Sunday, August 20, 2023

Settlements and Sites of the Four City-States -- Week 33

Settlements and Sites of the Four City-States -- Week 33

Compiling week 33 of the project, comprised of an additional 7 posts, this week's subject being a deep dive of a site of interest, the hills and dales of the Tuton Maug along the border with Noldrune, in the City-State of Taodeas as shown below:



Settlements and Sites of the Four City-States #225 

August 14th, 2023 

  • Number: 225 

  • Name:  Deep Dive on a Site of Interest: Among the Taodean Hills and Dales – Part 1 

  • Location: In the Tuton Maug along the border with Noldrune 

  • Population (approx.): Varies 

  • Brief: Although the peaks of the Tuton Maug are ancient, they are not tall, barely mountains, and the lands surrounding the roots of these mountains are passable and habitableOutside of the borders and influence of the Gotasi Tribe (#54, #155) to the west and the Dwarven Cantons of Highpeak, Crystalhome and Earthmule (#161) to the east, the stretch of territory along the border with Noldrune is home to a variety of small settlements, unique inhabitants and mystical ruins. Recently the Dwarves of the Cantons have sought to enhance the route west to the center of Taodeas because of increasing interference by bandits on their eastern borders (See Smuggler’s Way (#5) and Smuggler’s Rest (#123)). 

  • Geography: The unaligned territory of the Tuton Maug covers about 3,000 square miles from the western edge of the hills eastward to the borders of the 3 eastern Cantons. A single trading route snakes through valleys and around peaks from Dwarven lands to the Gotasi plains. Trails and paths branch off the route heading south and north (some across the border into similar unaligned lands in Noldrune). 

  • Next Article: Over the course of this week, we’ll present some of the notable peoples, locations, happenings and plot threads in the hills and valleys of the Tuton Maug. 



Settlements and Sites of the Four City-States #226 

August 15th, 2023 

  • Number: 226 

  • Name:  Deep Dive on a Site of Interest: Among the Taodean Hills and Dales – Part 2 

  • Location: In the Tuton Maug along the border with Noldrune 

  • Population (approx.): 1 

  • Brief: With the increase in “interference” by outside parties with the trade from the Dwarven Cantons to the Greatwood (#21) and points east, the Dwarves have been revisiting establishing a viable route west across the Tuton Maug to the Crossroads (#54). One of the issues, as one might expect, is that the mountains are home to a variety of creatures, humanoids and monsters who might prey upon caravans and travelers. Armed and armored caravans were effective but costly. The local Magicians Guild chantry came up with a concept relying upon the old “enemy of my enemy is my potential co-worker" maxim, the Troll Re-homing Initiative (TRI). Summoners find and encourage Trolls to make a home along the road. In exchange for a warm Dwarf-made home and other essentials, the Trolls drive off other creatures (Orcs, Gnolls, etc.). So far TRI has had a modicum of success. 

  • Serafina (Sera) Regalflame, 68, Human woman is a summoning mage of some renown. She is tall and spindly, with gray hair worn short with a part in the middle. She has moss-green eyes that engage most people and hold their attention. Sera wears practical trousers and frilly blouses that are the colors of the rainbow. Sera owns several magical staves, including the one she uses on this mission, an oaken staff with runes engraved on it. 

  • Sera is leading a team of Canton mages to the Homespan bridge, a TRI location. She intends to make an area near the mountain where a continuous food summoning spell will supply the troll. The troll has also requested an ongoing ale spell, but that is open to negotiation. The current resident Troll, Ayagi, 76, has caused problems for the locals, demanding these spells as his due. Sera is a skilled negotiator and wants to keep the peace. Ayagi is cagey and knows he can get what he wants from the deal. 

  • Sera's husband, Sigmund, 70, Human man, is a chef who accompanies the party. Sera is happy to lead the group and is eager to return home to play with her grandchildren. Once this mission is complete, Sera and Sigmund are retiring to the countryside and the new house they had built. 

  • Geography: Homespan bidge is a typical construction across one of the many streams in the vales of the Tuton Maug. The east end of the bridge features an entryway to an underground chamber under the road. Ayagi has expanded his “residence” by digging another tunnel and excavating two additional chambers, one where he sleeps and the other where he stores supplies and his “hoard.”   


Settlements and Sites of the Four City-States #227 

August 16th, 2023 

  • Number: 227 

  • Name:  Deep Dive on a Site of Interest: Among the Taodean Hills and Dales – Part 3 

  • Location: In the Tuton Maug along the border with Noldrune 

  • Population (approx.): varies currently 5 and a dog 

  • Brief: The nature of the Tuton Maug allows for isolation, whether by accident, personal choice, curse or governmental punishment. The hills host a variety of small settlements, single huts or hovels and small or large underground complexes, both natural and Kin-made. Thus ordinary peasants might rub elbows with bandits on the run or exiled notables from the flatlands of Taodeas. In the Greatwood (#21) to the east, one might be subject to “the long walk,” where they are banished from the forests and must walk and walk until the trees “call no more.” 

  • Keydove (Key) Whispersinger, 170, Elf, is a historian, once of the Greatwood, specializing in the Ta’arnan Empire. He is short and lithe with pointy ears that have an unnatural twist. He has long silver hair in a ponytail and violet eyes that capture everything. Key wears leather pants and a comfortable tunic but, most notably, a good pair of hiking boots. He carries a set of daggers but is also skilled with a long sword. 

  • Key lives in a group of caves. He was exiled here, by “the long walk,” when he made the mistake of loving the wrong woman in the Greatwood. He has several rooms filled with scrolls, and many jars of various colors of ink line the main room. Key also keeps homing pigeons and uses them to communicate with people in different cities. He works for several different libraries and always has several projects going. 

  • Key has made friends with the other people who live in nearby mountainside hovels and plus those who share his caves in past and present. He also has a dog, Adi, five years old. The two of them wander the mountains and live off the land. Key makes two or three yearly trips to local villages of the Tuton Maug, being careful to keep the required distance from the Greatwood. He uses these trips to replenish his writing material and meet with a sadly diminishing number of friends and family. 

  • Geography: Key’s home is a chain of four mostly natural caves within a north-facing ridge. The caves are connected by horizontal tunnels or two vertical chutes, each containing ladders which can be pulled up to delay intruders. Three of the chambers serve as bedrooms/personal spaces while the fourth, which comes complete with 3 “windows” looking out onto the vale below, serves as a common space. Key, being the oldest “tenant,” uses the largest bedcave for his bed, a desk and his collection of books. His pigeons live in cages concealed atop the ridge above. Key, Adi and his companions cook at a firepit outside a short distance from their cave entrance. They hunt and forage through the meadows and about a nearby stream. 


Settlements and Sites of the Four City-States #228 

August 17th, 2023 

  • Number: 228 

  • Name:  Deep Dive on a Site of Interest: Among the Taodean Hills and Dales – Part 4 

  • Location: In the Tuton Maug along the border with Noldrune 

  • Population (approx.): 1? 

  • Brief:  There were times in the past when the heavens of Aenwyld rained fire and brimstone on the lands and seas below. Once such time was about a thousand years ago over the Tuton Maug and surrounding regions. When the firefall ceased and the next day dawned, miners and adventures departed their homes and hiked into the hills in search of fallen stars, whose metallic content were invaluable to smiths, swordmakers and armorers alike. One site, near the border of Noldrune, went undiscovered because the spear from the heavens plunged deep into the earth and was quickly covered by a landslide and a subsequent rainstorm. Years later a hunter stumbled upon a lake surrounded by a thick ring of flora and remains to this day. 

  • Osros, 41, male Half-Elf, is a Ranger who manages and maintains the hedgerow around the pool above the meteor impact site. He is rugged and quite handsome. He has black hair with flecks of gray in it. His athletic body comes from years of being outdoors and caring for nature. Osros has dark blue eyes which have a bit of the “green” in them, which help him notice unusual problems with the hedgerow. He wears leather armor and a cloak with a silver clasp shaped like a squirrel. The pin is a nod to his seemingly unnatural ability to speak with the residents of the hedgerow.  

  • Osros stumbled upon the hedgerow when he was out exploring as a teen. While there, he met the former caretaker, Mianna, 230, female Elf. Mianna knew she was nearing the end of her life and since the site required a guardian, she took Osros under her tutelage. Mianna passed away over ten years ago, and Osros has made great strides in keeping people out and the unusual creatures in. 

  • Osros lives in a small houseboat on the southern edge of the water. The magic of the hedgerow has infused his being, and he no longer craves contact with anyone other than the plants and animals of the hedgerow. He doesn't even realize there is a world outside of the pool. A depression was formed when a meteorite hit the ground a thousand years ago. The depression became a pool when rainwater and a mountain stream filled it. Something in the meteorite caused the hedgerow to attract and bind small creatures to the site (but how did the fish get there one might wonder). That something has altered the flora, the fauna and the caretakers, but to what end is unknown. 

  • Geography: The Hedgerow Pond is about 250 feet across and almost 400 feet long. It is surrounded by a dense wall of foliage over 50 feet thick in places and about 20 to 30 feet tall. A mountain stream pours into the pond via a waterfall on the south edge. Another stream begins at the northern end and meanders into a vale beyond. Osros’ houseboat (home to a long line of guardians) floats near the waterfall. 


Settlements and Sites of the Four City-States #229 

August 18th, 2023 

  • Number: 229 

  • Name:  Deep Dive on a Site of Interest: Among the Taodean Hills and Dales – Part 5 

  • Location: In the Tuton Maug along the border with Noldrune 

  • Population (approx.): 50 (crew of the TSV Skyscraper) 

  • Brief: There’s an expression, “if it is underground, Dwarves want to know about it. If it is above ground, not so much.” Explorers, Dwarven or otherwise, have searched the peaks of Tuton Maug and have discovered unusual magical places such as this one, known as the “Murasa” (anchor). After driving off all others, and cloaking the site from normal view, over the years the Dwarves have carefully excavated a hollow in the flank of a mountain. 

  • At the bottom they found a wide stone platform, adorned with mysterious runes above the heat of the earth below. The Dwarves believe it is either a ward or seal but frankly they are not quite sure whether it is to keep something in, nearby or out. At this time, they do not have the means, and some don't have the will to divine or test the nature of this ancient stone-like structure. 

  • Nara Redgem, 46, Human female is the Air Marshall of the Tuton Maug. She is tall and plump, with auburn hair and blue eyes. Her kind smile and thoughtful manner have led her to her current position. Nara wears bright blue hose and a deep red tailored uniform jacket with medals and embroidery. She carries a short sword around her waist that is mostly for show. 

  • Nara is here to inspect the Murasa for the Dwarven Lords of the four Cantons and other officials. A group of Dwarves uncovered it years ago and decided to leave the spot alone. Recently, large belching noises have come from underneath the central runes, and mini earthquakes have occurred. Several scholars, engineers, and knowledgeable Dwarves have evaluated the site and are still determining what is happening.  

  • Concerned, the Dwarven Lords sent word to Blackstone Fortress (#15) which passed it to Weatherton (#19). Nara boarded the Taodean Sky Vessel (TSV) Skyscraper and headed north. She has a complement of Earthwardens on board to see what they can determine. 

  • Nara is going through a problematic separation from her husband of eleven years. Nara caught him cheating on her and doesn't want the news to affect her politically. Her husband, Cole, 52, Human, does not like her having any government position. They have two children, Nash, 12, and Merla, 10. Nara also worries about the children and wants them to feel secure in their love for her. 

  • Geography: Murasa can be found about 25 miles west of the citadel of the Highpeak Dwarves and about 15 miles south of the border with Noldrune. The rune-carved seal is at the bottom of a 50-foot wide and 30-foot-deep opening excavated in the site of a mountain peak. Narrow steps climb the slope of the mountain until they reach the ridge above the anchor, cut through and then descend to where the anchor was uncovered. The floor of Murasa vibrates and a faint red light shines from vents (?) or openings at all 4 compass points. 


Settlements and Sites of the Four City-States #230 

August 19th, 2023 

  • Number: 230 

  • Name:  Deep Dive on a Site of Interest: Among the Taodean Hills and Dales – Part 6 

  • Location: In the Tuton Maug along the border with Noldrune 

  • Population (approx.): 60-75 

  • Brief: Most of the mines of the 4 City-States are run by the Mining Guild in association with the applicable local government. But there are some less scrupulous miners who wish to either take unacceptable risks or avoid sharing the proceeds with the governments and guilds or both. The Titan’s Trove Mine was abandoned by the Guild 43 years ago after a partial collapse killed several miners, but not forgotten. Now ex-Guild miners, equal parts desperate and greedy, returned to the site 5 years ago and reopened the mine, carefully picking their way around the collapsed sections and opening new tunnels and shafts. 

  • Neras Marbledew, 15, Halfling, is a message and errand runner for the Titan’s Trove Mine. He is still growing, so he is relatively short but quick. He has curly blond locks and dew-colored eyes. Neras wears leather pants and a plain tunic. He wears hiking boots even though they slow him down because of the terrain. Neras carries a pair of knives in case he runs into any trouble. 

  • The foreman of Titan Trove Mines purchased Neras when he was five years old. They immediately put him to work, running messages up and down the long corridors of the mine, picking his way around the rubble and scrambling through partially blocked tunnels. His lightweight was a benefit as some of the main tunnels are weak and might collapse under heavier feet. Neras knows everyone that works at the mine, as he has delivered messages to them. He has grown into a fine young hobbit, and the mining company is considering promoting him to a miner or a line cook.  

  • Neras is an orphan and does not know who his family is. One day, Neras hopes to look for his family. The miners of the company have treated him fairly. One of the older miners has recently taken him to her home and given him a place to sleep and some other teens to hang out with. Neras likes the other miners and his new family but longs for at least one person to connect with him. 

  • Geography: From a distance, Titan’s Trove Mine resembles a ruined tower. The circular building over the main shaft is approximately 25 feet in diameter and the remaining walls are 3 stories tall (40 feet to the last remnants of the roof). The surrounding hillside, facing southeast hence concealed from those passing through on the road to the north, is mostly covered with scrub, small trees, brush and long grasses, easily concealing the remains of the old mine and the huts and tents of the new mining company. The miners smuggle their ore on to the plains overland rather than hazard encountering traffic on local roads and sell or trade it in numerous small settlements. 


Settlements and Sites of the Four City-States #231 

August 20th, 2023 

  • Number: 231 

  • Name:  Deep Dive on a Site of Interest: Among the Taodean Hills and Dales – Part 7 

  • Location: In the Tuton Maug along the border with Noldrune 

  • Population (approx.): 140 (a full Century of Dwarven troops and support staff) 

  • Brief: In the Eastern Ranges of the Tuton Maug, are the three Cantons of Dwarves. Centuries ago, they fled south from the collapse of a forgotten Dwarven Empire in the Mountains of Gold, rather than north to the mountains east of Amthor. Settling into the natural caverns and abandoned ancient delvings, they founded what they call an Ironmongery, the mining and refining of iron and steel being the Dwarves' stock in trade.  

  • Being a relatively young and small community, the Dwarves are very protective of their holdings. A trail leads west from the Cantons of the Ironmongery to meet the main routes at the Crossroads (#54) headed south to the capital at Blackstone Fortress (#15). On that trail a pair of forts marks the border. 

  • Umgrim Flintbrow, 95, Dwarf, is an architect and “Maintainer of Traps.” He is of moderate height and carrying a few extra pounds from his "couple of beers after work." Umgrim has a sensible personality and a genuine smile. He still gets excited when his plans come together. His hair is long and kept in a ponytail. Umgrim keeps his beard short so it doesn't get caught in anything. He has hazel eyes and very thick eyebrows. He sometimes could be more careful, like when he forgets to wear socks. Umgrim wears a tool belt that has work tools and architect tools in it. 

  • Umgrim's job is to maintain the traps on the borders and keep his eyes out for anything suspicious. The reality of the position is that there is a lot of free time. Umgrim uses this time to make drawings (plans) of the next great Dwarven trap! Early in his career, he made the mistake of disagreeing with one of the higher-ups and ended up a trap maintainer. He wants to put that behind him and return to the citadel and his family. He hopes the perfect trap design will accomplish that for him. Umgrim sends his trap designs back to the Dwarven government regularly. So far, no interest. 

  • Umgrim's family comprises five brothers and two sisters. They all work for the government. His parents passed away a few years ago. There is a large family home where everyone gets together twice a year. Umgrim hasn't been able to go since he became the “Maintainer of Traps.” Supposedly, the traps would stop "working" if he wasn't there. 

  • Geography: Where the Dwarves deem their western border to be, about two days’ walk west of the citadel of the Highpeak Canton, they have built a pair of forts on each side of the road, featuring battlements and an overlooking tower. Two pairs of tall, slotted pillars mark the ends of a rather cunning trap. When triggered, counterweights cause heavy steel doors to spring out of the ground, sliding up the slots in the pillars and blocking a 30-foot-long section of the road.  

  • Then, if the Dwarves are so inclined, the contents of two hidden cisterns can be discharged to fill the space between each gate to the 20-foot height of the doors. One cistern is full of water, the other of oil. The water can be poisoned or the oil set on fire depending on the target(s) within the trap. 

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