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Overwatch Fief
Crag Mouth #1
© 2023 James LaFond
Overwatch Fief is in a northern temperate zone. Overwatch is a littoral fief, roughly ten leagues from west to east and 50 leagues from north to south. The land is hilly and well watered by many creeks and seeps, which flow southwest into Sable River, a navigable watercourse, and southeast into Barrier River, a swift-flowing and rocky watercourse.
The center of this territory is Castle Bund, situated to the extreme west upon Sable River. The Lord of Bund is a bastard, barred from the line of succession, but traditionally granted a fief on the Front Tier of Civilization by The Prince.
The Principality, proper is to the west.
From north to south are three distinct regions of Overwatch Fief. To the north, running 5 leagues from south to north is Raven Watch, a stone tower, occupying the only pass through the western extremity of the Scarlet Mountains, which halt their march there. Below the tower, to the southwest, is Palisade, a goatherd village of some 90 souls enclosed with a yellow pine stockade. Thanks to the tower, manned by ten ax men and a man-at-arms, and the sling stones and stony valor of the 20 odd goatherds, the tribesmen, reindeer herding nomads living to the north of the Scarlet Mountains, are wont to trade at Raven Watch rather than raid.
The Castle Bund is a simple affair of three towers, walled about in brick, which stands on a hill overlooking Sable River and the town below. The Town is named Low Bund, with a population of some 500 souls, chiefly employed fishing, ferrying and trading from poled rafts. A ferry house does occupy a low rise on the west side of the river, which is some 200 feet across. The Lord Bund employs a captain, a sergeant, a corporal, 10 pikemen and 10 musketeers.
Meat, hide and leather production are the chief produce of the region, which spans 40 leagues from Raven Watch in the North to Deep Sound in the south. Cowherds, swineherds and shepherds have sparsely-manned, unwalled plantations among the wooded hills, with gardens tended by women and servants. Nearer Barrier River to the east individual hunters and fur trappers occupy a handful of cabins.
Deep Sound is the steep-hilled inlet where Sable River enters into the Sea. This town of fishermen, wool merchants and whalers is the population center of Overwatch, counting near 700 souls. A counsel of ships captains carry out the rare demands of, pay tariffs to, and make petitions to the Lord Bund of Overwatch. The town is un-walled and sheltered by steep hills covered in Cedar, maple, Alder and fir.
The eastern leagues are settled only by the rare hunter and fur trapper in his cabin, except for Barrier Town, situated upon the Barrier River. This stockaded settlement is built to guard the drawbridge over the deep rocky river on its high west bank.
The dirt road from Castle Bund, which is thus central, connected by the river to Deep Sound and to Barrier Town by the only beaten track, has a circuit of yellow pine wall of 180 feet, anchored on two bends in the river. There is no wall upon the river, but an earthen rampart. Above the west end of the bridge stand two wooden towers which operate the two rope cables of the draw bridge with separate windlasses placed at their base, drawing the cables through great pulleys mounted at their top. The bridge is 32 feet across this narrowest span of the deep gully of the riverbed. On the far side it comes to rest on a raised earthen platform.
14 simple cabins and 12 servant shacks occupy the interior of the stockade, with Barrier Town being more of a place of refuge and gathering, where taxes are paid and flocks are sheared and slaughtered, then a true town. Two large pine pole gates open on the road, flanked by two, one-man ladder watches and secured by a simple square wooden bar. There is a smithy, a tannery, a butcher shop and a granary within the walls. The gate is manned by men chosen by lot from the resident members of the militia.
The center of town is dominated by a gallows, whipping post and stocks. There will be whippings on Friday. The stocks hold 5 miscreants, but are usually occupied by only one at a time, as the farrier and smith are renowned whip men and not to be taken lightly, both having killed more than a dozen boys at the whipping post.
Outside of the walls are gardens, oat, barley and rye fields, a hen house, a goose pen, a milk house and a slaughter yard. The north wall meets the river at a water wheel which is used to power the saw mill. Where the south wall—the 15-foot wall describing a semi circle with the gate at its center opposite the draw bridge—meets the river, another waterwheel is positioned, which is used to operate the grist mill.
The entire garrison resides within the two two-story stone wall and wood roof towers above the bridge. Each tower is occupied by 2 archers provided on rotation by the herdsmen and huntsmen from among their sons. These bunk on the open upper level, which is shielded by a high peaked roof. The lower level is a one room cabin with a ladder up to the roof gained through an open hatch. In this room resides a henchling knight [1] and his servant. [2]
These men are commanded by Mordoc, Sheriff of Barrier Town, who resides in the largest of the 14 cabins with a footman [3] and maid. [4] The Sheriff exacts a 10% toll from all travelers going east and a 20% toll from those coming west across the bridge. It is not legal to cross the Barrier River other than by the bridge. All broken laws are punished by fine or death, with death commuted for bondage. Whippings are reserved for servant infractions.
There are a mere 120 regular inhabitants of Barrier Town, with the population swelling at brewing and slaughtering and shearing times. Most of the residents are girls tasked with gardening and mending and boys tasked with ploughing, reaping and logging. Keeping the smithy, brewery and tannery and the cabin hearths supplied with wood occupies most of the boys year round.
The Sheriff, who acts as the town judge, also employs a herald, who is also the brew master, who serves as legal counsel, two huntsmen who serve to place food on his table as well as return runaways to their labors. The farrier [7] and the blacksmith serve alternately as servant floggers and hangmen. The Sheriff owns also two greyhounds and two mastiffs who obey his voice commands. [6]
The Sheriff and Captain are armed with braces of 3 flint lock pistols each and a small sword. The Sergeant and Corporal are each armed with a single edged curved broadsword, the Sergeant with a flint lock pistol and the Corporal with a blunderbuss. The huntsmen, have one a long bow and the other a rifle and a fowler, [5] each plying long knives.
-1. A henchling knight has no fief or lord, is an aspirational man at arms, similar to a Ronin or knight errant, who is unpaid and works for pillage and status. These are armored with gauntlets, cuirass, beaked helmet with scale coif and T bar face cage, with straight sabers and lances.
-2. A horse tender armed with a blackthorn cudgel, an unfree man promised apprenticeship after a term of service.
-3. A servant with a staff and dussack, a large slashing knife.
-4. A female housekeeper and bed tender.
-5. A black powder, flint lock shot gun.
-6. Other canines include heelers used by cowherds, scent hounds used by the huntsmen, and border collies used by the shepherds, who represent half of the rural inhabitants of the fief.
-7. Horses: The farrier is also the horse trader and seller and keeps a small supply of pack horses and cattle horses. The Sheriff and Captain have each a war horse, and these are not destriers, but a caracole mounts, trained in wheeling away when the rider shoots his pistols. The two henchling knights have destriers, trained to charge, trample and bite.
-8. Militia, a levy of some 50 swine herds with cudgels, wood chucks with axes, shepherds with staves and slings and cowherds with hay forks and spears, and various tradesmen with their tools, can be called up in times of crisis.
-9. The politics of passage into the Front Tier, across the Barrier River, is covered in the next section.
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