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West Emperor Island Discussion

Discussion in 'Archipelago Archive' started by Telcontar, Aug 30, 2011.

  1. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

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    This is the thread for all suggestions, discussions, commentary, and critiques of the West Emperor Island region. All contributors are welcome! But of course, keep it constructive. I have the final decision on what becomes 'official' for this region, but I have tried to keep plenty of room for outside contribution in the general framework that I've already devised.

    Feel free to discuss current 'official' information as well, if you feel that there are holes or inconsistencies that need redressing.
     
  2. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Hey there.

    I was wondering if there could be a discussion about the Faigheal du Niel. I really like the idea of cave-dwelling ship-builders, and I even used them as a starting point for an idea I posted in a thread elsewhere. But it's pointed out to me by more than one person that the idea seems contradictory because there's no wood in caves, and also that they would probably have a hard time living underground. Is there an update on how that's managed?

    I was thinking that a few of the underground caverns they lived in could feed water into a swampland, sort of a closed off valley just below sea level that wouldn't be underground, but would connect to their tunnels and might be considered small and inhospitable: It's slightly flooded. That could be where they get their shipbuilding wood while also explaining why they don't live there. If there were enough big rocks inside the underground river, it would even be fresh water and a valuable resource towards their survival.

    What do you think? What other differences might help them survive as underground cave dwellers?
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2011
  3. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

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    Yep, it can strike as a bit contradictory at first. For the simple concern - the raw materials needed - there is a massive forest directly above much of the Niel's cavern homes. They don't need wood from the caves, they get it the old fashioned way.

    Somebody else broached to me the possible conflict of 'spirit.' Such as, cave-dwellers don't seem like the free-spirited types we generally associate with (non-military) mariners. However, I think people are envisioning the wrong kinds of caves. The majority of the Niel live in caves very near the surface, many with openings directly on the cliff faces (look up 'karsk' landscape for some gorgeous photos that'll demonstrate what I mean). So they live in fairly open, airy caves, not claustrophobic, closed-in areas.

    I'll probably expand on the Niel in the main thread soon. They're easily my favorite culture.
     
  4. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    I was far less concerned about wood than about food: karst areas tend not to be especially good for agriculture. (They do seem to be fair at supporting forest growth, at least.) Also, karst areas are prone to cave-ins and sinkholes… though this might be partially addressed by a good thick layer of solid rock above the eroded areas. Unfortunately, such a layer would also mean the caves were farther removed from the surface.

    (Actually, my biggest problem is you seem to have given the Niel "everything"–stonework, jewels, dyes, lacquers, exotic plants and animals, basketry, lanterns, wood, fish, ships… what are they trading for? Metal, perhaps, since it isn't on your list: while that would normally be something people "expect" of a cave-based civilization, in fact natural caves tend to be in metal-poor strata. Still, I'd be happier with some specific cave/karst-based limits, as opposed to endowing the Niel with exotic ways to avoid them. But then I'm always looking to the bigger systems, the ways the whole world interconnects.…)

    As far as them having ships, a lot will depend on where they park them. It would take a pretty massive cave to hold sailing vessels, especially the ones you talk about elsewhere. (And which I'll address elsewhere.) Even a single one, let alone a fleet. On the other hand, if they don't keep their ships in caves, there's no problem… and there's certainly no reason they couldn't have harbors just like everyone else.

    Somewhat similar situations, as far as "cave"-dwelling go, exist in Cappadocia–especially the "fairy chimneys," long used by monastic dwellers, often in interconnected cave systems, as well as a couple of wholly underground cities; in the Ancient Pueblo/Anasazi regions of the American Southwest; and the Nabataean civilization in Jordan (the city of Petra being, of course, the outstanding example). The only problems with using these as examples is that the first is definitely not karst (it's volcanic rock, not sedimentary), while the other two are in otherwise largely arid settings (nor do they involve natural caves per se); still, they may lead to inspirations. Also note the cenotes of the Mayan/Yucatan area of Mexico (the best-known one is near Tulum; look up "Sistema Sac Actun" for a starting point), which are karst features, though in this case the caves were not inhabited, only used as water sources (through the cenotes) and religious sites.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  5. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Y'know, I don't have a problem with any of these things. Not the wood, not the food, not the spirit, not the ships... sure, there may be some explaining to do as you flush them out, but that's alright. It's workable. It's an imaginary world and we can bend the laws of nature and probability to make it work.

    The only problem which leaped out at me was, why are they living underground? If they have land where they can get wood, they can live on it above-ground. And life above ground is immensely easier and healthier than life below ground. I don't see how life underground is beneficial, it seems more like a poor use of the ground above them, and to me that breeches the line of believability because it defies human nature. If they have access to woodlands for ships, why aren't they building and settling there instead? So that's kind of what I was trying to think about with my post, though I guess I should have reviewed the thread first.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2011
  6. myrddin173

    myrddin173 Maester

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    In my opinion it makes sense, why waste wood on building a shelter when nature has already provided one for you? Also from what I can see the caves Telcontar is suggesting are more open air, so I wouldn't imagine any health problems.
     
  7. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

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    As myrddin said for the caves - they were handy. Too, because they are highly defensible. As a culture they've grown used to the caves, but it certainly isn't a natural surrounding for other peoples. It has saved them on a grand scale in the past (story to come!).

    As you suggested, metals are probably one of their most desired imports. Foodstuffs, as well - they would not want to be dependant on the historically hostile Drobani (the culture to their south) for food, and so would get it from everywhere they could.

    I think you've underestimated the dizzying array of trade goods in the world, though. For instance, just because they can weave baskets doesn't mean they won't trade for superior ones, and the same goes for much of the things they create. Oils (ones that aren't derived from fish, especially), dyes they can't create themselves, pottery, luxury goods such as spices, ivory, gold and silver work, textiles (pre-made or the raw materials for their creation)... the list goes on and on. I've given them a large number of desirable trade goods because that is a large part of how they survive.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  8. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Heh. Come play Machiavel for a couple months and tell me that one again. ;)

    Probably buy it in Kilvikasa–after the merchants there buy from the Drobani. ;) again.

    It does, however, mean they have something to weave their baskets from. It was actually the minor products, such as this, that caught my attention: how are they making these? (Yes, I can come up with answers, but bear with me a sec.) Brooms? Lanterns–that aren't carved from stone, since it isn't the stonecarvers who are making them? What other "everyday items of the households"–which, I think you'd have to admit, can cover a whole host of things? I suppose most importantly, though from a cultural rather than an economic perspective: what all are these people making that elevates them to the status of an Artisan class, on the level of the others?

    Back to the economic one: talk about trade imbalances. They're shipping out intricately-carved stone goods and unique subterranean exotics, so they can bring in baskets? Or, rather, "better" baskets, something they don't actually need, thus putting them in the "luxury" category? Pottery? Why go to the bother of importing something as fragile as pottery, when they could be making the same things out of stone–and do? "Luxury" products (i.e. gold, ivory) themselves aren't necessarily a balancing factor: nearly everybody imports these from single sources, or else numerous but highly limited-yield ones… that's what makes them luxuries.

    Being metal-poor would, of course, go a long way toward redressing this. Textiles, okay: those, they'd need. Oil, I can see; this, too, gets pushed a bit into the luxury category (in any event, it doesn't occupy a spot in the "necessity" category), but some variety is nice, and there are certain things you just plain don't want to make with fish oil. (Perfume springs to mind… though we also haven't talked about a whaling industry, which, if it exists at all, I'd expect the Niel would be involved in–and which would also provide them ivory. In fact, I'd expect the Niel to have some ivory, whaling or not: there are other marine mammals. Assuming they cared, after they got done with coral, mother-of-pearl, and other already available similar resources.) "Dyes they can't create for themselves" would in fact include the majority of historically important ones–murex aside, assuming the correct breed of shellfish exists on their coast. (They are almost certainly not creating lacquer, for much the same reasons, though that's a relatively trivial technical distinction: they'd be doing glazes and enamel. I'm not sure to what extent any of these were applied to stone, but I can't think of reasons why they couldn't be. They're only doing enamel if they're also making glass, by the way… I can only think of one reason for them not to be, and I'm not sure you'd care for that one.) But "vivid dyes… from various minerals" suggests a rather broader repertoire–far broader than historically existed, since almost no pre-industrial dyes were mineral-based; ochre is the only one I can think of offhand. And while you didn't mention textiles among the things they produced, an accomplished seafaring culture, let alone one that is supposed to be the best in the region, would be somewhat disadvantaged if it needed to send out for sailcloth and rope, two closely associated products… making the lack of mention not necessarily an obvious indicator of a lack of production. Do you see why it might strike one as the Niel seeming to have "everything," when you've also mentioned that they have access to an "extensive cave ecosystem" from which they're already extracting an unspecified number and variety of exotic items, in addition to the more obvious ones they can get from the sea, or are harvesting from their forests? (And I did say "seem," not that they actually did.) That was my concern: not that there wasn't anything else they could be trading for, but that there wasn't anything obvious they would be trading for.

    That's fine. The same applies to many of the archipelago's other cultures as well–most of which have thus far produced much shorter lists of exports, and they're living in more "normal" environments, not caves, with all the breadth available in such environments. (I have no problem with cave-dwellers, by the way, in case that wasn't clear from my last post–though I hope that was clear enough from the examples of similar cultures I provided.) Give some indications of what the Niel are lacking, is all I'm suggesting. Throw beer and wine in on top of textiles and metals, and you're probably set.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  9. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Actually, there is an answer for that–though it doesn't need to count as a strike against in this case, as witness the many other cultures that have chosen to live in caves. The answer is that caves are extremely difficult to modify: construction using wood or brick–or even stone–is far simpler than carving out solid rock, if you need more space; and it's harder still to reduce the space, when there's too much of it.

    Barring that, you really only need to be able to address the three factors that any dwelling needs to take into account: good air circulation is the big one (which I presume has already been thought of), plus two others that depend on it, heating and lighting. All three are more difficult in cavern environments (and heating, at least, explains why it's possible for a cave to be too big), but they're hardly insurmountable.
     
  10. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I look forward to reading it. Hopefully it should clear up some of the issues I was hoping to see cleared up.
     
  11. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

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    Now that the thanksgiving break has rolled around, I'll hopefully have some time to devote to these subjects!

    Also, Ravana, I think I see where you might have mistaken an intention of mine. Within the description of the various groups and the 'goods' they are responsible for. I wasn't saying that they necessarily have all the goods on hand to create all these things (baskets they probably do, but most civs had some form of weaving going on). Just that they make them somehow - it wasn't so much a list of products as to give flesh out their role a bit more.
     
  12. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Fair enough: I asked the questions, you supplied reasonable answers. That's the main thing I was after. It wasn't so much that I mistook your intentions–in the sense of believing that was what you were doing–as that I saw a potential for a problem, and wanted to make sure you'd considered it and that it was addressed. I do apologize if I, in turn, gave an impression otherwise.

    (And, yes, having things fleshed out a bit is certainly no evil.)
     
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