Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thursday Sneak? Meirenia

Very busy today, so here is the Meirenia excerpt from the Atlas:

The Republic of Meirenia
The great Republic was founded on the glory of Mercantis, the legendary sister-city of Miles. It was one of the few cities of the Sword Age to be remembered today alongside such worthies as ancient Byblos, Vaer, and Chimeros. Just as Mercantis was reduced to a dependent of Miles, the Thyrnessan king-cum-emperor has subjugated Meirenia and its strange custom of electors and seats.

Meirenia is a large region of grasslands and herd pasturage that were once the outlands of the great city of Mercantis. Since the Fifth Age the city has lain on the bottom of a shallow harbor which has served as the outlet for the city of Dolnon. For many centuries, Dolnon was but a minor port, serving the great inland capitol of Staralus, which ruled from the Black River to the Choros. This city was ruled by a series of great and powerful Tyrants for much of its history, many of whom styled themselves in the same manner as the Gigantine Tyrants of the Rootwood and all of whom played the two great nearby powers (Rootwood and Highstone) off of one another throughout their history.

Staralus and the old Staralian League fell into decline during the Seventh Age when the Khewed armies conquered first Highstone, then the Coast of Scythes, and finally the grasslands themselves. For several generations, Khewedi settlers came and ruled over the southern shores of the Inner Sea. It was during this time that Dolnon began to grow, its merchants forming a rudimentary council that would become the basis of the august system of the Thrones.

The Khewedi invaders could not indefinitely control the region they had conquered, and soon enough the high water mark began to fall back. The grasslands were divided into a pastiche of states, the ultimate victor in the mid-Ninth age being Dolnon herself. By that time the merchant council was a fully developed government, capable of administrating a large mercantile empire that was growing to rival the trade dominance of Ninfa and old Chimeros.

Meirenia remained a free republic well into the Tenth Age, and it was only in the beginning of the 6th Century during the War of the Hammer with the fall of the Byrnish compact, that she lost her freedom. The Hall of Thrones was burned by the invading armies, Jacques Sarjent of the Sword Militant personally sacking the city. Now, several years after the imperial conquest, Meirenia has returned to its republican roots—as a vassal state of Miles.

The government of Meirenia is conducted by the large merchant-houses that control its major ports and command the trade routes that criss-cross the Trade Sea. These houses are in constant competition, but even so it is in their interests to act against outside forces (Chimeros, the trade guilds of Ninfah, and others). Mercantile guilds and compacts had been outlawed in Meirenia until the loss of the War of the Hammer. While most are still prevented from establishing premises within the Republic and new compacts prohibited from forming, part of the imperial concessions states that any trading guild with its charter incorporated under Milean territory may freely build within the Grass Sea.

There are six great merchant houses entitled to sit on the Throne Council, and fifty four lesser houses that fill out that number to an even sixty. Known as the Sixty Thrones, this serves as the governing body of the entire Republic. All laws must be passed through the Sixty Thrones, voted by a two-thirds majority. All appointments (some of which are very lucrative) must be suggested and then ratified by the same two-thirds majority of the Thrones, and when war comes calling it is expected that Throne-holders will go and lead the Republic’s forces.

It’s worth noting that the major merchant houses (the Six) each have a vote that is worth five of the lesser houses’ votes in the council. This gives them power, but far from absolute power, and they must cultivate alliances amongst their smaller brethren. While the Thrones are heritable, they are also saleable. In the last century alone seven of the most minor houses have sold off their seats to new mercantile ventures. However, the only time one of the major houses lost their Throne was during the fabled Night of Knives when the Osveco family was wiped out by the (then) other six houses.
The military leader of the republic is a prince elected by the Sixty who has absolute authority of the armies and navies, private and public, of the entire Republic. The Prince is forbidden to hold lands and, upon election, must divest himself of all his ties to any of the other houses. The last Prince to refuse to do this was indeed the very Armandoran Osveco, the so-called Vampire-Prince, who brought ruin upon his whole house.

Much like the elven states, the Republic maintains a citizen-army. The Prince of Dolnon has complete and absolute control over these forces, but they may only be summoned by agreement of the Sixty. Each family who has a Throne must contribute a number of citizen-soldiers to the forces of the Republic equivalent to the value of the Throne he holds (lesser Thrones contribute 100 men, greater Thrones 500). If a Throne-holder cannot contribute the appropriate number of men, the contribution may be commuted to a monetary one; if the Throne-holder cannot pay the monetary contribute, the Prince is entitled to confiscate all their properties and liquidate them.

It’s been very common for families to pay their worth rather than contribute men, and the Prince of Dolnon is often found leading a large number of mercenaries beneath his flag (which is always black with three green thrones upon it). The Sixty also collectively (through their tax-incomes to the state) pay for the upkeep of two hundred knights known as the Throne Knights, an office considered one of the highest in the Republic, which can supplement the Republican armies.

The Meirenian Mindset
Meirenians are notably profit-oriented. They are a people divided: the urban populations are focused on mercantilism, while those shepherds and pastoralists in the Sea of Grass are laconic and considered to be lazy and sneaky by the industrious urban workers. Factories have recently sprung up in the great Meirenian cities, built on old Second Empire models: pottery, weaving, and parchment making have all, in the past half-century, been fine tuned to produce a constant output of good Meirenian parchment, amphorae, and tapestries.

All Meirenians feel themselves superior to the decadent imperials, soft Ninfites, and backwards Khewedi, however. They tend to have a great disdain for elves, particularly because of the long political troubles they’ve had with elvish Highstone. Dwarves and rock gnomes, however, value their industrious attitude and can be found in profusion in Meirenia. A great number of halflings have also migrated into the Republic to work as shepherds alongside forest gnomish kindred out in the Grass Sea.

The House of Osorio
Valanqas Osorio, the so-called Lord of the Docks, rules this ancient and noble house. They suffered the most during the War of the Hammer, and their voting block has deserted this once powerful trading house. Nevertheless, the Osorio still own a number of important trading points, hold the tolls for nearly half the docks in Dolnon, and have many well-placed nieces and nephews amongst the port authorities throughout Meirenia. The Osorio fly a black flag with three purple wine amphorae upon it.

The House of Urraca
The Urracans are known not only as merchants, but powerful magicians as well. Their scions have been fostered in Dorlan for the past three generations, and they fought valiantly when the Sword Militant began the imperial invasion. Though many Urracan holdings were pillaged or razed, their primary strongholds all escaped ravagement, perhaps because the imperial armies sought easier targets than mage-haunted fortalices. Torvais Urracas is a secretive wizard who rarely even attends the Council of Sixty. The Urracans fly a blue flag with a pair of crossed staves in gold upon it.

The House of Velan
The Velandres are merchant-masters of wool and woven cloth. They import a huge amount of Shalm from Ishtria and Ninfah and sell it to the imperial coasts on the far side of the Inner Sea. They also own several major Dolnon tapestry workshops throughout the city which produce the finest tapestries in Arunia under master artisans and which can sell for tens of thousands of gold pillars in the empire and beyond. Telandrol Velan is the half-elven master of this house, and he flies a gold flag with two red distaffs upon it.

The House of Lecinus
The Lecinus are a family of money-changers and currency prospectors. Their fortunes are always variable, but they have made a killing off the war, particularly in the acquisition and sales of weapons. The Lecinus patriarch is named Corvass, and his aged wisdom is often sneered at by lesser houses, but not when he is within eyesight. The Lecinus fly a golden flag with two black unicorns upon it.

The House of Donnas
The Donnasre are wine and oil traders, primarily making their money from the movement of Meirenian and imperial goods to the lands abroad. Their ships can be found up and down the Cloudsea Coast, even as far as the Skinchanger Kingdoms. Donnasre alone, out of all the families, also sail south to Zesh and the distant realms of the blazing south. Fethan Donnas is a huge man who was once an adventurer himself, in his youth. The Donnas fly a red flag with two gold falchions crossed upon it.

The House of Ideral
The Ideral are the weakest of the Great Houses. While Sofandra Ideral trades in spices from the Moon Kingdoms and Ralashar, half her fleet was sunk in the war and a third of the rest were conscripted by the emperor to convey his troops back to the capitol. Her affairs are in ruins, and rumors say that soon House Ideral will collapse, leaving one of the coveted Six Thrones open for the taking.

Locations of Interest

The city of Dolnon is built around an ancient shallow harbor in who’s sandy bottom the bones of Mercantis are still visible. Not as wealthy or populous as any of the great imperial ports, Dolnon nevertheless is visited by a wide variety of people from across the face of Arunia. It’s docks are home to one of the great merchant fleets of the north and the men of the Great Houses ply the waters from the Skinchanger Kingdoms all the way to Mugharia and Zesh.

The city itself is built mostly of alabaster and clay, common building materials in Dolnon, though the portions which lie close to the wharves are all in the more modern wattle-and-daub timber-framed stone style and the dwellings of the Great Houses are made of stone. The ruined Hall of Thrones, located in the heart of the city, is now nothing more than a smouldering heap, having been destroyed by a fire that raged out of control during the sack. The Sixty Thrones now meet in the open air, before the great sea-market.

Several major churches have temples in the city as well: Vodei, Vaela, and Fortuna, the three merchant-gods, are worshipped prominently in most public spaces and each faith has a rather large temple located not far from the Hall of Thrones.

The Great Grass Sea
Meirenia is dominated by a vast grassland plain known as the Great Grass Sea. It seems endless when one is upon it, and the many rivers that flow northwards out of the Emberlands are thick with silt. The soil is deeply fertile, though pock-marked with the memories of ancient glaciers where huge boulders peer out from the black earth as though they are giants poking up their heads.

In the Dawn Age this was a battlefield between the Rhûnnic giants, the Rootwood giants, and the dragons of Syndis. Here and there, the remnants of their respective rules over the Great Grass Sea can be found. Most of them are harmless, long since looted, and serve as little more than old walls for shepherds to lean upon sleepily while their sheep wander and graze. Some, however, the rare few, have never been plumbed. These depths are both horrifying and inviting to adventurers, often swallowing them up never to disgorge them. 

The Meirenians, having lived for so many generations upon the Great Grass Sea, have developed a number of strange customs not practiced elsewhere in the Inner Sea region. These include:

  • Most Meirenians wear shawls or cloths upon their brows, like Ishtrians or Ralashites regardless of sex
  • Meirenians do not clasp forearms in greeting as most other civilized men, but rather bow one to the other.
  • The Meirenian weapon of choice is the heavy falchion or curved scimitar, not the arming blade.
  • Meirenians believe that the left hand is for peace and the right for war; consequently they never pray with their right hands, nor do they use the left to hold knives or cut meat.

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