People of the Lairdlands
The common populace of the Lairdlands are stoic and peaceable people. They are more interested in raising their young, their crops, and their livestock, smoking tobacco, making beer, wine and cheese. Most average about six feet in height and 200 pounds, with femmes being proportionately smaller and lighter. Brown hair and brown eyes, and pale to medium complexions are the norm, with most men going grey or bald by their 40s, and women going grey by their 50s. A typical Lairdlander family has 2D4 children, with another 1D6 extended family members under the roof.
The Lairdland is composed of 13 Lairdships, called counties in the archaic noble style. The 13 Laird who rule these domains select one of their own to serve as the Grand Laird, but this is only done when the Lairdlands are involved in significant war.
The largest and most expensive of the counties, this is a region primarily composed of farmland with little in the way of woodlands or hills. The once capital of the Lairdlands is in Dandaris and serves as the seat of the Laird’s council. Tradition has prevented the Lairds from breaking up Dandaris into two or more lairdships.
Renowned for it’s many dairies and cheese makers, Calobit has a sizable population, ample orchards, and a good deal of farmland. It is a trade junction for the Lairdlands and most trade moving in or out of the region pass through this county. As such, Calobit has seen the most foreign raids, and has the most up to date defences.
Predominated by forested land and lakes, Ardanun is a sparsely populated county of forestals and woodland folk. Archery is the regional pastime, and lumber is the primary export from the county.
The military nexus of the Lairdlands, Warolding houses the mercenary guilds that do the Lairdland’s open warfare. These soldiers are recruited by the mercenary guild, which is then by law hired by the lairds. The acts of Feck ensured that none of the Lairds would be able to raise a house army as the nobles had, and thus made the Mercenary guild the only way to get soldiers who were not household gaurd. The region is roughly split between farming and ranching cattle and horses.
Perenir is the roughest of the counties, with the closest things to mountains in the Lairdlands. The region has little farmland, but raises sheep and goats and has several major mining villages. Aside from wool and iron, the lairds of Perenir are known for their hawking skills and the grey winged raptors they keep.
One of the middle counties, Aldess is requently overlooked, perhaps most often due to it’s diversity. It has no mostly, or most, instead being involves in a bit of everything. If there was a category for bridesmaid never a bride, Aldess would fall into it.
Vesenth is much like Aldess county, but has a minor distinction in having regular flashfires that roll across the hills in the late spring and early summer. As such, Vesenth tends to have either easily replaced structures, or fireproof stonework. During the burning season it is said that the smoke would cure a ham hung from a porch peg.
Sitting on the dea, Essing is the Lairdland’s main port. It suffers from having a poor harbor and the river draining into the sea is only navigable for a mile or so upriver before becoming impassable to ships. Essing is affluent, but its poor geography prevents it from becoming a major port. Essing is known for smoked fish, woodworking, and relics from the sea.
A hoary old county, Sighroth once was a seat of a sorcerous noble and his enslaved cabal of magi. The region is alive with magical energy and is fraught with superstition, boggles and bogies, and near obsessive-compulsive ritual behavior to ward off evil, prayers, and the like. Most Lairdlanders considers Sighroth folk to be backwards.
Another coastal county, Endev has no harborage and only sports nominal coastal fishing villages along it’s rough and rocky shore. Endov is known for frequent festivals, painters, and the quality of it’s musicians. There is also a common theme of eloping lovers to flee to Endev to live by the sea.
The last of the coastal counties, Cerdenpol has a good harbor, sheltered from the sea and easily defendable from the land. This has largely been a detriment to Cerdenpol as a whole, as it is one of the most contested counties, both by rival lairds, and by outsiders. Orcs have been fought for generations, as have ogre raiders, rival nations, and others have sought to claim the region. The constant damage to the city have prevented major progress to be made in establishing the central township as a shipping hub. Few guilds will invest in a township that is pillaged or burned every few decades.
Belitin is a central county, dominated by agriculture. It’s main exports are flour and beer, and Belitin bread, which is made of beer, flour and quail eggs. Butted against mountains and forested Ardanun, Belitin is considered the Lairdland’s backyard.
The smallest of the counties, Zapholas is also the poorest. The terrain is harsh and the soil takes alot of work to coax grain from it. The county is still ruled by a Lord, a holdover from the old nobility. As such, the Lord of Zapholas only serves as a tie-breaker and normally does not have a vote. Zapholas is considered neutral territory, and the various guilds and religious orders maintain alms houses and charity missions in the county.
The Lairdlands exist in greater interest in the past than they do in the present. The Lairdlands of today are a peaceful seaming region of dairies, sprawling farmlands, and pastures of horses and cattle in the sunlight. The Lairdlands of the past was rife with violence and nearly three generations of constant warfare. Most of the warfare was based off of noble claims to leadership and contests between their bastard children and blackguard generals. As such, cities were walled in, and villages were rare, unless they were close to a fortress or natural defence.
The generations of war ended with the victory of the mercenary general Haephas Feck. Feck lead a major army element in toppling a usurper prince, and once this was complete he turned on his employer. While some consider this an act of betrayal, historians say it was inevitable as Feck’s payment for services rendered was unpayable by his patron prince. As before, the prince was routed and hung from his own castle walls. The nobility in large was removed, mostly by their own subjects rising against them, assassins, or in a few cases military action.
The peace that followed came with the establishment of the Laird system. Each Laird functions like a lord, but his position is not hereditary, and cannot be passed on to any of his offspring. Instead, when a laird dies, his successor has to literally purchase his father’s land. If he cannot, it goes to the prospective laird who can pay. In this manner, prosperous Lairds could excel, setting aside trusts for their progeny to purchase their lands upon their death. Those that engaged in constant warfare tended to be less financially secure, and thus tended to not pass their titles onto their young.
Underneath the peaceful facade of the Lairdlands, there is generally a constant shadow war. This war is not fought with swords and soldiers, but with gold, rates of exchange, and guild manipulation. Defeating an enemy generally requires a process of devaluing their lairdship, draining their coffers, and then eliminating the existing laird, usually by assassination or declaration of a duel. Military action can be used to devalue land and eliminate a rival but unless it is very short, the other Lairds are honor bound to defend the besieged laird. Warfare is frowned upon in the Lairdlands.
The Laird’s Challenge
At any time, one laird may challenge another to combat to the death. Elder lairds often appoint champions, as do female lairds, and if their champion is defeated, they step down without a word. Those that fail to do so are generally executed by their own people. Most such challenges come from economic duels, ala the coup-de-grace, or a reprisal against an aggresive rival, or from seriously impugning a laird’s honor.
War without Honor or Glory
The folk of Lairdlands have long memories and as such have little taste for the small and petty wars of the nobles. This is one of the reasons that Feck’s laird system has worked passably well. A few outsiders have made the mistake of tihnking that this lack of violence in the Lairdlands makes the locals soft and easy targets. When attacked, the Lairds are duty bound to assist each other and defend the Lairdlands as a whole. During this time of warfare, a Laird may raise militias and the Mercenary guild is put afield in force.
While not armed with exotic weapons or mounts, the Lairdlanders are among the most brutal and vicious of soldiers when they fight to defend their own or afield. It is said that nothing angers a man like being away from his hearth and wife, and Lairdlanders fight hard and fast because they want to go back home and cant until their enemies are defeated or dead.
The Cerdenpol Reprisal
Some years ago, an orcish horde threatened Cerdenpol. Drawing militias from the surrounding counties and mustering almost half of the Mercenary guild, the Laird of Cerdenpol lead a dragonnade against the orcs. The orcs, normally gleeful for battle found no honor or glory fighting the Lairdlanders. Instead they found their warriors captured and executed, captives impaled and left by the side of the road. Instead of soft prey, the orcs cound the iron hard core of the Lairdlanders and instead of begging for mercy or bribes, they fought without mercy or honor. Facing heavy losses, the orcs retreated for easier picking to the east.
Discipline and Steel
The mistake that most invaders and raiders who attack the Lairdlands make is that they assume that because the region is peaceful, that it is peacable. There was a reason that the Noble’s wars lasted three generations, Lairdlanders know how to fight, and they are good at it. Outsiders also assume that farmer means weakness, it takes alot of labor, and tools to turn the soil. The men and women who do so are not milk-skinned fops, but instead are lean and hard from working in the sun, and their tools can become weapons. Plowshares are turned to swords, and the barrel maker and the cartwright turn to making shields.
At the core is discipline. This is almost instinctive, as proper behavior is a strong local tradition, instilled from childhood. Elders are to be obeyed, often without question. Authorities have their authority by the consent of the community. Discipline is easy to overlook in modern terms where television, pills, and time out mister! have replaced actually parenting and corporal punishment. Later in life, this means that these folk don’t break ranks in battle, they stand and fight shoulder to shoulder with their kith and kin.
Notes on the Lairdlands
The Lairdlands are the starting point of most adventures, much like the Shire in Lord of the Rings. It shares several similarities in being predominantly agricultural in focus, as well as being peaceful. This is where the similarity ends, while the Shire was untouched by outside concerns until Saruman invaded, the Lairdlands have been eyeballs deep in war for generations and only recently, less than a century, cast off the incessant fighting of the nobles. The people of the Lairdlands are outwardly simply folk, but are quite intelligent and when roused have an impressive streak of vengeance.