In the far-distant past, when forests covered much of Avistan and elves were the dominant race, the land now known as the River Kingdoms was verdant and lively. Streams ran quick and clear, and the land was green and firm. This territory adjoining Kyonin and Lake Encarthan was a place for high nobles and their courts enjoy hunting and sport. The elves called it Telvurin, translated today in Taldane as “The Shifting Lands.” The departure of the elves gave the human race new territory to explore, putting them in conflict with lizardfolk, frog-men, and suspicious fey. With its dozens of tributary rivers dividing the region into countless small territories, it became a natural place for outcasts, rebels, and petty tyrants to stake claims and declare themselves rulers of whatever land they could grab hold.
Millennia later, the pleasantness of the land remains. Unfortunately, so does the chaos. Very little stays static in the River Kingdoms. The rivers slowly shift boundaries over centuries, and kingdoms can trade hands yearly. Banditry is a national pastime, and security is a distant hope for commoners, reserved for people in other lands.
The River Kingdoms are a collection of often-fractious neighbors united only by their common geography and their near-anarchic independence. When the local lord may change from year to year, the nearest “king” is actually a bandit with delusions of grandeur, and the only thing protecting a rancher’s livestock is how well he can use a sword, the strong learn to depend on themselves and distrust those who break their word or exploit others. Though the leaders of the River Kingdoms are varied and ever-changing, the people (as stubborn and contrary as they may be) mark the character of the River Kingdoms: survivalist adaptability and stubborn endurance.
Frequently invoked (and occasionally trampled), the Six River Freedoms are the ideological backbone for common Riverfolk. Outsiders who expect to lead Riverfolk must quickly make themselves aware of the subtleties of the River Freedoms, as those who repeatedly flout a beloved freedom find themselves deposed by a mob. Indeed, the River Freedoms find their most curious interpretations in the folkways of common Riverfolk. A quick-witted wag who quotes a freedom to justify her actions can sway hearts to accept the most egregious behavior, and a misinterpretation of words can get an honest paladin driver out with malice.