Vinton: The StormlandsEdit
Vinton is an impoverished, storm-battered Crown which hugs hundreds of miles craggy Jaddess coastline. These are naturally troubled waters. Shallow, laced with reefs, sandbars, and skellegs battered by icy, frothy waters constantly white capped, rolling, and breaking. This Crown is narrow, perhaps, 15 leagues, or two days hard ride the saddle at its widest. This narrow coastal strip is backed abruptly by the Ravenspines in the North, the land of the mysterious Batua, the snowcapped mountains of Ghaltri to the east, land of the Dwarves, and Rainbow Canyon to the Southeast and the Great Ithsmus to the South. The coast is comprise of towering bluffs, which seem to hold the surging waters of the Jaddess at bay. Mist-soaked moorlands rise up from the coastal plateau, rolling toward the looming Ravenspires in the far-distant horizon. This is land of sparse settlement, that has seen great depopulation over recent generations, do to war, famine, and plague caused by the continual strife between the Alamastran Empire and the Kingdom of Balray across the waves. It is mainly populated by pastoralists, shepherds, swineherds, and the like. The Imperial Crown owns vast tracts of this land directly. Instead of giving it over to development, the High King has appoint foresters over much of this region and allowed the wilds to reclaim what once the plough had tamed. Some pasturage of the coastal plateau has been enclosed by the Imperial castellans of the Coastal Watch and developed a large ranching operations for cattle.
The ruler of this large domain is the Arch Duke of Lesse. This is an Imperial non-hereditary title reserved for members of the imperial family, often cousins, uncles, or brothers of the High King. The Arch Duke draws his title from a vast, dilapidating ruin of castle known as Lesse. This fortress was built by the ancient High Kings of Starcrest in a bygone era and for many years served as one of their primary residences before their removal to the Imperial City of Eishen further inland, deep within the Heartland of the Empire. The Arch Duke of Lesse is commissioned to command and maintain the Coastal Watch out of his Crown's endowment. The Coast Watch is a long series of beacons and holdfasts perched along the coastal bluffs, extending hundreds of miles to the south. It terminates at the Twin Pinnacle, and ancient seaside fortrest carved into two rock spires at the mouth of the Greath Ithsmus far to the south. These coastal defenses are built upon the ruins of a dilapidated and far more ancient coastal defense infrastructure from the Starcrest Dynasty. Each beacon or holdfast has an imperially appointed castellan commanding a small garrison of imperial troops. Many holdfasts, built within the wreckage of great seaside citadels, are encompassed by growing settlements, nuclear cities. All of these nuclear cities take their names from the nearby holdfast.
A great imperial highway known as the Ides Way is the vital transportation artery that connects all coastal settlements of Vinton together. The Coastal Watch is also charged maintaining this imperial trade artery that connects the great seaports of Ides in the North with Sandriff in the South. They are also charged with clearing it of all brigandry, and tolls in order to promote free and swift movement of goods, people, and troops.
Castle Lesse is famous for its shear size and grand architectural design, despite its dilapidating state. This is the most famous landmark within the Crown, as it is also the hope of the Bardic College. This is a unique and ancient institution founded during the Starcrest Dynasty and still is a cultural engine to the present day. The Bardic College is an institute were many schools of lore masters study and enrich their respective traditions. Each School of Lore organizes itself into a formal student-faculty union (based on a guild-like model) in order to promote and preserve its traditions. Some of the most prominent Schools of Lore include: Chansons, Troubadours, Minstrels, Bards, Heralds, Lorists, Druids, Poets, Brehons, Fillids, Satirists, Batuas, Shamen, Sachems, Historians, Philosophers, Theologians, among many other traditions. As a result, much of the Castle Lesse is consumed in lodging these Schools, their faculties, and students. The Bardic College is heavily intermeshed with the life of the Arch Duke's court. Because the Bardic College operates under an imperial charter from the most ancient of times, the Arch Duke is its official champion and protector. This is considered one of the most prestigious aspects of this Ducal Appointment. Apostates and Dissidents The Crown of Vinton, once a civilized gem in the crown of the Alamastran Empire, has been rent by decades of strife between Alamastra and the Kingdom of Balray. Settlement is only now returning, fortifications are slowly being rebuilt. The bands of marauders and Jeppri cavalry have largely been rounded up, drawn, and quartered. For this reason the land is at last fallen silent. But it has also began to turn to the wild. Around the time of the Great War, the schools of the Bardic College experience massive upheavals of internal strife as each aligned its loyalty with a different dynastic claim. Those supporting the claim of House Mair gained the upper hand, expelling those still loyal to House Starcrest. Those expelled founded their own rival institution, the Dissidents College, in the moorlands of Vinton. These Dissidents were known to the established Bardic College as the Apostates, for their split was not merely political, but largely ideological. Many thinkers, poets, and scholars with dissident views seized the moment of the upheavals to express their dissatisfaction with their native institution and the ingrained establishment and sought a more experimental and permitting climate. For a time, this meteoric moment of free thought and innovation flourished, but the threat of having a powerful center of resistance which bred mystics was more than the new High King of Mair was willing to tolerate. The High King dispatched a Baddarkian Free Company to the land to install a new Arch Duke of Lesse, activate the Border Guard, take possession of the Bardic College, and destroy the Apostates at the Dissidents College. The current Arch Duke of Lesse had been instrumental in handing both Vinton and the Bardic College to the House of Mair during the war, but had largely seen its power and realm ravaged during the war. The Arch Duke abdicated and fled to seek shelter among the Apostates, who seeing it had come to war appointed him as Protector of the College. The new Arch Duke, a loyal captain of the Mair claim during the war, prosecuted the war with vigor. The Bards College welcomed him into Castle Lesse, whence he reconfirmed its Imperial Charter on the ancient terms. The Border Guard answered his summons to muster at Castle Lesse, for those who were loyal to the Protector of the Dissidents had already defected to him. The Arch Duke then marched out against the rival College, found it abandoned and ordered it demolished. This began decades of guerrilla warfare between the Arch Duke and the Apostates. The Apostates seemed to fade into the mists of the moorlands and to magically appear to prey on the commercial arteries and settlements of Vinton. To this date there has not been a decisive confrontation between the two factions. The Apostates continue to resist the political dominance of the House of Mair and practice their dangerous, controversial, and experimental course of study. The Bards know that those who are expelled or runaway will readily find shelter with the Apostates. Things have quieted down of late, but the latent threat of a mage war still looms thick in the Crown of Vinton.