|Demographics||90% human, 4% dwarf, 2% elf, 2% halfling, 1% half-elf, 1% other|
Source: Guide to Korvosa, pg(s). 3
Korvosa (pronounced kohr-VOH-sah) is the largest city in Varisia, and used to be the capital of Chelish Varisia. It now serves as the seat of one of three city-states that claim independent authority over their individual holdings in the region. Though its citizens and traditions have strong ties to the nation of Cheliax, with many of its people tracing their ancestry directly to servants of the Empire, the city's location at the mouth of the Jeggare River and the presence of a highly-defensible harbor have contributed to the establishment of Korvosa as a primary hub for trade. Various cultures and peoples can be found within the city's walls as goods move in and out of its gates.
History of Korvosa
Korvosa is the eldest of Varisia's three city-states, once part of Imperial Cheliax but now independent. The settlement originally served as no more than a defensive position from which settlers and explorers would enter Varisia, only growing into the cosmopolitan center of trade that it is today with the passage of time and events. Korvosa is built upon the ruins of the Thassilonian city of Xin-Eurythnia, the capital of Eurythnia, which was ever ruled by Sorshen, the Runelord of Lust.
Before the arrival of the Empire of Cheliax, Korvosa was no more than a site sacred to the Shoanti; the protection of the location, as well as the pyramid found there, was of great importance. However, in 4407 AR a group of Chelish marines under the command of Field Marshal Jakthion Korvosa selected the site to begin construction of a defensive outpost. Once completed, Fort Korvosa acted as a common stop for explorers, settlers, and trappers operating in the region. The trading post and its defenses were later strengthened after a Shoanti raiding forced burned much of the location in what would become known as the Great Fire.
The Cousins' War
The Cousins' War began in 4502 AR, the result of an insult directed at one of Korvosa's noble families. The conflict heralded the end of the settlement's significance as a military position, but also resulted in the growth of both its population and economic power. Soon after, Korvosa was seen as a true colony of the Empire of Cheliax.
Death of Aroden
In 4606 AR the death of the deity Aroden resulted in civil war in Cheliax; many of the Empire's colonies, including Korvosa, suffered as their connection to the homeland unexpectedly disappeared. The city's government has succeeded in achieving some measure of prosperity since the Empire's decline, but the city's recovery from the chaos that resulted as a result of the Empire's sudden absence has been slow; its population is but a fraction of what most would expect given a settlement of Korvosa's physical size. Nevertheless, regarding political power, Korvosa is now equivalent with Magnimar, though this is far below the level considered appropriate for its decadent ruling class.
Korvosa sits in a double bend of the Jeggare River in southeastern Varisia just before it empties into Conqueror's Bay. The oldest part of the city is located on Endrin Isle, a relatively small spit of land, while the majority sits on the mainland across the Narrows of Saint Alika. Two smaller neighborhoods, Thief Camp and East Shore (see below), lie on the eastern shore of the Jeggare River. The city is built around two major hills: Garrison Hill on Endrin Isle and Citadel Hill on the mainland. The small Jeggare Isle lies off the southern coast of the city and holds little but Palin's Lighthouse.
The city of Korvosa is divided into seven official districts: East Shore, Gray, the Heights, Midland, North Point, Old Korvosa, and South Shore. The borders between these districts may be fixed (such as by water or a wall), or might exist only in the minds of the city's inhabitants. Two other areas exist above and below Korvosa that might loosely be called districts, making nine in total. The boundaries of these unofficial districts do not conform to any design by the city's planners: they are the rooftop area known as the Shingles and the large undercity of the Vaults.
East Shore is the only city district on the far side of the Jeggare River. It is connected to the rest of the city by High Bridge, and is home to a number of Korvosa's noble families with strong ties to the military. It is also the location of the city's second, and arguably inferior, magical school, Theumanexus College.
The Heights sit atop Citadel Hill and the cliffs of Korvosa's western shoreline. It is home to the most powerful nobles in the city, including the monarch, as Castle Korvosa is located within its borders. The Acadamae, Korvosa's most well-respected magical college, can be found here as well. As the highest district in the city, its residents feel they can look down on the rest of Korvosa, both literally and figuratively.
Midland is what most visitors think of when they speak of Korvosa. Located in the southeast quadrant of the city, it is home to the majority of Korvosa's merchants, shops, and financial institutions. The criminal elements who might prey on this accumulation of wealth are kept in check by the fact that both the headquarters of the Korvosan Guard and the Sable Company are located here as well.
North Point was the first part of the mainland to be settled after the city began to expand from Endrin Isle. Encompassing the northeastern quadrant of the city, it is home to many families descended from these early settlers, in addition to much of Korvosa's municipal infrastructure, including City Hall, the courts, and the Bank of Abadar.
Old Korvosa, as its name implies, is the oldest, but also the poorest, most overcrowded part of the city. It encompasses all of Endrin Isle and is dominated by Garrison Hill. The shantytown of Bridgefront is located on the western part of the island.
The newest district of the city, South Shore, was only founded at the end of the 47th century AR. Located on the southwestern edge of mainland Korvosa next to the Gray District, it does not suffer from the overcrowding that plagues the rest of the city. Because of this, it is a highly sought-after residence for the city's new money elite. It is also home to the Pantheon of Many, Korvosa's ecumenical cathedral.
Built on top of the rooftops of Korvosa's most-densely populated areas lie wooden walkways, ramshackle abodes, and shops known as the Shingles. Due to the city's severe overcrowding, this area is home to some of the city's poorest citizens, as well as providing quick highways over the bustling streets for anyone wishing to avoid the crowds.
Korvosa's holdings span much of southeastern Varisia, and include a diverse array of towns, villages, and regions including Abken, Baslwief, Biston, the Bloodsworn Vale, Harse, Melfesh, Palin's Cove, Sirathu, and Veldraine.
The government of Korvosa is comprised of three official branches, each with its own unique sphere of influence. In addition, Korvosa's noble families exert limited power in the affairs of government.
Since their appointment following the decline of Imperial Cheliax, the monarchs of Korvosa have served as the primary diplomats and defenders of the city-state; the city's royal bloodline has served the populace from the famed Crimson Throne since Korvosa gained its unexpected independence. The monarchy's authority has always been limited, with control of Korvosa's government shared among groups that existed prior to its inception.
The arbiters of Korvosa act as judges, hearing disputes and crimes and determining punishments for those deemed guilty. They also hold the responsibility of legislative oversight over decisions made by the other branches of Korvosa's government. The most well-known senior arbiter in the city is Zenobia Zenderholm, also known as the "Hanging Judge". She is justifiably feared by the criminal classes for her harsh rulings.
Korvosa's magistrates are in charge of the daily management of the city. The 23 individuals that comprise this body are primarily concerned with matters of bureaucracy, including taxation, economic oversight, and public works. Garrick Tann, the Magistrate of Commerce, is one of the least popular, as one of his duties is to act as the city's chief tax collector. In contrast, Syl Gar, the Magistrate of Expenditures is one of the most popular, as he responsible for spending the taxes on the city's behalf. Mercer Cucuteni is the current Magistrate of Tourism, responsible for making the city seem as interesting and inviting to outsiders as possible. Lolia Perenne is the Magistrate of Regulation. She and her staff spend most of their time searching for the various means by which merchants and customers cheat each other.
The monarchy is advised by the Peerage Review, a council composed of the heads of Korvosa's five Great Houses. The remaining 21 noble house comprise the Dock Families, each boasting control over one or more of the city's docks. Many of the nobles of Korvosa long for the culture of Cheliax and use Chelish fashions and customs to lord it over the populace considering themselves the model of Varisian culture.
The traditional colors of Korvosa (seen in the flag and in many of the uniforms of city organizations) are red, black, and silver. Red and black relate back to the flag of Cheliax, although the Korvosan flag uses a darker crimson than that of its former mother country. Silver is a symbol of the city's importance. Korvosa's official mascot is the hippogriff, dozens of which roost in the Great Tower and serve as mounts for the soldiers of the Sable Company. The city's motto is "Trosker ep Styrk", which in an archaic form of Taldane means "Fidelity and Strength".
Nobody likes to pay taxes, and Korvosa's inhabitants are not exempted from this rule. Compared to other cities, however, the Korvosan government levies relatively few such fees against its citizens.
Korvosa's military resources are embodied in three separate organizations, each charged with protecting the city-state and its people in manners unique to each group.
The primary responsibility of the Korvosan Guard is the protection and well being of the city of Korvosa. Its members serve as police and will, in times of danger from beyond the city's walls, also act in the capacity of a defensive military force. In addition, the Guard also often works to forward the interests of the government and the local church of Abadar.
The hippogriff-mounted marines of the Sable Company answer directly to Korvosa's monarchy, their orders given to them by the standing seneschal of Castle Korvosa. Their purpose is to patrol and defend the city's skies and waterways, though they've also been known to assist the Korvosan Guard in their efforts throughout the city.
Order of the Nail
The Hellknights of the the Order of the Nail are paid allies of the Korvosan government, and pursue their unyielding ideals of order and law from nearby Citadel Vraid. They are fanatical when confronted by behavior or events that fly against their strict worldview, but support the city only as long as they are compensated.
Despite its remote location in relation to other major cities in Avistan, Korvasa is nonetheless a major commercial player in Golarion, and is a gateway for trade throughout Varisia. Its primary export is seafood, such as oysters (the Narrows of St. Alika are famous for their oyster beds), reefclaw claws, caviar, and other high-end seafoods. Also in the high-end foodstuffs department, Korvosa exports thileu bark to Cheliax at ridiculously high prices. It also exports goods made in its vassal states and is the only port that ships off Janderhoff goods. Thanks to the impressively large Bank of Abadar, Korvosa is also an important banking and financial city which mints its own currency. Thanks to the presence of the Acadamae, Korvosa is also a fair-sized supplier of magic items, especially low-level ones utilizing the school of conjuration. The Arkona family imports a lot of items from distant Vudra, which then are distributed throughout northern and western Avistan. Finally, as much as the government is loathe to admit, Korvosa has a pretty impressive drug trade, although it mainly imports such goods.
Korvosa's food supplies come from the farms around it and its vassal communities, although it does import foods that can't grow in its climate. Wine is a major import, for example, as are tropical and subtropical fruits. The majority of Korvosa's imports, though, are in "manufactured goods." Despite the presence of the Ironworks in the city, Korvosa's capacity to produce finished goods lags well behind its demand, and like any good colony it imports a lot of such supplies from its homeland. Textiles are another example of that need.
According to Korvosa's charter, no guilds or trade unions may be formed within the city. The only exception to this is the Cerulean Society, Korvosa's thieves' guild. This law was designed to keep groups from price-fixing, but also allows the city to maintain direct control over their labor force. Most craftsmen in the city are self-employed and learn their trade from a master during their youth. Because Korvosa relies heavily on these cottage industries, certain rights and protections are guaranteed to the workers.
The city does its best to regulate crime by allowing for an official Thieves Guild, currently the Cerulean Society. (This is despite the fact that merchants and tradesmen are not allowed to form guilds.) There are also various other independent crimelords and criminal gangs in the city, including the Sczarni.
- See also: Magic in Korvosa
- See also: Category:Korvosa/Inhabitants
Despite being seen internationally as somewhat of a provincial backwater, Korvosans like to think that their city is actually quite cosmopolitan.
Fully 90% of the city's population is human, with the vast majority being descendants of Chelaxian immigrants. Most of these consider themselves to be Korvosan, feeling no strong kinship with their infernally-dominated cousins to the south. Other notable human ethnic groups include the semi-nomadic Varisians, which constitute about 10% of the human population, although a much higher percentage of the population can claim some Varisian blood. Pure-blooded Varisians tend to encounter quite a bit of prejudice in Korvosa: most people just assume them to be murderers and thieves. Shoanti make up the smallest of the human ethnic minorities, mostly due to the centuries of conflict between the Shoanti and the Chelaxian settlers of the region, and the fact that as a semi-nomadic people, they have little use for cities. If Varisians encounter bias when dealing with the Chelaxian majority, the reaction towards the Shoanti borders on outright hostility.
Due to the city's proximity to the major dwarven settlement of Janderhoff, Korvosa boasts a sizable population of dwarves. The majority are merchants and craftsmen, dealing in the creation and selling of tools, arms, and armor. Although most of these items are contractually sold to a few noble houses, who then sell them to the general populace at a profit, dwarven merchants often sell their surplus on the open market, particularly at the Gold Market in Midland, and the Dock Trade in North Point.
Elves have existed in Korvosa since the early days of its founding. Most originally are from the relatively nearby Mierani Forest, although others have made their homes here for hundreds of years. The leader of the Mierani elves is Perishial Kalissreavil who is seen of an ambassador of sorts. He maintains a small compound on the South Shore where he and his entourage advise the city on matters of nature, magic, and other scholarly topics.
Halflings have a peculiar history in Korvosa. Sensing a chance to widen their profit margins, House Leroung began constructing halfling-sized ships and boats and hiring halflings to run them, believing that they would take up much less room and eat less than their human counterparts, leaving more room for cargo. Their hunch turned out to be completely correct, and seeing their increased profits, the other trade houses (with the notable exception of House Arkona) soon followed. Today, even though halflings only make up 2% of the total population, fully half the ships owned by most of the major merchant houses are staffed by halflings.
Imps are a common sight in the skies above Korvosa, often fighting with their natural enemies, the local pseudodragon population. These tiny devils are summoned by Acadamae students as part of their graduation requirements, but some are unable to fully bind them or otherwise lose control of them. The imps escape into the city where they form into small packs, looking for mischief. They are a particular nuisance in the roof-level Shingles, and often try to form alliances with gangs or other ne'er-do-wells.
Approximately two centuries ago, Magistrate Dess Leroung imported a small population of otyughs from Cheliax and imprisoned them in the sewers beneath Endrin Isle in order to get control over the growing city's waste problem. Access to tunnels they inhabit is via street-level entrances sealed with massive steel plugs that can only be opened by even larger crank-driven winches. Occasionally these creatures escape their pens and break into the main sewers, or even make their way onto the city streets, causing untold damage.
Pseudodragons have lived in the area since long before Korvosa was a city. For unknown reasons, they have become mortal enemies of the introduced imp population, and the two species always fight whenever they encounter each other. Two to three times a year, the imps and pseudodragons gather into huge flocks and fight each other en-mass in the skies above the city.
Like many other places in the Inner Sea region, Korvosa as developed its own slang of Taldane. Words such as Chel, Fronter, or Horser may only be found here, or may have caught on in other parts of Avistan.
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