Sunday, November 18, 2012

Foresthome: Wessith with Mersey & Weil

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

Mystara Alphatia Foresthome Wessith hex map
County of Wessith, map scale: 8 miles per hex
It is best known as the place one stops before traveling west.  Many of those sailing round the lake by its north route disembark at Shog to save on the fares the League of Eight extorts from passengers.  Shog being somewhat sinister, travelers head to Tirenios on foot—a far more pleasant place despite being a boom town. Those sailing from the south are far more likely to disembark at Weilat.  The two towns connect with the Wessith Trail.  The part of this trail stretching from Weilat is known as Wessith-by-the-South.  The other running from Tirenios is called Wessith-by-the-Niverback.

The Niverback River marked for a time the westernmost border of the new kingdom, well before the Duchy of Westford was established.  It was where rangers crossed to head west or south.  Most of them left for extended periods, prompting locals to say in their strongly accented vernacular: “Nee’vah back, he be.  Nee’vah back, says’ah.”  The river itself is a minor one, slow and caked with muddy banks.  Longships can manage their way up, but no farther than Axe-in-the-Fyr.  This village’s name came from a renegade woodcutter who got into an argument with an angry treant.  His axe got stuck in the creature’s trunk.  “Eevah the lath ’aing he dun, ‘ath was.”  It was a mighty axe indeed, and so deep it sank that no one could pull it from the treant’s trunk.  There it remained for as long as the treant lived.  It is rumored that the famous creature returned to the Lonely Forest, there to live its final decades before turning into an elder tree.  Its mind and soul slowly bled out through its roots until Ol’grayun-witha-n’Axe was no more.  The blade still exists, somewhere in the Lonely Forest.  Some say it has become haunted with the late treant’s spirit.

Mystara Alphatia Foresthome Wessith heraldry
Wessith was once considered the last of the kingdom’s warrior marches.  Beyond lay the domain of monstrous tribes migrating past the Snake River.  They pushed on toward Wessith, seeking more land to settle, slaves to torment, treasure to plunder, or food.  The county then was a royal bastion filled with hardened troops.  The number of battles fought west of the Niverback was forgotten amid the fog of war.  The assailants burned or felled a wide swath of forest, building siege machines on the way.  However inventive and ferocious, they never broke through, and their misbegotten bones littered the bottom of the Niverback.  In time, outsiders struck back, and the heroic westward push resumed once more to the beat of drums and the bellows of great horns.

Nee’vah back.  Nee’vah back.

Ravaged by war, Middle Weald never quite recovered after its greatest residents had been slain or turned into lumber or kindling.  Wessith eventually grew enough to reach what survived of these woods.  It happened when the neighboring Duchy of Westford was proclaimed.  Borders were traced upon a piece of parchment, rough, bearded faces nodded, and hands were shaken with the spittle of agreement.  In the absence of clans, druids moved in, grave and silver-headed with age and wisdom.  Theirs became the task of healing the forest.  A short-lived clash flared before it was also agreed that, by law, no traveler should wander into the forest away from the Wessith Trail.  Royal rangers came to ensure everyone stood by the agreement, and life at last took on the normalcy of civilization.  Though peace prevailed, a lingering conflict among druids simmered in shadowy confines of the crippled woods.  They had uncovered the existence of the Spell of Burgeoning.  Most agreed it was an odious abomination, a travesty of nature.  For them, wilderness should stem from seed, nut, and spore.  Yet, a few hard souls disagreed.  They believed that returning the land to its rightful sylvan state, magically if need be, was imperative in the face of growing outsider pressure.  They veiled their feelings and quietly formed the Green Circle.  During the next decades, this secret sect devoted itself to the study of the spell and its origins, and the implementation of a strategy to convince or coerce the great clan leaders to release it.  There is no telling in recent times how they fared, who or where they are, and what dark webs of intrigue they’ve spun.

Today, Wessith is better known for its vast apple tree orchards and production of the kingdom’s best cider.  Chestnuts are another local crop used in many different ways--flours, candied sweets, dense breads, fruitcake-like pastries, rare and expensive liquors, druidical saps and oils, perfumes, medicinal syrups, and a unique beverage made from ground and thoroughly roasted grits through which one pours boiling water to produce a bitter concoction.  Some say that it can be made strong enough to wake up old bones in the Niverback.  Better yet, a secret process enables an elven merchant to manufacture bars of concentrated chestnut meal, cackleroot, and honey with very high nutritional value, most favored by campaigning warriors and rangers.  A single bar not more than five inches long is enough to feed a man for a day.  There are many copycats, some connected with the League of Eight.  Wessith is now a merchants’ concern, with goods to acquire and transport, travelers to shuttle and house, and westward caravans to sponsor.  Along the way came taverns, bawdy houses, theaters, and all the trappings of a fast-growing community.  Law followed, a few steps behind as always.  The biggest headaches now come from smugglers, thieves, and crimes quietly perpetrated by the League of Eight.

Mystara Alphatia Foresthome Mersey Weil hex map
County of Mersey & Weil, map scale: 8 miles per hex

Once Wessith had succeeded in repelling the monstrous hordes, a wave of settlers moved down the coast.  Early on, few came from the south as the area still was a dangerous wilderness.  A fortified trading post was founded on the coast, becoming the Town of Weilat.  The name derives from local speak.  When one asked, “Where ‘bouts ye be ath?” the other would respond, “Weil’ath.”  And thus came the name, spelled in the manner of the learned ones from the east.

With relative peace, the population of outsiders grew, mostly at the expense of nearby woods whose inhabitants struggled to defend their land.  They were wood imps, nasty little creatures riding giant spiders.  Druids from Wessith came and attempted to separate the protagonists, with mixed results.  Armed with a royal warrant, rangers intervened later and brokered a halt to the fight.  Wood imps reluctantly accepted to become part of a new county for their own protection.  Aristocrats from Greenwood were dispatched to settle the matter, and thus was born the County of Mersey and Weil, illustrating the river and the town as they were known then.  Wood imps enjoyed their relative autonomy and, with the help of druids and assigned rangers, put an end to any further outsider encroachment upon their land.

Wood imps now delight in riding the oldest, biggest, fattest spiders they can muster when visiting Weilat to attend Clan House meetings.  They trot through the streets, puffed-up and arrogant, making the most of their natural creepiness.  The good people of Weilat scamper from the streets, locking themselves behind sturdy doors and shutters, trembling with horror until the visitors leave town.  Wood imps take great pleasure in any other shenanigans they can think of, under the disapproving gazes of their druidical chaperons.  From the point of view of the counts, these imps are malingering, manipulative, lying, cheating, thieving, mischievous little creeps.  The ruling aristocracy must often bite their tongues to avoid giving in to the imps’ odious little games, cultivating virtues of patience, abnegation, and persistence to carry the day.  It doesn’t do well to come out openly again the imps, for they are woodland beings, and belittling them would be denigrating the whole of the sylvan kingdom’s clans—a most unwise approach.

Wood Imp: AC6, HP ¾*, hp 1d6, MV 90 (30’), AT 1 bite or 1 bow, Dmg 1d3 or 1d6 + poison, Save NM, ML 9 (7), Int 10, AL C.  Special defenses: ride upside-down spiders and attack at no penalty.  Special attacks: spend one round to coat an arrow with wood spider poison; the arrow must be shot during the following round; poison inflicts an extra 1d8 dmg (save vs. poison neg.) plus sluggishness (-2 penalty to initiative, move at ½ speed for 2d4+2 rounds; not cumulative).  Wood imps can use miniature two-handed swords in melee (1d6 dmg).  A war party leader has a full HD; if a leader is slain in combat, wood imp ML drops to 7.  Clan leaders and wokani can have as many as 6 HD.

Huge Wood Spider: AC 6, HD 1+3*, MV 120’ (40’), AT 1 bite, Dmg 1d6 + poison, Save F1, ML 8, Int 2, AL N.  Special defenses: camouflage (surprise with 1-4 on 1d6).  Special attacks: poison (see wood imp), can cling to vertical or upside-down surfaces, and leap down to attack.

Mystara Alphatia Foresthome Mersey Weil heraldry
These small evil humanoids live in the woods stretching from the border with Wessith to the border with Tarston-Wall—a dark forest known as the Ruffletuft Woods.  These clan lands straddle the border with Imperial Territories.  Wood imps (Creature Catalog) thumb their warty little noses at imperial law, the queen’s law, and the count’s authority whenever rangers aren’t looking.  Of all the clans, they prefer the blackroots, whom they occasionally visit as honored guests.  Their dark green skin and wood-brown hair makes them hard to distinguish in their natural environment.  Their spiders are green with brown stripes and just as hard to notice.  In combat, wood imps favor hidden pits, snares, and ambush tactics, using bows and poison arrows.  They almost never pick a fight in the open (if so, it would be a nocturnal encounter).

Druids often act as their guides.  These druids are most likely members of the Green Circle (see Wessith for details).  A number of them have quietly moved to Imperial Territories, with wood imps as their scouts and companions.  Their activities there, illicit to be sure, are unknown, although rangers recognized druids thought dead long ago crossing the Snake River, much farther north between Westford and Shielldon, and vanishing into nearby hills.  Despite their best efforts, rangers remained unable to track them down.

Mersey and Weil is known nowadays mostly for its livestock.  Local farming specializes in raising hogs and producing the best cured hams in the kingdom.  When herds of the snorting, grunting, squealing quadrupeds are driven to Weilat from all over the county, the smell overtakes the whole town.  Not that it is much better on other days, but on Pig Day woe be those crossing a muddy street without wearing boots.  The streets’ sticky black muck finds its way into all homes, dragged in under soles or bare feet alike.  It is said that it spares not even the count’s palace.  There’s no escaping it.  By the end of Pig Day, herds are sold at the fair and thankfully taken aboard merchant ships traveling to whatever ends.  The stench remains.

Special Thanks to Janet Deaver-Pack for her creative and editorial contributions.

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