(Featured image in post by Veronica Weser.)
In Valdis, it’s said that knowledge is prized above all things. And indeed, there are several key factors that at least appear to support such a claim:
- Valdis is home to many of the centers of knowledge in the world, such as the North Star Library, which is composed of over a hundred squat, chilly buildings that collectively house the largest collection of books in all of Raea. Because of Valdis’s snowy weather, the North Star Library has given the popular imagination the association cold with knowledge itself.
- The Alchemist Guild of Valdis is paralleled only by the scientists of the Sunset nations. Valdis’s guild has pioneered many of the advances in chemistry and medicine and introduced many weaponized forms of alchemy to the world. These include strangling gases and metal-hating acids that can eat away armor in seconds.
- Valdis has the so-called “Art Castles,” preserved ruins that are full of the masterworks of the dead.
- Valdis build the astrophysical Starwatch Towers.
- The people who live in Valdis’s Frostwoods have their own unique oral traditions that prize the preservation of knowledge.
- Valdis has a town that’s actually called Lore, where waterproof-inked books spill out of stores onto the snowy streets.
- Valdis contains the vast field of lightning rods near the frozen mountain ranges on its eastern border. This is the biggest research project by square mileage of any in the world.
Valdeans typically claim that the pursuit of knowledge is even enshrined in their civil systems. At least at first glance, this appears to be true. The head of the country’s democratic republic is called the Philosopher King, and his/her humble quarters lie next to the mammoth building that houses the Council, which is composed of 100 members. By representing different areas of Valdis, it is said that the council members actually represent entire schools of thought that are complete and consistent unto themselves. Both the executive branch (the Philosopher King and his/her cabinet) and the legislative branch (the Council) flank the Amphitheater, where regular citizens or Star Weal scholars or delegates of distant lands or anyone else can come forth and debate the head of the country or any of its representatives. Indeed, the Philosopher King is expected to present himself to debate anyone who will take the soapbox against him in the snow-laden Amphitheater, and tradition holds that he must do so several times a week. Philosopher Kings have been impeached for being weak at dialectical confrontation and intellectual combat.
Despite its reputation for prizing pure knowledge, Valdis has seen many wars, and many of its educational institutions are funded by the government, which has often pushed those institutions to create new military technologies. These include siege weapons and destructive uses of coalpure. There is an uneasy alliance between Valdis and Gallant to the south. Valdeans tend to look down on Gallant, and Gallants tend to think of Valdeans as pretentious (though Gallant often tries to lure the best minds of Valdis to move south). To underscore these cultural tensions, both legal and military battles have been fought over which country owns which part of the Sorrowfell mountains, where rich coalpure mines are often unearthed.
Throughout its history, Valdis has also come into conflict with Aurora to the northwest and with the The People’s Republic of Obsidia to the northeast. These conflicts tend to arise during times of economic upheaval and have often been about access to sea routes, key stretches of land, and natural resources. Many such battles have occurred over a vast frozen sea called the Lady of Winter. Like Dalewind Pass to the south, the Lady of Winter has been the site of many wars involving the country of knowledge.