- "Always fighting each other, these Lyonens. Sometimes their schemes get so elaborate that they’re actually fighting themselves. Plenty of work if you have wits and discretion."
- —Marietta, Tilean mercenary[1a]
The Dukedom of Lyonesse is a founding Dukedom that lies upon the north-western shores of Bretonnia. One of the larger Dukedoms following its annexation of Mousillon several centuries earlier, the lands of Lyonesse are infamously known for their rivalry with not other Bretonnian realms, but amongst their own nobility, even in comparison to the other realms of Bretonnia. People blame the unusual geography, particularly the prevalence of excellent sites for fortifications, which deters rival Dukedoms from waging war or feuds with the Lords of Lyonesse. [1a]
It is very difficult to utterly defeat a Lyonen noble, so rivalries, once started between other Lyonen nobles, tend to continue for decades, if not centuries. This has resulted in a division within the lands that can never truly perish. Without any true outside threat to unite the scheming Lyonen Lords together, it is said that Lyonesse will be plagued with disunion for the rest of their history. Its current ruler is Duke Adalhard.[1a]
- "If their Duke cared to unify them, they would be unstoppable. I cannot decide whether that would be good or bad."
- —Sir Gaston, Artoin lord[1a]
Lyonesse is one of the largest Bretonnian dukedoms, sprawling along the north-western coast of the country. The coast is rugged and has many small islands. The offshore currents are tricky for newcomers but predictable enough for natives to handle easily, and the islands have better harbours than the mainland coast. As a result, most of the coastal villages of Lyonesse are actually offshore, scattered throughout the islands.[1a]
Inland, the dukedom splits in two, though both areas consist mainly of arable land. In the north are the original lands of Lyonesse, the domain of Thierulf, first of Gilles le Breton’s Companions. In the south are lands that used to be part of Mousillon. The northern area is dotted with the hills that locals call mottes. These landforms are roughly circular, normally less than a hundred feet high, with almost level tops and very steep sides. Openings in the top lead into a complex of caves that invariably reaches a drinkable underground river. As many people have noted, they could have been designed as a place to put a castle, but they appear to be entirely natural. These days, every motte has a castle or the ruins of a castle on top of it.[1a]
The southern area largely lacks mottes, but the land is crossed by dozens of small rivers which frequently enlarge into small lakes. Many of these lakes have islands of a suitable size for building a castle. Most are now fortified, and the natural moat also provides drinking water. Towards the border with Mousillon, these lakes spread out even more, and the land becomes marshy in a few areas. However, the true marshes are not reached until one is actually within the cursed dukedom. A tongue of the Forest of Arden protrudes into the southern region of Lyonesse, but the rivers and lakes continue within. The islands in these lakes often hold small villages as humans try to hold their own against the Beastmen.[1a]
- "I defend my honour and patrimony against all-comers. That is the duty of a knight."
- —Sir Leobas, Lyonen Knight[1a]
Lyonens are renowned for their feuds and schemes. People blame the unusual geography, particularly the prevalence of excellent sites for fortifications. It is very difficult to utterly defeat a Lyonen noble, so rivalries, once started, tend to continue for decades, if not centuries. Whilst the complex tangle of Lyonen politics may have started with simple feuds between noble families, it has since become much murkier. Nobles who couldn’t hope to win militarily turned to political plots, hoping to isolate their rivals or stir up other enemies against them. Those who found themselves beset by these schemes turned to trade and economics, hoping to bolster themselves whilst starving their rivals of essential supplies. To respond to that, some lords even recruited peasants as agents in their schemes.[1a]
Things have now reached the point where virtually every Lyonen noble spends his entire life reacting to developments in various schemes established by his ancestors. Few fully understand the schemes they are involved in, and many are completely lost beyond day-to-day reactions to crises. Indeed, there is a (possibly fake) story of a lord who arranged his wife’s assassination and then his own assassination in revenge, without realizing. About the only way to get out of the tangle is to simply leave Lyonesse, and a lot of adventurers have taken that option. Others found that they had no choice but to leave, having been caught out when a scheme went badly wrong. Some, however, leave as part of their schemes, hoping to return in a far stronger position.[1a]
The only broad divide in Lyonen politics is that between the north and the south. Whilst the southern nobles were happy to be liberated from the rule of the mad and bloodthirsty Dukes of Mousillon, they were less happy when the liberators claimed many prime fiefs and proceeded to keep the “Old Mousillese” out of the corridors of power. Any attempts to work as a bloc are undermined by the feuds that exist between the Old Mousillese, but they do believe that they should work together to claim their rightful place.[1a]