Life in Starkholm
The Realm of Man and the neighbouring nations of the dwarves and the elves have been vastly diminished by the coming of The Legion and The Fall. The population of the Realm once stood at an estimated ninety-million people alone, discounting the Iron Empire of the elves which stood at roughly that number again. Since the Fall, the known population of the world has diminished to under five million, made of surviving members of each and every race. These refugees have been huddled in western Andermark for the last five years, and those last five years have not been easy. Harrowed by the destruction of their former lives, the loss of families, lifestyle, culture and history, it has been an uncomfortable and uncertain time for all that find themselves living in Andermark today. There is some contention between Andermen and those whose customs clash against theirs, the attitude that respect should be given either way sometimes disregarded for the sake of someone finding an outlet to project their grief and troubles.
That is, mercifully, not the prevalent attitude. The spectacle of the Last Stand of Starkholm was, for many, a sign that the gods had not forgotten them and that their suffering would not be in vain. Many of the more stalwart peoples refuse to buckle after receiving so powerful a message that 'hope yet remains'. While survivors still struggle to hold on to their cultural identities, most realise that after so overwhelming a defeat and such a massive upheaval to the world, the rebirth and progression of civilisation relies on co-operation and unity.
- 1 Government
- 2 City and Countryside
- 3 Wealth and Privilege
- 4 Class and Station
- 5 Families
- 6 Health and Hygiene
- 7 Education
- 8 Military
- 9 Coin and Commerce
- 10 Travel
- 11 Magic in Society
- 12 Religion
While Starkholm did not used to be Andermark's capital, it now acts as such. It is here that King Constantin Stark reigns and sits with his council, the Allied Advisory Council, both of which make use of the royal palace of Westhall, the ancestral palace of Konrad Stark. The Council is called at least three times a month to deal with matters of the Realm, hearing the pleas and cases that members of the Advisory Council deem fit to be brought to discussion with King Constantin.
City and Countryside
There used to be a much stronger divide between the townsfolk and the rural folk of Starkholm, but this boundary has become increasingly blurry since The Fall. The city of Starkholm is full to the brim, cramped and crowded, and new settlements have been built a stone's throw away from the city walls by those wanting to forge their own corner of the world.
Starkholm is, in a word, overpopulated. Many of the other nationalities and races have moved to the city after the loss of their land, perhaps to be close to distant family, perhaps used to city life, perhaps keen to be at the heart of the Free Peoples of the world and make a different - or perhaps to exploit its opportunities.
The streets of Starkholm have always been narrow and winding. The average home in Starkholm is a multi-tiered building with jetties of each upper story closing in over the thoroughfare, so much so that they nearly touch, and the more narrow of alleyways are incredibly dark. Most houses are shared by multiple families, mostly with refugees moving in to the household following the death of one or more of the house-owners in various battles. In these circumstances, boarders will band together to help keep and support one another. There is more prestigious housing in some of the broader city streets, streets that might have the luxury of cobbles where some of Starkholm major roads are still comprised of dirt and will become treacherous bogs come the rain. These households usually belong to nobility, and can be another sore point for those that struggle to find a place to rest their head in the city, seeing it as unfair that in these times there are cramped households that contain up to nine families and spacious homes that contain only one.
The streets are fairly pungent, with waste running down the gutters of the roads to have their scent excited by a particularly heavy shower or a spell in the sun. Some men earn a fair coin by patrolling these streets with open carts to collect the dead or pick up bulky waste or animal carcasses, or caged carts to take in lepers and move them out of the city to the colony.
Trade is often difficult for the average city-dweller. They are mostly either crafters or unskilled labourers, with some merchants and shopkeepers persistently holding on to the civilised arts of trade. With raw materials harder to come by, but by no means impossible, the average city-dweller can still find a living. Smiths, leatherworkers, potters, brewers, weavers, woodcarvers and various other artisans and tradesfolk can still find work, if they look hard enough and make the right connections. Many other nationalities and races have prospered by sharing foreign arts or selling items that they came to Starkholm with. Items such as Ibarrish silks or ivory have become rarities, and can fetch a fair price provided someone has the money and the inclination to purchase it.
Most capable members of Andermark are members of a company or guild that accommodate their trade. These organisations have become more integral in these uncertain days where resources are slightly harder to get hold of, as they will quite often have the contacts to supply a tradesman with the tools and materials they need.
Andermark's market square, which used to have three market days a week, is now a constantly bustling market that is open every day from dawn until dusk. Some stalls have even taken to more permanent fixtures to sell their ware from. In these days, your average labourer has to make do with slightly stale bread and thin soup for most meals a week. The food within the city's granaries has been distributed in small rations, enough to make for an evenings meal for a family of five per week at a push. Grocers who had had stores of non-perishable foodstuffs have been holding on to their produce. Expansion out of what are deemed to be safe lands and the pursuit of more farmland is fast becoming an imperative.
The city is surrounded by a wall that, like its streets, is patrolled by the watch. These walls will also be garrisoned by soldiers and knights of the land. Outside of the walls there is now a sprawling shanty town that encircles Starkholm like a growth, a destitute slum filled with the injured and addled of the war, the infirm and the impoverish, and those that fate have turned a blind eye to. Whilst city life is fairly safe from monsters, there remains even outside of these slums an active underworld of thieves and rogues, rakes and prostitutes, pickpockets and cut-throats. The slums and some of the narrower corners of Starkholm remain districts where anyone with a modicum of common sense does not set foot at night.
There are a couple of larger villages and towns viable from the highest towers of Starkholm. Most pockets of civilisation within a ten mile outlying radius are villages and farmlands that the economy of Starkholm depends on. The lands beyond the immediate horizon contain a good number of farms too, but territories own by farmers have been diminished since the Fall due to efforts to get as much of the land occupied and producing goods for the Realm as possible. What used to be a sweeping landscape of plains that was scarcely interrupted by crops is now, to the west and south specifically, a patchwork of land divided by hedgerows and fences. Efforts to keep the land evenly distributed amongst farmers were undertaken, but the priority remained in the utility of secure land.
Similarly, as well as there being new divisions amongst the land, there came new people from all corners of the Realm. As such, rural life for the villages outside of Starkholm is a varied affair. Villages and towns have grown drastically to accommodate survivors that are looking for new walks of life, or even been overwhelmed completely by communities that have banded together taking root there. This is not strictly a negative thing - a lot of Andermen were lost in the war much like anything else, and as such there were plenty of communities that found themselves with a fraction of the men that they used to. Some villages, particularly those further away from Starkholm and any Legion battlefronts, see Andermen trying to hold on to traditional values, an affair sometimes difficult when a new, foreign lord has taken over the lands that these people dwell within. The fact remains, however, that Starkholm has become the major hub for trade and commerce. Even the most backwoods of Anderian citizens have been exposed to just how devastating The Fall has been to the Realms as a whole. The most conservative of Andermen remain unlikely to tolerate a starving woman and child left on their own.
The Fringe is a perpetual menace for those of a rural walk of life, and a menace that has seen a resurgence of late. As it used to be, woodcutters and farmers, and anyone who lived close to any patch of woods, had a rough idea of the kinds of creatures that dwelled within and had a vague idea of how best to ensure they didn't rile up those denizens. Of course, there would never be a peace nor a truce. A woodcutter could plant as many trees as he cut down, a hunter could give half of his quarry back to the woods, and that would do nothing to appease the more chaotic elements of the Fringe such as the skaven, who could just as likely come to town at night to steal supplies (or worse) even if they hadn't been heard from in over twenty years. The Fringewarped would never prove to be a predictable force, and so those of a more rural walk of life, or even those moving out of the city to a village, no matter how close, were always told to keep to the roads and always be armed.
Wealth and Privilege
Wealth and privilege are both elements that have utterly changed since the Fall. Naturally, entire fortunes could not be accounted for nor carried when fleeing from the Legion and the lands and properties that were abandoned may not ever be recovered. Similarly, it became difficult in the immediate aftermath to determine who was or wasn't of any degree of privilege. Lords and ladies could sometimes offer no proof of their entitlement and a good many people used the Fall to pretend that they had lost status they didn't genuinely have. As such, there are many living in Starkholm who claim to have once lived in much better conditions before the Fall. Whether or not this is true is a different matter altogether.
There are three times of 'privileged' peoples that live within Starkholm today. The first are the more affluent and pronounced nobility, individuals known amongst high society for their prestige that could not be mistaken for anyone else. Amongst these individuals are the members of the Alliance Advisory Council and lords who marched out with their men-at-arms and survived the Fall. These are the kinds of people whose identities are indisputable and their potential worth, come the reclamation of their lands and properties, are relatively great, and as such have received lands and property in Starkholm and around Andermark as a priority. Quite often these nobles have with them a number of their coffers anyway, having the staff and the import to be able to put their most prized belongings on a wagon before abandoning their homes with plenty of time to spare between then and the arrival of the Legion.
Second of all come the 'vouched for', a strange combination of nobles whose stories might check out were there one or two more sources to confirm them and, surprisingly, a great deal of the nobles that already lived within Starkholm. Within the more upmarket districts of Starkholm the families that lived there now share their homes with these 'vouched for' individuals, who usually have a couple of family members or men-at-arms that vouch for their claims as being genuine. These individuals are required to swear under oath that they are telling the truth before being moved into their new homes, the original owners of which are paid by the Realm a small amount per month to help in their circumstances. It is a nominal amount, enough for one meal, but a gesture of good-will to those that have found their homes now crowded with the fractures of several noble families rather than just one.
The third group come in 'claimants', the nobles that hold no proof of their former identities, who mostly live in the out-skirting homes of Starkholm or have taken to a village, usually finding one under the lands of a lord from their old nation in the hopes that they might garner more sympathy there. These people range from being bitter and resentful of their circumstances to being resolute in their efforts to re-establish themselves, and anything in between. They usually have enough character in them to become notable figures in their own rights, prominent individuals that live on a street (in shared accommodation, of course) or key figures of a village, though this is not always for their contributions. Indeed, a sullen individual that keeps themselves to themselves is just as likely to be a claimant to nobility and prestige as their neighbour, who does his part for their immediate community.
Wealth is something that people, as ever, aspire to, and fewer people have. There is very little place for the life of luxury in Starkholm these days. Materials and commodities are stretched so think that such a life is almost impossible. It is said that even the King only has three sets of silk bedsheets and his bed doesn't even have a canopy.
Class and Station
Tradesfolk and Merchants
The nobility of Starkholm are engaged in an uproar of truly polite and proper standards in the face of their growing irrelevance. The peasantry of the world look upon the luxuries that the nobility can afford with bitter resentment. To them, the nobles' reluctance and outright refusal at the prospect of relinquishing their property and heritage is a display of the height of ignorance and utter selfishness, thinking that they are refusing to acknowledge the suffering of the common man and lending only as much aid to the recuperation of the free peoples as to make them look good. In truth, the noble families of the world have suffered as much as anyone else has to the Legion, and even the families that held estates in Starkholm and western Andermark have likely lost family to the war at the very least. It is a dangerous time to be a noble. Thieves target their estates, they are spurned openly for their wealth whilst often genuine acts of altruism and philanthropy are treated as insults to the working man. On top of this, there are massive shifts within the echelons of high society.
Noble courts and high-society have become venomous places in recent years. Foreign nobles from Ibarran and Lancereaux that have been working with the full weight of the reputation their name might bear utilise contacts and call in favours to assert themselves once more in positions of power within Starkholm. Damryan lords have been able to do this to a more devastating effect, quite often working with the full belief that Andermark should be ruled by a true-blooded Damryan King and that the Realm, even diminished, should be ruled over by a Damryan throne. Pockets of revolutionary unrest and regicidal plots even amongst the commoners likely have their origins within noble courts.
To this day, low nobility in Andermark such as knights and barons hold court to settle disputes that occur under their lands or under their responsibility, which now includes territorial matters with local Beastkin. They are expected to try any cases short of treason, but whilst they traditionally claimed a tithe of food and gold generated and had the right to levy taxes, these rights have been diminished somewhat with the priority going to the monarchy's taxes and the welfare of Starkholm. High nobles such as the dukes, earls and marquises of the realm, are usually landed and quite often have their own knights on their territories, tending to disputes that lower nobles cannot settle and dispensing justice for all but the most heinous of crimes. They reserve most of their rights in levying taxes as they see fit.
For the commoner of Starkholm, particularly those that still have them, the most important thing in the world is family. There are very few cases of family units coming out of The Fall without significant losses, however. The most fortunate of orphans will find guardians, the most fortunate widows will find new husbands, but more often than not they don't. The Norls of the North have been the most successful at banding together, their clan-like attitudes meaning that they have supported one another. They usually don't live far away from one another in Starkholm, leading to some districts being seen as taken over by families of Norls. The Norls also tend to have the most liberal views on women than any other nationality, their women usually treated as any other warrior might be until they have their first child, in which case they traditionally give up the sword (but not the bow) and are responsible for teaching the next generation how to fight. Most other nations have rather more strict views on gender conduct, but even the opinions of the more oppressive patriarchies of the world have waned after the coming of the Legion. It is not unknown for young widows of most creeds to take up the blade and join mercenary companies.
Across almost every race and nationality, marriage ceremonies are celebrated with feasting, dancing, songs and stories. The exact customs vary between the nations of the Realm, but most denizens of Andermark will treat a marriage for a cause of celebration. Particularly in these times, where the world is quite a woeful place, the idea of love, companionship and procreation persevering through the darkest times can be the kind of morale-boost that a community needs.
Amongst the nobles, the Ibarrish, and the elves, arranged marriages are not uncommon. Most other commoners will marry for love. Across the board divorce is very seldom seen, though this varies across cultures that have more stringent perceptions on adultery and marital fidelity. Some nobility have a tendency for concubines and multiple partners, particularly prominent amongst the Lancesian and Calavrian nobility, but most other nations frown upon it. Same-sex relationships are seen as taboo for the average Anderman and Lancesian and, whilst male warriors from Damryn have been known to engage in such bonding and the more decadent lifestyles in Calavria has led to it, the general perception is that it is against the natural order. Unfortunately the most positive attitude to homosexuality lies with the practitioners of druidism, who tend to believe that all sexual orientations are healthy and positive provided that the relationships are loving and healthy. It is strongly believed amongst druids that all consensual acts of love and pleasure are nourishing to the Mother of Earth. This has not aided in the wider perception of druids.
Childbirth can be taxing and often costs the life of the mother if they are particularly frail unless they are fortunate enough to have a skilled midwife or a member of the Vaiteran clergy at their bedsides, the latter usually reserved for more prestigious families due to the daily demands of the follower of Vaitera. Parents usually rear their children into the trades that they themselves practice, but more and more young men and women in Starkholm are being encouraged away from the their parents' trades, particularly if they are saturated markets or are a profession that has not quite recovered from the war. Most children will therefore be taken under an apprenticeship, usually at an early age.
Your average labourer, farmer, peasant and yeoman have a tradition of working until the day they die unless they become incapable of that work or their children are strong enough to take the workload for them. The worst ravages of old age can be put off by the healing of the Vaiteran clergy, but their reach is not infinite. Death will come as a result of extended infirmities or disabling illness more likely than not.
Health and Hygiene
Hygiene isn't great in Starkholm. There is a great deal of filth in the overcrowded city and no real way to get rid of it. Rats, flies and other vermin are difficult to keep at bay. There are a few gallant individuals that take their carts around the city with a shovel to de-muck the streets, sometimes to sell on for compost, but generally speaking they only target areas that will earn them a tip, though these areas tend to have streets that are cobbled rather than the narrow dirt roads that still weave around the back alleys of Starkholm. The slums are practically built on a foundation of filth, ramshackle huts and buildings erected on already poorly kept ground meaning that the very paths are mud and quite often sodden. Some makeshift wood and stone paths do weave their way between the houses of the slums, particularly closer to the city gates and the roads thereof. Clean water is quite difficult to get in the slums, Starkholm having several wells within its city walls for communal use but none without. A river does flow nearby, but it is an hours walk there and back.
Healing of a magical and divine nature is a sought-after practice in Starkholm and one that can easily earn those that practice it a few extra copper. It is generally, however, believed impolite to ask. The everyman's grasp of how such abilities work is not a great one and, as such, rather than asking every caster if they have the power to heal it is generally assumed they cannot and, if they could, they might choose to extend the goodwill towards those that they encounter.
Houses of healing do exist, though predominantly they are Vaiteran-run and, as such, avoid an open-door policy lest a leper try to enter the grounds to be healed. Access is granted to those that speak their ailments to those within, usually through a slat in the door that can be opened from the inside. Called 'whispering windows', these slats are built at roughly face level so that one might whisper any ailments of a more personal nature through the door and maintain their discretion.
Due to how quickly it exhausts the healer and how much demand there is for it, wandering healers attempting to cure and heal everyone around them are very seldom if at all seen. There is little admiration for those that behave as such, either - it is likened to offering bread to the starving but only having a few loaves. Though some good might be done of it, there are likely twofold more people in proximity of the healer that have an ailment to be tended to that cannot be seen to due to one's capacity for mana.
Most education takes place in the churches local to the district where a child grows up. Any formal schools - of which there are few - are usually conntected to the Church. Children are taught from the Libras Unitas as well as vital life skills such as counting. From thereon, at between the ages of six to eight, a child is sent to learn their trade or their walk of life, be it being sent to serve under a knight, sent to the fields to till and sow, sent to a monastery or parish to dedicate themselves to the Church or sent to be the apprentice of a carpenter or a mason.
There comes, of course, deviation. The children of nobles in Starkholm can still be privately tutored, though lessons tend to happen as communal affairs for those dwelling in the same house. Similarly, a child without a home tends to stick with the church for shelter and warmth, and as such will likely serve the church for the rest of their days. Homeless children seldom get an apprenticeship - even before the Fall, these were sought-after positions that usually got arranged when the child was named, usually with friends of the family or relations who were in that position. There weren't enough apprenticeships to go around back then. Now, you are fortunate if you are taken on as an apprentice.
There were universities in the Realms, specialising in the teaching of grammar, rhetoric, logic, philosophy, the arcane, music and geometry, but they were prestigious affairs that taught only a few hundred children at any given time, usually around the age of fourteen.
A man or woman of a decent profession can usually read and write. It is a skill encouraged amongst those that attend school, and even amongst those that do not. Ledgers, lists of stock, and letters all are encouragement for a professional to, if not learn to write and read themselves, be in the proximity of of someone who can. Those that learn the arcane or divine can almost certainly read and write fluently. One's incanting vocals will usually be a variation of those already written down in a book (though just how necessary identical incantations are to casting a spell is a matter of much debate around arcanists, and much tedium for those who are not arcane in their mannerisms).
Mercenaries are not difficult to come by should one merely be operating under the parameters of 'willing to fight for money'. In a day and age where most everyone has seen conflict, suffered loss and is significantly poorer than they were or might have been, trades such as mercenary work tend to become a good option for men and women of able body and skill. However, mercenary companies are a different affair entirely. Though they did exist pre-fall, the idea of a mercenary company was much the same as stating that there might be a company of thieves. They were generally not a well-respected group if they existed at all. Most were presumed to be untrustworthy with money or just as likely to turn against their employer if they were offered better pay. This was an exaggeration rather than an accurate portrayal, but there was some truth in it.
In any event, the concept of a mercenary company as a standing force that can be hired to do a task was a concept popularised by the rise of Ascher's Outriders, a company put together by Captain Erika Ascher and the high elf Sidreal in the wake of the Fall. It was very much a response to the desperate times that had befallen the Realm, a means to unite and utilise those willing to put their lives on the line for the sake of the betterment of society. It was not without criticism. In a world that had seen the heroes of the last generation all die to the legion, some opined that Ascher's attempts were simply capitalising on the death of great men and women. However, this is by no means the prevalent mentality, particularly with how successful the Outriders have been in pursuing the interests of Starkholm. The good that they are doing for the Realm is indisputable (though some will always reserve the right to dispute the indisputable) and has, thus far, gotten results.
There are pockets of mercenaries out in Starkholm that might consider themselves a company, but none of them have the same sort of prestige, authority and recognisability as the Outriders.
Lead by Lord Leonard Freeman, the City Watch are a group that can best be described as 'overworked, ill-equipped and underpaid'. Traditionally sporting boiled or studded leather and a helmet of some verity, the watchmen are footmen that try to maintain a semblance of order within Starkholm. Whilst it is the duty of every citizen to uphold the law, the watchmen provide an active body of men who regularly patrol specifically with the intention of looking out for trouble and the cessation thereof. They are paid out of Freeman's own pocket, a former Anderian lord who had a fair amount of his wealth intact but his holdings lost come the Fall. Freeman lives in one of the several towers along the city walls that now serve as guardhouses for the watch.
The watch are entitled to arrest an accused individual and take them to the gaols and to investigate the crime that has been committed, but not to pass judgement on the guilt of that individual without the authority of either the king or the Church of Tyaus. The Church of Tyaus do have the authority to pass judgement within the city and, as a result, quite often act as judges in these affairs. The relationship between city watch and Tyausian paladin is one of mutual respect.
Before the Fall, the only languages spoken in Andermark was the common tongue. It was the language of the Anderman and nothing more needed to be known. After all, why should it? Now walking through one of Starkholm's marketplaces will have the passer-by pick up Lancesian dialects, Calavrian accents, the elven tongue, traces of Imperial Calavrian and the odd spattering of the dwarven language. Language within Starkholm has become a rich discourse indeed, particularly as it has become fashionable to adopt words and phrases from other languages where the common language simply didn't have a word for it. It would not be so unusual to hear an Anderian ask for a tête à tête or trail off a particularly laborious point with et cetera. It is a time where language is changing, but a time where the common tongue as a staple language for most races is proving itself tenfold. Some non-common speaking races such as elves have expressed concerns that it might see their native language erased altogether, but that is not likely to occur within anyone's lifetime - even an elven one.
Coin and Commerce
Work and Rest
Agriculture and Industry
Mining and Metalwork
Yanevis Forge has grown since the Fall to become a centre of excellence in metalwork, providing works of function and art to the military elite of Starkholm, as well as basic equipment to the city watch.
Papermaking and bookbinding
Since The Fall, travel has been restricted to Starkholm, its immediate outlying lands to the east, and all lands to the west. The world beyond the parameters of what is known to be safe is almost entirely unaccounted for. The roads are dangerous. Even travelling within what is considered to be safe territory runs the risk of being attacked, if not by [bestiary|creatures] of the wild, uprooted from their homes by the Legion, then rogue bands of highwaymen and bandits.
Most people travel on foot these days, as horses have become rarer and, thus, more expensive, with most surviving horses privately owned by knights, lords, farmers or horse-rearers. Most commoners in this day and age can't afford the cost of keeping a horse in food, shelter, the additional cost of a saddle and its accountable, spurs, and be able to afford to keep it shod. Mules are a slightly more affordable option, but they best serve as pack mules. Most travel within safe and charted Andermark is done with hitching a ride on a wagon or a travois.
Most roads are dusty tracks even within secure areas, but outside of Andermark they will almost certainly be unclear. Scattered branches, fallen trees and general overgrowth mean that going on a wagon would be slowed. Futhermore, it is not known which roads are the safest to travel. Moving through the forests of Andermark is generally inadvisable, but with the guidance of a druid some of the more hostile natural threats can be avoided. Anyone travelling through a forest, however, can expect the need to defend themselves against brigands and uncivilised beastkin at the very least, as well as other tricks and treacheries of the Fringe.
Water travel remains relatively unexplored. There is an possible inland waterway deeper into eastern Andermark, but that has not been entirely secured. It is a downstream drift on a barge, which means that return along the same waterway would either require moving upstream or having a beast tow the barge from the shore.
The only other route of travel are ley-vaults, identical rooms of complex runed cogs that were built to exact specifications around the more prestigious locales of the realm. Costly to build because of the precision required, ley-vaults were an ultimately abandoned mode of magical transportation that were deemed impractical due to the fact they require men of vast magical learning to operate them correctly, as well as the fact that there would be a displacement of time that could not be accurately calculated from one location to another. The vaults themselves were small, the sensation of being magically transported was not a comfortable one, and the ley-vaults that existed were left for emergency purposes only.