Old World Chronicles
Iron Fist in Velvet Glove – von Alptraum’s Women
Countess Marlene is down to earth and rides with her drovers against goblins. Gravin Chlotilde’s beauty is matched only by her kindness and has attracted offers from half the swains of Altdorf and even the younger brother of Countess Emmanuelle von Leibwitz.
What does this have to do with why Averland has no Free Towns? We are among the richest of provinces, our merchants thrifty and our artisans skilled. Every province in the Empire save backward Hochland and Ostermark has at least one but not prosperous Averland? Every single town in the Moot – yes reader, every town in the Moot – is a Chartered Free Town.
Instead we have the Streissen Massacre – the ruthless reprisal of the Elector Countess Ludmilla von Alptraum. You may know the story, how Free Town of Streissen was unable to keep order during crop failures of 2502 and called for the Countess’ aid to deal with rioters. Troops were sent only after the town council surrendered its Charter. When all Streissen rose up, outraged at the loss of its status, troops fell upon rioter and burgher alike.
How was it the crops failed just in that region? Who had bought up the surplus otherwise available nearby? Where did the original rioters get the weapons that made them a danger? Who paid the councillors to make the extraordinary offer to sacrifice their Charter? Then aging and now departed Ludmilla did not have the wits to orchestrate such things but younger family members, still with us today, certainly did.
What can we expect if the von Alptraums return to power?
The Mad House of von Leitdorf
We have no asylums for the insane in Averland. The many estates and townhouses of the Leitdorf family serve that purpose admirably. Marius von Leitdorf’s black rages and fits of lunacy are but the most recent of this family’s manifestations of its hereditary madness.
At its blackest, his madness provoked the so-called Halfling Rebellion of 2502, ended by the massacre at Nearstream of Mootlanders opposed to a road being built across their territory without their permission. This would live as infamously as the Streissen Massacre if its victims were human.
Averlanders may not know that the attempted Brettonnian invasion of the Empire in 2512 was to avenge Marius’ bizarrely insulting comments about a noble’s wife during his visit to that country obsessed with chivalry.
Marius’ reign would have been far worse had the Emperor’s agent, Champion Ludwig Schwarzhelm – a proud son of Averland, not required Marius to govern for many years with the advice of a council to restrain his excess and govern during the times when nothing but cries and screams would be heard from the Count’s chambers as he fought duels with phantoms.
These problems of madness are rife in a noble class that is more inbred than the most isolated Reikwald village. Peasants know enough to marry into the next village over but the nobility find none worthy who is not a cousin. The older the family, the deeper the rot and no family in Averland traces its ancestry further back than Leitdorf.
Gold into Silver – von Kaufman
It is a change from constant debate about succession to hear Graf Kaufman’s name on every lip as all await the return of Johann Templemann and the great expedition of exploration and discovery to the Southlands. Even as this is printed we hear of barges full of wonders coming upriver from Marienburg.
Will Graf Friedrich’s enormous investment be as profitable for him as the Red Arrow Coaching House, his warehouses and stockyard interests? Or has he squandered a decade of prosperity in one folly?
Kaufman was one of Solland’s noble houses that resettled after Solland’s fall to Gorbad Ironclaw’s greenskin horde 800 years ago. Without lands they have kept up their name through well-placed investments and capable service to greater families.
A decade ago they were a merchant family with a title and habit of well-paid mercenary service. When old Graf Barnabas passed away and son Friederich returned from Altdorf to take up the title, a period of commercial success began that would shame a Marienburgher.
Yet what is done with these profits, made from the labour and pockets of Averheim? Philosophical societies, expeditions to jungles and theatrical productions appear to be the Graf’s greatest ambitions. Graf Friederich seems determined to squander his fortune for the sake of curiosity and a good name. In the end, if the Southland expedition does not return with treasures, will he put even the Red Arrow Coaching House on the auction block in order to continue his spendthrift ways? Are these the best uses of riches?
Silver into Gold makes Dross – von Tuchtenhagen
What makes a prosperous merchant house think of no greater ambition or better use for wealth than to become a feeble noble house?
A hundred years ago that is what the von Tuchtenhagens did, buying their way into the nobility, and whatever industry, wit or grace the family possessed has since fled.
Dearly departed Theodoric von Tuchtenhagen struck a bad deal. He failed to specify that the coat of arms and pedigree he purchased be accompanied with the supposed noble virtues of courage and honour.
The most martial prowess seen in a generation was Graf Volker von Tuchtenhagen’s duel with the deadly Leos von Leibwitz in Altdorf. Ah, memory tricks me, of course, he hired a champion to fight for him and only after that champion was defeated was his life forfeited for insulting Leos’ sister, the Countess von Leibwitz.
Now this family of boors is given the stewardship of Grenzstadt – our fortress town that defends against any foe emerging from Black Fire Pass.
A less inspiring champion for our defence could not be found than Graf Theodosius von Tuchtenhagen, younger brother to the deceased Graf Volker. The man only leaves the milkmaids alone long enough to incur more debts at the gaming table or fund more experiments in alchemy.
If only the Graf’s smoggie could transform base men instead of base metals.
The Future for Averheim
Averheim’s destiny is as a Chartered Free Town.
The town of Streissen’s Charter provides an admirable model.
Let the nobility retain their holdings and service but let the city be governed by a council of burgher and noble alike, each estate elected once every 10 years by those it represents.
To this wise arrangement, I propose we add measures to limit wealth’s folly, whether noble or not. A tax may be established upon every inheritance of over one hundred crowns in properties personal or one thousand in lands.
The proceeds of this tax may be used to fund public improvements benefiting all Averland, such as the proposed dams on the upper reaches of the Aver and Reik