The Archduchy of Sault Sainte Marie is a powerful city-state located at the intersection of Lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron. Wealthy due to transit fees, the small state’s survival against two much larger neighbors (Quebec and Michigan) has sparked a number of conspiracy theories.
Sault Sainte Marie’s formation during the Dark Age is awash in mysteries and rumors. The story told by the Waverly family is that they were elected to their position for protecting the people during the chaos. Others whisper that power was seized, not granted.
Regardless, by 2150 the archduchy was soundly in control of both the western entrances to Lake Huron. Lakes Superior and Huron were still largely wild, crossed by small pirates and tradesmen. But Lake Michigan was organizing, and the nascent People’s Republic spent the rest of the century in conflict with the archduchy while trying to obtain control of the entire lake.
With the rise of the Iron Republic in the west and the advance of the Quebecois from the east, trade across the Great Lakes grew, and with it the archduchy’s coffers. Working to maintain their advantage, the archduchy made itself a desirable location for corporate and commercial headquarters, particularly for groups originally from its neighbors. Despite having little farmland, there was more than enough money to purchase food on the open market.
Lacking the strength to defend itself against a concerted effort at conquest, Sault Sainte Marie became aggressive in their diplomacy. Playing Quebec and Michigan against each other was a start, but the Waverly’s got creative, sending diplomats as far south as the Mississippi Empire and the United Kingdom of Caribbean States. This diplomacy was eventually supplemented by the Lords and Ladies of Marie (see below).
When the Lexington Conference was called, the archduchy sent representatives, but refused to sign the final document. Their response to the Commonwealth was similarly non-committal. When the war did break out, the city-state was forced into the Lexington Organization when Quebec launched an assault on the city’s fortifications. Even then, they limited themselves to operations that protected Sault Sainte Marie.
After the war shifted, Jackson Waverly sent a large embassy to the Imperial Commonwealth. In an impassioned letter, the Archduke pointed out that despite not being a member of the Lexington Organization, Quebec had seen fit to launch an offensive against them and their participation in the war was entirely defensive. His arguments must have been persuasive, as the archduchy was accepted into the Commonwealth, and Quebec forbidden from taking actions against the city-state.
Currently, Sault Sainte Marie continues as it did for so long, collecting fees and marrying off its Lords and Ladies. These marriages are often arranged by the Margraves, to promote diplomacy among the nations, such as the marriage of Lady Charlotte to King Xavier of North Mississippi.
The government of the archduchy can be categorized as autocratic to an extreme. The Archduke himself has the absolute power of the executive and no standing legislature to offset him. The local lords of the individual communities likewise have immense authority.
Despite that, Sault Sainte Marie is surprisingly stable. It is believed the mass conscription of all males into both military and government service gives the population a firm belief in the archduchy.
The archduke rules through his Lords of Office, comparable to the ministers of other governments, and Lords of Land, who control the territories. Lords of Justice act as judges for trials.
The Lords and Ladies of Marie
The Waverly family that leads the archduchy is expected to lead a polygamous lifestyle. The reason is not religious or a benefit of power, but to produce a significant number of Lords and Ladies of Marie.
The term became popular during the 23rd Century, when the archduchy was learning to play possible enemies against each other for their own protection. By giving gifts of trade agreements and resources with the lord or lady, the archduchy could buy several years of peace. This process became important enough that polygamy became a standard for the archduke.
The archduke has between four and eight wives, bearing two or three children every year. Except for a few designated heirs, the children are educated and prepared for their futures as diplomatic rewards.
The most recent prominent marriage was that of Charlotte Waverly to King Xavier of North Mississippi.
That the archduchy continued to exist despite being surrounded by several far more powerful nations (Quebec and Michigan) has made the city-state the focus of several conspiracy theories. The archduchy being a puppet state for leaders to hide their wealth in being a common refrain.
The longest and most enduring story about the archduchy is the Lance of Marie. Legend has it that Sault Sainte Marie is in possession of a powerful weapon, sometimes described as a weapon of divine or mystical properties, other times assumed to be an ancient technology that has been kept in repair. This weapon is mentioned the death of Marshal Dupont in a train accident before his campaign against the duchy, or the sinking of the super-dreadnought Wolverine during a conflict with Michigan, among other things. Any time some seemingly random event occurs that benefits the archduchy, it is ascribed to the Lance.