Gears Are Turning in Sapphire

Gears Are Turning in Sapphire

We keep mentioning our wonderful districts, so now we’re going to start introducing them. Astranar has eight districts, each with their own individual flare, and they can be quite competitive with each other. In Astranar, the districts are named after gemstones. This week, we’ll be discussing Sapphire, where Ether magic brings out the power of the celestial in us all.

A twisting hill land of grasses and sand that is close enough to the Highwind Desert to affect the local climate, Sapphire is on the northeast side of the country up against the foot of the Whistlebacks, and sharing a border with the Ruby, Emerald, and Amethyst districts. Southern Spain was the inspiration for this district of Astranar (which makes sense considering the location of the equator for both countries). With tall, gleaming white buildings set in mazes among hills and winding dirt roads, Sapphire seems a lot more sparse than it is, with a rich history and ancient runes that hint at the past for Astranar. Of course, if you can find them is the trick there, since some of those ruins are quite out of the way.

Granada

The nobility find Sapphire a welcome change of pace, and so there’s a heavy collection of them around. Some are lords, there’s a count and a local knight… Why so many flock can also be nailed down to the “exiled” prince, Sebastian, who makes his home at his family’s estate in Sapphire. Why he was removed from the line of succession is a mystery that the royal family has kept private… Some of the lords may also be by because Sapphire has a large bull fighting arena. (For those of you who have read Emerald‘s entry, you can imagine how big of a problem that can be!) Fashion in Sapphire is just a bit kooky–steampunk is the name of a game, perhaps as a nod towards formality for the gentry?

casualsteampunk1

With all the grassland hills and valleys, horses that do well on the straight and on dusty terrain are best suited to Sapphire. Good thing they have the breed books for Arabians and Barbs! In addition, they have the Hackney Horse for those who might be more inclined to their high speed trotting and delicate lines. The racing specialty around these parts is the straightforward flat race, though of course nothing is ever that simple, right?

barb

Ether magic resonates with So on the solfege scale. Ether is magic of the spirit, and in many ways is closer to “traditional” forms of magic. Those of the Ether don’t really take the beaten path, as they serve as bridges between Earth, the heavens, the spirit, and the body, though they value safety with their independence. They are deep thinkers who you can often find holed up in a lab of some sort. On the small scale, Ether magic can tolerate dualities, like hot and cold, have higher endurance of thirst, fatigue, or hunger, or converse/interact with spirits or ghosts. On the large scale, it is the power of alchemy, changing one element for another among other things, and space magic. Be careful not to form a baby star in your backyard!

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Sapphire, have their own little specialties and symbols. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want you to get to enjoy finding them out on your own! (The name is one giant clue to one of them, fyi.) I will mention that the Sapphire mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Minna Opuswright (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Veronica Highflute (profile pending) and Varteni Heatforte (profile pending).

Everyone is Talking About Astranar!

Everyone is Talking About Astranar!

Late to the Global Stage. Hanging onto a Victorian Edge. This new Horse and Equestrian Capital of the World feels enough like Europe to make most tourists from that area feel right at home but at the same time defies expectations. And nowhere is this more exemplified than the Astranar royal family.

Ruling from the Diamond District, a massive city that feels like several sprawling interconnected towns, King Edward and Queen Katherine set the tone. He is a bit reserved and proud, a statesman from birth with a charming smile if quiet in words; she is passionate and stubborn, the backbone of the family that wants what’s best for her children, even if they don’t know it yet. The eldest prince, Sebastian, is in self-exile in Sapphire District, removed from the line of the throne and glad for it. He is content to raise horses at the family estate. His younger brother, William, is the Crown Prince by default. He still manages to sneak off into the city, despite an upcoming visit by his betrothed from Zablana (or perhaps because of). The trick for the younger Prince Elowen and Princess Rowan is telling them apart! (This family sounds like a whole lot of trouble…)

While the nobility answers to a Parliament, most of the remaining maintain enforcement of the government in their eight districts and serve the populace as needed for the areas around their estates. Knighthood in Astranar indicates battle prowess and honor in these modern times, and it is gender-blind. You are as likely to meet a female knight as you are a male.

While you’ll never mistake Amethyst’s sharp mountains for Ruby’s steep tree covered hills and lake country or Morganite’s marshes or Citrine’s mossy groves and heather covered moors, every district has its quirks and their people are proud of them. Each of the districts does have things in common. Mild weather during the spring and summer months, and a tendency for gentle frosts and snow dustings in the autumn and winter, Astranar is abundant with wildlife outside of horses. Several species of deer and owls call the woods home, and swans and ducks grace lakes and ponds. Wild turkeys make menaces of themselves, and river otters steal melons from gardens to munch on. Farmers keep more than cows and chickens, even if Citrine’s cows are rather shaggy looking, but also stately buffalo and bison, cute and fuzzy alpacas, and there seems to be an over fondness for goats in pajamas or hats.

From small hamlets to the massive capital city in the Diamond District, there are many sizes of towns and many types of people to meet. From farmers and horse breeders, to smiths and other craftsmen, the people of Astranar come from many walks of life and have several different types of lessons to teach, if you seek them out. They all love pets! Besides the usual dogs, cats, rabbits, and ferrets, riders will sometimes travel with chickens, piglets, badgers, and otters, with special education programs occasionally having wolf cubs and wild cat kittens for fostering. If carrying a real animal with you isn’t your (or your horse’s!) cup of tea, there are several types of stuffed toys and flower bouquets to brighten up saddle bags.

When not traveling by horse or cart, the best way to get around Astranar has to be by train. The cars are carefully set up to insure not only your comfort but that of your horse, with most of the horses in Astranar being used to such travel by now. How to identify whether a platform is next to a cargo track or a passenger one? Keep your eye out for the conductor cat! These little rascals are dressed to impress, matching the district they are in but each with a bit of a difference, so you can recognize the station. They will see to your comfort—after all, a conductor is both friendly and particular, which sounds like most cats we know.

Scattered across seven of Astranar’s eight districts are Royal Summer Equestrian Camps for Girls, which sends out invitations every year to lucky girls between the ages of twelve to thirteen. How they are selected, no one knows. Some are sent to complete novices, others are sent to well-known rising stars in equestrian riding. Once invited, they can then attend each year in hopes of improving their riding ability enough to win one of the district’s championships for a full scholarship to the Royal Riding Academy.

At the camps, there is more than just riding and basic crafts to attend to, there are fun basic camp things like swimming, hiking, fishing, boating, and even archery. Every week, each camp holds a dance in their dining hall and campers are asked to help with the open house where they can meet the different clubs of Astranar. There are twenty-four original mother clubs in Astranar, and every year new campers are invited to create new sister clubs to these original clubs. And not all of these clubs get along.

But would they band together if all of Astranar and the world was threatened?

One word of advice if you ever visit Astranar, keep your eyes open. You never know what secrets and wonders may be hiding behind the next tree or through the arch of branches and flowers. What will you discover?