- "Tradition is there for a reason: it was found good and worth keeping. Change for change’s sake is a sign of Chaos, don’t you agree?"
- —Stirlander noble.[1a]
The Grand County of Stirland is a major and founding Imperial Province that lies within the eastern territories of the Empire. Stirland is a rugged highland province famous for its rural backwater society and the province's close affiliation with death. Such attitude stems from the province close association with the province of Sylvania, a land perpetrated with misty forests and ancient castles resting on the craggy peaks like circling vultures.[1a]
Ever since the end of the Vampire Wars, the province of Stirland has been given the rights to all the lands of eastern Sylvania. This essentially doubled the size of the province, but did little to improve the province's fortunes. Indeed, the province of Stirland is a relatively poor country in comparison to its surrounding southern neighbours such as Averland or Wissenland. The citizenry of Stirland are a conservative and superstitious lot, known for their backwards outlook and religious intolerance. The Banner of Stirland shows a skeleton sounding a hunting horn, signifying a call to battle. The skeleton itself is a common symbol of the lands, an expression of both the Stirlander battle cry "Victory or Death" and a grim reminder of the lands of Sylvania that they share borders with.[1a]
- "The entire province is insane, I tell you! Why? They like their ale hot! It’s nothing short of blasphemy against good beer"
- —A Dwarf of Karaz-a-Karak[1a]
Bounded by the Worlds Edge Mountains on the east and on the north, west, and south by the rivers Stir, Aver, and Reik, Stirland is a rugged province of highly mixed terrain. Its reputation as a rural backwater is largely undeserved, for it has many towns of substantial size and it does a brisk trade with the Dwarfs of Zhufbar. Nevertheless, its location away from the centres of power and the presence of the dread lands of Sylvania make people think ill of Stirland. The northern portions along the banks of the Stir are covered with the last reaches of the Great Forest.[1a]
To the east, beyond Siegfriedhof, the forest thins and breaks up into separate woods, the feared Hunger and Grim woods, places of foul reputation. It is from here that the lands become enshrouded in unnatural fog and harsh weather. Past the Grim Wood, the dismal village marks the start of the Hel Fenn, where Imperial forces destroyed the army of Mannfred von Carstein at the Battle of Hel Fenn, the climax of the third and final Vampire War. The west is dominated by the Stirhügel, the hilly country that was the first home of the Styrigen tribe thousands of years ago. Crossed by the Old Dwarf Road and the Nuln Road, the hills are home mostly to villages of sheepherders who trade in the markets of Flensburg and Wörden.[1a]
Hidden amongst their winding track and foggy vales, however, are the tombs of the ancient chiefs of the Styrigen tribes. Dug into the hillsides or built as turf-covered barrows, these date from pre-Imperial times. Their entrances were well hidden by their builders, though sometimes an entrance will become exposed by rains or flooding. Locals consider these tombs cursed, and it seems every village has a tale of someone who has gone missing whilst investigating the final resting places of “the old kings.” Still, treasure hunters and necromancers seek out the tombs of the Styrigen, each for their own reasons.[1a]
It is the east of Stirland that holds the rest of the province in genuine dread, however, for it is here that one finds benighted Sylvania. From the sombre town of Tempelhof, which has not had a resident priest of Morr in 800 years, to the foothills of the Worlds Edge Mountains between the Aver Reach and the Stir, Stirland’s largest region is a place of fear and gloom. It is said that Ghosts walk freely at night among the Haunted Hills, and the deep fogs of the Sylvanian woods are said to sometimes trap a soul within them, forced to wander forever. The eastern portion of the province is the bleakest, where ancient black castles sit on their craggy peaks like black vultures staring down on the towns below. Sylvania is a place most Stirlanders try to forget about, and the Elector Count’s tax collectors come calling only when accompanied by a large armed guard. Even the Dwarfs of Zhufbar avoid Sylvania, preferring the road south to Schramleben and then through the Moot if they wish to travel to Wurtbad.[1a]
- "Bunch of bumpkins, if you ask me."
- —Altdorf merchant.[1a]
Descended from the Asoborn tribe of old, Stirlanders are a short, thickset people, much like their Ostermark neighbours. Dark of hair and suspicious of strangers, their bloodline has remained one of the purest within the Empire. Some folk point out this is because they’re inbred peasants, but, as the Stirland Nobility are keen to point out, even the most baseborn soul can trace their line back over many generations. Famed for their superstition, Stirlanders are a cautious lot. Also said to be overly rural and backward, Stirlanders are often mocked by the rest of the Empire for their slow pace of life and speech.[1a]
For their part, the folk of Stirland are proud of their preservation of ancient customs, and of their “long view” of life. At their best, Stirlanders are calm, thoughtful, and practised at taking their time about things. Fond of long, ribald tales, the local tavern is the heart of any Stirlander community. Here people gather to hear their favourite stories, the local gossip, and occasionally news from the outside world. Racing is also a firm favourite of the Stirland people—though not the traditional foot or horseback racing liked by the rest of the Empire.[1a]
As most communities are based about arable farmlands, geese, cows, pigs, and ratting dogs are frequently raced against one another in local competitions. Usually held on a festival or market day, the winning beast is often awarded “ribbons and reprieve,” meaning it will never be destined for the table. At their worst, Stirlanders are isolationist, suspicious, and highly conservative. Stirlanders, however, see themselves as simply keeping traditions: “They’ve worked in the past, so no sense in changing now,” as Stirlanders like to say. They find it hard to make friends—often taking years to accept newcomers within their communities. Most of the Empire regards them as savages, simply for their custom of drinking hot ale.[1a]
There are many other odd customs; for example, when strangers approach a village in the Stirhügels, children will throw pig droppings at them in the belief that this will drive away evil spirits. They believe that a person hit with tossed pig excrement is especially protected. In the villages near Sylvania, houses and windows are lined with an especially pungent strain of local garlic to ward of what are euphemistically called “the Count’s Men.” When someone vanishes, locals swear that the fault lies with old garlic, not that the folk belief itself is wrong. Stirlanders within the central territories of the province are known for their dislike of Halflings, for they still resent the 1500-year-old decision that tore away their best farmlands and gave them to “the Shorties.” Although this resentment rarely breaks out in violence, the belief that Halflings are thieves at heart is stronger here than in any other part of the Empire.[1a]
In Wördern there is a tradition, when celebrating a child’s birthday, to make a straw-man the size of a Halfling and stuff it with candies and treats he “stole” from the children. Then it is hung from a branch and the blindfolded children whack at it with sticks until it breaks and “gives them back” their candy. Locals deny that drunks have occasionally instead tied up a real Halfling. The people of Sylvania are a dour lot, rarely smiling and not fond of talking to strangers. Doors are kept bolted and people regularly make a sign against the Evil Eye when something unsettling happens.[1a]
They are also fatalistic, accepting that life has a dismal end in store for them. So resigned to their “destiny” are the Stirlanders that few ever leave the province—much to the relief of their neighbours. Visitors often find it hard to get round the rustic accent and exceedingly slow speech of Stirlanders, for they often repeat questions, and usually spend a good deal of time pondering before answering. Mummers often use a mocking form of the Stirland accent when representing a slow or rural character in a play.[1a]
Place of Importance
- Wurtbad - The capital of Stirland, the town of Wurtbad sits at the banks of the Stir River and along the trade traffics of the Old Dwarf Road. The town is famously known for the quality of its wine, making it the wine capital of the Empire.[1a]
- Leicheberg - A town that sits at the very borders of Sylvania. The Count is a pious Morr worshipper and has made extensive contributions to the Cult of Morr.[1a]