Friday, November 9, 2012

Foresthome: Burwyn, Orfeander, & Rathmore

Continued from the previous section.  Click HERE to go back.

Mystara Alphatia Foresthome Burwyn Orfeander map
Burwyn & Orfeander, map scale: 8 miles per hex

These two dominions should have been a single county, but families to whom land had been promised could not be accommodated.  The early monarchy established instead two big baronies.  To this day, these petty provinces remain bitter rivals in a way that could best described as the story of the Hatfields and McCoys in American history.  It all started out with a stolen pig.  The rest got lost in the midst of accusations, revenge, and escalation.  A detachment of the Queen’s Army still patrols the border between the two, enforcing a royal order that no one crosses through except at a check point on Silkstone Road.  Local residents are not permitted past this point.  Members of baronial courts may only get by aboard vessels clearly showing their barony’s colors.  All such ships have a royal observer aboard to verify the directive is followed.  Naturally, no vessel from one barony will be allowed on the other’s shores.  More hassles crop up as the two families find ways to get around obstructions and jab at each other, such as flying by night, teleporting, or entering through a different border for example.

From an economic standpoint, trade still gets by without much trouble, generating reasonable income for the two dominions.  Both also control crucial passages out west, the East Follow Trail for Orfeander and the Rathmore Trail for Burwyn.  Despite this fortunate disposition of borders, the two barons still argue over who got the better deal.  Baroness Orfeander remains bitter about her rival’s lands being closer to the capital than her own, and thus receiving preferential treatment.  Baron Burwyn’s contention is that his hated neighbor inherited more land than his forebears did, and an extra village.  As it were, their rivers can only accommodate the smallest vessels upstream, due to their shallow depths, leaving the bulk of riverine traffic to funnel through the Eastfollow River.  The latest dispute was about obtaining royal funds to help dredge silt from the Thistle Flow as opposed to using the expenditures for an expansion of the sea port at Orfil—a prickly topic to be sure.  Soon afterward, a cousin of the Burwyns was found dead after he’d ingested spoiled thistle soup.  Meanwhile, an Orfeander kin was pulled from the port’s waters at Orfil, apparently gagged to death with muck and pebbles.  However suspicious the matter, no culprits were apprehended.  The barons are still investigating the mishaps.  After their frequent visits at the royal palace, often immediately after one another, Queen Aberria invariably consults her court physician to soothe the resulting headaches.

Baronial troops handle law-enforcement, rather approximately since their expertise in legal matters varies on when and where.  As can be expected, they remain on the lookout for intruders from the other barony, and on the safety of the barons.  Elarion missionaries often use Orfil and Soctel as bridgeheads into Foresthome, sailing in from Bettellyn aboard foreign ships.  If in trouble with baronial laws, it is customary for anyone with money to make sure a royal appointee presides among magistrates in a court of law.  Though pricey, a few trustworthy representatives from reputable Greenspur offices specialized in Foresthome law can also be found at the nearby capital.

Besides bitterness and rampant paranoia, the baronies also share one more thing in common: the eastern edge of the Thumping Woods stretching halfway through Burwyn and down to the foothills of the Spine-Ridge Mountains.  It is the realm of bushmen.  These curious individuals look like haggard, disheveled elves with a gray-brown skin and a mess of dried out twigs in lieu of hair.  Despite their bizarre appearances, bushmen are quite smart and well aware of the nature of the people surrounding them.  They dislike the two baronial families and their utter selfishness.  Rumors allude to bushmen originally setting up the rival families in a scheme to provoke their failure as feudal vassals, and their eventual removal.

Bushmen: AC5, HD 5+1***, MV 120’ (40’), AT 1 elven weapon, Dmg by weapon, Save F5, ML9; Int 13, AL N.  Special Attacks: plant control (as the potion) once per day.  Special Defenses: camouflage in bushes or woods (80% surprise odds), immune to entangle attacks or similar plant-based effects.  Leaders are druidical shamans with as many as 10+2 HD and commensurate spellcasting skills.  Bushmen otherwise have all the abilities of common elves.

Their ability to control plants enable bushmen to cause vegetation to grow much more quickly than they should normally, adding one or more mature trees in a 30’x30’ area in a matter of a few weeks if they work at it every day.  Royal Laws does not permit them to use this ability outside the limits of the Thumping Woods.  Oddly, bushmen also proved quite skilled at raising pigs.

Mystara Alphatia Foresthome Rathmore map
County of Rathmore, map scale: 8 miles per hex

The Rathmores are one of the oldest families connected with the royal dynasty, originally through a war commander.  Theirs is a difficult piece of land to manage due to the location of the highlands that can only be reached through a detour round its northern edge.  Nonetheless, the counts have been popular with the people and able administrators.

Much of the day-to-day business consists in monitoring traffic along the main travel paths—High Trail on the highlands and the so-called Rathmore Trail connecting with the Barony of Orfeander.  Tolls are collected at the villages of Crowne-Feather and Whungbotham.  The Rathmores are allies of the Orfeanders.  Their relationship with the County of Llynmouth up north remains polite and neutral, given that the neighbors are business partners with the Burwyns.  Fortunately, there are family ties between the counts of Llynmouth and Rathmore, which balance out matters.  Further business takes place at Rathoon, with the involvement of the League of Eight.  The Rathmores have come down hard on the merchant guild, especially on the matter of price-gouging.  Some nasty shenanigans followed when an attempt on the count’s life failed.  The assassin was captured but died without apparent cause soon afterward.  Further attempts to revive the individual proved fruitless.  Dastardly magic had been used to block raise dead and speak with the dead spells.  The day after, a ship fully loaded with merchandise caught fire inexplicably.  While the guild will not drop its trading post in Rathoon, the counts remain unlikely as well to kick them out as they would stand to loose more than they would gain.  The test of wills goes on.  

As to the Rathoon River, it is navigable but only up to its branch with the Anaragh River, which makes it irrelevant as a trade line.  Only the smallest vessels may continue beyond.  Halfway up the the Anaragh River, a wide spot is very shallow, up to two feet deep, allowing horses and carts across.  Rathmore also operates an iron mine in the hills, with a special permission from the native clans living in the area (see below).

As with other counties, Rathmore wouldn’t have existed as such without the presence of ancient native clans.  Theirs occupy forests and hills along the Spine-Ridge Mountains.  They are the Ravensfolk.  Humanoid, lightly built, of jet black skin and with the heads of ravens, they bear large bird-like wings protruding from the back of their robes.  Though peaceful, Ravensfolk are very exclusive and rarely invite outsiders amongst them unless they believe some ominous event is about to happen.  Ravensfolk are a society of soothsayers, seers, and tellers of portents who speak in riddles.  It is rumored they hide an oracle in a temple, somewhere in the hills.  These dark beings did in fact enable the count to avoid the recent attempt upon his life and set up a trap.  In past history, it is said that they helped a war commander outfox his enemies, revealing their moves in advance.  They have a knack for locating someone whose future presents interest enough that they’d offer a bargain.  They always demand something in return for unveiling a part of one’s fate, be it a valuable significant to their secret workings or a later service.  Woe be he who fails to honor a bargain, as fate always seems to turn against oathbreakers not long afterward.  It remains unclear in what ways the Rathmores are indebted to the Ravensfolk.  As a side note, wemics from Tutleby have learned long ago not to intrude upon their feathered neighbors.

Ravensfolk: AC9, HD 3+1*****, MV 90’ (30’)/180’ (60’) flying, AT 1 beak, short sword, or light crossbow, Dmg 1d4+1 or by weapon, Save MU3, ML8; Int 15, AL N.  Special Attacks: ESP, clairvoyance, clairaudience (once a day for each), plus polymorph self, contact outer planes, lore, and scry (once per moon cycle for each).  Special Defenses: hide in shadows as a T10; immune to sleep, charm, and mind-control effects.

Clan leaders can have a many as 12HD and cast spells as a MU12.  Other than frequency, their scrying ability is comparable to a crystal ball with ESP.  It requires the reflection of a full moon upon a pool of still water.  The polymorph ability is limited to transforming into a common raven.

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