Concerning Tythan On the Geography of Tythan
(Wherein I give my name for the geographical features depicted on the Map
The mighty (and no doubt primeval) Forest which dominates the Western half of the realm has many names: King of all Forests, the Darkhold, the Crimson Reach, Father and Mother of Monsters and Obaq’s Hide* but the one most commonly used in Tythan is the Wildwood
(* An ancient local legend says that long ago, when the Gods divided Alacarn amongst themselves and chose their own little pied-a-terra which no other God might enter, Obaq slung down his hide – or his coat, that part depends on the tale-teller – claiming this portion of the World as his own private territory. Interestingly a Hide is the most common unit of land measurement in Tythan
Its own inhabitants (Trow and Valken for the most part, though a few foolish outlaws and particularly stubborn Free Folk have established settlements at the very edges of the Forest, few of which last very long thanks to the strange surfeit of twisted monsters who compose the remainder of it's inhabitants) refer to it as the Greatwood
The Valken (the most diverse assembly of kith-bands in Alacarn) utterly dominate the heart of the Greatwood and have largely pushed the Trow to the very fringes of the wood, where they often come into conflict with the open-country dwellers – and they generally lose. It should come as no surprise that not a few of the best knight commanders and the most battle-skilled Knights in Tythan come from those areas surrounding the Wildwood.
In more recent times, however, the Civil War has kept the local Knights busy elsewhere and the Trow have swelled in number, beginning to challenge the Beast-men for dominance in the northern part of the Forest from some secret citadel.
No sane being – and precious few lunatics - challenges the Valken in the South, however. There are few Valken outside the Greatwood (There are some in the aristocracy, but still vanishingly few) but inside they rule absolutely, the only potential threat to their power each other – for the Valken kith-bands (Basically related individuals grouped by their animal half) clash frequently in contests physical and political. They acknowledge no master and no authority save the alpha leaders of their own kith-bands – and one other.
When a mated pair of valken, who have produced living children and protected them to their majority, who have no blemish in mind or body, who have declared themselves willing to face trials of strength and wits and character then prove themselves able to pass these tests – then are they crowned King and Queen in the Woods. It is they who rule over the Valken of the Greatwood (So long as they continue to pass the tests levied upon them whenever called upon to do so by a quorum of their subjects).
While by no means a permanent presence in Valken politics (For there are few are those able to meet the measure and pass all the tests required of the King and Queen in the Woods, therefore decades or centuries may go by without seeing any willing candidates) when there is a King and Queen in the Woods petty quarrels are stopped and the Forest resounds with the death knell of their enemies, with the music and the gleeful laughter of their people.
Long has this music – and longer still the death-knell – sounded in the depths of the wood, for the present King and Queen in the Woods are strong and have been for many a decade. The rule of the Crow Queen and the Horned King has been glorious (and unusual, for this mated pair is a mixed marriage between a Raven-ken and a Stag-ken, unusual in the Wild lands).
They have reigned for almost a century in glory, passing all challenges and their fame has spread even to the outside of the Forest, to the ears and courts of the Tythan – which is even more unusual, for the Wildwood and the cleaved-land dwellers (So named for the clearing of the great trees from the land by axe for the plough and the cow – Which you may be certain has been prevented in the Wildwood with great and grisly force by the Valken) live in two separate worlds and seldom do they meet.
For the Valken of the Wildwood are not the ‘tamed’ ‘predictable’ Valken of other lands. Here the primal valken civilisation wanders the woods, home, temple, castle and larder to them. Unwise is the Lordly or common fellow of Tythan who enters the woods expecting a quiet time of the visit as ancient legend and grizzly report tell. A few of the Valken are sworn enemies to the outside world, destroying originating in that place who enter the woods to make a message – Fewer still are those beast-folk who share wit, wisdom and occasionally a bit of their hospitality with the outside-folk. Most Valken lie somewhere in between, but they are an ancient, fell, wilful and sometimes wise folk – they were intimately bound to the Ancient Fey and some ties to them remain in the wild hearts of the Wood-Kin.
Trespass on this territory at your own peril.
The smaller offshoot of this uncanny wood is the slightly more human-frequented Dragonking’s Forest
. Formerly the site of the lair of Abryss Dragon-King of the South, still preserved by the dread he evoked to this day, it is now used as the exclusive hunting preserve of the Kings of Tythan (Their biggest hunting lodge is actually built into the series of limestone caves which previously formed the Dragon’s lair - Though placed very, very far from those central chambers most frequented by the Black Terror).
Suicide by Poaching is, unsurprisingly, common in this area – though not so common as one might expect.
For although Bird and Beast practically swarm in this area few sentient beings wish to linger – The desolation of a dragon is an area no thinking being wishes to enter, even long after the creature's death, be it a year or a century that has passed. Even if the Earth itself has healed or a fair-sized and fair greenwood grown over the spot, the minds of human-folk and breeds akin do not lightly forget Dragon-terror.
The River which flows over the border with Amania I call the Roslin
(‘Rose Line’) river, but after it divides – Possibly after it flows by Crownheart, though I prefer to imagine the Royal Capital as sitting a little below the fork – I call its daughter streams The Twin Rose Rivers. The westernmost river (Deeper and far more navigable than its Eastern sister) I call the Blue Rose
, the Eastern (swifter-flowing and shallower, though there is otherwise little difference between the Twins) I call the White Rose
As a final note I prefer to believe that most of the coastline of the Kingdom is girt by steep cliffs or similarly rocky and treacherous barriers to access from the Twilight Sea, save at the Seamark (Of which more later) and at the mouths of the Twin Rose Rivers. On The Great Fiefs of Tythan
(Wherein I give my names for the various major geographical areas of Tythan and some ideas for the nature of their inhabitants)
The various Great Fiefs of Tythan are the domains of the Great Houses of the Land, those which hold the hereditary rank of Duke - not so much an aristocratic title as a particularly prestigious military rank with certain social privileges - and therefore have the potential to provide candidates for the Kingship should the present Royal Line fall into ruin. While noble families have come and gone over the centuries of the Kingdom’s history, the Great Fiefs have largely remained intact (though by no means static). The Crownhold
: Those lands between the Blue Rose River and the eastern Wildwood, south of the Amanian Border and North of the Blue Rose Delta are the Royal Domain, directly ruled by the King for the most part and firmly loyal to the Blue Rose Dynasty.
Though neighbouring Greenheart was fairer and more populous before the Civil War and is still more fertile, Crownhold is as fair and fertile as any other part of Tythan - and better it is the richest fief in Tythan as well as the most cosmopolitan (by the local standards of that Kingdom at least) largely due to Crownheart and the trade that passes up and down the Blue Rose River.
Given that the Eastern bank of that river has been laid waste by the Blue Rose Hosts and that the Western bank is largely intact - due in significant part to the fact that Lady A'Tarrington has been forced to fight on the defensive for the better part of the conflict, the Crownhold is (despite outrageous tariffs and tithes) looking at massively increased revenues, mostly flowing into the coffers of the Blue Rose Dynasty.
The Crownhold is, in addition, the heartland of the Kingdom's chivalric tradition - and correspondingly sees more than it's fair share of skirmishes and feuds thanks to the incessant lordly p******-contests.
Life goes on in the lands surrounding Crownheart as it has for the past millennium and more, you see: The monarchs drown in the blood of battles they have unleashed or their own decadence, the Knights War, The Clerics pray, the Free Folk do the dirty work and slaves do the even dirtier work. Heraldry
: The Heraldic designs of the Crownhold tend to be the most elaborate, detailed and formalised in the Kingdom, given its status as the Heartland of its heraldic tradition. Charges often suggest the luxuries brought in by trade or found in the Royal City of Crownhold, as well as symbols of the aforesaid chivalric tradtion. Many of the Noble Houses nearest Crownheart hold hereditary ranks in the Royal Household (Lance-Bearer, cup-holder, steward) and their sigils often incorporate some reference to this.
The symbol of the Crownhold remains as it has always been - the black dragon dreadful, crowned in gold, on a bifurcated field (red above and gold below). The Blue Rose Dynasty, presently the ruling House of the Crownlands, often scatters their namesake on the field.Greenheart
: Those lands between the Blue Rose and the White Rose*, North of the Twilight Sea, ruled by Lady A'Tarrington and the heartland of her strength, at present suffering from the ravages of the Blue Rose War.
(*Which, though difficult to navigate, can boast a small to middling-sized port at its mouth and a small amount of cross-river traffic
Formerly the fairest and most peaceful of the lordly domains of Tythan (Something many attribute to the relatively small number of knights and relatively large number of Free Folk here relative to the population) the green fields, orchards and clear streams between the Twin Rose Rivers kept it's inhabitants as well as much of the kingdom fat with their fruits. The largest part of the realm's population lived here and all counted themselves lucky to call the estates, holdfasts and strongholds of this beautiful country their Home- before the War.
Though not constant (The feudal armies of Tythan make campaigns as seasonal as the Harvest, few lords being able to afford keeping their levies away from their harvest for long, yet still regular as the rains) thirty years of War - many of them fought on the defensive - have ravaged the inhabitants, burned out the holdfasts and transformed the estates into wilderness or desolation.
The Blue Rose Dynasty and its allies have sought long and ardently to burn out her heartlands and thereby deprive her of her strongest support. The ensuing desolation bears mute witness to the fact that, despite courageous and repeatedly successful defence as well as increasingly monolithic fortification, they have not been entirely unsuccessful. . .Heraldry
: While no less splendid than that of the Crownhold, the Heraldry of the Greenheart Houses is generally simpler and their sigils often more rural or pastoral in nature - Farm animals, the fruits of field, river and holdfast as well as various famed landscape features or elements of the legends attached to them are common subjects, amongst others.
Widespread - though not universal - support for Lady A'Tarrington amongst Clerics of the Twelve has led to many of the more pious lords and knights have taken to adding godly symbols to their banners: The hand-and-hammer of Tyrus and the Golden Sun-Cross of Heton are common, though the Black Sword of Paalock is depressingly becoming so as well.
The sigil of the ruling House Fairhold is the Starry Gate of that city, white on a night-blue field. The Westwood March
: The lands West of the Wildwood, East of the Sea, South of the Amanian border and north of where the forest narrows, presently the most peaceful of the Great Fiefs of Tythan. For some reason its ruling lady (Duchess Maya A'Quenya) still seems bent on arming her levies with the latest Amanian thunder-arms.
One of the most isolated provinces of Amania the Westwood March has long been a somewhat unconventional by Tythan standards – local lords are more apt to fight on foot than horsed and some are even gauche enough to favour the peasant warrior’s crossbow over the more honourable blades!
This is unsurprising when one considers that until recently settlements in this area were islands in a Woodland sea and a lords grip on his Free Folk weaker than it might be (This area has been a centre for the Watchmen in Tythan for a long, long time) which meant an almost constant guerrilla war with hooded archers in the Wildwood – not to mention Trow, stranger monsters and the occasional valken wanderer.
In more recent years, as the lands have been cleared (cleaved, as the Woodfolk put it) this has been somewhat less true. The very isolation of this duchy has meant that it has taken little part in the Civil War and a reasonable cross-border trade with Amania has sprung up.
The furs, meat and most especially the lumber of the Wildwood have been sufficient to curb the appetites of the Free Republic and the profits from such transactions are the weapons and tools which allow the Trow denizens of the forest to be driven back ever further, perpetuating the cycle (Not to mention make it that much easier for Westwood inhabitants to protect themselves from their neighbours).
The only problem is that the steady advanced of the cleaved lands is about to brush against the largest concentration of Trow in all the Wildwood and victory is not so certain. The question occurs: Who will win this confrontation and can the plans of Duchess Maya survive a reverse?
(It is also interesting to note that until The War of Iron it was Tythan, not Winterweir that was the traditional rival of Amania, the two nations duelling for control of the Roslin River and the rich trade that flowed along it for the better part of the last millennium.
Given the recent political changes in Amania and the fact that Tythan is effectively all their political doctrine hates in a single manifestation, not to mention the isolation and relative tranquillity of this fief, one would expect the Westwood March to be busied with the rumours of War.
Instead Amania seems positively keen to sell Lady A’Quenya the weapons she needs to defend her duchy. This is, of course, deeply suspicious
: The heraldry of the Westwood March is strongly concerned with the inhabitants, flora and fauna of the woodlands, as well as the strongholds inevitable in any border march with a neighbour as hungry as Amania.
The Arms of the ruling House Greenmay depict the woodland giantess, reputed to be the foremother of the House and certainly the ruling Duchess’ namesake a green goddess dancing on a white field within an embattled border. Seamark
: The lands between the southernmost edge of the Wildwood and the Southern Coast of the kingdom, one of the few areas where that does not mean 'impassable cliffs' or 'lethally storm-wracked.' While it boasts no truly good anchorages or natural harbours, this long, stony shore still provides a reasonable base of operations for the coastal boats and small ships so vital to the region.
It is an interesting feature of life in Seamark that despite the closeness of the Wildwood – and the riches that can be won from it as proved by Westwood March – all the focus of this province is upon the sea and it’s sometimes meagre bounty.
This becomes unsurprising when one remembers that the eaves of the Wildwood are the domain of the Trow - as well as even more monstrous creatures - and that the Southern Greatwood is the heartland of the Valken. Few foolish enough to tread here without their leave survive for long, save in large and heavily armed parties (even then not all the members of those parties make it out alive . . .)
Yet the eaves of the Forest are not the exclusive domain of beasts and the beast-men. Lords and knights make take fiefs here and some even endure beyond a handful of generations. The more fortunate coastal fiefs are still a harsh place to live, the sea an often unkind master - and the need timber to build ships that provide their living and lifeline to the rest of the Kingdom is very great. So, on a memorable handful of occasions each year the Lords and commons of Seamark, Twilight Shore and Forest men unite to launch great expeditions into the Wildwood to harvest its red meat, furs and timber.
Always opposed by the Trow and often haunted by the Beast-Kin - who have no wish to see the people of the cleaved-lands intrude upon their territory - These expeditions are less a foraging trip than a guerrilla campaign.
Only the strong and the fearsome survive these and the Knights it produces are reckoned the fiercest in Tythan, their Knight-commanders the very best. To a very great degree it is the support of the Lords of Seamark and especially the Forest Lords (Some of them the descendents of exiled Beast-kin) that has allowed the Blue Rose dynasty to survive these past thirty years.
Though all inhabitants of Seamark save the Forest Lords focus their culture upon the sea, it is a mark of weight the Forest has upon the minds of all men in this are and a local peculiarity that while nearly all settlements hug the Twilight Shore, all holdfasts and strongholds are constructed with their defences facing the Wildwood, not the Sea.
Wave-borne monsters scare them less than the Lords and Ladies of the Wildwood.Heraldry
; The Twilight shore evidences an unusual and fairly distinct culture – With strong elements of certain Pacific Rim cultures wedded to the more generally prevailing Dark Age aesthetic of Tythan (I’m thinking of the Haida tribe of the First Nations for one and Early or Pre-Samurai Japan for another).
The heraldry of the land reflects this, with the strong maritime elements of the local Noble Houses depicted in an abstract and almost minimalist style all they’re own.
However those families nearest the Wildwood and most intimately connected with that forest favour symbols that have a brutal and often disturbing cast to them – The often savage character of life on the Forest Eaves and it’s inhabitants (As well as the generally warlike nature of the Tythan) reflected in local symbolism.
The local ruling House Bastion shows the Great Waters of the Twilight Sea, dusky and almost purple-blue and foam white on their shield, with a Crimson castle and an embattled border in a similar shade of Red.The Range
: The open country between the White Rose River and the Horse-lands of Thur, harsher and drier than the rest of the Kingdom, half-wild lands home to cattle-barons, horse-trader and knights proud of their freedoms and prouder still of the great horses they breed, renowned for their quality even amongst the neighbouring Horse-lords of Thur.
In some ways closer to their uncivilised neighbours and commonly regarded as wild and uncouth by much of the rest of the Kingdom, it is true that - given the porous nature of this border and the nomadic nature of their neighbours - a significant portion of this fiefs population is drawn from tribesmen of Thur who decided to settle in this province and bend the knee to it’s Lord and themselves became lords and knights of Tythan in turn.
Despite their retention a semi-nomadic lifestyle, frequent cross-border raids for cattle, horses (not to mention expeditions for potential spouses, some of them even peaceful) as well as a proudly independent attitude the Civilised Tribes of the Range remain proud to be a part of Tythan. An outsider is also wise to note that the closer to the White Rose River one goes, the closer the lifestyle of its inhabitants resembles that of the rest of the Kingdom.
The Lords of the Range fought for the Blue Rose Dynasty during the early part of the War, ignorant of truth in claims of their fecklessness and sin due to the sheer distance between the two allies.
It was in great part due to the quicksilver horsemen of the Range that the Blue Rose survived the first seasons of War and the recent decision of the Horse-Tamers to go their own way after the death of their Lord hurt the cause of the Blue Rose more than most realise. Heraldry
: In the range design tends to be simple but bold, with a relatively small range of colours well-used craft designs reflecting the herds that wander the land, the warriors that make it their home, the stars that shine above it and the spirits that ward it.
The symbol of the ruling House Wildman is a primal figure, half man, half horse and rampant in both sense of the word (Two-legged and not a centaur). On Courtesies and Forms of Address in Tythan
The nobility of Tythan are fond of a stately and slightly archaic style of address (Many would call it snooty) much enamoured of “Thee” “Thou” and “Forasmuch.”
Those nobles who do not address their peers so, in addition to the use of the most elaborate courtly etiquette and courtesies in all Alacarn risk a personal challenge at best and a family feud at worst – though a growing minority consider it exciting and fashionable to dispense with these formalities, leading to many an equally new and exciting bloodshed.
(Small allowances are made on the battlefield. Many of the Free Folk claim this explains the nobility’s love of War: They’re trying to escape all that frustrating wordplay and get to the fun part. Others claim this linguistic style was specifically developed to allow a noble to take offence from anything his fellows say.)
The Free Folk and slaves are a great deal less . . . florid in their address, but just as colourful (Especially when the ‘Nobs’ don’t seem to be listening).
The specifics of address are complicated, but boil down to this: Knights are always addressed as Ser, including those knights that hold lands in their own right (though such landholders have ‘Knight of Domain Name’ added when formally announced by a herald).
Most lords are simply that – A Lord. They are titled ‘Lord of Domain Name’ (though many noble houses have additional sobriquets and titles that have become hereditary, if often honorific rather than legal) and addressed by their sworn swords and bannermen as ‘My Lord’ – and by their peers as ‘My Lord of Domain Name’ or simply by their House Name.
(Note: All nobles of Tythan are members of a Noble House. Their full names are formally rendered thus: Lady Merlyn A’Tarrington of House Fairhold.
It should also be noted that a Knight and a Lord are distinct ranks – many lords are also knights, but a lord is not necessarily a knight. They are all trained to become such, but not all keep up the training or bother to earn the title.)
The Ruling Monarch is addressed as “Your Majesty” their consort and their heir as “Your Highness” and their other offspring by the ranks bestowed upon them.
There are two additional noble ranks that are not technically hereditary, but have become so in many cases by long association with a certain family.
Duke is a military title, formally bestowed upon a Lord whose duty it then becomes to prepare and direct the defence of a specific fief and who will command the levies of that province in battle. Dukes are addressed as “Your Magnificence” and answer to no-one (except, occasionally, the Crown).
Count is a title that carries with it the privilege of being a direct vassal of the Crown and answerable to no other feudal superior. Counts are addressed as “Your Grace” since they rule by the grace of the King – or Queen.
Clerics are generically referred to as “character name Blessed Servant of God’s Name”
Free Folk are expected to address their social superiors as ‘Sire.’ They are referred to by the polite amongst the aristocracy as ‘Goodfellow’ and by the impolite as “Hey you!” or “You there!”
Slaves address their social superiors simply as ‘Master.’ Most refer to them as they please (Though some prefer caution. Even a slave can fight back, after all).
In Tythan the only officially supported cults are those of Great Threesome – Heton, Sybus and Tyrus (Largely because they are the only ones the aristocracy tend to bestow their beneficence upon).
The other Gods of the Twelve are generally depicted as the vassals or servants of these three and their cults tend to be mendicant, perpetuated more by local folklore than by strict dogma.
Founder of H.E.R.O.I.C, Complimenter-in-Chief, Co-Arch Henchman to the Grin, Servant of the Hoff!
Rule Brittania! Praise the Hoff and the Grin!
Warning!: May cause Thread Drift.