Essembra
Ruler War-Chancellor Jarath Burlisk
Government Lordship
Religions Gond
Tempus
Population Near 4000
Races Humans 87%
Half elves 5%
Halflings 4%
Other 4%
Imports Clothing, fine metalwork, oil, rope, spices
Exports Ale, cheese, fruit, grain, meat, livestock, wool
Inhabited Yes
Organizations Lord's Men
The Mailed Mantle
Guild of Alchemists

Essembra

The largest settlement in the dale and seat of the Lord since the raising of the Standing Stone, it sits along Rauthauvyr's Road and is bordered by thick forest on its east and west sides, with farmland spreading to the north and south.

The Old Town, as the locals calls it, is the oldest part of the town and protected by a fortification wall. The houses there are old and subject to many additions over the years, giving some of them an almost rickety look. However, the residences here are quite fine and many of the older families reside here.

Of note, within the walls stands Wyvernblade Keep, on the northern hill called Aencar's Watch. It was built by Lord Ilmeth Wyvernblade's ancestor upon his ascension to the title of Lord of Battledale, following the death of Aencar, the Mantled King. It is now the seat of the current Lord of Battledale.

Straddling the road outside of Old Town is the rest of the town - often referred to as Battle Court for the muddy field at its heart where, in days of old, the Lord's Men would muster in defense of the town. The streets are wider, tree-lined, and there are plenty of grassy commons. Homes here tend to be of varying quality, but include several large mansions that have been converted into inns and festhalls over the years. This part of Essembra, having easy access to the road, is better known for commerce and for hosting travellers in the many places of board along the roads.

The town is named for a red-haired adventurer, a woman who carved a name for herself with a sword and a fierce wit. Tales of Essembra the adventurer claim that she spurned an elf lord, strangled a dwarven king with her bare hands in a wrestling match, and finally married a silver dragon. Many of the more popular versions of these, and other stories, are particularly outlandish and bawdy.

According to legend, the statue of the Mantled King in Aencar's Watch was built upon the site of her birth.

Main Article: Lashan's War In 1356 DR, Lashan of Scardale's army invaded Battledale and occupied Essembra. Ilmeth escaped and, with the aid of several dales forces - particularly the Riders of Mistledale - retook the town and defeated the Scardarrans completely.

During the Time Of Troubles, Essembra was briefly occupied by Zhents.

Main Article: Assassination Of Ilmeth

The Hitching Post

The Post is an unexciting but very useful place. This large, well-stocked general store sells oil, spices, rope, clothing from Sembia, parchment and a variety of inks, and fine metalwork from the Moonsea. In other words, it sells all the things that the verdant farms and thick copses of Battledale cannot produce. The sleek proprietor, Rhannon Manycoats, overcharges shamelessly. If customers cavil at her prices, she shrugs and tells them they can no doubt find what they need more cheaply just down the road in Sembia.

Every town seems to have one citizen who knows all, sees everything, and wields a lot of local influence, and in Essembra, Rhannon seems to be the one. Adventurers are warned that this wily, stout little lady is not as old as she looks, has an exciting past adventuring career of her own, and is quite able to defend herself.

This simple stone chapel stands always open to the street, and travelers of any faith are welcome to visit the building.

Swordpoint Shrine is staffed by priests from the nearby Abbey of the Sword, led by Battle-Chaplain Brigid Sannaller, who can recount much of the war history of Battledale. If shown a map, they will readily point out battlefields and known ruins. They will display proudly the rusty shards of a blade said to have belonged to Aencar the Mantled King, as well as a plain dagger left behind in Essembra by Lashan, the self-styled Lord of the Dales, and several more dubious relics such as a blackened blade purportedly used by an elven warrior to slay a local red dragon several centuries ago.

The priests tend the sick and wounded for reasonable fees and also provide bed rest in the back room of the shrine. For tending the injured they ask typical fees (“donations”) for an examination, the dressing and cleaning of wounds, the lancing of swellings, and the application of simple poultices and herbal medicines, and magical restoratives.

The house of the Bold Banners is the most exclusive and expensive festhall in Essembra and probably in all the Dales. The formerly wanton banners for which it is named are now tasteful pennants displaying the badges of satisfied past patrons who have consented to the use of their coats-of-arms as an endorsement.

The kind, graceful owner and senior escort of the Bold Banners is the lady known as Belurastra who inherited the place from its previous owner in 1370 DR. Under her reign, the Bold Banners has lost all trace of the bawdy, and become an exclusive inn and dining club whose heavily padded meeting rooms offer Essembrans and visitors their best venue for conducting private business as well as pursuing private pleasures. As a result, entire floors of the Banners are often reserved for months or even years in advance by Sembian cabals who meet to do business behind closed doors here and unwind only afterward.

The menu of the Banners is varied and accomplished, with a small but judicious selection of wines fronting dishes whose minty or spicy side sauces need conceal no shortcomings in the cooking or portions. The ring of a bell brings swift personal service, or one can choose to dine with one's choice of a comely companion who both enjoys the meal with one and serves one with the viands throughout.

Thanks to its fanciful signboard depicting a blue stag with pegasi-like wings ridden by an elf wearing only a silly-looking winged helm and a sly expression, it is hard to miss this eatery in the walled ward of Essembra. The Elf is also the only place in town that whole families of local citizens can be seen trudging toward early on most evenings.

One would expect such a universally patronized place to serve good hearty food but to also be both crowded and noisy, and one would be right. The Elf is as wild as a busy market. Younglings run everywhere and throw food into all areas they have not yet disrupted. The din is terrific: Everyone bellows away at full blast, and metal dishes and tankards (wisely, they don't use anything else here) crash and clatter in the midst of it all in an almost continuous cacophony.

Board is shared with whoever else wants to worm in beside you, here, and youthful patrons and frequent customers seem to take deliberate delight into breaking up groups or even separating married couples. Visitors often remark that it is a bit like being in the midst of knights hacking away at other knights in full battle - only noisier.

This temple has an impressive facade: broad stone steps ascend between massive pillars that support a portico adorned with gears - stone cogs that turn endlessly thanks to enchantments that also make them glow faintly in darkness. But the quiet splendor of this temple is marred by an air of snobbery and inertia. Here there is none of the excitement over new things and devices seen in other temples to Gond.

Visitors are not allowed to do more than view an entry hall crowded with interesting-looking but minor mechanisms, such as the screw-lift water pump and the two-powder-mix cooking hotplate, while facing eloquent pleas for donations to the greater glory of Gond unless their devotion to the God of All Artifice impresses the underpriests. Then they summon Lord High Smith and Artificer Gulmarin Reldacap.

Only those who in Gulmarin's sole and haughty judgment serve Gond with sufficient dedication (that is, large monetary amounts) and style (conservative and respectful) receive any aid from Essembra's House of Gond. All others are treated to a blessing from the god and a further entreaty to join the faith or, if one of the faithful, an exhortation to renew and strengthen their dedication by undertaking a task of Gulmarin's choosing, and then shown the door.

This row of rental warehouses is named for its most attractive fixture: the fat, furry, constantly snoring monstrosity that is the owner's pet cat. Indyn Dunstable is a spice merchant who grew tired of the ruthless, frenetic cut-and-thrust of Sembian trade and retired here to eke out a more meager but much easier living by offering clean, secure, no-questions-asked rental storage to all interested patrons.

The rules are: no unsecured magic, no kidnap victims or other living captives, no molds or other fungal growths, and no live or undead monsters can be stored. Everything else is fine. The staff will tend plants that need watering and take care of similar minimal maintenance tasks.

The warehouses are constructed of fused stone (that is, stout stone blocks melted together by magical means) and seem able to withstand almost everything. Each wall is pierced by a door and a ventilation grating, both of massive metal construction and covered by rolling shutters of even heavier metal. One can readily see the rooftop ballista emplacements, the triple-key locking system (so that intruders must overcome three specific guards to gain entry), and the standing guard contingent. Above each door is also a weighted drop net that those on the roof use without hesitation to entangle intruders even if their fellow guards are embroiled in some sort of fray. At least half of the guards are expert slingers who strike first at anyone who looks to be employing any sort of magic.

Many adventuring bands virtually make Dunstable's their 'base' while on forays in the area, but be aware that he does not allow patrons to cook, eat, bathe, or sleep in his warehouses, and that he removes all goods in rental space no longer paid for into safe storage cellars underground nearby. These cellars have their own guardians. Goods are recovered from these storage cellars only upon payment of the lapsed daily storage fees plus a penalty, though Dunstable can be flexible in negotiations with the needy.

Findar's is a pleasant, crowded place dominated by trestle tables, shavings, half-finished items, and the smell of fresh-cut cedar. Run by a man who seems eager to help, Findar's is a fast-growing business: The wing that houses a selection of ready-made chairs and travel chests seems as new as the wares it contains. This wood-worker and carpenter also deals in nails of all sizes, hooks, and locks. Findar tries to have at least one sample of each regular (not custom-made or specially ordered) item he makes on display, which makes this shop very useful to the traveler in a hurry.

Findar is a young, slim man with a pointed black beard and an air of nervous energy. He is no fine craftsman, but his work is solid and dependable and boasts reinforced corners and stress points. A dozen local youths are learning the trade as apprentices alongside him and with ever-growing orders for packing crates and strongchests from Hillsfar and Sembia, their hands are needed.

This shop does more than just make wheels. It is a fast, efficient assembly line where teams of skilled workers, under the watchful eye of fat, shrewd, old Sarguth, make, repair, and refit wagons.

While-one-waits jobs are always steeply priced here, but the replacement of single wagon wheels at Sarguth's is cheaper than at the Hitching Post, and here the coins cover the lifting of your conveyance and installation of the wheel, whereas at the Post you simply come out with a wheel in your hands and some crippling work ahead of you.

Tantul's, the local brewery, is where one can buy flagons, handkegs, or butts (cart-sized, and requiring at least six people to shift when full) of the thick, nutty-flavored local brew, Tantul's Dark. This stout is doctored with crushed berry juice and even more secret ingredients and is very much an acquired taste. Its spicy ropy thickness makes it almost a meal rather than a thirst-quencher! If you like what locals call proper Battledale beer, however, this is the place to buy it.

The fat, lazy brewers here seem to partake liberally of their own wares and are rarely hurried into doing anything. One may also notice that huge wheels of cheese and black bread seem to be lying on every handy surface ready for carving and eating with one's fresh-drawn tankard. However, it's said that the waiting knives buried in the bread or cheese are quite often adorned with an equally fat, lazy rat eating its fill.

Named for its curious serpentine-carved spiraling door pillars, this notorious shop deals in interesting artefacts and magical items.

Because of the door detailing, rumors linger that this old, lofty-ceilinged building was once a temple to some dark serpent god - a rumour that many believe was proven true upon the demise of previous owner Duskar Flamehaern.

Adderposts is now home to a small cadre of Red Wizards Of Thay, who continue to operate the establishment as a shop and conduct their own private research projects.

Battle Court is a muddy, open courtyard astride Rauthauvyr's road, originally set aside by ancient proclamation as “a marshalling ground for armies in times of red war” though time and growth of Essembra has caused the grounds to shrink by encroachment.

For many years, Battle Court's primary use has been a marketplace where local merchants and travellers alike can set up stall and peddle their wares, free from the taxes that brick-and-mortar shopkeepers are obliged to pay.

This justly popular inn is a favorite stopover on Rauthauvyr's Road. Folk can easily find it by the large, open, lidless staring eye that looks across the road painted on the side of the inn. The eye was liberally used for target practice by drunken crossbowmen during Lashan's occupation and hence has a worm-eaten look.

This large, half-timbered building looks like just what it is: a converted former manor house. The ground floor is made of stone and has arched casement windows whose shutters have been adorned with crude but striking silhouette carvings of dancing bears, leaping stags, charging boars, and running hares. Drainpipes lead down to huge rain barrels at many places along the walls. Chimneys at either end of the angled building and at its bend (underlaid by the busy kitchens) keep folk warm in winter, and the building’s large windows are opened in hot weather to let breezes blow through. Overall, the Eye is a solid-looking, welcoming place with good furnished rooms, even if it is a trifle sparsely and simply decorated.

At one time the Eye was home to the now-extinct Iskyl noble family exiled from Chessenta. The Eye still has the extensive storage cellars they dug out, including one, local lore whispers, that stretches out into the trees north of the inn and comes to the surface there. This long tunnel cellar is supposedly how the three beautiful daughters of the innkeeper escaped the hands of Lashan's soldiers. These cellars formerly held great quantities of food and firewood against the harsh winters when the manor stood in wooded ground outside the small village of old Essembra, and kept the riches of the family safe behind concealed doors, as well as holding the bones of fallen Iskyls. Some of the Iskyl riches are still hidden down in the cellars in now-forgotten hiding places, or so the tales go.

The Watchful Eye offers comfortable accommodation, but its fame is built on the output of its kitchens. Housewives of Essembra line up at the serving shutters of the kitchens to take home the same thing that guests crowd into the dining room for: the best chicken and turkey pastries in all the Dales! Folk come from all over Battledale to dine here from a menu that consists of little more than drink, various pickles, roast boar, venison, hare, sauces, and the famous pies. Not a few rich and haughty Sembians who hurry past the crude backlands of the Dales on their important travels between their own realm and the bustling cities of the Moonsea make a point of stopping here to eat. Their expectations have led to small but steady improvements in the amenities offered to guests, so that the Eye has become a good, —if not spectacular, hostelry.

The owner of the Eye, Chesduk Malrit, is a weary and bitter man today. The death of his wife some winters back took all the life from him, it seems. He spends most of his time these days walking the woods and smoking his pipe and lends a hand with inn work only to repair chairs, tables, doors, boot jacks, and other wooden items that need work or replacement. Luckily for travelers, Chesduk's three daughters, energetic, laughing beauties who have grown adroit at resisting the blandishments of many smitten guests over the years, have taken over the running of the Eye without any formal agreement or arguments.

Until Lashan of Scardale occupied Essembra and slaughtered most of the folk working at this establishment in search of the woman who tried to slay him when he commandeered her bed with her in it, the Green Door was the most riotous and notorious festhall in all the Dales. Its roaring parties and ribaldry, however, concealed its secondary role as a shrine sacred to Mielikki.

The Door is a place of pilgrimage for followers of that forest goddess because it stands on the site of a pool whose waters held visions sent to her faithful by her. These tranquil waters, now preserved in their own wooded backyard bower, are the real 'Green Door', not the green-painted front entry door that most folk think the establishment's name comes from.

The faithful claim Mielikki appeared in person to the famous ranger Florin Falconhand here, and that it was Mielikki's hand that caused the three swordsmen who slew the ladies of the Green Door on Lashan's orders to wither like dead leaves and die horribly, desiccated into hollow husks. Worshipers of the Lady of the Forest still come here for private reverence, and the proprietors do all they can to make them welcome.

Lashan's word, however, did what the most scandalized Dalesfolk could not: It ended the Green Door's reign as the foremost festhall in all the Dales. These days it is officially just an inn, though some say the permanent guests on the third floor provide the same escort services formerly so brazen and popular at the Door.

The Door is run by four half-elven ladies. Elves and the half-elven are particularly welcome here. The Green Door is now a house that is clean, simply furnished, and given over to quiet rest. Harping chambers have been set aside at the hearth end of each floor for people to meet and talk in, but the layout of the building provides no common hall or taproom. In a touch harking back to the true meaning of the inn's name, wall tapestries throughout the building display splendid forest scenes.

The oceanic theme of this festhall is hard to miss: Blue-green draperies are hung everywhere, interspersed with titillating paintings of bare-breasted mermaids and naiads, flanking pedestals bearing marble miniatures of the striking life-sized sculpture that dominates the front hall: a mermaid rising from a wave with a longing expression and both arms outstretched to embrace the viewer. Except for these sculptures and the plethora of very beautiful and well-dressed ladies wandering the halls with decanters and goblets in their hands, the Mermaid resembles the best inns everywhere. It is clean, brightly lit, and tastefully furnished. Good meals (firmly in the good hearty roasts roadside inn style) are served in a dining room on the ground floor.

All 'festive' activities take place behind discreet closed doors except in the cellars, where a spiral back stair leads down into the Mermaid's Grotto, a spell-lit, lukewarm bathing pool where guests and staff can frolic. Here wine flows freely, and private bowers and dive-tunnels sprawl on all sides. There are even rumors that a real mermaid dwells down here in the dimmest depths and rises to embrace wicked men or those who mistreat her staff members, dragging such miscreants down to drown in her embrace. Merilee Glesta, the Lady of the House, smilingly turns queries about such mermaids aside and gives no straight answer, likely intending to perpetuate this legend.

The Silver Taproom is the most popular stopping place for travelers anywhere on Rauthauvyr's Road in Essembra. The Tap, as most regulars call it, specializes in swiffly serving ice-cold draft (or in winter, hot cider) and a meat-filled hand pastry meal to one's stirrup or wagonboard. Its popularity comes from the fact that folk with their coins ready can get food and drink in a trice and continue on to camp elsewhere outside of town.

Once an inn and later a guardpost before being converted to a tavern and then a fully-fledged inn again, it presents an impressive front to the road with a welcoming front archway flanked by a hatch out of which the well-trained tavern staff deal with wagons and riders pulling to a stop outside the gate.

Travelers who pull their wagons in beside the inn or surrender their mounts to the hostlers and go inside to enjoy 'a sit by the Tap' with the locals find themselves in a justly popular, pleasant taproom. The room is hung with stag's heads and candlewheel lanterns, crowded with glossy-polished tables, and filled with folk good-naturedly chuckling away over jests. The spirit of the place is warm and friendly, and a small stage is laid out for any passing bard to ply his trade for as long as he wishes.

The Tap offers hand meals - that is, pasties and filled buns that one can eat one-handed while drinking or riding with the other - and a small selection of good beers. Brandies, sherries, and a few white wines can also be had. Fare at the Tap is made on the premises. Roast fowl and stewed sauces are ladled into buns baked in the kitchens or pinched into dough with spiced potatoes, mustard, and cold cut roasts. The only form of hand food not served here is the sausage, because the owner, Roliver Thynd, has a hatred of sausages or more precisely, of the cold, decaying lumps of fat and offal that his mouth found in the sausages that were fed to him when he was young.

Local lore tells that those who drink at the Tap overnight may be overcome by a strange magical curse that clads them in ghostly armor and sends them into the night to murder men who served in Lashan's invading army. In recent years, these happenings are said to come less often, and the folk of the Tap just keep quiet about the curse unless pressed for information in the presence of someone obviously afflicted by it, hoping that each affected drinker is the last.

The name of this dark, smoky drinking spot comes from a fight between the one-time proprietor and his wife.

Business was slow and getting slower thanks to bad beer and a rougher clientele than other local tankard houses, so Baloout Ornysh unwisely told his wife Daera to stop waiting on tables and start dancing on them. She refused in no uncertain terms, and said it would do more to bring in the louts if he danced on the tables instead! A fight developed and raged throughout the tavern, to the vast amusement of patrons, before it ended in Baloout's unconsciousness. During the festivities, he was struck in the face by no fewer than four (frozen!) thrown fish from his own larder.

Business has picked up over the years, and all of the taverns in town are now full from the time when roads grow hard enough to be used in spring to the first bad snows of winter. Through three sets of subsequent owners, however, the tradition of throwing fish has remained. The current owners are a couple from Daerlûn, the half-elven Taladar Snowstars and his human wife Ildaeryle.

The Four (as locals call it) now does have hired dancers atop its larger and sturdier tables from time to time, but patrons who take liberties with them or who disturb the peace are likely to hear a shouted chorus of “Fish!” moments before a cloud of frozen and rather battered-looking longjaws strike them down. These fish are kept for the purpose and reused.

It is popular in Essembra for folk who have no money to bet with to offer to eat the most shapeless longjaws from the Four if they lose. This amusing tradition aside, travelers will find the Four to be very ordinary. Dim lighting in the Four conceals flies in the beer and a general unclean condition, and no one stops customers from getting too drunk to hold in previous meals or keep their manners. The dark atmosphere lends itself to all manner of unsavoury meetings and deals being brokered in the shadows, and few 'respectable' Essembrans would admit to venturing here (especially if they occasionally do).

Like the name implies, a place that offers very cheap lodging, generally by providing only minimal services. In this particular case, services equal to none. Those with a phobia of rodents are often swiftly discouraged from renting space there, despite the temptingly low price.

See also: Guild of Alchemists

A tall building near Battle Court, the Guild of Alchemists opened in 1374 DR and boasts laboratories, workshops, and dormitories for alchemists who work to supply the official market stall.

This waystables is busy night and day swapping fresh horses to travelers in exchange for their lame, exhausted, or mistreated mounts. To keep his reputa tion good, Beldarag never sells any mount he has just received in trade. This way sick and lame animals have a chance to heal, and the truly useless mounts do not earn him a customer's ire. (All such trade animals are taken to Beldarag's farm just outside Essembra.)

Beldarag is a very good judge of horse, and has bred certain of the beasts he has acquired in trade so shrewdly that horses bearing his own sword-and-stars brand are now ranked very highly in the Dragon Reach lands. Local Dale farms provide Beldarag with most of his stock, though, and the produce of other farms feeds the animals. The one-eyed old ex-warrior gets good prices on feed because he always harvests and takes away what he needs himself, freeing the farmers from the hauling work and expense.

Many merchants using Rauthauvyr's Road swap mounts here even when they do not really need to, knowing that they will get good horseflesh in the peak of condition.

This smithy is known as 'Durn Blacksmith' to some folk because that is what the sign over the door says. Here lives and works Durn the Red, a jovial giant of a man who once fought as a hiresword all over the Inner Sea lands. He once picked up a haughty Zhentilar commander in full plate armor and with one arm threw the man, underhanded, across the smithy, out its open door, and into the horse trough outside a good six paces beyond.

Many Essembran folk tell tales of his breaking what he deemed an inferior sword blade simply by grasping it at both ends, barehanded, and pulling his fists down and toward each other! Most of the time, however, Durn spends his days hammering out horseshoes and tools of solid, dependable quality. His scythe blades are favored by farmers all across the Dales.

Durn loves to make swords of large size and his parlor trick to impress haughty visitors is to casually snatch down a two-handed sword from the rafters and with a single backhand swing, not looking at his target, 'behead' a solid oak post as large around as the great helm perched on it!

Durn does not want to become every Sembian's pet swordmaker, however, so he requires both huge fees in advance (up to ten times the normal price of a blade) and notice of a month before beginning work on a commission. Durn must be wealthy, but shows no sign of having a great deal of money. He employs only a few apprentices and lives simply, enjoying the company of ladies awed by his mighty size and strength.

The local place where animal skins are processed, Greyarch also acts as a local cobbler, glovemaker, and saddler. Local hunters purchase fine travelling leathers here, and many Abbey of the Sword scouts and various adventurers do the same.

This grist mill serves the needs of both local farmers and the brewery in town. Its millstones are powered by horses harnessed to the spoke spars of two gigantic driving wheels. The horses walk endlessly around and around in the straw-covered turf when the mill is grinding, working in hour-long shifts that overlap slightly, so that one wheel is up to speed before the other winds down to a stop.

Miscreants may be sentenced to a day or a shift at the wheel, pushing or pulling as they please in their manacles. A memorable event in recent years is often recounted as an example, where a band of brigands was caught lurking shiftily in the woods near the north field by the Lord's Men. They had no loot and hence could be convicted of no crime but failing to leave the area when ordered to do so by the Lord's Men on an earlier patrol. They were sentenced to dawn-to-sundown duty at the wheel.

As the brigands numbered 14, all the horses were unhitched from one wheel and the brigands alone, men and women, sweating together were harnessed in their places, with cleverly knotted ropes tied about each of them and one other brigand to prevent them from pulling free of their places. Once word got around, many of the townsfolk turned out to watch and even bid for chances to switch the increasingly hot and exhausted brigands with twigs. Not one of the brigands lasted through the whole day until sundown. By eveningfeast only two warriors (who had recovered from being pulled by their fellows earlier) were left grimly plodding along, dragging the groggy, scraped, and bruised bodies of their fellows through the straw.

The brigands were revived, tended overnight, and in the morning put to work at the pull wheel again to finish their shifts. It took the weakest of them most of three days to accomplish one day's worth of shifts. When the punishment was done and they were freed, they all fled and have not been seen in Battledale from that day to this.