The Free City of Secca
|Province:||Situated between Leturia and Griffon's Aerie|
|Predominate Races:||Leturians, Griffons, Humans, Mingits|
|Year Founded:||Circa 1000 BT (Before Tagrana), Declared Independence in 190|
|Currency:||Sequin, Asper, Deng, Kip, Karos, Rewop|
|Government:||The Council of Merchants|
|Head of State:||Ruled by King Karos V (in name only)|
Secca is an Independent City-State located far to the west of Arangoth. It is a very ancient city--perhaps the oldest in the entire region. Its prosperity has always been based on trade, various relics from distant lands having been found in and near the city dating back at least three thousand years. Its location at the mouth of the Sekka River gave the city the natural advantage of controlling all trade between the ocean and the river's fertile hinterland. It is bordered by Leturia on the west, and Griffon's Aerie on the east.
- 1 History
- 2 Geographical Features
- 3 Layout and Architecture
- 4 Government and Politics
- 5 Military
- 6 Religion
- 7 Society and Peoples
- 8 Language
When Secca first emerged from the mists of prehistory, it was the center of the Vallarian dynasty known as the Larkibi, which also ruled the southern part of what is now Griffon's Aerie. The enormous palace was built some distance to the east of the river in what later became the suburb of Larkegow. Larkos, the perhaps mythical ancestor of this powerful dynasty, was said to have led his people there from the land in the north, but whether this is true or merely an invented story of the dynasty's origin is hard to say. During the early 1100s BT (Before Tagrana), the Larkibi lost their control of most of the lands outside of the city itself to the growing power of a rival dynasty, the Adrovibi, which absorbed many of the smaller Vallarian principalities about the same time. However, the main branch of the Larkibi family retained its control of Secca itself, ruling it as an independent principality. Another branch of the family, the Larkibi-Talatibi, continued to hold extensive estates within the Adrovibi kingdom as a powerful Vallarian noble family.
The extinction of the powerful Adrovibi dynasty (858 BT) led to many years of civil wars fought between various families seeking to succeed the Adrovibi as the dominant force in Vallaria. Both the Larkibi and Larkibi-Talatibi families supported one of these contenders: the Vepribi family. But the Vepribi were on the losing side of the civil war, and by around 790-770 BT most of the south had submitted to the victorious Svalastribi dynasty, including the Larkibi-Talatibi with their close family ties to Secca. It was a grudging submission, however.
Meanwhile, major migrations were taking place to the other side of Secca. A people called the Mingits, who had long ago established a powerful kingdom to the west of the city and who controlled the mouth of the Fercimi River, were driven from their homeland by a raid of nomadic tribes. Mingit refugees overwhelmed Secca around 720-810 BT, and the size of the city nearly doubled: the Mingit Quarter in East Secca has existed since this time. Secca's ruling Larkibi dynasty seems to have been resilient enough to absorb the refugees; the Soptibi dynasty further north was not so lucky and collapsed under the strain of Igmerinds and Mingits pouring into their territory.
The Larkibi rulers of Secca secretly supported the underground rebel Vepribi against the Svalastribi kings for some time after the end of the Vallarian civil war, sending them money and arms. When a rival branch of the Svalastribi dynasty threw out the ruling line in 668 BT, Seccan support was thrown behind the new ruler, Arakatos IV (668-651 BT). The Larkibi princes' relatives of the noble Larkibi-Talatibi family were richly rewarded for their part in the coup: their leader, Perandos "the Devil," was granted vast estates in central and south Vallaria, comprising practically a separate kingdom (the region is still called the Talatibitem). The Larkibi-Talatibi intermarried with the Svalastribi, and the offspring of one such intermarriage, King Relandos IV (651-585 BT), was drawn even further into relations with his neighbors to the east. His first wife was Merlitza, a Larkibi princess from Secca; his second wife was a Leturian princess named Dirnyeli. He built the city of Randegow to encourage trade with Leturia, and he also established a city near Secca (it is now called Griffon's Crossing) to serve a similar purpose.
In 558 BT, a descendant of the Vepribi family rose up again and overthrew the Svalastribi in a terrible slaughter. The Larkibi Prince of Secca supported this pretender to the Vallarian throne, turning over to the victorious Vepribi leadership any Svalastribi supporters whom his men caught trying to flee through Secca. This was a poor choice on the Prince's part and brought great misfortune to the city. The son of the murdered Svalastribi king fled far away and appealed to the Griffons to come to his aid. This prince, Relandos V., returned in 556 BT with his Griffon allies and wrought a terrible vengeance upon the Vepribi and all their supporters. Secca was mercilessly pillaged and looted (565 BT), and the defeated Larkibi Prince of Secca was publicly executed. This did little to win the affections of the townspeople, who eagerly supported a new rebellion in the south led by Manutos Arakatibi (499-470 BT). In 470 BT the Griffons again came to the aid of the Svalastribi and put down this second rebellion. Secca was looted once again, and large parts of the city were burned. New fortifications were established in the city, and Secca was the first Vallarian city to have a permanent Griffon garrison. In an effort to win back the loyalties of the population, a later Svalastribi king, Manutos I. (433-409 BT) married a Larkibi princess from Secca and reestablished her brother as Prince of Secca. But the days of Svalastribi rule in Vallaria were numbered.
In 312 BT, the Griffons seized political control of South Vallaria, driving the Svalastribi into the north and renaming their kingdom Griffon's Aerie, leaving Secca in a very precarious position. In 290 BT, after having consolidated their rule over South Vallaria, the Griffons seized control of Secca in a bloodless coup, expelling the Larkibi family once and for all. As it was a very large family, this meant the exile of several hundred individuals. For the next 480 years, Secca was ruled by the Griffons.
Secca played only a very minor role in the failed uprising of the human beings of Griffon's Aerie in 8-7 BT, which was used as the pretext for depriving the human population of Griffon's Aerie of all political rights, essentially enslaving them. Because of Secca's loyalty during the uprising, and because of its importance as an international trading center, these draconian measures were not applied to the city and its immediate environs. This led to an enormous influx of humans from elsewhere in Griffon's Aerie, again swelling the population of the city: in particular, the suburbs of Learna and Larkegow grew at this time.
Karos I. the Proud (67-126) is known for his abrupt reversal of the traditional friendly relations with Leturia to the west and his sudden and very successful invasion of that country. The subsequent Leturian-Griffon Wars of that century hurt the merchants of Secca more than anyone else, but their complaints and petitions were disregarded. Secca's merchants agreed to participate in and help fund the wars only if they were given given certain incentives: the peace agreement was to include the cession of the Leturian cities of Sekelara and Dingalmi (which had been built right on the Leturian border with Secca to control trade) and a provision that all Leturian ports, including Secca's principal rival, Rilmeri, would henceforth be closed to all international sea trade. They got their way on both counts, but still Secca felt constrained by the yoke of rule from Griffon's Aerie, which soaked up much money in taxes but did little for Secca's well-being.
In 190 Secca declared its independence with the help of a contingent of sympathetic Griffons, taking control of all the land now governed by the city. The city has been ruled ever since by a Council of Merchants, which had existed earlier but only now gained sovereign power. In 217, a lower-class Seccan from the Mingit Quarter, named Yemzan, seized control with the help of a mob and declared himself dictator during a panic caused by rumors that the Leturians were planning to attack the Griffons through Seccan territory, or vice versa. Yemzan died in 250, four years after the Leturians and Griffons finally sealed a lasting peace. The Griffon King Sintos the Black (242-261) married Yemzan's daughter Yelswin (252), declaring himself the heir to the Seccan "dictatorship" by virtue of this marriage. Because Leturian-Griffon relations no longer threatened Seccan trade, the Seccans agreed, on the condition that their earlier victories with relation to Leturia were maintained intact. However, they continued to keep an entirely separate administration with their Council of Merchants, the Griffon king really being their king only in name. During the imprisonment of King Karos IV by the magician Rewop, Secca continued to consider Karos the rightful king of the Aerie.
The condition of Secca has remained stable since 252, and its history has been relatively uneventful over the last two and a quarter centuries. By virtue of the earlier treaties, it enjoys a monopoly on all international sea trade into or out of Leturia, as well as the right to have its navy police the Leturian shoreline to prevent smuggling.
Notable Historical Figures
The Larkibi family were the first known rulers of the area of Vallaria that would come to be Secca.
This is a dense forest which covers much of the land to the west of the Sekka River. There are no real roads through it, and it is very difficult to hire a guide. It is infested both with brigands and wild animals, either of which would just as soon kill you as smirk at you. There are, however, reputed to be various benevolent entities within the forest which protect the visitor who is pure of heart; children in particular who wander into the Backwoods generally return unharmed -- not even frightened.
Layout and Architecture
Lying to the east of the Sekka River, this is really the ancient heart of the city. The harbor is a veritable sea of masts, and whenever a loud sound startles the hordes of native seagulls into flight their wings block out the sun like locusts. In and along the mouth of the river closest to the sea lie the looming warehouses of the great mercantile houses, hoarding away their wealth of rare goods from far-off lands: Arangoth, Tollor, Pentland and beyond. Further in along the river are the private houses of the very wealthy, some extending out over the river on tall wooden poles encrusted with generations of barnacles. Their roofs and shutters glitter with polished brass fittings, and the aroma of their kitchens wafts out to tickle the noses of the lowly gondoliers below. For several miles along the seafront itself lie the ships and boats of the lesser merchants and the little coracles of the fisher-folk, and all along the shore stands table after table brimming over with silvery fish still wriggling, the day's catch hauled in to feed the teeming population of the great city.
Even further down the shore towards Larkegow, the pebble-strewn beach widens into a magnificent promenade lined with exotic trees transplanted from all corners of the globe. Here the children of Secca run and play in the summer sun; here the youth of Secca meet and fall in love; here the elderly stretch their legs and play board games; here the pastry-sellers hawk their wares, pushing along their rattly little carts; and here the plump swans and ducklings feed upon the remnants of the lunches discarded by passersby. Facing the pebble beach is, among other places, the far-famed Griffon's Beak, an inn as prominent here as the BlkDragon Inn in Drache or the Silver Leaf Inn in Ethcabar. The central ferry station interrupts the beachfront at one point; from here one may ride the ferries for mere sequins up the Sekka River to North Secca and Dingalmi, or east along the seashore all the way to Larkegow, or west to the delights of Sekelara Harbor. The pebble beach and the streets near the center are all patrolled constantly by mercenary police hired by the Council of Merchants, which has governed Secca since it declared its independence from Griffon's Aerie in 190. The Council itself meets in a long, low stone building which divides the pebble beach from the Grand Market beyond. The Grand Market covers an enormous amount of ground and contains several thousand stalls. Beyond the market lie various shops and separate quarters dedicated to the operations of various handicraft guilds. Horse-drawn carriages are cheaply hired to get about the city streets, though these are not quite as inexpensive as the ferries.
This district lies to the north of East Secca and as its name suggests is inhabited by the Mingits, a people which fled their homeland in the west over a thousand years ago. Although they are engaged in roughly the same sorts of occupation as other Seccan citizens, their customs, language, dress and so forth are all very different from that of the rest of the surrounding population. They are extraordinarily heavy drinkers, though they rarely show signs of drunkenness, and no evening is complete until everyone has sat around a table and drunk a round of toasts in a rigidly fixed order and sung various old ballads and laments regarding unrequited love and heroic death in battle and the like. However, this is done in private homes only; the Mingits hold public inns in disdain. They do not intermarry with other groups, and in fact, they do not marry at all on an individual level. Rather, they are divided up into several hundred units called "brotherhoods." Each brotherhood collectively "marries" individual daughters from other brotherhoods, while sons remain in the brotherhood into which they are born. Outsiders tend to view this arrangement with suspicion. Non-Mingits who want to enter into business dealings with Mingits are sometimes required to join a Mingit brotherhood, which leads to any number of complications too thorny to be discussed here.
The Mingits value fountains and public baths for cleanliness. Their houses, built of brick, never have windows facing outwards but only inwards towards internal courtyards. Mingit dead are invariably buried in their own homes, whereas most other inhabitants of Secca opt for cremation. Their religion appears to be a cross between pantheism and ancestor worship, but its details are not revealed to outsiders. The rabbit is held by them to be a sacred animal. Ever since the time of their first settlement in the city they have been self-governing, ruled by their own Chief with absolute powers over his people and the various brotherhoods. They exact extraordinarily harsh punishments for what seem to outsiders to be relatively minor offenses. Also, these punishments do not strike outsiders as particularly fair because the penalty is not exacted from the guilty individual but from his or her brotherhood; if the individual has fled, then any random member of the brotherhood can be punished--even executed--in his or her place. In short, the Mingits are markedly different from other Seccans, and other Seccans view them as rather odd.
This is a minor suburb of Secca built north of the Mingit Quarter at the confluence of the Sekka River and the smaller Flune River, which winds its way through a pleasant farming region controlled by the Council of Merchants. North Secca is the principal entrepôt for the Flune River farming community, but more importantly, it is the furthest point north on the Sekka River that large boats can reach without getting mired in the muddy river bottom. Therefore, it is here that cargo bound for points north has to be unloaded and transferred to carts and wagons.
This is the part of the city located on the west bank of the mouth of the Sekka River, and it is decidedly the wrong side to be on. If you are looking for a cockfight or a brothel, you are in the right place; however, you are also in the right place to have your throat slit and your purse snatched. The merchants represented on the Council of Merchants do not live there or go there, and consequently they do not pay for any mercenary police to patrol it. This means that venturing there is taking your life into your own hands. The wine-houses there are known to charge outsiders sums inflated several thousand times over for drinks or meals. The opium dens of West Secca are notorious. The only safe corridor through West Secca is the route taken by the post-wagons; since this passage is vital to land-based trade, the Council of Merchants does pay for a bodyguard to accompany these wagons through on the road towards Sekelara and the Leturian frontier. Private bodyguards can be hired relatively inexpensively; people volunteering such services harass anybody disembarking from the ferry at the West Secca ferry-port, and if their services are refused they often turn into exactly the sort of person they were offering protection against. This having been said, anyone with a hired bodyguard will usually be relatively safe in West Secca, and such individuals are also very willing to serve as tour guides to the shady side of the city's vibrant life. They generally receive kickbacks from opium dens, brothels etc.
The "Little Tollor" neighborhood is situated in West Secca near the point at which the road to Sekelara enters a brief stretch of farmland. The seafront of West Secca is the haunt of sailors during their time ashore, a place where one can learn how to swear up a blue streak in a dozen languages and where whiskey is more easy to come by than fresh water. This is where one would go, for example, to hire an experienced sea salt for a dangerous voyage. It is not where one would go for a leisurely stroll after supper.
The name means "the Secca Road" in Leturian, and it originally sprouted up on the Leturian side of the border as a gathering-point for goods and persons crossing into Seccan territory. It was annexed to Griffon's Aerie during the Leturian-Griffon Wars and became part of Secca after the city's declaration of independence in 190. Sekelara has remained Secca's principal Leturian suburb with its population standing at approximately 90% Leturian. It still operates as the main focal point for land-based trade with central Leturia, and a large number of its inhabitants are employed in transporting goods back and forth on rint-back. Although the very center of Sekelara houses a number of wealthy Leturian merchants, most of this town is rather run-down and not particularly safe after dark, or before dark for that matter. What has been said about West Secca is mostly also true of Sekelara.
A sort of Leturian mafia operates principally out of Sekelara, trafficking in smuggled wine, Sardvimian opium, various illegal poisons used by assassins, Leturian prostitutes and foreign weapons. Sekelara is also said to be the center of the Nodekveban Independence League, a terrorist organization seeking to liberate the Leturian seacoast from the crippling economic restrictions placed on it by a treaty with Griffon's Aerie signed centuries ago. Not long ago the League burned down the house of one of the most prominent members of the Council of Merchants, and the same terrorists have been responsible for a great number of political murders in recent decades.
As its name suggests, this was the old harbor attached to Sekelara when the territory was still part of Leturia. It is now not much different economically from the rest of the Seccan seafront except that its shipping tends naturally to focus on supplying Leturia, and particularly Nodekveba province. There is also a Seccan naval base located here which is conscientiously patrolled by police at all hours, mainly to regulate Seccan marines on leave. Sekelara Harbor is accordingly rather safer than Sekelara proper--probably the safest place west of the mouth of the Sekka River. Although the population is only around 60% Leturian, this is where Leturian culture really flourishes. Countless peddlers of inexpensive Leturian millet cakes wander the seafront with their little carts for those in need of a snack, and the finer Leturian restaurants of Sekelara Harbor are second to none with regard either to their thick-cut Steak Telmenena in quince sauce, their famous octopus stew with scallions and sweet turnips, or their legendary boar's-liver chowder. The "keremeva" or "inn" is known here for the quality of its wine and music. The "silfemeva" is a similar establishment where patrons in addition to drinking can also watch the sensuous Leturian tail-dancing often decried as decadent and immoral by uptight citizens. In the way of landmarks, Sekelara Harbor has a prominent lighthouse visible many leagues distant from shore and a number of wind-battered stone pillars erected along the seafront in memory of Leturian sailors lost at sea.
This settlement arose at what was once the border checkpoint for goods and persons traveling between Secca and the old Vallarian kingdom years ago. The border was moved much further back in the direction of Griffon's Aerie after the declaration of Seccan independence in 190: the town has therefore outlived its purpose. Its main street contains what used to be a number of important merchants' shopfronts: today most of these have been bought up by neighboring farmers. Some parts of the town have been entirely abandoned, particularly on the north side where many shells of old buildings have been invaded by snakes and wildcats. The southwestern part of Griffon's Crossing is still fairly well-populated by odd-job workers who commute into East Secca, and there are large granaries located in various spots throughout the town. Otherwise there are several inns there for persons traveling the land-roads between Secca and Griffon's Aerie as well as a post-station. Griffon's Crossing has all the depressed atmosphere of a place that was once a bustling mercantile center but is today a humdrum rural entrepôt. Legends abound regarding wealthy Griffon merchants who buried their treasures in gold and precious stones underneath their shops in the town during the tumult of 190 and were then either killed or forced to flee forever.
Until about 450 years ago, this was a minor Vallarian and then Griffon village owned by the powerful Larkibi-Talatibi family. It grew to its present size due to the flood of human refugees from Griffon's Aerie following the Battle of Blambor Bridge in 8 BT. It was seized by the Seccan Council of Merchants after their declaration of independence in 190 and proclaimed a "free village," meaning that its inhabitants no longer have to pay rent on their holdings there. Learna elects its own mayor and "council of elders" which has the right to try villagers for criminal offenses but not to impose the death penalty. Surrounded by lush farmland, Learna is a dense settlement built mostly of mud bricks and wood.
There is a legend which describes the origins of the village. Learna is supposed to have been the daughter of Larkos, founder of the Larkibi dynasty. Having disobeyed her father--precisely how varies depending on who tells the story--she was taken out into the wilderness and left to die, bound with thick ropes to the trunk of an enormous oak tree. Larkos declared that whoever untied would be labeled as an outlaw, hunted down, and killed without mercy. But the people of Secca felt sorry for the girl, and although they dared not risk death by untying her, they took food and drink to her for month after month and year after year, wrapping her in furs and kindling fires to keep her warm in the winter, and carrying out cool water to pour over her in the heat of summer.
Because of the time involved in going back and forth to the far-off place every day, a small settlement grew up around the oak tree. Some say she died there finally, still tied to the tree at an advanced age; others say that when Larkos found out what was going on he burst into tears and ran out to untie her himself, offering up his own life to atone for how he had wronged his daughter. In either case, the idea is that the settlement that grew up around the oak tree still exists, and that it took the name of the girl Learna. The main inn in Learna which caters to persons traveling the land-road between Secca and Griffon's Aerie is named the "Great Oak" as a living tribute to this old legend.
This was once a simple Leturian town that happened to lie close enough to Secca that it was incorporated within the territory annexed by the city as spoils of the Leturian-Griffon Wars. Its name means "Black Tower" in the East Leturian dialect (= Dunglami in standard West Leturian). It was taken over before the abolition of Leturian feudalism, and the Leturian family which had formerly owned the town was simply replaced by a family of the Griffon petty nobility, the Torskibi, while the peasant population continued to be a mixture of humans and tailed Leturians. After Secca declared its independence in 190, Dingalmi was purchased from the Torskibi family by the Seccan Council of Merchants, which collects a household-rent from the inhabitants to this day and appoints an Overseer to administer the town. Dingalmi is in essence an overgrown village surrounded on three sides by the dense Backwoods and on the fourth by the rushing Sekka River. It serves as a gathering point for land-based trade with the Celdeumi Province of Leturia, and it also carries on a lively industry in the manufacture of wooden furniture and simple metal items. Its buildings are almost all entirely made of wood, and its houses are not packed close together as they are elsewhere in the region, but rather spread out over a wide area cleared away from the forest over the years by logging. Its population today is roughly 40% tailed Leturian, 60% untailed, with Leturian as the prevalent language. The only structure of any size or splendor is the old Torskibi Mansion, which has been converted into a customs house and lies upon a wooded knoll overlooking the Dingalmi market. Because Dingalmi blends almost imperceptibly into the forest beyond its limits, wild animals have sometimes been known to carry away children and even adults from the very center of town. As a measure to protect the town against such predators, the citizens have what is known as the Bear Bell, rung whenever any dangerous animal is spotted within the town limits. Dingalmi is ordinarily reached by river ferry from North Secca; there is no reliable approach to the town by land through the Backwoods.
In earlier times this was the site of the enormous palace of the Larkibi dynasty which ruled Secca until 290 BT, the year the city was taken over by the Griffons. The palace covered many acres, including gardens and artificial ponds and race-courses. After the expulsion of the Larkibi, the palace grounds were thrown open to anyone who wanted to settle on them, and the suburb of Larkegow sprang up amidst its ruins. Of the buildings of the old palace, only the Tomb of the Larkibi Princes and the magnificent Temple of Sekra remain intact; the goddess Sekra is traditionally considered to have been the protectress of the city of Secca. There are more stone buildings here than anywhere else in Secca, built over the years out of demolished parts of the old palace. This suburb also has a larger Griffon community than any other part of the city. It contains a Lilist Temple which conducts services according to Griffon rites, and horses are raised in this suburb to provide meat for the Griffon population. The ancient palace race-course has been maintained to this day for various sporting events.
This island is the seat of the highly-esteemed Seccan navy which patrols the sea coast to combat piracy and smuggling and to enforce the treaty provisions by which all Leturian international sea trade must go by way of Secca. It also contains Secca's high-security prison complex, built somewhat on the model of the infamous Seven Towers Prison in the capital city of Griffon's Aerie. An inexpensive ferry connects Rabbit Island with the mainland during daylight hours, but after sunset travel between the two places is strictly forbidden. There are several stories as to how the island got its name, but none of them can be repeated in polite company.
Government and Politics
Secca is ruled by the Council of Merchants, a forty-one member body which is not popularly elected but which itself chooses replacements for members which depart through death or expulsion. The city enjoys full rights of sovereignty; the Griffon King is only a figurehead there, and is in fact not permitted to appear before the Council of Merchants in griffon form.
Secca jealously guards its treaty right to draw in all of Leturia's international sea trade, and the various imposts and duties on these goods go a long way towards paying for the city's budget (spent largely on the mercenary police and the navy). The Council of Merchants is therefore very eager to suppress smuggling. Apart from their sea and border patrols, this concern is reflected in a city-wide ban on any sort of teleportation of people or things. This is obviously difficult to enforce; however, anybody entering or leaving Secca by an authorized route is given a sort of passport or visitor's card which is stamped at each arrival or departure. Anyone who cannot produce such a card is considered guilty of the crime of teleportation and is usually imprisoned on a charge of smuggling. The Council of Merchants has also hired several magicians and psions in an attempt to disrupt any teleportation into or out of Secca. Most of those they have hired are completely incompetent and accepted the job only to make some quick cash, but persons considering teleporting directly into Secca ought to keep the risks in mind. Many people coming from far away choose to teleport to Leturia or Griffon's Aerie, where such activity is entirely legal, and then to commute by land or sea from there. Persons coming to or leaving from Secca should also be aware that duties are charged for the import and export of many things, such as but not limited to: swords, armor, jewelry, wine, beer, foodstuffs, cloth (not clothing), cattle, and horses. If these are taken out again when the visitor leaves Secca, the money in question is refunded upon surrender of the tax receipt.
Secca has inherited Lilism from its ancestors and many of the religious trades and practices from neighboring Leturia and Griffon's Aerie. However, the particular brand of Lilism practiced in Secca is different from those in the other countries in that Secca has not inherited the blatant racism often associated with the religion. Although the Lil is followed, and still the official religion, most citizens of Secca do not adhere to it, instead taking it as it was originally written--a group of suggestions by which a society can better function.