Tern’s Nest is a medium-large fishing village on the northern coast of the Blinde Steppes. With a population of 187 full time residents, it represents one of the largest non-manor settlements in the Steppes.
Urban Layout and Municipal Features
The principal form of architecture employed by the residents of Tern’s Nest is the low, circular mud-brick building with a thatched roof common to villages throughout the Daerdenfel March. Situated on a high cliffside, the village proper consists of several dozen such buildings of varying size; the majority are no more 15 feet across, with largest being 20 or 25 feet. During the autumn months, residents typically further insulate their homes by stacking cuttings of sod against the outer walls, giving the snowy landscape of the winter village a rolling, hilly appearance.
Tern’s Nest’s most unusual architectural feature is only visible during the warmer months of the year, however. Dependent as the village is on fish and the Great Northern Tern that makes its home on the cliffs, the residents of Tern’s Nest have for centuries overcome the inconvenience of living atop a high cliff by extending their construction out over the cliffside. In the spring, the residents of Tern’s Nest rig platforms, dwellings, and even a small pier out over the cliffside; living over the sea is generally much more comfortable than life in the terrestrial buildings, and the access provided to fishing and the literal terns’ nests that give the village its name is invaluable. The light construction required of these structures would never protect the inhabitants from the elements during the winter, to say nothing of the weight of the snow on the rigging, so late in the autumn, as close to the first snow as they can, the villagers pull in the cliffside buildings and lay them up for the winter.
In addition to the huts of the village residents, Tern’s Nest boasts three major stone buildings. The larder is a long, low, square-cornered building much wider than it is long. The roof of the larder is flat stone, but is open to the sky over half of the building; this open section is thatched over for most of the year, but is opened to the air in the spring to help the process of freshening the storage areas to accommodate the produce of the coming year.
The longhouse is the home and professional residence of the Constable of Tern’s Nest. It is a large ovoid building with a thatched roof nearly three stories tall. The edge of the building facing the town’s square accommodates a wooden pavilion under which the town’s blacksmith maintains a smithy. Also on the square is Tern’s Nest’s Seniovlic cathedral, a large building of the prescribed shape surrounded by a stone and wrought-iron gate; in addition to the rectory behind the cathedral, the churchyard also contains a small cemetery.
The most obviously prominent geographical feature of Tern’s Nest is the cliff upon which the village is built. Lying on the northern bank of the mouth of the river Westgeld, Tern’s Nest ostensibly lies in the gentler terrain compared to the mountainous southern bank. Even so, the mouth of the river comes out of a deep canyon into the ocean, the cliffs of which run north of the village for miles. At Tern’s Nest, access to the beach below the village is provided by a winding path that runs down the face of the cliff.
The closeness of the Westgeld furnishes slightly more diverse terrain than the sub-arctic plains that constitute most of the Blinde Steppes. The banks of the river are host to a ribbon of spare, scrubby woodland that runs all the way up to where the Westgeld joins the Geld proper in the east. The village itself is built well clear of the sparse treeline, but the woods are clearly visible from the village and can be reached by no more than 15 minutes of walking.
On many levels, the village of Tern’s Nest itself constitutes a landmark in a landscape in desperate need of differentiation. Even so, there is a location of some interest to the north of the village: commanding the path up the cliffs from the beach is the ruin of a fortress built by the First Men of Iron. The ruin consists of barely more than the stumps of stone walls poking up out of the grass, but the occasional academic from Daerdenfel or Raerdengeld will find a year or two of interest in poking around in and under the ancient edifice.
The political and military leader of Tern’s Nest is the Constable Miles Devonshire. The political atmosphere of Tern’s Nest is typically one of sleepy friendliness, so the Constable’s duties typically involve settling disputes and organizing the activities of the villagers in preparation for winter and summer. Even so, Miles Devonshire is part of the Daerdenfel March’s system of feudal obligation, owing his direct allegiance to the Count of Taillebourg at Taillebourg Castle; above him is the Duke of the Blinde Steppes at Oldcastle and then the Praepositus of the March at Daerdenfel.