Arvat is a small town on the delta of the Urt River. Settled long ago by wandering hunter/fishers from the north, Arvat supports itself with fishing, a small cane-and-wicker industry, and smuggling. Some years ago, an unexpected event caused the population of the tiny village to boom: gold was discovered a little to the west of the town. For several years, adventurers and opportunists from all over Alastari flooded into Arvat, but the gold boom quickly dissipated, as it was soon found that there was no vein nearby. The best guess so far is that the vein exists in the hills to the southwest, and after especially hard rains, nuggets are washed down into the delta lands. So far, no one has found the source, although maps to the "Lost Arvat Mine" are often sold to greenhorn miners by the locals. The Errynthorn Hills are not extensive or very high, but they are steep and treacherous, and more than one miner has disappeared, never to return.
The hills are not the only source of danger for Arvat. The Urt Delta is wide and marshy, and the creatures that live in the marshes (arctic gators, six-foot pike, poison squid...) are not pleasant to meet in a dark alley. Since Arvat is a town built on stilts, the streets and alleys are canals, navigated by flatboats. Due to its lack of a good deep harbor, large ships cannot dock in Arvat--small, shallow-drafted vessels are the rule for the fishermen and smugglers. The marshes, dangerous as they are, attract some. They are famous for the waterfowl hunting available in the fall.
Arvat is not on particularly good terms with its nearest neighbor, Zukal. Constantly squabbling over profits from the Urt River trade route, (both legitimate and otherwise) the two cities occasionally go so far as to raid each other, but there has never been open warfare. Arvat is also little loved by Chimlevtal, the nearest legitimate port, for ships often sneak their finest goods ashore in Arvat before docking in Chimlevtal, hoping to avoid the cargo taxes. The two cities do have something in common, though: both are united in despising the pirates of Niytyole Island (although some of the smugglers of Arvat have been known to hire pirates to harass the Chimlevtal coast guard ships...).
Arvat is governed by a Duke (self-proclaimed) and an advisory council made up of prominent citizens, who are generally at odds with both the Duke and each other. The government is a rather lackadaisical affair, with the current Duke, one Arrnet Valeron, spending a good deal of time in finding the ideal spot to fish from the Castle walls. (The Duke's residence is known simply as The Castle. It is the only stone building in Arvat, it rises an impressive three stories from the ruins of a previous fortress which sank into the swamp some two hundred years ago.) In times of trouble, the citizens are expected to retreat to the Castle, but that much trouble is hard to imagine.
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