Isle of Vulf

The Isle of Vulf, a possession of Estalia attached to the Province of Marchland, is 10 miles south-south-east of Salammy Head, making it the most easterly part of the country. It is strategic in the sense that it overlooks the shipping lanes that approach the south coast of Estalia; otherwise it holds little interest (except scenic). It is the remains of a rather large volcano, which became inactive over 3000 years ago after a great eruption that blew out the caldera that became the site of the two central lakes.

The west side of this island is mostly uninhabited, except for sheep -- being inaccessible because of dangerous shoal waters, constant westerly gales, and high screes inland -- apart from the River Tumb inlet and the grain field flatland on the northwest shore. The east side has some good agricultural land on the northern part, and a long sandy beach, but there are sandbanks offshore that make navigation difficult. Two reasonably accessible harbors exist, hence the towns of Tumbrill and Blad. Original inhabitants of the island were a tribe of cannibalistic pagans, who lived in the interior around the lakes, or fished in the shoal waters and gathered seagull eggs from the cliffs. They were never very numerous, perhaps 1000 people at the most, but were decimated when the Estalians became the dominant presence starting in the late 17th Century, culminating in the annexation of all property by Lord Axelmotembul (a nephew of the Grand Duke) in Napoleonic times. He had his favorite architect rebuild all of the towns in stone according to a regular pattern and transformed the place into a medievel-type feudal manorial estate.

Isle of Vulf
Towns.
Since the population of the island is less than 900 people, these can hardly be called towns; however, there is Tumbrill, the capital and main port, Blad, the east port, a fishing village, and the aboriginal village of Luff along the shores of Lake Tok.

Settlements and Features.
  • Farms. There are five farms on the island (two in the granary northwest area, one on the north coast, and two on the east coast).
  • Blafort Citadel covers a strategic position overlooking the shipping channel. Vulf Citadel is a classic example of human folly, trying to establish a Valhalla in an untenable position.
  • The great western Shoals make the west coast pretty much unnavigable; here is where the inexorable currents and winds and waves from the west eroded the old volcanic land, but this was all lava flow to begin with, so it is particularly jagged and adamantine.
  • Beacons. There are no proper lighthouses, but there are five tall beacon towers, situated at strategic points to warn of shoals and headlands, and indicate navigable channels.
  • Central Lakes. Lochs Tok and Thel fill the original calderas or craters of the prehistoric Vulf volcano. Loch Thel still retains some thermal heat and is several degrees warmer than Loch Tok, which is in turn several degrees warmer than the prevailing ocean waters. A scenic highlight of the island is the Grood Chasm, south of Luff.
  • The Crag Line. The shell of the ancient volcano surrounds the lakes in the form of steep craggy ridges, with screes on the lower slopes. In many places these ridges form vertical cliffs up to 300 feet tall. The southeastern 'tail' of the island dates to a much earlier eruption that resulted in a huge lava flow, when the source volcano may have been 6000 feet high, with extremely high and ragged ridges -- most impressive when viewed from the sea (from Blafort Citadel, just above sea level, the land rises up to 1800 feet in a quarter of a mile, with two steep cliff ridges each 250 feet high).

The Town of Tumbrill

This is the principal 'town' (population about 300) on the island. It is the main harbor, although the constant gales from the west make it difficult (but the rocky shoals, if you can avoid them, mitigate the vicious offshore currents and surf and the river mouth is easy to reach in low wind conditions). There are three home-based ships, as well as a small fishing fleet: 'Beldam' is the main freighter, and is supported by the smaller 'Fonda' and 'Ronda'. Fort Liz-bom, dating to about 1790, protects the anchorage; the fort has a very powerful cannon, 'Blue Ben', on its main bastion -- it was bought second-hand in the 1890s from surplus artillery from Portsmouth, England. There was in ancient times a landing where the wharf is along the river and a path along the road out of Eastgate up to the aboriginal main settlement at Luff. Tumbrill itself was developed by Lord Axelmotembul and designed by his hired architect Jospet Malrowe in the early decades of the 19th Century -- he is responsible for the limestone buildings and town walls, all in a plodding but consistent style. A mill stream outside the east gate produces the only flour on the island, and other grist, most grain crops being grown in the small area beyond the north gate, the rest imported whole. East and North Gates house pensioned-off soldiers who are not so decrepit as to end up in the town nursery, which hosts indigents at the beginning and ends of their lives.

Note on the houses: they are generally four stories high, with shops and workrooms on the bottom floor and living quarters for up to 16 people above. These houses are very small according to modern standards. The numbering scheme is based on the Estalian Post Office.


The Village of Blad

This is the east coast fishing village and port for the island (population about 200). The south side abuts into a steep hillside and has cellarage carved out in what were originally caves. Village is protected by Fort Blad (ca. 1830), the gatehouse (also serving as the constabulary), a low town wall, and the Octagon Tower (which is the customs house, if such a term can be used). There is mooring for several fishing smacks as well as for the principal freighter, the 'Maldam'; while moorage is bad here as on the rest of the island, it is at least protected from the westerly gales. Fishing is the main industry, hence the salting rooms. The two-storied Village Hall contains the official amenities -- moot hall and government offices. Fort Blad is a simple structure housing a garrison of 20, and boasts a large cannon, Big Brum, on its main turret. Houses 17 and 18 are the 'mansions' (constable/magistrate and alderman/chief honcho); number 13 is the priest house. What is most notable about this village is the 'Walrus and Orca' Inn, the largest and finest on the island. The entire village was built under contract on the site of a smaller settlement in the early 19th Century, and was done by a single itinerant architect, Jospet Malrowe, who had little design talent but had the good sense to build everything of well-cut limestone -- a very appealing place now, aesthetically, with high hills and cliffs as a backdrop and sandy dunes in the foreground. Bridge over Gon Rill leads to the main agricultural land on the island, fertile area even with eastern exposure (potatos, rye, turnips, and pigs sheep mainly).

Note on the houses: they are generally three stories high, with shops and workrooms on the bottom floor and living quarters for up to 12 people above. These houses are very small according to modern standards. The numbering scheme is based on the Estalian Post Office.


Blafort Citadel

The citadel protects the southeastern promontory shore of the Isle of Vulf, overlooking the shipping channel along the south coast of Almondsey Island. It was built from scratch in the 1830s, when the Almondese were again threatening more land takeover in southwest Estalia. Not a powerful fortification, but it serves its purpose by covering the shipping channel. There are three levels of formidable firepower facing the sea -- a lower covered gun deck, a cannon battery over, and a musket parapet along the great hall wall. Accommodation for the garrison, at times up to 60 personnel in the fort, is elaborate and impressive; to get people to serve in this remote location was always a problem (the nearest town, Blad, is nearly two miles away over a serpentine trail), hence the 'cushiest' posting now in the Coast Guard. The west side of the fort is built up against the quarry wall from which the stone was cut for the fortress.


The Village of Luff

Luff was the site of the aboriginal village in prehistoric times; remains of the 'rath' or earthwork fortification with dry-stone walls are on the east side, and the enclosure is now used as an animal pound. West of the Rath, a small walled town was built starting in the late 17th Century, butting into the rath wall and overlaying its western wing, with a small castle serving the function of a Palbo-mim (now the HQ of the island constabulary) and a temple. A hundred years later, Jospet Malrowe constructed the western extension of the village and the fine bridge with houses along its southern side. The entire population of the inner parts of the island makes this their market town -- they number about 250 souls at the most. As late as the 1740s, most of the island people inhabited the center parts, living on the fells and on crannogs in the lakes, but their numbers were severely reduced over the years as they were compelled to move to the seacoast villages to work as fish processors. To the south is the Groodnok Forest, the only large woodland on the island, the mountainous Impfell and Devilfell (1200 and 1600 feet, respectively), and one of the most dramatic features of Vulf, the Grood Chasm, a fiord-like extension of Loch Tok. Where the two forks of the chasm come together, there is a spectacular 800-foot-high crag, nicknamed the Lorelei Rock -- its native name being the unprounceable Thud'yaftakernil'mermim'gobolum ('great swollen phallus of the lord Thud, ruler of the goddess') -- after the Rhine River island. There is an elaborate hunting lodge along the eastern fork of Grood Chasm in the midst of the forest, which is well populated with boars and badgers, foxes, and some deer.


Luff Castle

A tower house was built in 1697 atop the wall of the aboriginal rath or fortress at Luff, still inhabited at that time. It served as an administrative headquarters for the island, which was then very wild and lawless. Within 20 years it had been extended to the west, with a courtyard and a large building serving as a court and meeting hall, and a temple to Thud and Lott west of that. During this period the western portion of the rath was built over and walled to form the village of Luff. A gatehouse was constructed as an extension to the north of the castle; this became the constabulary building, containing a lockup (south of the gate passage), quarters for policemen, and a courtroom on the top floor. The Chief Constable himself, then the most important official on the island, occupied the tower house.

A description of the castle: on the west side of the courtyard, after one enters from a simple gateway, is the great hall. The two-story building is the village moot court, where matters of civil law (suits, appeals, etc.) are heard, where public occasions are celebrated, and where town meetings are held when necessary; it is constantly busy, since the main money-lenders, petty lawyers, and commodity dealers on the island have semi-permanent booths set up here. These booths are located on the west side on the ground floor and on the upper balcony. Because there are only ten of them (legally, anyway), proprietors tend to share them on a two-day-per-week basis -- no trade on the sabbath of course -- so there are some 30 of these gentlemen, if they can be so called.


Vulf Citadel

A failed effort to create a commanding and impregnable fortress to control the whole island. The ambition started in prehistoric times when the natives built a dry-stone-wall ring fortress on top of a high peak overlooking most of the island. This wall is well preserved on the western and northern sides, but ruinous to the east, where it was overbuilt by the medieval castle -- narrower walls with mortar were built there on the inside and the fallen remains left in place because they are a formidable barrier of loose stones. No signs remain of the original entrance on the south side. Development continued in the early Middle Ages when Scottish refugees from the Vikings reached the island and built a tower (they were soon wiped out or assimilated by the natives). A medieval earl from Estalia (c. 1480, his name was Thoggi-bir) constructed a curtain wall, drum-towered gatehouse, and a great hall -- he lasted for 20 years, but was eventually starved out by the natives, a deed that led to the Estalian privy council's resolving that the island would be permanently annexed and the natives annihilated, which of course didn't happen for over 200 years. Scots Tower was refurbished to serve as a small keep. The Solar and Kitchen wings have fallen into ruin (they had wooden superstructures, which burned down in the 18th Century). The fortress was regarrisoned in 1650 during one of the periodic war scares with Almondsey; an outer gate and a regimental hall (on the site of the old stables) were constructed, and part of the old dry-stone wall taken down and rebuilt; also, the medieval castle was repaired and remodelled. Lord Axelmotembul (now a generic name) retains possession but its status -- repair and habitation -- varies considerably over the years. Thoggi-bir's Gatehouse is the official lordly residence building on the site.


Groodnok Hunting Lodge

Lord Axelmotembul III (grandson of the founding Lord) in his old age gave up his public career and devoted the last 30 years of his life (he lived to be 102) to living 'hermetically' in the woods. In great luxury, of course. He had his pet architect Jospet Malrowe Jr. (son of the architect of Blad and Tumbrill) design and construct one of the most elaborate hunting lodges in Estalia, a mansion that is more like a manorial estate than a hunting lodge. It was finished in 1907. Always impractical, and incredibly expensive, mainly because of the difficulties in providing supplies of luxury goods, foods, and wines, after Axelmotembul's death in 1930, his heirs gave over the lodge to Estalian monks; monasticism had never been a major part of the state religion, but interfaith influence in the 19th Century from Buddhists and High Anglicans led to the establishment of this Thud/Lott monastic settlement, which is of both sexes of course -- it is the only major one in Estalia. The plan shows the original setup (bar, billiard room, etc.). It is not currently known what uses these rooms are now put to. The top floor of the tower wing originally contained a museum called the Gallery of Unspeakable Things. Nobody now knows what this consisted of, since the heirs burned all of its contents in a huge bonfire after Axelmotembul's death. He was a rather strange person, but his proclivities are hard to figure out since there is no surviving evidence apart from some unreliable gossip relating to body piercing and erotic torture.


Estalia