gvdammerung writes "Sleepy. Backward. Ignorant. Superstitious. Hidebound. Economically irrelevant. Welcome to Salinmoor!
A Guide to the Viscounty of Salinmoor - Introduction and Overview
by Glenn Vincent Dammerung, aka GVDammerung
The Viscounty of Salinmoor is located in the extreme southwestern portion of the Kingdom of Keoland bounded by the Azure Sea, the Javan River and the Dreadwood. Some 317 years since its establishment, Salinmoor has never featured prominently in the history of Keoland. It is a poor, backwater province that has seen history largely pass it by.
If there is a fame attached to the Viscounty, it is that fame attributable to the number of adventure seeking individuals who have been drawn there. In many ways, the Viscounty of Salinmoor is still a frontier province. The social structure is remarkably fluid and there is much opportunity for advancement and to make one’s mark, and perhaps fortune.
A study in contrasts, the Viscounty of Salinmoor is very egalitarian, judging individuals on their individual merit, while at the same time respecting tradition to the point of being hidebound by it. With a very diverse population for such a remote area, the Viscounty has different faces it turns to the world as it suits the inhabitants. To an outsider, Salinmoor is almost sure to appear dullish, more than a bit drab and of little interest. While all this is surely true, it is true by degrees. With greater experience, there can be found pockets of amazing vitality and vibrancy amidst the general languor.
The Land and the Sea
The Viscounty of Salinmoor is largely flat. Close to the shores of the Azure Sea the ground becomes notably marshy. Inland, the soil tends to be rocky. While there are the occasional stretches of sea cliffs, at no point does the land rise much above sea level. As a result, seasonal hurricanes blowing in from the Azure Sea in the late summer often cause wide spread flooding. This makes agriculture difficult as an entire year's crops may be lost.
To the west and southwest, the Hool Marshes are without doubt the worst land in the Viscounty. The Marshes spread out in a vast delta from the main channel of the mighty Javan River. Home to innumerable insects, snakes, deadly plant species and hostile sentients, the Hool Marshes are of little to no economic value. At the same time, the population of lizard folk and less well mannered creatures are a constant concern. The only redeeming feature of the Hool Marshes, if it can be called that, are the treasures that fortune seekers can sometimes pry from its mired grasp.
Altogether more hospitable, although as hostile to intruders, is the Dreadwood that broods heavily to the north and east of the Viscounty. Home to a sovereign and isolationist nation of wood elves, very little is known to a certainty of the other inhabitants of wood for the elves are aggressive in the defense of their forested domain. Within the bounds of the Dreadwood, the elves are the supreme masters of the land. While Keoland has named the Dreadwood a protectorate, this status has never been acknowledged by the elves themselves. Wisely, Keoland has never sought to push its claim or to enter forcibly into the precincts of the elves. The elves have been similarly reasonable.
The wood elves tolerate logging within the Dreadwood, albeit only on the fringes. All logging operations are overseen by the Great Druid of the Sheldomar Valley and his circle, who are allied with the wood elves and likewise call the Dreadwood home. A single track open to commerce and travel is allowed to pass entirely through the Dreadwood. Aptly named the Dreadwood Road, it has as its northern terminus the mixed human and elven town of Silglen. The southern terminus is at the town of Burle that lies within the Viscounty of Salinmoor.
More than any other province of the Kingdom of Keoland, the Viscounty of Salinmoor is defined by water and the sea. The Azure Sea that bounds the Viscounty to the south dominates and defines life within the Viscounty. While much the same might be said for the Duchy of Gradsul, which boasts Keoland’s only significant port on the Azure Sea, Gradsul is as much a river town at the mouth of the Sheldomar as a seaport, and the Duchy enjoys a much larger land area not immediately open to the vicissitudes of waves and storms blowing in from open water.
The Viscounty of Salinmoor is almost always windy and that wind, except at the verge of the Dreadwood, is tinged with salt and spray. Dampness is endemic in all seasons and in the months of summer humidity makes the heat something to be feared, particularly when the winds die down. If there is a pleasant season, it is spring and low summer, when the air is warm but not yet hot and the sea breezes are cool and gentle before the onset of the storm season. From high summer through the depths of winter, storms are always a possibility. Hurricane season extends from late in the high summer through fall.
The Viscounty of Salinmoor is not wealthy by any standards. It enjoys no significant mineral resources other than limited amounts of iron and tin. Agriculturally, the only crops grown beyond the level of local subsistence are grapes and olives. Only the grapes, which have long been used to produce a noted Madeira wine, are truly valuable beyond the domains of the Viscounty’s immediate neighbors. Cattle grazing is locally significant but is rarely practiced at more than a subsistence level. While there is significant potential to raise sheep for meat and, more importantly, wool, this potential has never been realized. The Azure Sea provides the only real wealth within Salinmoor.
Fishing, to include whaling, dominates the economy of the Viscounty. Of the five principle cities of the Viscounty of Salinmoor, four are situated on the coast or on islands immediately offshore. More than a subsistence industry, the fishing fleets of the Viscounty of Salinmoor compete in size with those of the Duchy of Gradsul, where both sell their catches. The bounty of the sea also includes pearls, the only gemmological resource within the Viscounty. While local pearl beds are not significant in and of themselves, Salinmoors pearl divers frequently range much further south.
Located as it is on the shores of the Azure Sea and having four medium to small seaports, the Viscounty of Salinmoor is perfectly situated as a jumping off point to all points south, be it the lands of the Hold of the Sea Princes, the Amedio Jungle, The Olman Islands, newly opened Sasserine or even Hepmonaland. Fantastic wealth lies just over the blue horizon, wealth that could transform the Viscounty of Salinmoor. There are but two difficulties that make such dreams little more. The Viscounty of Salinmoor can in no way compare to the vast Duchy of Gradsul and its resources. Gradsul is as well situated as Salinmoor and boasts superior shipyards, merchant houses and a transportation network linking it to the rest of Keoland and the Flanaess. At the same time, the Viscounty of Salinmoor lacks the capital, the money, to fund trading expeditions or missions of exploration. And with Gradsul just up the coast to attract available capital, this situation is unlikely to change.
The population of the Viscounty of Salinmoor is quite diverse. In a real sense, the Viscounty has been a melting pot of peoples.
The majority of the population of the Viscounty of Salinmoor is human. This population is divided almost equally between those of Suel extraction and those of Oeridian ancestry. As in much of Keoland, however, the Suel population has been politically dominant at the highest levels of authority. In all but the family of the Viscounts, however, intermarriage without regard to ethnicity is common. Salinmoor is among the most egalitarian of Keoland’s constituent provinces.
Minority populations of Flan exist in the Viscounty along with even smaller populations that can trace their lineage to the rightly feared Yaheetes. A people tainted by a history of foul deeds traceable to the lost Isles of Woe of the Nyr Dyv, the Yaheetes are universally despised and for good reason. Most are throughly intermarried and wisely keep well to themselves. The Flan have a hatred of the Yaheetes that is pathological and genocidal. Even the worst of the Suel might blanche in the face of the Flan’s feelings toward the Yaheetes. Contrary to a popular misconception, the Yaheetes are not a Flan people and it is best not to evidence any such confusion before a anyone of Flannish descent.
Interestingly, there is surprising evidence of the Olman in the Viscounty of Salinmoor. While there are those of obvious Olman extraction living there, in almost all cases, these Olman are late arrivals. There is evidence, however, of a much earlier and significant Olman habitation. In 282 CY, during the reign of Gillum I, an Olman burial site was discovered in the Viscounty of Salinmoor. The so-called Olman Ship Burial was a buried catamaran used as a bier that contained the remains and grave goods of an Olman warrior that some have speculated may have been a noble or even king. While no similar finds have come to light, no one has been actively searching for any either.
Demeanor and Attitudes
The peasants of Salinmoor are, like most Keolandish peasants, ignorant and superstitious in the extreme. They are also noticeably furtive. When speaking with strangers, they often appear over anxious, as if they wished the conversation would end or feared that it might be overheard. One frequently comes away with the impression that these peasants have something to hide or are attempting to conceal something. What, in their circumstances, is anyone’s guess. The one thing that can be said for the peasants of the Viscounty is that they are altogether harder working than the usual peasant of Keoland. Doubtless, this may be accounted for in the positive example set by the Viscounty’s active demi-human populations.
Among the aristocracy, one hesitates to say nobility, of the Viscounty of Salinmoor, there is a pronounced sense of fatalism combined with a prudish, even puritanical, mentality. While not universally so, a number of the aristocracy seem to view themselves as cursed or doomed, solely on account of inhabiting Salinmoor, if nothing else. At the same time they sigh, shrug and bemoan their lot in life, however, they are pretentiously defensive about their status and prerogatives, such as they are. The aristocracy are sticklers for protocol and tradition, even when these have long grown outdated or impractical and have been elsewhere in Keoland abandoned.
The chief exception to these attitudes are among the younger members of the aristocracy, many of whom have only lately been ennobled, at least by Keoland’s standards. Coming, as it were, from humble origins, these newly minted nobles are often outsiders to Salinmoor and bring with them an energy that is too often lacking among the natives. This energy is often noticeable in the communities these upstarts found or come to rule over. The example cannot be but a positive one. However, if one is caught unawares, the change in attitude and demeanor can seem improbably startling.
Demi-Humanity - The Land Dwellers
Of the land dwelling demi-human races, wood elves are far and away the most common. High elves are uncommon and grey elves are almost unheard of in Salinmoor. Most wood elves have some connection with the elves of the Dreadwood but this connection is not always a significant one. Merely being a wood elf does not give an individual any special insight into the deeper goings on within the Dreadwood. Half-elves are uncommon. The predominant wood elves have intermarried with humanity only occasionally. It is unproven but commonly believed that the wood elves living outside the verge of the Dreadwood are watching or spying on the human population.
Halflings are the next most populous of the land dwelling demi-humans. Stouts and hairfeet predominate with tall fellows being altogether less common. Of the so-called, "light foot" halflings or "kynder," there is no evidence. The halflings know the Viscounty of Salinmoor as the Southdowns and have continuously inhabited the land longer than any other race, with the exception of the elves of the Dreadwood. Halfling communities dot Salinmoor as their settlements predate all known human habitations. Most raise only what they need with perhaps a little more to trade. Of note, halfling brewers are accounted among the finest in the Viscounty. Made in greater quantity, their heather beer could become quite popular more broadly. Halflings themselves are treated as if they were human.
Dwarves and gnomes within the Viscounty are most likely to be single individuals or small family groups. There are no organized dwarven or gnomish communities. Overall, both races are most common in Salinmoor’s bigger towns where they ply any number of crafts. While looked at as a curiousity, dwarves and gnomes are readily accepted so long as they can be viewed as productive citizens.
Demi-Humanity - The Seafarers
The Viscounty of Salinmoor’s unique and abiding relationship with the sea is nowhere better demonstrated than in the demi-human races adapted to the sea that are found in the Viscounty in larger numbers than anywhere else in Keoland. To an outsider, these races will almost certainly be entirely unknown. Locals, however, treat them very much as they would their land dwelling cousins.
While not technically within the Viscounty, offshore, beneath the Azure Sea, are to be found a great number of aquatic or sea elves. Estimates are that the aquatic elf population is at least as large as the wood elf population of the Dreadwood. Masters of their undersea environment, the sea elves generally keep to themselves, although they are not as isolationist as their wood elven cousins. Relations between the two groups of elves are friendly and mutually cooperative. The halflings of Salinmoor are equally friendly with both groups and often act as go betweens as the sea elves are capable of surviving out of water for only comparatively brief periods of time. The sea elves are generally well received by the human population of Salinmoor and generally return that hospitality.
Shoal halflings, who are amphibious, and wavecrest gnomes, who are not, inhabit the small islets and barrier islands off the coast of Salinmoor. Their communities are among the most productive in all the Viscounty. In return for protection and guarantees of independence, they nominally recognize the authority of the Viscount. In all ways, they are regarded as their land dwelling cousins by the human inhabitants of Salinmoor. In many cases, relations are actually more friendly, as the shoal halflings and wavecrest gnomes are happy to work cooperatively with Salinmoor’s human fisher folk.
The Viscounty of Salinmoor has but a single colony of seacliff dwarves, numbering some 2500 individuals. Located just shy of the border between the Viscounty and the Duchy of Gradsul, the community of Waverock perches on the only significant cliff face between the outlets of the Javan and Sheldomar Rivers. The seacliff dwarves of Waverock are a community of smiths, especially noted for the quality of their tinsmiths. All of the limited mining that occurs in the Viscounty of Salinmoor is dominated by the dwarves of Waverock. Contrary to popular mythology, seacliff dwarves are not natural sailors and the dwarves of Waverock rely upon their good relations with the seacrest gnomes when they find a need to put to sea. Like their cousins in the Principality of Ulek, the seacliff dwarves of Waverock enjoy excellent relations with their human neighbors.
Non-Humans and Humanoids
In its landward extents, the Viscounty of Salinmoor is blessedly free of humanoid or non-human populations. Beyond these bounds, the Viscounty is almost surrounded by such populations.
The worst of these scourges are the sahuagin of the Azure Sea. In numbers running into the thousands, the sahuagin are and have been the most persistent threat to the other populations of Salinmoor. Fortunately, the sahuagin treat all non-sahuagin poorly at best and as meat in most situations and so lack the allies that would make them an otherwise unstoppable force. So rapaciously predacious are the sahuagin, they have at times made allies of races who would otherwise be natural or instinctive enemies. Still, the sahuagin are sufficiently numerous and sufficiently dangerous that they need no allies to menace all of Salinmoor by themselves.
After the sahuagin, the next most populace non-human race are the lizardmen tribes of the Hool Marshes. While often considered the enemies of the citizens of the Viscounty for their penchant for raiding outside the boundaries of their swampy homes, they have frequently been allies as well, particularly against the hated sahuagin. Relations between humans and lizardmen are complicated in Salinmoor. Certainly, the more advanced tribes have found it expedient, if nothing else, to be open to negotiation with humanity. The more barbaric tribes, however, see humans as little better than prey. Ultimately alien to each other in their thinking, that only the most experienced humans and lizardmen can distinguish one individual of the other species from another only further complicates matters.
Humanoids are present only on the fringes of the Viscounty of Salinmoor and are as numerous as neither the sahuagin nor the lizardmen. Inhabiting the marginal lands where the Dreadwood and the Hool Marshes met and overlap are the black or swamp orcs. Possessed of all of the salient characteristics of orc-kind, the black orcs are more primitive but less unabashedly brutal than their gray orc cousins. More rarely do they form hordes, although, when competently led, they are to be feared just as much. Less numerous still are the goblins and bugbears of the western Dreadwood. Except for the occasional raid, they are more dangerous to interlopers into their territories than anything else. Interestingly, these orcs, goblins and bugbears share a mythology, fearing and at the same time revering a figure they call the Dreadwalker, who will bring to them power and prominence. This figure is not to be confused with the group of human rangers who have unknowingly chosen the same name. Or at least, not yet.
Cities and Towns
The Viscounty of Salinmoor has but five towns of any note. Only charitably might any be called cities.
The capital of the Viscounty of Salinmoor is Seaton. Home to a population of roughly 3,500 residents, Seaton is not the largest town in the Viscounty. Its position as the capital is more historic than anything else. Rustic with pretensions of being cosmopolitan, Seaton is taken as a joke by those familiar with the likes of Gradsul, Niole Dra or almost any of Keoland’s cities and towns outside Salinmoor. Still, as the capital, it summons up a dignity that suggests it potential, however, raw.
Chiefly concerned with fishing, Seaton is home to the majority of the Viscounty’s fishing fleets. A better fishing port will not be found and is only equaled by the fishing docks of Gradsul. Of course, almost the entire city of Seaton smells of fish, something not true of Gradsul, which is much more than just a fishing port. If there is excitement to be found in Seaton, it will be found in and around the docks. The further from the sea one goes, the quieter and more rustic Seaton becomes until it is almost as if one has left the present century for some earlier time.
Saltmarsh is almost the Viscounty of Salinmoor’s uncrowned capital. It is in almost every way, everything Seaton is not. Founded by fortune seeking adventurers, Saltmarsh has always been a wide open town, full of energy and opportunity. Having experienced a population boom, Saltmarsh is home to 3,850 residents. Fully one thousand of these residents recently came to Saltmarsh at the expense of Seaton, which was attacked and partially razed by slavers before they could be driven off. These new residents have brought with them experience and skills that have supplemented Saltmarsh’s labor pool, while at the same time adding some needed stability to the rough and tumble upstart town. Saltmarsh is poised for greatness, at least by local standards.
The business of Saltmarsh is a combination of many small enterprises. No one industry dominates the economy. As close as it comes, and if it can be called an industry, is fortune seeking. Hard by the Hool Marshes, across the river from the restive Hold of the Sea Princes and across the sea from the Amedio Jungle, opportunities for making one’s fortune abound. Many are drawn to Saltmarsh and its excellent harbor as a jumping off point to adventure. Others are drawn here, to the end of civilization, for more underhanded reasons. Smugglers and pirates find safe haven in Saltmarsh so long as they don’t cause too much of a stir. Much of the smuggling that brings goods quietly into Keoland flows through the Viscounty of Salinmoor and Saltmarsh. By the same token, more pirate cargoes, at least the smaller sized ones, are disposed of in Saltmarsh than even in Gradsul where the constabulary is altogether more efficient.
Of all the towns of the Viscounty of Salinmoor, Burle has arguably the most charm. Nearby the Dreadwood, Burle is built more with wood than the stone of Salinmoor’s coastal communities. It is also built with a woodsmen’s sensibility for natural surroundings rather than a seaman’s need for practical efficiency in the face of the sea. Where Salinmoor’s coastal towns feel close, Burle feels much more open and expansive. With a population of 5000 residents, Burle is larger than either Saltmarsh or Seaton. This is not accidental.
Burle is the southern terminus of the Dreadwood Road, the only north and south track through the Dreadwood allowed by the wood elves. In consequence, Burle sees steady, if rarely heavy, overland commercial traffic. It is a transhipment point for goods moving from the coast to the interior and from the interior to the coast. It is the only such overland route that sees much use. The coast road from Seaton to Gradsul is rarely traveled as it is usually more efficient to travel by ship. Burle also connects the adjacent Viscounty of Nume Eor, which must otherwise rely upon the Javan River, with greater Keoland.
While Seaton is the capital of Salinmoor, since first being awarded the Viscounty, the ruling Secunforths have chosen to spend most of their time in Burle, which is consequently where they have also spent a good deal of their money. The Secunforth’s gravitated to Burle because it most reminded them for their former possessions which lay in Keoland’s north. Ironically, the ruling family of Salinmoor does not particularly care for the sea. This is no secret but is not held against the Secunforth’s as they have been content not to disturb the traditional rule of the land by local magnates.
Located just seven miles from the mainland, Angler Island is home to the 1500 residents of Angleburg. A thriving fishing community, Angleburg has the most protected natural anchorage in all of the Viscounty of Salinmoor. The waters around the island team with fish but the currents are treacherous to those not intimately familiar with them. This combination of factors has made the fishermen of Angleburg among Salinmoor’s most prosperous. They specialize in catching some of the most sought after species of fish which they either sell in Angleburg’s fish market or transport to Gradsul for even greater profit. The money they make has made Angleburg and Angler Island the secret envy of many more populous and seemingly prosperous locales.
Irregularly shaped, at its widest point, Angler Island is nearly six miles wide. It is nearly seven miles long. Except for the natural harbor at Angleburg, Angler Island is surrounded by inhospitable cliffs, making the island virtually impregnable. All of the land on the island outside the town was originally owned by the local noble family, the Rynnows, who made a practice of selling property on the island only to locals. This insularity has proven beneficial as well-to-do fisher folk have reinvested their money on Angler Island. In many ways, Angler Island is the most idyllic spot in the Viscounty of Salinmoor and certainly has one of the strongest senses of community.
Redshore is the name of an island 8 miles off the coast of the Viscounty of Salinmoor as well as the name of the small city located there. Redshore, the city, is the largest in the entire Viscounty numbering just over 7000 inhabitants. When the Viscounty was first established, the first Viscount chose to settle on Redshore, making it the oldest of Salinmoor’s towns and cities. The decision to settle on an island significantly off shore was an economic one.
Like all of Keoland’s southern coast, the waters off Redshore easily support a fishing industry. At the same time the island’s considerable extent, some ten miles by twelve miles, proved to contain both timber and mineral resources, not enough for export but more than enough to make Redshore largely self sufficient. The rocky coasts, while not as formidable as those of Angler Island, still provided protection from easy landings, while the interior hills provided some relief from the heat. The most important economic factor, however, was Redshore’s location in relation to the ocean currents.
Redshore lies on the migratory path of several whale species. Whaling is and has been the chief occupation of Redshore’s inhabitants. It has made the local ruling family, the Lorchersters, the richest family in all of Salinmoor. Until the collapse of Keoland’s southern empire and the appointment of the Secunforths to the seat of the Viscounty , the Lorchesters ruled as Viscounts of Salinmoor. The city of Redshore still reflects this. Its population remains the greatest in the Viscounty and while its glory has faded, Redshore is more cosmopolitan and impressive than any other town in Salinmoor.
Sea Versus Shore
It is a fact that most visiting, as well as residing in, Salinmoor never leave the mainland. This has greatly influenced the perception of the Viscounty. While both the Viscounty’s mainland and island holdings share more similarities than differences, the differences are significant. The island communities possess more wealth and more dynamism than the mainland towns and villages, with the possible exception of roguish Saltmarsh. The bulk of the population exists on the mainland, however, and is anything but dynamic or prosperous much beyond subsistence. The two communities, sea and shore, tend to ignore one another in a political sense. While there is trade and traffic between them, there is not a great deal of genuine interaction much beyond this. Each sees itself as the "true" face of the Viscounty. "
These different perspectives have only been exacerbated since the arrival of the Secunforth’s. While the Secunforth’s presence and authority is strongly in evidence on the mainland, be that for better or for worse, on the coastal islands, the Lorchesters exert the dominant influence. That influence manifests in a name only recognition of the authority of the Secunforths. The Lorchesters behave, and by their example encourage other islanders to behave, as if they were practically independent holdings, not part of a greater Viscounty of Salinmoor. For their part, the Secunforths have greeted apathy to their rule with apathy. So long as the taxes are paid and the basic formalities are paid lip service, the Secunforths have been content to let matters rest there.
This is, of course, to no one’s advantage. The Lorchesters can maintain their lot but can do little to improve it apart from Salinmoor’s fate. The Secunforths, even more, cannot begin to realize what potential Salinmoor has until they can unite its people behind their leadership. When the Lorchersters can’t lead and the Secunforths won’t lead, Salinmoor drifts. And so Salinmoor has drifted through the years, sleepy, backward, ignorant, superstitious, hidebound and economically irrelevant, with only the occasional sparks of life and energy to be found amidst its banked embers.