Major Settlements of Morrain
Morrain is considered by their southern neighbors to be a rural backwater. While the people aren’t as simple as most presume, the settlements do showcase a rustic way of life. The majority of Morrain’s major towns (and single city) are listed below, though by no means do they account for all of the kingdom’s settlements or its total population.
As a rule, villages, hamlets, and thorps litter the Argent Vale, most of which are within a day’s travel (by foot) to one another. Most are agricultural in nature, the majority of its people farmers or gatherers. Blacksmiths and millers support the singular industries of these communities, repairing equipment or grinding the harvested grain. Though most of these smaller settlements do not have defensible walls, most do have a central refuge—such as a watchtower or temple—where residents can take shelter during the strongest storms or when marauders attack.
All sizable towns include a market where people from the smaller outlying settlements can bring their produce to barter or sell for the goods available only in a larger community. More than one industry can be accounted for in a town, and the community as a whole will be more racially diverse than that of a small village. Most towns include at least one temple and one inn, while a handful of taverns serve as entertainment, gossip, and recreation for the people.
(Small town, pop. 1,440)
Years before the founding of the Kingdom of Morrain, the ruins of Castle Whiterock were conquered by a powerful tribe of orcs known as the Broken Tusk. Decimated and then replenished again with the joining of other tribes, the orcs were ultimately betrayed by their drow allies. Stricken with a devastating disease, most were slain outright, but a small fraction of the tribe managed to escape the drow into the wilds. Only a few dozen orcs had survived the disease, and they languished without the strength to defend themselves against the predators of the Vale.
At last the survivors straggled into a tiny human village calling itself the Hollow. The orcs were given shelter and food, and their sickness purged by clerics of Elyr. The strongest orc (and thereby the leader), Gorsh Bonegrinder, was astonished at the compassion shown to them. Instead of venturing back to their northern homelands, the orcs decided to stay in the Hollow. When these same orcs later saved the town against a monstrous chimera, the village was renamed to Bone Hollow to commemorate the friendship between human and orc. Generations passed and occasional interracial marriages bred a very small population of half-orcs. Today, fully half of the town’s population is half-orcs, a friendly and hard-working collection of farmers, laborers, and herbalists.
The town Elder is a half-orc named Eros Skullcrusher, who serves as both warrior and leader. His youngest daughter, Elidy, is the town’s chief favored defender, a warrior-cleric with a heart of gold and a sunny disposition.
(Small town, pop. 955)
Famous for its breads and cheeses, Bread-In-Hand is a community populated predominantly by tallfellow halflings who excel in the culinary arts. The town’s name is said to stem from a popular Halfling proverb: “A slice of bread in hand is worth two loaves in the oven.” Though they trace their origins to the tribes of distant Gadjarria, the halflings of Morrain made Bread-in-Hand (and its sister towns) their adopted home many generations ago.
Any who bring trouble to Bread-In-Hand are sure to meet with the militia’s captain, Eagleton Southpaw, a young hero and veteran of the goblin incursions of recent years. The village Elder, an addled old halfling named Barnwick and grandfather to Eagleton, is more likely to tell stories than see to the day-to-day affairs of the community. Beloved as he is by the villagers, they don’t really mind.
(Large Town, pop 3,000+)
The anchor of civilization in the wilds of western Morrain, the town of Cillamar has long carried an importance belied by its small size, and the last two years have brought dramatic changes to the once sleepy town. The looming Ul Dominor peaks have always hidden mineral treasures, but the discovery of rich placer veins has brought a surge of new wealth and foreign treasure seekers, and the motley train of gambling dens, bawdy houses, and rogues that must inevitably follow. Add to this mix the influx of desperate refugees from the conflicts of the Warlands, and adventurers looking to make a quick fortune—the result is a Cillamar that none of its founders could have predicted: a chaotic, frontier boomtown, where the quick and courageous can become wealthy overnight, and where sharp knives and longswords solve disputes as frequently as the town watch.
Cillamar is the initial urban setting for the campaign. As such, it receives a more detailed treatment in the Cillamar section of the wiki.
(Small town, pop. 1,145)
Far Cirque is a town of secrets and great wealth. Situated in a canyon of stone beneath a glacial crest of the Ul Dominor Mountains, the town is hidden from casual travelers. Only those who know where to look can find it, and even magical divination rarely returns an accurate location. Home to some of the Northlands’ finest gem-cutters and spelunkers, Far Cirque is a strange little community with a common vision: finding, perfecting, and selling gems. Not surprisingly, gnomes are plentiful here, accounting for nearly half the population.
Far Cirque is an open secret, a source of great wealth for Morrain and a source of many rumors as well. Ringing the stony cliffs around the town is a vast network of gem mines, well-guarded and well-hidden. Far Cirque is an industrious mining town, not a place for indulging visitors. With so many gnomes present, however, there is much time for merriment and play. The dwarves who live here often grow frustrated at the work ethics of their gnomish comrades. When the gnomes work, they work with more focus and precision than any other; gems are pulled from the nearby mines, carried to the town, where they are weighed, cut, and polished. But when work stops, parties and pranks abound and no one—not even the dour, bearded folk—is exempt from their antics.
Legend holds that the profusion of gems in surrounding rock stem from the Mava Terestere (“mother diamond” in the Gnome tongue), a massive gem of enormous power placed there by Poderon himself. The miners and lapidists of Far Cirque dream of finding the “Lost Mine” that houses the divine gem so that they can look upon its great beauty, but they are equally afraid that finding it means subjecting it to theft. The legend claims that if the Mava Terestere is removed, the mineralrich mines will go dry.
The Elder of Far Cirque is Mistress Rorínna Berick, a gnomish sorceress who takes the legend of the Mava Terestere very seriously and believes herself personally responsible for the security of the town and the mines. She is rumored to use extreme and severe methods at times, though none in the town seem discontent. She has the full support of King Stormwarden and employs much of her own wealth to ensure that gem caravans bound for Galaron markets are heavily guarded.
The folk of Far Cirque occasionally contend with goblins and kobolds who emerge from the mountainous depths, but have always managed to drive them away. One captive from one such skirmish, a kobold trapsmith named Keez, has after many years of confinement finally achieved acceptance in the town. Now he serves as a security guard, setting ingenious stonework traps against intruders. Though most of the humans and gnomes trust him, the dwarf miners keep a careful eye on him.
(Small town – population 650)
Most who seek out the gem-rich town of Far Cirque without a guide who knows the way come back with tales of a strange town that calls itself Far Cirque but that clearly is nothing of the sort. The town consists of little more than a handful of dilapidated stone buildings and a somewhat larger population of strange and irritable (many would say irritating) denizens. Returning travelers frequently report unusual phenomena in and about the town, with no two tales of the bizarre ever the same.
More than one cynical traveler has levied the accusation that Far Leurre (as the town has come to be called) is a giant prank played on seekers of Far Cirque by its gnomish inhabitants. Others go so far as to say it is not a prank at all, but a decoy to keep out the uninvited – maintained with the knowledge and collusion of Morrain’s rulers. King Stormwarden insists this is utter nonsense, and that Far Leurre is merely a sleepy town that aspires to be more than it is.
On the topic of why so many travelers seeking Far Cirque end up in Far Leurre, the King has little to say.
(Small city, pop. 8,527)
The only true city in the kingdom and the seat of its monarchy, Galaron is yet a small community compared to the great metropolises of the south. Still, no other city in the region is as defensible as Galaron, its orphic, green-hued walls rising high along the southern shore of Valfors Bay and the mouth of the Morro River. Galaron is the largest hub of commerce for hundreds of miles in any direction. The population is in constant flux, as merchants and traders from across the region travel to the markets of Galaron each year and many choose to stay, caught by the spirit of communal self-preservation that defines the kingdom. The Galarons are rural-minded, as four out of every five citizens has family somewhere in the Morrain countryside. Some visitors from foreign kingdoms regard the folk of Galaron as simpletons, but upon returning home find that their own people are callous and cynical by comparison. Adventurers have always been welcome in the city, as evidenced by the many prosperous taverns and inns who vie for their hard won gold.
The wharves of the city teem with life, as fishermen compete with explorers for docking space. The cry of gulls and the scent of saltwater permeate the bayside district, as the longshoremen sing their shanties and foul the air with good-hearted profanity. Ship captains are numerous, most willing to ferry passengers across Valfors Bay for gold in advance during summer or early fall. As adventurers bring only sporadic business, the sailors owe their livelihood to the fishermen and hunters who ply the hinterlands and waters of the bay year round. Exotic animals and furs are often sold in the markets, and lush Morrain furs are considered a luxury by the southern nobility.
Though the city owes its continued existence to the valor of its people, none dismiss the magic rumored to infuse its very walls. Shortly after the demise of the First Lord five centuries ago, walls that appear to be an aggregate of granite and malachite arose seemingly overnight. In the taverns of the city, legends still tell of the mysterious cloaked men who attended the funeral of Morro Stormwarden and raised the walls for the city’s perpetual defense. The gleaming bulwark is wondrous to look upon during the day, but it is a sight to behold at night: a ghostly green glow emanates from the veins of malachite. History has seen many armies lay siege to Morrain’s capital city, but none have succeeded in breaching its walls, which cause magic and siege weaponry to rebound.
Rising from the heart of the city is Stormkeep, the home of King Mirias Stormwarden, the Argent Sovereign. The fortress is as formidable as any dwarf citadel, though its garrison is small. Built of black-veined gray stone, Stormkeep consists of a series of high towers and crenellated walls, with a long drawbridge spanning a “moat” of deadly elemental wind. The citadel is also home to a regiment of paladins known as the Argent Knights, who serve as both royal guards and elite soldiers in times of need. The Knights are led by the elfmaid Lady Tyaline and are devoted to Gorhan, the Helmed Vengeance. Much like the faith of Gorhan, the Knights are racially diverse; fully half of the regiment consists of nonhumans.
The criminal element of Galaron is trenchant but small, subsisting on citizens and visitors alike like a sufferable parasite, taking only what it requires while leaving its victims healthy. When true peril threatens the city, the rogues themselves take up arms against the common enemy. “Should Galaron fall,” one adage proclaims, “hope for all of Morrain is lost forever.” While some attribute the thieves’ uncanny symbiosis to the community—or simple pragmatism—others believe there is a single mastermind who rules the underworld. Folk tales persist that Vemn himself, the legendary thief and one of Morro Stormwarden’s own companions, lingers still in spectral form, enforcing his guiding principle of Thieves’ Honor in death as he did in life.
The flaw of complacency cannot be attributed to the people of Galaron. Life is short, and tomorrow the dragons of the Frosteye Mountains could fall upon them en masse or the Scourge in the east could breach the Ul Dominor Mountains and overtake them. Therefore they live life to its fullest, celebrating the rise of the sun each day and every successful hunt. This spirit of merriment has kindled even the hearts of its nonhuman residents. As the elves sing and dance to the music of the Anseur glades, the dwarves raise their tankards and host drinking games by their Holdfast kin. The gnomes and halflings, of course, need little excuse to join their taller neighbors. Despite the cold climate of Morrain, Galaron hosts festivals throughout the year. Between such events, individual families hold their own revels.
Among the city’s most famous locales is the Garden of Tears, a labyrinth of hedges, trees, and cool arbors enclosed by low stone walls. Planted and cultivated by the church of Ireth, the Garden stands adjacent to the Starspire, temple of the goddess of the night sky. The “tears” that give the garden its name are the dewdrops that appear among the leaves at dawn and freeze in the wintry months. It is believed that those who walk among the arbors long enough can face their fears, grieve for their regrets, and leave their sorrows behind.
(Ruined town, pop. 50)
Once a proud and bustling town, and home to Morrain’s forefathers, the population of Hallowbrook has nearly vanished as many consider it a cursed place. Now only a despondent few live among the empty buildings and eke out a lonely existence among the silent walls and untended wells.
At the center of the ruin are four black marble statues depicting Morrain’s founding men and women—Jorem, Dalrem, Eistha, and Tarom—frozen in their moments of anguished death. The statues are said to be the result of a horrible wish granted by a demon to the hated Harbinger King five hundred years ago. When the defiant Elders of the early towns refused to bow to his rule, the tyrant ordered them slain. It was the Elders’ own children—including Morro Stormwarden—who would later overthrow the Harbinger King, prompted by revenge.
The Imorrayn have tried many times to tear down the statues, but powerful magic sustains them. Not even rare adamantine alloys can sunder them. Instead, the statues live on as a reluctant symbol of the sacrifices the people of the Vale made to win their freedom, and the pain one must suffer to see justice done.
(Small town, pop. 1,112)
Nestled in the foothills of eastern Morrain, Hrumbleton is a community of gnomes that has existed since before the Kingdom of Morrain. When the First Lord united the land, however, the friendly gnomes of Hrumbleton were happy to join in the commonwealth. Although the hill-dwelling burrows of Hrumbleton are built for shorter folk, humans, elves, and half-elves are just as welcome; the tall folk and a number of dwarves make up nearly ten percent of the population. The people of Hrumbleton take life a day at a time. They have little history beyond the memory of the eldest gnome and heirlooms passed down the generations. As one gnome patriarch said, “Unlike elves, we have no millennial heritage; unlike the dwarves, no death-knell tomorrow.”
The town has always been governed by a single, elected clan. But long ago the gnomes become quite content with a particular family, Clan Wedgebender, and never sought to change. Its current patriarch, Glozark, has been the Elder of Hrumbleton for nearly three decades. Glozark is a shrewd businessman, but he knows more about trade and the mining operations of his people than he does about defense. Whenever the town is threatened, or when faced with a decision beyond his ken, he consults with the sorcerer Nerebon Stimblebor Sandminder, a kindly old gnome whose magic and leadership has saved the town many times from goblin raiders. The town is also home to one of Áereth’s most famous—and eccentric—gem cutters, the esteemed Master Geresain.
(Small town, pop. 1,890)
Mystenmere is Morrain’s window into the elven nation of Anseur. Built in the shadow of the elven wood and overlooking Valfors Bay on its western shores, it is the home of scholars, wizards, and hunters with a deep respect for the natural world. An embassy in all but name, the queen of Anseur has extended her protection over the town—a gesture greatly appreciated by the Argent Sovereign. In turn, the king sends ambassadors into the elven realm to keep the queen apprised of events well outside her forest.
If Mystenmere had an Elder, it would be the haggard mage in brown robes who lives in an unobtrusive tower at the center of the town square. Aragoth is a venerable human of unknown years, and certainly Mystenmere’s oldest human resident. He emerges from his tower only during the most monumental of occasions or when a governmental decision is needed. Considered a preeminent sage of the Northlands, Aragoth always knows more than he tells. Those seeking counsel with the old wizard are faced with two choices: wait a very, very long time (often spanning weeks or months) or perform a service for him. Services have included journeys to the Dyzan sea caves, retrieval of rare spell components in the Ashwood Forest, and deliverance of puppies to children in the town of Bone Hollow. Visitors must be prepared for anything.
Mystenmere is also the home of a semi-renowned society of arcanists—mostly consisting of wizards, sorcerers, and loremasters—named the Tome, which meets monthly in a back room of the Twisted Staff. The wait staff of the esteemed inn has reported dry laughter, archaic languages, and lecturing old voices. Even the Staff’s proprietor feels certain he can hear more men speaking behind the closed door than arrive at his inn.
(Small town, pop. 1,886)
Often serving as a stopping point for those entering Morrain from the west, Omarak is a quiet, if somewhat curious town. The stone houses and pavilions seem architecturally advanced for their location, and often mislead newcomers into thinking the rest of Morrain must be similarly advanced. The townsfolk are courteous and friendly, but seldom exhibit a desire to leave their home.
With close proximity to the feared Witch Wood, residents and travelers alike tend not to stray far off the road unless it is to visit one of the outlying farms. Inexplicable oddities litter this region, such as the infamous Devil’s Well and the spectral horses which are said to trot upon the road on moonless nights.
Dominating the center of the town is a gray marble structure that serves as both town hall and abode for Omarak’s ruler. Aszen Juthow is an enigmatic man of mysterious powers who hails from a faraway land. According to legend, Aszen slew a powerful demon of the Abyss when he first came to Omarak, but for his struggle he fell into a thirty-year slumber. When he awoke, he deigned to stay as the town’s Elder and look after the people for fear of the coming of another terror. Foreign adventurers are frequently seen visiting Aszen, and often times outlandish music can be heard echoing from within his chambers, but the soft-spoken demeanor of this eccentric man never changes.