Almondsey


The Province of South Estalia -- Sites of the Southeastern Border Sector

Site contents: Blackpriest Castle, Limax, Frabcis, Fowlix (Yivil, Tost, and Flar), Argonoth, Falarn, Corch & Tithrom, and Fort Hazard (Salammy Castle)

Blackpriest Castle is one of the most sinister castles in Estalia. It was built by the Hierophant Hrarl-zip-Tum-Milud, a notorious prelate of the 17th Century, who was known as the Black Priest, or the Wizard in Black, whose prime activity was the torture and murder of heretics (in the interest of saving their souls, of course). Hence the prison in the basement of his grand tower; this basement room has a trapdoor down into a small, dismal cave carved into the hillside, where captives languished. It is located in the remote uplands of the southeastern Marchland sector along a ravine, and is built into the hillside, and only reached by narrow bridges across a gorge. It is vulnerable on the east, being overlooked by the hills, but that area is practically incaccessible. The central building is just a two-storied structure with kitchen/cellar on the lower floor, great hall/solar on the upper. To the south is the gatehouse complex, housing servants and retainers, and to the north the conical-roofed great tower that was the private accommodation of the Black Priest. He was also an accomplished student of wizardry; the top floor of the tower was his study and library.
Limax Castle is the 'remote' home of the Duke of Marchland. It is a large tower house with a tiny courtyard containing the service wing (kitchen, servants' hall, servants' dormitory, castellan's quarters, etc.) and also a gatehouse wing that houses the garrison. It is located on the far northeast corner of the county, overlooking both the sinister land of Linzonia and the Almondsey walled town Yarthfur. Although in a seemingly vulnerable area of the country, this castle is actually rather safe -- hard to get to, for one thing, and protected on three sides by cliffs and a ravine. The tower house contains a vaulted basement, a two-story great hall (with a minstrels' gallery), and a garret floor with three bedrooms. At the eastern corners there are large round towers (with angular rooms) that contain the Duke's private quarters.
Frabcis Castle is a small border fort along the River Vole, opposite Tram Castle in Almondsey. It is famous mainly as a 'smuggling' headquarters, the unofficial trading post between the two countries. The castle is a simple square structure built on an artificial island in a marshy part of the river where a tributary runs down from the hills; it has a large keep tower and a low courtyard range on the other three sides. The basement of the keep is the main storage room for transferred goods (mainly spirits). Officially, it belongs to the Duke of Marchland, but is the assigned residence of his chief steward.

In the re-entrant angle of the keep, a two-storied wing consisting of an elegant dining room and parlor was constructed in the late 18th Century. On the river side is a four-storied watch tower, and a small dock. The 'Barn' contains cellarage, and more storage for imported goods; there is also a garrison hall and dormitory -- a troop of 16 militia is permanently stationed at the castle.

Fowlix and Yivil are located in the marshes of the Vale of Vole; Tost and Flar are in the highlands overlooking the Almondsey port of Glabbay; Corch and Tithrom (see below) are in the northern highlands overlooking the county of Linzonia (whose inhabitants are less trustworthy than the Almondese).

Castles: Fowlix, Yivil, Tost, and Flar were all built by the 4th Duke of Marchland (late 17th Century) according to a basic mass-production pattern. The common features (mouldings, etc.) were assembled in Carboil from the local quarries then transported tediously via mountain roads to their destination. The basic plan is a residential tower house -- all identical -- and a small 'barmkin' or outer courtyard. Orientation, and variations from the basic rectangular ground plan, differ from place to place based on siting. They are basically presences rather than strong fortresses, because by the time they were built this disputed border area had calmed down considerably. They were normally assigned to one of the heirs as soon as he reached the age of 16, to prove his mettle, but one, at least (Fowlix) was given to a daughter and is now traditionally held by a woman.

These castles became centers of manorial estates, for the most part, and lost their defensive purpose in the early 19th Century. But even as manors, they are hardly luxurious, although aesthetically pleasing from the outside.

Argonoth Castle is one of the few truly medieval castles in Estalia, and very much resembles a Norman motte-and-bailey castle, although this analogy is misleading. It was actually built on the site of an ancient bronze-age earthwork, incorporating a natural (but artificially scarped) hillock as the basis of the keep or motte. It is fairly huge in original area if one includes the outer ward, which was once a village, but was abandoned when the castle was built in the 15th Century. The main purpose of this stronghold was to protect the inhabitants of the Lake Jatta basin from the depredations of the aboriginal Linzonians, but its almost totally ruined state is the responsibility of the Almondese, who attacked it in 1666, destroyed it, but were beaten back on the battlefield near what was to become the Palbo-mim Ye-Bocx.

The ruins are uninhabitable, apart from the restored Warden's Tower. While the keep is intact, albeit totally gutted, the Almondese blew up the gatehouse and the inner sides of the main southern flanking towers. One reason the castle was never fully restored was the Treaty of Reconciliation (1667), which forbade reconstruction.

Falarn Castle -- the official home of the Moderator (chief financial officer of the country). A relatively simple tower house with a barmkin or courtyard holding ancillary buildings; the surrounding estates, however, are extensive and profitable -- all the land between the castle and Carboil. The castle sits overlooking the point where the River Throm goes underground in its course from Lake Jatta to the River Lin.

The keep tower is a well-appointed building, very finely decorated within; it does not provide much in the way of accommodation, though. The courtyard is very meager, to say the least, as far as providing other buildings for servants, etc. Outside the walls, however, is the large estate with all its associated structures.

Corch and Tithrom Castles -- small tower houses with simple barmkin courtyards overlooking Linzonia. They were built to protect the northern border of Marchland against intrusions from these fierce aborigines, before the Treaty of Linzonia (1732) when the Estalians and Linzonians agreed to ignore each other practically completely. Tithrom overlooks the gorge where the River Throm exits from its underground course beneath the hills, and Corth is on a steep slope overlooking a wild section of Ballon Forest. They are both considered bleak outposts and are usually held by disgraced members of the Marchland family.

These twin castles were designed by the same architect, to the same pattern -- much of the decorative work (door frames, windows, masonry quoins, etc.) was prefabricated in Carboil, as the slightly later castles of Fowlix, etc. were done. There is a stable and a garrison quarter along the gatehouse side, but nothing else in the way of outbuildings. Everything is self-contained within the tower house, a simple four-storied structure with two vaults: Cellar/kitchen, Great Hall, Solar, and Bed Chamber. The top floor has two slightly projecting battlement rooms and two parapets. Grim, but picturesque silhouettes against the skyline looking south from Ballon Forest -- meant to overawe the Linzonians.

Fort Hazard (Salammy Castle) -- The premier fortress of this area, built on the Salammy Head promontory at the east side of the south coast of Estalia. It is an artillery fortification along the lines (rather primitive) of a Vaubin fortress, and also has a lighthouse, which was built 100 years later, and a keep tower built at about the same time (1820's). The keep was built to accommodate the contemporary Duke of Marchland, who was very much into Napoleonic matters and wanted a place where he could 'play soldier' -- it is rather a sham, militarily, mainly built for comfort. The surrounding ramparts, and the barracks on three sides of the parade ground, are rather formidable, but there is very little in the way of outworks and flanking batteries. This fortress was regarded with contempt by the Almondese (since it does not really protect anything), and was never assaulted.


Estalia