This is the third in a series of posts about the continent of Negune. Negune is the setting for my Ascendant Crusade campaign, as well as The Girl and the Granite Throne series of short stories. Previous posts in this series have provided an overview of the continent as a whole, and a detailed account of the nation of Regalia.
Stekett traces its roots back to a paladin named Grephar Siveren. More than eight hundred years ago, during Grephar’s adventures with his six legendary companions, the group pursued a clan of violent stone giants into the mountains of present-day Stekett. There, the giants regrouped, and called upon other clans to help them in their fight. The adventurers nearly met their end in that battle, but they managed to scatter; Horatiana’s limp form slung over Grephar’s shoulder. What had been an attempt to stop a single giant raid turned into a two year guerrilla war against all the stone giants of that region. During that time, Grephar frequently remarked to his companions that if the giants were clever enough to utilize their natural surroundings properly, the adventuring party wouldn’t stand a chance.
Years later, when the party went their separate ways, Grephar decided to return to Stekett. At heart, he was a solider and a tactician. If he was to found a kingdom, he decided, it would be one that could defend itself from any attack. Even long after he was dead and gone.
Stekett is the second largest autonomous nation on the continent, after Regalia. It is also the most geographically separated from the other nations. Anyone who wishes to travel to or from Stekett must choose either a long and dangerous journey through the wildlands, a long and dangerous journey through the unpredictable island of Argania, or a voyage by sea. Most opt for the latter, and Stekett maintains a thriving trade relationship with the two Regalian provinces of Shield Haven and Centralia by utilizing the small sea that connects the three.
Military life is a major part of Steketian culture. While the law does not require enlistment, nearly every citizen spends at least a few years in military service, and it is regarded as a high honor to defend one’s homeland. Only about 5% of Steketians never serve in the nation’s armed forces, and many of those are simply unable to do so based on physical frailty, or chronic illness. Those who do not spend time in military service are not actively discriminated against, but find themselves cut off from Steketian culture, since they lack an experience which is considered to be fundamental. This causes them to miss out on opportunities available to the majority of their countryfolk.
Due to the relative peace on the continent, the Steketian military focuses its attention on preventing the monstrous races from organizing. There is usually at least one flotilla of ships active on the sea, and two legions of ground soldiers active in the wildlands–though they obey the ancient dictate to never establish permanent bases in that area. Stekett is also the only nation which sends regular expeditions into Argania. These missions are dangerous, and consist entirely of volunteers. It is hoped that in time, a safe method of passing through Argania can be devised.
Given the importance of the military in Stekett, it is perhaps not surprising that military leaders are powerful figures in politics as well. Since the death of Grephar, the nation has been ruled by a triad, the members of which share power equally: the Commander General, the High Admiral, and the Prime Minister. The three represent the Steketian army, navy, and civilian government, respectively. Most decisions require only a majority vote between the three. However, any decision to go to war with another nation requires a unanimous vote, and any single member of the triad may choose to call an end to war.
As Grephar noted, the geography of Stekett is uniquely defensible. Treacherous mountain ranges limit any invading army to a very few avenues of attack. Aside from attempting to cross the dangerous Arganian island, invaders must choose between two paths into Stekett. First, they can travel across the wildlands and attempt to breech the northern boarder, but to do so they must cross the Iron Lake which is defended by numerous barriers, traps, land based weaponry, and an elite flotilla of freshwater ships. The only other option would be attempting to land on the southern Steketian coastline. However, most of the southern coast is formed by high cliffs and rocky waters. There are only four safe places to land ships, and each one is home to either a port city, or a shipyard. Each is defended by the peerless Steketian navy.
Furthermore, nearly a third of Stekett’s total landmass is within a natural encirclement of mountain ranges. The only passage through the ring of mountains is a gorge, roughly 300 feet wide, called Stone Giant Pass. One of Grophar’s first edicts upon founding Stekett was that a great barrier should be built to seal that opening: The Obsidian Gate. It took three generations of Stekett’s most gifted stonemasons, wizards, and iron smiths to fully construct and reinforce the gate. The outward swinging double doors are 20ft thick, and their movement is supported by massive railings built into the ground along their swinging arc. With a full compliment of men and beasts operating them, the doors can be opened or closed in 20 minutes time. While not being used to defend against an oncoming enemy, however, the gates are left open.
Economically, Stekett produces the finest meats, fruits, and armaments anywhere on Negune. A military force in the Wildlands will commonly return bearing its weight in meats from the beasts there, and Steketian methods for preserving and preparing that meat are as advanced as their military forces. Most of the land within Stekett’s boarders is used to cultivate various types of fruit. A few farms even use minor magics to cultivate fruits which would not normally grow in the area–though these farms are generally quite small, and the fruits they produce are considered delicacies.
In the West most region of Stekett, nestled against the mountains, is the city of Anvilholm, known across the continent as the “City of Swords.” This multi-tiered metropolis was built by humans, but incorporates many designs most commonly found in dwarven citadels. The entire township is designed to function as a colossal smithy for masters of arms crafting. The ring of hammers is constant within the city walls, lasting all day and through the night. So single minded is the populace that even food and other basic items must be brought several times a day from nearby settlements, which are sustained entirely by providing support to Anvilholm. The settlement first began as a mining colony, but when a vein of Mithril was discovered, craftspeople flocked to the town in droves. Over the centuries the mine has continued to be a source of materials for Anvilholm. Not only of Mithril, but many other metals as well. It has been speculated that the Anvilholm mine is the richest on the entire continent. A claim which makes the dwarves of Shornholm none too happy.
Stekett’s legal system sometimes appears draconian to outsiders–or at least overly security conscious. The most noted example of this is Stekett’s treatment of arcane spellcasters. While the casting of arcane magics is not prohibited, it is strictly regulated. All such spellcasters are required to register with the ministry of artillery, and are subject to four random inspections each year. These inspections are generally conducted in a friendly and respectful manner, but some wizards understandably object to having their entire spell repertoire, as well as all of their research, tracked by the government. Some spells–including most of the enchantment and divination schools–are strictly regulated, and require a dictate from a military officer of general’s rank or higher. Additionally, while Stekett has never instituted a draft among its general population and allows members of the military to retire at their leisure, arcane spellcasters are always considered to be in reserve. Spellcasters visiting Stekett will need to submit their spellbooks for inspection, and based on their contents, may be required to leave their spellbook in a government office during their stay within the nation’s boarders.