Table of Contents
Zeland, once a member of the old Eastern Alliance, is ancient Irish-Scotch in flavor. It has its own particular mythos, and its people are quick to fight and to live life to the fullest. Skill in fighting is revered throughout the land. Besides Kale, it has perhaps suffered the least under occupation, although the people have become considerably less industrious. In fact, industriousness is discouraged now by law. As such, although the quality of life has suffered relatively little, the economy is in a shambles. The capital city is Zel City, with a population of 25,000. This kingdom is still ruled by Orax the Lord of Sloth, an intelligent elder black pudding. Early Zelish culture (the first 500 years) interred their dead in Towers of Waiting (large towers with a pit in the center). They would lay the bodies on top of the towers, exposed to the elements, then when a year or so had passed, they would throw the bones in the center pit. This custom was adapted from early southern barbarian custom where bodies were left high in trees where available and upon constructed wooden or stone towers when not. It was believed that this brought the souls closer to heaven so that the journey to the next life would be eased. It was the custom of northern barbarians in Zeland to wait one year before disposing of their dead as it was believed that if the souls remained for a time, they would protect the living from evil. King Zel, and his followers from Farland misunderstood the two different customs, and thinking them the same King Zel decreed that the people of Zeland would be disposed of in this way. After a particularly bloody series of battles against the northern barbarian tribes, he ordered the towers to be built there upon the battlefield rather than carrying the bodies back to Zel City. Towers in the area of Zel City were later dismantled, when the custom fell out of practice, but the area of the Battleplain became a noble cemetery of sorts and in fact King Zel himself was disposed of there in a Tower of Waiting upon his death. These towers dot the landscape even today in what later came to be called the Battleplain. The towers were again used to dispose of the horrendous numbers of slain following the Battle of the Axe.
History and Culture of Zeland
The two twin brothers Zel and Or founded the kingdoms of Zeland and Orland. They were of noble birth from Farland and had been encouraged by their father to travel forth to seek their fortune. After crossing through the Mountains of Or and reaching the Great Wash River, Zel fell in love with the plains and rich grasslands of eastern Zeland. Ever a horseman, he reveled in the unending landscape stretching far to the horizon. He also dreamed of amber fields of wheat as he saw the richness of the soil. His brother Or had always had a penchant for all that associated with the sea, and he left his brother to travel south searching for the sea, where he would found the kingdom of Orland.
Zel and his followers soon encountered the barbarians living in southeastern Zeland. Few in number, their traditions were strong. They were mainly a peace loving people, and they were fond of horses. This love of horses made for an easy bond between the party of Zel and the natives of the region. Zel convinced many of them to come with him north to the area where Collin River empties into the Great River. He named the Great River for its size and Collin River for his right hand man, distant cousin, and dear friend. This same Collin fell in love with one of the native women and before three months had passed a marriage came to pass cementing relations between the two peoples. Zel brilliantly incorporated the wedding into his coronation ceremony as king of Zeland.
A baby girl, Eithne, was born before the year was out , and sixteen years later, Zel took her as wife and first queen of Zeland. She in turn bore him twin sons, Conn and Eogain, as she came from a line of women who were prone to having twins. Some suggest that this was part of the attraction for King Zel. The following years passed peacefully with Conn showing his father's affinity for horses and Eogain a love for agriculture. In their nineteenth year, Prince Conn founded the Connachta, an elite cavalry force taken to riding the plains to the south along the border of Orland. The barbarian tribes that had chosen not to follow Zel earlier soon became fast friends with the Connachta, and soon all to the southeast pledged their allegiance to Prince Conn.
Then after long contemplation, King Zel named Eogain his successor in 5298 valuing Eogain's devoted attention to the daily details of the new city and the farming surrounding the area over Conn's roving and adventurous spirit. Conn was furious and in the year of his father's death in 5303, Conn publicly announced the founding of a new city, Connacht, and appointed himself ruler of the Horse Lands of Zeland. Not wishing to see his father's kingdom split up in this way, the next year King Eogain marched in force against Connacht, destroying the town. Many horsemen escaped into the Forest of Blorn. For years after, wild horses were a common sight to the southeast. The horsemen to the south were a problem for the rest of Eogain's life and not until his grandson Berach took the throne in 5400 was an alliance finally achieved with the southern horsemen.
Unlike the native barbarians to the southeast, the peoples living in the highlands to the west were less friendly. They called themselves Creags. Their quick-tempered natures led to many skirmishes and even some full-fledged battles as the new kingdom of Zeland tried to bring them to recognize the new king. Bands of highlanders easily hid in the rugged landscape for years, harrying the king's men. Eventually, after many centuries, the last bands of organized resistance to the throne were removed and the Highlanders nominally swore allegiance to Zel City, though the highlanders' spirit of resistance was never quite broken and up until the occupation by the Lord of Sloth there were often troubles with them. In fact it was considered good politics amongst politicians in Zeland to keep the highlanders poor and oppressed and thus unable to cause problems.
Many centuries passed with relative peace and prosperity until in the year 5700 the Wars of Empire began, with Farland invading Zeland. Ten years later Farland annexed Zeland and 25 years after that Orland was annexed. Then in 5739 after Farland suffered heavily from the plague, Zeland chose to rebel along with Orland, though to little avail. Then in 5979 they were able to secede from the empire of Farland due to the heavy losses Farland suffered fighting a new evil force from the north. Zeland retained her sovereignty thereafter for more than a thousand years.
Trouble erupted again in 6510, this time with the dwarves residing in the Hook Hills. Overlord Zel X, thinking the dwarves beneath him, demanded tribute from the dwarves of Dorlhaud. They refused and Zel X attacked Dorlhaud but was unsuccessful, whereupon Dorlhaud retaliated and eliminated the town of Zinkeal. Soon after Orland came to Zeland's aid and together they besieged Dorlhaud. With the impending fall of Dorlhaud, all dwarves rallied to the call of the great hold Wawmar and in 6530, the dwarven host defeated Zeland on the Battleplain. The dwarves received ransom from both Zeland and Orland and peace was restored.
Peace was thereafter known in Zeland. Except for a heavy outbreak of plague in the highlands in 7305, which spread to decimate much of the kingdom, Zeland prospered. Then in 7798, The Lord of Sloth after being repulsed by joint forces from Farland and Zeland successfully conquered the kingdom of Zeland. Orax, the Lord of Sloth, took up residence in Zel City and his general Dargon later took up residence in the town of Hestor, ruling the highlands.
Religion in Zeland
People of Zeland associate old or wise women with religion. Many once worshipped Bestra in the farming plains of southern and eastern Zeland. In the highlands to the west, worship of Janora was most prevalent. The highlands to the west were traditionally a haven for highwaymen and outlaws. While the percentage of the highlanders that were actually involved in such underhanded ways of making a living was quite small, the highlanders were understanding of this way of life since it was their fathers, sons, and brothers who were these outlaws. The highlanders were traditionally very poor and there was always much resentment of the great wealth seen travelling by on the trade routes from Zel City to Dragonspur. Of even greater distress was the wealth from the iron mines of Hestor, very little of which benefited the highlands but was instead exported to Dragonspur City or Zel City. The outlaws themselves commonly worshipped Dekk, but the average highlander worshipped Janora as goddess. Debate was fierce as to Janora's status as many claimed that she was a greater goddess in her own right, while others claimed her to be a lesser god under Dekk. The horsemen to the southeast in the region of Ettinrun and Doldor pledge their allegiance to Finguala, goddess of horses, whom they claim is the wife of Thranton, god of travel, and lesser goddess herself to Kantor. These horsemen have no priests among them, and it is highly debated in places of learning such as Zel City, whether there is such a goddess. Legend tells of ancestral worship of a goddess of that name amongst the barbarian natives of southeastern Zeland, so perhaps she does exist, at least in memory. Some would have you believe that there were once paladins who worshiped Lady Finguala riding amongst the horsemen of Zeland. In the plains area, Bestra is still revered for her powers over the growing season and the harvest. It is in this region of Zeland that the Zelish are most religious. Bestra is revered at least in name in most of Zeland even in the aforementioned areas where another god or goddess is more openly revered.
Feudalism in Zeland
Feudalism as established originally under King Zel largely resembled that of Farland. The king ruled the land from Zel City with full authority. However, over time the other areas of the kingdom each with their own large and commanding city grew to be powerful entities in their own right. Other than Connacht and the later troubles with the highlanders, there was little challenge to the power of the throne in Zel City. Cities such as Stadefast and Ettinrun commanded large areas and from the revenue they received from these lands, they paid taxes or tribute to the throne in Zel City. Thus the undisputed area of the kingdom was divided into seven regions commanded by the cities of Zel City, Doldor, Ettinrun, Stadefast, Eckruup, Keller, and Hestor. Each of these except Zel City were ruled by a lord and his cabinet initially appointed by the king, and later a successor was appointed by each lord, often his eldest son, though not always. These six lords were second in power only to the king and his counselors were second in power only to the lord himself. These lord counselors of which there were usually six were awarded command of a region of the lands commanded by the main city. The king, lords, and lord counselors all kept fighting forces loyal to them and there were also city guards loyal to each city. The personal fighting forces were usually heavily armed men known for their strength. Their prestige was great throughout the land before the time of the occupation. Ettinrun and Doldor, and especially the former are instead known for their superior cavalry. These are also quite famous. These elite fighting men enjoy much power due to their specialized skills and often command many servants, often have small holdings, and are viewed as minor lords themselves. Over the years this class has come to be known as Zelacht. The city guards are made up of enlisted men but these men are respected and usually obeyed for their military might and discipline. Under these military men are the common people of Zeland, mostly farmers along with some craftspeople, and miners in the highlands. They are really little more than serfs, though in name they have their freedom. Their lords usually tax them heavily. They also usually must remit taxes to the king himself whenever his forces appear in the area. The church in many areas also demands tithing. Thus the common citizens of Zeland, though they live in an abundant land, remain very poor. The hierarchy of Zelish feudalism is as follows:
Zelacht (minor lord)
Guild leaders are not usually fighting men but are nonetheless considered on a level of the Zelacht for legal purposes. Guildmembers are usually considered at the level of guardsmen. Those craftsmen, scholars, or other non-fighting specialized men that are not affiliated with a guild are considered commoners. Thus all possessing specialized skills are strongly encouraged to join a guild, which in turn increases the power of guilds.
For the commoner, log cabins are considered prized housing, though in some parts of the kingdom, wood is hard to come by. In the plains region, to the south and east, semi-permanent huts are constructed using animal hides and wooden poles procured from other regions. Some more wealthy inhabitants of the plains live in Thuck houses in the style of the Kelerites. Stone houses are also common in the cities of Ettinrun and Doldor among the wealthy. Homesteads are common along Zeland's borders, but most of the population are city dwellers. Thus overcrowding is common amongst the Zelish. Small houses and large families are the norm. Large farm animals are prized and are also rare as they are expensive. Most farmers farm by hand alongside their sons and daughters with hoes, shovels and pickaxes to turn the soil. The local blacksmith makes these implements, thus this profession is very important and highly regarded in most of Zeland. In the southeast, the blacksmith also shoes horses for travel along the trade routes, another very important task. Oxen used for plowing are more common in the plains amongst the larger landowners. In the highlands and in the southeast, plots are usually small. Chickens are common everywhere in the lowlands. Sheep are also usually a part of a homestead in the lowlands. Highland homesteads aren't complete without the family goats, and pigeons are plentiful in the wild throughout the cliffs and crags. Southern Zeland is quite fertile and harvests are bountiful, but the highland areas and the north are cold, windy, and overall difficult places to farm. Erosion is rampant and many historic droughts have ravaged the populations of these areas.
While bandits are common in the highlands, order and law prevail over most of the land. Crime is punished quite harshly, and thieves fare less well in Zeland than in some other kingdoms of Farland. Famine and plague are a more pressing concern for the commoners of Zeland. Cities are often overcrowded, and many commoners are forced to give so much of their crops to their lords, they often go hungry when the season grows long. More recently, more dreadful things than disease and famine have arisen in Zeland. Since the fall of Wawmar, foul things have begun to creep down the Deadwash. Monsters only seen in one's worst nightmares have been encountered in the area of the Hills of Horror, thus the name. Lately there have been reports of walking dead in the area of the Battleplain, though this has yet to be confirmed. The area was long believed haunted by evil spirits, and the inhabitants were always few, though with these new reports, those brave enough to live north of Loch Brech are few indeed. To the east, roving patrols of orcish marauders from Farland are often hungry for fresh meat and many a homestead has fallen to the orcs' appetites. This menace is especially dangerous for the horsemen to the southeast, for the orcs have a taste for horseflesh. South there is always the danger that one will be arrested by Orland's forces as the border is well patrolled and imprisonment and forced labor is the penalty for trespassing. Zeland too claims this area, and there are often border clashes. While not exactly a threat, curious things happen in the area of the forest of Blorn, considered haunted by many. When camping near the forest, many have reported seeing small children frolicking about after dark. Horses and other belongings often go missing in the area. Patrols in the area have not been able to find any truth to these claims.
Though the Kelerites will tell you differently, the eating of horseflesh in Zeland is actually quite rare. This is probably less of a dislike for the taste of horseflesh though and more a reflection of the Zelish respect and value of their horses. The main staples of the Zelish diet are wheat and oats in the lowlands and potatoes in the highlands. The typical Zelish meal, though it varies by region, is a soup or stew boiled for days in a large iron cauldron over an open fire. The iron cauldron is a mainstay of the Zelish household, and it is traditionally part of a woman's dowry as they can be quite expensive in the larger sizes. It is said that a woman without a cauldron is no woman at all. There is a fair amount of trade between the potatoes of the highland regions and the oats and wheat of the lowlands, so the most common meal consists of a wheat porridge or oatmeal with potatoes and any other vegetable or meat available. Salt is usually available in most markets of Zeland as it is traded north from Orland, who in turn procures it from merchants travelling from the southern continent. Sheep are the most common form of meat found in the lowlands, and goats are preferred for their adaptability to the rugged landscape in the highlands. Beef is prized and cows are raised mainly in the area of Doldor. Cow leather is most sought after for saddles and barding for horses, giving this area renown. Free-range chickens are common throughout Zeland, though the fowl of choice in the highlands is wild pigeon found living in great abundance in the cliffs in the region.
Today, under the Lord of Sloth's rule, the most serious crime in the land is the accusation of unlawful ambition, punishable by death. This is a convenient way to rid the land of all who may become rebellious. The law only really applied to rebellious Zelish during the original occupation as the law was heavily enforced in the early days in order to break the spirit of the Zelish. These days, one rarely sees initiative or innovation among the Zelish, and sloth indeed rules the land. When the kingdom was free, the laws of the land resembled the laws of Farland. Farland was ruled by the traditional "Twelve Tables of Law." King Zel declared that there would be Seven Tables of Law in the kingdom of Zeland. Over the years they have been modified and before the occupation stood as follows. The seven tables of the law of Zeland follow:
Every citizen of Zeland who accuses another citizen of his own rank of a crime must do so publicly with at least ten witnesses. After so doing, they must both go present their case before their lord. If a citizen, having been accused, does not appear before his lord, he shall be presumed guilty.
A father's estate shall become, upon his death, the property of his eldest son. If a man dies without a son, his estate shall be passed on to his nearest male relative. If said son or other relative is unfit to receive such estate, a man may petition his lord to write him a will leaving his estate to a citizen of Zeland of his liking. In this case, the lord in question shall inherent no less than one fourth of said estate upon said man's death. In the case that none of these things take place, the estate shall pass to the crown.
Females shall remain in the guardianship of their fathers until marriage, upon which time they become the property of their husband, along with their dowry. Any woman who no longer wishes to be her husband's property should be absent from her husband's house seven nights in succession during the holy month of Bestra, Bestalos. After these seven nights have passed, she must publicly renounce her marriage at which time she may return to her father's house.
If a citizen takes another citizen's life of higher rank, the penalty shall be death. If the victim is of the same rank, the fine shall be a minimum of 50sp. If the deceased is of a lower rank by one, the guilty party shall pay the family of the victim a minimum of 30sp. If the victim is two ranks lower the fine shall be a minimum of 20sp. Three ranks shall bear the fine of 10sp. A separation of more than three ranks shall bear the penalty of reprimand by the magistrate lord. A dismemberment or disablement of a person shall be dealt with in the same fashion, though the fine shall be half as much. In any event of death, the murderer upon the request of the deceased's family's shall pay for the body to be taken to the towers of waiting in the north.
If any man's property should be taken or damaged by another he must publicly accuse the man who committed the damage or theft within seven days. This man shall then have to pay twice the value of said property to the original owner. A thief convicted in this way shall be put to death at the discretion of his lord.
False accusation by any citizen shall be punished by the fine of 50sp, or in the event he cannot pay, he shall be hung in the town square.
The supreme law of the land lies with the king of the mighty kingdom of Zeland. He may as befits the situation change or amend any law as he sees fit. He may also add or remove a law at his discretion. The king and any lord under him shall rule justly and shall refrain from taking bribes or resorting to personal interest in making decisions concerning the law.
The easternmost town in Zeland is Hestor. Hestor is also the largest town in the highlands. It boasts a large iron mine, now abandoned. Before the occupation, it was a busy town due to its important location on the trade route between Dragonspur City and Zel City. Transports passed through almost daily in its heyday, some carrying iron ore from the mine, others carrying supplies. The highlanders have always been highly taxed by Zel City and Hestor has for this reason always been a poor city. Keller is the northernmost town in the lowlands of Zeland. It lies at the beginning of the hills that continue on into the rugged highlands. Potatoes are prized from this area, and fields of them stretch to the horizon. Goat herders often hail from Keller though goats also abound in the more rugged areas to the west. The townspeople boast that the name comes from the archmage Keler, founder of Kelerak. They claim that Keler once planned to extend Kelerak as far east as the Great River and planned to make Keller the capital. Eckruup and Stadefast are agricultural towns and grew to prosperity preparing wheat and oats for sale in the markets of Zel City and even as far off as Dragonspur City. The soil to the south of Stadefast is especially rich and crops grow extremely well in this region. However, this area of southern Zeland has long been disputed with Orland. The brothers Zel and Or originally set up a very large neutral zone between their two kingdoms so that they could both benefit from the farmlands and horse pastures there. However as the kingdoms grew this became impractical, and the land was disputed up until the occupation. This then was the reason for the founding of Fort Zel. As fighting broke out, it became necessary for a permanent garrison to protect the interests and the citizens of Zeland. Rochehome and Rill came to exist because of the trade route between Kelerak and Orland along the Border River. Both Zeland and Orland claim them for their strategic location along this trade route. Before the occupation began, an uneasy agreement between the two kingdoms declared that Rochehome was the property of Zeland and Rill of Orland. Rochehome is named after the famous assassin Roche. Rill was so named for its location at the base of the rapids near Rochehome. In the vicinity of Rill, the Border River takes many paths through the loamy soil, many of which are small rills. To the east Ettinrun and Doldor are home to the horsemen of southern Zeland. The horsepeople are semi-nomadic themselves, and these towns grew to prosperity originally as great marketplaces. Doldor gained fame as the provider of leather goods including their famous saddles and other riders' accoutrements. Ettinrun on the other hand is the home of a large horse market once a month and grew famous for this market. Zel City is the capital of Zeland and the largest city in the land. In its heyday it boasted more than 50 guilds of good name throughout the lands. Zel City was traditionally moderately well off with revenues from rich agricultural areas to the west and south, the revenues from the sale of horses to the southeast, and from the iron mines of Hestor to the west. Before the wars with the dwarves, Zeland actually enjoyed favorable trade with Wawmar along the Greatwash. Since occupation, Orax the Lord of Sloth has turned everything around completely and currently the economy of Zel City is in a shambles, with poverty at an all time high. Unemployment is the norm, and people struggle to find enough to eat. Interestingly, there seems to be little concern for the declining state of affairs in Zel City both among the average citizens and among the leaders.
Guilds of Zeland
The horsemen of southeastern Zeland are known far and wide for their superior stock. It is said that there are no faster horses in all of Farland. Legend has it that during Zeland's early years, it was common for the horsemen of the plain to ride celestial mounts, and celestial blood still runs in the veins of the horses of Zeland. Thus it is common for the Zelish to refer to the "flying" horses or horsemen. Hestor of old was the center of a powerful guild of ironworkers. Officially however, the headquarters for this guild was Zel City and most members hailed from Zel City and lived most of the year there. The miners themselves were not permitted to join the guild and were paid a pittance for backbreaking labor. The ironworker's guild also controlled the transportation of the iron ore mined in Hestor and it was kept strictly in the control of Zel City. Refinement and processing of the ore was performed in the area around Zel City. With the arrival of The Lord of Sloth, more and more guildmembers stayed in Zel City as they became more slothful. This absence of leadership in the iron mines of Hestor quickly led to the mines falling into disuse and eventually they were abandoned. Then after the highland rebellions, The Lord of Sloth stationed his leading general Dargon in Hestor, and Dargon used the abandoned iron mines to establish a strong fortress for his headquarters. In Doldor there is a guild of great renown, the leatherworkers of southern Zeland. Cows are raised almost exclusively in this area of Zeland. The leather made from cows is far more valuable than that of sheep or goats and saddles and other leatherworks are considered of the highest quality in the Doldor market. The spinners and weavers guild made primarily of women in Zel City, once famous throughout the lands, has been disbanded. This is a common fate regarding guilds in the capital. For the most part this has been disastrous for the Zelish economy, though it has similarly affected a once active thieves guild in the city, now defunct.
During the years 7820-7950, the whole continent of Farland has been under the rule of the Wintervale and the Seven Lords of Sin. In Zeland, Orax the Lord of Sloth rules from Zel City while Dargon his general rules the highlands from Hestor. During the early years, humans were treated more brutally than in more recent years. The populace, those allowed to live, were enslaved or treated like dirt by their monster rulers. Dwarves exist today only in wandering tribes and rare settled aboveground villages or caves, mostly in the highlands of Zeland. They are the "scum of the earth." In reality however, they are the descendants of Wawmar and have ties to royalty. Then in 7951, the first signs of rebellion emerged. A large rebellion took place and the cities of Hestor and Gorak (a smaller town east of Hestor) were retaken. However they were quickly overwhelmed and the leaders of the rebellion, along with those of their people that weren't killed, retreated to the Hills of Horror and the Mts. of Or, their escape route west having been cut off by the evil forces. Then again in 7955 rebellion in the form of an army of nomads and dwarves attacked Zel City from the highlands of Zeland. After a prolonged battle, they too were defeated by the evil forces. Survivors were few and even fewer escaped.
Rebellions are perhaps easiest mustered from Eastern Zeland as the Lord of Sloth, ever lazy, does little to inspect his people in remote areas. His method of governance is laissez faire to the extreme. Further, he imposes his slothful nature upon his subjects. Energetic behavior is punished, and innovation is similarly unlawful. There is little objection to these decrees especially the closer to Zel City one gets, for there is a curious, almost a magical, acquiescence to this way of life. The Lord of Lust managed to start exporting Lotus to Zeland in the last fifty years or so of his rule of Kelerak. The pastime of smoking lotus quickly became popular with the slothful inhabitants of Zel City, though addiction as seen in Dragonspur City is less common. Accusing someone of being unlawfully ambitious in Zel City is a serious accusation. Many an energetic young man has disappeared mysteriously in the night. The status quo is glorified and change is considered treasonous. All citizens are required by law to do as little as possible and to do the same things as his or her neighbors or peers. In this way, it is easy for the city guard to pick out innovators or over-achievers. These criminals are taken to the dungeons in the fortress and when they return their will is broken and they do little more than eat and sleep.
This sloth amongst the lowland Zelish has led to the decline in worship of once important gods and even the total abandonment of most temples within the kingdom. Zel City has become a rather agnostic city as the inhabitants have ceased to care if gods exist. Similarly, most guilds within the city have ceased to operate, as craftsmen no longer create the beautiful works that once were found in this great city. The goods that do come from Zel City these days are of the lowest quality though prices are even higher than before due to the general lack of goods available.
The total area of the Kingdom of Zeland is roughly 27,000 square miles. Roughly 30% of this area is arable land, the remaining area is divided among wilderness, rivers, lakes, and the highlands.
Zeland's population is approximately 869,000 persons, 85% of which are humans. The remainder are dwarves, who live in the highlands, and dark folk, who live in the cities, as well as in underground dens .
50,000 residents are isolated or itinerant.
711,450 residents live in 1719 small villages and hamlets.
52, 142 residents live in 10 towns.
30,000 residents live in 6 cities.
25,408 live in Zel City.
Zeland supports 1,911,900 head of livestock, 1,300,092 of which are fowl and 611,808 of which are herd animals.