Tuesday Tales, Part XX: The Cities and Locales of Stemma, Hawksworth, and Blacknall

Cedarshade, Hawksworth.  Located in Chetwood Forest along the Hawksworth-Stemma border, the large town of Cedarshade is the seat of House Robinson and represents an important stop along the road for those traveling between Wildehold and Stemma.  The town is traversed by the Keth River, which divides and surrounds the commons.  Its buildings are primarily half-timbered and arranged around an extensive system of canals and cobbled streets.  Public places such as guildhalls stand alongside privately-owned inns, taverns, and workshops, as well as elegant town mansions, the most prominent of which belongs to the Robinson family.

Esos, Stemma.  Located in county Maycott in the eastern-central region of Stemma along the western bank of the Kordiso River, Esos is the capital city of Braelin.  The city is laid out in a series of three concentric half-circles ringing the Royal Palace.  The palace and its holdings directly abut the riverbank; the engineering team responsible for its construction dug out a protective moat, using the excavated dirt and stone to form the palace’s foundation.  On the far side of the moat is a grand stone staircase leading down into the city proper; spanning the gap between staircase and palace is a wooden drawbridge, which can be retracted or destroyed in case of invasion.

Originally designed to protect Braelinese control over a strategically important part of the Kordiso River, the Royal Palace was built as a motte and bailey; over time, the castle’s wooden fortifications were gradually replaced with stone and it was expanded to its present-day size.  The main gatehouse is heavily vaulted and decorated with carvings of dragons, forming an impressive entrance into the Main Ward.  Inside the Main Ward stands the keep, known as the Purple Keep, in which are housed the Royal Archives.  The State Apartments run along the southern side of the keep, with a range of buildings against the western wall, and the private royal apartments are located along the eastern side of the Ward, with the Regent Tower in the southeastern corner overlooking the Kordiso River.  The northern side of the Ward houses the headquarters of the Order of the White Lotus, the Couriers Guildhall, a magnificent shrine, stables, and assorted other buildings.  In the northeastern corner is the Durance Tower, the lower portion of which contains a dungeon; at the top are the palace bells.

Just outside the palace within the city’s first “ring” is the Highgarden District, where Esos’ resident nobility and visiting ambassadors reside.  Among other things, Highgarden is famous for its beautiful courtyard gardens and spacious manor-homes.  Its outer limit is defined by the city’s original walls, which date back to Queen Raelin’s time.  Beyond these walls is the remaining pair of “rings,” known collectively as the Lowerbrook District, where artisans and peasants make their homes.  As one travels through the original city gate from Highgarden, one comes immediately into Raelin’s Square, Esos’ main plaza and marketplace.  Extending outward from either side of the square and following the curve of the original walls is the so-called “Queen’s Belt,” a wide and lovely boulevard lined with shops, trading centers, guildhalls, and skilled craftsmen’s workshops.  The majority of Esos’ artisans live either above or behind these buildings.  As one continues to walk onward toward the city limits, one finds the humbler homes and shops of peasants, until finally the city gives way to farmland and rural countryside.

Limnport, Blacknall.  Limnport, a large but relatively quiet town in county Icemont, sits on the southern side of Limni Lake, the source of the Kordiso River.  Built on the crest of a Paranomos foothill, Castle Linburgh—the residence of House Erewaker—has a high outer wall that serves as both a fortification and a break against the cold winds that often whip across the nearby ridges.  Most of the city is located immediately within the castle’s outer wall; this area of the city has very little formal organization and instead is characterized by winding roads and plentiful side-streets with a jumble of shops, inns and taverns, homes, and other buildings.  The inner wall of the castle surrounds an impressive, extremely well-fortified keep as well as smaller homes for affluent but landless minor nobility.  In case of emergency or attack, this “inner ward” can house up to eighty-five percent of the city’s total population, with enough food to withstand a yearlong siege.

Linston, Blacknall.  The largest and most prosperous town in the county of the same name, Linston is the seat of House Risley.  Located very near the Blacknall-Hawksworth border, the town is the first place travelers stop before journeying onward into the harsher and more remote regions of the duchy.  Linston is nestled deep within Blacknall’s famous birch woods, and visitors commonly describe it as “charming” or “quaint.”  Unsurprisingly, lumber from this region is highly valued in many different areas of Braelin.

Pinemont, Blacknall.  At the conclusion of the famous Blacknall Expedition during the first century, Duchess Roseline Blacknall founded the city of Pinemont, where she devoted many years to the construction of Highcliff Keep—an imposing stone fortress built atop one of the foothills of the Paranomos, and now referred to colloquially as the Black Keep for the color of its walls.  At first, Pinemont consisted of little more than the Keep; but under the steady guiding influence of House Blacknall, the city has since become a veritable trading hub with many local and foreign merchants in residence, especially during the spring and summer moons.

Revma, Stemma.  Revma represents the central-most and safest commercial port-city in Braelin.  Its harbor is surrounded on both sides by two white cliffs; atop the eastern cliff sits a massive sculpture of King Shayne Kendrick, and atop the western, Queen Abbigale Robbins.  Between the cliffs stretch a great boom-chain which can be raised to allow trade ships into the harbor, or lowered to discourage pirates, smugglers, and other criminal elements from attacking.  The city proper lies along both sides of the Kordiso river-delta’s westernmost tributary, which is the only truly navigable waterway in the delta.  Peasants and poorer artisans live at sea-level near the docks, while wealthier artisans and nobles have built their homes into the surrounding cliffs.  Spanning the waterway are three impressive bridges, allowing residents to cross readily between the eastern and western banks; the bridges’ supports are made of stone but their decks were crafted of tungsten metal.  Authorities struggle with the ongoing problem of trying to prevent criminals and the poor from chipping away the tungsten from the bridge decks.

Summerwood, Stemma.  Summerwood is a relatively small and extremely quiet coastal town.  During the summer moons the town comes alive with affluent visitors from Esos, including the monarch of Braelin and the Royal Progress.  Many retired knights and mages, scholars, relatives of past monarchs, and other persons of significance make their homes within Summerwood or its environs.  Since Summerwood is technically a port, sea trade does occur, but is limited in scope and importance.  The Summer Palace is located approximately five miles outside of Summerwood and sits directly on the coastline.  It is heavily protected by magical and runic enchantments as well as patrols of highly trained foot soldiers.

Westbrook, Hawksworth.  Originally a small village near the Braelin-Xiros border, Westbrook was later adopted as the seat of House la Penne.  In undertaking a series of reparations after the reign of Aaron the Terrible, the la Pennes instituted a number of innovative changes that could not be found anywhere else in Braelin, including a new, more efficient style of runic architecture; a type of well that required no pumping or hand-drawing; and central heating within every building via underfloor channels.  The family and town have, over time, built up significant diplomatic and economic relations with the neighboring Xiros.  Today it is famous for the natural beauty of its environs and in particular for a series of waterfalls, the Blackshade Falls, that are located in the Paranomos foothills just outside of the town.

Wildehold, Hawksworth.  Founded in 79 by Duke Oliver Hawksworth, Wildehold was originally a small collection of pine cabins in the heart of the Hawksworth wilderness.  Since that time, the settlement has expanded into a prosperous city which sits at the intersection of the duchy’s different counties.  It is particularly well-known for its extensive trade in furs and finely-crafted skin armor.  The Hawksworth family now reside within Arden Castle, more commonly known as the Aerie, but its ruling members still sleep in the original pinewood room that Duke Oliver built for himself so long ago.