Thick bands of pines, elms, and spruce, perfect for construction of town and city alike, lie blanket-like across the southern part of the province. In the east, systems of caverns and ice caves burrow deep beneath the permafrost, mineral deposits lining their ancient walls whose richness was rivalled by the sandstone canyons of the Sakr. Naturally formed mines provide metal ore of all kinds, helping the folk of Volchok transform their wilderness into a livable area, upon which they built enormous castles and fortresses with impenetrably thick iron gates, and beautifully forged swords with which to guard them. Phosphate, bauxite, diamonds, and gold are all here, as too are deposits of silver, copper and zinc. It is a country dripping in resources, if one has the means with which to extract them.
Fresh water is everywhere, more so in the summer when the ice sheets melt than in the winter when the world turns solid. Streams and rivers, untouched by the hand of man, pour northwards into the Sealed Sea, teeming with salmon, tetra and guppy and providing a vital source of food for the huge black bears and wolves that make their home there.
Most importantly though, are the whales that inhabit the northern and eastern seas around Volchok, for it is through whale oil that the country finds its principle source of power. Initially, whale oil was used to burn street lanterns, make candles, and even soap for those with the money to afford it. A highly combustible liquid, whale oil was both expensive to produce and quick to use, and so for many years Volchok was run on the burning of wood and water mills. Through the technologies of alchemists however, who were more respectfully called chemists to avoid any suspicion of witchcraft, the burning of whale oil was refined to the point where only a fraction of it was needed to run entire machines, machines which helped power the economy and civic life of Volchok. Street lighting, internal lighting, as well as fuel to run boats and zeppelins all became possible through whale oil, which was mixed with synthetic materials to maximise its burn rate. Within a few hundred years of whale oil’s discovery and initial application, entire factories had sprung up in Zimny Dvor and beyond, fueling the industrial growth of the land. For instance, factories whose machines exploited whale oil included
- Clothing and textiles factories (whose machines spun wool, cotton and flax to make cloth for clothes, outerwear, upholstery fabrics and bedding.
- Food factories (whose machines made cans and were integral to the purifying process
- Metal factories (whose machines manufactured iron and steel, as well as forging, engraving, coating and stamping.
- Wood, leather and paper factories (whose machines lathed, sanded, sawed and laminated, tanned and cured, cleansed and pulped.
- In short the economic, architectural, civic and social life of Volchok’s urban citizens was transformed by whale oil and its synthetic derivatives, making its urban areas the most industrially progressive of all Bratsk’s provinces, even if its countryside was also its most backwards.