Northolt is an independent city in the northern Valacia. It stands as a waypoint of sorts between the Har Wastes and the rest of Valacia along the river X. Northolt is the launch point for caravans braving the dragon-infested wastes to trek north to Sylvia Wood and beyond to the Elven land of Vaedijhal. It is also a melting pot of outcasts, entrepreneurs, criminals, adventurers, and the wealthy elite. While it may not have the splendor of some of the southern cities, almost anything can be found here…for a price.
Humans 50%, Halflings/Gnomes 25%, Dwarves 10%, Elves 5%, Other 5% (note: Elves and Dwarves can often be found in Northolt but few are residents or citizens)
Northolt lies east of the sheer Sinister mountains and along the X river and is the closest settlement to the Har Wastes. It is a walled city with the western portion of the city boasting higher walls and no gates or land-based entrances of any kind. The eastern portion has gates in the north and south at a road that runs adjacent to the river as well as a smaller eastern gate that leads into settlements that reside outside of the city walls. The city is divided into districts and includes a large park (east), a town square (east), an arena (west), a grand bazaar (central/east), a red light district (west), and several large structures devoted to prominent guilds and organizations (throughout). DM note: there is a second city of near comparable size underground that is well maintained and allows for access to nearly anywhere in town. This was originally constructed as a fail-safe from an undead siege after the town was retaken following such an attack. Much of the undercity, often referred to as “Suholt,” is mapped and accessible to citizens and the public as a way of life, but even more is hidden away for unsavory purposes including escapes from the city and the undermarket (black market).
The government of Northolt is primarily a republic governed by guilds. There are two governing bodies: The 5 of 8 (aka “the Five” or “the Counsel”) and the 3 of 8 (aka “the Three” or “the Small Counsel”). The former attends to laws and administration, the treasury, taxes, diplomacy, city defense, and commerce. The latter functions at the voice of the public and has veto power over the former. The Five is made up of 10 persons, 2 each from the elected guild (one in residence and one at large), and members are elected to 5 year terms. The Three is made up of 6 persons, 2 from each elected guild, who serve 1 year terms. Details on elections and duties below.
No religions are currently barred in Northolt and many of the Gods have temples within the city walls. The Church is also neutral ground for worship and provides space for any and all religions. Necromancy is punishable by death with no trial—one of the few unquestioned laws in the city. Magic is otherwise subject to laws similar to carrying weaponry, though mind control (if it can be proven) is subject to harsh penalties. Laws and restrictions regarding religion and magic can be fluid over the years depending on which guilds hold power.
The city’s primary defense is the wall with mechanisms in place for barring entrance from all city gates and via the river. The undercity is constructed as a bunker and has structures and tunnels enough to easily house the city’s population in the event of a siege. The western wall is perhaps the most defensible position and has historically been the point of attack for the undead hordes that raze the city every few centuries. The river is used as a moat on the northwest and southwest shores when attacked from the west given the only land-based entrances are east of the river. The city boasts a small army made up of trained soldiers who also function as the city watch. Their numbers are bolstered during wartime by the warrior’s guild, adventurers, and mercenaries commonly found within the city walls.
Given its remote location, Northolt’s primary imports are foodstuffs, animals, news/info from Valacia, and various crafting materials. Additionally, magic items, weapons, and armor are the primary imports from the north. Exports include finished goods, magical wares, fish, art (especially fine glass and sculptures), and adventurers.
As with any large city there are numerous organizations housed within (and outside) the city walls. Of note are the 8 organizations (guilds) who make up the counsels, as well as several lesser guilds and non-guild status organizations. Each of the 8 guilds is detailed in the guild section below and notes are included about lesser guilds, guild rules, and structure.
Regarding non-guild status organizations, three of note play active roles in the city.
The City Watch – All members of the watch are trained combatants and wear uniforms. The watch has its own hierarchy and includes three specialty units: foot soldier, ranged, and arcane. The Watch functions as the core of the city army in times of war with watch members serving as commanders of hired units.
The Sisters of Good Faith – This is an organization of nurses, healers, hospitaliers, and clerics whose vows charge them with mending the injuries and tending to the sicknesses of all the inhabitants of Northolt. The organization was borne of one of the many sieges of Northolt where a small group of nurses and healers walked the battlefield and tended to the wounds of the living. The Sisters mend good and evil alike and it is unlawful to harm a Sister or a person in the care of a Sister while within the city walls (the individual’s belongings are sold at auction with proceeds going to the victim and/or the Sisters and they are stripped of clothing and exiled from the city for life). Those who do harm a sister or her charge rarely see punishment from the City Watch however, as the citizens often meet out their own swift justice to any who would do them harm. The Sisters are perhaps the most respected organization in the city.
Song, Spell, and Steel Promotions – Song, Spell, and Steel (aka “Triple S”) are a group of three retired adventurers (an elven bard, a gnomish illusionist, and a human rogue) who pooled their treasures to construct a moderately sized arena in western Northolt. The group organizes all manner of events from pit fighting to organized sporting to concerts and rents the arena (albeit at a hefty fee) to groups for various formal events such as festivals and tournaments. They host weekly pit fighting events that are free to citizens and which provide a complimentary meal and refreshments. Gambling is legal and encouraged.
Life & Society
Northolt is a lively trade city and despite its remote location plays temporary home to all manner of visitors who make the trek north to buy and sell their wares. The Grand Bazaar is always open with merchants selling wares night and day. Commerce literally flows down the river and caravans leave daily to brave the trip north to the land of the Elves—only a handful return.
Most districts east of the river close down at night outside of the inns and taverns. West of the river is a different story as all manner of nighttime activities can be enjoyed. The West, as it is often referred to by the locals, is home to gambling, fighting, crime, and debauchery. To the average citizen it is unsafe to walk the streets at night in the west. Riots and street fights have closed the bridges to the east on more than one occasion. The west is home to the arena and is in many ways the cultural hub of the city during the day. Nobles and people of import are often seen attending events, eating lavish meals in restaurants, and enjoying the city life. They just take care to cross the bridges before sundown.
Crime is a problem in the west and in many parts of the east. Corruption is a bigger problem. Rumors abound about who is in the pocket of whom and there has been talk for centuries about elections and how certain guilds seem to hold power with an iron grip. Laws pass that clearly favor certain members of society and citizens and council members have been known to swiftly and drastically change their opinions seemingly at the drop of a hat to turn the tide in a vote.
Northolt is remote by Valacian standards and the average citizen is often behind the times regarding the goings on of the region. Information is as much in demand as food or rare goods and certain people pay well to remain in the know. By contrast, Northolt is often the most knowledgeable in the region about the goings on of the Elves (which means very little considering how remote even the Elves are). The road south remains in good repair, as does the road east to the Dwarven lands. The road north is only moderately maintained and leads only as far as the Wastes. The sands inch southward more and more each year.
A few sites in Northolt are worth the attention of visitors and are well known to citizens.
Northolt Arena – Located in the heart of the western district of Northolt the arena is one of the larger structures in the city. It seats over a thousand spectators and is mutable for different events.
Town Square – Located east of the Bazaar the town square is made up of five buildings encircling a court square. Each building bears the crest of one of the elected guilds. Government business takes place in these buildings and events of import such as elections, judgments, and executions, take place in the square.
Grand Bazaar – Located in the center of the city adjacent to the river the grand bazaar is where all roads in Northolt eventually converge and is the heart of commerce. Hundreds of permanent shops surround the bazaar with even more temporary shops dotting the grounds. All manner of goods can be found here for purchase and many specialist shops are well known to the regulars. The Grand Bazaar of Northolt is one of the largest marketplaces in all of Valacia. Other smaller markets can be found in the city but none are permanent or as well patrolled by the City Watch as the grand bazaar.
Old Town – Located in the southeast portion of the town this area is part historical district and part squalor. It is both sides of the city coin and where many of the homeless, penniless, and destitute call home. Crime—especially pick pocketing, robbery, and assault—is a significant problem here and no matter how frequently the City Watch visits it doesn’t seem to make a difference. A handful of taverns and inns are located here but only the poorest and shadiest visitors and citizens patronize them.
Guild Halls – Each of the 8 major guilds has its own dedicated building to serve its own purposes. These are located throughout the city and are as unique as the guilds themselves. Other minor guilds may have their own dedicated guild halls but many guilds do not. The city laws currently permit only 15 registered guild halls within the city walls.
Llurfindar Fountain – Dwarvish for “fountain of fortune” (literally translated as “river of luck”) this iconic stone fountain of Dwarven make resides in the northeastern portion of the town where the small enclave of Dwarves call home. The fountain is accessible to all and is a frequent tourist destination. It is said that anyone may improve their luck by tossing a gold coin into the fountain and making a wish.
History, Traditions, & Holidays
The town of Northolt was founded generations ago by settlers who heard there may be gold in the river. While the rumors were false, a small encampment grew to a hamlet and to a town in only a few years. This much is known from an ancient text kept in the libraries of Bellas in the south. Great chunks of the town’s history are missing as it has been sacked frequently over the centuries by bandits, dragons, undead armies, and nearby settlements. The town was eventually claimed by the Valacian government and built up to repel such attacks. It thrived under the watchful eye of the government but was eventually destroyed by a hoard of undead from the west. The settlement became too costly to maintain and the land was sold to an enterprising young halfling with deep pockets who called in numerous favors to rebuild the town as a city independent of Valacia. The halfling became the de facto mayor and named his son his eventual successor. The line of succession continued for three generations until it ended in the bloody murder of the only remaining heir. During this time five organizations had grown in power within the city. While it was evident all sought to rule the city independently, a pact was made that allowed all five to rule together—lest any one group be left out of the rule.
As years progressed other organizations were founded, grew in power, and sought to challenge the rule. Rebellions and failed elections led to strife in the city and nearly caused its downfall as the city came under attack again from the undead. The groups banded together and drove out the army—the city’s first such victory—and the aftermath of these troubled times led to the creation of the current city government.
Certain traditions are held sacred in Northolt. The two most frequently honored are the Lantern Light Festival and the Washing of the Hands. Citizens of Northolt hold a ceremony at the end of each year to honor family members, friends, and colleagues lost during the year. Paper Lanterns are decorated and lit with fire to ascend into the skies representing each person lost. Deaths are mourned and lives are celebrated.
The second tradition involves the Llurfindar Fountain. In addition to making a wish at the fountain, it is customary for citizens returning to Northolt from traveling or first-time visitors to wash their hands in the fountain waters. It is said that doing so cleanses the person of woes, hardships, and sins encountered in their travels. It is common for caravans traveling north into the wastes to wish upon the fountain for good fortune before embarking on their journey and to wash their hands upon return.
Northolt has two official holidays. Election Day is the one day each year when all businesses close. Election Day occurs on the first day of winter and is the time when guild members vote on the open seat in the counsel. The newly elected counsel member takes office on the first of the new year.
The second official holiday is Spring Jubilee, held on the first three days of spring, which is an annual event held by the Artisan’s Guild. High quality arts and crafts, handmade items, and arms and armor are put on display for sale. An auction is held each day in the Grand Bazaar and skills tournaments and concerts are held in the arena. The Jubilee is known throughout Valacia and often draws crowds from surrounding cities and settlements.