South of mainland Cera Bella, the Dundar Archipelago is an enormous cluster of islands spread across thousands of square miles of ocean. In modern times, the archipelago is a vast nautical empire under the control of the Dundar dynasty.
In the earliest times, each island in the archipelago was largely isolated, its inhabitants—if there were any—left to develop a unique culture untouched by neighbors.
Eight hundred years ago, Ser Gilliam Dundar changed that. Making use of new sailing and navigation technologies, he led a massive army on a whirlwind conquest of the archipelago, absorbing island after island into a sprawling empire that would endure for centuries.
With no unifying culture to bind them, Emperor Dundar and his successors required a deft hand to keep tensions among the islands under control.
The Dundar Empire is ruled over by a popularly elected senate. After serving their terms, former senators are given the title magistrate and are appointed as provincial governors, typically with control over one or more isles. However, the Senate can--in exceptional circumstances--remove a magistrate from office and assign his land to someone else.
The rise of steam technology has caused problems for Dundar's political system. Steam tech is powered by vibra, a volatile crystal that heats up dramatically when exposed to a spark. The geological strata beneath many of Dundar's islands contain rich veins of vibra.
Shadowling, disembodied creatures from the nether reaches of the earth, were the first to discover the secrets of vibra mining. They established sophisticated and powerful mining companies to extract vibra from the earth wherever it may be found. Though native to mainland Cera Bella, the shadowlings have increasingly found it profitable to meddle in the Dundar isles in order to gain access to their veins of vibra.
Specifically, the shadowlings have been known to interfere in Senate elections by funneling financial support to whichever candidate looks more likely to win, then returning when the senator becomes a magistrate and asking permission to mine on the magistrate's islands. Not surprisingly, they usually get this permission.