Villa Hargassah is also erroneously called Castle Dufien as it is currently under the control of the feared criminal boss Marcheval Dufien and serves as his base of operations and domicile. The villa is located 12 kilometers south of the city of Udynaesses and it’s accessible by road from Udynaesses only – albeit the only road leading to the villa is in essence only hard packed ground formed under centuries of use. To locals it represents the closest thing to an actual castle but in truth it’s not at all as well protected as actual castles – such that are abundant in Groam – traditionally are.
The place has a long and rather dull history dating back to it’s inception almost 400 years ago. Since that time it has burned a few times but besides that there hasn’t been much activity involving the villa and in fact it has been uninhabited a good portion of it’s history. The villa was originally constructed by the famous and rich Cahebian scholar by the name of Mamad who used it as a private teaching facility and center for learning for the close-by wealthy nobility of Udynaesses. It successfully operated in that role for 25 years after which it was abandoned for unknown reasons to be manned again half a century later by a group of merchants wanting to use it as a waypoint. The villa saw many active years at that time and some troublesome years as well until it was yet again abandoned in the wake of the terrible disease that swept the area a hundred years ago and subsequently led to the fall of Udynaesses as the capital city and as a center for culture and civilization. Yet another 50 years later it served as sanctuary for rebels fighting against the invading Groam and infrequently as a base of operations for small groups of outlaws and bandits – to the Groam officials rebels and bandits both are the same. The last 20 years it has been uninhabited until Marcheval Dufien took it over five years ago and made it his home.
Geography and nature
The surrounding areas are all level desert with some low and persistent sand dunes dotting the landscape. The villa is on the outskirts of the city of Udynaesses and the sandy desert quickly changes to packed earth and rolling plains when moving towards Udynaesses from the villa. There are little vegetation around the villa and most of it is grass adapted to rooting in the sand. There are a few bigger trees here and there and towards Udynaesses their number significantly increases albeit there are no forests nearby. Some palm trees grow in groups of few giving away the locations of underground water sources easily. The entire reason why the villa is where it is and why it is still standing there is that there is a stable fresh water reservoir underneath the area and it is reaching almost to the surface right where the villa is located. The three wells of the villa (two of which are inside the keep) are tapping into the reservoir with shafts of about 20 meters deep. The wells have operated without disruption for hundreds of years but raising the water to ground level does require some effort since the water level is so deep below ground. The sand in the region is rather dense and much easier to move about than the actual desert ten kilometers to the south. The area is really a transitional area between savanna and desert.
The villa has never been in a position to offer any strategic importance. It’s location standing at the edge of a desert is remote at best and the only commodity worth protecting over is water – which is abundant in the north anyway. The location of Udynaesses is such that the city is positioned right between the border of Groam and Caheb and the villa and thus the villa has no importance even as an outpost or forward base. However, during the days when Udynaesses was the capital city and trade in the area was booming, the villa enjoyed it’s fair share of fame as a caravan stop for merchants. Better walls and more storage space was built simply to keep beasts of nature and bandits away from the goods and while even parapets were built on top of the walls, their importance as a defensive structure was mainly due to them keeping the wildlife out. Today there’s only one road leading to and from the villa and that road leads to Udynaesses having only a few intersections to connect local farms to Udynaesses. Currently the somewhat more fortified villa is serving as a wanna-be castle for the crime lord Dufien manning it but it’s quite doubtful the villa could stand even a smallish well-planned assault. The capacity of the villa to withstand a siege is also next-to-nothing as there’s limited space to store perishables and the villa imports all it’s food items from Udynaesses anyway.
The villa has a mix of modern and historic architectural features fusing together the more pragmatic, regal and no-nonsense old style of Groam architecture of old and the more elaborate and stylistic yet functional architecture of Caheb. The styles do not clash but rather merge in the structures of the villa and the many builders working on different centuries have done a swell job in maintaining a coherent and even beautiful serenity over the structures. The keep was originally only at ground level but a second story along with three towers were built 200 years ago when the villa was busy with caravans coming and going and needed additional space to accommodate both goods and men. The villa initially only had a sturdy cast iron gate and while the original gate still stands, a second gate and a small set of secondary walls was built at some obscure point in the history to make the gate less vulnerable and perhaps to keep the flying sand away from the courtyard as well.
Since the villa was not originally built as a defensive structure, it’s defenses against assaulting invaders are poor. Originally it was surrounded by an even lower wall than what it is now but about a hundred years ago the walls were rebuilt along with the massive corner towers in order to anticipate an invasion from Groam. At that time the walkways and parapets on top of the walls were built as well as supporting arches that simultaneously created cooler areas to store goods under the walkways and provided space for hammocks. All the villa’s various owners have made their own modifications and improvements but the four corner towers are by far the best defenses the villa has. The towers are built out of much stronger stone than the other structures of the villa. The corner towers are made of stone that comes from a now-forgotten quartz stone quarry on the north side of Udynaesses whereas the other structures are built from a rather low quality limestone (infused with sand and clay) excavated from the site. Grounded, graveled and packed limestone has also been used as the basing material for the corner towers to help with their enormous weight but while the towers seem massive they are not based well enough to withstand neither time nor actual combat because of the soft ground and the water reservoir beneath them making them less than ideal. They are heavy enough to provide protection against small infantry groups but they would probably not be able to take much beating from siege weapons until they would crumble or topple even. However, the surrounding area is rather level and plain and the towers do have an excellent line of sight all around to spot unwelcome visitors.
The villa can accommodate roughly 100 persons if some of them wouldn’t mind sleeping outdoors in hammocks under the walkways. The interior areas would easily accommodate between 30-40 persons. Currently the villa has 18 permanent residents – 7 of which are women and 3 children. A carpenter and a mason take care of the villa and it’s courtyard, a total of five persons both acquire and preserve foods and prepare them for consumption, three persons manage the stables, six Marcheval Dufien’s men loiter around as “guards” and two are too young to participate in anything meaningful. There are no maids, servants or slaves in the villa but come time for festivities and we can rely on Marcheval hiring additional people from Udynaesses.
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