Lynnfana Hundred: A Players' Introduction
Lynnfana is a rural hundred in Vemionshire, on the eastern frontier of the Kingdom of Kaldor, the feudal heart of eastern Hârn. Beyond Lynnfana, the rugged hills of the Valwood sweep up to the gargun-infested Felsha Mountains. To the south, nomadic bands of treacherous Pagaelin tribesmen roam the wilderness between Kaldor and the tiny kingdom of Chybisa.
Yet the perils of the lands beyond Kaldor's borders intrude but rarely into the rough and ready life in the villages of Lynnfana. Serfs and freemen till their plots and tend their beasts, knights feast, hunt and judge, and wandering friars of Peoni the Pure minister to their spiritual flock. Folk generally turn their backs to the dangers of the wild woods and mountains. Perhaps they hope that ignoring them will make them go away. Every once in a while an errant knight will set out into the wilderness to test his mettle against the fearsome meredragons which inhabit the marshes beyond Tontury Lake.
Around 5,500 people live in the 32 villages of Lynnfana Hundred. Four families of every five are unfree serfs who must work the lord's land in return for their own. The Earl of Vemionshire is the biggest landholder in the hundred, with nine manors, three of which he has granted to knights in return for their fealty and service, and six of which he keeps as demesne, administered for him by paid bailiffs. The Earl of Balim is the next largest landholder, with six villages in his Honour of Kyg, half of them granted to knights. The Earl's Constable of Kyg, Sir Danyes of Bernan, was appointed only last year and has proved greedy and grasping.
It is early spring in the year 720 of the Tuzyn Reckoning, as men count the years. The winter has not been an easy one. Cold winds from the Felsha Mountains brought heavy frosts and snow, and food has been scarce, although it hasn't been as harsh as the previous winter, when Halaina Abbey was burned by a gargun swarm forced out of the wooded foothills by icy weather and poor hunting. The Laranian monks from the abbey are trying to raise funds for a major rebuilding, and knights and soldiers from the Order of the Lady of Paladins spent much of last summer hunting gargun in the Valwood.
The main talk of the winter was the failing health of King Miginath, the aging ruler of Kaldor. A couple of Sir Maelken's yeomen saw the king at the winter tourney in Tashal, and said he was so ill he only attended to open the event and hand out prizes. The king has never married, and has never named an heir, though he has several illegitimate sons. Sir Tulath Kaphin, the new sheriff of Vemionshire, is said to be one of Miginath's bastards. If Miginath dies, any of 14 nephews, nieces and bastards might lay claim to the throne.
But the king has always been sickly, and he has always pulled through before. There are other talking points among the folk who meet and drink at Ethrald's forge. At the last shire-moot the Sheriff hanged a Tishilan man who killed another in a clan vendetta. When investigations failed to find the murderer of an Atressa man, he fined the whole Hundred. And three or four serfs have run away from villages in eastern Lynnfana. Most seem to have escaped for good, for their lords have had less luck than usual in finding them.
As winter turns steadily to spring, chores beckon. Plough-teams prepare one of the two great open fields for the spring sowing. Sheep are close to lambing, and everyone is getting ready for the Restoration Festival, celebrating the arrival of spring with games and dancing, and, of course, a touch of religion.
The chief royal officer in Lynnfana is the Bailiff of the Hundred, Sir Charkel Salis, who presides over the monthly hundred-moot at the royal manor of Lemalex. A dozen knights and yeoman are obliged to serve as jurors at each moot; it is their responsibility to tell Sir Charkel of any wrongdoing they have discovered since the last moot. The hundred-moot is the lowest royal court of law.
Sir Charkel is responsible to the Sheriff of Vemionshire, and cases he feels are beyond his jurisdiction are sent to the next quarterly shire-moot at Athelren. Sir Charkel is also responsible for collecting taxes within Lynnfana on behalf of the sheriff.
Clans and the Law
Most families belong to extended clans. A few large clans wield considerable influence within Lynnfana, and a couple are powerful enough to have a role in county politics. Not all families within the same clan hold the same social status, though there are rough correspondences - knights may have guilded relatives, serfs may have free cousins, or even guildsmen. Most clans in Lynnfana are fairly local, spreading over a few close villages.
Clans have a legal function: members of clans are responsible for each other's conduct, and the head of a clan has authority over its members in some situations. In olden times, clans were the basis of all law in Lynnfana, and operated by a system of feuds, vendettas and wergeld to settle their differences. Royal Justice, embodied by the Sheriffs, has replaced clan law for most offences against persons, but some clans still prefer to pursue feuds and vendettas, though they are technically illegal as they usurp royal prerogative.
Although previous Sheriffs of Vemionshire have turned a blind eye to feuds when possible, Sir Tulath Kaphin, who was only appointed last year after his marriage to the daughter of the Baron of Ternua, is keen to make his mark by stamping them out.
Most people in Lynnfana follow the goddess Peoni in her aspect as the Lady of Industrious Labors and the Ripe Harvest. Many years ago people in the area used to worship the mystic god Ilvir, the Serpent Below, and local tradition has it that he is Peoni's husband. The Church of Peoni considers this heresy, but parish priests tend to turn a blind eye to rustic traditions and Ilviran imagery is fairly common in Lynnfana, the serpent being a favorite symbol of luck.
Knights and nobles usually worship the goddess Larani, known as the Reluctant Warrior or the Lady of Paladins. Laranians are sworn to defend the Church of Peoni, and to live lives of honor and chivalry. Few have the strength to live up to these lofty ideals, but it is considered important to try. Other religions are discouraged, although some craftsmen discretely visit the Temple of Halea, Queen of Pleasure and Fulfillment, when business takes them to Tashal.
The Churches of Agrik, Lord of the Four Horsemen, Morgath, the Tormentor of the Unlamented Dead, and Naveh, the Lord of Pitch Shadows, are proscribed, and worship of these dark gods is punishable by death by burning at the stake.
Lynnfana Hundred is particularly known for its sheep farming, as is neighboring Tishilan Hundred. Most knights, yeomen and wealthy villeins own flocks of fine-woolled Vemion Cross sheep. Declaen Caldeth, the Earl of Vemion, has grown very rich from his Lynnfana flocks, and many Lynnfana goodwives make a particularly fine sheep's cheese as a byproduct of the wool trade.
Shearing runs from early Nolus through early Larane, and must be finished in time for the great Minarsas Wool Fair (Larane 15). Labor is in short supply from the shearing season through to the end of the summer harvest, so those with labor to sell gather at the Athelren Hiring Fair on Kelen 15 (mid-spring).
Sometimes outsiders say unkind things about Lynnfana folks' interest in sheep. While this is the subject of much bawdy humor within the Lynnfana communities, it is considered insulting for an outsider to cast aspersions, particularly if the outsider is from Oselshire -- everybody knows what they get up to with their cattle.
The whole of north-eastern Lynnfana forms part of the Earl of Vemionshire's Honour of Minarsas. He has subinfeudated several manors to loyal knights in return for their continued service, and appoints bailiffs to run the rest on his behalf.
It is hard to say whether sheep pastures or woodlands are more important to the economy of north-eastern Lynnfana. There is no shortage of woodland: rights in the wild Valwood are fairly easy to come by. The main problems in exploiting them are the tribesmen and gargun who live deep in the wildwood. In consequence, most lords only seek to manage only relatively small stretches close to the edge of the woods.
Woodlands can be very important. In addition to woodland pasture and hunting lands for the lord (the Valwood is not subject to Forest Law), they provide firewood, building timber and charcoal. Most manors export some timber and charcoal, although the trade is not as profitable as sheep-farming. The Free Miners at Tonsia and Erthen depend on large quantities of charcoal to fuel their iron smelters. Independent hunters and trappers seek game in the deeper woods beyond the lords' lands.
Athten: A large village of some 280 people held by Sir Kelan Aswain from Earl Declaen Caldeth.
Delcord: Run as a demesne manor by Earl Declaen Caldeth, and is administered for him by a bailiff, Ailin Naraba. There are about 130 people living in the village.
Delince: Sir Maelken Irin holds Delince and the subsidiary hamlet of Rolath from Earl Declaen Caldeth. There are about 240 people living in Delince, and another 65 in Rolath. For further details see the DELINCE article.
Erthen: Another of the Earl's demesne manors, Erthen is a large village of about 285 people run by a bailiff, Sir Nethil Obalin. The nearby iron mine is not held by the Earl, but is run by Free Miners under royal license. The Erthen Mine is quite small; only about a dozen people work it, including miners, smelters and charcoalers. They live in a semi-permanent camp near the mine.
Narmas: Held by Sir Ambis Ertus from Earl Declaen Caldeth. Narmas has a population of about 215 people.
Onris: Onris and the subsidiary hamlet of Dinmel are run by a bailiff, Embral Armalis, for Earl Caldeth. About 220 people live in Onris, with another 55 in Dinmel.
Tonsia: About 60 people live in this hamlet, which is run by Lendryn Larion, a master of the Free Miners, under license from King Miginath. The Tonsia Mine is large, and supplies the king with a considerable quantity of iron in return for its license. Carters travelling to and from the mine are a common sight along the northern roads.