Tornen's Crossing and Environs
What are the important places and features in the town of Tornen’s Crossing, and the nearby environs? What can one expect to find within a few days’ ride?
Even though it is a crossroads town, Tornen’s Crossing is a bit off the beaten path, and has therefore not grown to the size of other crossroads towns like Waulkit’s Cross or Taleste. Travelers mostly pass through, on their way to Buraun’s Well and Castlewen in the eastern mountains, Canderel’s Mire in the marshlands to the northwest, the clanholds of the Quissiah Highlands to the southeast, or to Waulkit’s Cross and the rest of the realm in the southern lowlands. There is however, another reason why visiting commonfolk rarely choose to stay long. Tornen’s Crossing is most known for rumors and legends of dangers and threats that have stalked its environs. Some blame whatever it is that stirs the mysterious depths of the Great North Wood, some blame what locals call “The Ruin” that towers over the town on a precipice to the northwest, and some whisper of other reasons that defy reason itself. Because of this, Tornen’s Crossing has become one of the common destinations for those few individuals who find the peaceful, rustic life of the central Hearthlands boring and tedious, and want some danger and excitement in their lives. Some call these foolish, curious folk “adventurers”.
Places of Interest Within the Town
Tornen’s Tavern – A popular watering hole for those looking for hearty food and heartier gossip. Brigands and ne’er-do-wells are NOT welcome here, as this rambunctious establishment is for “decent” folk. Things can, and do, get rough here from time to time, especially due the occasional “adventurous” travelers who’ve arrived in town to explore the rumors they’ve heard of about the region. This favorite place of refreshment is run by a retired warrior Blade Cuttler and his lovely yet very dangerously capable wife Stiletta Cuttler.
The Town Hall – A gathering place for important town meetings, gatherings, and the like.
The Keep – The fortified keep where the town’s lords and leaders have traditionally resided and from where they preside over Tornen’s Crossing and the surrounding Northern Marches.
Home Hill -
The Gates – Four large gates, each consisting of two multi-storied towers adjoined by a traversable arch, loom over the four primary roads of Tornen’s Crossing. Because each Gate has two towers with their own civic purposes and posts, the locals call out specific towers when referring to them. They would call out “East North Gate” if they were directing someone to the militia office in the eastern tower of “North Gate”, and “South South Gate” if they were directing someone to the tax collector’s office in the southern tower of “South Gate”.
Newcomers might think these gates peculiar, as they are not connected to the other gates by walls, and they do not provide the function of barring passage. In fact a person could just drive a cart around most of them. But when a newcomer inevitably asks about the Gates, they often learn the history from someone all too ready to spin a story for a pint of ale.
At some point in the past, back when there was a line of Lord Tornens, the Lord Tornen of the time decided to build a wall around the village, for it was a village back then, mind you, to defend it against threats. He hired the best masons from Buraun’s Well and at his behest they started by making sturdy gates that could be manned as towers and be well-defended redoubts. Unfortunately, Lord Tornen ran out of money before he was able to pay for connecting walls to be built, and the builders went home. And to top it off, the primary potential threat he feared was accidentally put down by the local militia (that’s another tale you can hear for another ale), and the need for walls became less pressing. Time passed, and the village grew around the towers, expanding to the point where it was a full-fledged town that could not be contained by Lord Tornen’s original vision. At that point, connecting the Gates with walls would become more of an expensive inconvenience than anything. So there they still stand, strong and stoic, repurposed to be watchtowers, civil and militia offices, storage, and jails for those who get too far out of line. You’re not the sort to get out of line, are you? Didn’t think so. So… how about that second ale?
The Sinkhole -
The Northern Marches – The Immediate Environs around Tornen’s Crossing
Best Stop Inn – This inn is the first stop along the North Road, heading away from Tornen’s Crossing off towards Castlewen and Buraun’s Well, or the last stop before Tornen’s Crossing if headed south. Travelers almost never push through without stopping for at least a meal.
Vale Haven – A small hamlet of orchard farmers to the south of Tornen’s Crossing. They travel to Tornen’s Crossing to trade their fruits and woodworking, but don’t really talk about themselves much, or welcome outsiders for that matter.
The Great North Wood – A great, deep forest with uncorroborated secrets and mysteries. There are rumors of beautiful sights like waterfalls that catch rainbows on their mists, of secretive folk within that don’t like trespassers, and of other dangers that no one can agree on regarding their nature.
The Ruin – Visible high above town on a rocky outcropping, only a few toppled tower stumps remain of what was once a castle. Abandoned for more generations than anyone can actually remember, some say it is a remnant of a great, forgotten war. It is rumored that it should provide access to hidden tunnels or some sort of dungeon, though no explorer has ever provided evidence that such stories were true. In fact it is said that several curious spelunkers have claimed they were off to explore the Ruin in depth and have never returned. Folk debate as to whether they actually found their end there, or if they merely got distracted by some other goal and moved on, never to be heard from again. In support of that hypothesis, there are youths who contradict the dire rumors, claiming to regularly loiter amongst the toppled stones and noticing nothing of interest beyond a little privacy and a view. With so many conflicting stories, the only thing that is certain is that mysteries still linger regarding that broken shell of a place…