Keep Mistrash is a fortified castle, positioned low on the western slopes of the Mithral Mountains in the Santharian province of Manthria. It is the seat of the Markgravens of the Mithral Marches and houses nearly one hundred people in the winter months. The Keep itself is an imposing ten stories high at its tallest tower, and from a distance looks as if it is carved out of the rock of the mountain.

The Manthrian Keep Mistrash
View picture in full size Image description. Mistrash Keep in early summer, flying the red and black pennant which indicates that the Graven is out on a tour of his or her soldiers' postings. Image from the game Mystical Empire™, used with friendly permission. Drawn by Quellion.

Description. The Keep is reached by a winding mountain road which leads up from what was once a major thoroughfare to the Mithral Coast. Ten stories tall at its highest point and an imposing four at its lowest, the keep looms above the road, solemnly imposing. Its foundations are carved from the living rock of the mountain itself, giving the impression of dwarven workmanship. In fact, as can be seen as one climbs closer to the walls, the rest of the Keep is worked in blocks of a mid-grey basalt rock. Four tall, sturdy walls topped with bluish slate tiles support four towers at each corner and surround the inner courtyard. A fifth tower, the part of the Keep which reaches ten stories, is attached to the northern wall of the fort and is called the watchtower. A portcullis gate guards the short tunnel under the thick walls to the inner gates, which normally stand open.

The inner courtyard of the Keep is usually tidy and welcoming - at least, as welcoming as high stone walls with windows built to be defended rather than to let in light can be. The eastern and southern internal walls, those which are straight ahead from the gates and to the right, are plain like this. Built into the western wall, behind one who enters, can be found the stables and craft rooms. The main entrance into the Keep is a tall, arched, plainly carved stone doorway holding dark red double doors above a broad but low set of stairs, in the north side of the yard, to the left. The watchtower looms above the northern wall, inspecting all who pass below it.

Entering the Keep, the walls are stone blocks hung with traditional Santharian furnishings: the crest of the Mistrash line and various important scenes woven in to insulating wall-hangings. The rooms and halls are illuminated with gnome-designed smokeless torches, at least in the most frequented areas. Back corridors and private apartments are often heated and illumined with fire, whether in a torch, brazier, or fireplace. The effect is one of austere but not uncomfortable modesty. Only in the servant’s quarters and stables is this air dispelled; the homely touches of the people and the paraphernalia of industry in both areas turn them into perhaps the most truly welcoming parts of the Keep.

Outside the walls, the foothills of the
Mithral Mountains slope up and away in green folds toward those towering peaks. The land immediately around the Keep has been planted in formal gardens in some places, or kept clear in lushly grassed meadows for riding. Deciduous trees have been arranged in attractive groves in some areas where many a noble of the Keep has walked. The terrain becomes suddenly steep in many places, but it is fertile and covered in grasses and trees – pines on the higher slopes, but many deciduous trees grow below the level of the castle.

Also below the Keep can be found a small collection of houses. Too few to be a village, these homely, well-constructed but small huts are home to the families of servants or soldiers, who are not directly involved in serving the castle. The fields around are farmed by these people for fruit, vegetables and small herds of stock. A portion goes to the Keep as tithes – a courtesy which is repaid plentifully when winters are harsh. Return to the top

Function. Keep Mistrash was originally built as a base from which new settlements in what was then the Avennorian kingdom could be overseen and protected. In the current times it is the seat of the Mistrashes: the Gravens of the Mithral March fief, under the auspices of the Duke or Duchess of Marcogg. The Mistrash family themselves live there for most of the year, except when visiting other nobles in their estates, attending the court of a higher ranked noble, or touring the bases of the soldiery around the fief. Court is held relatively seldom – just once a month when the Graven is in residence. This is counterbalanced by the fact that it is not usually difficult, with this family, for private audiences with the Graven to be obtained.

The Keep is the base for law and order in the Marches, administering guard stations around the fief. The most important of these are on either side of Crazy Woman Pass, in the foothills of the mountains themselves. It is to here that bandit attacks in the Pass are reported; it is the Mistrashes’ soldiery who are responsible for capturing the brigands and delivering them to the judgment of the Graven of Mistrash Keep. The Mistrash family also historically has a good relationship with the Mitharim, the dwarven clan of the
Mithral Mountains, entertaining Gornegrons (clan chieftains), Gorkavons (subleader), members of the Trutharoons (dwarven council) and other dignitaries with a regularity flattering to the Mistrashes. Return to the top

Location. Keep Mistrash sits low on the western slopes of the Mithral Mountains, by the terminus of a dead end road. It is the seat of the Markgravens of the Mithral Marches fief in the Duchy of Marcogg, in the Santharian province of Manthria. The Keep is quite isolated; it takes three days to drive a full supply wagon from Kachran, the nearest village, due to the uphill nature of the road. The trip can be done in a long two days in the reverse direction. To reach Chrondra takes four days if a ferry is taken from Myrth, although it is much longer if a traveller must cross the river at Grensa Post’s dual bridges. Marcogg is twelve days away for all but fast couriers, who can, when necessary, make the trip from the capital of the province in three days. Return to the top

People. The Markgravens of Mistrash Keep have tended to be quiet, solemn people. They are usually strong in constitution and heavyset in build, their bulk tending to muscle rather than excess flesh. Occasionally, but more regularly than with other noble families, children of this house will be born sickly and either die at infancy, or, more rarely but still notably commonly, live sickly but only somewhat shorter lives.

The family has ruled the small amount of fertile land in the Mithral Marches and patrolled the passes since the fief was first granted to their ancestor, Hebard, who took the name Mistrash. The Markgravens also oversee the lesser nobility of their fief, who in turn rule the common people. The family these days tend to extremes in their health, being either strong or sickly, but are usually uniformly quiet people. As devotees of Armeros they are fair and rule peacefully and easily, although this was not always the case in history. The Mistrash dynasty have long revered the God of War and Justice, and although different members of the family have at times had different patrons among the Avaria, this tradition has been kept up by the family as a whole. The servants and people who live outside the walls tend to revere His softer sisters, Eyasha and Baveras.

A staff of approximately forty people maintains the Keep. A large phalanx of soldiers bring the number of inhabitants in the castle to nearly one hundred, although most of these are usually stationed elsewhere in the jurisdiction of the Gravens, except at the coldest time of the year. Visiting nobles or dignitaries, including Thergerim from the Mitharim clan, often swell this number. The families who live below the castle tend to be friendlier than many small isolated villages. They can afford to be with the physical and financial protection of the Mistrashes at their backs. Return to the top

Coat of Arms/Sign. The Mistrash coat of arms is a barsa-dusk silver shield with two whenstone mountains in the background. The left mountain is shorter and rounded, while the right one is taller and pointed. These represent Grey Hood and Cloudtop Peak, the mountains which stand to either side of the Keep. In the foreground is a korweyn-golden toran eagle with ruby-red eyes, its head turned to the left, wings wide. This device symbolises protection and the soldierly background of the family. Return to the top

Climate. From the middle of Molten Ice to the end of Awakening Earth a soft misty rain is the prevalent weather, accompanied by the threat of avalanche as winter’s white cloak has green holes poked in it by the damp thaw. Changing Winds brings sunny days, still cool at this altitude, although more pleasantly so. Singing Bird brings true warmth to the days, and by Burning Heavens the nights are warm enough to sleep outside, as long as one is not drenched by one of the spectacular thunderstorms which rattle the bare peaks at this time of year. Autumn is clear and warm, although the nights begin to cool and snow quickly returns to Grey Hood and Cloudtop. In Frozen Rivers the passes close due to vicious storms of snow, and most of the soldiers return home at least for a short time during this month, sheltering in the strong walls of the Keep from the bitter cold snow and drizzling rain the winter season brings. Return to the top

Flora. Pines are the tree most identified with the
Mithral Mountains and they are found in abundance, particularly above the level of the Keep. In these higher areas, carpets of needles keep down much of the undergrowth and in the warmer months these are truly pleasant places to wander through. At the level of the Keep and below, deciduous trees - eur'oak, baych, meldarapple and others - mix in with the pines and in the areas which are not cultivated, many small shrubs and grasses provide a mixed and colourful carpet, from which the Keep’s cooks can source mushrooms, berries, nuts and seeds which all grow wild within range of the Keep. Return to the top

Fauna. Goats and sheep are kept by the families who live below the Keep, but also run wild in the areas around. The wild ones, however, usually stay far away from human habitation. The occasional baneg is also kept by staff or those below the walls, along with fowl of many varieties. Deer and wild pig are favourite game for hunters at the castle, and native tarep, while less of a challenge, are often sought after for the cook’s pot. Surica, kuatu and wolves are some of the other more common beasts to be found near the Keep.

The majestic toran eagle, emblem of the Mistrash family, is often seen among the peaks or diving silently to catch a small furry meal from the lands near the castle. Ravens and crows also flock near the castle, particularly around the waste piles in the rocky area behind the Keep. Return to the top

Resources. Resources are limited to sustenance drawn from the surrounding area. Flora and fauna supply the Keep with some fresh food, although much of their sustenance comes from tithings from vassals. This ensures a greater variety of food than would otherwise be possible in such an isolated position. A spring-fed well supplies the Keep with fresh water. Return to the top

Myth/Lore. A strange but persistent rumour is told by people who live in the Duchy of Marcogg – particularly in the village of Kachran – about Keep Mistrash. Whispers say that the Keep was built long before its history says it was, and at that time the evil family who built it kept Thergerim slaves, who were compelled to help design and build the Keep. When it was finished, so the story says, the proud dwarves escaped and killed the original masters, cursing the Keep for all time. In support of this story, people point out the “curse” which takes the health or life of so many of the Mistrash family and the quiet, solemn feel of the castle which can be unnerving to those raised in bustling Marcogg and its environs, or minds which expect to experience something indicative of the truth of these stories. No proof of these rumours exists; in fact there is plentiful evidence to the contrary but the rumours endure, making them worthwhile recording here.

In part because of these rumours, but mostly due to the location of the Keep – its inclement weather and distance from major roads and cities – it has been suggested by many people, most notably various Dukes and Duchesses of Marcogg, that the seat of the Markgravens be moved to somewhere more hospitable: to a warmer altitude with better access. The Mistrashes have always successfully opposed this, however. The Keep has historical significance and it is not greatly affected by its isolation, although many a bride or groom from another family who has had to move there has thought otherwise!

To alleviate the problems of climate and isolation, and the ensuing morale issues, the Gravens hold a celebration every year at the winter solstice which has, over time, come to be called "Markmas". When the soldiers return from their posts for the winter the weather is generally uniformly horrible. They are usually content for the first few weeks, but by the time they’ve been there a month the excited flush of being home is over and they become irritable from a combination of the climate, the enclosed spaces and the lack of activity. The Gravens decided many years ago to hold a week-long celebratory festival in honour of Armeros and their soldiers at that time of the year, in order to give the inhabitants of the castle something to do.

The soldiers are mobilised as a workforce to decorate the castle. Evergreen trees and berries are brought in from the slopes to relieve the greyness of the walls and different sections of soldiers compete to decorate the trees with the most beautiful brightly coloured ornaments, manufactured in slow times over the preceding year or saved from years before. Most ornaments are in the red and gold of the God of War and Justice whom the festival celebrates. While the soldiers are kept busy decorating the halls, the servants compete to catch and prepare the best food for the feast on the final day of the week-long celebrations. Return to the top

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(YEARS 822 B.S. - 50 B.S.)
808 b.S. Construction of Keep Mistrash begins
Keep Mistrash
Construction of the Keep begins in 808 b.S., towards the end of the Seven Hundred Years' War. It is located at the western slopes of the Mithral Mountains. The Keep and others like it are built as precursors to planned settlements in the wider Avennorian area: prior to this time very few places outside of the larger cities have been settled. Eyfi Swanhild, then King of the Avennorian people, has planned these fortifications around his kingdom in which to seat lords who will protect smaller areas of his kingdom, so that expansions in the form of new small towns and villages can safely be achieved. This is, of course, somewhat similar to the system of Dukes and Gravens which exists in Santharia today.
808 b.S.
to 749 b.S.
Keep Mistrash is being built
The Kesiri family who are to be the lords of the Keep hold the site only long enough to build its foundations, cut out of the rock with the labour of their Shan'Thai slaves. The Avennorian Civil War which begins two years later in 806 b.S., in part over the issue of slavery, recalls the Kesiris to Marcogg where it is thought they are killed in the fighting. Construction resumes under Anir Snivild in 802 b.S., when carving the structure entirely out of the rock as has been originally suggested is abandoned in favour of the more expedient use of stone blocks to build upon what is already extant; now the foundations of the Keep. Anir plans to use the Keep as a holding point for captured elves in the attack on the Tethinrhim Ria, as it is in a farily isolated and easily defensible location. Construction is again abandoned when it becomes obvious to Anir that he will not win against the Tethinrhim.

749 b.S. Keep Mistrash in Erpheronian Hands
By the time of -749 Keep Mistrash is nearly completely built, so when the Erpheronians take control of the Avennorian territiories in 749 b.S., it is used as a staging point in the defence of Crazy Woman Pass and the surrounding areas.

729 b.S. Keep Mistrash handed back to the Avennorians
In 729 b.S., when the Erpheronians return the kingdom to the Avennorians (albeit as a satellite kingdom of the Erpheronian kingdom), it is an obvious place to base a Graven to continue to watch over the surrounding lands.
Hebard Tribald Markgraven of the Mithral Marshes
The Erpheronian administrators choose Hebard Tribald to take the title of Graven Mistrash. Hebard is said to have been a reserved but highly capable Avennorian man who has lead Avennorian troops in support of the Erpheronians' efforts in the south. Hebard is present at the Deciding of the Blood, that contest between the elves and the humans which ends the first Sarvonian War.

It is said that Hebard sees Seyella’s hand that day, and that the sight makes him weary of the futility of war. The Gravenship is supposed to be in part granted to him because of this weariness; he no longer has any wish to serve actively with an army but the appointment to Graven will keep him busy, using his talents. It will also give him time to spend with his wife whom he loves, but who is sickly. Hebard finishes the construction of the Keep over the remainder of his lifetime.

The Tribald family has ruled there ever since and is generally known as the Gravens Mistrash; their actual last name is not well known. Their status as part of a satellite kingdom to the Erpheronian kingdom in the first decades of their rule hardly affects the Mistrashes, as the family has a good relationship with, and feels loyal to the Erpheronians, so happily pay their duty to their overlords.
(YEARS 50 B.S. - 172 A.S.)
0 Reconfirmation of the Graven Mistrash Asnila
When Santhros comes to power and the kingdoms are united into the great United Kingdom of Santharia, little changes for the Mistrashes. They are reconfirmed in their honour by the new Thane of Manthria and they are acclaimed as always having been just and committed to harmony, doing what was best for their charges. The boundaries of their fief change slightly, but this is of little concern to Asnila, the Graven Mistrash at the time of Santhros' coronation; she writes in her journals that she sees it as a small price to pay for stability in her lands.

"A Day at Keep Mistrash", composed and performed by Gean Firefeet
Format: MP3, Length: 6:05
, original Santharian work.
Click here to download the song, use right-click and "Save as..." (6.02 MB). Return to the top
 Date of last edit 19th Turning Star 1666 a.S.

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