The Barony of Ardengard is roughly eighty miles to the northwest of Strait, within the Angsul forest. The barony includes the entire borderland between the forest and Coldmyr Lake, but in practice the area is thinly patrolled. It is widely assumed that the Baroness uses some magical means to keep an eye on this most remote, and least important, border of the kingdom. The seat of the Barony is a small fortified town of just a few hundred people, built around the eponymous Tower of Ardengard. The locals call the town and tower together simply The Tower.

Ardengard is highly unusual for having a Magi baroness. The Arcane Academy doesn't allow its members to align themselves with powerful outside interests, and Aspera is highly suspicious of the Academy. How these mutually distrusting entities agreed to such an arrangement is a matter of speculation. The Magi baroness' reputed power and air of mystery has inspired a number of colorful monikers for her and her remote territory: the Witch's Wood, the Angsul Sorceress, the Forest Tower, the Arcane Canton, Tower of Terror, Seraphina's State, Province of Peril, and many others more colorful with occasional pejorative emphasis.

Quick Facts


Baron
Baroness Serafina (thane to Count of Strait, thane to Duke of Corak)
Population
15,000
Races
85% human, 5% gnome, 5% halfling, 5% other (dwarf, half-orc, half-elf)
Exports
dyes, clay, forestry products, herbs, medicines
Imports
grain, wine

History


Before the turn of the millennium there were three significant towers along the Angsul/Coldmyr frontier, built to watch over the lake and guard against monsters and invaders. The three towers were never sites of major battles, but nonetheless formed a defense against minor assaults from the Lake and the adjacent Felton Moor. Of these, Ardengard was the smallest but the strongest, built by humans on an ancient foundation laid by dwarves.

Like the rest of the kingdom, the region fell into disarray beginning in the 990's . By the time of the Asperan civil war in 1007CE, each tower was ruled by a separate king, and each fought bitterly against the others. By the time Tygar began his Reconstruction (1054CE) the entire frontier was a shadow of its former self. All three towers lay in ruins and the residents were subject to frequent raids from goblins, trolls, packs of wandering undead, and the occasional dragon. Tygar relocated the entire population to the areas surrounding Corak and Newholy, abandoning the frontier all together.

Over the subsequent decades, a few hardy people people drifted back out to the unprotected frontier. Their reasons varied from just wanting to make a tax-free living to more furtive motives. Among these was Magi Issyren who rebuilt Ardengard Tower (c. 1105), this time using dwarven builders to create an edifice worthy of its ancient foundations. With the arrival of a powerful arcanist the area became a much safer place to live, and within ten years several small towns had sprung up. Few people know how it was arranged, but Issyren was made Baroness of the Coldmyr frontier in 1114, and the barony was renamed after her impressive residence.

In 1135 Issyren handed the reins of the Barony to her daughter, the Magi Seraphina (b.1096), continuing the occupation of the Forest Tower by arcanist women. During her tenure, Seraphina has continued much of the restoration begun by her mother. She has improved the major roads, repaired much of the Ridge Wall, and built several schools.

Since her retirement from administration Issyren has gone back to the wandering ways of her youth, leaving home for weeks at a time to travel around the kingdom of Aspera and beyond. She was last seen in the Autumn of 1140, and her current whereabouts are unknown.

Geography


Far to the south of Ardengard, water rushes down from ice-capped mountains in until it reaches the Felton Moor, and from there it slowly filters through the vast bogland until it comes to rest in Coldmyr Lake. The eastern boundary of the lake, where it faces the western edge of the Angsul Forest, is often called the Coldmyr frontier and forms the west boundary of the kingdom of Aspera and the Barony of Ardengard. Centuries of mineral silt drifting down from the moor has formed the Clay Banks, a line of short bluffs made entirely of clay that provides much of the Barony's revenue. Several towns mine the hillsides for clay and depend the lake for much of their food. Oloberries are farmed here to be used in food, spirits, and medicine.

The few miles between the lake shore and the edge of the Angsul is populated by grasses, wildflowers, and a few smallish trees that don't mind the thin topsoil. As one travels farther from the lake shore and past the millenia of clay strata, the forest takes over. The land rises slowly to the Lake Ridge, in which lies three passes. Each of these passes once held a tower, although only the Ardengard now stands. Connecting the three towers is the Ridge Wall, a simple defensive wall 10' tall by 15' wide, running the entire length of the ridge, roughly 125 miles.

The northeast side of the Lake Ridge falls quite sharply down into the Bramble Vale. Once the home to thousands of farms and several significant towns, it is now mostly deserted except for a few small villages and their surrounding farms in the southern third. In the northern two-thirds of the vale the forest has taken over where fields of grain used to stand, the most prominent trees being great valley oaks.

The most important road, affectionately called the Bramble Ramble (or locally the Ramble) runs north from Strait into the southern part of Bramble Vale and through the few villages in its southern part. Then the Ramble turns west towards a pass through Lake Ridge, where it meets the town and fortress of Ardengard. Then the Ramble heads down towards the lake, where it turns northwest along the Clay Banks until it suddenly stops, several miles from the Creche.