Starting this Friday, the 20th of October, I will be posting one short story per week for the next six weeks. These stories will be set in the city-state Astine, a thriving nation in Ethra to the southeast of the massive kingdom of Yettrioth.
(The stories are a collaborative project that four other authors worked on with me. For more information about the authors behind the stories, click here.)
In preparation for the story collection, I want to provide you with a bit of background on Astine.
Centuries ago, when the totalitarian dictator Ravan Straffel still ruled the Yettrian Empire with an iron fist, many fled the corrupt regime. Some headed farther west to what is now Agryen. Others, led by a man named Montery Astine, fled southeast, past the Sce’Zoll Range, until they came to a wide peninsula. Outside Straffel’s reach, they set up their own sovereign state, simply named Astine after their founder.
Their state sprawled across a wide valley surrounded by a ring of five mountains. Over the years, the city-state grew and prospered until it covered the valley, the five mountains, and a large bay that tumbled over the cliffs into the sea below.
Montery Astine eventually died, leaving no clear heir. As one would expect, this led to a period of infighting between various well-established noble houses. Eventually, an uneasy peace was reached, and the state grew prosperous.
However, prosperity was not to last. The city was literally shaken to its roots when three of the mountains—actually volcanoes—erupted. Mount Ropolz, Mount Glycil, and Mount Atania had a high concentration of a mineral colloquially known as floatrock: a mineral that, when heated, floats in the air. As the volcanoes erupted, the mountains actually broke away from the ground and sailed into the sky.
The effects were devastating. Lava flows and ash clouds destroyed the year’s crops, and fire and stone rained from the sky as the mountains continued to rise in the air. Over the course of several hard and grim days, the volcanoes continued to rise in the air. Before long, however, the magma in the volcanoes cooled. Without internal heat to trigger the floatrock, the mountains began to fall. Two of the mountains, Glycil and Ropolz, were stabilized by members of the Rehn and Selannen noble houses who managed to start fires in the hearts of the mountains. In the following days the citizens learned in occult arts figured out how to magically seal fire in the hearts of the mountains. To this day, those mountains remain airborne some quarter mile above the tops of the other mountains. Mount Atania, however, did not stabilize and fell back to the ground, causing massive damage to the valley and decimating the population.
In the years of reconstruction to follow, Astine eventually surpassed its former glory, but not without corruption growing beneath the city’s glamorous surface. Criminal networks and organizations prospered, occult and mystic covens met in secret, and Astine’s rulers struggled to maintain legitimacy. Eventually, through a series of criminal events, Astine fell into twenty years of mistrust and near-anarchy.
Finally, however, the Selannen, Darek, and Nyrid houses banded together and stabilized the city. They formed a triumvirate government that unfortunately ended once again in bloodshed. After a short period of warring between the houses, a convention was held with every prominent house in Astine represented. There, the noble houses established Astine’s current form of government: a single house ruling over Astine from the High Lord’s seat, with reelections every five years.
The Nyrid house was the first noble house to hold this position, followed by the Selannen house, which has maintained its position to date.
Recently, the Yettrian Civil War has shaken the economy of Astine. Although still prosperous and largely independent, Astine has suffered from lack of a stable trade partner. Opinions on the war vary widely, with the majority of Astenian citizens largely indifferent. However, there are covert organizations in Astine that are subtly promoting anti- or pro- war efforts and trying to encourage sympathy for one side or the other.
It is in this tumultuous time that our stories occur.