Karthwasten (literally Karth-Spring in older Breto-Nordic dialects) is a major trade city and the seat of County Karthwasten, as defined by the Treaty of Chorrol. It is the largest city in the Reach, and one of the larger cities in all of Skyrim. Karthwasten is built upon the southern end of a mesa-like outcrop, located in the Lorchwuir Heath region of the Reach, between the eastern and western forks of the Karth River and the Vorngad Forest to the north. Officially, Karthwasten is ruled by Jarl Jona the Ansei-Ender, but is currently governed in the name of King Barda by Thane Fomir the Voiceful in her absence.
Long before the Direnni, Redguards, or Nords ruled the Lorchwuir Heath, the area around Karthwasten was part of the ancient Pachkan kingdom of Reachmen. Eventually, a Nordic frontier kingdom called Jallenheim established itself in the area, before being driven out with the end of the First Empire. The Direnni Hegemony eventually extended its borders east, establishing the citadel of Tarnwasel on Karthwasten's current location. With the collapse of the Hegemony, Tarnwasel fell into ruin. Karthwasten was founded on its ruins.
Controlled by Skyrim's Kingdom of the Reach until the War of the Red Diamond, Karthwasten was ceded to Hammerfell Province as punishment for the Reach's disloyalty during the conflict. The Karth River's eastern fork became the southwest border of the Reach until the War of the Bend'r-mahk during the Simulacrum, during which Nord warbands poured across the river and once more seized Karthwasten. With the signing of the Treaty of Chorrolin 399, "County Karthwasten" was ceded back to Skyrim, to be ruled once more by the Kings of the Reach. The status of Dragonstar, Karthwasten's sister city, was not settled in the Treaty of Chorrol, and the city remains divided between Nords and Redguards to this day.
Following the war, Karthwasten was placed under the rule of Jarl Jona the Ansei-Ender, vicious chieftain of the Fire-Hand Clan. Plagued by insurgencies and assassinations by rebels of the Sogat Dur-Gada, Jarl Jona moved her court to nord-ruled Dragonstar East in 424. When the rebellion only increased in ferocity, Jona ordered a brutal march through the Druadach Highlands, sacking the town of Haimtir for the second time in thirty years. Intending to burn Karthwasten to the ground in retaliation for the rebellion, Jona was instead blocked at the gates by her own Thane, Fomir the Voiceful, who denied her warbands entry into the city. Faced with an impasse, Jarl Jona began a siege of her own throne-city. Luckily for the residents of Karthwasten, the levies of Markarth Side and Beorinhal arrived before the walls could be breached, and Jona was driven back to the safety of Castle Dragonstar.
Locations and services
Palace District The eastern side of Karthwasten is known as the Palace District, and is dominated by the estate of the eponymous Red Palace. Lining the Palace walls are a mix of smaller manors, commoner homes, and guard quarters. The seedy Dancing Sabre Tavern and Iancus Vancor's armor and weapons shop. A second gate lies at the southeastern end of the district, allowing access to the mesa outside the walls, including the home of Dunwora, a local healer.
Market District Centered on Karthwasten's main road, the Market District stretches from the city's north gates to the walled-off Southgate District. The Karthwasten Bazaar hosts a number of traders offering fine goods from around the Reach. The Karthwasten guildhalls of the Guild of Fighters and the Guild of Mages. An enchanter, a pawnbroker, an alchemist, a smith, and bakery can also be found here, as can another general merchant. A chapel of the Imperial Cult lies near the north gate, next to the Guard Barracks (Karthwasten). The high-end Ruby Drake Inn can be found on the southern end of the district. Many commoners live in the Market District, alongside a few minor nobles.
Southgate District The Southgate District is walled-off compound containing to several manors. Merchant-princes and Nordic noble families make their homes in this heavily patrolled district. There are no services in the Southgate District.
Outskirts The Outskirts are the poorest part of Karthwasten, found through an alley northwest of the rest of the city. Small farmhouses with subsistence plots make up the bulk of this district, which is home to many impoverished Reachmen and Khajiit. The Outskirts run south behind the Market District, and a significant part of it is reserved for farms, windmills, and granaries. The only services of note can be found at the lower-class tavern The Droopy Mare.
Surroundings Karthwasten's stables sit just north of the north gates. Carriages here offer transport to Beorinhal, Dragonstar East, and Markarth Side. Further north up the road sit the Karthwasten Docks, the southernmost port on the Karth River system. From here, boat transport is available to Karthgad and Markarth Side.