Ralencia is a kingdom on coast west of the Western Wilderness. Unlike most of the human kingdoms of the region, Ralencia is not Haelic in origin but instead was founded as a colony of a far off land across the western seas known as Valderia. Founded only 215 years ago, Ralencia began life as a trading port for goods found in the Western Wilderness and in the coastal waters of the western shores. Various furs, meats and fish formed the basis for their initial trade but their greatness was built off the vivid dyes and inks they were able to produce from a local breed of deadly squid which they named the lux squid but which is known by its nickname, “Devil’s Paintbrush”.
In the present, the kingdom of Ralencia has grown beyond a simple mercantile colony and now controls the entire southwestern region of the continent where it has three townships besides it capital of Artemeria – Thelia, Morian, and Ildabarn. The population of Ralencia numbers over 150,000 with the majority of its people dwelling in the coastal communities concentrated in Artemeria. This population fluctuates with season and swells in warmer months the year when the trade winds blow bringing the population of the nation closer to 200,000.
While technically a principality of Valderia, Ralencia is far enough away to enjoy a certain level of autonomy from its mother nation and indeed has developed into nation with its own unique ethnocentricities. The standard political structure of Valderia remains intact, however with its intricate weave of nobles, merchants and clerics. Each city is ruled by a nobleman with the title of Count who answers directly to the Prince in Artemeria, who himself is accountable (and usually related to) the King back in Valderia’s capital of Moralia. Representing the merchant concerns in the cities is a prominent merchant carrying the title of Magister. The Magister acts as intermediary between the concerns of the nobility and the wealthy merchants.
After the Duke and Magister it is the merchants that really keep the cities alive with the flow of goods in and out of the city. Merchants are accountable for their enterprises and fraud or negligence on the part of any merchant house carries with it stiff fines and in severe cases other penalties most notable of which is sanctioning. Sanctioned merchants may find themselves under tariffs or even unable to trade in certain markets. Continued offenses are cause for a complete seizure of a merchant’s holdings within a city and expulsion from the community. Expelled merchants often find themselves black-listed and unable to trade anywhere with Ralencia and as far away as Valderia if the offense is great enough. These merchants often end up destitute and forced into poverty, some other line of less profitable work or, in many cases, become pirates, bandits and other forms of outlaws.
Militarily speaking, Ralencia is known for its conscripted armies and the use of mercenaries both from abroad and recruited locally. Conscripts are drawn up only during times of war with the Prince of the realm drawing funding from the state coffers. These conscripts are usually made up of simple footmen armed with spears and leather armor. Supporting these footmen are archers given light crossbows and simple padded jerkins. All conscripted troops wear simple brimmed helmets or skull caps.
In addition conscripted troops, the Prince in Artemeria traditionally maintains a standing force of highly trained footmen and heavy crossbowmen. These footmen known as The Bodyguards are armed with swords and half plate and carry round shields embossed with the mark of their prince. The heavy crossbowmen, recruited from a mountainous region of Valderia are known as Martianis , named for the region they come from. Mercenary recruitment is traditionally left to the merchants who often keep small contingents as household and caravan guards. The Magister is tasked with coordinating large scale recruitment, insisting that every merchant house donate a percentage of his coffers to the cause, a rate that is determined by the perceived threat. These mercenaries are often recruited along the same lines as those used by the individual merchant households making Ralencian armies very diverse and at times difficult to coordinate. More disciplined mercenaries are often held in reserve behind those recruited from barbarian peoples or even, on occasion, humanoid tribes.
Cavalry is almost unheard of in Ralencia due to the lack of adequate local pasture lands. This is another place where mercenaries are often employed, though often Ralencian armies go without as importing horsemen is often a tricky and expensive prospect. In the past, Ralencia has called upon its homeland to provide cavalry as Valderia is blessed with abundant grasslands and strong steeds. Most often these cavalry are drawn from the units of Boderers that patrol the borders of Valderia. These rough, brutal cavalry have successfully repelled countless border incursions and rebellions in the fringe lands. Due to their reputations and talents for ruthlessness, Boderers are generally not welcome within the cities and kept quartered outside in their camps.
Ralencians are known for their love of life and their origin as merchants and traders has left them for a taste for the finer things. Cities and towns in Ralencia are famous for their numerous open-air eateries, balconies and enclosed patios. Nearly every family home is built around a center garden patio where most meals and social gatherings are conducted. More well-to-do Ralencians may have several of these, themed in different ways even having secreted patios accessible by hidden doors and passages. Such patios are known as “lover’s gardens” and are often used to carry on affairs that the rest of the family or community should not be privy to.
Household life in Ralencia is known for its verve and the peoples’ zest for life does not stop at the portal to their homes. Patriarchal and fraternal in nature with fathers, brothers, uncles and sons taking up the pinnacle positions in the household. Despite this, it is wrong to assume that the women of Ralencia are without power. No man alive in Ralencia willingly invites the vengeance of an angry woman. In fact, Realencian women are known for their long-memories for transgressions against them and the ends to which they will go to meet out their revenge. But for the most part families of this land live harmoniously if not a bit raucous.
The average Ralencian family consists of a mother and father and their 3-4 children. If alive, the parents of the father will live with him as will his unmarried sisters. It is not uncommon for a father’s bachelor brothers to live under his roof, but this is only until they can set out on their own, something that is greatly encouraged. Wealthier families tend to have fewer children, having learned long ago that too many heirs can make for a short life of any nobleman or merchant. Servants are employed by most upper class households with servants being paid a monthly wage or indentured for a predetermined period, often as recompense for some debt owed by themselves or their family. A typical household with servants will have two to three servants for every adult member of the household and an additional servant for every child in the house.
Outside the cities of this land, the rural people of Ralencia live in a fashion similar to their urban brethren. Farmsteads are arranged around an open, cobbled courtyard, usually with a decorative but none-too-functional gate which is more often used as a trellace for grapes or berries. Servants are not employed by rural families as they often have extended families that are more than capable of fulfilling the needs of any individual household. Once again, fathers and their wives live under the same roof as their closest relations. Rural Ralencians often have anywhere from 4-10 children per couple. One difference, in rural areas, is the tendency for married siblings and children to remain in or close to their family homes. It is not uncommon to add new buildings or rooms to existing enclaves when a brother or sister is married or has children. This ensures that the family stays close and maximizes the available labor of the family as a whole.
Villages in the outlying areas are collections of craftsmen and small mercantile families who provide services to their rural farming neighbors. These villages are also focal points for social gatherings among the rural folk as well as the locations for public markets. Public postings and any national business is also conducted in these villages and public posting boards display any communications from the state or local authorities. Villages do not maintain militias but all have some form of alarm system that can quickly communicate emergencies across a large area. Every farm and villa is expected to lend a hand to the common good when these alarms go off.
Faith in Ralencia is drawn from the beliefs of its parent nation. Compared to local traditions and customs and even the religions of Aesland and Aethelmar, it is ponderous and massive. The religion of the realm has no name of its own and is simply known as the Valderian faith. It includes a dozen or so central deities and countless minor demigods referred to as saints and other titles in a few cases. Most holy men of this religion do not dedicate themselves to a particular god or goddess but instead preach the religion as a whole, observing holidays and rituals as befits the time of year or occasion.
Tolerance is not a strong point of the Valderian way and clerics of this faith are reluctant to give any consideration to the beliefs of others. This is not to say that Valderian clerics are enemies of other faiths or that they have any ill will toward other faiths just that they have no place in their cosmology for others. It has been said that the Valderian way reflects the complicated society in which the people live in. They are lorded over by a patriarchal sea god, Obra who rules the various facets of thee Valderian world through a collection of gods and goddesses who represent the various key elements of the world. Goddesses such as Ephimae, goddess of winds are prayed to for calm sailing weather while others like Demesna are asked for a rich harvest. Beneath such deities are countless saints of place, function and occasion. These saints are associated with nearly every element of day to day life and are called on for everything from good marks in school to finding the right boy to take to the country dance.
Most houses have private altars to their favorite or patron demigod saints as well as numerous icons for the more prominent deities of the faith. Children are blessed before these altars. Marriages and funerals are conducted in temples with full ceremony and it is not considered proper to conduct these events without the proper facilities and rituals performed by the proper holy men. Even in the rural areas there are temples devoted to the faith at which all important observances are carried out.
Those who cross the Valderian way are frowned on and often outcast from their families and polite society but that is usually the extent of any punishment meted out by the clerics of the faith. Severe transgressions against the faith are dealt with by the church itself and punishments, in these instances can range from expulsion from the realm, imprisonment, or even death. Though it is believed that they will do so, clerics of the Valderian way do not often wait for their gods to punish transgressors.
The relationship between the Valderian faith and the states of the realm is a tenuous one. Few princes and noble and not even The King will outright defy the church but few of them truly feel they are beholden to it either. Nobles and merchants often do their expected duties in the eyes of the church while carrying on a secular existence that is more detached from the teaching and beliefs of their faith. They are, however, careful to keep any inappropriate behaviors or actions either where they can be excused or where the church cannot prove anything with any surety.
The main interaction between the clerics and nobility of Valderia and by proxy Ralencia is in the sanctifying of their ranks and any important proclamations, dedications, or other pronouncements. Without the official recognition of the clerics of Valderia, no noble can be certain that the common folk will accept such rulings. In many cases such recognitions of state affairs are assured by generous donations to the local temples or by the promise of favors to clerics or their causes.