"A sprawling city-state beset by a myriad of threats, not excluding greenskins, skaven, as well as a unique brand of crime, and corruption. Perhaps the absolute worst thing about Zwolen is it's obnoxious sense of vanity, which radiates from both its pompous citizenry to its walls, structures, cuisine, and the very earth it straddles. Perhaps it deserves any sort of bloody fate for that alone."
- Anonymous Reikland Scholar
Zwolen is a free city located in a small archipelago in the mid Black Gulf region, and is one of the most successful and economically prosperous fiefdoms in the Border Prince Confederacy.
Zwolen is best described as a constitutional monarchy, headed by a Prince or Princess. The current ruler of Zwolen is Princess Taunya Paszek. The on and off tensions between the Tilean Republic of Verezzo, as well as increasing attacks from greenskins have caused most of the nobility to encourage a temporary state of isolationism. The principality also holds three legislative bodies:
- The Council of Retainers, comprised of seventy-five nobles who vote on diplomatic actions. Recently, these positions have been plagued by occasional dormancy due to increasing isolationism.
- The Council of Colonels, comprised of two state field marshals and numerous mercenary commanders.
- The Council of Merchants who represent both the middle and lower classes. It is the largest, and arguably most important of the legislative branches, despite being rife with more intrigue and instability than the other two bodies combined.
"The Zwolenese are a remarkable and fortunate people. However, they're more respectable than likable. I know them well enough that it's a chore to trust one of their kind, even if they're in a cage with both of their feet nailed to the bottom."
- Emperor Karl Franz I
Zwolen is in a constant state of war between greenskin tribes, Remasian privateers, and has notable tensions with the Imperial Provinces due to previous and numerous trade violations. They hold healthy trade partnerships with Bretonnia, Estalia, and the Tilean Republic of Verezzo.
Economy and the Caving Guild
Despite its being locked in an island chain, Zwolen is fairly self sustaining due to the caverns below the islands growing rare crops that require little sunlight, such as "cave wheat", as well as a variety of edible fungi and subterranean game. The agricultural cartel known as the Zwolenese Caving Guild oversees the hunting and farming beneath, and many members hold office in the Council of Merchants, as well as the other two legislative bodies of government.
The archipelago is also home to gold veins and a small marble quarry outside of the city, and fishing is commonplace. Even with all this, Zwolen still imports a sizable amount of their goods, such as gunpowder, steel, fabrics, silks, ale, wine, spices, and most notably wood.
Slavery and indentured servitude is legal in Zwolen, but strongly regulated. Certain types of slavery, including forced prostitution and sex rackets, as well as forced conscription onto a merchant or military vessel are illegal, and often punishable by exile. House servants and manual laborers (such as on the quarries or docks) are perfectly legal.
Military and the Tangerine Armada
Two thirds of Zwolen's fighting force is notoriously comprised of mercenaries and privateers from the Empire and Tilea. Ogre maneaters are not an unusual site, either. The principality has also hired minor greenskin tribes as mercenaries, by bribing them with weaponry, armor, and the teeth of slain orcs to fight their neighbors.
On land battles there are a fundamental lack in cavalry, and their state troops and many of their mercenary companies rely on tight formations of heavily armored swordsmen, as well and pike and shot. At sea, however, speed, mobility, and overwhelming numbers are the word of the day. While fielding a few heavy galleons and brigs, Zwolen's pride are it's finely crafted and capably manned sloops and gunboats, which is known as "The Tangerine Armada" due to the orange stripes painted on the sails, and have been known to raid coastal greenskin strongholds and bombard them from afar to weaken their numbers and pillage goods.
Society and Culture
Notable Locations and City Districts
Divided into nearly a dozen of small islands, three of which hold small fishing villages, militia garrisons, watch towers, and mineral mines. The largest island is known as "Proctor", and houses its only major settlement, Zwolen City.
Zwolen's notable city locations:
- The Prince's Quarter, which houses the Retainer Apartments, the State Barracks, as well as the Tangerine Citadel. It is noted for it's extremely lavish architecture.
- The Admiral's Quarter, the low income district which houses the main trade and military harbors, the Stevedore's Guild, the notorious Blooded Stump Tavern, and the Guild of Fishing and Whaling. It is rife with thievery, squalor, as well as organized crime, and violence is considered completely normal there.
- Rubytown, which is the main trade hub, housing the Flying Hound Pub, the Dusted Bazaar, and the Miner's Clubhouse.
- The Veiled Quarter, the subterranean area harboring the Caving Guild, numerous farms and underground clearances, the mercenary flophouse, and the Fat Boil Taphouse.
- Zwolen is based off of real world island cities/states such as Hong Kong and Malta. The food and culture is an amalgamation of Scandinavian, North African, Middle-Eastern, and East Asian aspects.
- The architecture of Zwolen's capital city was largely envisioned to be similar to that of the fictional location of Kirkwall, from BioWare's "Dragon Age" franchise.
- "Cave wheat" is a thinly veiled reference to the crop of the same name from the video game "Dwarf Fortress" by Bay-12 Games.