There is something about Gloucester that conveys an underlying feeling of darkness not shared by any of Albion’s other duchies.
Maybe that stems from The Hunter’s patronage, or the influence of the savage peoples of neighboring Cymrija and the persistence of tribal notions in more remote regions, or maybe it is simply the depth of the Greenwood itself and the way that the ancient forest keeps almost a third of the duchy in perpetual shadow.
Gloucester lacks the passion and pagentary of Winchester, or the vocal independance of Cornwall. Instead what is left is a brooding, dark heart of Albion; quietly loyal in its support but coldly ruthless when angered.
The People Of Gloucester
Tribal notions of courage, loyalty, generosity and hospitality ring true here but all are tempered with darker undertones than they might be in the courts of Winchester or York. Those who support their community and work for the common good may well prosper; those who prefer to serve only themselves can quickly become very alone … and gold is of little comfort when no man will trade or even speak with you.
Those who transgress the rules of the community too far, often do not live to meet with Albion’s sheriffs. The “disappearance” of antisocial individuals is not widely discussed, but quietly accepted by most peasants as an efficient and discrete way of dealing with problems. For those who might stop short of wielding the knife themselves, the Greenwood offers an ideal way of disposing of transgressors without bloodying one’s hands … and any who do manage to find their way out of the forest’s depths are clearly worthy to live in the eyes of The Hunter.
For the majority of the populace patriotism takes precedence over regional identity. Whilst proud to be part of Gloucester, for most that pride is derived from Gloucester’s strength and unflinching support for a greater Albion. Completely encircled by either mountains or other duchies, the notion of independence is utterly impractical and so very few have given such ideas more than a moment’s thought. Instead Gloucester favours greater solidarity between the duchies and has welcomed refugees in some numbers from both Keswick and Cornwall in recent years.
Not entirely surprisingly, hunting is Gloucester’s favourite pasttime. Although a sport to some, to others it can variously be a religious observance, a rite of passage, a trial of strength, training for battle, or a lesson in the ways of the world. Hunting weapons such as spears and bows are highly prized and skill with such weapons is often a mark of status amongst the lower classes. The favoured weapon of peasants and nobles alike however is the knife, and it is rumoured that in some more remote parts of Gloucester passage to adulthood is marked by the killing of a forest predator (usually a fox, wolf or bird of prey) with knife alone.
The landed titles of Gloucester have traditionally been dominated by House Hunter and their vassals (most notably House Hulce and House Grimmir). Although such titles remain the gift of The Crown, the Hunters and their allies have been able to exert suffient influence since the founding of The Harts to maintain their control of the region. In truth it is questionable how long a “softer” noble would survive here, since the people (and other nobles) of Gloucester have little time for preening courtiers or high-minded idealists.
Noble leadership in Gloucester is generally authoritarian and strict. It is not the task of a noble to make the populace like or admire him; but to provide strong, decisive leadership and to take responsibility where others might hesitate. The Hunter teaches that people can be divided into predator and prey, and a noble who is perceived as “prey” almost certainly has a limited career (if not life) expectancy in Gloucester. Those who show strength, confidence and direction will however earn the respect of the people in time.
For the most part, Gloucester accepts that no man is infallible; legends tell us that even The Pendragon made grave mistakes. Persistence, dedication and pragmatism are all seen as virtues in their own right, and a noble can still redeem himself by facing up to his failure and working to recover the situation. To fail because of incompetance, or worse, lack of will to succeed is however completely unacceptable … and the penalties for such weakness can be harsh.
The green and black heraldry of Gloucester is symbolic of the depths of the aptly-named Greenwood and Blackwood. Houses Hunter, Hulce and Grimmir all adopted these colours into their own coats of arms, and many non-noble groups with origins in Gloucester do likewise. As a result the massed sons and daughters of Gloucester take on a somewhat paramilitary appearance … and a frock-coated noble can vanish into the forest depths as easily as any woodsman.
Gloucester has long been the stronghold of The Hunter and there seems little chance of that changing in the forseeable future. Under the protection of the ancestor and the stewardship of his followers the duchy has faced many hardships and emerged as resolute as ever. These troubles have not been without cost, but the people of Gloucester know that The Hunter expects both strength and faith, and so they persevere.
The duchy was also the first place in Albion that the followers of Nethras found formal acceptance, after Earl Tylendal’s instruction in 1104 that Nethras’ worshippers in Gloucester should be accorded the same rights and protections under law as any other Albione. In addition Castleford was chosen to house the preceptory of the Ordo Hwyt Draga after its reformation, also in 1104, and therefore is arguably the center of worship of the White Dragon.