In 1488, Pieter van Ostelbeek discovered Maurits' River while searching for a passage through Everique to reach Catai. Van Ostelbeek named the river after Maurits II, the reigning Grand Duke of Kleef at the time. While Maurits' River did not provide a water passage through the continent, the Kleefish soon realized the commercial possibilities of the location, especially the deep-water harbor that is protected from the open sea by several islands.
The Kleefish Catai Trading Company founded the town of Fort Maurits and the colony of Meerpelt in 1556 on the southern end of an island facing the harbor. The fort at the time was little more than a stockade with an attached trading post. From this locale, the Kleefish guilders intended to challenge Saronne's dominance of the highly lucrative the fur trade. The trading company paid the Grand Duke an enormous up-front sum for a charter to found the colony. While many outsiders thought it was an extravagant sum, the trading company received a exemption from taxation on profits made in the colony. The guilders named the city Zollhaven to celebrate their negotiating triumph. Wallem, the current Grand Duke, is seething over his ancestor's decision, but his grandfather was in the middle of a war with Morante and needed money to hire mercenaries.
Zollhaven is the capital of Meerpelt and is administered by a Director General appointed by the Kleefish Catai Trading Company. A group of burghers represents the colonists' interests in the Council of Twelve, but the power of the Directors General is near absolute and they frequently ignore the Council. The Directors General are corrupt more often than not, using the position to line their own pockets. The current Director General, Maartje Heyn, is an exception. Her energetic governance has shaken up the casual corruption that has infested all levels of government in the city.
The economic focus of Zollhaven has changed over the centuries from the fur trade to shipping. Most of this is due to supply as the amount of fur from the interior is declining as nearby territories are being trapped out. Instead, the colony has embraced shipbuilding and numerous shipyards line the shore of Maurits' River. The shipwrights boast that a quarter of the trading fleet of Kleef were built in the city.
Zollhaven is the last port on the western side of the Levian Ocean for merchant vessels making their way north from the Kleefish colonies in Ascuta. The great natural harbor of Zollhaven is rarely blocked with ice, making it an attractive destination. The city has tripled in size in the past 20 years and is now home to more than 10,000 people. Such rapid growth has lead to a chaotic and unruly city. The docks are particularly dangerous, filled as they are with transient sailors. Even worse, plagues frequently sweep through the city, being carried to the port by the many ships that dock there. Rumor has it that the graveyards of Zollhaven have a higher population than the city.« Return to the Almanac Index