The River Kingdoms
The vast Sellen River System is a low road through rugged forest country claimed by bandits, outlaws and thieves. These so-called River Kingdoms swear fealty to no one but themselves, extending their power only so far as their mercenary armies or bands of roving bully-boys can defend. Few accurate maps of the region exist because its borders change so frequently. The fluid nature of the River Kingdoms and the individualistic, at times xenophobic nature of its untrusting people make the region an ideal destination for those seeking anonymity or escape, drawing criminals, freed slaves, political radicals, and exiled prices from throughout Avistan.
The Stolen Lands are a swath of wilderness into which agents from Brevoy, to the north, have sent several groups of settlers. To its southwest lies Pitax, an aspiring centre of trade and culture notorious as a den of thieves and smugglers; and to the south is Mivon, founded by Aldori exiles from Rostland after the chaos of Choral the Conqueror’s invasion. East of Mivon is the domain of Richter der Blutige, father of the adventurer Naias Dreizehn von Richter.
Though the River Kingdoms are politically fractured, they maintain a semblance of unity in two ways. One is the annual Outlaw Council in Daggermark, to which rulers from all kingdoms are invited to negotiate treaties, borders, personal conflicts etc. The other is the six River Freedoms, a common ideology which the people of the River Kingdoms assert vigorously, often to the detriment of their rulers. In order from least to most important, these are:
- Say what you will, I live free!—freedom of speech, which is not the same as freedom from the consequences of speech.
- Oathbreakers die—the flip side of free speech, which ironically makes it hard to get a Riverfolk trader to commit fully to anything.
- Walk any road, float any river—freedom of movement, including freedom from blockades and tolls. It does not imply safety while travelling. Thanks especially to this freedom and the Sixth, conventional feudalism is unworkable, since an overbearing ruler will soon find his people deserting him for his neighbours or forcibly driving off bailiffs.
- Courts are for kings—a ruler’s word is law, whether you’re a visiting king or a local peasant. River Kingdoms rulers rarely visit each other in person for this reason, except at the Outlaw Council, the venue of which is considered neutral territory.
- Slavery is an abomination—nothing is so secure in the River Kingdoms as freedom for escaped slaves. Some estimates say that one third of the Riverfolk alive today are escaped slaves or descendants of slaves. Note that indentured servitude is not always considered slavery, so the Second River Freedom can be a way around the Fifth.
- You have what you hold—that is, what you can keep hold of is yours to keep. Armed robbery is almost praiseworthy in the River Kingdoms, a major contributor to the region’s bandit problems, but burglary—denying the victim a chance to resist—is viewed as cowardly.
Pitax (pronounced pih-TAHKS)1 is the domain of Castruccio Irovetti, a petty tyrant who fancies himself a god. It seems the River Kingdoms attract these sorts of deluded megalomaniacs, with the kingdom of Razmiran ruled over by the similarly deluded Razmir. Pitax is a city filled with trashy art and bad sculpture, created by the masses of enslaved artists and poets that Irovetti maintains to massage his ego. The town itself suffers under Irovetti’s rule, as his arrogant rule has turned the nearby countries of Numeria and Brevoy against him, and alienated Pitax from potential sources of trade.
It was to Mivon (pronounced mih-VON)1 that many of the Aldori swordlords fled after Choral the Conquerer overthrew the nation of Rostland to create modern day Brevoy. Many swordlords settled in Mivon bringing with them the experience and knowledge of the ancient art of the swordlords. Warriors from as far as way Garund make pilgrimages to Mivon to learn the secrets of the swordlords, in order to do this the applicant must best a series of increasingly tough duels. The city also has a large fishing industry that specialises in catching eels in the pools surrounding the city. It is said that due to the violent nature of the city many of the eels have tasted human flesh and the phrase “a walk to the fishponds” has a very sinister meaning as the person normally does not return.
The largest city in all of the River Kingdoms, Daggermark has maintained enough stability to control an abundant supply of food, a rarity in this unstable region of Avistan. Daggermark is so stable that it even has a thriving industry and is wealthy enough to mint its own coin. The main reason for this stability are the two guilds for which the city is so famous: the Daggermark Assassins’ Guild and the Daggermark Poisoners’ Guild. These two organizations often work hand in hand, as the assassins favor the use of poisons, believing that only amateurs leave behind an obvious cause of death. Few bandit lords would be stupid enough to attack Daggermark for fear of being found poisoned, strangled or some other seemingly accidental death. Even if someone were foolish enough to risk the wrath of the its assassins, Daggermark is still far from undefended. It has the largest army in all the River Kingdoms and the city itself boasts both and inner and outer wall. The most powerful and prestigious members of Daggermark society live within the inner wall (called Dagger Keep by the locals), including the ruler, Martro Livondar. Rule of the city is more complicated than it appears. while Marto Livondar in theory controls the city he would not be able to do so without the dwarven warrior Jallor Clovesh who controls the army. In addition, if Livondar were ever to loose the favor of Lady Smilos, the head of the assassins’ guild, or Tragshi, head of the poisoners’ guild, it is unlikely he would survive more than a week.