The Reign of Winter
The Village of Heldren
Like most peasant communities in southern Taldor, the people of Heldren mostly keep to themselves. Far from the politics of Oppara and ever-watchful for Qadiran aggression, Heldren goes on as it always has, as a relatively small and unimportant hamlet of farmers, herders, and woodcutters. But Heldren is home to a secret unsuspected by its normally complacent citizens: a mystical ley line connects their village with another far to the north. Could the recent appearance of unseasonable winter weather in the nearby Border Wood be a harbinger of worse things to come?
Population 171 (152 humans, 6 dwarves, 5 halflings, 4 gnomes, 3 elves, 1 half-elf)
Councilor Ionnia Teppen (middle-aged female human)
Elder Natharen Safander (male half-elf cleric of Erastil)
Soothsayer Old Mother Theodora (venerable female human)
Base Value 500 gp; Purchase Limit 2,500 gp; Spellcasting 3rd
Broad-Minded: The citizens of Heldren are open, friendly, and tolerant, and react positively toward visitors.
Because of the village’s proximity to the Border Wood, most of Heldren’s buildings are constructed of lumber. Several farms lie outside the village itself, providing food for its residents and for trade with nearby villages.
A dirt path winds its way up a low hill west of town to the single door of this square stone tower. The tower is 30 feet high, with battlements on its roof and arrow slits along its walls. It is completely open on the inside, with no interior floors—just a wooden staircase running along the walls to the roof. The tower serves as Heldren’s armory and a place of refuge for the villagers in case the village is ever attacked. In times of peace, the tower is usually unoccupied, but a selection of simple arms and armor—crossbows, bolts, spears, javelins, as well as a few suits of leather armor, padded armor, and light wooden shields—is stored inside for the militia.
2. Isker’s Smithy
Although he spends most of his time shoeing horses and repairing farm tools, Heldren’s blacksmith, Isker Euphram (middle-aged male human), is quite skilled in battle. A veteran of Taldor’s army, Isker served in Zimar and on the Qadiran border for years before retiring to Heldren. Isker has taken it upon himself to oversee the training of the village’s militia. He keeps a few weapons for sale in his shop, including cold iron sling bullets. He also has a suit of masterwork banded mail for sale (a relic of his army days), and could craft other suits of armor if needed. His daughter, Xanthippe (female human), works as his apprentice. When not at her father’s forge, Xanthippe’s likely to be found at the Silver Stoat, holding court with her numerous suitors. Although widely considered the village beauty, Xanthippe is as proficient with her fists as with her hammer, and those few of Heldren’s young men who have tried to woo her too aggressively walked away with black eyes for their troubles.
3. General Store:
Heldren’s general store carries everything a villager needs, as well as most gear an adventurer requires. Heldren sits on the road to Zimar, so plenty of trade passes through the village. The store’s proprietor, Vivialla Steranus (female human), takes advantage of this brisk trade to stock her shelves. In general, most of the mundane adventuring gear listed in the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook can be found here, including cold-weather outfits, leftovers from a particularly harsh winter a couple of years back. In general, Vivialla does not carry much in the way of armor or weapons, though she does currently have two magic items in stock: an arrow magnet and a ring of force shield.
4. Town Hall:
Rather grand for a village of this size, Heldren’s town hall boasts a clock tower overlooking the town square. Its clockworks were imported from Qadira some time ago, and are kept in working order by Orillus Davigen (old male human), who can usually be found up in the tower tinkering with the machinery. The clock tower’s bells ring every hour from 6 am to 6 pm (the villagers prefer to keep things quiet at night), and can be used to sound the alarm if there’s a fire or to muster the militia in case of attack. The town council meets in the hall every week on Starday, though there’s usually little to discuss beyond minor disagreements between neighbors. The hall is big enough to host almost the entire populace for monthly village assemblies and large social gatherings, such as the annual Longnight dance. On the wall outside the front door hangs a notice board, where flyers are posted with local news, job openings, and goods for sale.
5. Willowbark Apothecary:
A well-tended garden sits in front of this equally neat house, the home of Tessaraea Willowbark (female elf alchemist), Heldren’s resident apothecary. Tessaraea is a relatively new transplant to Heldren, having arrived in the village only 25 years ago after a failed adventuring career up north in the River Kingdoms. She is quiet and somber, and most of the villagers believe she suffered some great tragedy in her past, such as the loss of her one true love. Tessaraea sells a variety of herbs and all of the special substances and items listed in the Core Rulebook, as well as a potion of resist energy (cold) and a surprisingly large stockpile of alchemist’s fire — Tessaraea has had an incredible fear of trolls, and almost obsessively crafts the stuff.
An artist with razors and scissors, Argus Goldtooth (male dwarf) offers shaves, haircuts, and dentistry, as well as “leechery and other surgical proceedings.” Argus is a fair healer, though he’s prone to prescribing leeches (which fill several jars on high shelves in his shop) for most maladies, from stomachaches to broken bones. Argus also offers gold teeth to replace extracted ones, and is his own best customer—his easy smile reveals more gold teeth in his mouth than original ones. Though he would never admit it to anyone, Argus has something of a crush on his neighbor, the apothecary Tessaraea Willowbark. Argus has never acted on these feelings, but the two have struck up an unlikely friendship, and it’s not uncommon to find Argus helping tend Tessaraea’s garden on Sundays or sharing a pint with her at the Silver Stoat in the evenings.
7. The Silver Stoat:
Heldren’s only tavern, the Silver Stoat, stands right on the town square across from the town hall. A fixture of village life, the tavern fills up with patrons in the evening as they gather to share gossip, hear news, and reward themselves for a hard day’s work. Anything that’s worth knowing in Heldren gets talked about here, and if asked where he got a particularly juicy bit of gossip or information, a villager will likely say, “I heard it from the Stoat.” Husband and wife Menander (male human) and Kale Garimos (female human) run the Silver Stoat as if it were their family kitchen— there’s always a seat at the table or a space by the hearth for a guest, or a warm bowl of Menander’s hearty stew for an empty belly. Menander works in the kitchen, cooking up his famous venison flank steak and numble pie. Kale tends bar, serving up the tavern’s signature brew, Three Devil Ale, which she brews in-house using imported Chelish hops. Heldren doesn’t get many visitors, so there is no true inn in the village, but travelers are welcome to a spot on the floor of the Stoat next to the fireplace for a night, as long as they’re up early and on their way. Those who linger risk a rude awakening from Menander’s wet mop in their faces.
8. Livery Stable:
At the stable next door to the Silver Stoat, Sophia Imirras (female human) offers horses (and a single pony) for hire or sale, as well as stabling and grooming. Royal couriers on their way to or from Demgazi or Zimar often change horses here. None of Sophia’s horses are combat trained. Sophia also has two carts, a wagon, and a carriage for hire. A traveling noble gave her the carriage as a reward when she managed to calm the newly broken stallion he was riding before it could trample him. Both luxurious and ostentatious, the carriage sees most of its use at village weddings.
9. Town Square:
The most notable feature of Heldren’s town square is the large statue of a beautiful woman right in the center of the town. Usually just called “the Lady,” the statue has been here for as long as anyone can remember, and no one knows who it actually represents. Some believe the Lady was the founder of Heldren or some ancient, forgotten Taldan noblewoman or even a mysterious fey forest goddess. Others have more sinister theories—an evil witch turned to stone for her wickedness or a magical statue through which the satrap of Qadira can spy on Taldor. On any given day, a few entrepreneurs selling goods or produce can be found on the square, and a market is held on the last Fireday of every month. Elder Natharen Safander also hosts the annual Harvest Feast in the town square, during which the people of Heldren erect a giant bonfire in the square and bedeck the Lady in garlands of flowers.
10. Ionnia Teppen’s House:
The leader of Heldren’s village council, Ionnia Teppen, lives in this simple two-story house just off the town square. Ionnia’s family has had a place in Heldren’s politics for generations, and her membership on the town council was all but assured. She is by far the most influential member of the council, and most villagers consider her the defacto mayor of Heldren.
11. Temple of Erastil:
Although Elder Natharen Safander is a cleric of Erastil, he tends to all of the village’s flock regardless of their faith. Though most of the villagers follow the teachings of Old Deadeye, the temple also contains shrines to Abadar, Gozreh, Pharasma, and even Sarenrae. Natharen doesn’t much care for the Taldan government’s intolerant stance on the faith of the Dawnflower, and believes that in a village like Heldren, the sun goddess is as important as the god of agriculture. Natharen’s wife, Zaarida (female human), is a Qadiran transplant and faithful worshiper of Sarenrae, and assists him during services and with the temple’s upkeep. The temple also has some minor divine magic items for sale, including a scroll of aid and a wand of magic weapon (24 charges).
Heldren’s foremost woodworker is Tengezil Frimbocket (male gnome), a gnome with a wild shock of electric blue hair. He decorates his creations with delicate and elaborate trim he calls “gingerbread,” a style that has proven quite popular among the well-to-do of Taldor’s southern cities. Tengezil claims to be from Wispil. Tengezil has a twin brother named Arbagazor, but the two were separated when they were young. Although Tengezil assumes his brother is dead, his fate is still unknown.
13. Heldren Sawmill:
Heldren’s sawmill stays busy day and night cutting timber harvested by the village’s woodcutters into planks for shipment to Zimar and other cities, and stacks of lumber are always heaped outside. Partners Alexius Demetri (male human) and Lycio Vallant (male human) oversee the sawmill’s operation, which makes them two of Heldren’s wealthiest residents. Their large house on the north side of town is easily Heldren’s largest private home, nicknamed “Sawmill Manor” by the town.
14. The Butcher of Jalrune:
The name of this butcher shop refers to the supposed nickname of its proprietor, Perkin Tarimm (male halfling), who claims to be a retired Zimar corsair. Customers are welcome to enjoy one of the pickled sows’ ears in the large jar on the counter while they wait for Perkin to prepare their cuts of meat.
15. Old Mother Theodora’s:
Every village has its resident wise woman, and Heldren is no exception. No one in the village can be sure just how ancient Old Mother Theodora (as everyone calls her) is, but she’s been around as long as anyone in town can remember. Old Mother Theodora is Heldren’s most skilled midwife, and she helped deliver just about everyone currently living in the village. She’s also a soothsayer and hedge witch, and villagers come to her to have their fortunes told or buy love potions or herbal remedies. Among the jars of dried herbs and strange ingredients in her hut, Old Mother Theodora also has a scroll of sleep and a wand of scorching ray (42 charges) that she might be willing to part with for the right price.