Life in Trunau
Living under constant threat, the people of Trunau have come to embrace death as simply another part of life. This doesn’t mean that all of the inhabitants are totally at peace with their own mortality, but simply that they recognize theirs is a dangerous existence, and thus strive to live their lives to the fullest without worrying unduly about which raid or unfortunate accident may finally claim them.
Perhaps the best symbol of this—and certainly the one that most captures the imagination or outsiders—is the tradition of the hopeknife. Carried by every resident of Trunau, a hopeknife is a small sheathed dagger, usually worn on a chain underneath one’s clothes, though young adults recently come of age often display theirs ostentatiously. The tradition of the hopeknife comes out of Trunau’s understanding that capture by orcs is often far worse than a quick death, and thus all residents need to be prepared to take their own lives or offer mercy to the wounded in the event of capture. Ironically, what was originally a grim necessity has become a symbol of adulthood and independence, and many children wait impatiently for their twelfth birthdays, on which they’re presented with their own hopeknives and shown which arteries to cut should they or their loved ones fall into enemy hands. Hopeknives are always kept well sharpened, and never used for anything but their
intended purpose, though spouses often trade knives as part of a marriage ceremony.
After defense, and with water already handled by the Hopespring , food is the biggest issue in Trunau. The town maintains many fields, with border patrols and guards posted in temporary watchtowers at their edges, and focuses on crops that can be stored for long periods, allowing them to maintain extensive stores so as to be ready in case of a siege. Since fields are easily burned, however, the town also relies heavily on its hunters and trappers—during periods of more active conflict with the orcs, these often join with more traditional fighters to counter-raid and steal food and livestock from the orcs themselves.
Perhaps most important to the town’s survival is the siegestone. Early on after Trunau’s decision to stand and fight, the town leaders recognized their vulnerability to starvation and made a decision to pool resources in order to find a magical solution. A trading group was sent east to Ustalav with most of the town’s easily carried valuables, and they returned with the siegestone, a huge cauldronlike altar that in times of trouble can produce gallon upon gallon of tasteless porridge, keeping the residents from starving completely. The stone resides in the Longhouse and is never used except in direst need— both out of fear of exhausting its magic, and because no one in town is eager to taste the flavor of desperation during peacetime.
Folk in Trunau are independent by nature, yet all bow to the wisdom of the Council of Defenders. Chosen from the people’s own ranks every 2 years, these six individuals devote themselves to managing the town’s logistics and defense, making sure that laws are obeyed and no one endangers the community. One of the six councilors holds the title of Chief Defender, who has the final say in all matters relating to the town’s safety and is commander of the people in times of crisis. Outside of that, the six councilors are theoretically of equal power in matters of the town’s prosperity, laws, arbitration, and so on.
For the last 20 years, the position of Chief Defender has been held by Halgra of the Blackened Blades. A Trunau native, Halgra left the town at a young age to become an adventurer, fighting and raiding her way from the Skittermounds to the Broken Shore and beyond, up into the Realm of the Mammoth Lords. She finally returned at the age of 42 with a veritable throng of children in tow, all from different fathers, and settled in to spend the rest of her life defending her home. Though Jagrin Grath now guides the patrols and raiding parties, Halgra is still a mountain of a woman and quick with her trademark lamp-blackened sword, and her deft politics and tactical acumen mean that no one can honestly challenge her fitness to lead.
Trade is a crucial part of life in Trunau. Though far from most established trade routes, Trunau still receives the occasional merchant from Lastwall or Nirmathas eager for the valuable salvage the townsfolk still pull from abandoned settlements (as well as the inflated prices the merchants know they can demand from such an isolated community). Most common among these traders are caravans of ethnic Varisians attempting to cross the Hold of Belkzen, or Shoanti raiding parties come east from Varisia to prove themselves against the orcs or the chitinous horrors of the Skittermounds.
Trunau also sends its own caravans to Lastwall, trading valuable information on orc movements to the crusaders in Castle Everstand in exchange for supplies. The town even maintains ties with a select few orc traders from Urgir, though the common wisdom is that Grask Uldeth’s current infatuation with trade and civilization won’t last for long.
Orcs are naturally despised in Trunau, yet ironically, half-orcs bear less stigma here than in most places. As Trunau knows what horrors orcs perpetrate on those they capture, and with Halgra herself having two children from half-orc lovers during her adventuring years, halforcs are viewed with sympathy, and more than one halforc raised in orc captivity has escaped to earn a place within Trunau’s walls.
Trunau is a hardworking community, but also one that understands the value of celebration and taking comfort wherever it can be found. Families are tightly knit, with most families at least mildly related by marriage at some point over the generations. Residents are encouraged to find love wherever they can, and there are few social or sexual taboos as long as residents respect the freedoms of others. Perhaps the best example of Trunau’s philosophy is the holiday of Holdfast, commemorating the town’s first victory over the orcs, which begins with a solemn recitation of remembrance and the burning of a wicker sword, followed by games, dancing, ale, and more than a few romantic liaisons.