The Rock IV
Vancalla is a large peninsula that lies south of Al-Quaz and is mostly untouched by the expansion of Talbral; they have open trade with both Al-Quaz and Loxosphil. Vancalla is really a collection of city-states, constantly scheming with and against each other in a constant ebb and flow of broken alliances.
Intrigue and treachery is prevalent in most of this land, and these disputes often lead to fighting. Humans run many of the City-States of Vancalla, but there a few that are run by other races.
The Vancallan merchant’s guild, the most powerful political force in the southern lands is based in Karillia. The Vancallan Merchants Guild is the main force opposing the expansion of the Church of the Three in Vancalla, and has been trying unsuccessfully for many years to convince the Druids of Loxosphil to produce and sell healing items in quantity, and has recently been maneuvering to set up a Guild Hall in Talbral.
The streets of the cities are treacherous and dangerous, but the lands that surround them are pleasant and fertile, encompassing all types of terrain from lush plains to verdant forests. Many rivers flow from the mountains that form the western border to the sea that forms the east. The majority of Vancallans subsist on a diet of seafood and light grain pastas.
Vancalla is the only land where elves are still awake, and many elven nobles from the Armada who have returned to this world seek to find what has happened to their brethren who had remained behind after the great Exodus.
Most of the families in Vancalla that run each of the City-States are arranged into a pseudo-criminal empire with many tiers.
First there’s the respectable businessmen, noncombatants, and individuals who work for the city as a whole. This level tries to remain uninvolved in the family feuds and keep the businesses and power centers running. So the children, bureaucrats, and hired hands, among others. These people generally are off-limits, as harming them could harm the city and bring harsher retributions down upon the offending family. This is not always the case, as there are assassinations and plots to replace people in positions of power with one’s own family members, or weaken a rival family, but these people are never killed for the sake of vendetta. You take out a cog that makes the city run, you have to replace it or suffer the consequences, and most individuals try to make sure they’re very hard to replace.
The second tier is more hidden, and consists of the spies and thieves who work for Lesarti in the intrigues against rival cities. This tier includes highered spies and mercenaries, as well as the “official” city thieves’ and spies’ guilds. These people are involved with the inter-city intrigues, and members from rival families can work together when necessary, though it’s often avoided. People from this tier can also be involved in the inter-family feuds, but not too often as they are focused on external concerns. Their identities as thieves or spies might be known to other families, and sometimes are betrayed or exposed as part of the feuding, but this is fairly rare- it’s an exceptional retribution, and it brings in outside forces- the people of Lesarti prefer to keep the vendettas “in the families”.
The third tier consists of individuals involved in the inter-family fights. This includes the bravos and duelists who fight on the streets, the rogues who strike from dark alleys, the mages who detonate houses, and all others involved in the public side of the feuds, including snoops and spies. These people are always fair game, and work as groups. Young turks eager to prove themselves and those personally wronged in the course of a feud are often the people who make up this tier. They are generally known to be involved in the feuds by the people of Lesarti, except for the spies, who try to maintain a lower profile.
The last tier is the most intrigue-laden of all- it consists of the family members who focus nearly exclusively on the inter-family feuding intrigue. Not the public battles and duels, which can involve all tiers of the families, but the hidden ones. The individuals in this tier, of which there are few, decide if someone should be exposed in Karillia as a spy as vengeance, or if engaging a pirate lord to sink a rival family’s fleet will give vengeance without harming the family. These are the people (often called the Nascosto) who try to be completely invisible, and pass themselves off simply as members of the first tier. Anyone who is discovered to be a Nascosto is swiftly targeted for death, so deceit is a survival trait.
How someone becomes Nascosto is unknown to any outside of the group. Nascosto work through intermediaries, deception, and anonymity- a member of the second tier, a spy in Karillia, could be given a mission to poison someone in the city, not realizing it’s actually an order from a Nascosto to assassinate a rival family’s spy, or an assassin could be hired from out of town to kill a prominent politician of Lesarti, believing herself to be working for Werstan.
The cities themselves are ruled by a council consisting of the heads of the more important families and guilds. It is outward-facing, focused on expansion and defense, rather than the chaos within the city. There are laws and rules that have been followed for generations, and the law is enforced by the Neutrale, an actual guild of peace enforcerers and judges. These are often people who are sick of the feuding, or outsiders who have moved to Vancalla, or mercenaries hired to walk the beats. A good number of plebians also join the Neutrale, finding it to offer a position of power.
The Neutrale, despite its name, does have its more than fair share of corrupt officials, bribable judges, and members who joined under false pretenses. Ordinary citizens who join sometimes do so to wage their own wars against the noble families who are often uncaring of the lower classes. The stupid ones are killed- the smart ones work the laws to their advantage, scoring victories when they can. Because of the nature of the city, the Neutrale do not interfere with most feuds, generally. Plebian forces might be proactive should the feud begin harming bystanders, but more often they focus on the unaffiliated crimes and investigate scenes afterwards.
The basic laws of the cities are:
*Do not harm those who have caused you no harm (“harm” means any sort of physical harm- battery, rape, etc.)
*Do not steal
*Allow no harm to come to children (this rule was enacted after an Avenging Executioner started killing all the children of the noble families 80 years ago. She killed 23 before finally being caught and lynched by a mob)
*Do not damage public property (this includes arson)
*Duels must follow convention
*All persons entering the realm must register with border and city guards or show proof of residence
*All residents must pay taxes in a timely manner
Families engaged in a vendetta are commonly exempt from most of these laws for all intents and purposes. The only exceptions to this tradition are not harming children and the payment of taxes.
Duels are an accepted way of airing grievances and getting vengeance without escalating the situation into a feud. When a challenge is issued, if it is accepted, both sides have 3 days to resolve the duel. They are expected to have seconds- if one does not, he or she automatically forfeits the duel. There must also be a Neutrale or Neutrale-endorsed observer to confirm the legitimacy of the duel who will be paid (being a duel overseer is sort of like being a Notary Public- most anyone can be confirmed as one, and some people find it a brisk business). Any terms of the duel must be spelled out and agreed upon beforehand (first blood, to the death, choice of weapon, etc.). Once the duel has been decided, both parties (or their survivors) must retire from the field (to prevent further flare-ups). If the terms are violated, the Neutrale WILL intervene and all parties will be arrested (there’s usally a Neutrale group nearby to respond to any summons, and plebians often volunteer for this duty).
Herllen, the northern most City-State in the Vancallan Alliance, is ruled by Gnomes and hasn’t been involved in any wars for over 100 years. They have made a considerable sum of money by charging tolls to both the Al-Quazian and Vancallan merchants to pass through their territories, a much easier path than the harsh mountain paths that are the only other passage between the two kingdoms.
Snaarhelk, to the south, is a port city run by the Giff, a hippo like race brought here by the elven armada’s return. They maintain a large navy that protects the Vancallan trade routes from constant raiding from Pirate lords. Many of the City-states will tolerate, if not actually welcome, races of all kinds.
Gerllun is the smallest city-state, and also the only one that doesn’t border the sea. Most of the dwarven families of Vancalla live in the western mountains, and supply the rest of Vancalla as well as southern Al-Quaz with raw ore, smelted alloys and finished metals. The Dwarven Clans of Gerllun are extremely xenophobic, and the city itself is segregated. Outside of the Guild Headquarters in Karillia, The Dwarves of Gerllun are almost never seen in public. In fact they have created and bred a sub race of half dwarves that are their public face, who conduct most of their business deals as proctors.
Werstan is a hilly lush valley where the temperatures usually stay within a 20-degree range all year round. The land surrounding the city is covered in vineyards, and the finest wines in the world are produced here. Even the Jarls of northern Vanir covet these wines, mostly to emulate the Nobles of Talbral, who pay exorbitant prices for vintage bottles of the finest Werstan wines.
Karillia is the most prosperous and largest of the city-states, and all of the other provinces of Vancalla maintain an embassy there. Located near the center of the Peninsula, it is a center of trade and almost anything can be gotten there. There is a Church of the Three in Karillia and the Dark Master’s Priests have quickly risen in power amongst the noble families there. Most of the elves that returned to this world after the cleansing reside in Karillia, and most of the returning elven families vehemently oppose any expansion of the Church within the city.
Lesarti is a smaller, recently established city–state on the southern coast of Vancalla. They trade in divine items from Talbral as well as high end luxury items from all over the world. Their port is the shortest route from Barcion in Loxophil.
Ballastrio is between Lesarti and snaarhelk, and their main export is ships built from wood harvested in loxosphil. There is some current bad blood between Lasarti and Ballastrio, but it has not bloomed into outright war as of yet.
Farraguchi is one of the newer city states, like Lesarti and Ballastrio. They are mainly Fishermen and pirates.