Helfalas is, compared to the rest of Calandor, an inhospitable province. It lies on the western coastline of Tiridor, its northern border exposed to the ogre kingdoms. Bitter winds from the cold north and rains from the south collide to create wild weather that washes what little good soil there is into the sea.
Because of this, Helfalas is largely comprised of moorland with the occasional patch of scrubby, stunned trees. Scratch farms provide those that live there with oats and root vegetables, but most of the wealth of Helfalas – such as it is – comes from the sea. The waters off the coast are teeming with fish, and the coast itself is a breeding ground for seals during the summer.
However this also brings dangers. The rich waters attract predators – sharks and spotted whales make up most of these in the summer, but sea serpents are by far the most dangerous all year round. Elven vessels therefore hug the coast where possible, as deeper water can lead to a risk of being attack.
As well as dangers from the sea, Helfalasians must cope with danger from the north. There is precious little worth stealing in Helfalas, but that does not stop ogre raiders from near constantly harassing the province. With no riches to carry off, they content themselves with people – most of the elven slaves found in the ogre kingdoms are of Helfalas or Tiridor. A string of forts along to border allows for swift response, but every so often a band slips through to wreak havoc. In these times, the people of Helfalas will retreat to their boats if they can, or to the nearest church of Aurvandil if not – such buildings are often the strongest ones in a village and are purposely built to be easily held against outside attack.
Heliant, or Bitterbridge, is a city that barely qualifies as such. At the junction of two roads, one leading south to the prosperous Annúrras and the other leading east to Aglarost, it exists purely as a way point for those travelling from those locations to the garrisons of northern Helfalas. As such the people of Heliant have a reputation for being dour and strict in their manner, and many are former veterans of the elven armies.
Points of Interest
The Chittering Caves are found along a rocky cliff face on the Helfalas coast. They come by their name because of their inhabitants – a hive of gretchin at least five broodmothers strong, with nearly a hundred times as many workers. Though the original caves were formed naturally by several underground streams, they have been expanded upon afterwards into a veritable maze that has never been fully explored by any member of the civilised races.
The gretchin themselves are relatively peaceable, usually kept well-fed by the huge numbers of wild birds which nest on the cliff face, and by the fish that shelter within the lower caverns. However it is still ill-advised for strangers to journey there, as the gretchin are fiercely territorial and have had quite a long time to set up defences for their home. Quite how long is uncertain, but there are suggestions that the caves may have been home to gretchin since the days of the High Kingdom.
In the east of Helfalas, near the mountains of Tiridor, is a great stone circle of uncertain origin. The stones within it are plain, but made of a glossy black rock that is not native to the area but rather resembles the obsidian found in the Peaks of Wrath. The area is slightly more magical than some, but not overwhelmingly so, and excavations have revealed no bones or other indicators that it might be a grave site.
Suggestions have been made that the ruins are Ilmari in origin, though there are no carvings such have been found in other ruins. Others have said it may be a precursor to the dwarven shadow gates, but the area itself is not especially strong with shadow magic, nor of particular historical importance as far as anyone can determine. Yet the effort involved – especially if the stones are indeed of Anaturan origin – would suggest that at some point the location was held in high regard.