The island of Thalassa is fairly small and hilly island of approximately 220 square miles (or about 7 times the size of Manhattan). The hills in the north and south are separated by a wide high central valley which winds down to the City, while the plains of the south are fairly flat, save for a large lake, dropping down toward the sea. The island as one high point over 2000 ft, Mont Les Chaux, in the center of the island. The island was heavily wooded in ancient times. The upper valley, north shore, and the hills still have significant woodlands, while the lower valley, Karrack Point in the north, and the southern plain are farmland. Streams and small rivers are found all over the island. The City itself was built up on islands at the mouth of the largest river with a variety canals linking both the original islands and artificial islands built up over nearly 400 years.
The most recent census showed a population of 274,497 people on the island, with 214,938 living in Thalassa City itself and 9,723 living in Cadia, a port north of the City. There are around fifty other towns and villages. Of the population in the City, some 10,000 or so are non-citizen visiting workers. At any one time, up to an additional 10,000 transients (mostly ship crews) can be found in the City’s dock districts. If the population of the League and the Allies are added in, the people under Thalassa’s protection number well over 10 million (or more depending on how you define ‘ally’).
Thalassa has a temperate climate with cool summers and mild winters. Rainfall is higher than elsewhere on the Azure Gulf, but most of that falls onMont Les Chaux.
Thalassa’s current government has evolved from the meritocracy/oligarchy Directorate (which now only controls the Library and the Vault of Ages), to a democratic republic. Each small town has its own Mayor, but unlike the Mayor of Thalassa, they only concern themselves with local governance.
The Mayor of Thalassa is elected for a 6 year term with the role of executing government directives, encouraging foreign trade, and being the First Speaker and President of the Thalassan League, the broader military/economic/social alliance of which Thalassa is the dominant member. After their term, Mayors traditionally are assigned to one of the colonies or protectorates in League for up to another 6 years to expand Thalassan influence. During which time, and afterwards for life, they are a member of the House of Councilors. No mayor can be re-elected for consecutive terms, though some have been elected non-consecutively in the past century.
The Citizen’s Assembly is the ultimate legislature of all the citizens. It consists of every citizen and hasn’t been called directly in over a hundred years. It is the theoretical source of authority and usually addresses great questions during each election cycle via a ballot measure instead of direct action.
The Councilium (or the Council) is the actual legislature dealing with broad questions of Thalassan law. Up to 1000 members elected by people. The eight High-Priests of Aarith, the eight Deans of the Wizard’s Colleges, the twelve members of the Library Directorate, and eight rotating representatives of the Merchant’s Guilds are automatically members. All former Mayors are also members. Each section of the city, each town, and each colony/outpost has a member of the Councilium.
The Senate is the upper chamber of Thalassa. All laws proposed by the other government bodies must be ratified here. Members include the current Mayor, the Patriarch (or usually his/her representative), the Archwizard, the Director-General, the Inspector-General, the First Archon (Justice), the President of the Merchant’s Consortium, the Captain-Admiral, and the Captain-Marshall. Thirteen other members are elected from the House of Councilors upon their retirement from that house. The Mayor only votes on a tie, though he/she controls the agenda for the most part.
Thalassa’s flag is the red banner with a golden phoenix. The phoenix has been the symbol of the city since the beginning. It represents Sidonius’ dream of a new Empire rising from the ruins of the old.
Whether it is protecting trade routes from piracy, engaging enemy fleets, or exploration, the Navy is the backbone of the defense of Thalassa. From the tragic battles against Adara in the early days to the triumphant last stand against the resurgent Empire’s Grand Fleet, the Navy has made a name for itself in the West that few will challenge. Haalkhan’s invasion was for the Thalassans never a real threat due to the Navy. The Navy’s Great Arsenal builds warships at an amazing rate (merchant vessels as well), giving Thalassa an edge on any potential rival. While the officers are generally all Thalassan, non-citizens routinely join the fleet as a solid career path that leads to citizenship for themselves and their families. Currently standing at over a hundred vessels, with twenty major combatants, there is no real rival in this part of the world. The merchant fleet numbers far more vessels, over a thousand – from cogs and caravels to the latest carrack technology. While a few galleys still exist (and are the primary ship design elsewhere), they are being phased out for sailing vessels due to Thalassa’s limited population and the predictable weather patterns of the west. The head of the Navy is the Captain-Admiral.
Smaller in scope than the Navy, the Thalassan Legion is primarily based outside of Thalassa proper in various castles, forts, and outposts in the League. It is a professional standing army, with ready reserves of citizens and allies much larger than its core which stands at around 4000 troops divided among a myriad of coastal and inland outposts of variable size. The Legion stands watch on passes, reinforces allies in the League, and defends against barbarian or rival incursions. A typical Legion company consists of two platoons of heavy infantry, a platoon of archers, a platoon of light/medium cavalry (dragoons), a unit of heavy cavalry (if needed), a unit of scouts, a unit of engineers, a couple of priests/healers, a warrior poet, and wizard or two who advise the Captain. On Thalassa proper, the Thalassan Guard is a unit of 1000 troops and trainees. Troops are routinely rotated from the Guard to the Legion. With League allies and reserves, Thalassa could in short order mobilize a much larger force, with the Legion as its core. Other unique forces are the Marines, who are aboard warships and the Aegis, elite winged warriors who guard the Mayor and deliver messages throughout the League.
Thalassa also has the Urban Constabulary who police the city, investigate crimes, and act as a reserve force to the Army in time of war. Each small town will have its own version of the larger Thalassan Urban Constables, sometimes being only a Constable or two, a Constable-Sergeant, and the Chief Constable of the town/provence.
The fire watch has stations located throughout the city with horse-drawn manual pumping engines to pump water from the City cisterns. Several specially trained civic mages serve the fire watch to help with larger fire threats.
As Thalassa was founded by academics with a mission to preserve and expand knowledge, education is important. Unlike in the old Empire, or anywhere else, early education is mandatory. From age 6 to 12 all children attend school on grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, history, music, and astronomy. At age 13, children can (but are not obligated too) apprentice with a Guild for education for a career (including the Academy of Wizardy if they pass the entrance exam), become midshipmen in the Navy or Merchant fleets, become Legionary cadets, join the Temple, or continue their core training to becoming an Academic. Starting at age 17-21 exceptional students of any guild or profession (if they pass an exam) can study at the great colleges including Wizardry (though it is very difficult for non-Academy students to be admitted), Theology, Law, Medicine, Military Science, Engineering, or Arts (including music & architecture). Cross-college programs exist (bardic warrior-seers for instance attend one or more Colleges of Wizardry and the Thalassan Schools of the Arts).
The Thalassan economy makes the majority of its income via tariffs, duties, stamps, rents, and tribute from League allies, protectorates, and any foreign merchant who wishes to trade with the same. In addition, Thalassan citizens pay up to 10% tax on their income after reasonable living expenses. There is an inheritance tax on large fortunes and property. Thalassa is primarily a manufacturing, banking, and trade center. Major exports include optics, glassware, prints/paper, cloth (silk, cotton, linen, etc.), merchant ships, water pumps, clockwork, armor, weapons, jewelry, and medicine to name a few. While Thalassa has farms, they specialize in fruits, vegetables, some cereal plants, and some horses/livestock. Thalassa imports foodstuffs, raw cotton, lumber, ores, alcohol, and the majority of livestock.
The Thalassan League maintains the Public Courier Service, or the Bluecaps (from the bright blue hats and mantles they wear) whose dispatch riders travel throughout the League and Thalassa delivering messages for both the government and private individuals. They maintain a ‘fast’ service where riders and horses are rapidly changed up to get messages to outlying areas quickly and a ’slow’ service that hauls parcels in wagons and ships. Roads have necessarily been built to facilitate this, including repaving multiple Imperial roads once left to decay. Members of the Aegis may also be used as high-speed messengers by the government. Getting one of the Aegis to deliver a private message is not unheard of – but it won’t be cheap if it happens at all.
Ships abound in Thalassan waters. Depending on how much you want to pay, you can get a fast ship, and armed ship, a comfortable ship, or just the basics. On Thalassa itself, horse & buggy rental is available, or one can hire a teamster service to take you anywhere on the island and/or convey your gear.
The culture of Thalassa is based on its Imperial origins, but with a light Brentine and Danaean influence and to a lesser extent Elvish. In fact, Imperial naming conventions have all but died out, with a Thalassan tradition having evolved since then. (OOG – Thalassa is similar to late-medieval France with names akin to those found in Brittany or Normandy. Basically French with a Celtic touch).
The music of Thalassa reflects Danaen, Brentine, Elvish, Norvick, and Imperial traditions; however, a local vibrant folk music has developed among the farming communities of Thalassa that is gaining a wide following, especially in the City and the cities and towns of the Periphery. The Temple is not as fond of this seemingly chaotic music, preferring traditional forms. (think wild, fun, folk-country versus stoic chants and chamber music). Regardless of the style, music is near and dear to Thalassan’s hearts (it is taught at a very early age), and it is a rare citizen who won’t attend a performance if they can.
Horseracing is by far the most popular sport in Thalassa. This is one of the few Imperial traditions that has carried on over the centuries. Originally it was chariot-racing, but the sport evolved into just horse/rider in the past hundred years. Some chariot races are still held from time to time, but they are not as popular. Children play stickball and kickball. Tennis is popular for all ages, as is lawn bowling and archery. Falconry, hunting, and fencing are popular among the well-off (especially descendants of the Hundred) patricians. Jousting, a highly dangerous lance sport, was introduced recently having been observed in several outland kingdoms, but it is only recently gaining any adherents. The government is not happy with a sport that could kill the best of Thalassa’s cavalry. Sailing and rowing tournaments are very popular in the City.