Many years ago, a trading vessel named Sunray found herself caught in a mighty storm, blown far off course, and many moons deep into the uncharted waters to the West.
A great number of the crew were lost to the storms voracious maw, along with the first mate, the captain and their navigational instruments, and when the great storm finally abated, it left behind a lost vessel in its wake, sailing blind, in unknown waters.
Heavily laden with a cargo of preserved foodstuffs, the remaining crew and few passengers were well equipped to survive, but were deprived of the knowledge needed to find a safe port, to find any port. A decision was made to continue sailing in a westerly direction, to avoid running afoul of the same storm twice, hoping to find land to perform much-needed repairs, and a lengthy voyage ensued into the dark waters of the Bitter Sea.
Some months passed and all hands were beginning to despair of ever sighting land when a croaking, yet jubilant cry was heard from the crows nest.
Scarcely able to believe their ears, all on board rushed to the bows, straining their eyes to see what their hearts so desperately craved. And some hours later, they were rewarded.
A bluff coastline was barely visible above the horizon, mountainous and wild, and as they grew closer, so did vast forests of leviathan trees, sprawling lazily across the land, an untamed place of ancient history and untapped reserves.
Finally, Sunray anchored off a small bay, and many of the crew and passengers, refusing to wait for the longboats to be lowered, leaped overboard and began to stroke towards the small golden beach they had espied from afar. Overjoyed to again feel solid ground beneath their feet and the smell of earth in their nostrils, all rolled and frolicked upon the sand for some time and relished their new freedom.
Eventually, of course, the time for rejoicing passed and the people were forced to take stock of their new surroundings and decide just what was to be done. One group was elected to remain near the beach and build shelter for the night, whilst the stronger and braver members of the crew gathered some weapons and made their way inland to learn something of this place. What they found intrigued and fascinated them; indeed, a land brimming with fertility, rich and wondrous. A land hanging ripe and heavy upon the vines of opportunity, affluent beyond the wildest dreams of any pioneer. The Spirit of Adventure stirred within their breasts - a desire to explore this wild, untamed new land to bring it to heel like a mighty eagle or a spirited wench and plunder its wealth.
Wild animals grazed and lazed, fat from the obvious abundance around them and unafraid of the passage of the men, while beautiful and exotic birds in all the colours of the rainbow paused their lilting songs to gaze quizzically before continuing. One man, briefly stopping at a small, clear stream to slake his thirst, cried out in surprise, and called the others to see the fine gold dust strewn across the streams bed, sparkling in the beams of sunlight, as the stream gurgled cheerfully across the rocks.
Clearly, this was a land of infinite possibility, wealth and opportunity for those willing to take advantage of the situation. Returning to the beach, chattering excitedly, the explorers found that a giant marquee had been built using a spare sail from the ships hold, and that a score of large crustaceans had been caught by those remaining on the beach. After a meal of fresh crab, a nice change from the unending salted pork and fish of the previous months, some serious discussion was held.
Many of the people argued that they were extremely far from home and could do a great deal worse than to remain upon this new land of bounty and plenty and seek their fortune here, rather than spend countless months roaming the oceans with no guarantee of survival or safety. The remainder, however, were desirous of at least attempting to return home and reporting the find to the King. They argued eloquently and at great length, speaking of the rewards that would be theirs upon returning home with news of a vibrant and fertile new land. They reminded all that they were hardly equipped to settle and colonise anything and lacked the experience to survive on potentially dangerous and unknown shores. Better to return to sea after performing repairs upon the ship and leave the adventuring and pioneering to those who had nothing waiting for them back at home.
They made a convincing case and many were reminded of all they had left behind and did not wish to lose. Not all were so reminded, however. Many of the sailors had no families, and no land and title at home, and still did not agree that returning was the best option. They suspected that all they would receive was to live out the remainder of their days on board a ship, working their fingers to the bone for very little pay in tiring, dangerous conditions with no comfort in the foreseeable future. This new land seemed to be the realisation of all their secret hopes and desires, a land where they could live comfortably, build a house of their own on land that was there for the taking and relax during their autumn years. After agreeing that the hour was late and that the issue would be further discussed in the sober light of day, the people retired for the night.
If the others had not been sleeping so soundly on the beach beneath their makeshift shelter, they may have noticed four men silently slide a longboat into the dark water, and an hour later, espied the dark shadow of the Sunray gently sinking lower in the water, before rearing her bows to the sky in one final protest and slipping beneath the eddying brine. Scuttled.
When morning broke, the golden sun seemed to rise from the very ocean itself, bathing the land in a rich glow, awakening the sleepers, and revealing the empty horizon to the east. Their horror at the discovery of the sabotage, and the realisation that they were indeed marooned on this place, only fuelled the desires of so many to remain and begin their lives anew. Those that had wanted to return to sea in search of home were stricken with the knowledge that returning was no longer an option.
The insurgents began to organise the remaining passengers and crewmen into groups to perform the immediate necessary tasks of survival. Obviously, it was neither safe nor prudent to remain camping upon the beach beneath an old sailcloth and, as they could not rely upon a rescue party locating them this far from home, a suitable place to build a more permanent shelter had to be found. Luckily, a short distance inland and slightly to the north, a small clearing was found, sheltered from the offshore winds by several large boulders. Here, they were to set their camp that night and later, to lay the foundations of a small village.
As the shock of being stranded wore off, the travellers began to adjust to the idea that they were now inhabitants of an apparently empty land. They began new lives in this strange place, built homes, worshipped their gods and went about life as normally as possible.
Occasionally, hunting parties would return to the village with news of sightings of strange creatures: goblins, pixies, dwarves and more. The settlers realised that their land was not the virgin soil they had expected. Sometimes the men found what appeared to have at one time been villages or towns, though most of them had long since been abandoned. A settlement of peaceful elves was discovered not too far to the north, primitive but friendly, and their missionaries would travel to the village from time to time, preaching the virtues of a peaceful and symbiotic relationship with the land in accordance with the will of their deities. Southwest of their home village they found the remains of a crude castle, and odd happenings there suggested the place was haunted. A fair distance to the northwest they located ruins of an old town; carved into the stone near the crumbled entrance were symbols that once marked the city of Imrannath. However, there was usually a shrine or a temple of some sort near the centre of the towns, where the former residents had paid homage to their gods. Old parchments and scrolls were found which the scholars were able to decipher, yet no cause was ever found for the disappearance of the citizens from these places.
Parties would often venture a fair distance away from the village. On more than one occasion they were attacked by groups of fierce natives, well-trained for fighting. Twice they were assailed and suffered devastating losses at the hands of armies marked with the brand of two crossed swords before a flame, a symbol that scholars knew all too well from their studies of the old gods' literature. Another time, a group numbering more than thirty encountered a single wizard who had spotted them leaving the village. He stood upon the path before them, raised a small grey artifact into the air and called upon the might of the goddess of nature to bring down a hail of stones, killing all but a few.
Many villagers were drawn to these new gods, some seeking to master the power that they had seen used so effectively against them, others sharing their belief that cultivation and protection of the land was foremost. Followers of the old gods felt that leaving their deities to devote to new powers was blasphemous and a rift developed between the two groups. Eventually the majority of those devoted to the new gods left their homes and travelled to the explored area northwest of the village and settled what would later become Kylslayn, while most whose beliefs lay with traditional gods remained in the village. Followers of the primordial adventure deity set up a small monastery just off the main road between the two cities as a haven for travellers on long journeys and a training ground for intrepid adventurers.
Not all was well within the fledgling Kylslayn. The followers of war and civilisation stood for and centred around everything the followers of peace and nature abhorred and felt it was to their advantage to live together. Likewise, peace and nature had similar goals and desires and also found that living together had merit. For each of the groups, existing as a single unit was mutually beneficial but not without hardships. Civilisation called for organisation; war brought chaos. Peace was orderly; nature was unpredictable, at best.
Not long after Kylslayn was settled it was attacked by a raiding party from the keep of a warlock nearby. The city was damaged but not destroyed in the invasion and the surviving citizens erected protective walls around its perimeter to ward off similar advances. Saerdoun citizens, having seen the destruction of its sister city and wanting to avoid a similar occurrence in their town, built thick walls to protect itself and posted guards at its gates to prevent anyone entering unnoticed.
Though some of the surrounding areas were explored by hunting parties and the like, the west was still largely uncharted territory. References in old texts mentioned a great kingdom far to the west, though the exact location was unknown. Groups often set off in search of these new lands, some for the intrigue contained within, others seeking riches and treasure, and still others desiring power and domination. Many formerly-inhabited areas have been discovered throughout the years - relics of a long-forgotten people - yet the fabled kingdom remains a mystery.
Today, exploring is an integral part of life for the citizens just
as it has been since the arrival of their ancestors, their quest for
power, fame and fortune lingering long after most of the original settlers
passed on. A mere century has passed since the Sunray arrived and their
small settlements have grown into thriving cities. Much has changed
in the way of life for the citizens of what are now known as Saerdoun
and Kylslayn as the people migrated slowly inland, exploring the wild
lands they found beyond the reaches of their homes. Though, it was not
all smooth sailing; indeed, wild and dangerous lands still await the
brave souls venturing forth from their heavy gates.
This history chronicled by Eldor and Kyasha.
© Ben Sizer
Background image © Vinu
used with permission.
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