Isles of Neufeld
A place filled with poverty and desperation, where the people and the institution of the state itself have been reduced to committing acts of piracy across the northern coast of the Mountain Principalities, so that they may put enough food on the table. What they lack in agricultural resources, however, the Islanders make up for in the quantity of their coastal raiding ships, and the number of people willing to put their lives on the line to raid and pillage for a living.Extract from Maximilian Hoherberg von Zottehal’s History of the Known World. As it is one of, if not the poorest area in the whole of the Mountain Principalities, in terms not only of the material wealth of its people, but also the quantity and availability of potential agricultural land, life in the Isles of Neufeld has always been hard. During the years of the Kingdom of Reinhart, the Isles were viewed as a permanent joke, and nobles in the royal court who were seen to be in need of a dressing down were often sent there, either to take the position of Sea Lord, or to work within the administration there, a punishment that very quickly saw most repent of whatever slight they had, or were thought to have committed. This detrimental view of the Isles of Neufeld had been prevalent from the very establishment of the Kingdom of Reinhart, thanks to the fact that the Isles, along with the Principality of Rheinnacht revolted from the rule of the inaugural monarch, Queen Eleanora in 55S.E., an act that poisoned the minds of the rest of the nation against the Islanders, and disinclined them to do much to make life in the Isles more bearable. The only thing about the Isles that was deemed to be useful was the fact that it made a good base and training ground for the Royal Navy, as there were always a large number of people willing to be pressed into service there. However, since the collapse of Reinhart, the fortunes of the Isles of Neufeld have increased enormously, which is almost entirely due to the fact that they were able to seize the ships of Reinhart’s Royal Navy, and use them, not to keep law an order in the coastal areas of the Eismeer, but to use as the Sea Lord’s very own pirate fleet. Nowadays, the other nations of the Mountain Principalities that sit on the coast of the Eismeer, and the northern shores of the Estrill Ocean, fear the sight of galleys flying the three anchors of the Isles of Neufeld, and these nations that once scorned the Isles, now barely have enough ships to protect their own merchantmen, let alone engage the Isles in open war at sea. The new niche that the Isles of Neufeld have found for themselves means that they generally have a diplomatic relationship with the other states of the Mountain Principalities and beyond, that is best categorised as ‘poor at best’. However, they have found common cause and friendship with the East Riding, that has likewise turned to more illicit activities, along with the Pirate organisation the Red Hawk Corsairs, who are treated as brothers and sisters in arms by the Islanders.
Under the old Kingdom of Reinhart, the Isles were ruled by an appointed official, the Sea Lord, who was not only the commander in chief of the Royal Navy, but was also charged with the governance of the Isles’ territory as well. Originally, the office of Sea Lord was given through the direct appointment of the monarch of Reinhart, but since the dissolution of the kingdom, the title has become in effect a hereditary monarchy, descended from Gerhard von Hartwin, who was the Sea Lord when the kingdom collapsed. Since that time, the von Hartwin family has been able to retain control of the title of Sea Lord, and the rule over the Isles of Neufeld, but the sustaining of their position has been down to their continued buttering up of the numerous Captaincies that have been created to manage the activities of their navy. The Sea Lords and their families are frequently advised by their Captains, many of whom take on more land-based, bureaucratic roles alongside leading ships on raids.
The main asset of the Isles of Neufeld is their navy, which has been turned into a highly disciplined and effective raiding machine. It is the Isles’ navy that provides the majority of what the people who live their need to survive, and they provide such supplies almost entirely through stealing them from ships that ply the waters of the Eismeer. Some, small scale agricultural activity does take place across all three of the islands in the archipelago, but it is a rare year when the size of the harvest can effectively meet the needs of all of the Isles’ inhabitants. Instead, most of this fresh agricultural produce is taken as tax by the Sea Lord’s administration, for use by the navy, with the rest being reserved entirely for local consumption.
Demography and Population
The vast majority of those that live in the Isles of Neufeld, around 70% are in the lowest income bracket in the nation. The remaining, 30%, which includes the family of the Sea Lord, control the majority of the wealth in the country, and range in their social standing from rich merchants through to the Captains that command the ships in the navy and take on other governmental duties, to the Sea Lord themselves. In terms of the species composition of the population, the majority of those living in the Isles of Neufeld are Humans, Half-Orc and Goliaths. The Isles are also one of the few areas where Lupines can be found openly living and serving alongside people of other sapient species, and they are content to do so because the whole nation is essentially supported by state-sponsored raiding, which they are more than happy to take part in.
The territory of the Isles of Neufeld is made up of a small archipelago of three islands: Grossinsel, Kleininsel and Langinsel, with Grossinsel being located in the west of the archipelago, Kleininsel in the north and Langinsel in the east. All three of the islands are predominantly covered by coniferous forest, and the soil of all three is not of a high enough quality to sustain a large programme of intensive agriculture for long, without access to large amounts of fertiliser, which the Islanders do not generally have. The coastline of the islands is dotted with numerous high-quality natural harbours, which were once naval bases of the Kingdom of Reinhart, but are now bases for the raiding fleets of the Isles.
As they were able to take over control of Reinhart’s Royal Navy when the old kingdom collapsed, the Isles of Neufeld have an incredibly large naval force that they can bring to bear, which has been estimated to be at least 150 ships strong. Most of these ships are galleys, that are large ships, predominantly powered by oars, but with some capacity to be powered by sail, that are well equipped with ship-board artillery and boarding equipment, that is used to cripple their targets and allow the sailors on board to capture enemy ships and their cargo. The sleek, well-built galleys are incredibly quick and can easily catch up with most of the merchant ships that ply the waters of the Eismeer, though such ships would be foolishly to sail without an escort, given the prowess of the Isles’ navy. The sailors that crew the Isles navy also act as land troops, and will be regularly cycled to land based duties so that they can rest and recuperate from their time at sea. During such periods they take on the function of a regular armed force acting as garrisons and carrying out patrols in the interior of the three islands of the archipelago. On the whole, sailors from the Isles are much less well-equipped that their counterparts in other armed forces across the region, and they will carry a variety of weapons, mostly suited for fighting on-board ships. They will also tend to be lightly armoured, given that they always run the risk of going overboard, and do not want to be dragged down by heavy armour. In terms of their training they make superb naval fighters, but their tactics leave something to be desired when carrying out land based manoeuvres.