The Asasan, TradeShip of a Thousand Seas
To call Freeport’s government corrupt would be to say that orcs are savage, water is wet, and the sun rises in the east. The fact that most of the politicians are on the take merely reflects what has been the status quo for the city since its founding. There have been exceptions, but they are few and far between. Corruption is simply a part of the culture.
The Sea Lord
At the top of Freeport’s government is the Sea Lord. This is a position for life; once attained, the only way a person can lose this post is death or abdication. The post of Sea Lord is unimpeachable, and no matter the crime, the Sea Lord can never be removed. For obvious reasons, Freeporters are very concerned about who holds the title, and contention over this position has been the source of many of Freeport’s troubles.
In theory, the Sea Lord’s rule is law, though his or her edicts are subject to the approval and support of the Captains’ Council. A Sea Lord can make laws and enjoys nearly all the powers held by traditional monarchs, but there are limits. The Sea Lord must acquire the council’s approval in four vital areas: declaring war, entering into treaties with foreign powers, allocating city funds, and levying taxes. These last two come up most often and create the greatest amount of tension within the council and between the council and the Sea Lord. Since the members of the Captains’ Council are usually citizens who end up paying the most in taxes, they often feel strongly about incurring new ones and about what’s done with the money raised. This control is one reason why the streets in the Merchant District—where most councilors live—are well cared for while those in Scurvytown are falling to pieces.
Before death or abdication, the Sea Lord is supposed to name a successor. In years past, only a person of the Drac bloodline could actually become the Sea Lord, but with the Law of Succession removed, anyone of the Sea Lord’s choosing can follow.
The current Sea Lord is Marilise Maeorgan. For details on this powerful woman, see Denizens of Freeport.
In a clever act of keeping one’s enemies close, the first Sea Lord, Captain Drac, elevated his fellow captains to advisors to support his claim to his titles. This council was conceived to keep Drac’s rivals happy, but it also unexpectedly placed checks on the Sea Lord’s powers. While they are present to advise the Sea Lord on matters of governance, they actually have a great deal of influence on city politics. The Sea Lord sits on the council as well and has two votes. Additionally, it is the Sea Lord who breaks all ties. Essentially, the Sea Lord only needs five votes to push a measure through.
The Captains’ Council must consist of twelve members. The Sea Lord and the Captains’ Council can both nominate new members, and the councilors must approve the nomination with a vote. The Sea Lord casts two votes and breaks all ties.
Positions on the Captains’ Council are theoretically for life. The only exception to this is the Privateer Seat. This special position was created to ensure there would always be an actual ship’s captain on the Council to give a voice to the privateers of Freeport, who spend much of the year at sea. Only working captains—those who regularly sail their own ships—are permitted to hold this position, which lasts for three years, and after the captain cannot serve in that position again for at least another three years. During this term, the captain is required to remain in Freeport to sit on the Council, effectively removing him from his ship. Traditionally, those in the Privateer Seat turn over the day-to-day operations of their ship to their first mate until they can return to their duties.
Freeport is not a democracy, but the Captains’ Council has traditionally recognized the value of having the people feel like they have a voice of some sort. For this reason, many of the past nominees to the council have been people who hold sway over some faction of Freeporters or who are widely popular among the citizenry.
Getting the Boot
There are only a few ways for a councilor to leave other than death. They can resign if they like, though this is rare. It’s usually done for reasons of poor health, but most councilors enjoy the power and hang on until the bitter end—unless they can arrange for a protégé to be nominated to take their spot.
The Captains’ Council may impeach and remove other councilors, but they only do so for the most heinous of offenses. Bribery, nepotism, and extortion are all considered part life in Freeport. Impeachable offenses include murder and outright treason. Any member of the Captains’ Council can call for impeachment, and a two-thirds majority must approve it. So far, the council has only ever impeached two members, and even then, they kicked only one out.
If a councilor is murdered, a direct family member can claim his position. This action can be done without the approval of the Sea Lord or the Council, but the family must agree on its nominee.
In contrast with the other seats, the position of the Sea Lord is unassailable by any legal means. The only way a Sea Lord has ever left his position is on his way to his grave. Many Sea Lords have died in their beds, clearly naming a successor. It is when a Sea Lord dies unexpectedly that trouble brews.
A Dangerous Job
A seat on the Captains’ Council may be a seat coveted by many Freeporters, but any local who’s been in the city for the last decade knows life as a councilor is no easy thing. The heights of power are as fraught with peril as anywhere in Freeport, and a hidden assassin, poisoned cup, or an errant crossbow bolt can end a politician’s career abruptly. Here are just a few of the esteemed councilors who met a terrible end.
Lady Elise Grossette: Lady Grossette was the most likely to gain the post of Sea Lord upon repealing the Law of Succession. But before she could make her move, Arias Soderheim hired a vile elven pirate to kidnap her and keep her out of Freeport while the new Sea Lord was selected. What Soderheim didn’t know was that a Continental agent paid the kidnapper to torture and kill Grossette and then pin the blame on Soderheim to thrust Freeport into turmoil. Elise was rescued, but she never returned to politics. Few have seen her since, as she spends nearly all of her time cloistered away in her sumptuous manor in the Merchants’ District.
Melkior Maeorgan: Being on the Captains’ Council is little protection when you back the wrong man. A noted lackey and lapdog of Milton Drac, Melkior intended to ride the Sea Lord’s coattails to greater power. He gained his seat on the council after murdering his brother at Drac’s suggestion. Melkior was a secret member of the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign and met a nasty end along with his master in the climactic battle at Milton’s Folly.
Arias Soderheim: Every councilor has ambition; they wouldn’t be on the Captains’ Council if they didn’t. But a wise politician knows to wait for an opportunity to rise rather than try to seize it. Such is the story of Arias Soderheim. Arias was certainly one of the most well-known of the councilors, having weathered the storm of Drac’s fall and the upheaval that followed. It was also common knowledge that he intended to take the post of Sea Lord. To this end, he hired a ruthless pirate named Captain Sharpe to kidnap his rival Elise Grossette and keep her out of the city until the new Sea Lord was selected. His plan failed when a Continental agent bribed Captain Sharpe, who then tortured (and planned to kill) Lady Elise to fuel discord in the city. When Soderheim’s hand in this nasty mess was revealed, he was hunted down and killed at Marilise Maeorgan’s orders.
Brock Wallace: This patriarch of the Wallace merchant family in Freeport made his fortunes by securing exclusive trade deals on the Continent. Given his wealth and influence, Brock Wallace rose quickly and gained a seat on the council in return for his support of Milton Drac. Brock’s loyalty to Drac wouldn’t last, for he was concerned about how much gold was going into the Lighthouse Project and openly voiced his criticism. He threatened to withdraw his support for the project and with it the supplies and workers needed to complete it. For his conscience, Drac had Gorn, a serpent person, kill and steal Wallace’s identity. Gorn met his end along with Drac and Maeorgan in the Lighthouse.
Verlaine: Verlaine was another casualty of the Yellow Sign. A minor businessman, Milton Drac offered to raise him to the council in exchange for his loyalty and unquestioning service. While Verlaine had reservations about being a minion, the wealth Drac offered was too much to pass up. Verlaine made his name through ruthless manipulation and cunning on the council, and through his efforts, he cultivated the needed allies to ensure the Lighthouse Project would get underway, while removing and silencing the opposition through blackmail and threats. Verlaine used his position to expand his fortunes and his enterprise to become one of the most influential citizens in the city. What Verlaine didn’t know was that Drac was using him as a dupe to pin his own corruption on. Verlaine was eventually murdered, but the circumstances of his death, as well as his assassins, were destroyed in the conflagration that claimed his house.
The Current Council
The Captains’ Council has an important role in Freeport. It is meant to keep the Sea Lord’s power in check, but this has not always been possible.
Currently, every seat on the Captains’ Council is filled.
Dirwin “Nimblefingers” Arnig: Dirwin is a gnome and the head of the Jewelers’ and Gemcutters’ Guild.
Liam Blackhammer: A self-proclaimed champion of the people, he’s held his seat for almost twenty years.
Xavier Gordon: Xavier once sat on the Privateer’s Seat but gained a permanent post on the Council after the Succession Riots.
Nathan Grymes: Nathan is one of the newer members on the Council; he’s made it clear he places the Merchant District above all other concerns.
Sister Gwendolyn: Gwendolyn represents the interests of the Sailor.
Enoch Holliver: Enoch is a well-connected mercenary the Sea Lord chose to head up the militarized Freeport Watch.
Jacob Lydon: Drunkard, pirate, and rogue, Captain Lydon is one of the most well-known members of the Council.
Marcus Roberts: Marcus is a long-standing member of the council who runs his own spy network on the Continent.
Hector Torian: Raised by Milton Drac, Torian continues to search for a Drac heir.
Tarmon: Tarmon’s role as High Wizard of the Wizards’ Guild gave him a place as the adviser to the Captains’ Council. He gained his seat to fill a vacancy, giving him and his guild incredible power.
Garth Varellion: An ambitious, shallow, self-absorbed fool, he has few supporters.
Tench Prescott: The current holder of the Privateer’s Seat, Tench is a disinterested politician and spends little time governing.