Tales from the Inner Sea
The Vardonne Straits (and Vardonne)
Between the wildlands West of Bassuri territory and the Kingdom of Koltovaere there lies the entrance to the Vardonne Straits. This wide link of water runs south west and then due west for a distance of about 2000 kilometres until it reaches the Limitless Ocean. It is named after a Kingdom called Vardonne, a large realm hundreds of kilometres to the West that has territory either side of the Straits. It is a dangerous stretch of water due to the many shoals and islands that dot it’s entire length, and the numerous islands are home to pirates of many stripes. The Vardonnais do what they can to encourage trade and safe passage but it is one of the more dangerous seaways known to travellers.
Vardonne is a strong and stable realm (civilized) that has lasted for over 400 years, originally ruled by barbarous warrior kings of the Tantarkan Tribe until stability, peace, religion and time has turned a warring barbaric culture into a prosperous enlightened and civilized culture. The line has run uninterrupted and true since then and now King Armon Tantarkus the 4th continues to lead his people to a bright future. The only fly in the ointment is the piracy problem in the Straits which requires constant vigilance by his navy and coastal settlements. To be fair the 700 kilometre stretch that is actually within Vardonnais territory is well patrolled and relatively safe, with navy escorts by the Crown helping traders passing through their waters, but the hundreds of kilometres before and after their waterways are more uncertain. Still, many traders make the journey as Vardonne has an extensive wine, textile, silver and horse trade that draws the merchant with an eye for profit. Indeed, the Vardonnais courser is a horse as well regarded as those of the Altai, and the quality of the other trade goods is high, with Vardonnais linens, wools and wines much in demand.
The Vardonne military is strong and well maintained with an emphasis on heavy noble mailclad cavalry (or Chivaux as they are called) and a semi noble class called the Vigantes (who occupy an area like noble footmen). The Vigantes were a tribe that warred with the Tantarkans at first and then managed to bring to them the worship of Nerukata and Sensu, causing peace and unity between the 2 tribes. The Vigantes have always claimed a close relationship with Nerukata and Sensu and they make up a sizeable proportion of the clergy as well as form the bulk of the infantry in Vardonne. The common man can also be conscripted and levied if there is sufficient need, but the Tantarkus line realises that without people to tend the fields uninterrupted, there would be no food or economy so a levy is only ever called in the case of direst need. The Dukes and Counts of Vardonne claim their rank as a direct gift from the Tantarkus line of Kings who in turn is regarded as Beloved of Nerukata and Sensu, holding their Divine Mandate to rule the land (or so Vardonne history and belief holds).They also maintain their own military but as generals and officers of the King, who can take command of their troops by law, if not custom. The navy is well run and maintained by the office of The High Admiral.
The biggest threats to the Vardonnais are the pirates within the straits and their neighbours, with various quarrelling tribes and petty kingdoms to the north and west always threatening to embroil them in some form of war or dubious alliance and ferocious and pitiless desert raiders beyond the borders of their southernmost territories. As regards allies they more or less stand alone, preferring at least locally to remain aloof of the tangles of alliance that can ensnare the unwary. In more recent times however the King has sent envoys and diplomats eastwards to at least establish some form of contact with other lands, and Embassies are now located within Port Caros, Bassur, Turlavayne, Ateliket and the Empire, with other ones being mooted by the King and his council.
The common man and woman in this land know of their place in the scheme of things and have a degree of acceptance in the rule of their betters that other realms might envy. Here horseracing is the main sport, with a great rider and his or her horse gaining great fame and favour. Within the last 50 years in Vardonne musicianship and singing has grown in popularity along with skilled storytelling, causing a small but welcome caste of entertainers to emerge and delight people at all levels of society. Influence by travellers who have been to former Imperial cities in the Inner Sea have also spread the popularity of theatre and actors, and roving bands of entertainers may number actors amongst their number.
The East and the Inner Sea is seen as slightly decadent and mysterious to the folk of Vardonne and a traveller from these parts can, if a good taleteller will be made welcome in an inn or tavern from the Royal Capital of Salinden to the small coastal villages. Across the Straits lies the Vardonnais colony of Lehtheren, inhabited for the last 100 years by the Vardonnais. This arid land is actually quite pleasant along the coastal areas though the further south one goes the more the terrain changes from inhabitable coast, becoming savannah and then blazing hot desert that few but the most intrepid would dare to explore.