Friday, November 15, 2013


Part of my plan to flesh out Centerra, the setting for the Land of Flowers.  I can't show you the dungeons, but I can show you a few of the more relevant places around the Sea of Fish.

Brynth, the Land of Doglaw Nakedsword:

Brynth, and capitol city of Patra


While Noth is trying to set itself up as an empire, Brynth has already been there.  They were formerly one of the capitols of Cheox, the greatest empire the world has ever known.  The Cheoxan Empire were a bunch of assholes and slavers, and when a literal army of afner (halfling) assassins killed them all in the Eight Hour War, not a single fuck was given.

The Cheoxan Empire crumbled, except for Brynth.  This is where they fled, all the leaders and retreating armies of the Empire.  A bit like Nazis fleeing justice after the war, ashamed and universally reviled.  Over the next forty years, pretty much every country in the world took a turn trying to conquer Brynth, and they all failed.

That was a little less than a hundred years ago.  The slavers, despots, and generals have cooled down a lot since then, and the world is cool with them.  More or less.

Afner (halflings) hate Brynth, as they suffered the most under the Empire and the wars that followed.  Decades after Cheox fell, elite halfling soldiers were still sneaking into Brynth and kidnapping the former Cheox leadership.  These old men were stuffed into boats, sailed back to halfling-controlled lands, where there were given an long public trial and then invariably executed.

Plus, modern Brynth is always meddling in foreign affairs.  They can do this because (1) they're still dicks, politically, and (2) they're pretty badass.  Despite being one of the smallest countries (Noth is more than ten times bigger, in land and population) they have the third-biggest army in the world. 


This is possible because Brynth has a rather draconian "army first" philosophy, called The Law of Iron. This means that the military is always the first priority in all considerations.  This has lead to some friction with the farmers, and more than a couple of minor famines.  There is no idle nobility or decadent kings in Brynth.  There are idle admirals and decadent generals, but at least they usually carry a saber and sport a crew-cut.

Sickly or deformed babies are taken to the Church, and with the preacher apologizing to Heaven for the paltry sacrifice, the infant is strangled.  Everyone serves at least 4 years in the army, and many stay for more, since the military is both the only means for advancement and the biggest social club in town. 

Remember that every merchant you meet there is ex-military, and even the old wino in the alleyway has probably got a couple of kills under his belt.  Everyone carries weapons, even the children, most commonly a handaxe or shortsword.  Brynthans will tell you that this is why their country is the safest in the world.  It's true, the crime rate is awfully low, but that has as much to do with their legal system (see below).


Internationally, Brynth is known for fighting "naked wars".  That's sort of an exaggeration.  When an organized skirmish is fought between two Brynthic forces, they two sides sometimes strip down, paint themselves two different colors, and then charge into battle with only a short sword (in a scabbard), round shield, and a spear.  The rationale is that this will equalize the effect of wealth (no expensive armor), allow more skilled fighters to triumph over lucky ones (disputable), reduce the number of wounded (technically true, since more wounds are fatal), and wrap up this messy rebellion sooner (true).

These naked skirmishes don't happen often, and high-ranking officers rarely take part in them (it's a young man's game), but they're part of the Brynthic stereotype.  Plus, they make for some great artwork.  A vista of bloodied dead, blue corpses piled in among the green ones, while in the foreground two heroes circle each other with spears.  

You'll see this reflected in their public art, too.  Brythans are fond of statues of muscular, naked warriors.  You'll see them on street corners.  But even the statue was originally made of pristine white marble, they'll have painted it some bright color.  Bright crimson or electric yellow, oftentimes in patterns.

If the statue is of someone who is-or-will-become a general or admiral, they'll be depicted with a erection of a truly imperial caliber.  It's a cultural thing.  I won't go into it.


You won't go far in Patra before you see your first Brynthic Hound.  These are huge dogs, the size of Great Danes, usually wearing armor, even if it is just a helmet and neck-guard.  They are military killing machines with immaculate pedigree and training, but unlike other military killing machines with immaculate pedigree and training, these dogs are immortal.

Well, conditionally immortal.  They need a certain type of tea every morning, or else they sicken quickly and die.  This tea is made from the ceruz plant, and is commonly called by the same name.  And of course, if you stab the dog in the heart, it will die, it's just that stabbing an armored warhound that's fought in 100 years of wars is a very daunting prospect.

These dogs are produced by the wizards of the Titansblood Academy.  They accept a bunch of puppies every year, and after a year is about, a tiny fraction of the ceruzar (that's the breed) will be paraded as new Brynthic Warhounds (that's the immortal kind).  Failure dogs are returned to their households, where they are loved significantly less than the immortal Hounds.  The process probably doesn't work on people, or else we'd see immortal Brynthic Warlords, right?

The dogs are passed down through families like heirlooms, although they are sometimes pawned if the family falls on hard times.  Although their owners will tell you differently, they aren't any smarter than normal dogs.  They are powerful leapers that can kill a dozen armed men, but they also are fantastically loyal.  They're even known for visiting their masters' graves.  Go to a Brynthic graveyard, and you'll see several unattended killing machines laying in front of their last eight masters' graves, or howling together in lonesome synchronicity.

Immortality is lonely for a dog.

Perhaps for this reason, they love children.  You'd be hard pressed to convince a Warhound to attack a child.  Maybe this is because they're only ever trained to kill soldiers, but perhaps it is part of their nature, too.  It's not uncommon to see the dogs walking around the city, wearing a necklace of flowers that a child made for it, or to see the Lieutenant's daughter riding it while giggling.  For a dog that can wear fifty pounds of armor while running down archers, a four-year-old weighs nothing at all.


Brynth is both powerfully sexist and powerfully egalitarian at the same time.  If your hair is short, you're a man, no matter what's between your legs.  If your hair is long, you're a woman.  End of story.

They know that this doesn't hold true in other countries, but show a heterosexual Brynthic man a beautiful woman with short hair and he'll struggle with arousal.  Same for all genders.

Of course being a "man with short hair" doesn't automatically equate to respect.  Until you've killed a few people, you'll be treated dismissively and with derision.  "Women with long hair" have it even worse, disqualifying them from promotions (and voting).  At best, they're treated like children.  It's so bad that foreign women almost unanimously cut their hair short when visiting Brynth.

Homosexuality is totally fine, as long as the couple doesn't have the same haircut.  Then it's gross.

Every family has a war shrine.  Usually located in the dining room, this will be a small altar to Hesaya that doubles as a display case.  Traditionally, every weapon or item on represents another kill, made by some member or ancestor.

If you want to get a present for a Brynthian, buy them a nice sword.  I'm seriously.  Even if you're just trying to get into their pants.  A gift of a well-oiled, brand new sword is like intoxication for Brynthians.  For this reason, well-oiled, brand new swords sell for a bit more than in other places.  Shields and spears are also extremely appreciated, but the short sword is most traditional.

Without exception, they are vegetarians.  They usually drink in moderation, and almost none of them smoke.  They believe in all of that "healthy body, healthy mind" stuff.  For this reason, fat people and skinny people are treated suspiciously.  What kind of shady lifestyle are you part of that doesn't let you put on any honest muscle?

Brynthans are fond of three sports, which they practice at any opportunity.  Footraces, wrestling, and bird-kicking.  The bird is a wooden model that is tied to the ceiling by a string.  7' off the ground, 8' off the ground, 9' off the ground. . . Brynthians are great jumpers.  The game is even more fun after a few skins of wine.

It is not at all considered strange or homosexual for a man to invite his friend over for dinner and a wrestling match.  (Maybe you'll get to experience this after you make a gift of a sword.  The Freudian implications alone are staggering.)

Brynthic music sucks.  Everyone says so, even in Brynth.

Although everyone joins the military, you'll only be sent to the front lines if you have children to carry on your name.  So if a Brynthian asks you if you have any children, she's really asking something else.  If you say "no", she'll grunt and nod.  It doesn't mean you're a coward, it just means she's not ruling it out.

Only one piece of jewelry is ever worn by Brynthians: torcs.  The heavier the better.  They're worn a semi-permanent basis, and they're only ever worn by civilians.  So when the melee breaks out, you stand a better chance of looking like a civilian if you're wearing a torc.

Brynth has a few truly gargantuan lighthouses, which are public property and have equally huge gardens built around them, some of which are better described as "small forests full of statues".


Technically, the Grand Commander and Ultimate Admiral lead the nation, leading to a great deal of. . . let's call it rivalry. . . between the army and the navy (in some places they behave like rival gangs).  But since it's easy to get something put to a popular vote (that can override these two men) their law is not supreme.

Brynth is among the most democratic countries in the world.  Every officer gets a vote, from corporal on up.  Since officers are expected to be from the same neighborhood as his men, this usually translates into a halfway decent form of representation.

Companies that don't like their commanding officer can petition to have him removed.  These petitions usually go through.  If the petition fails, they can vote to begin volunteering for more dangerous missions, possibly even suicide missions (there are laws in place that enable this).  The commanding officer usually gets the hint.

Brynth is also known the world over as having great logical minds and legal processes.  When two countries broker an armistice, they have a Brynthic diplomat on hand as a consultant and witness.  When great merchant houses make their biggest negotiations, the paper that they sign was written by a Brynthic notary.

Let's talk about lawyers.

In Brynth, there's only one punishment for serious crimes, trial by combat.

Of course, first they have a normal trial first.  The judge hears the arguments (there is no jury) and decides on the terms of the combat.  If the accused is obviously a murderer, then he begins the combat bound hand and foot.  So the combat effectively becomes an execution. If two brothers both want the entire inheritance and are unwilling to compromise, they fight each other with equal weapons and and conditions.

There's an entire gradient between execution and duel, and the judges of Brynth use all of it in their rulings.  What's more, ALL details of the combat are left up to the judge.  

The judge might say, "Since one of you obviously drowned the Marten's baby, I sentence you both to fight to the death in a room that is filling with water.  You may be armed with either a dried umbilical cord or a woman's steel comb, as is your preference.  One innocent man will leave, or none at all."

The judge might say, "Since the accused might have stolen the rancher's cows, I sentence him to be turned into a cow for a fortnight by the mages of the Titansblood Academy, and he will live among the herd that he might have threatened.  The rancher will be turned into a wolf for the same duration, and if the accused survives the trial, he is innocent."

The judge might say, "Since the crime was committed by surprise, so shall the judgement.  I sentence you both to fight to the death using only these weapons provided.  Now."  And then the judge throws a sword and a small tree branch on the ground in front of the bench, and it's up to the defendant and his accuser to react fast enough to get the sword and kill his opponent on the floor of the courtroom.

The judge might say, "Since there is small small chance that the accused didn't steal from the fishmonger, I sentence the two to fight until surrender.  The fishmonger shall be armed with full plate and a harpoon, while the accused shall be armed with only a frozen halibut."

I forgot to mention: when applicable, you'll fight naked and covered with paint.

Surprisingly, the judges aren't just pulling the sentences out of their ass.  There is a long a detailed history of law and precedent they consult.  That doesn't make it any less ridiculous, though, or any less popular among the spectators.

Lawyers in Brynth are called barristers (for no other reason except I needed a word for a badass lawyer).  You only get to be a barrister after you kill a lot of people in wartime and then pass a pretty comprehensive oral exam where you're grilled on Brynthic law while other barristers take turns fighting you with sticks for 24 hours on a mountain top.

Barristers are both the legal representation for their clients (like the lawyers you are familiar with), and they are also licensed to fight in place of their clients when it comes to the combat stage of the trial.  Because they are putting their neck on the line, barristers charge huge fees and are very picky about what trials they accept.  Whether or not they take the case depends a lot on who the other barrister is.

Multiple people can be sentenced at once.  The grand melee doesn't usually take place in the courtroom (although it might), and is more commonly performed in the arena or maybe a cage full of sleeping tigers whose drugs are wearing off.

The Land of Flowers

Remember when I said that Brynth is always meddling in world affairs?  They're the nation that most interested in halting Nothic expansion.  Maybe they just want another war, or maybe they don't want anyone raising an evil empire (having been down that road themselves).  Maybe they just don't like the way that "the empire's colonies" rolls off the tongue.

They've set up a counter-fort on the other side of the island.  Although they claim they're here to settle this unclaimed land now that it's been rediscovered, odds are good that they're just there to fuck with the Nothic settlers/looters.

Whatever the truth, they've brought a lot of soldiers, hounds, and lawyers.  

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