“Don’t much care who sent you or who you’ve sworn loyalty to—folk here can defend themselves, gainst the likes of you or worse.”
Three days through the woods from Calchester and Castle Arcistroth lies the village of Arkaley. A settlement of no more than 600 souls, mostly farmers and woodsmen, who plow the meadows and clear small patches of the thick forest to live on. As one draws closer to the center of town, there are more and more homesteads, all with doors tightly bolted against the outside.
Arkaley lies on Arcistroth land. In Ursi Arcistoth‘s absence, Reeve Callach settles disputes. With the help of the town’s militia, some 60 able bodied young women and men, he keeps the peace. The town is mostly self sufficient—a farming community with its own smith, miller and so forth. Everyone knows how to cook, repair their tools, and otherwise mind their own business.
Just four miles from town the road from Fern Crossing turns abruptly south, winding through old growth instead of taking the gently rolling meadows. This detour has been there since the town was founded, and is meant to avoid the faerie mounds just east of town. Nobody dares approach the mounds.
The mountains of the Caonach Vale lie only a day’s walk to the west. Mists pour down from the hills, but somehow the town of Arkaley seems to be untouched by the Huldra. Some of the townsfolk still remember when the Great Bear ravaged nearby villages, until Ursi Arcistroth road out to slay it. Even then Arkaley was untouched.
The folk of Arkaley are strange. They have little love for outsiders and a variety of peculiar customs. Town square itself is protected by a pallisade of wooden poles, sharpened and burned at the end, with vine-knot wreathes nailed to their middles. There is a mighty thorn tree growing in the middle of the square, and nobody walks beneath its shadow.
Arkaley’s townsfolk live in constant awareness of the many faeries inhabiting the region. They have developed numerous customs to help them live at peace without being disturbed by the faeries. These include:
- Vines that grow on oak trees can be tied into garlands of three knots. The faeries find these beautiful, and are less likely to meddle with a home or person adorned with such a garland. These can be found around the neck of every watchman, nailed over every threshold, and fixed to every fifth pole around the palisade of the central town.
- If faeries see the vine garlands but find nothing to eat, they will punish the home for bad hospitality. Every home leaves out a bowl with bread, cheese and whatever they can spare for the faeries.
- At night, the faeries walk about the town. All the locals have memorized the faery roads that tromp through the town. To accommodate, they have knocked corners out of buildings, moved wells, and more. Houses often have doors or little windows straight across from each other, to allow the faeries to pass through without becoming lost or cross.
- Mentioning the faeries in any way attracts their attention and incites them to mischief. Even using epithets such as “The good folk” is risky.
- Never walk west towards the setting sun if you are wearing red.
- Convarch Callach, Reeve of the King’s Justice. Since Ursa Arcistroth lives relatively far away, Callach stands as her representative. His family is distantly related to hers—not enough to make him an actual noble, but enough to give him some status. He is a busy and fidgety man, quick to claim the full force and authority of Arcistroth justice against outsiders. His house also serves as the town hall, and his basement as the impromptu jail.
Convarch is particularly wary of armed outsiders. He has heard tales of Baron Yorlen’s tax collectors disguising themselves as travelers to investigate towns.
- Seward the gatekeeper. He hates living under the whim of the local faeries. Seward fought for Ursa Arcistroth ten years ago, and has the injuries (part of his lip is missing, he’s got three fingers on his left hand, and he walks with a limp) to prove it. He trains and runs the local militia, making sure they don’t need Baron Yorlen’s help. Like everyone in his town, he is suspicious of outsiders, but practical enough to welcome merchants and traders.
- Vesta Piota, faithful priestess of Our Triumphant Family. A relative newcomer to Arkaley, Piota came her from the seminary seven years ago. She has earned the townsfolks’ trust through hard charitable work and deep concern for the populace—in particular, her medical education has been invaluable. She is dismayed by the power of the faeries and the care the townsfolk have to take to live safely, and only begrudgingly partakes of the local rites. She has written to the Knights of the Pendant seeking their help, convinced that the faery mounds to the east of town are the source of the enchantment.
- Fiebras the Miller. A quiet man who lives just outside town, he runs the only mill in Arkaley. His twins (a boy and a girl) were the last children to fall into the sleeping sickness that blew in with the Mists of Arkaley. In the last night of the mists, two strangers clad in coarse, simple grey robes came to his home. They went into the childrens’ room and asked the parents to stay outside. Fiebras smelled smoke and heard low voices speaking, and when the strangers emerged, the children had woken and the fever broken. That same night the mists were gone. A day later, Fiebras found a simple but beautiful goblet carved from a single piece of amethyst in the piles of grain. Fearing that the faeries had left it there, he hid it away and wrote to Manard Weaver, offering to sell it.
- Ammy the Innkeep. Her husband is a farmer who works outside the town and comes back to the unnamed Inn to smoke and drink. Their only child died on the last night of the Mists of Arkaley, and the experience has made her bitter and protective. She is eager for coin and sullen, frequently making comments about people dying in the woods, crops failing, and other unpleasant topics.