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DIKHOFF (Barony of)
Location: Continent of Brun, northeast of Oceansend, on the western shore of the New Alphatian Sea. NW
Area: 499 sq. mi. (1,290 sq. km.).
Languages: Heldannic, Traladaran.
Coinage: Oceansend Standard: heart (gp), blade (sp), wall (cp).
Taxes: 25% income tax, collected yearly.
Government Type: Independent barony.
Industries: Agriculture, mining (salt), craft (weaponsmithing).
Important Figures: Dimitri Dikhoff (Baron).
Flora and Fauna: Dikhoff is mostly a flat land occupied by farms and cultivated fields and orchards. Woods have been progressively cut down with the slash and burn technique to encourage agriculture and the last patches of evergreen forest remain only alongside the northern and eastern borders. Along the border with the swamp numerous salt pans exist. Common wildlife includes land predators such as hyenas, wolves, otters and foxes as well as hawks and vultures. Monstrous fauna consists of swamp dwellers (serpents, poisonous frogs, sirenflowers, amoebas and decapuses), displacer beasts and basilisks in the woods to the north and a few winged exotic predators like manticores, wyverns and the legendary Chimera of Doom.
Coats of Arms: Baron Dimitri Dikhoff: Hissing green snake, black background; Barony of Dikhoff: Green circle cut by white filled triangle (pointing up), black background; City of Dikhoff: Three white filled triangles (pointing up) with a fourth green filled triangle (pointing down), black background.
Further Reading: CM1 Test of the Warlords, previous almanacs.
Description by Adik de Chevas and Arcadius.
Independent from Alpha since the Great War, the petty Barony of Dikhoff is recognised as a regional power by its neighbours. Dikhoff is embroiled in a vicious war with long-time foe Serenity, a war in which most other local nobles were dragged into over time, the result of a personal enmity between the two barons.
Dikhoff is a small barony located northeast of Oceansend, consisting mostly of cultivated rolling plains and grasslands, and light forest in the east and north. The woodlands are not dense enough to stop Serenity's cavalry, but are a perfect place to ambush their mounted patrols.
The city of Dikhoff, situated in the south of the barony at the edge of the swamp, is surrounded by a sturdy [and expensive. Arcadius.] stone wall, there to protect the city from the sweeping forays of the Serenic cavalry. To this date the city wall has never been breached by the enemy, who lacks the necessary siege engines and patience, so Castle Dikhoff has never been really threatened. The rest of the barony outside the town is almost undefended, though, and periodically suffers from raids by Serenity, and burning fields and farms are a common sight. The Dikhoffians are used to such raids, and simply move into the lower part of their cottages [which are not simple cellars. Arcadius.] whenever the border guard reports a unit of cavalry moving through the woods. There they stay until the raid is over and fires stop burning, and rebuild the upper part of their houses and replant their fields [the Serenic cavalry never takes the gamble to dismount and wipe out the Dikhoffians locked in their underground houses.].
Officially, the Dikhoffians use the Tranquil Swamp as a resource for valuable salt. But the swamp is also very useful for the Dikhoffian infantry to reside and prepare its attacks on neighbouring Serenity. The swamp is impractical terrain for the Serenic cavalry, but it borders their territory and is thus ideal for launching raids and then retreating to safety, so that the buffer zone situated in the swamp is actually the field headquarters of Dikhoff's army [they call it "the Tranquil Road to Serenity." Arcadius].
Dikhoff's population is an even mix of native human Heldanners and Traladaran newcomers. There are four castes of Dikhoffians:
The peasants are generally Heldanner serfs who live in the scattered farmsteads throughout most of Dikhoff. They are a hardworking, fatalistic lot who till their fields relentlessly and stoically wait for the fires to subside when Serenity torches their houses and fields. They give most of their crops to their baron, keeping their share in underground pantries, but the soil is good and they rarely starve. Each raid by Serenity is costly to the baron's granaries as the baron keeps his raided serfs alive by sending them extra bread. There is a rumour running among the farmsteads that the baron's men have slain families after accusing them of setting fires to their own fields [a rumour possibly spread by spies from Serenity. Adik.].
The salt miners, of both Heldanner and Traladaran heritage, live at the edge of the Tranquil Swamp, where they are relatively safe from the skirmishes between the baronies. Many families exploit their own salt pans, but others belong to a handful of wealthy merchants of the city who use slaves to collect the salt [Baron Dikhoff being the first among them. Arcadius.].
The city dwellers are in majority Traladarans. Merchants form the upper class, their fortune generally coming from the trade of salt or weaponry; they generally keep a retinue of servants and slaves. There are also several fine smiths, as well as commoners of all trades.
The Dikhoffian soldiers are, for most of them, light infantry that live in the Tranquil Swamp, outside the official borders as much as within, so that Dikhoff actually controls much more ground than generally believed. If it were not for the need for agriculture to feed the population, the barony would probably have relinquished control of the northern farmlands to encompass swamplands only. The infantry occasionally leave the swamp to mount raids on Serenity, or to counter raid on its own territory, but the Dikhoffian army is at a clear disadvantage against Serenic cavalry in open terrain and always withdraws back to the safety of the swamp. Baron Dikhoff is looking for archers to ambush the cavalry in the forested border zone, but sharpshooters are hard to find.
Dikhoff is a fairly recent dominion; until the dawn of the new millennium, it was but wilderness, with a small native Heldanner population living off the fertile grasslands. When King Ericall invited heroes from all lands to come in Norwold and gain nobility and dominions in return for pledging fealty to the crown of Alphatia and to himself, many worthy heroes came to carve out their own dominions; among them was Dimitri Dikhoff. He became a baron of Ericall's and settled in this region of Norwold founding the city of Dikhoff, where merchants would collect and trade the resources of the dominion. But next door the baron's old nemesis, the vindictive Siegfried Sixx, boldly founded his own dominion too. Only a miles-wide buffer zone separated the two countries, where whole planes of existence would have been needed. Skirmishes between the two noblemen's forces were frequent and bloody, despite King Ericall's best efforts to prevent infighting between his vassals. Their role at court was not so much to assist their liege, but indeed to try and gain support from other lords, especially their close neighbours.
When mighty Alphatia declared war on Glantri and its allies, Baron Dimitri finally attacked Baron Siegfried in force, springing out of the swamp to swarm the barony, up to the city of Serenity. Castle Serenity alone resisted that assault, and the Dikhoffians lacked the siege equipment needed to breach its walls. A fierce sortie by the baron's elite heavy cavalry cut hard into the Dikhoffian ranks, forcing them to break ranks [the light Dikhoffian infantry is not so good at keeping ranks and fighting in formation. Arcadius.] and retreat to the swamp. The Serenic cavalry has been crossing the buffer zone many times since, and the two dominions have been in an intermittent state of war.
Both nobles have stopped answering to King Ericall's calls, as well as sending any tribute, as they estimated they have better things to do with their time, troops and money. The situation has grown into a stalemate lately, and each baron is trying to gain a decisive edge. The latest battles have been confined to skirmishes in the buffer zone, some settlements burnt and their inhabitants killed, but no major battle leading to significant land gain, until a truce was declared-but few believe it will last. Baron Fergus has been an ally of Baron Dimitri ever since Baron Siegfried was rumoured to be a traitor in the Thyatians' pay, and estranged Lord Maximus I has on occasion lent his minions as mercenaries to Serenity to supplement their cavalry with some needed infantry. Baron Dikhoff claims that his enemy is trying to forge an alliance with the Thyatians from the Isle of Dawn, but whether this is true or not remains to be seen.
Swamps are extraordinary places, with a wide range of unconventional flora, if you know where to find it. But unfortunately swamps are often dangerous places as well, with treacherous ground, biting insects, and many dangerous creatures and monsters. Well, the Tranquil Swamp has the treacherous footing, the biting insects, and of course the terrible smell, but it is relatively free of animal and monstrous hazards. With a good Dikhoffian guide [who will refuse to take you anywhere near a military camp, even if you prove at length that you are not a spy from Serenity. Adik.], you can discover an incredible variety of plants, some of which are amazing by their beauty in this otherwise bleak place, or are sought for their medicinal, poisonous, or narcotic proprieties (not to mention their potential as spell components).
Though his barony would be a fair land, were it not at war, I advise against getting too close to Baron Dikhoff. Under his nice exterior the man is an opportunist, looking for the right time to betray those that trust him. [I have no prejudice against Baron Dikhoff, but Arcadius seems to, as he lends credit to Baron Sixx's version and disparages Dikhoff. I'll have to ask him about that someday. Adik.]