The Rhomine Mountains (often referred to in English as the Falcan Mountains) are a mountain range consisting of smaller chains extending roughly 400 miles in an arc following the coast of western and southern Vhaloña. In the northeast they come to an abrupt stop, facing the juncture of the Red Hills and the Montes Aemili. In the southeast they abut the Teraba Range (contiguous with The Shore), a coastal mountain range which runs the length of Lito. The system forms a C-shaped arc with the Aemili Mountains which encloses nearly all of the Kingdom of Faeland. The mountains are a symbol of pride for both that member state and the nation as a whole.
The English name Falcan was taken via Faelish Fhaelhca, which formerly was believed to be ultimately cognate with "faol" ("wolf"). However, historical linguists have never found a derivation with which they are universally comfortable. Gerard Decker, a professor of Faelish at the University of Thole, had this to say: "...the etymology is unverifiable but some scholars trace it to the medieval Çelathi "bohln" or "vhalln", which mean mountain peak in the High and Low dialects, respectively." Regardless, in common practice Rhomines is most-often employed; the etymology of which is most certainly linked to Rhomos, an ancient mountain god of the Kingdom of Calchir.
The highest peaks of the Western Rhomines are the twin summits of Mt. Ryan and Mt. Atara, at 2,269 m 2,008 m respectively; the Northern Rhomines or Lennoiain Range, Mt. Tararat at 1,164 m, and the highest peak of the Southern Rhomines is Mt. St. James at 717 m.
The Rhomines are commonly subdivided according to the different lithology (rock composition) of the more core ranges and the groups at its western and northern fringes:
- Northern: Lennoiain Range (from the River Aousafer to the River Chatillon); peaks up to 2,987'
- Central/Western: Vecoain Range (in the Kingdom, from the Westfald to the Faol Pass); containing Mt. Ryan at 4,712' and the Plaisian Mountians.
- Southern: Collian Range (Ríocht Fíl and Valaduria from the Faol Pass to the Iurmos Pass); featuring five prominent spurs, including Mt. St. James at 2,352'
The mountains do not form an impassable barrier. They have been traversed for war and commerce over the centuries, and later by pilgrims, students and tourists. Crossing places by road, train or foot are called passes. These are depressions in the mountains into which a valley leads from the plains and hilly pre-mountainous zones.
The principal passes and valleys are:
- Faol Pass
- The Suffold (also known as Theafurg), between the Vecoian Range and the Plaisian mtns.
- The Westfald (also known as Siarfurg), between the Vecoian Range and the Lennoiain Range
- Iurmos Pass
- Xaţhíl Gate
The coastal mountains vary greatly in geological structure. In the south, the mountains are composed of old red sandstone with limestone river valleys. In the west and north, the mountains are mainly granite, while much of the northeast of the range is a basalt plateau. They are mainly formations caused by volcanic activity between 50–60 million years ago. The basalts were originally formed during the Paleogene period.
The Rhomines arose as a result of the collision of the Faelish plate and a breakaway section of the European tectonic plate, in which the central part of the Strabic Ocean, which was formerly in between those plates, disappeared. Enormous stress was exerted on sediments of the Strabic Ocean basin and its Mesozoic and early Cenozoic strata were pushed against the relatively stable breakaway Eurasian landmass by the eastward-moving Faelish landmass. Most of this occurred during the Oligocene and Miocene epochs. The pressure formed great recumbent folds, or nappes, that rose out of what had become the Strabic Ocean and pushed westward, often breaking and sliding one over the other to form gigantic thrust faults. Crystalline basement rocks, which are exposed in the higher central regions, are the rocks forming Mt. Ryan.
The Rhomines are split into five climate zones, each with a different kind of environment. The climate, plant life and animal life vary at different elevations or zones of the mountains.
- The section that is above 3,000 feet has the coldest climate, in winter it is permanently coated with compressed snow. Plants are therefore scarce in this zone.
- An alpine zone lies between the height of 2,000 and 3,000 feet. This zone is less cold and sees perennial wildflowers and grasses.
- Just below is the subalpine zone, 1,500 to 2,000 feet high. Forests of fir trees and spruce trees grow in the subalpine zone as the temperature slowly goes up.
- At about 1,000 to 1,500 feet high is the arable zone. Millions of oak trees sprout in this area. Farming is possible at this level.
- Below 1,000 feet are the lowlands. Here, a larger variety of plants are produced. Settlements are also in the lowlands because the temperature is more bearable both for humans and animals.
The effect of the mountain chains on prevailing winds is to carry warm air belonging to the lower region into the upper zones, where it expands in volume at the cost of a proportionate loss of heat, often accompanied by precipitation in the form of snow or rain.
Much of the region was gradually settled by Vhaetalic, Çelathi and Loszi tribes from the 2nd millenium BCE to the period known as The Washing, respectively. The latest settlements brought eastern Faels westward, during the period of the Kingdom of Aln.
After the final expulsion of the British Biscayne Company in the 19th century the restoration of local rule returned to the mountains.
Flora and Fauna
A natural vegetation limit with altitude is given by the presence of the chief deciduous trees— oak, beech, and ash. These do not reach exactly to the same elevation, nor are they often found growing together; but their upper limit corresponds accurately enough to the change from a temperate to a colder climate that is further proved by a change in the presence of wild herbaceous vegetation. This limit usually lies about 1,200 feet above the sea on the east side of the Rhomines, but on the western slopes it often rises to 1,500 feet, sometimes even to 1,700 feet due to prevailing oceanic winds which provide additional precipitation.
This region is not always marked by the presence of the characteristic trees. Human interference has nearly exterminated them in some areas. In many districts where such woods once existed, they have been replaced by the Scots pine and Norway spruce, which are less sensitive to the ravages of goats who are the worst enemies of such trees. Work has begun to root out non-native plants and restore mixed growth forests.
Above the forestry, there is often a band of short pine trees (Pinus mugo), which is in turn superseded by dwarf shrubs, typically Rhododendron ferrugineum (on acidic soils) or Rhododendron hirsutum (on alkaline soils). Above this is an alpine-like meadow, and even higher, the vegetation becomes more and more sparse. At these higher altitudes, the plants tend to form isolated cushions in pockets where water collects.
Species most common to the mountains are golden eagles, ibex, grey wolves in the lower reaches, Faelish dwarf bears, mountain hares, and several species of owl. In most cases all of these species are vigorously protected by law.