Not an intersection of roads as much as an intersection of rivers, Chrok Crossroads grew up around the ferries that serviced the junction of the Chrok and Clanis rivers, flowing south out of the Agrandoran mountains.
Chrok Crossroads now is a trading town that has declared itself a free city, and built a sturdy wall to protect itself from its several neighbors. Riverine patrols from Chrok make sure the river is safe from bandits for about twenty miles in any direction from the forks, and charge passing boat traffic for this service.
The Crossroads has been able to remain an independent entity largely because it exists symbiotically with its neighbors. The Crossroads controls no large parcels of arable land, so the surrounding nations trade food to the people of the Crossroads, and in turn the Crossroaders see to it that their portion of the river is kept dredged, patrolled, and safe.
In the eyes of its neighbors, the Crossroads isn't worth directly controlling anyway. The city has a nominal Lord Mayor, but in practice exists in a state of utopian anarchy, wherein any citizen can make a deal with any other citizen for anything upon which they can agree. When disagreements arise, Crossroaders pay a third uninvolved party to mediate the dispute, both swearing to abide by the decision. The system is a legalist's worst nightmare, but it works at the Crossroads, and so it continues.
It is the lack of government that gives the neighbors of the Crossroads pause when considering its conquest. Each of the nearby rulers knows that large amounts of money, men, and material would need to be sacrificed just to pacify the place, which would leave the invader vulnerable to other enemies. The neighboring rulers therefore consider it less trouble to trade them food for services than to take the place outright.
About 400 years ago, an enterprising young man named Bardoc Cransch built a series of ferries across the Chrok and Clanis rivers, charging a small fee to the local farmers for the service. Because of this, a small village grew up around the ferries, including a smithy, a granary, and a small church.
Because of the increased prosperity in the region, the small village of Chrok Crossroads became a target for bandits and raiders. Thus, Cransch was compelled to build a small keep and retain a small militia to protect the area.
Over time, Chrok Crossroads grew from a small village to a large village and eventually to a small town. Banditry increased at a faster pace than the population growth so the mayor of the town, Kalistan Cransch (a descendant of Bardoc Cransch) built a fortified wall around the city for better defense.
Peace settled over the region for a period of three generations. Chrok Crossroads continued to swell in population and wealth as traffic increased on the rivers and roads that intersected in the city.
A Royal City
During the reign of King Hangolch, 278 years ago, Chrock Crossroads received a great honor - Lord Mayor Rangor Cransch (again, a descendant of Bardoc Cransch) was given the rank of Squire in the Royal Court as a result of the many tax revenues that came from the city. Title to the lands around the city in a twenty-mile radius were given to the Cransch family and the fortified town was named a "Royal City" of the kingdom.
Of course, there was a downside to this honor. Being a Royal City meant that a significant military contingent was moved to the city under the auspices of protecting the Squire. In reality, the "honor" was to further the military ambitions of the King and the city was in a prime location to base the army and navy. In addition, with such a large number of Royal Guardsman in the city, taxes were increased and the collection of those taxes were more rigorously pursued.
Despite these negative aspects, Chrok Crossroads continued to grow in prosperity and size expanding well beyond the walls of the fortified city. One hundred-twelve years after being named a Royal City, the current Squire, Bregork Cransch, ordered a new wall built to protect the city. He also decreed that the ferries would be replaced by bridges.
The building of the walls was easily completed in only four years. The bridges were much more difficult to accomplish. After 26 years of labor, the final stones were placed and the ferries were officially decommissioned. Chrok Crossroads then entered a new era.
While the people of Chrok Crossroads looked upon the bridges as an easier means of transporting goods across the rivers, the King saw them as an easier way to move his troops across the rivers. Chrok Crossroads quickly lost its place as a mercantile center as it became more and more a military base.
For the next 67 years, under the leadership of three different kings, Chrok Crossroads was a military camp. Sometimes it was the place where troops came for rest behind the battle lines, other times it was the primary staging location for upcoming battles, and six different times it was under siege by the enemies of the king.
Eventually, the kingdom could not continue to support ongoing wars and the Monarchy quietly withdrew ambitions of conquering their neighbors. Chrok Crossroads was not left in peace, however. Since, at one time, the city was a major source of revenue for the crown, the King expected the populace to help restore the Royal Treasury. Taxes were increased again and again as the King attempted to get the same level of revenues that historically had been provided. Unwittingly, the King was destroying the very possibility of those revenues by his heavy-handed monetary policies.
After many years of repression by the King, the people of Chrok Crossroads decided to take matters (and their lands) in their own hands.
The current Squire of Chrok Crossroads, Artimal Cransch was an exceptionally gifted diplomat and politician. He could convince anyone to do nearly anything, and at the same time, cause that person to believe that it was both the best option and that the idea was his own. Using these talents, Cransch convinced the entire army and navy to mutiny under his leadership.
The initial battle was over in only a few hours, after which Cransch sent a letter to the King declaring Chrok Crossroads to be an independent nation. Unfortunately for the people of Chrok Crossroads, Cransch had no military knowledge at all. Despite his skill in negotiation, the King did not accede to the situation and sent what remained of his army and navy to subdue the rogue state.
Independence was finally won from the King, but it was hard earned through 13 years of war. Chrok Crossroads was nearly destroyed in the process. The population was decimated such that all citizens lived inside the inner wall, leaving the area between the two walls as battle grounds. To make matters worse, Artimal Cransch was killed by an assassin only days after wresting victory from the King.
A New Government
Starting a new nation without a ruler is difficult under the best of circumstances. Chrok Crossroads was not under those. It had a very small population, no real farmland to support itself, only a semblance of trade, and no heir.
Eighty years of war had prevented any descendants of Cransch family from creating their own families. Only one male child was protected through adulthood per generation. The rest were drafted into the military, and inevitably died in battle. As such, when Artimal Cransch died heir-less, the closest relations were fourth cousins and there were over 200 of them.
With a firm distrust of monarchal rule, 158 years ago, the people of Chrok Crossroads created a government where the office of Lord Mayor was rotated every week from among the Ruling Council, which was repopulated by descendants of Bardoc Cransch every three months.
This means that every three months 50 different descendants are selected at random to serve as members of the Ruling Council. Most people do not want to serve, and try to get someone else to serve in their stead. This is legal as long as the replacement is a verifiable descendant of Bardoc Cransch. Fortunately (or unfortunately), certain of Bardoc's progeny were excessively promiscuous, with a result that 1 in 20 people in Chrok Crossroads easily trace their ancestry through Bardoc, while nearly 3 in 10 have some tenuous relationship.
Although most do not want to serve, all who cannot find a replacement do serve. In addition, there are some who have a great desire to serve. One man has sat continually on the Council for the last 32 years, never having been selected by lottery.