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The Principalities of Venna
Venna is the second largest realm after Ferron, when it comes to sheer size, but while its eastern neighbor was united through warfare and political maneuvers, Venna formed up almost by accident. For a long time, the land that forms the modern country of Venna were a number of unclaimed territories and miniature fiefdoms with only the large cities of Krapgar and Dabhla as solidly installed local authorities. While Dhabla became a “free city” controlled by a council of local landowners and merchants, Krapgar remains a true magocrat city up until today. The civil wars of the neighbor Ferron led to a large population of war refugees who settled westwards, into the then unclaimed areas of Venna. The different refugee groups – including the majority of Ferronian non-humans – settled in Venna and mixed with the native population of the country. Out of fear of further Ferronian and Thurian expansionism, the different leaders of native tribes, refugee groups and the city representatives came together to form a nation in the so called “Crown Convent”. Unfortunately, the Crown Convent was unable to come to a compromise every relevant group could live with and never ceased to exist.
Instead of the monarch the convent wanted to elect, and the constitution it wanted to ratify, a loose alliance of tribes and domains were formed, bound by treaties of permanent peace and mutual assistance in the case of a war or other catastrophes. This loose alliance became the base for the modern kingdom of Venna. The alliance was attractive enough for other members – including the city Krapgar, neighboring settlements and even the local Gwailyn-Teraki monasteries - to join the alliance, but the more the Venyaran alliance grew, the more admini-stration and treaties seemed necessary, and after a mere century after the collapse of the local magocracy, Venya had a constitution of some sorts which had grown organically and the Crown Convent – nowadays a nigh permanent legislative institution – elected nine high judges to control the uphold of the alliance laws and eventually elected the first queen of Venna as well. Since then, Venya is effectively a constitutional monarchy, where the head of state is elected for life by the Crown Convent, even though the competences of this monarch are so limited that he is often little more than the spokesperson of the Crown Convent. In the last years, several of the regional lords could solify their power base and claimed the title of princes for themselves. These strong regional nobility are de facto the vassals of the Vennaran monarch, but it is nigh impossible to enforce this followership and sometimes, thei internal rivalry between the princes, the royal house and the high judges seem to paralyze the country.
Venna features an extremely heterogeneous society, since most of the different groups were able to maintain there unique cultures and customs up until contemporary times. The central government in Venna is both weak and slow in itsdecisions, leaving the local domains and their rulers a high degree of autonomy. Therefore, life in Venna can be quite different– while there is a common trade language in the country – based on the original Vennaran dialect spoken in the ‘capital’ of Dhabla, there are countless of regional dialects, customs and religions. In the east of Venna, the Feronian Pantheon is usually worshipped, while in the North the Thurian Pantheon is prevalent. Regional cults and religions with only local traditions and impact seem to be everywhere, and some sects and cults practice customs which seem to be very exotic even by the standards of their direct neighbors. While Venna as a whole is highly tolerant in religious questions, conflicts and even skirmishes do appear, and are not that unusual but rarely become more than a local matter.
True Vennarans are a bit smaller and slighter built than the average, and have a tanned complexion which is not as dark as the Feronians, but a lot darker than those of the northern people. On the other hand, true Vennarans are not that common in Venna anymore. Especially in the East of the country, where many Ferronian refugees settled down during and after the civil war, a mixture of both ethnics is absolutely common, and likewise in the west, where former border domains of slowly collapsing Sabscria have joined the kingdom or in the North, were the border to the Republic of Thuria has become more and more fluent and seems to vanish into an unclaimed no-man’s land.
Venna also features the highest amount of overall Beastfolk population in the known world. Altogether, the different non-human tribes and communities make up almost a fifth of the overall population, and exist in every social class all over Venna, even though there are local customs that may differ.
The demon clan of the Gwailyn-Teraki who live in the territory joined the alliance early on, and became fully accepted and respected (even though still very exotic) members of the realm. This strong Gwailyn-Teraki influence has also lead to strong prejudices against Gwailyn-Arani, who are generally associated with Thurian expansionism, cruelty and general obnoxiousness.
While there is no strong super-ordained social structure in the kingdom, there is a broad range of various and often widely different societies within the Principalities, which make most generalizations about Vennaran culture superfluous and often highly inaccurate. Sometimes it seems that the different local communities have nothing but the overall rule through the Crown Convent and a geographical proximity in common. Most of these small communities stay for themselves, and despite the overall rule, feuds between different tribes and people are not very unusually, even though they are strictly forbidden. This has led to the custom of alleged champions, trained and often highly specialised warriors who are supposed to represent their clan, town or community in duels to solve legal disputes.
Central Venna is a flat grassland and here is also the origin of the probably best horses and horsemen of the known world. These horsemen are also the source of the most famous Vennarans – the paladin orders. These generally highly respected warriors and traveling judges are pretty much the only element of the central government of the kingdom most Vennarans ever see, and they take their role as peacekeepers – and the only thing the Principalities have that resembles a standing army - very serious. The paladins are organized in different orders, who all have their seats in the Crown Convent, and are usually seen aas a symbol of national identification. With so many different groups and interests, it is the paladins who add a social cohesion to the Principalities, by showing its presence and by making sure, that any of the small mosaik stones that form the realm would be worse off without the overall structure.
Due to the open grassland, cattle husbandry is very common in Venya, and so when the kigdom chose a crest, it became a black bull’s head on a golden field. Other animal husbandry is common as well, but is not regarded as similar important.
The South of the realm, the coastal area on the Vennaran Golf, is very different from this. The climate is hotter, the coast is steep and rocky, and the hinterland is an uncontroled and very dangerous region, so that the isolated fisher villages and small coastal towns prefer to stay for themselves and are often seen as a part of the Principalities in name only.
The Kingdom of Venna itself has no standing army. The Crown Convent and the queen herself employ a small detachment of royal guardians, the so-called Purple Knights, but these are few and mostly act as bodyguards of the convent delegates and protectors of the royal palace. The traveling paladins are the only other military force that is directly loyal to the crown, but even they are usually formidable, they are few and it often takes its time to gather them. In addition, the local rulers have their own forces and can rally troops on their own. While theo-retically the Kingdom could rally an army through these local rulers, there would be no central generality of it, and due to the usual rivalry of the local lords, such an army would not be very effective. Due to the long tradition of horsemanship in the central plains of the kingdom, cavalry units are quite common, and the few paladins and knights are all mounted. Traditional Vennaran weapons are therefore usually meant to be effective from horseback as well. Vennaran knights and paladins use primarily one-handed swords and sabers, lances and round shields. They wear plate or chain armor (the traveling paladins usually prefer chainmail, as it is more comfortable and much cheaper) and a pointed, conic helmet.