Drifting Sands, Drifting Souls
Thirajin is a hard world. As such, many people – be they human, elf, dwarf, or otherwise – attempt to escape their lives through use of the tried and true methods of sex, drugs, booze, and violence. These things have varying legality depending on the country, and sometimes even the city (in the case of the Rhikari Confederacy). Regardless of their legality, vices have always served a purpose to sentient races — and likely always will.
Possibly the most common method of escapism is through drugs and alcohol. Both can be found in larger amounts in almost any setting, city, village, or country, and some people even farm and make their own. The trade of these intoxicants often is the backbone of smaller economies, and can skyrocket the earnings of a farmer who happens to know how to grow the crops that need to be refined (or ingested on their own).
Alcohol is the most common form of intoxicant used across the world, and while it is considered to be against the law of Istikar to drink alcohol, many Se’harists still drink liquor, albeit in secret or among others. Blackmail is always best shared among friends. Most alcohol in Aritika is wine, made from different types of fruit. In more arid climates, such as the city of Terith (or smaller towns in the northern Sand Wastes) or Ysial, this wine tends to be made with figs, dates, pomegranates, hibiscus, or lemongrass. In wetter climates, such as Coelin and the rest of the Tal-i-Basir swamplands (otherwise known in vulgar argot as the “Elven Reservation Lands”), wine is typically made from grapes, rice, and lychee. The most common alcoholic beverage in Aritika is palm wine, made from fermented dates and palm tree sap. In the more fertile lands of northern or far southern Visari (such as Enoe or Giala, respectively), ales, lagers, and stouts are produced. These same places also produce rye whiskey and sometimes vodka, depending on the temperature. The Elven Reservation Lands are known for their production of harder liquors like rum and bourbon. Hard liquor is not in vogue among the social elite of Aritika, and peasants rarely have the money to purchase it. Beer is seen as a poor man’s beverage behind closed doors, so wine ends up being the most common illicit substance in Aritika. So long as Aritika remains a Se’harist imperialist theocracy, liquor production will remain a cottage-industry, often considered a source of personal shame for the producer — at least in public. This often leads to more cases of secret alcoholism, and large gangs controlling the import and export of alcohol.
Valinos is completely opposite of Aritika in that liquor is drank at nearly every social gathering, pubs and bars are common in cities, and people will often own alcohol in their homes. While alcohol is permitted (and often celebrated, depending on the holiday), it is illegal to imbibe alcohol in a public place not designated for the consumption of liquor. Most alcohol in Valinos tends to come from cold-weather plants, considering Valinosian weather tends towards longer winters with short, hot summers. In northern Valinos, where the soil is sandy and hardscrabble, liquor production takes the form of wineries that use grapes, melons of all kinds, blackberries, and dandelions. Valinosian dandelion wine is considered a delicacy anywhere in the world. A smuggler in Aritika can make nearly twenty gold realms on a single bottle of dandelion, whereas most liquor the same smuggler would trade made domestically would yield up a cost in silver sovereigns. Not all liquor from Valinos is as in demand, however. While one of the few countries in the world that produces and exports liquor to supplement its national economy, it tends toward the manufacture of cheaper alcohol like vodka and corn whiskey. Valinos produces almost four times its population in bottles of corn whiskey per year, and twice its population in vodka per year. Many foreigners and Valinosians alike consider this to be “rotgut,” and will only drink it if necessary. Valinos has no real laws against liquor consumption in regards to age; however, it is illegal upon to give someone who has not reached adulthood (the age of sixteen for humans, twenty for half-elves, thirty for dwarves, and sixty for elves) hard liquor, although beer and wine are allowed. This rarely stops those intrepid youths from attempting to gain access to hard liquor.
One would expect for Rhikari not to have any laws regarding liquor consumption; this assumption is correct. Rhikari has no real laws against liquor production. Being an archipelago, most liquor is made from the subsistence farming that exists on various islands. Mainland Rhikari (such as it is) is too close to the northern arctic circle to produce much of anything save for ice wine and vodka from tough, durable potatoes. Most liquor made comes from the islands, and tends to be rye or barley whiskey or beer. Liquor consumption is often seen as fairly passé by the Rhikarish: a way to pass the time for bored and poor farmers. As Rhikari’s confederate constitution indicates that the government shall not pass any laws pertaining to an individual’s personal choices, so long as they do not affect others, most intoxicants used in Rhikari tend to be harder. As such, the southern islands of the Aselar Archipelago have large production facilities for various drugs.
Much like Rhikari, the Republic of Mistvale has no real laws against alcohol use. Freedom of religion is important to the Valese, and thus there are Se’harists and even cities that boast a major population of Se’harists, as Mistvale was once a colony of the Holy Empire of Aritika. These towns and cities usually do not have pubs or bars, and even the sale of alcohol is handled by non-Se’harists. This only adds another layer of tension on top of the already tense environment between imperialists and republicans. The capital city of Mistvale, the city of Haven (and the largest occupied area in the country) does not share the problems that the countryside tends to, and thus they have pubs and bars occupying the various red light districts in the city, along with the skyport ward and bridge district. The residents of Mistvale tend to be more focused on industry and ensuring the sovereignty of their nation, so alcoholism (and indeed, addiction in general) is seen as a severe social stigma. Moderation is key in Valese society.
In Alaekor, drugs and alcohol are seen as a wall to block one’s mind. Being a country whose state religion is about the dedication of oneself to unlocking the secrets of the universe through personal reflection, there is very little time left to engage in intoxication. Nonetheless, some branches of Araeism (and some secular philosophies that have sprung up since the inception of Araeism in Alaekor) push for excess. These tend to be groups that do not follow the psionic disciplines, but focus instead on mastery through understanding the body, in a form known as “corporal enlightenment.” These are few and far between, but surface in the larger cities in Alaekor – such as Novara, Sitani, and Asikara. While abstinence from intoxicating substances is not a rule or law in Alaekorish culture, it is more of an unspoken social norm. That, along with Alaekor being an open country that accepts almost anyone willing to come there – be it for tourism or immigration – there are bars, pubs, and stores that carry alcohol. Often, they are simply empty, dead places, sparsely staffed and rarely visited even for food or rest.
The residents of Ki-Taliq, like the Rhikarish, do not often drink, but instead use drugs. Ki-Taliq is the world’s largest producer of opium. And while they have the same climate as much of the more populated regions of Aritika, their only real alcoholic beverage is palm wine. This is usually found at social conventions, and is often given to people who are attempting to break an addiction to a harder substance. The Taliqi are an ancient people – the oldest of all human civilizations. Their ruling dynasty is also one of the eldest of all monarchist and imperialist societies. With their culture of general ignorance in regards to the politics of the rest of the world, the Taliqi tend toward excess and their nobles are often jaded and depraved. While not necessarily evil, many nobles will dip into darker and harder pursuits of physical pleasure. As Ki-Taliq is the only remaining human nation that declares the Divine Pantheon as its official state religion, seeking physical gratification is seen as a metaphyiscal offering to Oranei and Akilos.
The Dwarves of the Redoubts are not heavy drinkers. Some alcohol is made through the distillation of fungal extracts, and also through fermented moss. It’s often unpalatable to Humans – and people with weaker constitutions could potentially even die from the effects of this type of liquor. Unsurprisingly, Dwarven mushroom wine is highly sought after in Ki-Taliq, where it is used as a kind of “suicide game,” to see how long someone can drink it before suffering ill effects. The only mushroom wine that’s sold to outsiders at all is made from fulgarate mushrooms. These fungi have their electrical abilities removed by Dwarven Alchemists, and it is later distilled in large amounts in massive underground vats. Any other mushroom-, mold-, or plant-based liquor is kept primarily for the Dwarves’ consumption. Dwarven Clerics and Oracles require a type of vodka-like liquor called sundeath ale once a year, as it produces both soporific and hallucinatory effects, which is important in the Dwarven worship of the Divines, as it’s believed that the Divines only commune through dreams and dream-like states. Rarely, the Redoubts will get liquor from the surface. This is only really used for parties with surface-dwellers. Considering how secretive the Dwarves of the Redoubts are (and for good reason), this rarely happens, if ever.
The Elves of Velyria are able to produce almost any kind of liquor, as Velyria is one of the most fertile lands in all of Thirajin, save for Valinos. The most common liquor that comes out of Velyria is scotch whiskey and rye. Alcohol is not seen as a cash crop for the nation; rather, it is seen as a local production for the residents. Because of this, alcohol production is a cottage-industry, usually by some of the farmers who farm the more fertile plains in northern Velyria. As Velyria is the wettest place on Thirajin, there are some fruit wines that are made out of tropical fruits, like kiwi, mango, passionfruit, and pineapple, as well as different types of palm wine. Elves near the border of the civilized part of Velyria make a kind of coconut liquor that is often mixed with straight alcohol, creating a harsh and often too-powerful form of everclear.
Drugs are common and easily obtained. Most countries do not have laws affecting the legality of drugs, but rather the fashion in which they are used. Opium, as previously mentioned, is the largest cash-crop of Ki-Taliq. Opium sold in Aritika and Valinos is often refined down into heroin as a powder or tar form, and is smoked using a disposable brass foil riddled with holes, suspended over a burning pipe. The user inhales the heroin as it begins to burn from the heat emitted by the pipe. Typically, these pipes contain tobacco. In areas where marijuana is grown and sold, sometimes the user will place hashish into the pipe as it will burn longer and slower than tobacco, albeit with the same heat. Opium and heroin are often used by hospitals and Clerics for easing or eliminating pain. The Elven Reservation has experienced a major epidemic of opium addiction, which has led to strict regulations on who can own it among the chiefdoms.
Marijuana is farmed throughout much of Velidos and Velyria, as well as the southern reaches of Aritika. It is used – similar to opium – as both a recreational drug and a pain killer. It is far cheaper to purchase than heroin or opium, can be farmed in greater quantities on smaller parcels of land, and is often placed in a soldier’s personal kit for pain relief in case of injury without access to a chirurgeon or cleric. Like beer, marijuana use is seen as a peasant’s drug. It is rare to find a nobleman who smokes marijuana, as they will generally have access to harder drugs that give a stronger effect. Nonetheless, it is still a go-to intoxicant for any addict that is attempting to get a fix without being able to find their normal drug of choice. Valinos and Velyria will commonly produce hashish as well, which is sold in great amounts to other nations. In Aritika, hashish is seen as a religiously safe alternative to alcohol, and is often smoked at parties and other social gatherings. Hashish users do not face the same social stigma as marijuana users do, as hashish is slightly more expensive and requires refining to produce the product.
Cocaine is made from the leaves of the coca plant, which grows freely in Velyria, the jungle around the Valinosian colonies on the continent of Cuoli and the southern part of Ki-Taliq. There are some farms that will specifically grow coca plants, but the best production of cocaine is made through plants that have grown wild. As such, many coca farmers employ a good number of guards to protect their lands from a wide variety of threats. There are several creatures that feed on coca leaves, such as the Velyrian great ape. This monstrously large animal usually requires a whole squad of hardened soldiers to take down; nonetheless, it’s worth it. Cocaine and coca leaves are one of the most expensive cash-crop intoxicants that can be sold. Some people will simply purchase coca leaves and chew them to gain a numbing and energetic effect, while others prefer cocaine. Cocaine comes in a white powder form created through processing coca leaves; the leaves are dried and put into an alchemist’s calcinator, which contains a weak acid. The acid eats away at the leaves, causing a residue to remain. This residue is then removed, and infused with an extract that causes the residue to crystallize into salts, which are then taken through insufflation. Sometimes, the cocaine powder will be mixed with a thickening agent such as corn starch or baking powder; this creates a hardened (and often cheaper) form of the drug called rock cocaine. Rock cocaine can be smoked through a pipe very similar to a hash pipe, though requires a much higher temperature to burn. Coca leaves, powdered cocaine, and rock cocaine are sold throughout the world, but the highest yield is sold in Ki-Taliq. Like opiates and cannabinoids (marijuana and hashish), cocaine is used for medicinal purposes as topical and general anesthetic during surgery. It is also provided to Aritikan elite soldiers for use in ignoring pain during a mission. Second to heroin, cocaine is one of the most expensive drugs in the trade.
Tobacco is a common drug that can be farmed almost anywhere in Thirajin. With a high addiction rate and no real knowledge of repercussions to the user, it has almost no social stigma. Tobacco causes the user to feel a rush of energy; whereas long-term users will use it to bring about a calming effect. Tobacco also tends to create feelings of satisfaction. Tobacco’s highest crop yield is in the southern Rhikarish islands, specifically within the city-state islands of Vangiorum and Clasentum. The cities are engaged in a trade war in regards to tobacco, with either city attempting to make their type of tobacco more flavorful. As such, certain other herbs are often added to smoked tobacco – the most famous being Clasentian tobacco, which has a pleasing, almost incense-like aroma through adding clove and nutmeg. Tobacco can be ingested through several methods. The most common method is smoking it via pipe, though Vangiorium has made it more popular to wrap dried and baked tobacco in a tobacco leaf, dampen the leaf, then allow it to dry in a cylindrical shape, creating cigars. These are sold in varying sizes and lengths, with Clasentum cornering the market on thin, easy-to-transport packages of tobacco “cigaras” that are only about a quarter of an inch in diameter and about three inches in length. These are kept in a brass or silver cylinder designed to be refilled by the same shape and size cigaras, which has caused Clasentum to corner the market in some respects. Tobacco is very popular and fairly cheap. Any Aritikan can purchase a brass cigara tin of twenty cigaras for two copper regals. Pipe tobacco and chewing tobacco tends to be more expensive due to the additives that are placed in them for taste. Nonetheless, some laborers specifically smoke tobacco from pipes, and will often spend much of their money on securing a good amount of tobacco when they receive their pay.
Perhaps even more ubiquitous than tobacco is caffeine. Caffeine is found in coffee and black tea, as well as several other plants that can be harvested and used for their caffeine content. Caffeine is a stimulant and is also addictive, but does not appear to have any real drawbacks to the user aside from intense headaches when in withdrawal. Most coffee is grown in Valinos’ Grassbarrow Vale region, an elevated valley situated between two mountain chains. Coffee is a high-altitude crop, and most nations have at least some corner of the coffee market involved in their trade. Coffee is produced through the beans of the coffee plant, which are harvested and ground into a powder. The powder is placed into a strainer, typically brass or steel, and hot water is run through the powder. This creates a black liquid with the same viscosity as water. Tea is made in the same way, only tea is made from the leaves of individual tea plants. Each region has its own form of tea and coffee, with the most varied versions of tea being from Aritika – which also utilizes herbal teas for medicinal purposes. Witches’ brews are often made in the same fashion as teas, and the use of different forms of herbs can be seen as suspect in areas that are particularly aware of witchcraft and sorcery.
Numerous regional drugs exist aside from the above listed ones. Any number of plants can be harvested and smoked or ground up and insufflated to create a euphoric or stimulating effect upon the user. Often, knowledge of the local area will be best in discovering what sort of regional or local drugs the area has.
The Sex Trade
The Blood Trade