The manor of Delince is atypical, for there are two settlements within it - the main village of Delince (total population c. 240), and the smaller hamlet of Rolath (population 65), about two-thirds of a mile to the north. The Lord of the Manor, Sir Maelken Irin, holds both Delince and Rolath from his liege-lord, Declaen Caldeth, Earl of Vemion. Sir Maelken is a rich man, for the manor consists of nearly four square miles of open fields and pastures and extensive rights within the Valwood. Sixty one common families rent land and cottages from him: 14 freemen who pay by cash, produce or military service, and 47 serf families who pay by working on Sir Maelken's land.
|Vill||Cleared Acres||Land Quality||Cottars||½Villeins||Villeins||Freemen||Yeomen|
Status and Living Standards
Status depends not on free or unfree condition, but on wealth. For the majority of folk, that means the size of their landholdings - few people have large amounts of cash, and their wealth is measured by what they wear and eat, what the own, how much grain they can put away and how their beasts fare. Making a little coin at market or sending a child out to earn some pennies is a bonus for most folk. Any cash is used to pay rent or tithe, unless the person in question pays in kind.
By this token, Sir Maelken is almost rich beyond his tenants' ken. He and his wife own clothes of the finest wools, silks and linens, and even their workaday wear is better then most peasants could ever afford. They eat meat or fish every day, and serve wine to important guests. It costs more to feed his warhorse than most peasants would spend on themselves.
The single biggest source of Sir Maelken's wealth is his flocks. He has more than 700 sheep, about a third of them high-quality Vemionshire Crosses, whose fleeces he sells at the Minarsas Wool Fair every summer, which brings him an income of around £25 a year. He supplements this substantial income by selling timber and charcoal from the Valwood, and the surplus from his 300 acres of grainfields, at markets in Kyg, Athelren and Minarsas. He also makes money from his court - he has the right to fine his tenants for minor infractions. Freemen have the right of appeal to Royal Justice, but few would bother unless the issue was important or the fine draconian. Sir Maelken has a reputation of being a fair judge.
Far below Sir Maelken's exalted heights are the wealthiest commoners, the yeomen and franklins who rent large plots of land in return for their land in return for serving as men-at-arms (yeomen) or by quarterly cash rents (franklins). They enjoy a good standard of living, often eating meat or fish, though their staple is thick pottage, fine wheat bread and good ale. They rarely go hungry, even in a bad year. They can afford good clothing, and their best clothes are often brightly dyed. Their houses have stone foundations, and a private bedroom for the head of the household and his wife. Animals still live in the far end, but stone troughs and stone-lined drains make the barn a little easier to keep clean. Yeomen and franklins might be considered village gentry, occupying a niche between Sir Maelken and the rest of the peasantry.
Craftsmen earn their wealth with a trade, rather than by agriculture, though many have substantial plots which they work with hired labour or even rent out. Their wealth varies drastically, the richest being the miller, Jalarn Aikar, a chubby man with a chubby wife and chubby children. Most villagers dislike him, suspecting he takes more than the one bushel of grain in every 24 which is his due. Most guilded craftsmen manage a comfortable living, feeling the bite only in the hardest years. They usually havehave meat fairly regularly. The poorest craftsmen are those without a guild, who must find a way to feed themselves and their families. Most have a special skill, but they and their families would not usually be able to feed themselves and pay their dues entirely upon it. The goodwife will usually try to earn extra money by spinning yarn. Their children, and often the head of the household, will often work as waged labourers for their neighbours, particularly at shearing and harvest time. A bad year would prove extremely hard for them. Richer craftsmen live in longhouses with stone foundations, and most have a separate workshop in their yards. Poorer craftsmen have longhouses with earthfast frames, which tend to rot quicker.
Villeins, who hold 30 acres plots of land, are usually able to feed themselves and pay their dues, often with a small surplus. Bad harvests might cause them to eat cheaper food, but would rarely threaten them with starvation. Although they are unfree, they are probably as wealthy as the guilded craftsmen. The village reeve, Kalyn Orbert, who acts as Sir Maelken's farm manager, is nearly as rich as the miller, though he and his wife favour fine clothing over a rich diet.
Half-villeins, who hold just 15 acres, can usually just about manage to feed their families. Any luxuries, or a safety net in case of a bad harvest, must be earned by wage labour for a neighbour or for Sir Maelken. Hard times may mean subsisting on water and weak gruel, and especially hard times may mean starvation. Some half-villeins rent land from those with more than they want to work instead of labouring.
There is no doubt that cottars are among the poorest peasants. Theire paltry holdings cannot provide anyway near enough to feed their families, and they rely on renting extra land or paid employment to live. Hunger is almost always a fact of life for them. Sir Maelken's shepherds take extra coin for looking after commoners' flocks as well, and others act as handymen. Old Widow Ondolt lives on nothing but gruel, charity and the ocassional gifts she expects in return for using her skills with herbs.
Local bye-laws limit the number of animals villagers can pasture on the commons. Freemen holding more than 60 acres may keep 80 sheep and up to eight oxen, villeins and other freemen up to 40 sheep and four oxen, half-villeins 20 sheep and two oxen and cottars half a dozen sheep and just one ox, if they can afford one.
Delince has neither inn nor tavern. Several of the women in the village brew ale, usually from malted barley, which they sell by the jug or barrel. Everybody drinks ale, except the poorest who cannot afford it and are forced to drink water. Ale is fairly weak, but the more expensive strong ale has around three per cent alcohol.
It has become customary for drinking men to club together to buy a barrel and drink it and gossip at Ethrald Blacksmith's forge several evenings a tenday after their work is done. Ethrald, a grizzled, stocky man in his mid-40s, paces himself on weak ale until he has finished his work, when he leaves the others to wash and eat before returning to the forge with his wife. His family drink for free, though none are immoderate drinkers. Hirten Ondolt, the village storyteller, also finds his ale paid for when he entertains the drinkers.
Lads from Rolath face a 15 minute walk back in the dark when Ethrald finally kicks everybody out and goes to bed. Though no-one would admit to being scared of the walk, the Rolath crew tend to leave in a group - there are a few tales about things lone travellers have seen in Lynnfana Hundred.
Everyone in Delince belongs to a clan. Since the days of King Miginath's great-grandfather, King Haldan the Elder, that has meant a group of people legally responsible for each others' good conduct. But Vemionshire is a very backward area, and Lynnfana is one of its more traditional enclaves. An old-fashioned view prevails that clan members should look out for each others' interests and win recompense for wrongs in addition to ensuring good behaviour. Sometimes feuds break out, though they are not common and not always violent, though some escalate. There are no active feuds in Delince at the moment, though there is considerable rivalry between Clan Orbert and Clan Berma.
|Sir Maelken||Irin||Knight||Lord of the Manor||Delince||757 (demesne)|