Languard is a busy, noisy place. The administrative and mercantile heart of the Duchy of Ashlar it is, however, also a place of fear and gradual decay.
Sprawling over a series of rocky bluffs, and heavily fortified, the town defends Hard Bay’s narrow mouth and the settlements beyond. Many adventurers, sell-swords and mercenaries come to Languard. The closest settlement of note to Gloamhold, and the duchy’s greatest port, here are to be found the greatest opportunities for fame, gold and advancement. Here also (for the unlucky or careless) are found the greatest opportunities for infamy, destitution and death.
Lie of the Land
Visitors approaching the town by land or sea likely first spy the towers and battlements of Castle Languard towering over the town. Then, the spires and lofty roofs of various churchs and abbeys come into view along with the town’s impressive defences.
From each of Languard’s gates, a wide and muddy street leads into the town. The finest houses and inns flank these roads. Here, rich merchants live above their shops, sea captains rest when not voyaging and other rich folk — members of the clergy, adventurers (both retired and still active) and so on — enjoy life.
Narrower roads lead away from these bustling thoroughfares and along these the houses are narrower, taller and in worse repair. From these narrow roads, a warren of alleys and tiny lanes radiate away; here the poorest citizens live cheek to jowl. Perpetual gloom cloaks these streets – the jetties of the ramshackle houses almost meeting those of the house opposite high above the street. Called the Shambles by visitors and locals alike, much that is not available in the nicer parts of town can be had here. Respectable folk are rarely seen in the Shambles.
Formidable, 20-foot high walls encircle the town. At three points, great gates, flanked by 50-foot high towers, pierce the wall. Heavily fortified and well garrisoned they close at dusk and do not reopen again until dawn caressing the horizon.
- Sea Gate: Warding the harbour’s approaches, Sea Gate was built to remove as much cart and wagon traffic as possible from the narrow confines of the town.
- Traitor’s Gate: The rotting, mutilated bodies of thieves, murderers and other ne’er-do-wells hang in iron cages from Traitor’s Gate. Left here as a warning – and as a stark demonstration of Lord Villamor’s power and high regard for the law — they serve as a grim welcome to the town. Most visitors enter Languard through Traitor’s Gate, as beyond lies the South Road which links the town with the rest of the duchy.
- River Gate: A misnomer, River Gate isn’t a gate at all. Rather, its towers flank the course of the Svart River where it flows into the town. Protected by both a great chain that can be raised and lowered as needed and a thick iron portcullis, only used in time of great need, the river is tidal and is used by the populace as a convenient place to dump much of their filth and rubbish. For those willing to get wet and cold, River Gate is the easiest way to enter Labguard after dark.
A large castle, Languard (after which the town is named) well equipped with catapults and ballistas, defends Languard’s seaward approaches and serves as Lord Villamor’s personal demesne. Vague, but persistent, rumours among the townsfolk speak of a network of deep caves and caverns below the castle and of dark, terrible deeds wrought in their shadowed depths.
Trade & Industry
Life in Languard centres around the marketplace and the sea.
A great, wide-open space of mud and sparse, worn grass the marketplace hosts weekly markets. Then, small stalls and tents crowd the place as merchants and tradesmen from the nearby settlements, as well as visiting merchants and itinerant pedlars, flock here to sell their wares.
Languard’s harbour hosts a multitude of small fishing boats, that set sail daily to haul in their catch to the fishmongers, inns and street vendors of the town. Despite the risks inherent in fishing Hard Bay’s waters, catches are always good, the water around Languard seemingly ever-teeming with fish.
Winter storms all but cut off the duchy from contact with the outside world. With travel by sea too perilous the populace turn inwards. Little of import is accomplished over the winter months.