Paths of Vengeance
The City of Farholde
Farholde is the northernmost colony of Talingarde. This small city is a backwater, largely isolated from its parent nation by distance and danger. No King of Talingarde has visited Farholde 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 (pronounced SCARden) 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 distant 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 now more isolated than ever. And yet, here in this backwater, the fate of tens of thousands of Talireans 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.
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 actually 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.
These floods are a boon for Farholde. They deposit rich lake sediment all over the delta plane and create rich 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.
Besides agriculture and the garrison, Farholde has another important industry – fishing. Though the sea is rough and dangerous and few bother to fish its open waters, Lake Scardynn is deep and densely populated with salmon, sea cat and amberscale. Even the occasional sturgeon is caught and both their meat and caviar are prized delicacies.
The prize every captain dreams of catching though is the rare giant crayfish. No one knows why these monsters sometimes appear or why they grow gigantic, but specimens longer than seven feet have been captured in Lake Scardynn. The creatures are dangerous and more than one over-ambitious young fisherman has lost an arm to the beasts. But when one is brought back to town, buyers pay premium coin for delicious giant cray-steaks that barely fit on dinner plates. Grilled and served with melted butter there is no greater delicacy.
The quays where the fishing boats dock are stout stone affairs designed to survive weeks underwater. They jut out in to the delta all along the southern bank. The northern bank has only one – a broad military quay where soldiers and supplies are unloaded to provision the Castle Hamorhall. Usually the quay is home to dozens of war galleys and supply barges, but now they are all gone transporting their troops to the eastern front.
A Conquered City
Farholde did not always belong to Talingarde. Less than three hundred years ago, it was a small hill fort controlled by a barbaric 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. Though he burned 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 is direct descendant of Farholde today. Some of the oldest street names like ‘Quartermarch’ and ‘Kingscamp’ hint at this origin.
The Iraen tribesmen are not memories. They inhabit the Caer Bryr in great numbers and even a few still make Farholde their home. Some worry that the forest-dwellers merely wait for a chance when Talingarde 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 Iraen, so interbred are they with the Talireans, that they are virtually indistinguishable. Their greatest contribution is the proliferation of unpronounceable place names, red hair and green eyes.
The City in the Jaws
With a little imagination, you can see that the delta is actually a great monster closing its jaws upon Farholde. The town seems like little more than a morsel this great beast will soon devour. Though simply a coincidence of geography, this is an apt analogy.
North is the savage frozen frontier – the land beyond the Watch Wall. It is the domain of the bugbear tribes, the mighty Naatanuk and the enigmatic ice elves. More than once, Hamarhall has been besieged by these barbarous neighbors. Every time the Talireans have fought them off. If the invaders tried to bypass Hamarhall, the fortress deployed its war galleys armed with batteries of ballistae and battering rams. These warships made quick work of any crude flotilla the bugbears could cobble together.
To the south is the Caer Bryr (usually simply called the Briar by locals), an endless and alien jungle. The forest teems with barbaric tribes with different religions and tongues, weird ruins of inestimable antiquity and vicious super-predators that do not distinguish between men and prey. There are a thousand stories told of the dangers that lurk in the Briar and the terrifying truth is that a great percentage of them relate something close to fact.
In the middle of these wild perils lies Farholde – a thin strand of Talirean civilization. The people of Farholde do not decry their place or their fate. Instead, they take pride in their resilience. Farholde is just shy of three centuries old. For three centuries, bugbear hordes and Briar-born beasts have done their best to wipe it from the map.