The Mists of Time
The hamlet of Longsaddle is little more than a row of buildings on either side of the Long Road, halfway along the lengthy journey from Triboar to Mirabar. A path leaves the road here and winds to the Ivy Mansion, the great house of the wizards of the Harpell family. Since the Harpells founded the town more than four centuries ago, they have brooked little nonsense and less mayhem. Their own behavior sometimes borders on the bizarre and can be disturbing- they once turned two rival sects of Malarites into rabbits for disturbing Longsaddle with their squabbles, leaving them at the mercy of the predators they had honored- but they are one of the most potent gatherings of mages anywhere in the North.
The Harpells are a jovial, if insular, lot. All wizards, they tend to marry wizards as well, and the elder women of the family (by blood or marriage) set the course for the house and utterly rule matters within the Ivy Mansion. The family takes on a number of apprentice wizards, using them for menial tasks and for basic defense of Longsaddle. Some apprentices are often the inadvertent test subjects for an experimental spell, but such is the danger of apprenticing to the Harpells. It is likely this spirit of experimentation that caused the Harpells to found their town so far away from other settlements. Young wizards with oddly sized or shaped limbs, strange hair color, or shifting forms are fairly common sights in Longsaddle, not surprising to locals though they might give visitors pause.
Given the Harpells’ reputation as powerful wizards, and the sheer number of them, there is no shortage of folk poking around Longsaddle and the nearby lands hoping to discover caches of magic, hidden like children’s treasures. Of course, few, if any, such bundles exist, but the locals draw no shortage of entertainment from sending would-be thieves on grand chases for wands, rings, and other magic trinkets that any prudent person would realize simply don’t exist. After all, if the average trader in Longsaddle knew where powerful magic was located, he would be more likely, down the years, to try to claim it.
The primary business of Longsaddle is ranching, and the lands surrounding the village are dominated by hundreds of ranches and farms of every sort and size, from tiny horse farms to great fields of cattle. During those days that livestock are brought in for trading, Longsaddle is a dusty, noise-filled place, with the sounds of the animals competing with the shouts of farmers hoping to sell their goods.
At all other times, it’s a quiet, almost sleepy hamlet, except when the booming reverberation of a Harpell-crafted spell breaks the silence. The family is constantly researching magic both old and new, and twisting spells and rituals into interesting (to them) innovations. This proclivity has prompted them to surround Ivy Mansion with as many magical wards as the family can muster, in order to protect the populace from an errant explosion, terrifying illusion, or the odd, galloping horse of lightning speeding by.
Several businesses designed to attract travelers stand in Longsaddle, if for no other reason than travel along the well-named Long Road can be tiresome. The first is the Gilded Horseshoe, an old inn to the west of the road that serves fine food and drink, offers comfortable beds, and is close enough to the Ivy Mansion that no one would dare disturb it or its guests. The owners have access to some of the choicest cuts of meat in Longsaddle, and as a result, their roasts and stews are exquisite.
Across the road, the Ostever family serves as the local slaughterer and butcher for folk wishing to take meat, rather than live animals, away from Longsaddle. Rumor holds that the sausages have much improved down the years but buyers are advised to “mind the tusks” by locals, a reference to an old joke that none remember. Folk willing to wait can have the able hands of the Ostevers perform a slaughter, hanging, dressing, and packing for them, though this process is likely to take days longer than most travelers can spare.
There is entertainment to be had at the Gambling Golem, where cheaters in the card or dice games are tossed out into the street, and a local marbles game known as scattershields is popular. Dry goods, candles, lanterns, saddles, rope, and wagon wheels are available from a number of other shops.
It can’t be stressed enough that while the Harpells have little interest in the daily running of Longsaddle, it is undeniably their town. They rarely suffer insults, and never tolerate violence against themselves, their family or the locals. A conflict involving the Harpells is likely to end swiftly and bloodily, and (unless the offender is convincingly apologetic, unconscious, dead, or forgiven of the wrongdoing) will often draw additional Harpells to support their kin. Harpell supports Harpell in all public matters, and no one bothers to record the numbers and names of those that forgot that fact.
Aside from the Harpells, the dominant families of Longsaddle are ranchers: the Cadrasz, Emmert, Kromlor, Mammlar, Sharnshield, Suldivver, and Zelorrgosz families have ranched in or near Longsaddle for generations, and influence most of the daily life there. They set the market days, help resolve disputes among families, and broker purchases when a farmer or businessperson dies without an heir. They settle smaller matters and keep the peace as best they can, knowing full well that if the Harpells need to get involved in a dispute, there is always the possibility of an offender’s being blasted into nothingness.
These families are also the ones most likely to hire outsiders to deal with matters on the ranches, whether an ore raid or the appearance of lycanthropes in the area (though it’s rumored that the latter creatures may be the descendants of one of the Harpells). The major ranching interests often hire adventurers not only to further their own aims or provide for defense, but to secretly hinder or harm one another and gain an advantage in their ongoing competition. Adventurers that go too far on such a mission can be explained away as foolish outlanders, and if they offend a Harpell and get blasted in the middle of the Low Road, there will be no one left to ask about the matter. My best advice is to be mindful of the scent of magic in the air and act accordingly.