Curse of the Crimson Throne
Korvosa (pronounced kohr-VOH-sah) is the largest city found in the wilderness area known as Varisia, and 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.
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 sits at the end of Conqueror’s Bay, where the Jeggare River spills into the sea. The city fills the spit of land formed by two sharp turns in the Jeggare River and Endrin Isle (which splits the river at its mouth), with a few outlying areas on the far shore of the Jeggare. It stands on two hills: Garrison Hill on Endrin Isle and Citadel Hill on the mainland. The Narrows of Saint Alika separates Endrin Isle from the shore. Off the coast of the southern end of Citadel Hill rises Jeggare Isle, a small rock that juts from the sea and provides a foundation for Palin’s Lighthouse.
Five landmarks give Korvosa a distinctive skyline. Three of these landmarks exist on a truly colossal scale and have survived for millennia. Castle Korvosa stands atop a massive pyramid that rises to a flattened top. The Pillar Wall stretches across most of the southern end of Citadel Hill, a 100-foot-tall remainder of what once must have been a magnificent barrier. Just beyond the western terminus of the Pillar Wall stands the Gatefoot, which obviously originally belonged to a part of the wall and that likely served as part of a gateway of some kind. The other two landmarks, while impressive, do not come close to the size or grandeur of the ruins. Standing at the northernmost point of the Merciless Cliffs, the Great Tower reaches 270 feet in the air and serves several military roles for the city. Directly south of it stands the equally impressive Hall of Summoning, the center of operations for the Acadamae.
Besides its impressive landmarks, Korvosa’s other famed manmade features include its impressive walls (ruined and otherwise), its beautiful bridges, and its famed Vaults. These it points to with pride, but not all of its distinctive features attract the attention of potential visitors and residents. Chief among the shameful features is the rooftop area of the city known as the Shingles, which serves as both a highway for bandits and a refuge for monsters, thieves, and other undesirables.
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 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.
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.
- Monarchy — 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.
- Arbiters — 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.
- Magistrates — 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.
- Peerage Review — 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.
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.
The Hellknights of the the Order of the Nail pursue their unyielding ideals of order and law above all else; they are fanatical when confronted by behavior or events that fly against their strict worldview.
Despite its remote location in relation to other major cities in Avistan, Korvosa is nonetheless a major commercial player in Golarion. Its primary export is seafood, such as oysters (the Straits 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. 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.
Korvosa’s holdings span much of southeastern Varisia and include a diverse array of towns and villages.
The city of Korvosa is divided into a host of districts. These divisions are sometimes through natural or man-made barriers while others are more subtle changes in wealth and status.
The academic (and demonic) center of Korvosa, the Acadamae is the campus of this reputable magic school, which is large enough to gain district status in itself.
The centre piece of Korvosa and home of its royal family the castle towers over the rest of the city as it is built atop the remains of a Thassilon Pyramid.
The only district beyond the Jeggare River East Shore is home to many of the nobles families involved with Korvosa’s military.
The Gray district serves as Korvosa’s graveyard and is where all its dead are interred; the only living inhabitants are the priests of Pharasma who tend it.
The heights sit atop the cliffs of Korvosa’s western shoreline and are home to the most powerful people in the city including the royalty as Castle Korvosa is within this district.
The part of the city most visitors come to recognize, this district is the friendliest and is home to many of Korvosa’s docks, but it is quite crime free.
North point is where people first settled when Korvosa was founded and is home to many families that can draw their ancestry back to that time.
The poorest, most overcrowded area of Korvosa; the living conditions in Old Korvosa are far worse than in the rest of the city.
One of the newest sections of the city, it does not suffer from the overcrowding that much of the city does and many of its residents live here to get away from the city.
Two other unofficial districts exist within Korovosa, their boundaries not conforming to any design by the city’s planners.
All along the rooftops of Korvosa lie walkways and ramshackle abodes and shops. The Shingles serve as both homes to some of the cities poorest citizens and quick highways over the bustling streets for anyone wishing or requiring to avoid the crowds.
The vaults run beneath all of Korvosa and are far more than just sewers as they incorporate the remains of two other settlements previously located here.
Punishments for violent crimes in Korvosa are harsh, but the general populace considers them fair. Non-violent crimes carry differing punishments depending on the disposition of the criminal: A member of the thieves’ guild (the only legal guild in the city) or a registered gang might receive a lighter sentence than does a freelancer, depending on the crime in question.
The following selections of crimes and their punishments (listed in order they are applied) should not be construed as all-inclusive. Korvosa’s legal code fills multiple thick volumes.
|Treason||Torture, death; no appeal|
|Murder||Torture, death; no appeal|
|Rape||Torture and castration, imprisonment (10–20 years), death; no appeal|
|Armed Robbery||Pay restitution or lose a hand, imprisonment (10–20 years)|
|Arson||Pay restitution or branding, imprisonment (10+ years); plus murder charge if fire kills|
|Unionizing||Branding, imprisonment (5–10 years); no appeal|
|Accidental Death||Pay restitution or torture, imprisonment (5–8 years)|
|Robbery [T]||Pay restitution or lose a hand, imprisonment (2–10 years), pay restitution|
|Drug Use||Imprisonment (4–6 months pre-trial, plus 2–3 years if guilty)|
|Burglary [T]||Pay restitution, imprisonment (1–2 years)|
[T]: A member of the Cerulean Society (thieves’ guild) or a registered gang can expect to receive a lighter sentence of around half the
common punishment for these crimes.