Battledale: A Traveller's Primer

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Battledale: A Traveller's Primer
« on: April 08, 2011, 09:56:47 PM »

Battledale's firece name isn't a reflection on its character or its foreign policy - it's an indication of the dale's geographic position in the middle of the best invasion routes through the Dalelands. Historically, the biggest local battles have been fought in Battledale's rolling meadows, though Battledale's people have not always been the ones doing the fighting.

Not all outlanders who arrive in Battledale come to fight. Over the centuries, Battledale has grown into its role as a meeting place and refuge for an odd mix of warriors, adventurers, and traders from all over Faerun and the well-travelled sometimes claim that the sprawling but sparsely-populated dale is just as diverse as cosmopolitan Waterdeep. Battledale's capital, Essembra, has even historically been on friendly terms with the elves of Cormanthor - surrounded by the ancient forest as it is - with most of the town's half-elves claiming decidedly local lineage.

All is not well, though. Lord Ilmeth Wyvernblade, War-Chancellor of Essembra, holds stewardship of the town and is recognised as the Dale's Lord, thanks to a centuries old claim made by the Swordcaptain of Aencar, the Mantled King. Since the King's death and the dissolution of his great allied kingdom, the Wyvernblade family have successfully held Battledale; defending their lands and people from predations from other dales and regional powers alike. Yet, the cracks began to show nearly twenty years ago when the capital was conquered by Lashan of Scardale and held for some months until Ilmeth - who had, it seemed, mysteriously escaped - returned with an allied force of Dalesmen, Zhents, Hillsfarians, and Sembians alike to oust the occupying force and send them from whence they came.

In the years since, Ilmeth has been a good lord. Essembra and, by extension, Battledale-proper have prospered, though not without hardship. Ilmeth's leadership has been solid, and no one doubts that he is a just ruler who has the best interests of his people in mind, they simply wonder if he has their interests at heart. The trouble is thus; Ilmeth Wyvernblade is the last of his line, and, some argue, the weakest of a once-noble bloodline. He is an aged man, middling his sixties, without a wife and, worse, without even a bastard heir to take his throne. What happens when Battledale loses their Lord to the ravages of time against the human constitution? It is a legitimate concern, for though Battledarrans are open to welcoming incomers to their land, they share the same independant spark of all Dalesfolk and will heartily resist the claim of a foreign ruler.

Essembra is not without troubles beyond matters of the Lord's progeny, though. Since many Sembians abandoned their country estates in the miles south of the town, the ruined houses have become home to bandits that the Lord's Men simply cannot put down with their limited numbers. The drow that assailed the forest over the past few decades seem to have multiplied drastically, almost slaughtering the population of the Abbey of the Sword only a few short years ago, and the elves no longer dwell in the forest with the numbers they used to - they took a heavy blow in the winter of 1373 when a red dragon destroyed an entire swathe of woodland that had, it seemed, housed an elven village.

Though Lashan's War is a distant and gladly-forgotten memory to veterans and the subject of grizzly war stories for the youngsters, it serves as a reminder to the more cynical Dalesman that even sedate and simple Battledale is not immune to the predations of outlanders or tyrants who seek to make the dale's bountiful plains their own. While Essembra and the rest of the dale recovered from the horrific treatment faced at the hands of Lashan's mercenaries, some wonder if Lashan's successful - albeit short - conquest of the Dale will serve as inspiration to those wishing to take advantage of the other difficulties that plague the Dale and the increasing weakness of her Lord.

In Essembra, Ilmeth continues to fund the armory that provides the Essembran guardforce - the Lord's Men - with the weapons and Tempuran-taught training that they need to defend their town. While Ilmeth himself is traditionally required to dispense law, he leaves such matters to appointed sheriffs in Essembra and beyond, and only shows himself for the most pressing matters. The Lord's Men have begun an aggressive recruitment drive since the winter passed in an attempt to win the loyalty of Essembra's youth, though they are having little success - popular opinion has it that the force for law is little more than a force for Ilmeth, and that naysayers will be struck down. Whether or not that is entirely true is difficult to determine, but the loudest anti-Ilmeth voices are also those most often hauled into the mill for a few hours penance pulling the millstone, giving only more credence to such ideas. In the summer of 1374, a series of protests against the Lord of Battledale ignited, but were quieted by the efforts of adventurers - including some who discovered evidence of Zhentil meddling in the Battledarran political environment. Since the so-called Dragonplague that struck Essembra in summer 1374 - decimating the population in a tenday of horror - the fires of rebellion have returned to a quiet smoldering as Ilmeth manages to reign in his people once more.

The town itself owes much to the Abbey of the Sword, through its associated ministry at Swordspoint Shrine, but also to the House of Gond, where an elderly priest oversees the patronage of Essembra's many talented craftsmen that support an economy struggling to grow in limited ground. Some say the truth is that Essembra's economy is built upon its festhalls and alehouses for they are numerous and several in particular are of a quality rarely matched in the Dales. Perhaps it is Essembra's status as the 'crossroads of the Dales' that contribute to their great success, or perhaps it is simply Essembran tastes, but the town does know how to have a party and seems, at times, doggedly determined to remain cheerful in the face of adversity.

The rest of the dale simply endures, often having the adventurers who so often travel up and down the roads and trails to thank for the turning of their fortunes. There is no patrol of the Lord's Men as far as Oaknoll or Hap or any of the dozens of insignificant hamlets that dot the landscape, and as such the rest of the dale operates to its own methods of justice, much like neighboring Featherdale. The rural Battledarrans'  troubles are numerous and the kindness of strangers has so far saved them from the worst horrors. Yet still, these towns often keep old, nigh rusty, weapons pegged at their doors in case the herald rides by with the message that the War-Chancellor calls men and woman of Battledale to take up arms to defend Essembra and defend the land. It is no longer required of them, of course, but Ilmeth Wyvernblade's stance on trade and justice, as well as his devotion to Helm, has won him admiration from swathes of Battledale's distant commonfolk. Even the Abbey of the Sword counts Ilmeth as their friend, in part thanks to his long friendship with their founder Eldan Ambrose, and is likely to come to the aid of Essembra if they can - though they have not been without their own difficulties in recent years.

Battledarrans stick together, through thick and thin, and they have done so beyond living human memory. Even Aencar, the Mantled King, was born of Battledale, and he returned to his people from his ventures to bring them both fair justice and great prosperity. That anyone can plant their feet in the ground and claim that, by the Mantle, he will spill his own blood to protect Battledale if she asks it of him, and thus be called a fellow Battledarran by his new neighbours, is only a testament to the welcoming spirit of Battledale. Even Scardarrans, once reviled, are welcomed (though some veterans still pull their noses up at any man who admits to being from that 'accursed Dale' in their company).

The last couple of years have been hard for all dales, but perhaps by far the worst for Battledale. While 1375 has opened to relative quiet, it seems clear that many are simply preparing for the worst that will inevitably come.

Further information about Battledale, Essembra, and other Battledale settlements, is available on the wiki.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2018, 02:56:09 PM by Eredruie »
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