Castle Oritz sits atop the bluff which contains the entrance to the Black Sanctum of Sorrows, a notorious dungeon known for claiming countless adventurers. Originally the castle was built by the Iron Truth Adventurer’s Guild to defend the outside world from whatever nightmares might pour out of the dungeon. But over the last century, as the Iron Truth has “pacified” the first three levels of the dungeon complex, it has become something more like a toll booth, allowing the guild to control access to the dungeon itself.
And in that time, it has become a bastion of stability in the area which, no longer fearing the denizens of the Black Sanctum, has become a fief unto itself. Farms and small villages have sprung up around the castle, originally to feed those living in the fortress, but as Delvar Battlebeard and her followers have established a reputation for being fair-minded and levying relatively light taxes, more and more people have come to make a living in the castle’s shadow.
That includes the castle’s staff as well, which has grown beyond the adventurers themselves, and includes cooks and the like who help keep the place in running order, allowing the guild to focus on the dungeon itself. Scribes, smiths, preachers and the like have all made their way to Castle Oritz to find their fortune. Not as adventurers, but in service to them.
Because of this, the castle has become a trading hub as well. Adventurers manage to bring up all kinds of valuables from the Black Sanctum which merchants, traveling or otherwise, have a vested interest in procuring. And of course, with groups constantly heading down into the dungeon, there are always those who need to gear up, which makes for a lively trade in everything from rations to magic weapons.
The castle, and the guild, is supported largely by levying fees on those who enter the dungeon (which are lower for guild members) as well as a sales tax on the merchants, which is passed on to their customers of course. The sales tax actually brings in more than the adventurers, as many come to Castle Oritz specifically to shop, not to risk their lives in the Black Sanctum. The guild knows this as Battlebeard, despite being a formidable warrior and explorer herself, has a keen mind for figures and administration, which is how she spends most of her time. She knows that taking too much from the dungeon too fast means that the whole thing could cave in on itself, which doesn’t serve anyone.
That fear, that the guild might collapse under the weight of its own mission, helps keeps Battlebeard motivated. She doesn’t share it with many others, but her goal in this endeavor is as much to make sure that the Black Sanctum doesn’t threaten the world as it is to build a legacy. She is convinced that, deep enough down there, lies a threat that her guild must reach before it wakes of its own accord.
Artwork: “Falaise” by unknown artist, from Nouvau dictionnaire encycolpédique universel illustré, published under the direction of Jules Trousset, 1885-1891.