Away from bustling cities and noisome, civilised settlements, Cromwell Keep is an establishment best described as part monastery, part fortress which has certainly seen better days. Still, it is considered a respected and very old monastic order and its libraries are rumored to have many old and extremely rare manuscripts. The monks residing there study those writings, copy, record and store them. They also tend to their land, offer spiritual guidance and all other forms of assistance to the rural, farming settlements that surround the Keep. As the Keep’s needs grow, so did its population, mostly due to its permanent (non - monk) residents, the majority of which consist of orphans, impoverished individuals and other folk that live inside the monastery walls, in one of its dormitories. These folk will work and do chores on behalf of the Keep and get in exchange warm food, a dry bed and a simple, albeit sufficient living. The monks, don’t mix with the permanent residents of the keep in any way, except when it comes to matters of work and daily needs.
Cromwell Keep sports stout, old buildings, constructed of earth wood and stone. It is surrounded by an impressive wall and a moat is dug around it. One main entrance, set with a drawbridge and a portcullis and a smaller side entrance, (reserved only for emergencies) provide the only means of land access to its interior. Inside lies a courtyard with a well in its middle and around the yard, with their back against the fortress wall, lie its individual buildings, described below. People from the surrounding villages visit the Keep, mostly to attend to the sermons of the church of St. Cuthbert. Others, are travellers seeking advice from its elders, or from the wisdom stored in its libraries.
The living quarters for the permanent residents of the Keep. The player characters will (almost!) certainly be living there, most years of their life, along with other residents of the Keep. Each dorm consists of large, albeit spartan rooms, with plenty of beds (over 20 in each!) and a door sized locker to the right of them that provides room for storing clothes and other personal belongings. There is also, a steel chest at the bottom end of each bed, for the very same reason. It locks with a padlock. A metallic coal heater in the middle of the room provides a little warmth during cold winter nights. Each dorm room has a large window facing the Keep courtyard, lined with thick, wool curtains. Baths are common for all the residents of each dorm, and so is the kitchen and a humble dining room. There is a similar, albeit much smaller dorm intended for female residents only. No need to say that male residents are forbidden to enter the female ward and vice versa. The monks lock down the dorm doors after 11 am.
Large wood and stone buildings used to store goods, foodstuffs and every kind of supplies. Monk apothecaries tirelessly count stuff and record endless lists of incoming and outgoing supplies. Entrance is prohibited to all, except them.
For the caring and housing of horses and mules of the Keep. Visitors can have their own horses tended, for a small fee. Fiorres, a permanent resident of the keep tends to the horse’s needs.
4. Small Inn
A small wooden, one storied building. This is probably the only place inside the Keep where someone can meet people from the outside world and maybe have a little fun playing games like darts, card games, dice etc. The monks frown upon this sort of entertainment, but will tolerate it, at least as long as the visitor’s behavior is considered “decent”. The “barman”, known by most as “Uncle Gord”, is a small wiry figure with short, white hair and a small beard. It’s almost impossible to estimate his age. Highly likeable fellow, always with a wink and a smile. The monks seem not to like him at all, but for reasons unknown (rumors abound!) they will always tolerate him. Rumors and every wild story imaginable is told about this retired human swashbuckler, stories which he will never verify and never comment upon. He never talks about his past. Uncle Gord will serve liquor, under the monks’ nose, (OF COURSE it is forbidden!) if he gets to like someone – which ain’t that hard. And if he really gets to like someone, he may consider to become a tutor to him / her, teaching the arts of subterfuge and thievery. It is whispered that the highlight of his lessons is an enchanting secret walk on the monastery walls, balconies and roofs and every forbidden area of the Keep, at a night of a dead moon...
5. Hardware Store
The merchant Todrick has set up a permanent shop inside the monastery walls. He sells all basic equipment at the standard price – another honest fellow, that won’t mind a little bargaining over the prices, even a little bartering! With a little effort he can be persuaded to to order more “unusual” specialist tools from the big city. Of course, this order will take several days to pull off.
The smith, Boris, with his short and broad built, steely muscles and tarnished skin, will fashion (and repair) simple but efficient tools, weapons and armor and sell them at standard prices (honest fellow!) He always wears a blackened smith’s apron, barechested underneath and always has obscenely abundant, long and black chest hair. Boris can even be persuaded to craft exotic weapons and armor, and with even more prodding, he will even agree to produce “custom made” stuff! He can also teach those interested so (who sport good manners, honesty and pride!) in the ways of the armed warrior. His knowledge of the ways of almost every weapon conceavable and every major fighting technique is profound and a secret kept only for those few lucky individuals he trusts.
7. Monks’ Tower
The oldest, highest and most impressive structure of the Keep, its entrance being forbidden to all except those who wear the cloth, and maybe some of the most prominent residents (Kcardeh, Todrick, weird old Aljero etc). The famous monastery libraries are located inside, as well as the scriptoriums, where the monks work tirelessly, day and night. The monks live in spartan, darkened cells in the tower basement, and there they also gather, cook and eat their humble food. They emerge from the tower only when they have outside work to do, or to attend sermons at the Church of St. Cuthbert. They won’t mix with Keep residents or visitors and most of the times they silently frown upon everything and everyone. Still, their manners are always kind, and they carry a calm, if somehow stiff and alienating demeanor.
8. Church of St. Cuthbert
This humble, squat building has stood for hundreds of years. The church of St. Cuthbert is the focal point of worship and matters spiritual in the Keep and also the lands surrounding it. Joyree of the Cold Iron, the grandniece of the fabled Canoness Y’day, presides over the flock and everyone looks up to her for whom she represents : the Canoness herself, a revered veteran of the Battle of Emridy Meadows, the most devout servant of St. Cuthbert in the land and still the head of the Church of St. Cuthbert for the whole nation.
In truth, Joyree is a very likeable girl with extremely simple – and naive – demeanor. Her faith and smile, her optimism, generosity and kindness are true and genuine, but she was put in this place of office without really choosing it and now she understands that she’s got huge shoes to fill and that the expectations she has to meet are probably too high for her potential. Still, she is determined to do whatever she can to fulfill her role. After 5 hard years, she’s gradually starting to become recognised in people’s hearts, not just as “the descendant of the Canoness”, but as a honest, devout and hard working person, who always does her best, no matter what. She will advise and tutor any player character determined to walk the path of the pious warrior, even should his / her faith does not lie in St. Cuthbert. She’s fairly open minded (for a cleric of St. Cuthbert!) for that matter, but still, she will never knowingly tutor a follower of any evil deity, or cult.
9. Weird old Aljero’s cottage
A really WEIRD and really emaciated old man, with patches of crazily tangled and protruding white hair and beard, Aljero is considered, if anything, but mad. Foul tempered and outright creepy on a bad day (which tends to be the norm) absurd, insanely rambling and with even more creepy humor on his good days. Most of the times he shares his conversations with the numerous cats that regularly swarm his cottage, seemingly oblivious of other people present. People who get to really know him, insist that underneath his incoherent, irrelevant ramblings lies unbelievable wisdom and gems of arcane knowledge. . Still, most will just avoid him as he tends to totally creep people out.
Player characters who are determined to put up with him, be kind to his madness and just roll with his weirdness, will (maybe) accomplish to comprehend his gibberish, and be taugh in the ways of the arcane spell caster by a true master. Aljero isn’t truly mad – at least not in a conventional way. He’s just seen and learned too much and has lost his touch with the ways of this world. His past and how he got to be a permanent resident of the Keep, are a total mystery and will for ever remain so.
10. House of Kcardeh
Veteran hero Kcardeh (pronounced : KAR-DE) is considered by everyone as the greatest warrior of his time, the venerable leader of the Defenders of the Gnarley Forest. This knightly order struck a critical blow to the forces of Evil in a great uprising of legendary terror and wickedness, more than thirty years ago and Kcardeh was at that time their leader. If it weren’t for their noble sacrifice, all the land and life in it would be totally different today. Unfortunately, a great number of the Defenders of the Gnarley Forest perished in the fabled “Battle of Emridy Meadows”, the epic climax of the long struggle versus Evil, bringing the glorified order to its knees and, nowadays, on the verge of extinction, counting only a couple of dozens of selected few members.
Kcardeh, retired for many years now, spends the rest of his days studying in the Tower and roaming the surrounding lands. He is by far the most known, loved and widely respected resident of Cromwell Keep. A man of deep knowlenge, uncanny wisdom and unmatched experience, Kcardeh is a most valuable source of information and counselling for any player character. As oldage (he must be over 70 years old by now, though he appears much younger) has started to catch up to him, weakening his body and gradually numbing his senses, he will at times request aid and companionship for his journeys...