By D Hebditch
The Southlands are a challenging region of Wellon comprising mostly of common land savannah filled with spectacular roaming herds of both Terran and Tiranean livestock and local predators. However this free ranging lifestyle is hampered by natural threats such as grass fires ignited by Metho Grass, that when fanned by winds can burn out hundreds of square kilometres a day forcing inhabitants into fire shelters, or the giant tornadoes of Tonnerre Valley. It is an area sparsely populated in comparison to the Cam Valley, North Albion Plain or even the Westlands and the culture of the area is significantly divergent to that of the rest of Wellon.
The Southlanders have always been a mobile people, the nomadic 'Serai live entirely on the move whilst even the settled communities of the Northwall move along their ranges as the seasons change. The first settlements were composed of people escaping from the conformity of the Cam Valley colonies, and Southlanders today hold on to those non-conformist traditions. There is also an edge of even greater roguishness amongst the Southlanders and several groups of 'Serai are regarded as overtly criminal.
Above: The area of the Southlands in relation to the rest of New Albion
Above: Detail map of the Southlands (click to expand)
Like the neighbouring Westlands the Southlands were initially overlooked by the British colonial effort, otherwise concentrated on the North Albion Plain, Cam Valley and New Scotland. Teams from the BACS had undertaken a large number of surveys in the area, noting its immense mineral and agricultural potential. Plans were laid for the eventual exploitation of the region in the future should the whole colonial project prove itself viable.
In the 2180s the first non-scientific expeditions were reaching the Southlands. These were normally composed of settlers from the Cam Valley in search of something a little different. These first settlements usually stayed on the Northwall that separates the Mid Cam Valley from the Southlands which began as farming settlements and were a part of the Northwall Movement. Some more daring souls moved out into the deep Savannah. Led by Henry James, a charismatic young Canadian, they created a deeply religious town near the Solomon Hills. Known as James Station it quickly became the most thriving settlement in the Southlands. By and large though the Southlands remained a mostly uninhabited place with humans very few and far between, and dominated by the native fauna that often turned the plain black during their migrations.
By the turn of the century though the Northwall towns were well established and thriving within their own self-sufficient economies. The system of 'Ranges' had been developed with a slice of land given over to each town running southward into the savannah. Each part of the range would be farmed according to the dictates of the season and Grandseason, giving rise to a mobile system of collective farming. Different areas would be assigned every year to grow a specific crop or raise animals, depending on which would be most efficient. The next year the process would be repeated with the areas moving as the climate changes. During the winters or in times of harsh weather the whole community would retreat back, bringing livestock with them, to the shelter of the Northwall.
Whilst the Northwall and its Ranges became increasingly settled, some groups of people headed down to the edge of the Ranges and into the Deep Savannah. Initially these worked the land in mobile groups, escorting their cattle they grazed. Others, with a caste of Indians in the forefront, set up to service these mobile groups with goods and services and were as nomadic as the farmers they supported. In response to an FPK Journal article about these people describing their services as akin to that of a North African Caravanserai, the term of 'Serai to describe the nomadic people of the Southlands came into being.
The 'Serai were never a single group. They were a polyglot of nomadic farmers, roving shopkeepers, freelance prospectors and a few predatory bands that preyed on the others. They were drawn from a range of nationalities, ethnicities and religions. They proudly developed their own traditions and mores in an array of different clans and sects, fiercely clinging to their own individuality. The 'Serai diverged dramatically from the rangers of the Northwall, let alone the rest of New Albion, and they have kept generations of anthropologists busy.
In 2196 tragedy struck at James' Station when at the conjunction of summer and Grandsummer Phoenix Forest erupted. Fanned by gales from the Tonnerre Valley virtually the whole of the south of the region went up in flames. The mobile 'Serai ran for their lives, abandoning their heavy vehicles and heading to the Solomons or to the Ranges. Many didn't make it. The followers of Henry James hunkered down in the fire shelters of James' Station, however the defences didn't hold and over five thousand people perished in the firestorm. Indeed only five people, including a badly burned Henry James emerged from the ruins of the settlement.
James was badly scarred by the catastrophe and began to regard it as a neo-biblical experience brought on the spiritual laxity of the people of the station. Already a fiery preacher, James upped his rhetoric and the disaster brought many new followers to his banner and the newly named Church of the Testing Fire. The remains of James' Station were bulldozed into the ground and a commemorative church built over the top. Nearby a new town was built with high banked walls of baked earth, comprehensive fire defences and subterranean reservoirs. Known as Fort James it became something of a closed town with only a small British Tirane Police (later SCP) presence representing outsiders, although most of the Jamesite people lived outside its walls it was the heart of a deeply religious region.
It was in the 2220's that the roguish nature of the Southlands began to really take root. The banditry problem in North Albion had been solved by the turn of the century, whilst in 2115 the BTP and the Army moved in to finally suppress the bandits of the Hetton Valley in advance of the building of the maglev link from the Upper Cam to the Westlands. Most of these people were rehabilitated into Wellonese society but many recidivists desired to stay away from lawful society and passed over the Westridge into the Southlands. Most stayed on the Westridge, creating small villages and settlements but others moved into the savannah. Those that survived the conditions, animal attacks and hostile 'Serai became known as the Black 'Serai.
The Black 'Serai were never a monolithic group who were only a tiny minority of the 'Serai and attacked each other as much as anyone other Southlander. It was always difficult for any non-'Serai to determine who was a Black 'Serai and consequently their legend grew, especially after attacks on FPK expeditions in the area. However by the late 2230's the Black 'Serai were no longer the menace they once were in the Southlands, rumours spread of attacks by other 'Serai, although some raids into the Dannon Basin continued from their strongholds on the Westridge.
Large scale commercial activities in the Southlands were slow in starting. When they came they had to settle in the middle of a society that was already well defined. Companies working in the Ranges, primarily in mineral extraction, found little problem in working with the Northwall town councils. Those in the deep savannah had substantially greater difficulties in dealing with the 'Serai and Jamesites. In the Solomons many companies grew wealthy mining the rich seams in the hills, although more than once their overland convoys were stopped and raided and their LTA movements disrupted by weather conditions.
In the 2240's a new city hub was established in the Dannon Basin called New Anglia, although not in the Southlands the city quickly came to have an increasing influence over the bordering communities of the Westridge. Especially when the Farming Conglomerates so predominant in the Basin began to buy up the most fertile land on the Westridge.
The creation of the Dominion of Wellon at first had little impact on the Southlanders, whether they were ultimately ruled from London or New Camelot was a matter of little importance to their lives. However soon politicians responsible for East New Albion, deprived of the 'Southern Problem' that had taken up so much of their time, turned their civilising eye onto the Southlands. Several politicians stood on the platform of 'taking the Southlands to hand' and gained enough support to be able to begin to push several measures strengthening government control through in the late '40's and early '50's. These included new immigration, legalisation of land claims, aid for commercial ventures and increased controls on the 'Serai.
All of these measures were controversial, especially on the Westridge where many long established settlements were denied recognition and their land sold to Dannon Basin agricultural concerns. New towns were established on the edge of the Ranges and on unclaimed land in between, further immigrants came into the Eastmoor and the Solomons. There were never as many immigrants forthcoming as the East New Albion Assembly desired, and most were drawn from new colonists from Earth, a large number coming from Patagonia and settling in the Eastmoor region. However there were always too many for the liking of the Southlanders, even though most simply swelled the settled populations of Northwall and Westridge.
The legislation aimed at the 'Serai had several roots. They had been the recipient of over 50 years of bad press which only got worse with the rise of the Black 'Serai in the '20's and many 'law and order' politicians desired to bring them to heel. In addition many scientific expeditions brought back stories of deprivation and backwardness that appalled the forward thinking Wellonese. Many in the FPK and bodies allied to them wanted a compulsory program of medical and education pushed out to the 'Serai. In the end what the 'Serai got was a combination of the worst of both approaches as the ENAA tried, with the help of the RWC and Southlands County Police, to regulate them. Most were tied to specific stations, and a defined land range whilst some groups moved into the Tonnerre (officially in West New Albion) or deeper south to escape these measures. Disputes and violence were not uncommon.
In the end the 'Serai managed to band together to resist the worst of the effects of this policy, moderating some of the most disliked policies and managed to retain most of their ways and re-gain their mobility. The exceptions were the Tonnerre 'Serai who a few years later fell foul of an even more restrictive policy launched by West New Albion at the instigation of the Dannon corporations. The Tonnerre 'Serai were truly confined to specific areas and have become settled, despised by the other 'Serai, but developing a unitary culture, political representation and a larger population than the rest of the 'Serai combined.
From the '60's resource extraction really began to take off across the Southlands, however the benefit to the local people was very much from secondary effects. Most of the miners were brought in from elsewhere in Wellon and worked short term contracts in temporary accommodation before returning home for R&R. The attitude of the miners to the Plainsmen ('Serai and more settled folk alike) was largely one of suspicion and condescension, an attitude that was deeply resented in the area. The coming of industry in the region hastened the expansion of rail building around the edge of the area and down into the plain through Zetland to Fort James. These were not the hyper modern maglev systems but more practical and less expensive trains running on conventional rails.
In March of 2275 the Phoenix Forest erupted again in a massive conflagration that engulfed the western plain. Forewarned by the events of 2196 and numerous smaller annual fires the area had been cleared with the exception of the Jamesite population who determined to remain within the fire defences of Fort James. An exception were several key members of the Church, young and old, who remained in the church built upon the remains of James' Station, and the aged Henry James was amongst them. The conflagration passed and the population of Fort James emerged intact. The nearby James' Station church was destroyed but from the ruins emerged three members clergy. Henry James had died in the event and the leadership passed to the senior survivor. The Jamesites regarded the passing of their long term leader philosophically and the Church passed into a new era.
With industry firmly settled in the region restrictions on the 'Serai increased. Amongst them were proposals to tax the traditional barter economy of the plainsmen. This led to a decline in the lifestyle of the 'Serai, with more and more groups being tied to semi-permanent settlements and all of the major towns of the areas gained a 'Serai quarter. Increasingly well educated and tied to a relatively impoverished lifestyle many of the young 'Serai looked to gain their fortunes elsewhere and the populations of traditional 'Serai plummeted and many bemoaned the loss of their culture. There are few groups now who continue the traditional completely nomadic existence, most in the south near the boundary with the Blight.
Today the Southlands are a relatively settled region, although one that still prizes its independence and individuality. The ranges of the Northwall and the Eastmoor remain much as they ever have, although the populations have grown considerably. The Westridge remains dominated by the giant farming combines from the nearby Dannon Basin although the remnants of the 'Serai still launch the occasional raid against the corporate 'occupation' of their land. The Tonnerre Valley is settled, rich and occasionally wrecked by storms whipping off the Golden Bay. The plains themselves are inhabited by the plainsmen, a mix of 'Serai and settlers, and the migrant workers brought in to mine the land. It is a region far from the mind of New Camelot and one that works to its own agendas caring little for the obsessions of the Cam Valley, never mind North Albion, New Scotland or Point Sterling.
The tiragraphy of the Southlands is a relatively simple one, aided by the adoption of an easy naming convention by the early BACS teams. Essentially the area can be described as a triangle with the top point facing north. Running south east from this point is the Northwall which becomes the Eastmoor near the bottom point. The bottom of the triangle is the Blight desert which runs across to meet the Golden Bay in the west. This point is known as the Tonnerre Valley and the final side of the triangle is made up by the area known as the Westridge. Finally the area within the triangle is composed of some 600 000 square kilometres of savannah, plain and low hills.
The Northwall is an escarpment that divides the Southlands from the Cam Valley. From the Cam Valley side it rises slowly from the flood plain, becoming rolling hills before rising into a plateau some 1000 km long and 100 km wide. The edge of the plateau drops away precipitously onto the plains below, sometimes in sheer cliff faces that drop well over 200 meters. The route down to the plain is by a number of ramps down the cliffs, some of which existed before humanity came to Tirane and some of which were created later. The plateau is well populated and the various Northwall towns are dotted along its length, although most of the people make their living on the Ranges. The plateau itself is not particularly fertile and is most often used for grazing common capras although many towns have invested in hydroponics or greenhouses.
Below the Northwall and stretching out between 150-250km into the plains is the area known as the Ranges. This is an area of the plains that have been exploited by the Northwall towns since the 2180's. Strips some 50km wide reach out from the Northwall and are farmed by the communities of the specific towns. These strips are subdivided into areas which are re-allocated annually to reflect the changing suitability for specific forms of agriculture. Small permanent homesteads and centralised townships exist but most 'rangers' head back to the Northwall for most of their needs. The ranges are home predominantly to imported Terran animals.
The Westridge divides the Southland Plain from the Westlands. It is a region of rolling hills, mesas and valleys. It is a fertile area ideal for large scale arable crop growth. Unlike the Dannon Basin there are no restriction on the growth of terran crops and local farmers make the best of this. There are several large towns in the Westridge, but these are depressed and depressing places filled with families that were thrown of the land in the 2240's, settled 'Serai and itinerant agricultural workers. Resentment to the large, mostly mechanised agricultural conglomerates runs strongly in these towns.
The Tonnerre Valley is an area some 300km from east to west and lies at the western edge of the Westridge and is bounded to the west by the Golden Bay. To the south lies the low range of the Ferah Hills, beyond which is the Blight. The area is hot and prone to storms that come in from the Golden Bay, these are often devastating events which see tornadoes ripping across the landscape brining flash floods with them. The tornadoes have been known wipe out small towns before heading out into the plains where, combined with grass fires, they can have even worse results. Nevertheless the Tonnerre Valley is heavily populated, mostly by the descendants of the 'Serai that moved into the area in the '40's. They live in fortified communities that are mostly buried underground to escape both the heat and the storms, many are now employed on the oil rigs in the bay or in mining in the Southlands.
East from the Tonnerre Valley is the western part of the plain which runs for some 650 kilometres to the Solomon Hills. The western plain is the sparsest populated part of the whole region, exposed as it is to storms coming down the Tonnerre and sandstorms coming up from the Blight. There is still sufficient grazing land for great herds of local animals to live here. As a result one of the largest populations of nomadic 'Serai exist here herding and harvesting these creatures, especially croppers, and trading their produce to roving traders or to the towns of Tumbledown or Fort James. As the plain nears the Solomon Hills the area known as the Phoenix Forest begins, which is rich in phoenix cane and other incendiary plantlife and periodically erupts in flames as part of its life cycle, causing great damage to the region. Two hundred km north-east of the Phoenix Forest is Fort James, the area around which is well settled by the Jamesites.
South east of Phoenix Forest rise the Solomon Hills. This is a major massif which vaults out of the plains, the purple sides of which are a major signature image of the region. Its highest point Mt. Collins has snow at almost all times except for the height of the Grandsummer, the sight of its bare flanks are a warning to the whole region to expect the worst grassfires. At the foot of Mt. Collins are the Four Lakes around which are several tourist towns, these lakes feed into the Vanishing River which flows first to the east before heading south into the Blight and vanishing through evaporation and draining into the subterranean acquifer. The Solomons are immensely rich in both mineral and animal life, and many corporations have mining operations in the area. The permanent population is made up mostly of settlers, those working to support the tourist industry, although some groups of 'Serai also base out of the foothills.
North and east of the Solomons is the eastern plain, the savannah heart of the Southlands. It is here that Terran and Tiranean animals mix most. Where the workers employed by mobile ranches roam across the countryside keeping one eye on the dispersed herds and the other on roving groups of 'Serai. Temperatures range between 20 degrees in the winter conjunction to over 50 degrees on the summer but average in the mid-30's during daytime, although at night time freezing temperatures are not unknown. Water is a key to survival as the various rivers and water holes can disappear entirely in the summer, many locals have invested in subterranean water reservoirs. The weather in the eastern plain is less harsh than the western plain, but during the summers when the land dries out it becomes increasingly vulnerable to grass fires. These can be locally ignited by lightning or metho grass or far more dangerous when the Phoenix Forest erupts. When this happens the whole population, animal and human alike heads to higher ground attempting to outrun the fires that can turn the sky dark for months.
The Eastmoor starts as the ground rises out of the eastern plain and meets the Northwall, which is much lower in this area. The Eastmoor is an area of high rainfall thanks to the prevailing easterly winds which blow the rain clouds across Acquminor to the Eastmoor. This rainfall is largely responsible for the fertility of the eastern plain. Eastmoor is lightly populated, mostly by settlers of Argentine extraction farming amarre capras and other hardy animals. It is a remote region which is the butt of many jokes by other Southlanders.
Zetland is the nominal capital of the Southlands and is located in the rough centre of the region. It is home to nearly 30 000 people. Established in 2227 it languished as a minor trading post and oasis until the 2240's when as part of the ENAA's new policies it was promoted and invested in as the centre of government power in the region. Since then the town has grown steadily, becoming the centre of the animal trade in the region. Its vast trading and auction yards feed slaughterhouses, processing factories and the railway to the Northwall and the rest of Wellon. The town suffered badly from the grassfires of 2275 which entirely isolated it, but the fire defences held with damage only to some outlying suburbs. Since then a degree of complacency has crept in and the fire defences neglected.
Zetland is an almost entirely graceless town, designed and run on lines of simple practicality. The town proper is contained within the circular firebreak, a 5 metre deep and 50 metre wide dry moat, although it floods during the rains and becomes a home to a vast array of local bugs, but more dangerous is now becoming overgrown with undergrowth. In the last twenty years several shanty towns have sprung up outside the firebreak, despite the protests of the town councillors. These shanties are populated by impoverished 'Serai and settlers dispossessed by natural or economic disaster. The shanties are depressing places where crime and criminality is rife. Further out are the huge pens and auction yards which handle the cattle brought to the town for sale.
Inside the firebreak things are somewhat different with well laid out districts and streets radiating out from a central hub to Firebreak Road that circles the town. The tree lined central boulevard holds most of the major facilities in the town; including rail station, Southlands General Hospital, town and county councils. The remainder of the town is mostly dusty, poorly maintained and comprised of two story mud-brick houses. Other places of note include the 'Serai Quarter which includes the local market and the HQ of the Southlands County Police both located on the Firebreak Road, although at opposite sides of the town.
The nightlife in Zetland can be somewhat rowdy given the number of plainsmen coming in to the town on their rare visits to the railhead with their produce. This combination of money and cheap Plains Spirit can often lead to excessive drunkenness and aggression in the town centre and in the shanties for those seeking cheaper girls than can be found working the bars.
Northwall Victoria was the first town founded by the Northwall Movement and remains the spiritual and administrative centre of Northwallshire. Its population today is 60 000 people. Northwall Victoria has one of the more impressive town locations located along the rim of the Northwall above a wide natural ramp, which today takes both road and rail traffic down to the plain and down to Zetland. The views out onto the plain are stunning and a great draw for tourists, many of whom start Southlands safaris from Northwall Victoria.
The town was developed in an array of communal buildings and courtyards within self-sufficient districts. With much of the population away down on the ranges, these communes were designed to be a home to those who remained who could support each other. When people came back from the ranges for whatever reasons they could return to these homes without too much disruption. The communes combine to provide district level schools, medical facilities and other community resources. Today many of Northwall Victoria communes are over a hundred years old and walking through their interconnected courtyard and their immaculate gardens can be immensely restful.
The central district is as old as the oldest districts in the town and is a classic of Northwall architecture. An entirely pedestrian area it contains the Northwallshire Council and an array of other important civic buildings within a chequer-board of small gardens and parks. Outside the town are most of the industrial and agricultural processing buildings and the freight railhead. Northwall Victoria is a slow moving town for the most part, a pleasant place to stay but a bit staid for many people's liking.
Pared del Norte Santo Pedro is the main town in the south-eastern part of the Northwall. As its name suggests it is the centre of the Hispanic area of the Southlands and has some 40000 inhabitants. Most of these are descended from Spanish, Argentine and Uruguayan (the last two due to a short lived attempt at rapprochement by Britain following the 1st Rio Plato War) colonists which has produced a unique culture in this part of the Southlands. The small town of Northwall St. Peter was slowly swamped over the course of a decade by incoming Hispanic colonists, however the colonies retained and adopted the typical communal Northwall style of living.
Pared del Norte Santo Pedro, as the town became, rests on the southernmost portion of the Northwall close to the Eastmoor. It occupies a number of low hills, rather than the classic cliff-top perch of Northwall towns further north. The town owes much of its wealth and prominence to it place on the main rail line between Northwall Victoria and Doorn in the Cam Valley. The town's range is much more settled than other ranges, partly due to the lower danger of grassfires and partly due the particular evolution of politics within the town. This has led to several extended family groups gaining control of key parts of the range and other town assets. As a result local politics are noticeably more volatile than elsewhere on the Northwall.
The town has several unique features. Most publicised amongst these is the Minotaur Ring located in the eastern suburbs of the town. Rather than fighting bulls, which were insanely expensive to import, the first colonists decided to set up contests using minotaurs. These beasts proved a much more challenging proposition and killing one using traditional methods more lethal to the matador than the minotaur, consequently team tactics have been developed. However this sport is becoming increasingly controversial in other parts of Wellon. Lastly WI5 believe they have identified an INAP cell operating in the town, but so far have been unable to infiltrate an effective agent into the close knit community.
Fort James is the most heavily fortified town in the Southlands thanks to its proximity to the Phoenix Forest and the grassfires that result. It was built with disaster relief funds and the backing of what became the Church of the Testing Fire and is the centre of the 'Jamesite' community in the western plain. Currently it is home to nearly 20 000 people although there are nearly 5 times that numbers of Jamesites in the immediate area.
Fort James has three concentric rings of defence. The outer circle is a firebreak moat some 50 meters wide combined with an earth bank which is 20 meters high. Contained within this area are livestock pens which are filled when grassfires threaten. The inner circle has another fire break and a 25 meter earth bank which has on its rim an number of powerful water cannon linked to the town's massive subterranean reservoirs. These defences contain most of the homes, shops and industry of the town. Lastly there is a central, partly underground Hall of Fire which forms the town's citadel and its cathedral. Should all other defences fail many thousands of people can be crammed in until the fires pass buy.
Since 2275 Fort James is no longer the closed town that it was. However non-Jamesite outsiders find life in the town very difficult as they will not be employed or find housing within the town. In the outer layer there is an Hostel and small 'Serai quarter that will put up outsiders, but only with the minimum of hospitality. No non-Jamesite has ever entered the Hall of Fire.
Government in the Southlands is a somewhat complicated affair, with many people refusing to acknowledge any government at all. In general most of the Southlands falls under the jurisdiction of the East New Albion Assembly, with the Tonnerre Valley and western parts of the Westridge being under the West New Albion Assembly. In general the Southlands are far from the centres of power in New Camelot and Victoria and usually far from the minds of politicians. Only when some politicians seek to win votes by meddling in the affairs in the Southlands does politics really rear its head in the Southlands. In particular elected representatives at both national and regional levels are renowned for their lack of interest in Southlands policies and willingness to further their own interests. Only in recent years with the election of Thomas 'Serai Malthus Fox to the Wellon Parliament has the Southlands gained any effective representation.
In terms of local government the area is divided into three zones. Northwallshire running along the Northwall and down to Eastmoor. Southlands Country covers the Westridge and the entire plains region. The Tonnerre Valley comes under the county of Westland South Bay.
The Southlands does not lack for law enforcement coverage, most of which is undertaken by the local police forces. The Southlands County Police is the most controversial of these forces, traditionally having been drawn from former soldiers and unemployed settlers it retains a reputation for casual brutality and limited links with the local communities. The 'Serai especially have no love for the SCP, and the Jamesites are not far behind them. The Northwallshire Constabulary are a more understanding breed, although the other police forces regard them as too soft. The Westland South Bay Constabulary are the best regarded of the local forces, mainly as they have a large number of Tonnerre 'Serai in their ranks. Over the years this has meant that community links have been well fostered and solving crime far easier as a result.
The Royal Wellon Constabulary has a presence in the region. The small Westlands Task Force is based in New Anglia but many of its agents can be found in the Westridge and on the western plain looking for the roots of New Anglia's criminal gangs. Also present are detectives from Special Branch both stationed in and attempting to infiltrate the 'closed' societies of Fort James and Pared del Norte Santo Pedro. It would be no surprise to find WI5 working alongside them.
There are also unofficial police in the Southlands. These range from deputised members of the militia to the internal police of the Jamesites. The large mining companies and agricultural conglomerates also possess their own security units.
The Southlands are an area mostly overlooked by the WDF, deep in the interior of New Albion and far from the centres of population and industry. Indeed there are no permanent WDF bases in the region and the only military force present are militia forces at Fort James and in the Northwall communities.
Southlanders have a reputation as being tough and self-reliant people but have been relatively little targeted by the WDF's recruiters. The usually patriotic rangers of the Northwall have in recent years proved a good recruiting ground for the newly formed Royal Wellon Regiment and Wellon Royal Lancers, whilst the New Anglia based KORWR beings in a stream of recruits from the depressed towns of the Westridge. Indeed in its push to expand the RWR has mooted raising a battalion entirely from the Northwall. The King's Own Western Dragoons have long found a steady stream of excellent troopers from not only the Northwall but from some of the 'Serai. The RWAF recruits a number of pilots and navigators from the Southlands whilst, naturally, the RWN looks elsewhere for its sailors.
The WDF has a temporary camp located in the range of Northwall Albert. This is used every other year to provide training for the Wellon Army's armoured forces away from its usual training grounds near New Shorncliffe. Portable command centres are brought in for exercise staff whilst the exercising troops live in the field, at the end of the exercises everything is packed up and moved away. The money the WDF pays the Albertian rangers has lead to a boom in that community and envy in their neighbours, it is no coincidence that herd losses have been higher than usual as a result of this resentment. The airspace above the Southlands is frequently used by the air forces operating from the Colenso complex in the Westlands.
The Southlands lack the highly developed transport infrastructure common to the other regions of Wellon. However the Southlanders make up for this by using a vast array of transportation methods.
Air travel in the Southlands is quite common for fast movement about the region. However there are relatively few tarmac strips, with only one on the plains outside Zetland and three on the Northwall. Most airfields are grass strips run with the minimum of personnel and some only with an autonomous navigation and landing beacon. Consequently most air traffic in the region is made up of rough-strip capable aircraft like the ubiquitous Loadmaster series. Light aviation can be found in the region operated mainly by the richer families, corporations and by rescue services.
The Southlands are not connected into Wellon's maglev network and has only a limited conventional rail network. This is mostly concentrated on the Northwall with links coming in from New Anglia and Doorn. From Northwall Victoria there is a spur that runs out onto the plain and down to Zetland. Plans to expand this spur to other parts of the Southlands have foundered due to the costs of maintaining this even the Northwall Victoria to Zetland link in the face of the grass fires.
Roads are more commonplace in the Southlands with several metalled roads criss-crossing the region between the larger settlements and watering points. These are usually in good repair due to the limited traffic they receive. The Ranges have their own distinct road networks that have developed over the years, even if they aren't officially recognised. Lastly out on the plains there are many distinct convoy routes which have been used by the 'Serai and others over the last hundred years.
The vehicles used in the Southlands must be robust to survive the beatings that the landscape and conditions can give out. Most are all terrain type vehicles, in particular large numbers of Wellon Army surplus WMV Reynard II's can be found across the region. Hawker hover bikes are also popular. In general AVC craft are preferred to wheeled vehicles due to their greater speed and lower maintenance burdern. Mention must also be made of the many hover trains that cross the region carrying heavy goods or animal herds to market. These are either large single ACV types or a powerful ACV truck towing a number of trailers. The sight of hover trains on the move is an impressive one, and potentially dangerous in the south of the area when they aren't following a well defined road network.
Whilst most 'Serai use vehicles some, usually from the Western or Southern 'Serai, have come to use animals as their transport. A whole range of animals are used including domesticated croppers or tiracamels or imported horses and mules. These 'back to basics' 'Serai are often scorned by their more sophisticated cousins as playing dumb for the tourist industry.
The natural resources of the Southlands are impressive although are not particularly well charted and so far only a small part of them have been exploited. Major commercial exploitation of these resources is concentrated in the south around the Solomon Hills. Smaller concerns, ranging from Northwall co-operatives to single prospectors, run smaller operations which can nonetheless produce a good profit. Survey teams have discovered oil in the Southlands but with production still strong from off-shore sources these have yet to be exploited.
The Northwall has three large rectenna farms and is linked into Wellon's SPS grid. The rest of the Southlands is less fortunate however with no major settlement outside of Zetland linked into the grid. Most power is generated by solar power systems which are ubiquitous across the region with almost every building having cells on the roof and every vehicle carries cells, just in case. Many small settlements also have wind generators.
Industry is limited in general to the large mineral extraction companies and the agricultural combines of the Westridge. There is a flourishing industry specialising in the repair of vehicles and other mechanical and electrical items. Consumer items are usually brought in from outside the region and these can sometimes take a considerable time to arrive. As a result the accent is on the repair of existing equipment rather than the replacement of broken items.
Commerce in the Southlands is generally in the hands of three different groups; the large mining and agricultural companies, the Northwall co-operatives and the plains commercial banks. The latter are little more than an organised loan-sharking organisations that have provided the backing for many of the small settlers in the region. Consequently they have come to have a controlling stake in many of the farming organisations. Only the 'Serai and Jamesites have managed to avoid the clutches of the commercial banks. The commercial banks are deeply resented in the Southlands, and violence has often been directed against them, however for many they represent the only easily accessible sources of financing.
Mainstream banks are few and far between in the Southlands and only recently has the North Albion People's Bank opened up in the area. However the administrative and paperwork requirements of standard Wellonese banking can often not be met by Southlanders, forcing them to the commercial banks. The Northwall Co-operative Building Society works only in the Northwall but is a powerful financial institution.
Increasingly an important sector of the Southlands economy is tourism. This started to become a factor in the region in the 2240's when the first organised safaris for Wellonese, rather than rich off-worlders, began to be organised. Today tens of thousands of Wellonese a week visit the Southlands to view the breathtaking scenery and the wildlife. Most of these are concentrated at resort towns in the Solomons and in the Northwall and bussed out onto the plains during the day. Only relatively few stay in lodges on the plains themselves.
Agriculture is the lifeblood of the Southlands. The vast majority of the population makes its living from the land. On the plains most of the agriculture consists of raising and protecting herds of animals. These can be native or imported fauna with croppers, dranta and hardy cattle the most popular. The herds are usually free-ranging with each animal chipped to confirm its identity and owners with herders roaming with them to fend off both local wildlife and acquisitive neighbours. Animal raising in the Ranges is more structured and confined to those areas of the Ranges set aside for specific farming in that year.
Crop farming is usually confined to the northern plains, Westridge and the Ranges and is usually concentrated on large scale cereal crops. The Northwall communities, amongst others, grow more specialised, investment intensive, crops.
Food processing is a major undertaking in the region and is usually done at hub communities with buying and selling taking place in vast auction pens. The cattle can then either be slaughtered and processed in place or shipped by hover train to a bigger community where that can be done. Crops are usually harvested and shipped on in bulk to processing companies outside the region.
Education in the Southlands has long been a point of contention, especially given the nomadic nature of much of the population. Today those who live in the towns on the plains have a typical Wellonese education. Those who live on the move are educated via the web by the Southlands Education Trust, a joint Wellon University and Southlands County initiative which is broadcast across the region via satellite. Northwall children are educated in their towns and are not taken onto the range during term-time and are left in the care of other members of their families or commune. There are no major tertiary education facilities in the region, although some colleges have link-ups with major Cam Valley or Westlands universities and the Wellon University is readily available. In general 50% Southlanders leave the region to go to university, many do not return.
The culture of the region is very much one of self-sufficiency and as a result they have little time for many cultural diversions of the traditional type. However the people of the Southlands love films, something that started at the start of the centuries when a raft of movies about the Southlands was produced. Consequently most caravans and settlements have their own projector for the people to watch films and other productions on. In fact the way the Southlands was portrayed in films had a large effect on the way the land subsequently developed. Some groups of 'Serai especially can be accused of recreating their movie image.
The Southlands is covered by a variety of media, although outside the main towns is available generally through the satellite system rather than landline. However most of these carry very little Southlands related material. In fact there is only one dedicated Southlands-wide broadcaster Southlands Independent Media based in Zetland but with offices across the region. SIM has two TV and numerous radio channels; its TV channels are dedicated to local gossip, overheated NovoCano soaps and, of course, movies. Many larger settlements have their own radio stations, whilst the Eastern 'Serai Milton has its own mobile broadcast system as well as its other, often bootlegged, media products on sale.
Sport is not particularly popular in the Southlands outside the Northwall, where it forms a key part of children's education. In fact the only sport with any particular coverage is cricket, which most people see as a good excuse to do no work for a day and laze in the sun. Although Football is quite popular in the Hispanic Ranges. Most Southlanders enjoy betting on races and all sorts of races can be run during the weekend both with animals and vehicles. One game in particular that has grown in popularity is a form of Buzkashi played on hover bikes. Originally confined to the Western 'Serai it is now played across the plains. Like most of the rest of Wellon communal drinking is highly popular.
Croppers are one of the most intriguing of Wellonese species, sharing characteristics of the Arcadian Demi but having fur patterning not unlike that of a Terran zebra (although colours vary). They come in a variety of different sub-species, but all tend to feed from the upper reaches of trees although the smaller croppers are omnivorous and rather more aggressive. The larger sub-species reach some 3 metres but all have long counter-weighting tails, long flexible necks and narrow almost bird-like faces. They travel on their strong rear legs and have vestigial front limbs and can move with great speed and agility when needed.
Croppers are not good eating, but when processed make passable animal feed, their skin makes an excellent and distinctive leather. The vast numbers of croppers on the plains makes herding and farming them financially viable. The 'Serai have long used croppers as beasts of burden and occasionally riding animals, more commonly they are used as racing animals today.
Whilst the Greerlion is the most famous Tiracat species on the plains the most dangerous is undoubtedly the grasskat. A solitary killer the grasskat combines characteristics of Terran leopards and cheetahs. It is both exceptionally fast and cunning, capable of ambush attacks and has extremely poisonous claws. It is capable of attacking much larger animals than itself and has been known to attack humans, the sound of a grasskat sniffing around a human camp has caused many sleepless nights. Thankfully the grasskats are nearly as unfriendly to each other as other creatures and their reproduction rate is very low. The grasskat is treated with great respect by all who work out on the plains.
The minotaur is one of the larger members of the Dranta family and are known as massaudes in Nouvelle Provence and are akin to Terran rhinoceros. They can grow up to four metres and length and weigh an impressive 2 tonnes thanks to their thick armoured skin. The name comes from their heavily muscled shoulders, thick set necks and horned heads. They range up to the Cam Valley and North Albion Plain but in Southlands are found in family groups of up to 20 individuals and as they have not been actively hunted are found in great numbers. However the Hispanic people of the south eastern Northwall have taken to fighting these creatures in bull-rings. An enraged minotaur is not to be trifled with and a system involving four man teams armed with spears has been developed to fight the minotaur.
Victor Parry is the current leader of the Southlands County Council. Although normally not a position of particular importance in the Southlands plains it comes with quite some clout. Victory Parry was born in Victoria and moved to the Southlands after studying for his degree. There he obtained a position with the Zetland Commercial Bank, where he worked for nearly two decades. An outwardly decent man who has made some impact in reigning in the worst aspects of the commercial banks his is actually firmly in hock to commercial bank interests and steers policy in the direction he is told to. Parry's family life is in tatters and he is on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Heather Voller is a prominent Northwall businesswoman. She is a leading light of a movement that is hoping to move the Northwall away from its co-operative business model and onto a more traditionally capitalist one. She is a third generation ranger of German descent although she has spent much of her adult life working for WMV in New Birmingham. Her views have alienated not a few citizens but have gained support from many others.
Thomas 'Serai Malthus Fox MP
Tom Fox is the leader of the 'Serai Malthus one of the most influential groups of the 'Serai. At the age of 60 he was elected to parliament and is one of the main advocates of the concept of the 'Serai Nation, something he has pushed for his last ten years in parliament. A 'Serai born and bred he was rumoured to have had a very wild early life before settling down and amassing some of the largest herds on the Eastern Plain. Although never married he has numerous children and still has a somewhat notorious lifestyle. Nevertheless he is a well respected MP and an effective representative of his constituency.
Chief Constable Trevor Granger
Trevor Granger is the current commander of the Southlands County Police. He has been brought in from outside to try and improve the performance of this police force. Trevor Granger was born to a devout Reformist household in Dartmoor and spent most of his career in the New Highland Constabulary gaining especial recognition for his work maintaining surveillance on the Hibernian Society. Since then he was made the Deputy Commissioner of the Dartmoor Metropolitan Police and did a good job helping to reform that force. He is married with two children, both of whom are at University in Cameron and currently lives in Zetland. He is finding his job a taxing but rewarding experience. He is becoming increasingly interested in the Jamesite faith and has visited Fort James and the leadership of the Church on several occasions.