduct are not just rotting in temporal power, they have also lost huge swathes of status in a country where they used to dominate. Every Dharman elder for two hundred years has complained that the young people do not respect the old ways. When any young person grows old, however, he quickly learns that his status as Dharmans means that he is vigorously mistrusted by those who have any power at all. He bitterly resolves to go back to the old ways, and spends the rest of his days complaining about a younger generation who haven’t yet figured out their impending rejection.

The Dharman clergy lives on. They still have the power to command and compel Dharmans to do more or less what they say. In places, like Nampataland, where in large parts of the land the law lives under the musket and little else, a visitor can find practical Dharman polity; Dharmandesh Minor, so to speak. But where the law is as powerful a social custom as it is a martial one, the clergy, for its own safety, preaches compliance and conformity. They have seen the fate of those the Providentialists make their enemies. They do not wish to join their ranks. It is better to wait until the day when Dharmandesh can be writ large rather than sacrifice yourself pointlessly now.

If the Dharman law no longer holds, the Dharman customs are still everywhere to see, in every settlement in northern Questers where Dharmans are present. Where they are a minority, they are quieter; they hold fewer festivals, they do not resist the laws against public defecation or the loud singing of hymns in public, and they avoid total deference to the caste system. But where they are a majority, their festivals and their singing are extremely voluminous, they treat their streets as village yards, defecating in them, allowing the free running of animals, and constructing wherever possible shrines to any given deity. They continue, wherever they can, to celebrate their customs and culture and religion. After all, they are more than half the population — if anyone has a claim to be the true Questarians, it is them.

Some Dharmans have converted to other religions. These persons are no longer allowed back to their communities. Contact with them is broken. Work is not done for them, and goods are not bought from or sold to them. Leaving Dharmat and becoming a Sikh or a Providentialist is of course, possible. There is nobody to prohibit it but the Dharman himself, and his sense of timeless permanence in his own land.
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Re: Continent of Dreams

Postby Questers » Wed Jan 30, 2019 4:29 pm

RACES OF QUESTERS - THE MALAYS

It is always hard for a Malayan to describe or define what being a Malayan is, especially as the Malayan people are spread out over three “counties”, with a total land area more than many countries in the world, and with each county having its own distinct culture and dialect. Pahang, the most urbanised, has a character that would be recognised as being a “safe Crataea” to most Wallaseans; Rembang is wilder, and full of uneven ground which makes moving across it slow and uncomfortable; and Herat, the largest county, is in modern days basically one huge farm, with all the ageless characteristics of rural life.

Nevertheless, the prominent socialite Siti Arini, known and beloved everywhere that Malayan people populate, perhaps said it best. “Being Malayan,” she said, “is wanting to be in the village when you’re in the city, and wanting to be in the city when you’re in the village.” During the many festivals of the year, Malayan people will return to their relatives, often very distant, in the villages, a process they call “balik kampung” – returning to the village. People who have lived in cities for three or more generations and have never experienced village life still use the same phrase: returning to a place which they were never from.

In fact, the village has religious characteristics that are very important to Malayans. Their religion assigns spiritual existence to every natural object in the universe, and villages are close to nature; being back in the village is almost the same thing as getting closer to God himself. Throughout the ages, and even today, Malayan people of all social strata have opined that the rural people are of better stock that town-dwellers; hardier, more morally astute, more in touch with their culture, their spiritual and personal essence; better fighters, even, and more Godly. Of course, the Malayans don’t have a god, which is why they “converted” to Providentialism so quickly.

Their religion, which spread with them from Yamato and still bears a passing resemblance to Yamato Shintoism, supposes that every natural object has a spiritual life, that folk stories and legends which expose these spiritual secrets are not just myths but almost certainly true, and that when people die, they merely pass into the spiritual world to reside there forever; those who are especially in touch with nature become divine entities themselves. Most Malayans, for instance, think that Siti Arini will become a divine entity when she passes onto the next world. Malayans, whatever their social class, deeply and firmly believe that the universe is moved by spiritual entities found in nature, and that to follow this direction set about by immutable natural laws is a cosmic imperative. Violation of these laws is an offence to the spirits that inhabit every corner of the natural world and which can direct a person’s life path; it is not just moral folly but actually potentially very dangerous to the person.

The Malays sided almost completely with the loyalists in the mutiny. Okay, the destruction of many of their spirit places by Syndicalist shells helped. More than that, though, an attempt to rebuild the world in a fresh image is something deeply foreign. The pretense that mere men could overwhelm and re-order a country in which supernatural beings reigned supreme was so fantastical that Malayans signed up their droves to fight the Syndicalists. They were vicious fighters when they were in the mood. The Selma Towers, a pair of condominiums built around two particularly spiritual trees, which dominated their internal courtyards, were defended to the death by a company of Royal Malay Rifles. Syndicalist grenadiers surrounded the towers for three weeks; the loyalist infantry fought with bayonets, sabres, clubs and fists when they had run out of cartridges. The Malayan askari believed quite literally that the spirits of the Selma trees would favour their bravery and turn them into spirits themselves when they passed from the mortal realm to the spirit world.

This is the Malay life. Be wary of the bad guys, fight them if you have to, love, worship, adore the good guys. Please the spirits by performing the right rituals; propagate the earth with the fertility they will doubtless provide you; hope, and appeal to them, for success in your business, that your son will find a beautiful wife, that your competitor will suddenly disappear, that your horse will win the race, that your bus will come early, whatever.

It does not matter very much whether you live in a city or in the countryside, in the end. Maybe the rural people’s rituals are more sincerely felt; maybe their offerings and statues more folksy, easier to sneer at, but their minds work the same way as the Malayans who live in the cities, who wear short skirts, drink caramel latte macchiato, shop at Oblique and follow Praetonian sports teams. They’ve got more in common than they think. They inherited from their ancestors of a hundred generations past a potent terror of the unexplained, the moral armour needed to brave a dark and terrifying world, and all the attending excuses which accompany the kind of fatalism and pragmatism a person, and a civilization, needs to live and to prosper in Crataea.

Siti Arini got it right. Being Malayan is more than a way of life. It’s a way of being.
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Re: Continent of Dreams

Postby Questers » Thu Jan 31, 2019 4:40 pm

RACES OF QUESTERS - THE DUSUN AND THE TAGALUG

The southeastern part of Questers is the largest undisturbed rainforest in the world. It is the object of all naturalists and explorers. Industrialists set greedy eyes upon it. Lawyers avoid it like a plague.

The people who live there are called Dusuns and Tagalugs, and they are very similar to one another; in fact, these are neither races nor ethnicities, but really blanket terms for families of languages. Nevertheless, to call a Tagalug a Dusun or vice versa is a grave insult. In times past, it would have started a quite serious fight.

Thirty thousand years ago, bands of hunter-gatherers spread from Yamato. Those that proceeded past the Rayana river, the birth-place of the language family that would later become Dusun, Tagalug, and Malay, had a choice. Some turned northwards, trekking over difficult mountain passes, and finally reaching the mighty (and empty) flood basin of Herat. They became Malays. Others went east, through the huge rainforests and towards the ocean, over thousands of years, and they became the Dusuns and the Tagalugs.

Many of them lived in the forest, and used slash and burn methods to eke out a sustenance. When they weren’t slashing and burning, they were killing each other and taking their heads. Eventually, they settled on the coast, and, having worked out how to make boats, built impressive mercantile city states, which traded freely as far north as New Senland and as far south and west as Hanseom and Yamato. Their goods reached south-west Crataea. Tagalug silver coins have been found in western Sukaria, even.

They lived through the dark periods of plagues and wars, and emerged into modernity with their culture and language intact. Those who hadn’t left the forest for the town also emerged into the early modern and modern centuries, ignorant of everything around them, but fierce, and stubborn too. They, and their cousins in the towns, practiced a customary law that was only half written down buy widely understood everywhere in the southeast. When the South Seas Company reached them, they were eager to document these wild societies. The Praetannic explorer John Hughes asked the Sultan of Penampang who owned the forest that loomed, for hundreds of miles, over the interior.

“Nobody,” was his answer.

“Nobody?” asked Hughes, incredulously. The notion of somewhere not being owned by someone was quite foreign to these men. The towns people had written records of who owned what, and quite precise ones too. But they had no record, and no law, about who owned the forest.

“If that is so, I may claim it,” Hughes then said.

“You may try,” the Sultan snickered. “I would not recommend it.” History records that Hughes followed this somber advice.

Many years later, the city states of the south-east swore allegiance, one after the other, to the South Seas Company, and then to the Company of Freeholders. In exchange for gold and silver, their safety was forever secured by a power with almost as much strength as their animist religions appointed to mountains and oceans. However, the question remained as to who owned the forest, and whether or not the Company could extract tribute from them. All expeditions confirmed what Hughes had learned two centuries prior: nobody had any kind of land title to the forest. In typical Praetannic fashion, the Company tried to muscle its way in. The forest was deep, and dense, and its explorers – this time armed and dangerous – were hacked to pieces.

But they kept coming. The timber was some of the best in the world for the building of warships.

The people of the city states did not like this. They looked enviously at the wealth their suzerains had already acquired. They saw how the northerners had been, parcel by parcel, fallen under not just foreign suzerainty – which the city states didn’t mind, because why raise your own jezailmen when others can do it for you – but total dominion. They imagined a time that the Company would own not just their loyalty but everything that surrounded them. So, the city states sent lawyers to Jesselton, on behalf of the forest people. They brought with them maps. And they brought with them the diary of John Hughes.

Their argument was simple. The Sultan of Penampang – his ancestor known now as the Paramount Viceroy – had not meant that nobody owns the forest. He had meant that Nobody owned it. Nobody was a person. Nobody had laid out a trust. Nobody had entrusted the forest to the people who lived in it under highly complex but well understood laws. Where are these laws, the Court asked? They are not written down anywhere. But they are described in half a hundred books that merchants and scholars had written across six centuries to explain the trading relationships and the origin of the forest peoples, to whom the city peoples had always felt an unfortunate blood bond. These books described laws that existed. They explained the manner in which land was owned by many people simultaneously and also not at all. The Company’s lawyers did not like this at all. It is not a law if it is not written down. To which the lawyers of the city states said that the Law was the Law before it was written down and would be the Law even if it had never been written down ever. The Court liked this. They liked this so much that they accepted the maps of the city people and granted to the forest people the right to use blowpipe and machete to expel any person from these territories. “We do not understand how it is owned,” said a famous juror, “but we do know that it is owned.”

If the forest people ever thanked the Court, it is not recorded.

The forest people are still around today. They still speak an intelligible dialect to the people of the city states. The forest people have become a little prosperous by coming to terms with one another’s existence. They have laid out some palm oil plantations. They have tapped rubber. They have laid dirt tracks for jeeps and they have satellite phones. They still wear their traditional clothing, worship loyally their traditional spirits, drink their traditional wine and hunt with their traditional blowpipes. And sometimes they come out of the forest, in thick shirts and oily cargo trousers to buy from their cousins in the city states such goods as ball-point pens, diesel generators, automatic rifles, whisky, and so it is rumoured, pornography.

As for the people in the city states, who probably number some fifteen million, they remain loyal subjects of the Law and an allied race of the Commonwealth. They buy the rubber and the palm oil of the forest people and they make all manner of things which they sell to people in North Point, Praetonia, and Tairendia. All the vegetable oil in the Commonwealth comes from Matalava. They are modern people, with big villas, each one built and coloured to their own design; they welcome visitors but scorn preachers, they watch Praetannic films, Tairendian cartoons, and listen to music from North Point. No person from any other part of the Commonwealth could visit these city states and feel surprised by what they would see. Yet they might look out over the magnificent marble white houses high on the hills and see a blanket of forest, clouds curling in the flat blue sky, morning mist rising from a never-ending canopy. They might go to a bar in Auburn or Pangapisan and see across from them a wrinkled old man, covered in violent, illegible tattoos, smoking a big old cheroot and taking an afternoon whisky, and they might marvel at him as exotic. They may stumble upon a giant centipede in a drain and scream with fright. These things are, of course, the far away dreams of would-be explorers in Haversham or Eskmouth. Few men dare to go where their ancestors could not.
Continent of Dreams - Official Questers Canon Compendium

[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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Re: Continent of Dreams

Postby Questers » Mon Feb 04, 2019 7:12 pm

CLASSES OF PERSON - THE ARISTOCRAT

Many people have argued, and continue to argue, about whether Questers is an aristocracy, an oligarchy, a theocracy, a stratocracy, an anarchy, and any other term under the sun. Whatever they think the best word might be, none can contest the basic truth that Questers is ruled by aristocrats.

Who are they? About one twentieth of Questers are sufficiently wealthy that they can live off income without working. That’s too broad a stroke. Cut it down to the population who can live, without working, from income earned on land, and it’s rare; about one fiftieth. For an aristocracy, that’s still too broad.

The aristocrats themselves have unspoken rules about what makes an aristocrat. First, that land must have been inherited, and with intention to pass on to posterity. Secondly, an aristocrat must have a title recognised by all other aristocrats, such as a Duchy or a Baronetcy. This distinguishes him from a mere merchant. Thirdly, an aristocrat’s wife must have a charity. Fourthly, an aristocrat must have raised a regiment of his own troops. Fifthly, it is better, although not mandatory, that an aristocrat’s claim to title predates century XIX. By this order, there are around seven hundred aristocrats in Questers. Together, they constitute the country’s government. The largest aristocratic estate is around a hundred thousand square miles. The smallest is around a hundred square miles.

Aristocrats have other unspoken rules too. One is that their son – if they do not produce a son, this is scandal – must never go to such an institution as a university or a monastery. He must serve in the armed forces, no matter how gangly and physically inept he may be, and afterwards can do what he likes; but he must never, ever, graduate from a university or become a part of the clergy. These are the types of things such persons as doctors, conveyancers, accountants, graphic designers, and sociologists might do. Doctors, conveyancers, accountants, graphic designers, and sociologists are useful, but they do not rule countries. Aristocrats do.

Another rule is that an aristocrat ought never to get divorced, ever. Of course, it happens, but at a much rarer rate than general society, where it is anyway rare. Aristocrats can take mistresses if they bore of their wife, or if their wife can’t produce sons (there is no guidebook to what to do if an aristocrat can’t produce sons), or if they want to spend money on something pretty, or for any other reason, but if they don’t like their wife, there is not much they can do about it. Bad luck for them – their wives are usually chosen for them by their parents. While fathers might prefer a son marry a woman of a political or business ally (or enemy), mothers might often look for the following characteristics, gleamed from a matching service:

My son prefers ladies who are full-breasted.

She must have thick hair (a traditional sign of fertility).

There ought to be no disgusting persons in her family tree.

And so on and so forth. Other than these important requirements, aristocrats have not, since the earliest centuries, cared too much about the race or even the religion of their potential suitors. Admixture is common. Aristocrats are often raised as being in “all religions” (or none) as their duty is firstly to country, secondly to their troops if in the field, and thirdly to their family and its property, and only lastly to god. Aristocrats, especially if they possess such qualities as wit, charity, beauty, humour, physical strength, courage, empathy et cetera, are often very popular, major national celebrities in their own right, loved by millions, even across the Commonwealth. Questarians are not much taken by people of letters, but they love wit, and even more than that, they love its playful and generous exercise.

Before Rabibah, the youngest daughter of Abdullah Afiz, Man of Ten Thousand Titles, was married, her mother – in reality, she, as her father dotes upon her and denies her mother any sense of control over her daughters life – had to choose between two suitors; Sunny Singh, a lower born aristocrat whose father has only a twelve gun salute, and the third son of Adam Herat, a major Duke with twenty four guns. When they appeared before Her Majesty, Herat complained that Singh was wearing cavalry boots, which made him look taller. Singh replied: Unfortunately, a Hussar is made shorter by his boots, a reference to both the reputation of Hussars for outrageous lechery and the third son’s lack of military service. Rabibah, taken by this show of sly wit, chose Sunny, a courageous but playful member of the lower aristocracy over the third son, a rich but hopelessly entitled member of the upper aristocracy.

This story never happened, obviously. It was spread by agents of Sunny Singh’s father to enhance his son’s reputation. But it made the common people love Sunny, and by extension Rabibah, more. When they walked the streets of Ambala on their honeymoon tour, thousands of persons stood on the street throwing, completely of their own volition, voluminous quantities of expensive flowers.

If the aristocracy are loved by everyone, that has not always been true, and is still likely not true. A person can not really train another to be courageous and witful, and if courage and wit come from a father’s issue, certainly not all fathers are equipped to issue them. In fact, debauchery is more common amongst the aristocracy than noblesse oblige – which makes the body communal love the good aristocrats even more. Debauchery and excess has given many cause for hate. One minor Baron of the Axackaland was famous for paying hordes of paupers to act as a personal carpet for him and his pet panther. Many aristocrats are known to keep mistresses. The very wealthy are known to keep a piece on the side of their side piece. They are said to hold parties in which people binge on food, sex, and drink, and violate every social taboo possible. These parties are likely exaggerated, but they can’t be far from the truth.

Once upon a time, aristocrats did not have that much nominal wealth. Most of the land in Questers could be used only for rice and soy. If rice and soy was all a country produced, then owning the means to produce it obviously gave great wealth. When the Sennish traders came they pushed out the aristocrats and started making their own money. However, with the breakneck industrialization of the late 21st-century, the aristocrats, now sitting on large tracts of land, formerly useless but which could now be turned into highly profitable factories and refineries, became rich again, overnight.

Syndicalism in Questers was partly a schism of the Providentialists, but it was also partly a reaction to the obscenities caused by this class of old money, who had regained their wealth, and spent it as lavishly as possible. Of course, when the aristocrats were booted out and the Syndicalists occupied a broken land, they found they could not run it well either. They found also that their commissars and commissioners, secretaries general and congressional deputies and local organisers and everyone else looted what the aristocrats had left behind and behaved just like the old ruling class had behaved. Anyway, Syndicalism collapsed. Those aristocrats who had not sold their land to that Sennish opportunist recovered their ancient allodial title. Their armies pushed off the squatters with bayonets. And the aristocrats became wealthy again.

They had weathered the storm. They had trusted in Providence, and Providence had returned the favour. So then the aristocrats could present to their subjects, beaten and confused, the old question which they had always posed since time immemorial:

If we weren’t meant to be in charge, then why did the cosmos put us here?
Continent of Dreams - Official Questers Canon Compendium

[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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Re: Continent of Dreams

Postby Questers » Fri Feb 08, 2019 4:49 pm

CLASSES OF PERSON – THE BURGHER

If aristocrats control the land, and vast swarms of loyal peasants, then it is the burghers of Questers who own the cities and the property, and the vast swarms of loyal account men. If the aristocrats define decadence, then it is the burghers who have come to represent absolute moderation and frugality. If the aristocrats represent old Questers, the land before the settlers came, then the burghers define the new Questers, the land of the Law. If there is anything the burghers love, it is the Law.

They live in cities and constitute around two percent of the population; they have sufficient means to live without resort to labour. The very wealthiest burghers are the oil and spice barons, but the poorer of the burghers could simply be the man about town whose father made some very good investments once upon a time. Either way, most burghers do not work full time; the older ones act as local authorities, using their spare time to participate in the civic militia, municipal office, and work in other countries that is usually reserved either for trained professionals or sinecures. The younger burghers either seek to mass their own wealth, or follow their fathers eagerly, hoping one day to take over the family business of doing not very much at all.

The 1979 novel Beneath Them detailed the lives of three generations of New Senland burghers. The old man Renshaw’s family has been in the pepper business for generations, making a steady living sending the goods over to the Old Senland. Old Man Renshaw one day makes a gamble: he empties his life savings and invests them in tobacco. He turns them into cigarettes, and becomes the first cigarette manufacturer in the world. He dies as the first boat full of the crop sails for Old Senland, and his son, Son Renshaw, has to take over his father’s gamble. It’s a wild success. Son Renshaw later in the novel gives over to grandson Renshaw, and they become some of the richest men in the continent. But their house remains the same as it always was, a two storey brick thing on Swamp Lane in Landing, in which at least seven members of the family and three servants live. And next door, there’s also a two storey brick thing on Swamp Lane in Landing, in which at least seven members of the family and three servants live, and so on and so forth.

If Great Grandson Renshaw were real, he’d be a really wealthy man today, and he would certainly not need to work at all. Burghers tend to own things, and valuable things at that; not swathes of land, but shares in companies, investments, capital. However, even if you don’t need to work, there’s not much status in being idle. Great Grandson Renshaw might own a tobacco empire, but he would want to marry a socialite, firstly, in order to expand his status. Then he would seek to gain access to the civic militia, the city’s police force, comprising mainly volunteer burghers and eager Gurkhas. After serving in the civic militia, he might gain access to the municipal office, where the Chambers of Commerce decide which roads to repave and work out how they’re going to extend the sewer capacity. Later he might retire from these activities and give speeches, patronise jurors and clergymen, and so on and so forth. Of course, he will always live in the two storey brick thing on Swamp Lane in Landing, and he will always own the tobacco empire, even if he leaves more able men to run it.

If imported Praetonian and North Point goods are the trademark of the aristocracy, then unpretentious home-grown produce is expected of the burghers. The irony of this arrangement is lost on nobody. Aristocrats may have the finest imported jams and preserves, whereas the burghers prefer the marmalade, made of oranges greased by the maid they have known their whole lives. Aristocrats regularly fly their women to Douneray to go on mad shopping sprees; burghers, on the other hand, wear the linen trousers of their fathers, and those who are popular with the common people can be seen in the rubber flip-flops of the urban poor. Burghers are essentially equalitarian, and practical, people. They are in charge of the city because they are the only ones who have the time to do it, not because they are born carrying, quite incontestably, the mantle of chiefhood.

There is one other difference. Whereas the aristocrat travels everywhere with bodyguards, and an ancestral sabre slung to his hip, it is here where the burgher has the advantage. He is more likely to carry a modern and quite expensive compact handgun, buried beneath his suit jacket. Although an aristocrat is expected to lead his Regiment into battle, it is far more likely that a burgher will know how to use his handgun if he were set upon by thuggees.

Speaking of thuggees, dacoits, and bandits, they generally prefer cities to the countryside. In the countryside they are hunted by the local aristocracy’s men at arms, who will string them up if they catch them. Any aristocrat who is not able to hang some dacoits now and again is not worth his salt. On the other hand, burghers share the responsibility of running a city. Their personal and individual reputation is not at stake if there are crimes. Besides, the burgher believes more wholeheartedly in the interventions of Providence than the aristocrat, who believes firstly in his mortal power before the spiritual. He’s more careful. The Serjeant-at-Arms of a country estate has no problem putting the noose around a man he knows is a bandit and daring anyone to question him. In the city, it works a bit differently. People are brought to court.

Actually, everything is brought to court. The great achievement of the burgher is the documentation of a quarter of a millenia of economic and legal life. Every city in Questers has its great library, and there, in one section, are kept all the records of every contract that every person of means has ever made. They stretch yards high into tall ceilings. Some rooms have maps adorning entire walls and little magnifying glasses hang from strings so that the miniscule parts of the map might be inspected. Burghers litigate like no other. They have been known to argue over who owns an apple tree.

It’s not surprising that they are so protective of their property. After all, the property of the one percent constitutes more than two thirds of the country’s economy. Burghers are wealthy. They own everything. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be burghers.
Continent of Dreams - Official Questers Canon Compendium

[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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Re: Continent of Dreams

Postby Questers » Thu Feb 28, 2019 4:09 pm

Flight Lieutenant Barrett had spent the last four years in the Kaidailand. ‘In many ways’, he recalls, ‘it was the best time of my life.’ Recruited from North Point to join the Royal Battambang Air Service, the name for the two squadrons of jets gathered by the local authorities, he spent most of his time flying over picturesque mountains and drinking Chang export.

But in Ninety Six, things began to change. ‘The price of aviation fuel had fallen quite a lot,’ Barrett says, ‘and for some reason we were being given the go-ahead to do a lot more flying. In ninety six I must have flown around two hundred hours in our Hummingbirds.’

Barrett never expected to do any fighting. Most of the training they had done was against other Hummingbirds, or their training versions. They had little idea of the capabilities of the large airforce that sat just over the border. But Barrett will never forget fatal morning in February, 1997. ‘We were in the lounge playing cards and someone ran in and said: the Taiheis are coming. Get in the air, now. And so we did.’

The Ever Victorious Army Air Force had struck on a broad front. The Hummingbird pilots of the Royal Battambang Air Service had never expected to be in a war, or even to be at the front line of it, but in the first few hours, Taihei aircraft had destroyed thirty of the powerful Hornet fighter jets stationed on the border. Another ten had been shot down in the air. Most of the large airfields in the Kaidailand were smoking. Operation Moonbeam had begun.

‘Suddenly,’ Barrett remembers, ‘we were at the front of everything.’ Flying over the Rayanan mountain ranges, into the unknown, Barrett – and other pilots – recall that there was an intense fear sitting deep in their stomachs. In their first engagement, Barrett remembers thinking that all he needed to do was shoot down one of them before he was sent down himself. In the end, the Hummingbirds returned to base without firing any missiles. As soon as they landed, they were told to refuel and take off again for a forward air base.

Flying in the other direction were the big and expensive Hornets, moving to the rear to be used another day. It was now the task of the Royal Battambang Air Service to try to delay the Taihei airforce and allow more of the important personnel and materiel to be evacuated from forward bases before they were hit.

On the second day, Barrett shot down two Hoten B5H aircraft coming in to bomb a rail marshaling yard. The success was short lived: the Hummingbirds could fair well against the Taihei S4S fighters at low altitude, but at high altitude they were easy prey. Three of Barrett’s comrades were killed in an ambush above Lopburi, to no enemy losses. And the enemy – they kept coming.

The losses continued to mount. ‘The Hummingbird’s not designed for high altitude, high speed dogfighting,’ Air Commodore Prathkorn, RBAS, tells us. ‘It’s a good platform for interception over a small area, and for delivering ordnance, and for low altitude fighting, but at a high altitude knife-fight, it loses every time.’

Barrett and his comrades had to find a new tactic. Taihei aircraft were reaching further inland, striking infrastructure and vulnerable airfields. Barrett and his deputy commander, Lapkom, came up with an idea when they realised that all the aircraft in charge of protecting the airfield had to do was fire long range missiles to force the Taiheis off the engagement. They called their idea the big-wing trap.

Six aircraft would fly at the highest altitude they could – pushing the aircraft as high as they needed made it difficult to fly, with many pilots reporting the plane shaking so hard it felt that it might fall apart – and six at a low altitude, further ahead. Lacking in look-down/shoot-down radars, the Taihei aircraft would pounce upon the high-altitude planes, which would then launch their whole payloads of beyond-visual range missiles. The Taiheis would turn to outrun the missiles, at which point the other Hummingbirds, low altitude and undetectable, would intercept as the Taiheis lost velocity on the turn. At first, it was wildly successful. In two days, the Royal Battambang Air Service shot down eighteen S4S fighters for the loss of none of their own.

When these victories were reported to his commanding officer, Barrett expected joy. But there was none to be found. Barrett recalls his commander, sat in an office drinking local rum, slumped back in his chair and saying: ‘Do it again ten times and we might have a chance.’ Eventually, the sheer weight of Taihei aircraft caught up to them. The airfield was heavily damaged in a raid and the Hummingbird pilots barely escaped with their lives.

As more Commonwealth aircraft began to come in to the theatre, the Hummingbirds were sidelined, running bombing missions near Carolina and air police jobs near the coast. But as the tide of the war began to turn, they were used more and more in a ground attack role. ‘We were cheap, and expendable,’ Barrett bitterly recalls. ‘We lost a lot of good pilots because the higher command wanted to preserve their better aircraft.’ Despite a good electronic suite, the Hummingbird was still vulnerable to anti-aircraft artillery. It didn’t help that they were called in on many of the most dangerous missions; on November 12th, 1997, twelve Hummingbirds set off to bomb the railway bridge at Kamishima, and only one returned. On the last day of the war, when everything was decided, Barrett’s flight was called up on a mission, and Barrett was shot down by a Taihei gun battery. He lost the use of both legs.

When asked if he would have preferred to fly Hornets, Barrett merely shrugs. ‘Perhaps I’d still have my legs,’ he considers. ‘But without us Hummingbird pilots, things may have been different. We were there when it mattered, and that’s what counts.’ He is wheeled away by his sister. A patch on his wheelchair epitomises the attitude of the Hummingbird pilots towards their Hornet counterparts: ROYAL BATTAMBANG AIR SERVICE 91-97: FIGHTERS, NOT WHINERS.
Continent of Dreams - Official Questers Canon Compendium

[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy


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