Arodil city is located in the heart of Atla’s Breadbasket, the name for the central plains east of the Alpine Mountains. The Province of Arodil is known for its countless miles of farmland and ranches that stretch as far north as Seratov and as far south as Sed. For hundreds of years the city of Arodil has served as a nexus for farmers and traders throughout the region where they would converge on the city twice a month to buy, sell, and trade their goods. Even with the advent of the raillines farmers and ranchers from throughout the province still make the trip to the city for the monthly Farmer’s Market, as it is known, though they do so more as a social tradition than pure necessity.
The city itself is 10 miles long and 10 miles wide forming an almost perfect square. Farmlands are set on a grid with the owners’ houses usually in the northeast corner of their plot of land. The fields and farmlands continue beyond the city’s borders for hundreds of miles; beyond the city proper the lands are more rural and less densely populated save for other major cities. Between each field in the city are small neighborhoods of 50-100 people. The market area, which contains homes, civic buildings, shops, and a medical center, is located in the northern end of the city. 50% of the city’s entire population lives in this densely populated area.
While raillines have made it easier for farmers to ship their goods across the nation, Arodil City itself has become less relevant as a result. Though the locals still enjoy trading at the Farmer’s Market, the bi-monthly event is more a tradition than necessity. Even the provincial offices that once occupied the capital city have moved south to Mineral Town. Arodil is, in a land of dynamic change and burgeoning industries, caught in a time before motorcarts, raillines, and the trappings of modern society.
Because the population of Arodil City is so small compared to its geographic size there is no centralized law enforcement or government beyond the provincial representatives. While there is a local jail run by the sheriff and a few of his or her finest deputies, laws and regulations are dictated and enforced indirectly as national farming regulations change. If a new initiative means certain pesticides are banned or new irrigation techniques are devised the people of Arodil must adapt to the changes. If they fail to comply with the regulations they will be unable to sell their goods, make a living, and provide for their families. The local sheriff handles small domestic disputes and petty crimes while the Grand Council oversees national laws. As a result, the city is almost entirely free of crime and its people considered among the happiest in the nation. The city actually earned the title ‘happiest people in Atla’ as recorded by the provincial census and survey of 245 EM. And though there are many factors (including the climate) which have worked together to form the small utopia, it is the care and concern the citizens share for one another that really sets the city apart from all others.
Like any other city, Arodil has had its share of crime, intrigue, and mysteries. From arson to murder, the story of the past is a story of people at their best and worst. That being said, Arodil rarely makes national headlines and the crime hardly strays from the realm of ordinary to the unusual.
But there was one event in the city’s past that has been told and retold for more than 150 years and still has no clear explanation. It’s a story that has been passed from generation to generation, chilling the hearts of those living in the area.
68 EM was a fantastic year for growing crops and raising livestock. At the time Arodil City was, structurally speaking, almost identical to the city today. The only major difference was a smaller population (about half its current size) and a lack of raillines or motorcarts anywhere nearby.
After a fantastic growing season the bumper crops provided the people with plenty of reasons to celebrate, and so the townsfolk hosted the largest fall harvest festival the city had ever seen. As fall changed to winter and winter gave way to spring the people were energetic and ready to plant, expecting another great year after a cool and moist winter. But the spring rains that should have continued the second great season never came. Cool weather with frequent late-season frosts killed most of the crops and drought conditions developed by mid-summer. The drought lasted through all of 69 EM and by spring of 70 EM conditions had not improved. As they had many times before, the resilient people of Arodil adapted to the difficult circumstances, planting drought tolerant plants such as onions, garlic, spinach, and leeks. However, even these usually hearty plants had trouble growing and the result was a harvest well below the city’s most pessimistic expectations. As the winter of 70 EM approached the people of Arodil were running low on supplies and facing a winter that could potentially drain their larders before spring began. In order to survive the people worked together to stockpile their meager rations in a centralized food storage facility, forgoing the thought of any profits in favor of helping their neighbors manage the upcoming winter.
By the 1st of Lonis, 70 EM, the people had harvested everything they could and were ready for a rough but manageable winter. But just when everyone was ready for a long season of careful living the people noticed something strange happening in their barren fields. By the middle of the month the bi-monthly Farmer’s Market gatherings changed from fun social gatherings to meetings discussing the sudden problems in the fields. While it’s unclear where or when the first sighting took place, by the 31st of Lonis more than a dozen families claimed to see strange people walking the fields late each night. It didn’t take long for the small, close-knit community to realize nobody they knew was responsible for the acts, at least not anyone who regularly attended the Farmer’s Market town meetings.
As the dry fall progressed to a snowless winter, the tales continued to grow and become more bizarre. What started as sightings of unidentified people wandering the fields were soon tales of friends and neighbors pacing the length of the fields each night. The people of Arodil claimed to see their friends, neighbors, and sometimes family members standing in the fields or wandering aimlessly. However, many of the citizens seen walking the fields were home and accounted for on the nights they were witnessed in the fields. While the townsfolk claimed to see their friends and neighbors pacing the fields, none of the reports could be verified. The men and women walking the fields were hardly visible, mere shadowy silhouettes stalking the fields on nights when the moon was less than half visible. The darkness and distance made it difficult for anyone to say exactly who or what might be in the fields.
Ready to put an end to the mass fear that was growing like the crops should have been, a handful of citizens, armed with farm tools as weapons, approached some of the shadowy groups in an attempt to settle the matter. However, anytime the mob approached the dark figures the shadows would disappear into the darkness of the night leaving no traces of their existence. After four reported attempts to approach the shadows the townsfolk were too frightened to attempt another confrontation. And so the year passed, each night the shadowy figures wandering the fields, pacing slowly, vanishing before morning’s first light.
As suddenly as they had come the figures vanished the first night of spring, 71 EM. The following year was the worst in Arodil City’s history with the drought continuing, famine ensuing, and strange diseases spreading the day after the figures disappeared. More than 70% of the city’s population took ill throughout the year, all of them showing the same symptoms—burning fever, dark spots covering their bodies, and dry mouths and eyes. The strange illness and drought plagued the city until the last day of 71 EM. And, as suddenly as the conditions began, the morning light revealed a heavy sky that gave way to record snowfall over the next two weeks. Further, everyone afflicted by the disease showed signs of improvement throughout the first day and, within a week, had completely healed. The following 10 years were Arodil’s City’s most productive to date. Farms in Arodil City thrived even when conditions throughout the rest of the province were anything but favorable.
Nobody has been able to explain the strange figures stalking the fields of Arodil during the last weeks of 70 EM. Many believe the figures were the work of mages and their heretical magik. Others claim the figures were hallucinations brought on by the famine and tainted food stores. Still others wonder if the entire episode wasn’t a fabrication, a tale created by a community looking for any opportunity to break the monotony of a bleak winter. Whatever the cause, the story of the dark figures wandering the fields of Arodil is an Atlan legend that will never be forgotten.