Melanie's claim to the coronet of Anguirle traces only through an obscure relation of her mother's, but when Brand subtly suggests that someone is his favored candidate, they get extra consideration, especially when the succession is otherwise deadlocked. All things considered, she was far from the worst choice; Melanie is probably the most popular Duchesse since Lisende the Wise, which means that despite her occasional misrule, Anguirle is at least not racked by civil disorder as it has been so many times in the past.
Melanie lacks the hardness of heart necessary to be a good ruler, but Anguirle is rich enough to withstand the occasional error. Furthermore, Melanie never starts wars, and rarely intervenes in foreign affairs except to defend her allies against aggression, which both increases her popularity and keeps the military budget down.
Criminal justice is rather lenient (only treason, premeditated murder, and assault against children are capital crimes), but the dole is liberal enough to keep the lower classes from sinking too far into desperation. Taxation is relatively light, on the theory that a small tax on a rich population is just as profitable and less likely to cause uprising than a large tax on a struggling population. Similarly, conscription is not practiced except in times of great need, on the theory that a few willing, trained soldiers are just as effective as a horde of peasant conscripts. This theory has not been fully tested during Melanie's reign, but the Anguirle navy has so far acquitted itself well.
Many other rulers sigh in despair at Anguirle, thinking of how much they could do with such a wealthy country and devoted populace, and how much they could conquer, but it seems likely that much of Anguirle's wealth and happiness come from the general unwillingness of its Ducs to exploit those qualities for foreign adventures, and, witting or not, Melanie's rule fits that pattern neatly.
Anguirle is one of the most inward of the Autumnlands, hard against the Shield Mountains that protect the Autumnlands from the blazing heat of the worldwell. Even with that protection, Anguirle has an extremely hot and dry climate, mitigated only by cooler winds bearing moisture onshore from the Chirle Sea.
The duchy is roughly triangular in shape, bounded on the east by the Shield Mountains, on the north by the Smoky Mountains, and on the southeast by the Chirle Sea. The southern corner is lopped off by an extension of the Shield Mountains (called "The Buckler") that separates Anguirle from the northern dogtail of Vinclaire. Except for the foothills of the Shields and the high plateaus along the Smokies, eastern Anguirle is quite flat, though sparsely dotted with boulders ranging from cottage-sized to castle-sized. The central and western regions are more rugged, furrowed with steep-sided river valleys and multitudinous gulleys carved by the plentiful rainfall, but still have plenty of flat fertile land well-suited to farming.
Anguirle is a rich country, every part contributing to its wealth. The well-watered west produces vegetables of all sorts, as many as twelve crops a kalend. Moving inland to progressively flatter and dryer regions, agriculture changes to grainfields and then to ranching. The eastern deserts produce little in the way of food, but do have some exploitable salt flats, and the mines in the Shield Mountains produce gold and coal. Even the highlands of the Smoky Mountains support shepherds, and a few iron and tin miners.
The great circle trade route that loops around the Shield Mountains to connect the innermost lands of the four seasons enters Anguirle from the north, crossing the Smoky Mountains at Vieren Pass, and strikes a more-or-less straight line to the capital city of Quin' Roi, where it takes to the sea and heads south along the coast. Several sizeable towns have sprung up at fords along the trade route, but except for those and the capital, the people of Anguirle still live in small towns and villages scattered across the countryside, just as they did in the beginning.
Quin' Roi, having almost the entire urban population of Anguirle, is quite a large city even by the populous standards of the Autumnlands. It sits at the end of an estuary almost thirty leagues from the coast proper, sprawling around both sides of the harbor and up into the hills that protect it from inclement weather. The Ducal palace and the Admiralty fort are built on two small rocky islands near the head of the estuary, connected to each other and to shore by a broad causeway that extends onto dry land as Court Street and runs to Triumph Square at the base of the hills. The fashionable commercial district follows Court Street, and fashionable residential areas are immediately adjacent to that or, for the very well-off, up in the hills overlooking the city. From those peaks, the social scale falls off with distance as usual. The main part of the city is walled, and many country villas are practically small fortresses, but there has grown up a great deal of urbanization outside the walls that would be extremely vulnerable to an invading fleet or army, and there is probably not enough room inside the walls to hold the entire population for very long.
The people of Anguirle are in general tall, fair-skinned, brown- or black-haired, and fair to look upon, tending toward curvaceousness in women and broad-shouldered strength in men. In the south, some Vinclian blood has leaked across the Buckler, resulting in short, darker-skinned people with light brown or blond hair, and more of a tendency toward lithe and slender builds. Both men and women wear trousers and buttoned jackets for work; as the work gets lighter and the social status gets higher, the trousers become tighter and the jackets become more elaborate and longer. At the level of formal court wear, the jackets have become nearly gowns, with elaborately slashed skirts over intricately decorated tights.
The Count provides the strength necessary to compensate for Melanie's soft-hearted governance, although always in such a way as to avoid bothering Her Grace with the messy details. He runs the military and the secret service (appropriate rubberstamped by Melanie), and also takes care of minor details like making sure people that Melanie exiles so they won't cause any more trouble really do never cause any more trouble. He deals with problems efficiently and without sentiment, but without any more cruelty than is necessary, and is always unfailingly polite, whether it's you or he on the rack.
Count Tregirre does as much to run the country as Melanie, but shows no signs of wanting the coronet for himself, to considerable public consternation. A sensible man would be afraid to move against Brand's daughter, but the Count has never showed fear of anything, and no one doubts that he could defeat Melanie in warfare open or subtle. Some speculate that the Count and the Duchesse are carrying on a torrid affair or are even secretly married, but the Count has never showed interest in any woman. The truth, which few would credit, is that he has as much power as one man can reasonably exercise, and is perfectly happy to let someone else make the public appearances, especially if they can command the love of the populace for him.
Jemacque is about 40 kalends old, and shows his days although he is still strong and hale; age has hardened him rather than withering him. He still practices swordsmanship with the castle guard every morning, and if his hand is a bit slower these days, his fighting spirit is keener for it. He dresses in his liege's colors of black and sangrel-eye, and in his own of black and vermillion, and is always armed.Captain Sir Ricarre Conterie (dashing naval captain)
Sir Ricarre is only a captain, but anyone who can call the Duchesse of Anguirle 'sweetie-pie' attains an importance all out of proportion to his actual rank. The flow of endearments has declined precipitously in the wake of a certain unfortunate incident, but Captain Conterie is still much in the eye of schemers and social climbers. Even without the Duchesse's favors, his recent heroism in the blockade of Socalie has marked him as a young man who will go places.
Ricarre and Melanie met, in true story-book fashion, at a masquerade ball in celebration of the breaking of the Socalie blockade, and were immediately smitten with each other, at least from the mask down. When Ricarre found out just who it was he had been luring behind the rosebushes, he is widely reported to have dropped an entire bottle of K.34 brandy. Despite this severe blow to his reputation, he managed to get assigned to palace duty, after which it was easy to contrive to run into Her Grace. Melanie recognized Ricarre, of course, despite the expensive cologne, and favorably enough to grant him the first in what became a long series of private audiences, much to the delight of gossips and the dismay of prudes and social climbers.
Ricarre is in his 15th kalend, and cuts a dashing figure in his naval uniform, tall and strong and well-kempt, with sleek black hair and a pencil mustache that lends just the right air of roguery to have the young ladies swooning in droves. He's pretty good without the uniform, too.Gaton Maliere (would-be rebel)
Before Brand inserted Melanie at the head of the line, Gaton was one of the two or three most-favored candidates. Unlike the others, Gaton is a very sore loser and not very subtle, and rather than swear fealty and then plot behind Her Grace's back, he declared the True Government of Anguirle in Exile and took off into the countryside to raise an army of revolution. Unfortunately, hardly anyone is interested in getting rid of Melanie; even those people who suffered a reduction in power in the last succession don't think they would end up any better off after a successful revolution. So Gaton skulks around the back woods with his band of cut-throats, distinguishable from other bandits only by his self-justifying rhetoric and occasional fund-raising visits to neighboring countries. There is a price on his head (treason being one of the few capital crimes in modern Anguirle), but he causes so little real trouble that no concerted effort has been made to deal with him.Kalizent Dragonheart (government sorcerer)
Melanie has no court mage, and prefers to avoid magic whenever possible, but cannot feasibly prohibit the use of magic altogether. Accordingly, she has established the Office of Sorcery, responsible for licensing and monitoring sorcerers throughout Anguirle. Count Tregirre has appointed Kalizent as head of this office, knowing him to be a sorcerer of sufficient power to wield authority over others, and a man of directable ambitions. Since Kalizent long ago traded important parts of his anatomy in exchange for freedom from the need to sleep, he has time to lead a second life as the chief operative of the Count's secret service, performing a great many tasks Her Grace would rather not know about.
Kalizent is of indeterminate age and ethnic origin; his skin is undistinguished light brown, and his shaven head gives his face a deliberately ominous cast that overshadows his actual features. Most people remember only his eyes: deepset, jet black, and glittery as a snake's. He wears voluminous, elaborately embroidered robes that don't quite hide his cadaverous frame, and, despite what he traded for an extra eight hours a day, speaks in an impressive bass voice.Sir Alain deMont, Baronet of Ysgorenne (shy young scholar)
Alain is Her Grace's court translator, which is not a very important position, nor very much work, considering that everyone in the Sunlit lands speaks approximately the same language. However, having had the dubious fortune to be drafted by Melanie as an escort for Etain, he probably will not be allowed to have a quiet life any longer.
Alain is still young, in his 9th kalend, but quite scholarly and possessed of a great many facts to cover for his lack of practical experience. He is modest and assuming, though quite handsome in a bespectacled way, and usually wears a scholar's gown over his court dress and carries a book in one or more hands.
In the beginning, the land now called Anguirle was divided into dozens if not hundreds of squabbling petty holdings, little more than ambitious villages. In fairly short order, this unstable situation resolved, and by K.10 the petty holdings were consolidated into five squabbling kingdoms.
This five-way stalemate lasted for several kalends, but eventually, assailed by Vinclian nomads on land and Guerrese pirates from the sea and in imminent danger of being devoured individually if they failed to unite, the five monarchs gathered at the town now called Quin' Roi to choose a high king by combat between champions ("The strength of a king is not in his arm, but in the arms of his followers."). For perhaps the only time in the history of the Autumnlands, the succession went as planned, according to the rules established for it, and on 1.18, High King Rogaure (liege of the famous but short-lived heroine Milind Ironhair) took the crown. Later that same kalend, Rogaure married Queen Ynesse of Socalie, and the Kingdom of Anguirle turned into the Duchy of Anguirle in the Socalien Empire.
When Ynesse died without heir in K.34, her empire dissolved and Anguirle reverted to independence. The Duchesse at that time, Lisende the Wise (or the Modest), declined to style herself Queen, and her reign was so peaceful and prosperous that no Duc or Duchesse since has dared not follow her example, even if their reigns turned out to be less than peaceful.
The current Duchesse, Melanie the Kind, took the coronet on 934.47. Her reign has been without major incident so far.
This file was last modified at 1457 on 27Apr99.