[tab][/tab][tab][/tab][tab][/tab]Bad Apples Campaign
[tab][/tab]Note: Throughout this short document there will be two colour schemes used; black for historical accurate information ( or as close as historical as we can get) and blue for changes made for this Mythic Europe campaign setting. Moreover the use of Italics will be for names in greek, slavic or vlach. There will be links to Google Maps and some photograph I do not own said maps or photographs nor use them for profit. Please contact me if you want them taken down).
[tab][/tab]The Covenant of Meru Mudi (Μέρου Μούντι, in Vlach) is situated inside the Vikos gorge of the mountainous region on Tymfi, in central Epirus. This is a short primer on the general area outside the Tymfi mountain, dealing with history, politics and general information about the area and era.
[tab][/tab]It is the year of our Saviour 1215, eleven years since the fall of Constantinople the shiny City, eleven years since the creation of the Despotate of Epirus by Comnenus Ducas (Μιχαήλ Κομνηνός Δούκας),a cousin to the Agelos Emperors, who broke away from the exiled government of Nicaea to forge his own kingdom. Eleven years of Byzantine intrigue, excommunications, making and breaking of alliances almost monthly, wars of expansion and acts of barbarism, ending in Comnenus' assassination at the hands of a trusted servant. Theodore Komnenos Doukas (Θεόδωρος Κομνηνός Δούκας), his cousin, took control of the Despotate, exiling the illegitimate and under-aged son of Michael.
[tab][/tab]During this period, the Despotate is in bad standing with almost everyone, forging on in an even more aggressive expansion war towards the east. The political climate is volatile and the mood in the major cities is tense. The people in the mountainous countryside are less affected; they usually don't care much about who rules them nor about their aspirations, in true medieval fashion.
[tab][/tab]For more information you can read about this period of history online (wikipedia is a good raw source) or in the Sundered Eagle: Theban Tribunal source-book. In this Mystic Europe campaign, history will plod on, unless members of the Order intervenes assertively; something strictly prohibited by the Code. It is not my intention to embroil in a mundane political saga, but rather to have a historical background of what is happening. The Order is worried , especially due to rumors of diabolism in the Despotate.
[tab][/tab]Mount Tymfi is located around 30 miles North East of the city of Ioannina . The mountain is surrounded by various massifs that also form part of the northern Pindus mountain range. Northeast of Tymfi lies the highest mountain of Pindus, Smolikas (second highest mountain in Greece, with its own dragonlake). The mountain of Trapezitsa lies to the north, Lygkos to the east and Mitsikeli to the south (west view from Ioannina). While the region is mountainous and heavily forested, in the North West the valley of Konitsa is formed by the river Aoos. The area is difficult to travel and quite far from civilization, trade routes, the sea and major cities.
[tab][/tab][tab][/tab][tab][/tab]People and Language
[tab][/tab]This part of Epirus has three main residential groups: Greeks are Byzantium greek people, they speak Romaic Greek and tend to populated towns, large villages and fertile valleys. Vlachs are mountainous people originating from Dacians ( the Pindus Vlachs are Aromanians), mainly occupying themselves with livestock ( goats and sheep) and forestry, and they speak their own latin originating language, Vlach. Slavs are either descendants of the first migratory tribes who settled in the area aeons ago or more recent arrivals from periodic raids and invasions. Most have been assimilated into the Empire and Christened. They speak Slav and they find whatever jobs they can. All three groups breed a local domesticated dog, the Molossus ( a war dog bred by the ancient Molossus Greek tribe).
[tab][/tab]Two small groups should be noted: There are a few gypsie koumpanias roaming around. These play an important role, part entertainment, part traveling merchants of small things, koumpanias always include some one with a passing knowledge of blacksmithing, called ganotis (γανωτής). Most small villages do not have a resident blacksmith and gypsies played a vital role in making small repairs, particularly on copper or bronze cooking pots and utensils. Traveling Koumpanias were both accepted and viewed with suspicion, rarely overstaying in an area. The other group are the newly arrived refuges from the sacking of Constantinople. These people were accepted by Comnenus and settled in the towns of Arta and Ionnina, bolstering their population. More urbane and civilized, they are non the less thankful for being saved and they have a large range of skills and knowledges you would not normally find in the back-country. There are very few other ethic groups encountered; a smattering of Jews and Venetians at the largest cities, some mistrusted Bulgars. Everyone else is an outsider and a spectacle.
The language of the Despotate is Romaic Greek. Official documents are more formal, but still the same language. Classical Greek is the language of philosophy, culture and 'science'. The Church uses for mass something between the two (anyone with Classical or Romaic Greek treats it as a -1. Priests and Monks can use either language with a specialization on Church). Vlach and Slav are used primarily by the respective populaces, who usually know very little else. Italian and Veneto are heard in major trade cities. More information you can read on pages 40-42 Theban Tribunal.
[tab][/tab]Orthodox Christianity is the de-facto religion in the area. There was an attempt for the western church to bring Catholic church in Epirus at the start of the Despotate, but Comnenus betrayed the Pope and was excommunicated (along with hanging several Latin priests and Bishops) The Church is loyal to the Nicaea Patriarch, though Nicaea is in bad terms with the Despotate ruler. While the political climate in the the upper strata of society is perilous, for the common people little has changed. Priests get married and do mass as usual, communion is blessed bread and wine, and what little education there is in rural countryside it is in the hand of the local priest. Areas are divided into Sees controlled by Bishops and Archbishops (which must not be married, bridging the gap between clergy and monks).
[tab][/tab]Monasteries abound in Epirus and they are important places. Monks do not marry, and while they cater their own lands they tend to avoid politics all together, in contrast to the West. Monasteries are less known as repositories of knowledge and more as a producers of religious art. All monasteries have at least some monks versed in Hagiography (Αγιογραφία), the making of icons (nuns busy themselves with weaving and healing). There are no Monastic orders as such, however there is a curious 'cross pollination' phenomenon. Monasteries are created when a patron provided funds and gets approval from the Emperor. That being said the patron might engage one self-governed Church to start a monastery inside the area of different Church See. Thus in Epirus you might have a monastery answering to Niceae, Athos or Alexandria. This makes for a weird inter-church political web.
[tab][/tab]Of note is the chrisovula (χρυσόβουλλα) or golden seals. All land belongs to the Emperor and as such it does not belong to the Monasteries. Every seven to ten years there is an audit from a special department of the government to renew the 'gift of land' parchment and the Emperor re-signs it in cinnabar ink if he approves or declines and the lands revert into Imperial control. As such, while they are not taxed, monasteries are acutely aware of where the power lies and behave accordingly. However, now that the Empire is temporarily dissolved, things might be a bit more chaotic.
[tab][/tab]Despite all the efforts of the Church though, paganism still exits, either in concealed form as customs and superstitions endemic in rural areas or as secretive cult-worship of old and new gods. Byzantium is refute with such entities ready to exploit any lack of vigilance.
[tab][/tab][tab][/tab][tab][/tab]Villages and Towns
[tab][/tab]To the North of Tymfi, at the north eastern corner of the valley, lies the village of Konita (Vlach Κόνιτα, present location of Konitsa). This is the largest village in the area and an important meeting and trading center for all the other villages and settlements in the area. Predominately Greek there are a lot of Vlach families settled too. People deal with agriculture and trade, leaving forestry and livestock secondary. The fertile valley, traversed by the Aoos river, yields many staples of diet. While large, there is no military presence and the people patrol their own. The village is not under a nobleman's control, all decisions are dealt by a council of Elders. The church is outside the town sitting on a hill overlooking it, and in direct view of the Lapatos Cross in the mountains ( the town itself is not in sight of the Cross). Around Konita there are several hot springs with Roman ruins. The people of Konita are friendly and moderately wealthy. They strictly avoid the Aoos gorge, even if they are situated right in the exit of it.
[tab][/tab]30 miles south of Tymfi is Ioannina, a modest town. Named after John the Baptist, it is situated on the west banks of a large lake. An important inland town and See, it has almost doubled its population in recent years, due to heavy resettlement from refuges. As such it is rapidly growing, under the watchful eye of its governor and bishop, where people are finding new opportunities for trade and crafts. The castle walls are rapidly being overgrown by the town and as History progresses it will become a city and the capital of Epirus. Of note are the caves of Perama , just 3 miles east of the city, and the Dodoni Oracle, 14 miles south.
[tab][/tab]South of Ioannina, at the banks of a gulf, is the Capital of the Despotate, Arta. Originally a small town, it bloated to more than twice its size when it was chosen as the capital of the Despotate in 1204. As a result it has a bad vibe to it.
[tab][/tab]Way to the North west lies the city of Durres (Δυρράχιο ). It is a major trading center, being the start of the Egnatia route that reaches all the way to Constantinople. As such, the military presence of the Despotate is large. The main population is Slavic, but there are a lot of other ethnic groups present (greeks, jews, venetians). Founded by Greek settlers in 7o BC, Επίδαμνος was conquered by the Romans who changed its name (it sounded ominous in Latin). A major trading center, it has seen may raids and sieges, falling into the hands of Venice as a part of the aftermath of the crusade. Comnenus later conquered it and added it to the Despotate. Its significance cannot be understated, both as a strategic point and a marine mercantile station, but it is quite away from the other places in Epirus. Despite the closeness of Thessaloniki, another major port and second city of the Empire, the political climate is such that Durres is the place to go to when you need something.