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Almea is an Earthlike planet, with a radius of 5320 km (compared to 6400 km for Earth) and a circumference of 33,432 km (compared to 40,000 km). Its climate and ecology are similar to Earth's; its most notable geophysical feature is an unusually hot equatorial region, the Zone of Fire.

The most advanced civilizations on Almea are all found in the southern hemisphere. Most of the information we have on Almea relates to the continent of Ereláe, and centers on Eretald, the Southern or Cadhinorian Plain, where Verduria is located.

(The 0o longitude line runs through the Observatory at the University of Verduria. The other nations that make navigational maps (such as Kebri, Érenat, Xurno, Gurdago, Belesao, and Uytai) use their own capitals as the zero point.)

The Thinking Kinds

There are seven or more species of intelligent life on Almea-- what the Verdurians call the Thinking Kinds.

The most numerous of these are uestî, which I translate as 'humans'; Verdurians belong to this species, which has occupied most of the lowlands, jungles, and steppes. Arguably the most powerful, however, are the iliî and ktuvoks, two opposed sea-based races which have been contesting control over the planet for milennia.

Minor niches are occupied by the mountain-dwelling elcarî and múrtanî, the primitive forest people, the icëlanî, and the small population of flaids.

Humans on Almea

The map shows human land use patterns.

The farmers of a rainfall culture get their water from the sky, not the state, and if the state becomes too onerous they can simply leave. Citizens of "hydraulic empires", by contrast, are dependent on the state, and could not maintain the same standard of living outside it. It's not surprising, then, that attitudes about community and government correlate with the type of agriculture practised.

The Zone of Fire

The equatorial regions of Almea are unnaturally torrid, a zone of approximately 250 km on either side of the equator being unsuitable for human habitation. In continental areas, there is a band of exposed rock some 30 km wide at the equator, devoid of vegetation or other shade. As a result neither humans nor animals can cross, and most plant species are unable to propagate their seeds across such the gap. Only the largest and strongest of birds, flying far above, can cross the Zone.

In all Almean mythologies the Zone of Fire is said to be magical in origin. There is evidence that the Zone was created artificially (though at an unimaginably remote date; see below). It is to be noted that the rock is an excellent heat retainer, and thus that the Zone, once cleared of vegetation, can maintain itself indefinitely.

The Zone is not much less formidable at sea; the 250-km torrid zone is impassible by rowing or oaring, and the wind typically dies down to less than 10 km/h, forbidding sail transport at almost all times.

The Zone thus acts as an almost complete biological barrier, and indeed the biota of either hemisphere differ significantly; but only at the species and sometimes genus level, rarely higher. This is only compatible with the emergence of the Zone in its present form seven to ten million years ago. Either the Zone was created at that time, or it is a geologically intermittent phenomenon.

© 1998 by Mark Rosenfelder