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The Southern Baronies
In the Beginning
That the Emperor Amora vanquished the remains of the Magiocracies is common knowledge - that he failed to dominate two of them is not. The reasons for this are many fold - geographical of course but mainly the nature of the two southerly Magiocracies themselves (who fared better than their northern counterparts in the conflicts of power)
The Empire once covered the entire continent upon which Labyrinthia now rests - the natural barrier of the Brandin Mountains effectively splitting the Empire in two. With the formation of the Magiocracies two of them were located in the southerly area of the continent.
The most militant of the seven Magiocracies came to exist in the south where the more temporal attitudes they adhered to were of most use against the enemies that had plagued the old Empire for centuries. The magicians and priests themselves who were attracted to violence and warfare swore allegiance to the southerly Magiocracies in order to practise their arts and desires - actions which would have been frowned upon in the more "cerebral" north.
The majority of the armies of the Republic were located in the south since The Enemy itself was only finally defeated after the collapse of the Magiocracies, in IM 993.
The Baronies of the 3rd Age
There is much that is familiar here to a citizen of the Empire. The clothing, weapons, armour, language and general customs are little different from those found in the North.
The same food is eaten, similar ales are drunk - aside from their politics and social-economy there are far more similarities than differences between the North (the Empire of Labyrinthia) and the South (the Baronies).
Most of the savage creatures of the Empire live here too, but this is very much a human dominated society. Elves are killed as they are assumed to be kin to the Faeries that plague the people of these lands. Dwarves are occasionally seen since Al'Macsar juts into the Baronies northern frontier - but the creatures of the Far North are mere tales.
Orcs and goblins are not present, they have never migrated this far south from their tribal beginnings in the frozen Far North. Similarly the races that came through the thin places in Labyrinthia - the Silver Folk and Ancient Folk are predominantly a problem for the Empire.
The Baronial lands are divided into Waldgrafines (provinces or kingdoms), each ruled in tiny segments by the hundreds of Barons who hold absolute sway over those within their borders. They in turn are ruled over by the military leaders, the Graf and ultimately the Waldgraf. The provinces themselves are very different from each other, the gathering together that took place brought together those of like mind against those who did not share their social or political values
The southern continent itself is a wild and stormy place, composed mostly of dense forests and hills that make agriculture difficult at best. The rituals unleashed during the Choas Wars and indeed in the sporadic warfare with the Enemy have ignited savage pockets of wild magic throughout the land. The whole nation is plagued by folk-myth and terrible reality.
Waldgrafines such asWallastovia are so riven by the course of vampirism that most of the Barons there are inflicted by this terrible curse. Indeed, whole villages are often found composed of ghoulish nightstalkers or communities of werewolves hiding from the vochstelen of the circle.
The people are devoutly insular and rarely leave the Barony in which they are born. Strangers are always viewed with suspicion. Outsiders are always treated coldly by each village as the inhabitants assume them to be spreaders of ruin or plague. Only the Peddlers that wander along a yearly route are greeted eagerly for stories of the outside world - but then the same peddler will visit the same village each year and so is known in each locality
Strong communities of Faeries dot the country. Attracted by the wild magic that still pools in the deep places, craggy valleys and high forests they have a more domesticated and settled life than their cousins within the Empire. Lurking under hills and in the deep forests they do not obey the dictates of the Circle or the Waldgraf and act as they wish in the remote places in which they dwell - places that even the poorest Baron would lay no claim to
Geared as the country was to war with the logistic support of its northerly neighbours, it is still only inefficiently trying to support itself. Whilst it is not the case now that two thirds of the Baron's serfs were trained as his personal army, the psychology of the Baronies does not lend itself well to farming. The impact of the Waldgraf have gone some way to changing this, but still the staple food of the land is from the plentiful game of the forests and the large pigs that each village keeps. With the acquisition of the Labyrinthian southern herds (at the end of the second age) the northerly Waldgrafines are better off than most, but the majority of serfs are underfed and badly malnourished.
During the second age, however, the baronies retook the city of Takalia and have unchallenged control of the river meadows of the Vrospres. The Circle broke with tradition to apply severe pressure to the Waldgrafine of Bulaslavia to make their new found prosperity available to all - though a fair price has been allowed to be set by the Waldgraf.
The Baronies are, however, extremely rich in metals - their soldiers are covered in mail and even the precious metals are in fair supply. It is not unusual for the least of the serf families to have some article of gold and silver as an heirloom. With the vast forests also present in every Barony, raw materials for the militia class are easily to hand and the craftsmen of the Baronies have a justifiably high reputation.
It is these resources that it is intended to use in Takalia to trade with the Empire for foodstuffs. Whatever the official line happens to be politically within the Empire, there will always be Labyrinthian mercenaries willing to deal with the Baronies - especially since Takalia is so much easier to travel to than the rain swept hills of the Baronies south of the Brandin Mountains.
It is worth mentioning that the settlements of the Baronies do not come near to the size of the Empire's. Only Arathelia and Takalia would be considered large enough for settlement status in the Empire. Baronial settlements are large towns that have clustered around the larger castles of the Baronies. Baronial society is more rural that the centralised urban nature of its northern neighbour. The shifting borders in the long years of the fight with the Enemy precluded any truly permanent settlement in all but a very few cases.
There are a great many small forts, towers and castles splashed across the south. Each Baron having at least a defensible tower. Each Barony is intended to be able to defend itself until allies can arrive, and the very nature of the society means that any effort at invasion is a long and tedious task with few prime objectives to attain (as the daemons found out to their cost)
Recent History (IM998 and 999)
During these years the might of the Baronies was seen in their invasion of the Empire. They intended to use the power of the then active Amora's Doom for a ritual whose purpose was not fully comprehended at the time..That the Circle applied such pressure upon many of the Waldgraf speaks of something of great importance. That they were thwarted by the factions of the empire says much for the tenacity of the Labyrinthians but the fact that the Baronies gained so much ground speaks volumes for their military might when given a definite goal.
It should be remembered that it took several months for the Empire to finally repel the Baronial troops who gained so much ground on shaky lines of supply. Even then the retaliatory attack by the Empire into the Baronial lands was repelled after a single show of force. The Circle hierarchy behind the invasion was deposed after its failure and new, steadier hands came to power.
With Takalia reclaimed and fortified the Baronies seem to be adopting more diplomatic strategies - but their eventual aim will always be for food. The river valley of the Vrospres has gone some way to alleviate the problem, but still they are not at the level they once were with the North.
Without the immediate threat present from the amoran Empire, many of the Waldgraf have turned to solving their domestic problems. In the north the missionaries of Shaehan are establishing themselves and despite the dislike the religion engenders in parts of the Circle the Arathelian Accords prevent them from acting against the Church. Beside which, many of the Barons like the idea of healers in their lands.
The Baronies regard the Ishmaic Confederacy as an Amoran Enclave whilst the Ishmaic's view the Baronies as little more than a renamed Magiocracy.
The wild nature of the Baronies has lead to a number of stylised Baronial Greetings for travellers approaching strange places.