Reign of Winter
Heldren is a small village of 171 people, mostly farmers, herders, and woodcutters. A small armory sits atop a low hill northwest of the town square, ready to provide a safe refuge in case the village is attacked. Heldren’s town hall and its single inn, called the Silver Stoat, are the two largest buildings in the village, followed by the sawmill that brings income to the quiet settlement.
Like many small villages, Heldren contains a general store, a blacksmith, a stable, a butcher shop, a barber, an apothecary, and a wise woman who sees to the village’s needs. To provide spiritual guidance to the village, a small temple stands near the center of town. Though the place is dedicated to Erastil, its resident cleric tends to the community regardless of an individual’s particular faith.
Heldren is located in southern Taldor near the edge of the Border Wood. Taldor’s capital of Oppara is almost 200 miles northwest of Heldren, and the closest sizable city is Zimar—Taldor’s third largest city. This fortified city on the Jalrune River houses a large number of Taldan troops ready to defend their borders from the Qadirans to the south. A small town named Demgazi sits on the other side of the Border Wood from Heldren.
Below are details on several prominent locations in the village of Heldren. 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.
1. Armory: 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 f loors—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 expert 4/warrior 4), 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. His chain shirt, pike, and short sword are still in good condition, oiled and wrapped in a chest kept in his house behind his shop, and 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 10 +1 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 Euphram (female human expert 2), 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 commoner 3), takes advantage of this brisk trade to stock her shelves. In general, most of the mundane adventuring gear can be found here, including five 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 (NG old male human expert 3), 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 3), 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. In fact, it was Tessaraea’s brother who died on an ill-fated adventure, slain by a group of trolls. Devastated by his death, she gave up adventuring and moved south, settling in Heldren and taking a human-sounding surname when she opened her apothecary shop. Tessaraea sells a variety of herbs and all of the special substances and commonly known through Avistan, as well as a potion of resist energy (cold) and a surprisingly large stockpile of alchemist’s fire—since her brother’s death, Tessaraea has had an unreasoning fear of trolls, and almost obsessively crafts the stuff for the (in her mind) inevitable moment when she must face them again.
6. Barber: An artist with razors and scissors, Argus Goldtooth (male dwarf expert 5) 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 (though everyone in the village knows), 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 commoner 2) and Kale Garimos (female human expert 3) 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 f lank 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 commoner 1/expert 1) 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 f lowers.
10. Ionnia Teppen’s House: The leader of Heldren’s village council, Councilor 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 de-facto 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 commoner 2), 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).
12. Carpenter: Heldren’s foremost woodworker is Tengezil (male gnome expert 7), 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.
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 commoner 1/ expert 2) and Lycio Vallant (male human commoner 4) 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 expert 2/warrior 1), who claims to be a retired Zimar corsair. In fact, Perkin was nothing more than a common river bandit who took up the safer trade of butchery when the real Zimar corsairs almost caught him, and he has never butchered anything beyond the chickens and pigs that inhabit the yard behind his shop. 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 is 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.
Ekat Heldren was a crusader and fortune seeker who came to serve Lastwall in the year 4515 ar. While he fought with distinction, he soon realized that he wanted more from life and left the Lastwall military to find his fortune elsewhere. His travels took him all over Golarion, and he decided to settle down in 4522 after a very profitable adventure. Using a sizable portion of his fortune, he set out to tame a small area of the Border Wood, making it a natural stopover for those traveling up and down the road to Zimar. For the next 10 years, the town, which was then known as Heldren’s’s Hold, grew and prospered.
All that changed when Asar Vergas came to Heldren’s Hold with a host of mercenaries under his command. Asar was an old companion of Ekat, and the two had traveled together for some time before splitting up just after Ekat’s last adventure. Over the years, Asar became sure that Ekat had cheated him after that adventure. Promising great
wealth to his mercenaries, Asar raided the town relentlessly for 2 months. Finally, the townsfolk managed to locate Asar’s camp in an ancient crypt deep in the forest, and Ekat himself went out to deal with his old companion.
The battle was terribly bloody, with only a few townsfolk coming back to tell the tale. In the end, Asar was slain and his mercenaries scattered, but Ekat suffered a mortal wound. He died 2 days later, on the 18th day of Sarenith, 4535. In honour of their beloved founder, the townsfolk buried Heldren in the ancient crypt, interring his bones in a place of honour, above the simple sarcophagi used to inter Asar, his mercenaries, and the townsfolk that lost their lives in the bitter struggle. They placed an eternal flame above Heldren’s final resting place, so that all who visited might find warmth in the wilderness.
Over the years, the Crypt of the Everflame has become an important part of the history of the town, now simply called Heldren. The townsfolk view the crypt as a memorial to those difficult first years of the town’s history. Every summer, a few of the townsfolk make a pilgrimage to the crypt to light a lantern from the flame and bring it back to town, where it is used in the open ceremony of Sarenrae, the goddess Heldren followed.
Each year, the honour is given to those who have won the Stoat Cup, a treasure hunt in the nearby Briarwood. As Heldren was a two-time champion of the Pathfinder Societies’ Challenge of Champions, a bi-annual competition that involves traps and puzzles in a pre-built series of “dungeon-scapes”, the town has continued to honour his hobby. The town elders go into the crypt and set up some “lethal” traps and encounters for the Stoat Cup champions to test their skill and intelligence. Few come back with suffering at least one of the traps, like the papercraft rolling bolder.
Other Notable Sites
The Border Wood
The Border Wood is just that, a natural border that separates Taldor and Qadira. However, long are the days since the woods crawled with soldiers and spies, where blood was spilled under ancient boughs in the dead of night. Now, an lush forest filled with game allows for rich lumber and hunting for the nearby town of Heldren.
While pristine, it can still be a dangerous place as the hilly forest is filled with treacherous ravines, gullies and fast flowing rapids. The more tranquil hilltops and lakes can be navigated with ease and safety however and fishing and sport hunting is a favoured pastime of the local village. The wood is home the more common fauna found throughout Taldor: rabbit, fox, stoat, thrush, lark, badgers, hedgehogs, small black bear, boar and deer. The more dangerous but rarely seen creatures include: stirge, giant bee, giant mantis and shocker lizards.
here have been some sighting of bandits now and again but The Sentinels tend to keep them in check.
Only one major structure still exists from the war days, High Sentinel Lodge, a wooden tree-house where the The Sentinels operate from.
Three other small woods surround Heldren, The Briarwood, The Gilded Vale and Sedgewood. At one time or another, they would have all been one with The Border Wood. Nowadays, the three are used for foraging and hunting are generally considered safe. Goblinoids have been seen in the past but none have been seen for years.
Briarwood is home to the Everflame Crypt and where many of the townsfolk run their festival games.