- "We make the shepherds kings at the end of our stories because they already know how to lead recalcitrant, bleating creatures of limited intellect."
- ―Prokopia Lakene, first Hierarch of the League of Free Cities
The League of Free Cities is a coalition of seven city states located to the south of Callow and Praes. It’s one of the more remarkable political institutions of Calernia in that it’s composed out of both Good and Evil members.
The Good constituents, also known as the Good League:
The Evil members:
Helike changes allegiance depending on who leads it.
The League was established shortly after the demise of Dread Empress Triumphant, may she never return, roughly 500 years before the current events of the story. Following her conquest of Calernia, the Principate of Procer was formed. As the biggest surface nation on the continent it looked to expand its influence and grow as a nation and this political pressure culminated in the formation of the League of Free Cities by Prokopia Lekapene, the first Hierarch.
The League Wars
- "Seven battles I won on my feet, and lost the war sitting at a table."
- ―Periander Theodosian, Tyrant of Helike, after the founding of the League of Free Cities
Not much is known of the League Wars beyond the first one, which predated the formation of the League. Theodosius the Unconquered, Tyrant of Helike managed to conquered most of southern Procer, until his defeat at the Maddened Fields at the hands of Isabella the Mad. The League Wars were a significant victory for the Free Cities, with Helike defeating the enemy armies numerous times and conquering several Principalities.
In the face of possible future conflicts against bigger, external threats Prokopia Lekapene managed to band the Free Cities together. It was later revealed this was at least partially orchestrated by the Wandering Bard.
The League did not outlive the first Hierarch. Whilst she was a skilled diplomat and the treaties binding the League held, their spirit did not. Throughout the League's history it's members engaged in continuous conflict against each other over petty concerns and external powers had relatively free reign to exert their influence. They have mostly been used as intermediaries between the Dread Empire and other Good polities who could not openly trade with it.
Dread Empress Maleficent II managed to conquer and hold several of its constituents for up to twenty years, causing the Sonike Mtethwa language to bleed over into local tongues, before she was driven out by an alliance between Procer and Ashur. The Thalassocracy of Ashur constantly stifled Nicaean trade and has warred with it for control over the Samite Gulf four times, but Nicae had never won a single war. Both Procer as well as Praes used softer power to influence the coalition throughout its history.
Since seizing the throne of Helike, Kairos Theodosian, the Tyrant of Helike has declared war on the rest of the Good League. He marched on Atalante first, personally roasting a third of the Atalantian army by using his aspect, Rule, to control a storm. His army then sacked and occupied Atalante, forcibly conscripting their citizens and mercenaries for his armies.
Following that, he marched on Delos, nearly taking the city repeatedly, but was thwarted by the White Knight and his band. Around the same time, the Calamities intervened in Penthes, killing the Exarch and most of the ruling class, leaving twelve claimants to the title and paralysing Penthes for the rest of the war. Delos only fell after the Calamities intervened, Assassin setting fire to the House of Ink and Parchment, killing every member of the Secretariat that intended to continue the war. Immediately afterwards, the Black Knight, Captain and Warlock attacked the defending heroes, intending to slay them while the Tyrant's forces took the city, but Kairos Theodosian retreated instead. Regardless, Delos was out of the war and their citizens were conscripted by the Tyrant.
At some point after the Siege of Delos, Bellerophon attempted to invade the leaderless Penthes, but was still repulsed. Stygia and Helike then joined armies and began marching on Nicae, the last good city still in the war. Nicae had been receiving aid from Procer in the form of coin, fantassins and grain throughout the whole war, via land convoys from Tenerife. The Calamities intervened in the convoys, sending Captain to kill them all. The Tyrant made a ritual liked to the caravans, where nine destroyed caravans would fuel a ritual to kill Captain, but Warlock took it over and used it to kill the Ashen Priestess. Following which, most of Helike's most talented mages were killed by Assassin in retaliation.
In an attempt to force the Stygians out of the war, the White Knight led his band into infiltrating the Stygian camp and kill the fifteen Magisters sent to command the slave army. While the Valiant Champion and Hedge Wizard caused a distraction, the White Knight and Ashen Priestess then attacked the Magisters, successfully killing them. Unfortunately, Kairos Theodosian seized command of the Spears of Stygia and continued his march on Nicea.
During the Siege of Nicea, as the Helikean floating towers provided cover, Atalantian and Delosi conscripts pushed great ramps to the fore for the Spears of Stygia to climb. The Valiant Champion held the buckling walls alone before being engaged by Captain. The Black Knight fought the White Knight in the city as the Warlock duelled the Hedge Wizard outside it. After a prolonged battle, Captain was slain by the Valiant Champion, Warlock killed the Hedge Wizard and the Black Knight was smote by the Seraphim before he could finish off the White Knight. Kairos Theodosian then laid siege to the city and conquered it.
Thus the interventions from the Dread Empire, Procer and Wandering Bard were all thwarted and the civil war was ended. Following the Siege of Nicae, the Conclave was assembled to elect a Hierarch. Atalante, Delos and Nicea were released from Helikean occupation in exchange for their votes, Penthes' Exarch claimants voted as they wanted the Hierarch to support them over their allies, Stygia was offered back its slave army for it's vote, Bellerophon was somehow convinced by the Tyrant to vote for Anaxares and the Tyrant of Helike voted as well. With the unanimous vote in the Conclave, Anaxares became the second Hierarch, uniting the League of Free Cities in truth.
During the Tenth Crusade, the League mustered its armies and invaded the principality of Iserre through the Waning Woods. Their fleet torched few warships left in Ashur after they were weakened by the defeat at Thalassina, torched Arwad and blockaded Smyrna. In Iserre, they followed the Levantine forces in pursuit of the weakened Legions of Terror. The Helikean forces along with the Hierarch himself occupied the city of Rochelant, where the Hierarch used his Indict to incite the citizens to revolt and execute prominent individuals. The Fourth Army of Callow was the target of raids by a detachment of Helikean kataphractoi under General Pallas. They were stopped by the Black Queen and twenty thousand drow, had their fingers broken by their own hands and horses, arms and armour taken. During the Princes' Graveyard, the Spears of Stygia fought Procerans and the Bellerophan army fought the forces of Tartessos. Kairos Theodosian had eight princes of Procer captured. He bargained for his help in defeating the Dead King in the Liesse in return for the trial of Hanno of Arwad.
During the peace conference at Salia, the Dead King and Dread Empress Malicia were smuggled into the peace talks by the League delegation. It was revealed that the Nicaean forces holding Ashur were poisoned by Still Water. At the White Knight's trial, the Hierarch withdrew with the Seraphim, leaving the League leaderless. The Atalante and Bellerophon delegations walked back to their cities soon after. The delegates of Nicae, Penthes, Stygia and Helike, along with a few Delosi scribes, marched on the Callowan camp, due to the Exarch claimants accusing the Black Queen of the murder of Kairos Theodosian and being an accessory to the murder of Anaxares of Bellerophon. When it was revealed to Basileus Leo Trakas that Penthes was used to smuggle alchemical brews of Still Water to use on the Nicaean fleet, Honorion accused the Black Queen of using Still Water instead. General Basilia slew Exarch-claimant Honorion and declared war on Penthes. Half the army of Helike under General Pallas Messene swore to join the war on the Dead King.
People & Culture
Being a confederation of states, there are many differences between each constituent - both with regards to looks as well as culture. Nonetheless, they share some common characteristics which will be described in this section. The people of the Free Cities have skin that is a pale tan and dark, full hair.
Each of the cities uses the same calendar which started when the League was first founded. The style of their sculptures is painted marble, usually of naked people in twisted-up poses. They are known for wearing togas.
With the exception of Atalante and Stygia, the Free Cities do not have strong alignments to Evil or Good. Anaxares remarks that it's "more like backing a charioteer team than a true affiliation", which is confirmed by the fact the cities often act as the middle-man in trade between the Evil and Good polities.
Hierarch is the head of the League of Free Cities and they have control over all decisions with regards to international policy even though they don't have any right to rule over the cities themselves. Having said that, this seat was only filled twice. Once upon the League's founding and the second time during the current events.To elect a Hierarch, a unanimous vote must be passed.
In absence of a Hierarch, international treaties can only be agreed upon by a majority vote. If no majority is reached - as is often the case - each city may do as it wishes.
- Hunter was originally sent to the Free Cities by the Lady of the Lake
- Scribe met Black in the Free Cities - she's probably from Delos
- Ashen Priestess and Hedge Wizard were from the Free Cities