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VYOLSTAGRAD (Duchy of)
Location: Continent of Brun, about 250 miles southeast of Alpha, near the northern end of the Final Range. NW
Area: 998 sq. mi. (2,585 sq. km.).
Languages: Heldannic, Traladaran.
Coinage: Coins from various realms accepted (most in circulation are Alphatian); gems or barter commonly used.
Taxes: 20% income tax collected yearly, plus 10% tithe to the Church of Vyolstagrad.
Government Type: Independent duchy.
Industries: Agriculture, logging, hunting.
Important Figures: Nevik (Duke), Alexis Vatutin (Patriarch).
Flora and Fauna: Forest is a primary terrain type in Vyolstagrad, primarily consisting of fir, spruce, sequoia, and oak. The forests are home to wild beasts and birds of various sorts, including wolves, wild boars, bears, weasels (both normal and giant), deer, elk, and moose. Lycanthropes, displacer beasts, panthers and wood decapuses are among the more fearsome denizens. Wood imps and bands of humanoids also dwell in some of the deeper forests. There is decent agricultural land, which yields grain, legumes, and potatoes. Sheep, oxen, dairy cows, and chickens are common. Humanoid tribes of all sorts, especially orcs and goblins, plague the northern hills.
Further Reading: CM4 Earthshaker!, previous almanacs.
Description by Adik de Chevas and Arcadius.
Vyolstagrad is a small, independent duchy located in the foothills of the Final Range. Despite its duchy status, the dominion is not a key player in the politics of Norwold, and is essentially a petty domain.
Vyolstagrad is situated in an upland valley, nestled in the foothills of the Final Range. The large valley, which also contains the bordering Duchy of Stamtral, was named the New Traladara Valley when Duke Nevik first claimed these lands. The dominion is well irrigated by freshwater streams and small ponds, which make for some good agricultural land [by Norwold's standards. Adik.]. The River Stryna flows down from the hills, forming the western border with Stamtral, until it reaches the Moonbeam River, which is, itself, the southern boundary of Vyolstagrad. Most of the duchy is cleared farmland and pasturage, or natural meadows. However, there are several large forests within the dominion; these are unsettled and wild. The northern extent of the domain's territory is marked by the North Hills [very creatively named by Duke Nevik, I might add. Adik.]. These borderland hills are mostly uninhabited by the men of Vyolstagrad, although humanoid tribes and the indigenous Gremlish people both make their homes there. The forested hills of Moonland serve as Vyolstagrad's border to the east.
The town of Vyolstagrad, the site of Duke Nevik's castle, is the primary population centre of the duchy. The "capital" is situated on the shores of Lake Grochnigora, along the Moonbeam River. Four villages in southern Vyolstagrad lie within a day's walk of the capital; these are Selchnogorsky, Vyzama, Sumarokoyva, and Bityansk. Deposkna and Obechek are the two northern villages, and Stryna is in the west. Trails go from village to village throughout the duchy. The trails are generally well kept through the farmlands, but become difficult to follow in the woods near Stryna.
The men of Vyolstagrad are as poor as they come, but most of them seem content with their lot in life as peasants and serfs [however there have been signs of unrest at times. Arcadius.]. Mostly, they are simple farmers who work incessantly to feed themselves and their families. Others make a living by hunting, as the woods of Vyolstagrad are rich with game. Logging is another trade that is not uncommon here. The tall pines and sequoias make excellent lumber, however much forest has already been cleared and has been converted to farmland.
The Vyolstagradans are almost entirely of Traladaran ethnicity, having emigrated from Karameikos as followers of Lord Nevik [there is also, however, a small minority of Heldanners. Arcadius.]. The customs and traditions of old Traladara are alive and well in Vyolstagrad. The peasants [and nobles, too. Arcadius.] are still beholden to superstitions and old wives tales. Most will carry good luck charms of various sorts, and they are fearful of the magical arts, undead, doppelgangers, and werewolves [perhaps, with good reason, considering the proximity of Moonland. Arcadius.]. The custom of Shearing, from the Old World, is practiced here when youths come of age. The Church of Vyolstagrad, a branch of the Church of Traladara, has a strong influence here. The clergy of Vyolstagrad revere the traditional Traladaran Immortals, Halav, Petra, and Zirchev, and share the same basic philosophy as their brethren in Karameikos. However, where the Church of Traladara believes that a Golden Age will eventually return to what is now Karameikos, the Church of Vyolstagrad preaches that the New Golden Age will occur here, in "New Traladara."
Militarily, Vyolstagrad is not a potent force. Duke Nevik maintains a small standing army of fair quality, which remains active fending off humanoid and barbarian raids, in addition to occasional skirmishes with neighbouring Stamtral. The army consists primarily of cavalry and a lesser contingent of archers. At any given time, roughly half are out patrolling the countryside, with the balance on duty in Vyolstagrad (town). In times of crisis, Duke Nevik must rely on his untrained and unproven peasant militia.
Another group of people, indigenous to the region, are the Gremlish [commonly referred to as, simply, barbarians. Adik.]. These people typically wander more to the north and west of the duchy, but they do cross the dominion from time to time [see Stamtral for further information on the Gremlish. Ed.].
Lord Nevik arrived in Norwold in AC 1001, in response to King Ericall's call for dominion rulers. He claimed the entire valley as New Traladara, and received the title of count. Loyal followers and others seeking to leave Karameikos arrived to build a new life. The work was difficult, but over the course of several years, the local barbarians and monster tribes were driven away, forests were cleared for farming, and villages were built. A key player in driving forth the humanoid tribes was Stano Stamtral, who led Nevik's armies in the field. As a reward for his loyalty and service, he was granted baronial status and land in western Vyolstagrad.
In AC 1007, during the Great War, Vyolstagrad was invaded by troops from Thyatis. Neighbouring Moonland had their hands full, and Count Nevik's border patrols were promptly routed by the enemy legions. The count quickly realised that resistance was futile, and turned to diplomacy rather than face slaughter. Essentially, he surrendered to Thyatis without a fight, in exchange for retaining control of his lands. He took this one step further, however, by breaking his oath to King Ericall and swearing fealty to Emperor Thincol of Thyatis, gaining the title of duke in return. The peasant levy that was called up was disbanded, and the men returned to the fields. Things did not go quite as Nevik had hoped, though, as Baron Stano refused to lay down his arms. The Thyatians were determined to make an example of this malcontent, and they proceeded to burn and pillage the barony, despite Nevik's protests. Eventually, the Thyatians stormed Stano's keep and captured him, although he escaped soon thereafter. The Thyatians, tired after years of fighting in the harsh foreign climate, weakened by disease, and disheartened by losses back home, finally left Norwold in early AC 1010.
Although Vyolstagrad was greatly strained by the long Thyatian occupation, Duke Nevik emerged relatively unscathed. With Alphatia sunk below the waves and Thyatis withdrawn to reclaim their lost territories elsewhere, Nevik was able to assert his own independence. As he was gearing up to reclaim the lands of Stamtral, Baron Stano returned with a motley band of mercenaries and proclaimed himself duke. Stano was able to control the western part of Vyolstagrad up to the River Stryna, a significant expansion of his original territory. With his army still disbanded and his treasury mostly in Thyatian coffers, Duke Nevik could only watch. He sent his few able men to patrol the border, and then set about restoring Vyolstagrad. The people recovered quickly, although some did leave for nearby Moonland. One benefit that the Thyatians brought to the duchy was the establishment of trails between the scattered villages. Duke Nevik has been able to maintain these to encourage trade and travel between his towns. In recent years, Vyolstagrad has suffered from increased barbarian raids from the north, along with the usual troubles with humanoids. Relations with Stamtral have never really improved. There have been several skirmishes near the River Stryna, but the prospect of a full-fledged war seems unlikely. Vyolstagrad chose to remain separate from the Norwold Confederacy, which was established in AC 1016.
Vyolstagrad is a quaint, humble dominion, but it is not much different from other areas of Norwold. The only site really worth seeing is the town of Vyolstagrad. Here one can find markets for the various crops grown throughout the duchy, a few decent craftsmen, and several taverns of varying quality [from bad to worse. Adik.]. The town has a small dock area on Lake Grochnigora for river craft and fishing boats. A stout timber palisade defends the town. Duke Nevik's castle is situated a short distance from the town walls, atop a rocky hill. Within the town, the most notable feature is the Church of Vyolstagrad, its bell tower rising above the thatched roofs like a spear point.
In addition to the treacherous North Hills, the forested area east of Stryna, called Wargwood by the locals, should be avoided if possible. There are trails that lead through this forest, but they are dark, dangerous, and unreliable. The woods are infested with wolves. Dire wolves have been spotted, and there have been reports of goblins and lycanthropic activity in the forest as well. Although some lumber jacks do ply their trade near the edge of Wargwood, only the bravest hunters dare to enter in search of their quarry [many who do, end up becoming the quarry! Adik.].