Yes, it’s true! I have travelled far up the rivers that flow through the Arbonesse—all the way to the River Court. There I was taken on a tour of the place before being seated for dinner with the king himself, that secret keeper, Ulorian the First! Here, sit, I will recall my time there for you so that you might decide if such a trip is in your interest.
—Nenmaas Goodloaf (halfling of House Aunun)
Members of the Court
The River Court is the last foothold of the elves in Midgard. Tucked away in the great forest of Arbonesse, the court’s population comprises a few elves, many elfmarked, halflings, and a growing number of aquatic humanoids of various types. It is this last contingent of the court that makes it unique among the kingdoms of Midgard, for nowhere else are the waterborne fey so welcome as in King Ulorian’s Court.
The farms around Ulorian’s castle are simple affairs and serve as home to most of the court’s halflings as well as a number of elfmarked. The fields are well irrigated, and it’s common for small aquatic fey to travel up the canals and make their homes in their banks—even assisting with the harvest when time.
Darker things also dwell in the court. Creatures whose natural abilities lie in the domain of subterfuge and spying. King Ulorian welcomes these creatures as subjects, and it’s through them that he maintains advantage over his enemies and allies alike.
The Five Spires of the River Court
The spires of the court are simply stunning. They are surprisingly hard to see from the nearby forest, a fact I must attribute to the magic of the place. Though why his majesty would wish to hide these splendors is beyond me! Alabaster white with golden trim, they rise like majestic fingers pointing to the stars. Each is built upon some important edifice, and I’m told there are chambers at the tops—though no one would tell me what is kept there…
A Note on Architecture
The River Court is built both within the river Neurabon and on its saturated banks. The castle, with its towers and water gates, is built in the middle of the river, and a thick foam builds at the base of its walls where the swift water meets the stone. Entrance to the castle is made either through a gate facing upstream or via a heavily guarded walkway from shore.
The spires of the River Court are built near the castle. All of the spires, save for the Spire of Baccho, can be reached by water—even the library in the Spire of Memory is partially submerged.
The interiors of the buildings of the River Court are designed to offer comfort to those aquatic fey who live there. Many chambers are partially submerged, and their walls drip with cool condensation. Despite being lavishly decorated with polished river stones, gilded archways, and beautiful hanging water plants (that bloom eternally in the presence of King Ulorian), the buildings of the River Court are cold and wet and uncomfortable to those not suited to the water.
Spire of Currents
The Spire of Currents is built upon the elves’ primary woodworking workshop. Though the crafters produce mundane goods such as furniture and tableware, the workshop is chiefly known for its production of river barges. The crafters are led by Uynitia Boughbender, an elfmarked woman whose arms were maimed in battle and replaced with magical wooden facsimiles that move at her command.
The workshop at the base of the spire opens onto the river where old and damaged barges are delivered and new ones set afloat. Despite the labor transpiring in the workshop, a meditative silence is all that can be heard, though occasionally songs or laughter drift from the gate.
The spire is accessible via the workshop, but its doors are locked and warded against simple magic. Only Uynitia has the key to the spire, which she keeps on a silver chain around her neck at all times. The spire reaches three hundred feet into the air and has a single windowless staircase that rises from the workshop to its peak.
The topmost chamber of the spire is a small room painted in gold. It has a round window that faces south and is framed in rough-cut pieces of wood from the forest. In the center of the room is the broken prow of the first riverboat built by the Court. Broken and splintered, the boat yet contains powerful elvish magic. Several simple pillows sit on the floor around the prow, and those who sit there are filled with visions depicting elvish wood crafting techniques. To be invited to sit with the broken prow is a high honor.
Spire of Memory
The River Court’s principal library is built near the castle and is commonly referred to as the Spire of Memory. It consists of three main chambers connected by short, highly decorated corridors. The chambers are well lit by beautiful and magical stained-glass windows whose animated scenes depict the history of the court. The library is managed by three elven scholars (Nilia, Sarion, and Fenn) who oversee a small staff of elfmarked and halfling workers.
The library has representatives who travel throughout Midgard searching for books to add to the spire’s impressive collection. These representatives are mostly elfmarked scholars accompanied by well-paid mercenaries. The scholars of the River Court are often found combing through old ruins in pursuit of lost knowledge.
The three chambers of the spire are heavily guarded, and access to the stairs leading to its top is restricted to the three head librarians. A spiraling staircase leads from one of the library’s chambers to the top of the spire. The spire rises two hundred feet, and the walls along this staircase are covered in elvish writing: poems, ballads, expressions—all written in the same steady silver script.
The topmost chamber of the Spire of Memories contains a simple bookshelf filled with the rarest and most magical tomes kept by the River Court. Only those who have earned the favor of the court may hope to open these rarest of books.
Spire of Unity
Though the River Court’s population is small (estimated around 3,800), it’s surprisingly varied. Elves, elfmarked, halflings, and all manner of fey (especially aquatic) all live together peacefully. Though the court’s reputation suggests it is the home of exiles and outsiders, those who dwell within its limits are far from hermits living lives of solitude. The Spire of Unity consists of a grand feast hall. Half the hall is submerged in the cold water of the river while the other half sits on sturdy stone. A wooden common table runs through the hall—one end dips into the water. Chairs made from curved driftwood line the tables.
For those subjects of the court who prefer their meals cooked, as opposed to raw and fresh from the river, a stone stove sits at the dry end of the hall. It is said that the bones from fish cooked on the stove regrow their flesh when cast in the river, so it is common to see piles of such bones in the watery portion of the hall after a large feast.
Spire of Baccho
This spire is built upon a large wine-storage vault dug deep under the riverbank’s wet, clay-filled soil. The vault has two dimly lit chambers connected by a short corridor and tasting room. Ornately carved wooden storage racks form aisles and line the walls of both chambers. One chamber is for wines that have aged up to sixty years while the other chamber is reserved for vintages bottled as far back as two hundred years. The entrance to the wine vault is heavily guarded due to the large amount of enchanted wine stored inside.
The spire is accessed via a spiraling staircase built atop the entrance to the vault. It rises for a hundred feet above the ground and is topped by a small chamber magically locked and warded. Inside the top chamber, which is windowless and kept cool by permanent spells, is a glass display case containing a few grapes from the very first harvest by the elves of the River Court. The grapes are said to be blessed by Baccho and possess powerful magic.
Spire of Charun
This tallest spire in the River Court is the Spire of Charun. It sits upon the temple of Charun, a large boat-shaped building made from dressed stone and finely carved wood. The temple resembles a river barge with its primary entrance in the aft section and the altar placed near the prow. Wooden benches, carved with depictions of the Boatman ushering the elves to and from the heavens, form rows along the length of the main chamber. Windows, shaped like ornate lanterns, line the walls allowing muted light into the space.
The spire is accessed behind the altar via a spiraling staircase lit with sacred lanterns. It rises two hundred feet above the temple to a worshipping space reserved for special ceremonies. Few have been allowed to enter the top of the spire, and those who have do not speak of it. Rumors that it contains a portal capable of accessing every plane of existence are unsubstantiated…
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