|Planting of Lepidopterum
|Motto: Sub umbrā terrae flōrēmus
(We flourish in the shade of the earth)
|Benacian English (official)
|Ketherism, Subducted Minarborealism
|- Lady Protector
|202 Anno Libertatis
(1668 AN, Jan 21st, 2019)
The Planting of Lepidopterum, also known (particularly externally) as the Protectorate of Lepidopterum, is a small state in central Benacia. A protectorate of Kalgachia, its government reports to that state's Council of Perfecti and is subject to its military protection and foreign policy, but is largely autonomous in its domestic affairs and is not subject to the Oktavyan Code.
A Lieutenancy of Kalgachia for some twenty-eight years, many of those born in Lepidopterum during the period - most of them Nezeni - still maintain a Kalgachi identity, and cultural links with the mother country remain strong, reinforced by their largely uninterrupted economic ties. In recent years, however, the picture has been abruptly complicated by the return of the Deep Singers from their sojourn underground.
The area of Lepidopterum lies southwesterly and downstream of the western Octavian highlands in Kalgachia proper. The north and east of the protectorate is dominated by rolling hills, which descend and flatten toward the southwest. Most of the land lies in the basin of the Lepidopterum River, though a strip in the east lies along the Plastron, which forms much of Lepidopterum's border with the Republic of Inner Benacia. Lepidopterum's northern tip, meanwhile, downstream from the Kalgachi city of Warburg, is separated from the rest of the protectorate by a relatively low but nonetheless geographically inconvenient ridge. Given that this piece of land represents most of that currently under cultivation in Lepidopterum, and that there are no paved roads directly connecting it to the heart of the protectorate, most agricultural products arrive directly or indirectly from Kalgachia.
At the time that it was originally annexed by Minarboria, the area was not as humid as it now is, especially in the lowlands, and was dominated by grasslands. The Deep Singers used their prowess in eco-engineering to enclose the region in what is now known as the Litovine Forest, which comprises the majority of Lepidopterum's land area - the major exceptions being the previously-mentioned northern tip, and the Pale of habitation between the Gravelbottom-Lepidopterum railway (which closely follows the north bank of the Lepidopterum River) and the Gravelbottom-Lepidopterum road (which curves west before approaching Lepidopterum city from the north).
Even in the Pale, which is kept clear of tee-als and other annoyances, settlement is relatively sparse, and the landscape is dominated by somewhat lower-density forest interspersed with meadows, famous for their springtime profusion of flowers. The bulk of the population lives in and around the city of Lepidopterum itself, which lies slightly downstream of the confluence of its namesake river and the Plastron, near the southwestern border.
Since the fall of Minarboria and the disappearance of the Deep Singers that made up the vast majority of the population, Lepidopterum has been relatively sparsely populated. This was, initially, due to a combination of Nezeni health and reproductive problems and a lack of secure food supplies. While both issues became slowly less acute, and the latter relatively decisively put to an end after the Kalgachi annexation in 174 AL, the effect on natural population increase only gradually became manifest; while the total population increased relatively quickly, this was mostly due to migration from Kalgachia, some of which was reversed when Lepidopterum was made a protectorate. While the increase in lifespan and reduction in infant and child mortality has at last resulted in something of a baby boom, the total population is only about 130,000; at less than two persons per square kilometer, Lepidopterum has an average population density one-thirteenth that of Kalgachia.
By a wide margin, the majority of Lepidopterans (about 100,000 or 77%) are Nezeni, the result of late Minarborian-era mixing between Deep Singers and baseline humans of various ethnicities. The original human ancestry of Lepidopteran Nezeni is mostly Lywaller with a relatively small proportion of Laqi, in contrast to Kalgachi Nezeni who - especially east of Lithead - have more of a balance between the two.
In 210 AL, a fraction of the Deep Singer host returned to the surface from below, emerging in the lower levels of Lepidopterum city. This immediately precipitated something of a refugee crisis, since their numbers - although miniscule in comparison to how many Singers there had once been - increased those of the protectorate as a whole by nearly a fifth. There are approximately 20,000 Singers (15%), currently concentrated strongly in and around the city; the government is in the process of arranging for new burrows further out, in an effort to reduce overcrowding.
The remaining 10,000, or 8%, of the population are generally of other ethnicities associated with Kalgachia. About 4,500 are ethnic Kalgachi, either immigrated from Kalgachia or born of mixed parentage within the territory of the protectorate, and are concentrated near the Kalgachi border across from Gravelbottom and, in lesser numbers, along the railway and highway between Gravelbottom and Lepidopterum. Bergburgers comprise another 3,000, and form a majority in several villages in the far north and a plurality elsewhere in the same region, as well a relatively large proportion of the scientific community in Lepidopterum city. The remainder are mainly Laqi and Lywallers in unspecified proportions, generally found either in Lepidopterum city or in the border region near Gravelbottom.
The Lady Protector
The Lepidopteran head of state is the Lord or Lady Protector, appointed by and responsible to the Kalgachi Council of Perfecti; the first, and thus far only, Lady Protector is Prethil Nal. Within Lepidopterum, the Lady Protector is technically an autocrat in that there is no particular legal check upon her power; but while she maintains and uses wide latitude to interfere with affairs of state, in practice much of the day-to-day administration of the government is in the hands of a group of appointed officials referred to as the Congeries, over which the Lady Protector presides.
The senior member of the Congeries is the Holgrave, who serves as the Lady Protector's chief administrator and effective head of government. Named for an office prevalent in the area between the fall of Minarboria and the Lieutenancy period - a kind of elder of a community burrow - the Holgrave's main responsibility is to translate the Lady Protector's directives into concrete actions and, along with the rest of the Congeries, to see them carried out.
Other members of the Congeries are:
- The Agister General, head of the Agistry. An office created during the Lieutenancy period, the Agister General is responsible for overseeing the Litovine Forest, human interaction with it, and its flora and fauna - for reasons both of ecological balance and of defense. While the area of the Forest is no longer completely closed to settlement, most such settlements are constructed almost entirely underground and are not subject to the authority of the Agister General.
- The Proctor General, head of the Bureau of Administration. The ongoing disentanglement of the Church of Kalgachia from governance has resulted in the reassignment of the Proctors, the local civil administrators, to their own branch of government, headed by a Proctor General. Aside from overseeing the day-to-day operations of Lepidopterum's parishes, this Bureau also fulfills many of functions of Kalgachia's DLEP.
- The Cultivator General, head of the Bureau of the Commonweal. Equivalent to the Kalgachi DHPW, the Bureau is responsible for healthcare (with some exceptions; see below) and agriculture.
- The Natalist General, head of the Bureau of Natal Development. The Natalist General is responsible for overseeing reproductive health, a sphere of particular importance to both Nezeni and Deep Singers. The Bureau provides genetic counseling and family planning services, administers artificial gestation facilities and gene banks, and is responsible for obstetric, prenatal, and immediate postnatal care.
- The Magistrate General, head of the Bureau of Justice. With the Church no longer being involved in the administration of laws or the penalties for breaking them, its function in this regard has been taken over by a cadre of appointed magistrates. It is the province of the Magistrate General to ensure that the ranks of the magistrates are filled, to ensure that those filling these positions are doing so honestly and competently, and to coordinate between magistrates in cases in which multiple jurisdictions are involved.
- The Collater General, head of the Bureau of Understanding. Like Kalgachia's DEO, this Bureau administers the Lepidopteran educational system, research apparatus, and mass media, promotes cultural events and initiatives, and collects statistical information.
- The Representative to the Garden, head of the Bureau of Coordination. The Representative is Lepidopterum's primary point of day-to-day contact with its Kalgachi suzerains, and their small but important bureau is tasked with coordinating with the Kalgachi government on matters of mutual interest, particularly the state of domestic Lepidopteran defenses.
- The Umbral Nexus, head of the Umbra. Even in the context of an ongoing localization of government structure, the Umbra is a new branch whose role has not been extensively publicised. Rumors of close cooperation with Kalgachia's Prefects and Troglodyti, and of strenuous attempts to recruit Singer psionic and biomantic adepts, have proven difficult to put to rest.
Lepidopterum has for a number of decades maintained a sharp divide between areas that are populated and those that are not. This fact is reflected in the internal organization of the protectorate, which has separate hierarchies for each.
Populated areas are, as they were under Kalgachi administration, divided into marches, which are further divided into parishes. The terminology, however, obscures the fact that the Church of Kalgachia - though still very much present, and whose local organization is identical - no longer plays a role in civil government, which is instead overseen by the Bureau of Administration.
Each parish is administered by a Proctor, who functions as a lieutenant of the Lady Protector there; each Proctor is responsible for issuing local ordinances, collecting taxes, maintaining archives of official documents and records, administering government-owned land, and assembling personnel for functions such as law enforcement or construction. Parishes are themselves generally themselves divided into Strata (a possible borrowing from Kalgachia's Lieutenancy of Laprivil) based on three-dimensional location. Strata are not autonomous, being mainly used to delineate areas of responsibility within a Parish. Unlike the latter, which are always named, Strata are identified by a number indicating what "floor" one is on, with zero being "ground level", though local topography and variable depth of any particular chamber may require some amount of approximation. (Strata themselves, if sufficiently extensive, may be further subdivided into named zones, analogous to neighborhoods; the city of Lepidopterum itself is almost the only settled place large enough to require this.)
Parishes are grouped together in marches, each overseen by a Proctor-Marshal, whose job is mainly to coordinate and oversee his or her subordinate Proctors, review the measures they pass, oversee and plan cross-parish projects within the march, and bring matters of regional concern to the attention of the Proctor General. Except when taking corrective action regarding their subordinates, they have relatively little autonomy on their own, serving mainly as a bridge between the Parishes and the Lady Protector and Congeries.
Unpopulated areas, for their part, are considered to be part of the Litovine Forest and therefore fall under the administration of the Agistry. For the purposes of maintenance and observation, the Forest is divided into several zones based on their classification by geography, climate, species composition, and strategic importance; each zone is further subdivided by grid coordinates to facilitate localization.
Lepidopteran legal practices, as in Kalgachia, are relatively minimal. Indeed, at the current time, the protectorate lacks even a document of constitutional force such as the Oktavyan Code, and is currently run on the basis of a series of standing instructions by the Lady Protector and her subordinates. In large part, this is due to the ongoing transition to autonomous government, and reportedly the production of some form of basic law is ongoing, though it is jocularly supposed that the Lady Protector is dragging the process out to longer enjoy her freedom of action.
That said, prevailing opinion in Lepidopterum, as in Kalgachia, is that a dependence on written law would be a weakness; the words having whatever meaning can be forced into them, they have no immutable power or justice of their own and can be bent to the will of the unscrupulous. The Lepidopteran judicial system, therefore, is predicated far less upon what lies within the letter or spirit of a law than upon what is in the interests of the greater good. While threats to the state are rumored to be dealt with summarily by the Umbra, and routine offenses against public order or property similarly dealt with by parish partisans, those cases in between tend to come before parish magistrates, who subject them to public trial.
The requirement for evidence is not strictly defined, but magistrates are trained to scale it in proportion to the seriousness of the accusation and - inversely - to the character of the defendant. Each March has an appellate magistrate to whom sentences may be appealed; the appeal, once heard, is generally either rejected or upheld after only a short period, unless the evidence or judgment of the original trial was exceptionally murky. As in Kalgachia, appealed sentences may generally only be amended, rather than overturned or suspended. (While the Lady Protector may do either at her own prerogative, this is not the result of an appeal as she does not preside over tribunals.) Capital punishment is used in serious cases, but is never public; the traditional method of execution is an induced coma combined with targeted paralysis of the diaphragm, such that the unconscious convict asphyxiates.
Being rather more ethnically and geographically homogenous than Kalgachia, Lepidopterum has less need to accommodate for local variations in its approach to law. On the whole, therefore, while parishes still have wide latitude to pass bylaws, ordinances, and internal guidelines, there has been a gentle pressure exerted from above encouraging them not to become too differentiated from their immediate neighbors, with the result that travelers are somewhat less likely to be surprised by local practices when passing from one parish to another.
Economy and Infrastructure
Since the retreat of Kasterburg from the Lepidopteran frontier - the trigger for its conversion into a protectorate - the rail line west of the city has been abandoned and, indeed, substantially demolished and left, for defensive purposes, to the re-encroaching Litovine Forest. As a result, Lepidopterum's only two remaining border crossings are with Kalgachia: one near Gravelbottom, site of Kalgachia's international airport, and a fairly low-traffic crossing near Warburg.
As a result, it may come as no surprise that the economy of Lepidopterum is closely tied to, and remains dependent upon, that of Kalgachia, the destination of most of its exports and the source of most of its imports, whether directly or indirectly. Indeed, the protectorate still uses the Kalgarrand as its official currency.
Despite the immense source of wood represented by the Litovine Forest, its defensive role and native dangers have made it an unsuitable target for forestry, which instead is concentrated upon managed stands of trees within the Pale. The gentle terrain of Lepidopterum does, however, lend itself to other agricultural pursuits, which make up a large portion of the Lepidopteran economy. Cultivation of field crops is most intensive along the right bank of the river, particularly upstream of Lepidopterum city and downstream of the Kalgachi border; pasturing and orchards are common throughout the Pale.
The tendency to carve out settlements underground, as in Kalgachia, is a factor in the importance of mining. Lepidopterum possesses some sedimentary gold deposits washed down from the Octavian Mountains, but its most economically viable metals are those associated with several modest deposits of sphalerite and bauxite: aluminum, zinc, and gallium. High-quality stone is available, particularly slate, sandstone, and granite, a brownish-gray variety of which is traditionally favored in Lepidopterum for its perceived harmony with trees and other surrounding greenery.
In 1708 AN, disregarding local protests, the Salb IV Aurangzeb of the Benacian Union Defence Forces, under the command of the Salbnan Daniyal Aurangzeb Kalirion-Osman, entered the territory of Lepidopterum and established cantonments at its eponymous surface settlement and level administrative centre.
- Salb IV Aurangzeb
- 5 Command & Control Regiment
- 5 Motorised Infantry Regiment
- 25 Motorised Infantry Regiment
- 45 Motorised Infantry Regiment
- 5 Area Defence Regiment
- 5 Inspectorate Regiment
With the area coming under the effective control of the BUDF, the local Kalgachi defence forces - in this instance Spindlelimb's Regiment, was reorganised along Benacian lines and placed under the command of a Nezeni collaborator, more foolish than wise, known as Abraxis. In addition to half-breed collaborators, the BUDF garrison in Lepidopterum began recruiting Lach and Siyachers to fill out the ranks, eventually attracting a sufficient number from which to establish a regiment of light horse bracketed by attached contingents of commissariat and inspectorate personnel, and a generous allocation of political officers so as to ensure the force's loyalty. Spindlelimb's Regiment, under Benacian tutelage, took the following form:
- Spindlelimb's Regiment
- Command & Control Squadron
- 1st Mounted Cohort
- Command & Control Squadron
- Patrol Squadron
- Commissariat Squadron
- 2nd Mounted Cohort
- Command & Control Squadron
- Patrol Squadron
- Commissariat Squadron
- Area Defence Squadron
- Commissariat Squadron
- Inspectorate Squadron
The area of Lepidopterum once corresponded to western Litovina in Ashkenatzi times, and the city itself to the site of Litkov. The land remained in the Green for many years before the growing nation of Minarboria annexed it during a major westward expansion around 110 AL, when it was gifted to the Singer stronghold of Whisperwood. The land was not immediately settled in any significant fashion, as years of population-control policies had kept the Singers from requiring any more living space; the picture was, however, abruptly altered by the arrival of the Singers of Shimmerspring, led by Celestine the Broodmother, fleeing from Nationalist-Humanist elements in Shireroth. Their Minarborian brethren, having just recently acquired a swathe of empty territory, found it convenient to settle the refugees there; they chose the ruins of Litkovskovo to be their major population center, renaming it Lepidopterum. While the warm, dry plains represented a refreshing change in the short term, the Singers much preferred the cover of trees. Over the next thirty years, they began planting trees and altering existing vegetation in a multistep process intended to transform the region into a forest, and largely concentrated on this process even as Minarboria began to collapse around them.
Most of them, unfortunately, did not remain to see their efforts bear fruit. In 140 AL, nearly all pure-blooded Singers mysteriously vanished, frantically digging into the ground and collapsing the tunnels behind them, to the enduring bafflement and panic of those they left behind - almost all of them children of Singers who, during the relaxation of reproductive law toward the end of the Empire, had interbred with other Minarborians. While many of these Nezeni, as they came to be called, lived closer to the mountains that formed the heart of the emerging Kalgachia and came under its sway, those around Lepidopterum were left to the Green. The disappearance of their elders shattered the societal fabric of the Nezeni. Singers had made up the overwhelming majority of the population; they had exclusively filled the ranks of the Church of Minarboria; their experts had overseen genomic planning; their biomancers had maintained the local environment, assisted with reproduction, and corrected genetic defects. At a stroke, all these functions were removed, and the Nezeni outside Kalgachia had no one else to fall back on.
The 140s and 150s AL saw a decrease in population and an increase in violence. The population declined, its most physiologically abnormal members falling prey to unique disorders or dying in childbirth (or, in some cases, simply unable to reproduce at all). Agricultural land began to lie fallow, and to be swallowed up by the expanding forests. Tee-al incursions increased in severity as the ability to defend against them was lost. The remaining populations attempted to huddle in defensible burrows where the edible tackmoss reliably grew - never tasty, but nutritious and nearly maintenance-free - and because suitable burrows were now scarce and labor-intensive to build, different bands fought each other in desperation to control them. The most successful bands came under the control of various strongmen who, through their ability to make hard decisions and to inspire, bribe, or cow others into folllowing them, were able to gain and keep control of burrows for their followers. These were the first holgraves.
By the 160s, the laws of population dynamics had, in their clinical way, brought a kind of stability to the region; the population having been brought more in line with the land's carrying capacity, major conflicts died out, the remaining hostiles usually being those who made a living on the surface by raiding and running from Tee-als. The remainder of the locals crouched in a smattering of burrowed settlements, living off tackmoss and whatever could be scrounged from the surface during hasty supply runs. Lepidopterum city, though largely abandoned, remained a focus of population, with numerous small communities camped out in the buildings and warrens of what had once briefly been Whisperwood's second city; there was some minimal success in fortifying it against Tee-al attacks, to the point that surface agriculture, while risky, was feasible.