by Max Barry

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The Royal Isles of Shalotte

The Royal Isles of Shalotte


Flag


Map of Shalotte


Capital: Alauna
and largest city

Official languages: Hebrédan

Ethnic groups: Shalottes (100%)

Demonym: Shalotte(s)

Government
- Domnaeni: Alsa II
- Mon'gaeltyn: Riagán of Damnoni

Formation
- Domnaeni created: 109 A.D.
- Gaeltyn formed: 1500 A.D.

Area
- total: 4,160sq mi

Population
- estimate: 120,000
- density: 28.85/sq mi

Currency: Shalotte barter rings

GDP (2018 estimate)
- total: $54.078 million
- per capita: $450.65

Calling code: none

Internet TLD: none
The Royal Isles of Shalotte (more commonly known simply as Shalotte, and naeHiorag Domrigád Shalotte in Hebrédan) is an isolated archipelago of three main islands, located roughly in the middle of the Sea of Debruné, some 1,950 miles from the North Pole. The largest and most populated island is Hiort, positioned in the middle of the small chain, with the smaller islands of Paen and Turea located to the north and south respectively.

The archipelago is administrated by the Gaeltyn, a community council of elected officials working for the wellbeing of the islanders from the de facto capital city of Alauna. Executive power is vested in the hereditary monarch, the Domnaeni.

The three islands have been inhabited continuously for over three millennia, originally by ancient Celtic settlers. Since the arrival of those settlers Shalotte has been largely isolated from the world at large, and aside from evidence of early tribal conflagrations, has remained peaceful throughout that time.

The Royal Isles of Shalotte is predominantly agrarian in nature, with no large cities and only a few towns, and the population has never exceeded 120,000. Most residents live in the countryside in small family groups or villages, and are employed primarily in the farming and fishing trades. These industries account for the majority of Shalotte's production, and represent its only exports to date - which have been minimal. As a result, the economy of Shalotte is small and dismissed as 'third world' by more developed nations.

Despite the majority of its citizens being classified as living in poverty by most first-world countries, Shalotte is remarkable for its environmental beauty and cleanliness, high degree of civil, religious and political freedoms, and is said to be one of the 'happiest countries' in the world.

Etymology



Shalotte is both the name of the archipelago and the sovereign nation that inhabits it. The name is thought to date back to an ancient goddess from the early settlers, an earth goddess that was predominantly worshipped in the early centuries of the islands' inhabitation. Referring to the largest of the three islands as Shalotte is inaccurate, despite it being the seat of government for the community.

The three islands of Hiort, Paen and Turea are named geographically, and have no political distinctions. These islands are named for three of the main gods of the Shalotte Pantheon - Hiort, God of Weather and the Sea; Paen, God of the Hunt and Livestock; and Turea, Goddess of Fertility and Crops.

History



Prehistory

Several waves of ancient Celtic settlers arrived on Hiort throughout the period between 1,000 B.C. and 800 B.C. The method by which they arrived is unknown, as the distance from Shalotte to the nearest landmass is significant. Some archaeologists believe that the earliest Shalotte settlers arrived via a land bridge which has since been swallowed by the Debruné Sea, while others suggest it is more likely that they arrived via boat, as there is insufficient evidence for a land bridge extending from Shalotte to any other land mass.

During this early period, the early Shalottes stuck to the southern coast of Hiort, their settlements literally dug into the ground rather than build from stone or wood, presumably to protect themselves from the heavy winds and harsh winters the islands are frequently subjected to. Early houses were similar to Celtic roundhouses, except they were dug into the earth rather than erected, and featured reasonably advanced features such as chimneys, ventilation and multiple compartments. Evidence has been found to suggest that these early structures had separate rooms for sleeping, cooking and communal areas, all carved into the rock.

From 900 B.C. onwards the settlers moved south to the north coast of Turea and began to spread further north into the heart of Hiort. It is not until 700 B.C. that tools and early structures began to appear on the northernmost island of Paen.

After 800 B.C. no new immigrants are believed to have arrived on the islands, nor did any settlers emigrate, thus beginning the millennia-long isolation period of the burgeoning settlement.

800 B.C. - 100 A.D.

As the Shalottes spread out across the islands and their population expanded - at a slow, but steady rate - clans began to form. Settlements expanded their territory closer together and banded together, forming divisions with other tribes. These clans all shared the same religious beliefs and cultures, but they all vied for valuable resources and occasionally came to blows during difficult seasons.

The largest such conflict is believed to have occurred in the 650s B.C. when two of the largest clans - Damnoni and Selgovae - engaged in a large battle, with over five hundred men per side. This battle took place near the east coast of Hiort, which to this day remains one of the more fertile areas of the island. Numerous iron weapons such as spear tips and basic swords have been found strewn across a wide area in this region, though no remains have been discovered. This is believed to have been the last significant battle between Shalotte clans, though many of the tribes formed remain prominent and their names are used as Shalotte surnames, while the Domnaeni line was drawn from the victorious Selgovae clan. From this date onwards there is no evidence of any further conflagrations, and islanders appear to have remained peaceful since - but the various settlements were not united under the same banner for a further seven hundred years.

During this period the islanders moved away from their excavated houses and began to form villages of stone roundhouses with thatched roofs, often large enough to house three or four families simultaneously. Many of the villages established during this time remain, in some form or another, to this very day - the capital, Alauna, was one of the earliest villages formed, but it bears little resemblance to its earliest incarnation.

Towards the end of this period, fishing and hunter/gathering were joined by agriculture as a primary source of food, and the Shalotte islanders independently developed such techniques as crop rotation to augment their production.

100 A.D. - 1500 A.D.

Technological development was virtually non-existent during this period, and the the Shalotte people retained their traditional way of life for centuries without much change. Blacksmiths became more common and the islanders finally moved on from iron age technology by around 1100 A.D., significantly behind the rest of the world. Their villages became more sophisticated and populated, though the majority of islanders continued to live an agrarian lifestyle.

It was in 109 A.D. that Shalotte was united - at least in so much as the people of Shalotte ceased to recognise any divisions - and the position of Domnaeni was established, drawn from the matriarch of the dominant Selgovae clan, which won the last major battle several hundred years prior. It wasn't until 1500 A.D. that a formal, national government body was established to support the Domnaeni. Their method of government prior to the establishment of the Gaeltyn in Alauna was highly decentralised, as the various settlements had their own mayors or family heads taking care of administrative work, only occasionally meeting with the other leaders of other settlements to discuss broader topics.

One of the first acts of the Gaeltyn was the establishment of a currency, in the form of copper rings. The value of these rings fluctuated as the years went by, but it was largely decided through such arbitrary methods as the perceived value of livestock at the time. Nevertheless, however much the value fluctuated it remained the same all over Shalotte, and saw increasing uptake.

1500 A.D. - Present

The year 1512 was a significant one in Shalotte's history. The Domnaeni and various members of the Gaeltyn, faced with increasing population and a number of other domestic issues, decided that a dedicated leader of their council was required to preside over national governance issues. The so-called Mon'gaeltyn (literally, "leader of the Gaeltyn") was established as an elected position - first, a candidate was drawn from one of the local leaders, but after a century anybody could run for the position - and would preside over the other local leaders, who would vote on issues of importance and offer advice to the Mon'gaeltyn. The Mon'gaeltyn was still subordinate to the Domnaeni, but would be in charge of the government. A stone capitol building was erected in Alauna to house the Gaeltyn, near the Domnaeni's house, and remains one of the largest and more elaborate buildings on the islands.

Over the next three centuries the islanders saw incremental advances in technology while their culture, by and large, remained mostly the same. It wasn't until the early 20th century that any real changes occurred - contact with the outside world occurred, after nearly three thousand years. The sudden realisation that they were not alone in the world, something which they had not really thought about as a people before, was a big shock to them, but it spurred on development in a number of areas. Learning about how things worked in the outside world from the visitors that discovered the island, some enthusiastic islanders even left their home to spend time abroad.

The ideas they brought back with them started the so-called 'Shalotte Renaissance'. Using foreign text books translated into Hebrédan, schools were established in some of the towns and, twenty years later, a university was built in Alauna. Some islanders left their ancestral farms to become scientists and philosophers, and in 1985 Alauna gained a rudimentary electrical power grid. In 1990 the first airfield was built on the outskirts of Alauna, which remains the only airfield in the country.

By the present day, Shalotte possesses few modern technologies, though for the most part its people do not use them - and most simply cannot afford them. Alauna is one of only three population centres with a power grid of any kind, and the only one with a telephone network.

Most recently, the Gaeltyn has begun to develop a foreign policy in an effort to make the nation more well-known in the world.

Geography



The archipelago of Shalotte is located in the Sea of Debruné some 1,950 miles from the North Pole. It comprises eight islands that have a combined surface area of 4,160 square miles. The three largest islands make up the bulk of this space; Hiort, the largest and centre-most island, at 2,260sq mi; Turea, the second-largest and to the south of Hiort, at 917sq mi; and Paen, the smallest of the three and north of Hiort, at 695sq mi. The remaining surface area of the archipelago is distributed roughly evenly between the remaining five small islands, three of which are located off the northern coast of Paen, and one south of Turea.

The islands are made up primarily of hard, weathered igneous rock like granite, believed to be the heavily eroded remnants of an extinct volcano. Rough seas and harsh weather have reduced the islands to a fraction of their previous size and height - it is believed that the archipelago was once a unified island. Most of the southern coastlines are bordered by sheer cliffs as high as 450ft, with some precarious drops and loose surfaces present at many points, while the northern coastlines have been worn flat by the prevailing southern winds and the fierce winter storms that regularly siege the islands. One of these cliffs is of particular significance as, from the correct angle, it gives the silhouette of a face, and has gained some spiritual meaning with the native people as a result. The islands are surrounded by a number of geological stacks, evidence of how far the coast used to reach.

The highest point of Shalotte is located on Hiort, the 469 meter Baemort, which rises above the capital city to the south. There is a range of steep, rocky hills surrounding Baemort that overlook much of the southern region of Hiort, providing a picturesque, yet sometimes bleak, backdrop to the area. A similar range of hills dominates the west coast of Hiort and the south coasts of both Paen and Turea - giving the islands something of a 'sloped' appearance from a distance. Most of the large towns - including the small city of Alauna - are located towards the southern area of Hiort. Population centres are rare in the northern areas of the island, with the exception of a large fishing community in the northernmost Hadarin Bay. Other islands possess few settlements larger than villages.

Shalotte's climate is oceanic, and experiences high rainfall all year round. Summers are chilly and damp, while winter is perishingly cold and the islands are often battered by storms throughout the period between October and March. The average temperatures are 3.2°C in January and 9.5°C in July, though it can plunge much colder in either month. Despite its northerly position, Shalotte's oceanic location largely prevents snowfall from occurring, and when it does it lasts only a handful of days per year. Fast, consistent southerly winds are a feature of life on the archipelago all year round, with an average wind speed of 32mph. Gusts of up to 124mph have been recorded in some of the higher areas of the islands, often sufficient in strength to blow a man from the cliffs, though the wind speeds rarely reach gale forces.

The landscape is largely devoid of trees, mostly consisting of flat, sparse grasslands punctuated mostly by loose rocks and occasional bushes and heathers, against an impressive backdrop of hills to the south. Large quantities of grazing sheep on Hiort leave it sparsely vegetated, and the other islands in the archipelago tend to be greener.

Biodiversity



Animal and plant diversity on Shalotte is reasonably limited, as a result of its small area, isolation from the rest of the world, cold climate, and the relatively recent age of the habitats available. Trees are extremely uncommon on the islands, and plant-life is influenced heavily by salt spray, high winds, and acidic, peaty soil. Grasses are most common, though there are more than a hundred different species of flowering plants and shrubs. In addition, hundreds of species of fungi and bryophyte can be found littering the landscape.


The Great Auk, thought to have
been made extinct over 150 years
ago, lives on in Shalotte.
The most important animals to make Shalotte their home are the large numbers of seabirds which use the islands as a breeding ground all year round. Hundreds of thousands of breeding pairs of various species of gannets, gulls, fulmars, puffins and even the last remaining examples of the Great Auk species - thought to be extinct - regularly descend upon the islands to mate. Many of these species are variations unique to Shalotte, and have not been sighted elsewhere in the world. Many of these birds are important to the human residents of the archipelago as a source of food, fat oils and feathers, and are culturally significant as well. The unique Turean Wren was once found exclusively on the northern island, but has since spread across the archipelago.

Mammals besides humans are few. A unique species of wood mouse (simply called the Shalotte Field Mouse) can be found across the island, and a unique house mouse species is often found near human settlements. The Hiortan Sheep, a primitive type of sheep thought to be descended from the earliest Iron Age examples, can be found in large numbers across the islands, mostly domesticated but occasionally feral. This unique species is valued for its hardiness, though they are smaller than more modern sheep. With the exception of a type of goat, the only other species of mammal to be found on Shalotte is the Grey Seal, which occasionally uses the southernmost island as a breeding ground.

Insect life is similarly limited. Only twenty different species of butterfly and moth are found on the island.

Settlement



There is only one human settlement in Shalotte remotely large enough to be considered a city; the capital of Alauna, located near the southern coast of Hiort.

With a population of more than twenty thousand it is larger than all other major settlements combined, and is one of only three to have an electrical power grid. Alauna is the home of the Gaeltyn, the School of Alauna, and the minuscule Shalotte Security forces, along with virtually every other institution or organisation that exists on the islands. As a result, it is the nation's default capital city. It is also the most cosmopolitan settlement on Shalotte, if such could be said, for it possesses a rudimentary power grid, running water, a sewage system, a limited telephone network, and the country's only airfield.

Two other large towns can be found in Shalotte, both on the large island of Hiort. Hadarin Bay to the north is a large fishing and bird hunting community, and provides most of the national production of seafood. It is the second-largest settlement in Shalotte, with almost seven thousand people living there, and is another of the three towns to possess distributed electricity. It is also home to Shalotte's growing shipbuilding industry.


A typical rural Shalotte
settlement.
The last significant town can be found away from the coast, just west of the centre of Hiort; Feldear has a population of five thousand, the last of the three settlements to have electricity, and formed gradually as it became a centre of trade on the island. It is visited often by travellers and farmers looking to trade their produce.

There are a handful of other settlements across Shalotte, but these are mostly villages - they rarely have a population beyond a thousand, usually only home to a couple of hundred people.

Most towns and villages are found in the southern areas of the islands, typically sheltered from the perishing southerly winds by highlands. It is typical for these villages to be constructed entirely out of stone, and it is rare for any of them to have access to amenities like electricity, gas, water, or sewage systems. Their residents appear to outsiders to be stuck in time, living the same way they have done for thousands of years.

A significant percentage of Shalottes live entirely outside of settlements, often in individual, farm-holding houses that have no immediate neighbours.

Map of Shalotte

Demographics



No census has ever been taken in Shalotte, however estimates are often made based on the number of households, the average size of a Shalotte family, and the number of people who are registered to vote. These estimates tend to come to around 120,000, a figure the Shalotte population is not believed to have deviated from much in centuries. Population density based on this figure comes to about 29 people per square mile, though a large concentration of people in the 'big three' settlements - Alauna particularly - means that the real-world population density outside of these towns is fairly low. People are spread across the countryside in disparate villages and individual farm-holding homes, making some places seem fairly sparsely populated.

For similar reasons, an exact overview of the average age of the Shalotte population is not easy to come by, though it is believed to be a fairly youthful populace. Life expectancy at birth is around 67 years old, and fertility rates and infant mortality rates are believed - though not known - to cancel each other out, resulting in a mean fertility rate of roughly 2.00 children per woman. Though this has never been verified, it is the only explanation for the largely static population.

Negligible migration has created a fairly homogeneous society, with all Shalotte citizens thought to be part of the unique, native Shalotte ethnicity, which is descended from the original Celtic settlers. The Shalotte ethnic group is bound together by a shared culture, language, and heritage, and its members have similar physical traits to other Celtic ethnicities - especially Irish.

Religion

Shalotte polytheism is the dominant religion in the Royal Isles and the de facto state religion (though never proclaimed as such), with near-unanimous adherence. Known by Shalottes simply as 'the Pantheon' (and therefore known, internationally, as the Shalotte Pantheon), it is a distant offshoot of Celtic druidism consisting of multiple gods personifying different aspects of nature and life - such as Hiort, God of Weather and the Sea, who lends his name to the main island. It is not terribly surprising that naturalistic deities have prevailed, given how reliant the agrarian Shalottes are on natural resources for survival.

The Pantheon is administrated by a small clade of priests known as draér, who are responsible for delivering sermons and maintaining churches across the islands. These churches are few, with Shalottes believing that services are better conducted outside. The draér are often also responsible for education, particularly in rural communities, and the few doctors to be found in Shalotte tend to be draér as well.

Although the majority of Shalottes are thought to be adherents, there is no legal requirement for such, with Shalottes priding themselves on their tolerance.

Language

Hebrédan is the official and most widely spoken language in Shalotte. Native to Shalotte, Hebrédan is considered to be a member of the Celtic language branch - though due to having been spoken in isolation for at least 3,000 years, it bears few similarities to other surviving Celtic languages. Hebrédan has its own unique alphabet, which consists of 21 letters that appear as varying numbers of intercrossed lines - similar in style, if not function, to the ancient 'Ogham' alphabet. Over the last century, Latin characters have begun to be adopted by educated Shalottes - particularly the letter 'p', for which an equivalent was absent previously.

Though all Shalottes can speak Hebrédan, most cannot read or write using the language. The literacy rate in Shalotte is estimated to be at around 25%, with vocational skills preferred over academic studies by the majority of Shalotte parents, who predominantly home-school their children. Literacy rates in Alauna, Hadarin, and Feldear are considerably higher, estimated to be closer to 60%, as inhabitants of these towns are much more amenable - and have easier access - to public education.

Hebrédan is characterised by being fairly homogeneous, with little variation in dialect or pronunciation from one side of Shalotte to the other. This is principally thought to be the result of the small size of the islands. Nor has its written form changed considerably for centuries, as is often the case in other languages; a modern, literate Shalotte would have only moderate difficulties reading a text printed half a millennium ago.

Government



Shalotte is governed by a unicameral legislature known in the native Hebrédan language as the Gaeltyn. Based in a stone capitol building in Alauna, the Gaeltyn was established in 1500 A.D. and has evolved from a collection of local leaders deciding on mutually beneficial issues and seeking monarchical approval for enacting laws, and into an elected body of representative officials.


The Gaeltyn, the most elaborate
building in Shalotte.
The powers of the Gaeltyn are limited, for the governance of Shalotte is traditionally highly decentralised. Each town or village and the surrounding area is usually governed by an informal local 'parliament', which is often little more than all of the land-owning women in the village congregating in the street to decide on important tasks for the day - each has an equal say, and no-one is in charge.

People from each of the largest 20 settlements and their surrounding areas will elect a representative from their population to be a Tyrrn, who will attend the Gaeltyn to represent their locale at a national level. The political area represented by a Tyrrn is known as a Tyrrny. These 20 local representatives constitute the membership of the Gaeltyn, and debate on issues of nationwide importance. An overall head-of-government is selected from among their number, who is given the title of Mon'gaeltyn (literally, "leader of the Gaeltyn"). The Mon'gaeltyn, though always elected democratically by the other Tyrrns, is invariably the Tyrrn of Alauna.

The Mon'gaeltyn holds the deciding vote, and is responsible to the head-of-state, whom he or she must seek approval from in order to enact the decisions made by the Gaeltyn. He or she will also, at least in recent years, represent Shalotte's interests abroad, for the Gaeltyn doesn't have a cabinet - although it is now a much more formal institution than it was to begin with, the Gaeltyn is still little more than a loose affiliation of local leaders.

The Gaeltyn typically has authority over such issues as the value of their currency, the defence of Shalotte, international relations, and the overall environment of the Shalotte archipelago.

Executive power is held by the hereditary head of state known simply as the Domnaeni. The Domnaeni is a monarch with wide-ranging powers that resides in a modest stone house next to the Gaeltyn, and has been held by women of the Selgovae clan since the early 100s. Selected by matrilineal descent, while they have theoretically unlimited political power, in practice Domnaeni tend to leave most issues of national governance to the Gaeltyn, instead taking on the role of the spiritual head of the country. The Domnaeni are often dubbed "the mothers of Shalotte".

In theory Shalotte could be described as being - at least partially - feudal in nature, in that the Domnaeni holds the power to allow land acquisitions to take place. In practice, seeking the permission of the Domnaeni for exchanges of land or property is a formality akin to seeking planning permission in other countries.

Alsa II


Alsa II, Domnaeni of Shalotte.
Main article: Alsa II

Alsa II (born 1997) is the incumbent Domnaeni, having acceded the 'throne' in 2012 upon the death of her mother Ffeysis III. Her father died when she was three, and she is an only child.

She was educated at home by private tutors, who focussed on teaching her Shalotte history, politics, and the Hebrédan language. She is also known to be fairly fluent in verbal English - she cannot, however, read or write in English. Her childhood existence was extremely isolated due to her over-protective mother, the previous Domnaeni; she was never seen in public, was permitted no guests besides her tutors, and rarely left the house. Upon her mother's death from pneumonia in 2012, she was suddenly thrust into public life for the first time when she inherited her position.

Members of the Gaeltyn have previously described her as being quiet and shy, though she is known to be firm and compassionate when it comes to issues of state. The people of Shalotte are generally fond of her, and despite being uncomfortable around people she can often be seen touring the islands to speak to her subjects. Since becoming Domnaeni, Alsa has made it an official policy to personally visit each settlement in Shalotte at least once per year and attend a session of the local 'parliament' meetings.

She is particularly renowned for her tendency help struggling families during these tours, when she will make efforts to assist the less fortunate Shalottes with their various problems - or provide the resources to assist them. In one particularly well-known instance she had most of her own personal wardrobe delivered to an elderly woman who lived alone and could not afford to buy new clothes, before assuring her a pension from her own personal finances.

In her personal life, Alsa is a devout follower of the Shalotte Pantheon and regularly attends services at the Alaunan church. She is unmarried and has never courted, and according to interviews with local newspapers she has no plans to change this in the near future. Famously Alsa is an amateur astronomer, and takes advantage of the low light pollution of Shalotte to observe the night sky with an imported telescope.

Alsa is formally styled, in English, as Alsa, Second of Her Name, Domnaeni of Shalotte, in Faithful Service to the Gods, Head of Clan Selgovae, Beloved Mother of the People. In Shalotte it is customary to address her simply as Your Faithful Grace.

Law and order

Shalotte's criminal justice system is highly informal, and could be said to be a hybrid system that combines elements of common and civil law. Possessing no established police force or court system, crime is considered to be too infrequent on the isles to warrant the formation of such institutions. The closest that exists to a 'police force' are the Domnaeni's personal Executors, who have the power to arrest people in the interests of public safety and investigate crimes. However, there are only around a hundred of these individuals, and their duties of protecting the Domnaeni and speaking to her interests in her absence take up the majority of their time.

The draér work to identify members of their local communities who may be inclined to commit crimes and try to offer them counselling and spiritual guidance. In the event that a crime is committed anyway, locals will usually detain the suspect themselves (usually by placing the individual under house arrest when safe to do so) while the draér investigate, before convening an impromptu local court for judgement and sentencing. Serious or complicated crimes may see the involvement of one of the Domnaeni's executors, who have some specialised investigative skills, greater authority, and access to greater resources.

Shalotte has only one small prison that holds only a handful of individuals, and capital punishment is illegal. Sentencing will often involve community service and the like. Exile is reserved for the most serious crimes, like treason, however it has not been used as a punishment for generations.

While no formal court system exists, the informal courts that spring up around a draér after a suspect has been identified have traditions familiar to most Western courts - suspects are innocent unless proved guilty, and while the draér acts as the judge, members of the community will function as the jury. The Domnaeni is the highest court of appeal.

Foreign relations

Shalotte is a nonaligned country that has remained neutral in international affairs for the duration of its history. It is party to no international agreements and has signed no treaties. Nevertheless in recent years the Gaeltyn has been attempting to improve its foreign affairs procedures, and to provide official responses to events of international importance, in an effort to bolster international recognition of the small country. At present, the Mon'gaeltyn handles all foreign affairs, though the Gaeltyn is looking at establishing a full-fledged foreign affairs department.

Defence



Shalotte has a small, part-time volunteer force of militia, who form the Shalotte Slandérae (Shalotte Security). Essentially a tiny version of the Territorial Army, these volunteers are trained for several days at a time, three or four times a year, but otherwise have no other commitments to the force, nor do they have a salary - the protection of their community is seen as an honour.

The Gaeltyn maintains a small armoury in Alauna, which mostly consists of just over 500 functional .303 Lee Enfield battle rifles purchased second-hand from foreign armies who were planning to discard them. Roughly 30 of these rifles are in need of repairs, though, and parts are unavailable. These rifles are used during training, but are usually stowed away for the rest of the year in an old storehouse near the Gaeltyn building afterwards to protect them from damage. Maintaining and repairing these weapons is the responsibility of the volunteers.

A stock of 650 handgrenades is also available, though the Gaeltyn trains their volunteers in the manufacture of makeshift explosives from available supplies, with home-made 'stickybombs' being their preferred method.

Training for the volunteers is typical of most armies, consisting of orientiering across the islands and target practice, as well as guerilla tactics - seen as essential, as Shalotte would be hopelessly outmatched in a conventional engagement.


Shalotte Slandérae's single patrol
boat on a training mission.
The Shalotte Slandérae has access to a single, diesel-powered patrol boat, armed with two coaxial machine guns and capable of carrying over 30 people. This vessel, seen as priceless, is rarely brought out of storage except for maintenance and the occasional training session during calm waters, but could conceivably be used to deploy a limited number of Slandérea soldiers to any one of the islands of Shalotte, or even on foreign soil, though such a journey would be time consuming, uncomfortable, and hazardous.

As of 2019 there are 162 volunteer members of the Shalotte Slandérae, with a further 400 ex-volunteers who are fully trained and still classed as physically fit. The Gaeltyn estimates that they could call upon almost 20,000 able-bodied conscripts in an emergency - though there wouldn't be enough weapons to go around.

Shalotte has not experienced war for a considerable period of time - over two millennia, in fact. Having no enemies, being isolated and difficult to get to, and with the Shalotte archipelago itself offering no particularly valuable resources or any perceived strategic value, the Gaeltyn is of the opinion that this will remain the case for the foreseeable future.

As a result, government defence spending is non-existent. The Slandérae's equipment was all purchased decades ago, along with enough surplus ammunition for several decades of training sessions, and their volunteers are unpaid. Broken equipment, if spare parts can't be fabricated by anybody on the island, is usually repaired by cannibalising other broken equipment. Even the fuel for their rarely-used patrol boat is usually obtained from bio-fuel donations by local farmers, eager to be seen as helping to protect their small islands.

Education



There is no legal requirement for children to attend school. Education is entirely the responsibility of the parents, who will usually elect to teach their children themselves, or have extended family or members of the draér spiritual leaders do so on their behalf. Some towns and villages have communal schools led by draér, designed to ease the burden on busy parents, but these are not government institutions, but rather agreements made between local families.

Government-sponsored education does exist in the three main settlements of Alauna, Hadarin, and Feldear, but it is rare for parents outside of these three towns (and not hugely common within them, for that matter) to enrol their children in them.

As such, the literacy rate in Shalotte is estimated to be less than 35%. Instead of academic subjects, parents focus on teaching their children vocational skills - typically, passing on their own knowledge on a certain profession, with the expectation that their child will continue in that legacy. Shalottes will grow up learning about hunting sea birds and their eggs on the perilous cliffs of Hiort, shepherding, foraging, manual textile manufacturing, toolmaking, masonry, and other such subjects important to life on an unforgiving archipelago like Shalotte.

While this highly traditional culture surrounding education has frustrated all attempts at modernising the small nation, a tiny but growing proportion of children have been attending government-funded schools in the last decade. They have been learning more academic subjects such as maths and the sciences, and many have learned foreign languages such as English.

Health



All healthcare in Shalotte is free, but service provision is limited and informal - one small hospital exists in Alauna, and there is an even smaller doctor surgery in each of the other main settlements. While the islands of Shalotte are small, traversing them without automobiles (especially in the harsh winters, or when trying to cross to neighbouring islands across the rough sea) is virtually impossible in an emergency. The government has invested in a foreign-made helicopter for Alauna hospital, which has saved many lives but is obviously unable to deal with more than one case at a time.


A typical Shalotte surgery.
Doctors, though generally skilled, are poorly-supplied, as Shalotte cannot realistically afford to import the kind of exotic medicines available in the world at large. Some traditional medicines - such as some anti-biotic moulds, and a type of weed with an anaesthetic quality - are used in their place. While less effective and not refined, these medicines have helped in many situations.

Particularly in the more remote areas of Shalotte, local people must be reasonably well-versed in how to treat basic injuries and sicknesses themselves, as help is difficult to contact, and even more difficult to get to.

Despite their comparatively low quality of life, however, Shalottes do not experience a great deal of health problems. Colds and flus are the most common form of ailments, primarily due to the plummeting temperatures of the winter months and their lack of electricity. Although most villages do not have access to a proper sewage system, they are aware of the dangers of improper sewage disposal and make efforts to keep it separated from their living spaces.

More common than illnesses are injuries; many Shalottes have dangerous professions, such as the sea bird hunters on the southern cliffs of Hiort. Slips and falls in that profession are commonplace. Local communities take care of their injured, however, even if those injuries are permanent and cannot be repaired.

Economy



The economy of Shalotte is almost entirely agrarian in nature, with little to no traces of any of the staples of an advanced economy. The Gaeltyn does not collate figures, but the most recent international study estimated the gross domestic product of the country to be a trifling $54,078,000 NSD, with a GDP per capita of $450.65. By all international standards, Shalotte is an insignificant economy with an impoverished populace.

The vast majority of the ~120,000 people living there who work, do so on farms (over 70%). A smaller number are found hunting sea birds or foraging, both traditional occupations in Shalotte. A small cottage industry of local 'blacksmiths' exist, who are somewhat more sophisticated than their antiquated title might suggest - these local handymen are skilled at making and maintaining farming equipment and other basic tools such as the traditional 'fowling rods' used by sea bird hunters, as well as household equipment such as wood-burning stoves and pots and pans.

There is also a community of textiles workers, who manufacture clothing and clay-based pottery in a traditional, hand-made fashion. Due to their unique design and craft, some attempts at exporting these have been made by the Gaeltyn, in the hopes of bringing in much-needed income.

Due to the significant rarity of trees on Shalotte, and the considerable expense of trying to import it from abroad, wood is a highly-valued commodity in Shalotte. A single, small 'tree farm' exists on the southern island of Turea, where the slightly less acidic soil allows for a handful of small trees to be grown, and represents almost the entire supply of wood on the islands. As a result of this rarity wood is used sparingly, more often for durable, essential tools and furniture than for frivolous or disposable goods, with other household products being made principally of metal or pottery. Similarly, paper is manufactured from weeds and grasses rather than from pulped wood, giving it a unique texture.

Metals, where necessary, are obtained from near-surface deposits and refined by smiths on a small scale. Typical metals used by the Shalottes include tin, copper and iron, and at least three bloomeries are present on the island to make rudimentary steel. These metals are used to produce all manner of utensils, tools and even furniture, and are more common than wooden products despite the small scale of mining on the islands. Shalottes are highly frugal when it comes to available resources, however, and most metal products in use today are made from recycled materials that could have been originally mined centuries earlier.

Some in Shalotte have been trained (usually by their parents, or as part of an apprenticeship) in construction, though construction in Shalotte is usually a basic affair consisting of stone 'blackhouses'. The most skilled Shalotte masons are usually employed in towns like Alauna, where the buildings are usually slightly more modern. Due to the reasonably stable population figures in the country, however, new buildings are not often required and they are most often called upon to maintain existing buildings - some of which are centuries old, and have changed little, particularly in the countryside. The harsh winter months take their toll on thatched buildings in particular, and so there is an annual summer 'boom' when builders are in high demand to repair the damage done by heavy rain and strong wind.

Despite this, in the capital of Alauna in particular, a growing tertiary sector has sprung up to service urban populations - the most sophisticated retail outlets consist of little more than Victorian-style independent stores, however, selling hand-crafted goods from around Shalotte. Due to the isolated nature of Shalotte, and the difficulties in getting there (see: Transportation, below), importing products from foreign shores is extremely difficult, and so anything not made in Shalotte is prohibitively expensive.


Barter rings are simple, though
they have patterns on them to
make them more difficult to forge.
The currency of Shalotte consists of simple copper rings, known as 'barter rings'. The price of these rings is set by the Gaeltyn, but they are only used with any regularity by people in the major settlements. Outside of these settlements, few people use this currency - in essence, an organic communist economy has developed in the countryside, with people simply swapping their own produce for whatever they need in a system that has worked well for the islanders for thousands of years. As taxes are only collected in the three main settlements in modern times (where the most 'affluent', by Shalotte standards, people live, who are expected to use their comparative wealth for the benefit of all Shalottes), people elsewhere simply have little use for the nation's currency.

Suffice to say, the international community does not typically include Shalotte barter rings on the exchange - attempts at valuing the currency have been unfavourable, and variable, with some pegging it at 222 rings to a single dollar, and others suggesting a much higher rate of 3,000 rings to a dollar.

Transport

Transportation around the islands is primarily on foot or by animal-drawn (usually horses) carts. A few automobiles exist in Shalotte, almost entirely in and around Alauna, but for the most part people do not have access to this kind of transport - aside from the sheer expense of owning one, the road network in Shalotte is virtually non-existent, and the islands are small enough enough to walk across in a reasonable time frame. Obtaining fuel is extremely difficult, as it must be imported at great expense, though a small cottage industry has arisen to supply their needs with bio-fuels. No rail network exists.

The capital Alauna does have a small airfield capable of accommodating small-sized planes, and this is practically their own means of leaving the island. A single, second-hand, Douglas DC-6 prop-driven aircraft serves the entire island's population, but due to low demand and the difficulties in travelling to and from the island by sea, this aircraft is often used by the Gaeltyn to transport Shalotte's limited exports to the nearest foreign shores. It has only ever been used for an 'official foreign visit' once.

Alauna's hospital also has access to a helicopter which the Gaeltyn was able to procure from abroad, which it uses as an air ambulance. Given the difficulties in traversing the various islands, particularly in winter, this has become an invaluable life saving tool.


The traditional rowing boat used
by Shalottes to cross the seas to
the other islands.
Inter-island travel is accomplished by small, traditional row boats often crafted by their owners, similar in shape to (but considerably smaller than) the ancient longboat used by Norse cultures. This is an often-dangerous affair in the rough seas around the island, and there are no dedicated harbours - instead, these boats must be dragged ashore after use. Repeated attempts at building a dedicated harbour for larger vessels to dock at have been hampered by heavy storms washing their efforts away in winter.

Infrastructure

In major settlements an attempt at modernisation has been made, with Alauna in particular possessing a rudimentary electrical grid, running water, a sewage system, and a telephone network (albeit with very few connections, and one that doesn't extend beyond the town limits). Hadarin Bay and Feldear also have electricity, sewage and running water systems on a much smaller scale, but telephone lines have not been installed.

Outside of these main settlements, these amenities are extremely rare. Where necessary, portable generators are used, as the cost of laying cables is seen as prohibitive, but for the most part, animal, human, and wind power are the predominant forms of energy generation. Much work is manual, including around the house, and Shalottes do not have access to, nor an apparent desire to have access to, any modern equipment that might need electricity. Each village has a battery powered radio used in emergencies, but often the batteries are not replaced and so the village must send men to the capital to keep in touch.

An unofficial (though remarkably organised) community-led mail service exists on Shalotte, which includes volunteers from each settlement who will take letters to their intended destinations - often they will meet at designated half-way points to meet with other volunteer mail men and swap letters intended for their respective home villages, to save travel time. This is seen as a valuable community service, and so volunteers are readily available.

Culture



The culture of Shalotte is characterised by its theorised Celtic origins, its technological primitiveness, the community-orientated nature of Shalottes, and the impact of the harsh climate and geography.

Shalotte has traditionally been isolated from, and resisted the encroachment of, foreign cultural influences. It is notably devoid of the entertainment industries of other cultures, lacking both the technologies and the will to embrace television and cinema, as well as recorded musical performances. Instead, Shalottes engage in storytelling, live folk music, and occasionally amateur outdoor plays, usually based on stories that have been passed down through the generations.

Music

Music in Shalotte is predominantly categorised as folk music, usually featuring both instrumental music and group singing. Typical instruments involved in its performance are a Linklur-like wind instrument of native design, accompanied by animal hide drums, flutes, and string instruments similar to fiddles. The design for the lur-like instrument (called a laeri) is theorised to have been brought to the archipelago by its earliest settlers, as ancient examples have been found in several archaeological sites. The laeri has not changed much in centuries.

There are a handful of people in Shalotte who are formally trained in the performance of music (a profession known as col'tir-daen in Hebrédan, which translates loosely as 'travelling minstrel'). Considered an important community service, col'tir-daen train for many years under the tutelage of a master, learning hundreds of folk tunes that they can play on various traditional instruments from memory. As melodies are never written down, only passed along, performances often take on unique sounds depending on who is playing.

Col'tir-daen travel between settlements to perform live at different events and festivals throughout the year, receiving payments for their services in the form of contributions from locals. With the vast majority of Shalottes lacking any kind of music playback technology, or the electricity to power such devices, these local performances are valuable. This lack of music playback devices also precludes the importing of foreign music, and means there is no 'music industry' in Shalotte besides the col'tir-daen.

Amateur musicians exist as in any other country, however, and may be found playing at familial events such as birthdays, or to keep people entertained at home parties during winter months.

Drama

Shalottes are given to live plays, though there is no formal system of theatres or actors' schools. Often these plays are put on by the community during festivals, and will take place outdoors. They are based on plays that have been told through several generations, often telling stories about the mythological exploits of the Pantheon's Illuoch-taer, or famous figures from Shalotte history. The plays are uniformly basic, with simple plots that end in moral lessons, rudimentary costumes (where they are used at all), and few if any props, though they often involve a lot of audience participation, particularly when aimed at children.

Only one professional 'troupe' of actors exists in Shalotte; the Domnaeni's Actors. They are tasked with putting on plays at formal events such as the Domnaeni's birthday, though they raise funds by performing at festivals when not required. As an established group with a long history, the Actors often lavish their performances with more professional costumes and a higher standard of acting than most amateur groups can offer.

Television and cinema do not exist in Shalotte, outside of a handful of old CRT television sets that are used for educational purposes and by hobbyists in Alauna. There has repeatedly been talk in the Gaeltyn of building a small cinema in Alauna, but as yet no firm plans have been made due to a lack of interest and budgetary constraints.

Sport

While there is no 'sports industry' in Shalotte, children and adults do engage in sporting activities periodically. Usually organised locally, or on a 'settlement versus settlement' basis, these are informal competitions with only loosely-codified rules.

One popular sport in Shalotte is laethar aéni. To play laethar aéni, a small playing field is set up on a reasonably flat area, around a quarter of the area of a typical football field, but long and narrow. Mounds of rocks and dirt stacked up at either end of the playing area, sufficiently tall to require someone to climb to reach the top. Each mound, usually eight to ten feet tall, has a small hole cut into the side of its 'peak'.

Two teams are formed, usually consisting of five people, and equipped with short sticks with nets on one end called laeth-tor. Each team must then try to carry a small leather ball in the net of their laeth-tor to the opposite end of the pitch, with the opposing team trying to stop them. There are no formal rules, but generally it is permitted to tackle somebody to the ground or try to pull them over, but not trip them or strike them with either one's hands or one's laeth-tor. The ball itself cannot be picked up with the hands, but may be thrown to team mates, bashed out of the net by an opponent's laeth-tor, or dropped on the floor and scooped up.

The goal is to climb the mound of the opposing team, and successfully 'shove' the netted end of the laeth-tor into the hole at the top and deposit the ball inside. This requires good aim, as the laeth-tor must enter the 'goal' in one fast, clean motion. If the player fails to insert the laeth-tor into the 'goal' on the first thrust, they must immediately let the ball drop from the net and dismount the mound, giving the opposing team a chance to steal the ball.

Laethar aéni is thought to have originated from a game played by children, meant to teach them the skills necessary to become fowlers as adults. The sticks are somewhat reminiscent of the fowling rods used in that profession, a profession that involves climbing along cliffs and capturing sea birds.

Another popular sport, particularly in coastal settlements, are rowing competitions. When the seas are calm, rowers may arrange races between each other, usually trying to reach a pre-determined location further along the coast before the other competitors.

Food and drink

Shalotte meals are generally simple affairs. Breakfasts typically consist of flatbread and goat's cheese, occasionally with some variety of boiled sea bird eggs when they are anticipating a laborious day. Midday meals are often similar to breakfast, though often include cereal instead of flatbread, while evening meals usually include some small portion of meat - either that of sea birds such as puffins, particularly after good hunting seasons, or otherwise lamb - served with some combination of corn, oat products, legumes, leeks, or stewed cabbage. Potatoes were introduced to the islands roughly 20 years ago, and quickly became a staple part of Shalotte diets.

Due to a lack of refrigeration technology in most of the country, food is typically stored in a dedicated black house, accessed by the whole community. Meat may be salted in summer, though during winter the temperature is often low enough that it preserves organically. Due to the inclement weather on Shalotte during the winter, farmers must keep their herds indoors through the season, and so slaughter many of their sheep for meat.

Shalottes brew an alcoholic beverage known as bérin, which is essentially a light, barley malted, wheat-based beer, often consumed at meal times. It is typically served warm in special pottery mugs, which Shalottes believe should be used for bérin exclusively. Other than this, goat's milk is consumed in varying quantities, though for the most part plain water - usually drawn from wells or gathered from rainwater in rural areas - is the usual drink.

Calendar system

A unique calendar system is used in Shalotte, which differs from those in use around the world. It includes 365 days in each year, as mandated by the Earth's orbit, and includes an extra day every four years, as in other calendars. Years are known as Di'vraé'mlach (a term which roughly translates as 'two halves united').

However, the Shalotte calendar recognises only two 'months' (commonly nick-named 'super-months' by foreigners), with the year split evenly in half - a 'dark half' and a 'light half'. The 'dark month', called Sahaéne, is the first, and its beginning date corresponds to 1st November on the Gregorian Calendar. It lasts until 1st May, when the 'light month', called Br'ghaéne, begins. The midway points of both Sahaéne and Br'ghaéne are commemorated by festivities, but these do not represent any kind of divisions on the calendar itself.

Additionally, the Shalotte calendar uses a five-day week. The names of the days of the week are, in order from first to last:

  1. Áv Morech

  2. Av Mlenech

  3. Áv Turuk

  4. Áv Gwdlar

  5. Áv Sarthnech

These names have been used, with only slightly differing spellings, for all of Shalotte's recorded history. Besides their reference to the days of the week these words actually have no particular meaning in Hebrédan, and their origins are technically unknown, but they are popularly theorised to refer to the names of some of the ancient deities that were worshipped before the Illuoch-taer ('immortal spirits') took prominence in the Pantheon. If this proves to be true, they could hint at what the now-nameless Saerchan, animistic spirits believed to be 'old gods', may have been known as in the distant past.

The reference year in the Shalotte calendar is the year the Domnaeni was created. The current year according to the Shalotte calendar is 1910 vD (vith-Domnaeni, or 'after Domnaeni').

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