Table of Contents
The West Marches
It has been at least half a century since the opening of the Amalthean Gate, which demarcates the western border of the Kingdom of Haldanór. After several centuries since the recolonization of the Hidden Coast, the western part of the continent is accessible to travel and exploration once more. A long mountain range isolates the coastal region, protecting the region from dangers lurking in the far reaching lands beyond.
This mountain range is bisected by a twisting, deep canyon, called the Windswept Pass. It is guarded on both sides by tall defensive walls, with the old imperial wall to the west and the Amalthean gate overlooking the eastern entrance to the canyon.
Even though the Haldanian military still heavily patrols the canyon and the surrounding area, a relatively safe route through the pass has been established and the nearby lands have been cleared of any dangers. The Imperial Road is now open once more, allowing access to the old Thanian Empire.
In ages past, the Empire of Thain was a mighty and wealthy realm that stretched on for many miles, now little more than a ruined wilderness. A catastrophic event laid waste to the lands and killed most of its inhabitants a long time ago. The true cause of this apocalyptic disaster is unknown and lost to history, but many are eager to find out.
Recently, a royal decree has been issued, called the March Westward:
“In order to grow the kingdom and restore the lands to the glory of days past, the wild lands must be explored and conquered once more!”
The promise of wealth, status, land and perhaps even titles of nobility have been put forth as incentives to explore the wild and bring home its riches and forgotten secrets.
The Hidden Coast used to be part of the empire as well, but since its collapse has been recolonized by humans from other parts of the world. Most of its history and knowledge has been lost in the process, but the area is now home to a large multicultural civilization; the kingdom of Haldanór. Ruled by King Aldrin IV, it has thrived for many years, but has become somewhat stagnant in past years. Nobles are settled in their strongholds and conflicts are few, with little change in the status quo. King Aldrin wisely used this time of peace to look to the future. He ordered the clearing of the Pass to open the kingdom up to new fertile farmlands and an influx of valuable resources, new ideas and old knowledge.
Since then, the road has been cleared and Fort Westergard has been established at the gate in the imperial wall. It is a strong castle, built right up to the wall. A regiment of royal soldiers is always present to protect the gate and the kingdom from whatever dwells in the wilderness.
Near the fort, straddling the southern canyon wall, is a frontier town called Westwall; the last bastion of civilisation before heading out into the wasteland of the old empire.
Westwall is a rugged town, of mostly wooden buildings, while some structures have been built right into the canyon wall. The town has a strong wooden palisade with several guard towers. It’s a fast growing community, so to save space, people have started constructing homes on higher plateaus of the canyon.
The Trailblazers Guild
The largest inn in Westwall is the famous Wanderer’s Respite tavern. It is run by Marcus Kessler, also known as The Wayfarer, an old pioneer of the Western Wilderness. He fancies himself the headmaster of the Adventurers Guild, called The Trailblazers. Essentially, he just loves stories of strange events from far away lands and does everything he can to ensure a comfortable and friendly resting place for weary travelers with wild stories to tell. Many explorers and adventurers that call themselves Trailblazers use the inn as a base of operations.
The Wanderer’s Respite is a large structure, built partially into the canyon wall. It has quite a number of good quality lodgings and an enormous common room with a massive fireplace and an even larger bar. Entertainment is playing the stage nearly every night, while several waitresses tend to the many guests at the various tables.
There are also several smaller rooms leading off the main room for additional privacy and a more intimate atmosphere. These are often occupied by the more successful groups of explorers that have come home to celebrate their victories and enjoy the spoils.
By being early you have managed to reserve one of the better side rooms to plan your adventures. It’s a fairly large room with double doors that give a good view of the main tavern hall when left open. The rough stone walls are plastered to give it a smoother look, topped off by the arched ceiling, which is supported by thick wooden beams. All kinds of decorations litter the walls. Colorful tapestries, banners and crests of forgotten noble houses, flanked by various trophies and art pieces of unknown origin. The only daylight entering the room comes from a singular thin window high up, just below the ceiling, but the room is lighted by a simple chandelier hanging from the center beam and several oil lamps adorning the walls. A small fireplace in the far corner keeps the room warm and gives it a cozy atmosphere.
In the center of the room is a heavy wooden table with a couple of chairs and a long bench on either side, adorned by several quilts and cushions (to make sure the gnomes can use the furniture without issue). Though very sturdy and well built, it is an old and worn piece of furniture, decorated with many beer stains and crude carvings.
As the firelight creates flickering shadows across the tabletop you realize the carvings may not be so crude at all, but instead are markings of previous generations of adventurers discussing their plans and drawing maps, hinting at grand adventures past.
You sit around the table nursing a drink. Speculating about things that were, while ruminating on your own stories, yet to be told…