Principality of Alswagen
Pinned between the waves of The Eismeer to the north and the peaks of the Felsspitze Mountains to the south, the Principality of Alswagen is a thin strip of land high in the far north of the Mountain Principalities. Despite the grandeur of the Princely Court in the Principality’s capital of Mamorturm, the rest of the nation is downtrodden and impoverished, always living for their next meagre meal, and hoping that the beasts and bandits that regularly come down from the mountains don’t slay them in their beds.
As its name suggests, the Principality of Alswagen is ruled by an autocratic ruler, who bears the title of ‘Prince’ or ‘Princess’. Although the title implies that the ruler of the Principality of Alswagen is in some way directly related to the royal family of what was ‘Reinhart, it is in fact a courtesy title that was created to try and add a feeling of prestige to the family that it was given to, and buy their loyalty to the crown, rather than indicate direct lineage. Under the old monarchical system of Reinhart, the land and title that went with the Principality of Alswagen could be removed and bestowed on any noble house the monarch wished, as is the case with all titles that still exist in the Felsspitze Mountains. The title of Alswagen has historically change hands three times, with the last family to be granted the rule and title of the Principality of Alswagen, the Hildegund family having ruled the Principality for over 200 years, and have successfully weathered the storm caused by the fracturing of the Kingdom of Reinhart into the Mountain Principalities. Since the fracturing of the Kingdom of Reinhart, the successive Princes and Princess of Alswagen have ruled the Principality as an absolute monarchy, with all authority in the nation resting with them. The Princes and Princesses of Alswagen traditionally retain a small court of advisors to council them on policy and decisions that need to be made, but all of these advisors know that their positions are dependent on them retaining the favour of the ruling Prince or Princess.
As most of the Principality is either covered in pine forest or scrubland, with little good fertile land for agriculture, Alswagen is not blessed with agricultural resources in abundance. The lifeline for the nation, however, are the large, high quality deposits of marble that exist in the area of the Felsspitze Mountains that line the Principality’s southern border. Alswagen marble is a highly desirable building stone in the Mountain Principalities and further afield, and is a stone that is a pleasing creamy white in colour, often cut with bluish-black veins that polishes up extremely well, is very durable and strong. However, as the extraction and trade in Alswagen marble is entirely controlled by the ruling Hildegund family, little if any of the money that is brought into the Principality by this trade reaches the general populace.
Demography and Population
The vast majority of Alswagen’s people are subsistence farmers, who live on a hand-to-mouth basis, with no support from the Princely Court, and who have to scrape together enough of a living to survive and pay the taxes that are extorted from them by the ruling family. Many rural poor have attempted to diversify away from subsistence farming, either through taking up woodsmen’s crafts and occupation, such as hunting and forestry, or by working in the marble mines of Felsstadt, which although it almost pays a living wage, is hard and dangerous work. Above the numerous poor populace is a strong cadre of merchants and entrepreneurs, most of whom are linked to the marble production of Felsstadt, either trading in the stone that is produced, or supplying goods and services to the mines themselves. Above all the populace in terms of both wealth and power, is the ruling Hildegund family, who have held the Princely title of Alswagen since before the collapse of the old Kingdom of Reinhart. The Hildegund family is extremely wealthy as they benefit not only from their ownership of the marble mines, but also from the flow of money that goes to which ever member of the family holds the title of Prince or Princess of Alswagen. The Principality of Alswagen is a mixed race society, but the majority of the people who live there are Humans. There is a reasonable smattering of Dwarves amongst the populace, many of whom have been attracted to the Principality to work in the lucrative quarries of Felsstadt, and to deal in the marble that is produced there.
The Principality retains a small force of no more than c.1,500 troops, who in theory are supposed to see to the defence of the whole of the Principality, but who in reality focus their efforts around the defence of the Princely Court in the Principality’s capital of Mamorturm. This means that although the capital and its immediate hinterland are well defended, the rest of the Principality is essentially left to fend for itself, which is rather problematic given that there are regular incursions of beasts and bandits into the territory of Alswagen from the Felsspitze Mountains that line the Principality’s southern border. Whilst the Principality’s armed forces are supposed to make regular patrols throughout Alswagen, they rarely ever do, which is almost entirely down to the fact that the strategic priority of the Princely family is to defend strategic points, such as the capital and the large marble quarrying town of Felsstadt, and to only relinquish troops from these garrisons in the most dire of emergencies. This means that although the people of Alswagen can petition the Princely family and their retainers to send military aid to them, it rarely comes. Instead, the majority population of Alswagen, who do not live in one of the blessed ‘strategic priority’ places of the Principality, must either rely on themselves for their own protection, or else be prepared to flee from danger, and hope that most of their homes and stores are left mostly intact for their return.