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zachol
29th of May, 2008, 12:05
[Draft - Updated. Needs some poking.]

Callevus
~ or ~
The Democratic Callevan League of Citizens

Population: 179 citizens; a further 350 or so of family, renters and servants of the citizens on the structure itself.
Population around the ring (the shore of Lake Callevus) is roughly 8,000, divided across the three counties and the Var's Landing.

Trade
Exports: lumber, ships, various raw and finished metals, rough and finished gems, stuff that's been imported
Imports: food of all sorts, exotic goods, stuff to export


Appearance and Description
Lake Callevus is large but shallow lake. A bit north of the center are moored a collection of houseboats, on which several very rich people live. At the north is a settlement, with an extensive set of docks. Sometimes this is called "Callevus," though the locals call it the Var's Landing. At the western outlet and the southern and eastern river mouths are three somewhat larger settlements, each the seat of a county.
Callevus does intense trade, especially between merchants. Merchants stop at Callevus rather than going all the way to Iscatha. They meet there to agree on a deal. They go there to sell stuff at good, solid prices, with no need to ferret around for someone with money. Anybody who actually lives in Callevus is rich, with a lot of time, and a lot of patience. They'll buy whatever you're selling and sell whatever you're looking for. No hassle, no funny business, just good deals.


History
The history of Callevus is well known and oft repeated, and provides some bit of insight into why things are done the way they are. The story goes that Callevus was settled by three families, fresh off the boats from across the Sea of Lost Souls. They came inland, passing the Iscathan fork (which had already been claimed), searching for a particularly fine spot. The heads of the families styled themselves as counts: van der Haalse, de Meersen, and av Rantanen. It is not known if they took these names (or their titles as Counts) later on, or if they brought them from "the old country." Certainly, nobody knows what they mean now. Ignoring Jomren's call to found a single city, each family claimed one of the three points where a river meets the lake: de Meersen the western outlet, van der Haalse the southern mouth, and av Rantanen the eastern mouth. It's generally said that they were settled in that order, as each family arrived and worked their way across the southern coast.
What actually happened was that those on the ship The Callev landed on the northern shore, and founded a city, Callevus. For a while it prospered, the area rich in iron ore and lumber. And then King Jomren died, and everything went to hell. At the end of it, Callevus was crippled, in flames, and under the rulership of some extremely evil sorts of people. Callevus had survived only by sabotaging others, pitting Iscatha against a now forgotten city (one of the three that didn't survive the war), and Meirdos against Tyrenos, and engaging in the worst sort of warfare when they couldn't manage misdirection. When the war had finished, those in control had nothing but their cunning and hatred, with no outside targets and no real resources for conquest. And so, Callevus fell to bickering, in-fighting and self-sabotage. The three main powers fled to the three points around the lake, with many others scattering into the forest, families constantly dividing themselves, splitting off and founding new little baronies or duchies or whatever they thought sounded nice. Some stayed in the burnt-out shell of Callevus, and the three newly minted counts paid lip service to the town, especially in relation to the other cities, but for the most part the city had failed. The three families began to circulate the story that they'd always held these three points as "Callevus," the other cities too worn out to care.

The remnants of Callevus began to decay (the story as told glosses over the war; supposedly each of the Counts defended their own territory or something). The outermost remnants started to fold into the cities of Iscatha and Meirdos, who both had the strength and drive to acquire territory. The three Counts ignored this, concerned only with their own holdings, and their own little game.
One day, a man named Bhar arrived at the remains of Callevus proper, on the northern point of the lake. He had money, and a retinue, but claimed no title, and gave no answers about his home. He procured the materials for a boat, and over several months built a large, flat-bottomed sort of thing. He loaded his gold and family onto it, floated it out to the middle of the lake, and set anchor. And then just sat there. After a week, a passing Iscathan trader met with him. Over the next few weeks, other traders did as well. A man, whose name has been lost to time, built a similar ship, rowing it out to meet the Bhar. After a short discussion, the two lashed their ships together, and the man began to bring supplies back and forth from his own land. More traders stopped at the Bhar's ship, spending less and less time at the docks of the three Counts, and more men came, bringing more ships to lash on to the Bhar's.
The Counts had watched all this with some interest, but now realized they were losing trade to the Bhar. After a bit of espionage, they found out that it was with some of the most lucrative sorts of materials--the Bhar was charging incredibly lax prices for things like exotic spices, dies, and pelts, making it an extremely attractive proposition for the kind of trade that merchants engaged in among themselves. Mundane and bulky items were turned away, but the smaller kinds, those most efficient to the pound and with the highest margins, were trading like fire. Best of all, the Bhar's ship was incredibly convenient. There was no docking, no need to meet with an inspector and give your manifest and arrange for further trade within the Count's territory. Instead, you just floated up to Bhar, had a short discussion, a quick trade, and went on to where you were actually headed. Those trading lumber or other bulky items would still have to stop at the Counts' docks, but Iscatha was already outstripping the Callevans at this.
Count de Meersen was the first of the Counts to formally meet with the Bhar. He built his own ship, lashing it on to the slowly growing conglomerate. Counts van der Haalse and av Rantanen quickly followed, loading their ships with the most space efficient choices of their specialties, joining in with the trade, a mere five years after the Bhar had first pushed off.

After a further ten years, the majority of the significant powers had joined the Bhar's little experiment, and Callevus (as everyone was calling it) had its first real test. A minor baron from the far southeast was being pressured by Meirdos to fold his land into their city. He valued his relative independence as part of Callevus, his ability to bring his gems into the city to be traded out into Valeria without paying exorbitant taxes or fees. He was quite far afield, the farthest out, though on the eastern river feeding into the lake. He brought up his plight during one of the regular meetings, and begged (with the usual false Callevan detachment and indifference) for aid, and was met with disbelief and raised eyebrows. At this point, the Bhar grinned to himself (though everyone now knows he did), and stepped forward to address the group. "My fellows," he said, "one of our own has come to us for aid against an outside threat. Should we grant it, from us all, as to and from any other one of us?"
He was met with silence. Then, another baron, this one far to the west, who had been eyeing the growing Iscathan encroachment, stepped forward, and declared, "Aye, we shall." There was silence, again, and another minor baron stepped forward, and another, and another, until at least half of the group had pledged their aid. The three Counts looked at each other with disbelief, and then at the Bhar, now grinning at them. They sighed, for they knew the jig was up. Count av Rantanen was the first to step forward, for that first minor baron was closest to him, and declared "Aye, we shall." Then, de Meersen stepped forward, having given thought to Iscatha already. "Aye, we shall." And then, all eyes were on van der Haalse. He snorted, then stepped forward, grudgingly declaring that "Aye, we shall."
Meirdos was rebuffed, and within the year dozens of landholders were swarming to join the new, reborn Callevus, and its promise of free trade and mutual protection.

In reality, this happened a fair bit after the first Bhar died, and was not all sprinkles and sunshine, but that's how the story goes at least.


Power and Government

Power in Callevus is bizarre. The important people are "citizens." A citizen is anyone who can build a large and permanent houseboat, chisel out four very long and thick pillars of granite, row everything out to the middle of the lake next to the other houseboats, sink the pillars into the lakebed, and moor the boat onto them and the rest of the city. Anyone who can do this is now a citizen. Period.
The point is, this is a very difficult process. Anyone able to do this almost certainly has something to offer; only a few people have spent everything they had on becoming a citizen and left themselves destitute, and even then their sort of cunning and drive has proven valuable enough.
Citizens also have spouses, retainers and servants, and in some cases a citizen will rent their boat to someone to live there. And, there are a few homeless people, who slink and swim about near the middle, and fix minor damage to the city, scrape off barnacles, and do other sorts of rather unenviable work. Citizens call them "janitors," if they pay them any attention at all. None of these people are "citizens." At most, they're "residents."

Every citizen gets one vote. Any citizen can raise any sort of issue or proposal for vote in an assembly, and the rest can vote on it. There are no formal limits to what a citizen can propose, though in practice anything not about trade or the particulars of the city or of Var's Landing are given an overwhelming vote of "nay." Votes about how citizens manage their own property away from Callevus are especially frowned upon.
However, for all proposals that are passed, every citizen is expected to throw their weight into it. If Callevus decides its going to war, all of its citizens are going to war. If someone shirks this, well... there's nothing that says they can't, but then there's nothing that says the rest of Callevus can't pass a motion to have that citizen executed. The one limit is that a citizen cannot be outright stripped of his title or property. There's an obvious workaround, though: you can't really own those things if you're dead.
Although this might seem like a stunning example of democracy and equality, it really isn't. Citizens vote on issues mainly based on how they feel about the person proposing it. Something like an outside threat is almost always given the "aye," as per tradition, but internal matters and issues of trade are heavily weighed on personal opinion. Thus, popular people have more power, not because they have more votes themselves, but because they control other people's votes. If a popular citizen decides they don't like you, you're fucked, since it's your vote against their friends' dozens.
Everything in Callevus is about individuals and personality. There are no "power groups," really. There are only the apathetic and rich Counts Loris van der Haalse or Santeri av Rantanen, or the Countess Angelique de Meersen, who sway the other citizens and manage their own little trading businesses. There is only the daring Margravine Johanna Eicher, who rolls in every few years to convince the other citizens to bankroll some new ridiculous expedition. There is only the fierce and intense Baron Kater ver Hoff, from the far north, who advocates for his fellows on the necessity of expansion and action against the northern barbarians and monsters. There is only Citizen Koos, who doesn't even own land or title besides 'citizen,' but holds raucous parties featuring all sorts of exotic delights, courtesy of his extensive and far-ranging fleet. Personalities rise and fall (besides the three Counts), but there is always the one rule: one citizen, one vote.

Besides the citizens, there is the Var. Nobody knows at what point "the Bhar" became "the Var," nor do they know when the citizens started voting on who would be it. Regardless, there is one, and he (or she) calls the shots. The Var doesn't have to be a citizen (and in fact often isn't), or a native of Callevus, or anything else in particular, they just have to be voted in. Votes happen every two years, and the citizens generally re-elect the current Var. If the Var's fallen out of favor, they pick a new one, generally an important and skilled officer in the military.
The point of the Var is to deal with wars and emergencies, and also tedium. The Var can say and do whatever they want, and has a very solid grip on the military. It's commonly known that the Var can only really do "whatever" if that "whatever" is "deal with a crisis and moderate the assembly and manage Callevus." If the Var started acting out, the citizens could meet up and vote to have them executed (though not stripped of their title, you can never do that, even if the title was granted by the assembly) as with anyone else, and they could be quite eager to do so, depending on what exactly they did.
The reason for the Var is that the assembly takes some time to gather, and is fairly disorganized and apathetic. The Var manages the bureaucracy of Callevus. They manage the Var's Landing, determine when ships need patching up, collect taxes, meet with foreign leaders, and otherwise manage problems and other tedious things. The Counts are the ones actually in control, they just leave the ephemera for the Var to deal with. Except when there's a war, in which case the Var is the only one really familiar enough with the military to deal with things, and holding an assembly for every little decision would be suicide.
The Var doesn't get a vote. If they had a vote (usually not, but if they did), they have to hand it off to someone else (usually their heir). Instead, the Var calls the vote. Someone proposes something at the assembly, and the Var repeats it, formally. Or, they can propose a vote themselves, or even simply declare what the League will do (although in such a case they better have a damn good reason, or they'll have some problems).

Outside of the city itself, Callevus is a big pile of single-layer feudalism. Count van der Haalse is a count; he owns a county, many knights, numerous peasants, several mines, and so on, and rules it absolutely. No other citizen can tell the Count what to do with his land. Nobody can tell some baron, or the Margravine, or some duke, what to do with their land. Well, they could, theoretically, since anything can be voted on, but in practice it simply doesn't happen, ever. No matter how unimportant some random baron is, or how popular the citizen is suggesting Callevus confiscate some land, nobody would go along with it. They'd sooner have the baron in question executed than stripped of his land. Every citizen is free, answering only to themselves.
To the outside world, Callevus is still Callevus. They call their ruler a "Var," and the nobles tend to be more independent, but it's still a kingdom, right? I mean, the Var talks to other rulers, he acts like a king. They get a new one every ten years, but maybe they do something weird with inheritance.


People

The Counts
Count Loris van der Haalse - Owns the southern mouth. Currently the "most popular," has a lot of sway. Traditionally, the Count van der Haalse has always been the most powerful, controlling the main trade route out to the south. Fewer people would take the eastern river, and anyone heading out of the lake towards the sea would be trading with Iscatha, not de Meersen. Today, has control of some still-fertile iron mines to the south.
Countess Angelique de Meersen - Owns the western outlet. Bored, yet content. The Count de Meersen has always led trade with Iscatha, to the extent that it happens, and does well enough by itself. Once, in the past, a Count de Meersen actually assassinated the Count van der Haalse of the time. The plot was exposed, and the fallout was incredible, with a vote for execution nearly passing, though in the end de Meersen retained its land. In the end, they learned their lesson--de Meersen is now much more subtle and careful about such things.
Count Santeri av Rantanen - Owns the eastern mouth. The Count av Rantanen has always had the worst of it, having an unfavorable trade position. Early on, the family initially staked its resources on timber and ships, only to be outdone by Iscatha. Over time, av Rantanen changed its focus to mercenaries, which worked well enough. Pikesmen av Rantanen are elite and sought-after, partially for their skill, but primarily for their discipline--mercenaries av Rantanen never disobey orders, and they don't go off wantonly pillaging or causing chaos.

Aiscgrn the Var - The current Var. A native of the far south, who became a slave, who was sold to a duke of Callevus, who served in the military, buying his freedom and climbing up and up, until the last Var was quietly retired and he took the spot. Aiscgrn has been an extremely effective Var for the most part, though he's been taking liberties with troop movements, especially in aid of Baron ver Hoff against threats in the north. Still popular; the Counts don't care what he does, as long as he doesn't bother them about it. Not particularly sympathetic towards slaves, nor nostalgic for his homeland. Has a good reputation within the military, looked up to.

Margravine Johanna Eicher - Actually probably insane. The Margravine leads expeditions to all sorts of places, half the time resulting in the death of her entire company, and the loss of all her equipment and resources. And yet, every time, she returns, beaming and healthy, and convinces the assembly to back her again, convinces a fresh batch of her subjects to follow her, and heads off into the unknown wilds. If you believe the stories, she's fought off armies of orcs, swarms of snake-kin, wrestled with giants, parleyed with the elves, studied under the dwarves, and sailed across the Sea of Lost Souls seven times. Any "witnesses" have been members of her crew, her knights and soldiers, who back her utterly and earnestly. Most likely, she's done things that resemble the stories, and then simply engaged in embellishment. She's brought back too much treasure for it to be all lies. Or, maybe she's a witch, who warps the minds of citizens and gets her treasure terrorizing the coast as a pirate, summoning thunderstorms and whirlpools (this is also a popular story she likes to spread). Her territory is the Eichen Marches, the eastern border between Callevus and the wilds, and the Margrave Eicher has always been in charge of protecting Callevus against the orcs and other sorts. Eichen rangers are legendary, and regardless of the validity of the stories, the Margravine carries the martial tradition proudly.

Baron Kater ver Hoff - The logger. The Baron has the ears of his own little group of nobles who live in the treacherous north, and speaks on their behalf. Tends to push for sanctions on Iscatha, aggressive support of logging efforts, and military action against the various beasts and giants of the north. Not terribly popular among the Counts, but they don't like serious people in general, and are willing to throw him a bone occasionally (or let the Var handle it, it's his military anyway).

Citizen Koos - Ludicrously rich. Koos made his fortune in the south and the west, along the coast. He learned about Callevus and was amused by the novelty, and intrigued by how everything was quite bare and close together. He easily afforded the construction of his boat, joined the League, and has been enjoying life ever since.

need more people