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Farholde

Farholde is the northernmost colony of Avalon. This small city is a backwater, largely isolated from its parent nation by distance and danger. No king of Avalon has visited it 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, 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 relentlessly presses south towards the city of Daveryn far away from isolated 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 more isolated now than ever. And yet, here in this backwater, the fate of tens of thousands of Avalonians will be decided. This could be Farholde’s moment of triumph, where alone it met a great evil and brought it low. Or, this could be its darkest hour, where less than a day’s ride from its walls, the city did nothing as a monster was born.

Demographics

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Farholde, like much of Avalon, is inhabited primarily by humans. Elves and half-elves make up around 10% of the population making it one of the most elf-dense cities in the kingdom. A steady population of dwarves and halflings are also found here. Most notably, Farholde actually supports a very small fey population as the nearby Caer Bryer has been serving as a launching point for small fey families to make their way into mortal society. These include gnomes, goodfellows, and even some far darrig that have been drawn in by the curious complexities of human society. This small population of fair folk have managed to leave a larger impact on the city giving it a unique air and livelihood in the people. They're often seen fluttering around, playing harmless pranks on passers-by, or performing wild acts of magical light shows in Auld'Irey. Some reports of Black Hats have been made seen running around making trouble in Drownington in the dead of night, though none have been captured.   The native Iraen tribes are a large minority population here. They inhabit the Caer Bryr in great numbers and even some still make Farholde their home. Some worry that the forest-dwellers merely wait for a chance when Avalon 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 ones, so interbred are they with the Avalonians, that half-elves have actually outnumbered them and formed communities all their own. Not entirely accepted by either group, these outcasts have become proficient navigators, translators, traders, and adventurers.

Defences

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. These “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 group, 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 gelugon (an ice-devil) 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 into the wilderness 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 weapon (a large and wickedly ornate frost glaive) 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 magic skills are well known and they’re often called on for matters of divine importance such as exorcisms, curse curing, and banishing extraplanar threats.   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, the sisters of Saint Cynthia-Celeste are actually the largest fighting force in Farholde. They could muster more than a hundred trained fighting nuns backed by divine spellcasters if Farholde were directly endangered.

Bryrwatch “The Trident”

This small watchtower just outside of Farholde rises on the highest promontory south of the Scardynn delta. It overlooks 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.   Recently, the Trident has had to keep a lookout for a new type of threat rarely seen in Avalon, undead hordes. Ever since the village of Wakefield was lost in a necromantic experiment gone wrong, roaming hordes of undead have been making their way across the island. The citizens of most villages are terrified of the prospects of an army of zombies bursting into their house but with the Bryrwatch armed and ready, such an event would be nearly impossible in Farholde. Unless of course said necromantic experiment was done by a citizen of Farholde who later returned to his home in service to a secret evil cult bent on destroying the government and overthrowing the king...

Hammerhall

This 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 castle is not too different from the Watchtower Balentyne. It features several siege engines including a catapult and several ballistae. It's also said to contain tunnels reaching into the north that could allow for the placement of land mines quickly. Rumor has it that the relatively large population of dwarves stationed here have been working on experimental weapons in secret but what they are is up to anyone's guess.

The Sea-Chain

This large net is made of reinforced chain links anchored to the Accarian Beacon and a dedicated defense tower. It's designed to block access to the docks by sea vessels by being pulled out of the water and acting as a wall. It's a new addition to Farholde's defense and as rumors of the return of the legendary frost giant pirate Taane-Thak spread, the citizens of Farholde may rest slightly easier at night.

Infrastructure

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, rock-strewn breakwaters. It 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.

Corgan’s Landing

This is a large slab of stone built on the banks of the Scardynn almost two centuries ago by settling dwarves. Though it has settled some, it remains comfortably above the flood line. Thus, it is completely filled 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’ niece and the retired captain has a total blind spot towards the youngster. Mallory is a corrupt gambler and seductress who has used her position to live far above her means. She is also completely in the pocket of Baron Arkov Vandermir.

History

Farholde did not always belong to Avalon. Less than three hundred years ago, it was a small hill fort controlled by an 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. After burning 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 are the direct ancestors of Farholde today. Some of the oldest street names like ‘Quartermarch’ and ‘Kingscamp’ hint at this origin.

Tourism

Auld'Irey

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 Hamorhall fell, there was across the river a small Iraen town. The town surrendered without a battle and was captured intact. Auld’Irey, a corruption of “Old Iraen”, is the rebuilt remains of that settlement.   Today Auld’Irey is the most 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 lion share 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 the city are located here. Once Auld’Irey was the nicest place to live in town but recently that honor has been usurped by the manors of Calliver Green.   Auld’Irey is also where the headquarters of the town watch is located. This ensures that this quarter is the most patrolled and safest public section of the city  

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 resident, 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 Syr 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. This 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. This tree gives the hill its name – Calliver 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 find some young noble scion picnicking beneath the vast spread of its countless branches.  

Drownington

This 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 traveler’s tents. This transient community is definitely the bad part of town.   It exists because the town watch has repeatedly proven it loathes coming down here. This is understandable, 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-offs. Fights and muggings are common. Illegal goods unthinkable to trade up on the hills are openly trafficked here. Desperate prostitutes peddle their wares beside drunken river sailors too broke to afford lodging above  

Newchurch

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 same visit during which he raided the Horn). 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.  

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 Avalonian gods (including both Ashmedei and Mitra) supplanted it. When the Darian dynasty overthrew the Barcan kings, that temple was abandoned and sold to the Marsten family, a lineage of 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.

Geography

Mountain Lake by Darko Topalski

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 Cannoch Naoi (pronounced Can-nock 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. The waters are a great boon to the city, they deposit rich lake sediment all over the delta plane and create 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.  

The Caer Bryer

Farholde lies north of a massive ancient forest known as the Caer Bryer. This forest is magically in tune with the First World, the realm of the faeries. It's home to the native Irean population as well as other fey species including goodfellows, far darrig, and both redcaps and blackhats.   The forest is mysterious and as it is deadly and very few mortals venture here. Tales of prospective lumberjacks seeking exotic wood often end with cruel and unusual punishment for the offender. Stories of walking trees, ancient ruins, and another world are common in Farholde. Parents in the city often tell stories of a fearsome beast called Old One-Eye, a "half-devil half-tiger" that's been living near Farholde for decades picking off any explorers getting too close to the wilderness. Rumor has it that he lives near the Lake of Skye but no one has managed to find the lair. Surely there must be a vast collection of adventuring gear from previous opponents.  

Wrecker Isle

This large accumulation of pebbles and debris in the river delta is largely seen as a navigation hazard these days. It’s unsettled and often ignored by the citizens of Farholde. The only notable feature of the island is a series of circular boulders placed millennia ago by Irean druids. Occasionally a group of Irean will travel from the Caer Bryer to the isle and perform rituals venerating their ancestors who tended the land, communed with the fey, and fought with the Pailian conquerors.   Recently, Farholde’s interior harbors have been under attack by large sea creatures including crabs, seals, and eels. Investigators have managed to track the source of these creatures to the isle but further investigation provided no meaningful results. What secrets are the Irean keeping here?
Type
City
Population
9,500
Owner/Ruler

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Cover image: Medieval Port City by August von Siegen

Comments

Author's Notes

This city was originally created by Gary McBride as part of the Way of the Wicked Pathfinder RPG adventure path. I've adapted it for my own game but much of the words in this article were directly written by him. Consider buying it here if you're interested.


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13 Feb, 2021 02:13

This article is well written,well laid out and full of great detail.I thought it was a really good read.Keep up the great work.   Aemon