The Bisclavret were once part of the demesne of the Phelan. Over three hundred years ago, on the night of the “Seiscethir,” the Bisclavret proclaimed themselves a seperate nation. They threw off the trappings of their old ways and embraced the “modernism” of the Church of S’allumer, of kings and vassals, of commerce and technology. Today they are a formidable Noble House in their own right.
Their control over the northwestern forests of Calabria has given them the economic power to build an army second only to the Avoirdupois. The might of their mercenaries and the quality of their troops should not be doubted. They have pretensions of being a great power but are limited by endless infighting and lack of supplies. Their nobles are forever in a contest over land and status, each trying to best the other. Their shipping industry has been a priority of late and is growing.
At one time, the Bisclavret thought they could compete with the port of Triskellian through lower taxes and dock fees. However, that resulted in Bisclavret shores becoming glutted with pirate ships, slavers’ frigates, and an influx of unsavory characters onto their lands. In the past twenty years, the Bisclavret have tried to “reclaim” their shipyards, mostly by intimidating people to leave, sometimes seizing their ships and enslaving their crews.
The Bisclavret make the other noble houses nervous. Apparently, the Bisclavret gentry have seen the future, and they believe that sea power will play a dominant role. Their control over most of the lumber in Calabria places them in a fine position to control ship construction. To further their own power, the only ships allowed to dock at their ports are either owned outright by the Bisclavret or have purchased expensive “letters of marque.”
Friends and Foes
Since they closed their ports to foreigners, the Bisclavret enjoy improved (if somewhat strained) relations with the city of Triskellian. Since the Avoirdupois view all other inhabitants of Calabria as “squatters,” the Bisclavret do not get along with them. The Doloreaux are envious of the Bisclavret seaports, but neither is willing to risk a land conflict.
The Bisclavret holdings run along the southern coast, and deep into heavily-forested areas. They are bordered by the ocean on the south and west, and their territory stretches far into the dark northern forests. Somewhere in the deep northern woods is the blurry boundary between the Bisclavret and their tribal cousins the Phelan. Triskellian borders their southeastern reach. Directly to the east are the Rother and Granvert rivers and across them are the lands of the Doloreaux and Avoirdupois. While they and the Phelan may control the rocky mountains of the far north, no one has bothered to move into the inhospitable area, and prospectors have not found any significant mineral wealth.
Long ago, a meeting hall with a watchtower was built on a high hill. The hall and tower became what is now the center of the Harrowgate Castle. It is a massive circular structure of stone quarried from the banks of Lake Coire. It is surrounded on all sides by a flat expanse of low grassy fields then beyond into the heavily patrolled forest. It is bordered on its northwest side by Lake Coire.
The Invisible Guild
Rumors circulate of a gang of pirates and marines who have a base of operations in one of the Bisclavret ports. Legend says they call themselves “The Invisible Guild” in mockery of the rigidly-organized and xenophobic Merchant Guilds of Triskellian. The Invisibles are purported to sell forged letters of marque and to smuggle illegal goods into Calabria.
The Unfinished Bridge
Jutting out from the west coast in the port of Thanon is a wide bridge, built centuries ago by some forgotten race or culture. A remarkable feat of engineering, it extends over one hundred paces into the water. The western end is broken, but not crumbling… and it only faces the endless sea. Was there once an island off the shore? Or was the bridge built for some mad, unknown purpose? The only clue is the cornerstone of the bridge, with the script written in a language yet to be deciphered.
In the depths of the forests it is quite cool and mild, though during the summer, the lands of Bisclavret are notoriously buggy. In the south the weather is often rainy and warm. In winter, the port of Tharon freezes over and becomes unusable. The forests become blanketed with a thick layer of snow.
Flora and Fauna
Bisclavret lands are thick with forests and undergrowth. Clear-cut forest is being converted to farm-land; often gunpowder is used to blow up stumps. The fishing grounds outside Bisclavret inlets are good. The gentry also maintain livestock, in the form of domesticated saurians, as the Bisclavret and their kin are consumers of meat. While once the forests were run with monsters such as the thick-skinned, fanged “bethrachanna,” today the forests are cleared of most beasts… and are over-run with bandits.
Wood is constantly in demand, and no one on Calabria has more wood than the Bisclavret. In return, they often trade for metals that they lack. Thus the Bisclavret need the Doloreaux metal as much as the Avoirdupois need Bisclavret wood. The Bisclavret mint their own coins, called fibulae, but these coins are only of value in Bisclavret lands, and mercenaries will prefer to be paid in denarii.
Like most noble families, the Bisclavret revere tradition and the codes of chivalry. Those of lower status are expected to bow and defer to their betters, although there has been known to be some bickering in the ranks. The have a particular problem with duels amongst the nobles as they vie for title and rank amongst themselves. Positions and titles are awarded by bloodline to the strong and loyal; disputes within and between bloodlines are settled by combat.
Unlike Triskellian, the Bisclavret tax codes are confusing. They tend to vary greatly from region to region and city to city. This is primarily due to feuds between the various officials and households. Corruption among dock officials is widespread; often wardens can be bribed and forged letters of marque can be obtained by those in the know.
As part of their attempt to appear more modern, many Bisclavret converted to S’allumer. Among the serfs, and even a few gentry, there are a considerable number who still practice their older religions, even though such practices are proscribed by Bisclavret law. These are as varied and rich as the Chevernaise. Churches are usually small affairs, even in Harrowgate.
The Bisclavret royal family is smaller than either the Avoirdupois or Doloreaux – but they employ large numbers of fairly loyal mercenaries of both their own race and many others. The gentry are also investing in gunpowder cannons, for both ships and field carriages, although the artillerists have to be imported.
Calabrese is the default language of trade, and it is commonly spoken in Bisclavret territory. It has become something of a tradition for Bisclavret officers to learn a smattering of the Berla Feini, so that they may have a pidgin they may communicate to one another with in front of their mercenaries. Both of these languages are in addition to their already complex system of body language.
“Before Riddock’s Dawn, Families would claim lineage along their mothers’ lines, but this practice has since been outlawed. Now that wealth is inherited solely along male lines, only the name of the father’s family (or patronym) is taken. As with all modern folks, Bisclavret citizens havce two names: their first name and their family name.
“Claiming descent from Noble Bisclavret families is a great honor. The Families include Afligeant, Buadhachan, Devlin, Ealdarach, Fagen, Raciner, and Uilleam. Cousins of one of these first families might have Mac added to their family name; for example, Logan MacFagan is not a Fagan in pure blood, but he can claim lineage to their line.
“Families of the servants of the Bisclavret often have the prefix Gil- orKil-, meaning “one who serves.” For example, Dona Gilleam’s name is derived from Gil-Ulleam ; her family probably served the Uilleam clan for generations. Mercenaries often use “Giolla” as an improvised last name, a custom dating back to the Bianfael, which simply means “servant.”
-Taken from the Bisclavret Source book, Sanguine publications, Page 52