The Grand Duchy of Voruta Jan 18, 2018 14:07:19 GMT -8 Gerald Neumann and Velmerys Imperium like this
Post by Grand Duchy of Voruta on Jan 18, 2018 14:07:19 GMT -8
The story of Voruta begins in the mists of prehistory. According to local traditions, the first men in the region were long dead horsemen, rowdy souls that tore up the pastures of the heavens, astride the herds of the heavens. Tired of dealing with them, the Gods cast the warriors and horses to the earth, and let them bicker among themselves, and deal with the magic beings in the woods.
And bicker the horsemen and their descendants did, creating small clans on the edge of the Eastern wood, raiding and fighting amongst themselves, occasionally raiding out to the farming communities around them, enslaving men, women, and children. In time, the Heavenly Horsemen all fell to the blades of their foes, with the only evidence of their existence is the shrines erected on their graves, and the artefacts they left behind, mainly bits and pieces of their weapons and their armor.
The first lords cemented their power, gathering enough loot and slaves to build up small wooden forts on isolated hills, letting their slaves start little farms in the valleys below. The slaves grew into serfs, and then into peasants, owning their own plots of land, though still paying taxes to the forts on the hills.
The bickering of the lords only ended when beasts poured out of the woods, and they were forced to cooperate to kill the creatures, only to continue attacking each other. In time, these bonds of cooperation were extended to beyond the simple beast hunt, and into more concrete ties of alliance. Power began to get consolidated in the hands of three major families, the Gediminas, the Vyatautas, and the Mindaugas. Centuries of warfare raged between the three powers, each’s power waxing and waning over time. Eventually, the Mindaugas family unified the region under their control, and established the Grand Duchy of Voruta, named after their Castle.
The region experienced a rare moment of peace under the reigns of the Mindaugas, which saw the region gain some measure of wealth above the dirt poor status of their ancestors. Then, the last Mindaugas died without an heir, and the cadet branches had married into both the Gediminas and the Vyatautas. A generations long civil war erupted between the two factions for control of the crown. Neither side could prove ultimately victorious, even if both had the upper hand at different points.
Finally, with no end in sight, the two families saw the destruction that had been wrought on the once prosperous Duchy. Seeing no way for either to give up their claims to the crown, they reached a compromise where they would offer the crown to Empress Naoki of Isra, and the fortress of Voruta that went with it, for a measure of autonomy over their own lands.
Culture and People
The native language of Voruta, Vorutan, is considered by many outsiders to sound threatening, to the point where even giving a compliment may sound like a threat. Its origins are unknown, despite the best attempts by outside scholars to trace its roots. It shares little to no similarities to Isran, with the only similar words being loan words. This serves as a proud distinction for the native speakers of Vorutan, letting them know exactly who their friends are, and who to be wary of.
The first lords in the region were the children of the Heavenly Horsemen, demi-gods from their father’s divine status. This set them above the lower orders of society below, imbuing them with superhuman levels of strength, which has been mostly lost due to time and intermixing with the classes below. Even though most of that divine status is now gone, the nobility still cling to their heavenly birthright to distinguish themselves from the unwashed masses below.
The same can be said for the warhorses of the Duchy, having been descended from the original heavenly mounts. They are said to be intelligent, brave, and loyal to their riders. The warhorses and breeding rights are reserved solely for Nobles, who keep extensive breeding books and records on every ounce of Destrier flesh in the Duchy.
The origins of the feudal system caused the region to be an impoverished one, with everyone scrounging to get by. Though technically above the peasants in terms of their divine origins, the lesser nobility often share in the poverty that their peasants deal with, cementing strong social ties between them. The peasants trust in their lords to protect them, and to give wise counsel in judicial matters of land rights and blood feuds. The lords trust their peasants to work the land as best they can, and often help with bringing in the harvests.
Though Isra has proclaimed the freedom of all, in practice there is very much still a hierarchical system in Voruta, with Nobles being tried in their own courts separate from the peasants. But there is still equality before the law for all.
On the subject of magic and its users in Voruta, that is a rather contentious issue. Despite Isra’s best attempt to regulate the use of magic, many of the natives do not trust any use whatsoever. They have long memories of fighting mystical beasts in the woods for every inch of territory, and of rogue wizards and witches escaping from Isra to build sanctuaries in the Eastern woods. These magic fugitives often dabbled in necromancy, causing multiple instances where the undead roamed into a village and maimed or killed some peasant.
With this mindset, the commoners and lower nobility are more than willing to hunt down and burn any wizard or witch who attempts any form of mischievous or foul acts. A special occupation has arisen to help with these efforts, the Witch Hunter. Dressed in long brown leather dusters, and wearing capotains to distinguish themselves from the average peasant, these men are pretty straight forward in what their job entails.
The higher nobility, what few there are, will attempt to high court magicians to help govern their realm and give them council. As such, there is a small population of magic users in the realm, but suspicion still dwells around them, and if riots ever break out, they are the first victims if they are caught.
However, that does not mean they feel any ill will towards other species. They have no issues with elves or dwarves, as long as they don’t practice magic in their native territory, and often prize their craftsmanship. Several quarters of dwarves and elves can be found in the city of Voruta, with the dwarves being the main force in the blacksmithing district, and elves quartering the market on finer items. There are very few out of the City however, but small groups may be found in various settlements on the frontier of the Eastern Forest.
The Heavenly Horsemen feature heavily in the religion of the Vorutans, with their graves being places of worship. The main unifying symbol of the religion is the horse, with the individual riders serving as local deities. Believers often have a talisman or amulet of a horse’s head hanging around their neck.
The Priesthood caste will dress in shorter robes of various colors, with riding breeches and boots, their only distinction from the average peasant being how they shave their heads, their only hair being mohawks in imitations of a horse’s mane. For rituals, they will wear horse skull on top their heads.
There is only one grand Temple to the Heavenly Horsemen, and that is located in Voruta, the supposed landing ground for the Horsemen as they were cast out from Heaven. It is considered the most sacred land in all of Voruta, and was built under the reigns of the Mindaugas dynasty. Otherwise, local worship revolves around local shrines, often set up on the grave site of the fallen Horseman. The surviving kit of the Horseman is on display at the shrines, and is closely guarded, though there are questions about the authenticity of these items by skeptics.
There is no set period of weekly worship, but there are four festivals, two on the equinoxes, and two on the solstices hosted at the shrine sites. Feasting and drinking is a facet of these celebrations, as well as animal sacrifice, typically lambs, kids (the goat kind), or piglets. Otherwise, worship is simply going to the local shrine to give thanks or ask for help.
For the joining of two people in matrimony, the ceremony is held at the local shrine. The groom rides their horse to the site, borrowing the local Lord’s if they don’t have one, where the bride and the families are waiting. After an exchanging of vows, the both drink ale from the same goblet and feed each other a piece of bread and salt. The groom then carries the bride away on the horse, to a specially set place for the consummation of the marriage. The bride and groom return to their home the next day, and that is when the celebration takes place.
If someone were to die, they would be given a ritualistic burial according their status in life and how they died. A peasant who died from old age in their sleep would be buried in the blanket they died in, someone from a farming accident would be buried with the implement or animal that killed them. Cavalrymen who died in battle would be buried in their armor, alongside their horse, so they can roam the heavens with the Heavenly Horsemen.
The economy of Voruta is mainly agrarian based, focusing on the harvest of wheat and rye as the staple to the average Vorutan’s diet. Livestock such as sheep, goats, cows, and pigs serve as supplements to the diet of the Vorutans, as well as wild game in the woods. They do export lumber from the Eastern Forest, which serves two purposes: as a source for much needed money for the region, and opens up more land for farming.
The lumber industry also opens up other opportunities for job seekers. When a new hill is cleared, it is checked to see if there are any useful minerals or ores hiding beneath, and if there are, mine shafts are sunk in. Huntsmen prowl the woods, hunting stags and boars to sell to market. Other hunters have joined in the industry, focusing on more dangerous game like wild tribes of humanoids, or chasing down forest deities that threaten the lumber workers.
The only place in Voruta with any form of industry is the City of Voruta, which is primarily run by the dwarves. They mass produce weapons and armors, mostly sold to local lords for their retinues and adventurers signing on to venture into the Eastern woods. The elves craft finer goods for those who can afford them, and because of the Duchy’s economic status, they are very much not a major factor.
As one can probably guess from its origins, Voruta is heavily focused on its cavalry. Its main striking force is its small core of heavily armed and armored knights, composed of the landed noble class. Wearing full plate armor, armed with lances, various melee weapons like sword, warhammers, and hatchets, and mounted on their destriers, this core cuts a picture of a noble type of warfare. But these knights are not the only mounted force on the battlefield.
Riding with the knights are retainers, usually born from the common masses. They are not as heavily armored as their knightly masters, usually only wearing half plate or chainmail. They are used more as skirmishers, mainly wielding bows and javelins, along with various melee weapons when they run out of ammunition. The horses they ride are lighter and more nimble, suited to getting close to the enemy and darting away.
Along with the cavalry, there are a small core of professional infantry that are retained by the nobility. They are armed with half plate, long spears, various melee weapons, and large pavise shields, painted with the coat of arms from their local lords.
To supplement their numbers, the peasants can be called to arms. They are not well trained, often only drilling a few times a year, but they make up for that with tenacity and toughness. They are supplied with arms from the local lord’s armory, mainly cheap melee weapons and ranged weapons like bows and crossbows, and armored in gambesons, talberds and kettle helms.
Huntsmen are also called upon in times of need, providing the much needed foot archer contingent in the army. Most of those called upon are already on the payroll of nobles, but they will also draft the huntsmen from the woods. They are armed with both longbows and crossbows, and are lightly armored in gambesons and kettle helms, if any helmets at all.
While not officially incorporated into the Vorutan military system, the adventurers who prowl the eastern woods can be “persuaded” to fight alongside the main line. A mixture of infantry, cavalry, and archers, these adventurers tend to be opportunists, focused on making quick gold while minimizing risks. They are better equipped than the militia levy, but not as well as the retainers.
There is no permanent siege arm of the Vorutan military system, as it is too expensive to maintain. If a siege must be done, most the time the aggressive army will simply wait outside the walls until the defenders starve. If a castle must be stormed, they will undermine the walls using drafted miners, and collapse sections of the wall, and then storm the breach.
In terms of tactics on the battlefield, the favorite tactic for the Vorutans is the “Hammer and Anvil”. In essence, the infantry form the anvil that the cavalry hammer the enemy against. The light cavalry lure the enemy into breaking ranks and attacking by riding forth and harassing them with missile weapons. If the enemy take the bait and charge, the heavy cavalry waits for the infantry to become engaged, and then fall on the enemy from the rear, causing the enemy to break.
Since it fought against itself, it has also developed a counter to the Hammer and Anvil. The Wagon Fort. A mobile counter to the maneuverability of cavalry, it can be quickly set up and taken down to take the best defensive positions in the field. The wagon fort occupants simply wait for the enemy to tire themselves against the wagons, and then foray out to rout the broken enemy.