Countship of Macbet
A den of malignity right at the heart of a once proud nation. From the walls of his dread and cursèd castle, the Count of Macbet, and his fell brood can see right across the waters of Schwarze Lagune and see the ruins of the royal seat of Kleinhaupt, that was generous to give them the power that they have corrupted and twisted into something far more heinous.Extract from Maximilian Hoherberg von Zottehal’s History of the Known World. Located on the western shore of Schwarze Lagune, is a strip of land caught between the waters of the lake and the Felsspitze Mountains behind it, the Countship of Macbet, where the peasantry eke out a poor and hard livelihood, constantly watched over by their Vampiric masters, the von Volkmar family. Though historically the true nature of the von Volkmar family was hidden from the rest of the Kingdom of Reinhart, since the kingdom’s collapse it has become widely known, leading almost all of the other states in the Mountain Principalities to condemn their actions. It is thought that the Count and his family essentially state-sponsor the spread of vampirism within the Mountain Principalities and far beyond, with the Count having been accused several times of sending one of his family to try and undermine the authorities in other states, and try to grow and spread Vampiric enclaves. Nevertheless, many of the surrounding states still maintain ties with the Countship, so that they can continue to get their hands on the fine exports of amber that are mined there, even if it means condemning in one breath and buying in another…. If nothing else, Macbet’s undead legions that protect the Count and the Countship make a formidable and terrifying force, that most of Macbet’s neighbours would not wish to trifle with.
Macbet is ruled, as its name suggests, by a Count who along with his family have ruled the area since it was bestowed on them by Queen Eleanora I, when the Kingdom of Reinhart was originally created. On the face of it, this seems to be normal enough, especially given the nature of the peerage system in Reinhart, and the situation following its dissolution into the Mountain Principalities. However, the current Count of Macbet, a certain Ludwig Wulfram von Volkmar is the only Count to have been officially and formally installed as the Count of Macbet, and has held the title for nigh on 500 years. Count Ludwig is not an Elf, the only creature other than Dragonborn, who are a rare sight beyond the borders of Zhisbon able to have lived such a long life. No, Count Ludwig was once a Human, but has been able to stand for so long over the Countship of Macbet, because he became, a Vampire, a move he made to extend his life well beyond its natural span, and retain control of the Countship. For a long time, Count Ludwig had essentially retired from public life, whilst controlling the politics and actions of the Countship through his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, a ruse that he devised in order to not arouse suspicion from the royal court, who seemed contented enough that the von Volkmars were still loyal to the crown. After the collapse of the Kingdom in 398S.E., Count Ludwig once again came onto the political scene, and declared himself to still be the one true Count of Macbet, and has been openly controlling the Countship ever since. Because Count Ludwig Wulfram von Volkmar has such a large immediate family, almost all of whom have been turned themselves by him into lesser Vampires, the Count has a large familial group made up of his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, who act as a council of sorts, and who are used by him as his emissaries, captains and ministers. Count Ludwig is supported most keenly and loyally by his wife, Countess Rosalind Bertille von Volkmar, who acts as his immediate deputy in all matters and is his most trusted servant and confident.
Macbet’s position, caught between the Felsspitze Mountains and Schwarze Lagune rather drastically limits the amount of land that is available for any productive purposes. Even though most of the living populace there scratch out a living as subsistence farmers, they have to till land that is stony, poor in its fertility and that is often sloped, which makes the work even more difficult. Many people supplement their income by fishing in the waters of the lake, though the fish that are caught there, along with the agricultural products that are grown and reared there are hardly ever exported, and are primarily for local consumption. The saving grace of the people of Macbet, are the rich and high quality deposits of amber that occur in the Countship. Though most families will have part time amber extraction operations, many people make the gamble to work on the mining and extraction of amber full-time, in order to raise enough money to try and buy their freedom and move to another, less dangerous location. There is no state sponsored mining operation with regards to amber, but it is heavily regulated in terms of its buying and selling. The von Volkmars levy a heavy tax on all amber sales, that must be made through one of their registered amber brokers, though even this tax is worth taking the hit on for the pecuniary gains that the Macbetites can make from selling amber to foreign merchants. As far as Count Ludwig and his family are concerned, however the most important assets that his nation possesses are the living and breathing souls who toil in Macbet’s sad and stony fields and amber mines. The people are what the von Volkmars feed on to sustain themselves and people are regularly taken from each community as a form of ‘tax’ ostensibly to serve the Count and his family for a set period of time, but in reality these people never return. The Count and his family, however, are careful to never take too many souls from a particular community, and to ensure that populations are not depleted so much that they cannot recover. Fecundity is also heavily promoted amongst the living population, with the Count giving gifts of food and money to households that produce over four children, a way to encourage the creation of a consistent supply of food for the Count’s table. In addition, almost all crimes in the Countship are also punishable through being ‘taken into the Count’s service’, a sentence that the convicted never survive. Those that pass through the Countship are themselves likely to be targets of the Count and his family, unless of course they have a clear reason for being there that would look to benefit the Countship.
Demography and Population
Aside from the Count’s family, and those mortals that have somehow managed to ingratiate themselves with them, the vast majority of macbet’s populace are poor, verging on being destitute. Most of them manage to just about scrape through year to year, but the Vampiric authorities of Macbet are careful to ensure that few people gain enough capital to consider taking themselves and their families away from the Countship. In terms of the population, most of the living souls in the Countship are Humans, as their short lifespans and easily dominated minds make them perfectly susceptible to being manipulated, coerced and subjugated. In addition, because of the size of Count Ludwig’s family Macbet has one of the highest concentrations of Vampires anywhere within the Mountain Principalities, and possibly in the whole of Turoza. The presence of so many Vampires in the Countship means that Elves, who generally abhor such an obvious presence of evil, are hardly ever seen in the Countship, and will rarely enter it of their own volition. However, Shadow Elves, those belonging to the Kin of Sabratha in particular can be seen more regularly on the surface of Ulskandar in Macbet, as the Count and his family are regular purchasers of slaves from them to add different flavours to their feasts. Lupines can also often be seen in the open in Macbet, as the Count and his family tolerate them, and even use them as mercenary raiders, as long as they do not deplete their own stock of fresh blood too much.
The Countship’s military strength is unknown, because it is so hard for any outsider to estimate its numbers. It is not that Count Ludwig is secretive and takes extreme measures to hide the strength of his forces from the outside world, rather it is that Macbet’s military are made up of undead soldiers. The remains of all those that die within the Countship are collected up and deposited in huge charnel pits across the country, where they can be raised, as needed to act as soldiers, guards or peacekeepers, to be raised at the pleasure of the Count and his family. In essence this means that the entire population of Macbet, that has ever existed and whose physical remains are still extant, can be mobilised, in a fashion, to fight, a fact that dwells keenly on the Countships immediate neighbours. There is a standing force of these undead troops that guard the borders and key strategic areas of Macbet, such as the Count’s Castle, and the Count and his family will often travel around Macbet accompanied by a detachment of undead warriors, for the spectacle of it, rather than the physical protection. In addition, Lupine mercenaries are often contracted to act as an auxiliary force for Macbet, and they will often act as a raiding force in peacetime, and a scouting and skirmishing force in war.