Thursday, 20 January 2011

So Today I Built A World!

Well, I said I would, and I did! I was surprised how comfortable it was, and how easy it flowed. I won't go into more detail myself; instead I'll let a old, battered Halfling adventurer tell the story of the setting I have created!

Lenrath's Tour of...

The Silent Coast

This humble pamphlet represents my guide to the land I love so well, the wondrous and treacherous Silent Coast. I who, in the service of accumulating lore and wisdom, have ventured far and wide across this land, do share my meagre knowledge with the hope that not only will you profit by what little I know, but that you may visit me in my humble dwelling and share other tales and ancient secrets you may discover with me over a flagon of ale and a well-stuffed pipe.

For many years, I have made my home in the fair town of Prydonis, and it is there that I will begin my imaginary journey across this realm. Prydonis is regarded far and wide as a bastion of law and order in these dark lands, and is protected by the Emerald Guardians, a resolute band of gnomish warriors who have often been tested in battle. Indeed, the famed Museum of Deeds is a popular attraction for travellers who pass this way, depicting scenes and showing relics of some of the many battles fought over the long centuries.

Prydonis was established by Gnomish peoples more than a thousand years ago, and was built out of the very stone of the earth; it is said that a small mountain was slowly carved to form the town we know today. Certainly the architecture is exquisite, though perhaps a little on the (ahem) short side for the bulk of the peoples of the coast! This unfortunately renders such amazing sights as the

Thousand-Facet Inn available only for the Gnomes and Halflings, as well as the occasional short Dwarf. A substantial 'human quarter' exists for the rest of us, however, and features such wonders as the Pyromancer's Guild, a major institute of learning and wisdom, where I have opted to make my residence for many years. The Guild caters for wielders of Elemental Fire, a popular art in these parts, and suppliers many battle wizards who fight alongside the Gnomes of the Guard!

Naturally, there is a substantial Halfling contingent in the town, and they are responsible for some wonders of their own. No visit to Prydonis is complete without an afternoon spent sampling the delights in the Palace of Pastry, and the Halfway Inn provides the best night's sleep one could ever hope to have in this lifetime. One should beware in these quarters, however; as many of the halflings are known to have, shall we say, light fingers, and a careless traveller may find himself relieved of his purse!

Eventually, the time will come to depart, and the traveller will make his way towards the coast; even though the Guardians patrol the lands around Prydonis diligently, there remain many threats of bandits, human and non-human. The more attractive – and safer – route is up the coast paths, watching the swell of the sea roll in. A few tiny fishing villages cling to the cliffs here, using natural caves to house their boats and steps hewn from the rocks to ascend to their shacks. Shrines to the ancient sea gods are common, and offerings frequent; here their wrath lies closest to the surface. Every fisherman has a tale to tell of the strange creatures he saw in the Crimson Sea, or of that 'one that got away'.

After three or four days travel by foot, one sights the spires of the Fortress of Imrae, the largest settlement in the Silent Coast. The first sight generally seen is the uncompleted tower of the Cathedral of St. Eudoxus, begun in the reign of the last Warlord but one, sadly neglected and underfunded since the death of that wise ruler. The Wing Guard will likely make their presence known to a traveller once he gets within a few miles of the city; the unwary are cautioned that impostors have been known to demand fictitious 'entry payments'. Indeed, a fellow traveller of mine some years ago was offered a large stack of 'paper currency' for his gold, and had to be talked out of accepting such a 'great offer'.

A room for the night is usually the first priority on entering the hive of humanity that is Imrae; the city is well served by inns and taverns, ranging from the flea-pits such as the Rusty Anchor by the docks, to more prestigious establishments like the legendary Gryphon's Rest. For those with looser morals, there are many establishments that cater towards more base needs as well; this author would not guide one to the Street of a Hundred Veils, oh no.

Most of those visiting Imrae do so to deal at the legendary market, buying or selling goods, or to visit the Cathedral as part of a pilgrimage. There are many other sights to see, however. An entire afternoon can easily be lost browsing through the worthless treasures in the Emporium, and a variety of exotic herbs can be found in Madame Moraine's. The Grand Arena hosts both gladiatorial combats and chariot races, and there are even opportunities for common citizens to try their hand in special 'free-style' bouts.

Imrae is ruled by a Warlord, the current ruler being Eldrin VIII, twentieth in the direct line from the barbarian tribesmen who first settled this land hundreds of years ago, building this city on the site of the only natural harbour of the coast. Of course, it isn't as simple as that, and a confusing melange of guilds, cults, merchants and other prominent figures vie for influence and power in the city, sometimes street to street; watching it all, however, is the Dark Brotherhood, the Warlord's legendary secret police, who keep track of everyone and everything in the service of their master.

Although the bulk of the thriving thousands of Imrae are humans, many different races are represented; it is not unusual to see exiled Elves moving about their sad and lonely business, there is naturally a substantial population of Halflings, and the tattered remnants of the once-proud Dwarven Clans scrabble here to make a living; if one is patient and shows sufficient understanding, one may receive admittance to the Hall of Ancestors, a tremendous sight, even if it is but a feeble shadow of what once was.

Leaving Imrae to the north, following the coast paths once again, after a week's march one comes to the wonder that is the Ring of Tolthar, erected hundreds, maybe thousands of years ago by the primitives who once ranged these steppelands to their pagan gods; it is still a revered place of worship to this day, to those who follow the 'Old Ways'. Tread carefully along the coast paths, for though they are the safest in the land, there are still many who would try and trap the unwary. The Inn of the Dragon's Teeth must be seen to be believed; it was built by the owner, a stout Dwarf, out of the bones of a Dragon he himself slew in his youth. There are generally tolerable traveller's inns dotted about the paths to the north, sometimes the heart of small peasant settlements struggling to raise a few goats and sheep; few of these settlements seem to last more than a few generations, coming and going with the changing fertility of the land.

Ranging west, striking inland, the roads quickly end, and the few peasant settlements grow further and further apart; this land belongs to the nomadic tribesmen, to the Centaurs, to the humanoid scum driven out of less fertile areas. There is evidence of ancient habitation everywhere, and many a night is spent huddling in the ruins of a long-abandoned structure, watching the flicking firelight as the three moons fight their perpetual war in the heavens. Be wary, traveller – some of them are occupied. Tombs to long-forgotten potentates tempt the greedy, but few of them sleep as sound as they should. Eight days march – less on horseback if such beasts can be procured, but beware the Centaurs' wrath if you do - will take you to Myrdan.

Myrdan, the 'Home of Shadows', an appropriate name for a town such as this – resting in the shadows of the mighty Giant's Teeth Mountains. The town is a wretched hive, and almost lawless; it is a haven for the criminal and the rejected, though a peace of sorts is maintained to prevent a descent into total anarchy. In comparison with the peace of Prydonis, Myrdan is a wild and chaotic town, but there are still many interesting sites to be seen, though I hate to recommend them to the casual visitor. Do not be surprised at what you see; barbarian reavers plying their wares to Hobgoblin merchants, Orcs selling Kobold slaves in the market, strange creatures shambling through the streets about their business.

One of the first ports of call for many is the famed Rogues' Rest; I found the rooms comfortable and privacy relaxing, but caution the traveller to beware its famed gaming tables; few indeed have bested this house, and all is far from what it seems. The Illusionist's Guild makes its home here, and as an attraction for scholars boasts the finest and most extensive library on the Coast, with librams and tomes dating back to the time of the Immortals. One of the most popular attractions are the feared Death Pits, a network of tunnels and caverns underneath the town that form a natural dungeon, kept stocked by the inhabitants of the city; it is possible to look down from more than a dozen drinking houses, taverns, and seedy dives on the activities on those foolish or desperate enough to try their luck.

A traveller would be unwise to have ventured this far into uncivilised regions, but some have ventured further, into the Giant's Teeth Mountains themselves. I regret that I did not venture beyond the lower foothills, but I spent many long nights listening to the survivors of some of the expeditions into the heights. The highest peaks belong to Giants and Dragons, I am told, who fight a perpetual war for supremacy that thus far has kept them to only infrequent raids on the lower regions. Their treasure piles have accumulated for centuries, and these attract many brave adventurers. Some few emerge from the mountains with treasures from a forgotten age; far more are simply forgotten themselves.

The foothills are home to a few scattered Dwarven clans, the remnants of a once-proud nation, cast out of their City by the 'Four' during the long-ago Wizards' War. Now the very location of the Fortress of the Four is lost to history, but this does not stop the few remaining Dwarves, huddled over their hearth fires, from telling stories of time long ago, and planning the day when they will return and take back what is theirs. Even these lower regions are treacherous, and attacks by Bugbears and Hobgoblins are common.

Coming out of the mountains, one finds oneself in the Forest of Wolves, a savage place that once was a shining beacon in the darkness, but now has been corrupted by evil. A few forts, staffed by fearsome Lupin Warriors, work with the Emerald Guard to try and hold back the shapechangers who dwell in these lands, but the battle will one day be lost. Some Elven settlements remain in isolated glens and dales, but they have long since isolated themselves from the outer world with spells of illusion, though the persistent traveller may eventually be fortunate to be accepted into such a settlement. Isolation has made the tribes harsh and unyielding, and those who question the wisdom of their elders are apt to find themselves exiled into the Outer Lands. Some remain in the forest and chance their luck, others go out to see the wider world, though a melancholy air for what they have lost is perpetual.

Finally, skirting around the outer edge of the Forest, the road leads back to Prydonia, back to the comfort of your own bed, a flagon of warm ale, and a good, hearty meal...not to mention the opportunity to tell tall tales to your friends at the tavern over a game of dice! Remember – though you may see amazing things and have wondrous adventures in your travels, it matters nought if you cannot tell of your adventures at the end. Be well, intrepid traveller!

(OK, once I'd done my notes and prepared a map I decided to do a little 'Rough Guide to the Silent Coast'; I think it turned out rather well, actually. There's an illustrated version here: if anyone wants to see it...)

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