The Redflow River

You may hear some say that Redflow is the lifeblood of the Kingdom, and they will not be far from the truth. It is certainly the lifeblood of Eastkeep. Without the Duagan iron, the Kingdom would be wanting. But without the bounty of the Elvenhome fields, our city would be starving.
— Eastkeep schoolmaster to students
T
he most important river in the region of Cartyrion known as "the Kingdoms" - and therefore arguably one of the of the most important rivers in all the world - is the Redflow River. It traces a course from the Iron Mountains to the Inner Sea. River vessels ply its waters, heading both upriver and down, moving a wide variety of goods.

Its upper banks touch the borders of the Alev Firsthome lands as well as the lands claimed by the Duagan folk around their Ironhill Delve, while its lower course flows through the fertile farmlands of the First Kingdom of Humankind. Three races of the Folk therefore rely on the Redflow River not only for trade amongst themselves, but also for access to the sea and the rest of the world beyond.
Source
Ironspire Peak (Iron Mountains)
Terminus
Inner Sea (Eastkeep, First Kingdom)
Length
923 mi (1485 km)
Flow Speed
3 mph (5 kph)
 
Most folk in the First Kingdom today believe the Redflow got its name because of the fierce battles fought along its banks during the The Great Strife. When the The Armies of Coercion poured out of the Iron Mountains to march on Elderkeep, it was said the river ran red with blood for weeks as battle after battle was fought along its banks. But the river's name is much older than that, and it comes from the reddish color of the iron oxides that the waters carry out of the northernmost Iron Mountains. To this day, those minerals continue to give the waters a faint reddish tinge.
Cry Me a River
According to the Duagan history of the Ironhills Delve, it was only after the Duagan folk began to establish the delve that a stream burst forth from springs on the mountain's western face. They named this new river, the Tears of the Mountain, claiming that the mountain itself was weeping in joy at being deemed worthy to be a new home for the Duagan folk. This new river flowed down into a river that already existed to the South, but from that point on, the Duagans considered the western mountain springs to be the source of the river that ultimately reached to the sea, and the branch that joined it from the east was considered to be the tributary.

Geography

Source
The Redflow rises deep within the mountain which houses the Ironhill Delve of the Duagan folk, which they call Ironhome Spire. The peak of this mountain is covered year round by snow and glacier. The runoff from the peak falls through great crevasses into the interior of the mountain itself and converge into a single mighty stream that exits the base of the mountain's western face. The huge cavern at this point is used as a trading port by the Delve.
Terminus
At its western end, the Redflow spreads into a delta as it empties into the Inner Sea. The First Kingdom city of Eastkeep is built on and around this delta, thus encompassing the river's exit to the sea. Eastkeep's port is thus the gateway linking the trade that flows on the river with the rest of the world.
Tributaries
Numerous tributaries flow into the Redflow from their sources in the Iron Mountains to the north. Two notable tributaries enter the Redflow from the south as well - one from the central part of the Iron Mountain range joins the river near its eastern source; another joins the river after draining the northern parts of the grassy plains that mark the edge of the Alev Firsthome region.

The Redflow River
Navigability
The Redflow is navigable by smaller trade barges and personal craft along its full course from the Ironhills Delve to Eastkeep. Many of the tributaries are similarly navigable at least halfway toward their sources. Not all of these courses are naturally navigable, but the Duagan skills with earth and stone have been used to carve channels through the shallower stretches to preserve shipping viability.

From the Duagan city of Irongate to the sea, the river is sufficiently broad and deep to support much larger shipping as well. Occasional dredging of winter-fed silt deposits is required, but the Duagans and Humans work in concert to ensure shipping remains viable.
Important Cities and Towns
In addition to Eastkeep at the terminus and the Ironhill Delve at the source, there are a number of other settlements along the Redflow that warrant mention. They are listed in the order encountered by a traveler from the Delve to the sea:
  • The sprawling Duagan town called Confluence spreads out to encompass the merging points of two major tributary systems with the Redflow River. The farmers and herdsfolk of the Duagan lands around the town bring their goods here to be shipped as needed.
  • The Duagan city of Irongate was built astride the river at the point where the lands of the Duagan, the Alev, and the Humans all converge. The river itself has been engineered by the Duagans to be an integral part of the city's architecture - it flows canal-like through the center of the city, with many stone and iron bridges crossing it along the way. The river passes under massive stone arches as it goes through the city's outer walls. Huge portcullises were installed in these arches after the Great Strife, but they have never been lowered to defend the city since their completion.
  • Downriver from Irongate, the Human town of Borderkeep can be found. This is home to several well-respected breeders of Redflow Turtles - the "draft horse" of the river trade.
  • The Human town of Battlecrux marks the point where, during the Great Strife, the armies of the First Kingdom stood and repelled the last great advance of the Dark forces that had risen out of the Iron Mountains. Farmers and herdsfolk around this town still claim occasional sightings of tormented spirits haunting the ancient battlegrounds that stretch across the gap between the Iron Mountains and the Western Elvenring.
  • The town of Timberport is found at the confluence of the Timberflow coming down from the north and the Redflow. Most of the vessels, large and small, plying the river were built in the shipyards of this town.
  • The town of Riverbend is nestled inside the last major bend of the Redflow before it reaches the sea. The river bends ninety degrees here, edging the town on two sides.
  • Ecology

    The fauna of the Redflow is typical of what one would expect in any river. Land creatures living nearby rely on the river as a water source; some like the bears that occasionally follow a tributary out of the foothills find food in the river as well.

    The Fishgator - a Redflow predator
    Many species of fish can be found in the river, from common trout to the beast called the fishgator by the folk along the river. This terror, found in the downstream regions of the river, can reach 8 ft (2.5m) in length. Its 2 ft (60cm) toothy jaws and carnivorous appetite make it hazardous to be in the water near one.

    History

    The Redflow has been an important trade route for as long as the Duagan folk have occupied the Ironhills Delve. But the real historical importance of the river lies in the part it played in the struggles during the Great Strife. The god-war saw armies of the Dark gods pouring out of the Iron Mountains and along the river's course in an effort to overrun the First Kingdom of Humanity. Great battles were fought in the gap between the Elvenring and Iron Mountains. The lands around Borderkeep and Battlecrux are the sites of clashes where the humans stood their ground and defeated their foes. The Humans erected fortifications there; the ruins of many of these can be seen today amid the hilly fields and grasslands. Some folk maintain these are still haunted by the fallen from both sides of the conflict.

    Trade Along the River

    Goods Being Moved
    A variety of trade goods from all over Cartyrion can be found in the rivercraft of the merchants traveling up and down the river, but there are four types of goods that make up the vast majority of river trade:
  • Iron ingots and finished iron goods produced from the forges of the Ironhill Delve are shipped downriver to be bought and sold in Eastkeep and beyond.
  • Timber harvested from the foothills and lower reaches of the Iron Mountain slopes are brought to the river from various tributaries, predominantly those within the First Kingdom. While some is used in the towns along the river for building, much of this timber finds its way to the shipyards of Eastgate.
  • Grain and other foodstuffs are shipped upriver as far as the Ironhills Delve. All sorts of meats, vegetables, herbs and spices make up the food trade on the river, but grain is the biggest single contributor to freight volumes. Besides being used to bake bread, it takes a great deal of barley to produce the ale consumed by an entire Duagan delve.
  • Exotic imports from afar also make up a portion of the traffic moving upriver from Eastkeep. Specialty woods from the Felisean rain forests... diamonds from the Chittiki Warrens... other precious gems from the Crystal Delve via Elderkeep... these and much more are carried upriver to towns and the Delve at the end of the river.
  • Vessels Being Used
    The Redflow, especially the segments downriver from Irongate, is a rather busy river for trade. Vessels in a wide variety of shapes and sizes ply its waters moving trade goods in both directions. While some of these vessels, such as the common canoes and rafts, will be familiar to anyone experienced in river trade around the world, some are unique to the Redflow.

    The river between Eastkeep and Timberport sees quite a few one or two-masted sailing vessels. These range from small one-masted dinghies, through larger cogs and sloops, to even larger caravels and schooners. The prevailing winds out of the east allow sails to propel ships upriver; and even if the wind is not favorable, this segment of the river is wide and deep enough to allow these vessels to tack their way upstream.

    The Redflow Smoothback
    This is a variety of freshwater turtle native to the Redflow. They have been bred and domesticated for use as draft animals by the folk along the river for centuries. These are large creatures, often measuring over 6.5ft (2m) in length from beak to tail and weighing several hundred pounds.

    Unlike most freshwater turtle species, their limbs are flipper-like rather than ending in clawed feet, making them resemble their deep-ocean cousins more than other common land or freshwater species. These flippers grant them sustained swimming at speeds of up to 10mph (16kph), with short bursts of speed at twice that rate. Under harness, their speeds are diminished somewhat by the weight they are pulling, but a properly sized team is more than enough to overcome the 3mph (5kph) currents of the river.
    Unique to the Redflow until recently, though, are the craft referred to as river wagons (which carry cargo) and river coaches (which carry passengers). These can be found along the entire length of the Redflow from Eastkeep to the Ironhills Delve.

    What makes these vessels unique is their method of propulsion: they are pulled by turtles. The smallest craft may have a single turtle in harness, while larger barge-like craft may rely on teams of two, four, or even eight creatures to bring them upriver against the current.

    The Redflow Riverfolk

    The folk who make their living on the Redflow comprise a culture unique to the river - a culture that spans races. These folk have formed a community that is found along the entire length of the river, with most of those whose occupation is the transport of goods up and down the flow knowing almost every else. Few of these folk have permanent homes; most of the river wagons will include a small shelter where driver and family reside.
    The Dwalev Swimship
    Another vessel unique to the Redflow is a craft devised by an inventive Dwalev named Glenivart Smedilboop called the Swimship. This vessel makes use of the type of engineering that only one of that race would consider.

    A complex - and to most confounding - collection of gears, pistons, pulleys, cables, and levers connect a steam-generating boiler to a long set of articulated arms - each 20' (6m) long - which propel a barge-like boat through the water using the same motion as a swimmer doing the breast stroke. When fully up to speed, a swimship is capable of outpacing the turtle-drawn craft on the river.

    The vessels have a bad reputation among the non-Dwalev river folk. They are extremely difficult to steer properly, hence groundings along the shores are common occurrences. Furthermore, their loud steam hisses and the sometimes erratic splashing of the arms often spooks teams of smoothbacks nearby, thus wreaking havoc among the rest of the traffic on the river.

    Fortunately for the rest of the merchants and riverfolk on the waters, only four of these craft are currently operational.

    Overnight camps appear along the river every evening. These temporary villages allow the riverfolk to socialize, gamble their coin on games of chance, or even celebrate special events such as life-bondings. Craft that operate as portable taverns move up and down the river by day, setting up for an evening of trade at one of the overnight camps. Craftsmen work out of floating shops that also become parts of these villages, offering repair and maintenance of vessels. Floating "general stores", clothing shops, and even bakeries and restaurants join these "night villages", as they are called, each evening to allow the Riverfolk the opportunities to shop and mingle just as the residents of any land-based village would do.

    In the mornings, the folk return to their barges and these villages disappear, only to be reconstituted the following evening with different mixes of residents.
    Now, ya be rememberin'... anywheres on th' river ya be, yer family'll be there fer ya. Riverfolk keep watch on their own, and ya can count on any night village bein' yer hometown. If th' cityfolk ask where ya hail from, just tell 'em, "the Redflow".
    — Riverfolk parent to a child
     

    Credits

    Map and Banner generated in Inkarnate
    Side panel images courtesy of HeroForge™ and Pixabay
    Fishgator image source by Vizetelly from Pixabay

    Comments

    Please Login in order to comment!
    11 May, 2022 18:42

    Wow, Bob ... this is jam-packed with info. Well done!

    Here is my River Challenge Darkwater River! Come vist my world Pangorio for exciting tales, world lore, and RPG adventures ! Hypnosium is my new world I will be trying to fill for Summer Camp ... perhaps even sooner if the muse sttrikes.
    11 May, 2022 20:04

    Thanks... and thanks for taking the time to comment! Your Darkwater was no slouch either as far as info was concerned.

    Teams of turtles pulling barges... villages that appear and disappear overnight... check out the: Redflow River
    12 May, 2022 22:36

    Great article Bob, full of great information. I like the map of the river with all the towns and cities. My favourite part is most definitely the barge shops, which become night villages, that was a great idea i thought. A well deserved Like/Fave from me.   Aemon

    13 May, 2022 12:57

    Thanks! And thanks for taking the time to leave a comment! They're great encouragements to keep going with all this worldbuilding stuff!

    Teams of turtles pulling barges... villages that appear and disappear overnight... check out the: Redflow River
    16 May, 2022 15:55

    Beautiful article! This is the level of thoughtfulness towards my own worldbuilding that I aspire to!

    16 May, 2022 18:42

    Thanks for the read, the like, and most of all the comment! It's greatly appreciated. I'm flattered regarding your aspirations. I took a peek at your Raven's Club article in Britannia and Hiberia... awesome article, and beautifully laid out. If your river article is done, make sure it gets to your recent article lists on home page. I look forward to it.

    Teams of turtles pulling barges... villages that appear and disappear overnight... check out the: Redflow River
    16 May, 2022 20:48

    Turtles!!! I want a dozen! o,o

    17 May, 2022 12:32

    Travel to Borderkeep... they're for sale!   Thanks as always for taking the time to read, like, and especially comment. It's always greatly appreciated.

    Teams of turtles pulling barges... villages that appear and disappear overnight... check out the: Redflow River
    21 May, 2022 19:56

    Some very good worldbuilding done here! And it seems I am not the only one using turtles for transport although yours are not the boat itself xp Nice article!

    Feel free to check out my River challenge article and my Secrets in the swamp Adventure article if you want to see what I am up to!
    22 May, 2022 03:07

    yeah... mine aren't big enough to BE the boat, but eight of them can pull a helluva load upriver!   Thanks for taking the time to read, like, and comment!

    Teams of turtles pulling barges... villages that appear and disappear overnight... check out the: Redflow River
    Sage SailingOcelot
    Sailing Ocelot
    1 Jun, 2022 20:23

    What a beautiful article! I love the blending background and how well the article is organised. It was really nice to see it read on Sable's stream!   I think the article starts well with the quote, but I would consider rewriting the first sentence underneath to make it easier to read and snappier.   I think the detail is great, I love the mention of the vessels that are commonly used for trade.

    ~~~~~~~~ SailingOcelot
    10 Jun, 2022 12:34

    I'll take a look at it, but it's too late in the judging cycle to mess with right now, so I'll go with it as it is for the time being. But thanks for the suggestion - and thanks for taking the time to read, like, and especially comment! (And I apologize for taking so long to reply!)

    Teams of turtles pulling barges... villages that appear and disappear overnight... check out the: Redflow River
    Sage eccbooks
    E. Christopher Clark
    2 Jun, 2022 10:55

    Great work throughout. I can't decide whether I like the mountain crying with joy or the fishgator more. Such great tidbits all along the way.

    Check out my pledge for Summer Camp 2022
    10 Jun, 2022 12:37

    Yeah... those dwarves are a self-important lot, aren't they?! FIshgator was fun, too... and the teams of turtles hauling vehicles. It's an interesting river to visit! Thanks for taking the time to read, like, and comment, and apologies for taking so long to acknowledge that you did.

    Teams of turtles pulling barges... villages that appear and disappear overnight... check out the: Redflow River
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