Beyond the Glass Pool
Around 50 years ago the land of Harkenwold was a much different place.
Half a dozen small villages lied along the upper vales of the White River. Together, they maked up the Barony of Harkenwold – a tiny realm whose total population was not much greater than Fallcrest’s. This primarily open land consisted of gently rolling hills covered in a mix of cheery meadows, light forests with little undergrowth, and the occasional thicket.
What’s left of Harkenwold’s total population is about 900, scattered across half a dozen small hamlets and a score of isolated steadings.
Most of the citizens are humans, halflings and dwarves, with a smattering of other folk. Harkenwolders living in the countryside are primarily farmers, shepherds, or woodcutters. Denizens of the hamlets also include woodworkers, smiths, carters, brewers, cheese makers, and leatherworkers. The other villagers tend nearby fields or orchards.
The ruler of Harkenwold was Baron Stockmer, an elderly man who was known for his strong sword arm in his youth. He was a just and compassionate ruler. An unknown tragedy befell him and his family at what was to be the Birthday of there eldest son and Heir to the throne. His keep now stands empty and the lands become darker every year. Some believe a curse has befallen the land.
The second-largest village in Harkenwold, Albridge stands where the King’s Road crosses the White River and was once the home to the retired adventurer, Dar Gremath.
The Elven settlement of Dal Nysterie fell into ruin centuries ago, destroyed by some unknown threat, and the Harken Forest has all but swallowed up its remains. Strange witchlights and evil monsters are known to haunt the ruins, and the Woodsinger elves have learned to give the place a wide berth.
Surrounded by apple orchards, grain fields, and vineyards, Dardun is known for mild white wines, cheeses, and (of course) apples. Dardun’s elder is a proud half-elf woman named Madera Lirr, the matron of an old family of orchardists and cider-makers.
To the northwest of Albridge stands a large grove of ancient trees, long sundered from the Harken Forest proper. Locals call this place Druid Grove. A stone menhir stands in the clearing at the center of the grove.
A hamlet of shepherds and stonecutters, Easthill rests on the slopes of the Briar Hills. The stone used to build the crossing at Albridge was quarried from the hills nearby. A human trader named Dalit Toldorff is the village elder, but he is somewhat indecisive and often defers the advice of others. He takes after his father.
The Harken Forest is much denser than the light woodlands scattered across Harkenwold, with larger trees and thicker undergrowth. It is also more dangerous for travelers – large and hungry beasts such as drakes and dire wolves roam its shadows. Game trails or marked paths are few and far between. The Woodsinger elves live in the forested region south of Harkenwold.
Population 160 (town), 0 (keep)
Referred to as Harken by the locals, this village is the largest settlement in Harkenwold. Baron Stockmer used to govern Harkenwold from Stockmer Keep, which is the strongest structure in the valley. It has now become infested with darkness and the undead. The town no longer has any central leadership but is instead looked after by long time resident and Ranger Lini Gladerunner.
Marl is a prosperous thorp surrounded by well-tilled fields and the steadings of the families that farm them. Six large families (mostly halflings) work the soil around Marl and bring the fruits of their labor to the city proper where its sold to the locals or passing merchants. The elder of Marl is Wilfred Dunhallow, a hale and boisterous halfling of many years. Wilfred always welcomes passing travelers, and offers his hospitality to anyone in need of a bed or a meal.
In the eastern reaches of the Harken Forest lies a ruined tower similar to the Septarch’s Tower in Fallcrest. However, this tower is quite a bit larger and, perhaps most intriguing, the first two floors are missing and the rest of the tower floats in-place independent of its foundation. People who know of its location stay well-clear of it. Whispers of madness and disfigured beings haunt the tower. Some think it houses a gate to the Far Realm. But such a disturbing possibility is too horrific to imagine.
The White River runs the length of Harkenwold, varying from 200 to 300 feet wide, and up to 10 feet deep. Two ferries cross the waterway – one near Tor’s Hold, the other close to Easthill. Both are flatboats large enough for a horse and wagon, secured by thick hawsers. No one tends the ferries; travelers must haul themselves across.