Visserene (Dominaria Supplement)
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The jewel of Beldron, former capital of the Saphire Kingdom, and Rishdan of the West. The city of Visserene is a coastal city state formerly third only to Venicia and Rishdan in terms of size and grandeur. The city sits on both sides of Sigmar Bay and there are districts on every island of the Bay. From its position on the Horn of Beldron, Visserene commands lucrative sea lanes and after the fall of Venicia is the second largest port city in the world. The city has removed itself from Beldroni infighting for the last 150 years, ever since King Byron capitulated in the Winter War and the Sapphire Kingdom fell apart, but with their resurgence the city's leaders have begun asserting themselves once more. Under the new and powerful Marquis Aramis Dartan Visserene's fleur-de-lis and the Golden Eagle of Visserene's royalty once again march the coutryside - reoccupying watchtowers and guarding river crossings long left to nature.
The city was founded during Beldron's earliest dynastic Kingdom in the Second Age. Since then its fortunes have waxed and waned. Before the Flood War, Visserene became the most prosperous city in Beldron besides Sipani and Ostria, and afterwords is quickly became the nexus of power in and capital of Western Beldron. But by the mid-3rd Age, after Grand Caliph Suzerain's invasion of the West and the trade city's economic collapse, the city was poorer than poor: ruled by Ostria and a city of pirates. Then it was ascendant again: in the late 3rd Age the Saphire Kingdom was one of the most powerful countries in the world - its merchants and adventurers could be found in all corners of the world and many were its heroes during the Wandering One's 3rd Campaign. Now, 150 years after the fall of the Sapphire Kingdom, Visserene is ascendant once more. It's one of the most powerful city-states in Beldron, the second largest port in the world, and nearly untouched by the recent wars that wracked the mainland.
For many coming into the mighty port, the first thing that greets them are the massive sea gates of Visserene, a product of Beldron's power during the Age of Wonders. Three mighty stone gates guard the bay, worked by massive water wheels sunk into the sea current. The vast stone platform the gates slide on is visible only 40ft. below the surface. The gates stand ever open, but can be closed with surprising swiftness when threatened. Past these humbling edifices are the high arching bridges that connect of the islands of Visserene's wealthy seaside district - 3 islands for the very wealthy and the two holding the sea walls for the military. Then one enters the vast port of Visserene. The city's docks line every shore of the mainland, and almost one dozen islands sit in the river bay as well. Ships travel in and out of the docks, up and down the river, and to and from the islands constantly. By day the port is a riot of barely controlled chaos with ships traveling to their assigned spot or route in a whirl of color and sails. By night, torches and great mirror-spotlights light the port and the ships as they continue their chaotic dance.
The city itself is old and prosperous and the architecture is the pinnacle of 2nd and early-3rd Age southern splendor (south of France or Italian Renaissance). Although the city has fallen from it's position several times, and the less well traveled parts reflect that in appearance and in the people, much of the city has returned to its former glory and has been repaired and is being added on to. The main streets are all cobbled stone and the buildings lining them range from single story with elegant roof-patios to three-story shops/workshops/apartments with elegant balconies and Visserene's iconic roof-patios. Off the main streets, on the still well traveled secondary streets, the city ranges from expensive and exclusive shop districts to open air markets ranging from clean and safe to dirty and riotous to residential districts of apartment and private residence. In the highly wealthy sea-side islands and in the city's "Prince's District" and "Wizards' Quarter" palatial houses with walled grounds sit next to towered guildhouses and the strange buildings of the Wizards. Although there are quite a few run-down and dangerous parts of Visserene, these days one has to travel well off the beaten path to find them.
The people of the city are open and inviting, as with any trade-based city, but cautious of outsiders and proud of their own heritage and tradition; in this way they, again like most trade-cities, are both open and reserved with visitors. Now that the city is returning to power and prestige, Visserene's guards and formerly iconic Chevaliers once again proudly show the golden eagle and fleur-de-lis in the streets - and ensure the peace is kept by all who visit. Both the normal guards and Chevaliers are courteous to any who may not know the laws or customs, but both are unflinchingly strict when the need arises. Visserene has a proud and ancient heritage that it is just beginning to retake, and the martial arm of the city is keen to that. The city has remarkably low corruption; but at the same time that they put out the courteous hand first, the savage hand of justice is never spared when needed.
Government: The City of Visserene maintains the Open and Closed Council system of governance established under the Sapphire Kingdom. The Open Council is an assembly of 100 land owners and businessmen elected by district and island. Everyone from a tavern owner to the landlord of 20 apartments or even the Baroness of the Isla San Mariana can be elected to the Open Council, 10 of the Open Council are then the "Chairs" of the Open Council. This Council meets weekly; the Chairs first hear general petitioners before the entire Council comes in and hears specific bills or high-profile petitions. All of these can be judged on and voted on, or not as the Council decides. Any laws made are either sent into law immediately or, if they meet certain strictures, sent to the Closed Council for ratification. The Closed Council is a council of 10 men, elected from and by the Open Council, plus the Marquis elected by the Closed Council. They ratify larger bills from the Open Council and then meet weekly to talk and decide on large city matters. Very important petitioners, all Guilds, and foreign dignitaries are received by the Closed Council. The Marquis can make laws as they see fit, but a majority vote of the Open or Closed Council (depending on which Council could pass it on their own) may overturn the Marquis' laws. The system is meant to ensure deliberation and fairness, but often leads to draconian bureaucracy and the buying and selling of votes. Marquis Dartan marshals the two Councils with a deft but firm hand; he rose from a Wine and Spice Merchant on La Isla Pelicana to the top and knows well the ways of power.
Guilds and Orders: The Torre del Fuego houses Beldron's famed Order of the Pyromancers, a powerful and ancient order of mages that destroyed half of La Isla San Mariana during the Wizard's Purge in 10FA. The Chevaliers are the city's knightly order, but they technically don't swear any oath to the city. They swear instead to the Sapphire Kingdom and to honor. XXXX
Military: There are currently around 700 Chevaliers who work with the Visserene's 1500 City Watch to keep the peace and maintain the law. During time of war, Visserene can call 17,000 men-at-arms and 3,000 well-trained cavalry.
Judicial System: Visserene has the old 1st Circuit Court in place in the city and the surrounding countryside, and the Supreme Court of the Kingdom serves as an Appeals Court.
City Relations: Visserene keeps Caprille in its sphere of influence, but the reigns are loose. Marquis Dartan is negotiating a treaty with them presently. Visserene's relations with Etrasini and Orleon have also thawed immensely these last 20 years, and there is talk of a treaty with Beldron's Twin Cities as Visserene regains its strength.