WarDragon's Way of the Wicked
CG small city
Corruption+0; Crime-4; Economy+1; Law+3; Lore+0; Society+3
Qualities insular, strategic location, superstitious
Government autocracy chosen by the monarchy in Matharyn
Population 9,500 (7,500 humans; 1,100 half-elves; 650 elves; 125 dwarves; 90 halflings; 35 other)
Lord Argus Welshire, Duke of Farholde, Commander of the Castle Hamorhall (absent, he is of leading the garrison in war against the Fire-Axe)
Sir Valin Darian, Knight of the Alerion, 2nd in command of the Castle Hamorhall
Baron Arkov Vandermir
Abbess Temperance Avigail of the Order of Saint Cynthia-Celeste
Hugo Hallynbeck, mayor and reeve of Farholde
Sir Bonder of the Beacon, keeper and warden of the Accarian Beacon
Lady Shalyn Marsten, wealthy merchant
Base Value 4,400 gp; Purchase Limit 25,000 gp; Spellcasting 4th level divine, 4th level arcane
Minor Items 4d4; Medium Items 3d4; Major Items 1d4
Farholde is the northernmost colony of Talingarde. This small city is a backwater, largely isolated from its parent nation by distance and danger. No King of Talingarde has visited Farholde since the Victor sat upon the throne. And yet, Farholde is a keystone of the realm’s defense. Without control of the delta that feeds into Lake Scardynn (pronounced SCAR-den) there would be no credible defense of the Borderlands.
Of course, today that matters little. The Watch Wall is already broken far to the east and war burns bright across the Borderlands. The bugbear horde re-lentlessly presses south towards the city of Daveryn far away from distant Farholde. Castle Hamorhall, Farholde’s great bastion, is almost empty. Its commander and garrison have left to join the war effort leaving behind only a skeleton defense. Farholde seems now more isolated than ever.
A City of Floods
The key to understanding Farholde is water. Almost every structure in the city of Farholde is built on one of nine hills. In fact, its old Iraen name is actually Cannoch Naoi (pronounced Cannock Noi as in noise) which means literally Nine Hills. The reason for this arrangement is simple – Farholde floods.
Almost every year in the spring, Lake Scardynn, brimming with mountain runoff, overflows its banks and floods Farholde. These floods are usually predictable and brief. They have never in memory crested any of the nine hills.
These floods are a boon for Farholde. They deposit rich lake sediment all over the delta plane and create rich arable land for the growing season. No one in Farholde worries about leaving fields fallow or fortifying their soil. The mighty Scardynn handles all such labor. But these floods also mean if you build a structure beneath the floodline, you had better be prepared for it to be underwater for at least two weeks a year.
Besides agriculture and the garrison, Farholde has an-other important industry – fishing. Though the sea is rough and dangerous and few bother to fish its open waters, Lake Scardynn is deep and densely populated with salmon, sea cat and amberscale. Even the occasional sturgeon is caught and both their meat and caviar are prized delicacies.
The prize every captain dreams of catching though is the rare giant crayfish. No one knows why these monsters sometimes appear or why they grow gigantic, but specimens longer than seven feet have been captured in Lake Scardynn. The creatures are dangerous and more than one over-ambitious young fisherman has lost an arm to the beasts. But when one is brought back to town, buyers pay premium coin for delicious giant cray-steaks that barely fit on dinner plates. Grilled and served with melted butter there is no greater delicacy.
The quays where the fishing boats dock are stout stone affairs designed to survive weeks underwater. They jut out in to the delta all along the southern bank. The northern bank has only one – a broad military quay where soldiers and supplies are unloaded to provision the Castle Hamorhall. Usually the quay is home to doz-ens of war galleys and supply barges, but now they are all gone transporting their troops to the eastern front.
A Conquered City
Farholde did not always belong to Talingarde. Less than three hundred years ago, it was a small hill fort controlled by a barbaric Iraen chieftain. How long the Iraen lived and ruled there, scholars can only guess but a farmer tilling a field still might find a crude iron arrowhead or a broken bit of pottery that shows the march of countless centuries.
The half-elven king Accarius IV called the Architect personally led the army that besieged the Iraen hill fort Casrhalla (pronounced Kaz-ra-halla rhymes with Valhalla) and through might of arms took control of Farholde. Though he burned down the original fort, he rebuilt a castle upon its foundations. This was the first establishment of the Hamarhall, named for its distinctive shape. It became one of the first nine watchtowers of the Watch Wall which guarded the frontier.
Accarius’ troops made permanent camp atop the nine hills and it is this camp that is direct descendant of Farholde today. Some of the oldest street names like ‘Quartermarch’ and ‘Kingscamp’ hint at this origin.
The Iraen tribesmen are not memories. They inhabit the Caer Bryr in great numbers and even a few still make Farholde their home. Some worry that the forest-dwellers merely wait for a chance when Talingarde is weak enough that these barbarian may take back what was once theirs. The truth is that the forest-dwelling Iraen nowadays prefer their secluded glens. As for the town-dwelling Iraen, so interbred are they with the Talireans, that they are virtually indistinguishable. Their greatest contribution is the proliferation of unpronounceable place names, red hair and green eyes.
The City in the Jaws
With a little imagination, you can see that the delta is actually a great monster closing its jaws upon Farholde. The town seems like little more than a morsel this great beast will soon devour. Though simply a coincidence of geography, this is an apt analogy.
North is the savage frozen frontier – the land beyond the Watch Wall. It is the domain of the bugbear tribes, the mighty Naatanuk and the enigmatic ice elves. More than once, Hamarhall has been besieged by these barbarous neighbors. Every time the Talireans have fought them off. If the invaders tried to bypass Hamarhall, the fortress deployed its war galleys armed with batteries of ballistae and battering rams. These warships made quick work of any crude flotilla the bugbears could cobble together.
To the south is the Caer Bryr (usually simply called the Briar by locals), an endless and alien jungle. The forest teems with barbaric tribes with different religions and tongues, weird ruins of inestimable antiquity and vicious super-predators that do not distinguish between men and prey. There are a thousand stories told of the dangers that lurk in the Briar and the terrifying truth is that a great percentage of them relate something close to fact.
In the middle of these wild perils lies Farholde – a thin strand of Talirean civilization. The people of Farholde do not decry their place or their fate. Instead, they take pride in their resilience. Farholde is just shy of three centuries old. For three centuries, bugbear hordes and Briar-born beasts have done their best to wipe it from the map.
Notable Landmarks of Farholde
Ths grim castle of grey stone overlooks the Scardynn delta from high Hamarhill and remains the most obvious sign of royal might. Usually garrisoned by one hundred soldiers plus officers and support personnel, this castleis not too different from the Watchtower Balentyne. At the moment, the castle has lost much of its defensive significance and its garrison is much decreased. Sir Valin Darian commands twenty overworked soldiers who do their best to maintain patrols and a presence on the walls.
Baron Vandemir advises against attacking Hamarhall. Though it would be easy to conquer the tower manned only by Sir Valin and his twenty soldiers, all this will accomplish is alerting the citizenry that the town is in danger. He speculates that the Abbess (see below) and retired soldiery will form an alliance of desperation. A militia will be organized and the town will actually become more secure.
2. The Accarian Beacon
Where Lake Scardynn meets the sea rises King Accarius’ other less famous building project. The lighthouse guides ships into the port through the jagged, rockstrewn breakwaters. It is also anchors one point of the great sea-chain that can be raised to block access to the Scardynn in times of war.
The keeper and guardian of the beacon is actually a hereditary position bestowing a minor noble title. Sir Bonder of the Beacon holds the position today, charged with securing the beacon by a three hundred year old royal decree. He uses that decree to justify maintaining and arming his own gang of toughs. Known officially as the Beacon Watch, everyone in town calls them the Beakers. Th Beakers used to be kept in check by the Duke’s men, but now Lord Argus and his garrison are gone. Sir Bonder, an ambitious and ruthless man, has been recruited by Arkov Vandermir into his personal circle. Though not a worshiper of Asmodeus (nor aware that his new patron is such), Sir Bonder is a potential ally of the Knot.
3. Calliver Green
This gently sloping hill is amongst the highest points south of the Scardynn delta and has become home to the wealthiest residents of Farholde. Access to the Green is blocked by a small private guard post. Without a pass granted by a residents, access is not allowed.
Only six estates stand on the hill: Welshire Hall (the personal estate of the duke himself), Vanderhall (Baron Arkov Vandermir’s estate), Beaconhelm (the estate of Sir Bonder of the Beacon), Hallynsgate (home of the mayor and reeve, Hugo Hallynbeck), Cranstyn Spire (owned by Farholde’s wealthiest merchant – the lady Shalyn Marsten) and Far Ghasten (an empty but meticulously maintained manor owned by the powerful Ghastens of Ghastenhall).
The six estates surround a large picturesque communal green. Ths lush private park, once venerated as a holy place by the Iraen, still boasts a great and ancient yew tree, its knotty trunk more than sixteen feet across at its widest. Ths tree gives the hill its name – Calliver (pronounced Cowl-liver similar to caliber) is a bastardized version of its older name Cannock Ivar, which means literally the Hill of the Yew. Once druids prayed to this old tree, but now it is far more likely that you will fnid some young noble scion picnicking beneath the vast spread of its countless branches.
4. Abbey of Saint Cynthia-Celeste
Usually called simply the Abbey by locals, this large walled manor house is home to a devout order of Mitran nuns. The nuns are a common sight about town dressed in their dark blue and white habits. Thse “brides of light” are a chaste and cloistered order, but still must frequently leave their abbey to conduct their business. They are a relatively young order, their founder having been martyred only a hundred and fifty years ago.
Saint Cynthia-Celeste was a powerful cleric of Mitra who frequently ventured into the north. Her greatest achievement was single-handedly defeating a powerful ice devil (a gelugon) known only as Skathyl. Skathyl had manifested on this plane and threatened the peace by unifying an army of northern monsters. It was Saint Cynthia-Celeste who lead a party far to the north and slew the beast. Unfortunately, the saint herself was dealt a mortal blow in the fight and was brought back here by her distraught devotees. Her incorruptible body lies enshrined in a perpetually guarded sarcophagus looking as if she died yesterday. Skathyl’s wickedly ornate glaive, though, is on display in the Abbey’s shrine wrapped in chains of silver.
The Order is well regarded throughout Farholde thanks to their many good works. Led by the Abbess Temperance Avigail, the sisters are quick to offer aid. Their resources of holy blessings are limited. Though the order has more than three hundred sisters within its walls, Vandemir estimates that perhaps twenty of them, including the Abbess, have the ability to use divine magic.
Owing to their founder being a devil-hunter, every sister of the abbey receives some basic military training and they maintain an armory. While this is not well-known about town, now that the garrison is gone the sisters of Saint Cynthia-Celeste are actually the largest fighting force in Farholde. Thy could muster more than a hundred trained fighting nuns backed by divine spellcasters if Farholde were directly endangered.
5. The Vandermir Orphanage
Baron Arkov Vandermir established this orphanage ostensibly to help the most needy of Farholde’s children. In truth, the orphanage’s actual purpose is to give the Baron muscle. The older boys are taught to fight and steal. Those who excel at this brutality are eventually recruited into the Baron’s personal retinue. This gang of toughs does Arkov’s dirty work. While the Duke was here, the Baron had to be discrete. But now, reading between the lines of his conversation makes it clear that the Baron is determined to use all his might to secure his position as the most powerful person in Farholde. He does not spend much effort hiding this fact from his Asmodean allies.
The Orphanage itself is an imposing structure teeming with children of all ages. The buildings are well maintained and the children certainly seem well taken care of. The headmaster, a wizard named Bergill Mott is careful to ensure that the orphanage puts forward a fine official face. Master Mott sees that the orphanage’s worst offenses are confined to darkness. Still, it is difficult to contain several score young enterprising thugs and the hill around the orphanage has become a famously crime-ridden neighborhood.
6. Bryrwatch (“The Trident”)
This small watchtower just outside of Farholde rises on the highest promontory south of the Scardynn delta. It over looks both the edge of the Caer Bryr and the lake. Manned by guards with piercing signal horns, it could alert the town if anything dangerous emerges from the woods. It has a very distinctive shape with two smaller turrets jutting out of the main tower, hence its nickname “The Trident”. One turret faces towards the river and one towards the forest.
Like everything else connected with the military, Bryrwatch is garrisoned now only by a skeleton crew. A half dozen soldiers man the small three-floored tower.
Built upon the largest of the nine hills, this is the oldest section of Farholde and the only part of the town surrounded by a wall. When the hill fort that became Hamarhall fell, there was across the river a small Iraen town. The town surrendered without battle and was captured intact. Auld’Irey (pronounced all-DIARY), a corruption of “Old Iraen”, is the rebuilt remains of that settlement.
Today Auld’Irey is the mostly densely populated portion of Farholde. Every available plot has been developed and buildings are stacked upon buildings. The majority of commerce is done here and the lionshare of Farholde’s shops, taverns and inns are located in this quarter.
This quarter is not just filled with shops. Many people live here and the oldest houses in Farholde are located here. Once Auld’Irey was the nicest place to live in Farholde but recently that honor has been usurped by the manors of Calliver Green (see above).
Auld’Irey is also where the headquarters of the town watch is located. Ths ensures that this quarter is the most patrolled and safest public section of the city.
8. Templeton Rise
Located at the highest point in Auld’Irey is the center of all trade in Farholde — the Templeton Rise. Originally, a pagan Iraen temple, a temple to all the Talirean gods (including both Asmodeus and Mitra) supplanted it. When the Darian dynasty overthrew the Barcan kings, that temple was abandoned and sold to the Marsten family, rich merchants. The family remains the current owners and this is the hub of their mercantile empire.
The lady Shalyn Marsten (the Marsten family a century ago bought a very minor noble title — thus she is the “lady Marsten”) presides over her dominion from this perch. The building is an open hall where goods are traded in bulk. Various merchants maintain stalls where sellers can take their wares in hopes of finding a buyer. At the far end of the hall is the only permanent fixture, the Marsten Offices. The place is loud and furious during business hours as auctions are held one after another.
Newchurch is the name of the neighborhood, the hill it sits on and the common title given to the Mitran church at its center. The church was commissioned by the Victor during his visit to Farholde (the first and last time that any Darian king set foot here). It was this commission that caused the old temple (now the Templeton Rise) to be abandoned and later sold to the Marstens.
The church itself, formally known as the Hall of the Sun Victorious, is perhaps the most majestic building in all of Farholde. It rises in baroque splendor to dominate its hill. Its great central spire, crowned with a Mitran sunburst, can be seen from almost any point in town. The church once had a large staff of clergy. Most of them are gone. They went with Lord Argus to war, serving as healers and spiritual support for the troops. What remains are just a few junior laymen who conduct services and keep the place in order.
Ths is the low-lying middle between Auld’Irey, Newchurch, Estell and Jasperhill. Being one of the lowest areas around the delta, no one sane would live here and yet it is crowded with temporary structures, water-logged shanties and traveller’s tents. This transient community is definitely the bad part of town. It exists because the town watch has repeatedly proven it is loathe to come down here. This is understandable, as it is not easy to get to Drownington from Auld’Irey. The bridge that connects Auld’Irey to Newchurch is separated by a wall. The eastern gate that connects Auld’Irey to Estell has no access to Drownington. You have to leave through the north gate and trudge through hundreds of yards of muddy bog to make it to Drownington. The guard rarely bothers. Thus, there is effectively a small lawless zone right in the middle of Farholde. This is Drownington. And if someone needs to avoid officials and doesn’t mind the occasional flood, anyone can set up shop here.
Drownington is a maze of transients and cast-off. Fights and muggings are common. Illegal goods unthinkable to trade up on the hills are openly trafficked here. Desperate prostitutes peddle their wares besides drunken river sailors too broke to afford lodging above.
11. Lord Drownington’s Manor
There is only one permanent structure in Drownington, built on a slab of rock that is mostly above the flood line (by almost four inches!). There stands a stout stone bunker that has barely survived a hundred floods. A crudely made sign in front reads “Lord Drownington’s Manor”. Equal parts bar, brothel, fight club, black market and thieves’ guild, this is without a doubt the most dangerous place in Farholde.
The Manor is run by a large, unpleasant man named Rubal Thaam. Bald, scarred, mean and possibly the world’s most creative wielder of profanity, Rubal was once a captain in the Duke’s garrison until he was caught running a prostitution and gambling ring to “increase morale”. Rubal was able to avoid being arrested and shipped to Branderscar prison by pinning some of the most heinous acts on underlings. Still, he was dishonorably discharged and ended up here. Rubal killed the last owner in a knife fight and now runs the place as his personal fiefdom.
A night without a knife fight or bar brawl is considered tame at the Manor. But if you want to really know what’s going on in Farholde, it’s also the best place to hear unfitered rumors. Just be careful not to steal from Rubal or threaten his girls. Rubal never forgets a grudge.
12. Wrecker Isle
This large accumulation of pebbles and debris in the river delta is largely seen as navigation hazard these days. There are rumors that it once held something important to the old Iraen, and other rumors that it’s haunted by the ghosts of shipwrecked sailors, but there has never been any evidence of either being true.
This low hill has a small rural community that marks the beginning of a collection of loosely affiliated farms that stretch south towards the Caer Bryr’s edge. Baron Arkov Vandermir owns a great deal of this farmland and thus possesses a near monopoly on Farholde’s food supply. He has used this to grow wealthy indeed. Even though Westell and the Barony of Mir further to the south are the source of his wealth, he prefers to be an absentee landlord and rarely visits.
14. Corgan’s Landing
This is a large slab of stone built on the banks of the Scardynn almost two centuries ago. Though it has settled some, it remains comfortably above the flood line. Thus, it is completely filed with warehouses, businesses and offices of all sorts. It is also the home of the Harbormaster’s House.
The current harbormaster, Captain Charles Ritkin, is a retired member of the duke’s garrison. He is honest, forthright and relentless in enforcing the king’s law on the harbors of Farholde. When the war started, he almost reenlisted but was talked out of it by the duke himself. “I need you here, Charlie, keeping my city running,” the duke commanded. Harbormaster Ritkin takes this duty very seriously.
Alas that the assistant harbormaster does not. Mallory Ritkin is Charles’ nephew and the retired captain has a total blind spot towards the youngster. Mallory is a corrupt gambler and womanizer who has used his position to live far above his means. He is also completely in the pocket of Baron Arkov Vandermir.