DescriptionA prospering city with an old problem: Blackhaven could be a role model for how to build a thriving community. But there's something deadly underground, and it's not as easy as a monster that needs to be slain. Formed as a mining colony 450 years ago, Blackhaven originally belonged to the trading company Avros Agedin. The name refers to its two founders, the Human Avros Del'Mazai and the Elf Agedin Hathirien. The two were lovers, but Avros died about 400 years ago. Agedin, by now an old woman even for elven standards, still lives in Blackhaven. In the mines below the city, there is an abundance of coal - and hundreds of years of mining haven't depleted the resources. The two founders negotiated trade deals with many nearby cities and villages, becoming the most important source for coal in the area. Being located at the shores of Mermaid's Rest made it easy to transport the goods to many different places. The Avros Agedin company had a very unusual business approach from the very beginning. Twenty percent of its revenue went to the employees, giving an equal share to all of them. With the success of the company, this made everyone working for the two lovers relatively wealthy in a short time. And with such financial resources at hand, the workers invested in good homes, and living good lives without scarcity. Within just a few years, Blackhaven turned into a busy and thriving city. The settlement kept growing until about 200 years ago. In a new mining tunnel, the workers found a type of coal that looked slightly different: It had a reddish hue, and smelled a bit like oranges. When experimenting with it, they found this coal burned longer and hotter than usual. Weapons and armor forged in its fires gained a beautiful reddish hue, as well. The new product was a huge success, and with that in mind, the Blackhaveners were excited when they found coal with traces of a blue crystal. Focused on the positive properties, the locals quickly realized that metal forged in the Crystalcoal fire was particularly easy to shape, while becoming exceptionally hard and robust when finished. They shipped it at expensive prices to many nearby cities. About a week later, people started dying. The crystals had an unforeseen side effect: The fumes they gave off when burnt were toxic. It needs a certain amount of poison in the body before it takes effect, but once you've reached the tipping point, no natural cures can save a victim. People were horrified, of course. The trading company made sure they took all the Crystalcoal back, gave the families of the victims a lot of money, and made sure they received help from healers and clerics to handle the personal losses. Still, Blackhaven's name was ruined, and it took decades before people began to forget. But the events only exposed a problem that had been there all the time. As later research made clear, the Crystalcoal contaminates the surrounding ground in a wide area. People had been eating traces of the poison for centuries, and the next generations were born already poisoned. But this long, slow exposure had different effects than breathing in the deadly fumes. People became aggressive. In most cases, it was only a subtle change. Blackhaven's culture became somewhat rougher over the centuries. Every few decades, though, there's an individual that's affected worse than everyone else. When that happens, a new serial killer emerges from the city. People here understand what's going on. Most of them say they're "managing it", with only occasionally people leaving the city behind for good. Agedin, still running the trading company, has set up a special organization called the Purifiers. They keep an eye on the locals, and if someone gets too aggressive, they take that person into the Steamhouse. There, their bodies get purified, toxins washed out through herb baths and a special diet, until they behave relatively normal again. The process usually takes five to seven days, and the people that get taken to the Steamhouse usually have to be taken and kept there by force - in the beginning, at least. If the Purifiers believe that someone might become a serial killer, they don't even try the Steamhouse anymore. The poison infected not only the body of such an individual, but the very soul. They are evil deep within, and no herbs or simple spells can change that. The Purifiers try to catch these people before they can act on their dark impulses. The killers-to-be are brought into the Deep Pit, a cave hidden miles below the ground connected to abandoned mining tunnels. Over the last two centuries, more than twenty people have been brought here. Seven of them are still alive, living in an isolated underground village of serial killers, far away from the rest of the world. Sometimes, they kill each other, but most of the time, they are plotting ways to escape. None of them were successful, so far. If they ever got out all at once, the effects for the world above the ground would probably be disastrous. Despite all that, most people in Blackhaven lead relatively good lives. They are wealthy, and with Agedin still owning the trading company, all employees continue to get their fair share. The apocalypse and the rebirth of the world opened up new opportunities. The border to the Ocean of Ash is less than twenty miles away from the city, and on stormy days, ash gets blown all over the place, covering it in a dark grey blanket. Some of the city's mining tunnels already went so far that they almost reached the border. In the last years, they have been extended into the underground of the Ocean of Ash. Down there, the Blackhaveners found ore veins, and have now begun turning the ore into iron. The first shipments of the metal have been sold to nearby cities. A few residents warned to make sure nothing like the Crystalcoal disaster happens again, but so far, there are no signs of trouble. When a legion of Ravager Elf invaders arrived here in the first year of Ashandri, the Blackhaveners knew they were outnumbered, and capitulated. But this time, they used the Crystalcoal to their advantage. Agedin told the intruders of their problem and the effects on the locals. She was so convincing that the elves avoided the area, surrounding it with several camps - but the Blackhaveners were allowed to go on with their lives relatively undisturbed.
ResidentsThe people of Blackhaven are a rough bunch. At first glance, they appear friendly, but they constantly irritate outsiders with microaggressions. A hurtful word or subtle insult here, a "friendly punch" there, "assuming" consent and ignoring healthy boundaries - the effects of the Crystalcoal toxins are somewhat vague, but still obvious. The locals downplay the effects, claiming it's just "their culture", and people shouldn't be "oversensitive". It's a rare thing to hear from a Blackhavener that they are sorry about something they did. And if they do, it's mostly to make the other person shut up about something. This also had an effect on the law over time. Things that might get you arrested elsewhere, like a fist fight on the streets, only gets you a warning notice from the guard here. And if people really overstep, they are usually brought into the Steamhouse, not into jail. All this led to an attitude of "it's not my fault I acted that way". Combined with the fact that people here consider outsiders "touchy" and "thin-skinned", extended contact with Blackhaveners can be surprisingly unpleasant, despite the relatively friendly first impressions.
Important charactersAgedin Hathirien is still the most important person in Blackhaven. She deeply cares about the people of Blackhaven, and even tried to shut down the entire mining operation about 150 years ago. Hoping people would move elsewhere, she promised the residents to give them enough money to start a new life elsewhere. A few actually took up her offer, but most people stayed - it was their home, and they didn't just want to give it up. While the elven businesswoman still cares, the Crystalcoal slowly started affecting her, too. Her main belief today is that a certain amount of pain and anger just is a part of life, and in Blackhaven, people at least don't hide it. She still tries to handle the situation as best as she can, the Purifiers being an obvious sign for that. Agedin also realizes the potential serial killers in the mines are a time bomb, and she's trying to figure out a solution for them. So far, she hasn't decided on a course of action. Step by step, Agedin is preparing her two children, Elira and Marthaun, to take over the business. She knows her time is up soon, and wants to live a few years in retirement before she leaves the mortal world. The father of her children is unknown, but he definitely was a human. She also had a single child with Avros, the one man she still loves to this day, but Zenya, as the Half-Elf child was called, died long ago. It's unknown if Zenya ever had children of her own, as she moved away from Blackhaven as an adult. Mirrokish Silverarm is a Dwarf who came here about a hundred years ago. When the armies of Va'Laeth came, he wasn't willing to just give up, and attacked two of the soldiers. He lost his right arm in battle (but at least survived), and later replaced it with a silver prosthetic that he created himself (with the help of another local smith). He can use his arm and hand normally, despite the fact there was no magic involved in the creation of his replacement arm. How he achieved this wonder is a secret he's not willing to share, but crippled survivors from all around the area travel to him to ask for prosthetics for themselves. While not an ideal solution - the new limbs don't feel anything -, it's still cheaper than most regenerative spells. And with the ambivalent view on gods after the apocalypse of Virthys, many people prefer Mirrokish's creations to asking the servants of the gods for help. Sincaera Amaritha is a Mesmeric Halfling that arrived in Blackhaven half a year after the end of the first invasion. She travelled all the way through the Ember Wastelands, until she finally reached Delvaroth, hoping to build a new life here. When she heard about the problems with the Crystalcoal, she decided to research the topic. Her uncle and former employer Amron was an alchemist, and while Sincaera (most people just call her Sinca) is not fully trained, she made small, but promising progress. According to her research, the blue crystals within Crystalcoal have properties more similar to fungi than minerals. With this new knowledge, Sinca is experimenting with new ways to neutralize the effects - or dissolve the crystals altogether. Some of the locals are very wary, though, and fear that with her limited training, she might make things even worse. Abasthar is an Ashfolk that once lived as a Gnome in Dvarys, the land now known as the Ocean of Ash. He was a politician in his former life, but during the apocalypse, everyone in his home town was killed. Without the metamorphosis, he wouldn't have survived, either. Lost and alone, he wandered the land until arriving in Delvaroth - right in the middle of the invasion from Va'Laeth. He kept hidden from their eyes, observing and trying to figure out what was going on. What few people know is that he also intercepted a few Ravager Elves - messengers on the way to or from the superiors of the local Legatus, the leader of the legion that camped here. Abasthar made sure the rest of the army wouldn't hear about the Crystalcoal, and also averted an order to kill everyone in town from ever reaching the soldiers here. After the Laethian armies retreated, the Ashfolk came into town, and later acquired a new home here. He really wants to help, while trying not to get affected by the Crystalcoal effects himself. While he doesn't require regular food as an Ashfolk, he is so cautious that he only eats material imported from elsewhere, and burns it himself. He has built his own small steambath in his home, using it daily. Abasthar supports Sincaera in her research, while trying to bring higher education and self-awareness into the city. He's also a strong critic of the society in Bridgepoint, and is deeply afraid of the Nobles there taking over Delvaroth. He is currently communicating with leaders from all important cities in Delvaroth, trying to establish a new republic, with no single city having more power than the others. Agedin supports his cause, but refuses to make any official statements - which might seriously harm her business with Bridgepoint, and with that, everyone in town. About a year ago, Abasthar was asked to take over the position of Blackhaven's mayor, and happily accepted. His power in the city is very limited, as most people just talk to Agedin when they want something. The Ashfolk mostly cares about administrative tasks, but his new role has improved his position in negotiating with other cities in Delvaroth.
The HeadquartersNot far from Blackhaven's port is the local office of the trading company Avros Agedin, which most people in the city just call the Headquarters. Agedin still comes here every morning, along with about twenty other people caring for all the administrative tasks. Aside from the coal and iron trade, the company also runs several shops in town. About 80% of goods coming into town go through company hands first. The Headquarter's basement is one big warehouse, with a special section officially designated for "dangerous goods". Few people know what the company stores here, but rumours are that the potential serial killers in town tried to acquire a variety of hazardous items over time. From lethal poisons to magic items and spells, the locals believe that the basement has a whole arsenal of powerful and deadly items. Fortunately, Agedin had some magic available to hide all the dangerous goods from the Laethian invaders.
The SteamhouseThe main area of the Steamhouse is simply a public bathhouse offering some extra services like herb baths and massages. There's an inside bath as well as natural pools outside, as well as several smaller steam baths. It's a beautiful place to relax, chat with other guests or wind down. A bit separated from this public area is a place surrounded by a high stone wall. The wall is covered in thorny vines, and the thorns themselves are coated with a natural sedating poison. Inside the wall, there's a smaller building that looks more like a jail than a bath house. It seems out of place in this otherwise beautiful location, surrounded by flowers, herbs and beautiful trees. This is what the locals call the Calming Jail, and it is led by the elven druid Endoral Mevalis. Most people just call him the Herbmaster. The whole concept of purifying people with herb baths was his idea, and he constantly tries to improve his recipe. Locals can use both areas freely, while foreigners only get access to the public area. The herbs used here are less potent, but usually enough to remove any Crystalcoal toxins that people might have consumed by staying a few days in town.
The Purifiers' GuardhouseThe white, beautiful headquarters of the Purifiers look more like a temple than a guardhouse. Everything here is laid out to calm the mind and increase awareness. Beautiful plants, pools, art, meditation chambers, but also training rooms to increase physical fitness and combat abilities can be found here. The Purifiers also have their own steam bath, and use it is a part of their daily morning routine. Endoral supplies them with the necessary herbs, although he's not too happy about it - he's at the limit of what his garden can provide. While the Purifiers have an important job in the city, they have become maybe a bit too elitist. They keep an eye on everybody in Blackhaven, making notes, and questioning locals randomly. Critics fear they might turn the city into an authoritarian tyranny, where the Purifiers decide on a whim who gets thrown into the Steamhouse or, worse, the Deep Pit.
Coalminer's TownAbout a mile outside of the city, in the direction of the Ocean of Ash, there's a small village of its own. Seven different entrances have been dug into the ground, leading into the mines. Aside from the mining facilities and the homes of some miners, there's a tavern called the Black Pint, the Blackhaven Brewery, and a hunting lodge belonging to Joran the Archer. Joran makes sure that no beasts from the surrounding wilderness attack the miners, but he strictly stays above ground. In the few times that a dangerous creature appeared in the tunnels, either the local guard or hired adventurers had to clear up the mines. Strange, colorful mushrooms grow in the entrance areas to the tunnels. Sincaera believes they might be connected to the Crystalcoal, but has found no real proof for it yet.
The Deep PitA prison for people who (mostly) haven't committed any crimes, the Deep Pit is the place that no Blackhavener likes to talk about. Hidden miles below the ground, leading through abandoned mining tunnels, the isolated cave is about half a mile wide and high, with only a single rope ladder leading downwards. There's a small guardhouse here, and ten members of the local guard always reside here, keeping an eye on the dangerous individuals imprisoned in the cave. The cavern has a small lake, but no food source. The city provides the prisoners with everything they need to survive, but without natural light, most of them still get sick after a while. The village consists of twenty simple buildings that the detainees can use however they want to. Conflicts and even bloody fights are a common occurence in the Pit. The guards at the top don't intervene - if one of the prisoners dies, it means there's one potential problem less. Recently, though, they seem to have calmed down, and fights have become less frequent. Whether this is a good sign, or they are planning something, is hard to tell.
ServicesThe most important thing to acquire in Blackhaven is, of course, coal. There are even small shops selling mundane trinkets made from coal, coal-holders which allow you to hold a piece of coal and use it as an alternative to chalk (and not get your hands dirty), and things like that. The Steamhouse offers remedies for many minor diseases and poisons, and is a great place to relax and rejuvenate. That aside, Blackhaven offers many mundane items, especially sturdy tools used for mining. The occasional magical trinket can be found here, too.
Local rumours and news
- An emissary from Bridgepoint has arrived in Blackhaven. Officially, he's negotiating trade deals, but while he's in town, he's making people question the local leadership. His main target is, to little surprise, the mayor Abasthar. Unfortunately, he seems to be relatively successful, and the locals are more and more divided about what's going on in Blackhaven.
- The Purifiers have interrogated some suspects in their guardhouse recently. These "interviews" took several hours each time. People said that the questioned individuals were changed afterwards, but the Purifiers deny that they did anything than talk with the suspects.
- Marthaun, Agedin's son, is interested in setting up new trade deals beyond the borders of Delvaroth. He plans to travel to Sharloc's Trade and Hollow Market, and is currently looking for people to accompany him on his journey.
- Sincaera Amaritha may have made an important discovery: She managed to dissolve the crystal part of a piece of Crystalcoal completely. Unfortunately, she used up her last resources of a magical plant for the process. To continue her experiments, she needs more Drainroot, a carrot-like vegetable that only grows in a few locations in Ashandri, the closest one being Shamrua.
- Endoral Mevalis, the Steamhouse's Herbmaster, announced that he's looking for adventurers. He seems very worried, but isn't willing to tell anyone what's going on. It's unclear why he isn't willing to work with the local guards or the Purifiers.
- Humans: 25%
- Halflings: 25%
- Elves: 20%
- Gnomes: 10%
- Half-Elves: 5%
- Dwarves: 5%
- Ashfolk: 5%
- Other races: 5%
Officially, the town is ruled by a mayor and his administrative staff. Abasthar, who currently holds the position, takes his role very seriously. But he also accepts the reality that the real ruler is Agedin, the surviving founder of the city and owner of the Avros Agedin Trading Company.
Blackhaven was originally little more than a mining outpost. Due to the unusually fair sharing of the company's revenue with its employees, the city grew fast. But after the Crystalcoal problem was exposed, people became more and more reluctant to move into the city. Nowadays, the population is relatively stable in numbers.
About 450 years ago