Pierce’s Guide to the Great Estates
The Chateau du Mallard
For the keen traveller and history buff, the Estate du Mallard is a must-visit.
The estate is located on Whitewater, a tributary of the Bronze River, north of the Dire Wood, about 100miles SSE of Axis. Roads are excellent and well traveled, and your journey should be about four days without incident.
But it was not always so. Ages ago, the lands west of the tributary were home to tribes of orcs and savage monsters. To the south. the river descends from rough hills and is mostly uncrossable. To the north lay miles of boggy wetlands, the Marais du Mallard, although these days it is “Lac” rather than “Marais”. For a few miles the river was fordable, and so Geoffrey – the first Baron Mallard – built a tower and defences, from which knights of the fledgling Dragon Empire might sally forth in defence of civilisation.
The site is no longer frontier, the barony long since extinguished, and the river bridged. But the original tower and some fortifications still stand, a testament to centuries of careful stewardship by the Mallards.
The estate now comprises most of county Whitewater, about one hundred and fifty square miles of farming district. The wines are excellent, and every inn will supply the local delicacies – sweetreed, which grows only in the boggy wetlands, turtle soup, and – of course – the duck. The adventurous might also care to sample the liquor distilled from the reed, but be warned! A little goes a long way.
Visitors will likely stay in any of the excellent inns in one of the surrounding villages. During the growing season the manor house is open to the public at the usual times. You will want to see the museum with its reconstruction of the ancient battlefields and its archaeological finds, and read the charming tale of Baron Geoffrey and the swamp-witch Elise, founders of their line. One can also take a tour of the old tower, but booking is essential – address your enquiry to the head groundskeeper, Chateau du Mallard. Parties may also wish to apply for license to hunt duck and other waterfowl. Bag limits are strictly enforced.
What Pierce does not mention is that the bridges are built to collapse, and the tower and its defences are still an entirely serviceable military emplacement. There are illusions placed on it to make it look just a little more ruined than it actually is. Tours are conducted, but very much circumscribed – the Mallards cite fears of falling masonry. Pierce also does not mention the tunnels connecting the manor to the tower, although anyone would be able to guess that they are there. They are kept in good repair and are patrolled. They are not terribly deep and are prone to being damp.
Although it’s all pretty civilised, we are in a fantasy setting, here. The black swamp oaks still grow in the further reaches of the “lake”, and they are not entirely friendly. Still the occasional thing coming down from the hills, too – bears, sometimes some old orc skeletons. The small imperial garrison earns its pay.
Might be worth noting that 40 or so years ago, the Mallards and the estate weren’t doing so well. Things have been brought back up to code mainly thanks to Ducalis, who is an amazing guy. Quite a bit of the manor is actually pretty new, although the relics and whatnot are genuine.