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The Kingdom of Vistria, ruled from the capital city of Castle, is the middle nation of the Three Brother Nations and the second to become part of The Smith's empire. It is located on the Vistrian Peninsula on the northwestern tip of the continent, bounded on the east by a mountain range and the sands of the Urruk desert. Its interior is largely temperate and flat, with snowfall occuring in the north of the country and mountains on the western tip of the peninsula.
Vistria is the only one of the three brother nations that remains standing, and is the only predominantly human state in the world, with other human populations in Laric and Korstraad. Vistria is diplomatically and economically isolated from other land nations, seperated from them by harsh terrain and hostile territory, though it maintains cordial relations with the Elven, Dwarven and Halfling-Human nations to the south and east. The Kingdom has hostile relations with its only two direct neighbors, the Orcish population on its eastern borders and the Deluvian Empire that occupies the land and sea immediately to the south, though a peace treaty with the latter has recently been accepted.
Vistria is the portion of The Smith's empire that he left to his son Vistria, hence the name. The area was colonised by two separate groups: land-based colonists originating in what is now Verandi and sea-based colonists who sailed to northern Vistria and spread out from there. These northern colonists had extensive dealings with the local Frost Giants and picked up some of their language, leading to some Vistrian nobles calling themselves Earls (see below), from the Frost Giant word "Jarl". However, others go by "Count" due to influence from the Verandian colonists. This eventually resolved itself into Earls and Counts being related but slightly different positions (see below).
About 150 years ago, Vistrian forces participated in the defence of Verandi against the Deluvian invasion, though they proved unable to accomplish much beyond delaying the Empire's advance and escorting refugees. For more than a century afterwards, Vistria was engaged in low-intensity conflict with the Deluvians. Despite the passage of more than a century, the Verandian exiles, their king among them, have remained distinct from the Vistrians and many live in semi-permanent ghettos in Vistria's major cities, forming an enduring lower class that is disproportionately affected by poverty and hunger. Recently, the King of Vistria accepted a peace treaty with the Empire, ending more than a century of war and causing significant unrest within the Kingdom.
Vistria has a cognatic monarchy, meaning that male and female heirs inherit on the same basis, with no gender discrimination. Vistria's monarchs hail from the von Smith dynasty, descended from Smith's son Vistria. The current King is Edward von Smith.
While the King is nominally the ruler of the entire Kingdom of Vistria, the vast majority of the realm is ruled by numerous hereditary feudal lords who owe their vassalage to the King, directly or indirectly.
The largest of the vassal fiefdoms within the Kingdom of Vistria are the four duchies of Archtide, Newland, Dragurst and Mountside. Each duchy is ruled by a duke, who is ranked only below the King, and is tasked with managing and defending their land. The primary purpose of the duchies is to organize the defense of the Kingdom's borderlands using their expanded territory and resources. To this end, the dukes collect significant taxes and troop levies from their own vassals while providing only minor tribute to the King, relative to their overall wealth. The only duke whose identity is currently known is Duke von Christoff of Newland.
Counties, Earldoms and Marches
Counties and earldoms are smaller fiefs, ruled by counts and earls respectively, that provide taxes and levies to their direct liege. Counts and earls are considered to be of equivalent rank, though counts are direct vassals of the King while earls are vassals of a duke, the title earl originating with the Frost Giant title of jarl. A march is similar in size and rank to a county or earldom, however they are typically positioned on the borderlands of the Kingdom, especially those under significant threat of invasion. Consequently, the title of marquis, denoting the ruler of a march, is considered to be marginally above the titles of count or earl.
There seem to be a total of 32 fiefs of county-equivalent rank within the Kingdom of Vistria, half of which are direct vassals of the King. Each duchy seems to include 3-5 earldoms. Known examples of Vistrian counties include Aundar and Midgarde, earldoms include Sword and marches include Smith's Rest as well as Castle, the march that surrounds the capital.
The Known Counties are as follows: Aundar, Dansfield, Friggan, Gardan, Grey Beach, Knightsbridge, Landing, Long Rock, Midgarde, Midland, North Cove, Unther, Verne, Worth
Baronies are small areas of land within a county-level fief, usually ruled from a single castle by a baron who is a direct vassal of a count-level lord above them, to whom they provide their taxes and levies. The responsibilities of a baron include day-to-day governance of their fief, collecting taxes, settling disputes and providing law enforcement for towns and roads. Generally, barons are not expected to undertake military operations, as this is the responsibility of higher ranking lords. There are over 150 total baronies in the Kingdom; known baronies include Woodbridge and Silverlode, the latter being the fief of Draven's in-laws.
The free cities of Vistria are major urban settlements that arose either deliberately or coincidentally on the borders between feudal fiefdoms. Their location exploits the Vistrian legal code and allows them to circumvent the jurisdiction of lesser nobles like barons, counts or earls, making them direct subjects of the King or local duke, theoretically reducing their tax burden. The mayor of a free city holds the title of burger (yes, really) and is considered of equal rank to a baron, though they are not permitted to marshal military forces beyond civic police. The burger of the capital city of Castle is an exception, known as the Seneschal, they are considered of equal rank to a marquis and command the palace guard. The only known free city is New Vanover, within the Duchy of Newland, though Castle may also qualify.
Members of the Vistrian nobility with the rank of baron or higher have the power to bestow a knighthood on any person they see fit. This title does not necessarily come with any land, but grants the holder broad authority over commoners and lower level military personnel in the name of their liege, with the caveat of strict loyalty to that liege. Lords frequently knight people with a specific purpose, such as hunting local threats, investigating strange happenings, fighting as a champion on the battlefield or resolving lower level disputes, depending on the particular needs of their lord. The mayors of a major town not considered a free city hold an effective rank equivalent to that of a knight. Known knights include Sir Maxwell von Christoff, Sir Ander Brolen and Sir Jessia Proulx.