| The Isle of Guardian
Leaders: Duke Aaric Barca and Duchess Gruoch of House Barca
Population: Approximately 940,000
Baronies: Caerdach, Crucible, Dun Artan, Smithfield, Trebachas
Known For: Soldiers, Craftsmen, Ore, Stone
Colors: Black and Crimson
Major Cities: Gwencalon in Caerdach, Sentinel Spire in Crucible, Oreann in Smithfield
Characters of Guardian: Here
Description: The Isle of Guardian is the isle of craftsmen and warriors. The ore and stone of the empire come from the bones of this island, and its people are known for being likewise strong and resilient, producing great smiths, craftsmen, and soldiers. The Duke of Guardian is the leader in name and fact of the Empire's army, the Legion, the ranks of which are primarily drawn from the pugnacious people of Guardian.
Recent history of the island can be found here: Guardian History.
For more Guardian-specific information and questions, please visit the Guardian FAQ.
Map of Guardian:
| Baronies and Lordships
Unless otherwise noted, NPC Barons or Lords are available for application
Barony of Caerdach
- Baronial Leadership: Baroness Linette Barca
Located on the point of Guardian closest to Gateway, the barony of Caerdach is little more than the Barca seat of power, consisting of the cliff on which the hereditary castle sits, a few tracts of land around it, and the city and port of Gwencalon below. Because of the high, sheer cliff face, the port itself is ideal for deep-water vessels. Some of the area on the clifftop near the castle is planted with olive trees, sculpted and twisted by centuries of wind off the water into fantastic shapes.
The few leagues of land around Caerdach, aside from the windswept cliff itself, are covered in thick pine forests. Difficult to navigate, they are nonetheless home to deer and boar in quantity enough to supplement the difficulty of raising domesticated cattle on Guardian. However, this benefit is moderated by the fact that, unlike domesticated animals, each kill must be hunted down.
The people of Caerdach are the merchants of Guardian, the most civilized of its people and those who interface most easily with citizens of the other isles. Still, they maintain their isle’s reputation, and are rumored to be the wrong merchants to double-cross if you don’t like the idea of a knife in your back.
Gwencalon - Capital - Lord Grear MaritusNPC
Cliffrun - Lady Solenne Allaria
Barony of Crucible
- Baronial Leadership: Baron Eamonn Kilgannon and Baroness Ysora Kilgannon
Located on the coastal side of the island away from Gateway, Crucible Barony consists largely of wide, flat basalt beaches and the beginnings of a few arid plains caught behind the rain shadow of the mountains before the hills of Smithfield and Dun Artan take over. Crucible deals primarily in specialized military forces (cavalry, archers and marine/naval training), flint, stone, some ores, and horses. They have a prominent presence in the mercantile community, as all foreign trade passes through Sentinel Spire.
The people of Crucible are stereotypically garrulous storytellers, magicians, acrobats, and jugglers who are master sailors and the most genial people on the isle. While citizens of other baronies may be seen as dangerous, the men and women of Crucible bear their fighting prowess with the grace and elegance of the artists they so often become.
Sentinel Spire - Capital - Lord Lander Sared
Shining Shores - Lord Lorric Kincade
Soaring Skies - Lord Bane Arx (Contact: Iain Arx)
Knife's Edge - Lord Brandon Lytton
Barony of Dun Artan
- Baronial Leadership: Baron Edvard Stenvast
Located in the mountainous interior of Guardian, the barony of Dun Artan has traditionally been a thorn in the side of the isle's dukes. The numerous small pockets, valleys, caves, and mountain passes make it an ideal hide-out for anyone in trouble. Dun Artan produces some of the deadliest warriors on the Isle, but their main economic produce is the stone quarried from the hillsides of their rocky homes. The fortress of Caer Cathartha, a heavily fortified mountain fastness meant originally for use as a base for summer inquests into the interior to beat down the rebellious tribes during their periodic rebellions, serves as the Barca stronghold in the region.
The people of Dun Artan are some of the most warlike on the isle, clinging to a warrior tradition older, it is thought by some, than the isle itself. Far more personal and less interested in the military tradition of fighting as a unit, rumors abound that some of the men of Dun Artan have inherited the tendencies of their berserker ancestors.
Dun Artan also plays home to those more rebellious elements of the Isle of Guardian in the form of several tribes who have historically bucked Barca rule. Recent years have seen increased activity among them, and a bloodthirsty Duke ordering the extermination of the Nitesci of Caer Cathartha.
Caer Cathartha - Capital - Lady Fallon Kendrick
Boulder Heights - Lady Agathe Robey with Regent Georg StrykerNPC
Rayder Pass - Lord Regent Felix CalaviusNPC
Thundering Falls - Lady Ygraine of House Artos
Barony of Smithfield
- Baronial Leadership: Led by the Smithfield Council
Smithfield is located along the northern interior of the island. While the terrain is mountainous and extremely rocky, only a few of the mountains in Smithfield rise above the treeline, leaving most of them populated by scrub pine. The main products are iron, coal, lead, and copper, with rare veins of silver and gold.
The smiths of Smithfield are the masters of the craft, and highly respected. Just as in ancient Norse, Celtic, and other societies, blacksmiths are sacrosanct. They are granted great respect. Also, as the major exporters and producers of Guardian, they are often quite wealthy. While the nobility with hereditary wealth may produce more warriors, the poor families of Guardian are far more likely to be involved in smithing or mining where they can earn a better profit. After all, anyone can be taught to fight, but not everyone has access to the minerals, trade secrets, and family traditions of the smiths.
The people of Smithfield are stereotypically gentle giants, wise smiths who take care of their people. They are some of the more ‘civilized’ denizens of Guardian, and the barony itself has always been closely allied with the ruling family, often being held by a Barca relative though in recent years ruled by a council.
Oreann - Capital - Lord Constantine Stavros
Copper Run - Lord Crispin Athelstan
Iron Fields - Lady Valeria Tatiana Statius
Twisted Forge - Lord Mardaeus Aureli
Barony of Trebachas
- Baronial Leadership: Baroness Wilhelmina Conway
The closest Guardian comes to an agricultural area, Trebachas pales in comparison to any place actually intended to grow things. Any agricultural value in the area comes from centuries of work terraforming and importing soils and fertilizers, all to little avail. Marshy near the sea, the salty estuaries discourage the growth of anything but reeds and weeds, and render the land useless for acres around it.
The hillsides of the interior of Trebachas are home to groves of olive trees, hardy varieties requiring little from their soil, but prone to bad years when the winters get too cold for fruiting. Those areas of hillside not used for olive groves are populated by small herds of hardy goats. The major artisans in Trebachas are the leather-workers, some of whom have recently attempted to import their own cattle. While the animals seem to be doing all right, most of their feed has to be imported. Because of the plains in Trebachas, the barony has suffered more than others from the occasional outbreaks of infighting on the island, as it makes such a convenient battlefield. The capital of Trebachas is Ter Girade, the sight of the decisive battle which placed the Barcas in control of the island.
The people of Trebachas are the closest the isle has to farmers, though in truth, most of them are little more than skillful foragers and herders scratching out a bare living from a hard land. Often seen as a bit fey by their more straightforward fellow citizens, they are most prone to producing master tacticians and are the source of Guardian’s brightest minds, thinking in ways others cannot hope to follow.
Tel Girade - Capital - Lady Gwyneth Dukane
Fen March - Currently vacant after the previous lord vacated the seat without progeny and most of the population died in the Schism
Trickling Dart - Lord Dafyd JarvisNPC, former tribune in the Legion
Whispering Reeds - Lord Logan Barclay
Major commerce on the Isle of Guardian is centered in the cities of Gwencalon and Sentinel Spire, which serve as trade centers for goods entering and leaving the Isle and the Empire, respectively. Guardian’s main produce is ore and the finished products of that ore created by its smiths. Intricately tooled leather, salt, stone, and various gemstones also add to the exports, along with the services of its trained bodyguards. Imports include 75% of necessary foodstuffs and textiles, as well as animals such as warhorses, draft horses, and oxen. Potions and draughts for healing and strengthening steel and leather are also important.
| Life on Guardian
Homes on Guardian are built of stone, most often roofed with slate to avoid sparks from forges, though poorer families may have thatch roofs. Even furniture is usually made of stone and wrought iron, as wood is scarce. Windows, left open in good weather, may be covered by flaps of hide stretched thin in bad. Warmth comes from coal or peat more often than wood due to the easy availability of the former and the rarity and high cost of the latter. Cities are well-fortified if of any age, though newer cities are not quite as strongly defended.
The education of most Guardians is accomplished through apprenticeship, though rudimentary reading and writing skills are taught in the Legion.
Marriages are an excuse for a party, and are usually celebrated by the couple joining before the village forge and being blessed by the head of the smithy guild in that town. Vows of honor and protection of each other are sworn, and a twisted bar of metal is wound around the joined hands in a double-cuff that takes some careful maneuvering to get out of. (Imagine a pair of cuff bracelets, fused together) Many couples display their marriage cuff over the door of their cottage – and if divorce happens, the couple must take the cuff to the smith to have it broken apart.
Noble marriages are blessed by the ruling Lord or Baron of the area, or by the Duke if of high enough rank. It has been said that the Duke himself has performed commoner weddings if he was passing through the village at the time of the event. Such weddings are considered blessed with good fortune.
In some families and some parts of the duchy, the people cling to older traditions. In these cases, the prospective groom and his family are required to fight the bride’s family (and sometimes the bride herself!) for the right to marry her. In theory, these battles result in little more than bruises and bumps, and perhaps a few broken bones to laugh off in the years to come, though more seriously injuries have been known to occur, particularly between families with a long history of conflict. It is considered proper for both families to agree to the custom prior to the wedding, and failure to communicate in this manner is the most common cause of serious injuries.
Unlike much of the rest of the Empire, the dead of Guardian tend to be interred in caves or crypts, given the prevalence of stone and dearth of wood on the island. Tapped-out mines are turned into burial chambers for the common folk while nobles tend to have chambers hewn out of the stone beneath their manors. Bodies are not planted in dirt. If they are not able to be placed in the stone, then they are burned and scattered to the winds. An especially revengeful way to deal with the dead would be to leave the body out for the scavengers to pick at. It is said that one of the warlords of Dun Artan used to hang his enemies’ bodies from the cliffs below his castle for the carrion birds to devour.
Men and women tend to dress in dark, muted colors for everyday tasks, holding the bright, cheerful colors for the finery worn on more festive occasions.
| Festivals and Traditions
Vocannon’s Day - Celebrated in late February, when the winter snows begin to melt, Vocannon’s Day is a celebration to honor the spirits of forge and flame. The day before, all forge fires (and in particularly smith-heavy areas of Guardian, all fires period) are put out and left dark, to be ceremonially relit during the celebration. Contests of smithing and metallurgy are common, as are displays of smith artwork.
Trident’s Run - Celebrated in April, Trident’s Run is the celebration of the fish run as salmon and others return upriver to spawn. Nets and fishwheels are used for the functional fishing, while many of the warriors or professional fishermen will show off their skills by spearing the fish in mid-leap. After the fishing, there is a mass picnic on the riverbanks.
The Day of Becoming - Celebrated at the spring equinox, the Day of Becoming is the day on which girls and boys become young men and women. Girls who have begun to menstruate since the last celebration dance around a maypole wearing white dresses with red sashes, throwing the sashes upon bonfire flames when they finish and declaring themselves women – and eligible. Boys who have reached the age of fifteen are given a ceremonial cut above their hearts, bleeding into a cup whose contents are poured on the flames. Afterwards, some may pair off and finish initiating themselves, while others remain for challenges between men and women, though the latter are just as likely to end in the same manner.
Tel Girade - A celebration of the Barca victory over the isle and their ascent to the ducal seat, named after the vale where the decisive victory took place. Every year on July 23rd, parades, tournaments, and competitions take place all over the isle, though they are centered at the Barca seat of power at the Caerdach castle above Gwencalon. Victors during the Tel Girade tournaments are often richly rewarded.
Unification Day - Celebrated in August, Unification Day memorializes the day on which the Barca ruler laid down arms before the Emperor. Each year, the ruling Duke reenacts the ceremony, reaffirming the commitment of Guardian Isle and the Barca family to the Keeper.
Battle of the Beasts - Held the first of November each year, the Battle of the Beasts is as much practical as celebratory. On this day, hunts take place all over the Isle for whatever game is available, weeding out the population before winter sets in. Feasts of meat are common at this time, and boar, bear, and mountain lions are coveted prey for the most skilled of hunters.
Ancestor’s Day - Held on winter solstice every year, Ancestor’s Day is a day to honor the family dead. While in theory, it is a solemn occasion, involving altars of remembrance, in practice it often becomes a yearly wake where people tell stories of ancestors and friends who have fallen honorably, boasting, bragging, and bringing them to life again.
| Justice of Guardian
Justice on Guardian is handled on an informal basis, adapted to the crime and the area in which it occurs. Minor crimes such as petty theft are often handled by the village mayor, who is the most talented smith in most towns, though it may be any well-respected member of the community who everyone can agree to respect.
Most justice is honor-based, and punishment for smaller crimes is either physical, ranging from lashings to forced labor in the mines, or wergild, taking the form of payments made to the injured family either in goods or coin. Stocks are occasionally used, as honor is paramount.
For more serious crimes, the village may choose to wait for the arrival of an itinerant judge. These judges are nobles, and often military officers, who travel from village to village to sit judgment over and lend authority to serious cases. The accused represents himself, while suits are brought by the victim or the victim's family. There is no such thing as a suit brought by the state. The arrival of a judge and the even of a trial are often occasions for celebration and festival, as they bring not only answers to the problems of the village and a chance to send messages to the Duke, but news of the rest of the isle.
In the case of a very serious crime, death may be sentenced, and in these instances the accused has the right to request trial by combat, though they may not choose a champion. The ultimate punishment is indentured servitude, and the shame of having served as a virtual slave will follow the punished for most of their life.
| Character of Guardian
Guardians are pugnacious people. The Isle was raised in the year 30 A.G. for a set of warring factions to resolve their dispute, and though the Barcas have ruled for almost 500 years since, the history of the place is a tapestry woven of rebellions, uprisings, civil wars, and very, very heated discussions. A Guardian is more likely to resort to fists or swords than words when insulted, in times of celebration, or even simply when they just feel like it. But that's not all the Isle is known for: along with this nature comes one of storytelling and a rich bardic tradition, as well as an expertise in many kinds of craftsmanship. Guardian is the isle of fighters, with all that entails: martial prowess, sharp weapons, and the best of campfire stories.
Guardian provides the military for the Empire, a citizen army that is, for the most part, held in reserve. Every Guardian citizen is required to serve six months in the legions. Usually, this is done at some point between the ages of 18 and 21, though in rare cases, it may be done as early as the age of 16, or as late as 22. Most who serve at 16 are the children of nobles or career families, where connections may be called upon to find them a place.
More detailed information can be found here.
| Bodyguard Schools
There are three schools of bodyguarding on Guardian, from which many merchants and nobles hire their personal guards. All three are well-known both for the skill and for the loyalty of their members. They are usually hired for a specified period of time, after which they may renew their contract or move on. It is understood that anything they learn during a contract, they will forget upon its ending. Any who betray the trust of a former employee are dealt with by the school itself, a freedom granted them by the Dukes and Duchesses of Guardian from their founding. While none but members of the school know exactly what the punishment for breaking the confidentiality of a contract, no one who has betrayed this covenant has been seen after their return to the school.
Men and women both are welcomed in all three schools, and may join them at any age between ten and twenty-five. It is expected that those who are able to do so will make a donation to the school upon joining, though no one with skill and desire is turned away. Training is intense, and may take anywhere from seven to twenty years to master before a student is deemed a suitable representative of the school. Each school has its own style of fighting and philosophy, and training comprises not only weapons, but also strategy, discipline, and skills suited to understanding whomever they will be guarding (such as politics and courtly manners for those guarding nobility, economics and trade for those guarding merchants, etc.).
Members of the schools may marry or have children, but most put off such permanent arrangements until they are old or experienced enough to retire to a teaching position at the school, rather than serving in active duty. Pay for bodyguards is high. They are the best of the best, and while their services may not be equal to those of a knight, they are the next best thing. A portion of their pay is always tithed back to the school, to support it, while the remainder is their own. The school will often help support members between jobs with the tithe. A bodyguard just out of his school will often have little free cash, though an experienced bodyguard is likely to have reserves of coin with little on which to spend it.
There are three schools, each with their own unique style of fighting and guarding. They are as follows:
- Fire - Trains its students to use the hands and body as a weapon. Located deep in the fens of Trebachas.
- Stone - Trains its students to use anything at hand as a weapon. Located in the north of Crucible.
- Steel - Trains its students the use of various traditional weapons, though its trademark is a pair of swords. Located in the mountains near Oreann in Smithfield.
Every citizen of the Isle of Guardian is required to spend at least six months' basic training in the Legions, the Empire's primary armed fighting force. Exceptions are occasionally sought and, just as occasionally, granted, but nearly everyone has served a time in the Legions. Some choose to serve their mandatory six months and then pursue other callings; others choose to make a career of the service.
Not everyone who fights on the Isle of Guardian is a career soldier. Many who hail from the island serve their time, and then go on to fight in other capacities, serving as guards to nobles and wealthy merchants, as bounty hunters, or as pugnacious bastards who win every barroom brawl and arm-wrestling match they enter.
the Isle of Guardian is known for its production of raw materials and also for the brilliance and skill of those who work them. Blacksmiths, whitesmiths, tinsmiths, stoneworkers, jewelers and basket-weavers all have their place. Blacksmiths, as those who work metal into the arms and armor that serve those who fight, are particularly highly regarded, and are often the leaders of their towns or communities.
The tribes are those on Guardian who, historically, took to the hills to eke out their own living rather than submit to Barca authority and enjoy the bounty of all the Isles. Their numbers are few, now no more than 10,000 in a population that approaches one million. They tend to be fierce warriors and hunters, prizing honor and independence over comfort and wealth. Most of the tribes -- approximately 8,400 souls -- are situated in the sheltering, high mountains of Dun Artan. A few others live in Trebachas, though after the Schism of 508, only the handful in Tel Girade and Trickling Dart remain.