The Harrowmark

There may be hundreds of hidden entrances to the Harrowmark, scattered throughout almost any dark forest of Shyish (and maybe even further afield). A traveller may become lost in a wood and discover themselves in 10,000 leagues of malignant forest that is not where they started out.

The Harrowmark has long been considered a cursed and backward region, it has gained an ill reputation for being both a refuge for sorcerers and necromancers, and where the dead do not rest long in their graves.

The scattered villages and hamlets of the Harrowmark are detached and parochial. They are isolated by the vast and malignant forests that envelop them for 10,000 leagues in every direction. The dense, twisted woods are punctuated by rocky hills and outcrops that stand clear of the tangled trees like islands. A few gnarled and wind-swept trees cling to their sides and scrubby bushes and grasses hide in cracks in the stone. Some hills and some floating islands have clusters of houses or watch-towers huddled on top or on their steep sides, and most of these are accompanied by a wooden landing stage, used by flying ships to tie-up.

Grubbing what existence they can from the infertile land, the peasants live in small communities of inter-related families, and never venture far from their crude hovels. The villages are in a constant state of disrepair and have barred or boarded windows and heavy doors to keep out the night's predators. Crude fetishes and charms of a dozen gods hang on every lintel and frame. The villagers daub symbols of protection on their doors with pig's blood, to guard against the unnatural horrors of this frightful land. Hanging outside the gates of the most desperate townships can be found criminals and travellers caged in iron maidens, their only companions the crows and vampire bats that feed on them. The populace are for the most part concerned with day-to-day survival, raising famished, skinny goats and pigs, tending to what scraps of farmland they have in the hope of gathering enough crops to survive from year to year.

The villagers' only connection to their neighbours is by the flying ship trade routes overhead. Few dare to set foot in the forests, the risks are just too great: the creatures within too terrifying. But the galleons of the merchant fleets plot a wandering course over the treetops, stopping at as many villages on the ground and settlements on flying islands as they can to trade, to pick-up or drop-off passengers, to deliver letters and to pass on news.

The ships are propelled by a combination of wind and magic bound into the very timbers of their hulls. But getting to a particular location takes a great deal of skill and no small amount of luck. Flying ships' captains must know their trade and the overgrown rotting hulks of shipwrecks that litter the forests are a constant reminder of the fate that awaits those who do not!

Another constant hazard the flying ships endure is piracy.

Where there are goods worth stealing there are those who will try to steal them and the pirates of the Harrowmark have taken to the skies to ply their dark trade. Villains of many races come together in uneasy alliances aboard stolen flying galleons. Orruks, grots, humans, ogors, duardin, aelves, and even soulblight vampires on occasion have been seen rubbing shoulders among the pirate crews of The Harrowmark.

Wortbad is one such village, in the middle of the Harrowmark, it is deeply troubled by the undead and corrupted by dark magic. It is surrounded by haunted forests and overlooked by the jagged, foreboding Everdark Peaks. It is a land of perpetual autumn, where farmland lies fallow and untended, with crops rotted in the fields.


The Rose and Scythe is a run-down fortified Coaching Inn, actually it is two houses built around the crumbling remains of an ancient building, “The Rose” is a tavern and “The Scythe” is a boarding house. It once server hearty food an strong ale but it has been silent and empty for years. For all its emptiness it still has the homely feeling of a good inn. Like most intact houses in Wortbad there are crude protective spells painted on door and window frames, homemade wards and totems hang from the beams overhead: relic bones and skulls of holy men guard against the darkness. When near them the living feel less afraid of the undead that plague the village.











The Haunted Gate is a Baleful Realmgate in Wortbad, named for the writhing ghostly forms visible in its internal corona. The roiling magic energies within it's arch are entangled with Death Magic and the spirits of the dead so it glows with an eerie pale green-white light. The dark stonework is damp and weather stained with thin layers of green algae growing in places.

It is partly surrounded by a crumbling ruin from a time, long ago in another age, when it was enclosed by a protective building. Though no one knows if it was protecting the gate or the lands around it from the gate.


Blackrocks is a ruined and overgrown town in the dark forests of the Harrowmark, some seven leagues from Wortbad, that has been partially rebuilt using materials from skyship-wrecks. It’s main surviving features are the Freebooter’s Tower, The Hurricane Bell and the Charybdis Occulum. All are surrounded by dense forest.

In an area of Blackrocks that was once known as Stonewarden, in a clearing in the tangled forest, lies the ancient Charybdis Occulum. It is said that a mage that stands within the verdigrised sphere of the Occulum can use it's power to scry across a hundred leagues of the malignant forest and the dangerous skies above it: the mage will be able to see everything in this radius. It is not without risk but with practice and concentration they will be able to locate individual objects of value or people of interest.





Rotshroud Manse is the Wortbad skyship dock - a landing point above the level of the trees used by traders and transports (and the odd sky-pirate) that stop-off at Wortbad in their journeys over the endless, malignant forests.



Harrowmark Currency 


The currency of the Harrowmark is the Silver Shilling. There are 12 pennies in the shilling and four farthings in a penny. The one-shilling coin has a “Death’s Head” on one face so they are commonly known as “Silver Skulls”.

3 shillings and 6 pence would be written as $$3/6
7 shillings, 3 pence and 2 farthings would be written as $$7/3½

The Harrowmark Calendar

Months:
  1. Maelstrom
  2. Darkmaw
  3. Gloroyson
  4. Sorows
  5. Tears
  6. Ignus
  7. Huntyng
  8. Skwales
  9. Tempayne
  10. Stalke
  11. Graives
  12. Maddness
  13. Despayre

13 months, obviously!
Darkmaw maps onto January, February onto Gloroyson, March onto Sorows, etc. Since it is always autumn in The Harrowmark I won't get too picky about it.

Daylight in The Harrowmark


The “sun” in the Mortal Realms is Hysh, and Ulgu obscures it to make night.

The Realms of Light and Shadow are not directly above the part of Shyish where the Harrowmark is, they are on almost the same horizontal plane, so the "sun" always appears low in the sky. So Hysh is always filtered through a lot of dusty air and appears to be like what we see at sunset.

Each morning Hysh and Ulgu rotate around each-other so Hysh is in front and the land is bathed in horizontal orange-red light for a while. In the evening Hysh is slowly eclipsed and less and less light will fall on the Harrowmark until night falls.

So in the Harrowmark it will only ever be night or evening, and never full daylight.

Olshovilaag; the Fiend of the Harrowmark


Most of the Harrowmark is covered by virtually-impenetrable forest: Seemingly endless leagues of dark, tangled, twisted and unnatural woods. It is a corrupted land: the dead trees are warped by death-magic, skull-formed rock formations tower over the forest canopy like islands in an arboresque sea. The symbols and motifs of death are everywhere. 

Things live in these forests: malignant, spiteful things. It is a brave soul that ventures under the dark bowers, brave or foolish, as few who attempt to navigate the winding pathways ever emerge again. The forests are shaped by the death magic that permeates them and the things that emerge from the shadowy bowers are shaped by the forest.

One terrible example is the dreaded Olshovilaag; the Fiend of the Harrowmark. A massive undead construct made from a conglomeration of monster parts, horns, huge black-feathered wings, lots of skulls, tree branches, bones, rocks and broken weapons. A Death-monster, born from the forest itself. A crow-winged “Terrorgheist". The sound of its beating wings fills the villagers of the Harrowmark with dread. It's screeching stops their hearts and shreds their souls!

12 comments:

  1. This is just inspiring work mate!

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  2. Phenomenal stuff! What a cheery corner of the world you've built. (: Love the strong theme through all of the terrain pieces.

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    1. Thanks Towercap. "Cheery" is exactly what I was going for ;-)

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  3. Pretty damn late 'bout this all but I've just found you out on twitter and I guess I'm going to read all that's Harrowmark related!
    Your work is probably the highest, most inspirational kind of hobby that ever was..

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    1. Wow! I'm not sure I can live up to that! But thank you so much! I hope you are inspired to write about (and game in) your own corner of the Mortal Realms! 😊

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  4. Awesome! Definitely an inspiration as I'm writing more setting material for a narrative event.

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