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Premium Post: West of the Wastelands
Two maritime republics and a sugar-growing kingdom west of Grendel's realm in the world of BATTLE FOR THE WASTELANDS
I’ve been busy with day-job stuff and forgot to send premium content out in April, so here’s primo content for May — a completely new region of the Wastelands world.
In the earliest versions of my steampunk military fantasy Battle for the Wastelands, the tyrant Grendel ruled the entire known world. The lands beyond the fearsome Iron Desert were unknown and some even believed the desert went on forever. Grendel’s planned expedition south of the desert was more of a hail-Mary to keep his quarrelsome supporters off each other’s throats, since even he knew very little about the world beyond his own realm.
However, as I worked on the first book, it became clear that Grendel’s empire is a land beast, with minimal naval power. Thus emerged the Republic of Everett, a maritime republic in the vein of medieval Venice or Genoa that exists in the oceans west of Grendel’s united Northlands and has a monopoly on the fabulous goods from south of the Iron Desert like gramophones. I remember reading about Venice in City of Fortune (which I own on my Kindle) and about Venice and Genoa both in Before European Hegemony in graduate school, so I did have a basis for them. Everett is mentioned in both the original Battle and its sequel Serpent Sword, but we never see anybody from there or visit it.
So here’s a short discussion of Everett and its rival republic Tejada and the monarchy of the Lemovian Islands, located far to the south and west, and how I came up with them.
The Republic of Everett-Everett is centered on a group of islands in the Western Ocean, including one that has a functioning Old World (i.e. before the apocalyptic event known as the Fall hundreds of years prior) shipyard. They survived the Fall by snatching container ships at sea (on the recommendation of my old friend Brandon I read 99 Percent of Everything about the importance of container ships) and whaling, raiding, and trading as opportunity allowed. Imagine if the shipbuilding city of Newport News survived a nuclear war, but the land-based supply chains that fed the city were destroyed and they had to turn outward to survive.
Everett is based on the historical Republic of Venice — the ancient shipyard is equivalent to the Arsenal and its economic system is rather state-directed. Like medieval Venice it’s an elected republic, but its franchise is restricted, its political system is rather authoritarian and ruthless, and the paranoid Everetti (see the Italian-ism there) don’t want outsiders learning Everett’s location. Consequently, ordinary citizens don’t spend a lot of time outside the Republic itself or its fortified mainland colonies and urban quarters and they rely heavily on locally-recruited mercenaries and “help.”
Like the British have historically done with France and Germany the Everetti seek to keep a single power from dominating the mainland, but Grendel managed to conquer everything between the mountains and the deserts and the seas anyway. Some Everetti still seek to undermine Grendel’s realm, while others think a partnership between themselves as the lords of the sea and Grendel, the new lord of the land, might be a viable option.
The Tejadan Union-This is located on the northwestern edge of The Peninsula, a massive, well, peninsula extending well out into the Western Ocean from just south of the Iron Desert. Unlike the nigh-authoritarian Everetti, Tejadan politics are more factional and violent and its economy more free-market, like historical Genoa. Part of this has to do with geography — Tejada is a union of smaller higher-altitude cities that survived the Fall and kept in touch via dirigible, avoiding the monster-infested and disease-ridden lowlands between them rather than a singular political entity.
The Tejadans have managed to conquer and fortify the largest river in their vicinity to keep the monsters out and rebuild the ruined Old World port city at its mouth, but most of their trade is with the civilizations south of the Iron Desert. They’ve been battling with the Everetti over the way stations and trade routes northward, but the Everetti have contained them so much that Grendel and his allies aren’t aware they even exist until later in the series, probably the fourth book or so.
One complication is that the Tejadans had practiced slavery in their own territory in the relatively recent past, perhaps forcing captives from seaborne raids to work on infrastructure projects like bridges between the closest of their mountaintop cities or reclaiming farmland in the dangerous territories below, and that escaped slaves formed renegade communities that made war on their former masters. Even if the Tejadans abolished slavery later, these are going to be poorer and more marginalized people that bear grudges and might be useful as muscle for political feuds or as potential allies for the Everetti.
(Even though the Everetti political system is much more controlling than the Tejadan, the Tejadans’ former practice of slavery is something they can beat them with, especially if they want to stir up trouble within Tejada’s borders.)
Lemovian Islands-This entity is kind of a cross between the Caribbean plantation system and the old Kingdom of Hawaii. It’s a monarchy ruled by a member of House Lemov, whose ancestors may have been from the Merrill territories on the mainland, with each island ruled by subordinate lords of sometimes-flexible loyalties. Their coffee and sugar plantations serve as markets for slaves taken by Everetti and Tejadan merchants and raiders, but the lords are wise enough to limit the number of slaves and provide a social “safety valve” — I imagine granting freedom to slaves who serve in the whaling fleets or in the military and imposing legal limits on the masters’ brutality — to prevent revolts. There’s also piracy, although the Everetti and Tejadans likely won’t tolerate that for long.
Speaking of those two republics, I imagine the islands are a hotbed for their intrigues against one another and only House Lemov’s skill at playing the two off against each other is why they haven’t ended up getting conquered by one or the other.