The Six Baronies
Located east of Rubylak and south of the Linowan Nation, the region known to it's residents as Barony, and to those outside of it as The Six Baronies, is hedged in on all sides by imposing, snowcapped mountain ranges. Encompassing roughly 70,000 sq. miles, it is a relatively isolated region - once crossing the mountains, a prospective traveler faces a daunting three-week journey to reach the nearest Guild outpost, with only the occasional brave frontiersman-family to turn to for resupply or aid. That, coupled with the difficulty of even beginning such a journey due to Syndicate interference, prevents most would-be emigrants from ever leaving the land of their birth. In spite of this, the numerous snow-fed rivers and streams which run into Barony's family-owned farmstead-cultivated valleys, and the ample supply of game, make the region largely self-sufficient. Quarterly Guild caravans come to the southern and northern borders of the region, providing foreign imports of textiles, weapons and armor, and luxury goods (for those who can afford them) in exchange for the copper, silver, and tin that is mined from the region's mineral-rich mountain outposts.
Politically, Barony is a divided land. It gains its name from the six feudal lordships that claim authority over the major valleys and settled land in the region, ruled over by petty kings who go by the title "Baron". Though each lord's fiefdom encompasses roughly 6,000 - 8,000 sq. miles, in truth they exercise authority over a little less than one-half to one-third of that, leaving the greater portion of their outer borders to the mercy of village government and local justice. This doesn't stop one lord from attempting to snip off chunks of his neighbor's claimed territory, however, and petty squabbling is quite common among the six lords of the region, sometimes escalating to armed conflict which can leave crops destroyed and farmsteads burnt.
All of this wouldn't be very surprising to the average traveler in Creation, who would consider it little different than many other places in the Age of Sorrows. The truth is, however, that the power of the feudal lords is limited by, and secondary to, the real authority in the region, which is held by the Syndicates. These three criminal organizations collectively run the region's black market, protection rackets, moneylending, assassinations, robbery, blackmail, extortion, smuggling and practically any other scheme, scam, or illicit operation will turn a profit. Each of them employs numerous hired thugs, legbreakers, mercenaries and professional killers, and even the smallest of the three can muster more fighting men than the largest of the six fiefdoms. Rather than struggle with the Barons, however, the Syndicates have worked out a favorable arrangement with them, in which the feudal lords levy heavy taxes on the farmers (typically between 60% and 70% of their yearly income) and equally heavy tariffs on all imported goods. Impoverished, the peasantry is typically forced to turn to the black market to obtain necessary goods. The local Syndicate offers heavy regular bribes to the Baron for the right to operate unmolested in his territory, and as a result the populace is generally left at the mercy of the Syndicate's bullyboys and profiteers. The Syndicates know good business, however, and they take care to protect their golden goose.
While normally the Guild would consider such organizations a threat to its economic hold over a polity, the isolation of Barony from the outside world guarantees that the Guild maintains the region as a market, since no other organization can afford the large expeditions necessary to supply a region of Barony's size. Additionally, the Syndicates have established infrastructures for distributing goods within their spheres of influence, have preexisting arrangements with the Barons they work with, and employ people knowledgeable of the region and its dangers. By selling wholesale to the Syndicates, the Guild maintains a favorable profit margin without the hassle of actually sending its own caravans into Barony and dealing with all the problems that would entail. The fact that the Syndicates use strongarm tactics to squeeze every zeni out of a farmer or burn out his farm if he's late on a payment doesn't bother them in the least - the bottom line is what counts, and the numbers coming back from the Barony-bound wagon trains always look good. To that end, each of the Syndicates has established a large trading fort at the boundary of the region for the purpose of doing business with the Guild. They also sit on the primary roads leading over the mountains that mark Barony's boundaries, allowing the Syndicates to keep a close eye on who comes and goes.