Shadows Over Ustalav
The Town of Ravengro
Ravengro at a Glance
Ravengro was founded in 4594 ar to support Harrowstone, a prison built to answer the growing need for a centralized repository for criminals in the county of Tamrivena (now known as Canterwall). Count Eigen Lorres, one of the last counts to rule Tamrivena before the county switched to its current government, was not a well-liked ruler.
In an attempt both to bolster his failing reputation and bring money into Tamrivena’s coffers, he announced the construction of Harrowstone, a prison that would not only house all of the county’s prisoners (thus removing them from being incarcerated locally), but that for a price, would house dangerous prisoners from all over Ustalav. Count Lorres’s plan worked perfectly—not only was the transfer of criminals out of local jails seen as a boon throughout the county, but other counties also responded well to the invitation, sending caravans of payments to Tamrivena and caravans of prisoners to Ravengro. The town of Ravengro itself was always intended to be little more than support for the prison. Not only would Ravengro provide a place for the prison’s employees to live, but it would also provide all of the supplies needed by the prison—food, water, tools, weapons for the guards, and anything else necessary.
Historians often point to Harrowstone’s unfortunate destruction in the fire of 4661 as one of the trigger events that eventually led to the entire region’s bloodless uprising in 4670—the prison’s loss, combined with the government’s inability to rebuild the site (or, more likely, its lack of interest in doing so), certainly disenfranchised the citizens of Ravengro, who by the time the region was ready to abandon hereditary rule were all too eager to accept the new democracy. Since that time, while Harrowstone has remained a constant reminder of darker times, the town of Ravengro has recovered remarkably.
Today, the town is a healthy farming community blessed with fertile fields and orchards. The town’s chief products are wheat, barley, and corn. Because the town is close to the shore of Lake Lias (“The Great Blue Dot”), Ravengrians can supplement their food stores with fish, but fishing is not sustainable as a commercial enterprise.
Despite their success, Ravengro’s citizens are the town’s greatest hindrances to expansion. Insular, they take some time to warm to strangers and often damage new opportunities for trade with their standoffish attitudes. Yet as hesitant as the townsfolk are to talk to strangers, they are all too eager to talk about them. Rumor-mongering and gossiping are traditional pastimes among the townsfolk, especially when it comes to strangers. Without a steady supply of unusual visitors to town, they’d be limited to unwanted pregnancies, and speculations upon their neighbors’ prosperity—the arrival of strangers in town puts folk in an awkward state, in which their desire to avoid contact with possible troublemakers comes into direct conflict with their curiosity about new faces. As a result, visitors who make plain their intention to stay in town for more than a day typically receive the bulk of Ravengro’s hesitant curiosity.
POINTS OF INTEREST.
A. Town Square
A simple wooden gazebo at the center of a grassy circular plaza serves as the hub for Ravengro’s major festivals and gatherings. The town council also uses the gazebo as a platform for major announcements. When their labor allows it, farmers who have musical talent often converge here, forming impromptu bands. The town square is also where the local farmer’s market gathers every Wealday. The town square is the most likely place to encounter Old River, the town dog. Old River has been ownerless for more than a decade, but the citizens of Ravengro have taken to looking after it—the dog has become something of a beloved town mascot. Old River is particularly protective of the town’s children, following the smaller ones if it spots them running off alone. The dog almost always spends its evenings sleeping under the gazebo steps.
B. The Posting Poles
The best sources for local news in Ravengro are the posting poles located throughout the town. Here one can find dozens of messages tacked to one of the five huge posts jutting out of the ground—generally, all five posting poles have identical notices, but periodically one or two messages might be missing from one of the poles. Pevrin Elkarid, the oldest son of the owner of the Laughing Demon, has taken the role of Post Boy for the last 3 years, charging 1 cp to transcribe five copies of a post and then ensuring that the copies are posted for at least a week. It is at the Posting Poles that the locals leave news of nuptials, job postings for farmhands, or notices of missing pets. The most popular regular item at the Posting Poles, however, is the “Wealday Parchment”—a weekly posting written by elderly councilman Gharen Muricar that summarizes Ravengro’s current politics. Occasionally, it even carries news of events beyond Ravengro’s borders. The “Wealday Parchment” is the closest thing Ravengro has to a weekly paper.
C. The Laughing Demon
Zokar Elkarid holds the philosophy that of the world is with a jest, for if one can laugh at the worst life has to offer,there remains little to fear. His warm and friendly tavern does its best to live up to this admirable philosophy, down to the menu. Zokar takes pains to come up with humorous names for his drinks and meals, with offerings like vampire steaks (cuts of beef skewered on thick wooden spikes), wolf balls (lamb meatballs served on plates painted to look like the face of the full moon), corpse chowder (a thick stew with red broth and chunks of meat), and liquid ghosts (a sweet pale ale that glows faintly with a greenish tint). Zokar and his regulars enjoy telling visitors tall tales about what’s really in the food served here.
D. Ravengro Town Hall
In classic small-town style, the people of Ravengro use this all-purpose facility for virtually everything, including council meetings, wedding receptions, and, when it rains, even the annual cook-off. Town council meetings are generally scheduled on the first Oathday of the month, and often last well into the night.
E. Temple of Pharasma
This temple is devoted to Pharasma, the Lady of Graves. Ravengro’s only religious structure, the temple is also the town’s most elaborate building. Its eastern facade displays an intricate stained-glass mural depicting a stern Pharasma judging Count Andachi, one of Tamrivena’s most infamous previous rulers. Vauran Grimburrow is officially in charge of the temple, but the day-to-day tending of the flock and maintenance of the temple and the Restlands (see area P) are largely seen to by a dozen acolytes . The sale of church goods is also the acolytes’ responsibility.
F. Ravengro General Store
Goods of all kinds can be procured here, especially tools and everyday items such as pots and pans. Luthko and Marta Avanaki run the store with their five girls. While the store caters to local needs, the Avanakis keep in stock most adventuring gear, tools, and tooll kits listed available. A display suit of masterwork full plate stands inside the entrance to the shop.
G. Ravengro Forge
Jorfa is one of Ravengro’s most jealously guarded assets, for her skill at the forge is out of keeping with what one would expect to find in such a small town. Jorfa never speaks to her neighbors about her past—she’s lived in Ravengro for so long that locals see her as more of an institution than a neighbor. In truth, Jorfa had a promising career in the Five Kings Mountains as a soldier, but on one patrol she panicked and abandoned her platoon during an attack on an enclave of duergars. She didn’t stop running until she reached western Ustalav, where she heard a call for skilled crafters to aid in the foundation of a new town—Ravengro. Jorfa arrived only a month after Harrowstone was finished, and has lived in Ravengro ever since. Now approaching old age, she’s taken on a few promising apprentices but remains tight-lipped about her life before she fled her kin—she still worries that she’s being hunted for deserting her platoon. Jorfa isn’t the oldest person in town, but she’s certainly lived in Ravengro longer than anyone else. She’s kept to herself for the past century or so, though, and despite her long life has relatively little insight into the inner workings of Harrowstone. While the majority of her work for Ravengro consists of tools for farmers and fisherfolk, she often forges weapons and armor as well. Most of these works she sells to visiting collectors, but she keeps a good selection of weapons and armor on hand (including several masterwork weapons and suits of armor).
H. Jominda’s Apothecary
Jominda Fallenbridge keeps a well-stocked supply of pharmacological provisions, both herbal and alchemical. She sells most common alchemical items and common material components
for spells and a good selection of magic potions.
I. Ravengro Jail
Ravengro itself has never been a crime-ridden town (despite—or perhaps because of—the presence of Harrowstone), and its relatively small jail has always been more than enough to handle the town’s criminals (mostly public drunkards, vandals, or other minor thugs who rarely spend more than a few days in a cell). Indeed, the cells are typically empty, which is fine with the town’s sheriff, Benjan Caeller. Yet despite the town’s dearth of criminal activity, the sheriff likes to keep a tight lid on things by employing four part-time deputies: Leromar, Riff, Trestleblade, and Vrodish . Each of these deputies spends a few days per week working as farmhands on one or more of the outlying homesteads. Most of the policework involves keeping order at the town taverns and making sure everyone stays calm and honest when the tax collectors from Caliphas ride through town.
J. The Silk Purse
Farming is a tough business. Drought, pests, and f loods can make a year’s hard work vanish in an instant. To keep one’s farm af loat, those lucky enough to own land will often pledge it to a moneylender for credit. Others must pledge a percentage of the gross income from their next season of labor. Fortunately for Ravengro’s farmers, the Silk Purse is always ready to provide loans. Two moneylenders work out of this building, Luramin Taigh and Quess Yearburn —security is provided by a small group of eight loyal mercenaries who live in barracks on-site. At any one time, the Silk Purse has a few thousand gold pieces’ worth of coin on hand for loans and a few thousand more gold pieces’ worth of collateral in the safe room. The Silk Purse also sells old collateral (mostly gems and jewelry) that farmers were unable to buy back after the terms of their loans expired.
K. The Outward Inn
The board and breakfast provided by Sarianna Vai come highly recommended. The inn has 10 rooms, though it is rare for more than four to be occupied at any one time. Local musicians and storytellers often visit the main f loor and basement tavern in the evenings, performing for coppers at the smaller, more intimate gatherings. Only if the place is really jumping can Sarianna be cajoled into performing herself. Although now retired, she was once a singer of some repute in Caliphas, and her voice remains strong and beautiful to hear.
L. The Unfurling Scroll
When their parents can afford to spare them from the farms, a few “lucky” children are sent to study under Alendru Ghoroven , a retired wizard-turned-teacher. Alendru teaches reading, history, and math, as well as beginning magical theory. He seeks to elevate “the commoners,” though few of his pupils enjoy the strictness of his classes. In addition to teaching, Alendru supplements his income by buying and selling minor magic items (primarily scrolls) that he’s purchased or created. He offers many 1st- through 3rd-level scrolls for sale, along with a fair number of low-priced magic items.
M. Council Member’s Home
There are four members of the Ravengro town council. Most live in generously-sized houses on the outskirts of town.
M1: Vashian Hearthmount and his family dwell here. Hearthmount is a retired military commander
who settled in Ravengro and took up the mantle of leadership largely so he could retain a sense of self-importance in his old age. He is the most experienced councilman—the other three look to him for guidance more often than not.
M2: Councilwoman Mirta Straelock was born and raised in Ravengro. She was the original owner of the town’s tavern, but sold it many years ago just before she took up public office. Popular and earthy, she is the most public face on the council.
M3: Councilwoman Shanda Faravan is a native-born local who served abroad as a royal accuser. She returned home after a scandal involving a prisoner she thought was innocent but who instead played her for a fool. She doesn’t speak much about her time as a royal accuser as a result.
M4: Councilman Gharen Muricar is just a few years junior to his lifelong friend Vashian Hearthmount, but acts like a man half his age. He’s the most up to date on matters outside of Ravengro, keeping the council abreast of national events, and also serves as the city’s unofficial historian. His reputation as something of a rake has not diminished much in his old age—but he’s such an institution in the town that most of the citizens take his lechery in stride, regarding it as “mostly harmless.”
N. The Lorrimor Place
This modest home was, until recently, the home of Professor Petros Lorrimor and his daughter Kendra. With the professor’s recent death, Kendra has been left the house as her inheritance—whether or not she chooses to stay in Ravengro is an unanswered question, though,for she yearns to see more of the world.
O. Harrowstone Memorial
Other than the looming ruins of Harrowstone , Ravengro’s most distinctive landmark is a 25-foot-tall, moss-covered stone statue that overlooks the river. The statue depicts a proud, muscular human man dressed in leathers and wielding a truncheon—a depiction of Warden Hawkran. A total of 25 names—the guards who died in the fire of 4661, as well as the warden’s wife, Vesorianna— are chiseled into the statue’s stone base. The memorial is a popular meeting spot for late-night trysts among Ravengro’s young lovers, for it has just the right mix of tragic romance and spooky ambience without actually being on Harrowstone’s supposedly haunted grounds.
P. The Restlands
Behind the Funebrial is a large stretch of moorland reserved for interring Ravengro’s dead. Thanks to the Pharasmin church’s influence in town, Ravengro’s graveyard is large and well tended. Tradition dictates that whenever one passes by (or through) the Restlands, one must always first draw a spiral on her heart as a sign of respect. The sign wards against the risk that the traveler’s passage will disturb the sleep of the departed.
Q. Gibs Hephenus’s Shack
This ramshackle building is home to one of Ravengro’s most foul-tempered retired farmers—Gibs Hephenus.
This reminder of Ravengro’s original purpose looms over the town from atop its bleak hilltop, a constant inspiration for tall tales and bad dreams.