The Free Midland Duchies
Located within the lands between Heidelgard and Serroya is the eclectic mix of Freetowns, Duchies and varied settlements known collectively as the Free Midland Duchies. Whilst the Duchies and the various settlements have existed for hundreds of years in one form or another, they have become formalised in the Treaty of Cartosain, signed 40 years previously by representatives of the various settlements and also by Heidelgard and Serroya, who also act as guarantors for the treaty. The treaty recognises that the various signatories are all independent with a right to their own government and whilst they may war upon one another and trade with whomever they wish, they shall not be bullied or subjects of aggression by either of their big neighbours; that being said, they also accept that they shall not drag their 2 big neighbours into disputes or make military requests of them, thus causing destabilising situations to spiral.
The Duchies have often been the site of battles and wars between Heidelgard and Serroya, the last was about 46 years ago, and the 6 years between the start of the War of the 3 Barons and the signing of the treaty that ended it were full of furious politicking and intrigue to get the document signed, for neither Heidelgard nor Serroya were in any mood to be embroiled in more costly conflict.
As regards terrain, a pleasant mix of hills, valleys, fields and forest make up most of the topography, and many fine wines and alcohols originate and are made in these lands. At last count, there were 5 recognised Duchies, 2 Principalities and 12 Freetowns (a misnomer, given that a free town is a citystate with land in of itself) as independent nations, though there are also numerous small towns and villages that change hands frequently or maintain their freedoms by treaty and guile. It is a locale that is vibrant and often exciting, and a popular place for mercenaries and adventurers of all kinds to go to, as there always seems to be a war or petty dispute underway, and whatever else the Free Duchies are, they are not poor, given the trade between their great neighbours. Below are 3 examples of independent states within the Free Midland Duchies.
The Duchy of Marquesburg
Bordered directly with Heidelgard, 350 years ago this duchy was a part of Heidelgard but became an independent duchy as part of a succession struggle between Prince Rutger and his twin sister Anna. The comparatively peaceable resolution was her being given a Duchy and independence from Heidelgard, and his achieving the crown and so the succession. Since then, her descendants have ruled a prosperous and proud land, historically known as a great manufacturer of several kinds of popular cheese and also delicious pastries and confections. Things became more complicated in 363 AC when miners digging deep made a strike that made the duchy suddenly more appealing as trade partner and sadly subject territory; mithral.
Other than a small mine in Serroya there were no mithral mines at all in Accitaine up until this point, and the strike immediately prompted Serroya to try and take the duchy, their justification being that the mithral vein was a continuation of their own (a highly spurious claim indeed). It didn’t help that a number of other small nations and realms made attempts to claim Marquesburg, the end result being a general struggle and war that came to be known as The Mithral Wars (unsurprisingly).This lasted for about 8 years, during which time Heidelgard stood staunchly by the terms of their agreement with Duchess Anna’s heirs and helped defend the Duchy against the predations of other lands. The war ended when all the warring factions had fought themselves to a standstill, and when Serroya actually found sizeable gold deposits in the borders of the Saaltz Mountains, they agreed to peace (the war was costly and drained coffers alarmingly).
Heidelgard did rather well out of this all, looking like the brave and staunch friend to their small ally, and was better able to weather the fiscal drop by their growing trade ties to Cantabrius and other maritime powers.
The political capital of Marquesburg is the picturesque walled castle of Annaheert, situated on a good sized hill with a great outlook of the surrounding valley. It has a small city of about 5000 people around its base and along the valley floor, down which the River Aarden flows. Small villages and little towns dot the landscape of the Duchy, and fields of dairy cattle and wheat are much in evidence. Smallholdings and farms make up the rest of the populace, bringing the duchy up to about 45000 people all told, ruled by the current ruler, Duchess Anna the 15th, a vivacious and benevolent ruler who is much beloved of her subjects.
Militarily it has a small standing army of about 2000, larger than almost all other Free Duchy realms save Rigeurca, their greatest rival and enemy. Marquesburgs burgundy uniformed soldiers are a splendid sight, and all are equipped in modern firearm style. 350 of them are the Mounted Infantry Dragoons, and 150 form the small artillery and engineer corps. They even have 2 airships to aid in defence.
Culturally most of the citizens speak Heitzen as their first language and have a lot of time for their westerly neighbours, but they are less fond of Serroyans and have a deep mistrust if not outright loathing of the Principality of Rigeurca, their ancient enemies during the Mithral Wars and since.
Annaheert stats are as follows; Government type is Autocracy, Alignment is Neutral Good, Settlement qualities are Prosperous, Strategic Location, Rare Resource.
Corruption=1, Economy=1, Lore=2.
The Principality of Rigeurca
Rigeurca (pronounced Rig-or-sa) is a Principality on the western border of Serroya, located in the hilly Savosca, an area of forests and low hills. It has been a long time ally and friend to Serroya, though there have been times where Serroya has become exasperated with the militarism and belligerence of its smaller neighbour; currently is such a time. Rigeurca is regarded in the Free Midland Duchies as a provocative and aggressive land, and as the largest in the Duchies, it likes to throw its weight about, militarily, culturally and economically. The first 2 have had more success than the latter of late, as the iron mines that have benefited the Principality for hundreds of years have started to yield less and less bounty over recent years, and the fears are that when it runs out, times will become hard for other vulnerable nations as well as Rigeurca.
Currently ruled (officially) by the young and spoiled Princess Alicianna the 6th, she spends much of her time enjoying all that Tonnalta has to offer, infrequently returning to her native land when unavoidable duty rears its unwanted head. In her absence her Prime Minister, Marquis Roqualle de Isalceur, rules as her regent. Whilst she is disliked for being an absent ruler ruled by vanity, self indulgence and matters of whim, he is feared as the hard and implacable tyrant who keeps Rigeurca working.
Rigeurca is the name of the capital as well as the Principality, and has a population of about 13000. The surrounding lands have about 80000 people, mostly a toiling peasantry who pay high taxes, with a landed aristocracy and gentry ruling them. Most middle class and merchants live as close to the capital as possible.
Main industry is the iron mines, along with some decent vineyards and its acting as Serroyas main trade route into the Midland Duchies and on towards Heidelgard. Some people also suspect that Serroya also secretly bankrolls the land, likely to have a catspaw within the Duchies; this would be against the spirit if not the letter of the law of the Treaty of Cartosain, but nothing has ever been proved.
Militarily it is the most powerful of the states within the Duchies, having a standing army of about 5000, though after the model of their Serroyan neighbours, their nobles are happy to impress common peasantry when needed. The army is about 3000 infantry, 1500 heavy and light cavalry and a 500 strong artillery corp. They tend towards greys and blues in their uniforms. They have as yet no Airships, as the cadre of nobles within bizarrely feel the things are a fad and not value for money.
They cleave heavily to Serroya regarding culture and economy, and they have warred and occasionally subjugated their neighbours when necessity is required, making their weaker neighbours pay dues and tribute after some struggle or other. They hate and are hated by the Duchy of Marquesburg, the former for their jealousy over the mithral mines and their not achieving them, the latter for their aggressive ways.
The stats for Rigeurca City are as follows;
Government type is Overlord (the Princess and the Marquis), Alignment is Lawful Evil, Settlement Quality is Stategic Location.
Corruption=0, Economy=5, Lore=0
A Freetown near the border of Heidelgard, this is one of the smaller Freetowns, number an urban population of about 1600, and a rural one of about 13000. Hilltop is based around the town of the same name, a walled town on top of a hill with a good view of the lower land around, hence the name. It has been a free settlement for about 90 years, and is ruled by a council of prominent citizens elected every 3 years. It has decent farmland around it, and also extensive forest and woodland, especially along its borders with Heidelgard. Its fair natural resources allow it to subsist with a good chance of avoiding famine, and its modest location means that it gets a little trade from smaller merchants who travel the byways of the world to avoid higher road tolls and taxes.
It has a small army called the Company of Defenders, numbering about 250 light cavalry and 500 Infantry, with the cavalry using light crossbows, lances and swords, and the infantry using heavy crossbows, sword and buckler. They are regarded very much as a civil defence force, and have not traditionally fared well against more modern armed foes, such as in the War of the 3 Barons.
As a people the Hilltop folk have been superstitious as the forests and roughlands of their locale have many legends dating back centuries of monsters, ghosts and suchlike, and this has led to them being quite supportive of one another but wary of being outside in the country after dark. Probably stuff and nonsense, but that’s rustic folks for you.
Stats are as follows; Government type is Council, Alignment is Neutral, Settlement Qualities is Superstitious.