While Veniri is a Kingdom in principal, the King or Queen of Veniri is predominantly a figurehead role, and the monarch has relatively little power in the rule of the country. The true power in Venir politics is The Council of the Great Houses.
The Council of the Great Houses is an assembly of the heads of the largest, wealthiest, and most powerful Veniri merchant houses. The number of members has varied over time, from a low of four to a high of 14. Currently, there are 9 Houses that have seats on the Council. Council deliberations are presided over by a Grand Chancellor, who is one of the members of the Council. The politics behind the election of a Grand Chancellor are said to be rivaled only by the politics of hell itself; bribes, favors, deals, and corruption are rampant when the position comes to be filled. Generally, Grand Chancellors are elected for life, or until such time as the House they represent no longer qualifies to be represented in the Council of the Great Houses (a subjective determination, at best).
Normally such an oligarchic form of government would lead to repression and injustice. Fortunately, one of the major tenets of the Council is, “The business of Veniri is business”. Free to make as much money as they can, the merchants of Veniri do quite well, and the money they bring in provides even the lower classes with a reasonable standard of living. Whether the Council, or the merchants, or just good luck is responsible for all of this is not very important. To quote another Veniri proverb: “No matter who prays for the rain, everyone gets wet.”
The Noble Houses of Veniri
Di Genti: Traders in foodstuffs, particularly exotic and expensive foodstuffs. House Di Genti has a virtual monopoly on the trade in lucrative spices from Issyria, Jhon, and the Forbidden Isles, and therefore its influence is larger than what the wealth of the house would normally yield.
a’Lombardi: House Lombardi is known far and wide as the premier merchants of cloth, clothing, and other wearables - including soft armors (leather & studded leather), gloves, shoes, slippers, boots, belts, and goods made from hides and leathers. They do not trade in metal armor, shields, or weapons - at least, not on paper. House Lombardi has made arrangements with the finest weavers and silk-spinners in the far reaches of the lands, including Iruzhin, Chandrahaar, Jhon, and even Niahar and Issyria. They consistently seem to have the finest quality cloth and fabric, and have ironclad arrangements with the Guilds involved in the production of all these goods.
Veniri is a land where money talks, and wealth (or more properly, the ability to generate it) is the sole judge of social status. This leads to a number of interesting facets to Venir society that are different from practically anywhere else in the Lands.
Knowledge and wisdom are not prized and revered traits in and of themselves in Veniri; neither are exceptional talents in music, athletics, fighting, art, or any other pursuit. The only measure of success is material wealth and the power that it brings in the form of being able to better generate more wealth. Oddly, ostentatious displays of wealth in ones clothing or in lavish parties are the sign of one who is not truly wealthy, but merely wishes to be. The true Venir knows that social status is related to the power that wealth brings, rather than the coins themselves. Expansive estates, well guarded and fortified; a large and powerful force of guardsman that are loyal to the house; holdings and buyers in other countries that are trustworthy and consistently bring in profit; and having friends in high (and low) places within the Venir Court and the judicial system are all important if one expects to be nobility, and are the signs of a true Venir merchant noble.
One will never know a Venir nobleman or woman by sight; the standard dress in the Kingdom of Coin differs based on marital status: For married individuals, normal dress consists of plain robes, of black, grey, or brown, slit up the sides to allow the arms free movement, for both men and women; robes are sometimes embroidered with a bit of color at the sleeves and hems, but never in an ostentatious manner. Married men wear tall hats that lean slightly forward, of a color to match their robes, which are tied under the chin when the weather is fine, while married women are usually adorned in simple black hats or black scarves, sometimes highlighted with colored embroidery. Both sexes don heavy wool cloaks, lined with the fur of bear, otter, mink, or beaver during the long cold Veniri winter months. Shoes for both sexes are usually soft leather boots.
Unmarried folk usually wear clothes that are more tailored; they reveal the form, but little else. Men wear shirts and breeches, with hose beneath, and jackets of leather or cloth, sometimes with embroidery. Women favor long dresses, belted at the waist to accentuate their figures, with hanging sleeves. Embroidery is limited to hems and cuffs. Unmarried men and women do not wear headgear except in winter, when fur-lined hoods for the cloaks are used by everyone.
The only exception to the rather drab garb of the Venir is in the wearing of jewelry. Gold jewelry, particularly that of Dwarven or Elven manufacture, is in great demand, and both men and women wear some ornamental jewelry; for the poorer Venir, it may be a simple gold ring that they inherited from their father; for a rich Venir merchant, it may be a heavy golden necklace that was made in Ülmirüdhurm before it’s terrible fall, worth thousands. When traveling, the folk of Veniri tend to adopt whatever clothing is common in the lands they are operating in. To be identified as a Venir merchant is generally to make one’s self a target of thieves and brigands, and so caution and prudence usually dictate the fashion when traveling.
Due to the lack of obvious indicators of social status, moving about in Veniri society is a tricky proposition, because there is a very high degree of attention paid to status, etiquette and protocol. Fortunately, almost every rule of Veniri society derives from one simple precept known in Veniri as “The Golden Rule”: He who has the gold makes the rules. This means, in general: The poor defer to the rich; the rich defer to the richer; and when in doubt, the person who is paying for it gets to decide.
Slights and offenses are rarely brought to the judiciary amoung the members of the noble merchant houses; rather, offenses and injuries are handled via vendetta (bloodfeuds), which are fought outside of the laws. When a member of a noble house is insulted or offended, they will issue a private challenge or warning to the offending noble house. Responses can range from a time and place to duel to resolve the matter once and for all, or simply a note with the sign of the crossed daggers, indicating that the vendetta is on, and will only end when one house pleads for mercy from the other. Vendettas can range from bloodless affairs where the battle is fought by pirates and brigands in far-off lands that destroy the opposing houses ability to trade, to wicked running battles that leave the city streets splashed in blood as the houses trade murders with each other. Vendetta are generally not interfered with by the Law or the Courts, unless they overflow onto the general populace (vendetta may only exist between noble merchant houses), or unless they grow so violent or large that they cause a general downturn in Veniri interests (business is business).
Veniri is a merchant nation. As such, a traveler could enter the country speaking practically any known language, and somebody could be found fairly quickly who could handle the translation chores. However, anyone who wishes to rise in Veniri society must know vox mercanti, the ancient language of trade and commerce that is the ancestor of the common tongue spoken throughout the Lands. All contracts and legal documents are written in vox mercanti, and all court proceedings, government meetings and high-level trade negotiations are done in that language.
Economics & Trade
Veniri’s reputation as a trading nation has been forged by centuries of travel throughout the Lands, trading practically anything to anybody. Exports from Veniri itself include grains, herbs, timber, fine textiles, and high-quality furniture, and other handcrafts. Importers have learned that the Venir are a tough lot to please; they are accustomed to getting the best, and there is little they haven’t seen. As a result, traders are always looking for something new or different that may catch the fancy of the jaded Veniri consumer. Many Veniri merchants go years without setting foot in their home country, preferring to trade among outside countries than travel back and forth to Veniri. There is no cargo so strange, no trip so long or hazardous, that a Venir trader won’t try it if the money is right. The term “a Veniri job” is used throughout the Lands to describe a task of any sort that, despite the eventual profit, is so much trouble that only a fanatic would attempt it.
Traditionally, Veniri’s main troubles have always come from the Barbarian Kingdoms the North, the periodic wars and skirmishes with Athervon to the west, defense against the prying thaumaturgists of the magocracy of B’Narj to the south, the suppression of insurrections and civil wars within Veniri itself (several of which have been fought), and the need to defend the nations goods against general piracy and banditry across the entire Lands.
Given the relatively high-standard of living and wealth of the typical Venir, the country has always been affluent enough to be able to hire a military force for its needs, rather than needing to raise an indigenous force. Thus, during the Jhonian expansion, the Council of the Great Houses provided tribute to the Amir-al-emir (while not actually becoming a vassal state or being occupied), and Jhonian naval vessels guarded Venir trading vessels under the agreement. The Veniri have recruited forces from Athervon, Oisland, Hazûra, and Iruzhîn in the past, which has further added to the cosmopolitan nature of the country. Conquering of much of the Lands by the Jhonian Empire provided a cessation of the conflicts with Athervon (which was also conquered and brought into the Empire), but over the last decades, with the breakup of the Empire and the independence of the New Kingdoms, the Venir have once again seen problems with their neighbors surface.
Whatever the forces look like, the Venir military is led by two men of Venir stock: Il Mastri d’al Armas, the General of the Armies, and Il Mastri d’al Maredor, the Admiral of the Navies. These two men, who report directly to the Council, are the ultimate military authorities in Veniri. Given the world-ranging interests of Veniri, the navies are usually the better-heeled venture, and the ships actually have a significant number of Venir seamen on board – naval service is an excellent way to see the world, make contacts, and otherwise develop one’s usefulness in the mercantile trades.
Tras Veniri Tras Veniri is the largest city in Veniri and its capital. The Council of the Great Houses lives and meets here; the rest of the Veniri bureaucracy is also headquartered in this port city. The National Mint (where all the coins are struck), the Council Library (containing copies of all official business records), and other important national offices are here as well. If one city can be said to be the center of Venir business, it is Tras Veniri. It is Veniri’s largest port, and the home of the country’s most powerful merchant houses. Many houses that got their start in other parts of the country move to Tras Veniri when they get big enough. Moving to Tras Veniri is a sign that a business has “arrived” in the upper crust of Veniri commerce. Smaller trading houses also have representatives in Tras Veniri, because it is nearly impossible to break into the big time without dealing in the capital. As befits a city of such stature, Tras Veniri has one of the largest and most diverse marketplaces in all of the Lands, second only to that of A’juhar-al-Sahir, the capitol of the Jhonian Empire. If you can’t find a particular item in this market (legal or otherwise), you’re not looking in the right places. Actually, there are very few items that are illegal in Tras Veniri. Only the most dangerous and addictive drugs are banned; sales of other things, like liquor, powerful magical supplies, and dangerous alchemical compounds are not allowed to minors (defined in Veniri as persons under 12 years of age). For as long as anyone can remember, Tras Veniri has been embroiled in a not-so friendly rivalry with Avis Inia for the position and status of top trading city in the Lands. Both cities employ spies to find out what new trade routes and markets the other is exploiting, and neither is above arranging the occasional “accident” to the others' ventures.
Sennuli The second-largest city in Veniri, close to the border with B'Narj.
Nos Volmi A large town on the far northern border of Veniri, close to the lands of the northern barbarians. It has been attacked and sacked a number of times in the past by the tribes when they have raided the country.
Pulore A village in the high foothills of the Copperwash Mountains.