Name: Federated Empire of Fresia
Fresia is loosely organized federation of relatively independent cities and states. Its large collection of semi-autonomous regions governed by local hereditary monarchies has given it the nickname "The Land of a thousand Princes." The nation is tied together by a common language and heritage that descends, albeit distantly, from a collection of "barbarian" tribes that historically occupied the region. Today's Fresians still still identify strongly with this ancestry, and are a strong willed, combative, and rugged people.
During the presently unfolding Crisis of the 15th Century, Fresia finds itself on the verge of total collapse, as the formerly prosperous Pinch Region in the south was leveled by a Stariron Strike while the northern half of the nation bore the brunt of the mysterious Green Plague. Although the waves of Stariron Strikes and the Green Plague epidemic have largely run their course by 1403, the affected regions - comprising close to half of the nation's total land area - have been left virtually abandoned, where opportunistic barbarians (in the south) and servitors (in the north) have moved into the area.
Government and Politics
Fresian politics are notoriously difficult to summarize because of the incredible amount of governmental diversity. The nation is composed of over one hundred duchies, most of which are governed by a noble family that can trace its lineage back to the time of the demi-pantheon. Each region is furthermore divided into a number of counties that are governed at the whim of the local duke, earl, count, or baron, or sometimes by elected civil officials, minor noble houses, industrial guilds, or even military leaders that answer to the local ruler, or in some cases directly to the emperor. There are additionally nine independent city-states that are home to multiple major and minor noble houses that are generally administered by a burghur council and elected civil officials.
At the center of this political mess is the office of the Fresian Emperor, the powerful but fundamentally limited leader of the nation. The authority of the emperor is far from absolute, and he is restricted by both political contracts and the Council of Princes. The post is occupied by whoever wins a majority vote of the Peerage on the death of the old Emperor. While this theoretically means any Fresian noble could become Emperor, functionally power rests in the hands of five major houses whose shifting loyalties and conflicts largely determine succession. Given these many restrictions and complications, Fresian emperors are typically either blithely incompetent figureheads or powerful and cunning personalities.
Fresian diplomatic relations are necessarily complicated as well, as different noble houses and duchies maintain their own relationships with neighboring nations and each other. Fresia has a long, bitter history of conflict with Flannary to its west, and the two have been engaged in a number of major wars and near continuous minor military disputes since they split from Flannary 3,000 years ago, with the "Bloody Thirty-Nine" being most often at the heart of conflicts. While wars and conflict exist in the far past, Fresia's recent relationship with its other neighbors, namely Gildenhome and Hakan, have been far more civil--Fresians by and large have tremendous respect for the competence and resilience of the Dwarves and the independence and fighting spirit of the Gnomes. The southern part of Fresia is often harassed by raiders from The Ulan, as well.
Compared to the other nations of the Mainland, Fresia is rather poor and underdeveloped. The lack of a unified and consistent tax base or political authority hampers the development of industry. Also, a great deal of mundane mineral wealth must be imported from Gildenhome, although this is offset a great deal by the quality and precision of Fresian craftwork. Finally, Fresia's hostile relationship with its neighbor Flannary both strains the economy with the burden of warfare and prevents easy trade with the western empires. While any Fresian will tell you that he, in fact, prefers a more rugged lifestyle, the reality is that it is simply difficult to make money in Fresia.
However, Fresians do still manufacture a number of quality goods with international renown (due in part to their rarity in the West). They are particularly blessed with a deep and wild woodlands, which provides ample quality hardwood to fuel Fresian furniture production. While Fresian wood crafts are not particularly elegant or decorative, they are known for being incredibly sturdy and ingenious, and often make excellent use of space and can be easily broken down for transport. The Fresian wilds are also home to a large population of powerful wild beasts, whose thick hides are used to make masterful leather armors. Finally, the nation's cooler temperatures and clear streams allow for the production of crisp and refreshing beers and ales, which are known to beer lovers throughout the world.
Much of the local economy is, in fact, based on the war with Flannary. Most Fresian men and many women spend at least some amount of time in the military. As a result, Fresian metal armors and weapons are second only to Dwarven goods. While Fresia has some of the only adamantium mines outside of Gildenhome, most of their output is directed towards military use, and is not exported.
The full impact of the most recent troubles on the Mainland on the Fresian economy is unknown, but presumably disastrous, given that large areas have been completely depopulated by plague.
History and Culture
Fresians draw their cultural heritage from a variety of sources. From their barbarian roots, modern Fresians maintain a fierce sense of independence and a near reverence for conflict, both political and military, honed to deadly precision in the crucible of their inchoate and conflict-ridden empire. From their proximity to the Dwarves, they have learned tremendous respect for craftsmanship and competence. Suffice to say that Fresians are not a fun loving or cheerful people, and most consider Fresians to be gruff, impatient, aggressive, and exacting. However, they are known to be fierce fighters, powerful statesmen, and capable craftsmen, and are well-respected despite their stern demeanor.