Half a dozen small villages lie along the upper vales of the White River. Together, they make up the Barony of Harkenwold—a tiny realm whose total population is not much greater than 2000. Harkenwold is a small barony in the southeast reach of the Nentir Wood. Although officially bearing allegiance to the Duchy of Sombar, in practice, Harkenwold has long governed itself. Several tiny hamlets and a number of steadings (isolated farms) are scattered across the broad dale of the White River. The great Harken Forest surrounds the realm, isolating it from the lands nearby. This quiet backwater contently avoids major trouble.
The Barony of Harkenwold is a broad valley just over 30 miles long and roughly 20 miles wide located between arms of the Harken Forest. This primarily open land consists of gently rolling hills covered in a mix of cheery meadows, light forest with little undergrowth, and the occasional thicket. The climate is cool and rainy. Many small streams wind their way across the land, eventually joining the White River. These brooks are at most a few feet wide, and small footbridges cross them regularly.
The greater part of Harkenwold's industry centers around the production of tobacco. "Harkenleaf," is a name growing in popularity and is known as a smoking tobacco of particular richness and flavor. Particularly favored in distant Sombar, it has been slowly growing in fame even as far as Baldur's Gate. Several groups of artisans have also begun cashing in on the success of the wold's tobacco. In the area of Easthill, a community of glassblowers creates beautiful water pipes, and in Dardun leatherworkers produce high quality pouches and smoking kits.
Other industry revolves around the production of food for the wold. Cattle and sheep are raised between Dardun and the Briar Hills. the area west of of Dardun is primarily farmland. Crops are rotated between tobacco and food crops to replenish the soil.
The ruler of Harkenwold is Baron Stockmer, the elected official of the 'Wold. After the previous baron died childless, the people of Harkenwold chose to elect their own baron. He is considered a just and compassionate ruler.
Population and Demographics
Harkenwold’s total population is approximatelt 2,000, scattered across half a dozen small hamlets and a score of isolated steadings. Most of the citizens are humans (80%), halflings (15%), and a smattering of other folk (5%).
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.
Culture and Travel
A steading is a farm or homestead in Harkenwold’s countryside. Each of these settlements features a strongly built house of fieldstone and timber, surrounded by approximately 200 acres of pastureland and cropland. Some steadings have defensive palisades around the main house. A single extended family commonly lives in the house — two or three couples with their children, their older relations, and a few hired hands. Rarely do the total inhabitants of a steading exceed 20 people.
Characters on foot average 2.5 to 3 miles per hour on roads or trails. Walking from Tor’s Hold to Easthill, for example, takes about two days. If the travelers avoid the well-traveled trails and strike out directly overland, the mixed terrain reduces their speed to 3/4 normal. Venturing into the Harken Forest or the Briar Hills is much more difficult. The rougher terrain reduces speed to half normal.
Travelers in Harkenwold are rarely more than a mile or two from the nearest steading. Most Harkenwolders are happy to put up visitors for the night, although the accommodations might be a dry barn or stable.
Villages and Points of Interest in the Barony of Harkenwold
The second-largest village in Harkenwold, Albridge stands where the King’s Road crosses the White River. The unofficial town leader in Albridge is Dar Gremath, a retired Harken Ranger and Cleric of Olidammara. He acts as the wold's alternative spiritual leader and is often at odds with Baron Stockmer.
1. Old Tower
This vine-covered ruin was once a post for soldiers guarding the bridge. The roof collapsed long ago, leaving the interior open to the weather, but the walls are still sound.
2. Erst the Wainwright
Erst is stout, middle-aged, and balding, well known as a human of few words. A crafter, he sells mostly to local farmers in need of carts, wagons, or wheelbarrows, as well as the rare merchant still making use of the King’s Road. Erst’s grandfather was a smuggler – hidden tunnels are rumoured to be under his workshop.
3. Gerrad’s House
Gerrad, a hale and white-haired old halfing, is the village elder. He and his wife Nioma are skilled weavers and sell simple but well-constructed garments of all kinds. Gerrad was appointed village elder by Baron Stockmer 30 years ago, and he conducts most of the town business from the common room of the Mallard Inn. He hides the keenness of his mind behind an affable manner and long-winded stories.
4. Village Green
This open space serves as a market in good weather. On most days, the children of the hamlet gather here to play. Merchant caravans use the green as a campsite if they’re too big to fit in the Mallard’s innyard.
5. Kathrid’s Smithy
Kathrid is a black-haired, mature half-elf. The daughter of a deceased Harken ranger and a huntress of the Woodsinger elves, she is an industrious, can-do type who talks incessantly while she works, filling her listener’s ears with advice on every topic imaginable. She suffers no fools and respects only those who can hold their own in a battle of wits.
6. The Mallard Inn
This small inn and taphouse is owned by Onneth, an older man nearing retirement. Onneth is a good-hearted soul, but he is fretful, forgetful, and incompetent. Most importantly, he can’t keep a secret, so he is often sought after for information. Room and board at the Mallard costs 5 silver pieces per night.
7. White River Mercantile
This trading post deals in locally produced woodwork, leather goods, provisions, and a handful of luxury items imported from Sombar or the lands to the south. It is run by Roma Featherton. She is a brisk, robust, officious who recently took over the business from her ailing father. Her cousin Abel and his family help out. Most mundane equipment other than armor or weapons is available here for the normal cost.
8. Gremath Stables
Dar Gremath, an aging and retired human adventurer, rarely speaks about his long-ago travels.
The elven settlement of Dal Nystiere fell to 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.
Population: 140 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 woman named Madera Lirr, the matron of an old family of orchardists and cider-makers.
Located just to the west of Dardun, the chief cattle herdsman Leanert Holt, keeps 200 head of cattle. Other neighbor graze sheep along with river and into the Briar Hills.
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.
The old human druid Reithann lives here in a moss-covered lodge near the menhir clearing, along with her young apprentices Lorel (a halfling woman) and Theren (a young human man). Harkenwolders who venerate primal spirits come to this verdant place seeking Reithann’s advice.
Population: 155 A hamlet of sheperds and stonecutters, Easthill rests on the slopes of the Briar Hills. The stone used to build the crossing at Albridge was quarried from hills nearby. A human named Sarken Toldorff is the village elder. He conducts tentative relations with the Briar Tribe when their nomadic existence bring them into the Harkenwold each autumn.
The leader of the glassblowers guild is an older man named Trence Forlaugh, originally hailing from the far east where tobacco is smoked in beautiful elaborate water pipes.
The Harken Forest is much denser than the light woodlands scattered across the 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 maked paths are few and far between. The Woodsinger elves live in the forested region south of Harkenwold. They often trade with the vale, but are secretive and keep there settlements hidden. In time of goblin or orc incursion, they have allied with the people of Harkenvold to repel the intruders.
Goblins and Hobgoblins are also known to travel south through the forest from the mountains to the north, and occasionally, orc raiders have moved through the Briar hills from the plains to the east.
A small village nestled near the White River, along the old King’s Road in the southeast corner of the Nentir Wood.
Population: 436; another 60 or so live in the keep. The people of Harken are mostly humans, with a few halflings.
Government: The human noble Jonn Stockmer is the baron of Harkenwold. He oversees justice, defense, and laws within the six villages and surrounding countryside that makes up the Harkenwold. The baron appoints village elders to help with the daily governing of the Harkenwold. Town elder of Harken is called Old Kellar, an ancient and respected stonecutter. He oversaw the rebuilding of Harken Keep when the new baron came to power.
Defense: Currently, Harken village has no standing defenses, but plans are underway for a log wall. With tensions high between Harken and Tor's Hold, the baron feels it best to defend the 'capital' (though there are those whispering this will only escalate matters). A permanent garrison of 5 Harken Rangers is always within the town.
1. The Broken Gaol
Once a respected taphouse named the Silver Nail, this tavern has lost its charm but is frequented by the garrison troops as a favored off-hours drinking spot. An opportunistic woman named Krutha runs the place since the Silver Nail’s former owner mysteriously disappeared. On most nights, a dozen or more garrison troops gather here to drink and enjoy a rowdy time.
The taphouse used to be a respected, but is now known for its rowdy nights, loose barmaids, and consumption of wildweed.
2. Iron Keep
The castle of Baron Jonn Stockmer. About 40 soldiers are here at any given time . The elderly Baron is often seen taking his morning exercises on the keeps walls.
3. Nonnie’s Place
The doughty halfling Nonnie Farwhere runs a small inn with a kitchen and common room. While not a proper inn, it’s the closest thing to one you’ll find in whole of the Harkenwold. The common room, however, is the largest in the wold and serves for wold meetings and events. “Aunt Nonnie” is something of a gossip and busybody, but she minds her tongue around the garrison soldiers. Nonnie charges 5 silver pieces a night for room and board.
4. Old Kellar’s House
Once the elder of Harken, Kellar worked as a master stonecutter and mason for a century. He built much of Baron Stockmer’s keep.
5. Grimbold’s House
Grimbold and the men of his family are Rangers. They have closer ties to the Woodsinger Elves than anyone else of the vale. Some whisper that Grimbold has taken an elf lover.
6. Harken Rangers Tower
The headquarters and training grounds for the Harken rangers holds a 60 foot tower. On a clear day they can see nearly to Albridge or Dardun. A total of 36 rangers take shifts of one week at a time, 3 days at the tower, and four patrolling the vale and the surrounding woods. The leader of the rangers is a grizzled old fighter called simply Broff. He lives at the headquarters and sees to the training of new recruits.
7. Harkenwold Trading Station
The major mercantile outlet in Harken, the Trading Station is owned by a stout, oily little man named Rennis. Most mundane equipment is available for purchase in the Trading Station, and Rennis won’t hesitate to cheat unsuspecting customers.
8. House of Faith
A large temple built by an adventuring cleric of yore, the House of Faith has seen better days. Shrines dedicated to Pelor, Heironeus, Cuthbert and Kord stand inside. The current prelate is a kindly middle-aged woman named Sister Sondal. Most members of the Vale worship Olidammara, so the House of Faith sees little use.
9. Cliffside Brewery
The three dwarfs — brothers Omurk and Dannurk, and Dannurk’s notoriously short-tempered wife Dathilda — run this fine brewery. This brewery not only brews its own ales but has also been receiving orders in Sombar.
They are good friends with the smith Kathrid in Albridge.
Once a prosperous thorp surrounded by well-tilled fields, Marl has suffered heavily after his farm was raided and ransacked by a marauding group of hobgoblins.
A few of Marl’s outlying farms are still inhabited. The nearest steading belongs to Curwen, a fretful old fart. He and his wife Masie have taken in a dozen of Marl’s refugees. The rest of Marl’s folk have scattered to other steadings or taken refuge in Tor’s Hold.
The small village of Riverwood is the newest within the vale, and is made up of almost entirely halflings. 54 halflings and a smattering of humans immigrated to the vale from the south roughly ten years ago. Fleeing a war, they begged the baron and the village elders to allow them to stay for a short time, but eventually settled in. While the people of the vale are pleasant and friendly, there is still a slight mistrust hovering beneath their smiles and g'days when dealing with the Riverwooders.
Population: 141 Tor’s Hold is a group of steadings belonging to the seven children of Tor Hammerfist. Old Tor has been dead for many years now, and his offspring have each raised small clans of their own. The elder of Tor’s Hold is Bran Torsson.
The Tor clan live within a walled community and grow a strong narcotic known as wildweed. The plant is difficult to cultivate but the Tors have kept the knowledge of how to grow it as a well-kept family secret. While there has been no outright aggression, the Tors hold themselves aloof from the rest of the vale, believing themselves to be its rightful rulers. 15 years prior, Hammerfist believed he himself would become the next baron, but a hastily held town meeting decided on Stockmer.
With their father now deceased, the Tors keep a private militia and an icy relationship with Harken.
The youngest brother, the affable Ren, acts as the spokesman for the family and arranges all of the trading.
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.
The White River is home to the Reedfoot halfling clan – six keelboats scattered up and down the watercourse, each home to a large and boisterous family. The leader of the clan is Willet Reedfoot, an olde, charmingly roguish fellow who earns a comfortable living storytelling in the villages close to the river.
An eccentric old woman named Zelda lives alone in a small cottage to the south of Harken. Known as a witch, she brews potions and tinctures to help wounded animals, which then always seem to stay on as pets. This has turned her cottage into a menagerie of sorts. While magic for the most part is rare and held with suspicion in the vale, it is said that Zelda knows of the arcane arts. She is also quite good at healing illness and injury, and most serious problems are taken to her. The only problem is that she is coherent only half the time—whether it is senility, madness, or communion with another plane, no one can agree, but she is often in her own world, completely oblivious to those around her. Most men of the village reluctantly trust her only when they need something. The women seem more sympathetic and have been known to secretly visit her to receive draughts of unknown purpose.