In the Shadow of the Forest
In the west of the nation of Capacionne, in the Lorassaint region that borders Gotha, deep in a verdant and ancient forest, there is a tiny old town named Luisant. Barely connected to the rest of the Throne, it must survive as a self-sufficient community. Old traditions hold greater sway here, and the mundane daily rituals of peasants and laborers are set against the backdrop of strange things moving through the woods.
Luisant is a small, self-sufficient community. The culture is one of ancient traditions; by the village’s standards, even Benalian ways are relatively “new”. The town is nominally Benalian, and officially part of the Throne – but the politics of the Throne are foreign to them. A Njord or Hestrali visitor would be about as “alien” as a Shariqyn.
The rhythm of life is based on the seasons and major holidays celebrated by the town. Daily life often means monotony and hard work; holiday celebrations are particularly cherished for this reason. See more information in the holiday calendar.
Religion is at the heart of a longstanding tension in Luisant. There is something like a truce between those who have fully embraced Benalian ways and those who follow older paths – namely, the latter do not speak of it in public, and the former look the other way when their neighbors gather in the woods.
The town’s current culture is informed in part by the waves of plague that have struck over the past century, and only recently have been mostly-successfully fought back. The loss of many is still plain, particularly in the many abandoned houses slowly rotting in the forest; at the same time, most of the villagers have thrown themselves wholeheartedly into looking forward and the optimism of recent years. This history has also led to a certain streak of “living for the moment”, especially among the youth.
Luisant has a long past, though much of it is now shrouded in obscurity. A detailed examination of the known parts of that history can be found on the History page.
The heart of Luisant is the town center – an area called the Feasting Grounds. This is where holidays are celebrated, town meetings happen, and people gather to generally trade, talk, and spend time together.
Traditionally, Luisant’s residents gather in the Feasting Grounds for the weekend of larger holidays; several buildings have been constructed just to offer a place to sleep for the gathering townsfolk. Residents tend to arrive on Friday and leave on Sunday. Tradition holds that all who gather must be permitted to sleep here, so the buildings are communally owned by the whole town. Because of this, sleeping arrangements shift frequently – although people tend to stay near those of their family or friend circle.
The sole tavern in Luisant is located here. The Dragonfly is part traditional tavern, part town hall. It is lively on holidays, serving large communal meals. By tradition, the tavern does not charge for food and drink – villagers are expected to share equally, and the tavern works on contributions from those who hunt, gather and brew. The Feasting Grounds are also the location of the Storehouse. The Storehouse keeps larger-scale provisions secure. Town records are also kept here, and it is used as a location for parcel exchange. A handful of clerks maintain the records and supplies.
The Storehouse is the in-game representation of Logistics. “Going to the Storehouse” offers a convenient in-game explanation for a Logistics visit. While anyone currently speaking to Staff at Logistics is out-of-game, the line to Logistics is an in-game area (the “line to speak to the clerks”).
Between holidays, only a few remain in the Feasting Grounds – those who tend to the buildings, including the tavern keeper. People continue to come and go to the Dragonfly between holidays, but not nearly in such numbers; usually just a handful a day. It remains a convenient place to gather, or to have a drink after a delivery to the Storehouse.
Permanent housing forms a ring around this town center, mostly in clusters of a few houses built together, all belonging to one family. Villagers call this area the Hearth. Gradually moving further away from the center, housing thins out; this lower-density region is called the Outskirts<LINK>. The border between the Hearth and Outskirts is vague and changes over time, as the population ebbs or swells over decades.
The clusters of housing in the Hearth, and the individual houses of the Outskirts, are nestled into the natural terrain. In the forest, houses might be built in small clearings; in the bogs, houses are built on elevated wood structures. New houses are very rarely built, as local tradition requires some very specific and peculiar habits when clearing a new section of land even for a small house. Instead, old houses are repaired – and, when needed, abandoned houses are cleared out and reoccupied.
At this time, there are very many abandoned houses and complexes around Luisant. The fight against the plague over the last century led to decreases in the population. These old, empty homesteads were well built and many still stand. Hunters may take refuge in some of them during storms or when out late – but they are wary of such homes, for many of them are said to be haunted.
The most advanced construction in the territory is the Owl’s Nest, House Beauchene’s Keep, which stands in the Hearth area, just under a mile from the Feasting Grounds. By the standards of the greater world, it is barely a small fort – but it is the largest building the Luisant residents have seen, boasting stone walls and towers. The path from the Feasting Grounds to the Keep could even reasonably be called a road.
The landscape around Luisant is heavily wooded and studded with bogs and swamps. The land is abundant, but rough and untamed. Paths through the forest are few, and roads are nonexistent. The terrain makes large-scale farming nearly impossible; instead, the villagers’ food comes from hunting, fishing and foraging. Many caves are known to exist throughout the forest, ranging from small animal dens to massive underground networks. The woods are also home to a handful of ancient ruins – rarely more than sections of overgrown, moss-covered wall.
All of the land outside the town center and away from inhabited housing is considered dangerous. Wild animals, including wolves and bears, are common – and have little fear of humans. Some bogs emit noxious vapors that can sicken and kill. Even plants may be dangerous, with poisonous thorns and leaves. But these are the least of the dangers. What humans truly fear are the monsters lurking in the woods. Local folklore speaks of all manner of strange creatures by many names – goblins, ghosts, werewolves, Night Malefic.
More insidiously, it seems that the forest itself does not like to stay still. Paths seem to shift from season to season; even entire groves may be found one month and gone the next. Sometimes, those who go to the woods forget things – ranging from where they left a trinket, to the names and faces of close friends.
Despite these risks, the people of Luisant often go to the forest, as it is the source of all their resources. They follow long-standing methods to do so safely, passing down advice about how to avoid dangerous animals, how to find trails in the undergrowth, and how to avoid angering the beings that dwell there.
Despite having no large farms, the people of Luisant eat well. Most food comes from the forest, with some supplements from village cultivation.
From the trees, the people gather fruit, nuts, and edible bark. The ground offers up root vegetables, mushrooms, wild berries, herbs, and wild cultivars of common vegetables like garlic, leek and tomato. Grain can be harvested from wild-growing grasses and milled for flour.
Fish comes from the streams that connect the swamps. Hunters bring in fowl and game animals from the forest; mostly small and medium game like rabbit and wild goat. Wild boar, venison, and even beef from wild aurochs are also not uncommon.
Within the village and dotted through the outskirts, a small number of livestock supply the rest of the town’s food supply. A handful of goats and cows are kept primarily for milk and cheese, and chickens are kept for both meat and eggs.
Alcohol of many kinds is made locally. Wild grains that do not go to the millers become beer and ale. Cider from apples is very popular. Grapes and berries are made into wines, and these are distilled further into brandies and other spirits. Wines, ales and ciders are often flavored with local herbs. Foragers have also long ago learned to make teas out of many kinds of flavorful leaves found in the forest, and coffee out of wild-growing beans.
Food preservation is critical for the survival of the village. Fortunately, salt deposits can be found in the caves; miners gather this precious resource. Smoking, pickling, and other forms of preservation are also used.
The main food supply is communal; those who gather, cook, or preserve food are expected to contribute to the Storehouse, with individuals keeping smaller personal stores. Common foods are likely to go to the Storehouse while delicacies and choice portions are more likely to be kept by an individual or family. This semi-communal approach is not strictly enforced, but is instead a common understanding backed by tradition. Those who are known to provide large amounts of food – particularly preserved food – gain social recognition and approval; those who are found to be hoarding excessive private supplies are met with scorn.
The town’s upkeep requires a constant supply of materials. Carpenters repair buildings, build and repair tools, keep the hunters supplied with arrows, maintain wooden fences and bridges; for all of this they need lumber, provided by foresters. Needleworkers keep the town clothed, and thus require fur, leather and plant fibers – provided by hunters and foresters. Blacksmiths take on their own share of tool-making, along with weapons and armor for the town’s militia, consuming metal ores and coal.
All of these resources are gathered locally, and the careful management of those resources is considered very important by the villagers of Luisant. Gathering is largely a communal activity. Foresters discuss which groves to cut and which to leave standing. Hunters coordinate their trap layouts and the populations of prey animals. Miners plan routes through caves, and exchange notes on bog iron yields and salt levels. Of course, these discussions involve their share of conflict and disagreement – and sometimes people simply go and mine or harvest what they want, without consulting others. Holiday times offer particularly good opportunities both for groups and for individuals, as the land is quite plentiful in the area around the Feasting Grounds.
All those who gather resources are necessarily well-versed in the old traditions of the forest itself, and how to navigate it safely. Because of this understanding, they often lead specific practices associated with holidays and seasonal events. For more information see Folkwise <link>.
Besides the upkeep of the village itself, resources are needed to meet the demands of the noble house. A portion of their commands are intended to reinvest in the town itself – upgrading structures, reclaiming lost housing, and reinforcing the castle; a portion are sent away to the king of Capacionne, a necessary cost to keep the town and the nobles in good standing with the Throne itself.
More unusual resources are also sometimes found in the forest or in the earth. These are put to various uses by those with appropriate expertise. Gold is usually delivered to the nobles. The local Earth mage has a well-known interest in gems. The town’s elder florist may take note of odd plants and herbs.
In a village like Luisant, profession is more vague than in large cities; there are not enough people to truly specialize. Many villagers would simply consider themselves just that – villagers. That said, individuals do tend to have areas of focus. Some spend most of their time harvesting resources as foresters or miners; others spend most of their time in a forge and are thus considered blacksmiths; some are explorers of the wilderness, keeping an eye on the shifting paths; and so on. A fair number of villagers also work directly for the noble, and consider that to be their profession.
Fighting is not considered a profession for most – but many can fight. Most at least know enough to fight off a dangerous animal, and some train beyond that. The only organized fighting force is the town militia, which is organized and led by the knight Sir Jean-Luc Delacroix. The militia’s primary duties are to deal with bandits and with particularly dangerous entities (animal or… other) in the woods. The knight schedules regular training, and encourages friendly physical competition among the villagers; youths are known to enjoy a good brawl on many holidays. Those with good standing in the militia have access to firearms, and are supplied with blackpowder from the noble house’s armory.
A few more pious (or zealous) individuals make the church of Benalus their profession, serving as acolytes and assistants to the priest; some with hope of eventually becoming ordained themselves. It is rumored that those who follow older ways may have similar acolytes – but they disdain the very concept of “profession”. Also, the Earth mage Ludovic has made it known that he is interested in apprentices; it remains to be seen if anyone will take up that challenge.
In the tight-knit community of Luisant, family trees stretch back for centuries. These families form six major clusters, called the main Lineages; those who belong to none of these are known as the Outcast. Each lineage has their own tendencies and stereotypes, detailed on the Lineage page.
Luisant primarily uses a form of common law; what is allowed and what is not allowed are simply something “everyone knows”, rather than being a complex or rigid legal code. Most people know most everyone else, so any conflict necessarily involves friendships and grudges; thus, judgements about crimes and punishments are a very social activity. More information is provided on the Law and Order page.
Physical coin sees some use, but more common are barter, exchange and communal use. Luisant’s people have a strong aversion to waste and hoarding, so second-hand and third-hand goods are common. More information is provided on the Economy page.
While most day-to-day clothing is simple, even peasants enjoy the opportunity to dress their best for holidays; thus, a fair bit of color can be seen on display at the Feasting Grounds. Rich fabrics and silks are almost exclusively available only to the noble house, but even simple linen can be dyed or well-cut to make a fine display. Dyes are made locally, using pigments derived from plants and minerals.
Practicality is still important. Tall boots are common, as are cloaks and coats, along with hats or sturdy hoods to resist the rain that is so common in Capacionne. Some prefer to wear armor as well, especially hunters and militia members – chain and hardened leather are typical.