Colfrick is a medium-sized independent township in the northern reaches of the Cae Valley. The town's population is predominately Prenig in origin. However, there are small communities of Venyk and Falmurs — Oscani pilgrims and adventurers have also been known to visit the settlement at various times.
In the years following The Weaver's Boy, Colfrick has become the largest and most influential settlement in the valley. It shares a border and an uneasy relationship with the Principality of Langorn to the north.
Colfrick is walled by a stout wooden palisade, interspersed with defensive towers. There is no castle or keep within the walls. Most of the town's buildings are built of timber and wattle and daub, with few exceptions such as the mayor's residence and the guildhall. With a growing population, two small districts have grown out beyond the wall, just outside the town's gates.
Colfrick's economy is based on agriculture, trade and various cottage industries run by craftsmen and tinkers. Nestled on the banks of the River Cae, allows the townsfolk to harvest small amounts of fish, and use the river to power the town's mill.
Colfrick prospers as a trading centre and is the only market town in the valley. The market is hosted once a fortnight and is visited by merchants from Langorn. The town's ruling council has grown prosperous, taking a 10% levy on anything bought and sold in the town's marketplace.
Agriculture is dominated by grazing livestock, mostly sheep and some cattle. There is a long-running dispute over grazing rights on the land on either side of the border with Langorn. Sheep are raised for wool, which is traded locally and in the markets of Langorn.
What crop farming takes place is mostly subsistence-based, occurring within a five-mile radius of the city. Farms are controlled by prominent landowning families, who let out plots of land to freeborn tenant farmers — as per the conventions of Brion's Law, serfdom is not practised. The main crops grown are barley, oats, beans and peas. In good years the town produces a small surplus, which is stored as a measure of food security rather than sold.
The Cae Valley and the surrounding mountains are rich in game (hunted for meat and furs). The town attracts hunters from the surrounding wilderness who sell their wares at the market. The fur trade is seasonal but essential to the local economy, enhancing Colfrick's reputation abroad.
Deeper in the valley is a source of alluvial silver, which is panned by prospectors daring enough to venture up into the mountains. Enough supply reaches Colfrick to support a local silversmith who is commissioned by the council to cast ingots, mint coins and make jewellery.
Prominent crafts, industries and traders
Though small, Colfrick is over-represented by craftsmen, which service the upper Cae Valley region. Though Venyk Guilds do not operate in the town, local craft masters are an integral part of the town's council, and several have risen to the office of mayor. The local Guild Hall serves as the venue for the town's council, as well as its court of law.
The most prominent local industries and crafts include:
- Metalworking (iron and silver)
- Furriers and fullers
Prominent local businesses include:
- Half-Pint Harri's (tavern)
- The Fox and Bear (tavern)
- Colfrick Fur Traders
Governance and politics
Colfrick is officially an independent, self-governing borough. It is ruled by a council, made up of the town's prominent merchants, farmers, graziers and craftsmen. From their number, a mayor is appointed every five years by an election.
Although independent, Colfrick has been subject to the influence of its larger neighbours, Skeinhold and Langorn. For most of its history, Colfrick was aligned to Langorn. This shifted to Mendoc after Glyndaf was made Marshal of the West by King Brion and the relationship lasted nearly 80 years, across three generations of Skeinhold's rulers until Cadoc.
Following the events of The Weaver's Boy Cofrick began to emerge from Skeinhold's shadow. However, without Skeinhold's protection, Colfrick soon attracted increasing interference from Langorn and its ambitious prince.
Law and enforcement
Colfrick's laws are based on an old Prenig legal code, heavily coloured by local custom and practice. The council serves as the only court of law and is presided over by the mayor. Legal expertise is held by the city's Weaver of Lore — a position appointed for life by the Conclave of Weavers.
Each year, the mayor appoints a bailiff, who is responsible for maintaining law and order, as well as overseeing the city's constabulary, a force of twenty men.
Colfrick never developed a military force able to project power far beyond its borders. There is no standing army, however, in times of crisis, the council raises a militia, placed under the direct command of the mayor. Training as a cohesive fighting unit is limited to basic drills (time permitting in a crisis). This limits the militia's effectiveness against a professional army. However, given the wild environment, most citizens are hardy folk that fair well in a fight.
There is no official house of worship or temple within the town's walls. The closest monument of religious significance is an ancient henge in the hills north-west of the settlement. Most people practice ancestor worship and do so in their homes. Major religious festivals are sponsored by the council and presided over by the Weaver of Lore with most of the major ceremonies taking place in the henge or a sacred grove on the opposite banks of the river.
The town's small Venyk community have petitioned the council for the right to construct a temple, but thus far this request has been denied. Currently, the Venyk community worships in private. A pastor from Kas Mendoc often makes the journey to preside over festivals and weddings.
There's been a settlement in Colfrick for at least four centuries. For much of its early history, it was little more than a remote, frontier town.
However, this changed when King Brion appointed, Lord Glyntaf as Marshal of the West and gave him dominion over Cae Valley, including Colfrick.
With Brion's backing, Lord Glyntaf annexed Colfrick and briefly used it as a staging point for Brion's campaign to pacify tribes living in and around the Crannogs of the Langorn Lake. During this period Colfrick acquired much of its present ethnic makeup, language and legal code.
With King Brion's untimely death not long after, his daughter and successor, Queen Gwennefer struggled to gain the support of many of the kingdom's nobility. In the resulting civil war, Brion and the West remained loyal to Gwennefer.
In the political uncertainty, and with the valley stripped of its fighting men, it became a soft target for the troublesome northern tribes, which King Brion had only temporarily suppressed. In response, Queen Gwennefer contracted a small force of Venyk mercenaries to keep the peace. They did so, but were heavy-handed in the occupation of the valley, creating a lasting sense of distrust against the Venyk and growing dissatisfaction with Gwennefer's rule.
When Gwilym Kasparu and his Venyk mercenaries later deposed the Queen, the Cae Valley became a refuge for Prenig refugees, including Gyndaf and his remaining forces.
After Gwennefer's fall and the conquest of Mendoc, Colfrick by right of conquest should have fallen under Venyk rule. However, Glyndaf was able to defeat Gwilym Kasparu in the Battle of Black River. Cadoc then established himself at what is now Skeinhold while the Venyk retreated to Merthon and established their border along the southern edge of the Ragfled Mountains.
With Glyndaf's attention on the South and the newly formed Venyk Duchy of Mendoc, Colfrick and the rest of the Cae Valley were left to themselves. Without the presence of a local nobility or military, governance of the town fell to prominent farmers and craftsmen.
For nearly eighty years, Skeinhold maintained economic, military and cultural influence over Colfrick; however, its presence was mostly benign. Colfrick's council paid lip service — and tax — to Skeinhold, but in practice, the town was left to govern its own affairs as an independent borough.
However, confined to the Cae Valley and its harsh conditions and limited economic potential, Skeinhold was in a position to grow in power or population. So in the years following the conquest in the South, it was Langorn that slowly emerged as the dominant Prenig-speaking power. Yet, Colfrick was able to maintain its independence — though not entirely through its own actions. When Cadoc returned from the crusade, he formed an alliance with Duke Artur of Kas Mendoc having served under the duke for almost a year. The alliance recognised Cadoc as the overlord of the valley, and by association that included Colfrick, though Cadoc never imposed direct rule, diplomatically entering into a mutual defence pact.
Colfrick rose to prominence in the Cae Valley following the events in The Weaver's Boy. Its population grew as did its importance in the region's fur, wool and silver trade. However, the same event cut Colfrick from its southern trade routes and access to Abercrav and Kas Mendoc. Its sole trading partner became Langorn, and it became reliant on its rival. Without the influence of Skeinhold, Langorn began to exert control over Colfrick's economic and political life, beginning to meddle in local affairs and the mayoral elections.