Almondsey


Sloat, Estalia


East Estalia was annexed by Almondsey as part of the Treaty of Reconciliation (1667), leaving the country with little access to European trade (minor as it was, but a real blow to the economy). The port of Glabbay had been a major trading post with the Norwegians and other northern Europeans. Rogiber of Sloat had been a rich merchant of Glabbay, and escaped that town with his wealth intact, then decided to find an alternative port for the Continental trade. Unfortunately, he picked the small fishing village of Sloat (where his family had come from), which offered the only relatively safe harborage along the treacherous Longstrand shore of Estalia. It succeeded very well for a few years, after he prioritized the building of docks along the mouth of the River Sloat and constructing a great bridge across the river, leading north to Jatta and the heartland of Estalia, and also spending a fortune improving the road to the capital. Within 50 years this town became a major port. Squire Sloat died happy at the age of 92, having seen his successors made hereditary Barons of Sloat. He had also utilized his profits to build the Great Gatehouse and fortify the northern part of the town. Unfortunately his grand scheme of establishing a city came to nought. After generations of good weather (amazingly lucky for that area), the prevailing southwesterly gales came back in force, shifting the great Longstrand shingle/sand beach eastward and blocking up the river with shoals. Dredging operations were tried a few times, but proved futile and not cost-effective. The town started to fail and was never completed according to the master plan. In 1789 there was a disastrous sandstorm that pretty much inundated the town with detritus from the Heights of Sloat, which are low-lying sandstone hills of a very rotted form of that rock, and the Longstrand beach shifted to the east and pretty much blocked the shipping channels. Destitute inhabitants, who depended on trade for a living, plus all their hangers-on, were forced to give up their grandiose schemes -- many ending up in the shantytown on the River Sloat, where there was some relief from the southwesterly gales that was provided from the hills.

What remains of this inspired but futile endeavor is the north side of town, with its great gatehouse and town wall, within the precincts of which are a rather fine temple of Thud and some rather nicely spaced out town houses, and a rather grandiose and optimistic guild hall or trade institute. There were plans to build up the town south of the Tilburn brook (the primary sewer), but these were optimistic even in times of good weather, because of the constant winds running up the crumbling sandy cliffs and blasting sand all over. This Utopian trade center never reached a population of more than 600 even in its most prosperous days, but it still remains an agricultural hub and market place and has constant small-boat trading with Scandinavia (undoubtedly lots of contraband items -- the 'secret channel' through the shoals is indicated by red dots on the map, but the harbor is not safe for boats with more than a two-foot draft).

Note that Rogiber started building a castle on the hillside overlooking the town and harbor, as a legacy to his son (whom he expected to be enobled), but it was never finished.

Jincks Park on the west side of town was set up in the late 1800's, when the last of the Rogibers tried to promote the area as a tourist attraction and also spent most of his remaining fortune in repairing the town wall, towers, and gatehouses. The surrounding area of the town is agricultural, as it always has been. On the other hand, this is a free-spirited place, as smuggling has always been a major local occupation.


The Great Gatehouse. This building was the grand scheme of Rogiber of Sloat to establish his 'new town' as a major port in Estalia. It serves as a fortified entrance to the town, covering the bridge he built leading to the north and the heartland of Estalia, but also as both his private residence (upper west wing), as the HQ of the garrison of troops defending the town, and as a police station and courthouse. It was very lavishly staffed with the highest 'quality' people he could find for the various jobs, and was the first building to be completed on the site (and almost immediately after by the West Gate and the northern town walls -- although the piers and wharfs were constructed first as a priority). It is considered one of the most famous buildings of Estalia, even though that country is not noted for its great architecture.

Ground and First Floors. There are cellars under the Kitchen and the Police Station (rather damp), also there are 'shooting galleries' covering the front gate by the bridge over the River Sloat; this building was intended not really for serious defensive purposes but mainly to impress. The west wing on the ground floor is the main area serving the garrison of the town, including a common room or great hall and a kitchen; the east wing contains a guard room, the porter's lodge (he was not just a gatekeeper but an important personage, being the deputy constable), and a police station -- the cops weren't called police in those days, were more like Italian carabinari, yet the functions are similar. On the first floor most of both wings are taken up by military space, barracks and the like, possibly up to 50 men-at-arms in the old days. The portcullis rooms provided the main defense, and were set several feet above the rest of the floor to allow for the heightened gate passage below. Note the circular 'murder holes' in both rooms opening down into the enclosed entryway. An open courtyard is to the south of the gate passage leading into the High Street; it was covered by an overarching parapet walk. Over the police station is what would now be called the detective squad office even though most of the activity that took place there was humdrum bureaucracy.

Second and Third Floors. The west side contains the Baron's formal quarters, a private dining room, the Great Halll for ceremony, and a tiny kitchen (which shared supplies with the kitchen and cellar below in the garrison area). Over the central passage is the Armory, originally holding the main armaments for the building but later becoming a war museum. On the east side are the courtroom chambers where all the legal matters of the town were conducted. The story above this holds the upper stories of the Great Hall (northwest) and of the courtroom (southeast), plus sleeping quarters of various sorts, including the nursery for the Baron's children and upper servants. The parapet of the town wall abuts the building on both sides, but there is no access to it from here.

Top Floor and Frontage. The fourth story contains the Master and Guest suites and a U-shaped gallery loaded with paintings, connecting with other bedrooms. The north side has two defensive parapets and watch rooms (which are actually private quarters for important members of the family who wanted their privacy). The frontal view shows the three levels of defense overlooking the bridge over the River Sloat, and also a clock built into the front of the back gallery overlooking a large terrace at the top of the armory. The huge oaken gateway has a portcullis in front of it and a small door for foot entry after 'curfew'. The color of this building is grey, as it was constructed from limestone imported from the north, at great expense, rather than the local friable sandstone.


Sloat Castle (otherwise known as Rogiber's Folly). The unfinished castle sits atop the Heights of Sloat overlooking the sea coast. There is an oval, two-storied watch tower below it, which was built in the 18th Century. The gatehouse and garrison hall were completed, along with the barbican, but the keep was never constructed above the vaulted first story. The curtain walls are complete, only lacking a wall walk and parapet. It is not known what the interior arrangements were to have been -- probably a great hall, kitchen, and other outbuildings, all of timber construction.

The principal function now of the castle is as a sheepfold (normally roaming the heights, but brought here for shearing and lambing), with the keep cellar used as a shelter and to hold fodder. The gatehouse and garrison hall house the shepherds, who also double as town guards and watchmen. A long steep path wends its way down into the town.


Estalia