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North Fork--Arena 47

A Few Words from Brunithar the Long-Winded, North Fork's Oldest Inhabitant:

@$#@%&! Damn fool foreigners waking me up with a bunch of stupid questions about North Fork. Look around you, man! The most important things to know about North Fork are pretty obvious.

One: It's wet. That's why the ground makes squishy noises when you walk on it. That's why most of the city is built on stilts, except the Citadel, which is on a hill. That's why, when the local thieves roll a drunk, they roll him right off the street, and he wakes up in the stinking mud down underneath (if he's lucky enough to wake up at all). The reason it's wet (besides the fact we're next to a river) is that we're on the south edge of the Kargrark Marsh, which sort of slides between those hills up north and comes down here under the eaves of the Shewish Forest. It's the marsh that makes it foggy all the time, I guess. Some people think this place is a bit gloomy. I don't like too much sunshine, myself. Guess that's my Swavant blood.

Two: It's cold. Well, of course it's winter, but even in the summer it's sort of clammy. The winters are getting worse, I think. They say the ice comes farther south every year. It's not so many days' ride from the northern parts of Alastari any more. Still, a wizard told me once that North Fork isn't as cold as it oughta be. Said there were some magical wars, way back whenever, that left a magical residue in the land. I guess that's why we get magic-sensitive folk (half-elves and such) going gollybonkers once in a while. Could be the reason for those strange crossbred or misformed animals that are seen in the forest every so often, too.

Three: We got a lot of different kinds of people living here. That's 'cause of the Karnhorn Empire. A while back--oh, three, maybe four hundred years--the Karnhorns started pushing out from Zuwayza or wherever they came from, taking over everything, enslaving folks, raising taxes. Some folks stayed around there, and either put up with the Karnhorns, or fought them off. Some folks left. A lot of the ones who left came to North Fork. That's why you've got Karragit (swampmen), Swavants (half-swampmen) and Shewish giants here, you've got Ferencians, and Vithicar's mage-clan, and your various Harkenic tribes, which would be the Kolatori, the Hreverini, the Lonnori, the damn Jahalli, and the Tarkandi. Plus some Fratsfans from over west, striding around with their noses in the air like they're the gods' answer to everybody's problems.

Now, they all have to have their representatives on the Council, plus there is a Lord of the City, who is nominated by the Council and elected by the city (that would be all adults, male and female, about five thousand of 'em, counting outlying villages). Some say the Lord (Hallan of Sandywood, a damn Jahallian), isn't much more than a puppet in the hands of a certain faction I could mention (but I won't). The initials are V-M-C, though. One thing I will say, anybody that has to hold a hanky over his nose when he walks past the riverside is probably part Frat, and a damn sissy even for one of their mincing breed.

The people in North Fork make their livings a lot of different ways. There's a little farming on the high ground, a good bit of logging, some valuable pelts and such to be taken in the swamp. There's local crafts, mostly in wood and leather. But the biggest thing is the trade route from up north, through Vithicar and beyond, up where the giants grow really big. That trade route comes through the Kargrark Marsh, which means the swampmen control it. North Fork has a treaty with them, like Malcorn has a treaty with the Shewish giants. Hah! Dealing with giants is a stroll down the boardwalk, boyo. I've got Karragit blood on my mother's side and I still don't understand the swampmen.

Is that enough? You going to ask me any more @$#%&@& fool questions, or can I go back to sleep now?



*** ***** *** ***** ***


North Fork was settled at about the same time as Malcorn, and under the same impetus--the expansion of the Karnhorn empire. The people who settled in North Fork, for one reason or another, didn't want to stay and fight. They include Harkenic tribesmen, probably some Ferencians from the Zuwayza area, maybe--very likely--some part Karragit, and some wizardly types from Vithicar. The city-state they founded is more a confederacy than a firm union. The groups have to some extent retained their individual identities (unlike Malcorn), and there is considerable factionalism in local politics.

Regardless of the differences among the tribesmen, however, the people of North Fork are united on the need to maintain a strong front against their enemies (they are a little paranoid, but strange things keep coming out of the forest, the swamps, or across the sea to menace them). There is a small standing army and a large body of trained reservists. All racial groups contribute their own companies to the army reserve. Only the standing army is mixed.

The government of North Fork is in the hands of a council which includes representatives of all the tribes listed above, the smallest of which (the wizards) numbers more members than there are fighters in the arena. The council members are either permanent or for long terms, to provide continuity in government. The actual rule of the city-state is largely in their hands, although this will not be apparent to many. There is a Lord of the City who is the figurehead, and he does have a role in setting policy, but he is more to distract attention from the council while they do the work than to do the governing himself. The Lord is nominated by the council. They may, if the times seem to call for it, nominate more than one Lord, and he is then elected or confirmed in office by the people at large in a plebiscite. The people may also, at any time during the Lord's rule, take it into their heads to reject him, in which case the council nominates one or more other candidates. The people may suggest candidates, but they hold the council in considerable respect as they are supposed to be the wisest men (and women) in the city, and the people would not be likely to regard a candidate who lacked the cachet of council nomination as worthy of the office. So it is quite possible, not likely perhaps but possible, for the arena people to get one of their own elected as Lord of the City, but that this is not a position of real power (although this should not be obvious at first). It is possible--if a majority, or say, three-quarters, of the teams back the proposal--to get a gladiatorial seat on the council, which is where the real power lies. However, a councilor's power is partly dependent on the size of the faction he represents, and partly on the demonstrated WISDOM (not cleverness, or glibness) that he brings to the meetings. This system of government was evolved over about five centuries, and has shown itself sufficiently flexible to deal with all the problems so far encountered. The standard of living in North Fork is fairly high, and the people are satisfied.

Part of the economy of North Fork comes out of the land around, in farming, forestry, and swampery, part is based on local craftsmanship, mostly in wood and leather, and the rest on the critical trade that comes through the swamps from Jurine, Aljafr and Stormcrowe, and Vithicar. This trade travels in the hands of or at the goodwill of the swampmen, who are thus a very important faction. They support the present form of government in North Fork, and if a coup were to be pulled off would be likely to halt trade while LENGTHY renegotiations were carried on--a situation which would make the usurpers vulnerable, since people whose livelihood has been threatened by a small pressure group are not likely to support that group. The Karragit as basically rather disdainful of gladiators--so barbaric; they would not be too eager to conclude a treaty with them.

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Published on: 2002-07-15 (1353 reads)

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