Dwilight University/Humanities/Underground Lords of Unterstrom
After having liberated Weinschenk and Unterstrom, set up a government structure in the Duchy, only to see both regions fall apart as soon as the occupying forces left, I have decided to study a little more closely the local population. I have found an interesting underground seat of power in Unterstrom that was overlooked, and have decided to consign what I learned here for the benefit of Morekian nobles. -Pierre von Genf, Viscount of Huanghai
People of Unterstrom
The artisans, craftsmen, and learned men of Unterstrom are surprisingly civilized for people who seemingly live in anarchy. Since the number of inhabitants is much lower than what the city could hold, most of them have, in addition to their own house, one or two other houses which they use for their economic activity. Many mills have been built along the rivers inside the city proper, and are mostly use as sawmills. The wood from the adjoining regions of Weinschenk, Eisenik and the Vorstadt are sawed and prepared there, and from then on exported to the whole northeastern part of Dwilight.
When the first nobles of Morek arrived in the city, such a level activity was assigned to the working nature of the inhabitants, who are indeed of a different stock than the Dongese the Easterners first met. However, and this should have occurred to us sooner, it is impossible for primitive societies to evolve such complex structures without resorting to violence and destroying themselves in the process.
The truth is that, unbeknownst to the genteel Easterner society, Unterstrom was governed.
The Underground Lords of Unterstrom
At night, the true Lords of Unterstrom come out. Thugs and bandits rule the streets, while enforcers claim their part of the profits made during the day. Nothing can get in or out of the city walls without them knowing, and those who try to keep the profit from their labour, or who want to smuggle material, are swiftly and cruelly dealt with.
There are different organisations ran by petty lords. The distinction is by activity, not by geography. For example, we have learned that a chieftain named Salo controls the rights to the river, and extract a tax on all those who want to use it for power, drinking water and even bridges. Another chieftain, named Shule, controls food distribution. In total, a dozen such chieftain exists. In the streets, everyone wears on their wrist a ring of a given color to indicate whom they belong too; foreigners who are unringed risk being mugged.
It is rumored that all chieftains meet regularly in a council that is headed by a man who is only called The Head. The chieftains are in competition, but all acknowledge the Head as a final arbiter, and they are known to cooperate when their power in the city is threatened.
The names of the chieftains is not typical of inhabitants of Unterstrom, and indicates that they come from Shyussei. It is also known that no one from Unterstrom has ever entered their organisation.
It is not known if the Undergrounds Lords follow an actual creed. However, they are known to use tricks, such as salting fires or "flying" using ropes, to convince inhabitants that they control black magic and instill fear in their heart.
For the same reason, they seem to reserve a special hatred for Sanguis Astroism. The Stars could bring hope and courage to the hearts of the inhabitants, an unacceptable idea for the underground Lords that could threaten their grip.
Three times by now have the troops of Morek arrived in Unterstrom to liberate the city, only to lose it again.
Liberation of the First Year
In the first year of Dwilight, Morek expanded fast and took control of Unterstrom. However, troops were thin, and the Underground Lords had too much control. The city could never be pacified, and when the troops left, all officials were soon killed and control lost.
Liberation of the fourth year
In the fourth year, a new expedition was sent to Unterstrom. However, the Underground Lords had time to prepare too, and they did by indoctrinating the population against the Stars. The population never stopped rioting against the Easterners, and a Duke could not be proclaimed. Two weeks later, the troops retreated in shame, losing the city.
Liberation of the sixth year
In the sixth year, the city was liberated again. This time, troops were left in the city, and priests had been preaching in the city for a long time beforehand, explaining the religion of the Stars to the population. The result was that the people of Unterstrom were much more welcoming of the Easterners this time.
Seeing such a show of force, the Underground Lords retreated, probably to Shyussei, but also according to some to hideouts in the North Divide. The first result of this was chaos in the city, as the Underground Lords controlled the stores, the distribution channels, and held old rivalries at bay. Once they were gone, the city came to a standstill as most craftsmen were owed money that would never be paid, or had contracts that were no longer respected, or even in some cases tried to take advantage of the ignorance of the new rulers to assert rights that never existed. It took many week to sort everything out, install a new government structure, create guilds and councils for the different crafts, and generally assert authority. After some time, the inhabitants saw that noble rule was both more efficient and more gentle than thug rule, and warmed to their new master. When Duke Deverka Cryfdwr called for a festival, it was clear from the attitude of the population that they were won to our cause.
Famine and Riots
At that time, most troops left the city to protect the southern border. The Duke also left to travel to Summerdale. That is the opportunity the Underground Lords were waiting for. They started by coming back in the farmsteads around the city and in the Vorstadt, where the Morekian soldiers did not venture yet. They terrorized the peasants, often kidnapping their children, and managed to completely cut off the city's access to food.
Their second step was to infiltrate Weinschenk, where many loggers are actually bandits and exiled men who hope to make a safe living isolated in the woods. These men are wary of Morekian authority, and especially of the road that was being built to link Cayiun and Unterstrom. The underground Lords armed them and promised them control over their woods, as long as they let no one unauthorized by them through the roads. From loggers, they became highwaymen, and soon no caravan that did not have a military escort could pass through these woods.
The predictable result was a famine in a city. But, cleverly, instead of just letting the populace die, the Undergound Lords used their remaining contacts in town to bring relief only to their partisans. Soon word passed that those who would wear their ring again would receive baskets of food at night.
Return of the Underground Lords
When the Underground Lords saw that the majority of the population were wearing their bracelet again, they called for a riot. There were not enough troops in the city, and it fell. Soon afterwards, Weinschenk passed too under the control of the highwaymen and their masters.
The crackdown in the city was harsh, and all those who collaborated with the Easterners were punished, often through mutilation. The temple to the Bloodstars has been desecrated.
The populace of Unterstrom is sympathetic to Morek, and as such accepting of our rule. However, this leads us into a false sense of security. We must be wary that the true Lords of Unterstrom are not its inhabitants, but in fact a band of thugs who exert strong-armed control of all activities in the city, and who can vanish without a trace to unknown hideouts, only to return at the first favorable occasion. Only by maintaining permanent troops in and around the city, and making sure all necessities that can be cut locally are provided from afar, will we be able to keep the city.