The Dreadful Winter
A pleasant little village that has somehow managed to remain so in spite of its being located in the grim nation of Barovia.
Corruption –1; Crime –1; Economy –1; Law –3; Lore +0; Society +4
Qualities broad-minded, rumormongering citizens
Population 171 (152 humans, 2 dwarves, 5 halflings, 1 elf)
Councilor Ionnia Teppen (NG middle-aged female human commoner 7)
Elder Natharen Safander (LG male human cleric of the Morninglord 2)
Soothsayer Old Mother Theodora (N venerable female human adept 5)
Base Value 500 gp; Purchase Limit 2,500 gp;
Broad-Minded: The citizens of Heldren are unusually open, friendly, and tolerant, and react positively toward visitors.
Like most in Barovia, the people of Heldren mostly keep to themselves. Far from the harsh rule of Count Ravenloft and the strictest militia press-gangs, Heldren goes on as it always has, as a relatively small and unimportant hamlet of farmers, herders, and woodcutters. But Heldren is home to a secret unsuspected by its normally complacent citizens: an undiscovered Mistway connects their village with another far to the north. Could the recent appearance of unseasonable winter weather in the nearby Border Wood be a harbinger of worse things to come?
- Armory: A dirt path winds its way up a low hill west of town to the single door of this square stone tower. The tower is 30 feet high, with battlements on its roof and arrow slits along its walls. It is completely open on the inside, with no interior floors—just a wooden staircase running along the walls to the roof. The tower serves as Heldren’s armory and a place of refuge for the villagers in case the village is ever attacked.
- Isker’s Smithy: Although he spends most of his time shoeing horses and repairing farm tools, Heldren’s blacksmith, Isker Euphram, is a skilled warrior and veteran of the Dead Man’s Campaign (a war far to the north against the undead forces of Darkon that resulted in nothing but the wholesale slaughter of the Falknovian invaders). His daughter, Xanthippe, works as his apprentice. When not at her father’s forge, Xanthippe’s likely to be found at the Silver Stoat, holding court with her numerous suitors. Although widely considered the village beauty, Xanthippe is as proficient with her fists as with her hammer, and those few of Heldren’s young men who have tried to woo her too aggressively walked away with black eyes for their troubles.
- General Store: Heldren’s general store carries everything a villager needs, as well as most gear an adventurer requires. Heldren doesn’t see much trade, despite being along the Old Svalich Road, so the store’s proprietor, Vivialla Steranus, takes advantage of her enormous quantities of free time to study the mysterious Mists as they come near the village.
- Town Hall: Once, this edifice must have been quite grand, boasting an imported clock tower overlooking the town square. Alas, the clock itself has been broken down for years, now, and nobody actually knows how to fix it. Its white face stares down upon the villagers like a hollowed barn owl. Still, twice a day it’s right, and its silver gears and cogs are said to ward away evil from entering it, making it the first choice of refuge in the event of a supernatural attack. The clock tower’s bells are manually rung every hour from 6 am to 6 pm (the villagers prefer to keep things quiet at night), and can be used to sound the alarm if there’s a fire or to muster the militia in case of attack.
- Willowbark Apothecary: A well-tended garden sits in front of this equally neat house, the home of the elf Tessaraea Willowbark, Heldren’s resident apothecary. Tessaraea is a relatively new transplant to Heldren, having arrived in the village only 25 years ago after a failed expedition to slay a mysterious icy monster left her the only survivor. The elf is quiet and somber, and is known to stockpile an enormous amount of alchemist’s fire for unknown reasons.
- Barber: An artist with razors and scissors, Argus Goldtooth (LG male dwarf expert 5) offers shaves, haircuts, and dentistry, as well as “leechery and other surgical proceedings.” Argus is a fair healer, though he’s prone to prescribing leeches (which fill several jars on high shelves in his shop) for most maladies, from stomachaches to broken bones. Argus also offers gold teeth to replace extracted ones, and is his own best customer—his easy smile reveals more gold teeth in his mouth than original ones.
- The Silver Stoat: Heldren’s only tavern, the Silver Stoat, stands right on the town square across from the town hall. A fixture of village life, the tavern fills up with patrons in the evening as they gather to share gossip, hear news, and reward themselves for a hard day’s work. Anything that’s worth knowing in Heldren gets talked about here, and if asked where he got a particularly juicy bit of gossip or information, a villager will likely say, “I heard it from
the Stoat.” There is no true inn in the village, but travelers are welcome to a spot on the floor of the Stoat next to the fireplace for a night, as long as they’re up early and on their way.
- Livery Stable: At the stable next door to the Silver Stoat, the halfling Sophia Imirras offers horses (and a single pony) for hire or sale, as well as stabling and grooming. Sophia also has two carts, a wagon, and a carriage for hire. Both luxurious and ostentatious, the
carriage sees most of its use at village weddings. Sophia never speaks of how she came to acquire it.
- Town Square: The most notable feature of Heldren’s town square is the large statue of a beautiful woman right in the center of the town. Usually just called “the Lady,” the statue has been here for as long as anyone can remember, and no one knows who it actually represents. Some believe the Lady was the founder of Heldren or some ancient, forgotten Taldan noblewoman or even a mysterious fey forest goddess. Others have more sinister theories—an evil witch turned to stone for her wickedness or a magical statue through which a distant spirit spies upon the village. Elder Natharen Safander also hosts the annual Harvest Feast in the town square, during which the people of Heldren erect a giant bonfire in the square and bedeck the Lady in garlands of flowers.
- Ionnia Teppen’s House: The leader of Heldren’s village council, Ionnia Teppen, lives in this simple two-story house just off the town square. Ionnia’s family has had a place in Heldren’s politics for generations, and her membership on the town council was all but assured. She is by far the most inf luential member of the council, and most villagers consider her the de facto mayor of Heldren.
- Temple of the Morninglord: Managed by Elder Natharen Safander.
- Carpenter: Heldren’s foremost woodworker is Tengezil Frimbocket, a gnome from a far-off icy land with wild black hair and wilder dark eyes. He decorates his creations with delicate and elaborate trim he calls “gingerbread,” though few can afford his services and he mostly settles for building little contraptions nobody else understands. He claims to know how to fix the clock tower, but nobody trusts the gnome to operate in good faith on their beloved landmark.
- Heldren Sawmill: Heldren’s sawmill stays busy day and night cutting timber harvested by the village’s woodcutters into planks for shipment to Castle Ravenloft and other cities, and stacks of lumber are always heaped outside. Partners Alexius Demetri and Lycio Vallant oversee the sawmill’s operation, which makes them two of Heldren’s wealthiest residents. Their large house on the north side of town is easily Heldren’s largest private home, nicknamed “Sawmill Manor” by the town.
- The Butcher of Jalrune: The name of this butcher shop refers to the supposed nickname of its halfling proprietor, Perkin Tarimm, who claims to be a retired enforcer from the cruel despotic rule of Borca. Because of his nonthreatening species, few take his claims very seriously.
- Old Mother Theodora’s: Every Barovian village has its resident wise woman, and Heldren is no exception. No one in the village is sure just how ancient Old Mother Theodora (as everyone calls her) is, but she’s been around as long as anyone in town can remember. Old Mother Theodora is Heldren’s most skilled midwife, and she helped deliver just about everyone currently living in the village. She’s also a soothsayer and hedge witch, and villagers come to her to have their fortunes told or buy love potions or herbal remedies.