Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Bethalport - The Briney South of Vale

The southern tip of Vale is populated by a gritty seafaring folk known as the Brinefolk. These salty folk have long plied the coastal waters, making their home port the town of Bethalport, named for Bethal Bay where is resides.

Though they are of the same Haelic racial stock as the other men of Vale, the Brinefolk have developed a distinct subculture all their own. Identifying strongly with the sea from which they glean their livelihood, the Brinefolk have their set of superstitions and beliefs.

Brinefolk tend to live a slightly more afluent lifestyle, gaining a tidy, more regular income from the sea. So much is the difference between the average wealth of an "Uplander" and a Brineman, that Brinefolk are often lampooned as gold-hoarding sea captains or farcical pirates. This of course is far fro mthe truth and the colelction of wealth by Brinefolk is for good reason.

The life of a Brineman is frought with even more danger than that of an Uplander. In the valley there are animals and monsters, but on the coast and at sea there are the elements. An average fishing voyage brings with it high seas, horrible conditions and frequent accidents and disaster. Sea monsters and hostile raiders can also be found off the coast and many ships have returned to port less men they left with or without all together.

It is due to this danger, more than anything else, that the Brinefolk amass their wealth in lavish homes for if anythign should happen to her husbands, brothers, and sons a Brinefolk woman may have no other source of income than that which makes up her home and the coffers of her departed.

Bethalport is one of the closest things Vale has to a true city. Still more like a large town, Bethalport is home to several large families of sailors known as "Portlocks" for the control they hold over certain landing spots and fishing grounds. Infringing on a Portlock's fishing ground or trying to land or sell fish at his dock is grounds for a skirmish and few Brinemen are loath to lavish their ire on a transgressor. In Bethalport these Portlocks have formed large unions of boatsmen and porters.

The men and women of these Portlocks keep the trade flowing through Bethalport, offering warehouse space to tradesmen moving goods up and down the River Nor and in and out of the port to the sea. Incoming goods are taxed and outgoing goods are moved by the labor of the Portlocks for a fee, all adding to the pockets of the Brinemen. This can make goods coming into and out of Vale very expensive.

Primary exports through Bethalport are furs, woods, minerals and exotic meats found upland in the valley. imports are often food goods from across the sea or around the coast, luxury goods, cloth and manufactured goods. There is a disproportionate amount of imported goodsinto the valley as the spread-out communities of the upland peoples does not foster large-scale industry. Self-sufficient communities still find themselves in need of the occasional manufactured tool which is often obtained either by a trip to Bethalport or through a roving trader.

Brinemen often run ferries full of goods up the rivers full of goods to spread from the various riverside towns into the valley. These river boats are veritable floating forts with high walls, oars and sails and defensible towers.

Though they are different fro mtheir Upland brethren, the Brinemen of Bethalport are still Haelic ans share that people's disdain for organized religion, choosing to base their beliefs on elemental forces and spirits of nature. They do differ, however, in that they have placed a disproportionate amount of trust and faith in the spirit of the seas, an entity known as Nadu, or the Father of Seas and in a ghastly sea devil named Gon who fits the nearest thing that any Brineman or Uplander will ever know to an arch-fiend. The Widders of the Brinefolk or often salty, hermit-like figures, living in coastal cave and cliff-side shanties. Often looked on with a bit more fear than those of the uplands, these Brine Widders are seldom approached unless absolutely neccesary.

As has been mentioned, coastal threats come in all forms, but most notable are the marauders from under the sea, a race of fishmen known and the Locathah. These creatures, though not evil, have a bitter emnity toward the Brinemen who often blame them for fowled nets and lost catches, whether true or not. This has lead to skirmishes in the past and built the strained relations of today. Locathah and Brinemen seldom encounter each other without a violent exchange and often Locathah will attack isolated boats while Brinemen waste no opportunity to snare and strand fishmen in the blistering sun or crush settlement in the shallows with a calously layed anchor. though Bethalport itself seldom comes under attack fro mthe Locathah, the same is not true for other smaller fishing villages and coastal settlements and the result of such a raid can mean much damage to property and the loss of lives.

I can be said the coast of Vale is not a harsh land but it is not without its dangers, making the folk that dwell there a colorful and intense people.

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