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Björka Visit Ribe.jpg

The Storjarla Björka Hnossdóttir arriving in Ribe, one of the many localities around Reikistjarna she granted a city charter, during one of her innumerable travels.

In the lands that constitute the Twenty-Six Jarldoms and its Bilander, cities have been around since times ancient beyond the memory of woman. Whether a Storish locality can lawfully call itself a city differs from Jarldom to Jarldom and from Biland to Biland. In the Sólareyjar it even differs from Traditional District to Traditional District. In general may a locality call itself a city in the event that it has acquired a full package of city rights at some point in its history. Its present population size, or its current area size for that matter, is not relevant, so there are some very small cities. The smallest in population size are Fjalafylki and Laxdaela, both of them boasting twenty, quite proud, inhabitants. The former received its city charter from the Storjarla Björka Hnossdóttir; the latter was granted its charter by the Lady Lilja the Devout, the first High Priestess of the Thingeyri Temple. The smallest city in area size is Idunnsborg Fortress, which received its city charter from the King of Riskai and the Idunn Isles.

Pre-Valtia

The origins of the bulk of the ancient pre-Valtian cities in the Lands of the Longships Throne and the Storish Bilander are lost to time. What is known from the oldest records is that they were localities which either grew around a chieftain's (fortified) hall or a temple, or came into being as a trading post.

In time they became population centers which surpassed the villages of the time in terms of architecture and, in several cases, population, and which acquired various rights and privileges from petty kings, (local) chieftains, or senior Vanic Temple Priestesses, usually in exchange for (monetary) payments. There were also several cities - especially in the Sacred Lands of Vanarike such as the Frigga Islands, Freyja's Necklace, the Idunn Isles and the Sólareyjar - which were granted their charters by a God or Goddess.

Days of Valtia

Valtia City, the capital of the Valtian Free State, was founded by a group of Vikings who, led by a chieftain called Arnar Ingólfursson, were fleeing the Kingdom of Viken to escape the oppression by the brutal King Halfdan Evilheart. Having embarked on a sea voyage to find a new homeland, they made landfall on the shore of an island after a long time in rough and foggy seas. 

Not long after they landed, the men wanted to take to the sea again, but the women who were traveling with them did not want to leave. One woman, named Valtia, suggested that the women burn the ships out at sea to prevent them from leaving and they did so: in the middle of the darkness of the night the flames consuming the ships caused the coast to be as bright as day for a distance of fifty miles.

At first, the men were very angry with Valtia, but they soon realized that they were in the ideal place to settle, and out of gratitude they named the island, as well as the town they founded, after the woman who had caused their ships to be torched. Ten years later the Chieftains of Valtia declared the town of Valtia, which had grown tenfold in population size, a city. Thirteen years after its foundation Valtia City received a city charter from the Goddess Freyja.

Valtia's subsequent rise to power brought Valtia City's population to two million. Under the authority of its expanding empire, the Chieftains of Valtia transformed and founded many cities around Reikistjarna, and brought with them Valtia's principles of urban architecture, design, and society. As the Valtian Empire basically was a network of urban centers, the cities aforesaid played a crucial role in the establishment of political power over an area, which during the era which is known as Ríksnáma ofttimes were vast newly-acquired lands, and Valtian leaders such as the Storjarla Björka Hnossdóttir founded and created them with zeal. Many of those cities founded by Björka, both within and without the border of the Valtian Free State, were named after her massive mammaries and her prowess in the art of love, because it was known among supplicants that Her Imperial Highness took great pride in those matters. Therefore, naming a city after her big boobs or legendary lusts would tremendously flatter her and one's petition for a city charter guaranteed to be a smashing success.

The criteria for granting a city charter varied over time as they were at the discretion of the Althing of Valtia or a Storjarl - or a senior Vanic Priestess, after the coming into force of the Concordat of Gríðarstórborg - but they could include having established means of industry and other notable items such as dock yards, mills, iron works, temples, grammar schools, a permanent town hall or a prison. In the majority of cases, before a town received its city charter, it would have previously been given the status of kaupstaðr - also known in various dialects of the Storish language as kjøpstad, kjøbstad, kjöbstad, köping or kaupstad - which means "merchant town" in the aforementioned Viking language.

Valtia also had a subordinate category to the merchant town, which was known as ladestaðr or lossestaðr, which means "small seaport" in the Storish language. These were a port or harbour with a monopoly to import and export goods and materials in both the port and a surrounding outlying district. These places were usually subordinate to the nearest kaupstaðr. Typically, these were locations for exporting timber, and importing grain and goods. Local farm goods and timber sales were all required to pass through merchants at either a small seaport (ladestaðr) or a merchant town (kaupstaðr) prior to export. This encouraged local merchants to ensure trading went through them, which was so effective in limiting unsupervised sales (smuggling) that customs revenues increased from less than 15% of the total tax revenues of the Valtian Free State to more than 70% of its total taxes about a century later. 

Rights commonly include in a city charter were:

  • City walls (the right to erect a defence wall around an inhabited area);
  • Market right (the right to hold markets and receive income from them);
  • Storage right (the right to store and exclusively trade particular goods, often only granted to a few cities);
  • Toll right (the right to charge tolls);
  • Self-governance (Well-to-do citizens could sometimes elect local government officials);
  • Judiciary and law-making (Within their boundaries the cities could have a great degree of autonomy);
  • Mint right (the right to mint city coinage);
  • Taxation (the right to levy taxes);
  • Weighing (the right to organize official weighing of cargo, livestock, produce, building material, trading goods, etc.).

Age of Darkness 

Subsequent to Valtias Forlǫg - the cataclysm which destroyed the Isle of Valtia, the heartland of the Valtian Free State - Valtia's surviving colonies re-asserted their independence and Valtia's globe-spanning empire quickly broke up into innumerable tribedoms, territories and petty kingdoms causing a series of savage wars for dominance between them as well as with other rulers and statelets who wanted a slice of the Valtian pie. The era known as the Centuries of Blood, the first part of the Age of Darkness, had commenced.

Many cities located in the disintegrating Valtian Empire gained independence as well, but quite soon lost population and importance. Numerous of them perished due to abandonment caused by various circumstances like violence, loss of Valtia's trade network and markets as well as (natural) disasters. Various of them joined, whether voluntary or not, the domains of petty kings and other (local) rulers. Recognizing the (financial) value of cities, the aforementioned feudal leaders generally allowed them to keep their liberties, rights and privileges, naturally on the condition of (monetary) payments. 

The ancient pre-Valtian cities, however, were much more adept in surviving the perilous times of the Age of Darkness than their Valtia-founded counterparts; a good number of them even did manage to thrive. This is attributed those localities successfully rekindling their pre-Valtian entrepreneurial spirit of fending for themselves. 

The creation and foundation of new cities did not cease in the Age of Darkness. New cities even sprang up on or around ruins of Valtian cities and fortifications. However, compated to the rate with which Valtia founded and created cities, the creation and foundation of new cities in the Age of Darkness seemed few and far between. 

Second Viking Age

As the conferment of the status of city upon an existing locality requires a charter, the power create or found a city lies with those officials and senior Vanic Priestesses who, under law and custom, have the power to issue charters, to wit: the High King, the High King in the Imperial Conference at the Vanadísarhall, Jarls of the High Realm, Imperial Chieftains, individual Yule Ladies, and the Jólaslafðir. Naturally can the status of city, in accordance with the provisions of the Ancient Covenant, also be conferred by a Vanic God or Goddess. All of the aforesaid also applies to the foundation of a whole new city.

It should be noted that in the Second Viking Age the power to create or found a city has been used infrequently. A couple of examples of such creations and foundations are:

  • The Imperial City of Haraldsborg, established by the Pact of the Heartland and was subsequently granted its city charter by the Goddess Frigga;
  • Irenic City, founded by Imperial Decree in pursuance of the Storish Land Lease & Agreement between the High Realm of Stormark and Universal Arbitrations, Inc.;
  • Idunnshavn, this city received its charter from the Goddess Idunn.

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