Government of Neergaard

Feudalism is a system based on a network of reciprocal oaths of service, in which leaders offer grants of land (fiefdoms) to their vassals in exchange for military support.

The king of Neergaard is the ruler and ultimate authority of the land. His authority stems from divine right, demonstrated when the Neergaardian patriarchs of the Four Great Gods anoint him at his coronation. He is responsible for providing and enforcing wise laws and organizing the lords of the land for the common defense; to this end, the lords hold grants of land in fee simple and cede to the king the power to enact laws, send forth justicars, levy troops and gather taxes. There are few legitimate checks on a king's authority, but he must restrain himself lest he engender illegitimate opposition. Even malignant kings must temper their excesses to avoid rebellion.

The king stands at the center of the web of oaths. He owns all of the land, and he stands at the pinnacle of every chain of fealty. Below him, there exists a hierarchy of lesser aristocrats - dukes, earls, viscounts, baronets, knights, shire-reeves, etc. - with hedge knights being the least. Originally, all nobles swore their oaths directly to the king. But as the kingdom grew, lesser nobles began swearing their oaths to greater nobles. Now, those at each level of the hierarchy owe fealty to their immediate lords and accept fealty from their immediate vassals. At the bottom are the common people - merchants, craftsmen, free farmers and serfs - who owe allegiance to their lords.

A newly fledged or promoted noble swears fealty to his new liege lord in a religious ceremony dedicated to Ra. The vassal swears to serve his liege loyally, to never cause him harm or betray him, to offer him honest counsel, to fight for him in battle and to provide a retinue of knights or soldiers (or monies with which to support or hire soldiers). For his part, the liege swears to grant his vassal a fiefdom and its revenues, to protect him in war and to judge him fairly in matters of law.

Priests hold temporal authority in Neergaard through the feudal system. The churches of the Four Great Gods own large amounts of land; their high priests and abbots hold noble titles and have the same civil obligations to their vassals and/or serfs as do secular lords. Lesser priests from noble houses hold their titles by right of blood, while a commoner priest may become a knight or enter a lord's household as an advisor.

Monarch: King Edmund the Young (second of his name)

The King's Council

Geography of Neergaard

neergaard-map.jpg
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Located north and east of Herman Land, the Kingdom of Neergaard is made up of two islands. The main island is called "Neergaard", while the long narrow island to its west is called Sandspine Island.

Neergaard, the greatest land mass of the kingdom, is comprised of five provinces. The northernmost province, Thelgaard, is also home to the capital. The central three are Seareach, West Andevar, and East Andevar from west to east, respectively. The southernmost province is called Auntuan.

The long and narrow island of Sandspine is comprised of two provinces, Valkinord in the north and Venway in the south.

Climate

The islands that make up the Kingdom of Neergaard have a temperate climate with four distinct seasons with the extremes of heat and cold moderated by ocean winds, with the exception of a region shared by East and West Andevar that get cooler air passing over the Veronian Mountains and thus sees the most significant snowfalls in the winter. Also, the northern edge of Thelgaard receives much colder sea currents and thus suffers more severe winters, including frequent icing of the northern shore, called Gisel Haefting. While temperatures tend to be mild in the summer, certain regions of the eastern shore and the area known as Harsh Plain have been known to suffer from hellish heat. The spring in Neergaard tends to be especially rainy in the late winter through spring into early summer, which has led to the saying in the vulgar tongue regarding warring in those months "moare mudde Þanne blodde." In Thelgaard most years don't go by without a severe autumn hail that drives most people indoors for a day.

The Neergaardian Mindset

Neergaardians have a distinct worldview. While the degree to which they are manifested in any given individual may vary widely, there are a few general features said to define their mentality:

1) Honor is important. From the lowest commoner to the king himself, every man and woman has a measure of dignity, integrity and inner strength whose significance can be measured against that of property, rank or even life. If you have honor, others will rely on your word in the face of evidence to the contrary. To lose one’s honor is to live in shame, distrusted and victimized by others; for some, this is a fate worse than death. As a result, Neergaardians may retaliate against stains to their honor with deadly violence, deeming it better to violate the law than to be dishonored.

2) Religion is important. All churches, from those of the Four Greater Gods to a demigod’s smallest shrine, protect the world from evil. Any given priest may be smug, self-righteous, thriftless or even heartless, but they’re also warriors on the front line against demons and sin, guarding the common folk from supernatural dangers just as the nobility protect against mundane foes.

3) Spirituality is important. The people of Neergaard put great stock in their spiritual health and their place in the afterlife. Though they hunger after material goods and earthly pleasures as much as anyone, they are suspicious of such things and the impact they might have on their place in the Duat. This applies most notably to the common folk, who make a virtue of necessity in this regard; having little, they take pride in what they lack.

4) Tradition is important. Neergaardians consider tradition to be the sacred lessons of the past. It is the legacy of their parents and their parents’ parents, and it will be their legacy to their children. Tradition is what differentiates Neergaardians from barbarians. It tells them how to work the land, raise animals, tend the sick, live side-by-side in peace and properly worship of the gods. It is the shared traditions of Neergaard that tie the common people together and allow them to separate the righteous from the wicked, the wise woman from the witch and the innocent from the guilty. Fancy talk and so-called logic cannot stand in the face of five hundred years of practical learning.

History of Neergaard

See also: Neergaardian History

Law in Neergaard

Neergaardian society is heavily stratified. Commoners have far fewer rights than gentry — those who own sufficient land or gold to elevate themselves above the commoners — while the gentry themselves lack the full rights of the nobility. Only the priesthoods stand somewhat outside this structure, but in most circumstances priests and paladins of the Four Great Gods are treated as nobles, while other priests are treated as gentry.

Church Courts

Churches in Neergaard have broad jurisdiction. Any disputes between members of a church are always settled internally. Any crime or offense committed on a church's land is resolved in the church's court unless the church decides to allow the nearby temporal power to decide the fate of non-church members. Additionally, a priest or other ranking member of a church may demand to be tried by their church even if their dispute lies far from their church's land.

In practice, there is usually little question as to the church's authority but there are times where a careful political waltz must be danced to satisfy all parties and to allow both the leaders of the church as well as ranking nobles to walk away with their pride intact.

Anyone, even commoners may demand trial by ordeal to prove his or her innocence. However, such ordeals are most commonly requested by members of the church. One ordeal involves sticking one's hand into a vat of boiling water long enough to putt out an iron ankh of Ra. Another ordeal involves heating an iron ankh of Ra in a flame equivalent to a camp fire for twenty minutes. After that time, the defendant must remove the ankh from the embers of the fire and carry it eight feet and place it on a table. Afterwards, the defendant's hands are wrapped and if they are not festering in four days, the man or woman is declared innocent by the wisdom of the gods.

Decades ago, a declaration from the Sunfather of the Ecumenical Church of Ra's Pantheon decreed that all ordeals must be overseen by a Medicus of Fallon. Since then, the number of ordeals in the kingdom has decreased every year.

Trial by Combat

In theory, any citizen has recourse to trial by combat, but one must be fully armed and armored to participate in such a challenge. As such, it is only a viable option for the aristocracy, wealthy merchants, and well-armed mercenaries and adventurers. Such combat is overseen by a Militant of Anhur.

Religion in Neergaard

The churches of the Four Great Gods fulfill a major role in Neergaardian society. Even the smallest village has a shrine to the Four, and peregrine priests travel circuits between these settlements to preach, to heal and to lead the faithful in prayer. Additional priests are dispatched during major festivals. Large church compounds can be found in major towns and cities.

As Neergaard is a feudal, male-dominated land that lauds martial prowess above other attributes, the evolution of the faith here is unique in Central Aquerra. Over the course of the past few decades, much theological assumption has been codified and intensive debate, the occasional schism and finally reconciliation has recently come to an end. The result of all of this intensive speculation and soul-searching is a new book, The Proper Worship of the Four Greater Gods and Their Retinues. The high priest of Thoth oversaw its creation under the supervision of representative of the other important churches of the land.

The Celestial Hierarchy

Ra's Pantheon is broken down into households of four greater gods: Ra, Osiris, Anhur, and Horus. The gods of each household are loyal to their own house first.

Ra's wife, Ratet, died in the Time Before; as a widower, his rule is unfettered by the irrational whims of a woman. The gods of his household concern themselves with matters of power and authority. Merciful Nephthys sits at his right hand, stern Set at his left. His sun-bright legions of spirit servants marshal beneath the banner of the Phoenix. In Neergaard, he is first among "equals".
  • Despite Set's place on Ra's right hand, Setites are tortured on the rack and eviscerated first and questioned later. Ra can withstand Set's temptations; mere mortals cannot.

Osiris is married to Isis, as per usual. His household includes the nature gods — Geb, Shu, Tefnut — and Anubis, god of death. Beneath those four are the Beast Gods, such as Apshai, Bast and Hathor.
  • Despite Bast's low station, she is the most popular deity in Osiris' household after the God of Nature himself.

Anhur is married to war itself, Sekhmet. His household includes a variety of other war spirits, including his hounds Kopis and Sappara, his standard bearer Har-Septu and his stallion Dragontooth.
  • Sekhmet is the only other god in Anhur's household and not spoken of often. Only the maddest of hobgoblins and mountain folk are twisted enough to directly worship the chaotic, destructive, raging maelstrom that is war incarnate.

Horus, the youngest of the Great Gods, has yet to marry. As the god of justice, his household contains gods of knowledge and wisdom, most notably Thoth and Ptah. Fallon mends the wounds of those whom Horus must avenge.
  • Thoth's wisdom is still greatly admired by Ra and thus his entire pantheon. Adherents of both Anhur and Horus will follow the words of a Librarian of Thoth unless the Librarian's directives are superseded by superiors of their own churches.
  • Wayfarers of Ptah have, for several generations, been the most widely respected of Neergaard's traveling judges.
  • Medicus of Fallon are still expected to heal anyone in need, whether on the delivering or receiving side of vengeance no matter what precipitated the need for vengeance.

Church Land

For centuries nobles have been bargaining for their immortal souls by donating land to the Church of Ra and to the other gods of his pantheon. While no one knows if this has appeased the gods, it has made the church the single largest landowner in the kingdom. Their lands ranges from the beautiful expanse around Fontenmere Abbey to marshy wastelands and everything in between. Their peasants are still poor and work 12 hours a day or more, 6 days a week whether they are farming, mining or working their trade, but they usually find fairer treatment.

Since men can feed, clothe and protect their families more easily on church lands, families stay generation after generation. Church lands raise their own armies led by knights and paladins of their order for defense. In times of great conflict, the church would rely on the greater lord whose land they occupy for large-scale protection. However, when gravely threatened a war-band of Militants of Anhur and Paladins of Horus leading their men into battle can send a cold shiver down the spine of the hardest man.

Customs of Neergaard

Champions

Neergaard has a long tradition of champions. Bards have dozens of stories about them. Most are in the romantic tradition, with a man defending the honor of a lady; one who is often an object of unrequited love. Defending the honor of one's liege is the most common reason to be a champion. Defending a rich man's honor can also be profitable, but usually harms the reputation of the man relying on another to defend him unless he is feeble or elderly.

The king's honor guard are the champions of the king and kingdom.

Holidays

Neergaardians enjoy the same holidays as the other kingdoms of Central Aquerra. Both the Day of Honors and the Day of High Contest practically bring the kingdom to a stop as this martial land indulges in manly contests and amazing displays of horsemanship and swordplay. Summer Solstice is also particularly enjoyed in Neergaard, such that the day after has earned the nickname Ra's Hangover. Every fifth year, the vigil at Fontenmere Abbey raises the merrymaking to another level, with many legendary benders described year after year around this time.

Annual festivals also reprise the various social bonds that hold the people of Neergaard together. In the spring, married couples repeat their vows before Osiris and Isis to symbolically reinforce their marriages. In the summer, the high nobles travel to the king's castle to renew their oaths before Ra; this is accompanied by a great tournament. In the autumn, servants and serfs renew their contracts before Horus at a great harvest feast. In the winter, knights flock to their lords' castles to renew their oaths before Anhur in the warmth of the lord's hall.

One holiday unique to Neergaard occurs the day after the Festival of Isis and is known as the Day of Goodwill. On this day, the lower classes dress like the nobility and vice-versa. There is a traditional meal where the common folk are supposed to dress up and dine as richly as nobles, while the nobility eat simple food and wear unadorned garments. At noble tables around the kingdom, the one person or family dressed and eating as nobility is a member of the lord's staff that has been honored to sit above the gathered lords. Even on this day, the poor still look poor and the rich still look rich, but there is a great giving of decent food and warm, colorful clothes throughout the kingdom for those that need it most.

Jousts & Foot Lists

The people of Neergaard venerate their martial tradition and the noble warriors who are sworn to defend them can rarely pass up a chance to show off their skills. Competition between the houses or even among the same house has become legendary over the years. By tradition only nobles may joust with nobles; so cavaliers can never be ranked among the blooded elite, but their own competitions can be even more intense than that of the nobles as these men try to impress their masters or a lord of another house.

At less formal events, there are often foot lists, which allow nobles and common soldiers to do battle with blunted weapons and other rules to prevent more than one or two deaths a tournament. These accidents are most commonly caused by poorer folk attempting to compete despite deficiencies in their armor, especially helms that can be made with much less iron if made thinner. Due to this, most lists request the presence of a Militant of Anhur who can direct his acolytes to make sure all combatants are equipped to minimum standards.

Marriage & Family

Women are married off in their teens and require a dowry to be marriageable. Men must be able to support the entire family, so they don't marry until their mid-twenties at the earliest, and often not until much later. Prem-Onk marriages are very common.

Children are often sent away from the home - or even from the village - to be raised in a master's household as servants or apprentices.

Most houses are tiny, single-room dwellings with dirt floors and no windows. Domesticated animals live in the house with the family.

Superstition

Neergaardians — especially peasants, Hill People and Mountain Folk — believe that many seemingly mundane misfortunes are the work of evil or mischievous spirits. They rely on a wide range of ritual activities to ward off such spirits. These include hanging iron horseshoes over doors to keep out malicious fairies; refraining from bathing to protect against witchcraft; sprinkling salt on one's footprints when one steps out of the wilderness onto a road to prevent demons from following one back to civilization; and, when pregnant, wearing a hippopotamus tooth or an amulet depicting a hippopotamus to prevent complications in childbirth.

The number four is considered especially lucky, as is the color blue. The udjat, or Eye of Horus, is an even more powerful symbol of good fortune and divine favor. An udjat drawn inside a square is a popular talisman. A commoner might have it inked on a scrap of parchment and wear it on a string; a sailor might have it tattooed on his back; and a noble might have it engraved on a bit of turquoise or lapis lazuli and set in a gold ring or pendant.

A few of the more common Neergaardian superstitions:
  • Rain collected from a tombstone can remove freckles, moles, boils and corns.
  • A man who sires a bastard and doesn't recognize him before passing will find no peace in the afterlife.
  • Since there are four major Gods, doing things in sets of four is always considered good luck (e.g.: knocking four times to request entry, serving four courses at dinner, carrying four weapons and the list goes on and on).
  • The blood of a witch can be used to poison one's husband, but will only work if he has been unfaithful.
  • Cannibalism allows demons or other evil spirits to take over one's body, turning a human into a ravenous, noxious beast on the holiest of the Great God's holidays.

Races in Neergaard

While Aquerra is a humanocentric world, Neergaard in particular sees much less mingling of the races than the other kingdoms of Central Aquerra. The average Neergaardian's view of other races ranges from ignorance to bigotry at the best of times. When times are tough, these attitudes can quickly turn ugly and violent. Half-elves tend to be more accepted than any other non-human race because they can pass for human.

Halflings and dwarves have communities within Neergaard and are, to some degree, recognized and accepted by the authority of the kingdom. Halflings reside in tiny, hidden-away vales living lives that have gone unchanged for centuries. Dwarves are most commonly found near their mountain homes at both the northern and southern ends of the eastern mountain range. They have commercial dealings with Thelgaard and Auntuan (the provinces that these Dwarven holds border) and while they are looked at suspiciously, it is likely that Dwarves are the most common non-humans that the average Neergaardian has seen.

There are a few small bands of Gnomes in the eastern mountains and a small group of Wood Elves in the Rencia Wood. Though these races are commonly looked at with suspicion and often hostility and prejudice wherever they go, making for a precarious existence indeed.

Half-ogres, while rare, are not unknown, especially among the Mountain Folk who live near the foul ogres. Orcs and lizardfolk, on the other hand, are not found living anywhere in Neergaard.

Clothing & Fashion in Neergaard

Clothing

Ordinary clothing for the lower classes is simple and usually homemade. Men generally wear a short, belted woolen tunic over linen undergarments and hose, while women wear long, loose-fitting gowns. Colors are dull and muted. A variety of hats are common, from hoods to berets to broad-brimmed straw hats for working in the sun. Footgear is often nothing more than leather strips wound about the feet and calves. Due to the cost of making new garments, commoners scrupulously mend and patch their old clothes to make them last a few more years.

The wealthy have access to a much wider variety of garments and fabrics, including velvet, silk and a variety of furs. Bright hues and patterns are favored, along with elaborate embroidery. Gold thread and jewels are the height of fashion for the nobility. Current high fashion favors elaborate garments that impair movement, such as tight-fitting doublets and dresses or long pointy shoes. Upper-class men often go hatless to demonstrate that they, unlike field laborers, need no protection from the sun. Upper-class women favor huge, elaborate headdresses.

To distinguish the true nobility from the nouveau riche, sumptuary laws forbid persons of low birth and station from wearing garments of a variety of cuts, colors, fabrics and trims. Such laws are rarely enforced, however. Wizards are particularly prone to violating sumptuary laws and are the least likely to be called on it.

Cuisine

Neergaardian commoners have a simple, limited diet: a base of cereal grains — coarse bread, porridge, dumpling, frumenty, and the like — supplemented primarily with legumes and assorted greens, often combined in soups, stews and potages. Meals are accompanied by weak beer or cider. Meat, fish and eggs appear rarely, are often in preserved form (salted, smoked, jugged, etc), and are reserved for special occasions.

As one rises in social status, food becomes richer, cookery more developed and meals more splendid. Nobles indulge in fresh meat and game glazed and sauced with some combination of honey, wine, vinegar and exotic Thrician spices, accompanied by cheeses, fruits and pastries. Meals are accompanied by wine.

Noble banquets are displays of culinary pageantry. Cooked birds are adorned with their original plumage so as to seem lifelike; models of knights and castles are molded from cooked meats or spun sugar; sculptures disgorge fountains of wine; pies are cut open to release living animals. The most outlandish of these displays incorporate true sorcery, but most are the work of mundane, albeit skilled, cooks and craftsmen.

Certain foods and spices are banned to the lower classes, as are sufficiently lavish banquets. As with sumptuary laws for clothing, such laws are rarely enforced except when the nobility wish to persecute an enemy or make an example.

Animals in Neergaard

Domesticated

As Neergaard is a relatively under-populated land that needs a very heavy plow to dig deep into its unfertile soil, beasts of burden are plentiful. Especially popular for pulling plows are oxen - differentiated by the common folk as "pullin' oxen" and "eatin' oxen" — followed by donkeys, mules and draft horses.

Pigs, chickens, sheep and rabbits are all raised for meat, eggs, wool and fur in various parts of the kingdom.
Of course, in a dangerous land defended by mounted elites, battle-ready horses are considered more precious than jewels. Indeed, their handlers and owners dote on them. They enjoy a higher standard of living than 75% of the human population, but this has never engendered any bitterness towards the animals as they are looked on as defenders of the realm.

Falconry is an expensive but popular hobby among nobility and noble huntsmen.

There are five main types of dogs bred throughout the kingdom. The first is the most famous, the Neergaardian Mastiff. This is the heaviest dog bred in central Aquerra; it is an excellent guard dog with a wonderful temperament. The second is the Thelgaardian Wolfhound, which has been bred to chase and bring down wolves. The third is the Hunting Hound; with its big ears and super-keen nose, it is an amazing tracker. The Smooth Hound has been bred for speed and is used for racing in competitions held among merchants and discreet gentility. Finally, in the last seventy years or so, breeders have mated the runts of the other Neergaardian breeds to come up with a small, hairy, neurotic, yappy lap dog that noblewomen and their lower-class pretenders seem to bring everywhere.

With rats and the diseases they carry being very common in Neergaard, Bast is by far the most renowned of the beast gods. Her children are fat, lazy beasts that seem to save all their energy for catching and devouring rats, mice and small birds.

Wild

Wolves are the most common predators on the island and a danger to all the other animals in Neergaard, including men. Bad winters result in encroachment upon human settlements, and hunters spend much of their summers hunting wolves for the fat bounties put on their pelts. Goblins are known to ride wargs, but such creatures are so rarely seen that the regular wolf is much more feared.

Bears and eagles are the other major natural predators in the kingdom.

Deer, moose and hare are the animals most commonly hunted for sport. They have come close to being wiped out in some regions of the kingdom.

Cities & Towns of Neergaard

Cities & Large Towns: Dunthrinane (capital) | Earthsea City | Narvedale | Twin-River | Ursulaine
Small Towns & Villages: Acwyll | Aethelwulf | Avenir | Baldice | Capel Tower | Crossroads | Dohtor-Don | Eadignes | Elftear | Gildenstone | Harrimilla | Herald's Keep | Hesilwood | Karlton | Montinelle | Narrowneck | Old Verona | Rochard | Rosemont Keep | Sattins | Saymar | Steelriver | Tallbridge
Baronetcies: Alterton | Baltrecht | Cromer | Dohgor-Dah | Dunthrinane County | Stowtonwick | Throndland
Other Sites: Ageotan Bay | Bitung Bay | Black Current Straits | Byronelle's Keep | Catacombs of Cranal | Chalvedon Abbey | The Focus | Fontenmere | Fontenmere Abbey | Glida Sound | Griffon Castle | Grist Bay | Harsh Plain | Heriot River | Homedwell Canyon | Island of Anthron Moore | The King's Road | Lusian Forest | Magehold | Montrose Keep | The Neck | Orphanc Enta | Rencia Wood | Ring Woods | River Laine | The Sacred Lawn | Sandspine Mountains | Seareach River | Shrine of the Waters of the Sun | Valden Woods | Veronian Mountains | Yvvivor

Provinces on Sandspine Island: Valkinord and Venway
Provinces on Neergaard Island: Auntuan, East Andevar, Seareach, Thelgaard, West Andevar

See also: Abeodans, Black-Neergaard War, The Kings of Neergaard, Map - The Kingdom of Neergaard, Money - Kingdom of Neergaard, Naming Conventions, Neergaardian History, Neergaardian Noble Houses, Neergaardian Weapons License, Order of the Ebony Raven, Order of the Iron Staff, Or Forever Hold Your Peace, Termermeans