Breath of Zehir
The town of Orspring arose from the ruins of a larger city destroyed during a great war centuries ago. Its people are friendly but rather bland, and its main source of commerce is the traffic to circumvent the massive waterfall at the town center. The town is eerily perfect: there are no beggars or pickpockets, no graffiti or vandalism, in fact nothing that is ugly or out of place, and the people are always cheerful and ready to help.
- Population: About 1400.
- Government: Bureaucracy. Association with one of the city Guilds is mandatory, and the Guilds are highly structured internally. The Guilds themselves are organized into Departments which follow another political structure, eventually forming a ruling council. Lord Faustus is at the top of the hierarchy, and all are ultimately answerable to him.
- Religion: Orspring is unusual in that it is a monotheistic state in a polytheistic world. Its citizens dare not utter their deity’s name, but only espouse its doctrine: that their deity is the one true god and all other gods are false, to submit to and serve the one deity totally and completely, and to evangelize to all heathens, pagans, and demonolators the one true faith, through force if necessary. Public hangings of ‘heretics’ and ‘witches’ are held weekly.
- Commerce: Due to the multiplicity of guilds and the rigid hierarchy of the government, there is almost certainly someone responsible for what you want, and just as probably they won’t have it. Even with all the red tape, one intelligent, persistent, and patient enough can work their way through the system to achieve almost any goal they have in mind.
- Organization: All citizens must have issued identification at all times, and citizens of higher status have almost absolute power over those of lower status. Rank is based on the value of precious metals, from the lowliest slaves (wood) through iron, bronze, silver, and gold, to the High Council (platinum). Visitors may apply for a Visitor’s Permit that grants temporary Iron status at any of the town gates, although the amount of paperwork to be filed and weeks of waiting mean forgeries are common.
The keyed locations on the map indicate various districts of the city.
- North Watchtower: This old lighthouse was built on a small island to warn travelers downstream of the waterfall ahead, and had added fortifications to guard the town from attack.
- Upper Quays: Boats proceeding downriver must stop here and offload their cargo, which is then portaged through the town to the Lower Quays and loaded onto boats below the falls. Likewise, cargo heading in the other direction is carried up to these quays and loaded aboard boats bound upstream.
- Five Arch Bridge: Any western approach to the town must cross over this ancient stone bridge, built by dwarven artisans. It also marks the end of the safe part of the river, as anything venturing farther downstream is in danger of being swept over the falls.
- Hell’s Gate Inn: The last (or first) free establishment outside the town, Hell’s Gate sees a wide variety of clientele, catering to those who want to enter the town and can’t, or those who have been expelled for some reason. It is well known for its variety of liqueurs, and a good room with two single beds goes for 5 sp a night.
- Knight’s Gate: The northern gate leading to the Tiamat’s Teeth foothills consists of strong outer doors of iron-reinforced timber and an inner portcullis between a pair of small stone towers. The portcullis is normally lowered at sunset, and the gates close only in times of danger. The gatehouse barracks accommodates five guards plus their sergeant.
- The Courtesan: For many years, the Courtesan has charged high rates for its well-appointed rooms and attractions. The entertainment is second-to-none, showcasing the best bardic acts in the northern Moonsea and fabulous shows of magic skill. A room in the Courtesan costs 2 gp per night, with rates for other ‘services’ available upon request.
- Doug’s Mechanical Marvels: A gnomish artificer, Douglas Tinkercuss maintains a menagerie of magical constructs that he rents and sells as an alternative to the slave labor so common in the town. He is fond of children and plays host to automated puppet shows on the square outside his shop.
- The White Tower: The seat of Lord Faustus, the White Tower is an old castle that sits atop a steep-sided hill overlooking the town. The outer bailey includes barracks housing up to sixty guards. At any given time about twenty or so are off-duty. Other buildings in the courtyard include a stable, an armory, a chapel, a smithy, and several storehouses. The keep is the large D-shaped building at the north end of the castle.
- The Tombwood: Along the southern slopes of Whitehill grows a large thicket that has never been entirely cleared. Within its tangled paths lies the old castle cemetery (now heavily overgrown), as well as a battle-mound dating back centuries, said to be haunted.
- House of Healing: Orspring once supported several good-sized temples located in the Hightown districts. The former House of the Sun, a temple dedicated to Pelor, has been reestablished as a homeless refuge and sanctuary, and stripped of all traces of its former dedication.
- House Xanthe: A small, well-off trading company, House Xanthe is owned by the tieflings of the Xanthe family. They import goods (including arms and armor) from Hillsfar, Elmwood, and the lands to the south, and organize caravans out to Zhentil Keep several times a year. House Xanthe is an excellent place to purchase nearly any interesting wondrous item, although its prices are a little on the high side.
- Thundering Falls: So named for the constant roar of rushing water, the River Vulcan here descends nearly 200 feet in three striking shelflike drops. On the small island in the middle of the falls stands the statue of a humanoid holding aloft a rod topped with an enormous ruby the size of a watermelon. Local legend tells that it depicts the town’s patron deity, though it is forbidden to form idols in its image or to take the god’s name in vain.
- Church: The large, impressive stone temple to the town’s unnamed and unseen god is simply known as the Church, as there are no other temples present. It is finished with Orspring’s native marble, and its main hall is a large rotunda with a 30-foot-tall dome. Bishop Nicholas is a charismatic human paladin who oversees two lesser priests and several acolytes—townsfolk who spend part of their day tending the temple. Nicholas is absolutely convinced of the superiority of his god’s dogma, and acts as High Inquisitor in purging what he perceives as threats to his rule.
- The Bluffs: Orspring is divided in half by a great cliff snaking northwest to southeast across the town. The bluffs average 150 to 250 feet in height. They are not strictly vertical, but are too tall and steep to be easily climbed. Someone leaping (or pushed) off the upper edge would fall and roll about 70 feet before sliding to a stop, likely on a precarious ledge.
- The Catacombs: The limestone bluffs between the upper and lower parts of the town hold a number of caves, which have been used for everything from crypts to wine cellars. They are currently off limits to anyone below Silver rank.
- Great Hall: Orspring’s leadership is dedicated to the education of its citizens, and provides a free public school for citizens of Bronze rank and above. Guild leaders are encouraged to serve as professors, and great ceremonies are held here to initiate young adults into their chosen guilds.
- Sunshine Stables: Robbie Herriot owns this business, providing travelers with tack, harness, stabling, shoeing, wagons, and just about anything dealing with horses, mules, or ponies. He keeps a larger corral about a mile outside of town, and at any given time Herriot has several riding horses, draft horses, or mules in his paddock near Wizard’s Gate. The man is an excellent source of rumors, since he sees the travelers coming or going by the roads. He is a friendly fellow of about forty, with a large brood of children at his home out in the countryside.
- Wizard’s Gate: Orspring’s eastern gate is known as the Wizard’s Gate, because it’s the gate most convenient to the Ivory Tower. The road to the east travels a few miles into the surrounding hills, linking a number of outlying farms and homesteads with the town.
The gate resembles Knight’s Gate in construction, and is similarly watched by a detachment of five guards and a sergeant.
- Nova’s Imports: Considered the finest of Orspring’s retail establishments, Nova’s Imports deals in gemstones, jewelry, art, and magic trinkets. The owner is Orest Nova, a tiefling who displays impeccable manners and discretion. Orest corresponds with relatives and colleagues in several towns and cities around the Moonsea; given a few weeks, he can order in mid-level magic items or other items of unusual value. Similarly, Orest purchases interesting items such as these, since other dealers in distant towns or cities might be looking for them.
Orest doesn’t ask questions about where characters in his store found the goods they’re selling to him, but he is not a fence—if he knows that something was obtained illegally, he declines to purchase it.
- Avarid Estate: This is the home of the baron Amos Avarid, a wealthy landowner who collects rents from scores of farmers and herders living in the countryside nearby. Amos is a brusque, balding human of about fifty who makes a show of loaning money in good faith and exacting only what the law allows—but somehow he has quietly bought up dozens of free farms over the years and turned their owners into his tenants.
- Orspring Falls: A small, swift stream flows through the town to meet the Vulcan river. Its source is the spring that gave the town its name, and in ages past the first settlers would pan for gold here. The stream is rarely more than 20 feet wide or 5 feet deep. The town’s children love to play in the pool at the base of the falls in the summertime, and the spring is the town’s primary source of fresh water.
- Ivory Tower: This lonely structure is a tall, seven-sided spire of cream-colored stone that doesn’t match anything else in the town. This is the seat of Orspring’s mages’ guild—an order of a dozen or so wizards and arcane scholars. The elderly wizard Pocket is master of the guild, who expects any potential new guild members to pay a hefty initiation fee. He is incessantly curious and has trouble staying on one line of thought, but can teach a limited number of rituals, including Comprehend Language, Eye of Alarm, and Enchant Magic Item.
The topmost level of the tower is a room that includes a permanent teleportation circle. Characters using travel rituals can set this circle as their destination (although they’ll certainly startle old Pocket if they do).
- Spiked Punch Alehouse: This brewhouse on the banks of the Orspring stream is the town’s obligatory hard-as-nails tavern. The sullen drow Sasha Graybottle stocks a collection of strong ales flavored with pungent spices, and hard liquors that border on poisons. The Spiked Punch hosts refereed boxing, wrestling, and animal bloodsports, and gambling is strictly regulated by the house.
- Ivan’s Arms: The duergar Ivan Ironhews is the town’s master weaponsmith and armorer. He is a garrulous old fellow who spends his time trading stories with his customers with a pipe clenched in his teeth, while his apprentices (two of whom are his sons) do the work. Make no mistake—Ivan is a master armorer, and under his supervision his apprentices turn out work of exceptional quality. He is fond of exotic materials such as mithril or dragonhide, and will happily fashion a masterwork item if someone brings him the raw materials.
- King’s Gate: Orspring’s southern gate was destroyed in the attack that devastated the city long ago, and as the road is not well traveled, it still has not been entirely rebuilt. One of the two paired towers is nothing but rubble, and several large gaps remain in the town walls south of the bluffs through which anyone could enter the city. Despite its lack of functionality, the King’s Gate is still used as a guardpost by the Orspring guards.
- The Market Green: The majority of Orspring’s folk live above the bluffs in Hightown and walk down to do business on the streets of Lowtown, which bustle with commerce. This wide square is an open, grassy meadow where Orspring’s merchants and visiting traders do business in good weather. The town’s children gather here for games of tag or kick-stones.
- Sandercot Provisioners: Once the largest general store in Orspring, Sandercot’s has been vacant for several years ever since its proprietor, Noma Sandercot, was arrested and imprisoned for fencing stolen goods. Despite the boarded up windows, it is free of squatters and is well maintained by the city until a buyer can be found.
- Lucky Gnome Taphouse: The Lucky Gnome is widely regarded as the cheapest and coarsest of Orspring’s drinking establishments. It caters to the porters and laborers who work the nearby docks, and fistfights are a nightly occurrence. Unlike the Spiked Punch, fights at the Lucky Gnome almost always end with some or all of the parties involved being dragged off in manacles.
- Lower Quays: Keelboats and similar craft put in here to unload their cargo and portage it up to other boats above the falls. As described above for the Upper Quays, the porters’ guild jealously defends its monopoly on moving cargo around the falls, and it frequently attempts to extort travelling merchants into paying for portage services—whether needed or not.
Stavros Twotalon docks the Blue Moon here when he is conducting business in town.