Around the Nentir Vale
Fallcrest lies near the middle of the broad borderland region known as the Nentir Vale. The vale is now mostly empty, with a handful of living villages and towns scattered over this wide area. Abandoned farmsteads, ruined manors, and broken keeps litter the countryside. bandits, wild animals, and monsters roam freely throughout the vale, threatening anyone who fares more than a few miles away from one of the surviving settlements. Travel along the roads or river is usually safe-usually. But every now and then, travelers come to bad ends between towns.
The Nentir Vale is a northern land, but it sees relatively little snow-winters are windy and bitterly cold. The Nentir River is too big to freeze except for a few weeks in the coldest part of the year. Summers are cool and mild.
The “clear” parts of the map are covered in mixed terrain-large stretches of open meadowland, copses of light forest, gently rolling hills, and the occasional thicket of dense woodland and heavy undergrowth. The downs marked on the map are hilly grassland, with little tree cover. The hills are steeper and more rugged, and include light forest in the valleys and saddles between the hilltops.
The Cairngorm Peaks
This small mountain range provides a sheltering barrier between the Nentir Vale and the savage monsters of the Stonemarch. Kobolds and goblins infest the eastern part of the mountains, enjoying the same protection from the more terrible monsters of the western reaches.
Winterhaven: Hard under the Cairngorms at the west end of the Nentir Vale lies the remote village of Winterhaven, surrounded by a few miles of farmland and pastures.
Keep on the Shadowfell: Long ago, soldiers from Nerath built a strong fortress over a rift leading to the Shadowfell, hoping to prevent shadowy horrors from entering the world. The old keep lies in ruins now.
The Cloak Wood
This small forest to the west of Fallcrest is infested with several tribes of kobolds-small, reptilian humanoids that live in maze-like warrens filled with deadly traps. Rumours abound that at least one young dragon also lives in the forest, enjoying the adulation of the tiny pests.
Kobold Hall: The wreck now known locally as Kobold Hall was once the estate of a minor lord who came to the Nentir Vale to establish his own demesne. Ruined during the Bloodspear War, the old castle has been abandoned for almost a century.
The Dawnforge Mountains
Named for the legendary mountain at the eastern edge of the world where Moradin is said to have crafted the sun, the Dawnforge Mountains define the eastern boundary of the Nentir Vale. Beyond the mountains, the land grows quickly wilder, for only a few settlements were ever established that far from Nerath’s capital, and even fewer have lasted to the present day. The foothills to the east of the mountains are infested with goblins and orcs, making trade with those remaining towns dangerous and difficult.
Hammerfast: A dwarven hold cut from the rock of a deep vale in the Dawnforge Mountains. Hammerfast is the largest and wealthiest town in the region. The Trade Road runs through the citadel gates and continues eastward beyond the Dawnforge Mountains. The dwarves of Hammerfast look to their own first and don’t give away anything for free, but they are honest and industrious.
The site of Fallcrest’s failed attempt to hold back the Bloodspear orcs ninety years ago, Gardbury Downs is said to be haunted by the spirits of the fallen defenders of the Nentir Vale. Remains of that ancient battle litter the Downs-broken swords, shattered armor, and old bones. Travelers on the King’s Road rarely see any sign of ghosts, but the folk of Winterhaven know better than to wander out on the Downs at night. Orcs from the Stonemarch also appear in the Gardbury Downs from time to time, circling the Cairngorm Peaks to raid into the Nentir Vale.
Gardmore Abbey: This striking ruin is a large monastery that has lain in ruins for almost one hundred fifty years. The abbey was dedicated to Bahamut and served as the base of a militant order of paladins who won great fame fighting in Nerath’s distant crusades. As the story goes, the paladins brought a dark artifact back from a far crusade for safekeeping, and evil forces gathered to assault the abbey and take it back. Rumours persist of extensive dungeons beneath the ruins, which might still conceal the hoarded wealth of the old crusading paladins.
This desolate region was once the home of ancient human hill-clans who lived in the Vale centuries before civilized folk settled in Fallcrest. The hill-folk are long gone, but their grim barrows remain.
The Sword Barrow: This large burial mound stands near the middle of the Gray Downs. The Sword Barrow gained its name because scores of rusted blades of ancient design are buried around its edges, blades pointing inward; a visitor can turn up several in a few minutes of looking around. The blades seen completely ordinary.
This large woodland stretches from the Nentir River to the mountains and extends for miles to the south. It separates the Nentir Vale from the more populous coastal towns of the south. A strong goblin keep called Daggerburg lies somewhere in the southwest reaches, not too far from Kalton Manor; the goblins sometimes raid the river-traffic moving along the Nentir, or send small parties of marauders to Harkenwold’s borders.
An elf tribe known as the Woodsinger Clan roams the eastern portions of the forest. They occasionally trade with the humans of Harkenwold and keep an eye on travelers along the old King’s Road. They have a long-standing feud with the Daggerburg goblins, and the goblins keep to the western parts of the forest to avoid swift and deadly elven arrows. However, the goblins are growing more numerous and have become bolder in recent months.
Harkenwold: 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 Fallcrest’s The people of Harkenwold are farmers, woodcutters, and woodworkers; little trade comes up or down the old King’s Road. The ruler of Harkenwold is Baron Stockmer, an elderly man who was known for his strong sword arm in his youth. He is a just and compassionate ruler.
Kalton Manor: Back in the days of Nerath was settling the Nentir Vale, minor lords in search of land to call their own established manors and holds throughout the area. Kalton Manor was one of these, a small keep raised by Lord Arrol Kalton about two hundred years ago. Lord Arrol intended to settle the lower vale of the White River, but it was not to be-monsters from the Witchlight Fens drove off the tenants Arrol had brought with him. At the end, Arrol and a handful of his servants and family lived alone in a half-finished keep slowly falling into ruin until they disappeared as well. Stories tell of treasure-the old Kalton fortune-hidden in secret chambers beneath the ruined keep.
The frigid waters of Lake Nen hide a mystery. On certain nights, fishers from Nenlast out too late on the lake hear singing-beautiful, ethereal music that fills them with longing. Some never return to their homes, others return forever changed, haunted by their experience. It is said that the boundaries between the world and the Feywild grow thin when the full moon’s light dances on the water, and the music of the faerie court of the Prince of Thorns filters out over the lake.
Nenlast: This tiny human village lies at the east end of Lake Nen. The folk here make a meager living by trading smoked fish to the dwarves of Hammerfast. They also deal with the Tigerclaw barbarians of the Winterbole Forest. When the wild folk choose to trade, they come to Nenlast to barter their pelts and amber for good dwarven metalwork.
Ruins of Fastormel: Once a prosperous town on a shores of Lake Nen, Fastormel was destroyed by the Bloodspear orcs and has never been resettled. The town was ruled by a Lord Mage (the most powerful wizard in town claimed the ruler’s scepter), and the Mistborn Tower of the last Lord Mage still stands amid the ruins of the town. The tower is shrouded in a strange silver mist that never dissipates, no matter what the weather would otherwise dictate.
Perpetually shrouded in icy fog, Lake Wintermist provides ample supplies of fish for the Tigerclaw barbarians of the Winterbole forest and a few homesteads along its southern shore. White dragons frequently appear in the northwestern part of the lake, particularly in the dead of winter when they seek out mates.
Arrayed to the south and east of Fallcrest, the Moon Hills are fairly tame. The area closest to the town is well patrolled by the Fallcrest Guard, but goblins and human bandits are fairly common beyond that area.
Fallcrest: In the decades since the Bloodspear War, Fallcrest has struggled to reestablish itself. The town is a shadow of the former city; little trade passes up and down the river these days. The countryside for scores of miles around is dotted with abandoned homesteads and manors from the days of Nerath. Once again the Nentir Vale is a thinly settled borderland where few folk live. This is a place in need of a few heroes.
Hampstead: At the confluence of the Nentir and Winter Rivers is the small mining camp of Hampstead. Recently gold and silver have been found in the river at the confluence. There is no trace of the precious metals above, in either the Winter or Nentir Rivers, nor below, in the Nentir River, they seem to be isolated to the confluence. Since this discover a permanent mining operation has been built and is growing into its own hamlet.
These desolate hills are said to be accursed by an ancient evil. During Nerath’s height, several minor lords tried in succession to establish manors in these hills, but none lasted more than a single year.
Temple of Yellow Skulls: Legend tells that a rakshasa prince summoned demons to this ancient shrine and bound them to his service by imprisoning their vital essences in gold-plated human skulls.
The Old Hills
Though the hills themselves are no older than any other geographical feature in the Vale, the Old Hills bear signs of the first human settlements in the region: ancient ring-forts built by the same hill-tribes that erected the barrows in the Gray Downs. The remains of these ancient forts appear across the entire length and breadth of the hills, from near Nenlast to Raven Roost and Fiveleague House, both of which were built atop old ruins.
Fiveleague House: Fiveleague House is more properly known as the Fiveleague Inn. It’s a strongly built innhouse surrounded by a wooden palisade. Fiveleague House caters to travelers and merchants coming or going from Hammerfast, a day’s journey (five leagues) farther east. The proprietor is a big bearlike human named Barton.
Raven Roost: This small keep stands at the southern end of the Old HIlls. Once it was the seat of a small manor, but it fell into ruin long ago.
Thunderspire: This striking peak is the largest of the Old Hills. Beneath Thunderspire lies the ancient minotaur city of Saruun Khel. The minotaur kingdom fell almost a hundred years before Fallcrest was established, when a struggle for succession led to a vicious civil war. Strange stories exist of a secretive stronghold where passing merchants can take shelter and trade.
A rugged land of stony hills and deep gorges cut by white-rushing rivers, the Stonemarch is home to tribes of dangerous humanoids and giants. Orcs, ogres, giants, and trolls haunt the farther reaches of these barren lands. Fortunately for the residents of the vale, the monsters rarely come east over the Cairngorm Peaks. A great orc-warren known as the Fanged Jaws of Kulkoszar lies in the northern part of the wasteland; here the chief of the Bloodspear tribe rules over hundreds of the fierce warriors.
Mistwatch: Huddled against a hillside on a stony shore, Mistwatch has an exquisite view of Lake Wintermist’s cold water. A sleepy town, blessed with riches pulled from the unyielding stone in the nearby Cairngorm Peaks, grown rich from timber cut from the Winterbole Forest, and fed well on trout and salmon drawn from the clear, mist-covered water, Mistwatch has long known peace and prosperity.
The vast expanse of the Winterbole Forest defines the northern border of the Nentir Vale and the limit of Nerath’s expansion at its height. The Tigerclaw barbarians, fierce humans who revere the primal spirit called the Hunter of Winter as their totem, were never brought under Nerath’s sway, and remained uneasy neighbors of the empire at its height. They trade with the people of Nenlast at times, but in harsh winters they have also been known to attack the village and simply take the food and weapons they need.
The Witchlight Fens
At the confluence of the Nentir River and the White River, a great swamp stretches for miles. Savage lizardfolk hunt these fens, occasionally emerging from the swamp to skirmish with the Woodsinger elves of Harken Forest.