The Midnight Mirror
The vale of Karpad lies almost a hundred miles north of shadow-kissed Pangolais, here the towering trees of the Uskwood begin to thin, slowly fading into rolling hills and fertile cropland. Wooden houses with thatched roofs rise from the valley floor, following the curve of the stream that carved Karpad into the hillside when the world was young. The quiet town that shares the valley’s name is an ancient settlement, dating back well into the Age of Anguish. From the manor on the slopes of the vale, the house of Boroi has ruled Karpad for centuries. Their sigil is a red bear against a starry sky.
The Boroi claim to trace their line back to Geron and Dimar, Nidalese heroes from the Age of Anguish. According to local legend, the two brothers disagreed on the quickest route past the valley on their way to a great battle, and decided to race. Geron moved his troops by the road, while Dimar sent his down the river. Ever after, the road and the river that pass through the town have been named for the brothers. Dimar won, and even had time to sire a bastard on a local noblewoman, a child who would grow up to rule the vale.
Once, Dimar’s Way was a swift, powerful river; now, the silt of ages has reduced it to a thin, silvery thread, barely strong enough to turn the mill wheels that dot its course as the stream winds south to join the flow of the mighty Usk. The fortunes of Karpad and the Boroi have waned with the flow of the river. River trade once made Karpad wealthy and cosmopolitan, but what remains is a sleepy and forgotten hamlet of farmers and loggers. The occasional arrival of a merchant buying wood or a caravan of horses bound for sale in Pangolais is the most excitement Karpad sees in a typical year. The people of Karpad are ractical, dour, selfsufficient, and poor, but possessed of stubborn pride. They are also insular and suspicious of outsiders. They worship Zon-Kuthon, but theirs is the quiet piety of tradition, not the burning devotion of fanatics. Each week at the temple the townsfolk cut or pierce themselves to offer a measure of blood and pain to their god, but none bring the knife near their hands—a farmer must be able to hold his tools, after all.
For reasons unknown to Karpad’s inhabitants, fetchlings have always been relatively common in the valley, and several are born to human parents each generation with no explanation. Under the leadership of a shae advisor to the Boroi family nearly a millennia ago, the fetchling population attempted a revolt to overthrow the ruling family and establish themselves as the primary inhabitants in Karpad. The revolt was put down and all fetchlings living in Karpad at the time were imprisoned in the manor. Yet the next year, more fetchlings were born to Karpad’s human citizens. Now, to prevent revolts, and out of the believe that fetchlings are bastards or abominations, they in Karpad are ghettoized, forced to live in the ramshackle neighborhood on the southern banks of Dimar’s Way known as Shade Row.