Archendale 1372 DR
Population: 92,300 (humans 92%, half-elves 3%, gnomes 2%, halflings 2%)
Government: Autocratic rule by the Swords
Religions: Chauntea, Lathander, Tempus (Mielikki, Selune, Silvanus)
Imports: Exotic metalwork,, silks, spices
Exports: Produce, ores, timber
Alignment: NC, LN, N
Most of the dales are free-form republics or enlightened feudal states, but Archendale is ruled by three masked autocrats who call themselves the Swords. Over the past couple hundred years, the Swords have consistently played on Archenfolk's militaristic instincts, insisting that the dale needs to be stronger than its neighbors.
The Swords' devotion has paid off. Archendale's defenders, ten squadrons (each consisting of sixty mailed riders) are the largest and best-equipped military force fielded by any of the Dales. These Archenriders, as they are called, clatter up and down the excellent roads on either side of the River Arkhen, looking for spies from other dales or the south, cultists from Thay, or random passersby who look like they need a lesson in Archendale justice.
In Archendale's defense, it's usually acknowledged that the dale owes its wealth to ruthless mercantilism rather than military adventurism. Unlike other dales that farm first, hunt second, and trade third, Archendale is a merchant's haven. Archenfolk in the capital, Archenbridge, cherish the life of the wealthy merchant. Archenbridge is a hub of trade for all the Dales, and it is the first stop for Sembian caravans wending their way north.
Life and Society
For all Archendale's posturing, it is a dale. Archendale's common folk and its merchants and soldiers (though not all of its nobility and warrior elite) respect fair play and decency. Given Archendale's warlike attitude, it's not surprising that the dale maintains a major temple to Tempus in the keep of Swordpoint. Other popular deities of the region include Chauntea (revered by the country folk who tend their small farms without undue interest in the wheeling and dealing of the city) and Lathander (whom the townsfolk of Archenbridge have chosen as their patron deity). Devotion to Chauntea in particular comforts those who wish to clear as much as possible of Arch Wood and other elven woods, as clearing land for Chauntea's sacred croplands can be phrased as a noble aim.
Major Geographic Features
Archendale's waterfalls, quick rivers, and forested northern slopes place it among the most picturesque landscape in the Dales, next to the forests and hills of Deepingdale.
Arch Wood: Arch Wood stands on the northern flank of Archendale, south of Deepingdale and west of Tasseldale. The wood figures prominently in the economic, social and political life of all three communities.
Though not technically part of Cormanthor, Arch Wood largely escaped cutting because of its proximity to that great forest. In fact, Cormanthor and Arch Wood blend together around High-moon's tree-shaded lanes and in the forest gardens in Deepingdale.
The people of Archendale have always wanted to log the forest. After squabbling with the Dales Council in 1310 DR, they went ahead with plans to log the sections of the wood closest to its borders. A year later, Archendale's logging of the Arch Wood stopped so quickly that folk in the next dale could hear the axes dropping. Archendale's rulers did not reveal the reason for their decision. In truth, the logging uncovered ancient ruins that the Swords of Archendale determined were better left undisturbed.
Arkhen Falls: The largest and most beautiful waterfall of Dales flows from a natural spring on Mount Thalagbror, then plunges hundreds of feet into the valley below. On sunny days, worshipers of Chauntea and Mielikki walk to the falls, hoping to see pegasi frolicking in the spray.
Arkhen Vale: The long valley created by the River Archen forms the land occupied by Archendale. The valley is enclosed on both sides by high banks that can be climbed on foot but not on horseback. Two paths to the outside world, one on either end of the valley, are a accessible to a mounted warrior or a trader's wagon. These are the road north from White Ford and the road south, from Archenbridge.
Mount Thalagbror: Dalesfolk tend to rename geographic features originally named after evil beings, once those villains are safely dead. But Archenfolk still refer to this mountain using the name of an ogre mage who once terrorized the valley, until he was slain by heroes whose names were forgotten. Far up the slope, near the ogre mage's cavern lair, a great spring forms the origin of the River Arkhen.
Archenbridge, the capital, is the only urban area of any size in Archendale. Most significant locations within this dale are in its capital.
Archenbridge (Small City, 8,179): Archendale's capital is the largest city in the Dales and the only town with more than two thousand inhabitants in all of Archendale. Archenbridge's proximity to the official border of Sembia explains how Sembian connections help fuel Archendale's thriving markets, merchant houses, and investments. Simultaneously, fear of Sembia's military fuels Archendale's martial stance. The Swords have convinced Archenfolk that success in trade and military strength are inseparable pieces of their dale's national character.
The result is a bustling but uneasy city that constantly sprawls out of its rebuilt walls. Its inner core is as loud and bustling as the markets of Waterdeep. Its nobility and rich merchants build high townhouses in the center of the city to catch all the action. Town houses feature barred windows and hidden inner holds equipped with arrow slits and nastier defenses.
Bounty of the Goddess: Archenbridge's temple to Chauntea is a richly painted tithing barn. Worshipers enter through an arched door between two pillars carved to look like giant stalks of wheat, past a beautiful fountain. The legend says that if a priest of Chauntea is slain in Archendale the fountain's water turns into blood capable of healing diseases, wounds, and even lycanthropy. The priests of Chauntea discourage the spread of this tale.
Swordpoint: From a rocky outcropping above Archenbridge, Swordpoint dominates Arkhen Vale to the north, the Dawnpost trading road from Ordulin, and the water route down the River Arkhen. The massive fortress bristles with ballista; catapults, and other engines of war meant to destroy would-be besiegers. The walls themselves are old and crumbling in places, having improved little since the days they were built by a notorious robber baron named Sangalar the Crag, but they make up in thickness what they lack in quality.
Swordpoint is the capitol building of Archendale; the home of the Swords, and the headquarters of their warriors, the Archenriders. Three sixty-member units of the Archenriders remain on duty or on local patrols here.
Despite what other Dalesfolk view as the nasty suspicion and arrogance of the Archendale military, morale inside Swordpoint is high. A shrine to Tempus within the walls assures the soldiers that their god is with them. The secret tunnels into and out of Sword point don't concern them as long as their commanders remain aware of them, and any prisoners screaming in the dungeons no doubt deserve their fate.
White Ford (Small Town, 1,072): The Archenfolk dumped boulders into the river to construct a trustworthy ford at a whitewater rapids in the fast-running River Arkhen, downstream from Arkhen Falls. The sleepy town of White Ford grew up around the ford, caring for passing merchants without working hard to attract their business or compete with Archenbridge to the south. Its inhabitants are woodcarvers, farmers, mushroom-pickers, or members of the Archenriders, who always have one or two sixty-member units defending a ditch-and-stone ring stronghold named Arch Hold. A larger wall called the Wolfwall encircles the entire community in a wide oval. Its gates are usually open, but they can be closed in times of trouble or in the winter to keep beasts from stealing into the village for food.
Archendale's history revolves around conflicts with Sembia over their shared but undefined border. Ironically, Archendale's military improvements were financed by a wartime settlement in which every year Sembia paid the Swords an amount in gems worth hundreds of thousands of gold pieces. Over time, these pay became a form of protection money paid to Archendale so that it did not interfere with Sembian trade.
The new Sembian Overmaster, Kendrick Selkirk, has judged correctly that Archenbridge is now far too dependent on that trade to interfere with Sembia's merchants, so the payments stopped. The border conflicts have not.
Plots and Rumors
Adventurers aren't always welcomed in Archendale. The folk of the dale are generally content with the prosperity and good order kept by the Swords, and in turn the Swords don't allow chaotic things like adventures to take place within their domain. Of course, adventures have a way of happening despite the rulers intent.
The Seasren Curse: Throughout Archendale prominent citizens begin dying at the hands of a powerful and deadly ghost, reputed to be the spirit of none other than the Dusk Lord of Sessrendale. Fearful rumors hold that the ghost will not stop until it slays one descendant of each soldier who marched on Sessrendale a century ago - at least one person from each of hundreds of Arkhen families. The hundredth anniversary of the bitter fighting has arrived, and folks fear the ghost's vengeance.
Of course, it isn't clear if the murdered citizens are actually descendants of the cursed families, or even that a ghost is responsible for the deaths. If the truth of the matter is not what people say, then who is killing Archenfolk, and why is he or she doing it?