The Free System of Vysoka is the agricultural center of the Coalition of Colonies, commonly known as the “Breadbasket of the Frontier” due to a large number of foodstuffs exported from the planet. The main language of Vysoka is Freespeak, though Tradeband is commonly spoken among merchants. The colony of Vysoka is located in the Zeic system.
Vysoka is known for having large amounts of rich, fertile land that produces high crop yields when harvested, with mountain ranges and buttes breaking up the large fields of grain. Further north, the arability of the soil decreases heavily. Citizens living in these “dead zones” often practice a pastoralist lifestyle, herding large amounts of gurmori and ohdker in search of pasture and water year-round. There are many reasons as to why one would become a nomad, and this ultimately depends on the exact group being asked.
There are two main continents, these being Astiqabi and Kassein. The continent of Astiqabi has the majority of Vysoka’s population, as it has the highest percentage of arable land on the planet. Kassein possesses an abundant amount of minerals and fossil fuels, the former of which is often seen in the cargo holds of trade vessels along with grain products.
The climate of Vysoka is characterized as having warm summers and near-freezing winters, though this naturally varies depending on the exact location. Rainfall is frequent but not heavy in Astiqabi, and generally rarer in Kassein. The atmosphere of Vysoka is breathable, with little pollution due to a heavily rural lifestyle.
The most prominent animals on Vysoka are the gurmori, ohdker, and dainshu. The gurmori are large reptilian animals that are commonly used by plains-dwellers and nomads due to their speed and muscular forms. They are omnivorous, with both triangular and square teeth present in their mouths and a long forked tongue. The ohdker are furred mammals that are used as livestock and beasts of burden, as they can provide milk, fur, and meat. Their curved horns are fairly valuable, causing some to try and poach them. The dainshu are carnivorous avians often trained by hunters, known for having sharp talons and keen eyes that assist them when out in the field. Those who own dainshu carry thick leather gloves to protect their arms and hands, with competitions often held to see which ones are trained the best.
Vysokan society is conservative and seen as heavily traditional by the other major powers of the Coalition. Vysokans often have large families due to the agrarian nature of their existence. While urban society does exist, the Coalition "stereotype" of Vysokans are as farmers and herders.
Hard work and productivity are highly valued, with friendly competitions often being held to see who can have the most yield in a set period of time.
In popular culture, the concepts of independence and self-sufficiency are dominant, with many Vysokan folk heroes being wanderers akin to medieval “knights-errant” or Western cowboys.
Gurmori have an important place in Vysoka, being among the first animals tamed and having a multitude of uses among the plains. A love for Gurmori is especially common among the pastoralists living in the north, with them often being seen in heraldry and art. It’s common among steppe-dwellers to skin a Gurmori after death as a sign of respect.
Hospitality is extremely important to rural Vysokans due to the fact that the planet has an extremely low population per square mile, resulting in the custom of offering tea, food, and shelter to rare passers-by. Violating the rules of a household or otherwise taking advantage of this hospitality (i.e. attacking the host or guest) is seen as a grave offense and it is said that doing so brings misfortunes upon the guilty party’s family. If a guest mentions something positive about an item in the host’s house, it is customary to give it to them.
There are multiple Vysokan hosts, including but not limited to the Novotso, Tog-Daichid, and Kayshak. Hosts are semi-nomadic militaristic communities not connected to any particular city-state or community, though certain polities employ hosts as mercenaries for protection. Due to the hosts’ support of the Vysokan independence movement of the past and romantic portrayal in the media, those seeking to leave their past life behind often flee to the countryside to join them. The winged dainshu are used often as companions on hunts as they are able to scout for fauna, with gurmori being used as mounts.
It is not uncommon for these hosts to be hired out as mercenaries by other colonies, though it is equally as common for less scrupulous hosts to raid vessels and colonies not aligned to the Coalition.
Similar to the groups they take inspiration from, those in Vysokan hosts pride themselves on their marksmanship and skill as a mounted unit. Specialized carbines are often designed and used by hosts, due to their lightness allowing for extra mobility and ease of handling.
There are multiple religious groups active on Vysoka, many of which are holdovers from Earth or resurgent “pagan" religions. Avoiding religious conflict can be difficult, with many hosts devoting themselves to a specific religion in order to facilitate the spread of it. However, governors and councilmembers of regions often attempt to take measures in preventing violence, and it is unlikely for someone to be outright attacked due to their choice of worship.
Education in Vysoka is poor outside of the few urban centers present due to the extreme decentralization of Vysoka and the remote nature of many towns, resulting in a large percentage of children growing up without receiving a proper education. Due to this, capital flight or “brain drain” is quite prevalent among the better educated, with return migration boosting the Vysokan economy. Intellectuals often leave Vysoka to study abroad, with many returning later in life.
Vysokans dress colorfully and anachronistically as a way of following tradition, with long woolen coats and baggy pants being quite prevalent. The vibrant scaled hide of gurmori is often used in more “modern” clothing, with this trend being popular among hosts. Other frontier clothing such as the ever-popular flannel and overalls combo is used by Vysokans as well, which is well suited to the harsh environment of the colony.
Vysokan traders can be found throughout the frontier, either independent or working on behalf of a nation-state. State-employed merchants are given high amounts of autonomy but are expected to fulfill the expectations of furthering influence and ensuring requests are filled. Produce is the largest export of Vysoka, with animal products closely following behind. Although Vysoka is home to a large number of minerals, Himeo’s own output results in a smaller amount of international trade - with Himean syndicates themselves setting up mining operations on the colony in order to secure raw materials for their planet's well-known industrial base.
One of the largest exports of Vysoka is manpower, with many mercenaries and manual laborers leaving the colony to work.
Arms dealing is a popular venture among Vysokan merchants, with arms being bought for soldiers or sold to areas of conflict. Their presence can often be found near warzones, putting their lives on the line for the sake of profit. Vysokan-made weapons are often found in the hands of colonial militias and pirates as a result of this.
In the past, it was a common belief among Vysokan shamanists that certain numbers, letters, or words were auspicious or ill-omened. Parents would often consult religious leaders or specific "guide books" to ensure that a lucky name was chosen on the date of birth. As a result, long and overly complex names were commonplace, especially in rural areas. While these names are considered fortuitous, in practice they are too complicated to use on a day-to-day basis. Combined with the belief that using the full name of a child could attract harmful spirits, shorter nicknames are often given during the childhood, although these are often not directly related to one's full name. A Vysokan with the name of Segerandalitu-jebke, for example, may go be the nickname of Siban, which would be used throughout their life in both social and professional situations. In some occasions, a Vysokan may not even know their full name, due to the scarcity of paperwork among more isolated villages in the steppes. While this practice is less common in the modern day, giving a child a formal name and "common name" is still quite popular in some regions.
The Velhalktai is an annual long-distance endurance race taking place on the continent of Astiqabi, which lasts between 20 and 40 days on average. Starting on the west coast in the city-state of Vedamor, over 50 riders compete to reach the end destination of Czsari. Riders travel with packs of Gurmori and carry specialized lightweight saddles in order to quickly swap between their steeds in order to prevent exhaustion.
Travelling thousands of miles through farmland, rolling hills, valleys and open plains, there is no official set route - with riders expected to use their own navigation skills to reach each “checkpoint” in the city-states. At each stage of the race, specialists perform checkups on one’s gurmori to ensure that they aren’t overworked. Penalties or even disqualifications are given in the event that a rider fails a checkup. All riders are given a personal trainer prior to the start of the Velhalktai, although it is rare for one to compete without any experience in Gurmori-racing due to the strict entrance requirements.
After a race in 2456 where a jockey cheated by giving their Gurmori experimental stimulants, riders are now provided mounts to race on by the organizers. It's considered a minor award if one's farm is chosen to provide the Gurmori in question, with over 250 herders lending their steeds out for use in the Velhalkai. Riders carry bolt-action carbines and hunting knives with them for the purpose of protection, and are provided rations at each stop - although many prefer to purchase food from the many towns dotting the countryside instead.
Due to the nature of the competition, multiple methods are used to calculate the winner of the Velhalktai - including the time taken, the difficulty of the route taken, the physical status of their Gurmori, and how many Gurmori were present at any given time. As a rider is expected to have around 5 on their journey, a competitor who brings less with them will be rewarded. However, due to the difficulty of the race as a whole, simply making it to the end is considered an accomplishment. The prize for winning the race includes premium Gurmori feed, a custom saddle, and a decorated patch - no prize money is given for winning the Velhalktai, with the prestige in competing in the event considered a more fitting reward.
Vysoka has an extremely low population per square mile, with 1.1 billion inhabitants on the planet and with over 300 million abroad. There are 8 Vysokans per square mile on average, with this number naturally increasing near the population centers.
There are 47 Vysokan city-states scattered throughout the planet, with 5 major powers to be aware of.
Czsari was where the Free System of Vysoka was created, and where representatives meet to vote on colony-wide matters, though other powers have pushed for councils to be held elsewhere. It is the largest Vysokan power, with a population of 11.6 million, and is the political center of Vysoka with a bustling tourist trade.
Sevaschaiv is the most developed city in Kassein and is notable for being home to multiple shipyards. It is the second-largest Vysokan power, with a population of 10.8 million, and is the industrial center of Vysoka. There are multiple Himean syndicates present in the city due to the nearby mountains being rich in minerals.
Turiyah was where the historic 2276 Winter March took place and was the former capital of the Colonial Administration of Vysoka. It is the third-largest Vysokan power with a population of 9.4 million, and it is the academic center of Vysoka.
Rahe was one of the original cities to declare independence on Vysoka, and where the rebel groups gathered after the war of independence. It is the fourth-largest Vysokan power with a population of 7.9 million and is the military center of Vysoka. A large number of arms are produced and manufactured here, and various mercenary groups have set up in the city.
Vedamor is the most expansive of the Vysokan city-states and is known for being based on a high quality soil deposit. It is the fifth-largest Vysokan power with a population of 5.2 million and is the agricultural center of Vysoka. Although it has a relatively low population compared to the other significant factions, it is considered a “major power” due to the fact that it exports a significant amount of grain from the planet.
The colony of Vysoka was established in 2191 in a joint venture by Central Asian and Eastern European provinces (specifically SSRs or nations allied with the Soviet Union), with settlers arriving 3 years prior on the ships Kistun, Umit, Goyen, and Hulagu. A centralized colonial administration is created, later facing heavy pushback and criticism after committing several errors resulting in a small famine. Economic growth is stifled as well due to the administration’s focus on crops, with authorities believing that the planet would better serve as a “farm” colony than an industrial one.
Prior to the Second Great Depression, an alien disease hit many of the crops growing in Astiqabi, starving many who subsisted off the grains grown. As the non-afflicted portions of the harvest are shipped off-world and more die, tensions mount and various groups begin to take action against the Vysokan Colonial Authority, ranging from burning of crops to riots. Those fleeing to join nomadic groups increase in number, with many bringing what little belongings and weapons they had with them. The start of the Second Great Depression only makes the issue worse as the already meager amount of humanitarian aid to Vysoka diminishes.
After months of protest and violence, the Solarian government sent in a small expeditionary force to the planet in order to prevent yet another frontier colony becoming independent. As Solarian forces established martial law and began to crack down on independence movements, open rebellion broke out one year prior to the start of the Interstellar War. The Novosto and Tog-Daichin, the two largest nomadic communities present at the time, begin to launch raids on Solarian military convoys and troop transports, using their knowledge of the countryside and mobility to their advantage.
During a massive retreat from the city of Krastas, which had fallen to a rebel uprising, numerous hit-and-run attacks on the retreating army combined with lack of rations killed off a significant portion Solarian soldiers and loyalists - later being described as “one of the largest military blunders of the Interstellar War.” A request for relief was made by General Teng Wei, but by the time this request was sent the Interstellar War was raging throughout the frontier.
In 2285, the remaining forces of General Teng Wei made a “strategic withdrawal” from the area, with over 82,000 of her soldiers dead or wounded - roughly 41 percent of the original 200,000-strong expeditionary force. Vysoka officially joined the Coalition of Colonies after the capitulation and subsequent dissolution of the Colonial Administration and provided what aid it could until the end of the war.
Despite the victory gained over the Solarian Expeditionary Force, roughly 177,000 of the estimated 300,000 insurgents involved were wounded or killed, with multiple settlements wrecked in the fighting. Despite the damage suffered, representatives of the various rebel groups involved were able to meet in the city of Rahe and eventually agreed to split Vysoka apart into multiple different city-states, allowing heavy autonomy. Two weeks later, the Free System of Vysoka was established.
All Vysokan city-states maintain their own armed forces, each of varying size and composition. However, both motorized and mechanized infantry are popular due to the Vysokan landscape allowing for rapid movement. A slightly less popular choice is light infantry, as they can be rapidly deployed and used as skirmishers. Polities lacking the manpower to field a large standing army hire hosts as protection, either indefinitely or for a set period of time.
Vysokan city-states generally maintain small navies, most of them used for and based around defense against pirates. The poorest city-states often purchase retired or decommissioned military vessels from other colonies, with richer states instead preferring to use private military contractors as a way to bolster their numbers.