Freihofen Settlement in Ulskandar | World Anvil


Visitors to the town of Freihofen would be forgiven for thinking on arrival that they had taken a wrong turning and ended up in the Union of Mishtoon rather than a state in the Mountain Principalities. The whole fabric and feel of the town and their surrounding territory looks, feels and smells as if it has been replicated from one of the settlements in the Union, and this is not surprising given that the Dwarves of Clan Mynydd-Cryf moved to the area from the Union en masse and founded the town. The establishment of Freihofen has led to some saying that the movement of Clan Mynydd-Cryf was a political move by the Union in an attempt to seize more territory in the north, though they have never admitted this. Nevertheless, the Dwarves of Freihofen remain very close to the nation they were so keen to leave….
Extract from Maximilian Hoherberg von Zottehal’s History of the Known World.   The town of Freihofen lies in the north-east of the Felsspitze Mountains, and is to all intents and purposes a city-state in the Mountain Principalities, that claims dominion over the whole of the Schlangental Valley, and which is entirely controlled by the Dwarves of Clan Mynydd-Cryf. Despite its remote location, Freihofen has become a relatively prosperous and productive location, well-known for the alabaster decorative and functional vases, bowls and other such items that its artisans produce.


The vast majority of the citizens of Freihofen, c.90% are Dwarves who belong to Clan Mynydd-Cryf. The rest of the population is made up of non-Dwarven species, primarily Halflings and Gnomes, who are more physically well suited to living in a settlement where the majority of  the buildings have been built to cater to the smaller size of Dwarves, and not particularly user friendly when it comes to species that are taller than them. In addition, part of this remaining 10% will be made up of other Dwarves, who do not belong to Clan Mynydd-Cryf, but who belong to a different Clan.   In terms of the economic brackets of Freihofen’s community, like most towns and cities that operate in a predominantly market economy, most of the town’s citizens will be in the lowest income bracket, with a smaller chunk in the middle income bracket, and an even smaller number in the highest income bracket. On the whole, residents of Freihofen who are not Dwarves, will tend to find that their Dwarven neighbours and colleagues will receive preferential treatment over them, in terms of both their pay and their potential for promotion or recognition, and in Freihofen society in general. The only situation where this doesn’t occur is when the non-Dwarven resident has a lot of internal or external connections, or where there is a substantial advantage to giving them preferential treatment as well. For example, a wealthy, well connected, non-Dwarven merchant will find life in Freihofen little different to elsewhere and will be able to scale the societal ladder with ease, whilst a non-Dwarven labourer will find that they are continually passed over for advancement.


As the town of Freihofen is intrinsically linked to the activities of Clan Mynydd-Cryf, most of its governance is tied into the governance of the Clan as well. For example, most of the economic activity that goes on in the town will be viewed in the terms that a state would view its economy, rather than on a more localised, town based administrative level. The Prif, the head of the Clan, who will also happen to be the oldest living member of the Clan, allocates officers from within the Clan to look after areas of policy, such as the economy, agriculture and defence that cover most of the activities that go on in Freihofen.   However, the Prif also appoints a member of the Clan to the position of Mayor of Freihofen, which is a position that has oversight and management of items that specifically relate to the infrastructure of Freihofen the town. This will include maintenance of public roads and buildings, issuing and approving building rights, adjudicating land disputes, ensuring that the sewer system is maintained etc. The Mayor of Freihofen, reports directly to the Prif, and sits on the Clan Council.


Freihofen is defended in part by its physical position. As it is situated beneath the ground access to the town can be controlled quite heavily, as can the tunnels that lead between the town’s Thirds. The main external access point to the town, the tunnel that exits near the base of the Schlangental valley is defended by a castle like fortification, the vast majority of which is located beneath the ground, but with enough of a presence above to offer a commanding look out over the surrounding valley, and protect the approaching roadway from attacks. All other external access point to the town are either defended by garrison posts, if they are deemed to be non-threatening, or if they are deemed to be threatening (meaning that the caverns and tunnels almost certainly lead to the Underdark) they have been filled in and a strong postern access gate installed.


In terms of its economy and infrastructure, the town of Freihofen is fairly self-contained. They have ample numbers of caves and caverns surrounding the town where they cultivate crops, both with and without magical aids that feed the community, ranging from fungi and lichen through to rhubarb and potatoes. The majority of the food that the town requires is grown in these surrounding caverns, and the most regularly imported supplement to their diets is meat and beer that imported from other nations.   Like the Dwarves in the Union of Mishtoon, the Dwarves of Freihofen are great crafters and most of the economy and industry of the town is focused around the manufacturing of goods, especially tools, weapons and armour, the base metals for which they have a direct source of beneath the area of the Schlangental Valley that they control. However, as the Dwarves of Clan Mynydd-Cryf who reside in Freihofen do not access to wood or deposits of clay as their southern brethren do, they are unable to engage in wood or ceramic crafts. However the plentiful supplies of alabaster stone in the area beneath Freihofen and in the surrounding Schlangental Valley mean that the residents of the town have been able to develop a thriving export economy based around the mining and crafting of the stone into decorative and functional items.   The town is directly linked to the neighbouring Shire of Rorbach by a road that leads up to the town from the Shire, travelling up the lower portion of the Schlangental Valley for a few miles, before connecting with the town’s outer gate, and the rest of the journey to the town being several more miles along an underground roadway. There are no other land routes to or from the town above ground, which theoretically puts the town and Clan Mynydd-Cryf at the mercy of the Shire of Rorbach, who can theoretically control traffic moving into and out of the valley, much as the Earldom of Fürstenkreis does for the states further up the Tafelland Valley. However, Freihofen is also known to be connected to both the City-state of Ravendorp and the Shire of Allbach to the south via underground tunnels that have been constructed to cut beneath the Felsspitze Mountains and emerge in the area around Schwarze Lagune. It is also rumoured that Freihofen is connected to places much further afield by secret tunnels through the Underdark, with it even being claimed that Clan Mynydd-Cryf know how to reach the Union of Mishtoon via the underground network of the Underdark, though this has neither been confirmed or denied.


The town of Freihofen is laid out over several caverns that lie beneath the SchlangentalValley and split the town into three parts, known as the Upper, Middle and Lower Thirds of the town. All three of the caverns have been physically altered so that their bases are mostly flat, to give them the maximum amount of available building space possible, and all of them have had either their ceilings heightened or their floors dropped so that their average height is roughly around 40-50ft, large enough to house Dwarf sized buildings of several stories. Each of the town’s thirds are connected to one another by tunnels which have themselves been widened to facilitate the easy movement of traffic between them.   Great pains have been taken to try and ensure that the caverns that form the city’s thirds are not openly connected to other caverns that might potentially lead to the Underdark. Connections to the Underdark and other cave systems do exist in the town, but the access points to them have either been filled in and a small, well-fortified access gate installed, or there will be an open check-point there, garrisoned by a contingent of Freihofen Soldiers.
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Cover image: by Chris Pyrah


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