Port of Mensh
Fifty years ago the Port of Mensh was at its most imperilled. A decade of open war with The Marchings and North Enshall had left the countryside surrounding the port-city barren and its massive foreign debts acquired during the war were making it more difficult to buy in supplies by sea. Mensh was facing defeat by war or death by starvation. The King of Boune, whom at the time was the Prince of South Enshall and a cousin of North Enshall’s Prince, turned a deaf ear to the pleas of Mensh and prepared to split the province three ways and install a puppet Prince to help secure his own place on the throne.
Prince Henry the Unready of Boune led his forces out into the field to face the combined armies of The Marchings and North Enshall – a force which was rumoured to contain more than one of the King’s regiments wearing his cousin’s livery – and Henry was duly slaughtered. The outcome of this was that the port-city was completely undefended with an aggressive force less than two days march away. Mensh’s fate hung in the balance, its Prince dead, its royal line ended, and only a sliver of time between it and destruction.
Before news of the defeat reached the port-city via runners, there were some who already knew of Prince Henry’s demise. The diviner, Arianne von Morden, wife of Kurt von Morden the city guard captain, had observed the entire battle from afar. But the outcome had been no surprise to her, she had known with certainty for almost a week that Henry would die and the army would be defeated. Arianne had studied the art of divination from Aethlis himself and had come to Boune on the great elf’s personal instructions. Arianne had been told that she was to save Mensh from destruction – and when the world’s greatest mage decided to give her a glimpse at the future she knew it would have been unwise not to pay attention.
Together Arianne and Kurt organised the populace of the city into a militia and prepared a defence. The reason Mensh had been the subject of so many attacks was due to its strategic position, it was and remains the only deep-water port between Onnigsport in Alanthor and Paldor on the edge of eastern Boune. Effectively, a fleet operating from Mensh would have dominion over two thousand miles of coastline, an asset whose military and trade value is hard to overestimate. The reason Mensh had held out so long was that the city had been built into the white cliffs of the coastline in a natural bay. The Cliffs of Mensh, stand two hundred feet high and white as glaciers, they are entirely made of marble, and it is in, upon and atop these cliffs that the city is built. Storming the city by conventional means is completely impossible, since the city is one giant wall. The approach to the city is across farmland and the backs of the white marble cliffs rise from the ground some sixty feet. It was here that Kurt von Morden organised his untrained troops.
The militia of Mensh were mostly the young and the old, because everyone of age who could fight had gone out to do so. Only a dozen city guard had been left with the captain and it was up to these men and women to lead the citizens in what would be a desperate struggle. There are still stories told, and they grow greater with every season, of the captain of the guard fighting ten knights atop the stone wall of the city, while his lady struck down all those who approached her with cunning spells, and in the secret places in the city a pitched battle was fought. One of the city guard, a dwarf named Guerrilla Juntar Amberaxe Kildognin Obok Obok, was said to have led his contingent of militia in a series of ambushes and raids within the city itself, eventually leading the enemy to believe that there were hundreds of enemy soldiers and that every position was indefensible. After three weeks of fighting, where almost a third of their army was lost, the Princes of The Macrhings and North Enshall ordered a retreat, leaving the city-port of Mensh to its bloodied but unbowed citizenry.
Kurt von Morden was declared Prince of Mensh by universal approval. The King of Boune, afraid that his part in the war might be revealed, approved the succession and the house von Morden was elevated to the nobility. Despite his clawing attempts to retain his hold on power the King of Boune was assassinated later that same year and was replaced by the infamous Charles, Prince of Lotno who reigned for three years and plunged Boune into two separate civil wars. It was during this period that Prince Kurt was able to reconstruct much of what had been lost in Mensh. Those who might have been his eager enemies in another situation were forced to direct their attentions elsewhere and while the other great cities of Boune burned and brother turned against brother, the Port of Mensh rebuilt its marble halls and filled its coffers again to overflowing.
Today, Kurt von Morden is a well respected elder statesman, his advice is sage and his hand is seen as the steadiest in all of Boune. If Boune were a place where wisdom and nobility of spirit were often rewarded then Kurt would surely be King. But the Prince of Mensh is aware of his land’s failings and prefers to build a better life for his people than to secure glory for himself. Kurt and Arianne have one son and one daughter. Gina von Morden is the assistant to the Lady of Mensh, this slender, unskilled diviner is often found at her mother’s side and in the Lady’s failing years she has become a vital support. Adam von Morden is the fiery but fiercely loyal, deceptively intelligent and cunning captain of the city guard, in all matters he is the iron right hand of his father and there are few within the borders of Mensh who would dare to cross him or earn his ire. Adam is married to the witch Katrine, whose mother is Agata the Witch Queen, a hierophant druidess of legendary ability whose current location is always a mystery. Adam and Katrine have three sons who are the future hope of Mensh.
Duncan is the oldest of the grandchildren of Kurt, but many suspect he will never reign in Mensh. He has his father’s fiery temperament, but not his guile and he lacks much of the discipline which is necessary to rule well. In Boune the state of heir apparent does not apply as it does in Alanthor, and simply being first-born is no guarantee of ascending to the throne. Still, Duncan is a fine warrior and is often found leading a contingent in one of Boune’s mercenary armies. Darr von Morden, astute watchers of the principality of Boune agree, is the one who will one day rule Mensh and perhaps all of Boune. Darr was first trained in the art of magic by the Witch Queen and then tutored by Aethlis, who is also the Godsfather of all three of the brothers. Having gleaned a measure of experience from both of these powerful figures the exact capabilities of Darr are hard to guess, his personality has proved unreadable and his limitations – if indeed he has any – are yet to be assessed. In conversation the Lord Darr is well-spoken, polite and obviously highly intelligent, though he has little time for conversational niceties. Ferdinand is the youngest of the three brothers and the most enigmatic. He has shown no particular aptitude in any area, but has been spending a great deal of time with his paternal grandmother, the Lady of Mensh. Some speculate that the young lord has the gift of prophecy; a rare ability to speak the future which is both a blessing and a curse.
The Capital of Mensh
The city-port of Mensh is the capital and only city in the principality of Mensh. Approaching the city from the province the backs of the white marble cliffs rise abruptly some sixty feet and their surface is sheer. Here and there along the wall are arrow slits and mortared brickworks where past sieges have damaged the marble fortification. Entrance to the city is restricted to only one large gate which is carved from the wall itself and owes much to the work of dwarven artisans and engineers who hung the marble slabs so well that when they are unbarred, a child can push them open. Once inside the gates the upper market square is the first site any newcomer will see. In this vast piazza the goods made by the populace of Mensh and the surrounding principalities are brought for sale. From the market a giant staircase – called the Hunderwalk after the local legend of the giant Hunder who was said to have aided in its construction – has been carved in the rock which extends all the way to the lower market where the products brought to Mensh by sea are sold. The steps of the Hunderwalk are broad enough to be negotiated by horses and centaurs – who often visit Mensh to trade – but goods are hauled between the markets by a pair of steam powered Elevators, a recent creation of the dwarf master engineer Elev Foggun Dhanhi Ding Bazzrud Yvik.
Approaching by the sea is a different experience altogether. All along the coast the marble cliffs appear to be sheer and treacherous until the Beacon of Mensh is sighted. The city is set into the walls of a natural cove – whose highest point is over 200 feet above the ocean at high tide – and it is into this cove that ships must steer to find harbour. Most ships drop anchor half a mile out and signal for one of the expert pilots of Mensh – called the Cove Scalps – who are adept at steering vessels past the cliffs into the waveless waters inside. From there, because of the lack of wind, the ships are pulled by rowing boats to a place where they may dock. Visitors by sea will see almost the entire city rise above them upon entering the cove and should pay special attention to the numerous ballistae secreted around the walls, and to the Marbled Palace, seat of Princes and Kings for centuries, which can be seen glistening far above. However, the first place that anyone is permitted to visit is the customs office where the deputies of Adam von Morden perform their duties with vigour. The customs office stands between the docks and the lower market and everything saleable which goes into or leaves Mensh by sea carries a tax which covers the cost of defending the city and maintaining the docks. Until recently items of jewellery were considered taxable, but after objections by the centaurs that practice has been halted.
The city is home to about fifty-five thousand people, making it the second largest city in Boune. 80% of the population are human, most of who can trace their ancestry to Yiln, Hund and Norden bloodlines. 10% of the population are dwarves, of which most are merchants. 8% of the population are centaurs, who are 50% druids, 50% rangers. The remainder is made up almost entirely of gnomes, with some renegade aroakan who have escaped from Ringar. There are no elves known to live in Mensh, but they are occasionally seen in the lower market as passengers on passing trade ships and very rarely an elven air ship will dock above the city causing innumerable headaches for the customs authority.
Institutions of Mensh
The Marbled Palace: This is the home of the Prince of Mensh, his family and the administrative and legislative bodies of Mensh. The Marbled Palace has hundreds of rooms – so many that nobody has ever actually counted – and it is tradition that every successive Prince adds something knew. The throne room is carved from gold veined marble and overlooks the entire city. Every third day the Prince hears all matters of justice, from common thievery to murder – many suspect it is Prince Kurt’s imposing presence which helps to keep crime in the city low. All necessary permits and documents are provided by the Marbled Palace, but can usually be obtained from one of the clerks.
The City Guard: Mensh is the only one of the principalities of Boune in which there are no mercenary companies, the City Guard is entirely responsible for the defence of the land. The advantage of this is that the loyalty of the guard is impossible to buy. There are three divisions in the guard: customs, militia and army. The customs authority consists of between 30 and 50 men and women (Lvl 1 fighters, studded leather armour, short sword, light crossbow) and is commanded by the wiry Yiln Sgt. Loran Hunt (Human Male F7 – S14 D12 C12 I14 W15 Ch9 – LN; AC:3; Mv:12; hp:45; THAC0:12). There is no standing militia, but the entire population of Mensh can be raised in times of war and are trained in the use of the light crossbow and either the club or the short sword. Militia training is organised by the aged centaur Sgt. Hamish Cleavendor (Centaur Male R8 – S17 D14 C16 I11 W13 Ch11 – LG; AC:3; Mv:18; hp:57; THAC0:10). The standing army of Mensh consists of 200 Knights (Lvl 1 fighters, plate mail, body shield, medium lance, longsword, light crossbow, mace, medium warhorse, chain barding), 500 Footmen (Lvl 1 fighters, chain mail, medium shield, mace, long sword, light crossbow), 600 Cliff Guards (Lvl 1 fighters, studded leather armour, heavy crossbow – specialized, short sword, dagger), 100 Palace Guards (Lvl 2 fighters, chain mail +1, halberd +1 – specialized, short sword, light crossbow) and 200 ancillary staff including squires and bonded tradesmen such as fletchers, armourers, blacksmiths, etc. The army contains about one sergeant for every 100 men, though promotion and retirement means that that figure varies from year to year. All the city guard is housed in the Chamber of Arms, a large complex just off the upper market, when not on duty and the guard operates in 4 shifts per day with one day a week off. All the armed men in the city answer directly to Adam von Morden who is 5% likely to personally attend any guard activity.
East Alanthor Trading: This large trading conglomerate has offices just off the lower market. East Alanthor Trading is responsible for about 15% of the trade in all goods by sea between Boune and Alanthor. The company is headquartered in Capitol and is owned by a number of old and wealthy families. The regional head of operations is a dark haired young woman called Regine Diollo (Human Female T4 – S11 D14 C11 I17 W13 Ch15 – LE; AC:6; Mv:12; hp:21; THAC0:17) whose ambitions reach very high indeed.
Port Mensh Trading: This small local trading house also acts as the bank for Mensh. Prince Kurt is the major shareholder in the company, but recently he has handed over the day to day running of the company to Darr. Darr himself has entrusted the more menial duties to Darienne Imban (Human Female Diviner5 – S9 D16 C9 I16 W16 Ch16 – NG; AC:7; Mv:12; hp:14; THAC0:19) who many believe to be the young lord’s lover. Darienne is almost as ambitious as Regine, but she has more ethics about how she does her business. Port Mensh Trading operates two small offices, one on the upper market and one on the lower and deals with both external and internal trade. Because its controller is a wizard, Port Mensh Trading deals with more magical items and spell components than its competitors and is reasonably reliable in seeking rare items – though anything exceptionally rare will certainly have Lord Darr’s fingerprints on it before the customer receives it.
Uglaz Tumbro Extortion Rhembra Tumbro Uglaz Trading: This trading house is located on the upper market and is as close as most of the dwarf merchants are willing to go to the sea. Much of the weapons and ores traded in Mensh are handled by this house. Uglaz (Dwarf Male F6 – S17 D10 C17 I15 W16 Ch10 – LE; AC:2; Mv:9; hp:59; THAC0:13) is in personal control and can use his family connections in ore and weapon production to undercut his competitors if he needs to.
Temples: Mensh has temples to Lor, Gor, Aor, Sor, Baeandar, Volus, Sebrinna, Wathe and Mighty Bo. A shrine to Faceless Roon did exist in the city half a century ago, but the proximity of the powerful diviner the Lady of Mensh drove them from the city. If a shrine to the god of secrets is within the borders of the principality of Mensh its location is, obviously, a secret.