County Markwasten is a poor vassal of Wayrest in North-central High Rock.
Dunistair Berarde. The Earl of Markwasten.
Irienya Berarde. The Countess of Markwasten.
Elys Berarde. The Prince of Markwasten. Elys is the only child and heir of the Earl, aged 7 during Of Princes and Power. He looks elven but with his father's distinctive freckles and hair.
Hansel Harolsey. The Lord Castellan of the Mark. Hansel is the current patriarch of the ancient Harolsey family, the most notable house of the Mark. He briefly attempted to rule the Mark as Earl, leading two largely unsuccessful power plays under Orcish rule.
Daryia. A handmaiden to Countess Irienya. One of only a handful of Bosmeri attendants Irienya brought with her from Valenwood.
Markwasten. The county seat and the only Markish settlement large enough to be drawn on a map. As the home of almost everyone in the Mark (barring wilderness hamlets and lonely houses), the town may generally be considered one with the county.
Castle Markwasten. Castle Markwasten sits on the Castlehill, one of the two rocky mounds that comprise the town of Markwasten. It is an ancient stone construction, its foundations predating the First Empire of the Nords. It has, of course, been extensively restored and rebuilt over the intervening centuries. The most significant alteration was the addition of the Round Tower.
The Temple of the Stars. Markwasten's major chapel, the Temple of the Stars was originally a Nedic temple dedicated to the Markish worship of the constellations. It is located in the town's main square atop the Templehill, Markwasten's second great mound. It is a striking building. The main body of has a high domed roof, the canopy of which is engraved with an elaborate star map, inlaid with rock crystal. The walls are also engraved, with scenes of Markish life and devotion. It is also noted for the Triangle Tower. The temple survived more or less in this form (with the creeping addition of Nordic deities to common worship) until the Third Era, when the Imperial Cult finally took precedence in the Mark. The building was then rehabilitated into an Imperial Chapel, with an altar and stained glass windows.
The Cleverman's House. The Cleverman's House was established under the Nordic freehold as a school of magic in the Nordic tradition. It still operates today with only a handful of students, mostly from the Mark, but a few from Skyrim (often affiliates or rejects from the College of Winterhold) and once in a while from the rest of High Rock. The Archmage of the Cleverman's House is appointed by the Earl, and also fulfils the role of Court Mage. As a school of magic, it holds very little prestige, with very few notable alumni (although it boasts one Winterhold Archmage). Architecturally, it reflects its Nord heritage, and is essentially a miniature fortress containing a lodge, outbuildings, and the Square Tower.
The Three Towers. Markwasten is noted (by some) for its three major towers, those being the Round Tower, the Square Tower, and the Triangle Tower, each named for its shape. The Round Tower is a Shornish addition to Castle Markwasten, a high tower topped with an almost entirely glass-sided viewing room. The Triangle Tower is the spire of the Temple of the Stars, containing only a triangular spiral staircase and, on the interior walls, extensive carvings, traditionally deciphered by Markish priests as a dubious form of prophecy. Priests of the old stellar pantheon would also climb the tower to contemplate the stars. It now also contains Imperial-style church bells. The Square Tower is the key building in the Cleverman's House, essentially a Nordic wizard's tower, containing most of the key facilities of an arcane academy.
The Dip. The Dip is the part of the town nestled between the Castlehill and the Templehill, literally a topographical dip. Most of Markwasten's dwellings are located on the slopes of either hill, and on the flat land that surrounds them, and so the Dip predominantly features the town's main road. Dip Road runs through the Dip like a river, with most of the adjacent houses facing down into it. As the widest, best-constructed, and most central road in town, Dip Road is Markwasten's main marketplace (not the Temple Square, where trading is forbidden). It features the majority of the town's shops and inns, and on market days, stalls and temporary structures almost fill the street, making one long mercantile district running down the middle of town.
The Peats. The Peats are an ancient Markish burial ground, a large peaty flat west of town where countless bodies have been buried. When it rains, or animals churn the ground, the ancient bodies can be eerily uncovered, as well-preserved as any Nordic or Dunmeri mummy by the peat. Most modern Markish burn or bury their dead in the ordinary Breton fashions, rather than in The Peats, and so it is rarely-visited. Indeed, it is said to be bad luck to visit The Peats without leaving a body behind - the Mudmen, it is said, are wont to rise up and take their dues. When the stars shine clearest it is especially dangerous, since the way from Aetherius to Mundus is clearest then.
The Markish Pass. Also known as "Andorak Pass", this narrow gap in the southern Shornish mountains offers the easiest passage from Markwasten to the North through Shornhelm. Originally it was fortified by the Direnni, who established a major settlement in Shornhelm but did not care to conquer the Markish moors, or be hasselled by its people. However, it became a significant thoroughfare in the days of the Shornhelm-Markwasten union. Now it is the best-defended border crossing in the Mark, and one of only two roads connecting the North to the eastern kingdoms.
The name "Markwasten" stems from the Nordic occupation, any earlier name being entirely unknown. "Mark" denotes a frontier or border (as "march"), reflecting the old Nordic freehold's position at the edge of the First Empire of the Nords. "Wasten" might refer to a "waste", as in a poor, desolate, moor, or more generally a wet plane.
Markwasten Moor has been home to Nedic peoples for as long as archaeologists can discern. Indeed, common wisdom in the Mark holds that it was on the peaty moors that their people first sprung into being. Whatever the case, the Markish Nedes existed largely uncontested until the First Era.
Even then, while much of High Rock fell under the sway of the Direnni Hegemony, Markwasten remained proudly independent for the most part. It is certain that elven blood penetrated the Markish pool to a degree, and some Direnni maps even show Markwasten within the Hegemony. Even so, while the Mark may or may not have been nominally an elven territory, it felt so little Direnni influence as to have been all but unaware of its supposed rulers. While the early Markish were a comparatively strong and aggressive tribe (indeed, they are referenced as "the savage peat-folk" in one early text), it is all but doubtless the Direnni could have conquered the the Mark with little difficulty. As far as scholars can tell, however, no serious attempt was ever made. It is likely that the Direnni, with the convenient bulwark of the Shornish mountains at their disposal, preferred to pen the Markish in and leave them to their own devices, rather than expend soldiers, funds, and magicka on conquering their undesirable lands.
The Jarls of the Mark
It was in 1E 250 that the Markish Nedes first experienced any competition for their lands. While the Nords under King Vrage the Gifted expanded into High Rock, the petty warlord, Horgren "Moor-King" struck out alone to secure land and titles independent of his king's invasion plans. A veteran of successful campaigns against the Direnni in the Western Reach, Horgren was a capable enough general and (perhaps more pertinently) with no lands to speak of in Skyrim was willing to settle for such domains as he could find. As such, when his armies reached what they would come to call Markwasten Moor, they were undeterred by the paucity of the soil and the bronze spears of the natives. With superior equipment and tactics, Horgren's small force was both willing and able where the Direnni had been reticent, and conquered the local Nedes in a matter of weeks.
The so-called "Moor-King" created himself "Jarl of the Mark", and he and his descendents paid lip service to King Vrage for the duration of his lifetime. With Vrage's death, however, the Jarls of the Mark were quick to abandon all pretence, and ruled Markwasten as an independent freehold. Nonetheless, Skyrim remained highly influential on the Jarls and their subjects (Nedic and Nordic) until 1E 369, when the First Empire of the Nords dramatically fell apart. As the borders of Skyrim receded, the Markwasten Freehold found itself increasingly geographically and politically isolated from Skyrim. With fewer Nords migrating to the moors, and the Jarls found themselves increasingly dependent on their more numerous native subjects, the Markish Nedes began to reassert themselves in the genetic and cultural landscape of the moors. This process would see the Nords bred out of recognisable existence, their culture and blood swiftly absorbed into that of the early modern Markish in a process most vividly illustrated by the steady shift from "Jarl" to "Earl".
The Harolsey Earls and the Markish Ascendancy
By the early Second Era, the House of Harolsey had occupied the Earldom for several generations and established the strongest hold on it of any ruler thus far. This century was the beginning of a golden age for Markwasten that would see it become, for a time, one of the pre-eminent powers in the region. Earl Hastrel Harolsey, the greatest folk hero of the Mark, is held to be most directly responsible for the Markish Ascendancy, as the period is called. In 2E 32 he married the mysterious Aldredhel, described in Markish histories as simply an "elven princess" (though of where, if anywhere, she was a princess is a hotly-disputed mystery) and the same year began his famous military campaigns to the east. Though Hastrel was slain in the Battle of Dunford in 2E 50, his campaigns continued under his son, Halor Half-Elven, and his granddaughter, Mona Harolsey, who successfully conquered modern Portdun and began the conquest of Gwened. The 80 years of Harolsey conquest came to an end when the Peace of Poyebridge in 2E 112 established the Earldom of Markwasten as it would exist until the Second Era, now popularly known as "the Great Mark".
Under the Great Mark, the Barony of Dunford, the Duchies of Portdun and Poyebridge and now-vanished Earldom of Moormouth were submerged completely as directly-ruled territories of the Mark, while the Kingdom of Gwened and Earldom of Lucroft, the leaders of the coalition that had forced negotiations at Poyebridge, became autonomous vassals. The citadel at Baleham briefly flew Harolsey colours, but in 2E 220 the Markish were suddenly expelled by the Baron of Baleham and his eastern allies.
These territories waxed and waned somewhat over the Great Mark's long life, with Gwened, Portdun and Lucroft all, at various times breaking free as independent entities, only to be reconquered to various degrees sometimes centuries later. Regardless, under the Harolseys, Markwasten was a regional power for the remainder of the Second Era and even into the Third.
The Duchy of Markwasten
In 3E 257, Andorak Lariat, disenfranchised Imperial claimant, reached a peace accord with the Elder Council. Their original offer, seen perhaps fairly as a worthless sop, was the crown of Shornhelm as his own kingdom. Shornhelm at the time was a political vacuum, lacking any strong governance or organisation, with little to offer a king beside a title and a castle. When Andorak refused, the Elder Council reluctantly expanded their offer, presenting the Earldom of Markwasten as a further incentive. The Mark was then a regional power at its largest extent, stretching from the modern Shornish border to Gwened. While the Elder Council was reticent in the extreme to give the hated Andorak genuine provincial strength, Markwasten was itself considered with great suspicion and distaste, clinging as it did to regional peculiarities and pre-Imperial customs. This offer Andorak accepted, taking the title King of Shornhelm and Duke of Markwasten to forge one of the largest and potentially most powerful crown possessions in High Rock at the time. The kingship deal was widely lamented in the Empire, but even more so in the Mark.
On the 17th of Hearthfire, Andorak rode down the Markish Pass from Shornhelm to receive his ducal coronet. When he reached the starry gate, the ancient demarcation of Markwasten's border with Shornhelm, he and his honour guard were turned away by the Gatekeeper, Sigwal Stroud. On the orders of the Earl, Horald Harolsey, the gate was sealed and Andorak's rule categorically rejected. While Sigwal stood astride the great gatehouse, Markish archers lined the pass, and a furious Andorak turned back.
He returned a week later at the head of an armed host of Shornishmen and his imperially-trained elite. Again he demanded passage, and again Sigwal Stroud refused, but by his second visit King Andorak was in no mood to be turned away. Markish arrows rained down on his men as they battered the Starry Gate into matchsticks and entered the Mark by force. Sigwal Stroud, who remained atop the Gate until it collapsed beneath him, was trampled to death by the Shornish horses in an event that would make him a minor cultural hero and ignite the brief Markish Resistance.
The Battle of the Starry Gate was short and brutal - the Markish had not expected genuine force from Andorak so soon, and so the garrison (mainly archers) of the gate was quickly scattered by cavalry and battlemages. Earl Horald's muster was unfinished and his soldiers ill-prepared. He had also none of the experience of Andorak or his men, and was far from a formidable warrior at the age of 68 and near-crippled by disease.
Nonetheless, he led his Resistance with considerable tenacity and determination, taking those soldiers he had already mustered and winning a totally unexpected victory (as well as a great deal of time) in the Battle of the Peats. Horald's lead a ramshackle force of infantry, lightly armed and armoured, to establish themselves in the great peat flats west of Markwasten, throwing himself into Andorak's path in what was prematurely called "the picture of incompetence". Andorak lost the sharpened tip of his army when it charged the Earl's men, with countless horses literally sinking into the rain-sodden peat and a great many of Andorak's men joining the ancient Markish burials. Stories of the long-dead Mudmen rising up in battle against Andorak are almost certainly embellishment, if only because had Horald's forces suddenly been doubled by undead, it is likely he would have won the war.
The Battle of the Peats did allow the Markish time to prepare, as Andorak's forces fell back to await fairer weather, and to Horald's great relief, his army grew hugely in the intervening time as his vassals' forces arrived in greater numbers. Several more battles were fought over the course of 3E 257-258, each one ending with an inglorious stalemate, each a shade closer to Shornish victory.
Markish historians have traditionally blamed their defeat on the grizzly turning point known as The Great Betrayal. Andorak had spent the year making secret deals with Markwasten's vassals, many of whom foresaw total defeat and were happy to compromise. In exchange for greater autonomy and sundry privileges, Gwened, Dunford, and Portdun withdrew their support for Horald and swore fealty to Andorak as Duke. Ultimately, however, Markwasten's prospects were slim from the outset. The Markish armies held resolutely, but Horald's generalship was unimaginative and static. Without another gamble like his bait at the Peats, Markwasten could never have been able to turn the tide, with or without his vassals' support.
When the Earl proclaimed his intention to fight to the bitter end, his nephew and heir, Hendon Harolsey, begged him to reconsider. He would not be swayed, however, and was predictably slain in a doomed offensive on the Shornish position, without even most of his own troops behind him. With his uncle dead, Hendon surrendered the Mark to Andorak in person. The King of Shornhelm had, despite Horald's poor performance, been surprised and even frightened by the resistance he faced, and was eager never to have to march over the Peats again. To that end, once he was crowned Duke of Markwasten (and granted the several lesser titles traditionally afforded the Earl), he handed down to Hendon the title of Castellan, appointing him to rule Markwasten proper, though none of its former vassals, as his representative.
Under the indirect rule of the Lariat kings, 3E 270 marked a turning point in the Markish social landscape when its ancient Nedic temple was reopened as an Imperial Chapel. For centuries, the Imperial Cult had been growing in popularity, with most of the Markish nobility and merchant class converting. Most prominently, the Harolsey family had officially converted in the early third era, and had since then sought the opportunity to definitely convert their realm. By 3E 270, the popularity of the Cyrodiilic pantheon had grown broad enough that resistance was quiet and limited when the Divines were installed. The temple did, however, retain its ancient Markish decoration, most notably its famous star maps, and old Nedic spirits remain as saints, cultural heroes and lesser deities even to this day.
The Warp in the West, the Orcish Dominion, and the Northpoint-Shornhelm War
In 3E 417, the Warp in the West erased the Auld Mark for good. Even under Shornish rule Markwasten had held influence as the heart of the kingdom's eastern territories, and with the threat of a divisive revolt could apply significant pressure to the Lariat kings. But in the great reorganisation of the Warp in the West Markwasten would lose its ancient territories in Gwened and Portdun, and find itself under the rule of a swollen and stabilised Orsinium. The period of the "Orcish Dominion", is regarded as a time of great humiliation for the Markish people, and popular resentment was higher than under any other foreign rule. Nonetheless, with the Harolseys retaining their positions as Castellans, the Mark remained relatively stable under Orcish rule.
This unpopular status quo was retained until 4E 17. Late into the first half of the Grand Northern War, Castellan Hansel Harolsey opened secret diplomatic channels with King Daric Caron of Northpoint. It was agreed that he would lead a Markish army through the Markish pass to undermine Shornhelm's defenses. In exchange, once Shornhelm fell to the Northerners, Daric would liberate his new allies from Orcish rule.
Markwasten's fighting men and women were enthusiastic in taking up arms, and before Orsinium could respond to the muster, a force of heavy cavalry was thundering through the ruins of the Starry Gate to harass the Shornish from miles from the fighting front. But neither the Shornish nor the Orcs were willing to tolerate this Markish plot. Hansel's muster had been rapid, but his force was small and his plans all but nonexistent.
At home, the Orcish rulers of the Mark cracked down hard on their rebellious subjects. Orcish warriors flooded the Mark and choked communications with Hansel's expeditionary force. With any supplies or reinforcements forced to run a gauntlet of Orcish soldiers few reached the Starry Gate, let alone the Markish forces.
Even so, it was beyond the Gate, in the tangled passes of Shornhelm, that the Markish were most decisively crushed. The body of the Shornish armies were, as expected, engaged defending the Kingdom from Northpoint's advance, but even so the mountains proved impenetrable to Hansel and his cavalry. A small contingent of battlemages from Thornvale outmaneuvered and embarrassed the Markish time and again.
The initial counterattack took the form of a psychological assault. Well-positioned illusionists befuddled Hansel's men, confounding their navigation and withering their morale. In the chaos and discord induced by the skeleton army of mages, the Markish expedition was paralysed, falling apart from within and failing to make any headway into the mountainous kingdom. Hansel's strength was stripped away by the cunning Thornvale Cloaks until finally the expedition could be broken utterly by a mountain ambush. For their creative use of destruction and alteration magic, the handful of battlemages responsible have been held up as examples of their craft. Though Markish soldiers told of a sky "alive with magefire", the vast majority of their losses in the ambush were to a magically-induced avalanche, and many more were from the illusory chaos rained down on frightened men and starving horses.
The survivors of the failed expedition and devastating ambush, including Hansel Harolsey, fled Shornish lands. Needless to say, with the Markish contributing almost nothing to the overall war effort, and without a decisive victory, King Daric felt little inclined to uphold his own end of the bargain. This point generated some lasting resentment when Hansel's men returned worse than empty-handed to find Markwasten weathering a storm of Orcish reprisals for their rebellious ploy. While defeated and embarrassed on the battlefield (or at least, where he had hoped to establish a battlefield), Hansel was able to demonstrate his true skill set. By effectively bringing to bear his family's ancient authority, he persuaded the Markish to lay down arms and set aside, for the time being, their grievances.
The peace was to be short-lived. In 4E 18 the Moonguard Revolt came to a head with the wholesale destruction of the Orcish kingdom of Nova Orsinium by a Bretic coalition. The popular anger Hansel Harolsey had suppressed the year before exploded as soldiers from the south advanced into Orcish Wrothgar, this time with no Breton attempting to hold back. By the time Wayrest soldiers entered the Mark they found the local populace in open revolt and the Orcish forces significantly weakened for it. With their new foreign allies, the Markish were quickly able to throw off the Orcish rule they had endured since the Warp in the West.
The Markish Restoration
Nominally independent for the first time since 3E 257, the Markish hesitated. Some called for Castellan Hansel Harolsey to take the throne as Earl. Others, their faith shaken by the fiasco of Markwasten's involvement in the Northpoint-Shornhelm War, vehemently opposed the idea. While several of the Mark's lesser houses had their own ideas for the succession, the one voice that could not be ignored was that of Wayrest, whose soldiers remained in and around Markwasten following the liberation. In answer to the Markish dilemma, Wayrest offered to restore the Earldom under Odistair Berarde (a distant cousin of the Harolseys and a favourite agent of Queen Elysana's) with the guaranteed protection of Wayrest.
That Wayrest intended to vassalise Markwasten was barely disguised, and there were many detractors, opposed to the idea of surrendering Markwasten's independence after so long a subjugation. However, what was also barely disguised was that Wayrest had the ability (some would say inclination) to vassalise theMark with or without its consent. Hansel was acutely aware of his own stained reputation as a leader, and well deterred from asserting his own claim to the Earldom. He understood also that if another Markish family was to seize the throne, his own would be necessarily swept aside. These concerns alone might have been sufficient to persuade him into accepting the Berardes, but contemporary conditions made certain he could take no other course. Wayrest's soldiers remained a tangible presence, easily capable of further destabilising (and ultimately subjugating) the Mark, and in the East, under the rapacious expansionist King Titus, Evermore's borders had swallowed Gwened and Portdun and seemed almost to champ at the bit at the Markish border.
As such, Hansel Harolsey put his family's ancient authority behind Odistair Berarde as the new Earl of Markwasten, and in so doing accepted Queen Elysana's protection. The Harolsey's remained Castellans of the Mark, and courtly appointments were doled out to the Markish nobility by way of consolation. Many prominent houses remained resentful of the opportunities (for Markwasten's advancement or their own) lost thanks to the Restoration, but the common people were for the most part sufficiently pleased to accept the personable Odistair Berarde and his title of Earl. Without the support of the peasantry or the Harolseys, and without meaningful forces of their own, the pro-independence wing of the nobility was in no position to challenge the new arrangement, and so the Mark was stabilised as a vassal of Wayrest.
In 4E 20, Earl Odistair, whose great force of character and charismatic bearing had significantly endeared him to his new subjects, suddenly died of a heart attack. As Queen Elysana's spymaster he had made no shortage of enemies and so the possibility of assassination by poisoning was never quite discarded. Whatever the case, his son, Dunistair, succeeded him without challenge. With the House of Berarde established as a line of earls, the Markish Restoration under Wayrest was complete.
By 4E 21, however, Dunistair was at risk of unpopularity. Without any of his father's brashness or bravado, and without anything to portray him as either an exotic southron or a born and bred Markishman, he was increasingly described as dull and lacklustre. This growing dissatisfaction was effectively wiped clean by his marriage to Bosmeri princess Irienya of Arenthia, whose exotic origins and storied beauty captured the public imagination and rejuvenated the Markish court (which had been effectively without novelty for centuries). When later that year the Countess bore an elven son, parallels were quickly drawn to the life of Earl Hastrel Harolsey, who initiated the conquest of Portdun and was succeeded by his son, Halor Half-Elven. With this connection drawn, hopes (as yet unsatisfied) for the rebirth of the Auld Mark began to spring up.
The Grand Northern War came to an end in 4E 25, without further Markish involvement. Shornhelm was vassalised by Northpoint and the Markish, more resentful of Darius "the Dealbreaker" than of their old overlords, welcomed Shornish refugees without regard for the Earl's political concerns.
In 4E 27, Evermore and Wayrest entered a formal alliance. Evermore was yet another target for Markish distaste; it had absorbed most of the Auld Mark, and in so doing menaced Markish borders with the threat of invasion. Nonetheless, it was accepted (with much urging from the Earl), that the alliance could serve no greater purpose than to secure Markwasten's borders against any future expansion.
In 4E 28, Earl Dunistair attended the Festival of Peace in Evermore. Since his accession as Earl he has remained largely aloof from his domain, spending more time at court in Wayrest than holding his own in the Mark. While lesser Markish houses such as the Strouds and Abingers have expressed disatisfaction with this state of affairs, the Harolseys and their supporters remain satisfied - the aging Hansel Harolsey conducts most of the Earl's Markish affairs as Castellan, and retains sufficient support to be confident of obedience.
The modern County of Markwasten stretches from Thornvale in the west, to the eastern foothills of the Shornish Mountains. To the north it is hemmed in by Shornhelm and a narrow curtain of mountains, broken only by the Markish Pass. Its southern border cuts off rather arbitrarily in the Wrothgarian Mountains, and is now fortified with poorly-manned fortifications of Orcish make.
Broadly speaking, Markwasten's territory may be divided into small regions.
The Thorny Vale. In the east is the so-called "Thorny Vale", a narrow gap in the mountains to the south east of the County of Thornvale. The land of the Thorny Vale is as poor as any within Markwasten's borders, and even more thinly populated than the moors to the east. Traditionally, settlements in the Vale lived in the fear of the capable guerilla warriors of nearby Thornvale which, along with the lack of good roads to the county seat, may explain the lack of notable settlements.
The Markish Mountains. At the geographical (though not political) centre of the county are the northernmost of the Wrothgarian Mountains. While the range technically extends further, the mountains to the north are more often considered separately as the "Shornish Mountains", and are indeed separated from the Wrothgarians by Markwasten Moor and Thornvale. This section of the mountains is poor in minerals and soil, and so very little exists to attract settlement. A few isolated hamlets and even Orcish settlements do exist in the mountains, but for the most part they have been considered "dead" land by the county.
Markwasten Moor. The cultural and political heart of the county is Markwasten Moor, its easternmost region. Between the foothills of the Shornish and Wrothgarian Mountains, the land becomes flat and damp, dotted with occasional hills, boulders, and stands of trees. The soil is generally acidic and poor, feeding only thin trees and low-growing plants. The vast beds of heather and wildflowers do, however, make fine habitats for gamebirds, which are as a result the main targets of a Markish hunter. The moors are a notable source of peat, which is used as a fuel, a component in Markish dies and, traditionally, as a burial ground.
What's an economy?
As Earl of the Mark and Queen Elysana's vassal, Dunistair Berarde legally weilds supreme power in the county. The Earl has the right to rule completely by decree with little regard for his many advisors and certainly with no meaningful popular representation. In practice, however, Dunistair rules with a light touch, being often absent from his County seat and preferring not to tread on the locals as a more or less foreign ruler.
The second most important person in Markwasten is the Castellan, currently Hansel Harolsey. In ancient times, the offices of Castellan and of Earl were not fully separate - most Earls were their own Castellans, styled "Earl of the Mark and Castellan of Markwasten" or some variation thereon. There are historical precedents to a separate Castellan, and the Berardes largely relied on these when they appointed Hansel Harolsey as Castellan. The Castellan is now more or less the Earl's deputy, ruling in his stead when he is absent and running most of his affairs even when he is not. It was thought that by installing the Harolseys (historic Earls of the Mark) as Castellans the Berardes could effectively coopt the old Markish nobility (such as it is) and minimise discomfort in the transition.
The Earl has a formal privy council, which once would have resembled the traditional loose Nordic style but now has taken on a structure more like that of a Bretic king's. Guaranteed a place on the council are the Castellan, the Arch Mage of the Cleverman's House (also Court Mage), the Earl's steward, the heads of several of Markwasten's noble families and, by tradition, the Earl's heir (though aged only seven, Elys Berarde is not a regular attendant).
The office of Earl is effectively gender-blind, like the Nordic "Jarl" from which it descends. If the designated successor of an Earl is male, his wife will be Countess. If the successor is female, her husband will be Count, and, just as a Countess of Markwasten, will have no formal political influence. Also like a Countess, he will take the Earl's last name in the Mark, although he and his wife will most likely use his outside of the county. Typically the eldest child inherits regardless of sex, but there have been occasions when an Earl has selected a younger child as the heir.
The Markish are an insular race, and historically have always been so. While the Nordic occupiers had a lasting cultural impact on their subjects, their actual blood was quickly diluted by the more populous indigenous Nedes. For their part, the elves contributed less to the Markish Breton strain even than the Nords did, never having bred intensively with the moor-folk or indeed depositing major cultural developments. As such, the Markish owe far less to "foreigners" and far more to their indigenous Nedic traditions (and of course, the indigenous Nedic traditions of their neighbours) than do most of High Rock's myriad Bretic peoples.
This has often been a source of great pride for the Markish, and where Markish ethnic sentiment or chauvinism exists it exists as a quasi-historical fascination with "true" Nedic blood and culture, as contrasted with the composite culture of the so-called "Rollover Bretons".
Aside from the native Markish, the Mark is home to Bretons from across High Rock, though in very small numbers. There is little to attract foreigners to the county, and so many of those who do appear are often exiles, rogues, or desperate profiteers. This reflects poorly on foreigners in general, from a Markish point of view, and so outsiders, unless they are sufficiently able to claim some "insider" heritage or virtue, will typically be presumed miscreants and rogues until proven otherwise.
A partial exception is the nobility. Having been occupied for many cumulative centuries, the noble blood of the Mark certainly does bear its traces of northern, eastern, southern, and western, and as long (once again) as proper "Markishness" can be created and/or promoted, this is largely taken as a fact of life. Even the Harolseys, seen as Markishmen among Markishmen, unashamedly offer up Nords, southerners and Shornishmen in their illustrious ancestors.
One interesting facet of Markish demographics is the role of Nords. It is a long time since The Nordic occupation, but even so the Mark retains a few ties with its once-overlords. By far the strongest of these is the Cleverman's House, which as an institute of magic grounded firmly in Nordic tradition, does attract scholars and apprentices from Skyrim and beyond. Alongside these traditionalist "Clevermen" (who often struggle to find a sufficiently old-fashioned education even in their homeland), come Nord warriors, but more importantly artisans and merchants, leading to a popular image of Nords as worldly, artful wanderers, very much at odds with the more common conception of the Children of the Sky.
Stars, colourful clothes, bronze armour, peat burials, pretty chill.