Finally! I’ve struggled through this post due to some writer’s block, but here it is. First, however, if you don’t mind clicking here and voting on that poll, I’d be appreciative. That is the first post I’ve ever done on the blog, and I still look to that poll to lead the content. So if you haven’t voted on what you’d like to see, please do so!
In this second part, I will go into detail about the Hill Dwarf town of Trobal’Brae and the people and places you can find within.
These two posts together should provide you with a good setting springboard for an adventure or two, or as a place to stick somewhere in your hex crawl. As always, feedback and suggestions are not only welcome but urged.
The third and final post will focus on the northern wilds, called The Taiga, expanding on the adventure oppurtunities.
What is there to say about the Trobal’brae? Everything’s muddy; the streets, the dogs, the dwarves, even the ale. I suppose it’s also home.
-Gwil Goldensong, King of the Fenglennarry Highlands
After following the muddy road over a rocky ridge, the first glimpse of Trobal’brae can be seen against the backdrop of an eternally cloudy sky. It sits over a large river, called simply The White due to it’s swift foamy pace, in a bowl-like valley surrounded by hills and ridges. A low stone wall rings it, an ancient thing that is falling down in places. The buildings are low as well, stacked stone with hay roofs. Taller buildings, made of a mixture of wood and stone, stand tall near the middle of town.
The town is large for this region of small villages and shepherd shacks, though it doesn’t feel urban exactly. Sheep roam about, farmers and tradesmen set up stalls or just open up their wagons on the side of the streets. Taverns are aplenty. It smells of animals and peat-smoke, and of ale and cooked meat. The buildings ring with the shouts of merchants and the baying of hounds, and the sounds of rowdy tavern music.
An outsider might be put off by the gruff appearance of a Trobal’brae hill dwarf, but they would soon learn that hospitality is a virtue among these highland people. Not quite as xenophobic as their cousins, a foreigner would be offered directions immediately, and probably even be invited for a pint at the tavern to swap tales of the road. An elven or gnomish visitor would probably be urged to come meet the family.
It’s a busy place, and half of the people in the town don’t live in it but simply come here to trade. A few other races of people can often be spotted walking about, though it’s not nearly as cosmopolitan as some of the bigger cities in the larger kingdoms.
The town is roughly made up of a number of rings of roads. Along the outermost ring are most of the public buildings; taverns, stables, rough market nooks and the like. Many of the townspeople live nearest the quieter inner rings, where also the Temple of Moradin stands as well as the various Bard Colleges and guild buildings.
In the middle of the town, on a hill, sits the great house of the king of the Glenfennary Highlands, and is where the ministration takes places.
Locations of Note
The following are the more important and noteworthy locations within Trobal’brae. The NPCs involved in these locations will be listed along with it.
The Cozened House
The most famous tavern in Trobal’brae, and not just for its tricky name. The proprietor of the tavern is a dwarf named Egrom Mossfield, a middle-aged dwarf famously known for knowing all of the news of Trobal’brae (and elsewhere) almost as soon as it happens. The tavern is a huge cavernous log house, with a multiple lofts that look over the main room. Most of the traders and foreigners end up here for their drinks, and information flows like coin. The floor usually houses a dozen or so hounds, begging for scraps or pats on the head. There are often more than one bard here, playing in different corners, as the sound of the crowd often overpowers the volume of the performance.
- Egrom Mossfield (Dwarven Tavern Proprietor): Egrom usually sits on a big comfortable chair next to a huge roaring fireplace in the center of the tavern, usually talking to some important diplomat or merchant. While he owns the tavern, it’s been a long time since he’s actually worked the bar. He’s friendly, but also likes to give the impression that he knows something that you don’t. And most of the time he’s right. Information is his true business, and it’s one that he willingly participates in the trade of. He never charges coin, however. To him, information is worth information, or better yet, the owing of a favor. He warms to people with a good sense of humor and likes to talk. He will react negatively to people who are pushy, or are perhaps too direct and to the point.
- Bonnie Craiggon (Dwarven Cook): Bon is an ancient hill dwarf whose face is mostly made of wrinkles. She almost never speaks, and moves slower than a pond on a breezeless day. However, her knowledge of recipes and cooking in general rivals many specialists in other, bigger towns. Her large book of recipes is almost considered a regional relic, and not more than one thief has been caught trying to sneak into her quarters at night to procure it. They often learn that she’s handy with a frying pan. She is slow to liking someone, but those she does like she will often teach cooking secrets to for free. Even still, she teaches with severity, and often smacks a clumsy hand with a ladle.
Another tavern of note, Riverbridge gets its name because the tavern is built over the river itself, and looks a bit like a bridge with walls and a door. There’s even a trapdoor in the middle of the public room, where fishermen deliver fresh catches to the tavern in exchange for money or ale. It always smells of cooked fish, and the crowd here is usually a bit more salt of the earth and rowdy than over at The Cozened House. The bard that plays here is Stant the Caller, a rather famous bard and fisherdwarf. The owner and barkeep is Grenley Maggerty, a gruff sort who distrusts travelers and foreign types.
- Grenley Maggerty (Dwarven Barkeep): This dwarven barkeep will eye any new person with deep distrust. His tavern services mostly fisherfolk and farmers, and is cheaper than other taverns that are mostly patronized by merchants. He doesn’t talk much, and prefers to sit back and watch the other people in his tavern than to get involved in anything. He’ll warm (slightly) to other dwarves. Any funny business from a patron will cause him to throw you out.
- Stant the Caller (Dwarven Bard): Stant is a caller bard; his music is usually vocal only, though he occasionally strums a lute. Much of his songs are fishing and boating songs, chants and jigs that the tavern folk are quick to join into. He’s a friendly dwarf, and is getting on in years. He’s a proficient bard, but doesn’t seem to wrapped up in the arcane aspects of his profession. He likes mostly to talk fishing; anything more complicated and he’ll shrug and listen politely, but not be particularly interested. That is, unless that conversation turns to ghost stories. Then his eyes will shine, he’ll lean in, and begin to recount tales of his youth, when he would search the countryside and riverways for spirits, and claim to have seen some.
- One such story is a sad one: he saw a tall female figure dressed in white robes on the banks of The White. She seemed to bend to the river, and to throw a wrapped bundle in. He heard her sobbing from his boat, but as he got closer it got fainter, and by the time he reached the bank she was nowhere to be found. However, on the banks was a small standing stone with carvings on it, moss-covered. The carvings were too worn away to be read.
- Old Georg (dwarven old person): Old Georg is a fixture of the Riverbridge. He sits in the corner, sipping on ale that Grenley gives him for free. Anyone that talks to him will be regaled with tales fantastical and impossible. He’ll tell them how he was at the battle of Glenmer’s Stand, so many centuries ago that he would have died of old age twice. He will also tell you how he regularly consorts with the fair folk, and was even invited to Corellon’s fey court to discuss matters of state. Everyone in the tavern are very protective of the old dwarf, and anyone that mocks him are dealt with harshly, usually with thrown mugs, while Old Georg will prattle on, unheeding.
Grayhouse and the Place of Guilds
The Grayhouse is a large tavern in The Place of Guilds, a section of the city where affluent merchants and craftsmen live and work. Due to its location, it’s not often that a normal traveler will make his or her way there. It’s a gray stone building, and on the inside is furnished richly. It is a quieter place; no rowdy crowd is suffered here. Instead the bards that play here may only use the harp, and conversations are carried in low voices over polished wooden tables. The proprietors are three sisters, the Coinsilk sisters. Often found here are many of the guild leaders and most well established merchants, and many a deal was drafted over a pint of their finest porter.
The Place of Guilds itself is a block or so of the inner part of the city, where many craftsmen hone their skills, teach it to others, and create the merchandise sold at the various markets. The guilds are tight-knit groups of people, taking in anyone with the coin or wherewithal to work for free. These are generally young dwarves from the many families along the highlands, seeking their fortunes.
- Maltona Coinsilk (dwarven proprietor): Maltona is the oldest of the three, and generally acts as the voice and leader of their business. She has a sharp wit, and always seems to be wearing a half-smile on her face. She has little patience for confrontation, and anyone in her place of business who start such things will often find themselves on the wrong end of a very large bludgeon.
- Sandressa Coinsilk (dwarven proprietor): Sandressa, the middle sister, is a sorcerer, and concerns herself largely with the accounting of the household. She is very intelligent, but doesn’t have a sense of humor like her other two sisters. She is the least seen sister, as she is often upstairs in their suite writing up documents or traveling to the guilds to network trade.
- Giona Coinsilk (dwarven proprietor): Giona is a bard, and is often the one who greets patrons and organizes the staff. She is the youngest, but the most charismatic and even-tempered. She is great friends with Clarion Goldensong, Princess of the Fenglennarry Highlands. When not greeting patrons or leading the staff, she is often found sitting on the raised dais for performers, playing her harp serenely.
- Halden Maggerty (dwarven merchant): Halden is the master of the merchants guild, the organization that organises the markets, regulates local trade, and sets up the weekly Dusk Market. He is a very wealthy dwarf, and has a keen eye for talent in merchants. He is mild-mannered, though quite taken with drinking wine. Gifts of wine, in fact, are well-known to put you ahead in his good graces. He despises thieves of every sort, and often writes letters to the King about organizing a better guard for the town. These are usually ignored. It is remarkably easy to get a personal appointment with Halden; these are usually held at his personal suite at the Grayhouse.
The First Mission Temple of Moradin
This temple to Moradin was established by a Mountain Dwarf, a cleric missionary named Martin Brightstone, a century before. While the hill dwarves often worship Moradin along with Avandra, there were no organized temples when Martin traveled here. So he established one in hopes of leading the hill dwarves toward a more traditional religious approach. The attempt was novel to most of them, but Martin was a kind cleric and the temple provided a lot of services that they had lacked before.
Today the temple is led by the daughter of Martin, who died of a sickness years before. Her name is Marcella Brightstone. The temple offers healing services, prayer hymnals every day, as well as housing a martial wing of clerics of Moradin in which anyone may join. They often take in orphans who are raised to be priests or clerics. Traveling Mountain Dwarves most often visit here more than the common Hill Dwarf, but there are some devouts among the populace, and many wealthy merchants who try to hedge their divine bets.
- Marcella Brightstone (dwarven cleric): The daughter of Martin and a hill dwarf named Maybelle, Marcella is the current High Priest of The First Missions Temple of Moradin. She’s well into her middle years, and spends much of her time leading the organizations humanitarian efforts. She has battle experience, being trained by the military arm of the temple, but these days she doesn’t much don armor and wield mace. She is a masterful healer, and gives generously to the poor and distraught. She is less evangelical than her father, and doesn’t try to convert the Trobal’brae populace as he once did. She simply tries to make the place a sanctuary. She is a deep and methodical thinker, and slow to action in many things. She is willing to listen to anyone, and doesn’t hold her position above others. She is, however, convinced of her own wisdom, and doesn’t take well to being contradicted.
- Anston Butterbrae (dwarven cleric): The child of poor dairy farmers, Angton is the head of the martial arm of the temple that provides training for clerics that serve Moradin. He is quite young, and was given the position by Marcella due to his near prodigious talent with both arms and divine magic. He is very brash, however, and dislikes sitting still when a problem arises. He has a deep respect for Marcella, but they often clash when he perceives her patience as reluctance. He is strict in training, and has a dynamic temper. He respects other military oriented people. He has little patience for performers and what he calls “slippery folk”.
- Jessmera Morablessed (dwarven priest): Jessmera was a simple priestess of the temple, having been raised there as an orphan. Soon others noticed that she spoke to people who weren’t there, and was often cocking her ear to one side as if listening to something when there was only silence. Some called her mad, and others blessed by Moradin. When she showed extreme skill at healing magic, it was the latter that became popular opinion. These days she stays in the healing wards of the temple, working her magics and speaking to invisible beings. When she speaks to others, it is often in a strange roundabout manner, as if she were speaking in riddles or following a line a conversation that they aren’t part of. All in all, she simply seems to be on a whole different wavelength.
The Dusk Market
A gate and pathway connected to the outer road/ring of the town leads to a large open public place near the middle, cordoned off with low wooden fences. Many wooden stalls sit here, empty during the day. When dusk falls on the last day of the week, however, the Dusk Market opens. The field fills with merchants and peddlers of all sorts. Musicians and bards play in every corner, storytellers sit around small campfires with enraptured audiences. The smell of lamb and beef fills the air with the smoke of cookfires.
The Dusk Market is a weekly tradition in Trobal’brae. While a lot of business occurs at all times during the day in the outer city, the Dusk Market is where the choicest items are sold. Traders and travelers who have been to the market say that it’s almost a magical event, and many who travel here do so simply to experience it. Much food and drink is both consumed and spilled here. At the center of field stands a tall stature of Avandra, looking on with arms held aloft.
- Aifric Carrowin (dwarven merchant): Aifric is notable at the Dusk Market due to his inventory of minor magical trinkets. In his youth, he spent much of his time traveling in the northern taiga or around the elf-ruins of the Highlands adventuring and searching out relics. Much of what he has was found during these expeditions, or gathered in his later years as a traveling merchant. These days due to his age he stays in Trobal’Brae, trading and talking with the other merchants or drinking quiet pints over at the Cozened House. He knows quite a bit about the wilder regions around here, and will gladly speak to adventurers about what to look out for.
A small street, one of the few paved with stones, turns a corner from the main roads. It looks almost like an alley, but following it leads to Songsteward Lane. Here, tall buildings line either side, and the mixed sounds of instruments being played and made fill the air. Singing comes from windows, and more than one harsh word of a teacher punctuates the whole.
This is where most of the modern Bardic tradition of Trobal’Brae and the Fenglennarry Highlands originates. It is here that the vast oral history of the Hill Dwarf clans is passed on, as well as the unique arcane arts of the bard. A number of different colleges and learning centers are available for the prospective bard, from large multi-level stone houses richly decorated to small wooden shacks where a venerable harp player passes on his knowledge for a penance.
This is also where many instrument makers practice their craft, and shop windows line with lutes, harps, and sheep-skin drums.
- Aurora Songspinner (dwarven bard): Aurora comes from a very long and venerable line of bards, an unbroken chain that goes back to the days of Glenmer. She leads the most famous Bardic college in the region, Songspinner College, and oversees the training of only the most skilled as well as the most well off bards; the cost of entering into the school is quite high. She leads a staff of around ten other dwarves, all of whom specialize in certain instruments, singing, poetry, or speechcraft. The school takes on many foreign students as well; in fact, about half of the student body is from outside of the Highlands. She is a severe old dwarf, and extremely by the book. She puts a lot of stock in tradition. She has a personal rivalry with the king, Gwil Goldensong, whom she sees as misusing and even abusing the gifts of the Bardic tradition. She has put a lot of effort into getting Princess Clarion Goldensong to attend the school, but has been refused, because the Goldensong family has always taught their craft from parent to child. She does not mix with the ‘rabble’, and the school will refuse letting anyone to see her unless they are prospective students with proof of affluence.
- Mossy Boulder (dwarven bard): Mossy Boulder isn’t this dwarfs true name, but time and everyone else forgot what that was long ago. He is old, though how old no one knows. His face is a craggy wasteland of wrinkles, and his hair, eyebrows, and beard of bright silver are so long as to touch the ground as he walks (or shambles). He speaks in a gruff voice, and seems to survive on whiskey and sheep stew, usually mixed together, and is always smoking from his pipe. However, when he puts his hand to a harp of very blemished gold, the music that comes out is said to be one of the most beautiful things that many have ever heard. He lives alone in a leaning shack, an eyesore fixture of Songsteward Lane. Many of the well to do masters of the Lane often complain of the shack to the King and city officials, as well as how cheaply he takes in students (though only one at a time). Since Mossy has been around so long, however, and since he is well-known to be a dear friend of King Gwil, these complaints are ignored.
- Sheila Vardiggen (dwarven craftsman): Sheila is an instrument maker, and was once the student of the famous craftsman Margary Baillune. After Margary’s death, Sheila opened her own shop and practices the craft taught to her. She is notable because while not the best instrument maker, though quite a good one, she excels at the craft of enchantment of the instruments. Her work usually requires quite a long time due to the enchantment process, but she is said to be able to call down fey magics to give the music of the instruments otherworldly qualities and effects. Adventuring bards in particular seek her out, though her work is quite expensive. Sheila herself is a reserved dwarf, keeping to herself mostly. There are rumors that she got her skill through dark magics, or pacts made at midnight with otherworldly beings, but she shrugs these off, if never quite contradicting them.
In the north part of the city sits a large round stone building, with half of a roof. The other open half billows out smoke and ash more of the day. This rough-looking place is Ogram’s Smithery, a large blacksmithing facility ran by master smith Ogram Haggery. Famous throughout the region for their quality of work, especially with farming equipment, an Ogram scythe can probably be found even in neighboring kingdoms.
The smithery employs seven other smiths of variable experience, all hand-picked by Ogram due to their skill. He doesn’t except solicitations for apprenticeship; you must make a name for yourself before he’ll contact you.
- Ogram Haggery (dwarven smith): Ogram is a loud and boisterous dwarf, though this might belay his intelligence and skill. He is always quick to laugh and joke, and has a habit of slapping people on the back. He is most often found blackened and sweating over a forge. While his facility focuses on farming and crafting tools, Ogram himself has focused on weapons and armor for the past decade, creating masterful work. His weapons and armor are known for the artistic inlays of silver that form curving knots in the steel, a technique that takes years to learn and many more to master. He is a dwarf of the people, as he will often say, and has little use for “bean counters”, and thus sells most of his items outright himself, much to the chagrin of the Merchant’s Guild. He has a weakness for the drink. He also has never married or seemed to have been in a relationship of any sort at all.
The Goldensong House
In the middle of Trobal’Brae is a hill, sloping gently upward, ringed with a stonewall that is covered in ivy and honeysuckle. On the hill is a high house of wood and stone, with a huge roof that almost resembles the underside of a river boat. This is the Goldensong House, the house of the royal family of the Fenglennarry Highlands. It is an old building, but kept in good condition, with a garden ringing it on all sides. Unlike the muddy streets of Trobal’Brae, this is a place of green and flowers, of red wood benches, and stone depictions of Avandra and Correlon.
The Goldensongs have been the ruling family for a long time, their name changing from the older name Duanore when the clan settled down from being nomadic chiefs. The bardic tradition is strong in the family, with all children taking up the craft, and passing that craft on to their progeny. While always known for their good humor and love of life’s pleasures, the current King is known to have taken that to an extreme.
- Princess Clarion Goldensong (half dwarf/half elf bard and princess): Clarion is at the cusp of adulthood. With hair of red-gold, as her father, visitors will be struck by her, mostly because she doesn’t look exactly like a dwarf. While of the same height, her frame is positively petite in comparison, and she seems to lack the overall feeling of groundedness. This is because she is half-elven; a half-elven bastard to be exact. She, nor her father, hide the fact. In fact, when Gwil returned from one of his long journeys holding her in a bundle of silks, he announced to the whole town that his heir had arrived… without her mother. No one knows what elf carried the child to term, and Gwil doesn’t speak of it, usually shrugging. Clarion is generally who takes care of royal business while Gwil is away, which is often. She is usually very serious in tone, and takes to her bardic training with determination that juxtaposes strangely with Gwil’s frivolity. They get along, however, and many say that without her the kingdom would have went bottom up, as Gwil often does after a night at the tavern. Her dearest friend is Giona Coinsilk of the Grayhouse. Clarion’s physical health is a much muttered about subject of the dwarves. She is often sick, and doesn’t eat much, and keeps a very pale complexion. Many feel like Gwil dotes on her due to this, and some whisper that many of his journeys of late have been to find healing for some strange malady she might have.
- King Gwil Goldensong (dwarven bard and king): The red-haired Gwil Goldensong is famous around the kingdom for his good nature, his humor, and his extreme lack of the concept of responsibility. Gwil prefers the road, the tavern, and the open sky to his family’s holdings. He also prefers the company of other drunken fools. Gwil is more than a bit un-dwarflike, even for a hill dwarf. One could even say that he is decidedly so. Where many dwarves are stoic, Gwil is boisterous. He takes great pleasure in wine, women, and especially song. Despite his kingly status, he often travels from village to village away from Trobal’Brae, upon a particularly fluffy cow whom he calls King Bovus, to sing bawdy songs in taverns, shower his peoples with small gifts and drink, and find someone’s comfortable bed to spend the night in. He is a rover, through and through. He is also not the most pious of Kings, and more than once has a priest of Moradin been the butt of one of his mischievous tricks or pranks. Public opinion of him is split between those that love his free spirit, and those that feel he is the most irresponsible king in the history of the highlands.
To be continued…