Legends of the Nentir Vale
Half a dozen small villages lie along the upper vales of the White River. Together, they make up the Barony of Harkenwold – a tiny realm whose total population is not much greater than Fallcrest's. Harkenwold is a small barony in the southeast reach of the Nentir Vale. Several tiny hamlets and a number of steadings (isolated farms) are scattered across the broad dale of the White River. The great Harken Forest surrounds the realm, isolating it from the lands nearby. In better times, this quiet backwater contently avoids major trouble.
The Barony of Harkenwold is a broad valley just over 50 miles long and roughly 20 miles wide located between arms of the Harken Forest. This primarily open land consists of gently rolling hills covered in a mix of cheery meadows, light forest with little undergrowth, and the occasional thicket. The climate is cool and rainy. Many small streams wind their way across the land, eventually joining the White River. These brooks are at most a few feet wide, and small footbridges cross them regularly.
The people of Harkenwold are farmers, woodcutters, and woodworkers; little trade comes up or down the old King's Road. The ruler of Harkenwold is Baron Stockmer, an elderly man who was known for his strong sword arm in his youth. He is a just and compassionate ruler.
Population and Demographics
Harkenwold's total population is about 2,000, scattered across half a dozen small hamlets and a score of isolated steadings. Most of the citizens are humans (50%), halflings (25%), and dwarves (20%), with a smattering of other folk (5%).
Harkenwolders living in the countryside are primarily farmers, shepherds, or woodcutters. Denizens of the hamlets also include woodworkers, smiths, carters, brewers, cheese makers, and leatherworkers. The other villagers tend nearby fields or orchards.
Culture and Travel
A steading is a farm or homestead in Harkenwold's countryside. Each of these settlements features a strongly built house of fieldstone and timber, surrounded by approximately 200 acres of pastureland and cropland. Some steadings have defensive palisades around the main house. A single extended family commonly lives in the house – two or three couples with their children, their older relations, and a few hired hands. Rarely do the total inhabitants of a steading exceed 20 people.
Characters on foot average 2.5 to 3 miles per hour on roads or trails. Walking from Tor's Hold to Easthill, for example, takes about two days. If the travelers avoid the well-traveled trails and strike out directly overland, the mixed terrain reduces their speed to 3/4 normal. Venturing into the Harken Forest or the Briar Hills is much more difficult. The rougher terrain reduces speed to half normal.
Travelers in Harkenwold are rarely more than a mile or two from the nearest steading. Most Harkenwolders are happy to put up visitors for the night, although the accommodations might be a dry barn or stable.
Points of Interest
The second-largest village in Harkenwold, Albridge stands where the King's Road crosses the White River. The center of resistance to Iron Circle rule, the rebel leader in Albridge is Dar Gremath, a retired adventurer.
1. Old Tower
This vine-covered ruin was once a post for soldiers guarding the bridge. The roof collapsed long ago, leaving the interior open to the weather, but the walls are still sound.
2. Erst the Wainwright
Erst is stout, middle-aged, and balding, well known as a human of few words. A crafter, he sells mostly to local farmers in need of carts, wagons, or wheelbarrows, as well as the rare merchant still making use of the King’s Road. Erst's grandfather was a smuggler – hidden tunnels under his workshop offer the rebels a good place to hide their arms and armor.
3. Gerrad's House
Gerrad, a hale and white-haired old halfing, is the village elder. He and his wife Nioma are skilled weavers and sell simple but well-constructed garments of all kinds. Gerrad was appointed village elder by Baron Stockmer 30 years ago, and he conducts most of the town business from the common room of the Mallard Inn. He hides the keenness of his mind behind an affable manner and long-winded stories. Gerrad is well aware of Dar Gremath's efforts to organize resistance and supports them. He hopes to deflect Iron Circle suspicions for as long as possible, but realizes that direct confrontation is inevitable. He despairs that the rebels will not be strong enough.
4. Village Green
This open space serves as a market in good weather. On most days, the children of the hamlet gather here to play. Merchant caravans use the green as a campsite if they're too big to fit in the Mallard’'s innyard.
5. Kathrid's Smithy
Kathrid is a black-haired, mature dwarf who served as a guard in the dwarven settlement of Hammerfast when she was younger. She is an industrious, can-do type who talks incessantly while she works, filling her listener's ears with advice on every topic imaginable. She is a close ally of Dar Gremath and serves as his chief lieutenant in the resistance. If anything happens to her commander, Kathrid is ready to step in and continue the fight.
6. The Mallard Inn
This small inn and taphouse is owned by Onneth, an older half-elf man nearing retirement. Onneth is a good-hearted soul, but he is fretful, forgetful, and incompetent. Most importantly, he can’t keep a secret, so the resistance leaders are careful about what they say around him. Room and board at the Mallard costs 5 silver pieces per night.
7. White River Mercantile
This trading post deals in locally produced woodwork, leather goods, provisions, and a handful of luxury items imported from Fallcrest or the lands to the south. It is run by Roma Featherton. She is a brisk, robust, officious halfling who recently took over the business from her ailing father. Her cousin Abel and his family help out. Most mundane equipment other than armor or weapons is available here for the normal cost.
8. Gremath Stables
Dar Gremath, an aging and retired human adventurer, rarely speaks about his long-ago travels. From this base in his livery and stable, Dar has organized the resistance in Harkenwold. Under cover of stabling their mounts, locals arrive and depart regularly, reporting Iron Circle movements and carrying messages to rebel leaders in other towns.
The eladrin settlement of Dal Nystiere fell to ruin centuries ago, destroyed by some unknown threat, and the Harken Forest has all but swallowed up its remains. Strange witchlights and evil monsters are known to haunt the ruins, and the Woodsinger elves have learned to give the place a wide berth.
Surrounded by apple orchards, grain fields, and vineyards, Dardun is known for mild white wines, cheeses, and (of course) apples. Dardun's elder is a proud half-elf woman named Madera Lirr, the matron of an old family of orchardists and cider-makers.
Dardun has been heavily oppressed by the Iron Circle. Reavers patrol the village streets and routinely tyrannize Dardun’s residents.
To the northwest of Albridge stands a large grove of ancient trees, long sundered from the Harken Forest proper. Locals call this place Druid Grove. A stone menhir stands in the clearing at the center of the grove.
The old human druid Reithann lives here in a moss-covered lodge near the menhir clearing, along with her young apprentices Lorel (a halfling woman) and Theren (a young human man). Harkenwolders who venerate primal spirits come to this verdant place seeking Reithann's advice. Iron Circle marauders avoid the grove, fearing the wrath of the spirits.
A hamlet of sheperds and stonecutters, Easthill rests on the slopes of the Briar Hills. The stone used to build the crossing at Albridge was quarried from hills nearby. A human trader named Sarken Toldorff is the village elder, but he is thoroughly cowed by the Iron Circle marauders. A hunter named Adalbar has quietly stepped up to organize Easthill’s fight.
The Harken Forest is much denser than the light woodlands scattered across the Harkenwold, with larger trees and thicker undergrowth. It is also more dangerous for traveler – large and hungry beasts such as drakes and dire wolves roam its shadows. Game trails or maked paths are few and far between. The Woodsinger elves live in the forested region south of Harkenwold.
A small village nestled near the White River, along the old King's Road in the southeast corner of the Nentir Vale.
- Population: 212; another 60 or so live in the keep. The people of Harken are mostly humans, dwarves, and halflings.
- Government: The human noble Jonn Stockmer is the baron of Harkenwold. He oversees justice, defense, and laws within the six villages and surrounding countryside that makes up the Harkenwold. The baron appoints village elders to help with the daily governing of the Harkenwold. One of the town elders is called Old Kellar, an ancient and respected dwarf.
- Defense: Harken village has no standing defenses, but 30 or so able-bodied warriors can be raised from the population relatively quickly. If the need arises, the baron can call up 150 militia at need from the whole of Harkenwold.
1. The Broken Gaol
Once a respected taphouse named the Silver Nail, this tavern has been adopted by the Iron Circle garrison as a favored off-hours drinking spot. An opportunistic half-orc woman named Krutha runs the place since the bandits chased off the Silver Nail's former owner. On most nights, a dozen or more Iron Circle ruffians gather here to drink and harass any travelers unwise enough to stop in.
2. Iron Keep
Formerly the castle of Baron Jonn Stockmer, Iron Keep now serves as the headquarters of Nazin Redthorn and the Iron Circle. About 60 Iron Circle soldiers are here at any given time (rough 120 more patrol other parts of Harkenwold). The Baron is being held prisoner within the jails inside is own keep.
3. Cliffside Brewery
The three Ironbeards – brothers Omurk and Dannurk, and Dannurk's notoriously short-tempered wife Dathilda – run this fine brewery. This brewery not only brews its own ales but also sells its product to taverns in Fallcrest and Winterhaven.
They are good friends with the smith Kathrid in Albridge and quietly sympathetic to the rebel cause.
4. Old Kellar's House
Once the elder of Harken, Kellar is an ancient dwarf who worked as a master stonecutter and mason for a century. He built much of Baron Stockmer's keep
5. Grimbold's House
Grimbold and his family are shifters. They keep to themselves, making a living as woodcutters and trappers. Grimbold knows the woodlands around Harken quite well. He keeps his eyes open for folk on the run from the Iron Circle and helps them any way he can.
6. Tower of Green Flame
A mysterious crystal spire rising above the town, this tower is thought to be the residence of an ancient archmage who long ago departed the world to explore other planes. Townfolk avoid the place for the most part, fearing arcane traps or curses. Of the few explorers brave enough to venture inside, more than one has disappeared and the rest found the place empty – three small, unfurnished floors with nothing but dust and bird nests. On moonless nights, eerie green phosphorescence plays about the tower's upper floors.
7. Harkenwold Trading Station
The major mercantile outlet in Harken, the Trading Station is owned by a stout, oily little man named Rennis. Most mundane equipment is available for purchase in the Trading Station.
8. House of Faith
A large temple built by an adventuring cleric of yore, the House of Faith has seen better days. Shrines dedicated to Pelor, Moradin, Erathis, and Sehanine stand inside. The current prelate is a kindly middle-aged woman named Sister Sondal. Nazin Redthorn has levied a ruinous tax against the temple, which Sondal has little hope of paying.
9. Nonnie's Place
The doughty halfling Nonnie Farwhere runs a small inn with a kitchen and common room. While not a proper inn, it's the closest thing to one you'll find in whole of the Harkenwold. "Aunt Nonnie" is something of a gossip and busybody, but she minds her tongue around the Iron Circle soldiers. Nonnie charges 5 silver pieces a night for room and board.
Once a prosperous thorp surrounded by well-tilled fields, Marl has suffered heavily under the Iron Circle. Nazin Redthorn has ordered it burned as a warning to the other villages. Creatures such as dire rats, drakes, and goblins skulk around the ruins.
A few of Marl's outlying farms are still inhabited. The nearest steading belongs to Curwen, a fretful old halfling. He and his wife Masie have taken in a dozen of Marl’s refugees. The rest of Marl's folk have scattered to other steadings or taken refuge in Tor's Hold.
Located beneath a forested hill overlooking fetid marshland, the Toadwallow Caverns are unpleasant and ill regarded. The caverns are named for the unusual number of large, deep-throated amphibians that lurk in the boggy land nearby.
The Toadwallow is currently occupied by the Mud-Hides, a tribe of bullywugs that moved into the area a few months ago. The chieftain Gloorpk struck a deal with the Iron Circle – as long as he follows Nazin Redthorn's orders, his clan is free to raid and plunder the western part of Harkenwold.
Tor's Hold is a group of steadings belonging to the seven children of Tor Hammerfist. Old Tor has been dead for many years now, and his offspring have each raised small clans of their own. The elder of Tor's Hold is Bran Torsson.
The trouble with the bullywugs in the Toadwallow Caverns requires the folk of Tor's Hold to spend most of their time defending their lands. As a result, they can't come to the aid of the Harkenwold rebels.
The White River runs the length of Harkenwold, varying from 200 to 300 feet wide, and up to 10 feet deep. Two ferries cross the waterway – one near Tor’s Hold, the other close to Easthill. Both are flatboats large enough for a horse and wagon, secured by thick hawsers. No one tends the ferries; travelers must haul themselves across.
The White River is home to the Reedfoot halfling clan – six keelboats scattered up and down the watercourse, each home to a large and boisterous family. The Reedfoots are allies of Dar Gremath, and help the resistance by carrying messages and spies the length of the vale. The leader of the clan is Willet Reedfoot, an olde, charmingly roguish fellow who earns a comfortable living storytelling in the villages close to the river.
The elves of the Woodsinger clans live in the southeastern part of the Harken Forest. This nomadic tribe consists of a dozen bands, numbering near 200 in total. Each band shifts from camp to camp every few months. The campsite marked on the map is closest to Harkenwold. A wise, cautious elf woman named Eriyel leads the band currently residing there.