Blood of the Faithful
Nations of the Shallowlands
One of the oldest nations in the Shallowlands, Silestria struggled for much of its history from, frigid climate, lack of arable land and resources, and the impassable icepack in the Sea of Floes that surrounds and strangles the northern Shallowlands throughout much of the year. When a great forest of the extremely rare Iron-oak trees was discovered in southern Silestria a hundred years ago, the Silestrian king saw great potential for prosperity if a way could be developed to harvest the extremely tough timber. The king named the prominent engineer Cayd Dyerevan to head a research program composed of scholars, engineers, and magisters for that purpose. After two decades of hard research, the group perfected a secret means of felling and processing the timber. This easily established Cayd as a national hero and brought great notoriety to Silestria and its unique resource.
Prosperity followed as the Iron-oak timber and innovative engineering were used to create icebreaker ships to free the northern and eastern Shallowlands from the strangling grip of the icepack just enough for trade ships to journey around much of the continent throughout the year. Silestrian engineers and shipwrights seized on the opportunity, and an entire fleet of icebreakers was built and their services provided to neighboring nations such as Costenze and The Principalities for a hefty fee. The precious Iron-oak timber that made Silestria an influential continental power was traded in very small, controlled quantities to other nations for incredible sums of money.
Cayd used his breakthrough to catapult himself to national prominence as an engineer and adviser with great political influence. Within five years of his discovery, Cayd was appointed the position of Elder Advisor to the king, and set about consolidating power and allies. A bare two years after that, the Silestrian king died under suspicious circumstances and left no heir. Cayd’s popularity and influence allowed him to usurp the throne from the royal lineage, and he established himself as the founder of a dynasty. He curried the support of the army and quickly did away with the trappings of the monarchy and swept away the many court nobles incensed at his bold move. After a few years of consolidating support and eliminating enemies, Cayd established an absolutist government of his own design. His plan was to use Silestria’s best minds to concentrate on technological progress and economic prosperity, along with strong defense and government control to protect the nation’s vital resources and knowledge.
Cayd established an advisory council called the Quadrus, which was comprised of four seats – one each for a prominent scholar, merchant, soldier and engineer of his choice. Cayd declared himself Prime Technocrat, a title meant to inspire wonder at the country’s focus on knowledge. The Prime Technocrat serves for life as enlightened autocrat and rules virtually every aspect of the nation. Though founded out of a desire for personal power and glory, Cayd’s dynasty and experimental government has thrived and transformed Silestria from a poor and inconsequential backwater country into a technological innovator and economic powerhouse.
Today, Silestria stands proudly as a marvel of science, alchemy, and engineering, but also as a mysterious monolith – a closed and militaristic society ruled by Cayd’s grandson Nikolan. Development of innovations such as steam power and gas lighting has set Silestria apart from all other nations, and its College of Practical Mechanicka is the most prominent school in the world for engineering and alchemy. However, this knowledge is heavily guarded to protect Silestria’s advantages in trade and war. One can be assured that any service provided using Silestrian technology, such as icebreaking, is as much for Silestria’s strategic advantage as any kind of profit.
Trade, industry, and farming are strictly controlled by the government, primarily to ensure technological secrets are protected and that Iron-oak timber is only released in small quantities at great profit. Society itself is largely repressed and xenophobic, as a secret police known as “The Hidden” roam the streets to assure order and the integrity of Silestrian secrets and society. Foreign spies are hunted down ruthlessly and any foreigner is looked at with great distrust by virtually everyone. Despite this, Silestrian traders have earned a high level of renown and respect, due to their intrepid nature in running trade caravans regularly into the Snow Barrens to exchange goods with the barbarian tribes that dwell there. Despite this open trade system, the borders of Silestria remain closed to almost everyone except trusted merchants, and even then they may enter only specific areas. Fortresses were built along the borders to protect the capital and the Great Iron-oak Forest in the south of the nation. Military patrols constantly watch over the borders, cities and the Iron-oak forest itself. The only things that have tempered Silestria’s ambitions at dominance in the Shallowlands are reliance on food imports, low population, and vile pollutants that choke the countryside and cities. Anyone traveling to Silestria is strongly advised to seek another destination.
State Religion: None
Currency: Lierens (slang: Oaks, named for the Iron Oak tree on the obverse)
Population: Unknown, possibly 200,000
Tyren broke away from the failing Hanzic Kingdom shortly after the secession of Costenze. It has struggled more than any other nation in the Shallowlands since its founding. The largest town and capital, Tiral, is nestled among the stony, treeless hills of the area. While easily defendable, Tiral grew slowly because of poor farmland and aggressive goblin tribes that had invaded and inhabited the areas left vacant by the weakening presence of the Hanzic nation. The Tyrenese painstakingly expanded their borders by bringing in new lands for quarrying and herding, which were the only profitable industries in the rugged landscape. Tyren was also landlocked, and had to send its resources overland to Costenze to be traded to the major markets. Costenze levied high taxes on Tyren’s products before they were shipped on other ports, leaving Tyren very poor despite its people’s famed industriousness.
Within a few decades, the conflict with the goblin tribes expanded, and the capital was razed to the ground during a vicious night raid by the River Jackal goblin tribe. The dauntless, hardy residents of Tiral set about rebuilding the capital on the same locale with imposing defenses, and swore revenge on all Demigals. While Tiral slowly rebuilt, many men took to the hills in groups known as Jagreini (hunters) and fought any Demigal tribes they found. After years of tenacious fighting, the Jagreini pushed all the Demigal tribes out of Tyren. Such was their hatred that they continued driving the retreating tribes even through foreign lands that they didn’t have authorization to pass through. Once peace had been established, their years of experience in the art of guerilla warfare and lack of profitable industry led them instead into an industry more lucrative than any they’d yet known- mercenary work.
Now, almost two hundred years later, Tyren still stands strong and proud. Although traditional Tyrenese industry and farming remain marginally profitable, a large portion of Tyrenese males serve as mercenaries or adventurers who make their money with a strong sword arm. Tyrenese mercenaries work for almost anyone on any job, provided it pays enough. They have a reputation for being tough, reliable, skilled, and quite expensive. Most mercenary groups number from 10-50 men and serve minor nobles or towns, while some larger units number in the hundreds and serve governments. Each group numbering more than 20 mercenaries is required to register with the state and pay a yearly tax based on the number of its members. Profit has also been found by providing facilities and high contracts for master armor and weaponsmiths, then selling their high-quality equipment to other nations at an increased price. Tyren has gained reputation as a place of equality, as women do many of the jobs men would be expected to do since much of the nation’s males serve as mercenaries in other lands. Female miners, farmers, brewers, drovers, and smiths are quite common, and paid equal to their male counterparts. However, despite this progressive attitude, women are currently forbidden from serving as mercenaries and thus no women may vote or become Chancellor.
Tyrenese government is unique. Every ten years, any mercenary or soldier who thinks he is ready can establish himself as a candidate for the position of Chancellor, who is the nation’s leader. The candidates will spend their own money to travel the nation and give speeches, bribe individuals, and bury the cities in flyers emblazoned with their names and virtues. It is not uncommon for hundreds, even thousands of gold to be spent in these campaigns, however the winning candidate will make that money back quickly with concessions and personal income. On the spring equinox of the tenth year, a selected representative from each registered mercenary group will go to the Hall of Rule, where the candidates are voted down to a pool of five nominees. Then after extensive negotiations and “horse trading”, a vote is held and one nominee is chosen to serve as Chancellor for the next ten years. It is not uncommon for popular Chancellors to be reelected for life.
The Chancellors dictate virtually every aspect of the Tyrenese nation. They commonly name advisors, but always make the ultimate decisions on war, economics, diplomacy and domestic affairs. The Chancellor is often approached for concessions and is paid a handsome amount for his attention to issues. The current Chancellor is Willeks Gaddren, an old soldier who, despite being past his prime, has a fiery reputation, a keen mind for diplomacy, and a strong sense of Tyrenese virtue. He has established his small country into a power to be reckoned with by expanding the army, building alliances with Costenze, and ordering the construction of vast, imposing fortifications to ensure Tyrenese independence in the face of increasingly aggressive neighbors.
The Tyrenese are a very pragmatic and simple people. As expected, soldiers are the most powerful and influential members of society, and much of the government’s efforts are to ensure they are taken care of. The vast taxes brought in from the mercenary groups are used to improve the nation’s infrastructure, purchase food and imports from Costenze and Anthenium, and stockpile important resources. Currently, Tyren struggles from a stagnant population (due to many of its males being away from home most of the time) and no more room to expand its borders. Although the spirit of the Jagreini is still thriving, major changes will have to be made to make Tyren capable of surviving and becoming a great power before it is too late.
State Religion: Calithianism
Population: Assessed at 60,000 and 10,000 mercenaries abroad.
Costenze is known as “The Jewel of the Ice” for good reason. Its beautiful gold, white and blue spires reach high into the sky and glitter in the sunlight for all to see, and the capital city is a welcome sight to the trade ships sailing through the narrow straits cut into the sea ice off the coast. Costenze has built itself as the trade and cultural capital of the Shallowlands and has had much success in this. Goods come from all over the Shallowlands by road, river and sea into its massive seaport before being sent off to ports around the world. In turn, luxuries from all over the known world such as spices, tobacco, special foods, silks, tea, and jewelry make their way to Costenze to be distributed to the markets throughout the Shallowlands. Due to this status as the lynchpin of prosperity on the peninsula, Costenze has become extremely wealthy, populous, and influential, and draws immigrants of all races and nationalities to live in its splendour.
Costenze was part of the old Hanzic Kingdom up until 187 ears ago. The kingdom had slowly descended into chaos from decades of corruption, weak rulers, and internal strife. The governor of the province of Costenze, Goltran Langer, assembled a senate and a trained militia in secret. He awaited the right moment and declared Costenze’s independence as a republic, with himself as Consul of the Senate, and the militia as the Army of the Costenzen Republic. Costenze’s neighbor Tyren declared its independence just two months later, and the two nations aided each other in asserting their sovereignty.
Costenze’s only profitable native industry is marble quarrying. The land is cold due to the frigid sea currents right off the coast, and unsuitable for most crops. However, its location as the easternmost port made it the logical choice for trade routes, and 75% of all trade from the Shallowlands came through Costenze. This has begun to change somewhat, however, as Silistre and the Holy Kingdom of Anthenium both aimed to challenge Costenze’s dominance in trade, building their own deep port facilities and rerouting merchants through these ports. This policy caused high tensions, but only a very minor impact on the trade monopoly enjoyed by Costenze. The sheer volume of trade ensures that even reasonable taxes on goods traveling through Costenzen ports creates massive amounts of income for the nation’s coffers. As such, Costenze rarely finds itself short of funds for any project, and its schools, structures and military are among the finest in the world. However, Costenze often finds itself at the mercy of Silistre due to that nation’s monopoly on icebreakers to clear the sea routes off the east coast, and pays hefty sums to ensure these routes are kept open. Once again, these policies have ensured high tensions between the two neighbors. Costenze has also come under great scrutiny from foreign merchants and heads of state due to what are believed to be unfair trade practices, including monopolizing goods, inflating prices and levying high taxes on certain goods passing through its ports. However, Costenze’s grasp on Shallowlands trade is so tight that no real progress has been made to try to hold Costenze accountable or move trade through alternate ports. It is still estimated that at least half of all trade in the Shallowlands still arrives or departs in Costenze.
The Costenzen military is a small but highly trained force, equipped with some of the best arms and armor that money can buy, largely from Tyren. Its navy is large, numbering upwards of 40 ships, which are armed with the best weapons technologies available, including rudimentary cannons (though nothing as advanced as what Silistre has). Costenze maintains a vigilant watch on its border with Silistre, but the nation enjoys warms ties and a defensive alliance with Tyren. Although Costenze and Tyren used to be enemies over unfair trade taxes, Costenze learned that Tyrenese mercenaries are a valuable commodity, and have thus hired large numbers of these mercenaries to supplement its own army. A sizeable annual tribute is also paid by Costenze to Tyren for development and to ensure its favored status as a trade and military partner of good will. Due to the high number of hired mercenaries and the vast cultural mix of Costenzens, the military has issues with cohesiveness and command structure. Since no major wars have been fought, however, it is unknown if they would effectively unite in the event of a conflict.
Costenze’s capital is also named Costenze. The capital city is nothing short of a work of art, with beautiful white-washed buildings, red, blue yellow, and green ceramic tile roofs, and numerous spires that climb high into the sky like majestic varicolored trees. Costenze has earned its title as the cultural capital of the Shallowlands due to its numerous universities of learning and magic, musical conservatories, temples. theatres, and libraries. The population exceeds 200,000 souls and the standard of living is high. Like all major cities, Costenze has its slums, but much money has been spent on beautifying these so that even the poorer parts of the city remain breathtaking compared to other cities. A massive public works project to build a lighthouse off the coast is currently underway, and the finished structure is set to be a magnificent Wonder of the World. It will stand over 400 feet tall when finished, with a brilliant lighted beacon atop shining miles out to see. It will have a brilliant white limestone facade, with a gold-flecked light blue stripe winding its way up the entire height. The lighthouse is currently only a third of the way done, only standing 150 feet from the ground, and it will take at least another six years to finish, but it will be a prestigious accomplishment for the nation that already leads the world in so many areas.
State Religion: None, mostly Calithianism
Population: Assessed at 300,000
Kingdom of Theren Khars
The once-vibrant Dwarven Kingdom of Theren Khars has fallen on troubling times since the rise of the Holy Kingdom of Riveste.