Riverside (5e Environment)
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A sleepy little fish village housed along the fork of a great river, this place hides a few interesting inhabitants and a horrific adventure for the night.
|“||I began my stay in Riverside for but a fortnight when I became aware of the queerest obsession with the rivers here. While it is true that it be the lifeblood of this town, they act as though the waters are alive. I am sure there is a good amount of fearsome creatures in the depths, yet it does not explain their reverence.||”|
|—Ylan Fredger, ethnographer|
The village of Riverside is split along the banks of the Orren River in two. The western half is connected to many main roads on land. The eastern half sits where the Halhafnir River splits into the Orren and Fesr. The Fesr River runs along the eastern half's other side. Although it is only spoken of, the other bank of the Fesr supposedly has land sacred to Riverside. A majority of the population in Riverside are seemingly human, with some elves and gnomish residents thrown in the mix. Monstrous humanoids are sprinkled in.
|“||I have concluded that they fear the rivers as a force of nature, for sure. However, there is a force which controls it, or so they believe. The division of their town had led some to see things they never imagined on earth. It is said to have been some sort of divine punishment that wrenched Riverside in twain. The punishment has not abated fully, and its effects are still felt. Thus explains the odd behaviors of the folk on the east side, who say their survival was due only to a pact which now binds their entire village.||”|
|—Ylan Fredger, ethnographer|
It is said the Halhafnir used to be one river, and Riverside used to be one village. However, one day, an unknown calamity struck and split the great river in two. The event buried a good deal of the town under the torrent of the new rivers formed. The surviving halves lost contact for a good number of years, for the banks flooded and forced many to retreat for other nearby towns. The western bank had assistance from the kingdom to eventually rebuild, but the east was in complete isolation, at the mercy of nature. It was nearly three years later before west Riverside was able to reconnect with the east. During those three years, the west bank claimed to have glimpsed something like a tower rising in the east, being built at an alarmingly quick pace. Other than that, messenger birds which were directed to fly there had no response, and left the west puzzled.
Upon landing on the eastern bank of the young Orren, the west riversiders were greeted with a town that seemed as though not a day had passed since their separation. Everything was still functional, and their long-lost halves reunited. However, the west noticed odd changes in the east, such as an odd tower erected in the name of some creature called Cth. There was also a new temple which had not been there before, and was built with an ominous sort of architecture, depicting horrid fish creatures that walked the land. The population of the east side had not diminished but grown, with a good many of them looking to have piscine features.
The east riversiders tried to convince the west to convert to their new religion, which worshipped a water-based deity that had relented and allowed them to survive the horrible ordeal by protecting them from flood. They claimed that, in the aftermath of the river splitting, a vision had come to them from the flood of revelation. They had to make a pact with the all-powerful river god who caused this. In doing so, they implicated Riverside as a whole, and pledged allegiance to this faceless deity. The west was unconvinced at first, and withdrew to their side of the bank without another thought of the supernatural.
A horrible monsoon came within the next span of months, battering both banks. When they passed, east riversiders were the ones who came to the west bank, offering peace with the river, in exchange for their allegiance to the deity. The east diplomats stayed in the town that night. All that is known is that, the next morning, all of Riverside was united in their worship.
|“||Lord Blake seems sincere enough. He claims descent from the former mayor of Riverside. During the three year separation, he'd been marooned on the east banks. He was one of the diplomats that came the night before the full union of Riverside as one. I have seen the portraits of him prior the ordeal. Compared to then, he looks like a drowned man.||”|
|—Ylan Fredger, ethnographer|
Under the nearby kingdom, Riverside retains a limited autonomy under rule of the mayor, Lord Kingsley Blake. He is abutted in power with his councilmen, who form the complete governance of Riverside. The council consists of seven members of distinguished citizens. A rumor circulates that only those "chosen by the river" can become one of them. Lord Blake frequently makes trips across the river, having a house on both sides. The council is split in number between the two halves, with four on the east, and three on the west. They only make decisions when congregating on the east bank, which has bi-weekly meetings.
Kingsley is a reclusive figure in the village. He is not always seen, usually holed up in one of his two houses. There are whispers of him having crippling paranoia. Despite the schedule kept in meetings, the village is largely left to function on its own devices. There are some whispers that it was he who placed Riverside under the pact with the river. Some call this a curse, though none say so publicly. None also oppose his power, as odd things supposedly spirit his opponents away in the middle of the night. His wife, Francesca Blake, is a half-elf who seems to know nothing of her husband's affairs. She runs their estate in his absence frivolously, throwing tea parties and hosting soirees.
All of Riverside is monitored by a constabulary with about eighty able-bodied defenders. They are stationed mainly in the towns, as well as the gate, which one needs to pass to access the ships that go over the river. Their barracks are evenly split between the two banks, and they host their own special fleet of ships, hidden from the public port. Constable Og is a hobgoblin captain that leads the militia. Everyone alleges him to be the toughest guy in the village.
Riverside originally was a fishing village that subsisted off the tides of the Halhafnir. After the formation of Orren and Fesr, they now have some power as a tradepost and stopping point for ships traveling up and down the river. While not a major port, people do come and stay for some of their odd religious buildings. However, many report discomfort at night.
- The Fisherman's Inn is a rather pricey place to stay, but it is the only establishment in Riverside to stay in, and is only on the west bank. The inn also provides meals and hygienic facilities to cover the cost.
- There are two taverns in Riverside: Bailey's Pub on the west, and the Lucky Cup on the east. Both have secret rooms for the Sunflower society, which holds its meetings in the establishments. The society is a sort of social club where the town's deepest secrets are discussed, including the truth of what happened during the separation. Members usually wear some sunflower on their bodies, or incorporate the yellow color into clothing.
- Riverside Trading Post has large holdings on either side of the bank. These are the main, if not the only stores in Riverside. The owner, Talia, has an interesting story about treasure supposedly having been washed and buried in some woods on the east bank, near the Ry'leh Temple.
|“||Perhaps it is the most astounding thing about this village, as well as the reason I must escape it tonight. They know I have discovered the secret of what lies in the tower to the south of the west bank, and what horrific secrets it divulges despite their efforts to destroy it. The split of the rivers was by no coincidence, but the work of some sadistic deity that has twisted the people of Riverside into obedient pawns. Those piscine features are but proof of the horrible pact that Blake inflicted on his people out of desperation. I may not make it out, instead added as another corpse to the pile which sleeps at the bottom of Tompkin's Bay, to be feasted on by the being which inhabits the river.||”|
|—Final entry from Ylan Fredger from diary found in the Swamp Forests|
The people of Riverside worship the rivers. It is a vague name for the being which lurks at the river depths, that unnaturally deep. The being is believed to be enormous, able to dwarf the entire village. Upon the split of the Halhafnir, a second aspect of the deity was formed, and so a tower was erected to honor it across the Fesr. A tower and temple were erected on the east. All that is on the west is some ruin which the townspeople eschew.
- Dagon's Tower
Across the Fesr is the tower dedicated to an aspect of the river deity. Riversiders believe that this being rules over all bodies of water, but made a special nest in their village. Of his two known aspects, Dagon is the one who watches the town of Riverside from another shore. Men who are coming of age in the village embark on a ship to the tower across the Fesr, starting from the point of Aron's Trial. At the tower, they are met with the towermaster, who inducts them into the religion at the tower.
- Tower of Cth and Ry'Leh Temple
Cth is the main aspect of the river deity worshiped in Riverside. He symbolizes the wrath and power of the rivers which the village is constantly at the mercy of. The tower and temple were constructed during the isolation of the east. They depict carvings of water creatures walking among men, and men becoming water creatures. The temple has a secret entrance down into the bedrock of the land, where the monstrous river being dwells in dampness. It is a creature similar to Cthulhu, and surrounded by slimy minions like that of kuo-toa or locathah.
- Tompkin's Bay
This bay is the sight of worship for those who live on the west. It is alleged that on full moon nights, the deity sends his emissaries of the water up to land, where they reproduce with the civilians. Some civilians are also designated to go "live in the river," which means they are thrown or dragged into the waters of the bay. It is unknown if they become one of those fish beings, or if they are simply food. Regardless, this grotesque ritual has been speculated as the reason of why some offspring in the village appear so odd-looking.
- Lost Ruin
The lost ruin south of the west bank settlement is believed to have preexisted Riverside. Records are scant, and have probably been diminished by willful destruction. The tower itself was dismantled shortly after the reunion of the two banks. However, the remains are still there. Those who can read Primordial can see that is warns of the day the banks flood, for that will mean the occupation of this area by a malicious deity.
The above probably gives a pretty good picture as it is for what the story can be. But, just in case, the following can nudge your players to try and dip their feet in the waters of Riverside:
- West vs. East
The Bryant and Miller families have lived in Riverside as long as the village has stood, but on opposite banks. They both bitterly feud about the year's maturing ceremony at Aron's Trial. A mysterious murder on one of the young candidates spurs them to find an escort across the Fesr.
There are rumors surrounding the village and the kingdom is unhappy about hearing that the tributes are late. So they are hiring adventurers to go investigate the village and its oddities. This can easily escalate into attacking Blake, and trying to fight the being that holds Riverside in its thrall.
- Monster Manual, p.186