Kingdom of Raedonia
As with most kingdoms of the Empire, Raedonia’s population is mostly human (about 96%). Halflings make up about 2% of the population and a small dwarf and gnome contingent scattered in the foothills ranging from Ahornach to Madrisa makes up about 1%. The remaining 1% is made up of the other races. There are almost no sedentary half-elves, half-orcs, or orcs in Raedonia, but a few, far-ranging members of these races may be found living as adventurers or bandits (the distinction between the two is often quite small, and they often find the same sour welcome in the more settled regions of the country). A very few elves may live within Raedonia’s borders, but if they do, they are rarely foolish enough to make their presence known to the general populace.
Like most of the kingdoms of the empire, Raedonia is primarily a monarchy, although changes made during the last century modified the traditional governmental system. In 548 SA, just before his death, King Victorio I authorized the establishment of the Mayors’ Council, as a means of meeting the needs of provincial lords in overseeing public administration.
The Council is made up of representatives from each of the kingdom’s major cities, or municipalities. The definition of “major city” was hotly debated for almost ten years before King Victorio II decreed in 556 that a new seat on the Mayors’ Council would be established when a city held a permanent population greater than five thousand residents. He later amended the decree to include the stipulation that the King’s Tax (paid annually by each city) must also be a minimum of fifteen thousand gold pieces or their equivalent in salable goods. Including the capitol of Similaun, there are currently 22 communities capable of meeting those requirements, and thus, 22 seats on the Mayors’ Council.
Originally intended to appease the Mayoral Lords who felt the crown was not tending to their municipalities’ needs, the power of the Council was initially limited to an advisory role. The Council is made up of members whose appointments are determined by the methods best suited to their respective cities. A popular vote by titled and landholding males is the most common method, but some city mayors retained the power of appointment themselves, while others have enabled the post to follow hereditary lines. Recently, a very few cities have opened the vote to all registered citizens of the city.
The Council members’ task is to communicate the needs of their respective cities to each other in the hopes of settling disputes. Major issues are brought before the king in the form of papers produced in annual Council meetings at the Hall of Discourse in Similaun. Originally, these papers were simply meant to provide the king with information on the dealings of the various cities—factual information upon which he could base his kingly guidance for the coming year. Over time, however, the Council gained additional influence and began pushing issues of a more social and political nature. Eventually, the Mayors’ Council became a true political power, with the ability to apply real pressure on the King.
The latest development in Raedonian government is the call from the aristocracy for the establishment of an independent body capable of catering to their needs and desires. While the Mayors’ Council claims to speak for all the people within the various municipalities, the nobility has become increasingly disturbed by the rise in power of the merchant class, since it is the merchants who have the greatest influence on the economy. The nobles feel that the Mayors’ Council has too much power and threatens traditional titular rights. This was less of a problem when the members of the Council were chosen entirely by nobles, but the practice of popular voting for Council members is spreading, making it possible for members of the merchant class to have a direct influence on politics. The current political environment is becoming tense, as the power of ore and mineral merchants grows, while the aristocracy becomes increasingly agitated at the King’s failure, in their opinion, to address their complaints.
King Victorio III is faced with a delicate balance of forces, now that the Holy Saelmarian Emperor has called for an increase in weapons and other supplies for his Great Expansion scheme. The Emperor’s decree that the Saelmarian Empire will grow to encompass the continent of Benivalia by 700 SA has spread throughout the kingdom, but the King has yet to publicly respond to that decree. There are rumors that he personally disagrees with the Emperor and does not intend to provide the Emperor with the materials he demands.
These rumors worry both the merchants and the nobles. The merchants stand to lose considerable profits if the King decides to turn against the Emperor. The nobles know that, should the King choose to rebel, they will be called to muster military forces to send against those of the Emperor, which causes definite problems, regardless of whether they decide to support the Empire or the kingdom. While some of their lands and titles were granted by the King, many have holdings elsewhere in the empire, granted by the current or previous Emperors, which they stand to lose if they side with King Victorio.
As a whole, Raedonia does not possess a large standing army. Each municipality is responsible for providing its own military, usually termed a corps and named after the city it represents. The troops for these armies come from the lands owned by the municipalities’ nobles, who are put in charge of hiring or conscripting soldiers in times of trouble. Since the main reason for raising a force is to defend one’s territory, the nobles rarely have trouble finding volunteers to protect the land which supports them and their families.
In his capacity as the mayor of the capital city, the king maintains control over the Similaun Corps, which is larger than any of the other municipal forces in the kingdom. The king also maintains a few groups of elite forces under his direct control.
The most famous of these is the Raedonian Knights. This unit is made entirely of psychic warriors trained and indoctrinated for service to the kingdom. They receive the best training and equipment the kingdom can provide and are well known for their prowess on the battlefield. The combination of psionic capability and combat prowess makes them extremely valuable in a number of capacities. The kings and queens of Raedonia have often loaned contingents of these troops to their allies, but Victorio III has yet to do so in his almost thirty years of rule.
While technically a subset of the Raedonian Knights, the Raedonian Guard are even more specialized forces who serve the throne directly, rather than serving the kingdom as a whole. Those members of the Knighthood who prove themselves especially loyal and proficient are inducted into the Guard. These knights already possess extraordinary talent, but their membership in this elite order gives them access to specific training that even the Knights do not get. As such, the Guards of Raedonia are elites among elites. However, the nature of their missions is usually more secretive and therefore they do not gain the benefits of fame associated with the Raedonian Knights. Few Guards seem to mind the lack of attention, and most Knights strive to eventually become Guard members.
The third special unit of the kingdom is the Raedonian Border Rangers. Smaller in number and much more secretive in their training and missions, the Rangers are actually rangers who have also received psionic training. Their skills and disciplines are geared toward guarding the kingdom’s western border with Kaesar, as their name might indicate. However, the Rangers are also tasked with protecting shipments of ore or other valuables as they pass over the kingdom’s rivers and roadways. Most of the time, the caravans carrying such valuable cargo never see their protectors. However, the fact that these journeys almost always pass without interference attests to the efficacy of the Rangers’ skills. Many traders would like to hire the Rangers for protection of every caravan, but the Rangers serve only the throne and its interests. Only the most valuable shipments receive their attention.
The majority of Raedonian trade comes from its rich endowment of mineral resources. The earth beneath this kingdom is abundant in iron ore, and possesses numerous veins of copper, silver, and gold. Deeper in the mountains, Raedonia’s mines produce fine gemstones, as well. It is in these mountains that Raedonia’s greatest contribution to the world is found, as well. For it is Raedonia, alone, that possesses the only known working psi-crystal mines.
Because of its rich mineral resources, Raedonia has been referred to as the armory of the Saelmarian Empire. The kingdom’s strategic importance has provided the line of Raedonian rulers with significant leverage for centuries, but has also made it a focal point for those with designs on greater power within the Empire. He who controls the raw materials for the Emperor’s war machine controls a great deal of the Emperor’s temporal power.
Unfortunately, Raedonia’s landlocked position in the north of the continent has always provided a challenge for its rulers. The rivers that make up the eastern and western borders of the kingdom are navigable, but each poses its own set of problems.
While Issaria has long had friendly relations with Raedonia, old enmities exist between Raedonia and Kaesar. That kingdom still plots to overthrow the Raedonian court and seize control of the rich mines within its territories. Moving ore from the mountains down the Heldenstrasse River means placing them within the Kaesar’s reach. The Raedonian Rangers, an elite group of wilderness riders, patrol the Raednonian borders to prevent major shipments of ore from falling into Kaesarian hands, but the rangers are not sufficient in strength to prevent their occasional seizure.
The materials can be moved overland, albeit at great expense, to the port city of Lohnsitz, but there are still disputes between Issaria and Kaesar over who controls portions of the Nebia. The waters of the Hochwasser flow into the Nebia River, which is navigable for most of its length. Because of the continued conflict, Raedonian trading boats bound for Issarian ports still risk falling prey to Kaesarian raiders.
Alternatively, the Siemar River, which flows north from the capitol city of Similaun and merges with the Blitzschlag at the kingdom’s borders, provides a safer route. While Raedonia’s relations with Devosia are far better than those with Kaesar, the Siemar River is navigable only in certain areas, so shipments headed north must be moved overland at times. Additionally, Devosia’s control of the Blitzschlag River is total and the Devosian crown charges high tariffs on ships that pass down its length to ports on the Barrier Sea.
More often than not, the importance to the Emperor of the mineral resources Raedonia supplies is sufficient to prevent any official interference to their movement on the parts of other governments. However, any interference, whether official or not, could be embarrassing to the Raedonian court, potentially bringing the disfavor of the Emperor, which is not a good thing for any king to have. Of course, King Victorio III’s politics may bring him the Emperor’s disfavor on its own. If that happens, Kaesar may take the opportunity to increase its pressure on Raedonian trade.
Originally a collection of squabbling fiefdoms, Raedonia was officially founded as a kingdom in 104 SA. The land was united under Raedon, the most powerful of the warlords in the region. Raedon was an extremely proficient psychic warrior, rumored to have come to northern Niveria from a land far away. His wisdom and mental powers combined with his skill with a blade to earn him great respect from his people.
According to legend, Raedon was a wandering psychic warrior who discovered the first psi-crystal mines in the mountains in the south of the Kingdom. The mines had been known to the locals for many years, but they were considered nothing more than a curiosity. Fully aware of the importance of his discovery, the warrior gathered a group of men and women under his leadership and conquered a local lord, who had previously focused all of his attention on mining iron, copper and gold. From the defeated lord’s castle (located near the city of Nolbling), Raedon administered his new fiefdom, teaching locals how to grow and harvest psi-crystals in the rich mines. He also taught his most loyal and talented warriors how to unlock the powers of psionics within themselves.
Soon, the lords of the other fiefdoms came to realize what treasures truly lay within the mountains to the south. They amassed their armies and attacked Raedon’s territories repeatedly. Fortunately for him, each of the lords was more interested in gaining the vast wealth for himself, and they failed to make any coordinated attacks against him. The ravages of the Chaos Flood had receded just over a century before and many communities were still trying to recover. At the time, there were concerns that the elves of Faenar were beginning to tire of the Emperor’s increasingly aggressive policies. Many of these lords were desperate to increase their personal power in the face of great uncertainty.
Raedon was not ignorant of the coming changes, either. But his vision was more expansive. There were places in other kings’ territories where the psi-crystals grew, but only those with the knowledge of psionics could put them to use. With the added power of the psi-crystals at his disposal, Raedon and his forces were able to drive back the invading armies. Each time his enemies attacked him, Raedon ended up with more territory under his control. As his military power grew, he took the initiative and toppled rival kings in an effort to unite them all under one flag—his flag. As his political power grew, Raedon gained the attention of the Imperial Court in Niveros.
In his wisdom, Raedon knew that the Emperor may have been located in Niveros, but his reach encompassed all of Niveria. The years of the Chaos Flood were long over, but there were still many dangers in the land and the promise of an Imperial presence was a good thing at the time. Raedon’s power was great, but not sufficient to protect completely his people on its own. Raedon converted to Triadism in 115 SA, made the Niverian Church the official religion of Raedonia, and accepted the Holy Emperor’s blessing of his rule. In that year, Raedon also moved his court to the city of Similaun, which has been the capitol of the kingdom ever since.
In 127 SA, after many years of warfare and bloodshed, Raedon came to rule an entire kingdom, which he continued to rule for ten more years before his death in 137 SA. Raedon had finally subjugated all of the opposing warlords and turned his attention to building a strong state. The miraculous presence of the psi-crystal mines eventually drew other psionicists to the region. Today, Raedonia boasts the highest concentration of psionically talented people in the known world. Fully eight percent of the population (at least that living in or near the cities) has some form of psionic ability.
With the solidification of his power under the Emperor’s cloak, Raedon had gained powerful protection from his enemies, particularly those princes in Kaesar who still wished to claim his territories for their own. It would not be long (143 SA) before Kaesar would be forced to yield and swear fealty to the Holy Emperor in Niveros. Kaesar needed the Empire’s help and protection against the enraged dragons who began to descend upon the human kingdoms in 142 SA. From that moment on, Kaesar was made to account for each of several attacks on Raedonian territory throughout the last five centuries.
The mines of Raedonia have been expanded twice since their initial discovery—once under Raedon’s rule and once under the rule of Queen Marianna in 422 SA. Both of these expansions resulted from treaties with the emperor of Dwarfhold. Through these treaties, the dwarves have allowed the humans of Raedonia to harvest the crystals from the Saelmarian Mountains for hundreds of years. In return, the kings and queens of Raedonia are bound to meet certain criteria, the full details of which are given only the rulers and their closes advisors. This passage of knowledge is said to take place in an ancient psionic ritual so that there can be no misunderstanding of the terms of the treaty. Whatever the requirements the dwarves had, Raedonia has never failed to meet them, although some say the dwarves have never called upon Raedonia to meet the full terms of their agreements. It may be that there are greater demands to be met at some time of the dwarves’ choosing.
Regardless of these dark rumors, Raedonia’s relationship with the people of Dwarfhold has remained peaceable, even after Raedon’s official acceptance of the Triadic faith, which took place a short 22 years after the Faiths War. There are many rumors that it was the dwarves who appeased the great Earth Dragons of their empire and prevented them from destroying all of Raedonia during the First Dragon War. Even after the Elf and Dragon War and the subsequent Vanishing in 193 SA, many dwarves and gnomes remained in the foothills of the Saelmarian Mountains of Raedonia where they live to this day. These folk tend to keep to themselves as much as possible, but they do pay taxes to the Raedonian court. In return, the throne protects them from those who do not feel that the non-human races have a place in the empire. The rest of the dwarven empire has been closed off to the surface world for centuries, but communiqués are still said to move back and forth between the rulers of Raedonia and the dwarven emperor. The true nature of those communiqués remains a mystery, of course.
The east and west borders of Raedonia are determined by the Blitzschlag and Heldenstrasse Rivers, respectively. The northern border with Issaria was settled by treaty in 107 SA. The southern border is the Saelmarian Mountains, themselves.
Located at the foothills of the Saelmarian Mountains, it makes sense that Raedonia is a fairly hilly country. The soil is fertile, but full of rocks, which makes it very difficult to cultivate. In general, the areas have been largely cleared over the centuries, as the inhabitants searched for more and more places to grow crops and raise cattle—the kingdom is particularly suited to raising sheep and goats. The countryside is a combination of small, scattered groves of trees and open, cleared areas.
The only remaining forests of any real significance are the Aschwood and the Deepwood, which actually lies across the Issarian border. A smaller, thinner forest, called the Glenholtz lies on the eastern bank of the Siemar River, between Innerberg and Flussing. It is from these three forests that Raedonia harvests the majority of its wood for building. As one ascends into the mountains to the south, the terrain becomes a bit more wooded, but only because of the difficulty of clearing such terrain—and of harvesting the trees for building. Since wood from large trees is somewhat scarce and moving it can be expensive, most structures in Raedonia are crafted of stone, which is plentiful throughout the kingdom.
The hill terrain of Raedonia actually slopes downward as one moves from the mountains toward the Issarian border. Water is not entirely scarce, but does not collect in quantities sufficient to form large rivers within the kingdom’s borders. There are numerous small streams flowing down from the mountains, but these are too small to be shown on any map of the whole kingdom. The Siemar River is the only body of water of major economic significance that lies completely within Raedonia’s borders.
Similarly, while there are numerous small lakes and ponds that provide freshwater fish for local consumption, only the Hochwasser provides a body of water large enough to be considered a commercially significant lake. The city of Lohnsitz is often called the “Gateway of Raedonia,” for it sits on the shores of the Hochwasser midway between the Heldenstrasse and Nebia Rivers and provides the closest thing Raedonia has to a large-scale port city.
Goblinoids (goblins, hobgoblins, etc.) and other so-called monster races do pose a problem for the Raedonian government, but not a very large one. As with most of Saelmaria, the monster races have largely been controlled within the borders of Raedonia. Northerners in Raedonia rarely have much to fear from such dangers as goblin or kobold raids on their territories. The importance of the northern farming communities to the feeding of all of Raedonia makes them the focus of the King’s protection measures. These areas are relatively well-cleared, leaving bands of monsters few places to hide when traveling in the open, even at night.
The Aschwood and Glenholtz forests are havens for a few monster clans, but they face the problems of both the king’s forces and the druid circles that protect those forests. Only those clans whose shamans are powerful and who have managed to find a defensible stronghold are able to hold their own against such opposition. These few bands are powerful enough to be extremely dangerous to those who venture into their territories. Even so, they rarely venture outside the boundaries of the forests on raids. It is even rarer that such raids are wildly successful.
As one travels south toward the mountains, the danger posed by monsters increases. The Saelmarian Range is vast and rough, making it difficult for any force, no matter how well-trained, to police. Over the years, there have been many occasions where any of a number of monster types has swept down from the mountains to raid communities within their reach. These monsters rarely venture very far north and pose more of a danger to individual cities or towns than to the kingdom as a whole. However, the king must obviously pay attention to such raids and assist the towns when necessary or risk gaining the image of a king who does not care for his people.
In truth, the monstrous races found in the mountains are impossible to quantify. The mountains are riddled with caves and tunnels, whether naturally occurring or dug by the hands of mortals or magic. It is well known that both the dwarves and miners have to deal on a fairly frequent basis with kobolds and other cave-dwelling races. Additionally, monsters like ogres and ettins, griffons and wyverns pose serious problems when they come across Raedonian communities. It is said that in the deep mountains, it is possible to find such mystical creatures as giants, beholders, and even dragons, although the presence of dragons in Saelmarian lands is a highly disputed fact since the end of the Elf and Dragon War.
Adventurers in Raedonia
Regardless of the truth behind those arguments, there are plenty of terrible things in the mountains to keep even the most stalwart adventurers busy. For those who wish to stay in the lower elevations, there are plenty of ancient fortresses, and some say even a few wizards towers, spread across (or beneath) the rolling hills of Raedonia, ripe for investigation. Those who wish to wander farther afield may head west through Kaesarian territory to investigate the lost Elvin empire of Faenar, where boundless wonders and terrors are still said to be found.
It is rumored that King Victorio’s disagreement with the Emperor lies in the King’s desire to reclaim the rest of Saelmaria from the ravages of time, which means that adventurers may find employment from the crown by exploring such places as Faenar or the fallen kingdom of Adlogar, far to the south. Adlogar was once a powerful kingdom, but the Chaos Flood brought a demon or some creature with such power that the very land itself was changed by its presence. The creature spread chaos and destruction wherever it went and eventually changed the fertile lands of Adlogar into a massive swamp, uninhabitable by all but the foulest creatures, some of which are said to have been spawned by the creature itself. Of course, very few adventurers have entered the treacherous swamps and returned to tell the tales of what they found.
It is said that the King wants the Holy Emperor to reclaim these cursed places and expand the Empire in Saelmaria before moving into Benivalia. The reasons behind the Emperor’s decision are not known, but King Victorio is doing his best to show the importance of his own plan by hiring those brave and foolish enough to enter the eldritch lands once held by the elves to recover lost treasures and, hopefully, to put down the dangerous creatures and curses that live there. The success of his plan has yet to be seen, but the King is still confident. There are plenty of wandering adventurers to take up the cause, as well. If even some of those restless souls are diverted from banditry by the king’s commissions, then at least some good is coming out of his plan.