Devils and Dilettantes
The Westcrown Region
Many sites important to the daily life of Westcrown that are not situated within the city walls or directly on its waters. Many Wiscrani power players draw their influence or use the effects of these places or structures to increase their influence or hold over others. In addition, the geography and environs of the South Adivian region affect all those who live therein and those who rule over them. As can be seen on the map of the region among the many places of interest or influence are the following.
The Hellknight Order of the Rack garrisons the Adivian Bridge a mile west-northwest of the city. The Chelish-made bridge arches more than 30 feet above the Dhaenflow’s surface, its dual gatehouseson both ends of the bridge each manned by a score of Hellknights, at least four Signifiers, and a Paralictor in command. The double-portcullis in each gatehouse allows defenders to let travelers in and trap them between the gates, leaving them at the mercy of the murderholes overhead.
Far to the north beyond Lake Sorrow lies the Barrowood, a place with more stories than truths. What folk do know is the trees that grow therein are worth much to traders and craftsmen downriver or in lands east. Barroak, in the hands of Wiscrani shipwrights, becomes sleek dark craft of uncommon maneuverability and strength without added weight. Wizards talk of the even rarer shade maple, a strong wood very easily enchanted as wands or staves. While nearly 300 miles out of Westcrown, the Barrowood figures prominently among Wiscrani trades- and craftsmen. Deep within the woods, rumors of small settlements of elves persist, but they tend to keep to themselves and avoid travelers.
Nestled among the hills less than a day’s ride west of the City of Twilight is one of Cheliax’s most forbidding sites—the hilltop stronghold that spawned the Order of the Rack, the first of the original Hellknights. Citadel Rivad, once the estate of a long exiled Andoren noble, is now a sinister walled enclosure, its two gates and surrounding battlements bristling with iron spikes. The dark, three-towered fortress provides soldiers with a commanding view of their surroundings. Seven buildings within the enclosure quarter 150 of the order’s soldiers, attendant slaves, and sundry servants and administrators. As the greatest holding of the first Hellknight Order, Citadel Rivad is a sought-after prestigious post for many Hellknights.
Cutlass Cove is located at the tip of the small peninsula east of Westcrown, about a quarter mile from Delvehaven and Rego Sacero’s eastern shoreline. A few small buildings dot the coast here, but for the most part Cutlass Cove is uninhabited, a site long used by smugglers, pirates, and others who need a convenient nearby but relatively isolated cove in which to conduct their illicit business. The most common of the illicit spots was known as Wart’s Rock. The rise of the House of Thrune and the strength of the Chelish navy in recent decades has seen such use of Cutlass Cove drop drastically.
This title refers to the collective scores of small streams, shallow pools, meres, and bogs within a ridge of hills where the Upper Adivian ends more than 25 miles west-northwest of the City of Twilights. Within these waterlogged lowlands live many types of undead, hags, will-o-wisps, and shrieks of harpies.
This long-abandoned castle rots and crumbles amid the overgrowth and wildlife of the Dhaenfens. Rumors mention treasures long held by the Mad Larquessa Olara Dhaen and her father, the insane Larquess Roakar Dhaen. They and their kin held enough power to flee Wiscrani enemies here deep in the swamps and build a three-storied castle from stones pulled from the murk. Stories say too that those fell magics eventually turned every servant, soldier, and son into rotting undead monsters, while the daughters became shrieking haunts throughout the swamp. Scores of adventurers have entered the Dhaenfens hoping to leave with Olara’s treasures or diabolical knowledge. Few in Westcrown have ever heard of anyone returning from such quests.
The Rikkan Ports:
Due to more problems traveling up and downstream, two small port towns have grown up on the shores of the lake—Westpool and East Rikkan. Both hold many taverns, inns, and places for folk to relax. Both also provide any number of merchants looking to buy goods and take them upriver themselves or a vast potential of hireling or slave porters to move one’s own goods. Due to the Great Stavian Arch, Westpool developed a larger community and now actually spreads up alongside the falls. East Rikkan, on the other hand, rests below the falls and has more fishermen and more accessible docks for travelers. Since 4674 ar, Imperial forces frequently occupy Westpool seeking rebels and traitors to House Thrune’s rule, as many believe those who destroyed the Great Stavian Arch remain in the area, fomenting dissent against the glory of the Infernal Majestrix. Westpool’s mayor, Tibalt Khrocini, gained much power and favor (and the title of Vismargrave of Adivian Falling) by press-ganging and forcibly enslaving ships and crews of enemies of certain families at court. This move also allowed him to maintain the flow of goods (if not ships) up and onto Westpolitan adels for transport to Lake Sorrow and Egorian.
Despite its name, the “Reef of Aroden” is actually a massive sandbar reinforced and built up by mud and debris flowing down the Adivian. The slightly arced barrier is more than 12 miles long, rises to within 5 feet of the surface in some places, and shelters the river’s mouth against the worst sea tides and Westcrown from direct assault by naval traffic. Scores of sunken ships lie beneath the waves against the southern slopes of the Rifardona, victims of overbold explorers and arrogant pilots or simply navigators distracted by the sight of Aroden’s great statue in the northern harbor. The hundreds of shipwrecks suggest why the city remained “unknown” for so long to powers in the east. Seagoing vessels must tack along the Gemcrown Cliffs at the eastern or western edges of the bay and turn along the northern cliffs within 2 miles to safely enter the brackish waters where the sea and the river mix. Between the sheltering Gemcrown Bay and the Rifardona, the City of Twilight suffers very little grief from the tides or sea storms.
The River Adivian:
The massive South Adivian challenges even the mighty Sellen River of the east for strength of current, depth of both mystery and water in places, and its importance to the region’s trade and travel. Much of the river is wide and slow moving, but it becomes more powerful as its waters approach Gemcrown Bay. Much to the chagrin of early explorers and some traders actually a massive sandbar reinforced and built up by mud still today, the Adivian proves impassable by larger vessels 80 miles upriver from Westcrown for various reasons. For 2 weeks in late Gozran, snowmelt out of the Menador Mountains floods Lake Sorrow and its rivers, increasing its depth (and its relative flow) by up to 2 feet (and widening the river by as much as a half-mile in places). In addition, the riverbed varies in many places and hides rocky shoals that have sunk many vessels. Searching for lost goods or treasures in the river or the bay remains a career for a foolhardy many in western Cheliax.
The Stavian Arches:
Then Emperor Stavian I of Taldor, in his impatient fury at failing to sail up the River Adivian on his first official visit, ordered his engineers and wizards to find ways to “allow your emperor to conquer this river as he has all obstacles in his path.” They built arches near the river, first of wood and later of stone, and dug at the river’s edge to craft smooth, paved side channels with gentler slopes than the falls. By 3850 ar, smaller boats could be pulled up beside the falls by pulleys and ropes (and the obligatory teams of slaves, many of whom live in small villages next to the arches); by 4100 ar, the great stone arches meant even mediumsized vessels could traverse the Adivian to Lake Rikkan. Completed in 4085 ar, the Third Stavian Arch—the massive span on the western shore of the Rikkan Falls— allowed even the largest ships to be hauled upriver for access to Lake Sorrow (provided enough slaves were on hand to successfully pull the craft and its goods up its channel ramp). The worst treason since the end of the Chelish Civil War was the destruction of the Third Stavian Arch in 4660 ar, as this again prevented larger boats and forces easy access to the capital of Cheliax. Even attempts to rebuild the arch failed due to assassinations of Imperial overseers and either the wholesale slaughter or freeing of the slave workers (both of which cause problems for House Thrune).
The Three Falls:
Between Lake Sorrow and Gemcrown Bay, the South Adivian descends 900 feet in elevation, and there are many rapids and three sets of waterfalls along the river. The shallows and rocks beneath all of these falls keep the river from being passable by any craft without a shallow draft like a barge or a very small boat capable of riding the rapids. Because of this, the bulk of river traffic consists of cargo barges or wide “adels” (a Chelish barge used as a personal transport instead of landed coaches). Since 3875 ar, systems of pulleys and ropes haul even fully loaded barges up all but the Rikkorn Falls, which requires portaging of goods and barges along the shores. From Westcrown heading north, the first met 26 miles upriver are the Three Tumble Pools, a staggered trio of 5-foot plummets (the greatest danger being the very shallow pools between the second and third falls). Next are Chalraka’s Tears, where a massive boulder juts out of the riverbed break to split the river into two distinct falls 33 miles north of Westcrown. Unknown hands carved the boulder’s downriver side as a mourning Azlanti woman’s face. The narrower western flow drops 7 feet into a deep pool very close to 15-foot-high canyon walls. The eastern falls plummet only 4 feet onto a shallow, rocky slope that equally guides boats against the eastern canyon walls or onto rocks just beneath the surface along the eastern river. Seventeen miles north lie the third and most famous falls. Rikkan’s Falls, 15-foot-high horseshoe falls with a 4-mile-wide lake at the base of them, gained their name from the Andoren author of Travels on the Far Frontier, who first drew these falls in 1896 ar and published his journals in Almas almost 40 years later.
The coastal lands for miles around Westcrown undulate with the rolling Turanian Hills. Olives, grapes, and various other berries and food trees blanket the hills, making this a rich land for many trade goods. In addition, the Adivian River and the many creeks and streams that feed it cut into those hills, exposing clay deposits. While nut-brown in color around Lake Sorrow, clay deposits along the Adivian exhibit a peculiar reddish hue. When fired, the clay becomes a unique scarlet pottery found nowhere else. The clay found between the Three Tumble Pools and the Rikkan Falls produces especially vibrant reds, often referred to as “blood-clay,” since the spring floods make some canyon walls appear to bleed.
“The Burning Dell” rests a bowshot southeast of Citadel Rivad and north of the Rack Road as it winds up toward the Lictor’s Gate. Many boots over the centuries have worn the slopes of the dell into an uneven natural stadium. At the bottom of Valignus, massive charred stumps as wide as a man is tall provide mute evidence of Lictor Almansor’s monthly “clarity pyres” (book burnings). The cluster of stumps or the ground around them smolders for at least 5 days after each dusk-to-dawn burning of confiscated “troublesome materials.”