Lancereaux

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Lancereaux was one of the most civilised nations of the Realm before the Fall. A land of towering castles and noble lords, of chivalrous knights and beautiful ladies, it was also a country where the peasantry were worked to the bone to support the rich way of life of their betters, and where freedom only existed for those with wealth. It is the country which has seen its social expectations and rules suffer the most now the Lancesians live as refugees in Andermark; boundaries are collapsing between classes and genders and Lancesians have the most to lose in this new world.


History

Dragonslayers

Lancereaux was one of the first nations of the Realm to be formed in a shape recognisable to its pre-Fall state. The history is also remarkably well recorded. Small, scattered tribes across the valleys grew and became prosperous, and slowly made the development into minor kingdoms. Techniques from the old kingdom of Calavria would be learnt from their neighbours, and not only would society develop, but construction would begin of the beautiful castles for which Lancereaux would be famed.

There were some dozen small kingships, co-existing more peacefully than the tribes of Damryn or clans of Norlundar, but far from united. They spoke a common tongue, however, and had enough recognition of outsiders and 'otherness' that when the dragons came, nobody revelled in the misfortune of their enemies.

It was King Renier Guihard who established himself as a dragon-slayer, developing techniques to defeat the great beasts. From this he won both renown and support, and it was thanks to his efforts that within five years the dragons were defeated enough that their attacks were brought down to common, manageable levels. Lancereaux was brought closer as a result, and King Renier's reputation was such that, when the Lancesians grew anxious of foreign movements threatening their borders and they decided on total unity, there was no argument that he would be the King of all of Lancereaux.

The reign of the Guihards lasted some two centuries. The codes of chivalry were further defined, and many great and beautiful castles built across the land. The rise of Andermark to the west triggered several border conflicts, brought on initially by hostilities from the Beastkin being driven from their forests, and an initial misunderstanding of the relationship between the Beastkin and the Andermen saw the Lancesians suspecting the two to be colluding. Thus would be born an enmity of centuries, where the Lancesians saw the Andermen as practically beasts in their own right. For the majority of these conflicts Lancereaux held the upper hand, the natural defences of Andermark being most of what made the country undesirable in terms of resources and the difficulty of conquest.

The End of Kings

Then came the rise of Damryn. Lancereaux had seen a friendly relationship with their northern neighbours; the Damryans had even adopted Lancesian chivalry and adopted it to better suit their own culture. But as the Damryans finished waging heavy war on the Norls to try to put a permanent stop to their raids, they began to move their forces dangerously about the southern border.

Lancereaux called for Damryn to remove these troops; Damryn refused, and despite the efforts of King Olivier Guihard, a direct descendent of Renier, conflicts sprang up across the border; Lancesians insisting the Damryans had crossed into their territory, and the entire situation was a powder-keg waiting to go off. When King Olivier sent one of his sons to assume leadership of the border defences, the young man was killed in a scuffle with Damryan forces the High King Bairne insisted had never crossed into Lancesian territory.

Nevertheless, Lancereaux declared war.

It was the most brutal and bloody affair of the formation of all of the Realm. Lancereaux saw itself as more sophisticated than Damryn, and had such faith in its formidable knights that it was convinced it could beat its enemy, perceived to be savages. But the discipline and resolve of the Damryan troops far-outstripped the Lancesian men-at-arms, whose loyalty only went as far as their fear - and the Damryans taught them to fear the invaders far more than their liege lords.

King Olivier was resolute in his refusal to surrender, fighting on even when half of the country was taken. Many lords were dead or captured; others had bent the knee to Damryn, and been spared and promised that they would be allowed to keep their land. Olivier summoned all remaining loyal lords to his side in his keep, with the intention of discussing whether they would reach out to their old enemies, the Andermen, in the understanding that the Damryans would come for them next and together they would have a better chance of denying them.

Count Leopold Delacroix was amongst those lords remaining, and heard of King Olivier's intentions before he reached the castle. A western lord, he despised the Andermen more than most, and had long been a political rival of the King, ruling the largest fief in Lancereaux. He judged that if Olivier had his way he would sell them out to the beast-men, and that though the Damryans were aggressive, they were still preferable. He sent an envoy to the nearest Damryan forces, and made a deal: He would give the Damryans King Olivier and the surrender of Lancereaux, and they would allow the kingdom to become a vassal state of Damryn rather than be utterly subsumed under the rule of the High King.

The Damryans, for their part, were becoming aware that they could not utterly annex an entire country, and agreed to the deal. Thus did Count Delacroix join with King Olivier's Council - only, on the second night, to have the king assassinated and open up the gates of his castle to the Damryan force that had been hidden nearby. It was a brutal and bloody assault.

The Damryans placed the head of the deceased King upon a pike above the gates, along with the head of his newly-executed wife and eldest son. Count Delacroix made a show of negotiating with the Damryans and convincing the other Lords that their conquerors had offered a fair and reasonable compromise by rewarding surrender with subservience, but not death. The other lords shakily agreed, and only saw the treason when Count Delacroix was elevated to be the ruling lord of all of Lancereaux.

He promptly swore the allegiance of himself and the kingdom to the High King of Damryn, and took for his bride the daughter of King Olivier. The only member of the Guihard family to not be accounted for was the last son, a boy of some twelve years who went missing in the sacking of the royal castle. For years there were tales suggesting he survived and fled and would return to Lancereaux, but nothing ever came to pass, and historians are quite convinced he died in the assault and his body was simply mangled beyond recognition.

Rule of the Counts

The rule of the Counts Delacroix were not an easy time for Lancereaux. The Lancesians were called upon to bolster the armies of the High Kingdom of Damryn in their skirmishes against Calavria and their campaigns against Ibarran and Andermark. Delacroix secured his hold by winding the Lancesians into a fervour of hatred against their Anderian neighbours, but when the dust settled, Lancereaux was left in a far poorer and weaker state than ever before. Much of the land had been ruined by conquest, and many of the populace had died from warfare or subsequent famine.

The Counts Delacroix, over the years, proved themselves rather more interested in maintaining the standard of living they had become accustomed to than bettering the way of life of their people. Taxation was raised, even as peasants worked hard on bad ground. Objection to this was met either with swift political and economic reprisal or, in the case of more vehement words or lower classes, armed soldiers. Lords who were discontented over the initial decades following their rise to power were deterred from taking action by the demonstrations from Damryn that they were perfectly prepared to prop up this loyal vassal.

Over time, this would become the status quo, however. The peasants would know little more than to be worked to the bone in exhaustion; the rich would be accustomed to being rich and to make life better for anyone else would be to sacrifice their own comfort - and social standing as they were seen to be an oddity. Lancereaux's discontent with Damryan rule took a different form as the War of the Narrow Sea broke out, and instead of trying to break away from the Realm, they instead tried to dominate it. Within the first century Lancereaux was easily the second loudest voice in all the human kingdoms, and became a perpetual thorn in the side of Damryan kings whenever they made even the faintest slip. Through this they won power, for Damryn knew that if it could not keep Lancereaux, it could not keep the Realm.

The Lancesian reputation thus changed. Once they had been seen as a proud and honourable people, full of respect and courtesy, kind to their neighbours and vassals, even-handed to their enemies. As time went on, their reputation for double-dealing, political machinations and manipulations, and back-stabbing came to the forefront, most of them justly earned, and most of them earned by their own leaders. Few would forget the fact that the Counts Delacroix had risen to power by betraying their own king.

When the War of the Narrow Sea ended, it was the Lancesians who badgered High King Aedest for his surrender to the Iron Empire. And it was in response to their criticism, their perception of him as weak, that he resumed hostilities in a conflict he couldn't win. This would prove to do nothing more than weaken and distract both sides when the Legion came.

The Fall

Lancereaux had no more inclination than Damryn to send troops to aid the elves upon their invasion. But when the Norls were attacked in the north, it was they who demanded the High Kingdom respond, when High King Riagon seemed at first apathetic at best to his neighbours' plight. But at the urgings of the Lancesians he dispatched Damryan troops to Norlundar, and answered the request for aid from General Bregolien, the surviving commander-in-chief of the Imperial Army. With the Damryans splitting their forces north and east, it was the Lancesians who made the bulk of the Realm forces in the Alliance.

This army was defeated on the coast of the Empire, and driven back to Calavria. Refugees from both Calavria and the Empire began to spill across into Lancereaux, and it was only the stubbornness of Count Adhemar Delacroix that stopped the Lancesians from fleeing. They would not need to run to the Andermen or the Ibarriards, he insisted. Lancereaux would stand strong.

The war in Lancereaux was hard-fought. Castle after castle fell only after long sieges. Count Delacroix attempted to make a stand at his castle in Rochignac with the bulk of the Lancesian force, but to gather his troops he relied upon Baron Sebastien Theroux to hold the southern front long enough. Instead, Theroux and his men cracked and fled west, and the bulk of the Lancesian army was destroyed in that battle, along with Count Delacroix. His family were tragically cut down a month later as they attempted to flee.

Theroux, with some family ties to the Delacroixs, promptly declared himself the next Count of Lancereaux, making some suspect he had intentionally fled the battle and even was complicit in the death of Delacroix's family. It was the Lancesian way, after all. He took the Lancesians north, into Damryn, where their remaining forces joined with the bulk of the Damryan army and watched their utter defeat at the hands of the Legion. They were in no position to shore up the defences, and could only provide support as battle after battle was lost, until even Caer Brennan fell and High King Riagon was lost in a suicidal charge against Legion forces to give the survivors a chance to flee through the mountains into Andermark.

They joined the survivors first in Fordheim, then in Starkholm, and weary Lancesians ultimately fought as hard as any other army in the Last Stand.

But come the rebuilding, Count Theroux was keen to make sure Lancereaux had a part in the governing, and all the grand decisions, and it has not taken long for the Lancesian reputation of double-dealing and backstabbing to catch up with him, and see him broadly mistrusted. Especially since the refugees find themselves in Andermark.


Cultural Overview

Before the Fall

  • Capital: Rochignac
  • Head of State: Count Adhemar Delacroix
  • Legislative Body: The States-General (États Généraux)
  • Population Density: Average
  • Religions: The United Church, Olcan, Ryniss
  • Primary Language: Common, Lancesian
  • Demonym: Lancesian (a Lancesian)

Lancereaux was a land of considerable disparity. The country itself was mostly pleasant, the heart of civilisation lying in the valley of the great river Voire, which replenished the soil and allowed for healthy agriculture and riches. It was there that most settlements could be found, and the majority of these were large and boasted, for those who could afford it, a comfortable way of life.

Those poorer within the cities, however, were trodden upon to support the rich, working in poor conditions or for minimal profit in order to just feed themselves and provide basic services to the mercantile and ruling classes. It was even worse beyond the valley; peasants in the field were supervised by lords loyal to the Count, who expected them to work hard on the land, and enforced this brutally.

Women, even women of status, were held in little regard in Lancereaux. They were expected to do nothing but bear the heirs of the men, and any who made effort to pursue their own desires were met with the greatest of social opposition. If any male could be found within a family line he would likely inherit a land and title, even if a female were a more direct relative.

Although a merchant’s place in society was of the utmost importance, and they had brought the bulk of wealth to Lancereaux, they were still looked down on by the nobility simply by their birth. Merchants would make a fortune off their own backs and then sacrifice it all in taxation for a chance to bow and scrape at the feet of the ruling classes.

The nobility were considered above reproach, and only those above them in their own hierarchy had a chance of dictating their behaviour. A strict code of honour was enforced throughout Lancereaux, however, to ensure all kept their place, and as it kept the nobility in power it was they who held it in the highest regard.

As such, there were more orders of knighthood in Lancereaux than in any of the other kingdoms of the Realm put together. A thick veil of romanticism rested over the eyes of idealistic young men who saw the women whose wishes they ignored to be wordless icons to place upon pedestals, and the peasants they oppressed to be charming bumpkins gratefully labouring on their behalf.

A favoured past-time of Lancereaux was the tourney. Wealth that could go on the people instead was poured into holding massive tournaments where the rich competed for the attention of the host and the Count, and even the ignored peasants would cheer for the champions for a spot of excitement in their lives. Despite how the knights would oppress the lower classes, the entire country was so steeped in the traditions and stories of chivalry and great deeds that they were still seen as something to aspire to, however impossibly.

This dated back to the country's tradition of dragonslaying. In the mountainside and in the caves of the valley, dragons lived and marauded Lancereaux. Since the first King of Lancereaux it was the tradition of the ruling classes to hunt these beasts down and kill them. However, for decades before the Fall, most powerful and strong dragons had been killed off, and those who remained were so weak as to be more of a sport for hunting than a threat to be put down. Nevertheless, once in a while there would still be a truly dangerous dragon rising as a hunter, and would commonly kill many would-be dragonslayers before a true champion took them down. Such an individual would find themselves the subject of endless adulation.

Lancereaux nursed a great hatred for Andermark, whom they had waged war with since before the formation of the Realm. This attitude was mostly mutual, however the disgust from the Lancesians went deeper, as they suspected their enemies to be colluding with the monstrous Beastkin of their woods. Many Lancesian tales of Andermen paint them as animalistic in their own right.

The Lancesian reputation abroad was quite poor. Where once they had been seen as men of great honour and dignity, dating back to the first King Renier, since the formation of the Realm they had been depicted by many as politically conniving, opportunistic, and treacherous. Oddly they had a positive relationship with the Norls, perhaps due to a shared disdain for Damryn. Count Adhemar had been making efforts to redeem the perception of the Lancesians, and the flaws in their society that birthed these reputations, but the invasion of the Legion cut this abruptly short.

After the Fall

The Lancesians, after being shaken by the fall of their country, are one of the few nations who have clung doggedly to their pride. They had less obsession with their own infallibility than the Iron Empire or Damryn, and so have come to paint themselves as clear-headed thinkers in the march to rebuilding. Count Theroux has missed no opportunity to involve Lancesians in politics, economics, military, or any decision-making going on in Andermark, and that the Lancesians are in perhaps a better condition than any people other than the Andermen themselves allows him to do this.

Their peasants have become the most well-received refugees of all, since they are accustomed to harsh living conditions and hard work. They toil the fields even on the dangerous outskirts of reclaimed territory, and are the first to be called upon for thankless tasks even other refugees balk at. Even in the city they are used to being packed in close together, but as a result they are looked down on by all, including other refugees.

Their knights retain a strong role in the Alliance Military. They are considered battle-hardened, but Lancereaux did not lose most of its best men as Damryn did, and so many of them hold positions of influence and authority. They are the most inclined towards using the military to keep internal peace, and, perhaps because they are the most used to it, the military tend to allow them.

The nobility have successfully entrenched themselves in refugee society. Most of them had a sufficiency of wealth to secure themselves at least minor holdings, and they are the lords and ladies most obsessed with carrying on as if nothing has happened. They will be the ones to hold grand balls and galas, and to have sumptuous banquets even when food is at a premium. This has earned them no small amount of disregard from their fellows, but the fact remains that many attend these parties, and they are still where some of the most influential people in Andermark meet and discuss their plans.

Count Sebastien Theroux declared himself the new Count of Lancereaux upon the death of Adhemar Delacroix. He is not an especially popular man, even amongst his own people, but he is an excellent politician and none can deny that the Lancesians are in such a successful position as they are due to his efforts. He is no soldier, however, and has left matters military in the hands of the Lancesian General, Sir Durand Guerrier. It is rumoured that Theroux has intentions of forming a united Alliance government rather than deferring to the rulership of King Constantin - similarly, whenever talks come up of whether the Realm would be reformed, Count Theroux is first to point out that the presumption this would be led by Damryn are dated.

Lifestyle

Peasant Class

The peasants of Lancereaux lived miserable lives. Those in the cities were cramped in on top of each other, stuck in wattle-and-daub houses with waste in the streets. Disease was a part of everyday life, and the low life expectancy there was beaten only in the Realms by Norlish babes. Out in the rural areas conditions were only marginally better in that they were less cramped, but these regions required more intensive physical labour from miners, farmers, and other workers. Local lords and their sheriffs would oversee the work of the peasantry, and they were expected to work from dawn 'til dusk. Visitors from abroad had compared the working conditions of the Lancesian peasants to those of Sahradian slaves.

They had little to no rights in the eyes of the law. Disputes were internally resolved unless they made such a fuss as to reach the attention of the sheriffs, who tended to come down on the side of whoever bribed them or made their life easier. If a peasant was accused of committing a crime against anyone above them in the social strata, their word and defence - and sometimes even witnesses, if the witnesses were other peasants - counted for nothing. The only reason a lord would traditionally care about the well-being of a peasant was if they valued them as a labourer; compassion or justice rarely came into it.

This was often overlooked by the nobility or even outsiders if only because they worked in quite beautiful conditions. It was hard to assume people to be oppressed when they toiled in attractive orchards, or in rolling fields of wheat. Few people would understand the depth of suffering the Lancesian people underwent.

It was almost impossible to break out of this way of life. Most would live and die within the same five-mile radius, and peasants with high aspirations were often brought down hard. Some might find better prospects if they could somehow manage to leave Lancereaux, but few could even get together the supplies for a journey. The most luck any might have would be if they had the fortune to work in a lord's castle, where they might at least be better fed and more comfortable, or if a war broke out and they had the good fortune to prove themselves. They might then be elevated to men-at-arms, and perhaps find military work even outside of a conflict, even if it was as a sheriff's enforcer oppressing their fellows.

The only positive thing that could be said about the way of life for Lancesian peasants was that it was the most equal for men and women. Women could not afford to stay at home taking care of the family for long, and all were more-or-less equal in that they were oppressed and overworked more-or-less evenly.

Merchant Class

Merchants were the hidden backbone of Lancesian society. They benefited intensely from the hard work of the peasants, who produced such high volumes of goods and produce that they could comfortably sell it on, at home and abroad, with a very low cost. It was the fruits of their labour which kept the noble classes propped up, for they would then go on to be taxed through the nose by their betters. This meant there were very few foreign merchants who brought their trade to Lancereaux, and thus the countrymen cornered the markets.

Perhaps they might have made better money elsewhere, but these were men who had been raised from birth to revere their homeland, and so they stayed and worked. Nobles would look down on them for their low birth and their hard labour, and the merchants in return would give them huge amounts in taxation and bow and scrape for even the most meagre attention.

Most were born to this way of life. A son would inherit his father's business, and so on. Other sons might go to work as accountants or other such jobs for other companies, but most were family businesses. Those without heirs might take on a son of another family as an apprentice in their trade and pass on the business to him.

They tended to live in houses smaller than those of their status in other nations might enjoy, and have fewer holdings about the land. Regardless, they were usually outside of the ire of nobility, and thus lived more-or-less contentedly.

Warrior Class

To be a knight was every Lancesian boy's dream, from pauper to prince. Every son of a knight or lord would be expected to be martially trained, traditionally taken on as a squire by another knight where they would be taught how to fight, learn discipline, and act as a servant to the older man. It was not only a method of tuition, but a means for the boy to make contacts and meet people out of his sphere. It might also be a political gesture for a lord's son to be squired to another lord.

The squire would be trained until they were deemed worthy of knighthood, at which point they would be more or less free to serve where they wished. Many sons of lords would return to their fathers, especially the heirs, and work within the family's lands. Others might seek out different families where they might be able to win more renown, or step out of the shadow of fathers or older brothers. Some still might become wandering knights, who were only a step above mercenaries courtesy of many ballads and tales glorifying their travelling from place to place, performing a service, and then moving on.

A knight would generally be expected to hold some responsibility for the lord they were sworn to. This might be the safety of a castle, it might be the enforcement of the lord's will upon a land. It might be the training of men-at-arms, or performing duties as a diplomat. In times of war they served as instructors and, especially, officers. Many would belong to a knightly order, of which there were hundreds in the country - plenty of which died with the same knight who formed them on some whim or desire for grandeur.

Knights were traditionally well-received wherever they went. Lords would welcome them warmly, ladies would fawn over them, and even the peasants who hated their lieges might cheer for a knight in shining armour who was probably no better than their own lord.

It was typically impossible for someone who was not born in the appropriate place in society to become a knight. Technically, anyone who proved themselves to be of sufficient valour might be elevated to knighthood, regardless of their birth, but despite the stories this almost never happened. Similarly, it was so impossible for a woman to become a knight that there were not even tales to that effect.

Noble Class

The nobility of Lancereaux were surpassed in wealth only by the ruling classes of Calavria. They lived in beautifully ornate castles high above the peasants they were ostensibly responsible for, and relied upon the taxes from them and the merchants to keep themselves comfortable. The country was split into regions, and each would be supervised by a lord who was responsible for the governing and administration.

Some castles would be a way away from the centres of civilisations in the area; others, huge dominating aspects of a town's or city's skyline, higher than any other building. Those who lived in more isolation almost all had some sort of holding in Rochignac or a similar city, where they could remain close to society.

The nobility adored social gatherings. Almost every month there would be at least one party hosted by someone of wealth and influence within a reasonable travelling distance, and the courts of the Counts Delacroix were regular fixtures on the social calendars of anyone within reach of Rochignac. It was there that the major matters of the country were discussed, and every lord technically had a seat on the États Généraux, the ruling council that advised the Count and governed on his behalf.

They would never mingle with those they ruled over. They would appoint sheriffs and other administrators to supervise the peasants, and they would enforce the will of the nobility. They had the absolute right to enforce the law in their land more or less however they saw fit, and most lords kept a headsman for all such occasions.

Although a young noble would be expected to be taught how to fight, they in practice still had to learn matters of governance. Even a girl would be taught history, law, mathematics, and how to run a household; it made her an attractive bride to arrange a political marriage for, which was the fate of almost every noble girl. That was perhaps the best means by which a noble woman could achieve influence and renown, if she married either a respectful husband who listened to her opinions or, more likely, a bumbling fool she could out-manoeuvre. Nevertheless, the husband would ever be credited for all achievements.

Arts and Entertainment

For rich and poor, the finest form of entertainment in Lancereaux were the tourneys. Big or small, every lord would be expected to host some kind of tournament at least once a year, and people would travel from far and wide to participate or to watch. Competitions of various kinds of martial prowess would take place: archery, riding, melee combat, but the most popular was unquestionably the joust. Only a knight could participate in the joust, foreigner or otherwise, according to Lancesian tradition.

It was the closest the Lancesians came to mingling socially. The rich would sit in extravagant, comfortable stands where they could watch all goings-on from an elevated position, whilst everyone else would be bunched together, standing, in areas which were more or less pens. But it was one past-time which everyone could enjoy. Victors could win impressive prizes, and the most competent might even make a living off travelling from tourney to tourney. The biggest, hosted by the most notable lords, could bring in visitors from across the country.

These games could also be a means of limited social mobility. A low-born knight who was successful could gain great wealth and, through this, increase his political prestige. A commoner who was talented at the sporting displays might also gain wealth, and the attention of his betters.

Otherwise, the past-times in Lancereaux were varied. Travelling minstrels were well-received across the land, but they tended to cater specifically either to common folk who would pay them with a bed, a warm meal, and some supplies for the road, or to the nobility who might shower them in gifts. Ballads of daring deeds and brave knights were universally popular, and it was a curiosity that even the peasants whose lives were made miserable by the nobility and the knights would still adore the stories of their fantastical achievements.

Overall, Lancereaux was obsessed with the ideas of chivalry - noble, powerful men and pure, beautiful women, locked in conflict with vicious beasts. Dragons were a popular foe, but ironically so were corrupt and ignoble rulers who would be cast down by virtuous protagonists. These themes would extend to artwork as well, much of which focused around these tales or in rewriting history to make ancestors appear rather more noble than scholars would suggest.

Fashion

Lancesian fashion was perhaps the most extravagant in all of the Realms; where Calavrians might be subtle in their displays of wealth, the Lancesians were inclined towards making themselves appear as ostentatious as possible to show their prestige.

Noblemen would likely wear breeches, stockings, shoes, and a head-dress. Over this there might be a surcoat displaying a family's colours. On more elegant occasions additions would include a shirt, a mantle across the shoulders, and a hat. Shoes were generally pointed, and belts were massive and ornate. Colours were commonly scarlet or blue; expensive wool or linen were favoured cloths.

Ladies favoured dresses with tight bodices under jackets, which were trimmed often with fur and well-ornamented. Necks remained high, but the clothing was overall intended to show off a lady's figure. Expensive and ostentatious jewellery and decorations were common. Lancesian fashion also favoured the plaiting of hair, which allowed for jewels to be used in profuse ornamenting.

Lancesian knights wore heavy plate armour over a thick woolen gambeson. Lancereaux displayed the most sophistication in the development of armour; it was usually of fine steel, made to be as hard-wearing and as light as possible. Interlocking plates covered as much of the body as possible whilst allowing as much mobility as they could. But above all, a knight's armour was ornamental. Engravings would be worked into the metal, perhaps with family crests or personal stylings. The very metalwork itself would often have a theme; a family with a lion as their personal crest might style their helmets in the manner of the head of a roaring beast, and have their gauntlets made with stylistic markings of a cat's paws and vicious claws. The armour of a Lancesian knight was not just a tool for protection and war, it was a very statement of identity, intent, and wealth. Even the swords would be ostentatious affairs, encrusted with jewels and engraved with family mottos or such along the blades.

Peasants, on the other hand, lived and dressed simply. Woollen breeches and tunics were fastened with often rope rather than even leather belts; leather was preserved for boots, though the poorer or those living in more temperate climes might have made do with sandals. A woollen mantle might be worn in winter to keep out the cold, but these were often shared between family members and thus tended to be hung by the door of a house so any going outside might use them. Tools and money purses would be tied to the belt, exposed; a thick woollen cap would be worn atop the head. The colours were often drab greens and browns, or even greys if the wool itself had not been properly dyed - whatever natural dyes the peasants could produce cheaply. Women would wear simple wool or maybe, in summer, linen dresses, kept together by a belt or rope. They wore heavy headdresses which covered much of their hair, and often linen undergarments. The styles were often quite shapeless and loose.

Economy

Lancereaux, by the time of the Fall, was one of the breadbaskets of the Realm. It was a more agricultural nation than any others, for Damryn and Andermark made use of their wilds and Ibarran and Calavria had less farmland to speak of. The peasantry worked hard for very little cost, and so profits were high. Much of this was absorbed in taxation to the local nobility and thus contributed to their wealth, but nevertheless the merchants were left with a tidy amount once they had sold their wares. Calavria was a favoured market, as was Ibarran.

Cattle slaughtered for their meat would also have their hides used for leather, and Lancereaux was one of the biggest traders of the commodity. The lands were low in metals, but rich in certain gemstones, and these fetched a high price across the Realm. The river's silt also provided the necessary materials for glass, and such ornamentation was common around Lancereaux, and worth a high price elsewhere. Of other luxury goods, Lancesian dyes derived from the rich and varied plant-life of the Voire valley were in high demand by the powerful from all lands.

Naming Conventions

Lancesian names consist of a first given name and a second family name. Family names are considered of the utmost importance in Lancesian society; they denote where a person is from and their standing. Considering how seriously the Lancesians take one's place in the social hierarchy, this cannot be overlooked. Someone hiding their family name is assumed to be a commoner, or hiding some dishonour.

Due to the regard Lancesians hold for family importance and standing, it is not too uncommon for a man to be referred to by his family name, though this is usually just the head of the household to avoid too much confusion.

Lancesian was a language of some contrasts; usually quite gentle and rolling off the tongue with speed, but equally capable of the occasional harsher, guttural sound. The names are often derived from old words for virtues, but also sometimes things like flowers, trees, and other aspects of nature.

Sample Male First Names: Armand, Laurent, Vincent

Sample Female First Names: Blanche, Julienne, Sylvanie

Sample Family Names: Cailteux, La Berche, Trezeguet

Geography

Lancereaux was a warm, verdant country. The summers were pleasantly but not dangerously hot, at worst uncomfortable, and although winter snows were not unusual they were equally not commonplace. It was a home to a particularly varied fauna and flora, and the majority of all flowers identified by scholars could be found within Lancereaux.

The borders, especially on the north, were quite hilly places, and home to the trolls of Lancereaux, and the dragons it is famous for. They lived in the nooks and crannies and caves of the rocky regions, which were sparsely populated and housed mostly low-regarded border lords and farmers of sheep and goats.

The majority of the population resided in the lush valley of the river Voire, which sources from the Kordurren mountains and flows into the Narrow Sea. There the land was fertile from the river, and ideal for growing all manner of crops and fruit. The woodlands were considered deep by Lancesians, but it would have been scoffed at by an Anderman accustomed to the dense and dark forests of their home, or a Damryan accustomed to their own huge woods.

Lancereaux was well-connected by an intricate series of roads, linking castles to each other with towns and villages as an afterthought - even if trade was their primary purpose. These roads were wide and well-maintained, with pretty flowers or tall trees for shade perfectly planted on the roadside. Where there was civilisation in Lancereaux it was usually quite a dense array of farmland and buildings, but on the stretches between holdings there were great wilds of nevertheless picturesque untouched land.

Religion

Lancesians are great worshippers of the United Church. For them, Tyaus is a father figure representative of all the lords of the country, an authority who ought to be respected, revered, and obeyed - who, in turn, benevolently and strongly protects his people. Aethon, as his strong right hand, is considered the epitome of all that is masculine and powerful, though in contrast to how he is seen in Damryn he is painted more subtly as the perfect chivalrous, heroic knight rather than the perfect warrior. Both saw great, ostentatious cathedrals devoted to them, resplendent with stained-glass windows and extensive paintings depicting their deeds.

Worship of Vaitera in Lancereaux was unusual. Due to their perspectives on women - or perhaps this interpretation is a cause of it - she is seen as the epitome of feminine purity. Consequentially she is rarely depicted as 'doing' anything, and is generally painted as a damsel in distress to be rescued, most commonly by Aethon. It is from Lancereaux that the belief that there is some chaste romantic relationship between the two is thought to originate. It is mostly women who worship her, and entering the nunneries of Vaitera was one avenue for a woman of Lancereaux to have some degree of work or freedom. Aside from these nunneries, she tended to have few churches, and usually had altars devoted to her in the churches of Tyaus and Aethon instead of those in her own right.

Gebrick was oft-overlooked by Lancesian high society. He was paid lip service by the nobility, but for the most part his worship was the providence of the peasantry. It is they who erected the churches to him, and they were centres of local community and even commerce, usually spartan but comfortable and popular. Worship of Gebrick was considered to give the people hope and confidence in their lives, though as this was Lancereaux the tenets of service to the higher community were emphasised, in order to make sure the peasantry accepted their place as vassals of the nobility.

Olcan was held in high regard for the fondness for entertainment, stories, and minstrels that Lancesians have, though worship of him was usually a rare and personal affair rather than an extensive organised religion. There might have been small places of worship where devotions could be made, but often he was revered in conjunction with the United Church.

Lancereaux was reputed for its strong favouring of Ryniss. The Lady of Lies held much sway in Lancereaux, it is said, though never in the open. True or false it was thought that plenty of the nobility of the country spoke of Tyaus in public, but conducted private worship of Ryniss behind closed doors, seeking her strength as they planned their political machinations.

Military

The Lancesian cavalry were widely considered to be the finest in the world. Since they were drawn from the large body of knights from the populace, this was to be expected; they were trained almost from birth and had these skills tested in tourneys and in the field against the various threats of Lancereaux: the trolls and the infamous dragons. This experience and training, combined with the strict discipline of the social hierarchy extending to the military, made for a skilled and efficient fighting force, especially since many of these knights would also be officers over the rest of the troops.

There were some flaws with this system, however. Since social expectations carried over to the army, a man of social standing might have been carried over to a military position he was wholly unsuitable for. Often lords would try to arrange around this, but sometimes politics would not allow it, or the liege lord himself might be the unsuitable officer. But overall the discipline and the skill of the knights countered this.

The rest of the army were another matter. Infantry was drawn from the peasants, who were almost universally untrained workers summoned to fight as their lord raised their banners. Sometimes they might have been well-equipped with the wealth of Lancereaux, but they would still not know how to use this equipment. Their leaders treated them as dispensable; often infantry were used and sometimes sacrificed solely to manoeuvre the battle to a point where the cavalry could come into play. This weak infantry is considered one of the primary reasons why Lancereaux fell militarily to Damryn. To make matters worse, if a lord was of a mind to train his levies, then he was considered to be placing less faith in his knights, which was generally a gaffe he might pay for socially.

A lord would likely keep some trained men-at-arms under his command, but these would ordinarily be for keeping the peace, and so were not that numerous in terms of an army. Such individuals would usually play a role as sergeants or other low level commanders in the field.

Outside of the organised military, knights were a common sight, and there were more knightly orders in Lancereaux than across the rest of the Realm put together. Most of these were short-lived affairs that died with their founders, but some had been in place for generations. The majority were simply orders of household knights sworn to the service of their liege and the protection of his lands, but others had broader remits. The Order of the Chained Oak had originally been the sworn knights of the King of Lancereaux; upon the end of the Guihard line, it was assumed they would fall into service of the Counts Delacroix. Instead, they determined that they would continue the work of the Kings regardless, and the Order became the foremost group of dragon-slayers in the country. Only the finest of knights were allowed to join, but the glory of a dragon-slayer was considerable indeed.

Magic

Magic was not seen in any one universal way in Lancereaux. On the one hand, it was acknowledged to be powerful and useful. On the other, although there were some bloodlines who were more prevalently talented at magic, anyone could be born with an aptitude, and so it was considered a potential threat to the security of the status quo. A peasant of the lowest birth might be found with a burgeoning magical talent, while their liege lord had no such skills.

Since, in practice, someone of talent still required teaching, this fear rarely required action. If someone of low birth did find themselves with access to tuition, they would often find a place as an advisor and expert on magical affairs in their lord's court, or at least be free to leave the lands. Wandering mages would often find a better way of life in Damryn, but those who served lords were often comfortable and well cared for. Many would simply leave for the colleges of magic, Lancesian or Calavrian. Some nobles might even overlook their social disgust to elevate a peasant with magical aptitude and ensure they were properly trained; having someone of such talents beholden to them could be advantageous, if such a move would be considered eccentric at best by the lord's peers.

Seer magic was distrusted in Lancereaux, since secrets were considered valuable; using the strength of magic to overcome the strength of man was highly disapproved of. Elementalism was perhaps the most accepted form of magic, but overall magicians and their works would still find themselves mistrusted much more than they would in Calavria or Damryn, and so many simply would leave for a better way of life.

Perspectives on Other Races and Nations

Andermark

"We distrusted them when they let their creatures maraud our borders and then swept in when we were distracted - and they paid for these treacheries over the centuries, they paid in blood. They forget the former and remember the latter. This is a miserable country full of miserable, dour people. They are still alive, still hold their land, from a convenience of geography; nothing more. They have nothing to be proud of when they sacrificed the least, fought the least. We will work with them, for now, so that we can reclaim our homeland. But they are still the same damn uncouth beasts they have always been."

Damryn

"They are rough around the edges - but they have always been so and never see a reason to change. Never see a reason to put a little more thought behind their concepts of honour, a little more courtesy behind their concepts of respect. Their arrogance is astonishing in the face of their imperfections. They are like a a strong man who refuses to train to be an even better fighter, and so refuse to reach their full potential. Perhaps their fall from grace will give them a little humility. After all, when we reclaim the Realm, who says we need a High King? Or who says the High Kingdom ought be the same?"

Calavria

"They get so much right, and yet so much wrong. They have culture, and value knowledge and art justly. But then they would raise a common pauper of no breeding if he had two coppers to rub together or something to sell to the right person. For them, honour and chivalry are not virtues, they are goods to be bought and sold. Maybe now that their wealth is diminished they will focus on that which matters: the quality of a man, his birth, his forefathers - these are the things we must rely on. Not the depth of his coinpurse."

Ibarran

"Such a divided, scattered people will have to change if they are to be strong enough. They act like whipped dogs, so accustomed to bending the knee to the Gods that they keep their heads low around men. And theirs is a false humility; they think themselves better than us because they do not put themselves forward. As if pride in one's self and one's deeds were a sin."

Norlundar

"It is strange we have found ourselves so close with such simple, uncouth people. But if we understand their land is so different, and make allowances for that, at the core we are not so dissimilar. Their sense of honour, their fortitude of spirit, their understanding of the right of birth, are values we can share.

"That and the dislike for Damryn."

The Iron Empire

"We sent many of our knights to fight on their shores, though this was more Damryn's argument than our own. Seeing the people closer we perhaps have more in common than we had thought, with our senses of society and duty. But then again, they are a broken people from a broken land who do not have as much to be proud of as they appear to think. Now they are either thralls of others, or bicker so much they cannot agree on anything. Regardless, if they want their Empire back, they must help us. We shall see if they swallow their pride."

Dwarves of Kordurren

"An upstart group of rebellious renegades who left their leaders to die so they might live. Paupers and peasants the lot of them, jumped up beyond their station, beyond what they have any claim to. The lowest serf is not a king if you place a crown on him; their so-called generals and leaders are little better. How can we trust those who have no trust for the established order? But they are, at least, prepared to do business. Let it not go further than that. And let them not put their disgusting notions into the minds of the peasantry."

Sahradia

"Filthy heretics and scum. A worthwhile enemy to cut one's teeth on. I understand why the Ibarrish hate them so, for who would not hate a bloodthirsty enemy on one's doorstep. But I cannot comprehend why Damryn is so obsessed with hating them. They are, after all, a whole ocean away. We have better things to worry about."

Beastkin

"The Andermen claimed for centuries they had nothing to do with the Beastkin, no responsibility for their deeds. And yet here we are and some of them are welcomed into society. Now they show their true colours. I do not dine with my horse; how can men even conceive of treating beasts as equal? It is beyond comprehension."

Demons

"The tales tell us of those who are lured in by demons and their promises of power. Fortunately we are sharp of wit and strong of mind enough to not be outwitted by such manipulations. No wonder the Damryns are so scared of them; those dullards could outwit nothing."

The Legion

"They are gone. It is no more complex than that. They were fearsome, they were terrible, and they brought the Realm to its knees. But we were victorious, which so many people are inclined to forget, and so life continues. They are gone."