To Turtleback Ferry
Having received instructions from Lord-Mayor Haldmeer Grobaras of Magnimar to travel to Turtleback Ferry and investigate the mysterious silence from Fort Rannick, and with an ominous message from Xanesha's "sister" Lucrecia directing them to the same locations, the PCs of Shadows of Thassilon now face a journey halfway across Varisia to their next destination.
The Yondabakari Route
Traffic between Magnimar and Turtleback Ferry typically follows the Varisian Yondabakari Route, one of the traditional caravan trails of the region's native wanderers, as far as Ilsurian; from there, a trail follows the eastern bank of the Skull River and the shore of Claybottom Lake north to Turtleback Ferry. The route can be broken down into segments as follows:
- Magnimar to Wartle, 184 miles;
- Wartle to Whistledown, 113 miles;
- Whistledown to Ilsurian, 64 miles;
- Ilsurian to Turtleback Ferry, 82 miles;
For a total distance of 443 miles. The roads and trails of this route closely follow Varisia's waterways, and there is no significant difference in length between the road and water routes.
Lone travellers, couriers, Varisian families, and those without significant cargo to transport generally make their way along the Yondabakari route by road, following the various roads and trails that run parallel to the Yondabakari and Skull rivers and the shores of Lake Syrantula and Claybottom Lake. The eastern part of the route, called the Dry Way, stands in contrast to the extensive swampland of the Mushfens south of the Yondabakari; this section runs from Magnimar to Whistledown. This route crosses the Lower Lampblack River at Wartle, and the Skull River at Ilsurian; ferries service both crossings and can transport people, horses, and even small wagons from one riverbank to the other. A wagon can cover this route in 28 days; a human on foot, in 19 days; and someone on a good riding horse, in a little over 9 days. Starting from Sandpoint and cutting across the moors to the south of town will shave about two days off this journey time for a human on foot, or one day for a rider on horseback; the moors and the Yondabakari fens are rough enough to make this impractical for wagons.
Goods typically travel between Magnimar and Turtleback Ferry by river and lake; while upriver travel is especially slow, boats and barges can haul far more cargo than pack animals or horse-drawn wagons at the same cost. Passage has to be arranged at a settlement; it's generally not possible to wander the riverbank waiting for a barge, boat, or draft team to pass by and simply “hop on” at that midpoint of the journey.
A barge or keelboat travelling downriver from Turtleback Ferry will reach Ilsurian in roughly 24 hours of travel. From there, traffic follows the shore of Lake Syrantula toward Whistledown. There is no steady, directional current in the lake, so this takes roughly 13 days for barges, while a more agile keelboat can be rowed over the same distance in a week; both types of boat typically find sheltered spots along the lakeshore to moor between shifts of rowing or poling. From Whistledown to Magnimar usually takes from three and a half to four days. Those craft stopping at Wartle usually arrive there after about a day and a half; upon then departing from Wartle, it typically takes a little over two days to reach Magnimar. Total journey time is usually 12 days for a keelboat, 18 days for a barge.
Travel upriver is a much slower process. Against any significant river current, it's impossible to make headway by rowing; draft animals must be used to tow the vessel upriver, and while a pair of donkeys or ponies will suffice for the smallest barges and boats, larger vessels such as keelboats demand teams of draft horses. Progress upriver is at a rate of roughly one-half mile per hour, or five miles per day assuming a ten-hour towing shift. The riverine portions of the journey upriver from Magnimar to Turtleback Ferry thus take a minimum of 76 days. A keelboat can be rowed from Whistledown to Ilsurian in about a week, while a barge can be poled over the same distance in 13 days; unencumbered draft teams on the shore can cover the same distance in about a day and a half. The minimum total journey time is 83 days for a keelboat, 89 days for a barge, though a more typical journey might be anywhere from 90 to 100 days. A keelboat that sacrifices cargo for additional teams of draft horses, working them in three shifts, can make continuous progress at a rate of twelve miles per day, covering the riverine portions of the route in 32 days and completing the journey in 40 days, assuming no mishaps.
While the Yondabakari route represents the most-travelled path between Magnimar and Turtleback Ferry, your party is setting out from Sandpoint rather than Magnimar, and may wish to consider other routes across the country.
Nybor or Wartle and the Old Sanos Trail
A party disinclined to follow the Yondabakari River can cut directly eastwards across the trackless moors of the Lost Coast, toward the Lower Lampblack River, crossing at either Nybor or Wartle; the former lies on the western bank of the river, at the south end of Ember Lake. This distance of roughly 100 miles will take a little less than three days on horseback, or about five and a half days for a human on foot. From there, the route turns north-east through the Sanos Forest; as the crow flies, it's about 150 miles to the north end of Claybottom Lake and from there on to Turtleback Ferry, but progress through the trackless Sanos Forest will likely be slow, taking six days on horseback or twelve on foot. The Old Sanos Trail winds through the Sanos Forest to connect several secluded gnome villages deep in the wood, but its route is not especially direct, and rumour holds that the gnomes of the Sanos Forest have enchanted the trail to misdirect unwelcome strangers to the region.
The Cinder Road
This route branches off from the Yondabakari Route at Wartle, though travellers starting out from Sandpoint might join the route at Nybor instead. From Nybor, the road follows the western shore of Ember Lake and the course of the Lampblack River until Ravenmoor, a distance of some 180 miles; at that point, travellers heading to Turtleback Ferry must depart from the Cinder Road and cut across roughly 120 miles of trackless wilderness. From Sandpoint, the journey will take around 21 days for a human on foot, or ten and a half for a rider on a good horse; however, much of the cross-country leg of the journey takes place in the shadows of the Iron Peaks and the Storval Rise, making this a rather more dangerous route than either the Yondabakari Route or the Old Sanos Trail.
Along the Way
Depending on the route chosen, the party will pass by or through a variety of settlements, regions, and features on its way from Sandpoint to Turtleback Ferry.
Said to be home to ghosts, werewolves, and other horrors, Ashwood has perhaps the darkest reputation of any of Varisia's forests.
This dark, dense, and tangled forest is known as a haven for bandits and goblins.
Galdurian depends on farming, fishing, and the trade of goods along the Lampblack River and across Ember Lake, timber and grain especially, but the town's claim to fame is the Twilight Academy. This college of the arcane was established to avoid what its founders regarded as the political pressures and intrigues of the academies in Varisia's larger cities; many of its students come from Korvosa and Magnimar, however, and they tend to bring their own intrigues with them.
Ilsurian is named for the Korvosan expatriate who founded the town in the wake of the Chelish Empire's collapse and the subsequent upheaval in Korvosa. Its people are fierce and proud, clinging to Ilsur's ideals of martial merit and refusing to cede their independence to either Magnimar or Korvosa. Although Ilsurian prospers as a nexus of trade along Varisia's rivers, travellers may find the townsfolk rather intense in their convictions and inhospitable to those not of Chelish descent.
The ogres, hill giants, and stone giants that dwell amidst the valleys of this rugged mountain range are notoriously territorial, and while there's good farmland to be claimed in the southern foothills of the Iron Peaks, settlers must take great care to avoid rousing the wrath of their larger neighbours.
The Malgorian Mountains are one of Varisia's most geologically active mountain ranges, dotted with hot springs, geysers, tar pits, and other hazards that can surprise the unwary.
South of the Yondabakari River, Varisia's coastal lowlands slump into a broad belt of stagnant fens and salt marshes. The Mushfens are primarily the domain of boggard tribes and the occasional family of horrific marsh giants.
A greater concentration of half-elves and half-orcs can be found in this Magnimarian holding than in any other town of similar size elsewhere in Varisia, and it has a reputation as a welcoming place to those of mixed or uncertain heritage.
The inhabitants of this isolated town are content to trade with those headed up or down the Lampblack River, but they are less welcoming to visitors who express an interest in staying overnight.
Here, the walls between Golarion and the First World grow thin, and the Sanos Forest has long held a reputation as the domain of the fey. Tiny, secluded gnomish hamlets dot the woods, unmarked on any outsider's map.
This eerie and ill-omened band of swampland lies between the Sanos Forest and the Skull River.
Although Sipplerose is the largest of the Sanos Forest's gnomish enclaves, it's still little more than a village. While its existence isn't exactly a secret, most of the Sanos gnomes are content to live undisturbed and allow outsiders to think of Whistledown as the centre of Varisia's gnome population.
This escarpment cleaves across Varisia from the north-west to the south-east and divides the "civilised" lowlands of the south, where native Varisians and Chelish colonists dominate, from the Shoanti-claimed highlands of the north.
This soggy and ramshackle trading post serves as a ferry across the Lower Lampblack River where it merges into the waters of the Yondabakari, and as a base of operations for hunters, fur trappers, and other swampfolk who make their living off the Mushfens and its denizens.
Although Whistledown's population is split almost evenly between humans and gnomes, people tend to think of it as a primarily gnomish settlement. The town draws its name from the wooden charms and wind chimes that decorate the eaves of many of its houses; the whistling song they produce when the winds are right is considered unsettling by outsiders.
The village of Wolf's Ear has a murky, persistent reputation as a haven for lycanthropes, despite attempts by both Magnimar and the village itself to silence such talk. Whether both parties are keen to suppress those rumours because they're false, or because they're actually true, is something that varies from tale to tale.