Almondsey


The Lost Province of East Estalia

The land east of the River Vole and lying on the south bank of the River Lin up to the conjunction with the River Lyss, was once the province of East Estalia. It was annexed by Almondsey as part of the Treaty of Reconciliation (1667) after it had been overrun by Almondese troops preparing their invasion of the Lake Jatta basin, and renamed the Territory of Yarth. It still retains much of its Estalian character, and is a rather 'porous' border area as far as illegal trading and fraternization is concerned. This page is only concerned with that small area bordering Marchland (see map of South-East Estalia). This is a continuation of the high fell country split by the marshy Volevale; these mountain people are very independent-minded regardless of nationality, as are most mountain people anywhere in the world. It is now called the Country of Yarthfur by the Almondese.

There are only five towns in the Country of Yarthfur: Yarthfur itself, the old Estalian capital, Glabbay, the major port in the bay of the same name, Shrik and Larvum, which are villages in the only arable part of the county, and Pole, a fishing village. There is also a small settlement in the marshes near Tram Castle. The Bay of Bungay Narr is a deep indentation in the coast, and with the Hills of Yarth surrounding it in a ring suggests a volcanic origin in prehistoric times. The are extensive shoals at the mouth, so it is unsuitable for deep-sea harborage. Grum Crags are four bizarre looking granite outcrops above the 300-ft-high Cliffs of Grum; they tower precipitously up to 200 feet above the scree-like lower slopes. The River Grum forms the border with the rest of Almondsey and is the original Estalian border. Two roads lead east into Almondsey proper, one along the River Lin, and the other through the treacherous Yanath Pass.

('K' represents a Klaggtur.)
Click links to view items on this page: Yarthfur | Citadel | Tram Castle | Glabbay | Klaggtur Towers | Yanath Pass | Town Castles

The Town of Yarthfur

The fortified town of Yarthfur, located on a dramatic crag at the junction of the rivers Vole and Lin, dates back to the Dark Ages -- there has been a fort here as long as there has been human habitation. It still retains its Estalian character (at least the old town). The Almondese have built up a new town southeast of the site, along the banks of the River Lin. The southern earthworks and deep ditch date back to ancient times, though often reconstructed, but the stone town wall is Medieval (c. 1380). The earthworks protect the base of the crag where it slopes down to pastures and marshes, and here is where the small town was constructed. The large paddock underneath the citadel was originally for protecting sheep and cattle during times of danger, but now serves as the livestock market. Eastgate and Westgate (both c. 1430) are the only entrances, with roads going west then south down Volevale to Tram Castle and east along the River Lin to more populous areas. The South Tower (also 1430) dominated the pastureland to the south, and is now a police station. The round East Tower dates back originally to at least 1100, and possibly much earlier. It commands the main approach. Over the years it has been much reconstructed and in its latest incarnation serves as a watch station, beacon, and clock tower.

Yarthfur Citadel

The great craggy hill on which there has been a fortress for over a thousand years rises from southeast to northwest to a height of 360 feet above the River Lin where the Constable's Tower is located. Nothng remains of the original dark-age fortifications, except for the site layout itself. The three wards, or courts, of the castle are built on flattish areas at ascending levels from Outer, to Middle, to Inner. The Outer Ward houses the garrison, as this outermost part of the castle needs the most protection, as does the town below it. Entry is from a three-story gatehouse with a portcullis facing a steep road up from the town. The eastern wall of this ward was converted into a gun battery by the Almondese to protect the harbor outside Eastgate. The Middle Ward housed the lesser servants, stables, and other outbuildings (including a smithy); it is very lightly defended except for a plain four-story square tower with internal access by ladders. There is a paddock for the horses underneath the south wall of the Inner Ward.

The Inner Ward is the castle proper, containing all the living quarters for a great lord: originally, the Estalian Duke of Yarthfur, later, the Almondese Marquis of Yarthland. The oldest building is the six-story round Keep tower, dating from about 1230 on an even older foundation; it is now the Chapel and primary watchtower. Entry to the ward is through a large four-storied gatehouse with two portcullises that houses guards and the upper servants (butler, for example). Access to all upper levels of the keep and gatehouse is via a spiral staircase in an annex building built around 1500, along with the New Hall and Solar, replacing older timber structures. A latrine tower and the New Hall connect the Keep with the Constable's Tower, which originally was built c. 1350 on the site of an older watch tower. The Constable's Tower was extensively remodelled when the New Hall was created, and now this unit forms a small but impressive little mansion. After the Almondese occupation, yet more modernization was done, including the insertion of a large staircase in the old Great Hall, which was no longer being used for its original function. The upper floors, not shown on the plan, are residential -- the northern wing ('new hall') rises two more floors, and the Constable's Tower is five stories tall.

Tram Castle

Tram was built on a gravelly bank in the middle of the marshes along the River Vole, on its east side. It was the stronghold of a cousin of the Duke of Yarthfur who became a renegade but eluded punishment all his life (he lived to be 93, died in 1450). He took this ancient stronghold -- it had been a fortified site since the Dark Ages -- and built a strong, but rather simple, castle. His main contributions were the earthwork embankment for holding livestock (often rustled from other areas), and the basic curtain wall of the Inner Court. His son constructed the two octagonal towers, west and north sides, which became private quarters for family and upper-level servants. He also did a major remodelling of the Great Hall and Solar complex, creating a moat/dock for loading and unloading livestock, which was mostly goats and pigs in this area of the country. His grandson -- by then the title of Baron Tram was officially established -- Lord Huronim Ples, was a very successful freebooter on the Spanish Main in his early years. When he retired home on the death of his father (who also lived into his 90's, this being a long-lived family), he built the incredibly large keep/gatehouse, a very elaborate structure for a dinky little castle like this. In 1667, after the territory was annexed by Almondsey, it was assigned to an Almondese knight who had married the daughter of the deposed baron, so in effect this castle still belongs in the same family. It is the main central settlement in the mid-region of Volevale on the east side of the river. The town itself is located about a quarter of a mile away, along the causeway that crosses the marshes. Tram Castle is still a major trading post in the region, mostly because of lax customs enforcement and few finicky restrictions about proving title deeds to what is being sold.

Glabbay

Glabbay was originally the easternmost port in Estalia (hardly more than a small fishing town). After the Almondese takeover, it was expanded to become a naval base. The old Estalian town is within the town walls (which were only on the west and south sides) under the citadel; below it, between the two small rivers leading into Glabdale and Sargdale, is the New Town, largely 19th Century, and actually something of a resort town, with bars, brothels, and gambling houses, as this is a Navy center. Connecting the two is the wide neo-Classic Gambridge. There are mountains (well, large hills) to the north, west, and south. The Citadel was the original Estalian fortress, but it was entirely flattened and reconstructed by the Almondese between 1750 and 1830. The outer harbor, protected by Fort Figg (on the site of an old Estalian redoubt), is the naval base proper, whereas the inner harbor is still commercial. Only the town walls, main gate, temple, and many of the buildings in the old town, especially on the north side under Mount Bone, remain from Estalian times.

The Admiral's Tower is an Estalian Tower House that is now the residence of the Admiral of the Bungay Narr Fleet. It is a fairly squat building with three main floors, an unusual two-storied vaulted cellar, a tiny kitchen, and various small wall chambers. Two bartizans face west into town; at the top of the northeast side is a caphouse for the guards. There are also two spiral staircases, as well as mural stairs. The newel stairs are at diagonally opposite sides of the Great Hall for added security. The Admiral's bedroom is under the caphouse and next to the garret.

Klaggtur Towers

The Klaggtur Towers (the word Towers is redundant, as the suffix '-tur' means tower in Almondese) were an Almondese version of the Estalian Whitcraft Border Towers, but not half as elaborate. They were designed by Sir Ernst Klagg in the late 17th Century, and thirteen of them were built to protect the border with Estalia. They are simple, high towers (about 28 feet square), four stories tall, plus a basement and attic, and a projecting entrance/stair turret. At diagonal corners at the top are two round bartizan turrets. The basement was vaulted and contained supplies and armaments; it could only be accessed from the first floor via a mural stair. A projecting jamb provided the entrance, with its spiral stair leading to the first and second floors. Access to the third and fourth floors was by mural stairs; the attic was reached by means of a hatchway and ladder in the garret.

The first floor served both as a kitchen -- with a fireplace, an oven, and a sink -- and dining area for the garrison. It had a garderobe in the thickness of the wall. The second floor was the 'drawing room', also with a fireplace. There are two small bedrooms in the wall at one corner. On the third floor were the sleeping quarters, with another mural bedroom and one for the officer in charge in the entrance jamb; there is also a garderobe. The garret, with the third fireplace, was the principal guard room, where the garrison normally hung out. The jamb contains a small armory and has a corbelled-out projection overlooking the entrance. An iron ladder leads through a hatchway to the roof of this turret, providing an open firing terrace. Two round projecting turrets also contained gun loops to give flanking cover. The attic, reached by an iron ladder against the wall to a hatchway, normally held miscellaneous personal possessions and additional supplies and ammunition.

A typical garrison consisted of nine men -- a sergeant, two corporals, and six soldiers; there was also usually a caretaker/servant. Posting in a Klaggtur was not regarded as a pleasant or easy assignment. It was crowded, boring, and occasionally dangerous.

Yanath Castle

Yanath Pass is the perilous mountain trail that at one time was the only land access between Estalia and Almondsey in these parts (the River Lin road had not been built because of the swamps along the banks). Yanath Castle is an ancient Estalian fortress, once a neolithic hill fort, that had a small gatehouse/tower added in the 16th Century. When in use in times of trouble, it is now one of the remotest outposts of the Almondese Army, with a garrison of eight! Water supply has always been a problem, as there is no well -- the castle depends on rain water only. There is plenty of that, though.

Standing on a 'fiddlehead' spur at the top of the pass, overlooking the road to the south, the castle is a simple courtyard with a tower-house and three wall turrets. Wooden buildings, lean-to sheds in effect, supplement the tower. The tower itself consists of a gate passage, entered by a bridge across the rock-cut ditch outside the west side, an adjoining guard room, and a spiral stair. Above the entry are three floors of accommodation -- a first-floor 'great hall', second-floor sleeping quarters, and third-floor guard chamber with another small room in the cap house (the spiral stair ending at the second floor to be replaced with a mural stair). There is a garderobe in a wall projection on the first floor. A round bartizan turret providing flanking cover projects to the southwest at second and third floor levels.

Town Castles

Larvum Tower

Larvum has a small tower-house that houses the local constable and his two deputies. It was built by the Almondese about 1800, although in style it follows the Scottish model. The town is an agricultural center for the most part, although it has a tiny port (one dock and a warehouse). The roads out of it lead up to the Yanath Pass and along the north side of the bay and south to Pole.

Shrik is also a small port, slightly larger than Larvum. Its castle is the residence of Baron Shrik. There is a small courtyard with quarters for the guards and servants (as the keep itself only has one bedroom!)

Pole is strictly a fishing village, although there is the deep wooded valley of the River Grum to the east. The tower house, built by a warlord of the Grum Crags (a ship wrecker in his spare time), one Arfeld Skelligfer, in 1765 is a small square tower with a complex plan for its size.

Shrik Castle

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