This will be a slightly different kind of article. Rather than trying to write from in-universe perspective, I will simply write this as an author this time.
When I set out to build the political structure of Altazia, I had one major goal in mind: I wanted to create an impression that things were happening. That is to say, I wanted to avoid the usual fantasy situation where countries remain static and stable for centuries at the time, and thousands of years of history can be summarized in a few paragraphs. However, it’s not just a matter of history, but also of the present and the future. I wanted to make the current situation in Altazia complex and dynamic, with many moving parts and plenty of movements and problems… and I wanted to make sure this setup could go to many different places. That it had potential for many futures, depending on how things develop.
I think I succeeded at this, broadly speaking. I don’t know how much of this is obvious through the story itself, but both the world of Ersetu, and Altazia in particular, are in the midst of great changes. Magical knowledge is spreading faster than ever, technology is developing, war is brewing, old religions are losing influence, the wilderness is rapidly being colonized, and non-human influences are mustering various responses to human expansion.
Not even I know where things will go from this. That’s okay, though. The world was deliberately designed in this kind of way. I wanted potential for many interesting futures, and I got that. Still, just because the future is uncertain doesn’t mean that I can’t discuss the individual factors that are going to determine it. Things that the countries of Altazia must consider when they make their moves and plans for the future.
So let’s do that. Here are the most important influences that I see as being crucial to understanding Altazian politics, and how they’re likely to develop in the future.
Altazia was once united under an Eldemar dynasty, but this ‘Old Alliance’ was ultimately a very loose thing, even by Ikosian standards. It would be more accurate to say that Eldemar was too powerful at the time for the rest of Altazian powers to disobey their dictates. The various lands were more akin to feudal vassals or tributaries than imperial provinces. If Eldemar angered too many of them, the whole thing would fall apart… and indeed, that is what eventually happened. The king of Eldemar made a grasp for power, tried to unify and centralize the alliance more. He knew it would lead to war, but he underestimated the effectiveness of new military technologies, and the effects were far more dramatic than he had expected.
Several rounds of destructive warfare ensued, and now Altazia is fractured into a multitude of tiny states. A lot of people died, many of them mages and nobles. Entire mage families had died out, or were reduced to such a state that ambitious newcomers started preying on them in various ways. Transport links were cut or redirected as close regions suddenly became bitter enemies or economic rivals. And in the end, nothing was really solved – the next round of wars is coming and everyone knows it.
This inevitability of another great war colors a lot of politics in Altazia. Arguably, it is the most important factor to consider. After all, a country that makes a blunder in dealing with this approaching conflict could pay a heavy price – one that will make anything else they’ve done irrelevant in comparison.
Of course, one must ask the question: will the next war be simply another disastrous repeat of the Splinter Wars that fractures Altazia even further or will it lead to the birth of a new hegemon that will control the continent?
Eldemar, Sulamnon, and Falkrinea are all convinced that the next was is going to be absolutely crucial. Whoever wins the upcoming conflict will eliminate their biggest competitors. From that point on, it’s just a matter of time before this winner extends its influence over the entirety of the continent. It’s unlikely that the winner will literally conquer the continent – none of the three nations have the manpower to forcibly take control over everything. But they don’t have to. The Old Alliance didn’t directly control everything either, but it still ruled over it.
Secondary powers, such as Tetra and Abnazia, are gambling that the next war will be less decisive. They think the current situation will persist for a lot longer, or maybe even that the Big Three are going to exhaust themselves and provoke internal divisions, splintering into smaller, more manageable states. After all, the last couple of wars resulted in pretty much that – why should this war be any different? Of course, this assessment of the future is a little suspect, and many say it’s just wishful thinking. After all, if the next war results in the birth of a continental hegemon, the political ambitions of secondary powers will die a swift death. Their conclusion is less a dispassionate assessment of the situation and more of a vision of a future they wish to see, and which they are actively working to bring about in existence in any way they can.
What is my opinion on the outcome of the next war? Is it really inevitable like the in-universe Altazians think, and if it is who is likely to win it?
First of all, while the Big Three talk about how decisive the next war is going to be, the truth is that both Eldemar and Falkrinea have considered the possibility that it will achieve nothing of note and have taken steps to prepare themselves for this eventuality. Eldemar intends to put its hopes on colonizing the North, hoping it will find rich resources in these wild lands. Falkrinea is having some success talking minor states into joining them, and they hope this will only continue after the war or even accelerate when the minor powers see that Falkrinea is strong enough to fend off Eldemar and Sulamnon. Ultimately, both Falkrinea and Eldemar think that a stalemate is a frustrating but acceptable result.
Sulamnon, though… they know things aren’t looking good for them if they don’t win this upcoming war. Their lands are not rich in resources and they have no easy route of expansion. They are keeping up with the magical and technological advancements spreading throughout Altazia, but their nation has never been the leader in experimental research and they’re constantly playing catch-up with the other powers in this regard. Internal discussions among Sulamnon’s nobility and power groups are skeptical about their ability to keep up with Eldemar and Falkrinea long term. In their estimation, Sulamnon’s position will only continue to get worse with time. If the country wants to triumph over its enemies and take its rightful place as the hegemon of the continent, they have to act soon. For Sulamnon, the next war *has* to be decisive.
Because of this, it is my opinion that the war really is inevitable in the end. Sulamnon needs it to happen, or at least they think they do, and they’re convinced their very existence depends on winning it. Needless to say, if Sulamnon starts losing the war, they’re likely to become increasingly desperate and vicious. Considering they have a powerful, demon-summoning immortal working for them, this might be a very bad thing for everyone around them. Can Sulamnon be convinced to moderate its stance? Sure, but that would require someone to either convince them the situation is not as negative for them as they think, or show them a path that could lead to a long-term Sulamnon victory.
What about the outcome of the war? What is the likely result of this war in my opinion? As you can imagine, I don’t have a strong opinion on this. This is one of the things that I meant to leave uncertain. One of the things that could lead to many possible futures. As such, I think the stalemate ending is just as likely as the victory of Eldemar, Sulamnon, or Falkrinea. All are interesting in their own right.
One thing that probably won’t happen, even though people in-setting seriously consider it, is further fragmentation of existing states. My personal opinion is that, although previous Splinter Wars led to fracturing of existing states, the breather brought on by the Weeping had allowed the existing states of consolidate their positions and make social changes to adapt to new technologies. Even if there is a stalemate, Eldemar and Falkrinea are unlikely to fall apart, and smaller states more unlikely still. The multitude of tiny states scattered across Altazia are basically at their lowest size and can’t really get any smaller. For that reason, even the stalemate ending would likely result in a reduction in the number of states, with some of them being conquered by the Big Three, secondary powers, or even their smaller neighbors.
Furthermore, even if one of the Big Three wins the war, this doesn’t mean the entirety of the continent will automatically fall to their knees and cooperate with their every whim. It just means they will have defeated their two major competitors and that no individual country can resist them anymore. It would take years, likely decades, for the victor to extend their influence and start enforcing their demands across the entire continent, and many peripheral places would be functionally independent for a long time to come.
Altazia’s dominant religion is the Triumvirate Church – an organization that succeeded the unified Ikosian Church that was the official religion of the Ikosian Empire. After the Silence of the Gods, there was no more direct divine intervention to quell internal politics and clarify doctrinal disputes. The Ikosian Church, far too big and expansive to keep itself functioning smoothly as a single organization without divine intervention, soon fell apart into a multitude of smaller churches. These churches argued, fought, and occasionally straight up destroyed each other, until eventually the angels intervened and facilitated a series of unifications that resulted in three major churches, each led by its own High Priest. This eventually evolved into the modern Triumvirate Church.
The Triumvirate Church has been steadily weakening over time. Once, their higher echelons could count on their divine blessings and occasional direct assistance from the gods to serve as proof of their legitimacy and their right to religious authority. Even after the Silence of the Gods, they still had a deep stockpile of divine artifacts and angelic support to fall back on. Besides, mortal mages were rare in those times, and far less accessible to the common man. The priests were still often mages, and usually better ones than the haphazardly trained apprentices of random mages. The church had vast collections of magical lore that few could match, unless they were influential Noble Houses or particularly prestigious institutions.
Nowadays, this has radically changed. Divine artifacts held by the church are mostly gone, having been used up, stolen, or destroyed over the centuries. Mages are getting more and more common, their skills better. The gods have been silent for so long that they’ve become but a legend, and even angels have gradually cut down on formal appearances to the public at large. When the angels do act in the material world, they often act covertly, using various individuals rather than going through official church channels, much to the church’s dismay.
The church once had a near-monopoly on healing, but this has been steadily eroded over time by the developing potion industry, which is only getting more widespread and affordable as time goes by.
On top of all that, the Triumvirate Church suffered a massive blow just a few years ago, when the Weeping swept across the lands. The mysterious magical disease thwarted all attempts at curing it, and it felled both mage and mundane alike. Traditionally involved in caring for the sick and healing, the Triumvirate church sent many of its priests to tackle the illness before the full severity of the situation was known. They ended up losing a great many people as a result. Entire local chapters were wiped out in some cases, leaving empty temples and a severe lack of personnel in all areas of church operations.
Just as importantly, the failure of the priests to contain the contagion was received very poorly by the common man. Among the more religiously-minded, the Weeping was seen as something of a divine punishment for the horrors of the Splinter Wars. The fact that nations decided to end their endless conflicts for a time following the disease only confirmed it in their eyes. If the priests couldn’t protect the faithful from the Weeping, and in fact ended up being felled by it instead, what did that say about their legitimacy as religious authorities?
In truth, Altazia is in the throes of religious crisis. The Triumvirate Church has been weakening for some time, and the Weeping accelerated this trend immensely. In the void left behind, various cults and new religions are moving in. Many of these cults are rather dark in nature, since many of them are born of fatalistic view that the world is in its twilight phase and will soon end. Others worship entities far removed from traditional gods, which are often made up or otherwise unavailable for contact, allowing the cult leaders to say whatever they want in their name. Other still worship traditional gods, but claim that the Triumvirate Church has lost its authority, or even that the angelic hierarchy itself has gone rogue and is preventing gods from talking to people.
There is still hope for the Triumvirate Church, however. While the situation is dire, they are still the group with the clearest support from the angels among them all. Angelic support counts for a lot among many religious people, even if the angels themselves have been very quiet lately.
Additionally, while the church has been losing magical supremacy over the general mage community, there is still one area they are unquestionably the best there is: soul magic. The Triumvirate Church is at the forefront of ethical soul magic research, and their monopoly on legal soul magic use is enshrined in law in most places in Altazia. A privilege they fight for fiercely.
Additionally, due to their soul magic expertise and greater familiarity with the spiritual realms, Triumvirate priests are very active in countering the darker kinds of mages operating in Altazia – necromancers, demon summoners, and blood mages. They are also crucial in controlling ghosts, wraith outbreaks, and rogue spirits of every sort. Very few mages have the skills to really tackle these kinds of opponents, and few want to do so. The church’s willingness to seek out and eradicate these threats has won them a lot of appreciation in both the general public and some very powerful power circles, and they have been leaning on this role harder and harder lately, becoming noticeably more militant in the process. Not all priests are happy with this shift, however.
The future of the Triumvirate Church is very uncertain. It is clear that the coming decades will either see the church reformed into something different and stronger than it is currently, or it will be rendered irrelevant and replaced by something else.
What is more likely? If the Triumvirate Church fails, what is going to replace it? What’s going to happen to the many cults currently spreading throughout Altazia? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but it sure sounds like Altazia is in for interesting times in regards to religion.
Altazia is currently in the midst of a technological revolution – one that is unlikely to stop any time soon. Broadly speaking, I imagine the technological level of Altazia to be around 1850s here on earth, but with some technologies lacking due to the inhibiting influences of magic. No photography for instance, since magical solutions are so much better than primitive photographs.
The epicenter of this technological revolution is Altazia’s central valley, or more specifically Falkrinea. From there, technologies and inventions spread throughout Altazia and then beyond it. As such, Altazia is the most advanced continent, and likely to remain such for the foreseeable future, though its supremacy is not as pronounced as it was between historical Europe and the rest of the world.
Much like in our world, the technological revolution is radically changing the way people live their lives. The population is exploding, which is driving the recent colonization trend on Altazia – it’s not just Eldemar who is colonizing the northern wilderness, it’s pretty much every country that neighbors the Great Northern Forest. At the same time, less and less population is needed, proportionally, to work in agriculture, so much of that population growth is funneled into the cities, which are becoming bigger and more numerous.
However, while technological progress has its advantages, it also brings with itself new problems. For one, the rapid growth of humanity is generating an equally rapidly growing need for food and raw materials. Farmlands are spreading, forests are being cut down, and swamps are being drained. Many magical plants and animals, dependent on very specific environments and circumstances, have been rendered extinct in recent years, and many more have seen their numbers collapse and exist only as remnants of once abundant populations. As of now, humanity does not see this as an issue. Ersetu is not used to considering the wild as something in need of protection. For the longest time, the wilderness has been a hostile force, and keeping it at bay was a constant struggle. The idea that the wilderness needs protecting from human predations is an alien one, more closely associated with certain nature cults than polite society. However, the alchemical industry is rather more aware of the issue, since many potion ingredients have become very rare. If things continue to progress at the current rate, there is a distinct possibility that entire categories of potions will become impossible to produce in the near future, and some alchemists have already started questioning what can be done. Of course, restrictions on what one can exploit are never popular, and many are calling out such measures as being a pure power play by people seeking to monopolize dwindling resources.
Magical plants and animals aren’t the only issue. Ersetu is a world awash in magic, and many materials have absorbed magical traits and qualities over the endless years. Magic-infused metals and crystals, stones with unusual effects, and other exotic materials are routinely used in Altazian technology. Many don’t even consider such things to be magic, viewing them simply as using a right tool for the job. However, such materials tend to be in very short supply. Before, when only a handful of kings and mages could afford them, this was not such an issue. However, with the growth on human numbers and increase in the number of minor nobility and middle class, the demand for such materials has skyrocketed and many mines have already been depleted. It is not unusual to find buildings and items that cannot be adequately repaired anymore, since the materials used in their construction can no longer be found on the open market.
Beyond material concerns, there are social effects of technological sophistication. The average literacy rate across Altazia has never been higher, the percentage of middle class and mundane rich people is constantly rising. Old traditions are constantly being upended as new technologies make old production methods obsolete. Golem makers are becoming more numerous and their products sophisticated, and many people are angry or nervous about the potential of this new form of magic to replace or marginalize them. Many peasants are not happy with the changing times, being contemptuous about many aspects of modernity – such as increasing automation, noisy railway lines, rise of large landowners, or being required to send their children to public schools so they could learn how to read and other useless stuff that they won’t need to be a farmer or a housewife anyway…
There are also witches, shifters, khusky, morlocks, and other groups that exist on the periphery of Altazian society. Previously, these groups could exist on the outskirts of polite society, living their lives according to their own traditions, so long as they avoided large cities and certain villages. Now, they are rapidly finding such peripheries disappearing. Marginal land is being converted into farmland or targeted by resource surveys, settlements are getting bigger, and authorities are becoming more insistent that they obey the laws of the land, and have become more capable of enforcing their demands.
Where will the technological revolution lead Altazia? Will they continue blending magic and technology together until the two are nearly indistinguishable from one another? Or will they simply drive magical creatures extinct and exhaust all the magic ores and be forced to redevelop mundane technology to compensate for it?
There’s lots of ways this could go. The only thing clear here is that the next century will involve constant and sometimes dramatic changes in culture and politics due to technological growth and collapse.
Spread of Magical Training:
Parallel to the technological development, Altazia is also experiencing a massive growth in its magical sophistication. This is driven by several things. The most obvious reasons are that Altazia currently has more people than it ever did, and that their average literacy rate has never been higher. Ikosian states have always been pushing hard for literacy, both because writing was considered sacred and because it is crucial for learning magic. Today, the literacy rate across Altazia hovers around 70% – higher in some places, smaller in others. This high literacy rate, coupled with large population, means the number of mages that currently exist in Altazia is higher than it ever has been in the past. This has resulted in a critical mass of mages, birthing entire new industries meant to cater to them, and resulting in more opportunities for cooperation between mages.
Another reason for this magical development is state sponsorship of magical training for commoners in the wake of Splinter Wars and the Weeping. Previously, training commoners in use of magic was rather rare and typically seen as undesirable. Even if it was possible to train a large number of commoners in magic use, established Houses and individual mage lineages would fight such a move as a threat towards their position. Additionally, nobility and long tradition are quite respected throughout all of Ersetu, and Altazia is no exception. A student of notable birth is simply more prestigious to teach, and many mages would prefer to teach such students over commoners, even if they are commoners themselves. As such, mages usually had at least one parent that was a mage themselves, or else they never would have managed to find someone willing to teach them.
In the wake of the Splinter Wars, however, many mage families died out. Even if their family didn’t entirely die out, the survivors tended to bow out of the war in order to help preserve their family line and prevent unacceptable losses. This caused most states to start looking into alternative sources of new battle mages – if traditional Houses and established mage families wouldn’t provide them with the magical firepower they needed to continue their wars, they would find someone who would. Someone who has little to lose and is entirely willing to risk their lives for a chance at glory and fortune.
The Weeping only intensified these trends. A canny mage could avoid dying if they refused to fight in the Splinter Wars and evaded forceful recruitment. Evading a pandemic proved to be a lot harder, and many civilian mages ended up perishing from the disease. In the wake of the Weeping, the demand for fresh blood in the magic community greatly increased. Even many prestigious magical academies – such as Cyoria’s Royal Academy of Magical Arts, which used to only accept students of notable lineages with impeccable social standing – started accepting students of completely mundane origins. So long as they could pay the admission fee, the academies and magical tutors would have them.
This resulting influx of mages that had no family history of magic greatly changed the culture of the mages in Altazia. Unlike established magical linages and Houses, who had a tradition stretching for generations and a high level of pride that came with such a legacy, commoner mages were a lot more willing to sell their skills and secrets, or even just plain share them for free with people they liked. As a result, spells and training techniques started spreading faster among the mage community, leading to a higher level of quality and greater spell versatility among mages. Most nations quietly acknowledge that this process is only going to continue.
Not everyone is happy with this cultural shift. Many consider this easy spread of magical knowledge reckless, and warn that it’s leading Altazian society towards disaster. They point out the increasing spread of sinister magics such as necromancy, blood magic, and demon summoning as proof that easier magic access is not necessarily good for society at large. There have also been several cases of widely-reported terrorist acts committed by mages, including one that used teleportation to evade capture for years, leaving a trail of murder and destruction in their wake. It’s clear that Altazian governments are somewhat struggling to deal with the consequences borne out of proliferation of magic throughout society. Many police forces are complaining that they lack both the manpower and expertise to tackle these new magic-using criminals, and this is causing groups such as private mercenary companies and the Triumvirate Church to step into the role of the enforcer to compensate.
Beyond all this, there are Noble Houses and smaller magical lineages who are watching these new developments with mixed feelings. Although some newly-minted mages look down on them as aging, outdated behemoths that will soon be replaced by newer, more vibrant mage communities, it has to be remembered that these old mage traditions survived for quite a long time, and have weathered many disasters. Most of them have at least one moment in their history when they were on the brink of annihilation, yet they’re still here today. They have access to secrets and training methods that set them apart from the common rabble, and they’re more adaptable and innovative than outsiders suspect.
That’s not to say they aren’t wary of this new trend, however. It is obvious that many of the states are pushing for this new breed of state-sponsored mage as a way to erode and limit the influence of traditional Houses on state politics. The kings and queens of Altazia want to de-fang their Noble Houses, and they’re not being particularly subtle about it. As such, most Noble Houses are already making their own plots, extending their operations, forging links with one another, and even absorbing outsiders into their ranks to effectively neutralize particularly exceptional commoners. After all, most Houses have a side-branch or a vassal family they can marry outsiders of low social position into. The outsider gains support of a wealthy, politically connected House, as well as access to some or all of their secrets and legacy, and in exchange the House gains a powerful new asset whose techniques and magic will be added to the family legacy over time.
Will the percentage of magic users in Altazia continue to grow? In the short-term, almost certainly. The factors that lead to the spread of magic among the Altazian population are still at work here, and the society has still not reached full saturation. However, I actually think that magic will never spread to 100% of the population. For one thing, there are some people that just can’t learn how to wield magic effectively, or at all. For others, it’s a matter of not being able to afford magical education – outside of utopian scenarios, it’s never going to be available to everyone. Additionally, as the number of mages increases, the value of their skills will decrease, and the price they can demand for their services will drop – this may very well result in some people deciding it’s not worth their time and money becoming a mage.
Finally, while learning how to cast structured spells is not really that expensive in terms of magical materials, training a mage to the standard that Eldemar and other countries expect has a healthy requirement for all sorts of magical resources. These are finite, and will increasingly become a major limitation as the number of practicing mages increases.
Well. This turned out to be longer than I thought. I originally meant to add more factors to the discussion, but this is already getting kind of long so I’ll just break this up into multiple parts.
In the next part, I intend to tackle the following topics:
>Aranea & their relations with humans; the mind magic question
>Ulquaan Ibasa & what they want; soul magic question
>Centralization drives in Eldemar, Sulamnon, and others
>The Weeping and its effects
Finally, in part three I intend to write some more about Eldemar’s internal politics in particular and about some of the secondary/minor powers making moves in Altazia. I hope you enjoyed this, and if you have some thoughts or ideas about how the things I described above will play out in the future, feel free to let me know in a comment. As I said, I myself don’t know how most of these things will develop, so I’m interested in seeing what people think of the outcome for some of these things could be.