In the Plutars there are the 3 Majors and the 2 Minors, named for the relative sizes of the city-states. The states are organized together under a council composed of five representatives, one from each of the five cities. Each counselor is singlehandedly the wealthiest person in each of the cities, chosen due to his wealth. If a councillor’s wealth ever falls below the amount it was when they were appointed councillor, they are immediately stripped of their position until they can attain more capital than their next replacement.
The councillors are separate from the cities’ individual rulers, which govern the cities themselves. The council governs laws and treaties that affect all the cities, including tariffs, peace treaties, declarations of war, economic sanctions, etc. If any city is found making these sorts of deals without counseling the others, the other four cities put a trade blockade on the fifth, preventing all goods from ever reaching it until the fifth city apologizes and ceases its activities.
Each counselor is also joined by a Proctor, who is essentially a representative of the city’s dominant commercial industry, and is there to make sure that industry’s interests aren’t being forgotten. How much power the Proctor wields is different depending on the city, the industry and the personality of the counselor. Proctors, unlike the counselors, are not chosen based on wealth, but the various businesses in that industry come together and vote on who will attain the position. Unless a major issue occurs, the Proctor is a lifetime position.
A council decision has the authority to overrule any decision the individual rulers make, but no council decision can affect only one city. This prevents the council from deposing or electing leaders as it sees fit, but it also means one leader can’t come to the council for aid if he/she alone is suffering a crisis. Every city also has its own unofficial title, a nickname given by others to differentiate one city for another quickly.
The 3 Majors
The city of Renen is the oldest of the Majors, and almost coincidentally the city is focused on the oldest human need; food. The city doesn’t produce traditional bland staples, but instead focuses on luxury cuisine, creating dishes that are fusions of many cultures and are often seen nowhere else. The city’s many restaurants and food carts can be seen on almost every street. Some of the food found in the city is dangerous of course, and often ingesting the wrong morsel can kill a man faster than any real poison if done improperly. This, plus the fact that the city pays host to a large amount of food traders en route to other cities, has made the city quite wealthy.
The city’s government is a unique one in that the ruler for the city is hereditary and not elected like the others. The line has remained secure and stable since the city’s founding, with any dissenters to the line having all died of mysterious, incurable illnesses that fit into no defined set of symptoms. It’s a well-known secret that this is due to Renen’s second-most important industry; poisoners.
If there is a poison, irritant, allergen or venom known by man, you’ll be able to find at least some of it in Renen. The city’s a hub for both herbalists and poisoners, though the second is much more numerous than the first. While none of the poisoners sell their services as assassins publicly, it’s rumored that a cabal of them that was brought over with the city’s founding has kept the royal bloodline safe and secure from all those who would seek to overthrow it. The act that both food and poison can be found in ample amounts as earned Renen its nickname; The City of Life and Death.
Make no mistake, there are herbalists in Renen, but those tend to be specialists or masters, with few of middling quality. If you need to come to Renen for herbs or flowers, you come for the exotic, the hard-to-cultivate or the dangerous. While many herbalists seem nice and friendly, it’s well-known that if you offer the right price to the right person, you’ll be led to a back room or basement, where the truly dangerous and downright illegal plants are kept. Rumors of what these might contain are all over the place. Spirit-infused plants with strange behaviors, sentient vines, fungi that feed only on human flesh, mobile saplings, and other stranger things have been rumored. How much of it is true is not really known.
The ruler, named the Pharon, has almost unlimited power within the city and rules primarily through fear and threat of punishment, both official and otherwise. While minor laws are often ignored and never enforced, the Pharon makes sure that every major law he puts forth is followed to the letter. All visitors to the city are provided with a sheet detailing punishments for going against the major laws so as to make sure none are broken accidentally. The Pharon employs a well-paid group of secret police, which monitor the city looking for both lawbreakers and dissidents. Foreign dissidents are simply shunted out of the city for “unpaid docking fees”, while dissidents who actually live in Renen have a habit of ending up dead in the ocean.
Jambha is the second oldest of the Majors and was founded shortly after Renen was. Jambha is the city of crafting. If there’s a profession that requires you to use your hand, then its likely Jambha has several masters of the craft. While others create far more product than Jambha, the city focuses more on providing quality rather than quantity, and as such its goods are some of the most expensive in the world. Butchers, glassblowers, candlestick makers, shipbuilders, blacksmiths, pottery makers, gunsmiths and weavers all congregate in Jambha, and the quality is some of the finest seen anywhere. The various craftsmen respect the spirits around them, and often times will work with spirits to produce designs and items found nowhere else using the sprits’ powers and insights.
Jambha is ruled through an elected official known as the Doget who is elected based on a series of test set forth by the Doget’s ever-present advisor, a spirit of strategy and tactics who goes by the name of Alexhil. No one knows if that’s the spirit’s real name, but it is what the spirit calls itself and so the name has stuck. Whoever manages to pass the largest amount of tests out of the applicants is awarded the title of Doget. The Doget serves a set number of years based on how many of the spirit’s tests it passes. At the end of the process Alexhil tells the Doget how much time he will serve, and he does so.
The minimum is 2 years, but the maximum has never been reached. Every time, the spirit always puts forward a seemingly impossible scenario for the prospective Doget. The longest time any Doget has served is 60 years, when Petrin Domarov rose to power. None have ever attained that much time since. Only one Doget has ever tried to serve more than he was given since the system was put into place, and his/her name, gender, identity, life, face and family were stripped away from him as punishment. None have tried since.
While the Doget is free to change policy as he sees fit, there are a set of core rules and regulations that not even he can touch. In fact, no one can alter them, save Alexhil himself. The people of Jambha trust this spirit, and so far, since he was put in place he has not betrayed that trust. One of these regulations is that every citizen of Jambha, since the age of 10, is to be trained in warfare, land and oceanic both. Male or female, every citizen (any one that’s lived there for 2 years straight) knows how to swing a sword, use a shield, tie a rigging, fire a crossbow, row an oar, or disable someone in hand-to-hand. They know how to take orders quickly and effectively, and at a signal from the city’s bells each citizen knows where and when to go to get his equipment and serve his city and the Plutars as a whole. This has given the city its nickname; The City of Swords.
The city’s crafters takes full advantage of this program, and its smiths and shipbuilders are well-versed in their craft. As a consequence of this, Jambha has the biggest navy out of any of the Plutars. It’s so big that any time the Plutars go to war Jambha’s navy makes up most of their oceanic fighting force. Not only that, but the ships are expertly made, well-designed and well put together. A few have even been outfitted with cannons, although those are very rare.
While the other Plutars have their fair share of commerce, it’s in Laksh that commerce and money really shine. The city is home to the headquarters of the Bank of Valin, one of the premier banks in the world, doing its business with as many different cultures as it can possibly manage, and handling enough coinage to keep dozens happy for a lifetime. Not only that, but any business related to coin or commerce can be found here; smelters who exchange one type of coinage for another, merchants who will happily sell stocks in every trade venture they can come up with, real or fictitious, and counterfeiters who will mint any and all coinages for you, for a profit of course.
Unique among the cities, there really is no central leader in Laksh, instead there’s a set of commonly-agreed upon rules determined by the public. Anyone can introduce a potential new law into the system and let the citizens of the city vote on whether the law should be passed. Of course, before the law is passed, members who are in favor or disfavor of the law are allowed to speak their minds regarding it. Now, normally this might work to the benefit of all, but the various businesses and banks are given votes as well, more votes depending on their total wealth.
This has resulted in the various banks coming together and creating a sort of cabal, wherein they collectively agree to vote against laws that are put into place that limit their power and that limit what businesses can operate within the city. This has resulted in literally no businesses being forbidden in Laksh. Nothing is forbidden in this city; it’s just as likely for people to sell medicinal cures as it is for them to sell children.
This has made the city a haven for mercenaries of all sorts, and there’s at least a dozen mercenary companies operating out of the city at any one time, of various dispositions and talents. This also means one can find all manner of criminals for hire, selling their services openly; assassins and master thieves are out on the street, selling their services to the highest bidder, either as protection, or as the means to avoid that protection.
Because of the insanely lax laws, pleasure houses of all sorts run rampant in Laksh. While there certainly are your run of the mill styles seen in most other places, in Laksh there is much, much more. Children, beasts, amputees, binders, the unwilling and more can all be found for the right coin. Rumors have constantly floated around that if you search hard enough you can find a house for the super elite devoted entirely to chimeras or even weak spirits, but nothing like those have ever been proven to exist. All of these things, plush Laksh’s lax attitudes towards everything else in general have given Laksh its nickname; The City with No Shame.
The 2 Minors
The city of Atheese is the center for learning in the Plutars. The city itself was founded when explorers stumbled upon a tall pillar of white marble standing out in front of the current harbor. The pillar was taller than any building, taller even than the mountain on the island and completely clear except for a series of strange symbols that constantly fluctuate around the pillar. The symbols constantly move up and down the pillar, changing shape and form and never seeming to stick with one language. It is unknown at this time what the pillar is for or why it’s there, but a city of scholars has grown up around it.
Atheese has two main points of interest when it comes to learning. First is the Grand College of Spirits, named for its primary source of study. The college is focused on uncovering the secrets that spirits seek to hide from humans, whether the spirits wish to or not. Oh, there are a few in the college who willingly bind spirits to themselves with pacts or even get a spirit’s spark, but the majority are focused on taking from spirits, not giving back to them.
Binding is the norm amongst the college’s students and professors, and devouring is well known to happen from time to time. Chimera outbreaks are known to erupt from time to time, but the college takes these as minor blips in its quest to take what it will from the spirit world.
Due to the occasional deformities that binding causes as well as the tattoos that are necessary, it is customary for all members enrolling to wear masks and heavy robes that cover as much skin as possible, not for the sake of shame, but as a method of hiding ones’ strength and abilities from others at a glance. Every member knows enough about their tattoos to understand the tattoos that are traditionally used, and so they are covered so that others cannot exploit one another’ weakness so easily.
The other center of learning is the Archive, a large library set into the mountain that overlooks the city. The archive is set into the mountain and was built around a natural cave system that had been discovered during the city’s founding. The Archive is staffed by a sect of librarians who collect material on everything related to magic and spirits that others try to destroy or hide.
This naturally means that the Archive is full of esoteric, unknown or dangerous knowledge about spirits, their natures, magic in general, and other things that can prove exceedingly dangerous to the wrong person. Because of this, and because they know how tempting of a target they are, the Archive and its Librarians bill themselves as collectors of harmless knowledge, and keep a miniature Archive full of commonly known harmless factoids ready in case someone whom they deem unsuited or a spy comes calling. The Archive and the College’s both rather somber and silent atmosphere has led to the city being nicknamed The City of Silence.
However, Atheese still must earn its income, and therein lays the city’s main industry. The city, due to its abundance of magic-users, makes a steady income off of infusing items with minor spirits to produce infused items for others, most often custom-made though a few have attempted mass production. They have not ended well, and in fact a recent fire that swept through the city was the result of one man attempting to mass-produce self-heating clothing from weak heat spirits. This, plus the college’s attitude towards spirits, has done well to make spirits dislike the area. This just means that most spirits have to be bound, which reinforces the attitude, and so on, creating a cycle.
The item infusion business is the city’s main industry, and due to the proliferation of scholarly minds you’re likely to find some strange objects indeed, including somewhat counterintuitive objects like a raincoat that gets itself wet. Some of these are outright failures but the scholars in Atheese are well known for their experiments with regards to item infusion, successful and otherwise.
The city’s wealth of knowledge plus its proximately to the Faloran Republic has allowed a wealth of new ideas to crop into the city regarding everything from irrigation to the nature of the universe. This also included various new systems of government, to the point where once if you found 10 citizens from Atheese they’d likely have thought of 11 ways of governing the city. Because of this, and to avoid rebellion that could damage their studies, The College proposed a unique system.
Every decade Atheese’s system of government changes, the citizens willingly changing some aspect in favour of a new one that hasn’t been tried before. The people say that once they find a perfect system then they’ll stop changing, but the system has been going on for at least 200 hundred years and so far they’ve found no perfect government. Some changes have been relatively small, some have been vast, but so far none have stuck, even the ones that wanted to stay around longer. The College has always helped see that every system keeps going out after 10 years, and always make sure that the process is smooth.
Known as the City of Song, and for good reason, the first thing a visitor hears as they’re entering Bacchil’s harbor in the early morning is of a great voice echoing over the harbor area. This voice belongs to the leader of the city, known as the Songweaver. The Songweaver, elected by popular vote based on his talent in all the various arts, is charged with creating a new song at the beginning of his term, and singing it to wake up the rest of the city at the beginning of every day. Because of this, every Songweaver has always been someone with a spark of or a pact with a spirit of sound or music, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to fulfill their duties.
The city is incredibly lively, deck with colours and filled with noise. While the other cities of the Plutars certainly don’t lack in splendor, in Bacchil that particular quality is expanded upon vastly. Colours cover every building, every street corner, and every person, in a dazzling display described as either nauseous or awe-inspiring. There is absolutely no restraint when it comes to colors or patterns, allowing the most garish and dizzying feats of painting and textiles to be put on display.
Every form of artistry can be found in the city. The mundane painters, poets, sculptors, dancers, acrobats, jugglers, fire eaters and so on are in ample supply of course, but there are also far stranger styles of performance. These can and have ranged from sculptors making rotting statues out of human flesh, to performers who cover themselves in their own excrement before performing self-harming rituals. No way of self-expression is forbidden here, no matter how vile. In fact, before a visitor docks, they are asked by the port inspector whether they are able to stomach such works of art. If not, then a servant from the city is dispatched to perform the visitor’s duties while the visitor rests calmly on the ship.
The city eagerly welcome never-before-seen visitors, and if one should arrive, a fireworks show is put on that night, meant to celebrate the new arrival and pleasantly introduce him to the city in a pleasant way. The fireworks show can go on for hours, and once when a ship full of refugees arrived at the island the display went on for nights. It is said that the spirits themselves join in the festivities on especially engaging celebrations such as these, performing wild displays in the sky.
However, artists, no matter how popular or lucrative, can support an entire city. So Bacchil also plays host to purveyors of all sorts of substances meant to affect your body and mind. While Renen has control over substances of death and poisons, Bacchil has the market cornered with regards to narcotics, hallucinogens, depressants and various other addictive substances.
They in fact provide most of the city’s income, and the city revels in it. None of the substances that are illegal in other lands -in other cities of the Plutars even- are illegal here. If a new addiction appears on the market, you can likely trace it to Bacchil. Of course, the city has a firm policy on not caring what happens to the merchants who leave its borders. If they get arrested as “smugglers”, well they weren’t smugglers in Bacchil that’s for certain.
This has led to a large number of addicts among the city’s population and artistic community. Those who aren’t able to manage it end up living on the street, and are allowed to be used for any sort of artistic “expression” someone may have in mind, and the Songweaver won’t lift a finger to help them. In fact, near the docks in the early morning, it’s just as likely the Songweaver that grabs them as it is anyone else.