Monday, November 2, 2020


The Most Serene Republic of Hembek is ruled by a Grand Duke ("My Lord the Duke" "Most Serene Prince" and "His Serenity"), who is elected by the Great Council of Hembek. Hembek is a wealthy Mercentile city along the lines of Venice or Hamburg. Hembek is big enough to house lots of adventure, to act as a home base, or to be the target of raids.

Hembek History

Age of Legends/Age of Titans

Everything prior to a thousand years ago is known as the age of legends. There are no written records of the Age of Legends. Humans were around but they were primitive. Bits of songs and scraps of poems are credited with coming from this time. It is suggested that Titans ruled the Earth. The Black Pyramids in Hembek harbor are believed to have been built by the Titans. Nobody  knows what happened to the Titans.

Hembek began as a fishing community built at the base of the rock where fish and gull eggs were readily available. The settlement started catching fish at the mouth of Hembek river using fish traps and along the coast using small one or two person boats. At this point they all worshipped the so called Old Faith, a pantheon of a dozen gods.

Age of Old Ones

The Old Ones were an advanced society that arrived from the South and built a number of cities and spread the word of their Goddess Pallas Regina. They made contact with the Hembek settlement and spread the worship of Pallas Regina. Worship of the Old Faith declined during this period but never entirely went away. The use of proto-Carvels dates from this time, the larger boats were used to fish further afield, even as far as the Thule banks, using nets. The Old Ones stayed for nearly three hundred years before they abandoned their cities and disappeared again.

Hembek Oligarchy & Pallas Edicts

Hembek continued to prosper after the departure of the Old Ones, primarily on the salted fish trade (cod and herring). Hembek became a hub of civilization along the otherwise wild coast. The city grew in power and population. Eventually talented craftsmen in the city made the city famous for patterned cloth.

The worship of Pallas Regina continued to dominate the Republic but as trade grew other religions found their place and were legally tolerated. It was during this time that the Four Edicts of Pallas were published. The Edicts came from the visions of a prophet of Pallas Regina. The Edicts:

  • No visual representations of Pallas Regina are allowed
  • No eating after nightfall
  • No Dancing
  • Must fast on theWinter Solstice

Riots & Constitution

A hundred years after the departure of the Old Ones a series of riots rocked the city. The unrest was finally resolved with the signing of the Hembek constitution. The constitution includes the following articles:

  • Article 1. Hembek will be ruled by a Grand Duke, elected by the Grand Council of Hembek. The Duke will rule for a period of time determined by the Grand Council but never longer than 10 years. 
  • Article 2. All laws will be made by the Grand Council. The Grand Council is comprised of the ten top Merchants in the city. The Grand Council is not allowed to begin a war without a hearing of the citizens.
  • Article 3. Offices in the public service below the Grand Council must be elected by a vote of the citizens and disloyal public servants need to be discharged.
  • Article 4. No citizen, poor or rich, are to be imprisoned without a hearing at the Grand Council. The Grand Council cannot grant safe conduct for a person who owes a citizen of Hembek.
Article 1 has resulted in a number of Grand Dukes being elected for the duration of a crisis and then replaced. A Grand Duke cannot be re-elected. The ruling class is an oligarchy of merchants and aristocrats.

Article 2 has resulted in a yearly bidding war for council seats. Typically seven of the seats are unchanging, one changes constantly, and the last two are held one by a group of Merchants and one by a group of Crafters that pool each their resources to buy that seat.

League of Trading Cities

Twenty three years after forming as a Republic Hambeck joined the powerful League of Trading Cities. The Leagues Laws stated that member cities would defend the freedom and the privileges of citizens of other members and that refugees or those deported from member cities would not find shelter within the walls of other members. The creation of the league led to prosperity and rapid growth. The cities walls, cobbled streets, and expansive navy date to this time.

Most of the other cities were dominated by worshipers of the Old Faith and increased trade had the result of injecting wealth into the Old Faith temples in Hembek

Hembek Empire

The Republic of Hembek never set out out to become an empire, they stumbled into it. The Initial step was the result of loans made to the Kingdom of Granum. The Kingdom, unable to repay loans from Hembek merchants and facing a cut-off of all trade, sold the Thule Island to the Republic of Hembek. The purchase was hotly disputed in the Hembek Council but eventually they determined that if the island could be properly civilized it could provide a lot of raw materials that would be more valuable than the cost. Thule Island was declared a March and granted to Lord Dereck Lord of the Thule Island Marches. The March Lord take the risks and rewards for a half century term before the status of the Thule Islands is to be re-evaluated again. 

The second addition to the Hembek Empire came when the Grand Duke Of Hembek married a Granum Princess. The Islands of East Thule were given over as a dowry. These lands weren't nearly as turbulent as Thule Island proper but their is simmering trouble there. One of the major reasons the somewhat prosperous East Thule island was given away was because the Kingdom of Granum knew they would be unable to defend the Island against pirates and other neighboring powers and thus avoided the humiliation of having the islands taken from them.

The farmers of Thule Island and Islands of East Thule are Pallas Regina worshipers, tipping the balance between the religions towards Pallas Worship which has increased the tension between the two competing faiths.

Collapse of Gull Rock

The oldest permanent buildings in Hembek are built on a large rock of limestone known as Gull Rock. Twenty seven years ago the southern cliff-face sheered-off taking a large section of High Town city wall and a number of buildings with it. Plans to rebuild the wall have come to nothing so far. The area has been shored up and all limestone mining of the Rock stopped at this time. 

The collapse is still considered the big day the old codgers talk about and speculation of what caused the sheering abound, most guessing having to do with unhappy gods from the conflicting faiths.


City Guard - The Merchant's pay them so they will always side with the merchant's over other factions.  Having said that they keep a light touch most of the time spending most of their time keeping foreign sailors from causing trouble.

Clerics of Pallas - The most powerful religion in the city they have spent most of their efforts buying land and building Parish churches all over the place to spread the worship. The Clerics are generally intolerant of other beliefs but so far have not become openly hostile (because the Templars of Kanaris protect the other temples of the Old Faith with their swords and ready willingness towards violence). 

Crafters Faction - Despite the name this faction includes the fishermen and herders living within a mile or two of the city and the one Wizard's chantry in the Crafters District. This chantry remains hidden and low key but members occasionally help the faction. The crafters faction are mostly believers in the Old Faith.

Merchants Faction - the Merchant Faction is comprised of two groups. First, a dozen super-wealthy merchant houses run the city for their own gain. They have provided jobs and made everyone better off and believe this gives them a status above the law, an attitude which has created tension with the rest of the city.  The other group is the masses of small to medium sized merchant houses that want desperately to grow and become part of the first group. This second group will assist the first at times, but backstab them at other times.

Thieves Faction - Disunited faction but they have similar goals so they are lumped together. These are the Thieves gangs throughout the cities. These groups primarily deal with gambling, protection money, and (through their control of the longshorman's guild) work slowdowns. They also ensure there are no beggars in the city and limit the number of burglars and cut purses working the city and arrange to return anything deemed to hot as to bring the guard crushing down on them. Most of this Faction aren't serious believers in anything except self interest.

Details of Hambek

Streets of Hambek

The entire city has cobblestone streets, even the alleys are paved in stone. Flags and banners showing devotion to temples or Churchs, loyalty to Hembek, the Merchant's Guild, or the Crafter's guild are all over the city and constantly flapping in the breeze.


Hembek has a primitive sewer system. The 'sewer' is a covered trench in the center of most larger streets designed to carry rain water and waste out of the streets and into the canals. In areas not covered by the 'sewers' the buildings have a barrel for the collection of nightwaste which is taken away every day before dawn. This waste is carted out of town and sold to farmers as fertilizer, or dumped in the bay depending upon the needs of the crops. The waste of horses and other beasts are also cleaned up the old fashioned way. 

The Bogbreath triplets act as maintenance workers for the city, in reality this means they spend most of their time pumping water from the river into the various city fountains, or pumping water from the fountains through the 'sewers' to clean them out when rain is insufficient to the task. They empty the barrels of night soil and clean the harbor area around the Black Pyramids, and prowl the streets with their yapping dogs hunting rats when they have time. 

The Bogbreath Triplets are not the smartest folks in town but the most popular by far. They work hard and never complain about the dirty work and everyone is happy to see them when the come around on their duties. Most of the inns and taverns even offer them free drinks to encourage them to come by often. Their efforts combined with the sea breeze have spared the city the typical medieval stench and not that anyone knows about such things but has gone a long way towards preventing cholera as well.

For the rest, civic pride is strong and anyone making a mess will find themselves yelled at from every window on the street. 

Law & Order

The main streets in both Hightown West Ward and Hightown East Ward are illuminated by oil lamps from dusk until midnight (basically when the oil runs out). The temples and Churches in the lower city are lit but most of the rest of the city is dark after dusk. Most homes have lanterns and flinging open the shutters will tend to light up the street enough to see what is going on. Any kind of criminal activity will likely generate a hue & cry from nearby homes. 

  • The city guard has a light touch, they will side with Wealthy and Merchants over others, and will respond within 1d6 minutes to a hue & cry. The guard are the cities permanent 'police' force. They are equipped and trained with sword & shield and padded armor. Leaders may have mail. The guard are based out of the city walls. The guard patrol within the city walls and are pretty lax about that. They all carry horns to bring reinforcements (including nearby Militia or the Imperial Soldiers) to handle anything they can't manage.
  • The Militia are comprised of every able-bodied townsman within the walls. They are equipped and trained (barely) with spear & shield. They have never been called to action.
  • The Ducal Guard are based out of the Ducal Palace. When in the palace they are equipped and trained with halberds & shield and wear mail armor. 


Hembek has a dozen Judges that work out of Ducal palace most of the time. All are graduates of the University of Hembek although not all are Pallas Regina worshipers.

The legal system is somewhat ad hoc combining the ancient foundation legal system with some local laws, some religious laws and the occasional bit of common sense all drowned in a system of corruption and bribery. The town guard or any of the Imperial soldiers can arrest people on the flimsiest evidence knowing they will probably never be held on account of this. At least one has created made his own money making pseudo-kidnapping scheme out of this until he was hacked to death in a debate with a Kanaris Templer. Generally the only recourse the 'victim' has is to complain or pay the fine.

Prisoners are usually held until Sunday when they are either freed or face a judge who listen and pass arbitrary judgements. The judges try to be fair and impartial, helping the government's reputation and putting an end to the worse abused by the guards.  This is partially out of civic pride and partially as a way to avoid any rioting.

The Town Guard have a large bottleneck dungeon in nearly every occupied tower in the city walls. They drop prisoners in there and lower food for them until Sunday and time for trial, or until someone comes along to pay the fees. The Ducal Palace has extensive dungeon but they are rarely occupied. Usually only highborn prisoners would be held here. 

Warehouses & Taxes

Goods entering the Hembek Empire are taxed. The rate varies depending upon the goods, the mood of the taxman, guild status of the merchants and the amount of the bribes. Small amounts of goods can pay the tax and sell the goods, larger amounts are generally put into the warehouse until they can be inspected and value determined, and taxes paid. 

There are in effect two inspectors, one that works for the Grand Duke and one who works for the Grand Council. This is done to prevent anyone trying to cheat. Luckily for the dishonest they tend to pool their bribes and are pretty open about it, saving the effort and risk of trying to bribe them separately.  

Merchants will also pay to have goods safely stored in the warehouse until it is time to ship them. Larger trading houses tend to use the secure facilities in the Guildhouse basement or in their own basement.

There is a property tax on all buildings within the town but the taxation is relatively light and beyond the scope of this post. 


Guilds are an association of craftsmen designed to ensure quality, fix prices, protect trade secrets and keep non-guild members from competing. The guildhalls are used for meetings and socializing, mostly for socializing.

Animals in the City

The most common animal in the city is, by far, the Seagulls that nest along the North face of Gull Rock. During the day the gulls are everywhere and constantly squaking.

Beyond the gulls and rats the city is actually filled with a number of animals. The types of animals are different depending upon which part of town you visit.

There are dogs, The ones in the Kanaris temples, guard dogs at the Guildhalls. Some living at the Ducal Palace and the three owned by the Bogbreath brothers for hunting rats. A couple of the wealthy homes also have dogs. 

Most houses in the lower town have at least a chicken and goat for eggs and milk. The University has a cow. Above the city are a number of crows that pick through garbage, pick at bodies, and unaware rats. 

There are horses as well, although they are officially frowned upon within town limits. The Grand Duke and his entourage, as well as Imperial Cavalry and Kanaris Templars regularly ride through the city and horses occasionally are used to pull wagons and carts of goods.

Food grown locally is wheat, barley, tomatoes, eggplant and olives. Most other foods are shipped in or grown in small batches for personal use. 


TurquoiseCrayon said...

Would you approve of someone making a product that's derivative of Hembeck's layout? It'd be free, and use a modified version of the map that has been traced to de-emphasize the art detail in favor of leaving the city's contents flexible.

Ruprecht said...

I expect to sell Hembek at some point but I don't see a problem with what you suggest.
You have my permission as long as you don't just reproduce things exactly and call it your own or something.

TurquoiseCrayon said...

With your intent to sell a Hembeck product, I'll definitely have to consider it further. It's an uncomfortable prospect to think that I could be offering a free alternative, even if derivative, to something you're trying to get paid for.

Thanks for the response. I haven't read anything but a few keys from your write-ups, but the art is uncommonly good and very inspiring. Even if whatever I borrow or craft from that inspiration never gets out into the wider world, I'll thoroughly enjoy getting personal value from your creation for the foreseeable future.

Ruprecht said...

The map is a modified version of a map of Basel so it really wouldn't be a big deal..
There are a lot of other fine maps in the Civitates_Orbis_Terrarum if you want to grab one of your own.

TurquoiseCrayon said...

Thanks for an awesome resource I wasn't aware of!

Ruprecht said...

Happy to be of service.