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Together, the City-States and Savage Baronies bracket the Gulf of Hule. They are separated by a small arm of Hule, which touches the gulf's northern shores. Hule is a dangerous neighbour, constantly at odds with the smaller nations on its borders.
The City-States Hojah, Nova Svoga, Slagovich, Zagora and Zvornik are all about five centuries old. Each is ruled by a margrave (prince) who is essentially a hereditary dictator.
The humans of the City-States tend toward dark, curly, or wavy hair and reddish-brown skin. This results from a mix of Yavdlom, Oltec, and Traladaran background. Most are slightly shorter than average (roll only 1d10 for a modifier when determining height randomly as per the PHB). They prefer clothing that is dark and almost monotone, though bright scarves and sashes are worn for festivals.
Capital: Shkodar (population 7,800 mostly humans,
some dwarves and elves). Ruler: Margrave Bosit Hojah (human, former fighter). Typical NPC: seafaring trader.
Hojah (named for its founding family) is a merchant state, like Slagovich. However, while Slagovich trades by both land and sea, the island-state of Hojah trades only by sea. It deals mostly with the other City-States, the Savage Baronies, and the free towns of the region. This state competes fiercely with Slagovich for trade, and while currently at peace, armed conflicts between the two have occurred. Hojah remains on good terms with Zvornik.
Hojah maintains most of the lighthouses in the region and has the strongest navy and trade fleet. Because of Hojah's ships, pirates have a difficult time near the City-States.
Capital: Nova Svoga (population 5,300 mostly humans, some halflings). Ruler: Stefan Karvich (proud, capable high-level human warrior). Typical NPC: farmer or trapper.
A peaceful agricultural state located upriver from Zagora, Nova Svoga shares a very extensive border with Hule. The state suffered badly during the recent wars, during which the margrave and most of his heirs died. Stefan Karvich, the former leader of Nova Svoga's military, now serves as regent for Anya, the five-year-old heir to the throne.
Capital: Slagovich (population 17,400 mostly humans, a few demihumans). Ruler: Margrave Miosz II (human noble, age 24). Typical NPC: merchant or poor, urban peasant.
Slagovich is built on a plateau, next to a cliff overlooking the Gulf of Hule. The foot of the cliff opens into a large cavern for ships to sail through. A huge natural shaft connects this cavern to the centre of the city. The people of Slagovich control a gate to the Elemental Plane of Water, and for a high fee, the shaft can be sealed and filled with water to bring a ship up to the level of the city. A water lock allows ships to enter the artificial harbour atop the plateau.
Hydraulic mechanisms permeate Slagovich. Drawbridges, water locks, and portcullises allow ships to move deep into the city along a series of canals to unload their goods. Sleds, pulled by a network of cables, cart scores of people up and down the city's steeper hills.
Slagovich boasts excellent engineers, many adventurers, a bustling merchant business, and a few wealthy nobles, but most of the common people are rather poor. Many houses, especially those farther from the harbour, look poorly maintained. Much of the city's mortar and stonework has a reddish-brown colour. High, well defended walls protect Slagovich, except for the slums outside the city. Farms and undeveloped hilly acreage surround it.
The ruler of Slagovich, Miosz, ascended to the throne early in his childhood. Despite plots by Hule and an evil Inheritor (Zgozod of the Ruby), he kept his throne, mainly due to the intervention of his uncle Stavro. Stavro serves as an adviser to Miosz and leads the margrave's personal guard, the Knights of Halav a small warrior brotherhood that has helped guide Slagovich into a relatively enlightened age.
Miosz has no love for Inheritors. They are unwelcome, though not persecuted, in the city. Inheritors who do enter Slagovich are watched closely.
The city exports cinnabryl to the Savage Baronies. When cinnabryl is exported (about twice a year), a body of Knights of Halav meet at sea with a small group of Inheritors, who pay for the cinnabryl with red steel. In Slagovich, red steel is used for weapons by the Knights of Halav and the city guard, but only the Knights and guard officers also wear red steel armour.
Capital: Zagora (population 9,400 mostly humans, some elves and halflings). Ruler: Margrave Munte III (human, muscular, overweight fighter). Typical NPC: patriotic warrior.
Based along a river valley, Zagora shares a long border with Hule. Home to many warriors, Zagora also tends to lead in defence of all the City-States.
Capital: Raska (population 6,700 mostly humans, some dwarves and halflings). Ruler: Margrave Galben Zvornik (human noble, age 87). Typical NPC: farmer or travelling trader.
Like Hojah, Zvornik is named for the family that first settled the region. Its population centres around the river, and its traders use small boats that travel the rivers and shorelines of the region. Zvornik competes with Slagovich in trade, sometimes violently, but they are currently at peace. Zvornik and Hojah are allies. However, the current margrave is quite old, and his heir tends toward aggression.