Guantao


Population: ~400 citizens, ~50 transient miners
Leader: Old Xiao Hu (Rogue 3)
Important Locals: Foreman Jie, Mine boss (Expert 3), Shen Holgersbjorn, priest of the Stone Mother (Cleric 3)
Military Forces: ~100 militiamen, mostly armed with spears, mining tools, and a few dozen bows.

Appearance

Guantao is a typical hill village for the High Banner district, an ungainly clot of thatch-roofed fieldstone buildings crouched atop a defensible hilltop. A stone wall half again as tall as a man encircles the town, with a loop thrown out to shelter the local mine entrance. The wall is perhaps the best-maintained structure in the village. Inside, the buildings are cramped together around a central well. Everything is covered with a thick patina of soot from the smelters.

History

Guantao was a mining village founded in 6 AL, not long after neighboring Altburg. Rumors of gold drew fortune-seekers from the east, but it was a large deposit of iron that gave the village a reason for lingering. With supplies of charcoal shipped north from Waldfels, the mines were soon turning out a healthy amount of good bar stock. That ended in 8 AL, when the goblins counterattacked and forced the army back east to Xian.

Guantao shared the general fate of the High Banner district until its recovery in 27 AL. Their well and their walls gave them a chance that many other villages never got, though the losses were still horrific. It was only through the efforts of a heretic Skandr priest that the village was able to pull through, with his spells conjuring bread for the hungry and keeping the goblins back long enough to bring in scant harvests from the surrounding fields. The priest, Snurri Redteeth, was a devotee of a peculiar earth-goddess known only as the "Stone Mother". The locals yet revere her with rites they do not share with outsiders, and excessive inquisitiveness on this topic can be fatal.

Presently, the village is ignored by its nominal Xianese overlords. While the iron it mines is fairly valuable, their only market is Altburg to the south. It's easier for the Magistrate there to simply confiscate a portion of their goods there than try to send troops to extract it at the source. As much as the villagers detest the soldiers, they prefer that their robbery take place in Altburg than in their own homes.

People

Guantao is chiefly Imperial in stock, though the harsh surrounds and constant labor have stripped away most old customs. Most folk work around the mine, either bringing up iron ore from the earth or smelting it down in great, smoking smelters. Those that do not are farmers, working the nearby wheatfields to bring in meagre harvests. The land is not overly fertile, and it is not uncommon for Guantao to be obliged to spend much of its earnings on food from other villages.

The people are taciturn and keep to themselves. While they keep an inn for business travelers, casual visitors are thoroughly discouraged from lingering. There seems little open fighting amongst the villagers such as there is in Altburg, but a quiet aura of menace seems to hang over the sooty stones of the place. They do not like strangers, they do not want strangers, and most strangers are happy to grant them their ways.

Daily Life

Common life in Guantao revolves around the mines. Work begins before dawn and ends after dark, the perpetual gloom of the tunnels and pits giving little cause for concern over daylight. There are few of the festivals or occasions of lively peasant fun that villages in kinder lands possess. What passes for recreation appears to be the thrice-a-week services to the Stone Mother conducted in deep galleries below the village. Neighbors generally agree that their rites probably don't include human sacrifice, or they'd have run out of Guantaoers long before now. Beyond that, speculations range from hairshirt prayers to mass debauchery. Very few claim to have actually seen the rites, and those that do are generally dismissed as liars; the villagers would surely tear to pieces any who dared profane their rites with impious eyes.

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