The Border Kingdoms11/01/2006

Hawkgarth pt. 2
The Countryside

Travelers will find Hawkgarth a land of prosperous cherry and apple farms, many woodlots, and winding lanes stretching along the southern bank of the River Scelptar for quite some distance. In short, it's a beautiful land.

Beautiful, but frustrating to those who want to easily find seats of wealth and power. Settlements of the sort travelers usually find are unknown in Hawkgarth; everything is spread out. Most travelers eventually find their ways to one or both of two crossroads: Ingletar at the west end of the realm or Ambrees at the east end.

HawkgarthIngletar offers a horsepond; a blacksmith ("Orlag Harlagus, Shoes & Froes"); The Firefly Down inn (Good/Moderate); Three Sheaves Tower, a shrine to Chauntea; and a farm market that gathers once a tenday, where travelers can buy all the wares Hawkgarth produces and more (from traveling wagon-merchants).

Ambrees is home to Jalagar the Wheelwright, famous for his fine-quality wagon wheels; the Old Pipe and Pearls inn (Excellent/Moderate); and the cozy, superior Laughing Unicorn tavern, which is known for the dancing, glowing white unicorn illusion that appears briefly every midnight (thanks to a spell cast long ago by a Harper sorceress to give a sign to a friend she could wait no longer for). The Unicorn is a favorite of many traveling minstrels of Faerûn, and there's even a ballad about the welcoming sight of its flickering window-candles at the end of a long and dangerous ride.

The song's not all that fanciful, for the one thing Hawkgarth can boast for its farmers is that some of them are accomplished brigands. Their favored tactic is to lean down from overhanging tree-boughs to slice straps and lift away baggage or even cut a horse away from a team when the coachman is asleep -- or has been carried from his seat by a swinging, cloak-wielding bravo who swoops out of the trees, wraps the man's head in a smothering cloak, and carries him to the ground and a stunned slumber.

In some cases, coaches or goods-wagons have crashed down into ravines or into trees after brigands removed the coachman. The injured or dead occupants are dealt with at leisure by the cutpurses, who are then free to loot the goods or even right the wagon and drive it off to a remote barn for stripping.

There's an old Hawkgarthan tall tale about one brigand band doing this and then being attacked by a second band who mistook them for merchants. So few folk survived this clash in the darkness that only two bravos were left to take the wagon home, pulled by a single horse -- whereupon they were, of course, ambushed by a third cutpurse band.

In recent years, battlewise traveling mages have evened the score with some of the more notorious brigands, but the survivors have become more wily. Now, before attacking, they often observe travelers through several inn-stops along the road to learn just who they're casing. As always, travelers are cautioned to hide finery and keep boasting to a minimum, or they'll attract rough and ready attention they might prefer to avoid.

Not all Hawkgarthan farmers, of course, are the sort who'll stick a blade in a throat when night falls. Even those who prowl the forest lanes and high roads by night tend to be genuinely friendly and easy-going around the tavern-hearth during daylight.

All of this creeping about after dark can make Hawkgarth a busy place for lovers seeking seclusion, tramps seeking a quiet haystack to sleep in, and travelers on foot cutting cross-country to avoid unpleasantness -- or at least most of the unpleasantness. Many farmers have well-trained guard dogs that can growl and even bay but not bark. They tend to approach and spring silently, giving tongue only after striking. The spell known as Darvo's dancing dogs is said to have been born out of a strong desire of the warrior-mage Darvo to enjoy an uninterrupted haystack slumber one hot, summer night in deepest Hawkgarth.

The Family Garthammus

The reputation of Histokle's manor has led some folk to think Hawkgarth has no living mages of note. This is a mistake, of course. At the very heart of the realm, atop Wrinkled Hill, stands a modest cottage that is home to Ilden Garthammus and his wife Faelrae, who settled here after finding Lapiliiya too crowded for their liking. Faelrae is apparently a CG Tashalan human Wiz16 but is in truth a song dragon. Ilden seems to be a LG male Shaaran human Wiz16/Arch2 but reverts to his true silver dragon form when he feels the need.

That need usually arises either when a wizard decides that Hawkgarth looks ripe for being transformed into his or her domain (there have been several spectacular, midair spell-battles attendant on persuading such individuals that they're mistaken) or when an adventuring band, mercenary company, or (more rarely) neighboring ruler decides that Hawkgarth needs a new form of government -- to whit, them.

Hawkgarthan Governance

Hawkgarthans are quite content (as the Garthammus family forcibly points out) with their present system of government. All of the landowners in Hawkgarth nominate and vote for certain elders among them to be Speakers. To be named so, a candidate must get a thousand votes out of a population of not quite four thousand voting farmers.

Speakers propose laws and policies for the land in short, pithy speeches at twice-yearly meetings called moots. These are held atop Hawkgarth's Hill. Speakers call for votes, and the Senior Speaker (currently a frail, long-bearded LN male Sharran human Ftr6 by the name of Ammanas "Hawk" Halauklyn, who farms just down the road from the Floating Shadow Bog at Twotrees Bridge) tallies all "close counts." Enforcement of laws and the putting down of lawlessness is handled by the Garthammus family and by the Striking Hawks, some thirty local lads (all LN male human Ftr3-5s) who dwell on family farms near Wrinkled Hill.

Faelrae Garthammus crafted a spell that allows her and Ildren to hear the ten words that follow the utterance of their own names (together with the precise identity and location of the speaker) whenever any of the Speakers says either of their names within the borders of Hawkgarth. This magic also allows Ilden and Faelrae to hear each other in similar circumstances and further extends to the tongue of Athkalon Blaykin, the leader of the Striking Hawks.

Local Lore and History

Most local legends center on the "terrible haunted floating manor" ("With these eyes, I've seen the bodies of dead adventurers falling from it many a night!") or concern the ghost of Hawkgarth striding forth from his tomb to right some wrong. Typical day-to-day Hawkgarthan rumors concern the latest dark plot of this or that nearby ruler who wants (again) to conquer Hawkgarth. These rumors are based on many previous attempts by various petty rulers in the Border Kingdoms to seize this region of rich, "unprotected" farmland.

Hawkgarth himself slaughtered a fair dozen would-be usurpers and died of the wounds he took hewing down most of the forces of the thirteenth pretender. After his bodyguard was ambushed and died to the last man and woman defending their king, Hawkgarth alone held a covered bridge over the River Mauraurin (today little more than a dry creekbed save during spring run-off) against the invaders. He killed over sixty enemy knights before dusk came and he threatened to call up the dead to fight with him, whereupon the pretender's forces fled.

Hard-riding knights found Hawkgarth a few hours later, leaning against one rail of the bridge, sword in hand and white as a ghost -- stone dead, his blood in a deep pool around him. One of them put on the King's armor, and the others mounted a guard around him. The invaders made one cautious foray in the new day, saw the King standing on the bridge with ready swords all around him, and decided to seek easier lands to rule.

The spot is still known as the Ghost Bridge. Hawkgarthans believe loyal subjects who were born in the realm can receive guidance there -- if they go to the bridge by night and humbly offer their sword to the King, it's said they will see the phantom of Hawkgarth the Mighty in his plate armor, sword in hand, and hear him whisper words of wisdom before he fades away.

The Book of Beasts

There is also a persistent local rumor that some anonymous farmer of Hawkgarth keeps a precious treasure hidden somewhere in the land: a Book of Beasts. This large, ancient tome is said to have been stolen from Histokle long ago. Bound about with lockable clasps, its pages display vivid paintings of monsters -- beasts that can be called forth from the book by those who touch a page and speak the proper phrase. Unfortunately, local belief holds (correctly) that the monsters that appear are in no way subject to the command of their summoner and typically attack everything in sight (except the book they came from). Such tomes were quite fashionable in Unther and Mulhorand centuries ago, and a few were made in the waning days of Netheril and the early days of Halruaa, but few survive into recent years.

The Treasury of Houlongh Szoul

Hawkgarth is widely (and correctly) rumored to be the place where the thieves who stole the treasury of the vizar Houlongh Szoul of Calimport fled to, and perished, decades ago. There were six thieves, and each stole an elegantly-carved ivory coffer of gems not knowing that Szoul had hired a mage to enchant each coffer with a tracer spell. Houlongh couldn't find the written instructions for activating the tracer for almost a tenday, which gave the thieves time to reach their homes in Hawkgarth and take their finds to a local mage, Dhalberstant Hurthurimm (at the time, a LN male Tethyrian human Wiz16) for examination.

In exchange for a tenth of the gems, Dhalberstant agreed to break any enchantments or curses laid on the stones, remove any poisons or traps, and forget all about ever having done so. He performed his part of the deal, reported the tracers to the thieves, and collected his payment. It is recorded by his apprentice, Shalara of the Streams (now a LN female Damaran human Wiz14) as being twenty-six rubies, "none smaller than my thumb;" forty-one sapphires "of like size;" and seventeen emeralds "a shade smaller than the other sorts of gems." Dhalberstant promptly ordered Shalara to undertake a long journey to Neverwinter, to search there for a certain magical substance he required. He then vanished "on a tour of the planes" (from which he has not yet returned, twenty-three years later). Shalara suspects that her master was fleeing any doom the satrap might send his way.

All six of the thieves were slain in Hawkgarth by invisible stalkers within a tenday of Dhalberstant's disappearance, but no trace of the coffers or the gems they held (presumably nine times the amount of the hoard Shalara now guards) was ever found. It is certain that Houlongh never recovered them, for he came seeking them with a large band of hired warriors and wizards and was slain with all his forces in Dhalberstant's mansion by Shalara when she returned from her mission (largely through her use of traps and magic items prepared by Dhalberstant for use in defending his mansion).

Hawkgarth Today and Tomorrow

Still bearing a reputation of being largely a wild wood roamed by monsters and inhabited by brigands who pounce on every visitor daring to venture along its roads, Hawkgarth is avoided by many outlanders -- except those hungry for treasure, who often find, once there, that many lesser-known tales of smaller treasures and secrets await the patiently inquisitive visitor.

Yet Hawkgarth remains largely a pastoral backwater. That suits most of its inhabitants. Its location nigh the confluence of the Rivers Rith and Scelptar (where a port on the south bank of the Scelptar could dominate all upriver shipping) and between other restless realms make its future quite likely to feature other would-be conquerors. It remains to be seen just how much success any invader can have in this realm of strong, independent local inhabitants.

Settlements: None.

About the Author

Ed Greenwood is the man who unleashed the Forgotten Realms on an unsuspecting world. He works in libraries, writes fantasy, science fiction, horror, mystery, and even romance stories (sometimes all in the same novel), but he is still happiest churning out Realmslore, Realmslore, and more Realmslore. There are still a few rooms in his house with space left to pile up papers in . . .

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