Social Classes. The Jutelanders are far less class conscious than their neighbors to the south are. This is not to say that a lowly churl can insult the king and get away with it, but that same churl won’t be killed for his insolent behavior. The Jutelanders recognize several distinct classes with mobility between the classes, both up and down, based on one’s actions and the actions of one’s family.
The lowest of the society is the slave. There are three ways people come to be slaves, a) they are born into it, b) they commit a serious but not capital crime, or c) they fall deeply into debt and have no way of paying their debts save though their labor. A slave can be freed through the will of his owner or by paying off his debt. Those who are criminals are slaves for the rest of their lives and a brand is placed upon their forehead to insure that everyone knows their status.
Far above the Slave is the Churl. These freemen usually own enough land to feed themselves and their families but with little left over. Most churls are employed by the Thanes and work for their keep. While one usually born churl, a Thane who has fallen far behind on his or her taxes or is deeply in debt may find themselves forced to sell their lands and become churls. Likewise, a churl who has earned his Thane’s favor may find himself granted a stretch of land from the Thane’s holdings. A churl who works diligently and saves up may even buy their own land and thus move into the yoeman class.
Above the churl but below the Thane is the yeoman. These farmers and craftsmen are the vast majority of the people in the Jutelands. They work enough land to support themselves and enjoy such comforts as exist in a medieval world. They are responsible for maintaining their own armor and weapons for when they are called to the fyrd – usually leather or hide, a large wooden shield, and a spear and/or battle axe.
The Thanes own their own land as well as the land that is worked by at least 4 other families. Usually this means at least 600 acres of farming land, plus forest and non-arable land. They have a great deal to say in how the local Earl runs things in regard to their lands. Like the yeoman, thanes are expected to serve in the fyrd when it is summoned. They will usually have some form of mail, a better sword or axe, and a large wooden shield. Some of the more successful thanes will have the means to employ at least one huscarle. Most adventurers are second or third children of Thanes who stand to inherit little if anything from their parents.
Equal with the Thane but given slightly more respect is the Huscarle or personal soldier. These warriors are employed either directly by the King or the Earls and serve as police and as the foundation of the army in the event of a major war. Each Huscarle is supported completely by his lord. On issues of minor crimes the huscarle also passes judgment while more serious disputes or crimes are relayed to the Earl. Any Thane can appeal a huscarle’s decision to the Earl.
The Earl is the ruler of one of the 12 town/states that make up the Jutelands. They are tasked with the responsibility of defending the town through the keeping of huscarles and of keeping and administering the peace of the local towns. Each town has a single Earl and as new towns are carved from the wilderness, new Earls are appointed either by the King, the Wicca or by the Thanes who live in the town. The eldest male issue of the Earl inherits the title and responsibility while the younger children are often given lands and ranked as Thanes. An Earl that has no male issue will pass his title to his sister’s eldest son and lacking that, the King or the local Thanes will appoint a new Earl upon the death of the old.
Finally is the King. The royal family is little more than an Earl who is appointed by the Wicca, or council of Earls. The king is responsible for the whole of the lands and while expected to confer and accept advice from the Wicca, the King can act without consulting the Wicca. It must be noted that the king is not above the law and is bound by the laws he passes.
When they aren’t fighting, the favorite pastimes of the Jutelanders include dice and board games such as chess. Elaborate riddles are popular, as is horse racing and hunting. At feasts the most common entertainment is the harp. In addition to the harp, the juggling of balls and knives is a common sight.
Travel is not uncommon, and the main trade routes are used frequently. However, off the main routes travel is a risky business. Travelers are advised to shout, blow horns, and make lots of noise. Otherwise any strangers are assumed to be outlaws, and could be killed out of hand.
In the countryside the vast majority of the people lived by farming. Most often several farms will be cluster closely together with fields radiating out from them. Most of the churls and yeomen work co-operatively, sharing the expense of a team of oxen to plough the large common fields in narrow strips that are shared out alternately so that each farmer had an equal share of good and bad land.
The crops most frequently grown are wheat, oats, rye, and barley (both as a cereal and as the base for beer). Peas, beans, and lentils are also common. Honey is the only sweetener in use, and it is used to make the alcoholic beverage mead. Major food animals include pigs, cattle, goats and sheep. Horses and oxen are raised for heavy farm labor and transportation.