Atop the Shoulders of Giants
The island of Hargos is a fairly sizeable island off the coast of the Yiji-Antu jungle, in the Naelic Ocean. The island has a tropical climate and is sometimes joked to have only two seasons – the “rain season” and the “even more rain season”. The majority of Hargos’ population is descended from Nada’Athi settlers who migrated to the island in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. Prior to this migration, Hargos supported a relatively small native population based primarily on fishing, farming, and trade with the main land.
Culture, Civilization, and Politics
The center of Hargos’ culture and politics is the city of Vatrum. The city serves as the island’s main port, the seat of it’s government, and the home of nearly 40% of its population. Because of its proximity to the mainland and subsequent ability to cheaply import food, Vatrum is able to support an enormous population relative to the size airable rural lands on Hargos itself. Furthermore, a very short way south of Vatrum lies the The Suspended Lighthouse to warn ships of the dangerous reefs and rocky outcroppings of the south-western portion of Hargos.
Vatrum is ruled by a five-seat council, the first seat of which is referred to as the King/Queen of Hargos. The council seats are elected by Hargos’ land owners once every 4 years, though only the King/Queen of Hargos is a full-time position for that duration. Said King/Queen has the power to act as final judge of judicial proceedings, to apportion and direct law enforcement efforts, execute directives of the council, and to negotiate with other members of Leiln without requiring the approval or immediate presence of other council members. For all other matters the council is required to act with a simple majority, excepting any matter which imposes a “tax” upon the citizens of Hargos, for which the council must agree unanimously. Exactly how broad the term “tax” is has been an issue of dispute now and again in Hargos due to this special rule.
Vatrum also serves as the capital city of Leiln, and hosts meetings of the Confederate Council – the ruling council of all of Leiln. The King/Queen of Hargos holds the first seat of the Confederate Council as well, and in said role has first right of negotiation with foreign powers.
Because of Hargos’ weighty and complex political structure, a large degree of its culture and lifestyle has become directed toward political issues. It is said, for example, that walking down the streets of Vatrum you will pass the offices of three counselors before passing a single grocer. The joke, though exaggerated, is not entirely untrue. Aspiring politicians and legal counselors come from throughout Leiln to hold offices in Vatrum, especially when the Confederate Council is in session.
Furthermore, the passage of new laws is often big news in Hargos. In general, like many of the islands of Leiln, Hargos tends to prefer a very free and open trade environment for its people. There are very few rights which cannot be waived before a court in Hargos, and there are very few types of business that cannot be pursued – though some riskier businesses may require a license. For example, Hargos is one of the few places in the known world where children can be employed in almost any line of work – however the employer requires a “child employer” license, must have the approval of the child’s parents or guardians, and must pay the child certain minimum amounts.
A theory commonly adopted by outsiders about why Hargos’ laws allow such a broad range of what may be elsewhere considered unethical business ventures is due to Hargos’ history of piracy. Before its current government was in place, Hargos, and many of the other islands that now make up Leiln, were home to a fair number of pirates. In the early 16th century when the nation of Leiln began to form, certain of these pirate factions – generally the more business minded ones – rose to power and respect with the other prospective members of Leiln, and drove out their more war-like comrades. In general those groups which eventually founded the current government of Hargos and joined the confederacy of Leiln have long since left any real piracy behind, but it is never far from the memories of Hargos’ enemies that it has a government founded by organized criminals.
In modern times Leiln, and especially Hargos, is perhaps the part of the known world least plagued by piracy. This fact is due in large part to the fact that Hargos has a significant standing navy which patrols its trade waters almost continually. However, Hargos is also home to one of the largest private naval force in existence, called the Steel Fleet. Through a certain manipulation of Hargos’ laws on competitive trade – and what is generally presumed to be an exceptional amount of bribery and lobbying – the Steel Fleet has remained a private naval enforcement group in Hargos for over a generation. Some rumors abound that the Steel Fleet was even hired by private parties to participate in the Pirate Wars in the early 17th century, with each individual rumor tending to vary on the issue of precisely who hired them.