Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bettellyn: Land of Farmers, Devouts, and Warriors -- Pt. I

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The Holy Realm covers an area close to 186,000 square miles (between the sizes of real world Spain and Sweden).  Its capital, Citadel, sits in the Northeast and is home to 325,000 people.  Overall, more than 2.1 million Bettellyners live in a land of lush farmland, light forests, and gentle hills.  Wide rivers meander eastward across the country, toward the Sea of Esterhold.  To the north lies Foresthome; virgin Imperial Territories and Vertiloch form the western border, with Theranderol and Randal locking the south.  Many of the old towns derive their names from the original Cypric language.

Temperate weather is ideal to farming which is more than sufficient to satisfy the needs of Bettellyn’s population.  Spare produce head mostly west to Vertiloch.  This merchant traffic goes mostly by land, down the Vertiloch Road and the trail from Quanfax via Vonboby and Epitaph.  Snarling traffic jams are frequent at this border, at the level of Regalia Castle, considering Vertiloch’s infuriating border controls and peculiar transportation policies.  Some of the most colorful language can be heard there, among lines of ox-driven carts, that would normally embarrass the usually prudish and lawfully-minded folks of Bettellyn.  Much praying and repenting follows, when access into the Imperial Demesne is finally earned, which reinforces Vertilian opinion of Bettellyners as sanctimonious, hypocritical hot-heads.  This is the image initially confronting foreigners, since the majority of visits to the Holy Realm come through this border as well.

When beyond Bettellyn’s border, pious citizens of the Theocracy loosen up in the face of relative liberty and unlawfulness.  After one too many drinks, some ill-inspired comments, and a few brawls later, the most misguided visitors end up getting kicked out.  Naturally, the issue isn’t forgotten on the home side as the clergy then copiously admonishes transgressors for their sinful behaviors and the poor image they give of Bettellyn.  It is keenly seen as counterproductive to missionary work abroad.  Fines, service, fasting, self-flagellation, and much praying help teach rabble-rousers proper manners.

The main drivers of Bettlellyn’s wealth are agriculture and the city of Citadel.  By the sheer weight of its population, the capital city generates a disproportionate amount of business, purchasing vast quantities of food and raw materials, and producing finished goods and services.  Nearly half of the monarchy’s income flows from taxes on businesses and households in Citadel.  Tolls from roads and bridges, duties on foreign trade, and port fees collected throughout the realm generate the next big source of revenues, easily exceeding taxes imposed on rural communities.  Mining yields valuable minerals, but otherwise produces a negligible amount of cash.  From the point of view of Bettellyners, much of the realm’s trade involves producing weapons, armor, and raising war horses.  

In the eyes of a visiting foreigner, it seems the greatest part of local business involves the trading of relics, from worthless, obvious fakes sold as cheap souvenirs in curio shops to fabled artifacts imbued with arcane spirits that no one in their right minds would dare tangle with.  As might be expected, the lion share of the monarchy’s revenues goes to support Bettellyn’s armed forces and maintaining castles, roads, bridges, and fortified military ports like the ones in Brocto and Leweo.  Another fair share serves to support the clergy and related assets.  Monasteries and abbeys are self-sufficient.

Bettellyn’s unique aristocracy forms the core of the realm’s clergy.  They are one and the same.  Ecclesiastic charges are hereditary, as long as an heir shows evidence of proper faith.  Clerical hierarchy does not require being a cleric (as defined in the D&D game).  Faith is faith, regardless of methods to accomplish one’s duties.  Everyone earn their strengths and talents by the will of The Seven.

Although no real difference therefore exists between fighters, wizards, and clerics as regards their places in society, the latter two rise the fastest and highest among ecclesiastic hierarchy.  Most of them originate from the old Alphatian upper class, which held all the land, nobility titles, and therefore clerical charges since Bettlellyn’s formative years.  Over time, however, charges do become vacant.

The monarchy concerns itself with temporal matters.  Three potentates focus more specifically on matters of faith, orthodoxy at home, and promotion abroad.  One of the three is Queen Llynara herself, dubbed the Defender of the Flame.  The other two reside and otherwise administrate the Archdioceses of Magisteria and Quanfax.

The most important dominion is the Primacy of Citadel because of its enormous capital city.  It represents more than 16% of the realm’s entire population and generates nearly half its income.  It is the monarchy’s political and military heart, and home to Queen Llynara.  A sprawling suburb rings the massive, mound-like city, gobbling up the nearby village of Psalma and the community of the Grand Reliquary of Bettellyn.  The latter is a repository of artifacts.  Many of them aren’t necessarily magical, but they connect with past martyrs and saintly figures of Bettellyn’s history, which makes them priceless.  Some are occasionally taken to a battlefield to encourage troops before a clash.  One of them is an ancient flag used during the battle at the Fields of Blood, near the border with Randel.  Artifacts include fragments of bone or mummified flesh, dried blood, saintly oils, weapons, pieces of armor, manuscripts, symbols of faith, jewelry, simple everyday objects, article of clothing, strange objects of outer planar origins, archon feathers etc.  The reliquary is notorious for being haunted by the original owners.

Another important dominion is the Archdiocese of Magisteria.  Although its principal city, Weitara, isn’t a very large port, it is crucial because it provides the first stop for sea merchants sailing up the Communion River.  One of the local sites of interest is the Grand Basilica of the Magisterium.  The magnificent basilica is a major place of worship, but more importantly, it connects with a center devoted to studying the outer planes and archons in particular.  It is rumored that several of fourteen lesser archons who pledged to defend Bettellyn if it faced a great peril, actually reside on site.  Other than the basilica itself, the remainder of the grounds are off limits to the public.  Nearby Lonval may strike any visitor as nothing but a military garrison, and its port remains closed to merchant traffic.  Next come Mirabilis and Stigmata, two villages typical of Bettellyn, with houses huddling around a small temple and an open parvis.

The Archdiocese of Quanfax follows.  This major trading town is a clearinghouse for magically treated farming produce gathered from the surrounding regions.  Part of the crops goes west to Vertiloch or east, by ship, to whatever destination.  The more exciting site is the Grand Cathedral of the Shroud, just outside town.  Comparable to the Reliquary and the Basilica in its grandeur and beauty, it serves as the repository for the most holy Shroud of the Unborn.  Murky legends have it that it was brought from a time that hasn’t yet come to pass.  It is believed to have contained the remains of an avatar of Samarion.  Next to the Grand Cathedral shines Archonia’s golden dome.  It houses the largest library in Bettellyn.  It focuses on general theology of The Seven and serves as an archive not only for the cults but also for ancient genealogy and all historical matters involving the origins of the Scions of Llyn, their Journey to Mystara, and the creation of Bettellyn.

The See of Brocto is notable for its sea port.  It concerns itself with fishing, maritime trade, and naval service.  A fair portion of Bettellyn’s war fleet hails from this small dominion.  The monarchy pays much of the cost involved with supporting these forces.  As with Randel, a significant portion of the fleet is usually off at sea, on a mission for the empire.  There is a story behind Brocto’s coat of arms.  A long time ago, Brocto was little more than a village with a tavern popular for its grilled sea food. 

The business flourished and its owner, Brocto the Seared, became quite rich.  He earned his moniker as the result of a battle with stray hellhounds during which he used the sign above the tavern’s entrance as his shield.  He fought gloriously, which earned him further notoriety and a nobility title.  The sign on his impromptu shield became the official arms of his house, and later on, those of the Holy See of Brocto.  To this day, the tavern remains in business, a fancy stop for bourgeois clientele and visiting dignitaries.

The Prelacy of Isoin is a military march.  It is engrossed in its mission to preserve the theocracy’s southern border, along with the Holy March of Empyrea.  As border provinces, paranoia runs high there.  Spies scour the land and the towns’ streets, in search of enemy agents.  The realm’s secret police, known as the Silver Cord, maintains a major base in Isoin.  Locals euphemistically refer to its members as the Cordial Cherubs, a welcoming party devoted to leading the misguided to a heavenly end.  The name Silver Cord came from a blessed instrument they use to dispatch enemies of the faith.

The borders with Randel are virtually closed.  Traffic between the two realms relies exclusively on foreign ships, which are thoroughly searched when crossing through.  Leweo, on the coast, is another crucial seaport, competing with Brocto for traffic bound up the First Vows River.  All towns and villages on this river are heavily fortified.  Along with Abbots’ Ford, they are the only useful crossing points.  The waterway stretches to Empyrea’s Helms-Hold, a bastion-like city and a key defensive element against Randel.  Empyrea’s sword-makers are renowned across the realm for the quality of their steel and workmanship.  Sword-makers in the town of Rimpos own ancient secret knowledge involving the use of iridium in their blades, giving them a unique iridescent shimmer.  It is thought to be the steel that archons use in their weapons, a knowledge given them by Sabbaiah.

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