A traditional, matriarchal society melds with modern ideas of freedom and industry in the small, mountainous nation of Tamaria. In this rugged place, whose terrain is dominated by three high altitude cordilleras, where water rushes restlessly from the frozen heights into verdant valleys on its way to the sea, stewardship of the fragile landscape ranks in equal value with economic prosperity. The Tamarians maintain that all of their wealth and success originates in the land bought in conflict, paid in the currency of their own blood.
Almost all agriculture in Tamaria clings to riverbanks in a steep and mountainous terrain. There are broad valleys in the southern part of the country, but most of these are better suited for grazing. Some of the alpine valleys, especially along the Lost Maiden River and on the eastern shore of Fallen Moon Lake sustain cereal and fruit crops, but the growing season is short because of the generally high altitude of the landscape. The western edge of the Saradon Plateau became an increasingly important region for a native grain called maserung, which is a bit like quinoa.
Long held in bondage by a powerful race of giants, the emancipation of these people began when a mysterious warrior queen named Tamar led a wealthy and well-armed group of exiled leaders out of Northwestern Kameron. These soldiers, engineers, agricultural specialists, masons and professors from a variety of academic disciplines traveled northward, through the narrow canyon where the swift-flowing Angry Bear River races from its birthplace, until they arrived at a sheer rock face along the western shore of Fallen Moon Lake. At the summit of this nearly mile-high precipice stood the ancient monastery of Elsbireth. From this lofty refuge, an isolated promontory the giant kings considered worthless, Tamar established a constitutional monarchy and planned a military campaign to liberate the people of the High Land.
The foundations of Elsbireth lay upon a massive bluestone uplift, and within its walls a series of hot springs form pools, ponds and some distance downhill, join into a river known as the Honeywater; a mineral-laden stream renown for its healing properties. After reaching an agreement with the monks in residence, in which they promised to oversee the new nation’s education system and spiritual leadership, Tamar’s engineers built a series of hydroelectric power plants, utilizing the river’s current as it plunged over the precipice to the lake far below. The generated electricity drove machinery to build weapons. Masons constructed an elaborate fortress complex, designing multi-layered defenses specifically intended to thwart the might of the mountain giants. The carefully conceived systems put in place for the stronghold became a model of resource conservation and efficiency, later replicated all across the nation. Initially, the capital’s isolation demanded self-sufficiency in order to survive in this cool and dry place, but the capital’s remote location also protected the fledgling government from attack.
Having ruled the High Land for many centuries, the giants reigned with unparalleled brutality. Cycles of starvation and violence, mercilessly meted upon enslaved people, restrained the population growth of the human inhabitants and effectively prevented organized resistance from the terrorized populace. The giants thrived in their walled cities, extracting mineral wealth from the mountains through a vast network of tunnels built with human sweat and blood. Tribute, in the form of food and wine, tools, textiles and labor prospered the civilization of giants while preventing the people who served them from obtaining any benefit. Although many of the enslaved Tamarians longed for freedom, the giants were so greatly feared that the thought of insurrection terrified the bravest of people. In light of this fact, Queen Tamar’s plan began with seizing crucial crossroads and mountain passes. This severed communication between the giant clans, so that regional chieftains could not garner support from their neighbors. Once an area had fallen under Tamarian control, the engineers, educators and economists began transforming the countryside and its formerly enslaved people into a nation.
The Tamarian army increased in strength and numbers as new recruits signed up to fight for freedom. Within five years, commanders began risking large scale operations against the giants fortified settlements. Using overwhelming firepower and a strategy of rapid attack, the giant clans fell valley by valley, until the Tamarian liberators set their sights on Burning Tree, the capital city of the giants kingdom.
As the War of Liberation drew into its sixth year, most of the senior military men expected the siege of Burning Tree to be a long and grueling ordeal. For several weeks the Tamarian army tightened its grip on the surrounding area, but a strange silence seeped from behind the city’s lofty walls. When the first Tamarian soldiers swept through a shattered gate on the southern end of town, they discovered that thousands of human inhabitants been slain in a most gruesome manner–the giants simply ripped the limbs from every human torso they could find and left the victims to die in the streets. Survivors told terrifying tales of systematic bloodshed, until the story of Burning Tree became a rallying point for Tamarian anger.
The city fell into Tamarian hands after an epic struggle. The army drove the giants deep into the mountains, where they organized new settlements in remote plateaux, high in the cordillera. From their strongholds, the giants remained an intractable menace, raiding and pillaging to support their meager existence.
Unlike many neighboring states, with long histories and well-established cultural norms, the Tamarians essentially invented themselves in a relatively short period of time. Their government consists of a Senate, whose female representatives are appointed by county legislators, known as Counselors. Every five years, the Counselors are directly elected in local districts. District boundaries are defined according to population every fifteen years by an independent, appointed judiciary. Queen Tamar remains the Executrix of the Tamarian government, a position she usually limits to advising the Senate, enforcing its edicts, overall command of the military, and appointing the independent judiciary. Only on rare occasion does Tamar rule by fiat. Her edicts can be overturned by a 2 / 3 majority of the Senate, but this rarely happens.
The Tamarian government is required to balance its budget every year, with revenues raised from resource extraction, levies, energy export fees and import tariffs. These policies conserve raw materials and encourage re-use and recycling. (It is considerably cheaper in Tamaria to use scrap metals than to mine raw ore.) While the Tamarian Sterling is minted by the Treasury, which also controls monetary policy, the country has no national bank. Citizen investment and banking cooperatives provide financial services. These pay annual dividends based on business venture profitability, allocated according to the percentage of investment each member has made. Thus, the financial system is fundamentally conservative and risk aversive. Most of the Tamarian people are frugal and hardworking. They save, give to charity and invest at a much higher rate than their neighbors. Rail transport and power generation are run according to business models. Profits from these ventures go into general revenue. Social safety net programs are usually run by non-profit organizations, as the Tamarian government does not collect income taxes and remains limited in scope by financial necessity.
Education, the primary function of Elsbireth monks, is compulsory and universal for Tamarian citizens through the primary years. Beyond this, private and military colleges set tuition fees based upon family income and academic achievement; enabling poor, but capable students to acquire advanced education. Funding for schools and Tamaria’s armed services comes from government revenue, with the majority of resources allocated to education.
Due to constitutional limitations, the Tamarian army remains a small, professional force under the direct control of the queen. National service is mandatory for all citizens beyond age 16, but only for a five year term. This service must be either be military or charitable in nature. Some young women join the army, alongside their brothers and cousins, while some young men choose education or volunteer for charities. After this, every able bodied male remains a member of his local militia and can be called to service in the event of an emergency. Local militias remain under the control of active military police, and are most often used for disaster relief and fire fighting duties between the planting and harvest seasons.
The social tension created by centuries of warfare is often manifest in disdain toward foreigners. Tamarians are often perceived by their neighbors as xenophobic, but the Tamarians themselves counter that since its formal inception, their nation has remained continually at war, whether with giants, or with meddling foreign powers.
Land ownership in Tamaria differs from everywhere else on the Deveran continent. Inheritance passes from mother to eldest daughter, unless the family’s land is sold on the government’s exchange market. If a woman moves away from home and chooses to sell her land, she is entitled to claim up to 20 acres of undeveloped property elsewhere for a homestead. However, there are limitations to what she can legally do — usually building a home or setting up a farm — and that property must remain in her family for at least two generations before it can be sold on the exchange. If abandoned, it reverts to the exchange. Property in cities, however, may be bequeathed or sold as the owner sees fit.