The Color of Shadestone
Location: The Balam Alliance’s established and official territory falls within the bounds of the Fore Mountains to the north, the Berzee Marches to the east, the Mariford Ocean to the west and the Zaeed Mountains to the south. The sheer size of the territory means that it environs differ vastly depending on where one is (the northern portions may be fertile temperate farmland that rolls into snowy deciduous forests while the southern portions may be sparse grasslands that are choked off by harsh steppes).
History: The Balam Alliance was founded three centuries ago by the forming of a confederacy between the city-states of Cavik, Ramnus and Karroth. Up until that point, the region had been a multitude of ever changing merchant powers that were just as likely to be in alliance with their neighbors as they would be at war. Masterminded by Balam Roth of Cavik, the ruesk merchant managed to convince the Guild Directorate of each of the three cities that their efforts would be better turned towards grasping power on the global stage than squabbling amongst themselves.
The creation of this triumvirate would eventually see the entire region brought beneath one guiding political philosophy of unity. Though each city-state still competed with one another for personal status and power, no longer was open warfare an acceptable practice (in fact, the Contract of Balam made it quite clear that any city-states that waged war on any other member of the Alliance would be summarily annihilated by the combined might of the rest of the Alliance). And the needs of a single city-state no longer outweighed the needs of the Alliance as a whole.
The greed and expansionist mindsets of the Alliance would see the young nation into their “teething” problems not fifty years after their birth. The proud and wild Kalburn native to the region would not be swayed by the honeyed words and the glittering baubles that were offered to them. They were not like the Biladi, fooled easily off land that their ancestors had held for generations just to sate the greed of the virum and ruesk invaders. Though tensions ran high between the Alliance and the Kalburn tribes, it would be the lone actions of the city-state of Pateru that would bring things to the brink. The Guild Directorate wanted the land of the Sunstone Tribe desperately, knowing that the hills the dog-like hominids were rich with gold. When they could not be convinced, the tribe was exterminated down to the last woman and child.
So began the Kalburn Wars, a dark and bloody chapter in the history of the Alliance. Many lives were lost on both sides of the conflict and it seemed that the battles would drag on until doomsday because of how dead even the fronts became. Though the Alliance had superior technology and learned knowledge, the Kalburn tribes had potent magic and knew the land so intimately. It would be an aging Balam who came to the rescue once more. Seeing that the Biladi had tried desperately to remain out of the Wars, but had innately latched onto the concept of “civilization” that the Alliance had offered, he came up with the plan that would be known as “Balam’s Insight”. He convinced the Alliance to offer to uplift the Biladi into their society, to absorb all the existing tribes as citizens and to put their children into the Alliance schools so that they would no longer be “primitive” like the Kalburn. In return for this, they would aid the Alliance in the war. The Biladi, already a dying people before the outbreak of the first Kalburn War, accepted.
“Balam’s Insight” would be the turning point in the Wars. Having their advantages stolen out from under them, the Kalburn tribes would eventually be broken and scattered to the four winds, forced to live on the fringes of the Alliance or to move on to new lands. Pateru, the instigator of the Kalburn Wars, would not escape retribution for the living hell that it had birthed. It would be the first and (so far) last city-state that was annihilated for bringing war to the other Alliance members (though to this day it is still hotly debated if this was a wise decision and whether or not that Pateru truly deserved the fate dolled out to it).
In recent years the Balam Alliance has found itself faltering on Krayn’s continental market. It cannot compete with the natural resources and skilled goods being exported by the Kasamae Territories of Yndiras and the Kui Lai Empire, finding itself lagging behind the two foreign powers in terms of worth. Though it is leagues ahead of both Tenburns and the Crown Archipelago, this is not enough for the Alliance and all of their attention is turned towards upsetting the current state of trade affairs. The discovery of Shade Stone, a peculiar and beautiful gem stone, is an ace that they have pulled, but only time will tell if it is what will propel them from third to first.
Political Structure: The Balam Alliance is a confederacy of city-state that exist in a constantly shifting state of status amongst themselves. Though each city-state owns a significant portion of territory around themselves, they are more interested in their personal affairs and the state of the Alliance as a whole. To this end, they are quite open about giving away land and power to any who come to seek it from them. Small parcels of land can be bought straight off, but larger deeds require the creation of an almost miniature nation to itself. Generally, such occurrences take a similar form to lord/serf relationship; an interested party claims territory from the local city-state and is required to pay a yearly tithe (usually broken into monthly payment amounts) back to the city-state. The “land lord” then makes allowances to those seeking to live on the land he/she owns in return for tithes from his “subjects”.
Though the Balam Alliance is the final and true power in the region and can seize any land it had originally sold off or “rented” away, these practices have lead to creation of countless different forms of communities and local government bodies across the entire region. While one rustic hamlet may be a democracy, a nearby small city may be a theocracy and another collection of tiny towns are ruled under a self-styled “king”.
Currency: The Balam Alliance is odd amongst its economic peers in that it did away with a coin based currency thirty years ago in favor of a paper money currency (one of the theorized causes for the downturn of the Alliance’s standing in the continent’s economy). The standard denomination is the Balam Note, with the Cavik Note (10 Balam) being the highest denomination and the Ramnus (1/10 Balam) and Karroth (1/100 Balam) being the denominations below it.