Walls: The main defensive asset of Bryn Shander, and something unusual among the Ten Towns (only Targos and Bryn Shander are walled), are the walls themselves. They stand 30 ft tall, made up of two concentric rings of logs spaced 10 ft apart with the gap between filled with dirt and rubble. The logs of the outer ring are slightly taller than the inner ring to provide a rampart that defenders can hide behind. The gates are 15 ft tall and can be barred from the inside with heavy wooden beams.
The walls were established after a brief trade war in 1313 DR, which saw the fledgling settlement gutted by fire. Since then the wall has grown with the city (wood being far too valuable to waste) and as new buildings are constructed outside the walls they are moved to protect everyon. Bryn Shander’s existence as a trading hub relies upon its reputation of defence and security in this frontier region.
Militia: The Sherf of Bryn Shander is allowed to hire a militia, the size of which varies upon the need. In times of peace there are roughly 20 adventurers or sell swords on retainer to work at least 2 days in every 10 (rotating so that on any given day there are at least 4 guards on duty). These guards are supplied with a blade (arming sword), dagger, shield, and leathers, but they are free to use their own gear if required.
In times of need the Sherf may increase the size of the militia to deal with the situation, this may include every able bodied person in Bryn Shander, bringing the total to about 200 people, although most will be armed with little more than a wooden staff or a kitchen knife. Everyone in Bryn Shander is required to undertake one days training each year, and sessions are run by the Sherf and or his retained guard most days.
Unlike the other settlements of the Ten Towns, Bryn Shander has no natural commodities or products. It is situated on top of a raised hillock just outside of Valladrul, many miles from Maer Dualdon, Lac Dinneshere, or even Dellon-Lune. It does not have any lumber, mineral resources nearby, and there is no agricultural land around it.
Bryn Shander exists only because it is the only place the various settlements of the Ten Towns would agree to meet for trade (prior to its establishment the goods of each settlement were traded at various places between the settlements and were preyed upon by goblinoids and Reghedmen).
Every tenday (except between Nightal and Ches), carts from the other settlements head to Bryn Shander delivering scrimshaw, gemstones, lumber, and curios as well as any surplus food they have to sell (knucklehead, salmon, and tuber vegetables). In Bryn Shander they meet caravans from Luskan that bring goods from far off lands such as spices from Calimshan, and even weapons and armour from the Moonshae Isles. These goods are usually of poor quality (the best stuff being sold in Waterdeep and other coastal cities), but it is more than good enough for Icewind Dale.
Bryn Shander’s entire economy is based off providing services for the visiting merchants and other travellers from the southern lands and the rest of the Ten Towns. It has more inns, taverns, wainwrights and other services than any of the other Ten Towns put together.
Like the other settlements of the Ten Town, Bryn Shander is “governed” by the Speaker. This title is not elected, and brings with it no official power, but it is still a sought after position because whoever is the Speaker gets to represent Bryn Shander on the Council of Speakers and to any outside agencies.
The Speaker is usually claimed by the richest and or most powerful individual in Bryn Shander. Although no official elections are held to appoint a new Speaker, the next incumbent is often chosen by a general consensus of the population, the people recognise the most powerful individual and so look to him to represent them, therefore making him the Speaker.
The position of Speaker is usually held for as long as the Speaker can hold onto his power and wealth, and that usually lasts until death or old age claim them. Once an individual becomes Speaker he may make decrees in the Meeting Square and is in charge of the finances, security, and provision of the settlement.
Who Rules: Cassius is the current Speaker of Bryn Shander and has been for nearly a decade.
Who Really Rules: The mob are the true rulers of Bryn Shander, the mob is a collective entity of the entire population of Bryn Shander. Who they believe is in charge and who they believe represents their needs is the person who becomes the next Speaker. The Speaker of Bryn Shander is forced to consider his popularity and the perception of his actions in the eyes of everyone before he does anything. Cassius has thus far proved a shrewd judge of popular opinion and an able manipulator of the mob.
Heraldry: Black antlers above a vertical shaft of golden wheat on a white field, signifying the town’s strength and prosperity on the vast, snowy tundra.
Plots: Bryn Shander is considered neutral territory by the rest of the Ten Towns, it was created as a neutral meeting place for the merchants of all settlements, and thus far each Speaker of Bryn Shander has been careful to maintain its neutrality.
Law and Order
Bryn Shander, like the other Ten Towns, has no official code of laws, the settlement and its population are governed by what is commonly referred to as “frontier law”, if someone wrongs someone else in Bryn Shander then that individual will seek redress if he is physically able. This type of legal system makes the settlements of the Ten Towns rather rough compared to more civilised settlements in the south.
On occasion “crime” and “punishment” has gotten out of control as individuals call upon their friends, families, and associates to help them seek revenge. This famously led to Bryn Shander being set aflame in a trade dispute in 1313 DR, and so the Speakers were appointed to control such situations.
Sherf: The Speaker of Bryn Shander, owing to the size and wealth of the settlement, appoints a Sherf to ensure that all disputes are properly adjudicated to prevent feuds or escalating violence. The Sherf has the power to maintain a militia of 20 individuals, each armed with a blade, shield, and leather.
The Sherf and his militia most often sit around the Town Hall, drinking and playing cards. When someone makes a complaint to the Sherf; with a suitable “donation” to the town’s treasury, the Sherf will hear both sides of the story and make a decision as to who is right or wrong. The Right get to suggest and punishment and then the Sherf decides whether that is appropriate or not, the Right always get to enact the punishment if they desire. This sort of justice is heavily influenced by the size of the “donation”, with bigger donations making it more likely that an individual will be found in the right, and allow them to suggest harsher punishments.
Power, influence, and the opinion of the general populace are also a big factor on the outcomes of the Sherf’s adjudication. Individuals who are wealthy, hold a lot of power in Bryn Shander (or its allies), and who are popular with the masses are unlikely to be found Wrong or to have harsh punishments meted out against them.
Blackiron Blades: This smithy and shop is another established decades ago by an enterprising dwarf, this time a failed smith from Valladrul not content to live a life in obscurity. Garn “Blackiron” came to Bryn Shander in 1318 DR from Valladrul and established a smithy where he churns out tools and weapons with his signature dusky metal.
Garn’s work is cheap and although perfectly serviceable (if uninspiring) they are highly prone to rusting in the damp and cold environment of Icewind Dale, with few lasting longer than a year. Garn has a reputation among the local sellswords for poor quality work, but he makes enough money by using the poorest quality ore from Valladrul to make the cheapest blades in Icewind Dale.
East Gate: This gate is used by merchants travelling up the Eastway, from Easthaven, Caer Dinneval, and Caer Konig. It is the newest gate to be erected, following the construction of the Eastway (prior to that merchants from Caer Dinneval and Caer Konig had to use the North Gate or the Trail Gate).
The Emporium: This trading house is the largest in Bryn Shander, supposedly built upon the site of the original traders cabin just on the edge of the Meeting Square. The entrance opens onto the square so visitors can get a full view of the wares, with a back entrance for wholesalers. The owner buys goods from merchants from the rest of the Ten Towns, then sells them on to merchants from Luskan. The Emporium holds wares from each of the Ten Towns, gemstones and jewellery, fish hooks and rods, scrimshaw, and even treasure from Bremen.
Geldenstag’s Rest: This inn is one of the oldest buildings in Bryn Shander, rumoured to be one of the few to survive the fire of 1313 DR. Legend has it that this place is named for a famous Reghedmen who was interred on the hill long before Bryn Shander ever existed. Geldenstag’s is sparsely furnished but cheap enough to make it worthwhile, most rooms have a cot, a stool, a chamber pot, and furs to cover the bed.
Geldenstag’s Rest is located just inside the East Gate, catering to travellers from Caer Dinneval, Caer Konig, and Easthaven, with prices to match the clientele.
Hooked Knucklehead: The Hooked Knucklehead inn is situated right on the edge of the Meeting Square, as a result it is always fully booked, and often packed with rich (relatively) merchants from Luskan and scrimshanders from the Ten Towns hoping to ply their wares.
The Hooked Knucklehead has a spacious common room where most of the scrimshanders drink themselves unconscious in, and a number of private rooms to cater to the Luskan merchants. The rooms are decorated with scrimshaw (often used by locals to pay their tab), the furnishings were once generous and warm but have long since declined in quality. Prices at the inn are very high and that is beginning to drive away regular visitors to Bryn Shander who know a better deal can be found elsewhere.
House of the Morninglord: This shack is built around a large and curiously shaped stone with many smooth spurs that make it resemble the sun symbol of Lathander. It is attended by a single priest that travels here in spring and leaves in autumn to return to his home in Neverwinter.
House of the Triad: This temple; dedicated to Ilmater, Torm, and Tyr, is situated on the many street running from the Trail Gate to the Meeting Square. It is a large, dwarven-made, stone building.
Kelvin’s Comfort: This tavern has been run by the fiery tempered dwarf, Ogden Flamebeard since 1314 DR. It is well known in Bryn Shander for Ogden’s signature Flamebeard’s Firebrandy (although many of his regulars claim it is cheap rotgut sourced from further south) and a regular stock of mead from Goodmead and beers from the dwarves of Valladrul.
North Gate: This gate leads to the last leg of the Ten Trail that continues from Bryn Shander to Targos. It is rarely used by merchants from Luskan anymore (who no longer bother to travel to Targos since Bryn Shander was established) and instead is used by the merchants of Targos, Bremen, Termalaine, and Lonelywood to bring goods to Bryn Shander.
Northlook: This old guardpost for the militia has long since been converted to a mediocre inn that has a reputation as being the place to hire mercenaries and adventurers, as a result both types of clientele are directed towards this inn if they want a place to stay, given it a rough and rowdy reputation, with brawls a common event.
Northlook has a habit of being run by old adventurers or mercenaries, who inherit the business from the previous innkeep (who is occasionally killed during a bar room brawl). Inheritance of this business is not a well documented affair and usually passes to the patron that wants it the most (and is willing to fight for it).
South Side: This semi circle extends in an arc about 500 ft from the Trail Gate is reserved almost entirely for warehouse and services that cater to merchants from Luskan. It becomes increasingly empty from Eleint onwards and starts to fill up during Ches. It is completely empty (with many shop owners returning to their homes in the other Ten Towns) from Nightal to Ches.
The South Side is filled with warehouses, inns, taverns, brothels, wainwrights, carpenters, and general stores. It is also home to the Council of Speakers, which marks the far eastern edge of the South Side.
Council of Speakers: Named for the assembly that meets here every month from Ches through Uktar, this former warehouse is by no means luxurious but is functional enough to house the Speakers during their council meetings. Until 1347 DR the Council of Speakers was actually held in the Speaker’s Palace, but Cassius has claimed that building as his own residence. This change has actually led to many council meetings being resolved far more quickly than normal and some suspect the colder and less comfortable warehouse impels the Speakers to find resolutions quicker.
Trail Gate: This gateway into Bryn Shander sits on the south western side of the town, it is used most often by caravans travelling to and from Luskan, with the occasional merchant and traveller from Goodmead and Dougan’s Hole.
Speaker’s Palace: This two story, stone manor house (the only two story building in Bryn Shander) was constructed by the dwarves of Valladrul for the people of the Ten Towns to help cement the growing ties between the two people. It was originally meant to house all 10 of the Speakers in luxury (by Icewind Dale standards) and served its purpose ably with some council meetings lasting a tenday without resolution.
Speaker Cassius ended this tradition in 1347 when he took the Speaker’s Palace for his own residence and provisioned a warehouse to be used for all future meetings of the Council of Speakers. This change has proven to be a great success for it means most meetings are resolved far quicker than when they were held at the Speaker’s Palace.
Town Hall: This long building serves a dual purpose, being a house for the Sherf and headquarters for the town militia (when they are needed), it is also used in times of need for the Ten Town as a haven for refugees from other settlements (used most recently during the sack of Termalaine by the Tribe of the Elk).
The Town Hall resembles a long-house from the islands in the Sea of Swords, with a number of private rooms reserved for the Sherf. The rest of the hall is open and sparsely furnished, but with enough tables and chairs to house 300 people. The only other use this building has is for feasts during holy days and local festivals.
Garn “Blackiron” (Good, Dwarf – Shield, Expert 1): Garn “Blackiron” originally hails from Valladrul where he was a friendly but terrible smith, infamous for his poor quality works (although by human standards his work is more than satisfactory). Eventually Garn chose to leave Valladrul to make it on his own among the humans, but he retained his contacts among the dwarves and uses that to source incredibly cheap iron ore that the dwarves would not use due to its poor quality (by their opinion). Garn is known for his ashen hued tools and blades among the dwarves and humans and it has stuck as his nickname.
Bounties: The Sherf often hires out groups of adventurers to accomplish specific tasks on behalf of the Council of Speakers. These tasks range from rescuing citizens from yetis or goblinoids, slaying troublesome monsters, or even capturing fugitives that have escaped into the wilderness.
Depending upon the moral standards of the Sherf, he has been known to hire adventurers for wealthy parties in Bryn Shander, masquerading the task as official work from the Council of Speakers.