Southaven
The spiritual hub of the Isle of Ahlonia, Southaven is little more than a city surrounded by a token portion of territory, to keep the seat of the twin-faced Dioune's faith free from interference by Earl or King. But priests are not rulers, and this wealthy and influential realm, second only to the heart of Reddown itself, is preyed upon by those who would step in where care for the spirit fails the body. And the ambitions of churchmen rock the church, as they vie for influence, to further their own power, or - perhaps more dangerous - to change the world.

Tech Code: 6
Governments: Theocracy under the Grand High Prelate.
Religions: Orthodox Church of the Dioune.
Industries and Trades: Skilled Craft (Papermaking, Weaving, Textiles), Winemaking, Agriculture, Fishery
Major Terrain: Flatland, Sea, Swamp.
Primary Languages: Trade Tongue.
Major Settlements: Southaven.

Geography


Physical Geography

The City State of Southaven is the heart of a large fertile floodplain generally just called the Southaven Flats. Four short rivers run from the low rolling hills inland to the coast, and the eastern boarder with Highdunn is marked by Lake Riala and the River Stower. The city state itself sits at the mouth of the River Tawn on a series of man made canals allowing access to the heart of the city by barge as well as on foot. In the north the edges of the forest reach woody fingers into the plains, but these are new growths, and are sparse and young. The majority of the coast is marked by long, wide beaches with black sand and spotted with dirty-grey gulls. At the very southernmost point of Southaven the coast rises up into towering cliffs, and on the highest point of these sailors are greeted by an enormous carving of the twin faces of the Dioune staring out to sea with polished stone eyes.

Political Geography

Strictly speaking Southaven and its surrounding lands are a theocracy, this is that all of the lands are administered by the ruling body of the Church of the Dioune, with the ostensible ruler being the Grand High Prelate, but in effect the High Prelate of Southaven and his agents are the administrators of the land, and it is they who make the laws, largely based on those of Highdunn, and who levy its taxes and maintain its perfunctory army in the form of the Warriors of the Church. The priests of Southaven are not endowed with any additional secular powers, but they can take up careers in the bureaucracy of the nation if they so choose without conflicting with their spiritual duties. Still, outsiders are left with the lasting impression that the nation is very much a distant second in the priorities of the church.

Setting Trait (3): Heart of Faith Southaven is a wealthy and influential state, but it is also the home of the landsman faith of the Isle. As such, Southaven has always been something of a neutral ground, and all Ahlonia's major powers keep close watch on one another for signs of growing influence. In this way Southaven has total neutrality almost thrust upon it by larger, more powerful neighbours over and within which it wields profound influence.

In the city state itself this has led to a power vacuum, which has been filled by a seemingly criminal organization called the T’Ovari. The T'Ovari is led by six masters, five of whom keep their identities deadly secret and one of whom, the boisterous Daelin Nole, makes no effort to conceal his identity from anyone. What marks the T'Ovari apart from other criminal syndicate, aside from their sheer wealth and power, is that while they gain their funds from smuggling and extortion, they use these funds to lend money to local businesses, maintain a professional city watch in the districts of Southaven that they control, and even run courts of law. As a result the people of the city state are somewhat torn between the legitimate but seemingly impartial rulership of the church and the practical yet criminal organization of the T'Ovari.

Setting Trait (2): Unsanctioned Rule The T'Ovari are little more than a large criminal organization, any yet they rule Southaven more fully, and more effectively than the Church of the Dioune ever have. The people here have learned to embrace this illegitimate second rule as part of their lives, and though they know that to cross the T'Ovari is foolish, they also know that they are better off with these civic-minded bandits than they would be without.

Social Geography

The church of the Dioune is, understandably, more important to life than it is elsewhere in Ahlonia here at the seat of the church. The church owns all lands, and instead of steaders these are merely rented to serfs in return for a tithe of the goods that they produce from the land. In the city state people only have to pay a yearly gate and dock tax to be considered citizens. The land here also belongs to the church, but large tracts are rented by the guilds who ten construct buildings and sublet these to the citizens. Most of the folk of Southaven live upstairs and have a business space on the lower level of their homes, meaning that there is no division between residential districts and shops as nearly every house incorporates a business. Of course the T'Ovari complicate this situation, but the criminal syndicate and the Guilds seem to have a healthy relationship, leading some to believe that the secret masters are ranking guild officials. People all have the same rights and obligations outside of the church and as a result slavery is totally illegal, though foreigners who bring their slaves with them are tolerated.

Unlike the rest of Ahlonia, Southaven is called upon to act as an example of piety and devotion, and as a result regular gatherings in the various small basilicas of the city are required by the priests, and services include a certain amount of preaching, as well as a communal discussion, and the opportunity to ask questions of a spiritual nature of priests. These gathering take place at the beginning and middle of each week, and all spiritual occasions such as marriages, funerals, ordinations and inductions all take place on these holy days as part of the communal service. The giving of gifts by the whole congregation is expected on such occasions, though these need not be lavish.

People


Races and Nationalities

The folk here tend to either be zealots or merchants, occasionally both. There is a mix of Downsmen and Highdunners that usually outnumber the actual natives of Southaven, but generally speaking there is no way of telling any of these groups apart, and all residents are Ahlonian landsmen. While there are a few goblyn bands lurking here and there these are criminal, and are systematically routed out and destroyed if they become too visible.

Notable Individuals

Grand High Prelate, His Most Blessedness, Sathiri Gavain Allarund
The ageing Gavain Allarund has held the post of Grand High Prelate for nearly thirty years. Old beyond the count of most men, people have long wondered how much longer he will hold on. Allarund has faced a reign of relative peace and security, and has devoted much of it to making faith available to the people, he seemed destined to be merely another name in a history book, but over the last decade of his reign Allarund has found enlightenment, and become a truly great Grand High Prelate.

Sathiri Seamon Talabren
Saemon Talabren is a man in his mid thirties, but despite his relative inexperience he remains one of the most able and educated of all the church’s administrators, if a little bookish. The personal secretary of the Grand High Prelate, Saemon is responsible for much of the daily running of the church of the Dioune, and for circulating the Grand High Prelates proclamations amongst the other High Prelates and their staff, as well as occasionally delivering addresses and giving council in his master's stead. Some wonder is Arallund is grooming Talabren to be his successor.

Morgan the Blue of Southaven
While he makes his home in Southaven, Morgan only spends a few months of the year in the city. Morgan is a traveller, and walks all over the isle pursuing some agenda that only he understands. Still, he remains Court Magician to the Grand High Prelate of Southaven, and as such has made himself available to the High Prelates whenever they summon him through a magical pool in Adima’s garden, at the Great Basilica of Southaven. While his duties only extend to the service of the legitimate rulers of Southaven, Morgan has also been known to deal with the T’Ovari when the situation warrants it. Of all of the students of the High Warlock currently active on the Isle, Morgan is the only one who is particularly open with his powers, he is able to sense the thoughts and emotions of men without flaw, and can detect the truth of anything told to him. Perhaps more disturbingly Morgan has proven his ability to convey words into another man's mind without them leaving his lips, and even to plant an idea or compulsion in the thoughts of another.

Captain of the Koric Guard, Boerd Candrel
The Captain of the loyalist Koric Guard who patrol the temple district is both the greatest and most tenacious foe of the T’Ovari and the most loyal servant of the Church of the Dioune’s regime in Southaven. A faithful Warrior of the Church and a candidate for the High Prelacy of Southaven should the current High prelate Harold Kant pass on (though he is admittedly Candrel's junior). Boerd is a seasoned veteran of a number of small boarder wars, and has been involved in battles with siele and goblyns over the Forest Way as well as a number of skirmishes with large bandit forces where he has held command. Not a decorated military man, he is an excellent drillmaster and one of the foremost authorities on a city's security in Ahlonia, even being called to Lierkist to consult on the Kommeron menace recently.

Unmasked Master of the T’Ovari, Daelin Nole
Daelin Nole is a man of middle years, broad shouldered and heavy set, and beginning to spread about the gut. His dark, long hair is beginning to grey at the temples and his tan, weathered skin is forming into a multitude of tiny creases. His eyebrows are bushy and expressive and the drooping moustaches he wears make his mouth seem set and his jaw hard. A long scar runs from his left cheek down over his chin to his throat, a memento of a time before men feared bearing arms in his presence. Though his outward appearance is almost fatherly, and his smile sly and inviting, his light eyes don’t twinkle with mirth like those of a grandfather, they shine with cruelty and barely repressed fury like those of a killer. Few men are both brave and stupid enough to meet his gaze, and those men generally come by accidents involving falling face first onto knives. He is not a subtle man, and hates men who play games, and this, perhaps, is why he has unmasked himself for all to see as one of the five masters of the T’Ovari. Since the group are openly declared outlaw and the penalty for membership is death his move was a brave one, however Nole feels he is safe from reprisal, and enjoys the respect and power granted him by his position. And indeed, thus far in any case, he has been proven right.

Culture


Social Etiquette and Customs

To the people of Southaven religious ceremony is social etiquette, and as such their society is far more focused on proper address and formality than are those of their neighbours, and people are expected to know how to greet and address a priest, and also expected to offer their hospitality and obedience to ranking members of the church. It is common to greet a ranking priest by kissing his hand, and in the presence of any ordained priest hats may never be worn. Hiding ones head is in such a situation is considered not only bad mannered, but outright threatening as it directly hides an individuals face and mind from the divh. Invoking the names of the Dioune outside of a religious setting is also considered the height of bad manners, and common exclamations to other lands such as "By Koroth's spear!" are frowned upon in Southaven, especially in the presence of ordained priests. Generally there is a higher level of propriety and formality in Southaven, and this is redoubled during any religious service or festivity.

Architecture

The city state of Southaven is a wealthy city, more so than any other in Ahlonia, and as such it's buildings are grand. Nearly exclusively made of stone, or at the very least fronted in stone, columns and carved façades and whitewash are common and popular, and give the streets of the city state an unnaturally showy appearance, but in the richer districts around the Great Basilica the effect is striking. Usually buildings have businesses on the lower floor, be they a shop, workshop, taproom or receiving room in the case of the boarding houses that keep the majority of the city's labour. Interiors tend to be cramped but comfortable and the prevalence of whitewash and fabric is definitive. Solars tend to be small, and house cots except for the chambers of the head of the house, which are normally a generous suite. Bathing is done in water brought in from the canal and boiled, and most houses have a privy that drains back into a canal.

There are domed white basilicas decorated with sculpture and friezes of beaten copper in every district where religious ceremonies, gatherings, and festivals are focused. These are usually based around huge central chambers with four antechambers evenly spaced around the edges, which house priest's quarters, a vestry, a vestibule and a modest kitchen and dining room. The skyline of the docks is dominated by massive guild houses which are a warren of store rooms and offices.

Diet

Seafood is a staple of a Southavanien's diet, but dense farmland around city gives a healthy amount of variety, and bread and butter are common accompaniments to a standard mixed seafood chowder usually with sweet potato and large red onions. Crab and shellfish are eaten on special occasions, and the upper classes enjoy larger fish and freshwater lobster, as well as honeyed wine and mead while the commoners generally drink ale of sweet potato whiskey. It is customary for someone, usually the matriarch of a family, to offer thanks to Aliel before eating a major meal, but if this is overlooked none but the most hard line of zealots will be overly concerned, simply doubling their thanks next meal.

Religion and Philosophy

In the theocracy of Southaven religion is an even bigger part of daily life than it is to the people of Reddown, and though they are less dour about their faith the people of Southaven are still extremely aware of the divh. Unlike the people of Reddown, whose priests are referred to as ‘dissidents’, the people of Southaven believe in two distinct sibling divh of the Dioune, and believe that each must be courted separately and in a different manner.

The role of the clergy is a far more important one in Southaven. Though, to the people of Southaven, the priests are still no more than consultants on the moods of the divhs, they are well-respected men, and though the clergy remain relatively poor, supported by tithes and gifts from landholders and by the estates within Southaven that they lease, they are still very welcome in Southaven. They go about clad in ceremonial vestments, grey robes fringed in blue, and with their heads shaven daily in the barbers shops of the Waterfront.

The church of Southaven is also home to the eight orders of the priesthood. Upon reaching the rank of Brother in the church, every priest is inducted into one of the eight orders, and he shares in the duty of that order. The Hands of Aliel are a group specifically devoted to pleasing the divhi Aliel, and the Fists of Koroth are similarly devoted to her brother. The Warriors of the Church, or whom the Koric Guard are the elite, are a warrior order who have forsaken their priestly duties to take up arms in the name of the church. The Order of the Living Heart are healers and physicians charged with going to places of war and disease to give aid, and the Order of the Sanctuary are charged with maintaining and faithfully reproducing the holy books of the Dioune. The Order of the Blessed Remembrance, the largest in the faith, are those who go out amongst the people charged with their spiritual health, and the Order of the Garden is the small elite group formed of the prelates, high prelates and the Grand High Prelate, when they attain these posts they leave their own orders for the Order of the Garden. Finally the Order of the Sixth Oracle is charged with guarding the 'mysteries' of the Diounic faith, and specifically with being prepared when the sixth oracle arrives. The greatest of the psalmists and palm readers come from the Order of the Sixth Oracle.

Psalmists and Palmistry

Palmists and psalmnists are the diviners of the church, reading people's futures, and facilitating prayers of prosperity and relief with a particular focus on the significance of the hands. The hands are the agents of religious action, and the portals to the soul to the followers of the Dioune, and left and right are assigned to Aliel and Koroth respectively. Based upon this philosophy the power of individual divh can be invoked through the applications of the hands, joined in prayer and separated for work. Psalmists are a small group of ranking priests who write prayers on their palms in order to better invoke diounic power. They are known for the prayers that the scrawl upon their palms in painstaking detail every day. A citizen can seek a psalmist, favoured by the Dioune, to write a prayer on his behalf upon one hand or the other for a modest fee. Similarly the reading of the markings of the palms, known as palmistry, is the general practice of a priest in consultation, to gauge both the balance of an individual's soul, and the fate that his current path will lead him to. Fate is by no means preordained, the divh merely send portents in the form of crevasses and creases on the palms of the faithful to be adeptly read and interpreted by a priest.

Government


Political System

The City-State of Southaven is the seat of, and governed by the Church of the Dioune. The Grand High Prelate is the head of state, but in reality the High prelate of Southaven is charged with governance of the people's bodies and souls. The Koric Guard maintain law and order and keep a modest army while the ranking priests levy taxes, collect tithes and run the courts of law. Taxes are light, but gifts to the church are expected in addition, and when both expenses are considered it becomes slightly more costly to live in Southaven than Highdunn, still, it's fertile soils and peaceful state make Southaven a popular home.

Legal System and Enforcement

The Koric Guard are entirely responsible for maintaining the law, while priests from the Order of the Sanctuary judge cases based on the immorality of the crime. Laws are not harsh, in fact they are light compared to the other nations of the Isle. Usually when a crime is committed the guard take the perpetrator into custody and the wronged party simply goes to a court and sues for compensation, then the adjudicator decides whether or not the demanded compensation is fair. Suits for seizure of all assets or the criminal's death are common, and the priests more often than not err in the favour of the suing party. However if the Koric Guard deem a held individual to be innocent of the crime done then they will free him at their own discretion. Generally speaking those who commit crimes against the state are simply executed on the spot.

Technology


Medicine

Priests tend to citizen’s needs quite amply, and the Order of the Living Heart are especially skilled at the task, and based in Southaven, so there is always a number of talented healers available to any Southavanien. In the docks of the City State of Southaven barbers perform basic surgery such as lancing boils, bleeding wounds and amputations and building prosthetics for a small fee, but when compared to the herbal ministrations and prayers of the priests their service is considered a poor alternative.

Economy


Trade

Trade is dominated by the guilds of Sigard and the Guilds of Shipwrights, Carpenters, Scribes and Stonemasons all have a sizeable presence in the City-State of Southaven and the surrounding towns, even having their own settlements up the coast so as to avoid the dock tax on goods bound for Thairon and beyond. The church isn't particularly interested in financial matters, and their view is that when the people prosper their tithes and gifts are bigger, so to that end the church offers food and support to those down on their luck. This has the double effect of making the Southavaniens a relatively wealthy lot, and also keeping beggars completely off the street of the city.

Major Export and Import

Southaven is a hub of trade and merchant traffic thanks to its position as a neutral link between east an west, both diplomatically and economically. Southaven is a hungry economy, but ultimately it is a self-sufficient nation, as it was always intended to be, and this has made it exceedingly financially successful where the mere leadership of the priests would have impoverished it. The fact that no one can afford to see Southaven fail means that the city state and it's surrounding lands are left very much to themselves, to use the rich land and large population to make gold.

Corn, wheat, dairy products, wine and textiles are the major exports rolling and sailing out of Southaven, and in turn raw materials like cotton from the Tresser Veldt, timber from Werndel, slabs of stone and marble from Forthest and raw Iron from Shornfar all make their way into the nation.

Money

Southaven has no currency of its own, instead they use the Reddown coins, though Highdunn coin is accepted at a slightly lower value. Notes of credit are also accepted here, but only those from guilds who have an office in the city to support them. The T’Ovari mint their own large denominations, and despite their illegitimacy, they are internationally recognized, giving the T’Ovari a great deal of influence over the local economy, their mineral sources remain unknown and their coins are mixed with copper rather than plated lead giving them a reddish hue leading the T’Ovari coins to be called ‘blood coin’ amongst their opponents.

Today in Southaven…


As is typical in Southaven, heat is building up again between the Koric Guard and the T'Ovari. Boerd Candrel has hinted that he knows the identity of one or more of the secret masters of the T'Ovari, but Daelin Nole has assured his people that it's just Candrel fearmongering and trying to shake the lower ranks up. Whether this is the case or Candrel actually has good intelligence at his fingertips it seems odd that he has thus far kept the information to himself. There are even suggestions that perhaps a guildmaster or even a priest might be involved, these great powers are staying his hand.

Off the coast of the southernmost point of Southaven there are a particularly nasty group of pirates operating. Not in a Sigarder or even a Ralstaan vessel, there are rumours circulating the pirates hail from the legendary Pirate Isles in the distant north-east. If this rumour is true the perhaps these buccaneers aren't even landsmen. Whatever the reality is no ship has yet survived an attack, and their vessel has only been glimpsed from afar.

Ongoing concern about the surely imminent death of the Grand High Prelate is always a topic of hushed debate in the City State of Southaven, but recent reports suggest that the old man is ill. Rumour vary wildly between his being at deaths door to it merely being a minor ailment. But what is known is that Arallund is not receiving anyone outside the Order of the Garden and his personal physicians and staff. If it truly is the end, and the fires of mourning are lit in the sconces atop the Great Basilica there will surely be a race as all of the Prelates of Ahlonia converge on the city, each seeking to claim the vacant throne.

The Southern Isle of Ahlonia
The Earldoms, The Storm Sea Coast, Southaven, The Tresser Veldt, The Heartlands, The Roughlands, The Maethian Arm, The Vale of Mists, The Forest Kingdom
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