Blademark Guild Adventures (Eberron)
Small City: Population 7,275
A wide bend in the Marrilach River reveals a small keep on a rocky promontory. Bridges cross the river to the north and south. Upon them, wagon traffic bustles to and from the farms of the Valley of Obelisks. Drifting below the bridges are colorful riverboats laden with food bound for the cities of the south or finished goods for the many nearby farming villages. Amid the gloom of early spring’s overcast sky, the many hearths and friendly faces of Sumberton beckon, as to the casks of spices ale that are the city’s claim to fame.
Sumberton is the only urban locale most residents of the Valley of Obelisks have ever seen. It’s regarded as both sophisticated and bewildering. Since it is founded on the river trade, Sumberton is indeed more cosmopolitan than the rural communities that surround it.
At the heart of the city is Sumberton Keep, an old fortress built so that a long-dead king could control and tax the traffic on the Marrilach River. A settlement grew up around the keep and, with the passing of years, over-whelmed it. Were it not for the height of the promontory on which the fortress rests, visitors might never know the keep is there. Two- and three-story buildings crowd the edges of the city’s narrow, winding streets, and even lifelong Sumbertonians have to think twice to avoid getting turned around or lost.
Leadership: Lord Bariss Carstellan has been granted taxing authority witin the city limits in exchange for providing city services. An elderly man, Carstellan is teaching the basics of governance to his two sons, Jarrik and Thrann. City bureaucrats understand that if Jarrik or Thrann want something, it’s as good as the lord asking for it himself.
But Lord Carstellan’s authority isn’t absolute. Sumberton Keep remains an outpost of the national army under the command of Captain Morr Donellgan. The captain’s soldiers are better equipped, trained, and paid than the lord’s militiamen. Donellgan tries to stay out of the city’s politics, but it seems like one faction or another within the city is always trying to embroil the army in a political dispute. The temples along Pious Way are beyond the lord’s taxes and thus largely beyond his authority. They could wield a lot more power if rivalries between major religions—and even schisms within each—weren’t a problem. Finally, the merchant guilds are responsible for the river commerce that is the city’s lifeblood, and they could ruin Sumberton by diverting the region’s trade elsewhere. But doing so might mean their ruination as well. It’s easy and profitable to send the region’s trade up and down the Marrilach River.
Demographics: 45% human, 15% Halfling, 10% dwarf, 8% gnome, 7% elf, 5% half-elf, 5% half-orc, 5% all others.
Sumberton is known both as the “City of Alehouses” and the “City of Bridges.” While both appellations are deserved, visitors in Sumberton can find varied places to spend their time.
Establishments and Places
Blademark Chapter House: This is the local chapterhouse for the presence of the Blademark guild within Sumberton. This guild house has excited since before the last war. It’s presence suggests there is quite a bit of wealth in Sumberton to support its presence.
Blue Handclasp: Sumberton has temples to major religions along Pious Way, but in their shadows stand the old monasteries that first brought people of faith to the Valley of Obelisks. Many of the monasteries are justly famous for their spiced ale, even though the secular breweries are now responsible for the city’s output.
Blue Handclasp was one of those ale-producing monasteries, but it gave up its casks long ago. Now it’s known as a place to study esoteric, meditative disciplines—studies that have self-defense applications. The blue-gloved monks of the monastery are unfailingly polite when traveling around the city on the Blue Handclasp’s business, but more than one ruffian has learned that the monks’ abstract studies have very concrete and very painful applications.
Carstellan Manor: The seat of government for Sumberton (and by default the entire Valley of Obelisks), Carstellan Manor is designed to display the good fortune of its master, Lord Carstellan. In a nod to the region’s agricultural heritage, the manor has extensive gardens behind its ivy-covered walls. The lord is an active horse breeder as well, and his prize steeds graze in many of the pastures east of the city. Carstellan, or one of his sons, holds court near the warmth of the manor’s jet-black fireplace in winter. But whenever the weather is at all bearable, the lord invites guests to his summer pavilion, an open-air structure full of rare flowers and carefully manicured plants.
Chicane Guildhouse: The Chicane Guild is the business end of the largest of the three major halfling clans—the Marktunsels. It runs dozens of barges and boats up and down the river between Sumberton and the cities to the south.
The guildhouse had humble beginnings as a shack on one of the city piers, then grew to a warehouse. It finally became a full-fledged mercantile fortress. Onlookers compare the bulbous business to a spider’s body, with the guild’s many private piers looking like legs. Those who have been inside say that the guildhouse is like a labyrinth, the result of a hundred small additions made by architects indifferent or hostile to one another’s work.
Docks: By day, the docks are the busiest part of the city. Riverboats line the many piers that just out into the Marrilach River, loading agricultural goods and unloading finished wares from the cities to the south. No matter what the time of year, some place’s harvest is on its way to Sumberton. Major wheat and corn harvests arrive in the spring and fall, but the Valley’s orchards produce fruits all year. The city’s most beloved exports are casks of Sumberton ale.
By night, the docks are the seediest part of the city. Those looking for a fight can find several at the ramshackle taverns, many set up in former warehouses or built in alleys with just a thatch roof to keep off the rain. Those who ply the Marrilach River come to Sumberton to drink heavily, and their belt pouches are often full of wages or trade profits. The combination of money, booze, darkness, and anonymity makes the docks a breeding ground for everything from confidence scams to thuggery and murder.
Grayman Bridge: Sumberton has three main bridges connecting the eastern and western quarters of the city. The bridges have to be sturdy to support city traffic, but that means that they open and close for water traffic only slowly—except for Grayman Bridge.
A stone giant named Corrask has lived next to the bridge for more than forty years, using his immense strength to open and close the bridge quickly. Those bold enough to ignore his imposing presence find him an engaging speaker. Because he makes idle talk with boatmen and teamsters waiting for the bridge to open or close, he hears a little bit of everything going on around Sumberton.
Great Obelisk: Directly across the river from Sumberton Keep is a 50-foot black obelisk that has timeworn and indecipherable runes etched across its surfaces. This obelisk is one of hundreds scattered across the river valley—an archeological curiosity that helped the vale acquire its name. Local residents use the obelisk as a convenient landmark but otherwise dismiss it as a “relic of a bygone age.” Other obelisks in the valley are treated similarly.
Sly Wink: Many of the city’s dozens of alehouses claim to serve “Sumberton’s best ale.” In only one case is that claim true—a nondescript, cozy alehouse on Cooper Street known as the Sly Wink. The proprietor, Old Man Shiggetam, has an arrangement with one of the old ale-brewing monasteries of Pious Way to rent casks. Shiggetam adds a blend of spices that’s a “family secret” to all the ale he fills the casks with. The result, after proper aging, is ale that delights the senses even as it baffles the palate of the most discerning dwarf.
The Sly Wink is near enough to the docks to attract a rough-and-tumble crowd, but outright brawls and duels are rare. The place has a prominent street sign—one eye open, one eye closed—so it’s easy to find.
Storm Sewers: It rain a lot in the Valley of Obelisks and the Marrilach River floods to a greater or lesser extent every spring. Thus, the city has an extensive network of storm sewers. Sumberton’s sewers are an alternative road grid for a thieves’ guild known as the Stiletto Crew and for other criminals.
The storm sewers are also infested with rats and, some say, worse. Of course, the exact nature of the dangers beneath the city greatly depend upon the experience or imagination of the person telling the tale. As always, the difficulty lies in discerning on which of the two the teller is relying for their information.
Sumberton Keep: The moldering stones of this small castle are technically the highest point in Sumberton, but the winding city streets and tightly packed buildings mean that residents can’t see the keep unless they’re right next to the rock hill on which it sits. The keep is a quiet, disciplined place—quite a contrast to the bustle of Sumberton.
At any given time, the keep is home to about 100 soldiers under the command of Captain Donellgan. Another 200 soldiers are elsewhere in the Valley of Obelisks, training, patrolling the borders of the Slaughterscar, or marching near the western frontier in a show of force.