Siogal's rugged mountain range runs down the western coast and into Faobhair Point in Cruinn Bay. The shale and sandstone Reeks are jagged and mostly bare, holding no vegetation but with enough runoff to feed a number of rivers, including the Bolgan and Liathghorm. The Argiats break into a small foothill range where valuable tin and copper ore is mined by the town of Orodal. A few adventurers have attempted to explore its rugged peaks, returning with tales of abandoned dwarf cities and dragons' hoards. But just as many mountaineers never return from the rocky crags, their fate unknown.
This smaller range forms a natural border for County Siogal in the northeast near Dabh. The hills are neither high nor foreboding, but the land gets increasingly dry and scrubby beyond the fertile glens, so there is little of interest to Siogalish folk.
The Mole Hills
From the eastern edge of the Smaragaid Forest rises a broad field of grassy mounds called the Mole Hills. While fertile, they are far enough south from the main towns that there is little here outside small homesteads of the kinless and other hermits.
Valleys & Plains
Most of Siogal's interior between the Argiat Reeks and the River Draoicht consists of rolling hills and valleys, broadly called the Glens. This is a fertile land filled with small streams and grassy plains. The northern glens around Dabh are particularly prized for their fertility: the barley fields and pasturelands make Dabh the county's breadbasket. The southern glens tend to feature more vegetation, strands of trees and woody shrubs where wild goats and deer browse.
Lowlands of Ludach
The broad plain south and east of the River Draoicht is named after a once-prominent clan whose chief once ruled from an ancient village near Torwyth. A number of narrow tributaries flow into the Draiocht during seasonal rains, drying up during the summer months. A few scattered fens form where these tributaries meet before flowing into the larger river.
The largest and longest river in Siogal, the River Draoicht has its headwaters at the ancient Font of Saol spring in the Smaragaid Forest. Given its sacred origins, the Draoicht unsurprisingly plays a prominent role in Siogalish myth and culture. Practically, the river is wide and deep enough to be navigable, and in the dry summer season when the water is calm shipping up and down stream is common. Fishing is abundant, especially salmon and shad; villages near Sudhalin and Athy feature small but prominent fisheries.
The wide and meandering Liathghorm has its headwaters in the Argiat Reeks, flowing through the Southern Glens before emptying out into Cruinn Bay. While not as deep as the Draoicht, it is calmer and easy going, with abundant fishing and even the occasional gold panning. The fishing town of Conlow is built around the mouth of the Liathghorm.
Like the River Liathghorm, the Bolgan River starts high in the peaks of the Argiat Reeks, but on the other side of the divide so that it meets the River Draoicht downstream. The Bolgan flows through the karst landscape of the Orgraig where it is fed by numerous smaller streams and underground channels, forming irregular and unpredictable ponds and fens. Its largest tributary is the Little Bolgan, which meets it in the south of the Orgraig.
The Fanach is a narrow river that winds its way across the Orgraig and through the northern glens until it feeds into the Draiocht. The name Fanach means "Wanderer," an appropriate name for a river whose course changes seasonally, eroding the karst landscape of the Orgraig and weaving through valleys. The Fanach is the narrowest river of the four prominent ones in Siogal, and the most isolated; a few scattered villages use it for fresh water and fishing, but it is otherwise merely scenic.
Bodies of Water
Shallow and rocky, Cruinn Bay is good for fishing and not much else. Few attempts have been made to dredge or deepen the bay for shipping, lacking enough interest from those with means to do so. In ancient days it did feature a small but prominent port, old fashioned longships navigating the reefs and shoals, but the trade routes have long since shifted. It is popular for fishing, and the resourceful people of Conlow have created a productive oyster farming industry on the rocky coast. The small spit of sand around Conlow is shared by a sizable population of seals who coexist with the nearby fisheries.
The lowlands of Siogal, especially in the glens and the Lowlands of Ludach, are peppered with small ponds and lakes, mostly pooling from creeks and streams that meet the larger rivers. Many of these are seasonal, dependant on heavy winter rainfall or snowmelt. The largest permanent lakes are the loughs, scattered in a few places throughout the county. The largest is Lough Mara, northwest of Sudhalin, a popular fishing and boating spot. Lough Tolran is to the west, an oxbow formed from a course shift of the Bolgan River. Just north of the Thicket is Lough Galba. The smallest loughs are Calarain near a bend in the River Liathghorm, and Lough Bel far to the north near Dabh. None of the loughs are particularly deep - Lough Mara only reaches thirty meters at its deepest and in most spots is no more than ten meters deep - but they are abundant in fish and wildlife. The Siogal freshwater eel, known for its surprising length (averaging two meters) and good flavor, is native only to Loughs Mara, Tolran, and Galba. Various fish, amphibians, and waterfowl also habitate in the loughs.
An ancient and dense woodland, the Smaragaid Forest forms part of Siogal's southern border. Since ancient times it has been considered sacred by Siogalish folk, and today even those that do not follow the Old Belief still respect it. The people of Fiodin are both beneficiaries and protectors of the forest, harvesting timber and sending it downstream for sale. A surprisingly wide variety of woods grow here, some highly valued and unique to Siogal. Fiodin timbermen carefully harvest only trees they consider non-magical, protecting the ones that could be poached by outisders. Aside from common creatures like deer, martens, and rabbits, a numerous magical creatures call the Smaragaid Forest their home: faeries, leshiye, treants, and so forth. The sacred Font of Saol arises from a spring in the forest, perhaps explaining the forest's unique properties. Rumors and legends suggest deeper in the forest are the ruins of an ancient elven civilization, but few who venture that far into the wood ever return.
Stretching from the southeastern branch of the Reeks towards the edge of Torwyth is a thick tangle of brush and brambles called only the Thicket. Thorny vines and shrubs grow abundantly here, reaching unusual heights and foliage density. Paths have been cut out for travel routes between the towns, but most would rather go around the dark grove than through it. Legends say ancestors of the Diarmhaidh clan summoned the Thicket into existance with the magic of the enchanted Bright Pipes to keep outsiders from the sacred Font of Saol. Of the various creatures that lurk in the Thicket, the most feared are the Alltaculla, a fierce pack of wolves that are said to be more cunning than man and at least as large.
Points of Interest
From the Siogalish phrase "Great Stone," the Orgraig is a karst plateau bordering the Argiat Reeks and the northern glens. The Orgraig is famed for its unique landscape, rugged and alien but surprisingly green in places. The plateau slopes from the edge of the Reeks, its jagged limestone pavement criss-crossed with cracks and small streams. Between these grow a variety of grasses, ferns, and wildflowers, some found nowhere else. Some goatherds and cattle drivers bring their herds out to graze on the vegetation, but there are dangers further in. Lakes and streams appear and vanish regularly as the eroded limestone landscape is riddled with underground channels and sinkholes. The lakes, called turloughs, are full of emerald grass when dry; farmers fatten their goats and cattle off it when they can. But as suddenly as the turloughs disappear, they can fill again without warning, and many uncautious travellers have found themselves suddenly surrounded by water. The limestone geology features many caves, their entrances hidden among the crags and crevices of the surface; legend says gnomes and clurichauns live in these and lure unwary wanderers to a watery doom beneath. The place was once considered sacred in the Old Belief, and though the Smaragaid Forest eclipsed it in importance, there are many ruins of temples and tombs, especially closer to the edge of the Reeks.
As the Argiat Reeks slope down towards the sea in the west, they suddenly end in a high escarpment known as Ariann's Cliffs. The name comes from a legendary giantess who, in a fit of rage over her adulterous husband's affairs, stomped her way up the coast, flattening the edge of the mountains into the sea. While scenic, the cliffs make most of Siogal's scant coastline useless for travel and trade. A few sea caves have been carved out of the cliffs by waves, accessible by the narrow strip of rocky beach on some of the cliff bases; small time pirates of Conlow have been known to hide their booty in some, risking either themselves or their treasures lost to high tides.
A small chain of rock islands and sea stacks encircling Cruinn Bay, the Bones are named for their appearance of a rotting carcass jutting out of the water. They were used of old as watch posts and monasteries carved into the stone, leaving accessible points at their base. With the fall of the Tir and decline of the Old Belief in Conlow, they are now rarely used.
A scenic promontory overlooking Cruinn Bay, Faobhair Point rises a good eighty meters above the sea. The high point stair-steps down towards the water with several natural platforms. The water below the point is deeper in places than most of the bay, and a common sport is to dive from the point's cliffs into the sea. Naturally, many have been injured or died by jumping from too high a place, but ably diving from as high a point as possible is an expression of courage and manhood for those living around the bay.
Brachaid's Pike is the tallest peak in the Argiat Reeks. Legend has it that a great dragon once roosted in the mountain and rained terror down on Tir Siogal. Brachaid Káellugra, a son of Queen Aoifa, took his spear and scaled the peak, battling the dragon for four days and four nights. He ultimately slew the dragon, but died of his wounds on the peak. When the queen retrieved his body, she found he had planted the spear firmly into the mountain's peak, immovable to even the mightiest arm. Brachaid's spirit is said to still haunt the mountain, keeping guard in case the beast ever returns. A few try to scale the mountain periodically, drawn to its legend and the prospect of a dragon's hoard hidden within, but most are turned back by the impenetrable crags and cliffs.
Athy is the oldest capital of the old Siogalish kingdom, and currently the second largest in population. To outsiders, it is an active if poor community. Most of its people are artisans: a few smiths, a handful of weavers, the odd cobbler. To the Siogalish, though, Athy is the cultural heart of the County, where some of its oldest clans and magical lineages reside and practice.
The town square is a large and vacant area where Dun Mathyalin once stood. Its first conquerers banished the castle from existence and even memory, ordering every stone be removed and the name banned. "Athy" is a corruption of Mathyalin, though most of the older folk still know what it really means. The stones that pave the lot are all that remains of the fortress, smuggled by the Siogalish folk who were forced to dismantle it and brought back in secret. It now serves as a small market for the local townsfolk.
The largest building in Athy is the Hall of Lannigan, the ancestral meeting place of the Lannigan clan. Built by Jeremey Lannigan forty years ago in memorial of his deceased father, it serves many purposes: a council of clan elders, a court for the town reeve, a party hall for the annual Lannigan's Ball. While simple in appearance, the hall is enchanted to be fire, water, pest, and void proof, and contains a number of hidden rooms and trap doors.
Athy's only tavern-inn is the Redbird, a decent establishment that serves its own brews and town gossip. The place is run by Cobhar Siodratch, a middle-aged man of good temper and strong arms.
Being the old capital, a number of prominent clans call Athy home. The greatest is clan Lannigan, whose patriarch Jeremey M'Lannigan rules Athy as reeve. The Lannigans claim their descent from the Largrin clan, whose lineage was broken and banned after the fall of Tir Siogal. As the head of Athy's dominant clan, Jeremey tries to maintain the status quo by keeping good relations with clan heads in the other towns, save Torwyth's Kugrills. The Siodratch are another old clan, considered a lieutenant family of the Lannigan line. Siodratches run most of the towns prominent businesses, including the Redbird. The Guaire clan is large, but doesn't hold much standing; subservient to the Lannigans, they've been known to do Jeremey's dirty work when he needs certain folk hushed up.
Sudhalin is the largest town in County Siogal, positioned in a favorable location on the only highway into the county and close to both Athy and Dabh. The Sudhalin Market dominates the town, a (relatively) very large square where farmers and artisans bring their wares to sell to visitors and wagons haul of crates of goods to other parts of the empire. The clans in Sudhalin tend to be wealthier than most, though few object to their fortune as it helps fund the rest of the towns.
The Trout & Glove tavern ("the Fish & Fist" to locals) is the largest in Sudhalin, and serves the merchants who stay in Siogal for any period of time. It is well-appointed and overpriced, and owned by the Bairrch clan.
A few other smaller and seedier taverns are in Sudhalin, but the most well-known to locals is the Stag & Dog (colloquially, the "Buck and Bitch"). The tavern itself is essentially a large shack with questionable whisky and unpleasant beds. The real draw, rather, is the bar's patrons: sorcerers banned from other towns for forbidden magics stay in the Sudhalin to semi-clandestinely teach their arts to those who can offer favor or money. On the records of being owned by "the common folk of Sudhalin", it is in truth a possession of the Drugain family, a clan long out of graces for its breaking of clan laws.
The town hall overlooks the marketplace, a well-built structure that mimics foreign royal style. Sudhalin's local governance is more democratic than the others (most of which could be described as oligarchic, if not outright dynastic). All citizens of the town, and a select group of influential merchants, vote for the maire biannually. The Bairrch clan has had a lock on the maireship for two decades, but the Luachain family has been rising in influence and could threaten Bairrch rule.
The seat of foreign occupation in County Siogal, Torwyth enjoys the same wealth as Sudhalin but none of its respect. To the occupiers, Torwyth is a successful venture of colonialism and assimilation, showing that even some of the Siogalish can be reasonable when given proper incentive and example. To the rest of Siogal, Torwyth is a den of betrayers and collaborators, their name whithered since the betrayal of the last King Mathyalin. The Kugrill clan is held most in contempt, claiming descent from the Káellugra, associating them the old Wrathking's line. Their popularity is not helped by their close association with the occupiers, who have made the Kugrills local nobility (at least in their eyes).
The Torwyth Manor is the most significant structure here, built for by the occupation as their own administrative center. It's by far the most architecturally impressive of all buildings in the County, the Manor is modeled after the modern architectural style of the kingdom. It is a well-appointed stone structure with a great iron door and glass windows behind bars (Siogalish have been known to throw the occasional rock at the Manor). A small military outpost is on the outskirts of town, a decent-sized wooden fort that houses the occupiers' military force.
There are a number of shops, taverns, and similar establishments in Torwyth, many built to the tastes of the occupiers since they have the most economic clout in town. Bressal Coscrach runs the Sabre & Rod tavern, which caters to the occupiers' soldiers - they call it the Sword & Scepter, but the locals who disdain its foreign cuisine and drink know it as the Shank & Shaft. There's always a contingent of off duty soldiers here, either complaining about their luck in being assigned to the backwater county, or else drunkenly singing their foreign songs. Bressal also owns a popular establishment on the other side of town, the Old Bell, run by his son Fiach. This one features more traditional Siogalish fare, and any occupiers who wander in will get lousy service to convince them to stay away (Bressal is a cunning businessman and knows how to butter his bread on both sides).
Siogal's rocky coast leaves scant room for settlement, making the coastal town of Conlow an outlier in more ways than one. Fishing and clam farming are the chief economic means here. Cruinn Bay is too shallow and rocky for any ships of any size to enter so few make Conlow a port of call, but major trading routes are close enough that a few small time pirates earn a living preying on smaller vessels out at sea. Until late the Duach clan's chief Awlin held a tight grip over local politics and practices, trying to browbeat the whole town into following the relatively new belief of Unitism. But Awlin died a few years back, and with no clear male successor that the rest of the clan would accept, his four daughters have taken the roles of co-chiefs: Nadain, Brid, Galil, and Maebh. They've managed to keep the Duachs on top of things, steering their relationships with neighboring towns and trade deals with the occupiers, but not all accept their unorthodox leadership. Scellan M'Dondach, whose clan was once considered a junior branch of the Duachs, has pushed prominent citizens of Conlow to reject the sisters' leadership and put the Dondachs in charge. Families in both clans are split between the two sides, and the political tension in Conlow can be palpable at times.
The Unitist temple of Holy Shore bears a prominent spot on a cliff overlooking Cruinn Bay, and its chief priest Bran Duach is a cousin of the Sisters M'Duach who are the temple's greatest patrons. When folk aren't in temple, they can be found either at the docks bringing in their catch or in the Burnt Sailor's tavern bragging about said catch. Old Ogham Liathain owns the Burnt Sailor, and for the sake of business bans political talk (not that he doesn't have his own opinions).
Fiodin is the most rustic and traditional of Siogal's villages. On the edge of the bountiful Smaragaid Forest, Fiodin is the county's lumber producer, sending whole trees down river to be picked up and sold in Sudhalin. Most of Fiodin's adult males are lumbermen, and even a few women. Historically, Fiodin holds religious importance for Siogalish because of its proximity to the temple of the sacred spring; the priests that tended the temple came from Fiodin stock and lived in the village.
Fiodin's people live today much as they did centuries ago. They still dress in traditional Siogalish garb: animal pelt kilts and leather vests, with a tonsure for high-ranking men. They live almost exclusively in wood-supported dugout lodges, with a few clan heads living above ground in circular wooden homes. All folk in Fiodin are Old Believers, worshiping the ancient deities of Siogal over newfound gods sent by the kingdom's missionaries (who rarely stay in Fiodin more than a week before they finally give up the "heathens"). The priesthood of the old faith still practices here and guards the ruins of the temple, beneath which the ancient spring still flows and forms the river.
Clan Diarmhaidh is dominant here, and Cormaic M'Diarmhaidh rules as both clan head and town chieftain. He is formidable and gruff, but also understands the new way of things in the rest of Siogal, and can manage to talk his way through a trade negotiation in Sudhalin as fluently as a Bairrch, if only more direct and blunt.
Orodal is an old town, its tin and copper mines being worked since the reign of Queen Aoifa. The whole town revolves around the mines built into the side of the rocky hills. Orodal's residents have a reputation of being tough-as-nails folk, and it's said that they were hewn from the stone itself. A bar called only "the Pick" serves as both town hall and taproom, both being the exclusive domain of the mining men. Families that don't mine are subservient to those that do, and only keep their livelihoods as the miners' pleasure. The Tolairg clan is in charge, and Datrick M'Tolairg's many sons dare any to question him. While magic is in the blood of all Siogalish, Orodal folk are as likely to use their fists to solve their disputes as spells, and losers are thrown out of the Pick on a nightly basis. While the Tolairgs have a business relationship with the kingdom and merchants in Sudhalin, it's whispered Datrick only just keeps his town's hatred of the occupiers in check, and the other mining clans have secret plans to raise their own army and drive out the enemy themselves.
The mines dug into the Argiat Reeks are myriad and ancient. Orodal mining techniques have changed little over the centuries: a central pit is dug either straight down or at an angle into the side of a hill, galleries are dug out to extract ore, and once the mine is exhausted everything filled back in for stability, though plenty of unstable and abandoned mines were never properly filled. Hundreds of such mines dot the Reeks, their extent known only by the miners. It's joked that unwelcome visitors to Orodal are first given a tour of the mine shafts, where they can be safely abandoned knowing they will never find their way out (Orodal jokes tend to be grim). Rumors of a secret cache of arms awaiting an army crop up now and again, which the people of Orodal deny all too loudly.
Dabh barely qualifies as a town, a small collection of farmer's huts and barns. More important are the fields beyond dab: rolling hills of barley and grazing land for goats. Dabh is the breadbasket of Siogal, and while most of its produce is exported, more than enough stays behind to keep the Siogalish fed. Of the seven towns, Dabh is the most recent to gain recognition as such, mostly through the machinations of Torwyth's Kugrill clan. The dominant - and nearly only - clan in Dabh is the Dorthainn family, led by the matriarch "Mother Morda" M'Dorthainn, a woman whose generosity to her kin is matched only by her ferocity in guarding their interests.
There's scant little of interest in Dabh - those looking for entertainment are better served in Sudhalin or Torwyth - but the folk of Dabh are nothing if not welcoming. Guests of other towns and even foreigners are welcomed into Mother Morda's own home, something of a sprawling cottage villa, and treated to conversation over biscuits and tea. She keeps a loft for guests to night in, her many kinfolk meeting their needs. The service is twofold in purpose: Morda M'Dorthainn likes to make friends with everyone so as to avoid any unpleasantness with the neighboring clans or occupiers, but she trusts little and likes to keep a close eye on anyone setting foot in Dabh.