Dark Berry Islands
|Federal Republic of the Forgotten Dark Berry Islands|
|Motto: Peace and prosperity|
|Official language(s)||Common Tongue|
|- Adjective||Dark Berrian|
|- Chairwoman of the Council||Sofia Fasthey|
|National food||Dark Berry|
The Dark Berry Islands (officially: Federal Republic of the Forgotten Dark Berry Islands), is an island nation of the western coast of Keltia. Often forgotten by the rest of Micras, the islands are known for the copious amounts of the dark berries, which are indigenous to the islands. The nation is comprised of two islands (North and South Island), which are separated by a small channel.
Whilst the islands were conquered and ruled by a variety of different empires and nations throughout their history, perhaps the most significant rulers of the islands were Tokidoki (later Toketi). Under Toketi's membership of Gralus, the islands were under Tokish control between 1552 and 1615, where they were subject to Tokish magic and witchcraft, which has lead some scholars to speculate on the impact of magic upon the islands' shrubbery.
Between 1658 and 1665 the islands were ruled by Gerenia as the autonomous republic of New Siekeria. The Gerenians promoted to colonisation of the islands by the Siekerians, however this rule last for a mere seven years before the fall of the Gerenian state, with the Siekerians fleeing the islands and allowing the natives to re-establish their control.
However, during both of these periods, the natives were largely self-sufficient, retreating to the countryside away from the imperial settlers where they were able to continue their own cultural practises free from foreign interference, often ram-sacking the fallen cities of these empires after their demises.
In the following decades, the cities of Mountainview Bay and Grapeseed established themselves as viable economic hubs for the islands, with many residents migrating to these settlements in order to gain their own share of economic fortune. In the foothills of the mountains, Mountainview Bay had great soil that could be exploited for agriculture, whilst Grapeseed became a hub for fishing.
Civil war (1699–1706)
Following formal independence and international recognition in 1688, the Dark Berry Islands began embarking on small trade dealings with neighbouring countries, particuarly Hurmu and Lac Glacei. Despite being a major factor in the islands' independence, the DBI Youth, a political advocacy group initially allied with the ruling independence party, began to splinter and ally itself with the notorious Free Keltian Republic, ran by the illusive radical Oswin Fasthey, who had fled the DBI due to a murder charge against his father. After the 1699 election, in which the Independence Party won but fielded no young candidates, the DBI Youth, under the leadership of Oswin revolted, and staged a coup d'état. After initial successes and capturing the government building and the capital city of Mountainview Bay quickly, the Oswinian government began to establish control of the North Island. Whilst the old government relocated to the South Island and set up a temporary parliament in Grapeseed, this saw the launch of a two year siege of the South Island, which was eventually captured by Oswinian forces in 1701.
Following the capture of the South Island, the old government set up a government-in-exile in Ergo Sum, Lac Glacei. However the real control of the islands fell into the hands of Oswin, who began personal rule of both islands under a personal dictatorship, establishing a cult of personality around himself. Oswin's rule over the islands was a bleak chapter for the country. Oswin ruled with an iron fist, acting as a dictator without care for the rule of law and saw the islands converted into a dystopian nightmare. He let his friends rule varying bits of the country to how they saw fit, resulting in a lot of inevitable corruption and abuse. In one village, the village chief was awarded to a friend of Oswin who used his powers to burst into houses and sexually assault, or even rape, women that he found attractive, and used his soldiers to execute anyone who tried to intervene or refuse. Many people lost their livelihoods, as Oswin implemented a policy of redistribution, which often just saw people becoming paid the bare minimum to allow for Oswin and his associates to reap the excess and the profits, and using the threat of violence to stop any potential protestations. Under Oswin, beatings, rape and killings replaced the criminal justice system, with their even being reports in some areas that the Oswinians engaged in these behaviours for fun. In some villages, military units engaged in "death lotteries", gathering random people into a small confined space where they couldn't move, blindfolding a cadet, and forcing him to open fire for a period of 15 seconds randomly.
This random and lawless state, in which a few profited from the incredible suffering of the vast majority, drew a dream amongst many in the Dark Barry Islands for an escape. However, the government-in-exile in Ergo Sum was not effective. Comprised of mostly old men, they were seen as bureaucratic and faceless, and failed to inspire anyone to fight for their cause. Although they had the backing of most in the islands for being against the Oswinian regime, they were so stuck in their ways they failed to organise any effective or dynamic counter-attack against the Oswinians, and their plan of actions was largely to play out a fantasy in Ergo Sum that they were somehow still in charge of the islands, without ever actually bothering to try and organise any meaningful action to combat Oswin or his cronies. As such, many in the Dark Berry Islands either fled, or for the majority who could not afford to leave, resigned themselves to living in a hellish nightmare.
However Oswin's regime faced considerable opposition, and his younger sister Sofia Fasthey emerged as a prominent opposition figure, gaining initial popularity thanks to the unlawful distribution and publication of her diary entries, detailing her detention, torture and rape at the hands of her brother and his regime. After herself fleeing to Ergo Sum in 1704, via the Hexarchy, along with some other young women who had faced detention, she co-founded the Council of Women and ran for election in 1705, gaining control of the government in exile.
Sofia was able to gain political allies in the Hexarchy, Hurmu and Lac Glacei, and under a joint international command green lighted launched a successful capture of South Island. After hard fighting and positive ground being made up, along with the popular support of the people, the two islands were successfully re-captured and her government was back in place in Mountainview Bay by mid 1706. After Oswin fled to Keltia, the remaining Oswinians surrendered on 19.XIII.1706, signalling the official end of hostilities in the war. Whilst Oswin fled abroad, he was arrested in Lostisland in 1707 and brought back to Mountainview Bay for trial, however he committed suicide a day before his trial was due on 11.VIII.1707.
Post war recovery
Following the end of the civil war, the country, spearheaded by Sofia Fasthey, began an economic revival and restructuring programme. Still in receipt of aid by the Hexarchy, Hurmu, Lac Glacei, as well as from Nouvelle Alexandrie and Senya, the country spent significant amounts of money of restoring infrastructure and modernisation programmes. These included the building of a new shipping port in Mountainview Bay to connect the islands to the Apollonian Express, with an additional ferry and freighter route opening up in 1717 to Cossa in Vegno.
Militarily, the DBI, along with the Hexarchy, undertook drills to restore order to the former lands of the Free Keltian Republic. Renamed as "Berrian Keltia", an agreement to eventually cede the land to the Hexarchy was signed, however, as of 1715, this transfer of sovereignty has not yet taken place, largely due to the Hexarchy not seeing the expansion as a pressing matter for them, and the work required to bring the land into Hexarchian governance.
Although Sofia faced criticism for allowing Oswin Fasthey to kill himself, her heavy investments into modernisation plans restored her reputation amongst her detractors. The success of Dark Berrian products, such as Dark Berry Ale, in foreign markets highlighted her success as leader. The Council of Women all won re-election in 1710, increasing their share of the vote to 72%, and further increasing to 76% in 1715. In 1716, a reform act was passed by government and supported by a referendum with 63% of the vote to allow a wider variety of views to be brought into the Council, and to shift the workload on its members. The five member Council of Women would remain, and would not change unless either a member resigned, impeached or voted out (with elections only called if 20% of citizens sign a petition or 3 of the other members of the Council agree to bring about a vote of confidence). Furthermore, another ten deputy councillors would be elected, with positions not restricted to women, and would allow for a government minister to be put in charge of a specific area of governance.
The Dark Berry Islands joined the Xäiville Convention in 1720, on the same date as Sanama. Despite the increased trade and profits on its commercial goods, there became an endemic feeling of "cultural and social stagnation". Whilst life was clearly much better than during the civil war, and whilst people were wealthier due to trade with the rest of the convention, there was a feeling that the Dark Berry Islands were starting to lose their distinct cultural identity as they began integrating ever closer with the outside world.
The northern most point of the Dark Berry Islands is located at 50.3°N, whilst the southern most point is located at 46°N. The western most point is located at 40.8°E and the eastern most point is located at 44.7°E. The two islands are located in the sea just off the coast of Keltia, yet are culturally isolated.
Vast swathes of the islands, particularly the interiors, are uninhabited and the landscape is dominated by the Ascophosynus bushes. The landscape can also be quite barren in these areas, but the density of the bushes in some areas makes travel to the barren areas significantly harder.
The coastlines are relatively flat however, making large swathes of the coastline suitable for harbours and fishing. The two major cities of the country, Mountainview Bay and Grapeseed, are both located on large bays which form natural harbours, whilst a ferry service exists between the two islands.
The two islands maintain their own political structures, with a federal government co-ordinating on issues such as defence and foreign affairs. The individual island councils wield a large amount of power, including setting their own education, health and transport policy. The South Island tends to be a bit more liberal and business friendly, where as the North Island has the political tendency to follow large-state planning whilst being slightly more socially conservative.
The Federal council is comprised of the leader of the party of majority of each island, the executive of each island, as well as a fifth elected official which is voted on every 6 years by the population and serves as the President of the nation. They meet twice a month in Mountainview Bay to discuss and set federal policy, which is then acted upon by the President. The President is unable to set policy without authorisation from the Federal council.
Domestically though, Sofia was heralded not just with bringing about peace but also with her heavy investments in infrustructure. She banked on bringing in foreign aid, and through revenue streams on the restored ferry to Ergo Sum, brought about a new age
Underneath the island councils, local village councils exist in both. Both Grapeseed and Mountainview Bay hold their own town councils, which wield power on a great number of, particularly financial, issues.
The people of the Dark Berry Islands are largely rural, with local village identities often being more important than national identities. The two islands are culturally distinct, with the North Island's culture tending to be more secular and agrarian, whilst the South Island is more spiritual and focuses on festivals involving the sea.
Much of the traditional music of the Dark Berry Islands focuses on songs that are sung during the festivals, mainly folk songs which are sung around the fires of these festivals and are passed down verbally from generation to generation. Many of the songs found on the islands refer to their agrarian lifestyles.
The Dark Berry Islands participated in the Microvision Song Contest 2020 in Shirekeep, Shireroth, with the song "Mother Pheasant Plucker" by Hank Green and the Perfect Strangers. The song scored 22 points from six nations and finished 27th out of 32 participants, and reflected the agrarian lifestyle of the North Island.
Flora and Fauna
The Dark Berry Islands are most famed for their eponymous berries. The Dark Berries, which grow on Ascophosynus bushes, are a common sight across the two islands. These bushes are often maintained by locals to form boundaries between their properties, as well as growing wildly beyond the settlements. The berries are widely considered to be an important symbol in the culture of the Dark Berry Islands and are featured on the nation's flag. They are one of just a few species to grow on the islands, which otherwise have a rather landscape, particularly on the hills inland. The bushes are particularly rampant around the town of Grapeseed, where the bushes are often very dense and grow quickly, requiring a high level of maintenance by the townspeople.
The berries themselves are used in a number of alcoholic beverages, and are often harvested to make ales, ciders and wines.