WarDragon's Way of the Wicked
Corruption +2; Crime +0; Economy +4; Law -1; Lore +4; Society +2
Qualities Academic, Prosperous
Government hereditary autocracy
Population 82,000 (65,600 humans; 10,600 dwarves; 3,200 halflngs, 1,620 half-elves; 650 elves, 80 aasimar; 250 other )
Lord Hadrian of Ghaster, Duke of Ghastenhall
Cardinal Leo Arestes
Base Value 16,000; Purchase Limit 100,000 gp ; Spellcasting 7th level divine, 9th level arcane
Minor Items nearly all are available; Medium Items 4d4; Major Items 3d4
One of the three great cities of Talingarde, Ghastenhall is by the far the most cosmopolitan and liberal. Compared to the orthodoxy of Matharyn and the rigid legalisms of Daveryn, Ghastenhall is a hub of trade, art, theater, learning and culture.
Ghastenhall is a city with one foot in the past and one foot in the future. The duke is the last gasp of the old Barcan nobility that used to rule this island. His grandfather marched to war against the Victor. Of course, the old duke was also wise enough that when defeated he swiftly swore fealty to the new king. Still there is a lingering wound there that has never entirely healed.
But at the same time, Ghastenhall is at the forefront of Talirean art and culture. Virtually every new book and play written in Talingarde comes from this city. Most new music and fashion are born here. Almost anything truly new in the kingdom likely originated here. If you know what’s happening in Ghastenhall, you know what’s happening in Talingarde.
The Domain of the Mad Duke
There is a persistent rumor that Duke Hadrian is mad. (Knowledge (nobility) DC 15 reveals the following.) He does not stop these rumors and in fact subtly encourages them. There is an oft circulated story for example of how he once roamed the entire Castle Ghasten in nothing but his crown. He even had dinner and received foreign dignitaries this way, the tale insists.
This story is not exactly true though it has a kernel of truth. Th duke often dresses outlandishly wearing garments of vibrant colored silk. The royal tailor decided this was inappropriate and took it upon himself to replace the duke’s entire wardrobe with more fashionable and presentable attire. The tailor was certain that when the Duke saw the garments, he would recant from his eccentricities. Instead the duke strolled out in the buff in front of the tailor, tossed the tailor’s garments into his face and told him “I’d rather wear nothing than this rubbish” and stormed back into his private chambers.
The City Upon The Scar
The city of Ghastenhall sits upon one of the most prominent natural features of Talingarde – the great Godscar river. The Talireans consider the mighty Godscar to run from Cambrian Bay to Lake Tarik, but in fact the same geologic feature actually divides Talingarde in twain, running from the bay to the northern sea. This flooded fault line slashes through two mountain ranges and hints at the violent prehistoric birth pangs of the Isle of Talingarde long ago. The dwarves, long accustomed to the havoc the earth can wreak have a saying “Father Mountain does not sleep forever”. The same could be said of the mighty Godscar. It will not sleep forever. But fortunately for Ghastenhall, it sleeps for now.
Today the Godscar river is the life blood of the city. The Godscar is a massive body of water. Though not that long it is wide and it routinely manages to be a mile across. At its widest it is over five. Some veteran river sailors remark that the Godscar is not a river. It is a long lake that connects Lake Tarik to the sea. This is not far from the truth.
The Godscar teems with fish and sea life. The scarpers (slang for freshwater fisherman) head out every morning with the dawn in their little boats and cast their nets into the thriving lake. Their hauls of trout, char, steelhead and river salmon quickly make their way into the fish markets alongside the southern docks and by lunch fill ten thousand cooking pots throughout the city.
Every once in a great while a monster comes down river from the northern seas – often a bunyip or a giant moray eel – and makes trouble on the lake. Old scarpers still wag about the time a sea serpent took up residence near the mouth of the Godscar. The so-called Sea Devil ate a
dozen men before the duke hired some monster hunters to catch it. When it was dragged out of the sea it measured seventy two feet tip to tail. Its skull still decorates a famous eatery in the tenth quarter of town known as the Devil’s Diner. The food is excellent and, if you book in
advance, you can actually sit in the booth with the head looming above known to local’s as the Devil’s Bite.
It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the Godscar to Ghastenhall. The reason the Castle Ghasten is here is to watch the entrance to the river. The reason there are so many people here is the bounty of the river. The reason the soil here is so rich here is ancient topsoil laid down by the river. The Cambrian Bay and the saltwater port have made the city rich, but the Godscar river is what allowed the city even to exist. Ghastenhall has been sometimes been called the Gift of the Godscar and this is undeniably true.
A City Without Loyalties
You need only glance at the Ghastenhall coat of arms to see that the city of Ghastenhall has shifted masters many times. In the center is the Mitran Sun. In the upper left quarter is the Darian blue and white. In the upper right is the Barcan Griffin. Th Red and Green of the backgrounds are colors used by the old Iraen tribesmen who once owned this isle before the Talireans came.
Yes, Ghastenhall has known many masters. The city is wise enough to bow before whoever holds the throne, but the truth is that most Ghastens (sometimes derogatorily called Ghastlies by outsiders) think of themselves as their own tribe. It is to themselves that their first loyalty will always lie.
Ghastenhall claims to be the oldest city in Talingarde. This might actually be true though no one can be certain. It has a certain sense to it. The rise overlooking the Godscar where the Castle Ghasten currently stands is a natural defensive position. The nearby river and sea are
rich sources of food. And freshwater is available in the Godscar. Further, the surrounding foothills of the Eastern Ansgarian mountains are rich with strong stone. If you look carefully in some of the old quarries you can see evidence of crude stone blocks cut from the pits by tools not made of iron. Men have made this place their home for countless centuries.
But even if there is somewhere on the island an older settlement, it matters not. The Ghasten think of themselves as an old and established folk. They take the long view on politics and power struggles. Maybe House Darius and the Mitrans will reign for a hundred more years. Who can say? But will they reign forever? Certainly not.
There are Ghasten alive today who remember when the current duke’s grandfather marched to war against Darius to support the last Barcan king. Buy them an ale and they’ll tell you now what they said then. It was a mistake to get tangled up in such struggles. The city of Ghastenhall was not directly threatened. What did it matter whether the kingdom flew the colors of Darian Blue or Barcan Red and Green? Either regime would need their port and need their river.
This lesson has been taken to heart by the current duke. The battle against the Victor was a disaster for Ghastenhall. More than two thousand sons of the city died upon that battlefield. When the bodies returned home the City upon the Scar became a city of funerals. Now war has come again to Talingarde. There is no doubt the bugbear horde must be defeated. The question for the duke is how this can be done without repeating the same tragedy.
The Fifteen Quarters
I. Lord’s Quarter
Lord’s Quarter is a small city unto itself and the nobles, upper class and wealthy population who dwell here need never leave if they so choose. It is the only part of town that is walled and it has but a single gate — The Duke’s Gate (often simply the Gate since its the only gatehouse most city dwellers every encounter). Beyond the gate is King’s Hook Row which leads straight to the Castle Ghasten where the Duke lives and garrisons his personal guard. Technically the Duke’s Gate is supposed to be open to all citizens but in reality the guards there often turn back the obviously poor or vagrant.
The Lord’s Quarter has grown organically over the years and there is absolutely no order to its arrangement. Manor houses are right next to merchants and often a long row of businesses will have a few homes scattered amongst it. In fact, the larger, richer estates are ringed with luxury shops.
In every other part of the city, Lord’s Quarter is simply called “The Lorker” (sometimes spelled Lorquar). “He’s gone Lorkers” is a local saying that means “he struck it rich, probably through some dishonest means.”
The single largest portion of the city, this crescent-shaped quarter surrounds the Lord’s Quarter from the Cambrian Bay to Faithful Way. This is where the artisans work. In many ways when people speak broadly of Ghastenhall, they are actually talking about Whitequarter. Whitequarter is the most representative part of the city and almost half the population lives in this one quarter.
III. Priest’s Quarter
Somewhat misnamed, actually only a small percentage of this quarter is occupied by priests. However it is the location of the single largest church in Ghastenhall – the Cathedral of Mitra the Fire Undying (often simply called ‘the Cathy’ by less reverent locals) and is the seat of the Cardinal of Ghastenhall.
A better description of the Priest’s Quarter would be the Scholar’s Quarter as this one area houses almost all of Talingarde’s centers of higher learning. Besides a handful of academies in Matharyn and the Daveryn Conservatory, if you are going to university in Talingarde, you are going here. The Universities of Ghaster, Heldynhall, Tynebrucks, Fairchester, Canterly and True Ghaster all crowd this quarter. The Library of Ghaster serves them all and collects books from across the world.
The Universities of Ghastr and True Ghaster are famous rivals and compete in everything from track, rowing contests on the Wellspring River, and in acquiring the best researchers. Their names arose because two centuries ago when they were founded, the Barcan king ordered the building of Ghaster University without notifying the duke. Th duke, incensed at being cut out of the loop, commissioned his own university calling it True Ghaster. The two universities have been rivals ever since.
The priests and scholars who rub elbows also famously dislike each other. The priests wear blue robes and the scholar wear black so when there is a disagreement there is a famous saying “blue beats black.” In other words, the Church remains more politically powerful than scholars.
Saltsquarter is where the fisherman who cast their nets into the salt water of the Cambrian bay dock their boats. They have a stern rivalry with the freshwater fisherman of Scarpers (see below).
This is also where ocean-going vessels dock and is the busiest port in Talingarde. As a result, you can encounter peoples from all across the world here. It is not uncommon to see lizardfolk, minotaurs, ogres and even stranger creatures in this quarter. They are tolerated as long as
they keep the peace but also seen with suspicion.
Goldquarter is the banking and financial quarter of Ghastenhall. It is also home to a vast network of speculators in jewels and precious metals making it one of the finest places in all of Talingarde to sell treasure. Even better, the merchants of Goldquarter are as a rule completely unconcerned with where the precious metals they broker came from. These merchants will happily hawk a holy symbol or a church treasure.
Greedily Lane runs right through the middle of Goldquarter. Local legend has it that the road got this name after a bank tried to overcharge the then Duke for a loan. Regardless, virtually no one actually lives in Goldquarter. It almost entirely consists of businesses and trading houses. In many ways, the Goldquarter is wildly ahead of its time. This is a place where modern [by Earth standards, Dear Readers!] attitudes about money and wealth are common place and greed rules all.
Kingspeace has a reputation for being the most boring place in the city. This small quarter, largely populated by traders, artisans and farmers deserves that reputation.
This is Ghastenhall’s industrial heart. The sound of smithing and manufacturing never ceases here. This also means that Wrightsbridge is famous for something else — its legendary terrible smell. “He smells Wrighty” is another way of saying “he smells indescribably awful.”
Local lore states that Tuebelow got its name from a magistrate who pronounced of the quarter “For every one that goes to heaven, two below.” The name stuck and a duchy mapmaker couldn’t spell. Hence Tuebelow.
Thi-s is rather unfair. Tuebelow is not a bad part of the city. Instead this young quarter is the heart of Ghastenhall’s newly emergent middle class. Wide and spread out compared to most of the city, this is a comfortable place to live.
Once Weatherby was a small farming community on the city’s outskirts. Now it has been thoroughly absorbed into the city itself. Still at its heart, this remains a quiet farming community. The townspeople of Weatherby take pride in being rural even though their quarter is completely surrounded by city. The worse thing they can say about a local is that “he’s gone Ghastly” – Ghastly being their pet name for Ghastenhall.
Still, Ghastenhall is eating Weatherby whether the old guard like it or not. Virtually the entire western part of Weatherby has been bought up by artists and theater owners. With the building of the new Barrington-in-the-Round Theater near the quarter’s edge, it seems certain that Weatherby’s days as a farming community are numbered. This dire state of affairs is discussed endlessly by old Weatherbians on their porches.
Scarpers takes its name from the old city slang for those who fish the Godscar River. ‘Scarpers’ and ‘Salties’ (those who fish the salt water Cambrian Bay) have long had a serious rivalry. Usually, this rivalry manifests only as quiet grumbling. But every once in a while, there is some isolated incident of violence.
Locals know that, despite the terrible smell near the river, that the absolute best places to eat in Ghastenhall (other than perhaps the rich and unaffordable dining halls in the Lord’s Quarter) are the restaurants along Sothsby Way. Fresh river fish from Scarpers and farmer’s produce from Weatherby combine to create culinary delights.
XI. The Red Quarter
Th Red Quarter is the bad part of town. Hardly a week goes by that the duke does not have the Cardinal urging him to raid this place and shut down its pits of depravity. And each week the duke promises that yes it will be done as soon as there are resources to do so. But that day never seems to come. Why? Why is such a pit tolerated?
The Red Quarter is Ghastenhall’s dirty secret. There is no reason that foreign ships shouldn’t stop at Matharyn instead of proceeding up the Cambrian Bay to do their business at Ghastenhall. But the truth is that most give Talingarde’s capitol a pass. Why?
After the great danger of crossing the open sea, where would rather take your liberty? Would you stop at the very religious and orthodox port of Matharyn or would you rather continue up the bay to Ghastenhall with its Red Quarter full of bars, brothels and betting parlors? The answer to that question for most sailors is obvious. And so the duke discovers once again that he has better things to do, the Church fumes and the city coffers swell.
Downerly used to be a farming community but when the port trade got too busy in Saltsquarter, traders came through and bought nearly the whole quarter. Now Downerly is almost nothing but warehouses. The Old Lighthouse is just inside this quarter and still operates helping ships to navigate the Cambrian Bay into Ghastenhall’s thriving ports.
Once this quarter was known by the rather bland name of Farmington. But no one calls it that anymore. Instead, with most of the farmers gone, this rough badland of farmed-out fields between Wrightsway and the three hills is universally called Wrongside. If you can’t afford to live anywhere else in Ghastenhall, you can afford to live here.
The exact borders of the farming towns of Barleybell and Turnsborough are uncertain. They are both claimed by two rural barons. Anything north of Ghastenhall that has farmland on it is either Barleybell if its to the west or Turnsborough if its more easterly. Exactly where the dividing line lies is uncertain. Regardless these two farming communities are Ghastenhall’s bread basket.
Ten Places of Interest in Ghastenhall
1. Castle Ghasten (Old Ghastenhall)
Properly the Castle Ghasten is Ghastenhall. The city that shares its name developed around the castle which was built to command control of the great Godscar river. These days to avoid confusion the castle is called the Castle Ghasten. This is the the palace of the duke and his family. It is also the seat of government in this region and where all official business is conducted.
Once a week from the noon bell till sunset the Duke holds an open court. Any who wish can come and speak to the Duke. Usually this consists of an endless parade of peasants venting some petty land complaint or minor nobility trying to bend the duke’s ear in hopes of receiving money. The current duke weathers it all with good humor and even sporadically decides to help some local in need of actual assistance.
2. Grand Cathedral of Mitra the Fire Undying
One of largest churches of Mitra in Talingarde, this is not just a center of worship. This is an institution and center of business. The Cathy is where the Cardinal of Ghastenhall conducts his court. The Cardinal is the second most important person in Ghastenhall (below the duke). The Church owns massive holdings both in and outside the city and it is in this court that the business of all those holdings is conducted.
But for all that, a house of worship it remains, and dedicated to Mitra’s most wrathful aspect. Though officially centered in Matharyn, the holy Inquisition does maintain an office here year round.
3. The Old Barcan Cemetery
This is the oldest cemetery in Ghastenhall. It has a reputation for being haunted and this reputation is not undeserved.
4. The Crowley Estate
This is one of the very few uninhabited estates in the Lord’s Quarter. Using his considerable wealth, Cardinal Thorn has had Brother Barnabus Thane acquire it for use as a safe house.
5. The Golden Palace
Located at the intersection of Crabtrap Row and Longshot Lane in the Red Quarter, the Golden Palace is Ghastenhall’s most infamous center of vice and violence. Owned by the enigmatic Mister Martigan Vex (one of the rare tieflings in Talingarde), it is hard to catalog just how many vices are catered to. Part brothel, part speak-easy, part opium den, part casino and part pit-fighting arena, there is little not for sale here.
6. The Grand Market
Once a season (save for winter), Ghastenhall hosts a great three day market located in the heart of Whitequarter. For those three days, the city goes wild with commerce. The base value and purchase limit both increase by 20% and 1d4 bonus medium and major magic items are available for sale for three days only!
7. The Library of Ghaster
The Library Ghaster is actually a wonder of Talingarde. This open library charges only a pittance (5 sp a day) for access to its stacks. Inside is the single greatest collection of books, tomes and scrolls in all of Talingarde. This is the preferred haunt of Barnabus Thane, who is a member of the library’s staff. It is also a fine place to do research. Spending a day here grants a +4 circumstance bonus to an Knowledge skill check.
There is however one great hole in the Library’s collections. The library has no books at all about Asmodeus, his worship, or that of other evil gods, or evil outsiders. That lore is forbidden by Church edict.
8. Victory Circle
This large open plaza has at its center a gigantic marble statue of King Marcadian I called the Victorious – the Victor himself. The Victor stands triumphant on a crest of white skyros holding aloft a sword in his right hand and the banner of Mitra in his left. The statue is surrounded by fountains and on clear days great throngs of city dwellers gather here to chat and stroll.
Victory Circle is also famous for something else – its mad men. Lines of prophets, crazies, cranks and crackpots gather here to regale the passing populace on a host of subjects. Most of them are simple homeless nuts ranting about the end of the world. But every once in a while a true oracle appears and speaks here. The Church of Mitra only barely tolerates this gathering of blasphemers.
9. Barrington-in-the-Round Theater
Ghastenhall’s nicest and newest theater. This theater has raised controversy by allowing women to join the cast. This is also the theater that made the reputation of famed thespian William Marcus Marlowe, the beloved bard of Barrington. Sadly, no one has heard of Master Marlowe for some time? Is he still alive? Speculation runs rampant. Still, the show must go on! Not the “Fall of Amberlyn” I’m afraid. That is so last season.
This season, Marlowe’s understudy will be starring as the lead in “Five Against Fortune”. This play is a rousing tale of five heroes who manage to outwit a vicious, ludicrously angry Asmodean king, woo his daughter and beat his pet devil. Its a big boisterous performance with the leading man cast as that rapscallion with a heart of gold – Brandon of Braskerly. It features sword fights, singing, romance and a funny bit
with a dog.
This old manor house sits on a rise overlooking Wrongside just past Snakerly Trail. No one lives in this house and by reputation this house is haunted. No one can say for sure, but it is known that the last owners, and all of their servants, disappeared without a trace some years ago, and the murder rate in the neighborhood has risen slightly since.
Eleven Interesting Facts About Ghastenhall
1. Ghastenhall food is famously spicy.
Thanks to an abundance of foreign merchants in this port town, spices are not rare in Ghastenhall. That means that many of the quintessentially Ghasterly foods are devilishly hot. The most famous local food of all “Scarper’s Stew” is a blend of river-caught seafood simmered in a broth made of onions, herbs, fish bones and crab shells then spiced to the point of being bright red and fiery hot.
2. Rowing is the favorite sport.
River boat rowing is the favored sport of the upper crust. The teams often come from the various colleges but even the town watch has rowing teams. Watching a set of rowing is often a picnic-like affair and involves sitting on the banks of the Wellspring during the summer months watching the boats go by. Very genteel indeed.
3. The other favorite sport is Rugagug.
Rugagug is basically a gang fight with a few rules and if you’re lucky a referee. The goal in Rugagug is to get a rather strange shaped ball between two posts no matter who tries to stop you. There are a few other rules and subtleties, fans insist, but to outsiders it can be difficult to tell. Some say that it was adopted from an ogre game, and few are willing to disagree.
4. Ghastenhall is the only place in Talingarde to reliably get rum.
The “Salties”, the saltwater fisherman, have developed a taste for rum, doubtless from hanging out with foreign sailors. Sugar cane does not grow in Talingarde so it must either be imported (expensive) or smuggled (dangerous). The alternative was to use local sugar beets. They make a passable rum substitute except that thanks to the beets the booze is blood red. The scarpers may like their beer, but the salties will take blood rum over it every time.
5. Many street names in Ghastenhall are quite silly.
There is a law that anytime the city expands the new street is presented before the duke and he gets to name it. In the past a number of dukes have not taken this duty seriously. That is why Ghastenhall has a Leavemebe Lane, Fetchmeabrandy Street, Rubella’s Rosy Rump Road, and the most powerful wizard in town’s new tower is on Abracadabra Way. These silly names often gets shortened in day to day use. Ruby Road is far easier and quicker to say than Rubella’s Rosy Rump. Some of these silly names have become quite famous. Everyone knows you find the banks on Greedily Road.
6. Ghastenhall still honors Asmodeus’s main festival.
Well, sort of. Everyone knows that the major festival of Asmodeus happens on the last day of the Harvest Month. It is said that then the barrier between this world and the realms of death and Hell are the thinnest. In order to appease the wandering spirits and hunting devils, you must bribe them with treats and presents. Traditionally children dress up as monster and the adults give the treats (a kind of honey cookie being the usual present). When the worship of Asmodeus was banned by the Mitrans eighty years ago, this festival called the Asmodean Revel was also banned. But here in Ghastenhall, they didn’t stop doing it. They just changed the name. It is now called the Angelian Revel to honor St. Angelo patron saint of monster hunters. But it is still identical.
7. The color of the moment is burgundy.
Ghastenhall actually has a modest fashion community that designs new clothing that is aped throughout the kingdom. This year they seem to have decided that the only color worth wearing is burgundy. The shops are full of rich reds both as dresses and men’s doublets. Burgundy
is everywhere. Of course the cracks in this trend are already starting to show. Already a few designers are starting to whisper that burgundy is played out. What will next years color be? Who can say. Isn’t fashion exciting?
8. Ghastenhall mints its own money.
Most of the currency used in Talingarde comes from Matharyn, but Ghastenhall actually does mint their own coins thanks to an ancient grant given to the duke’s family long ago. Therefore, you can find coins with the duke’s head right along the side the king’s head all over the city.
9. The Duke is unmarried and the city’s most eligible bachelor.
Duke Hadrian is in his early thirties, handsome and quite the ladies man. Yet he remains unmarried. This must change soon. The duke needs an heir! But the question on everyone’s mind is who the lucky lady will be. The duke has already rejected the usual suspects amongst the aristocracy. Could it be the duke plans to marry a peasant? Such a scandal!
10. A Magical College?
Rumors fly that professor Tiberius Feign, a powerful and accomplished wizard may soon open Talingarde’s first magical college. It is doubtful the Church will approve but what does the duke think? No one is sure.
11. The mystery of Princess Iris’s disappearance has never been solved.
The story goes that the beautiful and yet capricious daughter of the duke left in the middle of the night to seek a life of adventure. She was never seen again. Every year on her birthday to this day a candle-lit vigil is held to pray for the Princess’ safe return.
She must be dead – that was eighty years ago and she was human. Her grief stricken father, the duke, decreed that he and any of his line would trade anything if someone would tell him the fate of his beautiful, beloved daughter. That edict still stands and the current Duke is technically bound to it. After all this time, however, nobody really expects such news to ever come to light, and Duke Hadrian is growing tired of the parade of obvious charlatans that harass him trying to collect.