A Song of Sea and Storm
The Duchy of Bellerose
Not every noble House in Ur-Vaalbara has had an illustrious and awesome history. Some are blighted and dying, like the Duchy of Bellerose. Though today the Duchy is quarantined off from the rest of the empire, it once was a prosperous and auspicious House.
Some time after the Ords settled and conquered Ur-Vaalbara, settlers from the neighbouring continent of Aine founded a new colony on one of the western most island chains of the empire.
The Duchy of Bellerose was originally called the Thane of Bellruas (though the people of Ur-Vaalbara had a hard time pronouncing Bellruas, so over time the name was corrupted to Bellerose), and stayed independent for many centuries, operating as a trade port and source of neutral Ainish mercenaries, but intermarriage and increasing assimilation eventually infiltrated Bellerosi culture so much that they had more Ur-Vaalbarans in their population than Ainish.
In order to emulate and ingratiate themselves into the empire, the Thane of Bellraus re-christened itself the Duchy of Bellerose.
Today, the Duchy is still not technically part of the empire. Which is why it is dying.
As a port city, and an island, the Duchy was uniquely vulnerable to plague and contagious disease. Unfortunately, a virulent and devastating contagion found its way onto the island and spread across it in a matter of months. Many Bellerosi fled the island, and unknowingly carried what came to be called the Bell Plague onto Ur-Vaalbara, killing many more thousands in Kerrich, Ashmead, and Fitzhewlett territories.
The Duchy was immediately quarantined. All trade with Bellerose halted, and no ship was permitted to leave the island without proof that the Bell Plague had either run its course or been dealt with. Because the Duchy of Bellerose is not quite part of the empire, the empire chose not to send food or supplies to the now starving people of Bellerose.
That was three years ago. To this day, a blockade of Fitzhewlett and Kerrich ships stand watch over the perimeter of the island chain, destroying any ships that try to make it off the island. The Duchy has become like a ghost story, a monster in the dark sailors scare each other with.
Brave or suicidal smugglers still sometimes ferry food and supplies into the Duchy. And occasionally sell transport to the mainland. Woe betide the empire.
House Dorien flies the banner of the Duchy of Bellerose. It is a common practice now in the Duchy to wear a mask and not leave much skin exposed. Partly to help resist the disease, mostly to hide its effects.