Giantslayer - On the Frontline
One of only two non-orc settlements in Belkzen, Trunau is a predominantly human community of sturdy farmers and resolute warriors adrift in a monstrous sea of orcs who would as soon kill them as trade with them. Its people survive through the grace of the gods, the remarkable tenacity and ingenuity of their leaders, and a simple, soul-deep refusal to be driven from the land of their ancestors.
Trunauans know sacrifice in all its forms. Though their lives are far from easy, this band of idealists, scoundrels, and outcasts takes great pride in the independence that comes from being all on their own in hostile territory. For them, every day of the town’s continued existence is an
enduring example of civilization’s unconquerable spirit and the prodigious strength of hope.
Trunau at a Glance
The most immediately visible feature of the town of Trunau is its palisade. Originally, the palisade was a hastily constructed fence of sharpened branches, but over decades of strife, the Trunauans have built it into something considerably more lasting and deadly. Ten-foot-high tree trunks, their tops sharpened into wicked points, surround the lower portion of the village, fitted so tightly that not even light passes between them. Their bases are driven another 5 feet into the earth, and the bottom half of the wall is encased in a rough but sturdy stone foundation.
Trenches filled with smaller spikes create a deadly briar patch guarding the wall from assault. Also incorporated into the palisade are several rock outcroppings that rise even higher, forming the bases for several wooden watchtowers, including those on both sides of the gate. Past the gate, the town rises up a steep switchback in the cliff face to an exposed stone plateau 40 feet above the rest of the hill. These cliffs are the town’s true defense, as even a handful of defenders can easily pick off any invaders attempting to scale the sheer cliffs, allowing the townsfolk to concentrate the bulk of their defense on the lower palisades.
Stone watchtowers stand in the town’s higher levels as well, with fortified structures crowding between normal houses and shops. While the barns and other working structures are kept outside the walls, and many of the residents spend their days and even nights in those buildings, all residents must either maintain personal quarters in the town or pay a “siege fee” to rent a room or a patch of floor in someone’s house inside the walls, to be used only during orc attacks. The siege fee is a set rate established by the Council of Defenders in order to discourage profiteering. Below are a few of the more noteworthy locations in the town of Trunau.
- Main Gate: Trunau has only a single gate, as anyone needing to exit or enter during a siege could simply use a rope ladder dropped down from the cliffs at the town’s higher end. The gate is built to overlap the stones to either side, allowing the rock of the hill to reinforce it against battering rams. Atop each rock stands a wooden watchtower large enough for a dozen defenders to fire bows or pour boiling water down on attackers from relative safety. Both to intimidate the orcs and to guard against fiery arrows, the towers’ sides and roofs are armored with the shields and breastplates of orcs who’ve assaulted the walls and died, their various clan symbols prominently displayed. The town council sets a precise watch schedule to make sure that plenty of eyes are on the wall both day and night, and all adults in the village are required to take regular shifts.
- Ivory Hall: The seat of power in Trunau, the Ivory Hall was originally festooned with the skulls of the most ferocious orc champions and chieftains felled in Trunau’s first siege, their hollow eye sockets mute testimony to both the constant threat under which Trunau exists, and to the residents’ unwavering commitment to surviving it. Later generations of councilors found the display too grisly and similar to the orcs’ own trophy-keeping traditions, however, and discarded the bones. Today, the hall gets its name from the brilliant white of its walls, and serves as the home of whoever is Chief Defender. Halgra puts the manor to good use, allowing several of her grown children to house their own families in its many rooms. The only part off-limits to the rest of her rough-and-tumble clan is the Meeting Room—with commanding views of the surrounding countryside, she uses it to host war councils and entertain visitors such as traders, emissaries from Vigil or Castle Firrine, or the Pathfinders who often use Trunau as a launching point for expeditions into Belkzen.
- Flame of the Fallen: Trunauans are all too familiar with the orc practice of gathering the bones of slain foes and creating grisly monuments out of the remains. To honor the fallen dead and deny their enemies the opportunity to turn them into skeletal mockeries, Trunauans go to great lengths to retrieve the body of any citizen slain in battle. Those recovered are burned in a great pyre along the cliff at the town’s crest, their light and smoke traveling up into the endless freedom of the sky. During times of siege, the beacon is kept burning day and night to hearten the defenders and challenge to the orcs—though some cynics say that it’s kept lit to keep townsfolk from noticing and despairing every time a new corpse is added.
- Commons: The central feature of Trunau’s community is a wide amphitheater with a stone floor and a raised stage at one end. By day, the Commons serves as Trunau’s training ground, upon which its residents engage in martial training under Jagrin Grath—depending on their primary role in town, some dedicated warriors train nearly every day, but even those more valuable in other capacities are expected to train at least 1 day per month. By night, however, the Commons transforms into a place of relaxation and celebration as townsfolk meet to conduct hopeknife ceremonies for their youth or indulge in any other cause for festivity. Children’s school lessons are often conducted on the rows of tiered seating, the stage is used for announcements and the occasional theatrical performance, and in general the Commons represents a pleasant outdoor meeting point for all residents.
- Barterstones: While Trunau hosts some more established shops within its walls, most of its general trading is conducted at an open-air market held atop several low, broad slabs of f lat rock just east of town. Originally, the market was only used for trading with orcs and suspicious
outsiders who hadn’t yet earned the people’s trust enough to be allowed inside the community’s walls, but over time the town’s farmers and herders found it easier to meet here than to try and guide wagons and livestock through the town’s steep and narrow streets, and now the vast majority of local trade occurs at the Barterstones as well, with market days coming twice a week (and more often when traders arrive).
- Plague House: Before the fall of the Hordeline, this was a small church of Iomedae serving the local farming communities. When Lastwall’s forces retreated and Trunau decided to stand and fight, the priests of Iomedae joined them—yet unlike the other residents, head priest Arthuris Bain and his two assistants refused to retreat within the fortified walls, confident that Iomedae’s wrath would strike down any raiders who dared to come for them. Though the priests fought valiantly, the church was burned to the ground almost immediately by the rampaging orcs, and all three of its residents were slain. The church stood as a burned-out husk for decades, then 50 years ago was hastily reconstructed as a place to hold those aff licted by a plague sweeping the town. Though removing the sick from inside the town walls doubtlessly saved many, the plague house burned down in a mysterious fire only a few nights after its completion, taking with it a score of patients and healers. Whether the fire was an accident or the work of an arsonist attempting to stop the plague for good, no one knows, but no one ever proposed building on the site again. Today, the site—known as both the Burned Church and the Plague House—is left alone, save for the occasional children’s dare to stand in the center of the blackened beams at sunset. However, lights have recently been seen moving about in the church at night, but even the best trackers unable to find any evidence of tracks there the following morning. The whole town buzzes with wild speculation after each new sighting.
- Sanctuary: A year after the loss of Trunau’s old church, missionaries from the church of Iomedae arrived and began constructing a new house of worship to honor their goddess
and minister to the people of Trunau—this time wisely building it inside the town’s walls. The new sanctuary houses half a dozen clerics and paladins who, in addition to helping with the town’s defense, staff a large prayer hall and a hall of respite where the wounded can be tended after battle. Though some citizen look askance at the Iomedaeans—all of whom still officially claim allegiance to Lastwall, and see their presence here as helping maintaining diplomatic
ties with the outpost until the border can be expanded once more—no one is willing to actually turn away such hardworking and valuable residents, especially as they refuse
to serve in any governmental capacity. The current matron of the sanctuary is a young cleric
named Tyari Varvatos, the younger sister of the Second Sword Knight of the Sancta Iomedae in Vigil. Speculation abounds as to why she toils here in Trunau instead of alongside her prominent sister, with most presuming she’s out to create her own name rather than live in her sister’s shadow. Her staunchest ally is an errant paladin named Brantos Calderon, formerly stationed at Castle Firrine, who forsook his post to pledge his blade (and, rumormongers claim, his heart)
to the resolute young cleric who toils on this harsh frontier. The sanctuary’s longest-standing resident (and patient) is a gnarled old half-orc named Katrezra. Raised among the Empty Hand tribe, he suffers from a terrible affliction of the lungs and weeping sores on his face and arms, gained when his jealous chieftain sent him to the Brimstone Haruspex to experience painful visions of the future. Fed up with the barbarity of the orcs, he managed to convince Halgra to grant him sanctuary, and has since found rebirth in the light of Iomedae, and proven his loyalty time and again on the town’s walls. He still occasionally has visions, and though many write them off as hallucinations or attention- grabbing, Tyari has begun privately recording them on the chance that they may point toward some important revelation.
- Ramblehouse: Before its founding as an independent town, Trunau had little call for an inn, and for many generations after, the town’s rare visitors would stay wherever there was space. Nearly 30 years ago, however, a handful of escaped half ling slaves from Molthune fled north all the way to Trunau, determined to start new lives. One of them, Cham Larringfass, decided to build not just a place for herself and her friends, but an entire inn and boardinghouse. She got the rest of her crew in on the endeavor, and before long a sprawling, eccentric manor packed with rooms of all shapes and sizes sprang up in the town’s lower end. Though guests are still rare, the aptly named Ramblehouse now houses a sizable chunk of the town’s halfling population, as well as many boarders of other races. Cham, still the head innkeeper, also makes a good living off siege fees, and is thus fond of cutting deals to other halflings and members of “right-sized” races— with the only annoyance being her tendency to play matchmaker for available guests.
- Longhouse: The largest structure in town, the Longhouse is the central meeting house of Trunau, hosting both council meetings and, on days when the weather is foul, all of the various training sessions and celebrations normally held in the Commons. In addition to its great common room for feasts and meetings, the structure also contains several barracks where young unmarried warriors of either gender can live in order to focus more on their militia training. Chief among these is Jagrin Grath, who despite his simple chosen title of Patrol Leader is the councilor in charge of training and leading the town’s militia. After the death of his wife— also a talented ranger and warrior—at the hands of an orc raiding party, he and his sons moved into the Longhouse and devoted themselves to protecting the town, counter- raiding the orcs who would victimize them, and training all Trunau residents in the soldiering arts, to ensure that no more families are sundered. In addition to personally leading patrols, he’s in charge of organizing and posting the watchtower rotations and helping Councilor Kessen Plumb make sure that the vast stores of siege rations, weapons, and potions in the longhouse’s extensive basement remain viable. With the exception of the siegestone, which is far too heavy to be moved without a block and tackle, all of the stores beneath the Longhouse are kept under lock and key, with only the six councilors having copies of that key.
- Trunau Countinghouse: When Lastwall first abandoned Trunau, an Abadaran tax collector in the region named Barran Crumkin decided to go rogue and cast his lot with the Trunau residents, whom he saw as epitomizing his faith’s struggle to promote civilization in the face of barbarity. He gathered other like-minded merchants in the town and founded the Trunau Countinghouse, a bank where the locals could safely deposit their wealth and earn interest instead of hiding it in their houses and potentially losing it to orc raids. Today, the Trunau Countinghouse has grown into a large, stately building that sees to both the banking and spiritual needs of locals and traveling merchants alike. Its proprietor, town council member and banker Lessie Crumkin, can proudly trace her lineage all the way back to the bank’s founder, and takes to her job well enough, though several people have noted not only that her skill at
arms in the training arena, but also the way she sometimes longingly watches the patrols leaving— particularly their leader, Jagrin Grath.
- Hopespring: Originally named simply “Hillspring,” this trickle of fresh water is the reason the town was founded in this spot, and the key to its existence. Welling up from deep within the stone, this astonishingly prolific stream provides the town with a waterfall of pure water, filling
the town reservoir before filtering down through cracks in the stone once more and running underground before resurfacing in a creek miles away. Whether the spring is natural or magical, none can say—yet that doesn’t mean no one knows. A mute elven druid, whose weathered features mark his age as venerable even for his timeless race, quietly watches over the spring and its reservoir, though what purpose his quiet contemplation serves is anyone’s guess. Dubbed Silvermane by the townsfolk, he has resided on this hill and slept near the spring since before the town was settled. He rarely communicates with anyone, but on occasion has been seen conversing with Halgra via some form of sign language. He generally holds himself aloof from the town’s proceedings, yet the few occasions upon which he performs magic — healing a dying child or calling lightning down on raiders — earn him respect from most residents, albeit mixed with questions regarding his inscrutable motives. The most common rumor is that he’s the only survivor of the Council of Thorns, a fierce druidic circle whose members ended their lives with the prodigious blood rite that gave Ghostlight Marsh its name.
- Inner Quarter: Trunau has two stone inner walls blocking off the sloping area leading up to the top of the plateau. These inner walls are designed to allow citizens to retreat to the higher town in the event that the main palisade is breached, and having a gate at either end of the slope allows defenders to better choke the invaders and turn the whole ramp into a killing ground, firing arrows down from the walls and cliff above.
- House of Wonders: Most visitors looking to purchase spellcasting or trade in magical items are surprised to be introduced to Agrit Staginsdar. The only daughter of a long line of warriors who left Janderhoff and came to Trunau for undisclosed reasons, she disappointed her family greatly when, after only a few years of studying the arts of war, she insisted on turning her attentions to arcane magic. Though she’s built quite a fine business for herself, her family still feels strongly that her place is on patrols outside the town—and her relations are none too pleased that her childless marriage to Sara Morninghawk has ended the Staginsdar line. Agrit tends to be violently defensive about her life choices, but lights up when talking about her work
or teaching the town’s other burgeoning arcane casters. She’s always eager to examine unfamiliar magic items, and anyone who appeals to her sense of wonder and mystery (and
succeeds at a DC 15 Diplomacy check) can convince Agrit to identify a magic item for free.
- Clamor: Though technically Morninghawk’s Fine Steel, this smithy is better known by its nickname “Clamor” due to the constant pounding of hammers that thunders from it during the daylight hours. Its owner, Councilor Sara Morninghawk, is the daughter of a Shoanti woman who arrived in the town already pregnant and uninterested in talking about her past. Sara cares little about her mixed heritage, save to note that it gives her “proper shoulders to work the forge.”
Morninghawk oversees all of the metalwork for the town, including several apprentices specializing in different aspects of the trade. She also never goes anywhere without her mother’s axe, which she generally keeps strapped to her back. Sara’s well aware of the eyebrows some folks raise about her marriage to Agrit, but she cheerfully responds with a flexed biceps and the question of who else but a dwarf would be equipped to handle her.
- The Killin’ Ground: Named for its position on the sloped ascent between the town’s two inner gates, this bar started as a way for Rabus Clarenston to finance the production of his beloved moonshine. Despite the vocal disapproval of Tyari and some of the town’s more straightlaced residents, Rabus does a brisk business—with the only law governing his trade being that, should someone show for a patrol or watch duty drunk on his product, Rabus himself must share in the punishment. As a result, Rabus knows the shift schedule better than anyone, and despite his own near-constant inebriation, he never allows anyone to drink in his bar within 4 hours of his or her next shift (or 6 or even 8 hours, for those he knows can’t handle their drink). The Killin’ Ground itself is a strange structure, with walls that begin a foot off the ground and a roof made entirely of canvas. When the furious local storms roll in, Rabus pulls back the canvas and lets the rain and the slope of the hill wash the filth of the bar’s constant partying away—which greatly annoys his downhill neighbors.
- That ’n’ Such: Yet another business known by its nickname rather than its official name —Meeson’s Goods & Salvage — That ’n’ Such is the closest thing Trunau has to a general store. Its proprietor, Jess “Crazy Jess” Meeson, is a shrewd businessperson in most matters, but unreserved in her passion for salvage from the days before Lastwall’s border retreated, and her shop is a clutter of both mundane goods useful to townsfolk and “treasures” purchased from patrols and adventurers. Her husband, Gorkis Meeson, is equally obsessed with his own pursuits as the town’s only resident apothecary. From his workshop in the back of the store, he crafts potions and curatives both magical and mundane for those residents too embarrassed or ornery to seek out the town’s religious healers with their ailments.