Alpine City has the highest population of any city in the nation; though its capital is the most populous in the nation, the province itself is only the third most populous. The Alpine Province encompasses a vast majority of the Spine of Atla, the mountains that split Atla in half. As a result, almost half of the area of the province is uninhabited. Most of the province’s major cities are located along the western edge of the mountain range and are connected by one of the busiest lengths of railline in the nation. But unlike Alpine City, cities such as Gale and Placid Hills remain relatively unaffected by the growth of the rail industry and serve as waypoints, not destinations.
Precisely when settlers began inhabiting the city of Alpine is unclear. Archeological evidence suggests more than 1,000 people called the mountains home some 20,000 years ago. At this time the people were mostly nomadic, hunting deer, elk, moose, and small animals that made the mountains their home. And for another 15,000 years the small bands of people moved back and forth, likely following herds or changes in climate, until they moved out of the peaks and settled in the foothills below. Religious traditions suggest that the people, devout followers of Steyman, left the mountains and settled the valley at the God’s behest.
The Alpine Mountains are tall granite mountains. The grey, blue, and pink granite found throughout has become an integral part of native cultures. Evidence suggests the nomadic hunters dug crude altars from exposed bedrock, using the altars for sacrifices, worship, and ceremonies. It wasn’t until approximately 3,000 PM that the nomadic people moved to the foothills and constructed the first dwellings made entirely of stone. Since then working with granite has been part of everyday life for the citizens. This connection to the native environment continues to this day and as a result Alpine is synonymous with stone.
As the native people lived in and worked around the granite their lives became intrinsically connected to the stone and nature in general. While by no means primitive or luddite, the people throughout the Province of Alpine valued nature and their relationship with it as they valued their relationships with each other. Damaging the landscape, starting a forest fire, or disrespecting the land in any way was akin to injuring a fellow human. Steyman, the deity most closely associated with the natural world, became less a corporeal god and more an intangible essence of the very land itself. The mountains became temples and the valleys chapels all devoted to the God of the land. Though various sects have risen, fallen, or transformed over the years, as a whole the people of the province worship the land as a god.
The Province of Alpine, and to a greater extent Alpine City, is the rail capital of the nation. Located near the center of the continent and with direct access to every quarter of the land, every transcontinental railline passes through the province. Alpine is home to more miles of line than almost all other provinces combined. Alpine City, a city that was once pastoral utopia, is little more than a giant rail station.
The first railline ever built connected Fort Jerrel in Westlake to Camp Hesiod in Bedrin. The continous length of rail traveled around the western edge of the Alpine Mountains eventually reaching the Alpine Valley. Short of taking a 2,500 mile detour to the Morrid Sound, the only way to reach Camp Hesiod is to go through the mountains. And so the first railline was built along the foothills of the city, through the narrow canyons, and between the high valleys. From an objective standpoint the damage to the environment the railline caused was negligible. But to the people of Alpine, who even in the modern era view the natural world as the essence of God, it was considered blasphemy. But as raillines became more common throughout the nation it was clear Alpine’s location meant it would become the rail nexus regardless of how the citizens felt. Within 10 years the rural lands were transformed into rail stations, construction facilities, and tourist centers. The people who once worked as farmers and ranchers or masons and engineers were forced to join ranks with the growing rail companies or find themselves unemployed. Most early rail companies were not started in Alpine and by Alpine natives. When the corporations needed to fill positions they did so internally and with individuals from outside the province. The population of Alpine City tripled in just 15 years. By 235 EM the native residents were outnumbered by rail employees and migrant workers looking for easy money in a booming industry. In a single generation an entire culture was destroyed and replaced by an unstoppable economic force.
Though Alpine’s ruling families have remained in power throughout the upheaval, their roles and power have changed dramatically. Centralized governmental power has been dispersed, eclipsed and made irrelevant by the sheer size of the corporations. Because most of the residents of the capital city are employees of the corporations, company rules have become city rules. The judges are little more than figureheads, puppets who are forced to change laws and regulations as the companies see fit. For some districts judges these changes are, if not welcome at least tolerated. It has been said that three of the five judges are paid in secret to change laws or promote the rail corporations as the company presidents see fit. The other two judges oppose everything the rail corporations stand for and continue to do everything in their power to keep the growth of the rail industry from completely destroying a once glorious people.
Under normal circumstances corporations would not be allowed to dominate a local city and have a say in creating rules, regulations, and laws of a province. However, the rail industry has become an integral part of Atlan society and today, almost every company large or small relies on the raillines to buy and sell, import and export, and order or deliver their goods. And all of those goods travel directly through Alpine. To stay the growth in the province is to cripple a bustling economy that relies on the new technology. The Grand Provincial Councilor admits the situation in Alpine is anything but ideal; despite his feelings he has made no mention changing the situation. The rest of Atla is just as conflicted as the GPC is; recent polls show an almost even split between people in favor of allowing the rail growth and those against. As for those against, few agree how the situation should be resolved. Some groups feel the rail companies should move their headquarters and future stations farther west to the empty desert, others feel the rail companies should be forced to stop building entirely, while others feel greater regulations and restrictions can bring peace to the people and companies without causing hardships for either group.
Until the GPC changes how businesses operate in Alpine, the companies themselves alter their strategies, or the natives embrace the changes, Alpine’s future is both vague and bleak. The only thing that is certain is that the current state of affairs will not last; either the people will rebel or the rail companies will fight against national regulations like cornered beasts.