Lands of Disparia: Atla

Atla

Atla is the largest, most advanced, and most diverse continent on the known world. It is home to more than 700 million people, from shore to shore covers more than 7 million square miles, and has the greatest biodiversity of any single landmass in the world. Atla and its people are also the most productive, exporting countless tons of goods ranging from wheat and oats to metal and lumber.

The people of Atla are responsible for some of the most significant technological advancements of the past 200 years. Raillines were born on Atla and have since spread to the rest of the world. Orb-lights were invented by a native Atlan and have since become a staple of the civilized world. Marble Cannons (or Arm Cannons) were created by the Atlan military and are just beginning to find widespread use among allied nations. And motorcarts, the most significant breakthrough in transportation since the wheel, were invented on Atla. Many people claim Atla’s role as an economic and technological leader is due to its sheer size. While there is little doubt the continent’s girth plays an important role, over the years the people of Atla have enjoyed greater freedoms of industry, self-expression, and religion than the other nations of the world, and that freedom is the defining factor in contributing to the nation’s growth. But in order to understand Atla’s people and economy it is necessary to understand how its geography has helped shape its people and culture.

A Geographic Overview

Provincial Borders

Atla is divided into nine major provinces. Each province is independently governed by emperors, counts, judges, mayors, or kings and queens. The provinces themselves are usually named after the capital city, or in the case of Meroma, the defining characteristic of the area—its desert. The central government, the Grand Provincial Council, oversees national laws and manages the nation as a whole. Though each province has a fair degree of autonomy, taxes, business regulations, laws, and other country-wide rules are decided upon by the Grand Council which is comprised of nationally elected leaders and representatives from each province. Local representation works in tandem with national officials to ensure the diverse peoples of Atla are able to protect their traditions and lifestyles while simultaneously working together to provide a better quality of life for all.

Atla is geographically divided into five distinct regions or climate zones. To the north is the arctic wasteland, a region of permafrost, glaciers, rugged peaks, and inhospitable ice sheets. This area is inhabited by the hardy people of Grey Hearth. A few hundred miles south of the Grey Hearth region are temperate oceanic or temperate maritime climates around Morrid, Bedrin, and the Morrid Sound. This area is known for its dense woodlands and numerous glens. Central Atla is divided into two equal halves by the massive Alpine Mountains, or the Spine of Atla as they are usually called, which run from the northern tip of the continent to the southernmost regions of the Westlake Province; it is also the single largest mountain range on the known world. To the east of the Alpine Mountains are the central plains where 90% of the nation’s crops are grown. This area is known for moderate temperatures during the summer and a lengthy growing season. Some areas east of the mountains receive heavy rainfall and periodic tornados. To the west of the Alpine Mountains is the high desert of the Alpine Province and the Cliffs of Gent near the western shore. Lower Atla is a combination of savannah, sub-tropical coastline, and the most inhospitable deserts on the continent.

The Far North

The northernmost point of the continent, known as Desolation, is a large peninsula that ends just above the 75 degree north line of latitude and reaches into the Arctic Sea. This sea is known for extremes in climate and its constantly changing topography. For 10 months each year the Sea is entirely covered in a shell of glaciers, ice sheets, and (mostly rocky) debris, only thawing out during the months of Feron and Ayra. But even when the ice sheets cover the sea the landscape is not static and unchanging. Because of the turbulent winds (which regularly reach more than 100 miles per hour) and the flow of the Sea itself the sheets of ice regularly break apart, shift, collide, and reform—all in a matter of hours. The few explorers who managed to return from expeditions to chart the Arctic Sea brought with them reports of a landscape that is constantly in turmoil. The gaping jaws of a crevice can open in an instant and swallow anyone foolish enough to walk the ice and then close minutes later forever sealing the victim’s fate. Because of the capricious and deadly nature of the area only a few dozen individuals have been able to safely explore the lower regions of the Sea. Their efforts are the reason why the northern coast of Atla has been charted and mapped in great detail. But despite their best efforts no explorer or researcher has ever set foot on the geographic or magnetic north pole.

Throughout the winter a vast sheet of arctic ice extends beyond the borders of the Arctic Sea covering the Desolation peninsula. Each year the migration of the ice varies according to the changes in climate and local weather. One year the ice might cover only part of the peninsula and other years the entire cost will be covered for several miles inland. The northern coast of Atla is relatively flat and comprised of rocky beaches and exposed rocks. As ice sheets ebb and flow along the coast line any geographical features that once existed have long since been eroded and smoothed over.

Dead Lake, the largest salt water lake in the world, is the northernmost lake on Atla and rests in a deep basin 1,000 feet above sea level. During the distant past this lake drained into the Arctic Sea by way of a broad and slow-moving river. However, numerous earthquakes and landslides over the past 10,000 years blocked its only outlet and isolated the body of water. Since its isolation the lake has steadily increased in size and salinity. Just south of Dead Lake are the highlands of the unattached province. These rolling hills and low peaks provide a steady supply of water during the warmer summer months. If weather patterns remain constant researchers predict the lake will overflow its boundaries within 500 years and spill into the Arctic Sea, eventually turning it back into a freshwater lake. For now, however, it remains an ever growing oddity.

The Dead Lake and Desolation are both part of the unattached province, a region of northwestern Atla that is uninhabited and has no provincial representation. Instead, this desolate region of snow is considered a national park and is protected from development. It is a barren land of ice and rock with few noteworthy features or locations. While research teams frequent the area there are only a handful of permanent research outposts and almost no native wildlife.

East of the unattached province is the Province of Grey Hearth, which is the smallest province in terms of area and population. Nestled between the Grey Mountains to the east and the Bedrin Range to the west, it is also the most difficult to reach. The valley between the two mountain ranges is known for white permafrost and grey mountains with little room for villages in the narrow valleys. The Grey Hearth region is home to the capital city of Grey Hearth as well as numerous other native settlements and research centers. The indigenous people are a hearty group who have learned to thrive in the freezing temperatures and long winters. There are also numerous unique species of flora and fauna found throughout the region. Recent expeditions discovered a living descendent of the ancient tusked mammoth, a species once thought to be extinct. Known as the Mey-Kook to the locals (or Holy Giant), this beast has been revered and worshiped for countless years and proves there are new discoveries always on the horizon.

Below the Snow

The Province of Bedrin is due south of the unattached province and home to some of the most beautiful forests in the world. The forests, eternally shrouded in fog and mist rolling in from the ocean and Morrid Sound, are comprised of Scots pine, holly, hawthorn, mountain ash, and elm trees. For many hundreds of years great monarchies ruled the land and built numerous stone castles deep in the forested highlands or low glens. Though today many are nothing more than stone foundations covered in dense foliage, some castles remain standing and are open for public tours. The Forests are also home to the largest military training center in northern Atla, Camp Hesiod. Because of its proximity to Far Haven and location on the western coast, Camp Hesiod has become the primary staging point for almost all military operations in the region. Camp Hesiod and Fort Jerrel in Westlake were the first two locations connected by a railline anywhere in the world.

Cutting through the center of the province is the Morrid Sound, the largest sound in the known world. It is thought to have been created when the Atlan and Northern tectonic plates began to diverge millions of years ago leaving a massive rift in the process. The city of Morrid is one of the three largest and busiest port cities on Atla (FreePort and Westlake the first and second respectively) despite resting at the very end of the Sound, some 1,000 miles from the western edge of the continent. Morrid sits on the coast of a glacial valley that terminates in a narrow fjord. Though Morrid is the most distant major port on the continent it has always been one of the busiest trade routes in the world. At one point the entire northern half of the Sound was dotted by floating cities—small wooden villages erected over the shallowest portions of the inlet. The Stilt Cities, as many called them, were separated by the average distance a ship could travel over the course of a single day and offered travelers rest, food, supplies, and entertainment. But as technological advancements increased the speed of ships and with the growth of the railline industry, all but a few of the Stilt Cities were abandoned.

Now that raillines connect almost all of Atla many corporations and private traders have abandoned the Sound in favor of traveling to Westlake. By avoiding the Sound and sending goods by railline many companies have reduced their shipping costs by half. While the Stilt Cities stand abandoned, the docks of Morrid are in no danger becoming irrelevant, at least not in the near future. Since the distance between Westlake and Morrid is so vast, many merchants coming from the northern reaches of Far Haven still save time by sailing straight across the Atlan Sea and into the Sound as opposed to making the lengthy trip to the south and then sending goods north on the Raillines.

The Heartlands (East)

The Alpine Mountain Range, known as the Spine of Atla, divides the heartland of the continent in half. To the west is the high desert of the Alpine Province and the Valley of Gent on the coast, and to the east the great plains of Arodil.

The Province of Arodil is known as the Breadbasket of Atla, an area covered in open prairies and lush grasslands. Here you will find thousands of miles of farmlands where industrious farmers grow everything from cotton and wheat to maple trees producing the nation’s best syrup. Numerous cattle ranches fill the remaining land and provide dairy products and meat to the entire nation. Between the crops and cattle ranches, the great plains are the primary food source for more than 75% of the nation and export almost nearly 25% of their gross volume to the rest of the world.

The city of Pelenak sits on the eastern coast of the province and is one of the few major cities in the province that does not rely on farming. Instead, metalworking is the most popular trade in the region and the people are known for creating some of the most beautiful works of art in the world.

The Heartlands (West)

West of the Alpine Mountains are the provinces of Alpine and FreePort. The province of Alpine covers most of the lands along the western edge of the mountains and some distance into the high desert while FreePort occupies the coastal areas. The Alpine Mountains are full of pine forests, cottonwood trees, and high lakes below the exposed granite peaks. From hiking to mining, locals and travelers alike have made the region one of the busiest in the world.

At the west end of the province you will find the Valley of Gent, one of the greatest natural wonders in the world. The Cliffs of Gent encompass the Valley of Gent in an almost perfect circle. Like a natural wall, the Cliffs are 4,000 feet tall across their entire range and surround all 10,000 square miles of the valley and are completely vertical. In fact, the greatest distance between the base and ridgeline is 300 feet (measured from a location directly east of Sayfend City). Besides their astonishing size and shape the Cliffs are also devoid of any flora or fauna. Only two species of wildflowers can be found growing between the jutting crags that dot the face of the Cliffs, the plants themselves found nowhere else in the world. Even more unusual is the band of lifeless soil that surrounds the Cliffs at the base and summit. Where trees, flowers, and grasses should grow is a lifeless band of red soil and rocks where even healthy seeds or saplings will not grow. Soil tests have not revealed any conclusive evidence or cause for the sterility, though few extensive tests have been conducted as of yet.

Most of the nation’s vineyards are located inside the Valley of Gent and around the outer rim of the Cliffs themselves. Whether you want to tour the facilities, enjoy fine dining, or buy some of the best wines in the world, this area is a wine connoisseur’s dream.

Below the Cliffs in the Valley of Gent you will find verdant green hills and great oak forests. The dense forests of the central valley produce some of the best milling lumber in the nation, and as a result lumber mills are a ubiquitous sight everywhere in the region. Sayfend, one of the largest settlements in the area, has the largest lumber mills on Atla in terms of both individual square-footage and number of separate mills.

The Southern Limbs of the Nation

Two mountain ranges segregate the lower quarter of the continent. The Meroma Mountain range extends east from the base of the Alpine Mountains while the Westlake Mountains extend west from the same location. Below the mountain ranges the climate changes dramatically from mild and temperate to hot and dry.

Westlake City, the nation’s capital, sits at the feet of the Westlake Mountains and is home to the Grand Provincial offices where the Grand Provincial Councilor lives and works. Though Westlake is home to the nation’s capital and most national offices, the city is anything but dull. Considered the entertainment capital of the world, the city is filled with amusement parks, theaters, and concert halls around every corner.

Below Westlake is Land’s End. This distant outpost is both the westernmost and southernmost major city on the continent. It is a busy port city with easy access to the lower regions of Feron. While it has always been a busy port (frequently considered the fourth most significant port in the nation), after the first Raillines connected it to the rest of the nation sea traffic and trade increased five-fold.

The southeast corner of Atla, home to the Province of Meroma, is known for its great savannah where wild beasts share the land with Atlans who have eked out a meager existence in villages sprinkled across the plains. The capital city of Veyo was once a busy trade city serving ships traveling to and from Pelenak, Floran, and Sed. Over the past 50 years the city has been in decline as faster shipping vessels meant fewer required stops in either direction. Today, Veyo and Grey Hearth are the only capital cities without direct access to a railline. Isolated and nearly irrelevant, many financial analysts believe the city will be abandoned by all but the most stalwart natives within another decade.

Below the savannah is one of the largest dune deserts in the world, the desert of Meroma. The Desert is believed to have been formed over 10,000 years ago as a result of the change in Disparia’s axis. However, much like the Cliffs of Gent, many believe it was formed by supernatural means many thousands of years ago. Regardless of how it was formed, the vast desert spans more than 25,000 square miles and is home to some of the oldest ruins and ancient relics found anywhere on Atla. Though the climate is harsh researchers and adventurers alike continue to explore the region in hopes of finding treasures—both historical and monetary.

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