Zombies in History
The Isles of Albion and Ireland
This region is temperate but cold, with short summers and longer than average winters. Agriculture is not a great source of wealth, though animal husbandry is. Most people are pagan and live in loosely organized communities. Ireland is almost entirely tribal and divided between four loose states; Connaught, Ulster, Leinster and Munster. The Welsh fuse Roman ideas of government and justice with Celtic distrust of authority and naturalism, while the Scottish live in clans, uniting together only to defend their independence. The English, having only been conquered by the French within the last century, are still fusing together Anglo-Saxon and Norman culture. They are the most traditionally feudal society of the four. The dominant language is Breton, though upper- and middle-class English speak mainly French. Educated men in Wales, Scotland and England can be expected to speak Latin.
Ireland is split into four different large states, Connaught, Ulster, Leinster, Munster, with two capitols, Tyrone, and Meath. Connaught is known for their druids and mystics, Ulster is known for their warriors, Leinster is famous for their port cities, and Munster for their music, artistic ability and horsemanship. Tyrone is a small territory inside of Ulster, which is the seat of power for the North of Ireland. Meath, located in Leinster, contains the Hill of Tara, which is the seat of power for the South.
Ireland never came into contact with the Holy Roman Empire, and they were never converted to Catholicism. As a result, they have retained their pagan culture and Gods, with an emphasis on tribal unity and keeping with tradition. The Irish pantheon is large, with gods or spirits for nearly every natural aspect of life. There are no major centers of learning in Ireland; instead most of the Irish culture is spread through word of mouth. While there are cities within each of the states, and while the people of Ireland are somewhat transient, the cities stay put for generations.
Naturalistic magic has become a staple of Irish life. Nearly everyone has some kind of innate magical ability, whether it be something simple like creating rope or baskets from reeds or something more complex, like summoning a thunderstorm. Members of the society who have more powerful magical ability are usually selected to be leaders of their tribes. Tribal leaders are matched based on magical prowess, creating a class system based on druidic ability. Those with little or no magical talent are lower on the social scale, while individuals with more powerful magical abilities are considered higher on the social scale.
While there are exceptions to the rule, the Irish tend to regard outsiders with a cautious eye. They are more likely to trust other pagan cultures, or peoples that use naturalistic magic. Never having been conquered, they are wary of those that have lost touch with their ancient past and have adopted a more contemporary culture. This has led to problems with the Welsh, who lie directly to the East of Leinster. The pirates of Leinster love nothing more than to raid the Welsh coastal cities and come home with a bounty of Welsh supplies. While they have traditionally had an antagonistic relationship with the Welsh, this has escalated in the past few hundred years.
The Vikings first came to Ireland in 924, and were able to take several small towns by surprise along the Western side of Ulster and ranged as far South as Leinster. Several raids were recorded during the next fifty years, but the Vikings were not able to find very much wealth in the outlying villages and never came very far inland. Without monasteries to raid, the Vikings soon turned their attention elsewhere, seeking greater treasures. The Irish wrongly concluded that it must have been the Welsh who were responsible for the attacks, and began a series of invasions that lasted for about a hundred years. These invasions were never very successful, and were largely a futile effort. The only thing that became of the conflict was increased distrust and hostility between the two nations.
In comparison, the Irish get along with the Scottish very well, although, since the Scottish have nearly no magical ability, they are not thought of too highly. There has been some trade established between the Scots and the Irish, but because of the transient nature of the Scots it is difficult to maintain trade for any more than a few decades with any one clan.
Wales has been inhabited for thousands of years, nearly as long as England proper. Tribal society, under druidic council rule, dominated until the invasions of Roman soldiers, at roughly the time of the ascension of Christ. Romans brought with them the first truly civilized society the Celts had ever known. Welsh culture today is a mixture of Celtic and Roman, created by the resurgence of traditional values after Roman troops abandoned the land. Wales is a land caught between a rock and a hard place. Irish pirates plague the western coast and England controls the eastern border, though the Normanized English have not yet managed to subdue the country.
Wales is divided into three princedoms who rule the country in times of need as a triumvirate. Gwynedd is the largest and most powerful of the three principates, and its ruler is traditionally the dominant member of the triumvirate, and the only Welsh king, Llewellyn ap Gwynedd, was a member of the noble house. Culturally and economically, it is the center of Wales, and it contains a majority of the grazing land for the vast herds of sheep and goats. Powys stretches across Wales, dividing Gwynedd in the northeast from Glamorgan in the south. Powys, being between superpowers, traditionally has produced marvelous orators and bards, including the great Talesin. Powys is also famed for its horses and cattle. Glamorgan is rough and rugged. Its mountainous terrain provides defense against English invasion, and its soldiers are the best in the nation, especially the archers, who, with their longbows, unerringly rain arrows down upon vulnerable troops from the tops of mountain crags.
As people, the Welsh combine the vigor of traditional Celtic cultures with the discipline of Rome. The people are hardy and embrace mystical understandings of the natural world. The Welsh produce more mystics, druids and sorcerers than other civilized societies, and fewer wizards. Their bards are of top quality, and while they have lost the trick of barbarian rampages, their archers are without peer in Western Europe, especially the famed Cragtop Archers, who shoot targets lesser men can scarcely see.
The Scottish are an elusive people, seemingly able to disappear into their wild country without so much as a whisper. While they were conquered by the Romans, and subjected to Roman rule, they have not retained the Roman culture the same way that the Welsh have. Instead, the Scottish have returned to their old ways. They worship the same gods that they did before their people were subjected to governing they neither wanted nor tolerated.
The Scottish are known to be some of the best hunters and trappers in the land, and are famous for their bravery in battle. There are no greater hand to hand fighters in the Northern Isles than the Scots, and they know it. While not an overly proud people, the Scots understand what they do well. It is said that even their women are fierce in combat, and that during courtship some disputes between lovers are settled in organized wrestling matches.
Not much is known about the way that the different Scottish clans interact. There is talk that there are large towns that dot the region, and that the Scottish kings and queens of old have made a comeback and rule their people from a different plane. It is said that each family within a region have different trades that they specialize in and that there is some sort of regulation to their trade, but little more than that has been observed. The Scots are known to create some of the most impressively brutal arms in the Isles, and what they lack in finesse they make up for in raw power.
Magic is not quite as common among the Scots, there are religious leaders that have some mystical abilities, and occasionally there will be an individual who has some magical expertise, but those are rare. Some Scottish clans are known to keep relations with the Irish to the West, and are more in touch with druidic magic, while those clans on the Eastern side of Scotland have little or no magical experience.
The Scottish are not quite as quick to judge as their pagan Irish brethren, and so they are more interested in other cultures. They don’t get along well with the English and have a tenuous relationship with the Welsh, and typically get along with other nations from the mainland.
William the Conqueror’s victory in the battle of Hastings over the Anglo-Saxon armies of Harold Godwinson brought the nation under the dominion of the Normans and mixed traditional Anglican systems with Continental feudalism, creating one of the most consistent and organized systems of government since the fall of the Roman Empire. The country is subdivided into units of roughly equal size called shires, each administered by a reeve or sheriff. Usually, these officials are aristocrats, carrying ranks of Esquire or Knight. A collection of shires, called a county, is administered as a fief by a higher member of the nobility, usually a baron, though more financially or strategically important and powerful counties, including Yorkshire, London and Wessex, are ruled by counts. There are 40 counties in England. Each baron or count is then answerable to one of five dukes. The Dukes of the Western and Eastern Marches control ten counties each. The Duke of the Northern March controls six counties, including the gigantic Yorkshire. The Duke of the Southern March controls nine counties. The Duke of Essex controls only five, but one of them is County Middlesex, containing the city of London. The Duke of Essex is the third-highest lord in the land, and is occasionally called the Grand Duke. While his rank affords him no power over his peers, should the royal line fail to produce a male heir, the Duke of Essex is married or adopted into the royal family and gains the throne. England’s holdings in Brittany and Normandy are the personal fief of the king, and are overseen personally by the crown prince, who takes the title Prince of Brittany.
Because of the highly organized government, other aspects of life are more closely regimented than in other parts of the world. England is one of the only kingdoms to boast police forces, street sweepers and fire departments. Religion, however, is relatively unorganized. The King takes a patron deity upon his ascension to the throne, and the Grand Duke and Crown Prince are often openly pious, but the majority of the people, including the aristocracy, acknowledge a mishmash of Norse, Germanic and Celtic deities. England boasts close trading relationships with the Hanseatic League and with Scandinavia. Because of the Norman conquests, most English speak French.
The common people tend not to take up adventuring, but it is extremely popular among lesser sons in aristocratic and noble families. The headstrong nature of these men leads to border friction with Wales, Scotland and France. Martial, knightly professions are preferred, and, among spellcasters, lawful spells are popular. Protocol and correctness of form are emphasized over results, so English characters tend to be inefficient.