Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Pellegrine, A History?


Pellegrine is the northernmost civilized kingdom in Western Allegonde.  Within the last 50 years it underwent a rapid process of defeudalization, with political and monetary power concentrating almost totally into the hands of the Crown and its allies.  The kingdom was reorganized into four administrative divisions: the Red March, the White March, the Green March (each named for one of the colors on Pellegrine's tripartite banner) and the Crownlands.

Pellegrine borders The White Mountains to its east and, south of The White Mountains, a grand stretch of forested or barren country called The Lost East.  I guess The White Mountains are sort of akin to the Alps though on a much grander scale.  The Lost East is a massive stretch of land which formerly belonged to the Mage Republics (also known as The Magearchies and the Mage Cities).  Shortly after The Return of the Giants, when everyone else was trying to put their smashed civilizations back together, the Mage Republics had a war amongst themselves and blew up their entire territorium, showering the area in cancerous and mutative Magic Radiation.

The Lost East has only been safe for habitation for about 100 years.  For the first half of that time no government was particularly interested and resettlement proceeded at a very tepid pace.  However on securing its power-base at home, the Crown of Pellegrine authorized the creation of new peerages from the reclaimed wilderness, resulting in the Shield Baronies.   The Shield Baronies are something of an oddity in that rough frontier law rules the day, and in many ways they are throwbacks to high fuedal times; however they exist entirely under the auspices of the King of Pellegrine, and as yet have no economic independence.

For a long time, Pellegrine didn't have a capital.  The king traveled in a regular annual circuit, hosted by each of the Kingdom's great noble houses in turn.  As international commerce and royal law grew in importance, a few major market-towns sprang up and these were declared Royal Cities, cities under royal protection with royal license to house or dispense this or that commodity and so-on.  Mercantile guilds were an important royal ally in this transitional era, against recalcitrant nobles whose wealth and power was inveigled in land, military force and traditional market crops.

Royal ascendancy wasn't all that dramatic.  The King and his friends became a debtor to the nobles and largely took away their entrenched military force by buying it from them as a troublesome expense.  Pellegrine today is a very demilitarized realm with wealthier towns taking the protection of roads and waterways upon themselves, and a small royal-funded coast guard watching the northern shore.  The Nobles in their turn largely left ancestral desmenes behind and became courtiers, vying for favor, purchasing titles and currying influence in the King's now-fixed court.

Odd as the term may be, it isn't inappropriate to call Pellegrine's capital an "artificial city."  It lies more-or-less in the middle of the Crown Lands, a gigantic demesne ostensibly all within the king's portfolio but in reality parceled out to hundreds of benefactors, allies and corporations which exist by royal grant or charter.

Within this geographical and political nerve-cluster was the confluence of two mighty rivers flowing out of the Northwest and the East, creating a large ring of floodland about a many-islanded swamp.  This centerland had never been good for much but semi-annual grazing and a waterway to take goods elsewhere.   Under the advisement of the easterner Quan-Xiu (Kwanshoo, "The God of Finance,") the king guided four noble houses and more than a dozen merchant guilds or societies (some no more than humble caravaners) to form The Chartered Corporation and Friends of the Royal Bank of Pellegrine (CC&FotRBP), roughly a century before such a thing would be plausible in Analogous Real-Life England.

As directed by Kwanshoo, the parties became the sole custodians of the king's great reserves of bullion, and issued guarantees of resale to investors who deposited their gold and silver commodities into the common store.  These promissory notes could be exchanged at will and were as good as the bullion they represented in the borders of Pellegrine.  Speculation led to increased value which increased the notes' purchasing power (as long as the Bank carefully controlled the supply and fakes were quickly outed).

IRL, the notes would become so overvalued so quickly they would soon be functionally useless.  This was prevented thanks to the speedy creation of a totally artificial coinage to replace the notes, using techniques of the Arcane Alchemists of The Great East.  The creation of the "copper," "silver," and "gold," coins was given in charge to a special society of Alchemists whose foundries would lie soleley in the new royal city.   These lightweight coins, actually mainly composed of zinc, were issued in enormous stringed bunches.  While cumbersome, the sheer number of worthless coins that could be quickly made managed to eat the inflation somewhat.

Like this.
 The second factor that made the project a success was that the CC&FotRBP was created essentially to create a city from scratch in the Crown Lands' geographic center.  This was a project requiring a great influx of men, tools and commodities, and essentially it gave the involved parties something to do with their money so that it didn't just pile up and become worthless.  The swamp was drained the rivers diverted via enormous stone canals which incorporated four additional streams into the network.  The new city was built on a wonderwork of hidden canals and sluices such that the air of its avenues and heights stayed dry and healthful.  No water from the rivers, network of locks, or underground springs was anywhere allowed to stagnate but all contributed to the South-to-Eastwards flow of water from which the city was now font.  The new town would be universally known as The Crown City and was fixed abode for the Kings of Pellegrine ever after.

Like Venice and London had a baby.

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