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OSSIAN (Barony of)
Location: Continent of Brun, on the shores of the gulf south of Alpha. NW
Area: 998 sq. mi. (2,585 sq. km.).
Coinage: Alphatian Standard: crown (gp), mirror (sp), judge (cp); barter common.
Taxes: 30% income tax collected yearly.
Government Type: Barony, member of the Kingdom of Alpha, member of the Norwold Confederacy.
Industries: Fishing, agriculture, hunting.
Important Figures: Heinrich Niederhaus (Baron and Grand Knight of the Order of the Ash Rod).
Flora and Fauna: Ossian is a lowland valley nestled between the Ossian Bay and the Wyrmsteeth. Wild animals and monsters can be encountered in the southern regions, especially on the foothills of the Wyrmsteeth, while the north and central areas are safer and filled with farmlands and pastures. Woods on the eastern border provide small game, but wild beasts are also common in this region and hunters must be very careful.
Further Reading: CM1 Test of the Warlords, previous almanacs.
Description by Adik de Chevas and Arcadius.
Once a large and proud nation of both Heldanners and Alphatians, after the Norwold Wars of AC 1016 Ossian was reduced to a small barony, with more than two thirds of its land lost in the shrinking of the nation. Its former ruler, the Black Duke, treacherously betrayed Ericall and allied with Qeodharans, but he paid for his insolence in the end, dying at the hands of the just rulers of Norwold. Now Ossian is beginning to bloom again under the rulership of its new enlightened ruler, although the problems to overcome are still many.
Ossian currently occupies only the central coastal area of what was once the duchy with the same name. Its territory comprises the lowlands going from the foothills of the Wyrmsteeth to the south to the shores of the Bay of Ossian to the north. This vast valley, dubbed Friedental by the locals, is where the great majority of Ossianites live, under the protective wing of the Order of the Ash Rod. The valley consists of many farmlands and grasslands useful to raise crops and to tend small herds of sheep and goats [although herding is not so common, given the presence of the Wyrmsteeth dragons to the south, who are constantly looking for easy animal prey. Arcadius.]. The other main economic revenue for the barony is fishing, which is plentiful indeed thanks to the blessed waters of the Bay of Ossian.
The Ossianites left the old capital of Schwarztal [seat of the Black Duke's machinations and black magics. Adik.] at the end of the war, when the invasion of the Alphan forces left next to nothing of it. The new baron, Sir Niederhaus, sponsored the construction of a new capital in the middle of the current barony, on the shores of the Bay of Ossian, and far from the prying eyes of the dragons. The new capital, Thorstadt, now houses many of the old inhabitants of Ossian as well as all of the refugees from Odinia [another barony north of Ossian, near the Strait of Todstein, which was invaded and completely razed first by Qeodharans and then by dragons in AC 1016. Arcadius.]. In accordance with Baron Niederhaus's wishes, Thorstadt is dominated by an imposing wooden palisade some 30 feet tall to block out any possible land invasion. The palisade has four watchtowers oriented towards the four cardinal points, and each one is armed with ballistae to repel any possible flying threat [even if dragons don't assault Ossian for now, due to the Draconic Treaty, other flying beasts such as wyverns and manticores have no such scruples. Adik.]. The town also boasts some tricky caltrops in its harbour that prevent all ships from docking without explicit permission from the harbourmaster [who must send forth a small boat to show the docking ship the safe route through the caltrops. Adik.] Baron Niederhaus is trying to establish his barony as an important centre for shipbuilding, using the skills and knowledge of the Odinian immigrants, although the required wood grows only on the hills at the southern border of the barony, which are currently under the dragons' sway.
The last important feature of Thorstadt is the Hall of the Ash Rod, a majestic longhouse of Heldannic tradition that is the holy headquarters of the Knightly Order of the Ash Rod. Baron Niederhaus is also the grand knight of the order, which has sworn fealty to Odin All-father and to the northern pantheon and whose main goal is to protect the populace from any danger. For this reason the order is rather popular among the people, although the Odinian immigrants remember well that the order could not prevent the destruction of their former homeland [in fact the order was originally created in Odinia, and later moved to Ossian when Odinia was destroyed and Sir Niederhaus got the rulership of Ossian in Kaldmont AC 1016. Adik.]. Inside the hall priests, godi, skalds and paladins of the church gather once a year to celebrate Odin's Death [Kaldmont 20. Arcadius.], to remember Odin All-father's sacrifice when He created mankind and gave them His wisdom, the runes [this is one of the many features the order has taken from the Odinian Church of the Northlands. Arcadius.]. The hall is a wooden thatched longhouse, with many coats of arms hanging from its inner walls. Each symbol refers to one of the noble knights who have sworn to defend Ossian from any threat and who now constitute the Council of the Ash Rod, the knightly assembly that helps Baron Niederhaus in ruling the country.
The political system of Ossian is pretty straightforward: everything is in the hands of the priests belonging to the order. They act as village bürgermeisters and spiritual leaders, as judges and officers of the army [even though the military charges are reserved to the knights of the order properly. Adik.]. Since they are the Immortals' ears and mouths, nobody can really contest their judgments, so the Ossianites can rarely question them.
Nowadays the Ossianites are Heldanners to their heart. All of the Alphatians who once lived here migrated to Draken or to Alpha at the end of AC 1016, leaving the land to the Heldanners [to the joy of Sir Niederhaus, as many people say. Adik.]. The Heldanners are great workers, fond of drinking and telling old tales regarding the ancient forefathers and their Immortals. They are honourbound people, and seldom act maliciously, even with strangers. The Ossianites as a whole are a simple but honest folk, with a great faith in the Immortals and in what they call "Wyrd" [a philosophical and religious concept imported to Ossian by the order, which in turn took it from the Odinian Church of the Northlands. Arcadius.]. We have not been able to determine whether this Wyrd refers to a strong belief in the power of destiny or to a real Immortal [since there is an Immortal with the same name worshipped in the church's pantheon. Arcadius.], but whatever it is, the Order of the Ash Rod gives it the highest power in nature. This way, they explain, their defeat in Odinia wasn't properly their fault, but it was Wyrd's will: Wyrd wanted the order to escape doomed Odinia in order to reach Ossian to protect it [a clever trick to justify everything, if you ask me. Arcadius.].
As mentioned before, the Church of the Northlands imported from Odinia by the order is now the dominant faith in Ossian. It's slowly spreading its influence even to the other Heldannic communities south of the Great Bay, much to Sir Niederhaus's joy [since after the death of High Priest Ulf Karlsson-who was also Baron of Odinia-in AC 1016, Sir Niederhaus is now the highest ranking member of the church. Adik.]. In fact, thanks to its godar (itinerant priests and paladins), the church counts new shrines and temples in Alpha, Kameloth, Siegeria and even some of the Tranquil Coast baronies (including Oceansend). The tenets of the faith are quite straight and begin with the Creation Myth: humans spawned from Yggdrasill, the World-Ash. Then Odin All-father hanged Himself on Yggdrasill and gave humans the knowledge of the runes [magical symbols He received during His coma. Adik.] to control nature and their instincts. Men attained reason and prayed to Odin All-father to thank Him for His gifts. Then Loki the Trickster came to the world and tempted men, who succumbed to Loki's treachery. Giants invaded the human lands, and the humans invoked again Odin All-father, asking for protection. Odin sent them His son, Thor the Thunderer, who repelled the giants in the mountains and chased Loki away. But Loki still plots and schemes with evil and malicious men and monsters to conquer the human lands, so the Order of the Ash Rod was created, to defend humans from the Trickster and His allies. That is, until the day of Ragnarok comes, when all the Immortals and mortals alike will meet their fates and Wyrd will prevail.
The Black Duke founded the dominion of Ossian back in AC 1002, when he migrated to Norwold from Alphatia with his entourage of lackeys and Alphatian commoners. The county soon achieved the status of duchy by conquering nearby lands and killing the humanoid population [and also because the Black Duke asked Ericall to be granted an elevated status in comparison to the other "common" rulers of Norwold. Adik.] and the Black Duke tightened its grip on his people by prohibiting anyone from leaving the duchy. Then the Great War came, but this part of Norwold was mildly touched and the duke remained quiet. It was only during the later Norwold Wars of AC 1016 that he showed his envy towards Ericall's power and sided with the Qeodharans [actually many say he planned the whole invasion from the start. Adik.], attacking the nearby Kingdom of Alpha and blackmailing many of the Norwold rulers. At the end of the war he was finally defeated and the duchy reduced in status as well as in size [part of it was absorbed by the Draconic Earls of Wyrmsteeth. Arcadius.]
By the end of AC 1016, a group of Odinian immigrants [the last survivors of the massacres perpetrated by the Qeodharans, the Black Duke's troops and the dragons. Arcadius.] settled in the central part of former Ossian, led by the surviving members of the Order of the Ash Rod. The Order of the Ash Rod was founded in Odinia in AC 1006 by Sir Niederhaus, with the sole purpose of fighting evil in Norwold in the name of the Northern Gods [the order was pivotal in recruiting the best warriors of Odinia and nearby lands and organising the army of Odinia, which started to repel the pirates and contain the dragons' attacks. The years following the end of the Great War and the sinking of Alphatia saw the order rise high in Norwold, as well as the church, with many longhouses and shrines founded in many regions south of the Great Bay. One such stronghold has even been built in the isle in the centre of Alinor Lake, between the Wyrmsteeth and Icereach Ranges, and is now recruiting new members for the Order of the Ash Rod to counter the Heldannic Knights' advance. Adik.]. Their leader, Grand Knight Heinrich Niederhaus, petitioned King Ericall for the rulership of Ossian, and the Council of Norwold awarded it a title nobody had claimed so far. Baron Niederhaus put time and efforts to rebuild the power of his order in the new land, and so far [three months after his arrival. Arcadius.] he has managed to build a fortified capital and to give Ossian a new political system.
Do not miss the Hall of the Ash Rod, for it is a really inspiring place to visit, especially during Odin's Death celebrations. The hall is filled with a mystical energy that gives all those who pray inside it a strong vitality and such a sense of unity with the universe and the Immortals' powers, that they feel regenerated and somewhat inspired to perform incredible tasks.
Stay away from the southern border altogether. Although its lush forests are a breathtaking sight, the presence of the Wyrmsteeth and its winged dwellers is a strong enough deterrent to any explorer who is not familiar with the place. Also, the evergreen forests hide their own share of dangers (both natural and animal), not only the mountains, so the unwary traveller is warned.
Also, even if not technically part of the dominion, the Strait of Todstein to the north has a bad reputation among the locals [and this is confirmed by the rumours about that place that circulate in the northern County of Draken as well. Adik.]. It is believed that the Isles of Todstein and Graben were once inhabited by a fiendish necromancer that got blasted by the Immortals for the heinous crimes perpetrated on the folk living in those islands. Nowadays the isles are presumed deserted and the sailors keep away from the fog-filled area.