In the dark of the noon day sun
Bryn Shander – Population 1,200
“What’s Bryn Shander like,ye ask? It’s sixty score humans, packed together likefish in a barrel an’ smelling about as sweet. Its roads are paved with the muck o’ the cart horses ye’re constantly rubbing shoulders with, an’ its alehouses are filled with scoundrels that no other city in Faerun would have. An’ after three weeks on Ten Trail, you’ll swear there was no lovelier sight!”
—Beorne Steelstrike, caravan master
When travelers following Ten Trail cross the Spine of the World into Icewind Dale, their first sight is of the circular wall of Bryn Shander rising from a distant hill top, with Kelvin’s Cairn looming in the distance. The twinkling lights of the town’s inns promise refuge from the lashing winds, and the smoke from its many hearths portends warmth and sustenance.
After they have passed through Bryn Shander’s gates, travelers are swept up in the bustle of a prospering frontier town. Here, caravans from the south converge with traders from across Icewind Dale to swap goods and rumors in the busy market square. Fishers, trappers, traders, and sellswords rub elbows in the town’s taprooms, and gruff dwarves, wide eyed travelers, and skulking ne’er-do-wells wander its streets.
Many ofthe folk who come to Icewind Dale never leave the relative safety of Ten-Towns, and of those, many have never ventured beyond Bryn Shander.
Although it’s true that the dale has a great deal more to see than its central town, it’s also true that fortune and adventure aplenty wait within Bryn Shander’s sheltering walls.
Bryn Shander is the heart of Ten-Towns, and trade is its lifeblood. Caravans from the Sword Coast, traders from Ironmaster, dwarves from Kelvin’s Cairn, fishers and crafters from Ten-Towns, and sometimes hunters from the barbarian tribes of the tundra all meet in the market square. Here, the people of Icewind Dale ply their wares, hawking the scrimshaw and raw knucklehead ivory that is much esteemed by those of the southern lands. In return, the southern caravans bring rich dyes, hardwood from the forests of the heartlands, dried herbs and spices, finely woven textiles, fruits, wines, and many other commodities that are rare in the frozen north. All these items sell for a premium in the market, and travelers who are accustomed to the plentiful goods and relative bounty of places such as Waterdeep and Neverwinter are often shocked by the exorbitant prices that even common goods command
in Bryn Shander. Those without deep pockets soon run short on coin, which contributes to the town’s mercenary quality—many of the sellswords here live hand to mouth and take any job for pay. Fortunately for them, the constant need for caravan escorts, as well as protection for the expeditions that hope to find riches in the wild hills and frozen mountains at the Spine of the World, means there is never a shortage of work to be had in Bryn Shander.
The Tenth Town
Although Bryn Shander is the largest ofthe ten towns, it is also the youngest. Originally it was the site of a lone cabin on the trail to Maer Dualdon where caravanners, weary from their trip over the pass, would rest by a warm fire before continuing to their intended destination—usually Targos, the most accessible settlement in those days. Fishers from the towns often came to the hilltop cabin to meet the caravans as they arrived, eager for news of the outside world. But when scrimshanders from Termalaine began bringing their wares to the cabin to entice the caravans to make the longer trek to their town, they unwittingly ignited a trade war.
First Targos and then the other towns began sending their own traders to the cabin, fearful of losing any advantage to the others. Outbuildings were constructed to hold the extra visitors, and as the towns started establishing semi permanent presences on the hill, more businesses grew up to provide goods and services for the burgeoning population. Finally,
after a feud among traders from four towns ended in violence, all of the communities agreed to send speakers to the new outpost to regulate the business being carried on there. The owner of one of the local businesses acted as speaker for the outpost, and thus Bryn Shander had its first council meeting.
Walls Provide refuge
The people of the south know Bryn Shander for its market (if they know of the place at all), but the people of Ten-Towns know it for its walls. Despite being a simple palisade, the walls of Bryn Shander loom as large in the minds of Ten-Towners as those of any dwarven citadel, for at times they have been all that has kept the people of the dale from being annihilated by barbarian raids or rampaging beasts. The walls stand some thirty feet high and are defined by two concentric rings of wooden poles, the gap between them filled with dirt and rubble.
The outer ring of poles rises above the top of the wall, providing a rampart for defenders stationed on the wooden-planked walkway. The wall’s hinged gates are fifteen feet tall and can be barred from the inside with heavy wood beams banded with iron. The town’s location plays a role in its ability to withstand assault. Built on one of the tallest foothills south of Kelvin’s Cairn, Bryn Shander has a commanding view of any approach from the north the direction from which attacks on Ten-Towns usually come), and an attacking force must climb the hillside
under fire from archers before it can assault the walls.
Moreover, barbarians or other foes from the north must approach Bryn Shander by way of Bremen’s Run or Icewind Pass, and then advance past the towns near Maer Dualdon or Lac Dinneshere, providing ample opportunity for strategically placed ambush parties to outflank the enemy forces or harry their movements. It was this strategy that Ten-Towns employed when the barbarian tribes allied under King Heafstaag of the Elk Tribe in an attempt to occupy Bryn Shander, resulting in the decimation ofthe barbarians in general and the Elk Tribe
in particular. That victory, however, was the result of a degree of cooperation between the towns that has not been seen before or since, so the likelihood of Ten-Towns successfully employing the same strategy in the face of new dangers is slim.
The defense of Bryn Shander is overseen by the sheriff, Markham Southwell, who is appointed by the town’s speaker and serves at her pleasure. Responsible for training the town’s militia and keeping the peace, the sheriffis authorized to maintain a standing force of twenty guards (typically equipped with longswords, daggers, and studded leather armor).
In times ofneed, the town can raise a fighting force of about four hundred—mostly townsfolk outfitted with spears and longbows, although there are nearly always some adventurers in town who can be paid or persuaded to help by taking up arms.
Sheriff Markham is empowered to hire adventurers for missions undertaken in the town’s defense (loosely defined as anything that keeps trade coming through Bryn Shander’s gates.
Such expeditions are underwritten by the town’s exchequer and therefore require the approval of the speaker.