The centerpiece of Rankford Mitte is a large freshwater pond fed by an underground tributary of the old Ranqor River (“Rankford” is a corruption of “the Ford of the Ranqor”) which runs along the northwest side of town before meandering east and heading underground. The pond is encircled by a low stone wall of ancient make, but is well-maintained by the Gnomish families who settled north of town centuries ago, and who also built the Watchtower. Arching stone walkways pierce the wall in three places and converge roughly in the center of the pond in a wide stone platform. A hand-cranked well, circular and weather-worn extends three feet above the platform and disappears into the pond.
The extent of the pond varies seasonally. In wetter years, it has been known to overspill its rock wall. In dry years, the pond has shriveled to a damp shadow of itself, but the well has never failed to meet the demands of the citizens of Rankford.
Families will often queue up shortly after dawn to fill their buckets and water sacks from the well. While many will dip a cup into the pond on occasion, especially the senior members of the community, or those wishing to adopt the mantle of a town elder, by custom the pond is off-limits for other uses, including bathing or play. Drunken miners and adventurer passers-by are promptly rousted by the town militia if they breach this custom, if they aren’t met with a hail of rocks from concealed slingers first.
The Mayor, when Rankford has one, is expected to sip water from the pond, either via the ancient and battered silver Cup of Office that adheres to that office, or by hand, before deliberating on serious issues facing the town. The water, it is believed, contains the wisdom of the ancients. “In Well Water is Wisdom,” it’s said. It is more said that truly believed.
In more recent decades, the Mayor’s office has been vacant and major issues are settled by the Tribunal, who eschew the traditional sipping of the waters.
Items are not permitted to be tossed into the pond or (especially) the fountain, with this exception: when a family produces a new offspring, a small wooden boat with a red (for a boy) or green (for a girl) sail is pushed into the pond water by a senior member of the family. The Mayor or other senior official is expected to receive the boat when it reaches the far “shore” and reads a note attached to the tiny mast, revealing the name of the newest citizen in a ceremony going back a hundred years.
Old-timers claim that the pond is of relatively recent vintage, but that the fountain has survived from an earlier age, perhaps from the time of the ancient Netherese. There are many local claims of Rankfordian artifacts that date back to the Netherese; the antiquity of the fountain is probably the item in least dispute.
Those that live near the Ranqor or the StarWater rivers take their water from those sources, or from other ponds in the greater Rankford area, such as Bentbeak Hole. However, when in the Mitte, most will fill a water skin if they have time. Hugo Brewer is the latest in a long tradition of ale crafters who extoll the virtues of Rankford’s water, his brewery having been built atop the same aquifer.