The County of Highford
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The County of Highford, ruled over by the Count de Rochefort from the family seat of Castle Rochefort is fairly prosperous although not wealthy, situated slightly north of the river Chionthar which runs into the Sea of Swords.
The county is dominated by two castles, both in the north of the county, one owned by the de Rochefort family and the other by the house of Mowbray who govern a small fiefdom from their family seat of Castle Mowbray. These two families have been vying for power over the county for generations.
The main road of the county runs through the town from which the area takes its name, situated on a small tributary of the Chionthar. This road can be travelled west to the city of Baldur’s Gate or westwards to the town of Scornubel. On the road west sits the Friendly Noose Inn, often frequented by merchants and travellers. This sits on a t-junction, the north road leading to the town of Ironhill.
Whilst Highford is the larger and more prosperous settlement sitting on the tributary of the Chionthar, it is not the only one and the farming village of Lowford sits about twenty five miles downstream. Lowford is comparitively poor with only tenant farming and minor logging operations to sustain it.
Both Highford and Lowford possess moderate crypts, situated just outside of both settlements.
The County of Highford’s economy is principally driven by iron mining in the northern hills, centred around the small town of Ironhill. Whilst the iron is not processed within the region it is sold both eastwards and westwards, filling the purse of the de Rocheforts.
Logging is also a lucrative industry, fed by the large woods of the county, although the profits from this do not match that of the iron mining. The majority of the lumber is used in repairing and expanding the towns and castles of the region.
Tenant farming forms the main part of the rural economy with small holdings placed along the fertile banks of the Ironstream, as well as along the western road towards the Sword Coast. These farms are not large and typically only provide enough food for the county itself. Produce is divided equally between livestock and crops.
The County of Highford is fairly old and falls under the influence of Baldur’s Gate. The Count de Rochefort was granted his seat in 1300DR when iron was discovered in the hills in the region and given authorisation to build a castle there and oversee mining in the Ironhills. Whilst both Highford and Lowford had sprung up earlier than this they had originally been free from most influence, existing merely as posts along the route from Baldur’s Gate to Fae-Run.
In addition to the Count de Rochefort the Baronetcy of Mowbray was granted to that family of minor nobility, who were also granted rights to build a castle, twenty miles east of Rochefort with some dominion over both Highford and Lowford.
With the iron mines and the new town of Ironhill constructed in the region, alongside the castles Rochefort and Mowbray, the town of Highford came under the protection of the Count, although it had originally been enfeoffed to the Baron Mowbray by the Council of Four. This point has not been forgotten by the Mowbray family. Whilst any resistance offered by the Mowbrays to the hegemony of the de Rocheforts has not been open the tensions between the two families could never be denied.
This came to a head in 1369DR when the Mowbrays exploited the Bhaalspawn Crisis and the Iron Crisis in an attempt to seize Castle Rochefort and reestablish their fiefdom. This led to several skirmishes and ultimately the Siege of Rochefort and Battle of Highford. The reigning Count, Bayard the Just, was killed at the Battle of Highford and his son Godric oversaw the defence of Castle Rochefort, routing the Mowbrays force of mercenaries and establishing de Rochefort dominance over the county.
Since then the county has been relatively peaceful, although knights sworn to the Baron Mowbray have occasionally offered token resistance to de Rochefort tax collectors. Recently banditry became reestablished in the region despite the best efforts of the reigning count, Martel de Rochefort and rumours abound that this is in some small way due to the efforts of the Mowbrays who may once again be striving for dominance over the county.
The county is divided in two by the small tributary of the Chionthar known as the Ironstream. The river is deep enough to allow for travel by boat, which is the typical mode of transportation for those moving between Highford and Lowford.
For the most part the county is heavily wooded, although it is not thick and impassable forest. These woods have been known to harbour druids, as well as the perennial evil of the Western Heartlands, the Gibberling, in addition to the typical woodland creatures. Furthermore, bandits have been known to make their homes in the woodland of the county, although the de Rochefort family has recently driven many of these villains away.
In the north of the county a small band of hills, rich with iron deposits feed the demand for raw materials both from the Sword Coast and in the interior of the Western Heartlands. These Ironhills are the only major areas of high ground, the majority of the county being either flat or rolling woodland.
Whilst the Ironstream does not typically overflow its banks, ancient floods by the river helped to create several caves in the woodland, often occupied by wild animals or used by gibberlings as burrows.