Courtford sits on the
southwestern bank of the Upper Mashdai River in
Santharia, and is about five days’ sailing upstream from
Marcogg. It is a fairly well-off village, populated
mostly by Avennorian
humans – about four hundred of them – whose
main industry is breeding and training horses,
both in the village and on the nearby Grasslands of Hylach.
Description. Whitewashed wooden and stone houses group around Courtford’s centrally located village green, squatting cheerily on the southwest bank of the Upper Mashdai. The land is mostly flat, but slopes up from the river a little in places. The whole village is clean and well-tended, each house or cottage with its own patch of garden, in most of which flourish vegetables, fruits and flowers. The green holds the village’s well and a stage which is used for community events and high-profile horse auctions. Many trees thrive in Courtford, both in small copses on the green and in stands or singly around the village.
The village has one large, well-lit and well patronised common inn called "The Golden Mare". It displays Courtford’s coat of arms above its door, and is built in the same manner as the houses – foundations of light grey stone, and the top three quarters made of whitewashed and plastered wood. The main difference is in its roof, which is tiled in stone where most others in the town are thatched. It is situated at the western edge of the village green. The few shops in the village can be found here also, but most things the villagers need are produced by the villagers themselves and are therefore not sold in a shop. There are two permanent shops, a blacksmith’s and a tanner’s, and once a month or more there is a market held on the common green. North and south of the village lie the farmlands which feed the inhabitants. Vegetable, grain and fruit crops are grown, and cattle, goats and sheep are kept for their milk, flesh and fur.
Courtford’s main industry is in horses, which they breed from outposts on the nearby Grasslands of Hylach. They deal mainly in the Centoraurian riding and Sarvonian heavy breeds, and although their bloodlines are never so good as those from Centorauria, it is cheaper for buyers local to the province to obtain their stock from Courtford, so the town is almost always prosperous. People come from all around Manthria - and sometimes even farther afield - to purchase horses from Courtford. Farmers and other labourers are the main buyers of the Sarvonian heavy horses, and nobles and rich merchants from the cities find status in owning one of the true-bred “Children of Grothar” which the breeders can provide.
Although the horse markets are the main source of Courtford’s wealth they rarely occur in the village. When they do it is a small affair, usually for allowing a noble who wants to see a selection of the horses before he or she buys them to do so without having to leave the relative comfort of the village. This does not happen often as most buyers either order their required type of horse by mail, or if they have travelled to inspect the horses they are usually quite willing to continue out to the fair on the Grasslands of Hylach. Another occasion when the green might be used for a horse-sale is for the village to be entertained by watching the ‘battle of purses’ when two or more people put in a bid for a particularly fine horse. These are much rowdier affairs when the tavern serves beverages on the green near the stage and a day or more of festivity ensues as the Courtfordians enjoy the battle, and then celebrate the winner and console the loser, comfortable in the knowledge that it is they, the villagers, who really win.
Most of the work of breeding and training is done out on the grassland, from outposts where horseherds live with the stock for much of the year. It is a kind of tradition that most young people, before they decide on their life’s vocation, live on the grasses for a time and help the horseherds with their job. This is useful for the town as it brings new people to the job who might otherwise not have wished to become horseherds, thereby ensuring the town’s continued survival in its trade, but it also has advantages for the young people. Most are eager to leave the village for the grasses, as by then they are at an age when they wish to spend some time away from the watchful eyes of parents. Many a love match has resulted from a season or two on the grass! It should also be mentioned that for very few is this the first time they have been up on to the grass - many children are taken up for short visits to the grasslands from a young age, whether with their parents if the parents are involved with the horses, or with friends if they are not.
The Twelve, the Avaria, are not forgotten in Courtford. The village’s most favoured God is Eyasha, who is thought of as the Goddess of Hearth and Home by humans. There is no one building – apart from the tavern, of course – which is consecrated to Her, but on Eyasha’s Day, the 30th of Rising Sun, a large festival is held on the green when the villagers and all of those who can come down from the Grasslands invite their visitors to enjoy their prosperity together with them. Nehtor, Jeyriall and Foiros are also worshipped here. Nehtor has a small stone building dedicated to Him at the base of the cliff where the western edge of the village ends and the Grasslands begin. It functions as a sort of hospital for those badly hurt or ill enough to need the full-time care of the clerics there. Jeyriall and Foiros are worshipped much less publicly, having no buildings in the village as yet. In many a Courtfordian’s home, however, there can be found a carved wooden cup from which no human ever drinks, filled with wine or whatever produce that household has an abundance of at the time, giving thanks to Jeyriall for the plenty they have. Foiros’ worship is more private still, being an inner communion with the God when strength is needed. Foiros is often honoured amongst those who have spent considerable time upon the Grasslands of Hylach. Also living in the village, as in most places in Santharia, are a varying but small number of Baveras' Wills. These wise women assist with labour and some healing, independently of the Nehtorians.
One ought not to talk about Courtford without also mentioning its daughter village, Cleop. Cleop sits across the river from Courtford and began as a small offshoot of the main village in about 1200. They originally moved across the river to harvest lumber for building for Courtford and the Grassland outposts from the nearby Vanthulian Woods. Cleop is now quite independent, and has something of a rivalry with Courtford, although it is quite one-way as most Courtfordians are completely unaware of this!
Map description. Location of the village of Courtford in the Santharian province of Manthria. Its main industry is breeding and training horses, both in the village and on the nearby Grasslands of Hylach. Map drawn by Artimidor.
Location. Courtford lies in the Kingdom of Santharia’s province of Manthria, about a day’s fast ride from the northernmost end of the Mithral Mountains, the same to the small hamlets of Erthaers and Rolryl, and a little more to the Sentinel Mountains. Across the river, to the northeast, sits the hamlet of Cleop. Just above the village, atop a steep rise, lie the Grasslands of Hylach and across the river beyond Cleop are the Vanthulian Woods. It is five days sailing upstream from Marcogg to Courtford (three downstream to Marcogg), or around two weeks by mounted travel.
People. The inhabitants
of Courtford are mostly human and of
Avennorian descent, although
people from other areas have intermingled with the Courtfordians – mainly
Centoraurians or others whose
passion lies with horses. Courtford usually
supports between 350 and 400 people. The village’s population remains fairly
static as those who die and those who leave to larger cities are replaced by the
few who come from other places, along with the new children born.
Those who live in the village proper and those who farm the surrounding lands are mostly of the even, pleasant temperament which comes from a life where hard work is rewarded with prosperity. They tend toward the garrulous and have a generous predisposition toward their fellows, and even (to a point) toward travellers, although this tends to be in conversation rather than in goods or money. Those who live on the grass are different, and much more reserved. They are not often encountered but can sometimes be found in "The Golden Mare", the village’s inn, when on a short holiday from their work.
The majority of Courtfordians are involved in the horse-breeding trade in one way or another, whether it be as actual horseherds, grooms, trainers, handlers or husbanders, or in a related profession such as smithing (for horseshoes and bits) or leatherwork (for tack), or as one of the all-important traders. The remaining portion use their time to care and provide for the others. These encompass the ordinarily encountered industries such as farming the surrounding land for vegetables or cattle, fishing the Upper Mashdai, baking or milling, weaving or sewing, etcetera.
Coat of Arms/Sign. Courtford’s coat of arms is a round shield with a golden horse rearing on a green field. The horse faces to the left, its flying mane and tail is picked out in gold and its features are modelled in bas-relief. A wide border of the shield is decorated in a gold wirework pattern.
Climate. Caught between the dry grasslands on the west and the rainy mountains in the east, Courtford has a happy medium in weather. Spring is cool and brings light rains and a swelling of the river. Flooding is rare: the Upper Mashdai has only ever burst its banks and flooded Courtford three times in the memory of those who live there, and only once has it reached high enough to cause damage to anything but the gardens. It can, however, pose some danger to children who see only more water, and not the swift-flowing current beneath. A number of children are lost each generation to incautiousness around the riverbank during the spring.
In summer, the river recedes and a balmy heat settles over the village. There is some light rain in this season, but most of it falls on the other side of the river in the rain shadow of the mountains. In hotter years this can lead to shortages of crops, but their income from horse breeding is almost always enough to import fruits and vegetables from other villages or towns. Autumn is usually quite dry, not much wetter than the summer. It is, in fact, a fairly similar season to summer, apart from the many red leaves littering the green and the cooler, shorter evenings. Winter is cold, but snow is relatively rare at Courtford’s fairly low altitude. Rain is more frequent now than at any other time of year, and while it is still not regular, when it does fall it tends to be fairly heavy.
Flora. Plants from the grassland above Courtford are a regular feature in the village, whether cultivated in the residents’ gardens or growing freely on the outskirts or on the village green. These are mostly the shorter grasses like wean’s hair, with some alth’ho grass, and herbs like the kell and mutliweed. When kept in a cottage garden, they can be found growing next to flowers and shrubs, fruit trees and vegetables alike all creating a delightful jumble of colour and form. Trees are very common in the village, most houses being shaded by one or two tall specimens, be they birch or baych, maple or meldarapple. On the green there stand many fine specimens of Sarvonian trees, the most well known being a great, ancient white oak which stands near the stage and which has been the venue of many a summer day’s play for generations of village children.
Fauna. The obvious animals of relevance to Courtford are their horses. Not many Courtfordians own their own horse as such, but nearly all of them ride, having had access to the horses owned by the breeders from an early age. In some years, when there has been a particularly fruitful breeding season followed by a particularly unsuccessful trading season, there are over twice as many members of the equine species in Courtford than there are humans, although the horses are usually kept out on the grassland rather than in the village unless they are up for auction.
Apart from the horses, Courtfordians keep a number of other types of animal. Cattle, sheep and goats are farmed for their products. In the village proper, various types of fowl are kept for their eggs, feathers and meat, and domestic cats and dogs are sometimes seen. Less welcome animals are also around – rats and mice, spiders and beetles live here, as they do everywhere. Fish inhabit the river, – the common mithralfish and the southern lysh being the most common – much to the delight of the culinarily inclined.
Resources. The Upper Mashdai River is the major resource within the village proper. It provides fish for the Courtfordians, as well as washing water and the means to transport their tradable goods – mostly the horses – to larger towns and cities like Chrondra and Marcogg. The land immediately to the north and the south is well configured for farming, and the grasslands to the west provide pasture, training areas and accommodation for their horses which is what makes this little village so prosperous.
History. Courtford was settled not long after peace came to Santharia, during the reign of Santhros. Its lack of walls are a testament to the newfound optimism of that time. It was founded to be what it still is today – a local horse breeding town, taking advantage of the Grasslands of Hylach to breed large numbers of the animals. The settlers were those with expertise in working with horses, sent by the newly created Thane of Manthria to start a town. That same Thane sent with them those skilled in farming and in other necessary fields, to support the new town, and builders with supplies to help the settlers construct their homes. The village was built on the banks of the river where the soil is more able to support trees, and where water is more plentiful than on the grasslands, but near enough to those grasslands that they could be utilised for the industry of what was meant to become a bustling town.
One of the first things built was a stable for the horses which had been brought from the south. The buildings were built in a u- or court-shape around a paved area which faced onto the river, near to where the bridge was to be built and to where the trading ships dock. This stable-court is the reason for the town’s name: ‘court’ for the buildings, and ‘ford’ for the bridge. The court is still used today to house horses which are to be shipped downriver to their purchasers.
In a few seasons’ time, the builders returned home and the new Courtfordians started to breed the stock they had brought with them or purchased from the Thane. The grasslands supported the industry as well as they had hoped, and the village was soon optimistic that they would thrive in their new home. A decade passed, a base of stock was established and the first horses were sold. At first they were bought at an astonishing rate, but the custom from the military soon declined. The lack of new wars now meant that fewer beasts were required than had been anticipated and the next few years of Courtford’s existence were hard indeed. A surplus of stock with no money from sales of the horses meant no access to good quality feed, and all but the strongest horses perished. The humans fared little better, having put all of their money into trying to keep the horses alive. Delegations were sent to the Thane, but were sent back with little help. Fish from the Upper Mashdai were an essential part of every meal at this time.
Years passed and the Courtfordians continued living and farming, and up on the grasslands they continued to breed what was left of their stock, bringing in new blood from nearby towns, or from Centorauria when they could afford it. Their herds were never so large as they had once been, but over the years they brought them up to a size which was large enough to match the demand from the surrounding towns, ensuring Courtford’s wealth despite the fact that it never grew into the bustling town the original settlers had imagined.
Information provided by Grunok the Exile