Blackwall Keep stands on the very cusp of the Cairn Hills, atop a high ridge overlooking the fetid mires of the Mistmarsh. From here, infrequent mounted patrols of Greyhawk Militia ride out to keep vigil over the scrub grasslands bordering the northern verges of the marshes. However, the militia’s presence here has dwindled over the last few years as men have been drawn off by renewed fighting on the Wild Coast.
In recent years, a small village has sprung up around the keep, populated by refugees fleeing the Wild Coast. The most recent influx arrived in 596 CY when orcs of the Orcish Empire of the Pomarj smashed through Greyhawk’s defensive line west of Safeton. Bypassing the twin towers of Eyebite, the orcs razed Narwell and several surrounding villages. While the Free City’s army reacted quickly to stabilize the situation and cut off the marauders’ line of retreat, vicious fighting raged for months. Their road home barred, the orcs continued northwards, joining their brethren at Blackthorn under the ancient boughs of the Gnarley Forest, where they now threaten the lands of both Dyvers and Greyhawk.
As their land was consumed by war, the inhabitants of the region fled their homes for the comparative safety of the north. Faced with this tide of miserable humanity, the Directing Oligarchy of Greyhawk City began moving cartloads of homeless refugees to outlying settlements. As a result, the village of Blackwall Keep suddenly increased by nearly a third in the last year. The influx created some hardship among the inhabitants, with both food and shelter in short supply. However, with the aid of the garrison in the keep, the majority of the villagers survived the lean winter months. The experience has forged a strong bond between the villagers and the men of the garrison.
Blackwall Keep (hamlet): Conventional (council); AL NG; gp limit 100 gp; assets 800 gp; population 160; isolated (153 human, 3 halfling, 2 elf, 1 dwarf, 1 half-elf); armed forces (30 warrior 2, 2 fighter 3, 1 ranger 2/fighter 2).
Authority Figures: Arvel Durgedown (male dwarf; N; Rogue 4), moneylender; Listra (female human; NG; Cleric 1), cleric of Pelor and tender of the Temple; Mallie Marchess (female human; NG; Expert 3), owner of the Blackwall Keep Inn and unofficial leader of the hamlet; Ranald Haradrith (LN male human ranger 2/fighter 2).
Important Temples: The Temple (a small wooden temple dedicated to no deity in particular, although there are specific shrines to the five Oeridian wind deities - collectively known as the Velaeri - and Pelor attached to the building).
Blackwall Keep is a strong four-storied tower keep protected by a stout wooden palisade and a wide, but shallow refuse-filled ditch. The keep is named for a pernicious local lichen that shrouds the tower’s granite walls, giving it a somewhat sinister appearance. Though a strong fortification, the keep has an air of neglect about it. With the departure of the last stonemason, minor maintenance is no longer carried out effectively and in several places the tower’s parapets have begun to crumble. Nonetheless, the defences here are still sound and a determined, well-motivated force could easily hold this place against attack.
As well as the tower house, several outbuildings stand within the palisade – stables for the garrison’s mounts and storage sheds (now mostly empty) – set around a muddy courtyard.
Access to the keep is through a single ironbound door. The ground floor is given over to defence, comprising a guardroom that is manned around the clock by shifts of militiamen. Under the guardroom lies the cellar, which contains a few cells, further storerooms and a well. A spiral staircase ascends from the guardroom to the upper floors. The first floor is given over to quartering the rank and file militiamen. Here, a single large chamber serves as a barracks, mess hall, and kitchen. The floors above contain private quarters for the officers, a single guest room and an armory.
Atop the keep, two light catapults and two ballistae command the approaches to the keep and village. The ballistae protect the keep itself, while the catapults are arrayed to provide maximum protection to the village. From the roof, the garrison maintain a desultory watch over the surrounding area. On the lower levels, arrow slits pierce the thick granite walls, providing fields of fire on all sides. The two upper floors benefit from stoutly-shuttered windows, from which boiling oil and water can be rained down upon anyone assaulting the base of the tower.
The competent, but often drunk, Ranald Haradrith (LN male human ranger 2/fighter 2) commands the 30 militiamen (LN male or female human warrior 2) still garrisoning Blackwall. Two sergeants-at-arms aid Ranald: the corrupt and avaricious Remiel (CN male human fighter 3) and Scherrin (NG male half-elf fighter 3) a cheerless, self-obsessed bore. Morale here is low. The troops have been neither properly supplied nor paid for several months. As a consequence, they have taken to supplementing their meagre rations with extended hunting trips, often in conjunction with huntsmen from the village.
Several stable hands under the expert direction of the stablemaster, Gerandin (N male human expert 3/warrior 1), supplement the garrison. Gerandin is a burly man famed for his love of horses and has been posted at Blackwall Keep longer than anyone else. His extensive knowledge of the local area and skill as a farrier make him an invaluable member of the garrison.
A few of the villagers also occasionally work at the keep in a variety of menial roles. Strong bonds have been formed between the villagers and the militiamen and several of the men have found wives (and mistresses) among the refugees.
Personalities of Blackwall Keep
Ranald Haradrith (CN male human ranger 2/fighter 2)
Remiel (LN male human fighter 3)
Scherrin (NG male half-elf fighter 3)
Whispers and Rumors
Since the Greyhawk Wars, the lizardfolk of the Mistmarsh have become more active, often creeping out of the swamp to raid isolated homesteads. Rumormongers speak of a power struggle among the lizardfolk, while other doomsayers darkly mutter that they have fallen under Turrosh Mak’s sway.
Undead, particularly ghouls, are becoming more of a menace for those searching the Mistmarsh’s fringes for a rare species of duck said to produce the most tender and sweetest meat in all the Flanaess.
Nobody knows why the rich moneylender Arvel Durgedown settled in the village. Though he apparently has more than enough gold to live comfortably in Greyhawk City, he chose to settle in the wilds instead. The perceived wisdom around the village is that Arvel is searching for ancient dwarven ruins that lie somewhere nearby. Most say he does so for the untold riches reputedly inside, but a few say that he is looking for a specific item to restore his honor.
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