Friday, July 26, 2013

Growing up in Fenlock

That the Mistforge spawns clouds of beasts from the depths of the beyond is normal around here. Having to hide inside with shuttered windows while the militia and even farmers and barmaids run around with torches and pitchforks is no more scary to you than a snowday is here in Buffalo. Yeah, you all grew up knowing people who died during such an attack, but most of the death around you is from accidents (drowning, kicked by a horse, fell into a hay baler) or the occasional disease that sweeps through faster than the city's paladins, clerics, midwives and doctors can heal it.

You don't distinguish yourselves from the surrounding towns by how you deal with attacks from The Haze (also called The Miasma, The Mist, The Darkness and The Evil), instead people who live in the walled towns nearby distinguish themselves from the people who live in 'the countryside.'  The countryside is scary, dangerous and the people who live there are, from your point of view, uneducated scary hicks.

Fenlock has compulsory juvenile education. Everyone who lives in Fenlock (and within a few miles of the city) who is over the age of five and under the age of 10 has to attend school, where they learn the basics of reading, writing, math, some life skills and the history of Fenlock. This compulsory education puts Fenlock ahead of the game on Selection Day, and helps secure really good apprenticeships to its people, which in turn brings in money.

Fenlock is part of the City-State of Arden Vale and follows the Ardentian Labor Laws, which means that every even numbered year, on a designated day, human (and part-human) youths between the ages of 13 and 21 who are not gainfully employed (as well as some who wish/have permission to change professions) are lined up in the city center, where they are picked over for five year engagements in professions (apprenticeships.)

Selection Day is harrowing. You are asked questions, you show off your skills (if you have any), and your parents (or guardians) and the city's leaders haggle over you. Being picked last (or passed over for a year) is the worst, being picked first is an honor. Your parents and the thane have the right to veto an apprenticeship, but rarely do. If you are of sound body and can pass a physical, you can volunteer for Arden Vale's professional army and get out of the whole thing. The army pays a flat 100gp advance to your family, and 10gp to the city, with a larger bonus if you complete your training. The "finder's fees" for other careers can be very high. Mages, jewelers and even courtesans have paid thousands of gold for the right to train highly-qualified students. Selection Day in Fenlock is on the Spring Equinox (it varies for other cities, allowing caravans to hit multiple locations in the same year)

These fees are a form of indenture. If you leave before the five years are up, your teacher/master/trainer has the right to demand the money back from your family or from you. If you are mistreated, you have the right to leave, but proving mistreatment is sometimes difficult. If you flee or escape and your teacher doesn't report you to the thane before the five years are up, the teacher forfeits any claim to the money. The money covers all eventualities, including your death, although most teachers do arrange to pay an additional fee if you die. Children trained in a trade by their parents are exempted.

After five years have elapsed, the chosen kids (now hopefully adults, with a trade) make their way back to the city on or around the Spring Equinox, where they have a brief meeting with the Thane and are thrown a party by the city. After the meeting, you are generally expected to settle down in the city (and take up a trade) or move to a place where you can ply your trade better. This helps keep the cities smaller in size, and tends to keep social class in the cities at Tradesman or higher.

These two festivals, Selection Day (on Even Years) and Return Day (on Odd years) are very big deals in Fenlock.

The characters in the party all were trained in what we might call "adventuring trades," and are expected to make themselves useful to the town or move out. As adventurers, you fully expect the Thane's meeting to end with you seeking your fortune by putting an end to (or at least reducing) the evil that threatens the city. It's what you were trained for, and it's the right thing to do- plus, if you ever want to purchase land in the city, you'll need the Thane's blessing, and this is how you earn it.

You've all been provided with information on what happened during your training (or its equivalent.) Some of you left town for big cities or far-off schools, and some of you traveled. This stuff (which was beyond your control) is either not known to your peers, or known only partially. Information such as your character's disposition and basic mannerisms are up to you. Ask yourself how you responded to these events, and what they mean now that you're a free person.

You're already heroes in the eyes of many in the town. You weren't sent off to learn how to mine coal or farm peaches, you were sent off to be heroes...and the city is sort of running short of heroes right now. There have only been three or four in the last several Return Day festivals, and many of them have died or decided to go be somewhere other than Fenlock. The exhausted city guard and the people of the city are incredibly excited for the class of 993....especially since it contains a "real bard" and a "powerful mage." Having gone to your respective schools is a rare accomplishment ON THE PLANET, and here are two in this one little town.

Oh, yeah, and that guy on the cow is back.    

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