Isle of Dogs
As the last, jagged bits of winter hail turn to warmly clinging rain, the human inhabitants of the Isle move en masse to sunnier climes, the beach-side spring Sanctuary of Alklaron. Under the capable guidance of Trilessa Wist, Alklaron currently maintains a republic led by the most intelligent men and women of the Isle of Dogs. It is in Alklaron that the people of the Isles first unburden their souls with the hardships of the day-to-day life of an Isle winter. Here, the citizens’ only enemies are the beasts beyond the brush and trees. This is all that they prepare for. Where Grey Breakings kept its citizens in a state of fear and maintained an infrastructure which kept its people secure within their own home, Alklaron empowers its citizens through martial training, a basic education, and morale boosts in the form of rituals and spiritual tales. The people of Alklaron, while within its walls, are gifted with a vibrant culture built on stories and legends glorifying the age-old struggle between man and beast.
A basic education is given through ‘City Guidesmen’, who lead children through areas of the surrounding forests previously cleared by adults. This education emphasizes basic survival skills and practical uses of numbers which, if well maintained through the Fall, will prove invaluable in navigating the delicate input-output-centric, ration-over-time distribution of goods come next winter. Guidesmen also share stories and lore, and give the basic combat training that will ensure the children survive to see next spring. Children are entrusted with a low-quality dagger from as young as 10 years old, and taught the ways of the hunt. This training will intensify with each passing year, slowly blurring the line between hunting and war.
Every citizen of the Isle taking shelter within or near Alklaron is required to undergo a day of martial combat training per week. This is typically held in the changing grounds and outlying areas at the center of the Sanctuary city, but several larger villages have dedicated warmasters and training fields to ensure that there is enough space for the entire adult population. Children of thirteen years and younger train more regularly with their Guidesmen, in brief intervals throughout their daily ‘learning trek.’ These instances of training, towards the later years, are mainly to bridge the gap between skill in subsistence hunting and in doing battle with intelligent opponents. All of this training comes in handy during party hunts.
With basic needs like food and comfortable shelter easily met, citizens of Alklaron spend the majority of their time preparing for and engaging in hunts against the beasts of the forests, hoping to thin the herds as much as possible and, someday, clear out the threat once and for all. Spring is the time where man and beast are on the most even terms, as the cruel, efficient winter horrors make way for beasts that thrive in prey-rich environs, and man is finally given time to train and supply. The people hunt daily to drive back the beasts in groups of 20 all-spring hunter-soldiers, supplemented with variable, rag-tag crews of whoever is free at the time, leaving the hunted in piles in the dark woods to rot, luring in more beasts for the next sweep of the area. These battles bring heavy losses to both sides, and many of those who survive the spring’s beasts and avoid fatal infection arrive in their summertown maimed and crippled. Those hunter-soldiers who survive five springs still able to fight are brought before the ruling council to describe their experiences. Should the survivor prove cowardly, he or she is removed from the profession to take on a new one in which they might be more useful. If the council is impressed, and the soldier seems humble and brave and capable all, they are promoted to the rank of warmaster, leading in combat training within the villages and city and overseeing troop movement in the forests.
Policing within the city is done by those with exceptional skill in unarmed combat, as chosen by a People’s Day (or Night) Captain who oversees all officers within a 2 mile radius. Oftentimes, a single pair of Day and Night Captain are all that is required for the smaller villages and these work season-round. These People’s Captains are led by a Ring Commander, responsible for the villages around Alklaron, and a Central Commander, responsible for Alklaron itself. Both commanders may employ temporary sub-commanders for a busier season by promoting a People’s Captain, and both commanders answer directly to the council. Law in the city is relatively direct and centered on justice with interest. Thieves will be fined roughly 110% of the value of anything they try to steal, with failure to pay resulting in death. Violent offenders are beaten brutally by a team of watchmen. Crimes which cannot be avenged in such a way are always punishable by death.
Alklaron’s economy focuses mainly on the exchange of certain animal teeth for goods and services. These teeth have a generally agreed on value, and contribute more to a currency economy than one centered around barter. The teeth are brought in by hunters and treated by council alchemists with a special dye made from local sea life. This dye is a bright blood red for just over a year, afterwards turning completely black in a matter of days. Black teeth are removed from circulation, ensuring that successful soldiers can be rewarded regularly without rapid inflation. Spring is the season where pelts sell for the lowest price, given both their abundance and a warmer clime which makes them a future investment more than a current resource, but an outsider who can trade regularly with Isle citizens in the spring can do very well for himself. Most darker dyes are only in-season in the spring, as Alklaron’s close proximity to the oceans make the gathering of shells a simple task. Fish as well as meat are in ample supply, though relatively few mineral deposits in the area mean that raw metals can fetch a high price and most of the forging done is with carryover ore from winter mines. This, combined with the intense demand for armor and weaponry, means that blacksmiths can work 24/7 at near-extortionary prices and have steady business. Fortunately, even the greediest blacksmith understands the importance of armed hunting parties in the middle of spring. Prices are kept tolerably high, under the watchful eye of the council whom they supply.