Curse of the Crimson Throne
The elites of Korvosa—nobles, royals, and wealthy merchants alike—live in decadent comfort. They control vast amounts of wealth, wield disproportionately large amounts of power, or both. Even the wealthiest merchants cannot hope to possess as much political clout as the poorest noble families. On the other hand, the Korvosan peerage constantly shrinks, as families who displease Cheliax’s monarch lose their titles and privileges—if not their holdings or their lives.
Since the death of Aroden and the reduction of trade with Cheliax, Korvosa has existed in a constant state of precariously balanced power. Thanks to their internal f lux, the noble houses cannot remain united long enough to displace the royal family (if they even wanted to) and the royal family cannot summon enough resources to destroy the power of the nobles. Each side ebbs and f lows in power, always courting the wealthy merchants and other city elites, but never gaining enough strength to bring down the other.
Korvosa still considers itself an imperial colony of Cheliax, and so does not itself grant or rescind noble titles. The nobles within Korvosa are usually only a single branch of a much larger family, albeit a branch most families scarcely remember exist. Some families, though, such as House Arkona and House Endrin, exist as a noble family solely within Korvosa. Much to the chagrin of the Arabastis, who have ruled Korvosa for nearly a century, the Chelaxian monarchy continues to ignore the family’s request for a noble title. During the most heated debates between the two groups, nobles frequently refer to Korvosa’s monarch as the “commoner king” or “commoner queen.”