Fort Vehl: History and Rumors
The date of Fort Vehl's founding is lost to time, but as with many places in the world, the location always seemed to be used for something. Submerged remains of huge dock pylons litter the bay's bottom, scattered like sticks in the hand of an overactive child by the strong undertow. From a study done by Layonara Surveyors, Inc. in 1437, at least five different types of wood are represented and the decay and location of the pylons indicates a spread of around six hundred years. Occasionally even older items are unearthed from the silt of the bay by a particularly violent storm.
What records exist of Fort Vehl are contained in twenty-one thick volumes secured in the temple to Rofirein, next to the temple's own four hundred years of recorded history. The eclectic collection includes wills, deeds, several volumes of legal decisions from a fastidious judge two centuries dead, a sea captain's journal, news sheets and flyers going back several centuries. Also included are a sheaf of letters from a town gossip circa 1070 that laid waste to every reputation of the day with such erudite bloodthirstiness that even today they remain a thing of legend and have been reprinted twice ("Letters from Home, or Gossip in the Age of Law", 1344, publisher unknown, and "Peony Lamplighter; A Tongue Mightier Than a Sword", 1408, Brelin House Publications). One interesting bit of history revealed by this massive collection of miscellaneous parchment is that Fort Vehl was, for at least two centuries, an oasis of lawfulness in a sea of self-serving desperation thanks to one place: the dragon-carved Temple of Rofirein.
The temple was founded in 1049 by Sir Edward de Vaile, a Knight of the Wyrm from Dregar. A military advisor to Emperor Antony James Diamoniar, he was sent with the blessing of the emperor to bring order to the town, as the port was increasing in importance. Fort Vehl at that time was not the hive of villainy it has declined into, but even then pirates and thieves were a fact of life. To honor his god and to set a visible standard that still brings awe to this day the temple was built wide of dark imported granite, with a necklace of stained glass windows depicting church history ringing the building. By the door was placed a detailed white marble likeness of Rofirein ten King's Feet tall. From this temple staffed with the most adventurous -- and some say the most zealous -- of knights and holy men, law spread over the town, a calming blanket against the frigid hearts and minds in the surrounding swamps.
At this time the head Guardian of Justice was the de facto mayor of the town. This arrangement continued until 1266. The church's importance began to decline after that, at least to the town. Within the church the temple in Fort Vehl remains an important location. It hosted and ran the trial of the Toranite Navarre in 1406 after the fall of the Temple to Toran in Prantz, which resulted in a huge shift in both church's dogmas and the removal of the Justicars from the Church of Toran. Toward the end of 1419, the temple became the temporary home of the Keeper's office after Lord Rael purged religious orders from Prantz, and is the current home of High Justiciar Reus. After the completion of the new main cathedral in Western Gate on Corsain, the Fort Vehl temple once again returned to a supporting role, and has never been able to recapture the local political leadership of centuries hence. But it remains a center of valor and goodwill, and a springboard for many a young Knight looking to curb the excesses and lawlessness of Co'rys.
The decline of the rule of Rofirein law in Fort Vehl has a definite beginning; a spring day in 1266, when the halfing Dorchester Goldwicket employed a number of graduates of the Mistone Academy of Innovation to blow off the face of a hillside in search of a fabled gold/silver/gem/platinum mine (depending on who was telling the story). Aided by a passel of gnomish and dwarven engineers, Goldwicket had bought the land with the intent of mining. As the Rofireinte temple was in one of its periodic actions against a group of unusually organized rogues, they took his money and gave him the deed. What Goldwicket found was not gold -- but it might as well have been. For when the face of the hill crumbled under the spectacularly controlled Al'Noth blasts, there sat an elaborately carved archway, untouched by the pyrotechnic violence still echoing across the town. The stout halfling was the first to walk through the pried-open doors, and in an account recorded by the town crier, found
...a huge room, with a shrine to an unknown deity on each wall and a cold floor of marble tiles, the center of which is laid as the likeness of a cross in alternating grey and white slabs and a marking of great arcane power glowing red in the exact center of said cross.
The reason for the room was discovered that very day, when an angry and very drunk townsman with a home near the now much shorter hill attacked Goldwicket on that tile floor. The halfling was fatally stabbed, only to find that he was able to stand and walk away! Moreover, as he rested behind a shrine to staunch his still leaking wound, he found himself healed in full. Several days of testing confirmed it -- the room was spelled to allow combatants to fight without death. How such a place came to be, that had the power to heal people just before the moment of death, is unknown -- there is no other place in Layonara like it to this day. Goldwicket saw the possibilities and immediately set about cleaning and decorating the room, adding a hostess, seats, and a keg station, and began to schedule fights. After a few months he was a very rich halfling, and in the one and only free election ever conducted in Fort Vehl, ran for and won the title of Mayor away from the Rofireinites.
And that is when Fort Vehl began a long, slow slide into the town it is now. Short of invasion and complete military rule, no mere clerical or paladin presence could hope deter the avarice Dorchester was bringing into the area -- gamblers, slavers bringing their prize slaves as fighters, burley men and women with nothing more than a strong fist and a dream. The Mayor called for them, and they came. Ownership of the Arena, as it's now called, stayed with the Goldwickets until Francis Vehlor created Co'rys and assumed control of the Arena "for the sake of the Kingdom" and at the demise of several members of the Goldwicket clan. Profits are now given directly to Nezor Gran'dherm and under his rule the Arena has evolved into a kind of dinner theater on one end, with a well-stocked bar and a leaning fence around the combatant's square and often a dancing girl's show before the bloody spectacles begin. On off days one can find Yveisha and members of her guild, various users of the Al'Noth, and any number of scholars from Spellgard testing the limits of the magic and trying, in what has been so far a futile effort, to discover the spells that make the Arena tick.
If one is inclined to visit Fort Vehl, there are several inns to choose from; Miggin's Mug, the Demser Inn, and for those who can afford to pay for a reasonably peaceful night, the Gold and Cross. But for adventurers, there is only one place to go: the One-Eyed Harpy. The Harpy has existed in two locations, been burned to the ground four times and rebuilt five. The current building is a rambling L-shaped three-story near the docks. Rumor has it that you can't throw a brick in the Harpy without hitting someone who makes their living traveling the world and looking for trouble. Of course, when a curious and non-too-bright local tested the theory he died a swift death at the hands of a concussed warrior; researchers into the density of adventurers in bar environs should be warned. The bartender, Wheezer, is a past owner now relegated to pouring drinks and mumbling angry rants to his dog when business is slow; the current owner is one Arkolio Salvorre, a business man said by some to have a hand in a least a dozen schemes from running the underworld of Vehl to taking over Co'rys from Urzhrah Gran'dherm. It is public knowledge that Arkolio runs a soup kitchen from the Harpy and has made substantial donations to the Church of Rofirein. If there is anyone who knows for certain who Arkolio really is, they aren't talking -- or can't.