At its most obvious, Montaigne is meant to be the France of Dumas, with loyal musketeers fighting for their king. However, blurred in there is the French Revolution (it’s building, the poor are desperate and starving, the rich don’t care) and the Napoleonic wars (the Montaigne General Montegue is Napoleon by another name, invading Spain/Castille and Russia/Ussura).
One man’s decadence is another’s routine. Montaigne shines like a brilliant sapphire from her perch on the western coast of Théah. She is the center of culture and fashion and home to the most renowned artists and fantastic architecture known to mankind.
The Lay of the Land
Upper Montaigne rests above The River while lower Montaigne, territory recently captured from Castille, lies to the south. The land itself is rich, flat farmland, acres of green as far as the eye can see. Small farms are common; no land in Montaigne goes to waste. If it isn’t a pleasure garden or a building site, it’s being used for agriculture. The River running past her borders provides natural irrigation.
Montaigne consists of vast cities, large towns, and small farms. A man could walk for days and see nothing besides farmers’ hovels. But when he does come upon a city, he finds a sprawling affair full of grand manors and dizzying wealth. These cities are metropolitan oases, almost entirely separate from the lands surrounding them.
Where the peasantry of Montaigne struggle daily to please their landlords and feed themselves, the upper classes in the cities have no word for “moderation”.
Added (20 Dec 13, 11:06 PM)
All government and social politics revolve around Léon Alexandre, l’Empereur of Montaigne. The Sun King, as some Montaigne poets have called him, is the center of activity. Ranks of nobles orbit around him, most notably the dukes who control the various provinces of Montaigne. He parcels the country into smaller sections of land, each maintained by a single duke; this duke may have any number of marquis who attend the actual day-to-day affairs of the lands. Each duke makes regular reports to Léon on the state of his lands. Invariably, these reports assure him that everything is perfectly fine. Should any wrinkles in the great plan occur, they are expected to be worked out long before they ever reach l’Empereur.
The peasants of Montaigne are simple people. They have a minimal education, produce large families and live quietly respectable lives. Young men of at least 15 years are conscripted into the Montaigne military and sent to Lower Montaigne to fight on the border in the present war with Castille. Many come back broken or not at all. This leaves men who are too old to fight (40 and above), and their wives and daughters, to tend to the farmlands.
It used to be the custom of Montaigne to hold all weddings in the springtime, but more recently the war with Castille has given rise to a new tradition. In winter, when the fighting is at its slowest, many young men are granted leave, married quickly to their sweethearts, and encouraged to procreate as rapidly as possible. After all, Montaigne always needs more soldiers and farmers.
By contrast, the practice among most nobles is to have no more than two or three children. Their reasons are as practical as those of their lower-born neighbors. In Montaigne, the eldest offspring inherits the land, property and wealth. Younger siblings are tolerated at the elder’s discretion. Although the heir may choose to employ a brother or sister as marquis in most cases they are sent out to fend for themselves. This unleashes a herd of hangers-on onto the various Montaigne courts, all looking for a place to stay and some means of support.
Although it is prudent to have more than one heir (it is, after all, impossible to predict the turns of fate), to have more than three is simply bad manners. This does not apply to l’Empereur and his nine daughters, of course.
Where Montaigne peasantry is hospitable and direct, her nobles have made an art out of inference. In the courts of Montaigne, no one ever says exactly what he means. Instead they fall back on a wealth of metaphors and precedents, often using clever quotes rather than their own words. This kind of conversation can be dizzying to an outside, and many diplomats from other nations serve their posts under protest, despite the fine food and accommodations of the Montaigne court. The pressure to be circuitously inoffensive is overwhelming.
The Montaigne prefer to make a verbal game out of the uncomfortable. The height of rudeness is to force someone into a direct response, especially when dealing with controversial subjects. Their banter frequently becomes playfully painful as they make light of a serious subject so that no one need address it directly. Individuals witty enough to excel at these delicate games are held in high esteem.
Another favorite game among the Montaigne is intrigue, along with its close cousin scandal. If nothing interesting has happened all season, someone will surely invent it. Guests from other nations have observed a playful viciousness in the mannerisms of the Montaigne.
Their quick conversation and practiced indirectness make them ideal spies. Even if someone suspects them of double talk, it’s written off as Montaigne custom. What’s more, since the Sun King’s country sets the standard for clothing, custom and art, Montaigne courtiers are welcomed almost anywhere, allowing them easy access to other courts and sensitive information.
Since the Montaigne army pushed the Vaticine church out of their country the Montaigne nobility has reveled in its newfound freedom. By contrast, the peasants live in apprehension regarding their new status living in a godless country.
Common Male Names: Ambrose, Blaisé, Cédric, Daniel, Denis, Eugene, Félix, Gerárd, Guy, Henri, Jac ques, Jules, Luc, Marc, Martin, Pierre, Rémy, Sébastien, Victor, Zacherie.
Common Female Names: Allette, Andrée, Arielle, Blanche, Camille, Cosette, Dominique, Estelle, Francine, Georgette, Henriette, Irene, Julie, Lydia, Nicole, Phebe, Roseline, Sylvia, Vivienne.
Added (20 Dec 13, 11:06 PM)
The most renowned sorcery in Théah is Porté, the magic of Montaigne. As its name suggests, this magic is all about doors. A Porté sorceress can literally rip a hole in the fabric of the universe. Beginners can only tear small holes in reality, blooding items and then being able to reach them no matter where they are. Later, with more experience, a sorceress can step through these holes to where those items are, and then may even learn how to take others with them. Unlike Avalon magic, Porté is a one-trick pony – but it’s a damn good trick.
The Valroux school of swordsmanship is taught exclusively in Montaigne and teaches how to fight incredibly fast, with a sword in the main hand and a small knife (known as a gauche) in the off-hand. But the true weapon of a Montaigne swordsman is the same as that for a Montaigne diplomat – wit. A Montaigne duelist constantly indulges in insults and teasing of their opponents, trying to humiliate and anger them, forcing them into making a mistake.
The weakness of Valroux is having patience and a thick skin. Ignore the insults, or better yet, let the Montaigne fighter think he has angered you, and the mistake he thinks you have made will led to him making one of his own.
A beginner Valroux swordsman can fight with a dagger in his off-hand with no penalty, and is slightly better at parrying with that weapon.
Some Character Ideas to Get You Started
- A loyal musketeer in the service of the Sun King, sent on an undercover mission.
- A frail duchess, famed in court for her wit, who in reality is lethal assassin in the pay of the king.
- A soldier fresh from the war in Castille, disillusioned and working for the Vaticine Church to promote the one true faith.