Government and Population Edit
Drakenridge is ruled over by a widowed, reclusive countess, Morene von Draken. Lady von Draken is a capable, if elusive and mysterious, ruler in her mid to late 30s. Her family line has ruled over the city of Drakenridge for time immemorial, with a single dynastic line connecting the current countess and the founder of the house, Countess Isabella von Draken. Unlike the other cities in the Empire, the rulers of Drakenridge tend to be female. While the city is officially part of the Oridian Empire and thus subject to proper succession laws, the level of autonomy Drakenridge enjoys from the Empire is vast, as Drakenridge is simply too far and too disparate for the Emperor to functionally manage the city. Drakenridge remains as part of the Empire as more of a courtesy beyond any actual obligation or enforcement, and functions more as a client state rather than an official part of the Empire. Trade deals are still brokered for the rare and valuable goods that come out of Drakenridge, and the city and her citizens have become rich and prosperous over the course of their shared thousand year history.
Drakenridge is one of the largest cities in the Empire, as there are few outlying villages and townships in the region due to the realities of life - Drakenridge is positioned near the Trollfells, and incursions into the area are not uncommon from the vile beasts. The region's denizens learned quickly and early that any unprotected man, woman, or child could at any time be unceremoniously consumed by the voracious and cruel creatures. The population, therefore, is heavily urbanized and well-educated, even by imperial standards. While Drakenridge is a bustling center of trade, due to its distant location, it invariably has a majority human population; of the approximately 400,000 residents, more than 95% is human. The majority culture is Oridian, but there remain some traditionalists who remain, for the most part, adherent to Fellfolk traditions, including the worship of the ancient bear god, Ursun.
Economics and Industry Edit
The primary source of income for the population comes from skilled labor and production. As the city is heavily urbanized, prices are typically rather high for most general commodities, but the prevalence of foreign trade from the nearby Aldermark keeps most prices within affordable ranges for the average citizen, thanks to the easy water access up the Noriska river.
Drakenridge sits on the fork where the Alemara river splits into two. The water is clear and cold, coming from meltwater in the mountains not far from the east. The city does its best to keep it that way through the use of dump sites, and an ancient, proprietary method of cleaning and purifying the city's water that only the city's élite know of for certain, but it is fairly common knowledge that the method for doing so is likely a powerful, ancient magical enchantment. The rivers are, literally and figuratively, the lifeblood of the city.
The most valuable commodities coming from Drakenridge are precious metals that wash down from the mountains and from the mountains themselves, including a silver mine to the west, but primarily a rare flower that grows in the marshy areas around Drakenridge itself. Called Alemara Blossoms by the locals, named after the northern river, they produce a rare, potent purple pigment when crushed called Sylvanian Purple, which is used by local artisans to produce expensive purple silk - Drakenridge's claim to fame. Lesser sources of income are sugar maples, which grow in abundance across the Noriska to the south and to the west, near the foothills of the Crescent Peaks in the west, and wood from forestry. More minor sources of income for the city are agricultural farming and hunting for pelts, although some hunters have made lucrative business out of hunting the exotic beasts near the city.
Estates and Power Structure Edit
The control of the city lies centrally in the hands of the countess, but the Burghers estate has a tremendous amount of influence, given their importance in handling foreign trade and domestic production. Several craftsmen's guilds have cropped up over the years, checking the countess' power and ensuring that she hears their interests. Through shrewd diplomacy and a vast web of connections, the countess has managed to keep a grip on the wealthy and unruly estate, though this grasp is tenuous.
The nobility consists of a few remaining old houses from the early days of Drakenridge, but their position in society is mostly symbolic - their names carry weight and respect, but not significance in modern affairs. Gold is the sign of nobility, and the majority of the old nobility, while not impoverished, has failed to replicate the successes of the Burghers. Their failures to adapt to modern life and the realities of modern business has left them bitter, with relations between the countess and upper nobility strained.
Because of the heavily urbanized population of Drakenridge, serfdom has effectively been abolished. Serfdom still exists in a small portion of the population (fewer than 5%), but most of this is willing servility in order to pay off debts. The laws are extremely strict regarding these arrangements, however, and any patron found violating the rights and clauses within a contract with a client are subject to grievous penalties.
Military and Security Edit
While the estates of Drakenridge can effectively hire or employ any number of swords for hire, or groom their own professional soldiers, Drakenridge also has a small professional army. While not able to bring to bear the same masses of foot troops as cities in kingdoms such as Lydelhearth, the soldiers Drakenridge employs and trains are highly skilled and well-equipped, often with magical arms and armaments where needed. Because of this high level of professionalism and equipment, though small in number, the soldiers of Drakenridge are more than a match for three of the best men from the mainland Empire, with the Drakenridge Blood Dragons standing out even among these exceptional men.
The Order of the Blood Dragon lays claim to the finest heavy cavalry in the Empire, challenging even the Lydelhearthan Knights of the Chalice for their mounted supremacy. Their crimson plate armor, fashioned in a draconic style, strikes fear and awe into the most hardened of soldiers, the thunder of their mounts' hooves a warning to their foes: their doom approaches. Their mounts are the finest of colossal steeds, each one hand-picked to ensure quality. Because of this staggering cost, the countess employs these men as her personal bodyguard, and they number fewer than five hundred men.
The law is strictly adhered to in Drakenridge, with most guardsmen having had formal military training and taking their jobs seriously. They are known for their rigid discipline and strict morality, however, as with any human kingdom, deviance is not uncommon, and there are certainly some who could be persuaded to look the other way when a high enough amount of coin is offered. In general, however, the security of the city is taken very seriously due to the precarious and dangerous position Drakenridge inhabits.
The guardsmen are often active members of the soldier class, and are garrisoned troops trained in keeping the peace and enforcing laws. There is a small force of guards and arbiters of justice within Drakenridge, called the Eyes of the Drake, Eyes of the Countess, or simply "Eyes". They keep the peace between disputing individuals, and are empowered to handle the dispensing of judgement. Failing to reach a judgement results in the case being elevated to the countess and her advisors, and any citizen may elevate the issue to the countess if they feel the judgement was unfair. The rulings are almost always upheld, leading to an unpopular reputation among some of the citizenry.
The majority religion in Drakenridge is the casual worship of either Pelor or Lathander, as is common in the central imperial lands, however a local cult to the ancient deity Balador still remains, with more old-fashioned and traditionalist persons worshipping him as a god of protection. The followers of Balador tend to be friendly and gregarious, welcoming strangers in need into their own homes and caring for those who need it. His symbol is a bear claw, usually gilded when in the form of a holy symbol. Bear claws, pelts, and other talismans are frequently seen, as there are no temples of his faith. There are a scattering of "holy cairns" throughout the region, but many have simply been reclaimed by nature, lost to time and disuse.