The Unexpected Heir
The Yvethi people came to Fjorfall by ship centuries ago, that much is certain. All else, however, is shrouded in mystery. Their ships were of a design never seen before by the people of Fjorfall, and they claimed to be fleeing from a great sea beast who destroyed their homeland. No explorer has ever found land south of Fjorfall, and if the original Yvethi have passed down stories of their land, it is a well kept secret. The Yvethi are, therefore, a complete enigma.
Initially speaking a now forgotten language, the Yvethi quickly learned the customs and languages of the nations which hosted them. After some incidents between the Yvethi religion of Rumaka and the Fjorfall natives' worship of the Southern Pantheon, the Yvethi became much more private about their worship. Gradually, this became what we see today – Yvethi ports welcome any and all faiths, not only for trade, but as residents.
Initially roaming from place to place by sea without a home, the Yvethi did not wish to become burdens and anger their hosts. At this point in history, trade between Fjorfall and the mainland was very limited, and it was the Yvethi who changed this. With nothing to their name except their ships and their knowledge, the Yvethi began to trade extensively, and began building a reputation as master traders. As their captains built their fortunes and a vast trade network began to form, the Yvethi came to realize that owning ports would allow them both to profit further, and to have a home again. Initially, few rulers would consent to foreigners building on their land, but those who did benefited greatly from the trade the Yvethi brought. Gradually, the Yvethi Merchant League, as they came to call their loose association, began to spread across the known world.
Over time, problems arose between some ports and their host countries, and some were resentful of the Yvethi's success. This flared up when one Yvethi port was sacked and taken by a Romathian king. After this, the Yvethi gathered their captains to a conclave to discuss the future. This laid out the basics of the Yvethi Merchant League as it is seen today – no longer a group of traders connected only by a shared history, they became a powerful consortium and force to be reckoned with. The Yvethi as a whole refused to trade with the offending kingdom entirely, and approached its allies with an ultimatum: renounce the aggressor, or lose Yvethi trade. Their gambit paid off, as the kingdom went into a swift decline, eventually being conquered by a neighbouring one. So vast had the Yvethi influence grown that this kingdom repatriated their former port as a show of goodwill.
In modern times, the Yvethi have not decreased in influence. When a conclave is called, the world holds its breath. Yvethi ports can be found on every known continent, and some inland cities have been established along prime trade routes. These have quickly become known for their ease of doing business and well-maintained infrastructure.
The Yvethi, as a people, are harder to pin down. There are few, if any, pure ethnic Yvethi remaining in the world. Their people's success has been due to their ability to accept the cultures, religions, and languages of those they seek to trade with, and there has been plenty of interbreeding between the ethnic Yvethi and the people of the areas surrounding their ports. Many who call themselves Yvethi have not even a drop of ethnic Yvethi blood, as the Merchant League allows any who sufficiently establish themselves in the eyes of the port's government to become a resident. Some families have lived in an Yvethi port for generations and all but forgotten their previous homeland's culture.
Culturally, the Yvethi value intellectual debate, shrewd negotiations, and hard work. They have a reputation for fairness and competence, but will also negotiate tirelessly until they get a deal they like. Yvethi also value privacy very highly, and treat religion and relationships both as private matters. It is not uncommon for one to know an Yvethi for years and have no idea what god they pray to or even if they have a spouse. Yvethi also prize their neutrality, politically and militarily, and their ships are oftentimes the only ones who will traverse a war zone. If a ship leaves one warring nation to trade with its enemy, chances are it belongs to an Yvethi.