Part three of the Compendium of Lands Around Blackwater Lake, the gazetteer for the Northumbria campaign. These are being published out of order because the next Beckett family adventure takes place in the village. Part two, describing the keep, is coming later this month.
Agents of the Frangian Crown supposedly founded the village of Lakesend about the same time that they laid the foundations of the nearby keep, about one century ago. From a military standpoint, the sites seem odd in that they are located over one mile apart. Considered separately though, each site makes sense. The keep sits on the shore of the Blackwater Lake to control the Narrows, a narrow body of water at the southern tip of the lake. Ships going northwards or southwards any significant distance must pass through the Narrows, and a garrison there can control the river trade. Meanwhile, the village sits astride a small river that comes down from the hills and then splits, one part running northward into the Narrows and the other part running southwards to form the headwaters of the mighty Blackwater River. Considering the distance between the two settlements, one can see a weakness in the arrangement, for an enemy can isolate both settlements rather easily.
Why is this a problem? On the outskirts of the village are fertile fields, now the site of several small farms. It seems that the village provides most of the Keep’s agricultural stores. Though the Keep sits on the shore of the lake, its garrison may have difficulty feeding itself on fish alone, especially in times of war. In addition, flocks of sheep and goats graze on the nearby hills, providing additional food stores for the Keep in times of war. Loss of the village could be catastrophic to the Keep. Baron Blackwater should remedy this strategic weakness before an enemy army attacks either settlement.
Administration in the Village
The Baron placed the village in the hands of his son, Lord Melias Blackwater, who serves as the village reeve. As reeve, he handles all military, economic, and judicial matters. The villagers speak glowingly of Lord Melias, whom they describe as kind, honest, fair, generous, and jovial. They hold him in the highest regard. Considering the village’s vulnerability because of its distance from the mighty Keep, many villagers see Lord Melias as their true protector. He has not shirked that role either. He seems to be the driving force behind the various defensive construction efforts in the village (see below).
The village seems relatively defenseless. It has no existing walls as of this writing. The only fortification of note at present is a large, stout, four-story, stone tower called Lakesend Keep. The garrison here is currently small—about twenty men—but more could certainly shelter inside its walls. In an emergency, many or all of the villagers might find shelter inside, at least for a few days.
A second stone tower is currently under construction nearby. Together, these will form the beginnings of a motte-and-bailey, designed to give shelter to all villagers in times of war. Work gangs are currently digging the moat, piling up the rampart, and constructing the palisade, but work is not finished.
Though lacking adequate fortifications, the village does boast a small militia. At present, this consists of a captain, a few sergeants, and 40-50 various men-at-arms. They are not uniformly equipped, and there is no legislation on the matter. If someone raises the hue-and-cry, each militia member is duty-bound to muster immediately. Failure to do so is punishable by beating or death. The captain has the authority to order a beating, but only the village reeve, or the Baron himself, can authorize an execution.
Important Figures in the Lakesend Keep Garrison:
Lord Melias, Village Reeve: The late Baron’s third son, he is often clad in plate and drilling the local militia. When not in armor, he is often supervising construction efforts, inspecting fortifications, or visiting the villagers. As previously stated, locals adore him. If he has a weakness, locals suggest that it is a rivalry with his older brother, Lord Balin.
Sergeant Ash: I have found little about this man at this time.
Sergeant Randal: I have found little about this man at this time.
Important Figures in the Lakesend Militia:
Gaufred Farmer, Captain of the Lakesend Militia: The elderly captain, clad in chainmail, oversees the drill of the village militia about once per week. He tends to be kind and encouraging, and many villagers see him as a father figure of sorts. He is no disciplinarian though.
Sergeant Tancred Farmer (Gaufred’s son): The eldest son of the captain, often clad in chainmail, keeps a pretty low profile. Most see him as a lazy dreamer who cares too much for mead, but careful observation suggests that this may be an act. Despite what others think, he can be rather attentive to detail, and he seems to have great knowledge of the forest.
In a settlement as small as Lakesend, there are no real industries, per se. There is a small cadre of professional fishermen, a small group of lumberjacks, who work for the woodcutter, a few independent farmers, and a few herders. In addition, various craftsmen provide basic services. As small as the village community is, it relatively self-sufficient in the following items: lumber, barley, rye, oats, freshwater fish, poultry, eggs, furs and pelts, leather goods, honey, beeswax, certain herbs, and local beer.
With some degree of regularity, the following items arrive in Lakesend by boat from the south: trained animals (including warhorses), chain armor, melee weapons, exotic cloth (silk, velvet, brocade), exotic trinkets and jewelry, wheat, dried fruit, fresh fruit, saltwater fish, glassware, lock mechanisms, pots and pans, sundry items made of tin and copper (not in abundance locally), whale oil, vellum, inks and paints, salt (in bags or blocks), certain spices, fine wines, and ale. Wandering entertainers, visitors, and occasional dignitaries also arrive on a regular basis (and leave just as frequently).
A significant driving force behind the local economy is a small guild of merchants that ply their wares along the waterways that run from the ruins of the Varangian Realm in the north to the port of Yarrvik in the south. This influential group, called the Guild, operates out of the nearby Keep.
The Blackwater family also drives the economy, demanding little in feudal dues that are common elsewhere, such as agricultural labor. Instead, it claims a monopoly on a rare local metal called Celestial Iron. By most accounts, this metal seems to come from meteorites, which seem to strike the hills around Blackwater Lake with some regularity. The Baron hires many prospectors to locate the wondrous ore, and he buys it from anyone, paying a fair price. Those that do not sell their ore to the Baron will have it confiscated without compensation.
Rumors related to village economics:
1. The Baron sells all of his ore to the Guild, a right that it jealously guards.
2. Each year, the Baron sells about 4800 ounces of Celestial Iron to the Guild for 70 gold pieces per ounce. That totals 400 ounces per month (about 34 pounds), which bring the Baron about 336,000 gold suns per year, or 28,000 gold suns per month.
3. The Guildsmen send the ore by riverboat to the Frangian port of Yarrvik, where they sell it to the noble Chelmsford family, which manufactures blades of the finest quality. This family reportedly purchases each ounce of black ore for 100 gold suns.
The West Bridge
This stout wooden bridge leads into the village of Lakesend from the southwest. A Baronial toll collector often sits here at a bench and table under an elm tree, while at least one Baronial guard stands nearby. This is one of two bridges in the village. As the road going east leads only to the Keep, there is no toll for the East Bridge. The road west, however, leads either south towards Yarrvik or north towards the old Varangian kingdom. Thus, foreigners use this bridge the most, which is why the Baron imposed a toll on it.
Bertram the Toll Collector: This short, middle-aged man is rather jovial. He always seems bored and eager for news of distant lands. He has a tendency to pick at his nose with his fingernail.
Rolland, Baronial Guard: This guard, clad in chainmail and carrying a sword and shield, has a deep voice, though he often says little. He bears a horn, which he can blow to bring reinforcements from Lakesend Keep down the road.
The Welcome Wench Inn
This large building seems to be the central hub of social activity in the small village. It has a square wooden sign showing a buxom and smiling girl holding a flagon of beer. This place is renowned for its good food and excellent drink. Passing merchants make a point of stopping here, as do many other sorts of wayfarers, and the place is always filled with patrons. Even members of the Blackwater family supposedly eat here with some regularity.
Food and drink prices at the Welcome Wench are a bit higher than usual because the quality is renowned and the area is prosperous. Imported brews supplement the locally brewed ale and beer, while wine, mead, and brandy from several distant lands make their way to the boards of the Welcome Wench.
Meals are served on pottery or pewter or copper services according to the order. Various leather jacks, pottery mugs, wooden tankards, pewter steins, glass flagons, crystal goblets, or silver chalices are used for potables.
The upper rooms are very clean, and all except the common dormitory are heated. Each has a fine bed, many covers, washstand, chamber pot, towel, pegs for garments, and several chairs and stools. The larger rooms have armchairs, tables, footstools, bed warmers, curtained beds, and good rugs on the floor and wall hangings as well.
Emery Innsman, the Innkeeper: This tall well-built man has pale blue eyes and gray-brown hair. He is meticulously clean with both his person and his inn. He is generally upbeat, well-spoken, kind, reasonable, levelheaded, and law-abiding. Most locals see him as a pillar of the village community. He can be firm at times, but he always tries to be polite and formal. He tends to rub his hands together very often.
Margery Innsman, his wife: A tough and energetic woman, she runs the kitchen of the inn, overseeing the cook, the serving wenches, and the scullions. She also sees to her two daughters, Alice, and Emma. She has little contact with guests.
Other Staff: This includes Tor and Rolf, the teenage grooms that care for guests’ horses. It also includes Joan, Lina, Rose, and Aria, the serving wenches. Aria is notably comely and only nineteen-years-old. Tal the Cook is a gruff middle-aged man. Ric, Odo, and Adam are the three scullions, each in their early twenties. Ebel and Erec, the two potboys, are youths of about ten-years-old.
The Temple of St. Cuthbert
Though not as old as the shrine at the nearby keep, this structure serves as the main area of worship for most of the villagers. During the same period in which the Frangian Crown was enlarging the keep, devout pilgrims and wealthy locals funded the construction of this building. Though not as impressive as the large abbeys of St. Cuthbert, this building is quite impressive for a small village like Lakesend.
As the shrine in the keep predates the temple, the shrine’s vicar is the highest-ranking authority of St. Cuthbert in the Barony of Blackwater. The curate of this temple answers to him, though relations between the current curate and vicar are said to be sour.
The temple itself sits upon a hill, overlooking much of the village. In its gardens there are many beehives, and the temple is known for its rich honey, which is uses for medicinal purposes as well as for food.
Father Talbot, Curate of the Temple: The middle-aged Cuthbertine priest is mostly bald, with brown hair in the back of his head and a well-trimmed, matching brown beard. He has brown eyes. His posture is always perfect, and locals say that he always has a stone-like look on his face, regardless of his actual mood. The Curate, as a member of the Cuthbertine order of the Cudgel, is an enforcer of orthodoxy. This explains the awkward and unfortunate situation between him and his superior, Father Godfrey at the Keep. Talbot refuses to obey his superior, having found him in willful violation of several Cuthbertine traditions and Frangian customs. Most locals have mixed feelings on the Curate, for though he seems inflexible and arrogant, he is also kind and generous to those in need. Furthermore, no one questions his devotion and honesty. Father Talbot’s known passion is beekeeping.
Brother Simon: This tall, middle-aged man is big-boned and stocky. He has blue eyes, gray hair, a clean-shaven chin, a big smile, and bad teeth. Brother Simon is very active in seeing to the daily needs of the villagers. One can often find him visiting the sick, checking on the elderly, and feeding poor pilgrims.
Brother Kellan: This middle-aged man has gray-streaked brown hair, brown eyes, and a well-trimmed, brown beard. Locals say that he is good with numbers, and he keeps most of the temple’s records.
The Trading Post
This complex is made of two wooden sizable buildings, surrounded by a wooden palisade. The two co-owners sell a wide variety of tools and basic gear. The selection of weapons is somewhat limited, and available armor is rather sparse. Basic mounts, along with all tack, are available too. Prices are high, but no higher than elsewhere in the Barony. The whole front building is filled with various goods, and the barn has animals, saddles, and the like available to anyone willing to pay the price.
To avoid a price war, the two owners have reached an agreement with the provisioner in the Keep. They sell practical items, ranging from tools and mounts to armor and weapons, while he sells luxury items. For the most part, they adhere to the agreement.
Master Arnould: This obese merchant is slow, clumsy, and mild-mannered. He has some brown wispy hair on his otherwise balding head, and his palms are often sweaty. He wipes his face often and usually has a mug of cider close by. He is courteous enough though, especially compared to his business partner.
Master Dagonet: The thin merchant is somewhat tall, with sharp, birdlike features, protruding brown eyes, and thin brown hair. Most of the time, he is fussy and dour. It seems that he cannot sit still, and he often picks and pulls at his ear. He is less than welcoming.
The Money Changer
This small cottage features a small storefront with an apartment in the rear. The moneychanger here has sole rights to sell Baronial trolls (at 22 copper wheels per string of 10). He tends to do business mostly with passing peddlers, travelers, and pilgrims, as these types gravitate to the Welcome Wench Inn in Lakesend as compared to the Keep. Some say that he invests in Guild ships, which sell cargo along the rivers. He keeps a hulking Varangian mercenary named Torsten, whom he pays well to avoid bribery.
Ingram the Money Changer: This fast-thinking, middle-aged, former merchant is rather reclusive, though locals say that this behavior is somewhat new. He has short black hair, grey eyes, and is in good physical shape. Locals say that he is firm with fees but fair. He tends to call everyone his ‘good friend.’
Ingrid’s Hearth (Brothel)
Though I have no first-hand knowledge of this place, the locals have much to say about it. Some housewives understandably curse its existence and wish that the Baron would drive the whores from their village. Others, mainly the men, are more tolerant and generous. Most agree that such a house would never exist in a village as small as Lakesened were it not for the garrison of the nearby Keep. Its men regularly frequent the establishment.
Madam Ingrid: This tall, big-boned, and heavy Varangian woman seems to have sex appeal, even at 45-years-old. Her gray-blond hair is well perfumed and dressed, her corset is very revealing, and she always has a glint in her eyes. The locals agree that this robust and larger-than-life matron is very protective of her girls. She is talkative, cheerful, relatively kind, and worldly. She often has her hands on her hips, and she supposedly pinches the cheeks of handsome men, regardless of whether they like it.
Rumors related to the brothel:
1. Madam Ingrid is saving her considerable coin for a new building, much larger and more respectable.
2. For fear of theft, she keeps her coin at the Keep. The garrison, most of which is grateful for her services, ensures the protection of her establishment, her girls, and her coin.
3. Some of the girls said to dwell at Ingrid’s Hearth are Adela, Agnes, Breda, Vicia, Beatrice, Elie, Bella, Roh, and Yvonne.
4. Sir Uriens is a frequent visitor, though everyone is sure to point out that he simply checks on the girls. The quickness with which locals point this out is suspicious, especially given the man’s temper.