Postfest VIII(UPF1): The Southhill District of Seaton
Date: Thu, November 01, 2007
Topic: Greyhawk Gazetteer
This article profiles a district of the city of Seaton, capital of the Viscounty of Salinmore. Two locations are listed with prospective plot hooks for adventures relating to each.
The Southhill District of Seaton
Note: This article takes as its basis the map of Seaton created by C. Wesley Clough aka “cwslyclgh” which is available on the Canonfire! website at http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=512.
Two large hills lay within the bounds of the Viscounty of Salinmore’s capital of Seaton. In the northern part of the town is High Hill, the location of Secunforth Castle, which overlooks Seaton Bay and is guarded by the steep approach from High Market to the south. High Hill’s more gradual eastern slope is covered by Secunforth Park and the district known as the Gardens, where the estates of the gentry and lesser nobility are.
To the south, over Salin Stream is South Hill. At it’s highest point is located the Temple of Procan, atop the cliffs that look down on the harbor and civic docks . On the gentle slopes below the Temple compound are the homes of the wealthy, though still non-gentle, sea captains of Seaton.
After the Battle of Jetsom Island many of Seaton’s independent shipping captains grew in wealth as trade with the Sea Princes expanded and became legitimate. Later, whaling captains joined their ranks as that industry and the fisheries of those massive creatures expanded outward from the coast. The practice of whaling from small boats based on shore gave way to ship-based whaling expeditions as the former drove the whales from their regular calving grounds north of the islands of the Sea Princes and into the warmer waters off the coast of the Amedio and the Olman Islands. Given the presence of Scarlet Brotherhood corsairs in those waters the already risky profession of whaling became and remains even riskier. Nevertheless the great demand for whale oil for lamps and in the processing of wool for cloth pays great rewards for those willing to gamble in the trade.
Despite the abolition of sumptuary laws during the reign of Tavish IV the newly wealthy sea captains -- commoners still -- were not allowed to settle anywhere near the gentry and nobles of the Gardens. So instead they began to build homes outside the city walls on the upper slopes of the sparsely inhabited South Hill, anchoring their community in the building of a grand new Temple of Procan to replace the rather poor house of worship to that deity then located in the Low Market.
The area where they did this is now known as Southhill District and in its more crowded, downhill sections are the shops and homes of many artisans and craftspeople. These become plainer the closer one goes toward the Fish Market and the wealth of their owners decrease.
As the City Watch focuses mainly on the Gardens district and other wealthy sections of the city north of the Salin Stream, the Southhill watch is composed of private mercenaries employed by the district’s leading inhabitants and the associations of local artisans. This watch concentrates on keeping the more desperate inhabitants of the Fish Market neighborhoods out of the area. The freelance nature of the Southhill Watch has led to some bad blood between them and the City Watch, and so the level of cooperation between the two groups is almost nonexistent.
The recent pirate raid on the city, which saw a good portion of the city within the wall burned, did not affect Southhill to any great degree since the district had it’s own small mercenary army to defend it. However, the renegotiation forced on the inhabitants to compensate the mercenaries for their hazardous action against the pirates has led to a great deal of grumbling.
The pirate raid was carried out mainly by members of the humanoid-dominated Yellow Sails fleet which operates out of the Pomarj and mainly preys on the Sea of Gearnat. There were other elements involved in the raid though. A considerable number of the raiders were recognized as being followers of the bandit chieftain Sir Bravos the Fiend, a notorious blackguard and renegade member of the house of Rhola. Theories on who planned the raid range widely. While most think it was instigated by Bravos in cooperation with the Yellow Sails pirates, some blame any of the number of factions operating in the former lands of the Sea Princes. Others say it was the Scarlet Brotherhood. Some even blame the mercantile interests in Gradsul and Saltmarsh, both of whom would have benefitted from a reduction of trade in Seaton. Whatever the truth, despite the initial loss of a large number of the population as refugees, the frantic efforts to rebuild the ruined sections of the city have seen a considerable increase in population and a flurry of activity.
Notable locations in Southhill are -
The Temple of Procan
The rival of Xerbo is worshiped by many of the wealthier of the merchant captains and as a matter of course by almost all of the recently wealthy whaling captains, for Xerbo’s wife Osprem does not care for their trade and few whalers will seek the favor of her husband.
The temple grounds are irregularly shaped, holding the outbuildings which house the priests and acolytes, their gardens and their glass-making workshops. A wall of common brick 8' high surrounds the grounds though the immense front gate is made of blue-glazed bricks. Bas-reliefs of sea creatures surround the gate’s immense arching double doors which are made of huge planks cut from entire driftwood trunks and bound in patinated bronze. A paved processional leads straight to the temple from there.
Immediately surrounding the temple is a low-walled circular garden with a paved path through its center and other side paths branching throughout. The garden is full of stone-lined pools and gently hanging willows for the peaceful contemplation of the priests. The processional cuts through the garden directly to the main door of the temple.
The temple itself is a magnificent structure built mainly of blue-green marble found only in the uplands near Hokar in the Sea Princes. It was imported at great expense for the project. The structure of the temple is a 40' high octagonal base surmounted by a 50' high octagonal middle section topped by an oval dome. The middle section is pierced with numerous windows and arches which allow ample light and air inside the temple. At the peak of the dome is a sculpture of a great bronze trident pointing skyward through a cresting wave, the symbol of Procan.
Services are held every Godsday though they are not overly long or complex as Procan’s clergy are not given to great displays of ritual. The procession of worshipers – led by the captains, followed by the seamen, whalers and finally the common fishermen – takes almost as long to wend its way up South Hill to the temple as the time taken up by the actual services.
The priests and novitiates residing here spend the majority of their time tending to the needs of their flock and laboring in the temple’s workshops and gardens. The workshops are devoted almost exclusively to the production of high quality glass products which only a handful of the priests hold the secret of. Such wares are valued throughout Keoland and the surrounding nations, and Seaton Glass is a byword for quality among items made of that material.
Plot Hook - A competitor in the glass business, located in Gradsul, is determined to acquire the secret of making Seaton Glass, or failing that to hurt the temple’s business as much as possible. The chief priest of the temple stumbled upon the fact that there is a traitor in the midst of the temple’s clergy while casting a divination spell regarding the success of their latest shipment to Gradsul. He hires the players to find out who the traitor is, but to do so without making the traitor aware that he has been found out. That way the chief priest can decide how to proceed. If the spy is an acolyte the priest plans to feed him false information to keep the competitor off balance or maybe even hurt his business, or possibly gain enough evidence to formally accuses him in the court of the Duke. If he is one of the circle of full priests then the consequences could be more dire and might possibly involve the party in aiding the “disappearance” of the spy. Alternately the players may have been hired by the competitor of the temple to root out the secret of making Seaton glass.
The secret to making Seaton Glass is in the ingredients used, almost pure quartz sand from a particular beach further down the coast, and soda from the ash of bull kelp gathered from the prolific beds of that plant which grow on the seaward side of the harbor’s breakwater.
The Spring of the Nymph
The one limit on expansion in the Southhill district is the decree which has protected the three large groves in the area since nearly the establishment of the town as Salinmore’s capital. In the grove directly south of the Temple of Procan is a spring from which effervescent mineral water flows. The water springs out of a crevice in the top of a large rock and flows into a natural pool before the overflow goes downhill to the harbor in a series of small falls. An early Viscount, Eren Secunforth placed a stone statue in the pool and decreed the pool and the grove surrounding, as well as the other two groves on South Hill to be sacrosanct. This unusual action stemmed from a vivid dream the Viscount had after making plans to build a private mineral spa over the spring and pool. The statue represents the fey woman of unearthly beauty who appeared to him in the dream, though the statue itself is modeled after the famous Urnsti half-elven courtesan Alyasha Pearlflower who was a guest of the Viscount at that time. In the dream the woman urged the Viscount to protect the spring and groves, prophesying that if it ever ran dry or the groves were chopped down that the town would fall to enemies and plague.
The Grove of the Spring is a popular park-like retreat for the inhabitants of the Southhill district during the day and is often crowded with picnicking families on holidays. Local legend says that a nymph inhabits the spring and that tossing a coin or other valuable into the pool and taking a drink will bring a blessing from her of the gift of great eloquence. Likewise stealing money from the pool will result in a curse that strikes one dumb. Whether the legends are true or not silver coins tossed into the pool are usually gone by the time the sun rises the next morning, though many attribute this to the robbers who sometimes use the grove as a base for their nightly forays, despite the best efforts of the local watch.
Plot Hook - The spring and the subterranean water source for it are not inhabited by a nymph but by a small goddess of the land (As presented in “Small Gods” by Geoffrey McVey, Dragon #293). The goddesse's name is Alvonea and she is the personification of the spring and the underground water source that supplies it. She was revered by the local Flan who once lived here, and the elves before them. Her worship by the Flan ended when the Suel conquered and settled the area. Since her heyday she has decreased considerably in power though she still has enough to use her spell-like powers, occasionally manifest in physical form, and send dreams to mortals such as she did to convince Viscount Eren to preserve the spring and groves.
Though she is not capable of granting glib speech to those who sacrifice a silver coin in the fountain she does usually bestow a blessing upon that person that leaves them refreshed and full of life. She is more creative with any she catches stealing from the pool. She may enact any of a number of petty reprisals from casting chill metal on any jewelry the thief may be wearing to summoning a swarm of bats or rats to attack them.
The underground stream that feed the spring leads into a series of caves and tunnels beneath South Hill and mixes with other sources of fresh and salt water at various points. These tunnels can be reached from the surface by a cave entrance at the base of the cliffs that are the north face of the hill. The cave entrance is covered by water at all times except the lowest tides.
Unfortunately for Alvonea the caves have been invaded by an aboleth who is poisoning her water source. This is slowly weakening her further and she does not have the power to openly challenge the aberration. She will recruit the players to defeat the aboleth and its servants, most likely through dreamlike sendings though she may summon the will to manifest physically. She will reveal the harbor entrance to the cave system to the players. What enticement she uses is entirely up to the DM, though having lived in the area this long she is doubtless aware of the location of numerous wonders and hidden treasures as well as possessing a cash of treasure from generations of sacrifices made to her.