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Kerga

Kerga, known in the south as Denlieff, once known as Fal (thus renamed Old Faleth, to remind people of what the Kergans would rather have forgotten) lies to the west and south of the Sea of Mists, bordered on the west by the mountains that divide the Lake Country from the Adrani portion of the continent.

It's rich farmland, and like the other shores of the lake, spectacular country. The borders of Kerga have changed even more often than the name of the area (half of which is now called the Principality of Hastaniah).

History

The origins go back to the gold veins that supplied the Sartoran empire in its early days. When the gold tapped out, the sense of the land being the center of wealth remained, and as it lay at the edge of the Sartoran empire, the area was overrun by wave after wave of private armies led by people who had a hankering to rule, and just needed the funding to support the rank to which they intended to rise. There was always someone who had a theory, or an old letter, or something to indicate that the gold wasn't tapped out, it was just being kept secret. Even the fact that Sartor ceased to trouble itself guarding the area did not convince them differently.

This reputation and its subsequent influx of get-rich-quick entrepreneurs was complicated enough, but the subsequent development of the area was made even more complex by the fact that when it was finally settled under a single monarch, the king used the island at the south end of the lake to stash his troublesome heir to keep him "out of trouble" (i.e. from emulating old dad) and he gave an enormous chunk of land north of the hills above the river to his daughter as encouragement to marry one of the troublemakers crowding him, and take their energies elsewhere.

This way of dealing with enterprising heirs became a tradition for just long enough to further divide the area: its kings and queens stashed heirs, under guard, either on the Lake's island (about half of the romantic plays out of that area have to do with rescues, abductions, escapes, pursuits, disguises, and of course duels--more about duels below), or in parcels of land along that corridor between lake and mountains, which often became part of marriage treaties. What that gave rise to was contested inheritances, which in turn gave rise to the necessity for private armies, which gave rise to the necessity for training in arms. Which eventually gave rise to the increasingly elaborate code of manners the area is known for--half of which has to do with duels. The code required special weapons (rapiers, stilletos optional), special sites, ritual words, all of it organized right down to expectations of spectators. Anyone not obeying the rules could find themselves with a flurry of challenges from spectators who, partisans of one side or the other, felt that the witness was not showing proper respect.

Women have swung over the centuries between being co-equals in swaggering, roistering, dueling bravado, and the other extreme, an affectation of refined daintiness, the battling done with fan, lace, and above all verbal wit. The present day was swinging toward the battle-of-manners before the war years, and abruptly reversed. Though women's history in the area has never quite reached the distinction of Mad Queen Nandianett, who, disgusted at the notion of the average man being taller and stronger than the average female, tried first to forbid any woman under a height roughly analogous to five feet to have children, and to require all women over approx. six feet to have children on the grounds that such an action would even things up a few generations down the line. When that law nearly caused a revolution, she then spent most of her fortune building an all-women guard, training and outfitting her women superbly--if they were over a certain height. She gave out command rank to those who not only fought and won duels, but who married and had children. Alas for her ideas of dynastic meddling, of the Guard Children, most were strapping boys. Those few girls born were about half tall, the rest just as small as grandmothers or great-aunts somewhere on either side of the family tree. So her next Mad Project was to teach dogs to talk--giving birth to yet another of the many, many actionable insults that make no sense to anyone anywhere else: "Go bark at the queen."

The tangled history of this area has never tamed into bucolic peace, some feel because the reputation gained by Fal was so notorious that while those who disliked living under the constant threat of duel migrated, those who found the prospect interesting traveled there to see it--and like as not stayed. Assuming they lived through their first duel. Especially when they discovered that you could make any conditions on a duel, as long as the other party accepted--and if you won you were the immediate recipient of your stated stake, before the witnesses of the duel. Entire duchies thus changed hands, though in such a case, the loser would be deemed a winner if he relinquished with style. Style was as important as one's fighting skills, and the imaginative breadth of stakes.

But internationally, great governments tended not to want to have much to do with Fal. Thus, when rulers earlier in the present century, tried to negotiate a new name (stemming from one of the prestigious families during the Sartoran days), Kerga, lip service was paid to the notion, but many went right on calling the place "Old Faleth" --usually accompanied by a meaningful look.

The Denlieff name stems from the previous century. It was the result of an inheritance scam that succeeded for about ten years, before a legitimate heir showed up, and defeated the Denlieff family with spectacular style. Another division, this time between Lamanca and Kerga, took place. The Denlieff family dispersed, busily marrying any nobility they could dazzle with the last of the treasury they carried off with them, and ever after referred to the place as Denlieff, so the name persists . . . but not in a good way. Again, when it's used, it carries connotations of it being a place of dacoits and rogues. Which is also true, especially at the southernmost reaches.

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Page last modified on February 18, 2008, at 11:22 AM