Vintermor

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Vintermor, officially The Kingdom of Vintermor, is a relatively large country and formerly one of the member-states of the Taldaran Empire. Vintermor maintains no extranational possessions of its own and has traditionally preferred isolationism over an active form of external policy. Vintermor is shaped in a rough crescent, running west to northeast, some four hundred eighty-miles long. At either end, the nation is approximately two hundred miles wide, thickening in the central regions to measure just over two hundred eighty miles from the southern edges of Duchy Stanclyf to the Mistwalls north of Helgegard Pass in the Royal Counties of Duchy Sturmgaard. The nation is bounded directly on three sides by the Mists, and centered around the Vimirthond Fjord, a deep, narrow inlet that flow east from the Valtamerine Ocean beyond the Shelter Isles, over four hundred fifty miles inland, to end at it’s furthest point in the narrow mountain gorges between Duchy Haelgrim and the Dwarven Nation of Maeldring. Of particular note, however, is that while paths through the Mists exist in other lands, destinations cannot be reliably reached without the use of Mistwards, as ships and travelers become lost, or emerge in places far from their intended destination. In Vintermor, that does not seem to be the case. Instead, the connection between the sea beyond the mouth of the Vimirthond fjord and the Valtamerine Ocean near the Melorian coast is stable, and relatively safe. (Nothing is ever truly safe in the Mists, after all.) However, Taldaran ships still make use of their Mistwards, just in case. Vintermor is a land of greatly varying landscapes, but possesses a uniformly cold climate. From the lowland region of Duchy Brimlad to the high steppe plateau of Stanclyf, the summers are short and mild, while the winters are long, harsh, and often brutal. Much of Sturmgaard’s mountainous reaches have snow year-round, and the growing season in the nation is only truly suited to crops in the relative warmth of Worrill’s narrow band of sheltered valleys, fed and nurtured by natural hot-springs. Politically, Vintermor is ruled by a feudal monarchic system, whereby the overall head of state is the King, and authority over the populace passes from the Crown to a set of powerful nobles called Eorls, each of whom rules over one of the five Duchies of the nation. (This inconsistency, Eorls ruling duchies instead of Dukes, stems from the mixture of Taldaran notation (Duchy) with traditional Vintermori terms for their leaders (Eorls) and is a product of the historical interaction between the Empire and the local region.) Beneath the Eorls are lesser nobles enfeoffed as Barons and Thanes, and at each level the nobility maintains both direct control of ‘personal’ lands and the skeletal structure of a potential military through landed and unlanded knights. Economically, Vintermor’s strength lies in the means to make war, which is somewhat ironic for a nation with no standing army of its own. The nation’s primary exports are ores and gems either mined in Sturmgaard or being sold for the dwarves of Maeldring, lumber felled in Sturmgaard and the fjordshore of Haelgrim and Stanclyf, and horses, both members of the many local breeds raised in Stanclyf, or a rarer breed from Sturmgaard rumored to be bred from Dire Horses. The nation does not often import much other than luxury goods, though produce from Meloria is not unknown in the kauppatori (markets) of Vintermor.


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Land and Resources

Vintermor covers an area of approximately 102,575 sq mi., including interior lakes and waterways. The nation includes the two Shelter Isles that form a natural breakwater between the mouth of the Vimirthond fjord and the rougher, open waters of the Valtamerine Ocean. At its longest point, Vintermor measures 483 miles east to west, and a maximum length of about 300 miles from north to south. The country occupies almost the entirety of a relatively small pocket of land surrounded by The Mists, sharing the immediate region with the bandits of Forstgall and the dwarven kingdom of Maeldring.

Natural Regions

Vintermor has four distinct regions characterized by differing types of terrain – lowland plains, sheltered valleys, plateau highlands, and high, jagged mountains. The vast majority of the interior of the country is over 1000 ft above sea-level, with the highest mountains located along the northern edge of the nation, and down a central ridge in the southeast. The western lowlands lie along the coast of the Valtamerine, and stretch inland along the Vimirthond for nearly a hundred miles along the southern shore and comprises the majority of the land in duchy Brimlad. These lowlands are, by virtue of the surrounding waters, slightly milder than much of the nation, but do not support much beyond subsistence agriculture or grazing, at most. The seacoast itself has a number of treacherous semi-frozen peat bogs, where seemingly stable ice can often give way and leave its victim to the mercy of the briny, freezing waters below. The southernmost section of the Brimlad Coast curves northward again as it stretches westward to Blackmist Point, forming a sizeable peninsula covered by the densely-forested expanse known as the Shadewood. Moving east, this broad, but cold expanse rises into the lower of Vintermor’s two northsouth mountain ridges, the Modstrife Peaks. Behind the Modstrife, the land falls away into a series of lesser ridges and sheltered valleys, with many of the more northern valleys warmed by the hot springs that pepper north-central Worrill. This region, including the area known as The Six Leagues, comprises the majority of Vintermor’s significant agriculture, and provides much of the revenues for House Faebjorn. These valleys and lesser ridges give way, in turn, to the steep ridge of the Kivispine, forming much of the border between duchies Worrill and Stanclyf. Beyond the Kivispine, duchy Stanclyf sits upon a broad plateau, slowly rising as it moves eastward into the Mists. Harsh and unforgiving, this plateau is nevertheless dotted by a small number of natural hot springs, and provides enough grazing land for larger animals. At the northern end of the Kivispine, the ridge is cut deeply by the Anirthond fjord as it branches off of the Vimirthond. Between the arms of the fjords, the land is a rolling lowland, though it swiftly rises up to the level of the plateau as it moves away from the meeting of the waters. As the plateau reaches the Mists along its southern reaches, it becomes enshrouded by the second of Vintermor’s densely wooded regions, Mistguard Forest. The forest extends in some places out as far as ten miles from the Mists, though some reports indicate that within the wood itself, the position of the Mist-edge often moves. North of the Vimirthond, the terrain is far less forgiving. The northern coast of the Valtamerine is a jagged series of high cliffs and narrow inlets, save for the more expansive harbor of Derring Sound, and the port village of Soundhollow, just outside the city of Derring. Moving east along the Vimirthond, the landscape is similarly hard and jagged, with rocky slopes backing up onto high, wind-blasted taiga. This lightlywooded steppe, and the intimidatingly high peaks and everpresent glacial masses above it, continues eastward the length of the duchy, with only a brief narrowing to allow for the gentler inclines and hills near where the Anarthond fjord branches off from the main inlet, turning northward in a jagged cut just as the Vimirthond passes the capital city, Vintermor. These jagged, treacherous peaks that form the northern border of the region are known as the Mistwall. The peaks grow higher as the steppe moves past the highest point in Vintermor, Mount Thorvald (15,140 ft) and the northern half of the Kivispine ridge, called ‘Talvi’s Teeth’, then lower again slowly around Ulfvig Lake in duchy Haelgrim, and on into the third of Vintermor’s great forests, an area named only ‘The Trackless Woods’. The wood extends some sixty miles northeast, but travelers tales insist that once within, a man can travel hundreds of miles in a straight line without ever coming near the edge of the wood. Some tales go farther, and insist the Wood itself contains a hidden gateway to another land, a place as warm as Vintermor is cold, where a man can die merely from wearing too heavy a cloak. The truth of such rumors is unknown.

Waterways

Vintermor has one primary water-system, the Vimirthond fjord. The Vimirthond reaches over four-hundred miles into the northern interior before ending in the narrow chasms between duchy Haelgrim and the dwarven lands of Maeldring. In the north, the only lake of any significant magnitude is Ulfvig Lake in Haelgrim, with the city of Hearg on the northeastern shore, and providing the easiest major landmark along the trade road from Hearg to Vintemor. In the south, what is called ‘The Bandit’s Fjord’ severs the country from the region of Forstgall, issuing from and then returning into the Mists. The very water itself is said to be haunted by the insane denizens of the Mists, and few will brave its dangers to hunt the bandits beyond, By day and in large groups, however, most will speak with confidence that such tales are planted by the bandits themselves. At its furthest point, the Bandit’s Fjord extends some hundred and fifty miles long, and draws near the city of Gothrel, in south-central Stanclyf. Farther east, the Mistwater issues from the eaves of the Mistguard Forest, a black lake that is nonetheless teeming with enough fish to support local settlements. In the southwest, near the edge of the Mists in Brimlad, a series of long, relatively shallow lakes provide fresh water to the immediate region, as well as affording some small amount of fishing.

Plant and Animal Life

Vintermor is largely a forested country, with mixed forests of oak, ash, elm, and yew, standing mingled in with pine, fir, and other coniferous trees. Large animals such as deer, elk, caribou/reindeer and even dire (wooly) rhinoceri are common, as are snow hares, arctic foxes, wolves, badgers, and other hardy, thick-furred animals. Other species that thrive in the cold range from fairly common, such as winter wolves and Icedrakes, to rare, but not unheard of, as in the case of remorhaz, frost wyrms, cryohydrae, and even white dragons. In addition, the lowland areas and the three great forests provide dangers of their own. In the Mistguard Forest, strangely changed treants have been reported, and the Trackless Wood is rumored to have an infestation of a bizarre form of basilisk that creates its own heat. The most disturbing and possibly dangerous creature of legend, however, is the black wyrm Fallondrix, rumored to hunt the length and breadth of the Shadewood, and whose ability to foul the very water itself is claimed to be the source of the name of Blackmist Bay. The wyrm is said to lair beneath the bay, in the marsh at the very edge of the forest.

Natural Resources

Vintermor provides an abundance of several natural resources, including wood, iron and other ores, gems, and some supplies of coal (used to produce steel). As well, the country’s wooded steppe and deep forests provide an array of furs that are often considered ‘exotic’ in warmer climes (such as winter wolf or dire rhino). The fjord system provides abundant fishing, and the deep waters allow even large cargo shipping to penetrate far into the interior.

Climate

Vintermor has a harsh, subarctic climate, characterized by mild summers and harsh, deadly winters. South of the Vimirthond fjord, the weather is slightly warmer, but still remains a cold, unforgiving land in most places. The growing season is short, outside of the sheltered valleys of Worrill’s hot spring belt, and snowfall in an average year is very heavy, as the moisture-laden air off the sea gets trapped amongst the mountains.

People and Culture

Vintermor’s population is largely stable, though the influx of people that comes with imperial trade has helped the country continue to grow. Regular censuses are not taken, however, and so it is impossible to know exactly what sort of growth and average family size is at work in the nation. The majority of the populace is rural, living in small communities surrounding the larger cities, or small fishing villages along the fjord.

Racial Makeup

Racially, Vintermor is predominantly human, with dwarven families and tradesmen most common in Haelgrim and eastern Sturmgaard, including a concentration of dwarvish citizens in an old, well-established delve beneath the capital itself. Elves of various type are distributed around the nation fairly evenly, overall, with higher concentrations of morthidar in Sturmgaard and Haelgrim, and more lumidar residing in the relative warmth of Worrill, especially the area surrounding the city of Ailsby. Elaidar, as is their nature, have tended to adapt to their environment, retaining much of their nomadic ways in Sturmgaard and Brimlad, while Worrill and Stanclyf clans have settled down either in villages of their own, or among the local humans. In many cases, these sedentary elaidar often have a small number (perhaps one or two) half-elves among their number, and consider themselves a kind of ‘detached’ segment of the local House. Gnomes in Vintermor tend to remain among the areas their family groups have taken to. Puutasadi are more common in the southern areas, especially Worrill, while pilvisadi can be found in any of the mountainous areas of the country. The majority of halflings within Vintermor are skaltings, and by and large tend to live either in small halflings communities in the larger cities, or in the region known as ‘The Six Leagues’, an area of warmer, more fertile land where they produce much of the nation’s agriculture, and garner a measurable profit in doing so. Those ulfskaltings who hail from Vintermor live much like the nomadic elaidar, and can be found in much the same areas, as well as wandering the taiga of Sturmgaard.

Religion

Religion in Vintermor is largely a non-issue. While there are many followers of the imperial Pantheist Church, and just as many followers of either a specific god or the druidic cults of Elain, Kukka, and Skogen, by and large these groups tend to have very little difficulty with one another. The gods, after all, are the gods, regardless of how many of them you try to worship. The only deities whose worship is forbidden, and indeed punishable by death, are the three evil Primordials, Korinthar the Red, Sslira the Black, and Talvi the White. Indeed, many in Vintermor feel that to worship Talvi, in particular, is an affront to all those who have toiled and sacrificed to survive the cold, and keep the nation itself intact. In addition, many of the more rural Vintermori follow their forbears’ totemic representations of the gods. In addition to direct worship of the eighteen recognized deities of the Imperial Pantheon, many villages and hamlets offer worship to particular servants of the gods, also totemic in nature, whose names and worship have been passed down since before the coming of the Taldarans. (Note that while some of the gods’ totemic representations qualify as Totems for the Shaman class, not all do. Servants of those gods that do not correspond to a servitor totem in the Shaman list would be clerics, druids, or even adepts, class-wise, even if their social and cultural outlook is shamanic.)

Culture

It took nearly a millennium after the MistWars before those small pockets of humanity who awakened in the area now known as Vintermor grew into larger, more organized tribes of people. These tribes, formed under the strongest of the family units in a given region, began to share the resources they found in the territories they claimed, and worked together to protect their land and people. At the height of this era, four tribes split the landscape into four debated lands. The tribes existed in an uneasy peace, developing a common language and culture that spread to the far corners of Middengeard (the name the people called their continent). This culture was based on a system of animal totems that embodied the spirits of the Gods. Each of the tribes took one of these spirits as their patron deity, using that totem as the symbol of their Clan. Without any sort of written language, knowledge of these gods and the rest of the world was passed down in verse, and sung at tribal gatherings and around the lodges that were hewn from the rock. Many of these stories told of the dark lands of the Grimsdyke, and the curse of the Maelstrom. The tales tell of a beautiful Kingdom, filled with tall lodges that the gods grew from the sides of the mountain so their people would have wondrously fair places to live. They told of a race of people who basked in the light of the spirits, who fought against the evil that crept out of the dark places in the world. But that darkness eventually found a way into the hearts of this fair folk, filling their minds with forbidden lore, and their hearts with unquenchable greed. These people, called Ylfa, turned their backs on the gods and created idols to false gods that they worshipped. Their greed brought the Dweorg out of their caves, and War soon fell on the fair land. The Gods were angered by the Ylfa, and cracked the earth beneath their feet, throwing down their beautiful lodges, and swallowing up their people. As a final blow, the gods created the Maelstrom to protect their chosen people, and to keep out the Heathen tribes. The land of the Ylfa was named the Grimsdyke, and the chosen people were told by the gods to stay out of that forsaken land. Such ancient legends are still told among the tribes’ descendants, the people of Vintermor, and superstition and ancient lore are very much a part of the moden nation, as is the heart of the ancient tribal system, as almost all the inhabitants of any given region of the nation can trace their lineage back to common ancestry, even between the commoners and nobility. Given this common ancestry, and the system of peerage and enfeoffment practiced in the Kingdom, the general citizenry does not tend to view the local aristocracy as a group of oppressors. The opportunity, through merit, machination, and nepotism, to advance ensures that even the lowest dirt farmer can aspire to one day be given rank and title among his House. Being that they all come from the same bloodline, each and every citizen of a particular duchy are a 'member' of their Noble house in the purest essence of the word, even if they are not entitled to any of the privileges someone with rank in the House would hold.

Economy

Vintermor’s economy is largely agrarian, though the nation does export lumber for shipbuilding, as well as iron and other ores, horses, and refined goods such as armor and weapons. In addition, the positioning of the nation within the only known point of stability in the Mists brings many mages and priests from the rest of the Empire to study this odd happenstance. Much of the food supply of the nation comes from local means available to each village and town, such as small sheltered gardens and orchards. Hunting and fishing also contribute to the staple Vintermor diet, and on the sea-coasts of Sturmgaard and Brimlad, seal and whalemeat and blubber can usually be found on the menu. The active, if small, whaling industry also provides ivory and excess whale-oil for export or use in the larger cities. The mountains of Sturmgaard and Haelgrim contain much of the nation’s mineral wealth, including numerous gem deposits and veins of precious and non-precious ores. Additionally, exploration of the mountains occasionally turns up the wrecked remains of ancient mines, some of which can be cleared out and restored.

Monarchy

The King of Vintermor is currently Magnus Thorvald, crowned King Magnus III. However, as the King’s age begins to weigh heavily upon him, much of the duties of rulership have passed to his son, Eorl Meric Thorvald, Crown Prince of Vintermor. Coming with his younger brother Prince Alburn to Vintermor, Prince Meric has left his cousin Gamal Thorvald as Eorl of Sturmgaard in Derring.

Nobility

Kings of Vintermor

The current Eorls of Vintermor are:

Sturmgaard: Eorl Gamal Thorvald

Brimlad: Eorl Aelfvig Stenger

Haelgrim: Eorl Uri Ulfvig

Worrill: Eorl Sirus Faebjorn

Stanclyf: Eorl Ainess Wieghorst

Power in each of the Duchies is maintained through a network of oaths of fealty, personal accomplishment and reward, and familial loyalties. The vast majority of the residents, and virtually all of the vassal lords and landed knights, are all members of the same ‘House’, or clan, stemming from Vintermor’s historical development. This has produced a lineage of nobility that is not far removed from the commoners, and in most cases can and will interact with their local subjects on a familiar level. At the ‘bottom’ of the power structure, the majority of Vintermor’s populace are freemen, whether craftsmen, laborers, or tenant farmers, with indenture usually limited only to criminals whose crimes merited harsh punishment, but did not merit death. In those cases, longterm imprisonment is a drain on the limited resources of the local knights or magistrates, and indenture at least makes the offender a contributing member of society again. Each of the Eorls is served by a set of Barons, lesser nobles who see to the execution of the Eorl’s orders and administration of their titled lands. The Barons themselves each oversee a group of minor nobles known as Thanes. These Thanes tend to be practical, hardworking landlords and administrators, usually overseeing a significant expanse of land with multiple small towns and hamlets. The temperment and attitudes of the Thanes vary greatly from one to another, some earthy, selfless, and dedicated to their people, others arrogant, grasping, and completely self-centered with an eye toward greater things. Knights form the two lowest rungs of the nobility, with landed knights overseeing the day-to-day leadership of a larger village or one or two smaller hamlets in their liege lord’s domain. Landless knights are those knights in a lord’s service who have not been deeded a grant of land, but instead tend to form the core of that noble’s armed response in times of need, whether the errand be defending a village from a group of marauding ogres or putting down a peasant revolt, though it must be said that open revolt is not common, given the famlial ties of the peasantry to their rulers. A lord’s knights will also provide the expertise that trains members of his or her personal Guard or city Watch. As a result of the expansive and extended familial connections between even the highest and lowest residents of a duchy (and, indeed, the kingdom), Vintermor’s system of inherited titles is both fairly simple, and direct. When a landed noble marries, even if the spouse is a commoner, the spouse is accorded the same rank as the noble who holds the land grant. The children of landed nobles, save only for the Royal Family itself, are granted the rank of Thane, as all higher stations indicate a specific landgrant in their own right. In the Royal Family, the siblings of the Crown Prince are accorded the rank of Prince or Princess, and when their sibling ascends the throne, are expected to hold positions of rank within the Household (as advisors or other High Office) or marry into other noble family groups. In any event, the children of the king’s siblings are subject to the same traditions and laws of inheritance as the children of other high nobles. The only other exception is Knights, whose status is not hereditary. Unless a preexisting Last Will & Testament recording the noble’s intent indicates otherwise, the eldest surviving child, male or female, inherits all lands and titles upon the landholder’s death. Other children remain unlanded Thanes, though often they remain as part of the household or end up marrying off into other noble family groups. Unlanded thanes do not impart their station on their spouses or children. Thus, while uncommon, it is possible for the grandson of an Eorl (or the great-grandson of the King) to be a commoner with no particular standing. Of important note is that while there are a number of knights in Vintermor, and each level of nobility does tend to maintain a small personal retinue of Men-at-Arms, by Imperial Law, no member kingdom is permitted to raise an army or train militia forces outside of the Imperial Legions without the direct and specific permission of the Emperor or Regent in Taldara. As such, Vintermor maintains no standing Army, however the Eorls do claim the right to raise conscripts as necessary, and given the relative isolation and potential dangers in Vintermor, most able-bodied men and women of appropriate age are at least passably competent with the simple weapons of speak, staff, and club.

Military

Until recently, the military forces in Vintermor took three forms, though only one was officially considered to be a true ‘military force’. That one was the Imperial Legions, specifically the garrison force officially based at the Citadel in Vintermor, the 5th Aria Infantry and the 2nd Elain Light Infantry. With the change in alliegances occurring during the recent rebellion, these two legions have formed the backbone of the Army of Vintermor. Known as ‘The Frost Wolves’. The 5th Aria, now the 1st Vintermor Heavy Legion, is a heavy infantry legion comprised of soldiers originally recruited primarily from Taldara and the borders of Meloria, while the 2nd Elain, ‘The Griffons’, have become the 2nd Vintermor Mountaineers, and are primarily used as scouts, couriers, and support troops. The 2nd Vintermor, wellsuited to moving in small groups over the mountainous terrain of the nation, also provides the bulk of the army’s search and rescue capabilities within Vintermor, while the 1st Vintermor is far more of a traditional defensive force. Of the two Legions, the 1st Vintermor is the larger, being at or near full strength, while the 2nd has been slightly reduced in size due to the loss in 5206 of a full century of troops pursuing a retreating force of orc-like creatures into the Trackless Wood. No bodies were ever recovered, and none of the men of the 2nd Century, 1st Quatrinary, 2nd Bataljon ever returned, but neither did the orc-creatures ever return to trouble the nation. Even after the reorganization into the Army of Vintermor, the remaining members of the 2nd maintain a flash badge on the left shoulder of their uniform jerkins bearing a simple ‘212’ as remembrance. The second group of military forces in the nation of Vintermor is the units of Guardsmen maintained by the crown and other nobles, and local militia forces. Though such militias are officially illegal without direct imperial sanction, but as they allow the Legions greater flexibility in dealing with greater threats, the presence of groups such as the Six Leagues Militia is usually overlooked. The third group is the Order of the Mithril Rose. Though the Order is dedicated to aiding those in distress through both defense from monsters and providing healing and humanitarian aid, and is not a true military force in the strictest sense of the term, it cannot be denied that their membership includes many popular and skilled combatants, and the goodwill they have earned among the populace would allow them to form the core cadre of a large and quickly-raised force, if the need arose, and their mountain stronghold of Kragshold, in Duchy Worrill, provides the fortification and storehouses to stand off a long-term assault and siege.

Jurisprudence

The law in Vintermor recognizes two separate types of law: Common Law, or the traditional and unwritten laws of the land that have always been recognized by the people of Vintermor; and Royal Law, that is the laws handed down by the King and recorded at the time of enactment. Each of these bodies of law address different crimes and offenses, but enforced through differing means. The laws are usually enforced and offenses investigated by the mayor of the village or township where the offence took place, or by their designated representatives, such as a reeve or, in the larger municipalities, a magistrate. In the case of seats of power, such as the capitals of the duchies, these duties are often held by a group answerable directly to the Duke or a Thane appointed specifically to oversee such a group. In the city of Vintermor itself, these duties fall to the Royal Guard, as part of their mandate to protect the King and his immediate family. In situations where direct action is warranted, such as cases where the suspects have been reasonably established to constitute a continuing threat to the welfare of the community, the investigating officers or local knights and nobility are empowered to use whatever means prove necessary, in their judgement, to end the threat, even if that means the use of lethal force in apprehending the suspected offenders. Once an investigation is completed and a suspect taken into custody, the trial begins. A trial consists of a three-member panel of judges, often members of the community in high standing, though larger townships and cities will often have full-time judges, and in the case of crimes warranting the attention of the upper class, the local knight or noble will often act as the presiding judge, with two other judges. In these situations, it is not uncommon for the noble’s judgement to carry the day, even if the other judges might privately disagree. The defendant is allowed representation if so desired, and the investigating reeve, magistrate, etc acts as prosecutor. The final placement of the burden of truth, however, often varies with the makeup of the panel of judges. Often witnesses will be called upon to step into a pre-scribed circle enclosing a Zone of Truth, though such things are sometimes not available in the poorer and more remote villages.

Rights In Vintermor

By strict interpretation of the laws of Vintermor a subject of the Crown has only those rights the Crown sees fit to grant them at that moment, and all others are forfeit. In practice, however, Common Law, and indeed the intentions and actions of the Thorvald Line, have engendered an outlook whereby certain rights are considered a given, and largely inviolate save during times of great crisis. For the purposes of brevity and reference, this section will largely outline the differences between the Bill of Rights to the Constitution of the United States and the status of those rights in Vintermor.

Amendment I: Freedom of Speech

Free speech in Vintermor is largely at the sufferance of the crown and local landholders. While most are willing to let the common people rail on about unequity and injustice, often even using common sentiment as a means to flush out corrupt or incompetant reeves and magistrates, openly speaking out against the rightful lord of an area is often not safe. Though arrests are not necessarily commonplace, people who consistently speak out against their lords do tend to come under greater scrutiny in their other activities.

Amendment II: The Right to Bear Arms

Practically, to attempt to tell a population living in an area where wild creatures, bandits, and things that can only be described as ‘monsters’ are a constant menace that they cannot arm themselves is not only pointless, but a good way to get your peasantry dead. Freemen may bear arms if they wish. The only exception to this is Segmentata, the segmented-plate armor worn by the Taldaran Legions and the new Army of Vintermor. This armor may only be worn by those who have at some point served in the Legions or Army, or those granted special dispensation. This is imperial law, not royal law.

Amendment III: Unlawful Billeting of Troops

Garrisons and other troop housings in Vintermor and the Taldaran Empire very rarely, as a rule, take the form of any kind of imposition on civilian populations. The very nature of a feudal army and feudal warfare makes an unfortified village more dangerous for an army within the village than for an attacker. Fortifications, even as rudimentary as a town wall, after usually accompanied by a larger trading area or other cleared space for livestock and animals that can be converted to serve a military force as a rough camp. Given these conditions, housing soldiers in the homes of people who may in fact be almost as well armed as the troops themselves serves little purpose other than to endanger the troops, and is almost never practiced. Legally, however, there is no codified protection against such acts.

Amendment IV: Right to Protection Against Unlawful Search and Seizure

Practically speaking, the crown, nobility, and their agents can search the person, homes, and property of any subject within the realm, if they have cause for suspicion. Given the animosity this can generate, invasive searches are usually kept to a minimum, with investigators attempting to secure significant proof beforehand, but legally, there is no protection against such searches.

Amendment V: Double Jeopardy, and Self-Incrimination

Suspects arrested for a crime whose case has been dismissed can be tried for the same crime, however, if new evidence comes to light through ongoing investigation into the matter (if, for example, a murder has been committed and the suspect found innocent, the investigation will continue. The murder, obviously, was still committed, and the guilty party must still be found). Self-Incrimination is another protection largely unknown in Vintermor, and in fact, the common practice is to seek selfincrimination through the use of spells such as Zone of Truth.

Amendment VI: Trial by Jury, Confrontation of Accuser, and Right to Counsel

As has already been addressed, trial by jury is a concept unknown within Vintermor, though the practice of having members of the community sit as judges is a nominal nod toward the concept of a judgement by concensus. In all cases where a complainant exists (as opposed to cases of homicide or crimes against the state), the complainant is expected to be present at trial and to give his or her complaint in detail at that time. Legal Counsel is usually retained on behalf of the defendant by the state, though in poorer hamlets and villages it may be considered a pro bono responsibility of the more learned members of the community, when not sitting as judges themselves.

Amendment VII: Right to Trial by Jury for Common Law

In Vintermor, no distinction is made between common law, and royal law when determining how the case is heard and decided.

Amendment VIII: Cruel and Unusual Punishment

In practice, people have a tendency to seek swift and decisive vengeance for crimes against their person, and states no less so. Torture is a legal means to extract information, however, under the auspices of the nobility, and any concept of ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ has yet to be broached.

Amendment IX: Equality of Rights in the Constitution

Not Applicable.

Amendment X: Retention of Rights to States and the People

Not Applicable.

Crime and Punishment

Below can be found a sample list of criminal offenses in Vintermor, and the punishments often meted out for them. Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive, and individual judges have great latitude in handing down sentence.

Disturbing the Peace - Overnight in Gaol.

Vandalism - Remuneration of damages public flogging, and up to 30 days in Gaol.

Slander - Public recanting of slander, remunerations of damages incurred, possibly flogging.

Theft - 5 years imprisonment or indenture (petty), up to loss of hand or even Hanging (grand)

Piracy - Execution by Hanging.

Arson - Public flogging, up to 20 years' imprisonment or indenture.

Assault - Public flogging, 10 years to lifelong indenture.

Rape - Castration, lifelong imprisonment or indenture.

Murder - Execution by Hanging.

Manslaughter - Weregild (if acceptable to next of kin) or public flogging & 5 years indenture.

Treason - Execution by Hanging

Blasphemy* - Execution by most expedient means at hand.

Cases of self-defense or defending others from unlawful attack are not considered crimes. Threats themselves carry no legal penalty, but Vintermori justice generally accepts that if you threaten violence against someone, and get violence in reply, you earned your wages and were paid in full. Thus, threatening assault or murder may well result in the offender being beaten to within an inch of their lives by a committee of concerned citizens, either immediately, or at a later time, and these reprisals will generally not be prosecuted unless the threat-giver dies, in which case the leaders of the reprisal will be charged with manslaughter, and the rest with disturbing the peace.

  • Note that the offense of Blasphemy includes only the worship and service of the three evil Primordials, Sslira*, Talvi*, and Korinthar*.

History

At the dawn of the Third Age, the region that would become the Nation of Vintermor was, like all places the MistWar touched, a blasted and ruined land. It was into these devastated wastes that Evighet brought life once more, both through the efforts of Kukka and Elaine, and the creation of a new people: Humanity. Man awoke, seeded about the world in small groups, and began to explore his surroundings. In the empty, frigid expanses on either side of the Vimirthond, man quickly established himself as a power in his own right within the warring tribal struggles of hobgoblins, gnolls, and other monstrous creatures. Though groups of elaidar, sildar, and even small families of Lumidar survived in the wreckage of the War, they did not trust this new race, quick to battle and ferocious in its anger, and remained aloof for many centuries, a rarely-glimpsed hint of an older world. The dwarves, in those early years, remained standoffish and isolated as the relatively small city of Maeldring struggled to cope with the influx of refugees and stragglers from the Great Delve of Duhricktharn.

Through the long years of the first five millenniums of the Third Age, humanity in Vintermor grew slowly, their numbers depleted in fighting off the monstrous races they would never completely be victorious over, and through losses to the cold, and to the fragile balance of nature in the taiga. Families grew, however, and intermarried, forming loose-knit groups of extended clans. Over time, these clans developed into tribes, led first by the strongest members in a given area, but eventually developing hereditary leaders they called ‘Eorls’. Through the continual practice of intermarriage, these tribes continued to consolidate, finally resulting in the tribes of the Bear, Horse, Orca (or killer whale), Wolverine, and Falcon.

Day to day life was still difficult for the Tribes. Not only did they have to compete with the predatory animals for food, they had to worry about the constant threat of the goblinoid and gnollish races, as well as the Eoten (Frost Giants), Trolls, and the Morthwyrtha (Frost Elves) bridal raids, brief but fierce attacks where the youths of the previously unknown morthidar descended from the higher slopes to capture human women, some for marriage, others simply to prove the youths’ worth to their own tribe.

Change came, as it must, in time. However, it did not come as a slow development from within, as the tribes continued to grow more and more interdependent. Instead, change was forced upon the peoples of Vintermor from outside, from across the Mists. The agents of change had a name: Taldarans, and a purpose… Empire.

Prince Issai Gyflear was the first Taldaran explorer to reach Middengeard. He did so with a handful of men at his command, and with enough gear to set up a permanent home for himself should be be trapped here forever. They traveled through the mists by boat, and found themselves in a land very much different than that of Taldara. While their home was mostly flat, this land was extremely rugged, with high mountains and deep valleys.

Exploration and experimentation, however, quickly revealed that the passage through the Mists between Taldara and this new land was reasonably stable, and while Imperial ships continued to mount Mistwards as a way to prevent becoming lost forever within the Mists themselves, it seemed the first reliable passage had been found. Exploration continued, with scouts and magic, and in time, gave way to conquest.

Most of the people of Middengeard were too afraid or confused to stand and fight the army of Taldara when they emerged from the Mists. Those that did fight were outnumbered and quickly overpowered by the disciplined Soldiers of the Empire. In a matter of months, the tribes were utterly defeated and were forced to pay homage to this foreign Emperor. The great lodges of the tribes’ Eorls were replaced by large motte and bailey fortresses from which local Magistrates kept close watch on the 'uncivilized' Clans. Having already begun construction on a keep in the Grimsdyke, above a dwarven delve populated by refugees from Duhricktharn, the Emperor placed his son as King of this new conquest. He named it Vintermor, taking the name from the language of the Tribes.

For thirty years, King Gyflear ruled Vintermor. In that time, he grew what was no more than a 'traveller's rest' into a thriving city. Although his deeds came mostly on the backs of the Tribesmen who worked the lands for him, he largely allowed the people in the outlying areas to maintain their culture and for the most part, their autonomy. Since King Gyflear was the heir to the Empire, he passed the Kingdom of Vintermor to his Eldest son when he ascended the throne of the Empire left vacant after his father's death.

King Marthis Gyflear was nothing like his father. He was a religious Zealot, and forbade the Tribes to practice their culture openly. He forced new gods on them (though, in truth, hey were but new faces of the same gods), and made them speak the language of the Empire. He replaced the Magistrates with his own Knights, turning the autonomous tribal lands into feudal fifedoms. Turning the people into veritable slaves to the Crown. For fifty cruel years they lived this way, biding their time until they could fight back.

It was Gautr Ulfvig who assembled the first Moot of the tribes. There in the ruined hall of his ancestors, he gave a fiery speech to the other Eorls, awakening in them the courage and strength that had nearbly been beaten out of them. They were not the same people that the Taldaran army first came in contact with. They now had the same technology and weapons at their disposal, and this time, they would face their enemy without fear. As the plot was sent around the Kingdom, the leader of the Wieghorst clan slipped across the river to Vintermor Castle. He laid bare the plans of the Eorls and struck a deal that when battle came, his people would fight for the crown.

Even with this Knowledge, the Kingdom was not prepared for the war that was to come. They were used to fighting out in the open, laying seige and forming battle lines. But the Tribes struck and ran, cutting off supply lines and attacking from the mountains where the soldiers of the Crown were unable to fight. Instead of fighting against the king, or even against the other Tribes, the Wieghorst people watched from afar as the two armies fought. Word eventually got to the Emperor that the rebellion had started, but when his army tried to march through the mists, they were met with a horrible Ice Storm. When they finally did arrive, they found that the King had been killed, and that the Tribes controlled the Land once again.

Seizing the opportunity, Turir Wieghorst went to the leader of the army and said that his people would fight for the Crown against the usurpers. They did so, and in no time the still battle-weary Tribsmen were pushed back out of Vintermor Castle, back across the fjord into Haelgrim. For his loyalty, the Emperor placed Turir Wieghorst on the Throne, confident that the Eorl would know what it took to rule over these people. To assist him, a council was formed out of the Emperor's own advisors. It did not take long for the Emperor to understand that he made a real mistake in putting Wieghorst on the Throne.

The Wieghorst family was only in power for twenty five years. In that time, they were unable to keep the lands out of a constant state of revolt, they embezzled monies that were to go to the Emperor, and they made treaties with unsavory ambassadors for foreign lands. It was the treaty with the Algahar that became the 'last straw.' (Algahar is a distant Empire that Taldara has been in constant conflict with for nearly two centuries.)

For the first time, the Emperor called a meeting of the tribes in Taldara, bringing the Eorls together away from their homes and away from their people. Out of love for their people, they crossed the Mists for the first time, overcoming a fear that was deeply ingrained in them. There, a historic deal was struck and a vote was made. He made it simple for the gathered Eorls: Who among you should be King of Vintermor? The vote was nearly unanimous, the new King would be Magnus Thorvald.

With the Thorvald family now in power, and the Wierghorst sent back to their lands, a renaissance of sorts sprang to life in Vintermor. In 5132, after strong lobbying to the Emperor in response to the threat posed by increasingly active frost giant populations, the Eorls were given control over their lands again as Duchies, and granted the right to raise small contingents of guards. This proved to be just in the nick of time, as four years later, the giants attempted to seize control of the trade route through Helgegard Pass. The ensuing skirmish sparked three years of open warfare with the giants of the northern mountains. By the time the war had run its course, the giant clans were decimated, and the human populace greatly reduced as well. Among the dead was King Hargrave Thorvald, and three short months later, his only son, King Thorfin. Following Thorfin’s death, the succession passed to his cousin, Magnus II, son of Hargrave’s brother Uri.

In late 5223, tensions between the kingdom and the empire again began to flare, with imperial logging expansion triggering a backlash of attacks against the capital city by a druid calling herself ‘The Steward’. Though quickly tracked down by a group of brave adventurers, this incident planted seeds of discontent, and following the death of the emperor, those seeds took root, leading to indiscretions on both sides, culminating in the early 5224 assassination of King Magnus III, and a declaration of war by King Meric II upon the occasion of his coronation.

Imperial response consisted of an initial two legions of additional troops, which took the port city of Derring on the western coast, and then moved inland with the intent of linking up with the garrison forces already within the coutry. However, garrison legions chose to defect to the side of Vintermor following the discovery of political spies set within their ranks to foment unrest and even blatantly provoke the war. This turned the tables on the newly-arrived Legions, and after supplementing the defenders’ troops with irregulars from the local populace, the two sides met in a brief, but extremely bloody battle that left no less than 2/3 of the imperial forces dead. Losses on the side of the Vintermori were lower, but still heavy enough to warrant a parley under Dame Mirra Keepson.

Meeting with the Overste-Vapen of the Imperial Expeditionary Force, Dame Keepson negotiated a truce that would allow the battered legions to withdraw to their own ships at Derring and pull back to Taldara. Days later a messenger from the newlycrowned Empress in Taldara confirmed that the war had been fomented by treasonous interests in the capital, and in the interests of maintaining trade and continuing access to Vintermor’s strangely stable region of the Mists, offered King Thorvald full independence for the nation in exchange for a resumption of trade and access to the magical research facilities the Empire had built at various places along the MistEdge in Vintermor.

A century has passed since the founding of the Thorvald dynasty, and on the throne sits King Meric Thorvald II, in the wake of his father’s assassination. The Kingdom has successfully fought a war against the Imperial Legions, and controls access to rare magical resources enough that the Empress has granted it full independence, a thing unheard of within the Empire. There are still perils in the land, but at last, there is true peace among the fiefdoms.