Hardt
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Tech Code: 4
Governments: Military dictatorship under the Brotherhood of Livon.
Religions: Jaronism.
Industries and Trades: Manufacture and repair of arms and armour, forestry.
Major Terrain: Sea and wood.
Primary Languages: Havari.
Major Settlements: Hardt's Hope.

Geography


Physical Geography

The island nation of Hardt is a horseshoe sitting in the Dawnless Ocean, just off the western coast of Vymarch. It wraps around the long, jagged Jaws of Hyberrin that taper up to the mouth of the Liva, which flows from the island's mountainous, wooded mainland. Little can truly be said of Hardt - it is treacherous, for its outer coast is dominated by towering bluffs overlooking shallow, rocky waters. Any approach save through the Jaws is suicide, for even the most experienced sailors, and sand bars and hidden shoals, and unpredictable currents at the mouth of the Jaws make passage even here nigh impossible for those who don't know the way. Brutal storms gather over the northern mountains, to surge down without warning into the sea, and every man knows that when the skies darken he should stay clear of his mast, for lightening strikes are common and devastation. Worse still, when the ash-laden black tide from the north comes, seemingly at random, it always signals doom.

Inland Hardt is dense evergreen forest coating the slopes of the jagged mountain ranges that form the north of the island right up to their peaks. The forest is dense, and dark day or night thanks to intertwined canopies, but the forest floor is clear save for pine needles. However these needles lie deep, and frequently travellers find they conceal a fall, or else lie so dense that the soft soil below can swallow up travellers to the knee with ease. The mountains, called the Teeth of Hyberrin, rise on either flank of the Jaws, but truly tower in the north, where they form the whole of the mainland of Hardt. They are often steep, and their tops are always coated in fresh, white snow, despite the hold the forest has on them, making them genuinely look like pearly teeth in deep green gums.

The weather here is brutal, but reliable. Winters bring near daily snowfall, and spring and autumn are rainy, and bring morning frosts. Spring especially is given to violent electrical storms. While torrential rains are relatively rare, sea gales buffet Hardt perpetually. There is never a single still day in Hardt, and the clouds, rent apart where they are pierced by the Teeth, stand as eternal testament to this. Even in the height of summer Hardt never sees a clear day, as if the very skies clad it in iron, but broken cloud lets rays of sun through now and then. Bitter cold on the exposed outer of the island gives way to the relative shelter of the inner, where the trees and mountains ward the worst of the wind. Still, winter and autumn days below freezing are common. Heavy fogs sometimes hang in this inner valley all day, but at other times, when a northerly blows, they don't have a chance to even form before being whisked into the leaden skies.

Political Geography

Hardt is the last free nation of the Fringe. Once a provincial island backwater, dominated by Brice, it is that isolation, along with the nigh impenetrable terrain, and cunning fortifications of the Brotherhood, has made it the hub for resistance against the Cult. Ruled over by an obscure military sect called the Brotherhood of Livon, they have stockpiled old and poorly repaired arms and armour throughout the island, and fortified its already treacherous shores heavily, and were once thought mad for doing so. Now free of Brice, they are ruled by the teenage head of their order, believed to be the next in an unbroken line of reincarnations of their founder Livon.

Since its split from Brice, life in Hardt has been hard. Once it was the near forgotten northern wilderness of the Isles, left to its own devices, and remarkable only for the eccentricities of the Brotherhood. Now that the Brotherhood rule here, and fear of conquest is foremost amongst the lives of Hardt's people, it has become a police state run by armed men. Smith's hammers sound day and night in Hardt's Hope, and parties of armed me enter homes without warning or permission, to perform searches for spies or sympathizers. Everyone received military training, even women and children, once a week, and all able bodies men are required by law to answer the call to arms whenever it is issued. Brotherhood rule is absolute. Criminals are mercilessly flogged, or killed for even minor infractions, while any suspected of collusion with the Cult are cast into the sea. Essentially the entire populace is mobilized in a single effort to keep the Cult out, and any crime is seen as obstructing that effort. The level of obstruction is the only factor in deciding whether a not-so-gentle reminder is sufficient, or if the obstruction must be removed permanently.

The Incarnate rules here, though he is permanently attended by a council of eleven elders whose experience and collected wisdom are deemed essential to him. The elders are charged with taking over rule between Incarnates, while the next is found, and it is the sole right of each elder to name his own replacement from amongst the Brotherhood of Livon's ranks. The Brothers, no matter how ranking, have the right to make any demands of a citizen they wish, and while they are all ultimately answerable to the benevolence of the Incarnate, they can do whatever they deem necessary in maintaining the security of Hardt. Generally, however, the nature of Hardt's people is to leave one another well enough alone and gruffly trust to one's neighbours, and to trust that the Brotherhood has their security at heart.

Social Geography

Life in Hardt is simple, but hard. Its people are a gruff, determined bunch, who favour action over words, and know what their place is in this nation turned military camp. There is no real conception of social class - people are seldom wealthy, with little in the way of trade ever visiting the tiny realm's shores, and so all men are equals, except the ruling Brotherhood, whose ranks are clearly defined. People are willing to help their neighbours with whatever they can spare, but would sooner pretend outsiders and strangers do not exist. Shipwrecked refugees who have made their way by impossible fortune to a settled part of Hardt often find the local people merely bar their doors, and wait for the outsider to die of his injuries, leave, or starve.

Most families have small freeholds, where they grow root vegetables. Most have livestock, mainly sheep but also shaggy highland cattle - a sign of wealth elsewhere in the Fringe - and pigs. Families also keep lean grey guard dogs for hunting and warning when they see a stranger. Families live in large round huts of sticks, adjoining a stone forge, which usually also houses a still in which they make their own kalash, the local liquor. The family bring the livestock inside at night, and share a large single room, though animals and people are usually separated by partitions of timber or hide. Sheepskins line the walls, and wool is packed into the eaves, so that when combined with the heat of the animals, homes are extremely warm.

Sons tend to leave the home, and build one of their own nearby, and seek a wife. Or else they will remain in the family home, and become foresters, living as hunters, trappers and furriers, and inheriting the family home upon the death of the father. There is no reason as to which son will pursue which course. Daughters remain at home until they are married, in which case they take a single beast as a dowry to their new husband. Because young men have no stock of their own initially, it is essential that a man find a wife urgently after leaving his father's house. Members of the Brotherhood are forbidden to marry, and live communally in military billets, where they hone their skills, and protect the common people. In return the community that hosts them also supplies them, even being required to repair and replace their weapons and armour.

Faith and Worship

Just as it is the last stronghold of freedom in the Fringe, so too is Hardt the last bastion of the old faith. The old ways of the Fringers were deeply philosophical, given to lively debate in an effort to understand the world around them. They worship a divh called Jaron, who is devoted to wisdom, and is called the font of enlightenment. Generally they believe that Jaron takes a gentle approach in guiding his worshippers, coming to them only in times of great adversity and need, and relying always on seemingly mundane agents, so as to hide his hand in the world from all save those who know where to look for it. The Jaronites do not adhere to an organized faith, though many monastic orders once thrived on the mainland, but each village in Hardt does sponsor a wise man - or fray - to lead them in interpreting signs of Jaron's will, and also to assemble knowledge, learning the secrets of medicine, writing, divination, husbandry, and any trade or pursuit he possibly can. It is his task to assemble all of his knowledge into written form, as well as to devote his life to contemplating the nature of the world around him, in order to find the truth of the world, and allowing all of the race of men to ascent to the next state of being. He must also take the orphans of the settlement and care for them, and choose from amongst their number his successor, so that the wise man is always free of the burden of family, but never free of care for his fellow man.

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History


Timeline

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People


Folk of Livon's Haven

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Flora and Fauna

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Notable Individuals

Luka, Incarnate of the Brotherhood
Luka is the youthful ruler of the island nation of Hardt, latest in a long line to host the reincarnated spirit of Livon, founder of the Brotherhood. At the age of eight Luka was discovered after the death of the previous Incarnate Rukan. That was eight years ago, and despite his young age the boy has known nothing but war against the Cult for the whole of his short life, and has commanded the final resistance for half of that time. His body may not be fully formed, but he already has the experience of a veteran, and the will of a warrior. If youth is folly, then it is understandable that romantic zeal burns in the boy's breast - for he still dreams of the day when he skewers the heart of the Deadeye on his spear, and the Fringe is once again free of the yolk of the Cult. Of course, many doubt that this is possible any longer, and the boy's passion and courage are slowly becoming more feared than admired amongst the common folk of Hardt's Hope.

Dolmen, Tsor of Hardt’s Hope
One of the last of the old guard surviving in Hardt, and the true strength behind its throne, the now ancient Dolmen shepherds Hardt's Hope. Dolmen has no misconceptions about freedom. He knows that their time is finite, and that pretending they are not at war is a fool's tack, and he is happy to rule Hardt's Hope as a tyrant, as ruthless as any Sanak in routing out dissent. He tells himself that the difference is that he does it for the good of the people, but year by year Dolmen's doubts grow, and he becomes colder and more detached. Where Luka is an idealist, filled with dreams of freeing the world of the Cult forever, and driving them from the lands of his people, Dolmen has concerned himself with making sure they infiltrate not an inch of Hardt, and has cast many a man from the bluff of Hardt's Hope into the raging sea rather than risk the presence of a suspected spy.

Fray Petor, Arch Heretic
The most eminent of the Jaronites on Hardt has becomes something of a spiritual patron of the Brotherhood. A well respected fray from Illthendor, he was smuggled from the nation to Hardt when the Cult was still growing in influence, on the eave of his execution. Many gave their lives to bring Petor to Hardt, and he refuses to forget it. Petor has been the driving force behind organized revolution throughout the Fringe. This frail old priest may once have been a man of enlightenment, forever questing for the purpose of his own existence. But now he has found a purpose: making the Fringe free from the Cult, and he is single minded and surprisingly proficient, and has found a bloody minded streak that has allowed him to push the hidden resistance to seemingly impossible victories. Countless assassins have been dispatched to take Petor's life, and countless more will continue to come, until one has the skill, fortune, or both to end his life. But it is too late. The spirit of Petor will live as long as men in the Fringe remember freedom, and martyring him will do nothing to end the movement he fathered.

Culture


Etiquette and Custom

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Diet

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Attire

The folk of Hardt almost universally wear a vest of undyed sheepskin, and broad leather belt. For men and women it is almost national costume. Men also wear durable hoods while outdoors, while women wear scarves wrapped around their head and face. It is considered impolite for a stranger to see the face of an unmarried woman, but perfectly acceptable for a guest, relative or similar acquaintance. Men wear durable trousers, usually heavily patched at the knees, of hide, and coarse-spun woollen shirts, of grey or grubby white, while women wear shapeless woollen dresses of the same hues. Raw hide shoes, sometimes with leather soles, are the norm, while travellers will nearly always wear a heavy hooded cloak of pale grey or white. The looseness of their clothes, their pale hues, and the constant wind of the island has led many to compare the people of Hardt to living ghosts.

Armoury

For decades the Brotherhood of Livon has been gathering arms and armour, stockpiling them in their vast underground armouries at Hardt's Hope. Old, and poorly repaired weapons are given new life, and carefully oiled and polished regularly. In fact the vast majority of the surviving artefatcts of the War of Brothers have been gathered in the vaults below the little port. However there is little to be had that is new. Hardt is not a wealthy nation, it never was, and Brice's armed forces were based elsewhere, and now jealously guard their stockpiles. As a result many of the Brotherhood are armed with older than ancient weapons. Brass armour is more common than steel, and weapons are often re-purposed woodemen's axes, and farming implements like plough blades strapped to stout poles. The quarterstaff and famed silver-teak longbow are the signature arms of the Brotherhood, though spears and halberds often replace the staff, with the more ranking members of the order, or the more skilled, also carrying a battle axe or war hammer and painted wooden shield. Brass breastplates, grieves and bracers, and ringmail shirts and skirts mix with cured leather for protection, though it is all hidden by the ever-present woollen cloak of the people of Hardt.

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The Brotherhood of Livon


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Medicine

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Economy


Industry

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Money

The folk of Hardt have neither use nor respect or coin, or valuables like gold or jewellery. What good is that to them? They have no one to trade with, and few needs they cannot fulfil themselves. When they do have some requirement or another that they cannot fulfil themselves, or when city-dwelling craftsmen need to fill their pantries, it is easy to trade goods and services for promises of payment in kind. Fishermen offer a share of their haul to farmers for milk and pork. Hunters trade pelts and dried game meat for vegetables and kalash, and so forth.

Today In the Heretic's Fastness…


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The Nations of the Fringe
The Blasted Land, Helvar, The Bricetaine Isles, Maldare, Dalasoere, Vymarch, Illthendor, Hardt
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