Way of the Wicked
“If it exists, you can find it in Ghastenhall.”
Center of trade, knowledge and culture
Government: hereditary autocracy
Population: 82,000 (65,600 humans; 10,600 dwarves; 3200 halflings, 1620 half-elves; 650 elves, 80 aasimar; 250 other )
- Lord Hadrian of Ghaster – Duke of Ghastenhall
- Cardinal Leo Arestes
- Brother Cassius the Stricken
- Mayor Samuel Tynes
- Evelynne Grandel – banker and richest person in Ghastenhall
- Baron Albert of Harlyn – Captain of the Baron’s personal guard
- Thane Turin Brightmetal – respected dwarven leader
- Professor Tiberius Feign – tenured professor of arcana at Ghaster University and one of the most powerful wizards in Talingarde
One of the three great cities of Talingarde, Ghastenhall is by the far the most cosmopolitan and liberal. Compared to the orthodoxy of Matharyn and the rigid legalisms of Daveryn, Ghastenhall is a hub of trade, art, theater, learning and culture.
Ghastenhall is a city with one foot in the past and one foot in the future. The duke is the last gasp of the old Barcan nobility that used to rule this island. His grandfather marched to war against the Victor. Of course, the old duke was also wise enough that when defeated he swiftly swore fealty to the new king. Still there is a lingering wound there that has never entirely healed.
But at the same time, Ghastenhall is at the forefront of Talirean art and culture. Virtually every new book and play written in Talingarde comes from this city. Most new music and fashion are born here. Almost anything truly new in the kingdom likely originated here. If you know what’s happening in Ghastenhall, you know what’s happening in Talingarde.
The City Upon The SCAR
The city of Ghastenhall sits upon one of the most prominent natural features of Talingarde – the great Godscar river. The Talireans consider the mighty Godscar to run from Cambrian Bay to Lake Tarik but in fact the same geologic feature actually divides Talingarde in twain running fom the bay to the northern sea. This flooded fault line slashes through two mountain ranges and hints at the violent prehistoric birth pangs of the Isle of Talingarde long ago. The dwarves, long accustomed to the havoc the earth can wreak have a saying “Father Mountain does not sleep forever”. The same could be said of the mighty Godscar. It will not sleep forever. But fortunately for Ghastenhall, it sleeps for now.
Today the Godscar river is the life blood of the city. The Godscar is a massive body of water. Though not that long it is wide and it routinely manages to be a mile across. At its widest it is over five. Some veteran river sailors remark that the Godscar is not a river. It is a long lake that connects Lake Tarik to the sea. This is not far from the truth.
The Godscar teems with fish and sea life. The scarpers (slang for freshwater fisherman) head out every morning with the dawn in their little boats and cast their nets into the thriving lake. Their hauls of trout, char, steelhead and river salmon quickly make their way into the fish markets alongside the southern docks and by lunch fill ten thousand cooking pots throughout the city.
Every once in a great while a monster comes down river from the northern seas – often a bunyip or a giant moray eel – and makes trouble on the lake. Old scarpers still wag about the time a sea serpent took up residence near the mouth of the Godscar. The so-called Sea Devil ate a dozen men before the duke hired some monster hunters to catch it. When it was dragged out of the sea it measured seventy two feet tip to tail. Its skull still decorates a famous eatery in the tenth quarter of town known as the Devil’s Diner. The food is excellent and, if you book in advance, you can actually sit in the booth with the head
looming above known to local’s as the Devil’s Bite.
It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the Godscar to Ghastenhall. The reason the Castle Ghasten is here is to watch the entrance to the river. The reason there are so many people here is the bounty of the river. The reason the soil here is so rich here is ancient topsoil laid down by the river. The Cambrian Bay and the saltwater port have made the city rich, but the Godscar river is what allowed the city even to exist. Ghastenhall has been sometimes been called the Gift of the Godscar and this is
A City Without Loyalties
You need only glance at the Ghastenhall coat of arms to see that the city of Ghastenhall has shifted masters many times. In the center is the Mitran Sun. In the upper left quarter is the Darian blue and white. In the upper right is the Barcan Griffon. The Red and Green of the backgrounds are colors used by the old Iraen tribesmen who once owned this isle before the Talireans came.
Yes, Ghastenhall has known many masters. The city is wise enough to bow before whoever holds the throne, but the truth is that most Ghastens (sometimes derogatorily called Ghastlies by outsiders) think of themselves as their own tribe. It is to themselves that their first loyalty will always lie.
Ghastenhall claims to be the oldest city in Talingarde. This might actually be true though no one can be certain. It has a certain sense to it. The rise overlooking the Godscar where the Castle Ghasten currently stands is a natural defensive position. The nearby river and sea are rich sources of food. And freshwater is available in the Godscar. Further, the surrounding foothills of the Eastern Ansgarian mountains are rich with strong stone. If you look carefully in some of the old quarries you can see evidence of crude stone blocks cut from the pits by tools not made of iron. Men have made this place their home for countless centuries.
But even if there is somewhere on the island an older settlement, it matters not. The Ghasten think of themselves as an old and established folk. They take the long view on politics and power struggles. Maybe House Darius and the Mitrans will reign for a hundred more years. Who can say? But will they reign forever? Certainly not. There are Ghasten alive today who remember when the current duke’s grandfather marched to war against Darius to support the last Barcan king. Buy them an ale and they’ll tell you now what they said then. It was a mistake to get tangled up in such struggles. The city of Ghastenhall was not directly threatened. What did it matter whether the kingdom flew the colors of Darian Blue or Barcan Red and Green? Either regime would need their port and need their river.