The province of Gavony is where humanity remains safest and strongest. It is home to Thraben, the plane's largest city. Thraben houses the Cathedral of Avacyn, where the archangel herself resided before vanishing. Smaller towns radiate outward from Thraben across Gavony's rocky moors. Small copses of trees dot the landscape of rolling hills and heaths. Because more human dead are buried here than anywhere else, Gavony is more plagued by the undead than other provinces, and geists are more common as well.
Thraben, the High City
The city of Thraben sits on a massive mesa in the middle of the Lake of Herons, a long body of water that flows around the rock and over an enormous waterfall. The eastern tip of the rock juts out over the waterfall itself, and it is on this dramatic pinnacle that the Cathedral of Avacyn stands.
Thraben is the largest city in the known lands of Innistrad. It's the seat of the Avacynian Church, built as a city of walls and various bulwarks designed to keep supernatural threats at bay. While smaller settlements are constantly under siege by monsters, the inner parts of Thraben and the Cathedral are the safest areas in Innistrad, which sometimes gives the bishops of the church a skewed perspective on how dangerous the world outside really is.
Thraben lies in on the northern edge of the province of Gavony. It's the largest walled city in Innistrad, although parts of Nephalia's seaports are more densely populated. Thraben's population is mainly clergy, merchants, and artisans. With the church's influence, the city maintains a high standard of cleanliness and order. There is a standing militia and the church pays a host of workers to keep the streets swept, the public gardens and grafs tended, and the riff-raff off the street. Begging is strictly prohibited, and there is a street curfew enforced by the militia. Several alms houses exist just outside the main walls of Thraben, and the church regularly sponsors "caravans" to take the needy to the sea ports, where they will ostensibly be able to find employment or trade work more easily.
Thraben has city blocks devoted to burial sites known as Blessed Grafs. These are a grid of tombs and mausoleums under heavy guard from Elgaud soldiers and tended by horticulturists to keep trees and flowers blooming around the tombs. In Thraben, these are the equivalent of parks, and people visit them recreationally. It is considered relaxing to spend time in a place where kin are enjoying their Blessed Sleep.
The everyday life of a human varies dramatically according to one's class. The wealthy families and clergy live in comfort and safety. Thraben clergy, in particular, have every need met by the church. The middle classes—artisans and merchants—are also quite comfortable. But the working class and farmers have a much shorter lifespan; they are more at risk from the dark things of the world, and they suffer from more sickness and famine as well. A farmer lives an average of forty years, while a bishop lives closer to seventy.
Safety is the main commodity in Innistrad. The wealthier you are, the safer you can make yourself. The high walls of Thraben protect the well-to-do who live inside. Titled families in Gavony have fortified manor houses, while the farmers must make do with the wooden walls of their farmhouses.
Because of the lack of physical safety, the poor spend a larger portion of their income of enchantments and non-physical means of protection. Tithing is required for everyone, and the church charges a small fee for every blessing and spell. Even at unstaffed little altars, payment is expected, and many of the faithful diligently pay even when there is no one to enforce it. Not unexpectedly, there is resentment among some for the amount of money required of the poor to uphold their faith. This resentment increases dramatically as the effectiveness of the Avacynian blessings diminish.
The sense of community is very strong among humans in Gavony and in other provinces as well. Little altars and crossway chapels aren't as common in Gavony as in the other provinces because of the strength of the parish churches. The parish church is the focal point of any community in Gavony.
Most people worship several times a week, and many pass by the church on a daily basis for a blessing of safety.
Cathedral of Avacyn
A massive cathedral with three wings and a network of cloisters, courtyards, outlying schools, and forges. There are well-kept gardens and substantial training grounds for cathars (holy warriors). Outside of Thraben, churches are quite rustic, constructed from rough planks and often containing only a single room. The Cathedral is opulent by comparison. The grounds between the wings form a triangular courtyard that is locked from public view by high walls. Most people don't know the courtyard exists. Only the most powerful bishops are permitted to set foot in it.
The Cathedral's structure symbolically divides the wealthy and poor of the world. Each class has its own designated place to worship:
Parishes are an administrative designation used by the church. Gavony has five parishes, including Thraben. There are three in the area called Nearheath: Videns, Wittal, and Effalen. The region known as the Moorland is a single parish of the same name, although it is larger in size than the other four combined. Each parish may have multiple priests, chapels, and small altars.
The Voice of the Moon
On Innistrad, as elsewhere, the moon controls the tides (as well as the path of rivers and other bodies of water). The River Kirch flows into the Lake of Herons, over Kirch Falls, and into the sea. The continuous roar of the water over the falls has a different rhythm depending on the season and volume of water coming down from the high lands. The Cathedral grounds are lush and fertile from the continual spray of mist.
The River Kirch
This wide, fast-flowing river originates in the mountains of Stensia. It empties into the Lake of Herons, with murky water, high ridges bordering the bank, and depths of hundreds of feet. Great sea serpents and other creatures are said to hide in the depths of the Lake of Herons, which stretches almost 20 miles before flowing over the 2,000-foot waterfall known as Kirch Falls.
The mist from the waterfall is collected in long banners of heavy, white cloth. The water wrung out is considered holy, but once it is gone, the shrouds still have magical properties. Skaberen will kill for these shrouds, as they give extra stamina to their undead skaab creations.
Within a few miles south of Thraben's walls, there are several medium-sized towns. This area is called the Nearheath and is inhabited mainly by artisans and farmers. Being so close to Thraben affords a good deal of protection to these towns. Most have fortifications or walls in case of a ghoul attack or some other threat, but there are many outlying farms as well. Nearheath is composed of several parishes:
A region of vineyards and rolling hills with small castles with walled estates. The River Kirch runs through this region.
This is the most thickly forested area of Gavony. Although small in size, the forest is dense and dark, with ancient pines trees that dwarf the deciduous forests in the neighboring parishes. The forest has become particularly dangerous now that the infamous werewolf Skaharra and her Leeraug cohorts have moved to the area.
This is the rockiest area of Gavony. A vicious coterie of vampires have taken to preying on the periphery of the parish for sport. Two of the main villages in the Nearheath are Estwald and Hanweir. Estwald is the center of woodworking in Gavony and part of the Wittal Parish. Hanweir is the agricultural jewel of Gavony. Hanweir is the site of the largest open-air market, the place where livestock are traded and trappers from Kessig bring their wares. Hanweir is in Videns Parish, and the River Kirch runs through the village, making it a bustling port where goods are brought in from the other provinces before being transported up to Thraben by horse and cart.
Beyond the Nearheath is the Moorland. This has always been a more desolate region, filled with stories of spectral wolves and wandering spirits. There are few trees in the Moorland and the ground is covered with coarse grass, bracken, and violet heather. There are boulders and standing rocks, and the countryside seems to be covered in perpetual mist. The area is rife with geists, many of them dangerous, and travelers are constantly at risk from them as well as other things that wander the countryside.
This was formerly a village of trappers on the border with Kessig, which has been entirely overrun by Geralf and his undead creations. His sister constantly lays siege to the village, seemingly for no purpose other than to best her brother. Geralf has grander ambitions and has been sending armies of undead into the Nearheath and raiding villages there.
There are more graveyards—known as grafs—in Gavony than anywhere else in Innistrad. Thraben in particular has many mausoleums, graveyards, and even paupers' gravesites, because people bring their dead from all over Innistrad to bury them in the perceived safety of the holy city. There is a gate, the Arch of the Dead, through which pilgrims bring the bodies of their loved ones into the city.
A few terms to know:
Gisa and Geralf
There used to be more towns in the Moorland than there are now. Two rival necromancers— brother and sister, both quite insane—moved into the area in recent years. The siblings were scions of a noble family and distant relatives of the current Lunarch. They were banished from Thraben in a hushed scandal and have since moved to the Moorland, where they wage war against one another by raising armies of undead. Their battles have prompted many of the Moorland's inhabitants to move to the Nearheath, leaving the area even more desolate than before. Now, marauding ghouls range freely through the moors, lost playthings in the mad, epic battles of Gisa and Geralf.
The Estwald Murders
One of the most notorious cases in recent years involved a series of murders in the Wittal Parish. In Innistrad, murder is not unusual, but these deaths were particularly gruesome. The murderer left mauled body parts from the same victim at various chapels and priests' houses. The church sent a renowned inquisitor named Thedis, who was found dead in the same manner, his head mounted on a post near the outer wall of Thraben. Additional inquisitors and a small force of cathars were sent to the area, and it was eventually determined that it was the work of the newly arrived Leeraug werewolf pack, who were making a territorial claim with the grisly leavings. The battalion is still there, having been unable to roust the werewolves from the forest, although they have contained the murders.