A wide and deep bay renown for stormy weather and savage tides, Hard Bay is aptly named.
Its bounds are a tangle of rivers, rocky headlands, wooded isles and small, stony beaches. To the north, a range of jagged, steep-sided hills rises inexorably to the granitic bulk of the Mottled Spire, while to the south its turbulent waters occasionally flood the Saltmire — a great salt marsh that almost cuts the Duchy of Ashlar in twain. The bay’s waters are deep and cold, but teem with fish.
The Mottled Spire and the bay’s narrow mouth protect it, and the towns and villages perched on the coast, from the worst of the winter storms sweeping in from the open sea, but still it is considered treacherous by many sailors. The most superstitious sailors credit the bay with a malign intelligence of its own. They speak of strange creatures emerging from its waters and rogue waves swamping fishing boats during otherwise calm days. Attempting to reach the open sea during the winter months is seen as madness by many as monstrous waves whipped up by savage storms hurl themselves against the coast. These waves are particularly savage at the mouth of Hard Bay as the rising land forces the wild, foam-flecked water into the narrow channel linking the bay to the open sea.
Near the coast numerous small, rocky outcrops tower above the crashing waves below. Experienced sailors know and avoid these islets as unpredictable tides and winds can dash a ship to pieces against them in seconds. Most of these spray-drenched chunks of rock have lurid names such as Devil’s Tooth, Widow’s Grief and the Sorrow Stone. None are occupied, but many have equally lurid legends and tales associated with them. Some of the larger islands have been settled in the past — perhaps either as a smugglers’ or pirates’ lair or the retreat of a reclusive wizard or hermit — and a few are still occupied. Most such inhabitants value their privacy, however, and do not welcome visitors — even those who have recently survived a shipwreck.
Many of the folk dwelling in Languard, the village of Hard Bay and the other settlements clinging to the coast make their living from the sea and fishing boats are a common sight upon its waters. Few fishermen, though, are brave enough to sail close to the ruins of Greystone or Rivengate’s crumbling fortifications. To do so is seen as unwise at best. Still, for the brave adventurers seeking to explore Gloamhold, all is not lost. A few fishermen and sailors — perhaps braver or more desperate than their fellows — will carry passengers across the bay to Rivengate’s gaping maw. None tarry more than a few minutes; the best most adventurers can hope for is that their hireling returns at the alloted hour.
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