Sunday, March 18, 2007

East Ursia and West Ursia

Someone was talking to me recently about my trilogy and wanted to know a little about the various nations that make up the world I've created, so I thought I'd post a little about some places here. All of this is background material, and most of it does not come up in my novels, so I shouldn't be giving anything away.

East Ursia and West Ursia

The nation of Ursia was a strong theocracy for a thousand years, ruled by a series of popes. The pope, an official elected by a vote of bishops, was the overall lord of the land, in charge of the political and spiritual lives of those under his domain. Each region, or state, within Ursia was ruled over locally by a bishop and by a duke. Dukes and lesser nobility were the remnants of a monarchial system that had not existed since the before the birth of the nation; this remaining nobility had one major purpose, to keep the military up and running, though they also helped with policing and tax collection. Regardless, the Ursian nobility always had to answer to the bishops and the pope.

The religion of Ursia was based upon the belief in Ashal, the god who walked among men. Ashal apparently lived about two thousand years ago, roughly a thousand years before the beginnings of Ursia, and his story and wisdoms are layed out in the Book of Ashal. Put simply, Ashal was the first known person to exhibit magic-like powers and has been considered a god ever since. Ashal was eventually betrayed by his own father and put to death, though prophets tell that Ashal will one day return.

Now, despite the fact that Ashal was the first to display use of magic, the True Church of Ursia (later to be called the Eastern Church) outlawed magic in all forms. Officially the church did not believe Ashal was a human magic user, but a god come to earth to help others through divine miracles. The Book of Ashal even backs the church up on this to some extent, telling that Ashal called for the punishment of wizards and witches, but scholars often debate the truth of this texts. Either way, the church doesn't like magic, especially humans who use magic because that is considered evil.

For a thousand years the church ruled the nation of Ursia, the central and largest nation on the continent of Ursia. Then about 65 years ago a major plague threatened the land, killing hundreds of thousands. There was no cure to this plague other than through magic, and the few wizards there were were scared to reveal their talents because of the church.

After the deaths of nearly a million across the nation, a group of twelve powerful wizards banded together in hopes of saving as many people as they could. Realizing their own executions were quite possible, they forged ahead by using their magic to help heal the masses. Thousands upon thousands of people were saved, mostly middle and lower classes because the priests and gentry refused to go to wizards for aid.

Through the aid of the twelve wizards, and natural progression, the plague eventually died out after a few years. At that point, the church decided it was time to round up these wizards and put them to the torch. The general population would have none of it. After the wizards had saved so many lives, there was no way the civilian population was just going to sit back and watch their heroes be killed for no other crime than using magic to help save lives.

A period of civil war began that lasted for a few years. The pope had a mighty army, but the twelve wizards had their own powerful skills and the backing of the populace. Civilians gathered in militias and worked with the wizards to fight back against the pope.

The fighting could have continued for a good long time, but a northern neighber, the nation of Kobalos, got involved. Seeing the country of Ursia split apart politically and socially, Lord Verkain of Kobalos deemed it a good time to invade Ursia in hopes of making it his own (he had other hidden agendas, but I won't go into that here).

Verkain was a powerful weilder of magic himself, and he had a relatively small but well trained military of strong soldiers. While not likely powerful enough to take on a strong Ursia, Verkain was more than strong enough to tackle a split Ursia and to cause plenty of trouble. The pope's armies were split, thus they could not deal with Kobalos on their own. The twelve wizards were powerful enough together to face Verkain on their own, put they did not have the military might to go up against the Kobalan armies.

A truce was quickly thrown together between the pope and the twelve wizards. They came together long enough to drive Verkain back, and to free the Ursians from the Kobalan lord. A major part of this truce was to split Ursia in two nations, East Ursia and West Ursia, the countries split by a natural barrier of mountains known as The Needles.

East Ursia is pretty much the Ursian government, run by the pope with the help of bishops and nobility. Magic is outlawed in the East, even to execution.

West Ursia is technically a free society, run by a governing council and its chief councilor, officials elected by popular vote very few years. The twelve wizards, known as The Twelve, worked with the populace to set up this government in hopes of freeing all peoples within their domain. Many people had originally wanted The Twelve to take over leadership, but they had refused, saying it would only create another East Ursia by having only wizards rule. Magic is allowed within West Ursia, though there are some restrictions of powerful magics being used in some regions. Wizards are still not a common sight in rural regions, but they easily can be found in the major cities of the West.

The civil war ended about 60 years before the beginning of the first book of my trilogy, so about a generation has passed. There have been several popes since then in the East, as well as many Chief Councilors in the West. The Twelve no longer exists as a group, all of the members but one having passed away since the war.

Okay, that's more than enough for now. I'll write more on other nations at some point.

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