A Brief History of Natalis, Part 2: Cities and States

A closer look at the political situation in Natalis.

To catch up on the history of Natalis, be sure to check out Part 1.

The Grand City of Imperialis

Said to be founded at the site of the original Elven refugees’ first landing in Realmgard midway along the course of the Creusa river, the capital of the Empire received a name that was more of a lofty title than a mere name: Urbs Prima Imperialis — the first city of the Empire. While technically its official name, this was often reduced to just Imperialis for the sake of brevity.

Imperialis was indeed Realmgard’s first city for centuries, enjoying the wealth and prestige that came with being the capital of the ruling Empire. The city was reduced to a relative backwater following the end of Imperial rule in Realmgard, but has, like many of the cities of Natalis, been thriving for the past few centuries.

The city itself was (and still is) commonly represented by the allegorical personification Capitolina — a figure ultimately adopted by the ancient Elves as a goddess who became popular with the city’s people to the point of eventually being venerated as the patron and protector of the city.

Capitolina is usually depicted with an eagle, a symbol of the Elven Empire almost as old as the Empire itself, and holding and shepherd’s crook, representing the ancient Elves’ belief in themselves as rightful rulers of the continent and leaders of its other peoples.

In recent history Imperialis has lost much of its political power and influence, superseded by numerous other cities in Natalis, it nevertheless remains a centre of art and culture and its historical legacy remains apparent in the ancient ruins that dot the city and its environs.

Present-day Imperialis no longer rules over an empire, but the city’s current government maintains some level of continuity with the ancient forms of government. The highest legislative body in Imperialis is a Senate that claims direct, unbroken descent from the Senate of the ancient Empire (the truth is rather more complicated). Beneath the Senate are level other voting Assemblies that retain the same names and similar overall functions to those of the ancient Elven Empire.

The Duchy of Colline

Located in the northeast region of Natalis in the foothills of the mountains marking the northern border of Natalis, the Duchy of Colline has risen to become one of the premier powers in Natalis, a fact owed in large part to the spectacular political career of one of the Duchy’s great heroes, Duchess Forte.

Forte looms so large over the history of the Duchy that its capital was ultimately renamed in her honour and her successors adopted the image of her triumphing over her enemies as the Duchy’s emblem. Furthermore, “Forte” remains one of the most popular names for baby girls born in the Duchy.

Living several centuries ago and ascending to rule of the Duchy thanks to a lack of brothers and an open-minded father choosing to name her heir, Forte proved a capable Duchess and particularly notable as a female ruler in her own right in a period where few women were afforded such opportunities and many male rulers refused to see a woman as an equal.

Forte energetically defended the borders of her Duchy from Natalian rivals and deftly navigated the intrusion of foreign kingdoms from the north, west, and east in Natalian political affairs. Forte won several victories that were not only decisive, but also utterly humiliating to her (inevitably male) opponents. Additionally, Forte also served as a respected peacemaker in both Natalian and international affairs.

Though it has been centuries since the reign of Duchess Forte, Colline has remained a respected regional power in Natalis and the city that now bears her name is thriving as a centre of commerce and art, particularly unparalleled feats of monumental architecture.

The Duchy of Mercurio

While not visible on a white background, that shield is
supposed to have a white border…

According to legend, the founder of the Duchy was the Hero-Duke Mercurio, who killed the monstrous orc (a kind of sea serpent) that had been ravaging the coastline and devouring the region’s unfortunate young women. When any of the people’s desperate attempts to placate or drive off the orc proved ineffectual, Mercurio’s famous sword, Dracomordax, proved more than up the task, driving off not only the orc but driving its head off the rest of it.

This dramatic episode is frequently celebrated in works of art, sculpture, and theatre by the people of the Duchy, not least of all as its coat of arms.

It is the “Duchy of Mercurio” in the most literal sense, a duchy founded and subsequently ruled by Mercurio. His descendants, the House of Mercuriano, still rule over the Duchy.

Located on the west coast of Natalis, Mercurio possesses both extensive trading and military fleets and a longstanding maritime tradition. Whenever Mercurio’s ambitions turn inland, it often finds itself in conflict with the nearby Duchy of Colline.

While frequent rivals, Mercurio and Colline have also often found common cause against mutual enemies and have fought nearly as many battles as allies as they have fought as enemies.

The Most Serene Republic of Valico

The inscription translates to
“I am the Lion on the Mountain”

Located at a strategically dominant position at the headwaters of the Creusa river and controlling the Gap of Natalis, the most prominent and easily-negotiable pass through the mountains making the northern boundary of the region.

Valico was one of the first independent city states to emerge during the fragmentation of the Elven Empire and is thus one of the oldest of the currently-existing states in Natalis. It is believed that the Republic adopted by the city’s founders inspired similar systems in the Free Cities along Realmgard’s northeast coast.

In its earliest form, the city was founded by refugees fleeing for the safety of the mountains during the chaos and violence of the final days of the ancient Elven Empire. While motivated purely by desperation at the time, in subsequent generations, this advantageous position connecting the city with the rest of Realmgard north of Natalis by land and to lands further afield by sea via the Creusa would allow for a massive influx of wealth and trade in Valico.

Valico has come one of the foremost economic powers in not only Natalis, but all of Realmgard and maintains a staggering network of trade deals, treaties, and pacts across three continents.

The present-day city of Valico is an architectural marvel, with much of the city carved into the living rock of the mountains surrounding the city. A complex network of dams, canals, and reservoirs has been built to manage the seasonal flooding of the Creusa every spring as the meltwater comes pouring down the mountains.

The Confederacy of Sacred Republics

The largest lake (despite its name) in Realmgard the Sea of Origo has long been viewed as the geographic and cultural centre of Natalis.

The islands within the Sea are regarded as among the holiest places in Realmgard due to the belief that the gods themselves first alighted on these islands upon their entry into the world Terrace.

Subsequently, the primary temples of the Elven Empire were built on these islands and much of the Empire’s religious rituals centred on the islands. The colleges of priests devoted to the twelve major deities were based at these temples and the heads of each college would assemble at the Chamber of the Stone Table located on Isola Sacra, the largest island in the Sea of Origo.

In general, the political powers of both Natalis and Realmgard at large retain enough respect for the twelve priestly colleges to honour their autonomy and territorial autonomy. Each of the colleges is an independent, self-governing community and the twelve co-exist in a loose alliance to manage daily affairs and address issues of mutual concern.

Though their religious authority no longer encompasses the entirety of Realmgard following the end of the Elven Empire, these colleges of priests still exist and the head priests still meet at the Stone Table. This is reflected by their banner: twelve flames to represent the sacred fires of the twelve tables surrounding an image of the Stone Table.

The Duchy of Acciaeria

Best known for its extensive foundries and mills, Acciaieria has become regarded as one of Realmgard’s leaders in metalwork and the study of metallurgy as a science. Subsequently, Acciaierian weapons and armour are highly sought-after and the Duchy has been able to significantly enrich itself selling to the other states of Natalis and further afield.

While many in Realmgard know the Duchy best as a source of weapons and armour, Acciaieria also produces numerous artistic works of metalcraft: bells, statues, dinnerware, and engravings, for example.

Primarily presenting itself as a peaceful, economic power to its neighbours, Acciaieria rarely involves itself in the ongoing wars of Natalis. Most famous Acciaierian victories have come in battles fought to defend its own territory and many of these victories have been decisive, thanks to the Duchy’s ability to hire large mercenary armies with its vast coffers and outfit those armies head-to-toe in masterfully-crafted heavy armor.

Despite the constantly-shifting alliances and ever-changing political situation in Natalis, Acciaieria has been largely able to maintain friendly relations with most other Natalian states due to the other Natalians not wishing to alienate their source of the finest weapons and armour in the region.

The Principality of Tour-du-Prince

A small but prosperous polity located on the border between Natalis and Gallicantu centred around a fortress known as the Prince’s Tower — the Gallicantien translation of which serves as the name of the whole of the Principality — Tour-du-Prince has maintained its independence despite its small size thanks in large part to its mountainous, easily-defensible geography.

In fact, when the first Prince of the current dynasty captured the fortress, he did so by guile rather than force, challenging the previous lord of the fortress to single combat, distracting him, then running into the fortress and locking its gates behind him.

The ruling family of Princes has reigned continuously for several centuries. Descended from both Natalian and Gallicantien nobility, the Princes still maintain close ties with both regions and the culture of Tour-du-Prince itself reflects a blend of influences from both.

Tour-du-Prince is a popular destination for tourists among Realmgard’s elite, ensuring that it is a lively and diverse place even despite its small size.

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