Shields of Vindashire pt 2

Written By: Stephen Dove - Feb• 17•14

Last time we started our tour of the ‘great and the good’ of Vindashire and we continue that tour in this post. Note that I shall be leaving a few of the shields I created last time, for all you GMs out there to customise as you see fit. They shall remain as family names and coats of arms and I’ll not say anything further about them, I promise!

De Courcey

The De Courceys have held Cairnsford Castle from before Hadric’s father’s time. The castle itself is no mere status symbol; it is a sturdy and functional keep that still retains an important position close to the border with Cornumbria. The castle has been invested and changed hands many times; though the last time was over a century ago. Indeed the last battle fought against its walls was when Hugo De Courcey stormed the castle, recapturing it from the Cornumbrians; Hugo was then granted the fief and the castle for his service to the crown and his line have held it ever since.

Lord Richard Cairnsford takes his duties seriously and remembers well his family motto; ‘In peace, the whetstone; in war; the sword’ but has discovered recently that enemies off the battlefield are sometimes harder to defeat; for he has no sons and his eldest daughter Catherine, was recently married off to Hugh Talbot. If the whispers doing the rounds of the shire are true, then Hugh raped Catherine whilst she was on a pilgrimage to Clee Abbey and there was nothing Richard could do to forestall the marriage once this became known. Richard De Courcey’s own second wife appears to be barren and he is considering divorcing the lovely Eloise unless she begets him a son soon, even though he is said to be besotted with her. For her part, Eloise has been seen on ‘pilgrimages’ around the village of Frith, and the goodwives of the shire have been sagely¬† speculating on which of the ‘Old Powers’ she is seeking to bargain with, to get herself with child now that God has failed her.

All of this is said to have the Old Lord De Courcey; Martin (Richard’s father) in such a lather at the thought of his castle and lands in Talbot hands, that he is said to be considering ennobling his bastard son Rodric, who currently serves as a Knight in the household of Lord Westring. Rodric already has his own son and the Talbots are said to be extremely worried that their scheme to get their hands on Cairnsford Castle should come to naught after all these years. If the rumours are true, certain messages have been sent north to a certain mountain clan…………..

Scarth

Lord Scarth is one of the oldest of the Lords of Vindashire, and probably the most vicious. The old man is past sixty, but is as vindictive and spiteful as only a gnarled old tyrant can be. Eddo Scarth lives in constant pain from the disease that ravages his body and in constant fear of the fast approaching day of judgement. He is said to have murdered his brother to take the Scarth family name for his own and then bedded his sisters and later his daughters as he pleased; and that is how the disease is said to have come to him, as a judgement from above. It is a matter of record that anyone trespassing near his demesne around Scarth and Downgarth can expect a swift and painful retribution; though his recent horsewhipping of a tax collector was very unwise and the King may soon intervene.

The Scarths have been sheepfarmers for as long as anyone can remember. Their wool is worth a fortune to the crown in taxes and several monarchs have balked at dealing with this family as they deserve; for the Scarths have a long and dark history that has stained the pages of the ‘Vindashire Chronicle’ with blood. Indeed the Scarth name is a byword for vengeance and pettiness across the whole of Albion and their motto is ‘Blood for Blood’.

In fact, it is whispered that it was Borric Scarth who actually killed Old King Athelstan for Hadric’s father during the usurpation. Like Eddo, Borric had no desire for power; his motive was vengeance, for Athelstan had married his ‘true love’ Matilda. The Scarth Lord nursed that hatred for forty years, until Hadric’s father Eadulf used it to commit regicide and avoid the ‘divine curse’ said to fall upon anyone who dares to ‘bring low those whom God had raised up’.

Since that day, misfortune has befallen the Scarth line; most of their children have been stillborn and a murrain has affected their cattle, though their sheep seem to have escaped. Yet these misfortunes have not stopped them from starting a number of long running blood-feuds with the Merrowmen of Ayelsham and the Abbot of Hawksley Abbey. The former feud began when the eldest son of the Scarth family had his hand removed forty years ago for hunting in the Royal Forest without leave; that boy was Eddo’s brother and though he latter slew him, that seems to have done nothing to cool the feud and it claims new victims every year. The latter feud with the Abbey is over grazing rights and also because of constant accusations of sheep stealing by both sides, though it is well known that sheep wandering onto Scarth land are ‘theirs by right’; at least according to them.

Saltley

The Saltley family are accounted odd by all and most people avoid their lands, feeling uncomfortable in their presence. It is said that they originally came from across the Hadran Sea; from a group of mist shrouded isles far to the west, and it is even whispered that their lord can transform into the shape of a great seal and holds congress with the sea-folk, though this is laughed at by most. Whatever the truth of these rumours, they do seem a queer bunch, living in their great hall on the cliffs above the beach at Saltly Village, walking in the moonlight, and processing along the shore holding lanterns whenever there is a storm. Their motto is also considered strange; ‘The sea is mother, the sea is father’.

They make their money from the very stuff of the sea; for they have fashioned huge enclosures on the coast that they allow to fill with sea-water and then seal off under the baking sun in summer, to form white salt. Indeed it is for them that the Salt Way; the road running between Cantorbridge and Netherford is known and their produce is found on tables, and in butchers and fishmongers the length and breadth of Albion, even as far away as Thuland and Ereworn. Indeed the common people of Saltly seem as normal and natural as any other shireman, though they grow closelipped if you ask them too many questions or mock their lord.

This trade in salt has made the Saltleys one of the richest families in Vindashire; though they seem to live modestly, pay their taxes and tithes and do nothing to cause anyone to look too closely at them. Their enemies, the Talbots amongst them who doubtless covet their wealth, claim that this is because they are Fey, Pagans or worse. Others are less sure and most folk seem to be oddly afraid of them. For their part, the Talbots seem to concern ‘the Sandthane’ as Lord Saltley styles himself, not at all, and they seem to have friends at court and so their enemies can find nothing to charge them with. Yet!

What is known for certain is that travellers have been known to disappear on the Salt Way near the village of Saltley for many many years now; indeed the Nevilles, formerly Lords of Watermouth Castle before the Talbots usurped them, once claimed to have seen strange lights and a glowing mist arising from the ground near Saltley Manor. They went so far as to level a charge of Sorcery at the family, though it was dismissed as fanciful nonsense at the time, but now many are not so sure. Indeed, ‘the Beast of Saltley Moor’ is a fable that has recently been resurrected to explain the disappearances; the story comes from hundreds of years ago, and tells of a terrible hound that stalked the road, slaying pilgrims and carrying their souls to the devil. Needless to say, the Inns on that section of the road are never empty after dark……………

Murham

The Murhams originally made their money from smuggling it is said; for their old lands lie right across the moors from Cornumbria and the waterways of the Coronach. Yet they became respectible by going on the crusades, and many of their name were famous quest Knights, and are buried in Netherford Cathedral. They now hold Tollpike, Murham and the tumbledown Maiden Castle, that straddles the Scardic road.

Once the family was very rich, though their lands were always marginal and they raised sheep like so many in this area. They also charged a toll for using ‘their road’ and indeed did keep the road free of banditry and well maintained.

Those days are gone now; for Valory Murham, the current Lord, is a drunkard and a gambler. He used to ride to the infamous Bowbeck Inn; in Bowbridge, just south of Netherford, where he whored and diced away his family fortune until he had huge debts to Rodrigo D’Astangia; a ‘robber-knight’ from Algandy who did not fancy the crusades.

Valory’s slide began after a marsh fever took his wife and two sons in a particularly wet summer. The result is that Maiden Castle is half deserted, and weeds and neglect hang in the air like the stench over a corpse. Those servants and men-at-arms that do remain are not to be trusted; they are like pall-bearers who are hanging around solely to plunder the deceased, and it won’t be long before Lord Valory dies, so poor is his health now.

He is surrounded by ne’er do wells from around the Bowbridge area but who have recently been driven away by the Bishop of Netherford’s new Crowner; and all are under the sway of Rodrigo. They now skulk in the rotting hulk of Maiden Castle and the half-abandoned village of Tollpike and charge travellers ‘tolls’ as well as stealing cattle and sheep from the moors around the Scardic Road; even from Murham village itself, which is Valory’s land in any case. They are also embroiled in the Talbot’s tomb-robbing schemes around the Longbarrows; smuggling the relics and artifacts northwards for a cut of the profits.

Indeed the fief of Murham is now Rodrigo’s in all but name; though he knows these lands are his to plunder only so long as Valory is alive and so has men skilled in leechcraft poking at the poor man every hour of the day and night. Valory now seldom gets out of bed, so bad is his gout, and is kept a virtual prisoner by the sinister Rodrigo.

Baron Grisalle, who knew Valory’s father, has protested to the King, but Hadric is too absorbed by his own schemes to pay any attention.

That’s all for now; next time, we’ll start the Cantorbridge Tales, hopefully this Friday.

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