The House of ShadowLore
Fallcrest stands amid the Moon Hills at the falls of the Nentir River. Here travelers and traders using the old King’s Road that runs north and south, the dwarven Trade Road from the east, and the river all meet. The surrounding ridges shelter several small valleys where farmers and woodsfolk live; few are more than six or seven miles from the town. In general the people outside Fallcrest’s walls earn their living by farming or keeping livestock, and the people inside the walls are artisans, laborers, or merchants. People with no other prospects can make a hard living as porters, carrying cargo from the Lower Quays to the Upper Quays (or vice versa).
Fallcrest imports finished goods from the larger cities downriver and ironwork from the Dwarven town of Hammerfast, and exports timber, leather, fruit, and grain. It also trades with the nearby town of Winterhaven. The surrounding hills hold several marble quarries that once produced a good deal of stone, but the area has little demand for ornamental stone these days, and only a few stonecutters still practice their trade.
Fallcrest is divided into two districts by a steep bluff that cuts across the town. The area north of the bluff is known locally as Hightown. This district survived the city’s fall in relatively good shape, and it was the first area resettled. To the south of the bluff lies Lowtown, which tends to be newer and poorer. In the event of a serious threat, people retreat up to Hightown — the bluff and the town walls completely ring this part of Fallcrest, making it highly defensible.
Fallcrest’s Hightown is guarded on two sides by a wall (the river and the bluffs protect the other two sides). It consists of two parallel barriers of stone block with a few feet of fill between them, and stands about 20 feet tall. Every hundred yards or so, a small tower strengthens the wall. Two pairs of sentries (Fallcrest guards from the castle) walk the wall tops at night, but unless danger is imminent, the towers are left locked and aren’t manned. The gatehouses are permanently garrisoned.
Up until four centuries or so ago, the Moon Hills and the surrounding Nentir Vale were thinly settled borderlands, home to quarrelsome human hill-chieftains and remote realms of non-humans such as dwarves and elves. Giants, minotaurs, orcs, ogres and goblins plagued the area. Ruins, such as those on the Gray Downs or the ring-forts atop the Old Hills, date back to these days; as do stories of the hero Vendar and the dragon of the Nentir.
With the rise of the Empire of Nerath to the south, human settlers began to move up the Nentir River, establishing towns such as Fastormel, Harkenwold and Winterhaven. A Nerathan hero named Arand Markelhay obtained a charter to build a keep at the portage of the Nentir Falls. She raised a simple tower at the site of Moonstone Keep three hundred and ten years ago, and under its protection the town of Fallcrest began to grow.
Over the next two centuries, Fallcrest grew into a small and prosperous city. It was a natural crossroads for trade, and the Markelhays ruled it well. When the Empire of Nerath began to crumble about a century ago, Fallcrest continued to flourish – for a time. Ninety years ago, a fierce horde of orcs known as the Bloodspears descended from the Stonemarch and swept over the Vale. Fallcrest’s army was defeated in a rash attempt to halt the Bloodspears out on Gardbury Downs. The Bloodspears burned and pillaged Fallcrest and went on to wreak havoc all across the Nentir Vale.
In the decades since the Bloodspear War, Fallcrest has struggled to reestablish itself. The town is a shadow of the former city; little trade passes up and down the river these days. The countryside for scores of miles around is dotted with abandoned homesteads and manors from the days of Nerath. Once again the Nentir Vale is a thinly settled borderland where few folk live.
1. Tower of Waiting – This old fortification was built on a small island in the Nentir River to guard the city from any waterborne attack from the north. It fell into ruin even before the sack of the old city, and now is little more than an empty shell overrun by mice and birds.
2. Upper Quays – Boats proceeding down the Nentir must stop here and offload their cargo, which is then portaged through the town (by members of the Porters Guild) 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.
3. Five-arch Bridge – Dwarf artisans from the citadel of Hammerfast built a fine stone bridge over the Nentir two hundred years ago. Although the bridge was destroyed when Fallcrest fell, the great stone piers supporting it remained intact, so a few years back the people of the town laid a new timber trestle over the old stone footings.
4. Nentir Inn – A fine new building constructed of fieldstone and strong timber, the Nentir Inn stands on the west bank of the Nentir River. Merchants from Winterhaven or Hammerfast make up the clientele, along with travelers who happen to be passing through. The Nentir Inn also boasts a lively taproom, which is popular with the folk who live in the vales on the west bank of the river.
5. Knight’s Gate – Fallcrest’s northern city gate is known as Knight’s Gate, because the Lord Warden’s riders normally come and go from the city by this road. The gate consists of strong outer doors of iron-reinforced timber and an inner portcullis between a pair of small stone towers.
5. The Town Walls – Fallcrest’s Hightown is guarded on two sides by a wall (the river and the bluffs protect the other two sides). It consists of two parallel barriers of stone block with a few feet of fill between them, and stands about 20 feet tall. Every hundred yards or so, a small tower strengthens the wall.
6. Silver Unicorn Inn – For many years, the Silver Unicorn has billed itself as “the Pride of Fallcrest,” charging high rates for its attentive service and well-appointed rooms.
7. Halfmoon Trading House – The Halfmoon Trading House is an excellent place to buy any mundane tools, gear, supplies or clothing.
8. Moonstone Keep – The seat of Lord Warden Faren Markelhay, Moonstone Keep is an old castle that sits atop a steep-sided hill overlooking the town. The outer bailey includes barracks housing up to sixty Fallcrest guards. 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.
9. The Tombwood – Along the southern slopes of Moonstone Hill grows a large thicket that has never been entirely cleared.
10. House of the Sun – A temple dedicated to Pelor which also includes shrines to Kord and Bahamut.
11. House Azaer – A small, well-off trading company and an excellent place to purchase nearly any mundane equipment.
12. Nentir Falls – Here the Nentir River descends nearly 200 feet in three striking shelf-like drops. On the small island in the middle of the falls stands the statue of an ancient human hero named Vendar, holding up his hand as if to challenge enemies approaching from downriver.
13. Temple of Erathis – This large, impressive stone temple is finished with Fallcrest’s native marble. Its chapel is a large rotunda with a 30-foot-tall dome. The Temple of Erathis is the largest and most influential temple in town, and also includes shrines to Ioun and Moradin.
14. The Bluffs – Fallcrest 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.
16. Moonsong Temple – The third of Fallcrest’s temples is devoted to Sehanine. It also includes shrines to Corellon, Melora and Avandra. The temple occupies a commanding position atop the bluffs, and its white minarets can be seen from any corner of Lowtown.
17. Fallcrest Stables – This business provides travelers with tack, harness, stabling, shoeing, wagons, and just about anything dealing with horses, mules or ponies.
18. Wizard’s Gate – Fallcrest’s eastern city gate is known as Wizard’s Gate, because it’s the gate most convenient to the Septarch’s 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.
p. The gate resembles Knight’s Gate in construction, and is similarly watched by a detachment of five guards and a sergeant.
19. Naerumar’s Imports – Considered the finest of Fallcrest’s retail establishments, Naerumar’s Imports deals in gemstones, jewelry, art and magic trinkets.
21. Moonwash Falls – A small, swift stream known as the Moonwash flows through Fallcrest to meet the Nentir River. 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.
22. Septarch’s Tower – This lonely structure is a tall, seven-sided spire of pale green stone that doesn’t match anything else in the town.
25. King’s Gate – Fallcrest’s southern gate was destroyed in the attack that devastated the city long ago, and 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 Fallcrest guards.
26. The Market Green – This wide square is an open, grassy meadow where Fallcrest’s merchants and visiting traders do business in good weather.
28. Lucky Gnome Taphouse – The Lucky Gnome is widely regarded as the cheapest and coarsest of Fallcrest’s drinking establishments.
29. Lower Quays – Keelboats and similar craft put in here to unload their cargo and portage it up to the other boats above the falls. Boats belonging to a number of different travelers tie up here.