Varve is the first, oldest and most would say the greatest of the Sea-side City-States. Like it’s neighbours, it is more than just the city itself, but lands surrounding it, including pastures, orchards and fields.
Varve remained the greatest trade centre of the North; it’s ports are second to none, ships from far away places dock in it’s harbour and all the goods of the Northern Lands, Southern Lands and other far away places are traded, bought and sold.
The city itself is governed by a Prince, who has titular authority over the city. He is the head of the cities armed forces, but also the head of the City Council. The City Council is formed of twenty men, not including the Prince. Members are appointed by the council itself, usually from the large Merchant guilds of the city. Appointments are for 2 year periods, but renewals are standard practice, such that most such appointments end up being for life. The Council can pass laws, though the Prince is the final arbiter of those laws, and casts the deciding vote when their are ties. The two, Prince and Council, have an antagonistic, but reciprocal relationship, each dependent, and yet hampered by the other.
The Cities Elven Quarter is very famous; the arts, especially the cloth, weapons, armour and musical instruments from the Quarter command high prices, saying to be the last place one can find many of the old Elven arts practised. This district also rings with music night and day, and many great Musicians and Bards come here to seek out tales of supposed masters.
The City itself achieved it’s independent status prior to the fall of the Great Southern Empire. In the Empire, Varve had long served as the greatest northern trading city and port. As the empires extensive bureaucracy began to atrophy, many retreating back to more secure southern strongholds as the centre of the empire fell apart, Varve maintained itself.
Declaration by a series of Emperors granted Varve autonomy from the surrounding Bureaucracy, it’s Princes having their own noble houses and sense of autonomy.
The Merchant guilds had already become powerful by the period that would mark the final fall of the Empire, and their power within the city was required to sustain the cities governance and defence in the face of ‘barbarian’ neighbours. The Prince thus was forced to cede power to the city Council and the Principality of Varve was born.
An important episode in the Cities History was during the Elf Hunts of the Mad King. Where-in King Fricis ‘Elfbane’ of Telva engaged in whole-scale slaughter of Elves and Half-elves in his territory. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of Elves fled these tyrannical purges, both itinerant and sedentary elves. Many came to settle in the city, after the Prince opened the ports and claimed he would use the cities fleet to help any and all escape, and to protect them from the Mad Kings aims. Because of this, a thing which some old Elves today remember, the city is held fondly by many Elves and has the largest Elven population of any known city in the world.
The City itself has had conflicts with it’s neighbouring city states, but more often with Telva. It has been occupied once in the past centuries, but even than not for long, and the city has a very independent streak, it’s citizens holding to their independence quite fervently.