On The Road
Travelling in the Empire and associated lands is something that the ruling and merchant classes do a lot of, and everybody else does very little of. The Empire created and maintained an efficient road system to allow Magisters to travel with ease, and the Merchant's League has adapted the techniques for trade. As well as road travel there is lots of river traffic up and down the Anhui and Nine Spirits Rivers. The following article discusses several notable aspects of travel in and around the Empire of Splendour
Imperial Roads are made of paved stone, with a camber to allow rain water run off. They are wide enough to allow two carts to pass side by side, with room to spare. Traffic officially passes on the left, but not everyone sticks to this which often leads to hold-ups and traffic jams.
There are three major roads - one from Llaza up to Nirhamsa, one from Nirhamsa to Reflected Glory and one from Reflected Glory down to the City of Ten Thousand Ships. Where the Nirhamsa-Refelcted Glory Road crosses the Plains of Pesh, it is broken and overgrown. Fortresses guard either end and that rout is no longer used. Many smaller routes radiate out from Reflected Glory, leading to Sunset Canyon, City of Blue Jays, Ut'Bharma and others. In broken country like Dronistor or Ut'Bharma, the Empire is very good at building bridges, tunnels and switchbacks.
Modes of Transport
The most common method of travel is by foot. A frequently used beast of burden is the shaggy tembu, an ox-like creature with a slow gait, dim wit and a bad smell. Nevertheless, tembu are capable of pulling heavily laden wagons. For fast transport, the shandix is used. An antelope-like creature with stripy hindquarters, the shandix is the fastest mount known in the Empire, but it is not able to carry much. Even a large rider can cause it to refuse to move. Manpower is used by the rich and poor alike. Those unable to afford beasts of burden often pull their carts themselves. If you have money to spare, you can pay for a litter to take you to your destination, but these are not recommended for long journeys.
Places to Stay.
The Merchant's League maintains League Waystations along the Anhui route, but only members may stay in these fortified compounds. Since most travellers are merchants, this is seldom a problem. Travelling Magisters are expected to be hosted by the local Administrator, at his expense. The arrival of an outside Magister and his entourage is usually dreaded by most in the ruling classes as a potentially ruinous event. The remaining folk sleep under the stars, or bring some form of portable shelter with them.
Visitors to other towns and cities tend to write ahead to friends or relations and arrange to stay with them for a while. It is also possible to petition the local Magister Administrator for a place to stay, although he is under no obligation to provide more than "fire and shelter". Although there are boarding houses, these are seldom more than someone with a spare room renting it out on a temporary basis. Finding accommodation in a strange town can be an adventure in itself if the traveller has not thought to pre-arrange something. The unlucky or unwary may fall foul of murderers, cultists or even just lice and pox.
In order to maintain such a sprawling bureaucracy, the Empire needed to have a method of sending messages quickly and efficiently. Thus was born the Imperial Courier Service, the pony express of the Empire. Shandix riders, wearing a distinctive yellow sash, are employed to carry dispatches and paperwork throughout the Empire. Imperial citizens are required by law to aid them wherever possible, including surrendering transport to them. Interfering with an Imperial Courier is a capital offence.
The Merchant's League copied this idea, the only difference (apart from the material carried) is that League Couriers wear a red sash, and the laws that concern them are enforced by the League. The couriers act like the Pony Express, changing mounts at waystations and travelling fast and light. A few hundred yards in either direction from a waystation is a gong that an approaching courier strikes to alert the staff of the waystation to prepare a fresh mount and food. Misuse of the gong warrants a stiff fine or even a jail sentence
The courier services are not available for use by the public, only for official matters. Several postal services have appeared based upon the courier model, but they are less efficient and, being private ventures, do not have the vast legal might to protect their charges. Most mail is sent informally, by passing it on to someone going in the same direction.
This article was inspired by Bill Hoad's excellent "Ye Olde Inne" article, which can be found in both Annwn and Imazine.