While traveling from Azure to Bell on Captain Berke’s barge, the aptly-named Berke’s Barge, the as-yet-unnamed (ahem) party of misfits and homicidal draconic maniacs quizzes Berke for some local knowledge. As the man poles up and down the coast for a living, he hears plenty of rumors and has seen all that there is to see in that region:
“Bell itself is a young city, and only called a city because it’s the biggest place here. It’s built at the mouth of the river known as “Glory’s Tears” (a silly name if you ask me), and is the site of the first landings upon this continent. Bell’s a quickly growin’ city, which is why townships like Azure are popping up all over the place – it’s easier to clear farmlands out of the thinner jungle along the coast. Good farmland isn’t the only reason people are spreading out from Bell, however – some people don’t sit comfortably under the nobility there.” Berke looks over at Captain Merrin to confirm she is asleep, “They must have imported a whole ship’s hold-worth of those useless fops, or maybe they sprung up from under all the rocks. Lots of folks thought that the New World represented an escape from that kind of thing, so they’re gettin’ out of town while the gettin’s good. The top of the pile is Lord Von Tippleskertch, he rules here with the authority of the throne back home. Your Merrin here was talking about the Lord like they know each other well, whatever that means. The other big power player in Bell is the Greenhammer Clan. They’re a family of dwarves from the Old World, and that’ll tell you all manner of things about them. They run the Greenhammer Company as their business front, and they own most of the trade guilds in Bell. Without the Greenhammer Company’s help and skill, Bell would be a shanty town still. Instead, in just the year we’ve been here, they’ve rebuilt Bell into a sturdy stone city. Of course, they made a pretty penny in the process, and in turn are so deep into the politics and industry in the New World that Von Tippleskertch might want to watch his back. Ditom is the name of the clan’s patriarch.”
“Further down the coast you can find the pirate-town of Rivershand. Most people won’t call it a pirate town, but everybody knows. Whenever a ship docks here in Bell, a couple of the worst sort of fella jump ship and make their way down to Rivershand. That town is built around some weird ruins, giant towers which stick up out of the water at the mouth of the river Stoia. Story is, the pirates there have moved into the towers and stirred up trouble with their current residents. I don’t go that far south on account of the pirates, they roam all over the place tryin’ to take plunder from the Greenhammer ships heading back to the Old World.” Berke puffs up self-importantly, sucking in his ample gut, “My barge is a juicy target for those types, so I do ‘em a favor and keep my sword arm out of their faces.”
“If you sail down the Stoia past Rivershand, you’ll come to a great lake. In the middle of that lake is an island, on which a bunch of explorers built themselves a town called New Caroche. Used to be a nice place, but after the, uh, trouble with the local dragonborn…” Berke looks very uncomfortable discussing this topic around G’Kar.
“Anyway, around Bell there’re a lot of those little frog fellas, call themselves the Gelkari. Of course, they call the other tribes of their kind Gelkari too, even the ones they fight. The blue ones seem trustworthy enough, they do some trade and work as guides for those that can hire them. They aren’t the only lizards around, though – those ruins you saved my daughter from, more have been found all over the place. Wouldn’t be surprised if those big scaly guys were just as widespread. There’ve been other problems around here too – some towns have just up and disappeared into the jungle, with no trace of their people to be seen. There are expeditions heading out from Bell into the jungle regularly, and they stop along the way to deliver supplies to these little hamlets. I heard about one convoy that pulled into Bell just the other day, talkin’ about some place called Hope or somesuch which became a ghost town. If you pay any mind to rumor, there’re plenty of other things around – I’ve heard about undead, but your little dance on the beach was the first time I’d seen ‘em with my own eyes. The coastal places seem particularly subject to rumors of death and disappearances, like the sea itself reaches out and takes people and ships. I’ve sailed up and down this coast every day in the year we’ve been here, and I’ve never seen anything that crazy.”