I do a lot of my patrols in the Tidewater, Virginia region.
I just jotted down the following paragraph:
The Tidewater is really five cities, straddling the Atlantic’s extremities, connected by a range of bridges and tunnels. The people here have saltwater in their blood. They fish for scallops and lobster. They load and unload stadium-sized freighters. They build and float ships. Fort Eustis is close by, but these are Navy people to the core. Their sons and daughters sail the Navy’s ships, then get out to use the skills they learned to design and build them, or to captain, provision and police their civilian counterparts. In return, the Navy feeds them, employs them, brings a measure of prosperity to the five cities. It asks lives in exchange, and they are given gladly.
So, let’s spin it into an epic fantasy setting:
The Five Isles function as a single fiefdom, connected by a series of stone bridges that straddle the Ire-Water, their builders long since forgotten. The lords of the isles are seafarers back beyond memory, their fate tied so closely to the water that they are known as “The King’s Salt Beards.” Their lives have ever been the King’s wars and his custom, either loading his merchantmen, or sailing his war galleys. The King keeps a cavalry squadron here, as he does across the domain, but they find no welcome among the Salt Beards. The lords use them as messengers and functionaries. War and trade, for them, are things born of the sea.
Not really much a stretch, I’d say. Look at Martin’s Ironmen, his Dothraki. Look at Brett’s Krasians, Rothfuss’ Edema Ruh.
People are always asking fantasy writers “where do you get your ideas?”