Blackfen - An Overview
Blackfen is located on the western shores of Black Lake, right on the border with The Fallen Lands, and forms one of the significant urban centers along the Karnish-Zykerathox war front, as well as acting as an important stopping point for traffic to and from the beleaguered city of Ghendenbur. Blackfen defends the route across Black Lake, which is constantly crisscrossed by ferries shipping soldiers and supplies to the front line. Once a sleepy, backwater town, Blackfen has grown into a frontier city, highly militarized and well-defended. Despite the threats that surround them - and the constant fear of the Black Undeath of Zykerathox - it nonetheless remains a bustling place with people going about their everyday business in the crowded streets, which are generally filthy and filled with the stench of rotting garbage and sewage, and where vermin are rife.
Blackfen is clearly divided into two halves: Old Palisade Town, which is located on a small peninsula that juts into Black Lake and is protected by a palisade, and North Blackfen, which has grown up outside of the palisade along the shores of the lake. While there is constant talk of building a new wall, to encompass all of Blackfen, the pressures of war have meant there is simply not enough money or political will for such a project and North Blackfen remains exposed from their precarious position on the very eastern tip of The Silver Hills.
This small city has a population of around 9,500 souls - the numbers swelled in recent years by the fall of the lands west of them, in particular Ghent. For a time, refugees poured into Blackfen, threatening to overwhelm it, but many continued to migrate east and the numbers dwindled as the people of Ghent themselves dwindled, consumed into a life of misery and slavery under the ruling hand of the new Lord of Herophet, Zykerathox. Now few new people arrive from the west and Blackfen has settled into its role as a frontier city. The population is primarily human, making up around 85% of the population. Halfings (7%), dwarves (4%), and elves (2%) make up most of the rest of the population, though there is also a significant gnome population (1%) who live in their wagons on the edge of the city. Despite the war, Blackfen continues to trade, with fish, grain, leather goods, livestock, pottery, silver, stone, timber, and wine all being exported east into Karnish.
Blackfen has emerged during the war with Zykerathox as a significant city located on the western shores Black Lake. Primarily only accessible by ferries that constantly crisscross the lake - The Old Fen Road that passes through the eastern tip of The Silver Hills and used to connect Blackfen with the cities and towns of the west has long since become all but impassable. A short ferry journey across Black Lake is Kirn, a tiny hamlet notable only for its small port and the ferry service that links Blackfen with Badathur and, beyond that, Karnish itself. The ferries, and therefore Blackfen, act as a conduit through which supplies and military personnel pass across the lake, where they stay before moving to and from the frontline.
The city has seen significant growth in recent years due to the migrations caused by the war and the old palisade now protects less than half of the population. Although there has been talk of extending the palisade - or of even building a defensive wall, to reflect the city's perilous geographic location - the project has never come to fruition and since the majority of the City Council are comfortably located within the protection that the present palisade affords, there seems little likelihood of it happening any time soon. Instead, defensive positions have been built along parts of The Old Fen Road and amongst The Silver Hills which any enemy of threatening size must pass, creating a deliberate buffer zone to protect the strategically important city.
After a sharp rise during the height of the war, the population of over 9000 souls has stabilized, with only the deployment of fresh soldiers periodically swelling the population before moving onto their new stations. As well as having become a significant port and conduit for the military, it is also located in prime agricultural land, with farming, tanning and vintnery all important to the local economy, in spite of the war. Outside of the military, the largest contributors to the local economy are the traders and merchants who pass through Blackfen on their perilous journey to and from the besieged city of Ghendenbur, transporting essentials goods to help keep the people of that city alive. Although many of the merchants do not return, usually killed by the armies of Zykerathox, the rewards are high and there are always those willing to take the risk.
Blackfen's Old Palisade Town is situated on a small peninsula which juts out into Black Lake and which is the most heavily defended part of the city, with a large wooden palisade and several large stone towers protecting it. However, the peninsula is also overcrowded and the streets filthy. Despite this, it is home to the most powerful and wealthy of Blacken, who prefer the security the palisade affords. The city itself has continued to grow outside of the palisade, slowly spreading along the banks of Black Lake.
Although the threat of the Black Undeath of Zykerathox is constant and cases periodically appear amongst the population, especially in the outlying communities, the city has, as yet, remained largely untouched. This is primarily due to the strict adherence to the Laws of Quarantine, which deals with outbreaks severely and swiftly. Nonetheless, there have been two major outbreaks in the city, which have seen cadavers lining the streets, rising as undead to attack the living. On both occasions the plague was largely kept outside of Old Palisade Town and brought under control before contagion was too widespread. But the people of Blackfen live in constant fear of another appearance of the plague and the deadly consequences it brings.
Humanoid activity in the form of Zykerathox's orcs and goblins are common, and less so are tribes of giants and ogres. However, despite their perilous position on the western shore of Black Lake, the natural defenses afforded by the lake and their location on a peninsula offer them excellent protection and are the primary reason why Blackfen has emerged as a significant military post. There is a notable population of lizardfolk who live amongst the swamps that are a common feature to the area, including one especially well led tribe in Billet Bog, a swampy area a mile or so north of the city. Tensions between the people of Blackfen and the lizardfolk tribes are usually high, with the large expansion of Blackfen over the years only helping to increase the tension between them, but the armies of Zykerathox are a common enemy and with both humans and lizardfolk hard pushed against such a powerful foe, outright conflict between them is not common.