As we think about the Lunar Heartlands as a place populated by people, a few dimensions are worth keeping in mind.
It is about 300 miles from Jillaro to Elz Ast and about 225 miles from Mount Jernotius to Two Tower on the Hungry Plateau (67,500 square miles). In comparison it is about 100 miles from Whitewall to Snakepipe Hollow and about 70 miles from Duck Point to Swenstown (7000 square miles). The Heartlands are about 10 times the size of Sartar.There are about 5 million people in the Lunar Heartlands. There are about 200,000 people in all of Sartar. If we adjust for area, that means that the Heartlands are about 2.5 times as densely populated as Sartar. The lingua franca in the Heartlands is New Pelorian, but there are many other languages there including Dara Happan (the old elite language of the Oslira city states), various Pelorian farmer languages such as Darjiini, Henjarli, and Rinliddi, as well as Carmanian, Antelope People, and even Theyalan tongues like Sylilan.
For population and diversity, the old Aztec Heartlands in Mesoamerica is pretty comparable. The Lunar Empire is several centuries older than the Aztecs, and I expect that New Pelorian is more deeply engrained in the Heartlands than Nahuatl, it gives a good baseline.
Like the old Mesoamerican heartlands, there are many cities. In the Heartlands – Glamour is of course the greatest city, but Raibanth, Yuthuppa, and Alkoth occupy great importance in the mythology and folklore of the Heartlands. Raibanth can be crudely analogised to Teotihuacan, and was for centuries the most populated center in the Heartlands as well as the religious center. Since 1250, Raibanth has steadily declined in contrast to youthful Glamour, but unlike Teotihuacan the city has still survived (perhaps a better comparison was Babylon after the founding of Seleucid).
For centuries, the Heartlands were largely defined by Yelm, Dendara, Lodril, (Pel)Oria, Oslira, and a cluster of celestial deities (Dayzatar, Polaris, Ourania, etc.) whose importance far outweighed their numbers. Waves of new ideas washed through the Heartlands – Nysalor, Spolite darkness cults (Xentha, Argan Argar, Gorgorma, etc.) and Theyalan cults from Dragon Pass – Orlanth, Humakt, Storm Bull, Waha, Eiritha, Sun Dragon, etc. These waves would always recede, sometimes leaving small pockets of remnants.
Since 1250, the cults around the Red Goddess have been the state religion and have been embraced by many people, usually on top of existing practices. This has accelerated since the Fifth Wane after the Red Emperor defeated Sheng Seleris. Newer cults like the Seven Mothers, Hon-eel, and Hwarin Dalthippa jostle with ancient cults like Lodril and Lokarnos.
The result has been something new – a “Lunar” identity, even among those not initiated into the Lunar mysteries.
As we think about the density of settlement, Sartar is at about 28 per square mile while the Lunar Heartlands is about 74 per square mile. That seems really dense, until we compare it to Esrolia with its incredible 465 inhabitants per square mile (“only” 364 if we drop Nochet out of the equation).
So unlike Esrolia which is almost completely cultivated, there will be empty areas and wilderness (probably expanses of grasslands or wetlands) even in the Lunar Heartlands. But nothing like what we see in Dragon Pass.
If remove the urban population, we still have more than 4 million rural folk in the Heartlands. These are mostly (more than 70%) semi- and unfree peasants, raising rice, barley, and maize. These masses are likely indistinguishable from their non-Lunar ancestors. They do not own their land (it is owned by nobles, temples, or other powerful entities) but are more or less bound to it.
The overwhelming majority of these peasants really don’t care who their rulers are. They are loyal to each other, their little village and local priests, and little else. They pay their share to their rulers, try to avoid them when they can, and love their (far away) Red Emperor and Red Goddess, while cheerfully ignoring whatever they find convenient to ignore.
As an aside it was about 50 km from Tenochtitlan to Teotihuacan, about 60 km from Seleucia to Babylon, and it is about 32 km from Glamour to Raibanth, which is pretty comparable. The ancient capital is nearby, but far enough away that the new capital can grow outside of its shadow.
So let’s imagine that vast Peloria lowlands extending from Jillaro to the White Sea, from Mount Jernotius to the Hungry Plateau. It was once a grassland and wetlands, like the Pannonian Plains but twice as big. Largely flat except for the great Crater itself, which rises above the flat lands like the Footstool of the Red Moon.
Peloria is quite dry – wet air gets blown from the far west, but needs to go over Fronela or Valind’s Glacier before it reaches Peloria. The immediate foothills of the Rockwoods and Yolp mountains might get 25 to 40 inches or so, but that drops in the plains.Furthest is the wettest city of the Pelorian valley, at 34 inches.
Mirin’s Cross is 28 inches. Mirin’s Cross gets most of its precipitation in Storm Season.Alkoth is 24 inches (Kiev – the area of the Pripet Marshes). Alkoth is in a convergence zone that gets precipitation both in Fire Season and in Storm Season.
Glamour is 16 inches (Spokane). The presence of the Crater moderates the Northerly winds, but also means Glamour is in a rain shadow.Raibanth is 14 inches. The presence of the Yelm cult definitely increases the number of cloudless days. Almost all of the precipitation falls in Fire Season, when the Pelorians worship Entekos the Rain Goddess and Dendara the Good Wife.
Yuthuppa is 18 inches. Almost all of the precipitation falls in Fire Season.Elz Ast is 22 inches. Elz Ast is on the White Sea. Elz Ast is an awful place – the Pelorian version of Quebec City. Cold and miserable in winter even with the Kalikos Expedition.