The largest community in the region is the walled town of 2000 people, known as Darkfort, or in the dwarven language as Khalat Khulaz, referencing it as the site of an old dwarven outpost along the lake, now claimed by the local human settlers as their garrison fort. The elves call it Tirin’Nsa, or the “Town of Lies”, which says a lot about both of how the elves view the community, and how they view the other races as a whole. Humans, halflings, dwarves and elves mix in the streets so freely, that it is rarely commented upon by the locals, and when they interact, they generally treat each other as equals. Some might be gruff or impolite, but there is no obvious malice.
The first Burk-Lord of the town Vosh Daemon originally divided the town into four sections, each with no interior walls and little overlap in their purposes; the Residential District, the Market, the Artisan’s District, and the Warehouse District. Later, wealthy merchants and adventurers built themselves the exclusive Elven District to the southeast of the town, and before the walls were finally erected, the clerics of Nolom claimed a section of land north of the wealthy borough, and built a notable temple and its supporting complex.
The life-blood of Darkfort is its trade, which moves in and out of the region through the central town Market, marking it the business center of the entire region; virtually anything produced in the region is available in Darkfort. The local Burk-Lord and the influential citizens of the town would never do anything to jeopardize commerce, and eagerly work with the merchants to resolve any problems quickly and amicably. When trouble arises, the town guard are always available to provide immediate aid. Small wonder then, that the primary town concern is its market, and that the market is in the center of town.
Where the street from the Gatehouse enters the Market, lies the Hall of the Mangai, where the guild masters of the various guilds conduct their affairs. As most of the local trade occurs within bowshot of the Hall, the place is busy most of the day, and much of the town’s bulk trade occurs within its walls. The Hall is often visited by the wood-elven diplomats from the Gaunt Forest, who ensure quotas are maintained at reasonable levels, and keep the forest harvest under a careful watch. As a result of these controls, the timber and charcoal trade has never been particularly lucrative, but is still important to the town’s economy.
North and east of the central Market lies the Residential District, built on a sharp incline of local stone, astride the main gates and overlooking much of the town. The houses are typical for a frontier community, but are larger than you might expect, many with deep stone foundations. These homes are clean, well kept, and well lit, and usually painted in bright, cheerful colors in contrast to the stone walls around them. Vandals are not appreciated or tolerated by the town watch. Both the Gatehouse and the Darkfort are found in this district, key to the defenses of the town. The finest inns line the street from the Gatehouse to the Market, cutting straight through this district.
Darkfort Docks and the Warehouse District
In the northeast section of town, is the Artisan’s District, wrapping itself around the Market. Its shops provide all the basic goods one might want, from exotic perfumes to basic iron spikes, and dwarven artisans figure prominently in its activities. Some items are imported from outside the region, making them more expensive, but such luxury goods often have simpler local equivalences in the region, and are brought to market regularly. While the hideworkers and chandler’s are allowed workshops in the town, they must, by law, maintain their rendering shops outside the city walls.
Craftsmen are traditionally quite peaceful, and there is always a need for more bakers (millers), clothiers, potters, and skilled masons/woodcrafters. Most operate from small workshops with one or two apprentices, and live upstairs with their families from the same place their fathers and mothers trained them in, passing down their skills generation to generation. While the bowyer weaponsmiths are the most prominent guild, with their black and white checkered window shutters and doors, bakers from the miller’s guild and hideworkers also hold positions of prominence.
Another aspect of the Artisan’s District, is the town hall, which dominates the local architecture. A mothalla of impressive size, it provides the town with its administrative clerks and offices for its town council, but the central great hall where its citizens gather to elect new councilors, and discuss matters of urgency still dominates its position. The Burk-Lord keeps his residence in the hall, though he might also have a personal dwelling elsewhere. During busy market days, it is flooded with clerks, emissaries from other communities, messengers, map-makers and merchant agents, all on business for the town.
The Temple District lies on the eastern part of town, fast against the walls, and behind its own interior stone barricade against casual intrusion., However, the grounds are generally open to visitors, so stealth during the day is largely unnecessary. In addition to the Temple of Nolom and its barracks, the complex also maintains a small hospice under the watchful eyes of a small number of Amalthean priests, and has a small school dedicated to training new acolytes and teaching those who can pay for an improved knowledge of Nature, History and Religion. They also teach several common languages.
Directly south of the temple, lies the stately manors of the wealthy, thrusting their turrets into the skies above the Elven District. Separated from the town by its own thick stone wall with three small gates, the private estates of the wealthy are kept from casual eyes, and while they are not particularly pretentious, they appreciate privacy and quiet. Diplomats, merchants and successful traders all dwell here, and a great deal of bulk trade occurs within its walls. Heavily armed persons are likely to encounter the bodyguards of the wealthy, demanding them to leave, unless proof of business can be presented.
The Warehouse District and the docks squat in the protected harbor in the southwest part of town. The warehouses hold goods shipped from the villages, mines and farms of the region, holding virtually everything that makes its way to the town’s Market. Jewels, spices and many other luxury goods are kept safe within the district, and are carefully watched over by the town guards.
The docks are a thriving center of trade, with wine, lamp oil, spices, salt, pottery, dyes and other exotic goods arriving almost daily, while grain, wool, the handiwork of the dwarven smiths, leather work and other craftsmen is shipped out. Livestock (cattle, sheep and poultry) are kept in a closed-off pen near the docks for sale to the butchers of the town, together with fish and wild fowl. Cheese, eggs, roots and herbs also make their way to market, but rarely through the docks. There is also a small shipyard that produces the trade barges popular among merchants.
The Black Company
Town Watch : All inhabitants of the town are required to possess and train in the use of the short bow or the long bow, which makes every citizen a passable, if not excellent archer. Only the best, however, are entered into the roles of the town watch. The Town Watch are free men, who must muster at regular intervals to the sound of the horns (with the number of blasts identifying which company must muster) from the gates. They do not wear a livery, but tend to employ black-fletched arrows, as all locals do, as a sign of pride in their community. Many of these archers are talented, and take pride in their skills.
These volunteers serve one day in five, these one-hundred warriors provide troops to serve the town as watchmen on the walls, the market, the docks and the main gate. In addition to their torches and an ample supply of arrows, they each carry a small brass “duty horn” used to summon more of their kind to danger, fire or theft. They only muster as a whole during market days, or when the town is endangered. The armories at the Darkfort supply the bulk of their provisions and arrows, but they also keep two small small watch posts; one in the Warehouse District docks, and the other next to the town gates.
Black Company : Officially titled the Royal Archers of Darkfort, the Black Company are the elite of the town guards. They number fifty members, hand-picked from among the best hunters and warriors of the town, to serve the community full-time. They are easily recognized through their customary black cloaks with a white fur lining, but often wear other black garments, and have no other marks of distinction, rank or lineage beyond the badge of their office, the burning beacon tower of Darkfort. These elite archers are supposed to hone their skills at all times, and have the license to access any place they deem important for the purposes of town defense. They are usually found in the Darkfort practicing their skills and making their own black-fletched arrows.
The founders of the town always intended to build walls around the town, for they realized the frontier community would need protection if its was to flourish. On the other hand, they were not eager to limit the size of the community, and delayed their construction until later generations could no longer ignore the town’s defense.
Eventually, the town elected a Burk_lord who was intimately familiar with the dangers of the frontier and nearby Beast Shards, He contracted the handful of dwarven masons and craftsmen in the region, and construction of the walls took the better part of two years, finishing just in time to defend the city from a gnoll army. The town has avoided other attacks since, and its citizens remain grateful for the walls that protect them from the dangers of the frontier lands.