Escape from Fallcrest
History walks the streets of Hammerfast in the form of the dead, the Dwarves and Orcs who died in this place over a century ago. They are now ghosts consigned to wander Hammerfast’s streets until the end of days. Hammerfast was once a necropolis, a city of tombs where the Dwarf lords interred their people. As the Dwarves’ wealth grew, so too did their burial chambers change from simple, stone sepulchers to lavish treasure houses filled the material wealth garnered over a lifetime.
Hammerfast transformed from a graveyard, to a treasure house, to a target. A century ago the great Bloodspear Orc tribe conquered the necropolis, but at a heavy price. The Orcs killed the priests and warriors tasked with guarding it and set to loot the place, but learned that the Dwarves’ burial chambers yielded their treasures only grudgingly. The necropolis held street after street of unmarked tombs, some riddled with traps, many empty, and only a few containing great treasure. The Orcs grew weary of their losses and left Hammerfast, content to have butchered its guards and captured a few of its treasures.
In time, the Dwarves returned to Hammerfast. The Orcs had smashed their citadels, famine and plague grew thick across the land, and horrid monsters and raiders followed in the Bloodspears’ wake. In the face of such chaos, the Dwarves made a fateful decision. Hammerfast had fallen only because its garrison was too small to hold back a great army. Why waste such fine fortifications on the dead? They had no use for it, as the Orcs had already carried off many of their treasures. The ever practical Dwarves transformed Hammerfast from a city of the dead to a city of the living. Since that time, it has grown into the largest and richest settlement in the Nentir Vale.
Yet while Hammerfast has changed, its past lingers on. The remaining, sealed tombs stand untouched on pain of death by decree of the ruling council. Ghosts, some of Orc warriors slain in the Bloodspear attack on the city, some of priests of Moradin and the necropolis’s doomed guardians, and even a few of the Dwarves laid to rest here long ago, still walk the streets. Such creatures are full citizens of Hammerfast as long as they observe the rule of law. In a sacred compact struck with Moradin and Gruumsh, the town’s founders agreed to respect the dead and defend their resting places in return for the right to settle here.
With two competing deities laying claim to Hammerfast, only a compromise could avert a second war. Moradin and Gruumsh reached an accord. Gruumsh had no use for the town, but he saw the chance to create a stark reminder of his champion’s victory. He demanded that the dwarves set aside part of the town for his priest.
Moradin agreed, but as a condition of his assent insisted on a strict set of rules that both parties must follow. Gruumsh gained his show of defiance, and Moradin enusured that his followers would be safe from Gruumsh’s treachery. The rules set forth were simple, but inflexible:
- Worshipers of Gruumsh are not to be attacked or detained within the town as long as they do not commit acts of violence against Hammerfast residents.
- Any priest of Gruumsh in the town must aid in its defense if it comes under attack.
- The ghost that dwell in Hammerfast are to be left alone, as long as they do not attack the living.
- The temples of Moradin and Gruumsh are sacred ground. If either is attacked by the other, the gods will intervene.
The Guilds and Government of Hammerfast.
The town’s three guilds – the Trade Guild, the Lore Guild, and the Craft Guild along with High Master of Hammerfast govern the town. Each Guild elects three members to the “Council of Lords”. The people of Hammerfast elect the High Master. The High Master serves as the town’s executive, overseeing daily functions and managing affairs with other settlements in The Nentir Vale.
The consent of a majority of the Council is required to pass a law, and so the guilds constantly forge and break alliances in order to pursue their separate interest. The guild with the most influence over the High Master gains a further advantage as the High Master cast the deciding vote in case of ties. Marsinda Goldspinner, the leader of the Trade Guild, has been High Master for four years and shows no inclination to step down. The other guilds are content with this situation as long as the town continues to prosper.
Houses of the Dead
Although some of the tombs in Hammerfast were reduced to ruble by attacking orcs, most were simply picked clean of their contents. The orcs smashed open coffins, pounded sarcophagi into rubble and scattered remains across the necropolis.
The Dwarfs rebuilt Hammerfast, keeping as much as the necropolis intact as possible. Most homes or businesses use the same thick-walled, stone structures that once housed the dead. The interiors have been cleaned and reorganized. In some buildings, the original sarcophagi, murals, and other decorations remain.
In the summertime, some of the structures become unbearably hot. For this reason, structures in Hammerfast were built downward, not upward. Most families use the first floor of their homes as workshops or for storage, with the basement level set aside for sleeping. Most structures in Hammerfast house several families, each living within a subset of the chambers found in a typical tomb.
The tombs that remain intact are off limits. The town guard patrols the necropolis, and anyone caught looting existing tombs faces a death sentence. that doesn’t stop some thieves and rumors abound of tombs that were looted by thieves despite the vigilance of the town guard.
Many folk suspect that even the tombs now used as homes and businesses still hide ancient treasure chambers, hidden passages, and other secrets. Although looting intact tombs is against the law, tombs that have already been opened are fair game. Thus, adventure might be as close as the secret door beneath one’s bed.