Basic Geography

Mountains and forests.

Expanded Geography

Grail forests are largely composed of a very light, strong, buoyant cellular structure that causes the trees to grow thin and tall. Since the fading of the suns, these trees have largely only grown foliage at the top, spreading out and choking out the light to the forest floor.

The inside of a full-growth forest on Grail is like being inside a dark cathedral, with only dim light filtering through the canopy past the column-like trees. On the floor there are only dead leaves and the most hardy of small scrub bushes that can exist in the half light. The wood of these trees is one of the planet's primary exports, being used for construction across the known worlds.

As the forests give way to the mountains, the trees finally break into strange alien bushes that resemble a crawling ivy with immense, bowl-shaped leaves that orient during the day to absorb as much sunlight as possible. Even these give out once the ground becomes fully stone, and immense mountains rise from the forests untouched by green except where the Etyri have meticulously moved fertile earth to plant gardens; somewhat for the limited vegetable matter they require, but mostly for the small animals that they cultivate for snacks.

The coastline is the only other area where the massive forests break naturally, and it is a fertile place for farms. It's a dangerous place, however, as the tectonics that produced the massive mountains have never truly settled, and the coastlines are plagued with frequent tremors. Even further, the open spaces near the forest are a source of frequent predation by the "sky wolves"; various large, six-limbed, nonsentient predators that live in the treetops.

Cities and Politics

The primary starport and agora for Grail is Mallory, situated in a forest clearing of about thirty mile radius some distance from the dangers of the coast. House Keddah keeps its primary castles about a dozen miles to the north of the clearing on the side of a small mountain. The Amalthean temple situated where the prophet was healed is about one hundred miles from the Agora to the east, and has a small town called Constantine that has grown up near it. The center of the logging industry of the planet is a few hundred miles to the south in the city of Krak's Hollow. Most traffic between these sites, and the smaller towns situated throughout the planet, is through flitter. A number of logging roads that date back to the second republic wind through the forests, and are remarkably whole for how little they've been kept up by the Keddah, but are dangerous to travel due to predators and highwaymen.

They are generally only used by the large convoys of logging trucks heading to Krak's Hollow and Mallory.

House Keddah is the nominal ruler of the planet. They have the official control over the agora and the wood trade, and have some benefits from long-extant treaties with the Etyri, as well as occassional aid from their Decados allies. Their recent censure from the Hazat has caused them some problems, even though they claimed the attack on Vera Cruz was masterminded by a splinter faction within their house. In general, they have much less control over their planet than is enjoyed by the major houses.

In actuality, the guilds have a surprising presence on the planet. There is a massive black market headed up by the Scravers that launches shipments from hidden sites, generally from the dangerous coast. They primarily deal in the mineral wealth of the planet's mountains, which is frequently mined with high explosives in the dead of night from regions technically protected as Etyri homelands. Frequent professions that the destructive mining could cease if the Keddah would give official rights to the Scravers have fallen on deaf ears. The Keddah have long had an edict in place that all Scravers must register with their bureaucracy when on-planet, but this is only followed by a suspected 3% of the actual Scraver population. As such, the organized crime roots of the Scravers are visible on Grail more than on many other planets.

Other guilds that are popular on Grail include Engineers seeking tech hidden from aerial surveillance by the forest canopy. Many come to settle on the planet illegally, creating workshops in the depths of the forests supplied by the Scraver mining operations. There are frequently Muster on call to serve as guards for the wood caravans, and often some of these are slavers on the planet hoping to catch an Etyri to ship offworld. The Charioteers have a great deal of power in the agora and in the airports across the planet, as they control the best means of travel and charge heavily for it. Again, without the help of illegal charioteer landers and jumpkeys the black market would not do nearly so well. Finally, of the major guilds, the Reeves have a significant presence in order to serve as lawyers for when the many black marketeers are caught by local authorities. Of the minor guilds, the apothecaries have a decent presence on the planet. This is largely because the sanctuary aeon does not go out of its way to provide healing for the large numbers of illegal guilders on the planet.

Of the churches, the amaltheans have the undeniably largest presence on the planet which is a holy site for their order. Temple Avesti has a small presence searching for heretics that abound in rural communities without frequent access to the central structure of the planet, but their job is made very difficult by the culture of crime:

it's hard to get information on Gjartians when the people one's talking to are close lipped about their own sins. The other churches have an even smaller presence on the planet, mostly on the level of travelling priest. It is strongly suspected that a large part of the peasantry in the deep hinterlands has fallen to the Gjartian heresy.

Rumors of forgotten second republic depots and bases abound, and caches of such tech are uncovered even this long after the fall. It is believed that the reason for such seeding, besides the secrecy afforded by the air-cover, is the utter lack of Ur artifacts. Grail seems to be barely touched by the Annunaki, having only a fraction of the wonders discovered on other planets. The theory is that the second republic built so many workshops here because there was little chance of their sensitive experiments being affected by Ur artifacts. Other theorists suggest that there are a number of Ur artifacts on the planet, but they are hidden by the Etyri. Neither of these theories have yet been substantiated.

Naming and Genetics

First names on Grail have no clear linguistic basis, but instead are largely nonsense words that appeal to the parents. Surnames vary from location to location, with some being further nonsense words and others being conglomerates of the racial origins of the families. It is thought that a great deal of this is due to the colonizing of the planet largely by secretive individuals that did not want the first republic prying into their business. The genetic structure of the planet is a hodgepodge. The native settlers seemed to have no real racial unity, but instead were united by the aforementioned desire to hide from corporate scrutiny. Since then, a great deal of the population has been combined with mandarin-asiatic immigrants from Li Halen space. Many of these left their homeworlds during the conversion of the Li Halen, so have no doubt contributed to the levels of heresy on the planet. In general, the further from the agora, the less obvious racial characteristics are present in Grail citizens.