Although a small nation lying under the shadow of a mighty empire, the Six Cities Confederacy is at the cross roads of the economic world. Its merchant fleets ply the oceans of the known world, while its caravans can be found in the blistering heat of the Ambani desert and the grass seas of the Aethani plains. Some of the bolder merchant houses have even established expeditions into the lands of the Tharged.
Government and Politics
As the name implies, the Six Cities Confederacy is a loose coalition of the six cities states of the Sheinar peninsula governed by a central body known as the Sun Chamber. Composed of representatives from the governments of each city state, the Sun Chamber passes mandates during each of its annual meetings. These mandates generally focus on foreign affairs that impact the confederacy, from trade regulations to military and diplomatic contact with other nations. The fact that mandates must be passed by a unanimous vote is a double edged sword it limits the need for a means of enforcement, but does prolong the process of passing a mandate. The domestic policies are left to the governments of the respective cities as long as the policies do not violate the mandates of the Sun Chamber.
As a result of a mercantile social structure, the confederacy has a proliferation of guilds. Every profession, from the mercenaries hired to guard trade caravans to the servants who clean the public bathhouses, has a guild. Even non professional interests are often organized into societies as a means of gaining prestige. For example, the Society of Noon is a dedicated to furthering the understanding of social etiquette. These organizations provide an additional layer of government as each has its own rules and regulations. Both the Sun Chamber and the preceptors of each city state are tolerant of these organizations so long as they do not violate the prerogatives of the confederacy or the local authority. To foreigners, these organizations are a bewildering array of confusion and conflicting interests.
Crime and Punishment
The legal system of the confederacy is divided into confederate law and city law; each of these in turn are sub divided into various aspects of criminal and civil law. Confederate law, whether civil or criminal is legislated by the Sun Chamber during its yearly meetings and compiled into the Orange Book by chamber scribes. These legislated laws deal primarily with issues that transcend any city state. For example, the laws for extraditing a rogue who escapes into the jurisdiction of another city state are dictated by the Orange Book. As most criminal law falls under the jurisdiction of the respective city state, the majority of Sun Chamber legislation is focused on civil and mercantile law.
Confederate law always takes precedence over city law, thus the preceptors have generally adopted the mercantile legislature; however, enforcement of these laws varies greatly. Unless a rival city state brings a suit against the transgressor, little enforcement occurs. The situation is different in regards to criminal law. Each city state maintains its own legal code, from the repressive codes of Braedan to the liberal views of Sheinar. The enforcement of laws varies between the cities and, sometimes, even within one city. Enforced by magistrates often chosen by a popular vote of the heads of the merchant houses, guilt and innocence can sometimes be bought and sold like any other commodity.
The justice system of the confederacy is also one of the most advanced in the known world. The magistrate presides over a trial in which both parties are represented by legal counselors. If either side is displeased by the verdict rendered by the magistrate, they have the opportunity for petitioning the Preceptor to hear their case. If the verdict is still questioned, the aggrieved party may appeal to the Sun Chamber. Appeals to the Sun Chamber, especially in criminal matters, are rarely approved but do occur often enough to maintain a semblance of justice.
A consequence of an economically dominated society is the severe difference between the rich and the poor. Although the overall standard of living of an average Sheinar is higher than that of any other group, discontent is common among the lower classes. Coupled with this discontent is the existence of a thief’s guild, known as the Black Watchers. Thus, crime is rampant in some parts of the cities and most maintain large militias to maintain the law. Recently, in a trade agreement with the empire, the confederacy has begun to send its most dangerous offenders to the Durgha penal colony.
A barren scrub land, the confederacy's primary natural resources are the iron and tin mines scattered around the Ironbreak Mountains and the lumber from the forests around Chalesio. Thus, the economy of the confederacy is strongly vested in external trade. The Sheinari have made a place for them by becoming the trade center of the known world. Trade and money are the life blood of Sheinar and their trading fleets can be found in ports around the world. As long as a profit is to be made, there is no one with whom the Sheinari will not trade, from the oppressive slave-holding kingdoms of Aren Doael to the barbaric Tharged Hordes. All economic life is under the control of numerous merchant houses that divide commodities and regions into spheres of influence.
Although imperial currency is considered the standard coinage of business, the confederacy also maintains its own currency. In turn, almost all of the major merchant houses coin and print their own house scripts. Rather than strengthen confederate currency, this has done more to standardize imperial currency and most major transactions are conducted with imperial coin.
Society and Culture
Like their northern brethren, the majority of Sheinari is of human stock and form a single ethnic group. They are short and stocky individuals. Their skin tone is often darker than their northern cousins in hues of copper and olive. Both eyes and hair are also dark, brown or black in shade. Due to a higher standard of living and better health, the people of the peninsula have a relatively longer lifespan than other human cultures.
Sheinari clothing is often of thin materials and light shades to ward against the heat of the peninsula. Beyond this commonality, styles and colors vary greatly based on personal tastes and social status. The Sheinari have access to a great many styles through their trade and frequently experiment with dress. Recently, some of the younger women of the merchant houses have adopted a clothing style from Arĕn Dọael which leaves little to the imagination with plunging necklines and nearly transparent silks.
Although there are regional variations, the pepleof the peninsula are an egalitarian lot. Exposure to varying cultures has led to a tolerant people. Although class system exists, with the members of the merchant houses forming an aristocracy of sort, it is far from rigid. As fortunes are made and lost, individuals rise and fall.
The Sheinari share a common cultural heritage that values freedom and independence. They all speak Sheinari, a clipped, fast paced language. Because of the geographic size of the confederacy, there are no dialectical variations of the language, though there are slight variations in accent which an astute Sheinari can use to determine another person's city of origin.
Arts and Academics
Given their exposure to diverse cultures through trade, the Sheinari are the most educated of people. Literacy is high and no subject is taboo. Every city has at least one college, and the City State of Sheinar houses one of the largest libraries in the known world, funded by the Sun Chamber. Funding for research is amply available, especially if the research has mercantile implications. Because little is forbidden, Sheinari are free to experiment; often, merchant houses fund and patronize experimenters and a few of the larger ones have House mentors. Gathering knowledge from the cultures they encounter and able to engage in risky experiments, the Sheinari are the most technologically advanced culture in the known world.
Each city also has a large university, the most famous being the University of Sheinar in the capital city. Housing the largest library and sprawling across a large section of the city, the University is home to the most renowned scholars in the world. Notably, in addition to the University of Sheinar, the Kinravey Mercantile family have established a smaller college in the capital city, which has established a reputation as a college much more open to non-traditional subjects and research.
Art, in its various forms, is also appreciated by Sheinari. Theaters and museums are scattered about each city, catering to a diverse population from the heads of merchant houses to longshoreman working their ships. Most artists have merchant houses as patrons and focus on portraiture and landscapes. Artistic trends are borrowed from other cultures making Sheinari art a fluid, ever changing exercise. Poetry and songs often come in two versions: romantic lyrics for the upper classes focusing on classic themes and bawdier ones for the general populace.
Religion has a very minor role in Sheinari life and most worship Dhom as a convenience. One god is much easier to appease than one dozen; to the annoyance of the Iesadheans, this worship is often superficial and self serving. More importantly, the Sheinari are Abeulites and do not accept the Theyon as the spiritual leader of Dhomism. Dhomism has also been mixed with the older religions, further corrupting it from its canonical form. Each of the cities has one major temple and a number of smaller shrines run by local priests. No military orders exist in Sheinar and there is no religious hierarchy. Matters of faith are left up to the interpretations of local priests. Sometimes, will even find small altars to the older gods near shrines to Dhom.
Recently, scholars from Kinrăvey University have begun to study the Book of Arghedhom as more than just a religious text. Coupled with their observations of the pronouncements from the Citadel of Truth and the history of the Theyons, the more foolhardy have even come to question the spiritual basis of the faith. One scholar, who recently disappeared while on an expedition to Dobe, claimed that the Soulshard was the prison of a demon and it was the demon that the First Avatar heard. This theory, whispered only by the truly foolish, has brought a number of agents of the Tapestry of Truth into the confederacy.
As with other aspects of Sheinari society, spell casting serves mercantile interests. There is no restriction on the practice of magic and every major trading house has a staff mage, while minor ones have ready access should the need arise. Spell casters, at least those who practice legally, are governed by the College of Thaumaturgy in Sheinar. The College is both a professional guild and an institution of higher learning. Although spell casters are not required to join the College, most find it much more convenient to belong since the College does very little to restrict magical practice and provides a safe haven for research and experimentation. Some have even ventured into studying the bloodbinding rituals of the Tharged, ostensibly to learn how to defend against them.
Protected from incursions by the Ironbreak Mountains in the north, the confederacy has managed to defend itself with a small, technologically advanced military force. Consisting of a light infantry and light cavalry, the Sheinar Borderwatch is housed in Conmaeir and patrols the mountains, while the Coastwatch, with its fleet of vessels, circles the shores.
In addition, each city is required to maintain a reserve militia known as the City Watch. Although these militias vary in size and training, minimum standards have been established by the Sun Chamber. These standards dictate that at least 10% of all able bodied men between the ages of 16 and 35 be trained for the militia for a total of four weeks a year. Except for Conmaeir with its martial spirit, most cities barely manage to meet these requirements. Instead, they maintain small mercenary forces that are hired out to merchant houses during peace time. The use of mercenaries is reinforced by the presence of the Blacksong Company, a premier mercenary force and mercenary clearinghouse, in the Peninsula.
The Six Cities
Symbol: A white tower on a green background
The northern most of the cities, Conmaeir borders the Empire of Iesadhe. Its people have faced the brunt of imperial incursions, resulting in the emergence of a strict city run by a military tribunal, rather than a preceptor. The tribunal is composed of the leaders of the three branches of the military: the Borderwatch, the Coastwatch, and the Citywatch. The members of the tribunal retain their political authority as long as they remain in command of their military branch. They are, however, advised by a small senatorial body composed of the most notable merchants in the city. In addition, since the steel dragon formally revealed itself to the city, she has been given a seat on the tribunal, but rarely attends meetings.
The city of Conmaeir remains in some semblance of perpetual martial law, more as a result of tradition than any recent threat to security. Aside from the City-State of Braedan, it maintains the strictest laws and the Citywatch of Cọnmaeir readily enforce these laws. The people of Conmaeir are a dour folk and many believe this is the result of an oppressive government: however, this is misperception as the citizens of Conmaeir are proud of their martial heritage. Their sense of humor is often dark and their arts focus on perpetuating the martial spirit. It is common for both men and women to train in the martial arts. Most of the military leadership for the confederate forces comes from Conmaeir. In reflection of this position, Conmaeir is home to the Gathaeca, the confederate military academy.
Canmaeir is often called the city of walls. The core of Conmaeir, “the old city,” is surrounded by a high wall of dark stone. Beyond this lies the “middle city” and this, in turn, is surrounded by an equally intimidating wall. When the city grew beyond this wall during a third period of expansion, the latest of the walls was built. Unlike the walls surrounding the older areas of the city, the new wall is thinner and lacks parapets. Even though the wall is not complete, the people of Conmaeir have already begun to expand beyond the wall since the signing of the Treaty of Conmaeir.
Beyond the city, a series of smaller keeps dots the mountain passes that connect the peninsula to the imperial mainland and serve as a frontline defense against any further Imperial expansionism.
Symbol: A gold coin surrounded by seven stars on a blue background.
Southeast of Conmaeir along the northern coast of the peninsula, this city is a plutocracy under the governorship of a preceptor who is chosen every five years by a vote of the patriarchs of the major merchant houses. Considered the first among equals, the Preceptor of Faeil Dar often is chosen after a great deal of inter-house negotiating; invariably, these negotiations devolve into bickering, and, at times barely concealed skirmishes in the streets. Perhaps in response to this, in recent history, every preceptor has been from a minor merchant house as compromises. Compared to the city states, Faeil Dar is a veritable hot bed of political intrigue and ruthless mercantile practices. Shifts of power are frequent and the merchant lords of Faeil Dar have no qualms of engaging in violence to gain an upper hand. What governmental power exists is little more than a facade.
Although House Dhọve-Fheisal is the current mercantile powerhouse in Faeil Dar, this is a tenuous position. Only the force of the Sun Chamber and the need to maintain some semblance of control to insure economic survival prevents house feuds from erupting into open warfare.
Crime is rampant in Faeil Dar. Most government agencies, including the Citywatch, are corrupt and bribery is an accepted means of resolving problems. In fact, it is believed that anything can be bought in Faeil Dar and justice is not the most expensive of commodities.
Symbol: Red semi-circle above three blue waves on a white background
Sheinar, lying on the southern coastline, is famed for being the oldest of the mercantile city states of Sheinar. Politically and economically, Sheinar is also the most powerful of the city-states. The Sun Chamber meets in Sheinar, a situation that results in a great deal of consternation among the other preceptors.
The main city is surrounded by thick walls made of a red stone imported centuries past from the Summer Islands off the western coast of Arĕn Dọael. The wall has lent the city a unique identity. Believing the colors of the wall are reminiscent of a sunset, the city is often called The City of the Falling Sun. The symbol for the city, emblazoned proudly on the flags that flutter throughout the city, is a red semi circle above three blue waves - The sun falling into the sea.
The Red Wall is one of the most important features of the city. A point of pride, numerous artisans have been commissioned to paint murals along the inside of the wall. A road known as the Walk of Time circles it from the inside to allow visitors a view of these works of art. The wall, however, serves more of a historic function than a defensive one. Since the building of the wall, the people of Sheinar have spread beyond its confines. Entire neighborhoods for the working classes have arisen around the three land sides of the city; meanwhile, the port of Sheinar has spread southward beyond the wall's boundaries.
The city is divided into numerous quarters, based on society rather than geometry. For example, there is the government quarter, the merchant quarter, the university quarter, etc. Far from a civic design, most of these divisions arose through the people's self imposed separations. Merchants from civil servants. Laborers from students. Over time, the quarters became centered around plazas and squares which were the pride of the various neighborhoods. As the residents competed with each other for the most attractive squares, competitions arose and the plazas being place of great beauty. Even the Purple district, home to thieves and whores, maintained a plaza that contrasts sharply with its surroundings. Perhaps because of the resources available, the most beautiful of the squares is the Plaza of Dreams in the Merchant Quarter. The plaza, sunken into the ground is tiled with brilliant motifs representing the symbols of the oldest houses of Sheinar. In the center is a statue of Sorval, a legendary hero from the city’s history.
In theory, the city state is one among equals; however, the presence of the Sun Chamber lends prestige to political life. The members of the Sun Chamber meet in a palatial building of six spires, each of which is enameled in the colors of one of the cities of the confederacy. As would be expected, the color of Sheinăr is Red. The central feature of the government quarter, the Sun Chamber sits across from the Plaza of Light. Designed by members of the University of Sheinar, the plaza is a circular affair with an ebony obelisk in the center surrounded by alabaster pillars which serve to mark the hours of the day like a giant sundial. Scattered throughout the government center are the terraced villas of the members of the ruling class. A few nations have established embassies in the quarter and a palpable sense of power seems to emanate from the very buildings.
The governance of Sheinar lies in the hands of the Sendhe, an elected body. The thirty members of the Sendhe are elected by all the eligible males in the city to serve for a five year time. Although the Sendhe is meant to serve as an advisory body to the Preceptor of Sheinar, it is common knowledge that they are the real legislative force behind the city. The Preceptor of Sheinar has always been chosen by a vote of the Sendhe and those who have challenged its authority rarely remain in the position. The current Preceptor, Kaeil Garen, has maintained the seat for the last ten years. Although he has managed to reign in the Sendhe in recent years, this has been more due to their own squabbling than his strength. Thus, the Preceptor of Sheinar remains a figurehead.
Fortunately, the Sendhe's power is kept under check by the judicial authority. The civil and criminal laws of Sheinar are adjudicated and enforced by a council of five ministers of justice elected by the Sendhe for life. With the assistance of district ministers and the city watch, the council of justice has the coercive authority to maintain the law without the interference of the Sendhe. Even though the members of the Sendhe have attempted to influence the justices through bribes and threats, they have managed to maintain their independence. Most minor violations are adjudicated by the district ministers; however, cases involving violence or crimes against the state are heard by the justices. In addition, petitioners can request a hearing of their case by the council of justices, but this is rarely approved except for those with some influence (i.e., merchant houses).
The laws of Sheinar are enforced by the City Watch. Dressed in red tunics and white pants over leather armor. They wield short, curved swords and buckler shields; however, their primary weapon is a staff. Although a tolerant city in many respects, the laws are strictly enforced. For example, even merchant house guards are required to wear peace weaves on their weapons. In the government quarter, only the members of the City Watch are allowed to travel armed.
Symbol: Green Tree on a white background
Lying in the northwest of the peninsula, Chalesio is the smallest of the confederate cities and is nestled in the protected cusp of the dense Chalesio Forest in the Chal valley. Relatively isolated, trade is often carried out by means of barges that use the Chal River. Chalesio is under a hereditary preceptorship of the descendants of the founding family of Chalesio, the Dunbars.
With the Chalesio forest providing a natural resource, Chalesio’s primary source of income comes from lumber. Unlike the other city-states, trade is minimal. Chalesio is both poor and relatively isolated.
Although the city of Chalesio is walled like most of its sister cities, it is more a township than anything else. Most of the people live outside the city on farms and homesteads. Some even live within the forest.
This isolation has resulted in a hardy people. While others of the peninsula consider the Chalesions to be “backward,” they are far from primitive. They have a strong sense of family and history. A proud people, the Chalesions are not ones to allow a slight to go unchallenged. Perhaps it is because of their simple way of life and sense of honor that the Aethani maintain a certain degree of respect for Chalesion traders. They Chalesion people are much more spiritually minded than the other peninsular natives, though they do not practice Dhomism and maintain faith in the older gods.
Symbol: Blue Ship on a black background
Southeast of Sheinar, Braedan has been under the dynastic preceptorship of the matriarchs of House Braedan for centuries. A powerful merchant family, they maintain a stranglehold on the economy and politics of Braedan. While the wealth of the peninsula resulted in more freedoms and opportunities for the citizens of the other cities, it simply became more concentrated in Braedan.
As with the Conmaeiri, the Braedani are a dour people; however, the basis of their beliefs and actions are far different. Braedan society is high structured with sharp class distinctions. Unskilled laborers often work as little more than slaves for merchant houses prevented from leaving through strict laws of debt and retribution. The walls of the city, heavily fortified with watch towers are designed as much to keep the citizens in as keep foreigners out.
Curfews are strictly enforced and only those with formal authority from a merchant house are allowed to travel past dusk. Foreigners, whether merchants or diplomats, are restricted to “trade quarter” near the east gate. Neither foreigners nor citizens are allowed to travel armed unless given approval by the Preceptor of Braedan.
Attempts by the Sun Chamber to limit their power are met with threats of secession which the confederacy can ill afford; internal rumblings are controlled by an efficient militia, directly responsible to House Braedan, which rivals the imperial Tapestry of Truth in its brutality. With underground support from Sheinar and the SteelHold corporation, the rebel factions are beginning to gain the upper hand and Braedan is a powder keg.
Symbol: A grey light house with two white lights on either side on a blue background
The City-State of Haendăr rests on an outcropping overlooking the cape of Sheinar. As with Sheinăr, the preceptor of Haendar is elected.
Protected by the natural barrier of the heights of the cape, Haendar ilacks a wall and spreads across the entire cape in a loose pattern of crisscrossing streets. Haendar is the only city to lack a wall, but it is also the only city to never have suffered any form of attack from land. Beneath it run the ruins of an ancient city believed to have been founded during the age of the High Lords of Dobrai. Although a few adventurous explorers have ventured into the depths of the catacombs that spread beneath the city, the underground ruins remain largely unexplored. The port of Haendar, however, is walled and lies far west from the city itself and the two are connected by the well-guarded Port Road.
The citizens of Haendar are a relatively peaceful people. Lacking the intrigues of Faeil Dar or the militancy of Conmaeir, many consider them to be a dull lot. Notably, however, they are often one of the first ports of call for trade ships from Corelyan and there is a small, but substantial halfling population in the port district.