The Confederation of Free Towns
Sitting between Serroya to the south, The Free Midland Duchies and then Heidelgard to the south-west, The Marcher Principalities to the east and Schwereinn to the north, the Confederation is a forested and hilly region dotted with a wide variety of independently minded and individualistic cities, towns and villages, all united in their mandate to remain free and not be turned into one nation, nor to be absorbed into any other realm.
It is a land that is a curious blend of its neighbouring larger nations but also heavily influenced by a shared culture of self sufficiency. Its weather and geography is not as severe as Schwereinn, but it is still a wild place compared to the southern lands and the unwary can come to grief from the sometimes treacherous terrain and also the wild animals and other threats that exist. Culturally it also takes much of Schwereinn’s mistrust and scepticism of the Society of Harmony, though the blend of Society and Non-Affiliated clergy is more or less equal. That being said, the Eye of the Society travels lightly here if it travels at all, for incidences of “accidents” and unexplainable deaths are notably higher than other places, and all the worse for being inexplicable.
The standard town or settlement(if any can be said to be standard) is largely self sufficient and vigorous in defending its resources from the local threats, and though the occasional situation between settlements may turn into feuding and skirmishing, there is a strong cultural desire to avoid wasting lives and efforts in pointless violence if any kind of discussion or resolution can be reached. To this end there is a loose council called the Landsmaark that meets every 2 years at a different settlement each time, and grievances and issues are normally discussed by the council members (each settlement, no matter how small, has 2 councillors); these resolutions can be arrived at by any number of means, from duels, votes, arbitration and indeed anything that gets common consent for issues to be resolved. All that is important is that the principals agree to abide by the decision, with those who renege on this being shunned by all within the Confederation. Shunning is more serious than it appears, for it means citizens and people from the shunned settlement are forbidden from entering other settlements areas, environs nor receiving any aid or assistance, resulting in a isolated void that few settlements can live within, for travellers into a shunned area are also bound by the judgement.
Socially, the Confederation people are hospitable with such laws of aid and shelter being sacrosanct with any who break them suffering a permanent shunning until the guilty (and those who allowed the events to occur by inaction) are punished; the feeling is keep your house in order and be just or else. Currently there has been only 2 circumstances of this judgement being passed, one hundreds of years in the past , but the other is in current effect. The old transgression was in the year 237 AC at the town of Tarliken, where a merchant and his family were robbed and murdered by the town mayor and his supporters, and though the mayor and his supporters held out against the shunning for over a year, the desperate townsfolk eventually stormed the mayoral manor and seized the mayor and his surviving supporters. They did receive a fair trial overlooked by arbitrators from other settlements, and the guilty were all hanged with their loot and property being given as recompense to the merchants surviving family.
The current situation is worse, for it is the small city of Serpents Bluff on the coast of the Bay of Drowned Hope that currently endures a 4 year long shunning. After a disastrous trial by the Inquisitor Barrabi Szuscak ( a young newly ordained member of the Eye from Toralden), a fervour of ill suspicion and paranoia struck the city resulting in the mass killing of over 300 travellers and visitors to the settlement by panicked and crazed citizens; wandering tinkers, travellers, traders and even a Non-Affiliated clergywoman were amongst the dead, and though Barrabi tried to absolve himself of the results, he was found guilty of egregious incompetence and dereliction of duty in his subsequent trial and sits in Greyguard awaiting sentence. In the meantime, though the Society have their own man, Confederation laws and customs now hold the entire city responsible for what happened as the citizens all share the collective blame yet none seem to be held accountable.
In the absence of an acceptable contrition shown or level of justice being applied by the people of Serpents Bluff, they have been permanently shunned, and now the city is isolated, with Confederation soldiers blockading the way in and out by land. The sea is open, but official trade between Serpents Bluff and other lands has stopped, with trade now going to the smaller coastal town of Georgaston (much to the delight of the fast growing township). Smugglers still bring in the odd goods, but they run the risk of being impounded by Cantabrian, Schwereinnin and Heidelen vessels keen to remain on the good side of their trade partners in the Confederation.
It has become an embarrassment to the Society and many on all sides look on to see what the Society decides over Barrabi’s actions and fate, for various factions and arms of the Society disagree on the best way forward regarding their man, and much hangs on the ultimate judgement, for it will likely set a precedent for Society conduct and behaviour going forward.
The chief trading items leaving the Confederation are tin, coal from new rich seams, lumber, marble, precious and semi precious stones and silver. A unique gin is also brewed from an indigenous berry called the Blacksloe; the Blacksloe appears to only thrive in the lands of the Confederation, and it is a well regarded liquor, impossible to brew elsewhere.
3 good examples of Confederations towns are detailed below by way of example;
Located centrally within the Confederation, Blackriver is a small city of about 8000 people, in a hilly region of forest and some open meadows. Its main claim to fame is being the largest coal mining settlement, with a good sideline in silver and tin. It sits astride the Staymic river, and in fact the distinctive black stones on the river bed give the city its name.
Ruled by a Council of local businesses and nobles, it elects a Mayor every 10 years with each mayor being permitted only 2 terms of office. The voting for the council is open to all adult citizens of at least 5 years residence and who are gainfully employed over that period with no cumulative unemployment of more than 6 months. There is also a small school of Engineers/Alchemists called the Blackriver Working Collegiate that makes a fine trade in educating miners, Alchemists and engineers to a good standard; of late in fact they have been branching out into airship construction, with their first effort “The Dream of Steel” being gifted to the city as its first airship (in fact it is the first airship built in the Confederation).
It is a walled city (as most are in these lands) but has a few satellite townships and villages that are its responsibility. It is growing fast due to the mining industry with new seams of coal being found every year the further they dig, and there is a steady trickle of settlers who head there every year to share in the prosperity.
It has a professional military armed in modern fashion, and has also seen a marked drop in Society Churchgoing since the events further west at Serpents Bluff; this has allowed a few Non-Affiliated clergy to take up residence and their more spartan and restrained manner of worship sits well with the miners and workers of this town.
Government type is Autocracy, Alignment is Neutral, Settlement qualities are Academic, Prosperous, Strategic Location (centre of Confederation and astride the Staymic river)
Corruption=1. Crime=1. Economy=3. Law=1. Lore=4. Society=1.
This township settled in the high hills in the north of the Confederation is famed for one thing in particular; it has the Sentz School of Divinity located at the centre of the settlement. The population numbers about 4000 people, situated as it is on the summit of a long, flat-topped hill. The tall structure of the Sentz School towers over the township, and interred within is the founder, one Kunrad Sentzen who settled the area back in 178 AC. The main township has 20 feet high walls that surround it but lower walls of wood and stone form other rings around the summit, providing protection against the dangers of the land. A natural spring and well is located within the School and provides much water, but dedicated clergy also use their Orisons to make sure water is in plentiful supply.
The town is ruled by a religious council, with the leader always being the Master of the School (currently Lionarra DisSentzen, an ancestor of the founder). It covers the high passes that border with Schwereinn, and traditionally there is goodwill between this settlement and that nation in matters of trade and especially religion. It has a small dedicated army that numbers Clerics, Paladins, Fighters and Rangers amongst its number, though all adults are officially within the militia and as such well able and willing to defend their town. It has little to offer in terms of trade goods, though supplicants and pilgrims help bring in money and trade to this place and its position in the trade between Schwereinn and the rest of the Confederation Towns is useful.
Government type is Theocratic (basically Magical with Divine magic), Alignment is Lawful Good, Settlement qualities are Academic, Holy Site, Insular, Pious, Tourist Attraction,Strategic Location.
Corruption=-2. Crime=-1. Economy=2. Law=2, Lore=3. Society=-1
Once a very prosperous small city and the best port and harbour the Confederation had, it has now become a place of ill omen, shunned for the wicked deeds carried out a few years previously. In 517 AC, a visiting Inquisitor lit a fire of paranoia and civil unrest that quickly spiralled out of control, leading to the deaths of over 300 visiting travellers, all slain in a orgy of violence and religiously inspired rioting that broke all of the Confederations laws and customs of Hospitality. In the aftermath when the citizens realised what they had done, there was much guilt but a marked lack of justice or serious contrition, and this lack of justice and culpability (“the Inquisitor made us do it” is not deemed anything close to sufficient in the eyes of the Landsmaark) has seen the passing of the first ever permanent shunning of a settlement within the Confederations history.
With no lawful trade, no new blood and no leaving of the city, life within Serpents Bluff (named after the shape of the land the city sits on) has become desperate, crime filled and seemingly cursed. The only new goods and trade that appear are the infrequent visits by ingenious smugglers, and the population of 9000 that used to inhabit the area has now shrunk to 6000, with the others dying in outbreaks of disease, crime and rioting. Outside of the Murk in Heidelgard City, it is regarded as one of the most benighted spots in the world. It was ruled by a mercantile council of merchants and nobles, but how it gets by now is scarcely reported on, and it now seems that the world waits for the city and its populace to breath its last.
Government type is Anarchy, Alignment is Chaotic Neutral (sliding towards evil), Settlement qualities are Notorious, Impoverished.
Corruption=6. Crime=8. Economy=-3. Law= -6. Lore=2. Society=-3.