Dismissively called “Fenland” by outsiders for the broad swath of fetid, tidal saltmarsh almost cutting the duchy in twain, Ashlar sprawls along the appropriately named Hard Bay. Effectively isolated from the rest of the continent by a high plateau crowned by dark, silent woods clustering hard against a legion of fantastically shaped stone spires, Ashlar is a realm of hard, resilient folk.
Behold: the storied Duchy of Ashlar:
Last week, I had a couple of requests to reveal a little bit about the area surrounding Gloamhold. Well, here you! This is a first draft of the area. Perceptive readers will notice some familiar names: the Sunken Pyramid, The Lonely Coast, Deksport and even Valentin’s Folly! It should be clearly obvious by now, but I am not a skilled cartographer, but hopefully there is enough here to give you a sense of the surrounds. Edit: You can now see a much better version of this map here.
For centuries, the folk of Ashlar have dwelt in the shadow of ancient evils. Although it has stood for generations, the Grand Duchy is not the first kingdom to claim the lands sprawling north of the Forest of Gray Spires. From his seat in Languard, the Duke ever watches over his realm. Brooding upon the ancient shadows seemingly clustering ever closer about his realm, he looks to the grim, towering bulk of the Mottled Spire as the source of much of the evil besetting his people. Within this towering, wave-lashed shard of limestone lie the labyrinthine passageways and chambers of Gloamhold and, beyond them, the benighted precincts and canals of the legend-shrouded Twilight City.
The Duchy of Ashlar has the following major features:
- Forest of Gray Spires: While not part of Ashlar, the Forest of Gray Spires forms its southern border. Deemed all but impenetrable, wild rumours cluster thickly about these brooding woodlands and the legion of strange, slender rock spires thrusting upwards from the plateau on which they stand.
- Hard Bay: 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.
- Saltmire: This swath of dismal, low-lying saltmarsh sprawls outwards from the broad, muddy banks of the River Ost and its tributaries. It effectively sunders the duchy in twain.
- Languard: Capital of Ashlar, and its largest town.
- Dunstone: The nearest settlement of note to the Mottled Spire.
- Coldwater: An isolated, dismal village ripe with danger.
- Wellswood: This vibrant village stands at the juncture of two trade routes; its lord grows fat on the taxes levied on the travellers using the village’s many facilities.
Major Locations of Note
Ashlar has several locations of interest:
- Cavern of Forbidden Dreams: Buried deep in the Shoalstone and only accessible via a precipitous, oft-flooded tunnel the Cavern of Forbidden Dreams is a place of pilgrimage for those seeking forbidden knowledge.
- Gloamhold: A vast dungeon complex of unknowable, but undoubtedly ancient, origin and unfathomable extent, dark rumours and terrible tales of adventure, death and betrayal hang over this forsaken site. It is a place of madness and death.
- Tower of Woe: Standing deep in the Forest of Gray Spires, the Maddening Spire (as it sometime called) appears as if it has been twisted and melted. Those daring its interior are often driven mad by their experiences.
- The Mottled Spire: This huge chunk of granite glowers over Hard Bay’s treacherous waters like an angry giant. Difficult to reach by land or sea, the Mottled Spire shelters Gloamhold deep within its bowels.
- The Sunken Pyramid: Lying barely 30 ft. below the water, the Sunken Pyramid looms large in sailors’ lore. The surrounding water is cold and dark. Sharks are reported here in great numbers. Sea spirits, gigantic sharks and the ghosts of those drowned nearby are all said to haunt the nearby waters.
- Valentin’s Folly: This ruined keep stands upon a wooded bluff overlooking a steep-sided valley. Also known as Ironwolf Keep, or the Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands, it was built by Valentin Ironwolf. The fortress fell into disrepair shortly after Valentin – along with his family – were slain by his orc and goblin enemies.