Malora rode west, putting the Greytooth Mountains and Ilok's Junction behind her. As the days and miles passed and she continued on her journey, she passed isolated farmsteads and lumber camps. Many looked abandoned or in such a state of disrepair that they might as well have been.
As she traveled west, the terrain changed. The Old Road wound through deep valleys of quite greenness and over gentle hills crowned with verdant forests. Occasionally, she passed simple wooden signs, pointing the way to local hamlets and villages, but as Malora rode further west, these signs became few and far between.
She did encounter caravans, making their slow way toward the west. They were laden with iron ore, grain and lumber. A sense of discretion and pragmatic self-interest convinced her it was better to slip into the forest when she spotted caravans. Caravan guards were notoriously twitchy, when it came to meeting drow. Or, at least, that had always been Malora's experience.
After roughly two weeks on the road, Malora saw a wooden signpost, freshly painted and well-maintained by someone. It proudly proclaimed that she was approaching the communities of Hesra Dron, Grimmgate and Honey Hill.After studying the sign for a moment, Malora touched her heels to the flanks of her horse and continued on her way.
Demographics: Gnomes (74%), Humans (18%), Elves (05%), Other Races (03%)
Hesra Dron is a small community about sixty miles east of Grimmgate. Hesra Dron is Gnomish for 'Shady Veil' and the majority of the community consists of rock gnomes. Humans comprise the next largest ethnic group in Hesra Dron. There are a small number of wood elves who reside in the community and a smattering of other races.
An agrarian community, Hesra Dron supplements its income by providing services to the trade caravans that use the Old West Road. They charge no fees for caravans that wish to overnight in the town, a tactic that had led to friction with Grimmgate. The Keers, the family that rules Grimmgate and the surrounding area, has made repeated overtures to Hesra Dron to join them, but the tiny village has steadfastly refused. The locals take a sort of prickly pride in the fact that they have stood their ground against Grimmgate, and this has strengthened community relations at the expense of souring relationships with Grimmgate and its protected communities.
Prominent members of Hesra Dron's community include:
Dhalia Freehold (L9 Half-Elf Entertainer), the owner of the Honey Trap, a tavern/bordello on the outskirts of Hesra Dron.
Yoren Gel (L11 Rock Gnome Courtesan), the current Mayor of Hesra Dron.
Allifir "Alli" Felar (L7 High Elf Criminal), owner of the Sweet Dream Inn, she works with smugglers moving contraband goods along the road and through the local communities.
Zida Ornazi (L5 Hermit), an elderly rock gnome woman who serves as the moral heart of Hesra Dron.
Enlo Thornhand (L13 Rock Gnome Outlander), a huntsman who occasionally tracks down criminals for Mayor Gel.
Demographics: Humans (37%), Gnomes (32%), Halflings (27%), Other Races (04%)
Initially, Grimmgate was established as a frontier fortress. A community evolved around the fort, which, over time, gradually changed. It became a regional commercial center along the Old West Road, and, over time, the influence of its military was supplanted by the Church of Rovelek.
Today, Grimmgate remains the commercial and cultural heart of the area. The town and surrounding communities are ruled by Lady Othila Keer (L9 Human Noble). The Keers reside inside the ancient stone tower of Grimmgate, behind stout walls and sharpened blades.
Other prominent citizens of Grimmgate include:
Mother Tara Redyard (L6 Dwarf Cleric), the leader of the Church of Rovelek in Grimmgate;
Haloren Burr (L13 Halfling Merchant), the Master of Grimmgate's Market;
Bertram Nyman (L8 Human Soldier), the captain of Grimmgate's Town Watch;
Brenna Herman (L11 Human Entertainer), the owner of the Laughing Fox Tavern.
Grimmgate became known in the region for the presence of the Church of Rovelek. Individuals died on the road, far from home and loved ones. Caravans were unable or unwilling to transport corpses and so Grimmgate became a depository for the inconvenient dead. Over time, the Church of Rovelek had to establish a large necropolis beyond the town. By order of the Keers, the burial ground had to be beyond sight of the town and the road. They did not want Grimmgate becoming a necropolis. The Church complied, establishing a burial ground twenty miles south of Grimmgate. The dead are interred according to the wishes of the deceased, if known, and there has been little undead activity within the precinct. Occasionally, bodies are left with the Church until the deceased's family can make arrangements for their transport. This is fairly rare. More often the dead are interred and the family makes a pilgrimage to ensure that their loves ones have been properly taken care of.
Demographics: Halfling (68%), Human (31%), Other Races (01%)
Owlhearth is a village about twenty miles east of Grimmgate. It falls under the authority of Grimmgate, and the residents are generally contented. Owlhearth's industries are agriculture and lumber. The village has a temple that doubles as a school, a tavern and a general goods store. Owlhearth got its name from the large owls that roost in the forest north of the village.
Prominent members of Owlhearth's community include:
Helnec Cello (L9 Halfling Courtesan), the Reave of Owlhearth, appointed by Lady Keer of Grimmgate, he is responsible for collecting taxes and enforcing the written law.
Anna Vegrel (L9 Halfling Merchant), owns the largest farm in the area, employing a number of locals.
Ordan Butterbeard (L9 Dwarf Merchant) owns the local tavern, Butterbeard's.
Demographics: Halflings (63%), Gnomes (19%), Dwarves (11%), Other Races (07%).
Honey Hill is a predominantly halfling community located on a gentle hill, overlooking beautiful Lake Mead. Honey Hill is famous for its honey and bee-related products. Apiary industries are prominent in the town, but do not exist alone. Agriculture, lumber and trade are also important contributors to Honey Hill's success.
Honey Hill falls under the authority of Lady Keer of Grimmgate, but many residents think that it is time for them to declare their independence from Grimmgate. So far this is not an opinion shared by the majority, but if it ever is, things could become unpleasant in the area. It is doubtful Lady Keer would accept Honey Hill's independence with good grace.
Prominent members of the Honey Hill community include:
Aberal Groin (L10 Halfling Courtesan), is the Mayor of Honey Hill. He finds himself walking a fine line, politically, with his constituents and the Keers and may not seek reelection next term.
Lorvellion Greenrose (L11 Wood Elf Entertainer) is an elderly elf who spends most of his time in Merchant's Square telling stories to children. He isn't a beggar and no one knows where he goes at night, but it's rumored that he has a fantastic treasure horde hidden somewhere near the town.
Tarrod Fetter (L8 Hill Dwarf Crafter) is the head of the Mason's Guild in Honey Hill. Short-tempered, even by dwarf standards, Fetter is a powerful member of the local business community. Nothing new gets built in the town without his approval, and he's known to wield his influence with all the subtlety of a bull in a china shop.
Derron Tegret (L5 Halfling Cleric of Anola, Goddess of Healing) leads the followers of Anola in service to their community. Although soft-spoken and kind, when Tegret makes up his mind, he can be incredibly stubborn.