Name: Federated Empire of Fresia
Fresia is tied together by a common language and heritage that descends, albeit distantly, from a collection of "barbarian" tribes that historically occupied the region. Today's Fresians still still identify strongly with this ancestry, and are a strong willed, combative, and rugged people. Fresians are frequently seen as religious weirdos and hicks in the West.
Government and Politics
During the early 1400s Fresia found itself on the verge of total collapse and lost large areas of land including the formerly prosperous Pinch Region in the south and much of the northern territory to the Monster Kingdoms. Once an organized federation of relatively independent cities and states whose large collection of semi-autonomous regions governed by local hereditary monarchies gave it the nickname "The Land of a thousand Princes," the loss of those lands led to a smaller nation that is more centralized with a more powerful Emperor. There are several "free cities" still, and there are still technically elections, but the loss of the frontier dutchies means that since the Calamity a single family has been able to continually manage the elections.
Fresian politics are still notoriously difficult to summarize because of the amount of governmental diversity. The still-existing dutchies are governed by a noble family that can trace its lineage back to the time of the demi-pantheon. Each region is furthermore divided into a number of counties that are governed at the whim of the local duke, earl, count, or baron, or sometimes by elected civil officials, minor noble houses, industrial guilds, or even military leaders that answer to the local ruler, or in some cases directly to the emperor. There are still a few independent city-states that are home to multiple major and minor noble houses that are generally administered by a burghur council and elected civil officials.
At the center of this political mess is the office of the Fresian Emperor, whose power is now more like kings in other lands. The authority of the emperor is not absolute as he is restricted by both political contracts and the Council of Princes. The post is occupied by whoever wins a majority vote of the Peerage on the death of the old Emperor. While this theoretically means any Fresian noble could become Emperor and the imperial seat used to frequently change families, the same family has held on to power since Emperor Radulf II in 1400. Prior to his rule Fresian emperors were typically either blithely incompetent figureheads or powerful and cunning personalities.
Fresian diplomatic relations are necessarily complicated as well, as different noble houses and duchies maintain their own relationships with neighboring nations and each other. Fresia has a long, bitter history of conflict with Flannary to its west, and the two have been engaged in a number of major wars and near continuous minor military disputes since they split from Flannary 3,000 years ago, with the "Bloody Thirty-Nine" being most often at the heart of conflicts. While wars and conflict exist in the far past, Fresia's recent relationship with its other neighbors, namely Gildenhome and Hakan, have been far more civil--Fresians by and large have tremendous respect for the competence and resilience of the Dwarves and the independence and fighting spirit of the Gnomes. The southern part of Fresia is often harassed by raiders from The Ulan, as well.
Compared to the other nations of the Mainland, Fresia is rather poor and underdeveloped outside of its cities. The lack of a unified and consistent tax base or political authority hampers the development of industry. Also, a great deal of mundane mineral wealth must be imported from Gildenhome, although this is offset a great deal by the quality and precision of Fresian craftwork. Finally, Fresia's hostile relationship with its neighbor Flannary both strains the economy with the burden of warfare and prevents easy trade with the western empires. While any Fresian will tell you that he, in fact, prefers a more rugged lifestyle, the reality is that it is simply difficult to make money in Fresia.
However, Fresians do still manufacture a number of quality goods with international renown (due in part to their rarity in the West). They are particularly blessed with a deep and wild woodlands, which provides ample quality hardwood to fuel Fresian furniture production. While Fresian wood crafts are not particularly elegant or decorative, they are known for being incredibly sturdy and ingenious, and often make excellent use of space and can be easily broken down for transport. The Fresian wilds are also home to a large population of powerful wild beasts, whose thick hides are used to make masterful leather armors. Finally, the nation's cooler temperatures and clear streams allow for the production of crisp and refreshing beers and ales, which are known to beer lovers throughout the world.
Much of the local economy is, in fact, based on war and conflict with Flannary. Most Fresian men and many women spend at least some amount of time in the military. As a result, Fresian metal armors and weapons are second only to Dwarven goods.
Fresia retains its character and thrives as the middlemen between the Golden Road and the exotic (Dwarven/Gnomish) lands of the East. They also have a connection to the Chrysanthemum Gulf via the Silver Highway.
History and Culture
Fresians draw their cultural heritage from a variety of sources. From their barbarian roots, modern Fresians maintain a fierce sense of independence and a near reverence for conflict, both political and military, honed to deadly precision in the crucible of their inchoate and conflict-ridden empire. From their proximity to the Dwarves, they have learned tremendous respect for craftsmanship and competence. Suffice to say that Fresians are not a fun loving or cheerful people, and most consider Fresians to be gruff, impatient, aggressive, and exacting. However, they are known to be fierce fighters, powerful statesmen, and capable craftsmen, and are well-respected despite their stern demeanor.
Fresia has launched several campaigns against the territory across the river, to mixed results. The Empire has settlements and even fortifications on the far side of the river, but pushing into the more heavily forested lands to the north has not met with any sustained success. The Silver Road has some pretty well fortified trading posts, but otherwise there is little to no settlement along its banks.