Kella's Ford is a small city built in the midst of an ancient fortification from the days of the Kingdom of Thorns. Its days as a frontier fortification are long behind it; now Kella's Ford is an extremely prosperous trading hub between the reaches of Eastern Aldis and the wealth of the Central Valleys. Rare are the merchants who cross that invisible line between the two territories: most eastern traders and valley merchantfolk all come to Kella's Ford if they want to see their goods travel beyond their usual boundaries.
Kella's Ford is named for the first of the new Aldin nobles chosen by the Scepter at the dawn of the Kingdom of the Blue Rose who was given the responsibility of overseeing the ford's protection and administration. Kella quickly formed a council made up of equal parts of nobles, guildsfolk, merchants, and local farmers, a council that is still called Kella's Council today.
These massive forty foot tall walls are unlike anything else seen in the Kingdom of the Blue Rose: even the Old Wall of Aldis City is not built so obviously to withstand attack. The wall of the Ford is a thick stone construction, mostly made of granite, pulled up out of the earth without seams or individual bricks; its length is studded with occasional streaks of obsidian swirled into its length.
In the western portion of the wall is the great Fordkeep, whose outer towers soar over the city: the tallest of them is a hundred feet in the air. The interior of the Fordkeep has a variety of buildings that see to the administration of Kella's Ford. The Fordkeep itself is a holding that is granted to the Keeper of the Ford, as the local landed noble is titled.
The Lack of Gates
A trait considered quite noticeable is that despite the number of clear gate-breaks in the walls, they do not actually have bars or great doors of any sort to bar entrance. The walls themselves have not been needed for the town's defense in many a century, so there are no standing gates to lock anyone out. The spaces between gate towers are simply open passages, some of which even have buildings erected between them.
Tall towers some sixty to seventy feet in height run up and down the length of the wall. Where once these towers housed engines of defense and the means to keep the ford and its inhabitants safe from attack, the towers no longer serve that purpose. The upper two stories of each tower are allocated to the town's defense, manned with guards, but the lower levels now serve as high-rent real estate for successful businesses, or as the homes of the very wealthy.
- Fordkeep (1): A bustling keep with a number of small courtyard buildings in addition to the chambers crafted into the very stone of the Fordwall, the Fordkeep acts as the central administrative heart of Kella's Ford. It is considered the dominion of the Keeper.
- The Lady's Hall (1A): The Lady's Hall is the open court maintained by the Keeper (referred to as the Lord's Hall when the Keeper is a man). Here the Keeper maintains her public appearances, holding audience during the days, and throwing dinners and parties at night.
- First Adept's Tower (1B): The adept who works for the Keeper is titled "First Adept of Kella's Ford," and given residence in this tower, which contains fine accommodations (two bed chambers, plus a suite of living spaces), a formal audience chamber, room for live-in servants and apprentices, plus a library and laboratory, and ritual casting chamber.
- The Magistracy (1C): This massive tower is several stories of offices and court rooms, used by the city's magistrates for addressing matters of law, whether criminal, business, or simply administrative.
- Envoys-Hold of Kella's Ford (2): Sovereign's Finest. Local envoys-hold for Sovereign's Finest, under Master Envoy Icoster Djerl.
- The Open Orchard (3): Tavern. Tavern known for its ciders. Back of tavern is open to the apple orchards that abut the city wall.
- The Beacon (4): Temple (Gods of Light). Main square chapel to gods of Light, with a tall tower the top of which burns an eternal flame. Ample gardens in back open to worshippers and visitors.
- x (5): x
- x (6): x
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- The Greenwood Inn (8): Inn. Beautiful inn outside city walls, that overlooks the forests beyond the city. Favorite "lover's retreat" for Fordfolk.
- Nine Coins Coster (9): Trading Coster. Major trading coster in Kella's Ford. Also HQ for Nine Coins Brotherhood, a band of sell-swords known for their use of light chain armor, slings, and short swords.
- Elindal's Rhy-Home (10): Inn. An inn exclusively for rhydan. Variety of chambers made comfortable for the non-humanoid bodies and needs of rhydanfolk.
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- The Warm Hearth (12): Inn. A good quality inn, known for its homey atmosphere and comfortable accommodations.
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- The Tabernacle of Ancients (14): Built right into the very wall of Kella's Ford, the Tabernacle is a sacred place set aside for the worship of the Primordials.
- The street-level floor is set aside for weddings and other events that require a lot of room for the community.
- The level below it is the temple to Anwaren, with statues depicting the Warrior King, the Red Knight, the Lord of Madness, and the Queen of the Harvest.
- The floor above is the temple to Braniel, with depictions of the Singer in the Stars, the Green Beard, and the Spring Princess, with a sacred alcove dedicated to Braniel and Hiathas as divine lovers.
- Above that is the temple to Selene, with iconography of the Wise Woman, the Winter Witch, the Keeper of Secrets, the Winter Wizard, and Father Frost.
- The topmost level is sanctified to Maurenna, showing the Summer Queen, the Architect of Civilization, and the Grain Lord, as well as a sacred altar dedicated to Maurenna and Leonoth as lovers.
- The East Gate Coaching Inn (15): Inn. Very fine coaching inn on road to eastern Aldis
- Pride Farm (16): Charitable Institution & Farm. Farm and soup kitchen for very poor. Destitute may get lodgings by volunteering to work for a day on farm. Farm's goods are used to feed those who live there and who visit soup kitchen.
- The Old Mill (17): Mill. Very busy grinding and threshing mill. Powered by riverwheel.
- Rhomardin Family Estate (18): Wealthy Family Estate. Family estate of the wealthy Rhomardin family.
- The Guilds Tower (19): Guilds Social Hall. Tower open only to members of the local guilds, frequently used for meetings between the guilds or as a place where conflict between guilds can be arbitrated. Contains offices for the Paten Seats.
- Warehouses Row (20): Warehouses. Row of various warehouses and storehouses for rent.
- The Sorcerer's Eye (21): Tavern. Rough tavern. Features an old, cracked crystal ball carved with a thousand eyes, suspended in a small net above the bar
The Keeper of the Ford
Perhaps one of the most notable of Aldis' landed noble titles is the Keeper of the Ford, the senior noble of Kella's Ford, who not only oversees the Ford and its Scepter Seat nobles, but also the other nobles within several days ride from the Ford as well. Though not quite as influential as one of the great lords who rule over one of Aldis' main cities, the Keeper of the Ford is distinctly influential and inevitably wealthy, given a fine portion of the Ford's taxation for the maintenance of their household.
The current Keeper is Lady Delbira Rhomardin, a woman who has overseen Kella's Ford for thirty years. She has a head of immaculately coiffed silver hair, and prefers to wear black to contrast it.
Kella's Council is the small governing council that advises the Keeper of the Ford on important matters to the settlement, particularly the drafting of new laws. Where the Keeper may issue a proclamation, which must be treated as law for a full season, at the end of that season, a Keeper's Proclamation must be voted on by the council. If it is ratified, it becomes a full law in Kella's Ford; if it is struck down, the Keeper is presented with a reason why. A Keeper that has too many of their proclamations struck down often find themselves replaced by the Sovereign in the Fordkeep, and the Council has a right to appeal to the Crown if a given proclamation is deemed too tyrannical. Not only is this acceptable, but it is necessary – the Council is considered to be the balancer to prevent any given Keeper from becoming too powerful.
At current, there are three of each Seat on the Council, though the Keeper always has the right to add additional Seats (although the Council itself fills them). More than one adept has noted that the symbols on these seats are clearly old-fashioned suits of the Royal Road's minor arcana.
- The Scepter Seats: These Seats are held by Aldin nobles, usually nobles with some experience as traveling nobles and relatively recently accorded the honor of being made landed.
- Shryntel Kiigar: The senior noble after Lady Delbira, Lady Shryntel is vata, and widely regarded for her wisdom as much as for her beauty. She is unmarried, although usually dating someone at any given point.
- Fethim Taul: Fethim's background is in the military, having started as an officer in the Aldin Guard before seeking the training and testing to achieve his nobility. As a result, he doesn't have quite the years that many of his noble peers do, but is very much the champion of common folk – and in particular, military folk.
- Jorlder Ker: An adept forced to flee Jarzon with his family while in his early teens, Jorlder's mother brought him to Kella's Ford, where he found a mentor in the mystic arts. Eventually, she paid for Jorlder to take the noble's training and testing, and he is recently returned to Kella's Ford after five years as a wandering noble. Rumors say that he and First Adept Lorinda were once lovers, as they had the same mistress of arcane arts, and that they have taken up where they left off with his return.
- The Paten Seats: These Seats are held by guildsmasters in Kella's Ford. Their holders maintain their seats for six years, though the cycle is set up so that one of the Seats changes holder every other year.
- The Blade Seats: These Seats are held by notable trading magnates, who are to the various caravan companies (and their attendant sword brotherhoods) what the guildsmasters are to the craft guilds.
- The Cornucopia Seats: These Seats are held by important locals, most often landowners and notable agriculturalists, but also sometimes by clergy of the local temples, influential adepts, or notable artists.
The Lady's Court
The Lady's Court serves the Keeper, assisting her to manage the administration of Kella's Ford.
- The Keeper's Envoy: One of the Sovereign's Finest, the Keeper's Envoy acts as go-between for the Keeper and the envoys, as well as the Keeper's bodyguard.
- Senior Envoy Rael Bharven serves in this capacity.
- The First Adept: The Keeper's chosen arcanist who lends their arts to the Keeper's benefit.
- Lorinda is the silent, thoughtful woman who holds this post. She is well-regarded for her skill in shaping and psychic abilities.
- The Chaplain: A representative of the Beacon, the Chaplain acts as go-between for the temple and the Keeper.
- The Keeper's Herald: A lesser noble title in Kella's Ford, the herald oversees the registration of arms, heraldry, guild patens, and the like, as well as acting as supervisor for court events, such as festivals and celebrations.
The Sovereign's Finest
The Sovereign's Finest of Kella's Ford are based out of the Envoys-Hold just outside the great gate-towers of the Fordkeep. There are approximately a dozen or so envoys based out of Kella's Ford, though the envoy-hold here is also considered the base for a dozen or so teams of envoys who patrol the surrounding areas.
- Master Envoy: Sir Icoster Djerl, a laconic man of middling years. Sir Icoster has also served the Sovereign as a Knight of the Blue Rose for many years.
- Senior Envoys:
- Rael Bharven, who also serves as the Keeper's Envoy. He is usually accompanied by his falcon-sized rhy-raven bondmate, Serinath.
- Thuri the Archer, a renowned woodsman with animalism talents.
- Envoys: There are eight other envoys assigned to Kella's Ford, though a full half of them are away at any given time.
- Apprentice Envoys: Six apprentices serve at Kella's Ford, though most of them are away assisting envoys or senior envoys at any given opportunity.
- Moreth Ilrarger is Rael Bharven's personal apprentice, and serves most with her at the Keeper's Court.
- Erlgar Oriss is Sir Icoster Djerl's apprentice, as well as his squire in the Knights of the Blue Rose.
The Crafts Guilds
The city maintains a number of crafting guilds who oversee the craft-related trades within their purview. It is in the Keeper's power to establish new guilds, but only if none of the established guilds claim that trade within their own purview (a claim which must remain undisputed, to take the decision out of the Keeper's hands). By and large, the guilds are organized by material used to create goods. There are seven guilds:
- The Stonewright's Guild: Stone Goods. Easily one of the largest and most influential guilds in Kella's Ford, the Stonewrights cover everything from fine large scale masonry projects to run-of-the-mill clayworks to exquisite lapidaries. They have several earthshapers among their number, all of whom are trained and depended upon to maintain the Fordwall on a city contract basis. The badge of the Stonewrights is a thin stylized hammer, worn hanging from the belt.
- The Ironwright's Guild: Iron & Steel Goods. Sometimes called the "Smith's Guild," the Ironwrights focus on steel and iron goods almost exclusively, from simple household iron goods to fine weapon and armor-crafting. The badge of the Ironwrights are thin bracelets of polished iron.
- The Finewright's Guild: Fine Metals Goods. In essence, the Finewrights do the metal-work that the Ironwrights do not. Most folk think of them mostly as jewelry-makers and gilters, but the fact is that for every bit of gold or silver crafted by a Finewright, ten others have done equal work with simple copper or leads. The badge of the Finewrights is a gold-and-ruby cloak clasp.
- The Clothwright's Guild: Cloth & Leather Goods. Originally an alliance between sail-and-net makers at the docks and some of the finer tailors and seamstresses, the Clothwrights folded the crafting of leather goods into their purview some twenty-five years ago, absorbing a shrinking Leatherwright's Guild into their membership. The Clothwrights' badge is a sash of any color cloth, with a stitched symbol over the breast representing both rank and specialty.
- The Woodwright's Guild: Wooden Goods. An equal to the Stonewright's Guild in size and to the Finewright's Guild in wealth, the Woodwrights cover all crafts that involve wood, ranging from the construction of houses to intricate wooden instruments and wooden puzzle boxes. The Woodwrights' badge is a cross-cut circle of a branch, polished and worn as an amulet.
- The Glasswright's Guild: Glass Goods. The second smallest of the guilds is composed of a small cluster of master glaziers and a variety of journeymen and apprentices that work for them. Their major product is glass for living spaces, mainly window panes and glassware, though a few do craft finely ground lenses for everything from spectacles to spyglasses. The Glasswrights' badge is a small length of cord on which have been threaded multiple glass beads, with colors and numbers representing rank and specialty.
- The Arcanewright's Guild: Arcane Goods. Though this small guild of arcane craftsmen once sought to fold normal goods that were created through the use of shaping arts into their purview, the pushback from the other guilds nearly brought them to an end. To this day, they remain focused on elixirs, shas stones, and the rare enchanted items. The Arcanewrights also create, maintain, and operate the shas-based lighting and waterworks for Kella's Ford. The Arcanewrights' badge is one or more rings, set with a small glowing sliver of shas. The number of rings indicate ranking within the guild.
The Trading Costers
- The Nine Coins Coster: Pavin Weald, Eastern Aldis. Easily the largest and most successful of the Ford's trading costers, the Nine Coins travel east and north, covering large swathes of territory in the Pavin Weald and eastern Aldis. The Nine Coins Brotherhood is the specialized sword brotherhood sponsored by the coster who are known for their skill with short swords and slings.
- The Sunset Coster: Central Valleys. The next most successful, the Sunset coster coordinates trade almost exclusively with the Aldin heartlands. Though their territory is perhaps a third that of the Nine Coins, they are successful enough that they nearly equal the Nine Coins in wealth. The Sunset Knights are their sworn sword company, a troop of light cavalry who fight with sword, lance, and bow, wearing tabards of rose-and-gold over chain hauberks.
- The Martinets Coster: Basketh Bay Coastal. Trading in and around Basketh Bay, the Martinets have very few heavy caravan wagons. Instead, they have the largest fleet of river barges for ferrying goods down to the coast along the river, and a fleet of high-keel coastal trader-ships that reach all of the small beach-holds, fishing bays, and small islands in and around Basketh Bay. They are also rumored to have ships that routinely travel into the Veran Marsh for trading at the notorious smuggler haven called Serpent's Haven. The Martinet marines are all skilled shipboard fighters, wearing light leather, and armed with bucklers tipped with gaff-hooks, and handspears and tridents.
- The Prosperous Wheel Coster: Eastern Aldis. Founded by a family of Jarzoni immigrants two generations ago, the Prosperous Wheel focuses its trade among those Jarzoni settlements in eastern Aldis. Though they are in direct competition with the Nine Coins, they have a greater connection to the communities there, who prefer to deal with the Wheel (though they cannot compete with the diversity of products available from the Nine Coins). The Prosperous Wheel sponsors a company called the Firelances, who are warrior-monks dedicated to the Lord of Light. The Wheel has even built the order a monastery in a remote portion of eastern Aldis, and in return for their patronage, the monks lend their finest warrior-monks to defend caravans for the Prosperous Wheel.
- The Laughing Lady Coster: Pavin Weald, Central Valleys. Although formally registered as a trading coster, the Laughing Lady is actually a union of three Roamer clans: the Zana, the Dirko, and Srellav families. As such, their caravans are mostly typical Roamer bands, though they do engage in a good deal more standard trade than most Roamers care to. Their coster headquarters is a respectable compound of three houses, with a fenced-in courtyard, open and available to members of the families as they need. The Laughing Lady does not sponsor a specific brotherhood separate from the caravan bands, but members of the caravan who arm and armor themselves may do so under a charter as the Sons of the Lady.