Ravel up close

Ravel is full of contradictions. As the technological center of Raea, it’s a place of machinery, engineering, and steam works. But it’s also considered a Mecca of spiritual agnosticism and is home to the Sisters of the Sacred Dark, who hold the unknown to be holy. Ravel’s capitol is widely considered a place of entrepreneurship with its many businesses built on copyrights and patents. And yet it’s also known as the city of love, with its many waterfalls adding to that summertime sense of romance in the air. Though Ravel is one of the three major countries making up the Heartlands (along with Gallant and Valdis), it is culturally distinct with its emphasis on technological advancement. The most common stereotype of a Ravelian is that of a true romantic.

The capitol of Ravel is the destination for thousands of aqueducts spiderwebbed throughout the Sorrowfells, bringing snowmelt to this city nestled amidst mountains. Right on Ravel’s western border are the vast lands that belong to the six Sunset Nation tribes, which is the birthplace of science and to this day still the most scientifically advanced union in all of Raea. While some tribes of the Sunset Nations are engaged in war with Ravel (the subject of another post), others engage in extensive trade. This comes with a sharing of cultures and knowledge, and many of Ravel’s cutting-edge innovations in communications, steam work robotics, and computing machines are based on Sunset Nation breakthroughs.

Ravel. Please forgive the crude, hand-drawn map.

In addition to the benefits that come with sharing a border with the Sunset Nations, Ravel also manages to be so innovative by enforcing strict laws to protect intellectual property. Entrepreneurial enterprises are heavily taxed for patents they aren’t actively developing, and businesses that don’t hire from the country’s citizenry can be stripped of what the courts deem to be “communal” intellectual property rights. Some see these measures as protective of innovation and the country’s economy. But others point to them as the reason why Ravel’s homeless population is the highest of any of the Heartland’s major cities. Again, there are contradictions in Ravel’s reputation: on the one hand, the romantic city of waterfalls and advancement…on the other hand, a place of widespread poverty.

This is an image of a prairie rover, a steam robot built by Melinda Rylan of Ravel. It is the kind of invention that Ravel is known for. While working on contract with Gallant’s armed forces, Rylan built these robots to seek and capture rodents afflicted with vivi mortis. Heartlanders believe that this mysterious and horrible disease is the result of a powerful biological weapon developed by the Sunbreaker tribe of the Sunset Nations. The agent that causes vivi mortis was deployed during the infamous Battle of Dalewind Pass.

Steampunk model built by Veronica Weser. I drew inspiration from her work when coming up with the prairie rovers in The Crossroads.

Each prairie rover is the size of a dog, with four L-shaped legs, crab-like pincering claws, and bright flashlights on their cyclops heads. Each is equipped with a glass tube in its belly; this is where they put small rodents afflicted with vivi mortis. Researchers use them to safely collect specimens and study them, often in one of the tower outposts on Gallant’s borderlands.

The Sisters of the Sacred Dark

Since it’s part of the Heartlands, there is no denying that the Divinian Way (described a bit here) has heavily influenced Ravel’s culture. But a hardline agnosticism is also popular in the country, one that is often combined with a humanistic approach to sciences. Those who do profess a belief in God are often deists who conceive of a Great Clockmaker who has stepped away from His own creation. If He interferes, it’s more to wind the system back up than to rearrange all of its parts. These cultural cross currents are especially seen in a sect like the Sisters of the Sacred Dark.

The Sisters of the Sacred Dark protect ancient artifacts from the Age of Eden (before even the time of Victoria Divine), and they make a pilgrimage to Ravel’s capitol whenever a new prime minister is elected to lead the country. While prime ministers appoint their own cabinet members, the Sisters of the Sacred Dark are supposed to form a continuous chain of advisors for all elected officials, generation after generation. Their knowledge of the classical antiquity and current events is vast, and they are warrior nuns.

A Sister of the Sacred Dark. Artwork by Marlen Gonzalez.

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