Peasants of Aerdy
Aerdy always has been a feudal nation. There is no history of “free boroughs,” democracy, towns run by elected burghers, or anything similar. Most of its people are, as their parents and grandparents were, feudal serf peasants. Peasants have a life in Aerdy which is similar to life experienced by peasants anywhere.
The huge Flanmi-Thelly river systems make central Aerdy a vast rolling plain of arable land, with river basins providing excellent land for growing grain and vegetables. Livestock farming becomes more important away from the regularly-flooded river basins. Peasants include serfs, “freemen” who lease small farm-holdings from the liegemen of princes or landed merchants, but they never own the land they cultivate.
Peasants are, ultimately, the property of the prince owning the land they farm on. In some areas, they are treated reasonably well; in others, atrociously, depending on the local ruler.
Not unlike Furyondy, a peasant farmer works long hours tending his crops. He might have one or two oxen or cattle to help with plowing; he might share ownership of such beasts with a neighbor. He will have a few chickens for eggs and perhaps a goat for milk and cheese. He will not have a barn, or anything much beyond a simple dwelling, which may be even of mud and wattle in areas with little wood. He likely uses a liegeman’s barn for his hay and perhaps even borrows the liegeman’s wagons for taking goods to markets. The peasant might share his own dwelling with some of his animals, the better to look after them (keeping them warm in winter and away from raiders and poachers in the summer).
The peasant family will make cheese, whey, jams, and preserves from summer fruits bought at market. Some peasants do not have an oven, though, so making pies from meat, fowl, or even fish might be the province of the local baker-pieman.
When the time comes to pay his lord, the farmer will worry himself sick trying as best he can to be sure that the goods he must give are of acceptable quality and sufficient quantity.
Children of such families don’t get educated; that’s the exclusive province of aristocracy, merchants, and artisans.
Most peasants won’t ever have seen a Gold Ivid. They live by barter. They take little to market, since they don’t produce much more than they can eat on their small holdings. Often, most trade is done by the landholder himself. Again, the majority of peasants won’t ever have traveled more than a few miles from the places there they were born, though along river ways where longer travel is feasible this may not be so.
So, this is a simple life, but the great shadow over Aerdy needs to be discussed here. The nature and prevalence of Evil is discussed below, but is it really true that this is the
dominant alignment for such ordinary folk?
The answer is both no and yes. No, because peasants don’t truly have alignments. They wake up at some horrifying hour of the morning, toil at endless hours of drudgery
in the fields, spend the few non-working days they have drinking themselves into a stupor, and then they get up and do it all over again.
However, it is equally true that the attitudes and behavior even of peasants has shifted toward the malign. Generations of increasingly cruel rulers, and the stalking of the lands by orcs, evil priests, and the like does takes its toll after years. One peasant might murder another for a single coin in his pocket – or because he uttered some personal insult which might have simply led to a fistfight even 20 or 30 years past.
What was once an insular uncertainty toward outsiders and foreigners has turned into outright hostility—even threats and possible attack in the hope of taking money, clothing, possessions, anything of value. The ordinary people have been affected by the changes among their rulers; they see Evil triumph, and they begin to affiliate with it themselves. This is, perhaps, the greatest of all the tragedies of this once-great nation.
Yet, while such behavior is certainly evil, it has to be understood in part as a response to the recent changes in Aerdy. Ordinary people, often given to superstition, are afraid. The druid or priest who once blessed their crops and healed their wounds and injuries might be found on a sunny morning with a poisoned dagger in his back—another victim of the Midnight Darkness agents.
A stranger seen on the outskirts of town could turn out to be a disguised fiend, or even a spy for an army seeking fields and crops to pillage for supplies. Even seeing soldiers of one’s own landholder could herald an impossible demand for taxes, livestock, or worse. Life always has been hard for peasants, and with many evil rulers they were subject to humiliations and oppression they hated but learned to survive. Now, however, so many lands are submerged in a sea of chaos that almost nothing, no-one, can be trusted. Small wonder that so many just take what they can, and regard might as right.
This is not true everywhere, of course, but this gloomy picture is all too accurate for most of Aerdy’s people.