Bloodhollow and Beyond - A Vigil of Vesh Campaign
Name: United People of Vesh
Population: 2,000,000 (Human 76%, Dwarf 10%, Elf 6%, Halfling 5%, other 3%)
Government: One individual has total authority, both over civil matters and over the military. This Home Commander is popularly elected every five years from a selection of retired military field officers.
Ruler: Home Commander Kelemis Durn
Capital: Lave (30,000)
Major Cities: Rika (22,000), Moor (14,000), Bride Lake (5,000)
Religion: Madriel, Tanil
Currency: Gold shila (2 gp), silver gema (2 sp), copper dozi (4 cp)
Resources: Wheat, beef, pork, wine, beer, textiles, leather, iron implements
Allies: Amalthea, Bridged City, Burok Torn, Durrover, Gleaming Valley, Hedrad, Mansk, Mithril, Mullis Town, Ontenazu, Vera-Tre
Enemies: Calastian Hegemony and Khirdet
Vesh is well defended, both by its people and by its geography, which protects its fertile heartland from invasion as effectively as any army. To the west, the Kelder Mountains form an effective barrier and create a drier, cooler climate. The eastern side of Aethis, near the Blood Basin, is more fertile and known for excellent game, leather, and wool. The steppes are more fertile among the rolling hills, but the Blood Basin often spawns trouble. The heartland of Vesh consists of mild hills, plains, and rainfall. It has long been farmed and lacks the wildernesses (and the attendant threat of titanspawn) found elsewhere.
The Veshian provinces are named for the old Golden Kingdoms- Bregis, Aethis, Odveni and Dalane in the north, Arcernoth, Liaris, Behjur, Garasso and Pellen in the south.
Flora and Fauna
Vesh has several major climatic zones. To the west, the Kelder Mountains are home to animal and plant species that thrive at high altitudes. These include mountain goats, sheep, and numerous species of small mammals and birds. Plants are hardy- scrub grasses and small, tough evergreens. The mountain regions, particularly in upper Aethis, are home to the rare Tarasse tiger. Once common throughout the northern Kelder Mountains and Steppes, these tigers are relatively small with brown markings. Driven to the brink of extinction by titanspawn and Ledean hunters, their numbers have begun to increase. Across much of the steppes, wolverines and cougars have taken their place as top predators. Dire wolverines are not unheard of and sometimes plague hunters or travelers.
The interior is cool and lightly wooded, kept largely free of titanspawn by the Vigils and other Veshian armed forces. In the south, the climate is warmer and the land more fertile, but titanspawn and taint from the Blood Sea are more common. Monstrous threats are common, particularly along the edges of Vesh. In the south, most of the threats come from the Mourning Marshes. Morgaunts, slitheren, and blood-tainted animals of many types are active along the southern border and the mouth of the Hornswythe.
As a rule, the people of Vesh are garrulous and outgoing. They smile, speak pleasantly, welcome visitors, and talk incessantly, though many outsiders complain that they take forever to get to the point. Veshians may not be direct, but they are hospitable and form strong friendships. They value art, music, and learning as key elements of civilization. Those without artistic or scholarly skills are often looked down on, though Veshian tact and hospitality often disguise such attitudes. Veshians have the olive complexions and dark hair common throughout eastern Ghelspad. They consider themselves the cultural center of Ghelspad, strongly influenced by ancient Lede. Fluency in ancient Ledean is considered especially admirable, as is knowledge of that vanished culture.
In the south, the old style dress is common, featuring a simple tunic, tights, and Ledean sandals. A cape or robe is sometimes worn in colder weather. Women wear long shifts and various simple dresses with elaborate wraps. In Garasso and along the Hornswythe, doublets and high boots have become the standard, with dagged sleeve dresses and vests or skirts and bodices for ladies. In the colder regions of Aethis and Dalane, finely worked furs and leather are the norm for both men and women. Ethnically, the Aethis have some ties to the Albadians. Their skin is a bit lighter, and their hair is usually brown, though blonde children are sometimes born in the mountains. Veshians of Beltan and Bregis are a few tones darker, are almost entirely black haired, and often have green eyes – their similarity to Calastians has been unfavorably remarked upon. The Beltan tend to be phlegmatic about the matter, while Bregisi react to such comments with fist shakes or scuffles.
Dwarves are most often found in southern Aethis and Dalane. In Dalane, they actually outnumber humans. Though humans rule the province, Dalane is dominated by dwarven interests, but the dwarves themselves have adopted many human cultural traits and are in many ways indistinguishable from their taller countrymen. Ethnically, Veshian dwarves from the south have black hair and fine features, with a coppery skin that darkens with age. Northern Veshian dwarves have less contact with humans. They have lighter hair, usually auburn, with pale, thick features. Both groups have exclusively brown eyes.
Elves are found throughout Vesh, but perhaps least so in the southern provinces. They generally keep to themselves, in private communities, but take great pains to cooperate with neighboring humans during festivals and in times of trouble. Halflings and half-elves tend to be urban and congregate in the capital cities, fairly well assimilated into Vesh culture.
Members of races who might elsewhere be given the benefit of doubt and considered Redeemed — be they orcs, ironbred, asaatthi, slitherin, or others — tend to be met with suspicion, especially in outlying areas of Vesh. Culturally, however, Veshians value honor and hospitality as the two preeminent qualities of all rational beings, and these traits can help to offset what might otherwise become dark-minded insularity.
Veshian culture places great importance on music and performance. Musical instruments common in Vesh include the oud (similar to a lute), the tammorra (much like a large tambourine), the cittern (afretted lute-like instrument on which the strings can be plucked along the neck), the zampogna (a large bagpipe, particularly common in western Vesh), and the spinetta (a small keyboard harpsichord with a pentagonal outline quite common in Arcernoth). Art is likewise well developed. In Garasso, mosaics are common, an artform inherited from the Ledeans and influenced by the exemplars to the point that it has a definite Termanan look, with more use of bright colors, geometric patterns, and stylized portrayals of humans and mythological creatures.
Arcernoth art tends toward more realistic styles, combining media and experimenting with new paints and techniques. Artistic movements rise and fall regularly, often leading to bitter rivalries and debates. Southern Aethis produces a variety of fine meats, popular elsewhere in Vesh. Northwestern Vesh favors highly spiced and flavored meats and sauces.
Southwestern Vesh focuses more on vegetables, often roasted and doused liberally with oil and spices. Among Coreanist monks, there is also a monastic tradition of brewing, steamed or infused vegetables, and bread making. Southeastern Vesh focuses almost entirely on pastas and couscous with a variety of sauces, as well as various pan or deep fried dough products. Bregis and Beltan tend to be much like the northwest, with specially aged meat, but also make a variety of pastas. The river provinces frequently use cured fish in pasta or with vegetable dishes and favor roasting.
There are a number of traditions common throughout Vesh. Most inns offer salt surcharge. Village blacksmiths often have the ground beside their anvil blessed with a minor symbol of Corean, in honor of the patron of their craft. It is considered bad luck to travel east when the sun is setting, as evil is said to draw forth from the east while Madriel’s home descends. Custom demands that all travelers be given hospitality, though this may simply mean giving directions to the nearest inn. Holidays are accompanied by a great deal of music and ceremony, especially in the south and revealing a closer tie to ancient Denev worship in the north. Each of the four major holidays is also accompanied by a variety of contests. These contests often mask long running feuds between neighboring cities or provinces. Many larger cities were once several distinct settlements, and allegiance to a neighborhood still causes strife.
The Carnival of Flowers is perhaps the most benign, with cooking contests, wagon and foot races, and dancing. The Festival of the Sun is a bit quieter, with only a few communities practicing contests. Those that do have contests, such as the bull dance performed at the border of Liaris and Pellen, often display violent overtones. The Feast of Wheat is much like the Carnival of Flowers, but usually with a lot more drinking. Fights over sports often break out. Grim Day is quieter, with morality plays and music more common than the other elements of celebration.
Crime and Punishment
The Veshian legal code is based on the concept of the “reasonable man,” which is to say that conduct should be governed by what a normal, reasonable individual would do or not do in a given circumstance.Unlike the Hedradans, to whom the law is absolute and unbreakable, the Veshians feel that strict adherence to the rules can lead to injustice and unfairness, so punishment is often tempered by consideration of circumstances and intent. If the accused can prove that an action was performed under duress or under the control of another (through magical or other means), he may be declared innocent. Evidence from priests, spellcasters, or arcane investigators is often required, which can prove both expensive and time-consuming. Imprisonment is not as common in Vesh as elsewhere – fines or indentured servitude are more popular, and servitude is levied when a fine cannot be met. Sometimes the criminal must serve the offended party, sometimes the government. Treatment depends on the nature of the crime. Incorrigible criminals who cannot be relied upon to serve out their indenture or those who commit especially brutal crimes can be imprisoned.
Theft, Fraud, or Damage: This is usually punished by a fine generally equal to ten times the value of the item stolen or damage inflicted. Determining this value is part of the court proceedings. A tenth of the fine goes to the court, while the remainder is given to the victim. If the accused is proven innocent, the accuser must pay the amount missing to the court.
Banditry: The fine is higher – 20 times the value of the lost items – if assault on a person was involved. Particularly savage cases of banditry are punished by imprisonment.
Recklessness: Fines are doubled if the court deems that the crime was committed with undue recklessness and consideration. Someone who sets fire to a home and counts on others putting it out in time usually has a charge of recklessness added. Recklessness is also charged for crimes due to negligence.
Death: Crimes resulting in death range widely, depending on intent. Killing in self-defense is considered a crime, since it robs another of his life, but is usually lightly punished, with a fine of 10-20 gp. Starting a duel that ends in the other party’s death yields a 50 gp fine, and non-lethal duels are usually ignored. Outright murder can be punished by heavy fines, imprisonment, or indentured servitude to the victim’s family.
Treason: Treason against Vesh is considered a serious crime and can be punished by long imprisonment or death.
Veshians are as passionate about religion as they are about everything else. They observe all major holidays, and their revels are particularly enjoyable, celebrated with lavish ceremonies, feasting, games, sports, and song. Solemn occasions are accompanied by soulful tunes and more dour ceremony. Religion is a pervasive element of daily life.
Anyone can attempt to join the clergy, seeking to guide and help others. Madriel and Tanil are well supported religions, though Hedrada, Enkili, and Corean are also present. Coreanist and Hedradan monks maintain several facilities in Vesh, producing fine spirits, foodstuffs, and illuminated manuscripts. The evil gods, however, are subtly and not so subtly discouraged.