Earldom of Aelfshaw
# Elven, "By the sea and stars".
The Earldom of Aelfshaw was always a rare province of apparent prosperity, peace and tranquillity. Though bordered by Dwarves to the north and Elves across the Straits of Edhel, it had a rare calm. The Higher Races are more common than elsewhere and even the humans have their fair share of mixed ancestry. The Earl himself was part Fey and on good terms, well as good as one can be, with the reclusive Elves of Edhel-Duntolas. Sadly that did not last.
There were always ruthless smugglers trading illicitly with the Fey or dealing in illegal Dwarven contraband brought over the great Shield Wall. Refugees from the then devastated southern Duchy of Everwatch threaten the harmony bringing poverty, crime and, some say, disease with them. Not all looked on the fondness for Elf & Dwarf with understanding and zealots preachd hate against the races which one ‘enslaved Man’. During Kaegor’s War of Liberation it was one of the last regions to fall as it was so pro-Elven. It was in Aelfshaw that the Elves of the western isles fought the humans to stalemate and secured lasting peace. Ever since the county had remained in awe of Elven culture.
The Knights of the Rose
This order was founded by Earl Arnes Salkuras over fifty years ago when he had recently succeeded his late father as Earl of Aelfshaw. His late father’s men-at-arms were all efficient but brutal warriors that failed to appreciate the new Earl’s artistic and cultured tastes. Earl Arnes held frequent tournaments where the flower of chivalry was invited to compete for induction in to this knightly order. Entry to the ranks of the order was for those who are both skilled warriors and at home in polite society. To become a Knight of the Rose one may be of any race or gender but merely be of the right character and mindset. In practice all the Knights are human(ish), male with high charisma, diplomacy, skill at arms and excellent horsemanship. They are usually sponsored by a noble or fellow Knight but may be inducted following victory at a tourney. These ‘Bouquet Knights’ are given arms, armour and a mount as part of their induction in to the Order.
The Knights initially fought for Jocund till they split and others joined Argun. After the end of the conflict there were two distinct groups that hated each other. The new Earl Argun gave them a choice of leaving Alefshaw and surrendering their lands or kneeling to him and accepting his rule, nearly all swore fealty. There are two factions, the more traditional Reds and the more progressive Whites. All restrictions on joining have officially been lifted which the Argun supporting Whites wholeheartedly approve. The more traditional Reds are now less than a third of the order but are not going anywhere soon. Earl Argun is the titular head of the order but two seneschals normally run matters unless they cannot agree on matters and he is, embarrassingly, called in to make a ruling.
Earl Arnes Salkuras was over a hundred years old and his longevity was attributed to his part Elven blood. He had ruled the Earldom for over sixty years and had ensured it was a prosperous and peaceful province. The Earl never married and had no natural heir though he had ritually adopted his long term friend and companion Sir Jocund of Joyess. Sir Jocund was knighted by Earl Arnes as a young warrior thirty years ago and had been his champion and companion ever since. Unfortunately did not enjoy widespread support with the local nobility or merchant classes but did command the Knights of the Rose. Unfortunately Jocund mishandled matters when Earl Arnes finally died. The province split in to different competing factions each with an external sponsor.
Sadly the Beckoning of Mav Id’Erian changed everything. With the death of Earl Arnes Salkuras and the failure of Sir Jocund to take control, civil war broke out. In a desperate move Jocund summoned aid from the Other Place and armies of Elves and Dwarves entered the fray. The Fortress of Naugard fell to Dwarves and Elves occupied Aria. The Barony of Maelfasan was horrified and sent the 4th Baronial Brigade, a force of over two thousand men, to assist. A swift battle at Naugard caught the Dwarves napping and they lost the fortress and retreated in to the Shield Wall. A force from Everwatch marched on Aria but at the last moment a compromise was made and the Elves voluntarily returned to the Other Place taking Jocund with him.
Aelfshaw was in a state of disarray with calls for it to be split up between the victors till a unifying figure was found. Argun Af Lavandal was a noble of the Earldom but with excellent links to Everwatch. He had served with great credit in the liberation wars and was a respected person. He was released of his oath of service to Lord Douglas of Stonehaven and unanimously elected the new Earl. He is now resident in Aria with his wife and his heir, his son Fitzroy, and rules with the fairest and lightest of touches. He is popular with the other nobles and the common man but time will tell how he fares.
Small City: Alignment: TN, Population: 10,000, Mixed (85% human, 9% half-elven, 4% elven, 2% other.). Authority figures: High Priest Florin Gripa of Zilchus (human, male, cleric)
The centre of the Earldom is the walled city of Lilay. It was the site of a Dwarven settlement that was levelled in the Wars of Liberation fought between Man and the Older Races centuries gone by. It was rebuilt in a brutal Kaegorian style and was not renowned for its beauty. Earl Arnes appointed his long time champion and companion Sir Jocund to civilise the city. He spent considerable sums improving the aesthetics of the settlement but with limited results. It is a prosperous agricultural centre but most of all it is a booming trade centre and market for Elven and Dwarven goods. It has a temple to Berei, the NG goddess of agriculture, family, and home, but most impressive is the imposing market-cathedral to Zilchus, the LN god of prestige, money & business.
Inns & hostels in Lilay:
The Scratin’ Beggar is a low price and service inn just outside the walls of Lilay. It is full of n’er do wells and the likes. It has a common sleeping room and half a dozen rooms that you can rent by the night or the hour.
Ma Bracknell’s Boarding House is an inexpensive but strict guest house with stables, dining area and rooms for 20 guests. Mrs Bracknell has no ‘funny business’ going on under her roof.
The Velvet Cape is a luxurious Inn and costs accordingly. It has a fine selection of wines and fayre at a price. The waiting ladies are all pretty and cultured and the Inn is favoured by the local prominent members of society.
The Weeping Virgin is an Inn and bar that caters for the needs of male clientele. It is frequented by local jaded nobles, travellers and the likes. It was said that it is secretly owned by Sir Jocund but most know this cannot be true.
The Aelfshaw Arms is a large Inn with thirty rooms, a good restaurant and gambling room. It has a large bar and is decent quality for a decent price. It is popular with both travellers and locals.
Small Town: Alignment: TN, Population: 1,200, (95% human, 5% other). Authority figures: Lord Dowar (human, male, warden)
Mowsul is small market town primarily dealing in grain and timber but with a surprisingly wide range of other products. It is also next to Old Hill which was once a major religious site for ancient humans. On top of the hill are the ruins of a complicated and extensive temple which was levelled by the Higher Races at some time after their arrival. Under the hill is a catacomb of tunnels and chambers descending further and further in to the earth. The upper levels have been well explored and are somewhat of a local tourist attraction due to the extensive cave art. The lower levels are magically sealed with wards and glyphs to prevent the remote possibility of anything coming up from below. Worshippers of the Old Faiths gather here at the solstices and equinoxes with one of the shafts dug through the hill rumoured to reveal great wisdom when the heavenly bodies align. Due to the popularity of the Old Faith it has a high proportion of human residents than other settlements in the Earldom.
Small Town: Alignment: LG, Population: 1,250, Mixed (90% human, 5% half-elven, 5% other). Authority figures: Lady Marlant (female, noble)
Graidam is a fishing port and an old Elven settlement built in to the cliffs. It has an old fey boat yards which is now used by the locals to build and support a prosperous fishing fleet. The centre of the settlement is the beautiful old Elven tower that overlooks the sea, being centuries old yet still architecturally impressive. It is said to be the twin of the Tower of Light that stands at the mouth of the harbour of Resplendent Dunostia. Within the tower lives the reclusive third Lady Marlant, the granddaughter of the first Lady Marlant, who was the close friend and confident of Emperor Innocence before his elevation to the Divine Throne. The widower daughter of Lady Marlant, confusingly also called Ayesha, takes an active part in the fair and orderly running of the settlement. The town is beautiful with a well funded orphanage and inhabitants known for their kindness. It has the famed Ahasver Inn that is popular and acclaimed as value for money, even by Zilchus priests.
The finest lavender is the whole of the Lands of Warlderia is grown here. This is known as the Elves of Edhel-Duntolas have declared it as such. They value it highly and it is keenly traded in the guarded Elf Port of Resplendent Dunostia across the straits. It is rumoured that some subtle magical quality of the hills makes it lavender so superior but no human knows and the reclusive elves care not to enlighten. They take a harsh view of those trying to trade lesser lavender to them. The Lavender Hills are still quite wild with the lavender growing as it will. Attempts to farm it efficiently lower the quality to that of normal lesser lavender and make it worthless to the Elves. No one lives in the hills as old stories talk of them being haunted at night though there is no proof of this. Bands of ‘licensed’ pickers travel out from Sington to carefully harvest the crop and always return before dusk.
Village: Alignment: CN, Population: 450 (90% human, 5% half-elven, 5% other). Authority figures: Wilddieb (human, male, rogue)
Sington is a village where the pickers of the Lavendar hills are based. They are a boisterous and roguish bunch always trying to avoid paying taxes on their crop or purchase the licences that are officially needed. This village was owned by Sir Argun but when he left it has became quite lawless with most of the legitimate pickers being driven out. It was ruled in all but name by Wilddieb and his extended family. Recently Earl Argun has assigned a group of Zilchus priests to regulate the Lavender market, if this does not work it is likely he will take further measures.
Small Town: Alignment: LN, Population: 1,550, Mixed (90% human, 5% dwarves, 5% other). Authority figures: Praetor Bunyan (human, male, general)
Technically this is town is administered directly by the Divine Emperor as it is an Imperial fortress and garrison. In practice it is part of the Earldom. The Dwarves had long since given up any claim on the lands of man but still the old keeps and castles were guarded by Divine Imperial decree. One such was Naugard and its Divine Legion, the 7th Taurusian, stood vigil watching over the Northern Dwarves behind their impregnable Shield Wall. The Legion was surprised by the arrival of forces from the Other Place and Naugard was captured. With the help of the Maelfasan forces the Fortress was re-captured but it was not the finest of hours for the 7th Taurusian Legion. Recently Naugard has been formally given to the control of Aelfshaw by the Maelfasan forces with no pretence of being an imperial garrison any longer.
There is good farmland around the fortress and the garrison are a ready market for a whole range of traders, some honest and some not so.
Small Town: Alignment: TN, Population: 2,000, Mixed (80% human, 10% half-elven, 5% elven, 5% other). Authority figures: Bard Excellence Dumaras of Lirr (half-elven, female, bard/cleric)
Trading is a port and the only human friendly harbour on the straits. The architecture is heavily influenced by Elven styles and many of the human populace fool themselves by thinking there are fluent in the fey tongue. It was once a site of the last great battle in the west when the warrior cult of Vandria Gilmadrith, the Elven god of protection and law, saved the Western Isles from human conquest with their victory here.
Four times a year, at the equinoxes and solstices, there is a festival of music and the arts where bards, songsters and artists compete to be crowned ‘Lord of Love & Music’. This person ‘reigns’ till the next festival where they are one of the five judges and may not enter again till after a successor is crowned.
The Athenaeum of Haden
Village: Alignment: LG, Population: 850, Mixed (85% human, 10% halfling, 5% other). Authority figures: Sage-Lord Brisius Farseer (human, male, cleric-sage)
Haden is technically an independent settlement under the direct auspices of the Divine Emperor but in practical terms it co-operates fully with the Earldom of Aelfshaw. It is ruled by Sage-Lord Brisius, the latest of a long line of Sage-Lords from the time of Kaegor, who are entrusted with the preservation of knowledge. Haden is a prosperous large village based around the sprawling Manse of the Sages. Within the Manse the Sage-Lord and his staff strive to collect, catalogue and above all else protect knowledge. They acquire old texts copy them and send the original to the Divine Library at the Capital. The library is extensive and growing steadily over the years. It is meant to be funded by the Divine Emperor but his recent distractions mean that financial support has dried up. To cover this a limited number of extra copies of popular and fashionable books are produced and sold to wealthy nobles and merchants. Sage-Lord Brisius Farseer is also a senior figure in the Church of Rao, the greater god of knowledge, law, peace and reconciliation. There is a small temple to Rao at Haden and a larger market temple to the allied god Zilchus.
The Sage-Lord is a widower with three surviving sons. The eldest, B’Ernell, is set to follow his father and is already a major figure at the Athenaeum. The second son, C’Asimer is serving with the Divine Legions as is tradition while the third son, D’arcy, is a follower of Zilchus and Governor of Volingdorf in the Duchy of Everwatch.
Small Town: Alignment: NG, Population: 900, (98% halfling, 2% other). Authority figures: Banjax Piecast (halfling, male, mayor)
Just to the south of Haden is a thriving Halfling community called Grumbleroots that has placed itself under the protection of the Sage-Lord. The hobbits supply pipeweed to both the Sages at Haden and sell it through the temple-market too. It is off a high quality and valued through out Aelfshaw & beyond. The Halflings also had a more militaristic benefactor in Sir Argun who championed their cause over more mundane matters. He even slew a bullette that was feeding of the settlement and dispatched bandits from the woods. Now that he is Earl the halflings are much less concerned for their future safety.