Historical Guide to Langenfirth (book)
Historical Guide to Langenfirth
Too often historical assumptions are made about the origins of Langenfirth from looking at the village as it stands today. On the surface Langenfirth does justice to its modern history, from the time of the founding of the local Rangers guild to the present, but to truly know Langenfirth a scholar must delve much further back.
Lake Gwenalion is more loch than lake, its shores steep hills rising out of deep water. Once one has traveled along the river from Riverhaven and entered the lake there are very few places where one can leave the lake with any ease.
During the time of the Empire, the lake was filled with Imperial ships, which afforded passage across to Therenborough. All that ended after the Empire ended, and for considerable time, travel in that area was a difficulty. Journeying north to the Barony was accomplished by canoe across the lake and then up a small, barely navigable stream. Long before the Dragon Priest wars, the stream was filled with silt and rock to allow passage of anything but water, fish and the occasional duck. An arduous overland journey through the Danduwen Forest limited travel to a few strong souls and served to isolate the northern part of the province.
The area now known as the village of Langenfirth was one of the few low-lying areas of the Danduwen Forest, and rested in a sheltered cover, a firth, along the northwestern shore of Lake Gwenalion. It quickly became a portage area for use by traders and trappers. The waters were shallow at the shore and a flat basin of forest nestled behind the firth, giving an open passage into the hills and north to Therenborough.
Most of the early history of the area, that predating the Dragon Priest wars, has been lost to the ages, but there stands in Langenfirth a testament to the early residents of the area. An ancient stone temple rests in the woods near the lake, its originating god or goddess obscured by subsequent worshipers. It is known to predate the wars for several reasons. While it is known to have been used by the Dragon Priests at the height of their influence from the artifacts found under the altar and markings made on the walls, its construction is not that of any kind ever known to have been used by them. Additionally, the stone used to build it is one not found in any area near Langenfirth. The stone is a type found far to the northeast and must have been brought to the area at a time shipping and travel on the lake was much greater, a time now lost to history.
Excerpts from traders journals give us a brief look at what Langenfirth was like, before it took its name, and was nothing more than a mere muddy shore to pull a canoe upon. Early travelers found that the cove was not deserted, although the population in the area was small and most transient. After the wars, traveling clerics maintained and worshipped at the stone temple, and its deity changed many times. A one room cabin or two sprang up near the shore and the temple to afford trappers and traders a place to weather a storm or wait for the ice to break on the lake so their journey could continue. That is El'Bain's Stop.
Game in the woods and fish in the lake were a plentiful source of food and pelts for trade. This soon attracted the attention of men with ideas of great riches to be found in the north. As more Rangers heard of plentiful lands to hunt and trap, and took their canoes up river into the lake, those with enterprise on their mind petitioned their guild to open a trade post at the firth.
To come to the firth with pelts, sell them and collect a fee, and return to the woods, for the most part suited the Rangers and the outpost did well. Soon traders were sending well loaded canoes on a daily basis south, and bringing trade goods north. It did not take long for several other enterprising parties to realize what might be achieved on the northern lake shore.
Soon, a young ferryman, tired of his employment working the ropes over the river between Riverhaven and northern Zoluren, counted his savings and set about having a rough barge built. The barge soon replaced canoes as the mode of travel across the lake, as it plied its way north with goods and passengers and returned with game, pelts and those weary of the rigors of the wilderness life. In time the young man married, and when his oldest son was of age, bequest him with a second barge, and the two plied the rivers for many years.
About this time an old monk arrived in the firth, both penniless and a bit touched in the head from years of isolated living in the Danduwen Forest. He claimed to be a brewer by trade and excitedly extolled the virtues of the lake waters. Most laughed at him, as the brown waters of the lake had an odd taste and were thought to carry "evil" airs, and were shunned as drinking water. He spent many a day convincing the unbelieving that the water was not "evil" but discolored from the mineral content of the surrounding forest. The untouched forests floor was a rich, peaty mulch, from centuries of decaying leaves, logs and underbrush. The runoff from rains carried the high mineral content into the lake, and here at the firth the water was perfect for brewing a great ale.
Langen was this monk's name, and he must have convinced someone, for he was soon producing a fine ale, quickly bought up by the traders and exported to Riverhaven. Known as Langen Ale from the Firth, it was popular from its inception. Most historians believe that this was the origin of the name Langenfirth.
At about this time in history the Langenfirth Ranger's Guild was founded. Ranger tales tell that one day a great Ranger arrived, and the woods in honor of his arrival bent their trunks and built him a home, one where all Rangers could gather. Most historians surmise that the Guildleader in Riverhaven looked about one day and realized that the Rangers never came out of the north anymore, as their few needs were met by the traders outpost in Langenfirth. He considered his empty dues chests and moved northward to be most accessible to his Guildsmen. It is hard to tell which tale is closer to the truth of the matter. Upon close examination of the guild house itself, one cannot find the mark of even one knife whittle on a wall, and certainly no sign that an axe felled the building logs.
Soon a small rustic village had sprung up upon the shores of the lake. Rangers build winter homes, or those with wives, homes for their family. Older Rangers taught younger ones the ways of their kind in the large yards about their guild home. Rangers no longer able to hunt or trap came out of the woods to settle into enterprises connected with their ways of life. Even a small inn sprung up, offering hot, wholesome meals and fine brews to the locals as well as travelers.
Langenfirth, though now a community, was now no safer than the land had ever been, from animal attacks or invasions from trolls, and perhaps less so as it offered more to them now, as there was a static population off which to feed. Most villages wall themselves in, erect gates to close against the night and the danger, but not Langenfirth. A village of Rangers, used to living a free and wandering life amongst the trees could not abide the thought of fencing itself in. This influence is seen to this day. Langenfirth still is unwalled, and the streets wind about like mere trails, to preserve trees that otherwise would have been cut down to build straight thoroughfares.
Near the center of the village was a great tree that towered over all others, and it was put into use by the villagers. Lookouts watched from there, announcing the coming of barges across the lake, and warning of suspicious movements in the forest. A large bell on a nearby cabin was rung to gather together the residents to defend the village. From these gatherings, and the need for someone to lead, came about the first government of Langenfirth.
That is if one can call it that. The government has long consisted of a Mayor and the cabin with the bell outside, use by the Mayor during his term as home and office, which is fondly called Town Hall, apparently from times when the villagers hoped their home would grow to that size. Records, as such, are a haphazard collection of ledgers noting births, deaths and land contracts, if the Mayor at the time remembers to write them in. There are no taxes, except for guild dues, but the guild handles that. There is no guard force, for justice is that of the wilderness, swift, direct and long over by the time it comes to anyone else's attention.
It is in truth a harsh, if picturesque existence. Winters are long and hard, and a roof not built with a sharp enough pitch easily collapses. The winds, even broken by the trees, are fierce, and windows are not paned with glass that would shatter against the force, but are heavily shuttered with thick slabs of wood. Summers in contrast are pleasant if short, affording great lake fishing and swimming in the refreshingly cold lake waters.
Langenfirth and the northern woods still remain tenuously connected to the southern cities and provinces. Travel overland is almost impossible since all routes north overgrew once the lake route was discovered. In deep winter the barge is often forced to remain docked until the ice recedes. During those times, Langenfirth is isolated from the south. There the barges have ceased to run while they exchanged hands or underwent repair. Several years before the writing of this history the owners of the river barges had allowed them to fall into disrepair and they ran infrequently and often swamped. Trade from and with the north dwindled and Langenfirth was all but cut off from the south.
The Ranger Guildmaster finally took it upon himself to go stay a bit it Riverhaven. His reasons were two- fold, to find a person who would could manage the barges in a more business-like manner, and to provide training new Rangers were sorely in need of, as they could not come north.
He found Riverhaven full of anxious new Rangers eager for his instruction, but his search for a trustful barge master seemed almost futile. In truth, running the barges costs a great deal of money, and traders would rather paddle a canoe then pay a high barge fee! One night, it is said, while visiting a festival held in the south, he met a man named Ditsworth, the owner of a traveling casino, looking for an opportunity to travel far from his shrewish partner, his wife Erma.
As they chatted, Ditsworth saw the opportunity to use the barges for a profit, and a chance to escape a nagging wife. Ditsworth traveled to Riverhaven and bought the barges from the widow of the previous owner and spent a good penny having them repaired and equipped to be, in reality, floating casinos. While a trader or traveler might not pay good coin to ride the barge, he surmised, they would certainly spend that coin on a chance to win a good stake!
And so, now casino barges ply the route from Langenfirth to Riverhaven and back, carry goods and trade in the hole, and happy gamblers above deck! Once the barges were back in operation, the Ranger Guildmaster returned to his home in Langenfirth, pledging never to leave again.