Longmoor, along with part of Nevros, forms the easternmost fronteir of the fiefdoms, and often suffers from raids launched from the Ogre lands. Dominated in large part by moors and swamps, it is arguably the poorest of the fiefdoms, and rarely meddles in the affairs of its neighbors.
In the early days, before the Empire, the area that would come to be known as Longmoor was little more than an extension of the Ogre lands, with only a small population of hardy human settlers in the western portions - predominantly made up of the outcast and the desperate from the areas that would become known as Arameia and Nerin. With the rise of the Empire, however, came grand ambitions, and one of them was the subjugation and settlement of the Ogre territories. The lure of colonization was always strong, but Longmoor seemed especially tempting because at the time it was theorized that the area's substantial rainfall and supposedly fertile soil would, once drained and tilled, allow the cultivation of exotic spices and foodstuffs that otherwise had to be imported from the island kingdoms at great expense. Whether this would ever have been possible seems unlikely, and the question soon became academic. The costs of converting the marshes into farms stacked up quickly, and the reports trickling back from Longmoor indicated that small-scale attempts to produce foreign foodstuffs there resulted in anemic, low-quality crops at best. The failure of the Eastern Campaign to wipe out the Ogres sapped much of the remaining political will in Aram to see the project through to its completion. When the Empire began its decline, Longmoor was forced to shoulder the burden of protecting itself from predation by neighboring kingdoms and, especially, the Ogre tribes. In the end, Longmoor did not rebel against the Empire, so much as the Empire abandoned Longmoor.
System of GovernmentEdit
The country is officially run by the Baron of Longmoor, whose court is based in the city of Aspiration. The Barons claim descent from prominent families of Arameian ancestry, who were granted Longmoor as a fief when the Empire converted to a feudal system. In practice, however, the inhospitable terrain and independent streak of the local nobility make for a tenuous level of control for the Baron, particularly in the areas more remote from Aspiration. He is entitled to extract a small tithe from the regional nobles, and maintains a small but battle-hardened army in Aspiration and Blightwatch, but for the most part, he is forced to rely on coalition-building to gain the support of his nobles for major endeavors. Longmoor is not known for complex social institutions; aside from the Baron, its nobility comes in only a single type, simply called "lords", each of whom rules a small portion of Longmoor however he or she sees fit. Though the exact size, military and political strength of each lord's domain varies greatly, they are all nominally of the same rank.
In the west, Longmoor is covered with forests and heather, and as one heads east, the bogs and fens rapidly become larger and more frequent until wetlands dominate the landscape. Irrigation and agriculture still exist, but as time wore on, increasing pressure from the Ogres has forced many farmers to abandon their land, allowing their farms, hard-earned with Arameian blood and gold, to slowly return to the swamps they once were. The remaining cultivatable land tends to be concentrated around the Elum and Raisthill rivers. Longmoor's population is low and diffuse, with only a handful of major population centers. The nobility is mostly of Arameian extraction, while the blood of the peasants is a mixture of Arameian and Soilien.
The capital of Longmoor was built at the source of the Raisthill river, where coveted fresh water bubbles up from underground, spilling out of a crack in a hill now known as Sweetwater. The tiny river is quickly fouled by the fetid marshes it flows through, so the people of Aspiration have to draw their water from the spring itself. The city was built deep in the marshes and intended as a base from which to launch further conquest of the wetlands and the Ogres that inhabited it; however, with the collapse of the Eastern Campaign and the eventual disintegration of the Longmoor farming boom, it became obvious that the weakened agriculture of the surrounding area could no longer support the population that had settled it, and as hunger set in many left for greener pastures. Today, the city consists of a wooden palisade surrounding Sweetwater Hill, with a tangle of wooden buildings scattered across the area inside and the Baron's keep - one of Longmoor's rare stone structures - perched in a commanding position on the hill itself. The unhealthy climate causes the wooden buildings to decay quickly, and old ones are often torn down and new ones erected, giving the city a permanently mutable character. One local saying says is that the only reason Aspiration still exists is because the Baron requires it to. The usual retort is that the real reason Aspiration still exists is because the mosquitoes have sucked the sense out of everyone living there. The city does offer one other advantage besides clean water, however - it is close to the border. This gives the Baron a good position from which to keep an eye on the affairs of the Ogre chiefs. Indeed, another local saying claims that the Baron is deaf to his subjects, but hears every Ogre's sneeze. Aspiration has a population of approximately 6,000.
Blightwatch is a small fort-city in the south of Longmoor that is under the authority of the Baron and his troops. Although small, isolated, and quite uncomfortable, the post comes with a good deal of responsibility, and therefore a certain amount of prestige: it is the task of the Castillan of Blightwatch to monitor the activities of the Ogres in the southern regions, as they are too far from Aspiration for the Baron to do so himself. The Castillan is authorized to act in the Baron's name to deal with any threat that emerges in the south, through diplomacy, force, or any combination, as he sees fit, and he must do this with very little input from the Baron himself because communication between Blightwatch and Aspiration is so difficult across such broad stretches of inhospitable terrain. Therefore, the Baron will typically appoint one of his most trusted relatives, court officials, or toadies to the position. Given the disagreeable nature of the post, it is not uncommon for it to be refused. Blightwatch is the closest thing to an urban center in the south of Longmoor, and therefore sees a certain amount of trade as well, although its inaccessibility by water necessitates that any trade be at the local level only. Blightwatch has a population of approximately 2,000.
Jelart is located where the Raisthill and Elum rivers meet, where the water is clean enough to be drinkable and in one of the few areas where Arameian drainage and irrigation systems are still common. Its position on the rivers and in the middle of Longmoor makes it the country's main trade hub, and its agricultural and economic prosperity has made it Longmoor's largest city. Jelart is in many ways the heart of Longmoor - in times of necessity, it is the preferred place where lords will meet to discuss common goals and solutions. In an attempt to prevent the relatively powerful city from challenging his authority, the previous Baron put it under the charge of four lords instead of just one. Each lord is responsible for protecting a portion of the city wall, and they divvy up tasks and management duties among themselves. Presumably, the Baron intended this to be a recipe for squabbling and discord; if so, the plan worked like a charm. The lords band together when the city is threatened, but otherwise rarely agree on anything, leading to a sort of legal paralysis. Most of the time, the city runs itself with little enforcement of laws or regulations, and the central market of Jelart is rapidly becoming famous for its "anything goes" atmosphere. Jelart has a population of just over 10,000.
Longmoor is poor, sparsely populated, and lacking in most resources and trade goods. Outside of the area around Jelart and the Elum and Raisthill rivers, most of the peasants survive by hunting, fishing, trapping, gathering, and subsistence-level agriculture. The relatively developed agriculture around the rivers produces surplus food of a variety of types, including rice, sweet potatoes, and leeks, most of which are consumed in the cities of Jelart and Aspiration. The only major agricultural export of Longmoor is sugar beets. Other exports include bog iron and, ironically, peat - the ruined fields of Longmoor providing fuel and fertilizer for the other nations. Beer is a popular import. There is almost no manufacturing, and so more refined items, when they can be found, are invariably imported as well.
Life in LongmoorEdit
The peasants of Longmoor for the most part survive on what they can make themselves, or trade with their neighbors. Near the rivers and the larger towns, money changes hands and manufactured items can be purchased, but for most of the people, if you want it you have to find it, catch it, or make it yourself. Shrimp is a staple of almost everyone's diet, and alcohol is often brewed from swamp herbs and sweet potatoes or sugar beets.
Still, Longmoor has been a refuge for the desperate and unwanted since long before Jelart got its reputation for lawlessness. Suspicious of strangers they may be, but among the citizens it's considered rude to ask any foreigner about their life outside of Longmoor - the only thing worth caring about is whether you're a decent neighbor here. Just so long as you're human, of course, and don't take it personally if someone touches you with that iron ring of theirs. In most places, even the nobles' keeps are modest affairs, typically made of wood and built on a small hill or some other dry and stable feature, with few or no servants, only a handful of guards, and possibly a smith.
When danger comes, it is the noble's responsibility to lead the peasants to either safety or victory. Because any particular lord's peasants are widely dispersed, gathering them can be difficult. The most popular method is to make a large peat fire. For non-emergency purposes a normal fire is used, and if there is an emergency, an herb called Pogwart is added in copious quantities, causing the smoke to billow blue (and become very smelly). Regardless, a good deal of luck is involved in how many of the peasants see or hear about the summons and come, but most know that it's a bad idea to miss one, especially if the stench of Pogwart is in the air: Pogwart usually means that it's time to fight or run, and either way you don't want to be left by yourself to the enemy's mercy.
Throughout most of Longmoor, the most important skill is to simply know about the area you're in: which paths are safe to walk, which plants are safe to eat, and what water is safe to drink. Such things are often held as secret knowledge by locals, both because the knowledge makes them valuable as guides, and because it gives them defense against attackers. Indeed, hiring a guide is considered a necessity in order to travel anywhere in Longmoor away from the rivers, although the usefulness of any particular guide is typically limited to the areas they're personally familiar with. Still, doing without them is a bad idea, as falling into a bog will give anyone a bad day, and drinking bad water is a sure-fire way to give yourself dysentery, or worse. Natives of Longmoor usually have a little bit more resistance to whatever foul things are in the water there, but even they don't drink the swamp-water unless they have no choice. But there are fresh springs and creeks, here and there, if you know where to look.
The one group of people who always seem to know their way around are the Elves. When the swamps came back, the Elves came with them. It wouldn't be fair to blame the return of the swamps on the Elves - the reasons they came back are well understood, and have nothing to do with Elves and everything to do with Ogres and Economics - but that doesn't stop people from blaming them anyway. They seem to have profited from humankind's loss, and that's enough for the people of Longmoor. The Elves, for their part, remain nomadic and widely-dispersed, and usually try to avoid humans when possible - though they are not above causing trouble when they feel they've been slighted. The two races are not friendly here. The phrase "I've got my [iron] ring," has come to mean "I'm ready to go" among the suspicious people of the Longmoor countryside.
Still, everyone knows that the real enemy is the Ogres. Very few places in Longmoor are truly safe from them - the Baron tries to keep them out, but Ogres are good at slipping through the cracks. Besides, everywhere you go, there's usually water nearby, and anywhere there's water, there could be Ogres. The people of Longmoor pride themselves on always being ready to fight off an Ogre attack at a moment's notice, but most would vastly prefer to stop them from ever attacking in the first place. Indeed, many lords prefer to befriend any known nearby Ogre chiefs rather than risk facing them as enemies. This often involves bribery, but the peasants of Longmoor understand - sometimes peace is well worth the price of a few woven baskets and a copious amount of shrimp. The Baron is well-known for playing Ogre chieftains against each other, but the minor lords aren't above dabbling in Ogre politics either, up to and including allying with one tribe against another, or even hiring Ogre mercenaries if the resources are available. In fact, most of the nobility of Longmoor is fluent in Ogran, and one of their favorite sayings is "The enemy of my enemy is my weapon." Still, some things are off limits: any human lord who makes common cause with Ogres against another human lord will quickly find themselves branded an apostate if word gets out. Such alliances, however, are often difficult to prove, and if rumors can be believed, are more common than they appear.
Very important to the people here is the knowledge of the spirits and foul creatures that live in the wetlands. Some may laugh them away as superstition, but the locals are convinced: the swamps are haunted. The stories vary from missing ghost-children to howling banshees, but in each locality, the people will have their own methods of avoiding or warding away the particular ghosts and monsters that infest their corner of the moors. About the only superstition that's widely believed by all is that of the Ghost Legion: an entire army of Imperial soldiers that marched into the marshes one day as part of the Eastern Campaign. No one ever heard from them again. An entire army, swallowed by the bogs. Preposterous? Perhaps. But the records are quite clear, and if the locals know anything, it's that you don't underestimate the bogs. To this day, when the wind blows from the east, people seem to hear, occasionally, faintly, as if from far away, the clink of mail, or the snort of a horse. People shutter their windows and bar their doors when the wind blows from the east.
Religion is similarly fragmented out on the moors and marshes. The most exposure to mainstream religion that most citizens get is when a wandering priest arrives at a lord's keep and accepts prayers and sacrifices on his god's behalf. The people of Longmoor tend to have a special fondness for Adienna and Thissies, believing them to be especially well-suited to protect them from the dangers they face, but most citizens are happy to worship whatever god happens to send an emissary to them. Those emissaries are rare, however, because of the meager life of a begging priest supported by Longmoor's destitute peasantry, and because wandering the countryside is dangerous. Then there are the other gods. The ones that some people claim they meet when out on the moors alone. Sometimes they do nothing. Sometimes they give commands or reveal secrets. Sometimes they demand worship or sacrifices. Almost never does more than one person see the same one. The nobles and mendicant priests sneer at these "bog gods" and the delusional peasants that produce them, but it's hard to convince the peasantry that they don't exist when the true priests are so few, and there always seems to be someone else who's seen one.