Volsin Village sprung up as the domestic center attached to the Volsin Silver Mine, found a leisurely hour's walk or 20 minute ride further north along the mine path. While the actual miners would bunk in a camp onsite at the mine, their wives and children had more permanent homes in the village, and a number of modest shops and businesses spring up to service them. In the mine's heyday, Volsin claimed a population over 500 people, but after the mine played out most of them moved on following after other work; those who stayed behind and scratched out a living from river fishing or lodging the occasional boarder, and their offspring, are all that remain today, fewer than 70 people altogether.
Lawlessness is something of a norm in the city, but because the people are equally hard scratch and poor, there's not much theft to speak of, as there's not much point to it. The only real troublemakers are the feral teens who've managed to avoid imperial 'recruitment' patrols compelling criminals to join the war in the west, or face beatings and fines for their crimes from the Duke of Elkur, whose land the village and mine are on. A few tired Ducal guards are posted in town but only to protect property of value to the duke from being stolen or damaged; they take no interest in petty crimes and clearly regard the posting as punishment rather than a real job.
Recently the construction of the Baron Castle down the road to the south has given a bit of a jolt to the town, for good and for bad. Almost to an individual, the old residents resent the appearance of newcomers, as they had established their black market connections and criminal dealings over careful decades of favors and debts. The gangs of feral children in particular, which briefly took the town over for all intents and purposes, are a significant difficulty for the re-civilization of this essentially lawless place as they have very little to lose, a fluid structure and perfect knowledge of the nearby woods, mountain passes and ruined buildings still standing in town.
"Natives": 34 humans, 14 half orcs, 7 orcs, 3 dragonborn, 2 Kenku, 1 Goliath, 1 Elf (Half-elf).
"Newcomers": 179 humans, 48 dwarves, 16 orcs, 4 dragonborn, 3 gnomes
Feudal town managed by the Duke of Elkur, governed by an elected mayor of little more than administrative power - the assignment of permits and licenses and the management of local taxes which tend to total zero, even if she could be trusted not to skim most of it for herself.
Literally none; the town's main defense is that it is a suckhole stealing money and joy from anyone who might decide to go there to make trouble on any meaningful scale. In a larger sense, it's protected from any serious military threats by the military of the Duke of Elkur and by extension, the Imperial army. Nothing short of an actual invasion would be likely to stir up that kind of attention, but recently the Governor of the province has decided to assist the Duke in trying to clean up the village by allowing an enterprising band of local adventurers to take the fortress as their own, and by extension clean up the village and the mine, and restore at least some degree of productivity, if not prosperity, to the region.
The town is self-sufficient, but only barely; most families barter among themselves for what they need, trading fish for small sacks of grain, tomatoes and peppers for nails, paint and bolts of cloth, or pots of honey for sacks of dried beef strips; the three winter months where very little other than tough boiling greens can be grown is especially difficult. Legitimate trader caravans come through once or twice a week on an irregular schedule, with irregular goods to sell, but they do buy salt fish, lumber, and crafted goods like pottery and clothing. The only real mercantile in town is Dr. Don Sod, who is also the town barber, surgeon, dry goods merchant and moonshiner, making a peculiar blended whisky in small hogshead barrels cold-aged in his store basement but then buried for two weeks to finish hot, in the steamiest parts of the town dungheap. This adds a second layer of fermentation and counter-intuitively further sterilizes the mix, making it useful for his work as a surgeon, but also a kick in the ass as a recreational beverage. The flavor, a good whisky strained through a dirty diaper, is an acquired taste to be sure.
Unfortunately as the hopes for returning the mine to active service faded over the decades, the able-bodied, good-aligned members of the community mostly moved away, and those who remained and couldn't find or create decent work turned to crime, robbing travelers on the roads leading to the town, ransacking local farms and attacking caravans. If legitimate work came back, either for the mine itself or a large scale construction project at the castle, no doubt some of them would rather do satisfying labor in return for steady pay, but by now the town citizens are mostly evil-aligned and much prefer the status quo to following a straight and narrow path of honest commerce.
The single 'paved' road is a dark-colored, flat and rounded river pebble. It was laid down a hundred or so years ago, dredged up when the river was widened, pleasant in good weather but slippery in the rain and treacherous for horses when rainwater collects and mixes with the sandy mud to create a dense, quicksandy base. The center of town contains the worn-out public baking ovens, the town well, a guardhouse that's usually empty, and a statue of an unknown knight whose head and arms were knocked off ages ago, and whose plinth has been completely scratched out; the lower quarters of the epic statue are entirely defaced with scratched in graffitti and obscenities, and a close look will reveal several gang tags of the Crows and the White Chests, and an incorrectly drawn symbol of the Glass Street Shankers.
A public bath, which is not much more than several squares of cloth hung over rope lines between posts for modesty, can be found in the deep cutout where the town dock used to be; nothing remains of the dock above the water, but a few old foundation posts provide cover for deep bass and trout in the stream. The cloth is filthy, sunfaded and usually soaking wet, but it does provide some privacy for those engaged in basic hygiene.
At the south end of town at the river's edge is a public waterwheel mill, but the wheel has collapsed and the mill is abandoned; the grain fields are mostly overgrown with weeds anyway, and on the occasion that a farm or two makes it to fruition they are inevitably raided and robbed of the majority of their harvest.
The completely collapsed remains of a windmill can be found in the woods to the north of the garbage hill. The waterwheel and windmill could provide civic power for useful work such as pumping water or grinding grain, but significant repair work that no one wants to do would be required. The ownership of the properties is also fairly hazy so there is some risk that the duke will simply confiscate anything if it is restored to working order.
Volsin is located strategically between the mine, Volsin Stronghold, and the Dwarven settlement Nockling Barrows on the other side of the river. The river provides a bounty of healthy fish and reasonably nutritious river kelp, as well as crawdads, frogs, ducks, geese and the like; the woods are dense, filled with fine timber on huge trees, and support a healthy ecosystem of deer and elk, moose, bears, panthers, wolves, smaller rodents, and the occasional monstrous beasts such as Owlbears, Girallons, and Ankhegs, which can become a nuisance.
Guilds and Factions
Volsin Town really is too small to have much in the way of guilds, but there are a few skilled workers in the town still - a couple of lumbermen, a carpenter, and a boatwright who maintains the small river canoes that several people use. The mayor is also the city madam, with a handful of women of ill repute in her extended employment, though travelers are few so work is strictly part-time for all of them, and other work occupies most of the day. Most of the people who stayed are skilled at fishing, and the children tend to organize in mock versions of the real criminal gangs they know of: The White Chests, the Crows, the Past Lives, the Steel Reciters, and the Glass Street Shankers; The Shankers are a Naarodian organization but they're well known in this part of Khazig, and it's rumored that they have men among the flint-hard bandits that sometimes knock off caravans on the north road. White Chest caravans tend to operate unmolested, but local thugs aren't always so informed or careful and reprisals have led to mysterious murders and bodies found on the road as well.
Occasionally the Duke will send a patrol of soldiers along the road to clear out the criminals, but they generally fade into the countryside only to reappear a few days after the soldiers have gone.
The current factional split between criminals and non-criminals has been complicated by a large number of newcomers to fill the day labor and mining positions associated with the new Baron Council stronghold. The local criminals as well as the not-really-gangster-but-not-good are set against the newcomers who threaten their familiar, if not always easy. way of life; and even the local good-aligned citizens are not excited about the prospect of so many strangers. However Dr. Don Sod is thrilled at the huge increase in business, and has even hired a helper for the first time in seven years to manage the demand for the city Whiskey, haircuts and the occasional surgery.
Volsin Town grew out of the success of the old Volsin Mine, a mixed metals mine producing mostly silver, but some lead and gold as well, the three metals often found together in the same quartzite strata. Having been worked successfully for several hundred years, the mine not only attracted hard working miners but their families as well, and generations grew up in the town which prospered as the mine did, and the mine produced several tons of high grade silver ore every month in its heyday, which lasted several generations.
The upper areas of the mine were dug out completely into huge cavernous spaces filled with the stone chips and chaff, which could be pulverized and mixed with sand, clay and water to produce a useful concrete as well, though the exact formula evidently left with the Dwarves after they abandoned Volsin in favor of their own town on the other side of the river.
As the mine reached deeper and deeper, certainly there may have been encounters with monsters or Drow, or worse in the Underdark; or the mine may simply have played out to the point that it was too costly to keep digging for ore that wasn't worth the time and expense needed to get it to the surface for smelting. Several collapses in the middle passages certainly didn't help things, and by 12035 the mine had all but closed down; without its reliable source of honest income for a large number of day laborers and low-skilled workers, Volsin Town essentially closed down as well. For the past 40 years or so, anyone with a spark of talent, ambition or money has made their way out of the hamlet, leaving behind the dregs of the dregs as the only citizens in the town.
Volsin is a mix of relatively modern stone-foundation, wood-frame housing fallen into sad disrepair alongside hovels, shanties and literal paper tents. Many homes have been partially disassembled, the wood and glass used to build other, much more lowly housing, and much of that has been abandoned as well. Some Dwarven touches are seen in the squat solidity of columns and corners, from when the Dwarves lived here in large numbers; the town has no native Dwarves but nearly a hundred have recently come to the mines either to work or as the family of those workers, Nockling Barrows being too far away for a day-to-day commute to the mine.
Located along the hub of a central spur of the Firelap Mountains originating in the volcanoes in the NW corner of the nation and stretching from the western border nearly into central Khazig, the high elevation and bare mountain slopes make the region significantly cooler than the eastern and southern regions of the country, and the lowlands further north are actually warmer as well for most of the year.
Trees are primarily deciduous maples and higher-altitude oak, but with a large proportion of pine including good spruce and fir, cedar and redwood, and a good mix of fruit and nut trees, possibly dating back to groves planted by the hands of the Cumaean settlers in the distant past; ruins of the old world are not uncommon in the region, as are the occasional find of a piece of brass chain from ancient armor or the rusted-down hilt of an ancient sword left on battlefields forgotten a century ago. The Cass, a cool, fast-moving river passes close by the town, providing plentiful fish and other resources that literally sustain life for much of the year. About an hour's walk south along a chipstone path - much of the chipstone originating from the mine - is the Volsin Stronghold, a total ruin for over a century after a failed uprising and its destruction by the duke in those days, recently rebuilt entirely by the Baron Council now ruling the region.
To the west, the town's garbage mound attests to its lost prosperity, as most of the heap is overgrown and inaccessible now. Several infighting gangs of feral children keep their hideouts here as even the rough and tumble people of Volsin avoid the shit mounds on the west side of town. The deep forest to the west of the town and the garbage heap is punctuated here and there by hard-scratch farmers, temporary and migratory Orc settlements, and the occasional mothballed picket fort comprising a chain of defense across the Prime Province should it ever be needed; these are staffed with scouts or simply left empty, and many broken-down versions of these small defensive works can be found as well, sometimes inhabited by a large and enterprising Owlbear or Alzatho. The Alzatho are the scourge of this region.
Between the town and the mine is the city cemetery, which even more clearly shows how prosperous the little town once was compared to its squalid state now. Several fine marble crypts covered in thorn weeds still exist, mostly unmolested, but the larger memorials in town have been scavenged for their stone and rendered anonymous, leading to several restless and inconvenient dead that may cause trouble from time to time. New interments are often on the eastern side, outside of the gap-toothed wooden fence, for that reason. Many of the markers in the actual cemetery attest to the dangers of mine work, as a high proportion are workers who met with accidents inside the mine. Some of the Dwarven interments were moved back to Nockling Barrows when their families left Volsin.
Fish and Timber are two essentially limitless, but also essentially worthless, resources produced by the city. Timber cannot be shipped in sufficient quantities from Volsin to Khazigur to feed the endless building projects there or the shipyards; some is bought by Celetheon in the north and the Duchal seat of Elkur in the south, but both of those cities have large timber operations of their own. Fish are also not exactly hard to come by, however they are worth a great deal more in the winter, either live or as salt fish, and the city does a decent business at this level with the local Orc and Goblin clans who depend on the salt fish for winter nutrition; it is of course in everyone's best interest to keep those creatures as well fed as possible.
The mine is capable of producing silver as well as a little lead and gold, but the startup expenses are significant and many other more profitable mines exist nearby.
The city has a cooper to make barrels, a blacksmith to manage local forge needs such as steel fittings, tools and horseshoes, and a boatwright, but none of these produce goods on a scale for export.
The town whiskey is likewise a local favorite but not in demand outside the town to any degree.