Garbali Hollow

Garbali? No. I wouldn't stop there, not even if you paid me double.
— Fouran, Caravan Master
  A small village nestled in the western reaches of the Vinlands Province, Garbali Hollow has a reputation among veteran travelers. Most Imperial citizens remember there is a village in the area, but there's almost nothing there except the wineries and farming communities most know about. Tax collectors tend to stop by Garbali long enough to collect the payment and proceed along the usual circuit. It is considered coincidence the route's timing leaves these officials arriving and leaving early in the morning rather than staying overnight. Those who do not believe the stories often suggest the timing is a contributing factor to the mystique of Garbali. Those who have been around longer know more of the truth.

Most communities in the Vinlands Province have a local product which is sold to travelers, and a great many of these alcoholic drinks have reached fame (or infamy) among taverns and inns in the Empire. Garbali Hollow by contrast has no such offering, instead selling various fruits from their orchards. Three generations ago, one of the exports included a remarkable citrus fruit which became known as the 'Garbali lime'. The interesting thing was how no such fruit was known to be grown in the Vinland Province before, or after, the crops of Garbali limes. These dusky red fruit had a tart juice which paired well with mead from other parts of the province. However, those who imbibed such mixtures complained of vivid nightmares which could be only be partly remembered on waking. Most referenced the memory of being buried alive at the roots of trees, while voices were raised in a chant. With the relative scarcity of the mixture, and the unpopularity of mixing sweet meads with citrus juice, these things were attributed to the drink not settling well in the stomach.

Two years after the first harvest of Garbali limes, an adventuring party bound from Garbali Hollow brought a wild tale before the Carroway in the city of Rhelin. According to them, they had been exploring caverns in the hills past Garbali and used a barn in the town as shelter for the night. Everything had seemed normal until they were awakened by screaming coming from an isolated orchard. They investigated to find a dozen locals from the village having hung one of their retainers and bled them out over the roots of a tree. A second retainer had apparently gotten loose and was killed at the base of another tree, similarly allowed to exsanguinate over the roots. A pitched battle ensued, and even half-rested adventurers overmatched the cultists. After recovering the corpses of their retainers, the adventurers fled to the neighboring village before stopping just before sunrise. The testimonies were received under oath and an enchantment to prevent falsehoods, and so the events were recorded.

Investigations found the worship of the Green Mother in the village had become corrupted by introductions of blood sacrifice. "A gift of Blood to quicken the harvest" was the phrase which was discovered, and this cult had survived so long due to everything else being relatively normal. Adventurers and Imperial Guards were dispatched to eliminate the cult, and Garbali Hollow was resettled ten years later. Reportedly, there had been several sacred rituals performed to consecrate the soil and cleanse whatever foul taint had seeped into the land. Needless to say, the Garbali lime was never produced again and the village remains known as a place of ill repute. Residents claim to have made peace with that, and there are active efforts to keep an eye on the region in case the cult may resurface.



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