The Mereflow Valley is really a patchwork of tiny city-states and kingdoms, all of them locked in an ever-shifting web of alliances, skirmishes, and trade.
Port Hope (Large City, 16226) (79% human, 9% halfling, 5% elf, 3% dwarf, 2% gnome, 1% half-elf, 1% half-orc)
This burgeoning city forms the backbone of the region's economy, serving as the entry and exit point for virtually all imports and exports from the region. Lord Merenstone Hope is the titular ruler of the city, backed by a council of guild masters who advise him on decisions which have bearing on the well-being of the city's status as a center for trade and industry. A secretive, menacing society of unscrupulous guild-affiliated merchants called the Velvet Purse also influences politics in the city, as well as in the region at large. Law enforcement in the city is seen to by the Surcaptain of the Palace, Sir Thornton Fitzwalder, who answers directly to Lord Hope.
Merethrone (Large Town, 3513) (96% dwarf, 2% human, 1% halfling, 1% other)
Situated high in the mountains to the northwest of Port Hope, this isolated town is the seat of a small dwarfish kingdom ruled by Gorthram VII, a venerable and well-respected leader among his people. King Gorthram's people work subterranean mines, uncovering ore, smelting it, and then working the resultant metals into fine weapons, armor and tools. The manufactured goods of Merethrone are sought-after throughout the region and beyond, and make it one of Port Hope's most valued trading partners.
Woods End (Large Town, 3645) (37% elf, 20% human, 18% halfling, 10% dwarf, 7% gnome, 5% half-elf, 3% half-orc)
This small, racially diverse town nestles alongside the Greenflow River where it emerges from the Tallwood and flows into the Mereflow River. Government rests in the hands of Mintinarn Ceretheliaul, a politically astute young elven druid who deposed the previous ruler, a despotic wizard. He has since caused the inhabitants of both Woods End and Port Hope much consternation as he has curtailed the expansion of civilization into the interior of the Tallwood.
Woods End still offers elfin furniture and wooden items, artwork, clothing, and other goods for trade, but Ceretheliaul has been adamant in his insistence that Woods End marks the outer boundary of a protected zone of natural wilderness, which is under no circumstances to be logged. Thus far, he has been unable to enforce his demands systematically, but the Cleansing Flame, a druidic circle which he has founded, may soon grow powerful enough to change matters.
Emerald Hollow (Village, 728) (79% gnome, 9% human, 5% elf, 3% halfling, 2% dwarf, 1% half-elf, 1% half-orc)
This lively, high-spirited village at the headwaters of the Moorwash River is inhabited primarily by gnomes, who maintain a pass through the mountains to the east. Caravan traffic originating here bears gemstones and other goods eastward across the desert to the Aureshan Empire, and returns with spices, silk, and other exotic goods. The gnomes collect tolls on the pass with the enforcement of their garrison at Fort Diamond. Industries associated with this settlement include a thriving emerald mine run by the gnomes and the few dwarfs who inhabit the village. Rich deposits of gold ore in the streams and creek beds which feed the Moorwash have attracted a small but growing stream of human prospectors. A yearly festival revolving around storytelling, comedy, drama, and musical performances also attracts travelers to Emerald Hollow in the late spring and early summer months.
Golden Sheaves (Village, 669) (79% human, 9% gnome, 5% elf, 3% halfling, 2% dwarf, 1% half-elf, 1% half-orc)
A sleepy little village nestled against the lower Moorwash River, Golden Sheaves takes its name from the large crop of wheat, barley, oats, and other grains harvested every year by its largely human and gnomish population. Much of the village's produce goes as a cash crop to feed the inhabitants of Port Hope and Merethrone, but a portion of the grain crop finds its way into fine ale and beer brewed here and distributed by the keg as a trade item throughout the region. Over the past century, the quality of the village's brew has improved steadily, and it is now of sufficient quality that it could, with the right marketing, become a sought-after trade commodity outside the region as well.
Keriel's Turn (Village, 684) (37% human, 20% halfling, 18% elf, 10% dwarf, 7% gnome, 5% half-elf, 3% half-orc)
Situated at the junction of the Moorwash and Mereflow rivers, Keriel's Turn is named for a long-dead pirate who once operated from the harbor here, raiding the ships that ferried goods back and forth between the nascent village of Port Hope and the dwarfish fort (now the village of Riverguard) at the foot of the Merefall. The inhabitants of the Turn retain a reputation for cunning and mendacity similar to their town's namesake, and most of them make their living as fishermen and riverboat crewmen, or as shipwrights, chandlers, innkeepers, bartenders, and other trades which support the rivermen. The Velvet Purse is particularly active here, as well, rightfully conscious of the Turn's importance as a point from which to control trade, and sometimes clandestinely sponsor pirates to prey upon their rivals.
Riverguard (Village, 534) (96% dwarf, 2% human, 1% halfling, 1% other)
Originally a mere fortress built by the dwarves of Merethrone to protect the most vulnerable approach to their capitol, this village eventually grew beyond its military origin to serve as a trade outlet for the somewhat xenophobic dwarfs. Relatively few non-dwarfs have either reason or desire to travel past the village that surrounds the central keep, since doing so requires either a dangerous and difficult trek through the mountains, on paths barely wide enough to accommodate a pack mule, or an oppressive, days-long march up the Grand Delving, a monumental series of tunnels and fortified checkpoints, all devoid of natural light or fresh air.
Aspenstar (Thorp, 69) (96% elf, 4% other)
Elves live throughout the Tallwood but maintain only one settlement, a gathering place for religious rituals and emergency councils. Most of their leaders are dispersed through the Tallwood when not in council or celebrating one of the elven religion's seasonal festivals, so the majority of the town's inhabitants are merchants, scholars, and the handful of innkeepers and servants who can find year-round employment here. A few rangers, druids, and other such individuals also congregate in and around Aspenstar, working under the direction of the aged and immensely revered arch druid Winilistrae.
Unlike her radical former pupil, Mintinarn Ceretheliaul of Woods End, Winilistrae bears no ill-will against humans, instead accepting their desire to log the forest as a sad fact of life, and preferring to encourage them to practice responsible forestry techniques instead of attempting in vain to halt their encroachment into the Tallwood. Since Ceretheliaul's rise to power in Woods End and his subsequent attempts to enforce his policies, relations between Winilistrae's followers and her pupil and his disciples have grown cooler, and are increasingly coming under strain as the radicals become more and more militant.
Cliffport (Thorp, 53) (96% human, 2% halfling, 1% elf, 1% other)
This ramshackle collection of cottages, barns, docks, and farmhouses exists primarily because it is the last coastal settlement accessible by ship before Port Hope, and hence it sometimes receives visits from vessels in need of provisions. The occasional pirate ship also calls here for the same reasons, especially when Port Hope's small navy is in the midst of a crackdown against piracy.
Dryfangs (Thorp, 65) (37% human, 20% halfling, 18% gnome, 10% dwarf, 7% elf, 5% half-elf, 3% half-orc)
The residents of Dryfangs have the last reliable wells along the northwestern edge of the Stone Plains. Caravans going and coming from Dryfangs stop there by necessity to water their mounts and replenish their supplies before and after weeks of plodding through the burning, rocky landscape east of town.
As a caravan stop, Dryfangs is rowdy and boisterous out of all proportion to its tiny size, with almost all of its population making a living as tavern owners, barmen, maids, innkeepers, stablemen, farriers, and cartwrights. A small but thriving underworld also calls the thorp home, serving the less honest caravan folk as fences, drug dealers, and locksmiths. The widely-held consensus of adventurers in more civilized parts is that Dryfangs offers its charms, but that overall, the little settlement is more trouble than it's worth.
Land's End (Thorp, 55) (79% human, 9% halfling, 5% gnome, 3% dwarf, 2% elf, 1% half-elf, 1% half-orc)
Serving almost as a sister-city to Dryfangs, Land's End straddles the only other trail leading east across the desert, and is clandestinely dominated by the Velvet Purse. As a result of the crime lords' influence, the thorp is much more orderly than Dryfangs, with none of the boisterous and often fatal carousing which is so common in the northern settlement. Instead, Land's End is a boring place, offering water, food, and lodging at inflated prices to the caravans passing east and west. Despite the price gouging, many caravan masters prefer the southern route, if only because it brings them to Port Hope more quickly and hence lets them make up in speed what they lose to operating costs.
Morville (Thorp, 61) (37% human, 20% gnome, 18% halfling, 10% dwarf, 7% elf, 5% half-elf, 3% half-orc)
This tiny settlement along the Moorwash River offers little of interest, unless one's interests run to sheep or trolls. The majority of Morville's inhabitants make their livings as shepherds, grazing their flocks on the moors and plains around the hamlet, and selling their wool seasonally at auction. A handful of trappers also range the moors, capturing foxes and hares for their skins. From time to time, the inhabitants of Morville also suffer from the depredations of a few feral trolls that roam the moor and occasionally venture closer in search of food and loot. Down-and-out adventurers sometimes find work here in such times, thinning out the troll population to end the raids temporarily, but few enjoy the bloody, dangerous work enough to root out the trolls for good.
Sermon (Thorp, 56) (79% human, 9% dwarf, 5% halfling, 3% gnome, 2% elf, 1% half-elf, 1% half-orc)
Sermon's rich farmland serves as the primary source of vegetables for the dwarfs of Riverguard and Merethrone. Fields of beets, carrots, potatoes, turnips, and other root vegetables allow the bearded folk to add variety to their usual diet of mountain goat, cave-grown mushrooms, porridge, and bread.
The thorp's name is reputed by non-natives to have been earned when a nameless adventurer characterized it as as, "as boring as a week of sermons." One of the thorp's most respected farmers, lacking imagination, is believed to have named the place "Sermon" after hearing the comment and liking the sound of the word.
Strelk (Thorp, 70) (96% lizardfolk, 2% merrow, 2% human)
Strange and mysterious, this monstrous village lies deep in the marsh south of Port Hope, and is home to a tribe of lizardfolk, dominated (at least nominally), by the self-styled "King" Gronk, a cruel and powerful merrow (aquatic ogre) ranger who slew the tribal chieftain in single combat a few years ago. In reality, Gronk is the tool of the much more intelligent human wizards who also inhabit the town, and who use him to keep the lizardfolk in line. The few travelers who have found the hamlet of Strelk and lived to depart from it have reported that the wizards seem to be looking for something amid the gloom and muck of the wetlands, but reports are uncertain as to what that may be.
Winterhome (Thorp, 64) (79% human, 9% halfling, 5% gnome, 3% dwarf, 2% elf, 1% half-elf, 1% half-orc)
A number of halfling tribes roams the plains between Land's End and this tiny hamlet just to the east of Morville, congregating each autumn and more than tripling this thorp's size as they settle in a great campsite just outside of town and remain until early spring. The yearly mustering of the tribes earned the hamlet its name, and Winterhome is a popular destination for both bards and merchants who want a change from the dreary tedium that is Port Hope in the winter. Of course, the opportunity to continue doing a brisk business in all sorts of manufactured goods and luxury items instead of remaining unprofitably idle while waiting for good weather for longer journeys also influences the merchants, many of whom profess to enjoy their yearly sojourn in Winterhome more than any other destination on their circuits.