Description

The village of Amphail, famous for its horse breeders, lies on the Long Road, a good three-day ride north of Waterdeep through rolling farmlands. By night or in a snowstorm, a traveler can locate this quiet, beautiful village by the thick stands of dusk wood and spruce that cluster along the road nearby. In summer, the stench of horse manure gives outsiders ample evidence of the town’s presence.

This farming village is pleasant to the eyes of all. In hot summer weather, though, it is only pleasant to the noses of those who like horse manure. The folk of Amphail is famous for breeding and training horses. They have traditionally equipped the noble families and armies of Waterdeep and the armies of Neverwinter, as well as merchants and satraps of Amn and Calimshan.

Fine horses are plentiful here. However, those thinking to just ride off on some are warned that the Roaringhorn family maintains a patrol of 12 skilled knights to deal with horse thieves. This patrol is guided by the scrying of six youthful Roaringhorn sorceresses who dwell on the family farm. These young ladies often show up in the saddles of pegasi, wands at the ready, if the patrol runs into monsters or thieves using magic.

Amphail’s horse farms have traditionally equipped the noble families and armies of Waterdeep and Neverwinter, as well as merchants and satraps from Amn and Calimshan. Amphail grays are famous across Faerûn as intelligent, loyal, and hardy personal mounts. Most soldiers, however, prefer the larger, more powerful, glossy black chargers that Amphail’s breeders produce.

Amphail is a small but prosperous place, the sort of town a hurried traveler can ride through without noticing much of interest, thereby missing a great deal.

Color

Named for its founder, a former warlord of Waterdeep, the small town of Amphail is home to just over seven hundred souls, yet it sought and received membership in the Lords’ Alliance just under a century ago, thanks to the maneuverings of the noble families that control its lands. Where once it was simply an example of the extent of Waterdeep’s reach, Amphail became the playground of that city’s noble families, a place where they can scheme against their rivals and send their more rambunctious offspring to unleash some of their destructive tendencies without harming the family’s reputation in proper society. As a result of being a member of the Lords’ Alliance, Amphail is the equal of such great cities as Neverwinter and Baldur’s Gate in matters that concern the other powers of the region, despite its clear inferiority in size and strength.

Amphail’s sovereignty means that, although patrols from the Waterdeep City Guard sometimes ride north to check on matters in Amphail, the only true authority in the town is the will of the noble families that control it. The primary business of Amphail is horse ranching, and the town is a fine place to find replacement mounts, and all manner of tack, bridle, feed, and other goods necessary to keep up one’s horse. Most farms have farriers, or at least hands that can swiftly shoe a horse, and spare shoes all but litter the town.

Visitors to Amphail often get a polite admonishment to “mind the high born” or “ware silver saddles” from the locals, but those who ignore such warnings should expect no help if they get into trouble with the nobility. Amphailans are by their nature suspicious of and quiet around folk who openly display wealth or status, having learned early in their lives that nobles are folk who like to throw their weight around, to the detriment of anyone nearby without enough coin or a grand enough title to stand up to them. I find that these common folk are ideal sources of information about the very people they distrust.

For their part, the young nobles that litter the town seem to make mischief mainly because they can. The feuds and rivalries that would generate only carefully worded insults in the city can escalate into brawls when these miscreants are far from the watchful eyes of their parents. Duels have long been prohibited by mutual agreement, due to the blood feuds they provoked in the past, but hands often drift to sword hilts when heated words are exchanged. Nearly every other sort of noble indiscretion is foisted on the residents of Amphail. Those who suffer property damage or worse at the nobles’ hands are forced to forgive the offense in exchange for the application of coin or a promise made in the transgressor’s name (suggesting that the youngster’s relatives will handle any obligations). Some businesses survive entirely by bringing the comforts of Waterdeep to Amphail, creating gathering places where young nobles can feel at home.

The three greatest families with significant interests in Amphail are Houses Amcathra, Ilzimmer, and Roaringhorn; and most coin and business eventually pass through the hands one of those houses or its intermediaries. When Amphail joined the Lords’ Alliance, these three houses were the loudest and most influential voices, and now control the rulership of the town, with the controlling family changing each Shieldmeet. The current Lord Warder is Dauner Ilzimmer, who speaks for the town to the Lords’ Alliance. House Amcathra has yet to choose its successor for next Shieldmeet. Houses Jhansczil and Tarm have smaller breeding concerns in the area, and House Eagleshields has holdings near Amphail that it uses to continue its long tradition of caring for unhealthy animals from nearby farms and offers fine tack and other gear for sale.

Among the common folk, the Oglyntyr family has the largest and oldest cattle and horse farm in Amphail, and supplies some of the finest Amphail grays (loyal, intelligent steeds favored as personal mounts) to nobles and travelers in the region. A new family, not noble but possessing much wealth, has purchased the old Baldasker ranch. We suspect that the Hemzar family, who were unknown in either Amphail or Waterdeep before the purchase, like most of the mysterious matters in Amphail, may have the secret backing of one noble house or another.

My contacts say the Oglyntyrs have petitioned the Ilzimmers to help crush this upstart business, a move that they are considering. I visited the Hemzar ranch, and I’d consider such a move inadvisable. A large family of Tashlutar descent, they seemed capable and confident of their position, despite my warning. I wasn’t allowed the opportunity to explore the property fully, but I did note signs that the Hemzars are prepared to rear and train far more dangerous beasts than horses and cattle. I was then tempted to warn the Oglyntyrs, but that family can be as odious as the worst nobles. These things tend to sort themselves out.

The noble families of Waterdeep who send their children to Amphail, or allow them to go there, hope that their sons and daughters will learn some lessons about life while away from Waterdeep. If they are going to cause damage or hurt feelings in the process, at least they will do so far away from the watchful eyes of the other nobility of the city. To the young nobles, there is no one in Amphail of any real consequence who might be permanently harmed by any improprieties. They also believe there is no one of note nearby to hear these hot- headed youngsters issue their boasts and proclaim their schemes – I have more than once learned of a threat simply by listening to children of different houses brag to one another about matters that were meant only for the family.

Aside from the excesses of its nobles, Amphail is a peaceful town, with the threat of full-scale retaliation from both Waterdeep and the Lords’ Alliance casting a long, dark shadow over any plans to disturb matters there. The nobles of Waterdeep have heavy purses and are willing to spend as much coin as necessary to protect their favored playground- and to punish anyone that might disrupt their control over it. The only thing the nobles don’t seem to be able to spend away is the smell of manure, which in the summer months hangs thick over the town. It is that manure that helps to feed the true business of Amphail: feeding Waterdeep the produce from the many farms that surround the town.

Because so many of Amphail’s farms are owned by House Ammakyl, members of that noble family are by far the most enriched by the commerce there. They consider themselves good landlords to the folk that farm their lands, and are sure to bring any threats to honest, hard-working commoners to the attention of both the Lord Warder and the Lords of Waterdeep. Anything that threatens farming in Amphail threatens the City of Splendors directly, and such situations are dealt with swiftly and surely by the city’s Guard. As a result, even the most rebellious nobles are careful not to tread too heavily on Ammakyl turf in Amphail, as a house that does so might swiftly find its favorite foods suddenly difficult to procure for a revel or some other event where the family’s status is at risk.

History

Amphail was named for Amphail the Just, one of Waterdeep’s early warlords who had estates here. Although all traces of his keep are long gone, legend holds that Amphail still rides the area in spirit form, frightening away trolls and hostile barbarians.

Geography

The village was three days’ ride north of Waterdeep.

Trade

Its main trade was growing food for Waterdeep, but it was also known for its outstanding horses—including Amphail grays, glossy black chargers, and Amphail fancies. Due to this, the village suffered from the stench of horse manure during the warmer months.

The wealthier inhabitants or landowners of Amphail were generally the ones who bred horses. The largest horse breeder was the Roaringhorn family of Waterdeep, but others included Amcathra, Ilzimmer, Jhansczil, and Tarm, as well as individual breeders Rorth Baldasker, Ohm Oglyntyr, and Elraghona Selember. The independent stable masters Ohm “Steelhand” Oglyntyr, Rorth Baldasker, and Elraghona Selember are also noted breeders.

The Eagleshield family, which produces skilled animal tenders, maintains a farm where sick animals are nursed, and a shop where tack of the finest sort is made and sold. The Eagleshield harness is made for the lone rider’s mount. It is of black leather, adorned with silver-plated studs bearing the spread-winged eagle that is the heart of the family blazon.

The Ammakyl family makes more money than all other inhabitants of Amphail combined. This clan dominates the chief business of Amphail: feeding Waterdeep. Any local vegetables that don’t come out of Ammakyl fields are purchased by the family at fair market prices and carted to Waterdeep in large, well-armed family caravans. These caravans are always on the road between Amphail and Waterdeep.

Defense

The village had no standing militia of its own but benefited from Waterdhavian guards who patrolled from Rassalantar.  There are also the numerous private guards on all the horse farms.