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Villages of the northern Isle of Dawn

by Geoff Gander

Dawnhaven, Sjofjord, and Lodgaard were locations in the Mystaran Almanac; they had been occupied briefly by the Heldannic Order during their brief tenure in Helskir (AC 1016-17). The villages had already been well-established by then, however.

The local population would be predominantly native Heldanner, most of whom having migrated there over the preceding centuries. Remember that the Heldann Freeholds (as opposed to the Heldannic Territories) were a patchwork of independent clans - probably very similar in feel to the Soderfjord Jarldoms. It would not have been unnatural for various clans to leave the region over time - either to escape annihilation, or to seek out new lands to settle. The Thyatians likely had no problems with these settlers, as they would clear land and make it productive, and render taxes to the imperial coffers (for the most part, anyway).

Dawnhaven has a small, but natural, deep-water port, and enough commerce passes through here during the summer months that the empire sends a customs officer to collect taxes during that time - but "deals" are always made. Around 250 people, mostly fishermen, live here. Some people have begun to explore the hills to the north, and a few have found traces of tin.

Sjofjord controls a bridge that spans a narrow, but deep and fast-flowing, river (the locals call it a fjord, but it's really more a stream; although it posed enough of an obstacle that a previous emperor ordered a bridge to be built). The stream teems with salmon (who spawn nearby) - this is what attracted the settlers in the first place. Sjofjord is known locally for the quality of its smoked salmon, and boasts the largest population of the three villages, at around 900.

Lodgaard was founded around AC 900 in a region where the soils were particularly good. It later became a convenient rest-stop for traffic between Helskir and Dawnhaven, and now boasts a couple (literally) of decent inns. Being the only decent place to stop in the far north outside of Helskir has given Lodgaard a certain level of smugness that one would not expect in a village of roughly 500. Some would argue that the village's unofficial motto is, "Well, where else are you going to stay, then?"

Redman's Cove is a village of roughly 700 situated in a natural harbour, and was settled around AC 900 as a secluded location where deals could be made between commercial interests of both empires - even during periods of war, trade still went on, after all. No one knows whether there ever was a "Redman" in the first place, but the locals are happy to tell tales of bloody bandits and other riff-raff (for a drink) in order to explain the village's name. Its location was kept secret for a few decades until local pirates learned of it, and began to use it as a safe harbour - Black Bay having been taken over by Salty Borogald and his ruthless crew. Now, Redman's Cove is unofficially known as an open port - almost anything can be bought here, for the right price, and if it is not available, there is always someone there who can get it for you, given enough time and money. The authorities know full well what goes on here, but thus far no one has stepped in - both empires (and several other nations, besides) likely do business here, anyway.

Black Bay, a once-bustling port, was founded circa AC 500 as a way station for trading vessels on the Deirdren-Dunadale-Helskir route. Very quickly, it also became known as a good point for people (including slaves) to jump ship, and lose themselves if they so wished. Many of these people stayed in the village, which eventually grew into a prosperous town of 6,000. Being slightly off the beaten path, Black Bay became a "free city" of sorts, where no one asked about a person's origins, and almost anything could be bought or sold. By AC 750, Black Bay had become very wealthy, and dangerous, for its size, as competing mercantile interests strove to make the best deals and cut down their opponents. At the same time, gambling and other vices (including trade in zzonga) had taken root.

Such prosperity did not go unnoticed, and the town council worked out a deal with the authorities in Dunadale, remitting a large sum of money every quarter, in exchange for being left alone. The good times did not last: By AC 940, Black Bay was controlled by three merchant families, who had grown so powerful that they sought to collude amongst themselves to drive up prices across the board. Lesser commercial interests soon sought greener pastures (and found them in Redman's Cove), and the "manageable chaos" that was life in Black Bay became even more dangerous, as the locals grew restive. Things came to a head in AC 978, when Salty Borogald, a young pirate who had been plaguing the Seas of Dawn for several years, descended on Black Bay, rallying the locals to support him in his bid to seize power from the oligarchs. After a brief battle, the merchant houses of Black Bay had been crushed, and Salty Borogald declared himself a lord.

In the years since then, "Lord" Borogald's rule has proven to be even worse than his predecessors'. Crime is rampant, while Borogald and his cronies milk the remaining commercial interests for all they are worth. Hundreds of people have left for a better life, and now Black Bay is a shadow of its former self, with just over 1,000 inhabitants. Despite the troubles, Borogald still manages to pay off the authorities in Dunadale, but for how much longer is uncertain.

Annisvall is a fishing village of just under 300 people, situated at the mouth of the Krossá River. It was founded in AC 951 by refugees from the town of Haldisvall (now Freiburg), which had been overrun by the Heldannic Knights. The locals tend to keep to themselves for the most part, but some venture as far as Dawnhaven in the north and Nordvik in the south.

Rogstad was founded in AC 957 by refugees from the Heldann Freeholds, who had fled persecution by the Heldannic Order, and who subsequently migrated inland from Annisvall in search of new lands. The village of 550 is currently undergoing a period of slight growth with the recent establishment of a fixed trail to the village Messambria in the interior. A handful of Thyatian settlers have moved into the village and the surrounding lands as a result, some of them possessing skills (such as leatherworking and ranching) that were in very short supply beforehand. A small amount of trade - mainly in ropes and salted fish - exists with the village of Annisvall.

Other villages exist along coast, and north of Rogstad, but many of these are so small, and so remote, that they have yet to be counted in the official census. Nevertheless, Thyatian officials estimate that between 3,000 to 6,000 people, mostly independent homesteaders, could be living in this region.

DM Note: Those remote settlements could be sites where "interesting" things happen. As time permits, I'll share some thoughts....