The Free Cities of Geroia
Rulers: Princes Altar Girao of Almadavara, Hibaldo de Alencastro of Orizo, Gemini Fajardo of Gallurexus, Ciprian Aguiar of Greta
Cultural analogues: Spanish, Portuguese, Catalonian, Basque
Geroia is a region below the Empire connected through a narrow mountain pass. The four Free Imperial Cities are in vassalage under the Empire, though they enjoy much freedom, compete amongst themselves and always seek to make money. Each city is ruled as a merchant republic. Geroia’s people worship the Maker.
Geroia was settled on the 3rd century by the Empire seeking to exploit local rare spices and fill their coffers. These settlers ranged from the poor searching for a new life, adventurers and rich investors. They found the sunny lands south of the gulf sparsely inhabited, and these native peoples were mostly driven further south to the great savannahs, while those who stayed were assimilated. Geroian culture thus formed from a boiling pot of locals and settlers from all corners of the Empire. It is safe to say Geroia has a bit of every blood in Calradia, from Sturgian to Aserai, and most of its people share a tan from the sun. And its language, too, is close to Imperial but distinct with innumerable influences.
Being that most of the benefactors were not of noble blood but rather ambitious burghers, the four newly-formed cities chose to govern themselves in a republican fashion. Every sufficiently rich person participates on the republic and elect the Prince amongst themselves. The four Princes answer directly to the Emperor albeit their obligations are very loose. They must pay tax and supply troops, but in relation to other provinces the Geroian ones have much autonomy, with their own laws, foreign diplomacy and at times waging war against one another.
The Four Princes always had to rule with a savvy instinct for survial to endure competition and internal intrigue. While true all across Calradia, in Geroia a dagger in an alleyway is especially popular. Geroia is connected to the rest of Calradia by a thin pass near the coast, separated from the Nahasa by the tall mountains of the Serrates mountain range. To the south are vast savannahs, lands hard to settle and above all unprofitable to do so. Geroia is easily defended by its series of mountain forts, and any naval invasion would have to deal with the mighty united navies of all four cities. But this is unlikely, as Geroia prefers to trade, avoid conflict and only fight when it is profitable.
On recent times Geroia experiences great prosperity. Geroia is the top producer of rare goods such as saffron, tobacco, sugar and coffee, easily outcompeting the Aserai, the far-east and the Imperial provinces of Charas and Jalmarys for the Calradian market. As the Empire starts to show its cracks as it is attacked from east and west, the free cities ask themselves if perhaps it would be better for business to leave the Empire.
The Geroii Wars (216 - 252)
When Emperor Gallus Agapta called for the settlement and cultivation of the Geroian south, Maurice Zonara, third son of the Comtes of Jamiche led the biggest contingent of warriors, craftsmen, serfs and slaves. The Empire was at the high of its power in a hundred years, having conquered its enemies and enslaved them, bringing forth on the Empire a stream of cheap labour at a time where cities were getting overcrowded and work hard to come by. It wasn’t a surprise then to assume that the promise of untamed land drew in droves of families. Historians agree that the reason the Empire hadn’t gone to the profitable south before was only due to manpower.
And so Maurice Zonara marched his caravan that stretched beyond the horizon. He wasn’t the very first to lay claim on lands, so he crossed the newly-dubbed Saint Francis River and on its banks he founded the city of Gallusrexus in honor of his benefactor. One fact he didn’t account for was the aggression of the native Geroii tribes. The sun-tanned locals had weapons and armour on par to the Empire. While the self-proclaimed Dux Maurice managed to hold them off for a year, his city was burnt to the ground and only a few of his court managed to escape before barbarians breached the walls. As Maurice began a guerrilla war to reconquer the lands he called his own, his claims were also endangered by other settlers.
Damatius Glycas who would eventually found Orizo further west and Zeno Kurkuas of the more prosperous settlement of Greta conquered the Geroii with liberal use of mercenaries and bribes, partitioning the lands that were once Gallusrexus. As more native tribes were either vassalized or driven deeper south, the two leading men of the expedition began feuding with each other. In this chaos Maurice Zonara emerged more relevant than before, at times working for one side while switching to the other four times all the while making deals with tribal chieftains, promising their lands back in exchange for their loyalty.
The Geroii Wars was a complicated period that saw Geroia embroiled in endless conflict, ironically most of the Geroii involved working for one of the settlers under the vague promise of autonomy. Of the few that seeked independence is Sahats Murube, who led his tribe as nomads in the southern edges, dodging encroaching civilization that broke treaty after treaty. Chief Sahats eventually settled on the western coast, though the next generation his son would see the lands he ruled be subjugated as Almadavara.
Maurice Zonara died in battle against Damatius Glycas, who in turn was poisoned not long after, while Zeno Kurkuas was backstabbed figuratively and literally by his vassals who established the first of the Geroian republics. When enough blood was spilled that not even the Emperor could ignore anymore, he stepped in with imperial authority. He established the official borders of the Geroian provinces, which to the present day haven’t changed significantly.
While initial contact with the Geroii was hostile and both sides had committed unspeakable horrors, as vassals they enjoyed a relatively much more peaceful time... as long as they converted to Makerism. Both cultures merged, though if Geroian culture is primarily based on Imperial or Geroii heritage is still up to debate and a few punches.
The Pirate Republic of Stamia (361 - 410)
As Geroia proper started to become a populated country beyond simple farms, plantations and forts around the four main cities and republicanism had entrenched itself as a legitimate form of rule in all the provinces, the princes looked to the gulf and its numerous isles, asking themselves if it was time for another scramble to settle fertile land. Orizo and Gallusrexus were on the prime position to claim the larger islands at the center of the Gulf. While the Emerald Gulf has little under a hundred inhabited islands, mostly by Geroian princes, the most important ones, the ones where uniquely rare spices and animals are present, are owned by the two free cities.
Both cities nearly at the same time sent forth their sailors, serfs and slaves with the task of settling the island and legitimizing their perpetual claim. Enter Captian Anteo Picassari, the man who settled the largest island of the archipelago, Stamia, and possessed no scruples. His liege, the Prince of Gallusrexus Sebastian Victorau, saw in it an opportunity to hurt his competition and perhaps gain more islands. And so Anteo Picassari flew the black flag and privateered his red path across the Gulf under the name of “Gil Gianniou.” Indeed, who he was and who he worked for remained a mystery as he struck even Gallusrexus’ ships in order to keep up appearances - his identity was only known when the priest of his wife let out her confessions in a drunken stupor, and while this theory is the most accepted one it is still shrouded in controversy.
Yet came one day when Anteo Picassari plundered a few too many ships and laid waste to yet another island of his liege that he decided he’d have no more. The men dispatched to kill him met a grisly end at his palace for he was already expecting them. Anteo Picassari declared the island of Stamia independent and formed a nefarious republic of his own, ruled by corsairs and their crews. Anteo himself was murdered by his own men, who saw him as “too civilized” and went on to plunder without discrimination from Geroia all the way up to Balion. They created a culture of boarding ships and empowering their crew, and this strategy resulted in the biggest pirate fleet that ever sailed, rivaling any Imperial or Geroian fleet sent to bring them down.
Eventually Stamia fell to civil war between the pirate captains, and the vulnerable island was easy to invade by its enemies. Every captain, crewmate, fence, smuggler or any suspected wrongdoer in the island was put to death. The memory of Picassari, whether believed to have been Gil Gianniou or simply the island’s governor forced to declare independence, has been thoroughly spat upon and smeared by Imperial chroniclers to the point that any story of him is suspected by any historian of being pure fabrication. While Stamia turned from pirate republic to exporter of colourful plumage, the memory of the past still runs amidst captains of galleys, ambition and greed in their hearts.
The Rexian Massacres (720-722)
In 720, on the day before the new Prince of Gallusrexus was to be elected, a number of councillors were struck down in broad daylight. The perpetrators vanished in the alleyways as a city guard scrambled to keep the peace or were bribed to stay put. As the nobles convened on as a considerably smaller assembly the following day, almost all of the votes went to the Prince of Greta, John Tarsila.
As he was obviously not allowed to hold two princedoms, the Rexian citizens petitioned the Emperor to intervene only to receive silence as the Empire committed to a grueling war. And so when Tarsila arrived on the city he was met by a sudden uprising as both nobles and commoners revolted in the streets. Loyal troops and the Prince's retinue were quickly overpowered, forcing him to sail back to Greta.
Seeing the obvious machinations of Gallusrexus’ rivals an existential threat, the mob elected a young noble officer named Gil Condorinas as their Prince, much to the discontent of the elite aristocratic electorate. The revolters answered by deeming them traitors for voting for an invasor (conveniently glossing over the fact many of the main supporters of the rebellion are from said elite), dissolving the electoral positions and preparing the city for war.
As all of Geroia expected war between a deceitful manipulator and a bloodthirsty dictator, and merchants placed their bets expecting profits from supplying arms and credit, once the fighting started pools of blood sprayed from the frontlines. No one also expected for both princes to kill each other on the battlefield. Two armies found themselves leaderless, and above all, with no promise of payment. The soldiers suddenly forgot about their allegiances and proceeded about plundering the countryside. The aristocrats of both cities too scrambled in anarchy when a council to elect a new ruler never could be convened and powerful claimants clashed in the streets.
The Massacres were finally brought to a stop when the purple banners of the Emperor arrived on Greta and Gallusrexus, mandating end of infighting under pain of death and reforming the Rexian republic. The Emperor's word was final, and though it only arrived after much bloodshed, almost everybody could breathe a sigh of relief. While it wouldn't be the end of wars in Geroia, they were quite more civilized in comparison.
Written by Borrisnator