In the Palatine Eye
The River Kingdoms of northeastern Avistan have long been a haven for inland pirates, anarchists, exiles, and anyone who can’t seem to make it in more civilized nations. The Kingdoms are by no means a unified nation, but rather a constantly shifting group of city-states and fiefdoms, each at war with the others both to gain more power and to prevent their own demise.
|The River Kingdoms|
|Ruler||Various bandit kings and petty lords|
|Government||Multiple squabbling kingdoms|
|Religions||Calistria, Cayden Cailean, Desna, Erastil, Gorum, Gyronna, Hanspur, Lamashtu, Norgorber|
There is no central government in the River Kingdoms, save a loose affiliation of city-states called the Outlaw Council which meets annually in Daggermark. The number of kingdoms that form this council is in constant flux as kingdoms are often destroyed or conquered. Beyond the council, each city is ruled by its own smaller council or despot, and the warfare between the nations makes the Outlaw Council often little more than a technicality. Civil war is another common threat to stable government, with assassination and betrayal a simple fact of life in these tumultuous kingdoms. The most vicious of these civil wars occur when powerful lords who have been paid vast sums to act as mercenaries in distant wars return to find their kingdom taken from them. The only thing that can ever unite the various River Kingdoms is a serious threat from their neighboring nations, even then every single lord vies to be in charge of whatever ramshackle army is assembled to thwart the outsiders. The organization of these rare conglomerate armies are almost as chaotic as the kingdoms themselves with each petty lord trying to out do his rival with feats of battlefield heroism. Outside of the realm of politics and war, the River Kingdoms are also bound together by the River Freedoms, six tenets they universally hold as close to laws as one will find in the lawless land.
In ancient times, the land encompassing much of the River Kingdoms was a type of hunting reserve for the elves of Kyonin, known as Telvurin. The modern history of the River Kingdoms is almost impossible to track; each year contains enough war, conquest, death and destruction and betrayal to fill an entire book. With such events occurring so frequently few bother trying to keep track of the comings and goings of the petty tyrants and their small kingdoms. Only when one of the kingdoms becomes big and stable enough to be considered a nation in its own right does the history of the River Kingdoms that have a noticeable effect on the outside world. This is quite a rare occurrence as most kingdoms fall to infighting and treachery long before they become that powerful. The only two nations that have formed this way are Numeria, which was once considered just another series of squabbling tribes, and Razmiran, which was conquered by the arcane might of the living god Razmir.
The River Kingdoms are located in the marshy lowlands of the Sellen River basin, where its three branches combine in their journey south to the Inner Sea. The region borders on Numeria and Brevoy in the north, Galt and Kyonin to the south, and Razmiran and Ustalav to the west. There are few roads throughout the land, and the branching web of the Sellen and its tributaries provide the primary means of transportation through and within the region. Spread throughout the land are city-states and fortresses of various sizes and populations, some of which seem to appear overnight, and many that are wiped off the map just as quickly in the constant feuding between settlements.
The people that make up the River Kingdoms are a diverse lot, the only thing most seem to have in common is that they are not the sort of people any civilized creature would want for neighbors. The River Kingdoms seem to attract a wide range of rogues and outcasts from deposed princes to mad sorcerers to religious firebrands. Though the people who inhabit this land come from a huge range of backgrounds they are all self reliant and hardy, those who are not do not last long in the River Kingdoms. While many inhabitants of the surrounding kingdoms think of the people of the River Kingdoms as backstabbing curs, one of the codes of the River Freedoms is that oathbreakers must die—usually in a very painful manner—and as a result riverfolk would die before breaking their word. The River Freedoms have a heavy influence on the land’s inhabitants and almost all respect these freedoms as those who don’t often suffer severe consequences.
The nature of the River Kingdoms cynical inhabitants means that they are often ill disposed towards religion. Those who are prone to worship normally embrace the chaotic nature of the River Kingdoms worshipping deities of thievery, war, and freedom. The churches of Cayden Cailean, Desna, Calistria and Gorum are popular throughout the River Kingdoms, as well as the god of murder, thievery and secrets—Norgorber. Additionally, cults of two gods forbidden throughout Avistan and Garund have found the region to be a haven for their beliefs, the River Kingdoms remain one of the few places in the world where people can openly worship Hanspur and Gyronna. In addition to these two unpopular deities the River Kingdoms seem to attract strange cults in the same way they attract strange people and as such a huge amount of small religions ranging from unorthodox to down right bizarre make their home in the River Kingdoms.