The Mill Lands Organization in Arclands | World Anvil

The Mill Lands


  East of the Dorling Sea, and west of the Lower Orne Mountains, lie the Mill Lands; a region of rolling hills, river valleys and mountains in Wester Aestis. Comprising the Shay Valley and Dorling coast, much of the Mill Lands is also arable farm lands, and a broad river network of tributaries from the River Shay from the region's transport network.   The people of the Mill Lands are known as the Swithicks and they are primarily farmers, traders and miners; Swithicks are known for their indifference to politics and big ideas, their insularity and their interest in accumulating wealth. The Mill Lands is a region rich in resources, but for too long it has been too lightly defended. More ambitious and expansionist powers from across Aestis see opportunity in the Mill Lands and regard it as a prize to be seized.   The Mill Lands was once the Kingdom of Pelonastrius, but this realm collapsed in the year -64 OTM, following a disastrous war against Del’Vettor. No king or leader has yet emerged to unite the Mill Landers again under one banner and few have any desire to contribute the taxes necessary to create a mighty Mill Landish army. Instead, a deep complacency has settled across the region, as Mill Landers convince themselves that their security is guaranteed by more powerful neighbours such as the The Firg Lands and the The Haatchi Territory.  


  Between the Dorling Coast and the centre of the Mill Lands is the Karse, a high plateau that forms a natural barrier. The Karse gradually develops into the Lower Orne mountains as they sweep round from west to east, creating a northern border to the Mill Lands.   At the base of the Karse on both its east and west sides is thick forest, the Eastern and Western Karsewoods. The Eastern Karsewoods sweep across the north of the Mill Lands and the Western Karsewoods are often more popularly known as the Bayreshanke Forest.   In the far north east of the Mill Lands, Free Welland can be located, a sparsely populated and completely autonomous region of the former Kingdom of Pelonastrius (see below). The capital city of the Mill Lands is Pelonastra, a once powerful regional city in Western Aestis, but now one in gradual decline.   A series of smaller trading cities dominate the main waterway, the River Shay. Drake, The Open City of Hale, Trent-on-Shay, Ferian and in the far north the mountain mining town of Mont Inaer are the principal centres of population in the Mill Lands.  


    In the year -806 KB, the first Swithicks (a tribe named the Aldinvalk) crossed through the Straits of Dancare, landing on the northern coast of the Duaral Peninsula (the region that incorporated the Mill Lands and Firg). It is unclear where they sailed from, and there is some evidence they crossed the Greater Arc Sea from Gol. Swithick scholars claim that their people are distant descendants of the Ghothars and they were exiled from the north eastern kingdom after a failed attempt to seize the throne. There is only a passing reference to this event in the sagas of the Ghothar skalds, who sing disparagingly of the ‘lesser house of the west', which might be a reference to the Swithick exodus to the other side of the continent. The region that the Swithicks settled in was ruled by the Haatchi, who at first showed some hospitality to the colonists.   The Haatchi at the time were engaged in wars with the Firg for control of the Lower Orne Mountains and the Swithicks exploited this conflict, siding with the Firg against the Haatchi. When the Haatchi were exhausted by drawn out conflict and their people faced hunger and disease the Swithicks offered Firg gold to buy the rights to settle the Shay Valley and the Dorling Coast.   The Haatchi knew they had been tricked but were unable to do anything about it, because the Swithicks rapidly built a kingdom on the old Haatchi territories which became central to the economy of the entire region. The Haatchi, recovering from the wars with the Firg, knew that raiding the new Swithick settlements would cause them more harm than good, and soon became dependent on the Swithicks as a trading partner, as Swithick nobles would pay a high price for a Haatchi mare or stallion.   The first Swithick settlement to emerge in the southern part of the peninsula was Pelonastra. It was founded in -780 KB as the northern Swithick tribe, the Aldinvalk, joined with a tribe known as the Sulinvalk at the mouth of the Shay River along the southern coast. Over the next thirty six years more towns began to crop up along the Shay Valley, known collectively as ‘The Peylus’ (meaning confederation). Each town was autonomous in their own right, but pooled soldiers, river boats and gold for the purpose of mutual defence and prosperity. While the Peylus was initially overseen by a council of elected leaders, in the year -744 the Lords of the Peylus were convinced that the Swithick tribes were one people and should be ruled under one crown, and the kingdom of Pelonastrius was founded by the Morghanan dynasty with Pelonastra as the capital.   For the next five hundred years, Pelonastrius was able to act as a regional power west of Dancare, though the wealth and power of the kingdom was dwarfed by the Arclands. Pelonastrian Kings looked not to their Ghothar roots, but to the Arclands as an example of political and cultural sophistication. The nobles of the Greater Arc Sea were by turns indifferent towards their western admirers or in some cases wholly unaware of their existence. The sudden and unexplained withdrawal of the Firg from the Lower Orne Mountains in the year -441 KB greatly enhanced the wealth of Pelonastrius, as the iron ore, coal and silver that the Firg had once mined fell into Swithick hands. The mining city of Mont Inaer was established, based around a series of Firg built stone bridges in the mountains and Swithick miners exploited the seams of coal already discovered by the Firg.   The long centuries of relative stability in Pelonastrius saw the inevitable decline of the Morghanan dynasty, and by the year -115 KB they had been replaced by a dual dynasty of two heavily intermarried families, the De Hauers and the Revers. The two families were entwined through marriage and alliances and the Pelonastran throne passed back and forth between the two dynasties relatively peacefully for over a century. However the Sundering presented the rulers of Pelonastrius with an impossible challenge; how to hold together a kingdom where most of its subjects had a weak loyalty to the crown during a period of unprecedented turmoil?    

The Sundering and Pelonastrius

  Despite the best efforts of the Pelonastrian dynasties, there had never been a deep identification on the part of many Swithicks with the crown or the nation. Many were reluctant subjects of the king and saw themselves in local or parochial terms, knowing little about the outside world and caring even less. They venerated saints, knew their neighbours, shunned strangers and accumulated what wealth they could. The chaos and terror of the Sundering only magnified this, instead of looking to strong national rulers for protection, many Swithicks withdrew behind the walls of their cities or fortified their villages and hoped that reliance on themselves and their kinfolk would suffice. It was this crumbling of national identification that led the last Swithick king of Pelonastrius to make a series of catastrophic errors which cost him his crown.   King Samuel II, the last De Hauer monarch decided in the year 60 to invade Del’Vettor across the Dorling Sea. He believed that the lesson of the Sundering was that the world would now exist in permanent chaos and lawlessness. He believed that strong powers would be able to influence world affairs and accumulate wealth at the expense of weaker ones and that diplomacy was increasingly meaningless.   Samuel was right in all these assumptions, but he vastly overestimated the power of Pelonastrius to wage foreign wars and was defeated within three years, returning to a kingdom he had bankrupted through his own folly. In order to return his army from captivity, he was forced to raise taxes across the kingdom to pay a blood bond to the Del’Vettans and this expense pushed his own people into open revolt.   Short on available soldiers, he was unable to crush a revolt in the northern region of Welland and one by one the lords of the cities along the Shay Valley abandoned the king. They knew that supporting his wars and taxes was political suicide among their own angry peoples and also knew that the Pelonastran crown lacked the military might to hold the kingdom together. By the year 64 OTM the kingdom had fragmented into fiefdoms and cities, it became known as the Middle Lands (between the Firg and the Haatchi), or Mill Lands for short.   Pelonastra never completely lost its authority over the region and much law and administration still occurs at the St Stephen’s Gate, a small fortress in the city of Pelonastra. However, much of the former kingdom is lawless wilderness beyond the boundaries of the Shay Valley cities and there is no sign of a further attempt to impose a crown on the Mill Lands.  


  Swithick Mill Landers are a farming and trading people who established towns and cities along the River Shay. They pride themselves on their reasonableness, tolerance and common sense, but much of this is a myth. In Del’Vettor, they are renown for their stubbornness and derided as stupid, szivirik, a derivation of Swithick means dull witted or naive. Swithicks are the dominant peoples of the Mill Land but it is unlikely they would refer to themselves as being Swithick, simply Mill-Landish is how they see themselves. Many have little time for politics or religion and are inherently conservative in their views.  

Lund Isle Folk

  The Lund Isles in the north west, off the coast of the Mill Lands in the Dorling Sea produce a race of fair, blonde people called the Lund Isle folk or Lunders and are distant relatives of the Swithicks, but are often thought of as a wiser folk. Many live in the fishing communities along the Dorling Coast.  

The Ferry Folk

  Among the most marginalised and least understood people of the mill lands are the Ferry Folk, a short, slender people with olive skin, dark hair and broad facial features. They speak a version of Olorian (where they are originally from) and a sub dialect of Swithick called Mayaral, that most Swithicks find unintelligible. There are several thousand Ferry Folk who ply the waterways of the Mill Lands with their brightly coloured barges and skiffs, transporting coal, wheat, horses or anything else required up and down the Shay Valley. Without them the region would collapse, but this does not stop Swithicks from treating them badly, refusing them rooms in taverns or in some instances attacking Ferry Folk boats. Ferry Folk are generally well received in Welland and with the Haatchi.  

The Mill Land Gentry

  Since the collapse of Pelonastrius, the Mill Lands have been governed in part by the Lords Elect of the Council. A far more significant role has been played by the League of Trent, a regional council dominated by nobility and gentry merchants in Trent on Shay. Representatives from Mont Inaer, Ferian, Trent, Hale and Drake meet monthly to ensure the maintenance of both council law and the laws they are entitled to each enact by dint of their towns and cities having royal charters dating back to the De Hauers. The job of the league is complex, their rulings frequently perverse and corrupt and their main interest is in ensuring the uninterrupted flow of river trade up and down the Shay Valley. The league has the power to raise a militia from the town companies (men who are forced to do pike drill once a month, but very few of whom could be considered soldiers). Other forces, like the Northern Border Horse and the Honourable Company of Trailkeepers are not under their command. The league has become increasingly worried about the popularity of the Machenites, a cult of religious extremists with secret connections to Skaris. The Machenites are based mainly in Pelonastra and the league have called on Prince Bard Rever, who sits on both the council and the league to speak with them. Bard is the most powerful political figure in the Mill Lands as he is the lord of the armoury at Drake, and by rights has more access to armed force than anyone else.  

The Honourable Company of Trail Keepers

  The Honourable Company (pictured above) was founded four hundred years ago and was established by a royal charter, issued by Prince Rayell Dehauer. The lands between Trent and Mont Inaer were considerably wilder and more lawless at the time and so the company was funded by a royal allowance to act as trained guides along the northern trails. They were given powers by the crown as constables of the peace, and to act against law breakers, but their numbers have traditionally been low and so they mostly patrol the wagon routes and help travellers in distress. The order has shrunk since the fall of the Dehauers and is only sixty or so strong for the whole of the Mill Lands, but men of the Honourable Company are respected by most Mill Landers (they go virtually unpaid but are always likely to be offered a free meal or hay barn to sleep in if they pass through a settlement). Most are armed steel capped staff (called, for some reason, an 'Angry Madeleine'), a long hunting knife and a bow.  

The Northern Border Horse

  This is the closest the authorities in Pelonastra have to a cavalry division. The Northern Border Horse are garrisoned on the border with Welland and Haatchi country. They were originally stationed there by King Samuel II and his son Taen to wage the war of conquest against Welland that ultimately broke up the kingdom of Pelonastrius into the Mill Lands. The Northern Border Horse fought several wars during Sam’s reign and afterwards against the Haatchi, and prevented a Haatchi land grab after the collapse of Pelonastrius, but thousands of horsemen were killed. There are about 600 of them left and they are the closest the Mill Lands have to a chivalric order.  

Religion and belief

  Aruhvianism came to Pelonastrius in the year -506 OTM, and was adopted by the later Morghanan kings. Prior to this Aelsang was the main faith of the Swithick folk. It was a non-theistic system of beliefs, centred around the sagas and poems of the skald Svan Hyriksen, father of the Ghothar nation. The often cryptic faith was based on the assumption that the songs of the great skald had a divine power of their own. Aelsangers believed Hyriksen’s words came from an unknowable spirit, and it was down to mortals to try to understand what they could from his words. Unsurprisingly, a religion like Aruhvianism that told a powerful story and had a strong set of dogmas and laws to order the lives of superstitious Swithicks was much more compelling. A more complex cult, that of the mysterious five faced god Ilyuketh, was much harder to stamp out and still flourishes in the wilds beyond Pelonastra. Ilyukan shrines can still be found across the southern Mill Lands, often still in use (as evidenced by the burning of incense and the leaving of offerings to the enigmatic god), but worship of Ilyuketh is deemed a heresy in Pelonastra, where the Aruhvian Church has long since held sway.   Most Swithicks are largely apathetic when it comes to religion. Aruhvianism is recognised by the lords elect of the council as the one legitimate faith across the Mill Lands, but the amount of time that any Swithick actually spends in a temple declines year on year. Instead, there is a popular veneration of Aruhvian saints, many of whom date back to the days of the Vannic empire. Major saintly figures within the Mill lands are Saint Stephen and Saint Aeyle (Saint Stephen is the patron of Pelonastra). Various increasingly obscure saints are called upon in the remote villages of the Shay Valley and the borders of the Bayreshanke forest.   When St Stephen of Dancare first visited the Mill Lands, he established a hermitage in the eastern Pelonastrius, which eventually became the ‘mausoleum to lesser kings’ or the Hallow, as it is now known. St Stephen forged deep connections between Pelonastrius and Dancare, creating routes from Pelonastra, through the Shay Valley to Mirrorvale, before crossing to Dancare itself. This meant that an entire chapel of the Hipostic Knights, dedicated to escorting the faithful to Dancare was established in Pelonastra. In response to this order of well funded, dedicated knights (mostly Arclanders and Del’Marahans) on Pelonastrian soil, Prince Reyell Dehauer established The Honourable Company of Trailkeepers, who patrolled the wilder northern forests and mountain passes. In the present year -295 OTM, the Hipostics still maintain a garrison in Dancare, though their relationship with the Lords Elect is often a fractious one.  


  The cities of the Mill Lands are all largely stone built and architecturally advanced for a nation west of Dancare. In most cases they are reasonably orderly within their own city walls and the reach of city militias stretches to a 10-20 mile radius.Clustered within this umbrella of protection are various smaller towns and villages that Mill Landish cities rely on.  


  Pelonastra is the capital city of the Mill Lands. It is based at the mouth of the River Shay as it flows into the Dorling Sea and straddles two islands, Olinast and Yulinast. It is a city in gradual decline since its glory days under King Samuel II and contains several districts that are dominated by the Mill Land's poor. The north isle (Olinast) and the south isle (Yulinast) are fundamentally different. On the north isle the Castle Ward, High Gardens, Kings District, Bonders District (banking) and Upper Guilds reside, the White Temple is also here, now a relic of the days before the Sundering. The Yulinast is made up of Preachertown, a district where traditionally religious radicals, heretics and impoverished writers and intellectuals reside. There is also the Ship Market (a place where sailors find ship work, traders import and export, and deals, legit and otherwise, are done), the Tanning District and the slaughterhouses. The Spire is the imposing prison for common criminals along with stocks and gallows and there are rat infested poor houses.   Those that are too poor for Yulinast live in what is referred to as 'Filthtown' (a play on the swithick word 'filddtown or 'floating town), a large and interconnected network of boats, floating platforms and gangways that has grown from the docks and wharfs of Yulinast. Bridges connect the two islands with dry land and the city's cemeteries exist inside the city walls.  


  Drake is the second city of the Mill Lands and it is the crafting heartland of the region. At the heart of Drake is the only major armoury of the former kingdom and the city is the seat of Prince Bard Rever, the Lord Defender of the Mill Lands. It is largely autonomous and is run by a council of forgemasters who decide carefully who to provide with arms and who to decline. The forges and furnaces of Drake were built by the Firg and while they might be less effective than they were centuries ago, they are still responsible for producing the best swords in the region. Drakian craftsmen and women often travel to Wardenhal to learn from Firg forgemasters and armourers.  

The Rever Armoury

  At the heart of the city is one of the best defended buildings in the Mill Lands (though this isn’t saying a lot), the Rever Armoury. It is here that Prince Bard and his family maintain weapons for thousands of troops. It is often derided as a waste of money but the Rever family pay for its upkeep regardless. It is a squat, grey stone block in the centre of the city, guarded by Rever soldiers. Much of it is buried underground, and it has been rumoured that the storage chambers below can be accessed by a network of smuggler’s caves. In the past, the Revers have used Drake to arm their friends across the Mill Lands and beyond, and allowing smugglers to ‘steal’ weapons has been a favoured tactic.  

The Open City of Hale

  If Drake is a city of authority and order, Hale is second only to Pelonastra’s Yulinast Island for chaos and lawlessness. Hale is referred to as an open city, because centuries ago the elders of the small trading outpost of Hale decided to remove all taxes on trade. Hale became open to all traders and the city elders quickly turned a blind eye to smuggling. One of the most tolerant cities in the Mill Lands, in Hale Ferry Folk, Wellanders, Haatchi and Swithicks all interact in relative harmony. Criminal syndicates operating out of Hale (often those that have been kicked out of Pelonastra), are always looking for rough and ready mercenaries to do their dirty work for them.  

Trent on Shay

  Trent on Shay is the largest market town in the Mill Lands and is bigger than Pelonastra, making it an object of envy and scorn to proud Pelonastrans. It is the centre of trade with the Haatchi and is the most tolerant city when it comes to the Ferry Folk. Some Firg have even made it as far south as Trent, selling what wares they think Swithick folk are worthy of owning.  


  Ferian is a small, insular market town higher up the Shay Valley. It is closer to Mont Inaer than Pelonastra. Ferian is the centre of the north Mill Land farming community and the town has a sleepy backwaterish character. However, it is a key centre for the Chancellor's spying ring, with agents moving back and forth into Welland, Mirrorvale and the Firg Territory from there.  

Mont Inaer and Caddick Cross

  Mont Inaer is a small mining town in the Lower Orne Mountains. The town is built on two mountainsides and is connected by thirteen bridges built by the Firg (the Thirteen Bridges of Mont Inaer is a popular children’s rhyme). Mont Inaer, famous for its coal, is one of the most important places in the Mill Lands as it keeps the cities of the Shay Valley warm in winter, and the fires of Drake’s forges lit. It also generates much of the Mill Lands wealth by selling its rich dark coal to the Firg, whose forges also burn hot with Mont Inaer’s ‘black gold’. Caddick Cross is the last market town in the Shay Valley before the Lower Orne Mountains begin. During previous Mill Landish wars it has been a strategic point for either defending or laying siege to Mont Inaer. To protect the coal of Mont Inaer, Firg stone masons and engineers built elaborate defences around the town centuries ago. Most locals have no memories of how the, now abandoned, stoneworks that scatter the flood plains in the vicinity of Caddick Cross came to be.  

The Bayreshanke

  The Bayreshanke Forest is one of the few untamed wildernesses of the Mill Lands and it carries a reputation for bandits and danger that keep the forces of law and order at bay. Traditionally the forest has been the refuge of those seeking to evade justice and only the most determined trailkeepers venture into its heart to find men and women who are on the run. It is home to the Eye, a one eyed outcast chieftain who raids across the northern Mill Lands, robbing trade caravans with impunity. The Parchment Prince in Pelonastra has an obsessional hatred of the Eye and seeks to destroy him; it seems that the two have a long and troubled history. Following the Sundering, a huge stone sentinel from the Celestial Realm crashed to earth in a burning meteor strike in the heart of the forest (at the same time that Blacktop was struck). Known only as the Great Stone Man, the sentinel sleeps for decades before awakening to crash through the forest in grief and rage at its exclusion from the Celestial Realm, swatting aside mortals in its path. Even though it does not speak, the stone man is intelligent and can be reasoned with (if it isn’t in a rage) and even has the capacity for empathy. Adventurers who stumble across the stone man must be very careful not to anger it.   Deeper in the heart of the Bayreshanke lies another piece of the Celestial Realm; a gigantic piece of a vast column that propped up an ancient celestial palace that was destroyed in the Sundering. The vast chunk is over two hundred feet high and sits at the centre of a huge meteorite crater, which in the past two centuries has become a lake. Attracted to this source of celestial magic and power are a group of Others that have created a small community around the crater’s edge in the trees. Their makeshift tent city has grown over the years into a thriving home for Others, hidden by psi powers. It is a community that likes to keep itself secret, but gradually those who wish to harness the power of the Others for wicked ends have begun to search the Bayreshanke for their presence.  


  On the borders of the Mill Lands and Haatchi Territory, Welland is the breakaway region that defied King Samuel in the year 64 and led to the break-up of the Mill Lands. Wellanders recognise no king and refuse to organise a government. Instead their farms and villages have their own councils and a Wellandfolk Hall of Governance meets once a year to decide how best to keep the Mill Lands at bay. Wellanders trade well with the Haatchi and have a good relationship with the horse lords; trailkeepers are also trusted and welcome in Welland. If attacked, Wellanders have a pledge of protection from the Haatchi.  


  Stonetop is the mountain garrison of the Northern Border Horse. It is a garrison built into the Trayther Pass in the Lower Orne Mountains and was created to extend King Samuel II’s power over the northern Mill Lands. Now it is a shadow of its former self, as Pelonastra lacks the money to spend on its upkeep. The Northern Border Horse patrol the edges of Welland and Haatchi territory from here and it is the last real outpost of law and order in the Mill Lands. The other duty of the garrison is to keep prisoners at Blacktop secure.  


  Legend has it that during the Sundering a burning stone from the heavens hit Altraegers Mount, one of the smaller of the Lower Orne Mountains. The resulting explosion levelled off the mountain top and the flat expanse of rock was turned into black obsidian. The mountain village folk were vaporized in the fires of the Sundering but legend has it that their shades still haunt the expanse of cold black stone. In the middle of this forbidding environment, the Lords Elect of the Council in Pelonastra built a prison, the Repenters House, for heretics and those that had arcane knowledge. It now has a handful of inmates, who are cursed to live in the cold barren wastes.  


  Sail is a small coastal village in the far north west of the Mill Lands, it is almost completely cut off from the cities of the Shay Valley and Sailers find out what is going on in the Mill Lands months after anyone else. Sail is constantly engaged in petty rivalry with its nearest neighbour, the village of Clifftown.  

The Hallow

  The Hallow is one of the oldest places in the Mill Lands. It is an old Aruhvian Temple from Vannic times and served as a burial place for Vannic nobles while Dancare was being built. It is immensely sacred to the few remaining Mill Landers who have any religious sensibilities at all. It is a special and significant place for the Rever and Dehauer families. The Hallow is built on a series of bridges over a network of rivers and small lakes and has been used in the past as a powerful defensive position. It is now almost completely abandoned, with a few Trailkeepers maintaining it alone. Some believe that powerful secrets are buried with the dead at the Hallow.     Do you want more lore? Get weekly updates on World Anvil and the Arclands Blog straight to your email inbox, PLUS our list of fifty mysterious trinkets to delight and enchant your adventuring party. Get your copy here.

A Fire in the Heart of Knowing

  Our debut Arclands novel is available here. Read A Fire In the Heart of Knowing, a story of desperate power struggles and a battle for survival in the dark lands of Mordikhaan. 


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