Thursday, 6 January 2011

Still Water

In the far south east of the Border Princes, perilously close to Fortress Malefic, lies the sleepy little town of Still Water. It is only a small cluster of buildings centred round a market hall but it is an old settlement and one that the villagers have long been proud of.

Still Water lies on the bank of Blood River and is named for the way the river slows there, the plain almost perfectly flat around it. The village is the last human settlement in the southeast before the Badlands are reached and the lane that leads to it is a dead end. Following the lane west along the riverbank it meanders alongside the water toward the other scattered villages in the south and west. Travel to the north is greatly impeded by Blood River and no bridges wide enough for troop movement can be found until the south road is reached far far to the west. There is no ford at Still Water and this would normally mean that the town would hold little strategic value, being only small and fairly poor. Sadly this is not the case.

As the river runs so slowly here, although it is deep in parts, Still Water is still the best crossing point east of the Blood River Bogs. With Fortress Malefic to its south and beyond that the Badlands and the Land of the Dead, Still Water has had to weather a bitter and difficult time as the forces of the vampire counts have used it as a crossing point again and again.

Still Water’s most significant landmark is its majestic market hall. This huge building follows a design fairly common in the Border Princes but here in Still Water perhaps more use is made of it than elsewhere. For much of the year the market hall is used for storage of produce, the lower open floor utilised as a place of sale and bartering to the southern villages. Sales here are made of cattle and grain and of vegetables, fruit and milk. On festival days, the upper hall is used for celebrations, hosting dances that run on into the small hours and attract hunters and shepherds from many leagues around. For the rest of the year it is a focus of the community, providing a meeting place for the village council and general village hall for other purposes. It can be made to be very warm in winter and the roof shutters keep it cool in the summer. Its high tower gives a good view across the plain and enables the spotter always stationed there to alert the village folk of impending threats.

The Last Chance War has not been kind to the villagers of Still Water but paradoxically has allowed them to continue something of a sparse existence due to the nature of their closest neighbours. When the cry of the spotter alerts the villagers of approaching enemies, the folk flee from their houses and hide themselves in shallow underground chambers near to the graveyard covered in foliage. Enemies are not fought off but are avoided and given free reign to move through and past the river. In this way the villagers have stayed alive. Because their town lies so close to the heart of the realm controlled for so many months by the vampire counts, they have actually been able to avoid most threats. The zombies and skeletons have no need of looting their provisions after all.

Now however, the Skaven have taken up residence in Fortress Malefic, vicious scavengers all, and suddenly the existence of Still Water and its citizens is very much under threat. Survival in these times is a privilege, not a right, and the villagers look fearfully both north and south, wondering from which direction their doom will come. The vampires and the ratmen are soon to clash, the undead racing south to reclaim their fortress, the Skaven pushing north to see them off. With Still Water in such a critical position, it is more than likely to be the site of their inevitable clash. And woe betide the villagers then!

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