The Baronetcy of Copperfeld
Where the barony of Menst meets the Stark Hills to the east sets the small County of Copperfeld. Dwarven, gnomish, and human miners originally settled the region in the mid 300s CY when copper-rich veins were discovered in the region. As part of the County of Idee, the region was know as the Viscounty of Copperfeld. Though the region’s mineral wealth is considerable, the region has repeatedly fallen victim to the same problem: lack of continuity in its rulers.
The area’s wealth is considerable, but it has gone through several changes in rulers (some good & efficient organizers, some not quite so good), and the rulership of the Baronetcy has been subject to much political double-dealing for nearly three centuries. For the last century or so House Devnor counted these areas as their own, but this only lasted until their treachery was exposed and the Barony of Menst passed to House Arxx. Latest ruler was one Zaren of House Arxx, who was not so competent. Fortunately Zaren had been blessed with a skilled seneschal named Selnor who ran things smoothly. Unfortunately, Zaren was also a Scarlet Brotherhood double agent. While he later Ahlissans took Selnor into custody. In all this confusion, Vorek, the supervisor of local smelter was appointed as custodian. How long this state of affairs lasts is anyone’s guess.
History: The first count of Copperfeld was Count Mardi who established Copperfeld Keep as a freehold in 396 CY. Under the protection and capable administration of Count Mardi and (subsequently) his son Count Saark, the mines became quite productive. However, neither Count Mardi nor his wife was an actual member of a noble family. The freehold was established by the legitimacy of Mardi’s skills rather than his nobility. When their son Count Saark insisted on marrying a commoner as well, the region’s fate was pretty well sealed. When Saark died in 441 CY, the true nobles of Idee refused to allow the productive region to pass to a third generation commoner, and through intrigue the Viscounty passed to Count Leedl, a favored member of House Eddri. A century of slow, but steady decline followed through eight generations of Leedl’s descendants.
In 532 CY, two events coincided. Count Leedl’s descendant died without an heir, and a vein of gold was discovered in the Copperfeld region. For weeks, prospectors flooded leaderless Copperfeld Keep in a regional gold rush. Great care was taken to place a capable count in Copperfeld, since it appeared it could be an economic cornerstone of the County. The gold veins proved to be quite thin (yielding only four mines with long-term productivity), but the choice of young Count Barso of House Devnor as fief-holder proved a lasting positive legacy. Through decades of regional strife between the Scarlet Brotherhood, Ahlissa, and the Iron League, Barso’s diplomatic, military, and administrative talents helped Copperfeld to grow to its former level of productivity.
In 565 CY, after more than thirty years of rule, Count Barso died and his fief passed to his grandson Xarkor. Count Xarkor was a capable ruler, but only a shadow of his grandfather, and during the struggles of the 580s – the Wars and the Brotherhood Occupation – Xarkor floundered. In 588 CY, Xarkor (like all House Devnor in the barony) was either killed or displaced – no one knows for sure.
House Arxx’s selected the aging, but capable Gastor as the new count in 588 CY as reward for his years of loyal service as he was not an actual noble by birth. The region seemed to rebound under his leadership, but he died in less than five years. A few months ago, the fief was awarded to Count Zaran. Zaran, while extremely charismatic, appears to be completely inept as a leader or administrator. The region is currently on the verge of anarchy. Humanoids are raiding the mines nearly at will, bandits raid caravans into and out of the region, and pockets of peasant insurrection have cropped up (possibly Idee in loyalty).
Politics: The supreme political authority in the County of Copperfeld is Count Zaran and his seat resides in Copperfeld Keep at the heart of the region. Although theoretically the ruler of the entire region, in reality his authority extends barely beyond Copperfeld Keep proper. Even the well-traveled road to Minetha is unsafe. However, he does barrack a contingent of men-at-arms (10-15) in the hamlet of Woodlet to protect the highway there and maintain his authority.
Outside Copperfeld Keep the various mining settlements are organized into clannish communes of 10-20 families (20-100 people) depending on the richness of the local ore. Each settlement is “guided” by a patriarch or matriarch or set of respected elders. Each community is racially homogeneous (100% human, 100% dwarven, or 100% gnomish). There are no individual mining operations as the region is much too dangerous to fly solo.
Economics: The heart of the economy is the smelting works at Copperfeld Keep. Its presence constrains the surrounding miners to bring their ore to the Keep to be refined, barred, counted, and taxed. During times of better organization, the count was able to levy taxes against other commercial enterprises (like peddlers or taverns). While these taxes are still on the books, it’s been over twenty-five years since a count occupied the Keep who had the organizational skills to enforce the tax.
The count also collects periodic security fees from the various mining settlements to help fund the military protection of the county. These fees are generally negotiated on an ad hoc basis between the settlement elder(s) and the count’s agent.
The County has feudal obligations to House Arxx in the form of both periodic financial payments and troops. The County does not have much in the way of agricultural development or manufacturing capacity (with the exception of some small lumber production in Woodlet). The region relies on it production of copper and gold to purchase its necessities. Its copper mines are highly productive, but its gold is only marginal – still it’s gold.