Elminster's Guide to the Realms
Old Angrath's Smokehouse
by Ed Greenwood, illustrated by David Day, (Dragon #300)
Old Angrath's Smokehouse, a local landmark in Red Larch, stands well back from the Long Road, to the east of that caravan-route. It's near the northern edge of Red Larch proper (though well within the outlying farms of that town) and is reached along its own rutted cart-drive. Turn off the Long Road at Nurnath's chicken barns (the green tiled roof of his large, fairly new roadside barn is distinctive) and follow the cart-track between the hornapple orchards of Mragan Gulther and the pasture belonging to Indurr "Warsword" Stalnstern (a retired mercenary turned cattleman) for about a mile.
The cart-drive then climbs a small, free-cloaked hill and ends in a wagon-turn. The hill belongs to Angrath Dree, and the aromatic smoke drifting from the hilltop leads even travelers unfamiliar with Red Larch to Old Angrath's Smokehouse.
What makes Old Angrath both very busy and somewhat notorious is that she's known to be a Harper "eyes and ears" who allows Those Who Harp to use her smokehouse as a meeting place and item drop location.
What Meets The Eye
The wagon-turn is a round, muddy area strewn with gravel. Here and there, the earth is disturbed, as though things have been buried and then dug up again. Curious visitors who are bold enough to dig their own holes sometimes find a large, flat stone about a foot below the surface. Those finding such stones are advised that they mark the presence of something buried for Harper business.
The wagon-turn occupies most of the northern end of the hilltop; beyond it, to the north, is a small outcropping of rock crowned by a signal beacon (a large unlit fire, shielded from wet weather by cut saplings and bark propped up around it in a cone shape). Beyond the rocks, the hill falls away steeply into brambles.
To the south of the wagon-turn, the hilltop rises slightly to a herb garden. At its peak stands the remnant of a lone felsul tree that rises perhaps eight feet off the ground: the trunk and one horizontal limb, held up by a wooden prop. Hanging from this bough is a storm-lantern, and beneath it is the hollow that holds Angrath's fire pits. The prevailing wind on the hilltop is out of the northwest, and so the three smokehouses (looking very much like small but tall, unusually tidy one-room stone cottages) stand in a cluster to the southeast of the lantern-tree.
To the southwest, well down the hill, is a trash-heap dominated by old soot-caked barrels and several smoke-damaged wooden boxes (temporary miniature smokehouses that Angrath drags back up the hill into service at the height of her work season). Angrath dwells inside the hill, in a few small, root-walled caverns with windows to the east. Her home is an untidy warren of stored fruit, vegetables, and herbs, and it has been deliberately littered with old buckets, spokes of broken wagon-wheels and the like. All of this "homey trash" (as Angrath calls it) serves to conceal many yellowing or crumbling scraps of parchment and vellum that bear written messages. She knows precisely where each message is, but a thief or brigand trying to snatch a particular writing would have to search long and hard.
"Old" Angrath Dree is a CG female human Exp4/Sor9/War2. Angrath is a wrinkled, obviously aging woman who retains broader shoulders and mightier thews than many large fighting-men. She's bow-legged, fat, and ugly, and she shuffles when she moves. Long, gray-white hair hangs around her in an untidy cloud except when she's working with food or her axe (her favored weapon - with a supplement of throwing-daggers - as well as her most-used working tool). Her underground dwelling contains many nooks hollowed out of the earth that hold spare axes and weapons, as well as a handful of healing potions and, for emergencies, potions that duplicate her favored escape spell: gaseous form.
If Angrath becomes gaseous anywhere on her land, she knows the cracks, passages, and tiny fissures that riddle the hilltop and can use them to flee into or out of her home, and away into the trees (the trees of her hilltop trail down the hillsides to the northeast and southeast to become hedgerows dividing the darm fields of others, providing her with several miles of "scrub cover" to move around in.
Officially, Angrath makes her living smoking meats and fish and by selling dried and powdered herbs and ointments. Angrath's ointments include the standard list of alchemical items found in the Player's Handbook, along with four unique herbal and sap concoctions.
- Biteabate: This soft white gel soothes temporary hurts, clears the head, and relieves the pain of minor bruises and wounds. Each application of biteabate heals 1d8 points of subdual damage.
Cost: 20 gp; Craft (alchemy) DC to Create: 20; Weight: 1 lb.
- Brightvigil: This clear, light liquid induces wakefulness, making the wearer less likely to succumb to magical sleep effects. Brightvigil provides a +5 alchemical bonus on saving throws made to resist sleep effects. The effects of brightvigil last one hour.
Cost: 30 gp; Craft (alchemy) DC to Create: 15; Weight: -
- Softshield: This thick, pungent paste reduces the chance of infection. If applied within 10 minutes of the time of infection, softshield provides a +1 alchemical bonus to saving throws made to resist the initial infection of disease. It provides no benefit on subsequent saving throws to resist the disease.
Cost: 10 gp; Craft (alchemy) DC to Create: 10; Weight: 1 lb.
- Focus: Made from steeped duskwood bark and a selection of herbs found near Angrath's, focus is one of the part-time alchemist's most successful and valuable mixtures. Focus provides a +2 alchemical bonus to Concentration checks. This benefit lasts for 10 minutes.
Cost: 30 gp; Craft (alchemy) DC to Create: 25; Weight:-
The Daily Smoke
Angrath cures her meats in brine. Between curing batches, she boils her brine in old cauldrons, skims off the scum, and seasons the water with her own mixture of herbs, spices, and rock salt. Then the cauldrons are emptied back into well-seasoned duskwood barrels, and meats are put into the barrels and held under the level of the brine with weighing stones. Every four days, Angrath removes the meat, skims off any scum, stirs the brine well, and repacks the barrel.
When cured, the meat is washed in fire-warmed water and then given a cold rinse. Salt deposits are scrubbed away, and then meat is hung on hooks, in iron baskets, and in metal pincers in the warm room of the smokehouse to dry. When meats are cured, Angrath cold smokes them in one of three separate smokehouses - small, square tile-roofed stone cottages with vents in their roof peaks. Inside, they're identical: a flagstone-floored single room with a smoke vent in the center of the floor. Over the smoke vent stands a low table made of old scrap metal covered with remnants of shields so that there are plenty of gaps in the tabletop. This baffle helps to spread the smoke.
Parallel bars of duskwood and shadow wood run across the room, their ends resting in sockets in the interior walls. The meats hang from these bars on many stout hooks and baskets.
Beneath the smoke vent of each smokehouse is a buried pipe that descends straight down for a foot or so and then curves smoothly around to a more horizontal, ten-foot-long run underground to Angrath's fire pit. This long run descends about a foot as it goes, and Angrath's pipe is old dwarf-made pipe-tile.
The far end of the smokepipe is a hole (about 3 feet deep and a little less across, with the smokepipe entering one side of it about a foot below the top) lined with stones and covered with a large stone lid. Angrath has built her smokehouses so that the smokepipes converge and her three fire pits are clustered together (upwind of the smokehouses).
In the pits, Angrath starts fires with dry hardwood, lets them burn down to glowing coals, and then adds damp hardwood chips and shavings. As might be expected, most of her time is spent with axe and hand-maul, chopping duskwood logs into fuel capable of producing the dense, white smoke necessary to cure the meat.
The woodcutters who bring Angrath her wood are Harpers; unloading and stacking the wood gives them plenty of opportunities to converse with her, even if clients are present. The hill is honeycombed with hiding-places for items, but these tend to be cached weapons, gear, and supplies, not unique, hard-to-replace items or valuables. Once Angrath was the guardian of such things, but no more.
This is due to the reason she also stores and passes on many cryptic or even false messages - Those Who Harp know very well that Angrath's Smokehouse has become too well known to be secure.
Angrath knows it too, and 'tis a credit to her pride and her resolve that she pretends not to and goes on playing a dangerous role.
That's not to say her home isn't a refuge for Harpers on the run. Nor does it mean Angrath's ignorant of Harper doings in the Sword Coast lands. She does take care that she never knows enough to endanger fellow Harpers, knowing that she could fall into the clutches of Zhentarim or Red Wizards who could use spells to rummage through her memories and knowledge.