The city of Sturmhalten lies right on Balan's Gap, an important mountain pass and brings in money by taxing the traffic. Until recently, it was ruled by the Sturmvoraus family, with the latest head being Prince Aaronev Sturmvoraus VI; its current status is uncertain.
The Sturmvoraus family castle is an imposing edifice, complete with a lightning moat, but when last seen it's somewhat the worse for wear.
The sewers underneath have a rather distressingly active ecosystem, including albino squid, giant glowing rats, and ghouls. Deeper, more secret tunnels (the "Deepdown") were evidently used by the Geisterdamen. Hive engines were transported through there, which presumably also accounts for the fact that the city is, when we first encounter it, entirely populated by revenants.
According to the novelization, the aforementioned Castle was originally built by Andronicus Valois “two hundred and sixteen years ago” as his base of operations as the Leader of the Coalition saving Europa from the armies of Clemethious and Bludtharst Heterodyne. Originally heavily garrisoned and fortified, the city's population evidently dwindled somewhat in the centuries to come, possibly explaining its large and intricate sewer system.
Prince Aaronev was a major political player and a devoted ally of Lucrezia Mongfish, even after her disappearance. Nevertheless, he opted not to overtly resist when the Baron came conquering, preferring to work quietly on her behalf.
Said work apparently consisted of tracking down female Sparks and attempting to transfer her consciousness into them, a process that was almost invariably fatal. Even his daughter was subjected to it, though she managed to survive for a while- and appear to survive even longer- due to the intervention of her brother Tarvek Sturmvoraus, who appropriated Tinka from Master Payne's Circus of Adventure to use as reference in building her a new body.
Ultimately a suitable host, Lucrezia's daughter, comes into town with that same circus, prompting a complicated coup attempt by Anevka and Tarvek, the return of the Other, rampaging monsters in the streets, and a full-scale invasion by Klaus that leads to a major battle between him and Agatha's Battle Circus in which Klaus is squished by a chicken house.
According to Gilgamesh Wulfenbach in the aftermath of said battle(s), the situation has been "contained", but we later hear second-hand about an army of rampaging monsters making its way from the city towards its close-ish neighbor Mechanicsburg. And then we get the two and half year Timeskip and the general collapse of the Wulfenbach empire, so what's going on in Sturmhalten these days is anyone's guess.
Characters from Sturmhalten
- Prince Aaronev Wilhelm Sturmvoraus, now deceased
- Tarvek Sturmvoraus, heir apparent
- Anevka Sturmvoraus, deceased; her replica, deactivated; and the replica's body's new occupant
- Lord Selnikov and his household (Lord Selnikov is officially deceased, as is his estranged wife.)
- Veilchen, assassin
- Kalikoff and Sturvin, plumbers
- Artacz, Nod and Falco, castle staff
- Lady Vrin and the Geisterdamen, inasmuch as they were based in the sewers under the castle
- Most likely many of the Knights of Jove
- possibly others not yet listed here
Questions and Theories
- According to Othar's Twitter, to reach Sturmhalten from Paris, one east Heidelberg.
- Were Aaronev's depredations the only reason for the rarity of female Sparks, or are there other factors?
- What was/is Tarvek actually trying to do?
What's clank!Lucrezia up to now?Causing trouble in England.
- What were Aaronev's motives/goals in working with Lucrezia? How do the Council and the Knights of Jove fit into all of this?
- Sturmhalten's modern-day equivalent might be Brașov ; the city's German name, aptly, is "Kronstadt" - "Crown City".
Possibly relevant outside information
- "Sturmhalten" appropriately translates from German as "Stormhold", which is the name of a kingdom in Neil Gaiman's Stardust ruled by a similarly backstabbing royal family.
- The German resort town of Trier has a similar history. It is a Roman town with a sewer system that was built for a much larger population then occupied it later. Trier only regained a similar population it had in roman times in the 21st century.