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Notes for Harnelsfall

by Geoff Gander


While building Westwall, King Harnel’s dwarven engineers urged him to invest in the best defences possible, which would force an enemy to exhaust itself – allowing even a moderately-sized force of heavy infantry to win. The king, a proud cavalryman to the core, ignored this advice and ordered them to build a cheaper, less defensive fort with enough sally ports for a large force of heavy cavalry to trample an attacker.

The dwarves complied, and Westwall was tested in AC 812 when the Ardelphian army, augmented by Sindhi mercenaries, marched on Daelbar to demand an apology and a repayment of a dowry from King Harnel, whose daughter had wedded the Duke of Ardelphia’s oldest son, and had proven to be both infertile and unfaithful. The duke, knowing that Westwall was Daelbar’s only significant defence in the west, planned to seize it quickly in order to force a settlement on his terms.

King Harnel, determined to put the duke in his place and force some long-desired changes to the border, rode with his 120 heavy cavalry to Westwall to meet the Ardelphians. At first the defences held, but when the attackers brought their artillery to bear the outer defences crumbled quickly. Ignoring the advice of his general to retreat to the more defensible citadel, the enraged king led his cavalry on a charge to overwhelm the enemy. The Daelbarans overran the light infantry, but were brought up short by the Sindhi war elephants ridden by archers. The king had thought that his cavalry’s warhorses, which had fared well against orcs and goblins, would stand firm against the large beasts. He was proven wrong. The cavalry, suddenly thrown into disarray, was surrounded by footmen and destroyed to a man.

The Duke of Ardelphia, sickened by the slaughter brought about by King Harnel’s decision, deemed the feud ended and marched home. The Sindhis chased out the surviving garrison, burned the fortress, and pillaged the countryside for months until the Daelbarans could drive them out. Some of the war elephants got loose in the ensuing chaos and migrated south – their descendants can be found on the fringes of the Malpheggi Swamp.

Daelbar never rebuilt Westwall after the battle, and afterwards the ruin became known as Harnel’s Fall – later Harnelsfall.

Harnelsfall Today

The ruins of Harnelsfall sit on a large hill, and are clearly visible more than a mile away. They are composed of a crumbling citadel surrounded by an overgrown inner bailey whose 30 foot tall wall has tumbled down in many places. The outer bailey contains several ruined barracks, and is surrounded by a largely-destroyed outer wall that was originally 20 feet tall, whose five sally ports are still visible. An aura of despair permeates the place. The wildlife that inhabits this region shies away from the ruins.

The remorseful ghost of King Harnel is tied to the ruins. He walks the battlements during the day, looking as he did in life and muttering regretfully to himself. He is harmless unless attacked, and if distracted from his despair the king can provide a great deal of historical information about Daelbar. At night, however, his regret transforms his spirit into a monster that stalks the ruins and surrounding countryside for souls to devour. He knows about the monster, but has no idea what it really is. The local farmers and shepherds know about the ghost, but most stay away because they fear running into the monster (which does not attack people in their homes).

Adventure Hooks

The most obvious goal here is to put King Harnel’s spirit to rest. The only way this can be done is by assuaging his feelings of regret by killing the monster. This would be a tough fight, but if successful the defeated monster would revert immediately into the form of the king, who would finally see what has been happening, and understand how much time has passed since his death. Realising at last that there is no need for him to remain, he departs Mystara forever.

The players can also earn a lot about Daelbar from the king, if they can get through to him. Harnel also knows of a number of treasure hoards that were never pillaged in his day, which have become forgotten since his death. Most of these are in the hills near Rennydale and the ruins of Rennalen, but the DM can place them anywhere inside the borders of old Daelbar.