by Max Barry

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Provinces of Knootoss

Nearly all Knootian provinces can trace their origin to a medieval County, Archbishopric, Shire or Duchy. The rivers that run from east to west through central Knootoss used to function as a natural barrier and hence created a cultural divide. The provinces, from most populated to least populated, are:


Hartstad Capital Region in numbers
-First Language: Dutch (89%) French (2%) Other (11%)
-Religion: Protestant (5%) Catholic (3%) Other (6%)
-Major Cities (>1 mln): Haag, Vogelspolder, Omsterdam,
Dwalmdam, Vuilendam, Leemtrecht, Helder, Zevenbuurt

An amalgamation of former provinces and special zones, the Hartstad Capital Region is a coastal province located in the west of the country. It is bordered on the north-east by the Province of Fronten, in the east by the Duchy of Chamaven, in the south by the Teistergouw and to its south-east by the Luwelanden. Built in an estuary that has been expanded through land reclamation, the provinces' natural features have been buried beneath urban sprawl, though it is still just possible to distinguish the swamps, meadows and coastal lowland from the unnaturally flat areas that were reclaimed from the sea. The south of the province is fronted by a river landscape while the provinces' land-facing side ends with the rising of a chain of hills.

Home to a network of historic cities that house most Knootians, the population pressures in Hartstad are enormous and property values are sky-high. The capital region contributes nearly 70% of the countries' GDP, much of it earned in the Information Technology, retail and financial services, though the chemical and refining industries around Dwalmdam and Vuilendam also makes significant contributions.

Culturally, the people of Hartstad tend to have a weak self-image. They take their cultural dominance for granted. Consequently they see themselves not primarily as "Hartstedelingen" but simply as Knootians. When it comes to elections the capital region is one of the main battlegrounds for the traditional governing parties. A patchwork of centre-right and centre-left strongholds belies the presence of a great many swing voters, who tend to move between centre-right secular conservative and liberal parties, while the greens and the non-socialist left do well in the university towns.


Fronten in numbers
-First Language: Dutch (97%) Other (3%)
-Religion: Protestant (6%) Catholic (2%) Other (2%)
-Major Cities (>1 mln): Fronten-Centraal,
Fronten-Waterland, Hartstad-Oostwijken

The Province of Fronten is coastal and located north-central Knootoss. It faces the Hartstad Capital Region to its west whilst also bordering Noorderhoek and Chamaven to its east. Entirely man-made, it is kept dry by long canals and heavy-duty pumps. While originally envisioned as an agricultural province, the rapid economic growth of the Hartstad area led urban development to spill into the southern end of the province, around the provincial capital, where new construction was needed to relieve housing shortages and increasing overcrowding to the west. As a consequence, Fronten went from an inland sea to the second most populous province in the span of a mere seventy years. It is growing still.

In the absence of historic cities and infrastructure, Fronten has been built with the sensibilities of the 20th and 21st centuries in mind, with clear road plans and high population density. Arcologies have begun to spring up amongst more traditional examples of generic Western architecture. One notable example of the provincial architecture is the headquarters of Pink Bunny Cola, which also has a number of production facilities in the province. Lacking a historic economic base, Fronten is home to a great many migrants and commuters from the Hartstad Capital region. As such its elected politicians tend to reflect both the concerns of (sub)urban homeowners and the moods that are set in the capital province. Its voters tend to skew more to the secular right during elections.


Duchy of Chamaven in numbers
-First Language: Dutch (97%) Other (3%)
-Religion: Protestant (32%) Catholic (14%) Other (2%)
-Major Cities (>1 mln): Chamaven, Jonkervelde,
Wernhoutsbrug, Rudolfsveste

The Duchy of Chamaven is an inland border province located in the east, where it borders Fronten, Hartstad, the Teistergouw and LatturiŽ. Its northern boglands separate it from the Noorderhoek. Its capital is the eponymous city of Chamaven and the House of the Knootian Stadtholders was also known as the House of Chamaven because of its hereditary claim to the Ducal title.

Chamaven is a somewhat sleepy province of small towns, castles, rivers and its brooks. Though its traditionally-minded people prefer peace and quiet, they did join in rebellion with their feudal overlord against Lavenrunz. Little changed in the manner in which the province was governed post-independence, though, as its powerful mayors ruled the walled cities while the local lords dominated the countryside. In the 21st century the province is a (relative) stronghold for religious conservative parties, though the secular centre-right and the populist right also do well.

Though it is not as rich as its western neighbours the province hums along with a diversified economy that benefits from healthy tourism as well as small industrial clusters that specialise in medical and agricultural research.


Teistergouw in numbers
-First Language: Dutch (96%) Other (4%)
-Religion: Catholic (44%) Other (6%)
-Major Cities (>1 mln): Lichtenburg, Nieuwlicht

The Teistergouw (English: Teistershire) is a province with a small coastline and a very central location, bordering six of the homelands' nine provinces. The provincial capital is the heavy manufacturing city of Lichtenburg, whose suburbs and exurbs have sprawled out to meet those of the capital region at the banks of the Merwe river. The most industrialised of provinces outside of the capital region, it tends to be a base for non-chemical manufacturing and a significant portion of heavy arms manufacturing. The Teistergouw is also home to major basing sites for the navy and the air force, adding to the provinces' pro-military and blue collar feel.

During the Knootian Revolt, the shire was a battlefield between the rebels and Lavenrunz. Though it was then (as now) a part of the nations' cultural south it is in many ways remains a transitional area, reflecting economic and demographic position of the north whilst holding fast to some of its cultural and religious traditions. Politically the province is equally a transitional area where Roman Catholic and centrist parties all do well.


Noorderhoek in numbers
-First Language: Dutch (99%) Other (<1%)
-Religion: Protestant (8%) Other (2%)
-Major Cities (>1 mln): Dorestad, Leeuwen

The Free Province of Noorderhoek is a relatively sparsely populated rural and coastal border province that is located in the north-east of the country. It is bordered by Chamaven to the south and Fronten to the west and its capital is Dorestad. It is a relatively rural province with terrain that consists mostly of heathland. It relies on tourism as an important source of income and is famous for its pole vaulting and its speed skaters, with mass participation in cross-country ice skating when weather conditions permit.

The Noorderhoekers have a reputation of being stubborn, independent-minded folk. Central authorities have historically been remote as feudal lords failed to establish permanent control. A 'battle of the bog' that saw a gleaming army of the Bishop of Leemtrechts' finest knights ambushed and either murdered or driven into the bog by an angry mob of peasants retains mythical status in the imagination of the locals. Nonetheless conquered during the independence war, it remained a centrally governed territory until the 19th century on account of its crippling poverty.

Poverty and a distrust of central authority led to a particularly fierce class struggle during the industrial revolution and beyond. Perhaps not coincidentally, the province boasts a few municipalities where communist parties have gained a foothold. Even today the province is a reliable bulwark of the left.


Grand County of Waterland in numbers
-First Language: Dutch (91%), French (8%) Other (<1%)
-Religion: Catholic (60%) Protestant (5%) Other (3%)
-Major Cities (>1 mln): Droogenbosch, Waerbrugge

The Grand County of Waterland is a coastal border province that is named for the floods that used to menace it. To its east the province abets Hesbayeux, while the Tijstergouw and the Luwelander isles lie to its north. The provincial historic capital is Waerbrugge though the city of Droogenbosch is slightly larger.

A land of counties, towns and villages, the province has a centuries-old tradition of local literature, most notably the Courtly Epoch of Knight Roeland of Raavengat. The first language of this literature is Dutch but the dialect shows many regional and local variants. Moreover the province is renowned for its artisanal cheeses and the distinct flavour of milk that is produced by a local breed of cow (the Waterlander). The town of Sonseinde is home to a centuries' old naval base and is also the traditional point of departure for mercenaries and some military contractors.

Despite the absence of a world-class university, there are many intellectuals who either hail from the province or settle there as they mature in their careers, particularly in the cities of Waerbrugge and Droogenbosch, which are reputed to have the cleanest air in Knootoss. Politically the province has a strong liberal tradition, though the centre-right and Roman Catholic political movements also do well.


Hesbayeux in numbers
-First Language: French (87%) Latturian (7%) Dutch (5%) Other (<1%)
-Religion: Catholic (93%) Other (1%)
-Major Cities (>1 mln): Nivelet, TioŻ

The Generality Land of Hesbayeux is an inland border province that is located in the south of the country. It is bordered by Waterland to the west, by the Teistergouw to the north and LatturiŽ to the east. The provincial capital is Nivelet and when the equally massive metropolis of TioŻ is taken into account, the population is mostly urban. Home to a fragile automobile manufacturing industry and outdated metalworks, the provincial government faces the twin challenges of high unemployment and rising crime.

Neglected and resentful of the countries' political values, the province of these two cities is widely considered to be a bulwark of the anti-liberal political left. Attempts by the central government to introduce Protestantism into the region in the wake of the independence war were resisted, leading ultimately to an emancipatory drive for the province's disadvantaged Catholic population. The influence of the 'rich Roman life' that was crafted from this resistance remains evident in its language (French), religion, culture, politics, mentality and customs, such as very public celebrations of carnival. There is a vibrant separatist movement that wishes for independence or (alternatively) a union with the countries' francophone southern neighbour.


LatturiŽ in numbers
-First Language: Latturian (49%) Dutch (43%) and French (7%) Other (<1%)
-Religion: Catholic (72%) Other (2%)
-Major Cities (>1 mln): Mestreech

The Generality Land of LatturiŽ (English: Latturia) is an inland border province located in the south-eastern part of the country. It is bordered by the Chamaven and Teustergouw to the north and Hesbayeux to its west. The provincial capital is Mestreech.

Easily the poorest and most peripheral region of Knootoss relies on what remains of its mining industry to stay afloat. While the mines remain open, a high level of automatisation has led to the laying off of workers on a massive scale. Latturians have their own Romance Celtic dialect, Latturian, which is not recognised by the Knootian government as an official language. LatturiŽ was the scene of many a bloody battle during the Knootian Revolt with most of the Catholic locals fighting on the Lavenrunzian side. Like Hesbayeux and Waterland it was ruled from the center after independence was secured. Catholic parties and the populist far-right do well in the province.


Luwelanden in numbers
-First Language: Dutch (96%) French (1%) Other (3%)
-Religion: Protestant (19%) Other (5%)
-Major Cities (>1 mln): Westervelde

The Stadtholderate of the Luwelanden is a a large river delta situated at the mouth of several major rivers, with the population living on a number of islands. The provincial capital is Meijerland.

Most of the province lies below sea level and was reclaimed from the sea by inhabitants over time. What used to be a muddy landscape, flooding at high tide and reappearing at low tide, became a series of small man-made hills that stayed dry at all times. The people of the province would later connect the hills by creating dikes, which led to a chain of dry land that later grew into bigger islands and gave the province its current shape. The infrastructure is distinct on account of the amount of bridges, tunnels and dams.

The Luwelanden have successfully transitioned from an economy that was largely reliant on fisheries to one that caters to the demands of the Hartstad central region, with an emphasis on services and small-scale component manufacturing as well as tourism. The original inhabitants of the islands tend to vote for strong religious conservative parties, but the urban sprawl that's crept in from the Hartstad capital area has meant that the province has begun to skew liberal in more recent times.