Realms of Mythrais
The Old Duchies are the oldest civilized human inhabited lands upon the continent of Courel. When the Karnite Empire first came to the shores of Courel it was here that their first outposts were created. Later, the first trading towns grew upon the coasts here; and then the first fortresses to house conquering legions.
When the Paladins of the White March rebelled against the Karnite Empire with the help of the Dwur, Fhey, Druids and Kaeltan barbarians, the Old Duchies were the lands fought for most fiercely. It is a land rich in fertile farmlands, animal herds, mineral wealth in the eastern lands, fisheries off the coasts and lumber carefully harvested and replanted as the Karnites learned from the Fhey.
Today, the Old Duchies are the most populous and richest lands within the Kingdom of Mahn; and this makes their Dukes some of the most rebellious as well. The White King has temporarily broken their power by maintaining his own holdings within the Duchy of Chestelaine and via strong support from the See of Vhalashar where the Church of Vhal rules. He also limits their military power by drawing upon their forces for his campaigns against Corash and within the South Marches against the Orcs and Ogres.
These lands were first settled by soldiers and support personnel of the Karnite Empire. To this day, they are the most ordered and structured lands within the Kingdom of Mahn. The coasts are gently rolling beaches and inlets only seldom struck with very harsh winds and rains; though the further south the coast goes, the more rocky its beaches become until after the New River spills into the depths of the Sea of Vhal the shoreline becomes less beach and more rocky coast until the beaches essentially end all together south of the port of Grangalmore.
All along the coasts are fishing villages, though the coastal lands of the newly created Duchy of Welfmarch are more thinly settled because of the lands former status as a border territory. The island of Mogi’s Hold (now called King’s Reach) is thickly settled now, its fishing fleets busy feeding the garrisoned Royal Navy that calls the port home now that the island has been conquered by the White King and taken from the raiding Vannulvir who were once part of the mercenary navy of the Plutocracy of Corash. New settlers also poor into the Duchy of Welfmarch as well; lands being plotted out and given to freemen and noble alike who have sworn fealty to the Kingdom’s newest Duke.
The new Duchy is stark in contrast to the established duchies that exist here. The old architecture of the Karnite Empire is evident in many of the castles and estates of this land, many still sporting the red tiled rooftops common from the warmer climes of the Karnite Empire. The lands here have scant open land, most having long been claimed and settled; it is not hard to imagine that fully one third of all citizens of the Kingdom of Mahn live within the Old Duchies.
Prodigious crops are grown here amid the seemingly endless thorpes, villages and towns, and large orchards are not out of place wherever you might look. Along the borders and land less suited to farming will be found branded herds of cattle, while near at hand to the Ducal Estates will be found fine stallions and mares used for breeding the renowned horses most commonly used by the Knights of Mahn. Only in the Duchy of Markland and Heuaardlands is horse breeding taken as seriously as here.
There are few hills within the Old Duchies; and those that exist are so gradual and subtle that they go primarily without notice. It is said that anywhere in the Old Duchies is a suitable battlefield to be won. Only upon approach to the towering Blackfire Escarpments or Giants Belt Mountains are more pronounced hills to be found. The Escarpments are the primary source of fuel for the Old Duchy in the form of coal plundered from their depths. These great rises of land seem to have come into being as the lands to their west perhaps fell away from the heights of the Old Iron Mountains and the large hills to their north and south. Perhaps formed in some catastrophic age in the past, they are now an easy source of fuel for heat and forge alike; and much of this coal is shipped to the interior of the Kingdom as well as across the Sea of Vhal simply because the coal is easier to use in the forges of the world. It is of course not the sole source of coal within the Kingdom, or indeed the world, but it is so easily produced here and in such great quantity that the prices offered are hard for buyers to pass up.
For this reason, many of the woodlands that would have normally been plundered after so long a land being settled have instead been spared. Far fewer are the numbers of small woods in the Old Duchies, but they do exist alongside larger tracts that have been preserved for one reason or another. The farms here, which produce such a huge variety of crops to be unmentionable individually, will likely never need to intrude more into the forests of oak, beech, maple and birch; though some few forests have become little more than gardens that are harvested in rotation to provide proper firewood for the production of various beers and cheeses made here, and for the fireplaces of the nobility who wouldn’t be caught dirtying their homes with coal burning.
The nobility (and Royalty) of the Old Duchies is older than the Kingdom of Mahn itself. The Dukes here were once governors for life appointed by the Emperor of the Karnite Empire long ago. These men now swear fealty to the White King, as their ancestors did when conquered by the Paladins of the White March long ago. They are in turn the lords of various Counts, Barons, Knights and Baronets (being older semi-retired Knights given land to rule when too old to fight). Only within the Duchy of Chestelaine, the King’s own duchy, will nobles of lesser stature than a Duke swear fealty directly to the King. Of special note in these lands is the See of Vhalashar, a semi-independent theocracy beholden to the White King. The High Priest of Vhal is perhaps second only to the White King in power within the Kingdom of Mahn because he is the voice of the God Vhal. The Old Duchies are rife with Temples, Monasteries, Convents and Churches to Vhal, and many of them built atop the ruins of a Druidic Circle in ages past.
(more to come)