Home to a dozen squabbling Free Cities, the mineral and precious metals rich tundra region was for the longest time on the outskirts of history, until the misguided Abendstern dynastic policies made it into a economic powerhouse. Now the cities of the Far Reach enjoy unprecendented level of freedom from and influence on Borealis.
The Free Cities of the Reach
As of 765, there are more than 12 Free Cities of note North of Moradin's Crown. They retain full control over their commercial, internal and (de facto) diplomatic affairs, while remaining an official part of the Kingdom of Borealis, paying it substantial taxes and providing preferential trading and investment terms for Boreans.
Each of the Free Cities is independent and more often than not distrustful of each other. The only times when they can put their rivalries aside is to defend against Borealis and protect their common trade interests.
After the destruction of Komodia and reunification of Blaustandt with the Kingdom, these are the biggest and most important Free Cities of the Reach (and their attitudes towards Borealis).
"The Pearl of the East", "Thessean Sina", "Frozen Whore". The largest, grandest and richest of Thessean cities as a whole which only Altaforte of old could rival. If something exists - it can be bought or sold in Mercuria (unless Sina has monopolised it first). If even the most remote tribe produces a bauble of note, a Mercurian merchant will try to get exclusive rights to it (unless beaten by the one from Sina). Thousands of contracts are concluded in the city every day and hundreds of trade ships come and go in search of profit, commercial gossip and information. At the same time, the visitors enjoy the stunning vistas of the Mercurian fjord where the city is located, finest Northern seafood and comfy eateries and Faraamese coffee houses.
But behind the booming splendour often lurks something far darker and more dangerous. Mercuria is notorious for its ruthless thieves guilds, cut-throat politics and very lax approach to morals. It is the only Thessean city to maintain an Ulthari embassy and deep (and illegal) trade relationships with them. The dark elfen ambassador - senior cogitator Sin'Rivvi, her beauty rumoured to rival eldari princesses of elder days - is a frequent guest at the guild council meetings and a regular star of the city's night life and social gatherings
The landgrave of Mercuria, unlike in other Free Cities, isn't its ruler. He is appointed by the ruling guild council (which actually runs the city) to serve as the head of Mercuria's military, city guard and implement its foreign policy. Normally, landgraves of Mercuria don't interfere with the business of the guild council; but there have been occasions when entire councils were purged by a langrave to restore a semblance of order and human face to the city. The current landgrafine is Safi of Rittersee, Mercurian city watch veteran, famous for uncovering several homicadal cults of Axxerarat within its walls.
High Castle (hostile)Edit
Located within the well-defended cliffs of Northern Moradin's Crown, there are few other cities in the Realm that enjoy such advantageous strategic position. A great tunnel connects High Castle with Blaustadt - the only safe land passage between the Far Reach and the South. And of course, the city takes its "fair" share and toll off all of its traffic. It also controls extremely lucrative iron, copper and silver mines and its artisans know their way with them. The result - High Castle is the biggest producer or iron ore in Thessea and the third biggest weapon producer after few dedicated Volgen smiths cities. It is also the most militaristic Free City, with the biggest standing army and willingness to use it to coerce favourable trade terms.
For three generations, the "elective" landgrave seat of High Castle is controlled by the notorious house Rennenkampf. The current landgrave is Immanuil Rennenkampf, a man of short temperament, viscious intellect and untempered hatred of Borealis. He remembers well how Borean kings, at the behest of the Eldritch Circle, exiled his ancestors and forced them to live in Kraj for a long century (and seems to conveniently ignore that they've had a bloody good reason to do it). The Feuerbrand Uprising changed little; in fact, Immanuil was the only landgrave to oppose supporting Constantine Feuerbrand, hoping that the two snakes would have killed each other and seeing no need in the involvement of the Far Reach. While he caved to other landgraves' pressure in the end, make no mistake - High Castle is no friend of Borealis.
Haivoron's serene groves, wide cobbled streets and rounded forms of its architecture (as it once used to be but a remote Galadorite monastery) tend to confuse the new arrivals - how could this be one of the richest and most influential cities of the Reach? The answer to this is - Brotherhood of Talisman. This omnipresent financial organisation (that some people confusingly refer to as a "knightly order") punches far above its unremarkable numbers and geographical holdings, using the wealth and influence it accumulated over five centuries of its existence. The denizens of Haivoron play weird games by rules only they understand - equal times religious mysterium, chivalric tradition and multi-layered contests of influence. Most visitors and clients find the city and its inhabitants bizarre and old fashioned - some of its customs uncannily resembling the ones of the steppenvolk mystics, albeit with a thick patina of sophistication and polish of a chivalric code.
Among all Free Cities, Haivoron is probably the most interested in continued coexistence with Borealis, as it is the Kingdom's biggest creditor and would loathe to see any of those bonds not perform or, worse, default. Its leaders are often willing to lobby on behalf of Borealis to ensure repayment, although not too hard, as they still have relationships with other free cities to maintain.
Traditionally, the landgrave of Haivoron is the Grand Master of the Brotherhood of Talisman. As of 765 the post is occupied by lord Georg Matias, a rather unremarkable leader who is more of a bureaucrat than a knight commander. He only assumed the position as a compromise figure in 762 after the widely popular lord Albertas Karolingen.
Lord Karolingen, considered by many to be the best grand master the Brotherhood has had in about a century, was personally responsible for arranging secret talks between Constantine Feuerbrand and other Free Cities and for subtly manipulating leaders of the Reach to take active part in the Feuerbrand Uprising, seeing it as vital to continued relevance of Borealis and Far Reach. He is also the only landgrave of the Reach to personally fight in the Uprising. To do that, however, he violated many articles of the Brotherhood's code, including subverting its own pro-Abendstern policy, marginalising opposition and even expelling extreme loyalists and neutral knights on charges that his agents have themselves provoked. After the Uprising was over, he voluntarily admitted breaching the knightly codes in front of the Brotherhood assembly, by his own initiative shaved his head in shame and departed on a quest of penitence, not to be heard from since.
The island-state of Brenna - Famous for its peculiar dialect
- More of an Eolani faction than Far Reach
- Shipbuilding and domestic trade
- Rivalry with Mercuria
- Biggest human gold miner
- Biggest dwarf presence in the Reach
- Dwarfen landgrave
Aluren and the Far Reach Edit
The Reach was very difficult to colonise due to its extreme temperatures, inconvenient geography and lack of a proper land connection with the South and sunlight. Its Northernmost parts have but around 80 days of proper sunlight per year.
The first settlements of Far Reach were founded by Alurean explorers and trappers around ~250 PP, shortly after the expirty of Rex Verstandt's line. Unfortunately, they did not last long, as the second March of the Dead has pretty much wiped out all life and civilisation of the far North before being (barely) stopped by the remaining forces of Aluren and the Eldari. It took long decades before settlers stopped being fearful enough to start resettling the North.
For many years after, most settlements of Far Reach were either small trappers or loggers villages as well as market towns where the aforementioned trappers and loggers gathered to trade, drink and gossip. As the region started to develop economically, the ill-advised late kings of Aluren started to levy more and more tax from the province, sowing discontent and seccessionist moods among its people. When Everard Boreale struck his deadly blow against Aluren, the bigger cities of the Reach used the moment to declare their independence, followed by an intense internal war, as each city tried to grab as much power and territory as they could.
Thus the framework of land-owning, independent cities had emerged, which has existed in more or less the same form since then. Cut off from the hostile Borealis, that wished to subjugate them but would not have yet had the resources or manpower to do it, the cities had to rely on international trade and exports of their rich resource base, as well as manufacturing, to sustain their economies.
The Castle AccordEdit
As soon as Borealis started to show signs of stability, its kings took to trying to conquer the resource-rich and sparsely populated Far Reach, which they considered to be their territory which but by virtue of dumb chance kept its independence after the fall of Aluren. Because for the longest time Borealis did not have a competent fleet, the campaigns had to be conducted on land, via the narrow, easily-defended Wrona pass in Eastern Moradin's Crown; the Eldari have already shattered by then and the Ulthari would not allow the usage of the [placeholder] pass to the West.
Every free man or women of Far Reach would proudly tell you that since the Unification War, there's been seven Battles of Wrona Path between Far Reach alliances and Borealis. Of these seven, six were won by the Reach, inflicting various degrees of humiliation on Borealis. However, the 5th Battle of Wrona Pass was a close success for King Lothar Ferdinand, enabling Borealis to both entrench within the Pass, turning the tables on the Reach and to advance North, capturing several small towns and laying siege to High Castle. Despite that, both sides were at their limits both in terms of morale and economically.
Thus the Castle Accord was negotiated by King Lothar and the alliance of five biggest cities of Far Reach. Under the Castle Accord, the Far Reach would officially become a part of Borealis and pay tax to Borean Crown at reduced rate, as well as provide preferential trade and supply terms for the Borean Crown and merchants. In return, Borealis would not interfere with internal and commercial affairs of any of the recognised Free Cities of Far Reach and Transborea. While officially the Free Cities were prohibited from conducting their own foreign policy, Borealis found it difficult to enforce it and thus usually turns a blind eye towards these violations of the Accord.
Rise to PowerEdit
The fortunes of the Reach started growing expotentially after the signing of the Castle Accord. Finally able to trade freely in Thessea and beyond, seven key players have emerged on its political and economical arenas - Mercuria, High Castle, Brenna, Haivoron, Zlatoslav in Far Reach and Blaustadt and Komodia in Transborea. Even though Borealis tried at times to "renegotiate" the terms of the Accord (thus two more Battles of Wrona Pass), it failed to substantially hinder the Free Cities' influence and wealth.
But the true gift was given to them by the mad kings of Abendstern dynasty, who declared all foreign influences to be corrupting and harmful to Borean culture and well-being and isolated Borealis from the outside world, cutting all trade and diplomatic ties. That, however, by virtue of the Castle Accord, did not affect the Far Reach (immeditely prompting a new war and the Seventh Battle of Wrona Path, which the Free Cities closely won).
Most major ports of Borealis proper, leaving the Far Reach the only window it had into the wider world. To say that its fortunes surged overnight it's to say nothing. Very soon, even the middling, unprofitable cities of the Reach far exceeded their Southern counterparts both economically and in terms of quality of life for its denizens. Needless to say, considering that the blockade continued for almost seven decades, it soon the Free Cities became the economic powerhouses they are today.
Afraid of potential seccessionist attempts in Far Reach (and rightly so), Loric Abendstern attempted to teach them a grave lesson. This led to the Beheading of Komodia, when all members of its ruling council were invited for a dinner with the King, arrested, tortured and then killed. Afraid that they were to be next in the Mad King's way, the Free Cities bet on the rebellious Constantine Feuerbrand to pacify and reform the Kingdom. The rest is history.