Birch is a village within the barony of Strohmburg, itself part of the Grand Duchy of New Newportton. It is a small, semi-isolated village nestled it the foothills of the mountain range on the duchy’s Northeast border. A tributary of the Dragontail River flows through it from a mountain spring, providing the region’s water. No proper road leads to the village, as it is rarely visited and its residents rarely travel. Out of the entire barony, its people are the strongest adherents to the region’s old druidic traditions, worshipping a totem-like wolf spirit as a patron of the village. The villagers have an extraordinarily tight-knit community, taking care of their neighbors in time of need without hesitation and trusting each other with their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Those who betray this trust and generosity, however, quickly find themselves shunned, or even outright exiled for a truly egregious offense.
While they grow crops like most villages, they don’t have as much arable land available to them, and supplement their farming with hunting and gathering. Deer and goat are the preferred game, and gatherers seek out berries and herbs (both medicinal and flavorful) that thrive in the rough terrain. The culture of the village puts a strong emphasis on hunting in particular: anyone, man or woman, who cannot hunt is looked down upon, even if they rarely have need to. As such, nearly all adults go hunting at least once a year to keep their skills sharp.
The social and spiritual leader of the village is a woman known as Honored Grandmother. The current Honored Grandmother is a relatively young woman who recently took over the post from its previous holder, an elderly druid who has not been verifiably seen since. She has apparently left the post to spend her remaining years on the road.
During the Fool’s War, those conscripted from Birch insisted in forming their own regiment. They became known as the Wolf-Shirts, after the wolfskins they wore into battle, and their sheer ferocity which was compared to that of the Norse “bear-shirts”, or berzerkers. Some were rumored to have actually taken the form of wolves or wolf-men on the battlefield. These reports fueled rumors spread after the war by Lord Malcolm that the people of Birch were in fact werewolves; these rumors were quashed by Eldon Goodbarrel and the Honored Grandmother, who reminded everyone of their valor in defense of the Grand Duchy and that there are more ways to change one’s shape that just lycanthropy.
However, while very few know this, the rumors are actually true. At least a third of the people of Birch are natural werewolves, but are far from evil. Normally their lycanthropy is non-contagious, but it is possible for one to spread it on purpose. Turning what they see as a divine gift into an uncontrolled contagion is seen a betrayal of the worst sort, however, and any werewolf found to have done so is executed without mercy.