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On the journey from Zobeck to Castle Valach (or further out to Bratislor) you simply must take the Great Northern Road and see the landmarks along the Margreve’s preeminent roadway. Because if you don’t, you might die.
The Margreve’s Effect on Road Travel
Though the Margreve seems unwilling, or perhaps incapable, of overtaking the old carriage track, (most believe that old House Stross struck bargains with the Shadow Fey to ward the road against the Margreve’s influence) the forest edges on either side of the road often shift, closing up like a blasphemer’s threaded mouth by a suturefly or widening out like a relaxed leavesrot ooze after a delicious meal of gnome.
The Margreve decides what you see while you travel through it; your reaction to the Wood’s influence matters most. For this reason, navigating the Great Northern Road by landmarks is unreliable, at best. Here are a few landmarks most travelers agree exist, though don’t count on seeing them all in one trip.
Landmark: Gramsen Field
Downhill and a day’s walk from the Griffin’s Nest Inn sits Gramsen Field, a defunct logging camp notable for eighteen and a half stumps freshly cut, untouched by time for three generations. The site is named after House Stross retainer Henny Gramsen, whose untimely demise came when the nineteenth tree he attempted to fell broke his axe, felling him instead.
Henny Gramsen’s grandson, Hauke Gramsen, lives today in Zobeck’s outskirts. He claims that it wasn’t just the tree that did him in, but fey angered by his work. He refuses to go anywhere near the field.
Point of Interest
Those foolhardy enough to travel the Great Northern Road by night find that under moonlight, the stumps sprout ghostly trees that fade upon daybreak. If that doesn’t chill your blood, disembodied chopping sounds and a wooden keening drive away all but the most stalwart of investigators.
While camping beneath the Margreve canopy, the PCs are terrorized by the ghost of Henny Gramsen wielding a broken, but still deadly, axe. Clues from the encounter lead the PCs to Gramsen Field, where they must locate and reassemble Henny’s broken axe and cut down all eighteen (and a half!) ghost trees in a single, harrowing night to free Henny’s tortured spirit.
Landmark: Great Ball of Silk
A ways off the road from the Devil Hoof Inn, an enormous silken ball of thick, sticky thread, hangs from the treetops. Birds, leaves, branches, and small rodents are caught up in the ball.
Few know the origin of this wondrous object. Only magical communication or divination of the nearby, hidden giant spiders reveals it. The spiders, addled by psychotropic awakenings resulting from a fateful mushroomfolk feast, wove the giant ball of silk in a moment of shared oracular purpose. Forever enlightened by this spiritual experience, the Orbweavers, as they call themselves now, hunt only mushroomfolk, seeking to regain the lucidity they once achieved in building this bizarre landmark.
Point of Interest
All sorts of fungi grow near the Great Ball of Silk, sprouting from the desiccated and long-buried remains of the spiders’ mushroomfolk victims. A single griffon knight and the picked-clean skeleton of his griffon mount hang from the backside of the enormous ball of webbing. His courier’s satchel still dangles a few yards off the ground.
The PCs have a need for oracular guidance and are directed to seek the Orbweavers’ divinations. But conversing with the spiders and earning their aid requires both the ability to speak with animals and a mushroomfolk victim or other psychotropic offering to sacrifice.
Once sated, the Orbweavers can weave the answers to powerful auguries in the Ball of Silk, though their patience is as fickle as the Margreve’s.
Landmark: The Three Carriage Pile-Up of ‘77
A jumbled mass of broken, overgrown carriages slowly rots about two hundred fathoms out from the Ruined Griffon Tower. Three caravans set out from the neighboring inns and converged violently in the winter of the year 77 FY (Zobeck Free Years). Survivors of the catastrophe cited intense blizzard conditions, misleading sounds in the snow, and monstrous roots erupting from the ground as the cause.
In truth, the caravans had no business being on the road that time of year, but the local Griffon Towers had dire need for supplies. Brave, doomed folk took action.
The pile-up killed seven people and maimed four more. Only a hedge witch named Patrycja survived unscathed. Through hedge magic and dumb luck, she alone delivered vital supplies to the nearest Griffon Tower and rescued the other four survivors.
Point of Interest
While little of interest remains among the wreckage, the surrounding area and a narrow trail leading to the nearby tower are excellent spots to forage for magical plants. Treants, pineys (see Margreve Player’s Guide), and awakened trees are sometimes encountered here, crushing the wreckage with prejudice. Goblins and other scavengers usually lurk all around the site as well. The wreckage makes excellent cover or even an impromptu fort for the crafty and diminutive.
Every winter, before the Great Northern Road closes until the spring thaw, the local coaching inns hold a memorial race from the Eye of the Forest Inn to Rivensky Brewery and back. Sadly, this year’s race is canceled unless someone deals with the robber goblins who have fortified the pile-up.
These landmarks have less history, but make great rest stops and ambush points.
- The Lover’s Shrine. This small stone arch and paved path encircle two entwining Derende trees, one pointing and one articulating, that seem to caress each with intimacy. The foolish and undeterred use this landmark as a destination for weddings and handfastings. Robbers lie in wait for just such occasions.
- Forest King’s Throne. This great stone chair observes the Forest King Inn and the intercepting roadway from the top of a small, lumpy hill. Children like to play on the chair, though it makes their parents uneasy.
- Spellscar Dueling Field. This thirty-paces-long track outside the Witch’s Teat Inn tells the tale of magician Reymonde Rudzka’s duel with Hegedüs the Harrier. Remonde lost, but Hegedüs was forever haunted thereafter. The Margreve feasted exceptionally well that day. The grass still stands with what some suggest to be mirth.
Find out more about the Crossroad’s oldest forest, in Tales of the Old Margreve! Want to play as an alseid, erina, piney, or some other forest denizen? Pick up a copy of the Margreve Player’s Guide. And, learn more about hedge magic in Tome of Heroes.
4 thoughts on “Landmarks of the Great Northern Road”
The Three Carriage Pile-Up of ‘77 makes for a great spot to place Prepared’s Impregnable Fortress of Dib adventure. You could even expand that adventure a bit with using the other ruined carriages as battlefield cover, alternate and opposing forts, or even false locations if your players are sent out to hunt for something specific.
If my players managed to reforge Henny’s Axe. I’d probably give it a +1 bonus and a +3 bonus against fey. And I’d make it appear spectral and intangible around the edges when fey are nearby.
The Forest King’s Throne is probably a shadow road gateway. I bet you have to sit on it and pass a [dark] judgement upon someone while invoking some lordly fey’s name to gain access to the shadow road. Maybe entering a shadow road this way offers a short cut to a shadow fey prison where terrible villains, offenders of the Queen of Night and Magic, (and maybe even some cursed House Stross wretch) reside sentence-unending.
I’m curious what might be in the griffon knight’s satchel what hanging from the Great Ball of Silk. I bet the Griffon Knights, Griffon Scouts, or Teresa Garlook over at the Bluebell Coaching Inn would pay a pretty penny for whatever military intelligence is just hanging out there in the relative open.