Known affectionately as ‘The Last Stand’ by the garrison that defend it, the town of Baluard is regarded by many in the Emirate of Taqwal as the nation’s main bastion stopping an invasion by the Sultanate of Fashaddon by land of the Vermell Peninsula. So important is the fortress and defences of the town that Baluard itself is run by the military of Taqwal, rather than by a civil authority, and the civilian population is itself only a small percentage of the overall population, that is dominated by the garrison and its associated support systems.
Baluard is less of a town and more of a military installation. This means that the vast majority of the people who reside there are active service men and women who live and work as part of the garrison protecting the Estret Pass. In terms of demographics this means that the majority of the population is very young, relative to the average ages of the different species that make up Taqwal's military. Economically, as the majority of the town’s residents are on the military pay roll there are few people who sit outside this middle pay bracket. The majority of those in the town who sit on the higher end of the economic scale are the high ranking officers in charge of the garrison, whilst those on the bottom of the economic pile are the labourers who are hired by the Emirate’s military on an ad hoc basis to help with the moving of goods up to the town, or carrying out repair or construction work on the town’s defences and the defensive network beyond to the north.
The town of Baluard is one large fortification. The centre of the town is dominated by a huge fortress that is both the base for the garrison and the main defensive bastion standing in between the Sultanate of Fashaddon and the Emirate of Taqwal. The fortress is protected to the north by a curtain wall, made of stout thick stone that stretches across the entire width of the Estret Pass, and to the south by a similar wall. The only difference between the northern and the southern curtain walls is that the southern wall has been built so that it looks out over the town and the fortress, rather than looking out over the pass to the south. The main reason for this is that the Emirate is not concerned with Baluard being attacked from the south, but has instead built the town’s southern curtain wall to act as a last line of defence against an incursion from the north. Beyond the town to the north is an intricate network of trenches, towers, stone walls and traps that are not physically linked to the defensive structures of Baluard, but are manned by members of the garrison. The purpose of this defensive network is not to act as holding points to stop an invasion, but rather to give Baluard’s garrison enough defensive barriers from which to operate a slow defensive retreat, moving back along the Estret Pass from position to position, slowing down any incursions from the Sultanate, whilst being able to harry their opponents suddenly and then retreat before a counterattack can be mustered.
In terms of its infrastructure, Baluard is well connected to the rest of the Emirate of Taqwal to the south, with the road leading south from the town to the Vermell Peninsula proper being very well built and maintained. To the north, it would almost be impossible to move any heavy traffic towards the Sultanate of Fashaddon, even without the defensive walls, trenches and traps crisscrossing the valley beyond, as the road has been deliberately allowed to fall into disrepair to make travel up the valley by the Sultan’s forces as difficult as possible. In the town itself, Baluard is not flush with amenities, partly because the military do not want too many distractions for their soldiers, and partly because there is not a big enough market to support a large amount of non-essential businesses. The town has a single, large beerhall, and a modest, but fairly prosperous marketplace that caters to both the civilian and military populations. Beyond that, the rest of the town’s infrastructure is geared towards maintaining the garrison, and there are several blacksmiths, weapons manufacturers such as fletchers and bowyers and a large stonemasons complex to lead on the repairs and maintenance for the defensive structures.
As Baluard is set and spread out across the width of the Estret Pass the town has two high points in the east and the west, where the land begins to slope up sharply where the pass returns to being the Esbalt Mountains proper. The town is situated at a fairly high altitude, given that it is set in the pass proper, rather than being at the foot of the pass, which means that the climate can take some getting used to, not only because Baluard will always tend to be colder than the rest of the Emirate all the year round, but that altitude sickness can be an issue for those who are not suited to the mountain lifestyle.