A Refuge in the Wilderness

I've been here since 6620. You can't throw a stone in Keskala without me knowin bout it. No sire, ain't a thing in this village I duno a thing or two about, that I promise you; I watch, an I listen to all these lit'luns running amok. That's jus what I do.
— Old Lady Canli
Located at the transitional border between the Kogria Mountains and the Donesh Dry Forest in the Talaina'Vao region of Tolara, the small village of Keskala sits not far from the border of the Cimanos River. Nestled among the vines and trees, the village and its associated Homesteads may be hard to spot for those unfamiliar with the area. While largely isolated, however, the villages of Mader and Lodhi lay two day's walk to the east and north east respectively- with the larger city of Agdrimis situated a week or two's ride to the south.


First established between 5907 and 5908 by a group of Tameri fleeing the conflict of the Red Schism, the original town of Keskala was abandoned in 5918 shortly after its settlement. Later in 6150, a group of Timber Elves would inhabit the site- but would likewise desert it in favor of better climates.   After the Timber Elves settlement was forsaken, in 6347 an expedition team led by Yen Tae-Hyun would use the site to establish a main base of operations for their many expeditions in the region. But in 6348 the site was deserted once more in favor of Chara'Huyan, and would remain so until 6615- being used only rarely as a temporary outpost for additional expeditions.   In 6615 the collapse of a Druuma stronghold in the nearby portion of the Kogria Mountains would drive the surviving members of Clan Skala to the surface. Stumbling across the remnants of the old village, the clan rebuilt, intending to use it as a temporary base while they recovered enough to reclaim their stronghold... Instead of reclaiming their home, however, they grew accustomed to the area. They permanently settled there- building the village into the small pseudo stronghold that it is today, and formally naming it for themselves.   Since then the occasional adventurers and expeditioners have been drawn to the village in the wilderness, settling down for a quieter life.  


Though many of the buildings have been rebuilt from stone, the main section of Keskala remains a mishmash of various architectural styles- largely being a continuous reconstruction of ruins from the site's many previous lives. Still, most of the buildings have been modified to favor the short and squat architectural style of the Dwarves, and most non-residential buildings in the village carry the crest of Clan Skala above their doors. This does not mean the buildings are designed for Dwarven bodies, however, as even the Dwarves naturally favor large, open spaces- meaning that most buildings can accommodate the majority of their denizens comfortably.   Encircling it all is a large stone wall with spiked bastions every so many feet. These bastions provide lookouts for encroaching dangers, while the wall fends off all but the largest threats to the village. It's on these walls that Homesteaders in the area take their turns to patrol in shifts of five, keeping an eye out for any sign of danger; two gates on either side of the village allow people to move freely between the wilds and the protection of the walls.   Beneath this main walled section of the village, however, is something more: A series of small vaults that have been carved out from underground. These are considered communal spaces. Of them, one is a series of catacombs in which the village's dead are entombed- while the others exist as village storage areas... A fifth one is rumored to exist, however, which is believed to hold what few treasures Clan Skala managed to save during the collapse of their stronghold. No one knows whether these rumors are true, though, as only Clan Skala is allowed within this mysterious fifth vault.

Frontier Settlement
Founding Date


Did'ja hear? Dimek's got this ambitious little building project he wants to get on with... Says it'll make the village a trading powerhouse... Iunno how he plans to do it, given the expeditions ain't that big. But we'll see if he ever untwists his breeches enough to manage it, I guess.
— Old Lady Canli

  Most of Keskala's buildings aren't residential. Instead, they often serve some sort of communal function or another- though these are limited in both scope and nature due to the villages small size and population.   One such building is the village's post, run by Kod Zuzagar. In addition to running the occasional piece of mail to other villages in the area, he also makes trips twice a year to Chara'Huyan or Agdrimis. Another, though, is the village's only Inn; called the Wanderer's Tale, it is owned and operated by Marlena Bormann- who many in the village look to for guidance and decisions, despite Clan Skala remaining prominent.

A small temple also sits at the edge of the village near its protective wall; operated by Brother Hamid, it serves Gormriik, Faenya, Darahael, Ilienna, Niadhovar, and An'hang- the most worshiped Deities in the village.   In addition to the Inn, the Temple, and the Post, the village has a number of communal buildings for people to gather in- including a hall where the majority of the villages marriages often take place. Meanwhile, a market square makes up the northern half of Keskala, and is largely used during the twice yearly passes of expedition teams through the area. On other days of the year it is a bustle of only limited activity, as homesteaders enter town to trade or catch up on news.  

Town Notice Board

A notice board sits next to the entrance of the Wanderer's Tale. Residents of the village frequently post notices to the board for a number of reasons- such as when hands are needed for harvest, emergencies occur, items are taken from the vaults, and more. Old notices are not always removed from the board, but at least one new notice tends to appear each week.

Please spay or neuter your Dogs... The Wild Dog population here is becoming too much!
— Torken
Beast on rampage destroyed buildings in Lodhi. Residents celebrating new town square in three days; be vigilant.
— Moira

Unknown Thaila in west-north homestead found dead. Craner Homestead investigating; could use assistance.
— Archak
Seeking arcanum capable of removing awaken spell from my pots and broom.
— Old Lady Canli

  In addition to residential notices, news about other villages nearby- and even about greater Tolara may be posted to the notice board whenever available. These notices increase in both quantity and frequency after the twice yearly passing-through of the expedition teams, as well as the months during months when Kod Zuzagar and his family make their mail runs, but tend to remain sparse the rest of the year.  


You didn't hear if from me, but old Hanza an Gertik- you know, that old codgey Orc couple that live north'a the wall... Well they been fightin fierce lately. Says Gertik lost the Oelots on purpose. Don't believe him that a Kruthik got 'em- and if they did, he's a coward for not bringin the head home for the wall!
— Old Lady Canli

  Keskala is incredibly small and maintains a permanent residency of only 348 to 350 individuals. The majority of this permanent population consists of Druuma from Clan Skala and Dasmiira from Clan Batrun, as well as Thaila and Tameri. A handful of Orkind, Maerla, and Fereni also call the village home- as does a single Maiskin family.   Outside of the small number of permanent residents, the village sees visitors twice yearly... Once when Expeditions enter the southern peninsular in the late rainy season, and again when they return to northern Tolara before the cold season; these expedition teams rarely stay long, but bring much needed supply and news to to village- often also carrying news back with them, to family that residents may have further up the trail. Aside from this, however, Keskala rarely sees other visitors and largely relies on its own production to survive.   The vast majority of Keskala's residents were once expeditioners themselves, who decided to settle in the area for one reason or the other. These individuals usually live outside of the village walls on family homesteads, and earn their keep through hunting and minor agriculture. While they frequently only produce enough for their own families to survive, excess is stored in the city's communal vaults for free use by any other families in need. This is further supplemented with fibercrafts and toolmaking- which provides the bulk of the village's trade income with any passers through.


Culture & Tradition

Little Ora Mai was married to that Fereni boy Jiyar last week. Why, I remember when that Genasi babe was no more the size of a Stirge- and so much energy! You wouldn know it with how quiet an thoughtful she be now, but she was always runin around screaming that little blue head of hers off an beggin for a pastry... My, time flies for the lit'luns, doesn't it?
— Old Lady Canli
Due to the dangers of life in Talaina'Vao, Keskans value community and hospitality above all else. This emphasis on community is unique among those who find themselves settled in Talaina'Vao- who frequently value self sufficiency and survival more. It is perhaps this difference in values, however, that has allowed Keskala to survive as long as it has in such a dangerous area.   Excess production of all forms is shared freely among those in need before ever being considered for trade, and families frequently go out of their way to help others. Marriages, funerals, coming of age celebrations, and more, are likewise important to the residents. These are usually celebrated communally- often with all Keskans coming together and pitching in to help with the decoration, planning, entertainment, and supplies.   Because so many of the villages residents live outside of the walls to maintain their privacy and space, regular wellness checks are often performed on homesteads as well- typically when the families haven't been heard from in a while... Usually these turn out just fine, but occasionally villagers have found homesteads abandoned or attacked. Over the years this has led to better external warning systems for the village. Now every Homestead in the area has a large bell they can ring in the event of an attack, to signal the other Homesteaders to come to their aid.   These elements come together to create a community with strong social bonds, where everyone looks out for one another. Violence tends to be low in the village for that reason- isolated to the occasional marriage tiff, or the odd fight with an Expeditioner passing through the area.


Author's Notes

The original version of this article was created as an entry for World Anvil's flagship Summer Camp 2019 event. You can view other entries from the competition here- or check out all past World Anvil competitions here.

Please remember that Saleh'Alire is an active DnD setting wiki and is written for ease of DM'ing (not reader entertainment) first and foremost; Please keep critiques limited to narrative content- not grammar and organization; Please read the previous comments on this article before critiquing it. You may find that some of your questions have already been answered- and some of your suggestions already addressed.

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3 Jul, 2019 08:50

First of all, apologies for the incoming wall:   Opening quote: Ammock is supposed to be amok.   Kogria Mountains, Talaina'Vao, Tolara and Cimanos River all need excerpts. Right now they're "dead links", leaving us a bit wondering. This goes for a lot of things in the article. Take the time to throw in a stub, make an excerpt, then go back. Things like the "Red Schism" could really use one, seeing it appears to be an important event.   I'm not sure starting with History is the right way to go. Writing settlements is only marginally better than writing geography. It very easily drops into being a dull listing of facts and becomes a huge block of "omg why".   You're trying to capture the reader, and history is something that is usually dull and boring, but can be made interesting. BUT, a reader does not have anything invested in your settlement at this point. They don't have any relation to it yet, and that's why I think starting with History is the wrong way. Leave that to last, when we've read about all the nice things and can related to the place.   I would start with population, culture, then facilities, design and keep history last.   In the middle of "Facilities" in the temple section, you have a typo of "oerated by Brother Hamid" I believe that's supposed to be "operated".   The one thing that I find missing from the article is the purpose of the settlement. You mention that people settled there for "one reason or another", but generally a settlement has a purpose. It's a fishing village, or farming village or it's near mines or some other important resource. What made people settle *here* in this location? That, I think, is one thing missing from the article.   Overall, an enjoyable article even though my personal dejection with high fantasy had me sighing here and there, I still think this is a well crafted article that provides the reader a good insight into the village and its people.   I particularly like that you've taken time to point out individuals and have individual quotes. That helps us connect with the people and help reduce the "wikipedia"-effect of the settlement.   As for formatting, I think the article could stand to have some columns to break up the very even flow of text. The large sections of text can feel insurmountable and cause a reader to bounce off. You could, for instance, make a quote one column and the actual text the other. Your CC world makes great use of this, and I believe those skills could be well put here as well.   All in all, nicely done!

3 Jul, 2019 09:49

Heya tob! Thank you so much <3 I always enjoy your critiques!   Re typos / errors: Thanks for catching those! I've corrected them now!   Re "dead links": I do those intentionally; if I click away even for a second to make a small vignette or create an excerpt, I tend to get lost and never end up writing what I meant to. So during events I intentionally leave those blank in order to keep myself on track. They'll be added in the coming weeks / months as I push forward ^_^   Re "Wiki style and topic organization": I do this intentionally, too! This world is actually a setting for a DnD campaign that I run eevery Sunday. I don't actually write it for readers so much as I write it for myself. So my articles are organized in order of most important for me, the DM- that way it's easiest to quickly grab the information I need (which is usually the history for me). Which is the same reason I don't use the fancier formatting of Cicadea Cycle here on Saleh'Alire... It's just the easiest way I've found to operate as a DM personally ^_^   Re "settlement purpose": The settlement actually doesn't have one. It was originally just the first "safe place" the Tameri got to when it was first settled. And the Timber Elves resettled it because it was already a ruin and thought it'd be easier to rebuild. After that the location was just convenient for an outpost; the Druuma only picked it after their stronghold fell because it was close, convenient, and already had repairable structures to provide safety. Outside of that, it's just become a spot peopl "wind up" so to speak. no purpose really necessary.

3 Jul, 2019 09:52

Neat! Those validations all make perfect sense to me. Especially the "for the DM" part. I can definitely see how that is a big part of why it's laid out as it is.

3 Jul, 2019 09:54

funnily enough, I actually used to do my articles the way you suggested, back when I first started S on World Anvil like... I think over a year ago now. And every time I had to do a session prop I was miserable lol. I'm so glad I found that this formatting works better for me lol. It's made my ?DMing so much easier

3 Jul, 2019 09:53

The article was quite interesting. The main issue I had, or thing which I did not understand, is how such a communal community does not live all within the city walls. Or make secondary, larger city walls that encompass the farmsteads? If the dangers are palpable enough that once in a while a family gets killed, I would think people would start trying to figure out ways to protect themselves. And maybe that's not through walls. Maybe they have an alarm system, where every homestead away from the walls gets a loud horn that they can ring in times or peril, and everyone will gather their weapons and help them. Or something else. But to me, the feeling which you had built of these people being all in for the community was severely disrupted by the previous to last sentence on the family deaths or disappearances.   Aside from that, I thought the facilities and the population were quite interesting. I was left wondering how come so many timber elves live there, and not somewhere more hospitable, but I figured that's just how life is. I also really liked the formatting, with that semi-side bar present through some of the article, but not all of it. Very neat!   The history section is not very engaging, as it ends up reading like a litany of people that came and went. I think perhaps one way of breaking the monotony in there could be to highlight a building or an area where that civilization's pass through the city is still recognizable. Or something else that helps the reader get engaged/connected once more.   Finally, I also thought the trading aspect and the expeditions coming in and out twice a year gave the city a nice and distinct feel and a reason to keep being where they are.

3 Jul, 2019 10:03

Re "History being boring": I do this intentionally! This world is actually a setting for a DnD campaign that I run every Sunday, so I don't actually write it for readers so much as I write it for myself. So my articles are organized in order of most important for me, the DM- that way it's easiest to quickly grab the information I need... that's most often the history for me, and despite loving history I find it to be the most boring part of designing anything in SA. So I try to keep it as short and to the point as possible. It's just the easiest way I've found to operate as a DM personally ^_^   Re "community outside the walls": A lot of why they don't all live inside the walls is because a lot of them used to be explorers, or are people who came out to Talaina'Vao looking for freedom, seclusion, and a number of other things... So while the village as a whole values community, they also respect each other's privacy and space. The village inside the walls is seen more as the local area's central gathering point than an actual village where people live and work.   Re "additional defenses": That's a good point! I'll have to think about additional defenses to add. Thank you for the suggestion!

3 Jul, 2019 10:32

Humm this is a really great article!   I've read the other comments, and while the whole "Wiki"-style can be seen here, I don't feel like that's going to be a problem when you've written this for D&D. Lot's of useful information and the map is a nice touch. It would be cool if you added another map to illustrate the placements of the other settlements you mentioned since it can be hard for some to visualise. Especially while trying to absorb all of the good facts in there :D   I would really love to know a little bit about the dynamics between the different races. If the dwarves have built some of the communal buildings at a lower height, doesn't that irritate some of the orcs or elves?   Another little note (not at all necessary though) is that it would be a good idea to write a small excerpt for the linked articles. I found myself in need of a little more info at times :3   The stat table with demographics is very satisfying btw, made me happy when I saw it! and your quotes from Old Lady Canli were such a nice touch. Especially because you wrote so I could hear her accent!

3 Jul, 2019 18:52

Re "Map": I would, but unfortunately I don't have one at the moment. When I do, however, it'll be available on the main page and jam packed with map markers lol.   Re "racism": There've been a couple minor incidents like that over the years but never anything major. Most people who come to Tolara are already more open minded, or are adventurers who are used to dealing with other races. So racial violence isn't nearly as common in most of Tolara in general as is it in, say, Olienne. You'll be able to get more information about race relations per country, though, when I finish another article meant just for that.   Re "Building height": The original buildings were rebuilds of the ruins, so they're "normal" height. Newer ones were built at the Dwarven height, too. But generally even the Dwarves build large enough to accommodate other races- especially the Druuma and Dasmira, who are used to trading with the larger folk.   Re "dead links": I do those intentionally; if I click away even for a second to make a small vignette or create an excerpt, I tend to get lost and never end up writing what I meant to. So during events I intentionally leave those blank in order to keep myself on track. They'll be added in the coming weeks / months as I push forward ^_^

3 Jul, 2019 19:39

Wonderful! I'll look forward to all that ^-^

5 Jul, 2019 08:01

Re: Dead Links - I totally understand your issue here and I agree it is best to not click away during writing. But Ninne's point is valid as well: At the end it woul dhelp if there is at least a one sentence excerpt, working as a tooltip.
My personal strategy here is as follows - and maybe it could work for you as wellß When creating a stub using the purple button (oh the allmighty and glorious purple button), I usually write one short sentence anyway, or I would lose track of the context. After saving I do not jump to that created article - but open it up in a Tab.
After finishing up the base article (I usually aim to finish them within one session), I go through all my opene dtabs and add the sentence to the excerpt - and pick out a cover, save, publish and raise its priority on the ToDo List.
Now I have the very very basic context giving information for my main article, giving it polish - and a mental note to work on the small pieces soon-ish after Summer Camp. Adds the bonus of them being immediately linkable.

5 Jul, 2019 08:04

Opening them in new tabs may just help. Thanks, hun. I appreciate the advice.

3 Jul, 2019 12:47

What a neat and concise article from the beautiful Anna! This article really felt very dynamic and immediately dr agged me into the world itself after reading the first quote! Throughout the article, you really manage to keep the readers interest in with short but punchy paragraphs and breaking them up with quotes at places! The table on the sidebar was also a neat addition and added some more technical info that would have clogged up the main text but would be perfect for the sidebar, a wise decision I would say! Overall, this is an extremely well created article!   I had a few questions though. At one part of the article, you mention expeditioners coming to this village. Where are they going to on their expeditions? Also, what is life like in this small little hamlet for its villagers? Have there been any incidents where some race has started attacking others because of racism or something else? How is this handled? Also on another note, what defences does this town have? My critique might sound incredibly bland and i apologise if i did sound really bad with my critiques but i really hope it helped! you managed to write a neat little and peaceful article that gives me a bit of hope with the inhabitants caring for each other constantly. Congrats humm and keep up the amazing work!

3 Jul, 2019 18:48

Re "Expeditioners": Keskala's located just south of the Nisaba Pass- which is the only way in and out of the southern peninsula of tolara. The Expeditioners passing through are coming and going from the southern peninsula- part of which I do mention in the article ^_^   Re "life": It's small. It's quite. Most people work all day farming or hunting. Until the Expeditions come through twice a year, someone dies, or someone gets married, or someone has a kid, there's really not much else to do lol.   Re "racism": There've been a couple minor incidents like that over the years but never anything major. Most people who come to Tolara are already more open minded, or are adventurers who are used to dealing with other races. So racial violence isn't nearly as common in most of Tolara in general as is it in, say, Olienne.

3 Jul, 2019 17:36

This is such a great article! I've been struggling with how to do my own settlements and making a lot of false starts, and I love the information you've given and how it is laid out here that I might just steal it. I especially hadn't thought of the demographics section!   I'll admit it's tough to find anything to critique here. I did wonder though, with most of them being former expeditioners themselves, they must all be pretty tough and hardly individuals. I'm assuming expeditioner is close to adventurer in your world. How do people so used to violence and hardship cope with settling down in a small town? Or rather what law is enforced by the town to make sure that everyone gets along in this community? I'm sure there must be growing pains sometimes with new folks and there's not much about the governance or the law here. You talk about Clan Skala being in charge, but how do they maintain their prominence?   This is a great article though, and I am looking forward to more! :D

3 Jul, 2019 18:38

I'm glad I could help!   Re "expeditioners": An Expeditioner is someone who works for the Explorer's Guild, whose actual professional job is to go to undiscovered or only marginally understood locations and explore them to gain information... A sort of resource / location scout.. Adventurers, on the other hand, are like mercenaries are to armies; they're not professionals, they're mostly out for their own pockets, they're much more interested in money, and they're just as likely to rob a place blind for all its resources and wealth than they are to report its location. So Expeditioners and Adventurers in Saleh'Alire are similar- but they're different enough that people in SA have opinionnnsss if you know what I mean lol.   Re "Law & Government": I didn't include that because it really just... Doesn't exist in Keskala. People look to Marlena for guidance when things get tough, sure. And Clan Keskala certainly rebuilt the town and named it. But no one is actually "in charge". There's no governments. There's no laws. It's just a bunch of people doing their best not to die. Course, that doesn't mean everyone gets along. There's the occasional tiff... But for the most part everyone in the community understands the social contract. And those who don't abide by it, don't really tend to last long anyways for one reason or another.

3 Jul, 2019 19:10

Oh yeah, I definitely read Expeditioner as kind of the adventuring equivalent of privateer. We're licensed to go out and face dangers and such, rather than just being freebooters or mercenaries.   And that works for a frontier town, I just wondered what happened to those guys that don't fit the social contract. But I can see them just withdrawing the community support and letting them make it on their own, or...not.

3 Jul, 2019 19:39

Bingo! You got it right on the head ^_^ Community is important to them, but they're not going to consider you part of the community if everything you do goes against it. Doesn't matter how close to them you live!

3 Jul, 2019 20:53

For a frontier settlement, I admit that I do like the history that you brought up here! It does raise up a lot of history and I like that it has been essentially passed down from culture to culture, though the only thing that generally confused me is why that the first settlers essentially abandoned the settlement: monsters? Raid? Or did a plague struck them all? I did notice that this got answered, but I feel like this could use some minor explanation to perhaps add future plotpoints. What artefacts are left behind? I'm kinda curious what made them drift off.   Other than that, it's a bit hard to discuss this article without repeating what the others have said: adding some excerpts, maybe an extra image, etc. As a wikipage it can be a bit less appealing, but I can see this used quite well as a D&D note to know what exactly is happening in this settlement. Hopefully some lore bits are expanded upon!   I think the only thing that I have is what exactly are the outside households attacked by? What entity or race is actively killing families out there? Again, sorry if this question may have been answered beforehand.   Hopefully the critique helped a bit, even though I doubt I brought anything new to the table.

4 Jul, 2019 04:27

Re "why was it abandoned": I'm one of those people that doesn't like to write about what isn't known universally in the world. And while they can tell that the Tameri were who settled here first from the historical record? No one knows why it was abandoned shortly afterwards. I don't feel like what artefacts they left behind is really relevant to the city as it stands today, so I didn't include it.   Re "what are the outside homesteads attacked by": A hint to that is located in some of the flavor text. The rest will be revealed later when I get around to writing the article for the region it's in; I don't like repeating myself across multiple articles, so I tend to constrain information to its most relevant locations. And that goes back to it being a setting Wiki and not something for the entertainment of others. It just makes everything more clear, and easiest for me to locate when I need it.

3 Jul, 2019 23:13

Oh, I am SO glad that you put this Author's note I can breathe easier.   I loved what I read...but I just couldn't read it all. Not that anything was wrong with it, far from it--the information was fascinating--it's just that my old eyes had a hard time focusing on the words. The color combinations and font choices made it very difficult. I'm thinking I'm the exception, so I don't recommend changing anything--for I DO think the formatting and color choices are fantastic.   Loved your percentages with races--which got me when I saw "Orc".   Would have enjoyed more information on how an orc could fit in, especially with elves...but as I said, your Author's note naturally silenced me.   No corrections or suggestions here--the article is impressive.

4 Jul, 2019 04:32

Re "how does everyone get along": So Tolara is the most recently discovered continent in Saleh'Alire. A lot of the people coming here are people looking to make their own way, make cash, or gain freedom (etc). And, overall, they're generally a lot more open minded than the more traditional kingdoms with a lot of history behind them. So already, that works in their favor. But on top of it, the races in Talaina'Vao specifically, are races that have cohabited for a long time already; Timber Elves, Orcs, and Tameri have been living in mixed cities / villages all over Talaina'Vao for centuries by the point Keskala's formally established. So it's not much different than the setup for them elsewhere ^_^   Re "accessibility": I'm so sorry it's hard to read! Don't forget world anvil has a built in accessibility panel. You can access it by clicking the little round icon with the stick figure dude in it over there <-- on the right bottom hand side of the page.