Iron Circle River Pirate Fortress - NO CC

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Uploaded: 16th Jan 2022 at 4:57 AM
Updated: 16th Jan 2022 at 5:35 PM
Outposts of a distant empire have always interested me, especially once the empire in question isn't really supporting those outposts anymore- what kind of people would stay?  What new people might show up?  Combine that with my wanting to start fleshing out the Iron Circle's tertiary history a little bit more as part of my fantasy continent, and my finding a really cool image of a river fortress by Jungyeoll Kim (image included at the end of my attached screenshots) that I wanted to try making in TS2, and you get this lot!

This is (big surprise) a fairly large lot, running to a total cost of $441,633, with several playable and CFE dummy levels, so it may not be the fastest to play if you've got a smaller or older computer for your game.  Compared to some of my other medieval fantasy lots though, this one is actually fairly friendly when it comes to routing and activities by your Sims- most places have multiple routes to reach them, and there's plenty of open space out on the docks and balconies of the upper levels.

I tested routing and gameplay on a clone and for the most part Sims behaved well, no major routing errors or foot-stomping to report.  The one exception is the far bank of the river, which isn't reachable without cheats or teleporting, so I've tried to ensure that there won't ever be anything your Sims will try to do there, even so far as making sure there shouldn't be anyplace for autumn leaves to accumulate. This clone is also what I used for the screenshots that include Sims- the lot as uploaded has never been occupied.

As with all my uploads, there's no CC required or included in this lot, so your aspiring river pirates (or Iron Circle soldiers- maybe they'll send a naval company upriver to retake the fortress, who knows?) can just move in directly and start their life on the cold waters of the disputed lands north of the Iron Circle's control. As you may notice in some of the attached images, I did create unoccupied neighboring lots so that the 'river' could extend beyond the edges of this lot, and I encourage you to do the same- it's kind of a small body of water for so large a naval outpost otherwise!  If you do find any trouble, let me know and I'll do my best to correct it, otherwise enjoy this latest addition to my medieval fantasy continent!

I walked out onto the upper deck and looked upstream.  There was still a limp flapping sound as the Crown's faded, threadbare banner waved weakly atop the post, supposedly marking us as an outpost of the Iron Circle.  Truth be told, that hadn't been the case for years, and the few official flags we still had were showing their age even with Ruford's best efforts at maintaining them.  Couldn't blame the old sailmaker, he'd never had to work with that kind of detail work when he'd been part of the Prince's river expeditions, but I knew Corradin had gotten angry that the banners were so worn that they hurt his efforts at keeping up our supposed official appearances.  The wreck of the Crown ship that we'd left tied up to the docks had started rotting away so much that it certainly didn't help our image either.

Really, any legitimate merchants sailing this river probably knew full well that the Iron Circle hadn't held control of this stretch of river in a generation.  The outpost had been built during the years of the Gray Prince's expansionist push, when his navy had controlled virtually all the waterways from the Great Forest to the central plains of Westfall, and in those days dozens of barges and riverships would have docked at the brick-arched piers of the fortress on any given day at the behest of the Crown's customs inspectors.  That era was long gone, but it still was enough of a chokepoint in the river that Corradin had decided to set his operation up atop the ramshackle old structure.  We still flew the Iron Circle's banners and commanded river traffic to stop "in the name of the Crown," and provide a percentage of their goods in taxation, but I honestly doubted if any of the few bargemen that still sailed this stretch actually believed us to be anything more than common pirates.

There had been a few small grain barges earlier in the month that we'd managed to stop and get a few amphorae of wheat and barley off of, but it was still too early in the season for most of the farms upstream to have any real harvest yet, so our stores were getting pretty low.  The Iron Circle had built this fortress in the middle of a long stretch of good years for the fields and farms of Westfall, so in these much leaner years the warehouse standing next to the docks was far too large for our usual ransoms.  It stood cavernous and empty most days now.  When he'd had too much to drink I sometimes heard Corradin talking about how he'd one day have that room filled to the rafters with all the golden treasure that sailed this river, but as long as I'd been here I'd never seen more than a month or two of food for us, with maybe a few small bags of iron and copper marks if we were lucky.

When I'd joined the band in the middle of winter years back I'd have called a bag of copper marks an immeasurable fortune, after three years of living under hedges or in haylofts if I was lucky.  The good years of generations past were long gone by then, and I'd seen little but famine and plague eating my family and our farm both away to nothing.  I'd been half-starved when I saw the Iron Circle banners waving from the fortress, and when I'd been offered work I didn't care whether they were Crown men or pirates, so long as they promised a hot meal at midday.  I can't honestly say I even got that most days, but still, it was more food than I'd have had anywhere else.

The plagues and famines had lingered in the lands of the Iron Circle longer than they had in Westfall though, and our company had dwindled until there weren't really enough of us to keep up the ruse if any passing barge or rivership had actually pushed back.  This gave us no choice but to strike our banners whenever a large armed convoy passed by, leaving only the smallest barges and scows for us to exact our 'tax' from.  Poor farmers from the disputed lands on the edges of the Iron Circle hardly came poling downriver with cargoes filled with the gold and silver Corradin had hoped for.

The sun was high in the sky now but the damp wind off the river was still cold.  I drew my threadbare officer's cloak tighter around my shoulders, but the stolen coat did little to stave off the chill, and I turned back to the door leading into the fortress.  The galley was usually the warmest place with the fire kept burning in the oven, and as I descended the creaking, rotten staircase I could feel the warm air spilling from the open galley door.  Even the most rustic tavern would probably have had better cooking and certainly more ale, but it was at least a hot meal, and Skinner had made good use of some of our recently collected grain to make some fresh bread before he left.  Grabbing two small loaves, I stepped back out into the drafty main hall and headed down the damp stone staircase that led to the water level

Passing the scant few bottles of mead and wine that we still had left I stepped out onto the docks.  I could see a few small fish darting about and snatching insects from the water's surface, but other than that it was deathly still, only a slight sound of the river washing against the pilings that supported the fortress and the creak of rotten timbers from the ship rubbing against the dock.  As I looked deeper into the murky waters I thought I might see a few larger fish swimming along the muddy river bottom, and hoped that the river might finally have warmed enough that I could add a few fish to my meager supplies.  Right now I didn't have time to cast a line and try my luck though... I tore off a chunk from the loaf of bread with my teeth as I walked through the other door on this side of the docks, into the cold slimy prison cell the Iron Circle had once used for brigands like us.

I suppose technically Corradin was a brigand though, so in a way it was fitting that he was now behind the rusty bars of that cell.  Several days past he'd insisted that we force a convoy of three massive barges with a hired company of at least twenty heavily armed mercenaries to stop and pay tribute, ignoring all of our shouts that we'd be killed or captured, and rather than following this order, Ruford had seized him and thrown him into the water from the upper docks before the convoy reached us.  When Corradin dragged himself from the river, Skinner and I had been waiting with swords drawn, and forced him into the cell where he'd been ever since.  

As usual when I opened the door, Corradin was huddled against the eastern wall, trying to stay warm as best he could against the damp stone. "Midday yet?" he asked in a much quieter voice than his usual roughness. "Not yet," I replied, setting the second loaf of bread within arms' reach of the cell door.  "And the Crown's cavalry patrols hardly keep to their schedule anymore, it may be a while before they show.  You'll know well enough when they do."

"They'll arrest all of you too," he spat. "You think I'm not gonna tell them you all were part of everything as soon as you fools hand me over?  That Ruford betrayed his oath to the Crown the day that old fool started taking orders from me?  That Skinner already has a bounty on his head in half the kingdoms of Westfall?  You hand me over and you're all dead men- just strike the banners like we always do, and let them ride on past none the wiser."

I sighed, having known from the moment he spoke that he'd try this argument again. "You know Corradin, one day I might have listened to you.  When I first joined, you'd made so many promises and made this life seem so promising, that we'd all end up fat and lazy in a manor house somewhere- but it's been clear as day for a long while now that none of those promises had any more chance of coming true than that ship tied up outside has of sailing these waters again.  And as for the rest of us being arrested, it's been just the four of us left of your band of highwaymen for months now, and Ruford left three days ago- he could be a hundred miles from here by now. Skinner took the pole boat at first light this morning."  Corradin gaped in shock, but I continued.  "I'm the only one left here now that's not in a cell, and as luck would have it, you're the one with a thousand-mark bounty from the Crown on your head, not me.  I don't trust the Iron Circle, but I trust you even less, and I'll take my chances with them, just so long as I never set eyes on this damned river again."

I stood up and left Corradin sitting in the cold damp cell, and marched back up to the upper deck of the fortress, keeping an eye on the horizon for any approaching riverships flying the flag of the Iron Circle. One way or another, I was done trying to make a life here.