Efrea

One of the only two nations in Kardia that remains more traditional in societal structure and social classing, Efrea is located on the southeastern side of the continent. It is bordered by Shuya to the north, geographically separated from the frigid nation by a mountain barrier, and Uclain to the southwest. The disputed Paskia Desert lies between Efrea and Uclain. The island nation of Zetrium lies a few miles off the coast of Efrea. Historically, due to Zetrium's close proximity to Efrea, the two tend to be allied in international conflicts.

Climate

Much of Efrea is on the warmer side, but there are several different variations to the general temperature and overall weather patterns based on geographical location within Efrea itself. Overall, Efrea hosts a more temperate north, and tropical south. Though known for its balmy, welcoming southern beaches, the northern beaches are much colder. Efrea's coast is cooler than Kardia's western coast, but the interior of northern Efrea tends to be warmer. The lands around the Virae Mountains, a geothermal hotspot, are a bit more tempered in overall temperature range, and the area is home to several microclimates that host plant and animal species usually only found further south, and home to several endemic species unique to the Virae fields.

The climate falls drier, and into more of a grasslands, and then into a savannah, before finally reaching the Paskia Desert. There are grasslands surrounding the desert, but they steadily turn into marshes and wetlands the further south one goes, upping the humidity index. Seasonal variations occur in midland Efrea, albeit not quite as extremely as northern Kardia. Temperatures fluctuate less closer to the coast than the interior, having a smaller temperature range, with rainfall often taking an odd, unexpected pathway across Efrea. While snow is seen in winter, it tends to melt within a day or two of falling. Despite temperatures being warmer the further south one is, the higher humidity tends to make winters feel colder, and summers feel hotter.

Culture

While patriarchal in nature, Efrea is not without its rare, often somewhat undermined, woman in power. Typically, those women with political or societal influence have gained such through knowing the right people, in this instance, either another, more influential woman, or a powerful man. It is not rare for women in power to be quite cunning, as while some men are accepting of headstrong females in their lives, the vast majority of Efrean males are not, and see such overtness as uncouth. Thereby, any woman that wants power must be intelligent, quick-witted, and rather talented at underhanded manipulation in order to get it, for it will not simply fall into her lap.

Efreans have a love of two things; parties, and money. One typically leads to the other and vice versa, and rarely does an Efrean have low standards in terms of luxuries and living standards. Even the poor within Efrea's borders live perhaps more posh lives than the poor of other nations, as the line of poverty is a tad higher for Efrea than other countries. The social scene in Efrea is active and lively, and any reason they can think of to throw such grandiose celebrations, oft right in the street, is a good enough reason for most. Festivals and holidays are floating, because only a small, select few are annual celebrations, and occur at the same time every year. Due to the heavy tourism business, and the high number of festivals that occur in Efrea's borders, entertainment arts, such as music, singing, and dance, are highly valued among most. Even a poor minstrel with a partially damaged instrument may strum their way to some semblance of a steady income in the street, if only because the noble class is always looking for more performing artists to entertain them, and are known to pick particularly talented musicians right off the street, and give them a job as personal musician for his or her grand parties.

Visual arts are something of a dwindling market, but the nobility and wealthy of the nation still enjoy commissioning portrait paintings, and statues or busts carved of stone. The truly lucrative visual art available in Efrea are the architectural and interior design. Landscaping and lawn care are also rather booming, as various mansions and estates have rich men and women living in them looking to beautify their living space, either for their own enjoyment, or that of their high-class guests. Banister railings and wood furniture are oft intricately carved, and some are detailed with gold and embedded with valuable gemstones. Jewellery boxes of rich, burnished wood, with metal, ivory, and pearl adornment, are always in hot demand by the noble class. Written arts, such as poetry and philosophy, are oft rather lucrative as well, because if there's anything the Efrean nobility enjoy more than an exciting and gossip-filled impromptu festival, it'd be appearing smarter than they may or may not actually be. Poetry and literature are viewed as the crème de la crème of the scholarly, and knowing certain poems and military treatises by heart implies one is well-educated.

Religion in Efrea is a large part of everyday life, and most will use religious-based swears or curses on a regular basis. Even the lowborn will often visit temples at least a few times in their lives, and the temple priests and acolytes never turn anyone away. Worship itself is more personal, and barring a few standardised religious celebrations, despite the gods being mentioned so often, religious belief itself is rarely overtly injected into interaction.

For those with the money to pay for such things, education is a big deal. Essentially, the more intelligent or knowledgeable one is, the more credible they become, as is to be expected. As such, most of the gentry, and all of the nobility, and certainly the High Council's family, are well-educated by specialised and experienced tutors. Early education in the middle class may be handled by particularly talented servants, but lowborn rarely have the resource or money to afford such things, and thus often lack in formal education.

As with all of Kardia, homosexuality and transgenderism are viewed as natural and normal within Efrea, as natural bumps in the cycle of life and death, in general Efrean view. Some may express some mild sympathy for males that turn out to be female, instead, as some believe females innately less intelligent and capable, but this is, fortunately, a minor, and still dwindling, problem. Highborn, however, are often pressured to produce heirs for their lineage, sons preferably, and it is seen as a fundamental failure not to do so. Marriage fixes this issue for most, arranged or otherwise, but it is not unheard of for such couples to have lovers on the side, and in some circles, this is rather expected. These other lovers may be lowborn, but typically fraternising with other highborn is viewed as dishonourable.

Far more commonly than most are inclined to admit, Efrea houses slaves; most do not call them this, but falling into a severe debt with another individual often results in forced labour, or induction into prostitution. Those with the resources to be able to threaten someone into such things highly enjoy tearing down highborn, and those of noble blood are often far more ill-treated than others. While Efrea's government have attempted to put an end to such arrangements, the practice is far too wide-spread to be able to control it very easily, and those wanton criminals oft dubbed pirates tend to make this more difficult.

Currency and Trade

Typical of the rest of Kardia, Efrea mints its own coin, the typical druz, which come in a rainbow of colour. Some pieces from Efrea may be a little more decorative, depending upon the specific jurisdiction in which they were minted, so one may find druz pieces with gold flake detailing, or with images carved into the flat side. Most often, Shuya and Zetrium will accept these as being valued slightly higher than typical for the piece, but Uclain hardly enjoy taking druz to begin with.

However, the high amount of tourist traffic, and international trade, makes Efrea decently equipped to handle barter. Often, the Efrean merchants will want a valuable item in return for a valuable item, and a service in return for a service, and most will not accept items for services or vice versa, if they even accept barter-trade at all. Due to the high traffic of goods in, through, and around Efrea, many Efreans have a difficult time telling when they are getting a good deal, or being ripped off, as it can be difficult to deal counterfeits from the real deal. As such, it is often much safer for one's business, and typically far less likely to get one in trouble with the law, to not accept anything but druz.

Demographics

In large Efrean metropolises, it can seem that Efrea is densely populated. While it is true that Efrea has a decent number of people living within its borders, most of the everyday people are tourists, instead of native Efrean citizens. Efrea's population is actually slightly in decline, with 1 birth for every 3 deaths. This trend has been wobbling around for the last several years, and most experts in Efrea believe this is actually not the product of fewer Efreans being born, but the report of births dropping. As of now, it is unknown why these births seem to be going unreported.

More wealthy Efreans tend to live, on average, well into their eighties, or beyond. Lower born Efreans have a much lower life expectancy, at around sixty, and a higher mortality rate in all age-groups. It is often joked that Efrea, on the whole, is more wealthy than the other nations, because their poor keep dying. At present, 14% of Efrea's population are nobility or gentry, 11% are bottom-rung poor, and the remaining 75% are neither really poor, nor particularly wealthy. These numbers may be off a good deal, due to incorrect reports and skewed data.

Geography

Efrea is bordered by the Shuyan mountain ranges to the north, and the Uclainian marshes to the south. While the southern beaches are flat and covered in fine-grained sand, the northern beaches tend to be rockier and more dangerous, with almost very tiny pebbles for beach sand. Volcanic glass, such as obsidian, often breaks off from Efrea's beaches, tumbles in the ocean, and rearises as tumbled sea glass, giving Efrea's northern beaches an almost peppered appearance. The Virae Mountains, a volcanically alive mountain range just below the Shuyan Mountains, used to stretch down Efrea's coastline. Most of the volcanoes are harmless, and ooze lava instead of cataclysmically erupting, and native fire spirits are being worked with the subdue more dangerous volcanoes. There are hot springs, geysers, and calderas in the Virae Mountains, serving as yet another tourism attraction.

From the northwest to the northeast, the climate dries, fading from temperate forests to grasslands and savannah, until finally reaching the Paskia Desert. The farther south one goes from the desert, the more humid and wetter it becomes, turning into the marshes and wetlands that separate Efrea from Uclain. The south is predominantly tropical broadleaf and coniferous forest, but there are the occasional wetlands and plains.

Government

While Efrea does not have a true royal class, it is ruled by a small number of the population. An oligarchy, the Efrean leadership is comprised of a group called the High Council. Only nobility are accepted into the Council, typically the head of house of the noble lineages, and those houses of lower standing are often vying for elevation to noble class, almost always purely for the High Council seat. The High Council has its own ideas of how Efrea should operate, and these ideas do not always align with how it does. Efrean nobility and by extension, its High Council, are often far removed from the reality its lowborn citizens face every day, and while the occasional noble may wander the streets of Efrea and learn first-hand how wrong their preconceived notions are, it is extremely rare. Often, laws passed are unpopular with the general Efrean population, or otherwise inconvenient for them, but fortunately, thus far, the Efrean Council have not made any truly stupid moves. The classes are already very clearly divided, and, at times, the unification of the country is somewhat shaky, and the wrong High Council decision could easily tip this balance too far one way, and incite civil war.

The Council are, for the most part, not terribly concerned about the skirmishes with Uclain over the Paskia Desert. Efreans, in general, tend to look down on Uclainians, even more so in recent times, and view the squabbling over the Paskia Desert as more of a bump in the road, a minor inconvenience, than anything to truly be concerned about. The general populace, on the other hand, are being impacted in very obvious ways, and public pressure on the ruling houses to fortify borders and keep the skirmishes with Uclain off Efrean lands and away from Efrean farmland is particularly loud, and only increasing in volume. Whether the Council will eventually either bow to this pressure, or realise the true potential magnitude of war with Uclain, is entirely in the air. Some seem more willing to believe public reports of civilian casualties and displacements, but most remain concerned mostly about their wood shortages.

Religion

Efrea is, very technically, polytheistic, with a wide range of gods and goddesses within their pantheon. Each one has a following, temple, and clergy of their own. Some are smaller, and more akin to a cult than a true religious group, more driven by blind fervor than anything, but each is recognised, to some capacity, by the majority of Efrea. The most popular, and the one most Efreans focus on, leading some to believe Efrea is amid a natural shift from polytheism to monotheism, is the Goddess of Fortune, Varinya.

In general, Efreans have a very odd sort of disagreement with those of Shuya in regard to religious belief. Where the Shuyans are reverent of their deities, Efreans treat them perhaps more as if they are comrades or friends, occasionally even as if they were particularly stupid friends. It is entirely culturally acceptable to publicly curse the name of an Efrean deity, and it is believed the gods find this more amusing than offensive. For the Efreans, this is just how religion works, and they cannot really fathom the concept of grovelling.

Their gods are: Varinya, goddess of fortune and abundance; Ludros, god of serenity and peace; Gahrin, god of truth and devotion; Ennais, goddess of the dawn, light, and the sun; Hiraia, goddess of life and death; Karane, goddess of justice and revenge; Amareus, god of war, power, and strength; Nider, god of wisdom, intellect, and scholarly endeavours; Jyareun, the god of the dusk, shadow, and the moon; and Nesoi, the goddess of change and the seasons.

Technology

In most instances, Efrea's technological advancement has angled around two specific areas: their technology expanded either to assist in agricultural and ranching endeavour, or to encourage tourism growth. Efrea shares with Zetrium a decent textile manufacturing system, but most of their textiles are angled to be extremely comfortable, look very good, and epitomise luxury. Soft fabrics and silky ones are often from Efrea, carefully embroidered in elaborate design, but as a draw-back, very few Efrean textiles offer very much protection from elements and harm. It is perhaps almost in contrast with Zetrium's advanced textile industry, but due to trade between the two nations thriving, Efrea oft ends up with stronger Zetriumese fabrics.

Due to their booming farming industries and heavy agricultural lean, food is of high importance in Efrea, as is manner of consuming it. Restaurants often have relatively high-tech kitchens and cookware, and several advancements were made not only in production of food, but also in preparation and consumption in form of unique and ground-breaking cookware designs and materials. Almost every dish that can be made and served in Efrea has a specific piece of cookware to go with it, and all are coated in a ceramic interior to prevent sticking. Efrean cuisine is often almost devoid of cooking oils, due to the very slick surface that ceramic offers their pans. In more rural areas, cast iron is often still used and almost religiously cared for.

Efrea has some minor metalworking advancements, and certain metal alloys are produced in Efrea, but they are not designed to withstand heavy use and time, instead more often designed to be pretty to look at. Similarly, Efrean weaponry is of a notably lesser quality than the weaponry produced by Zetrium or Uclain, and swords are more commonly decorative than battle-ready. Armouring can be made of chainmail, plating, or leather, but rarely provide adequate protection from worse than the occasional blade strike, and even then, plate armouring made in Efrea has been known to bend upon impact.

Zetrium has shared with Efrea their skyships and naval vessels, but primarily Efrea uses them to transport valuable goods. Interestingly, a very marginal number of Efreans know how to properly arm and care for skyship and naval cannons, and typically they will use catapults instead of cannons.

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