Welcome to the second installment of the World of Aernth. It started out as the setting for several role-playing games over a decade ago. Since that time it has continually grown and developed, until it seemed to take on a life of its own. This setting in which over 70 participants have visited within their imaginations is now being converted to a digital format and is accessible on the World Wide Web. The following is a description of this setting from the point of view of several people who exist within this world.
Each issue of The Guild Companion will include a continuation of this description. The intention here is to give those viewing it ideas for the development of their own settings, or as a ready resource that can be used by Game Masters who have not designed a setting of their own, but want to utilize a fully developed world. It is written in a fairly generic manner and as such can easily be adapted to nearly any fantasy gaming system. You can also place existing ideas for single session games or even campaigns into the setting with little modification in most cases.
I hope that all of you will enjoy experiencing this world of fantasy as much as I have enjoyed developing and GM-ing it.
Alerelean stands and returns to the kitchen to fill Thengel's dinner order for the three of them, Balindar chuckles and replies to Thengel's question, "For a meal and a bottle of brandy, I would be delighted to tell you about Martelain, Thengel my friend."
Thengel says, "I have heard a lot about the unrest in Martelain while on the ship traveling here. Some of the ship's crew were from Martelain. On the rare occasions when they spoke of it, they had anger in their voices."
"And with good reason," replies Balindar with a grim smile. "Martelain was a city of wealth and power only four decades ago. Before the Northern Empire decided that they wanted to seize control of the mines in the Red Mountains, about 250 miles to the east of Martelain."
Thengel asks, "So what happened 40 years ago?"
"Actually, the turmoil started about 45 or 50 years ago," says Balindar. He takes another long draw off his pipe and continues, "It seems that Emperor Vladock the Ruthless decided that he wanted the mines that had made the royal family and metal smiths of Martelain wealthy for several centuries. So it seems he started to see to it that certain people, who where under his control, were planted in positions of power within the hierarchy of the Martelain government. While several more that already held positions of power, were swayed with the weight of Northerner gold in their pockets. From which he could undermine the whole political structure of the kingdom from within. Of course it was not known until years later that the emperor had been behind it, and by then it was already too late."
"But how did it get out that the northerners where behind it?" Thengel asks as takes another drink from his mug, and curling up his lip at the now-cold hot spiced cider that he had been drinking.
"Once the Northerners had taken over, these people who had been trusted members of the Martelain government where appointed to new positions of power under the first of the Northern Governors installed by the Emperor," replies Balindar.
Thengel says, "That's an underhanded way of conquering others."
"But that is only the beginning of the underhanded things that occurred during the last 40 years." Balindar takes another sip of his mug as Alerelean returns with a large bottle of fine brandy with a depiction of a pig dancing on its hind legs painted on the bottle and three smaller mugs, sitting them on the table, then taking her seat again.
Thengel thanks her with a smile as he slowly works the cork out of the bottle asking, "A dancing pig?"
She laughs, "It is made at a small Inn in Archendurn, called the Dancing Pig. The Innkeeper is a very accomplished brewer and fermenter, or so I have heard. The owner of My Brothers Place here," as she sweeps her arms in the air indicating the tavern, in which they are sitting, "imports it directly from him. His raspberry brandy is world famous, unfortunately we are out, so his standard brandy will have to do for now."
Thengel laughs and says, "I'll have to remember that, world famous Dancing Pig Raspberry Brandy. One of these days I will have to get to Archendurn, I've heard a few tales about that wilderness kingdom."
Balindar takes another long draw of smoke from his hand carved pipe and chuckles at Thengel's fascination with the brandy. He then continues, "Forty years ago, this past spring, the kingdom was in such turmoil that the king of Martelain had his hands full dealing with the corruption and unrest that seemed to be growing at a phenomenal rate over the previous years. So when the Northern Empire's armies marched over the mountains, took control of the mines, and cut off the roads to Martelain, there was little that could be done. Within a few months, the armies marched down to the city itself. Since the metals from the mines stopped flowing into Martelain, trade started to falter, thus food was soon in short supply."
Alerelean adds, "It still surprises me that none of the other channel cities tried to help out Martelain, instead they just let it fall to the Northerners."
"Ah, but that is not the case", continues Balindar, "you see in Gorled, the king was having problems of his own, having just escaped an assassination attempt. And of course, Dorgard was accused of being behind the assassination attempt, and was readying themselves for another in a long series of wars with their neighbors across the river. At that time South Shore did not have a military force that could help out in any way, as most of the growth of South Shore has come since the downfall of Martelain as the people fled across the Silver River. Argentum, was the only city that was in a position where they could have done anything, but the merchants of Argentum could not agree on a plan of action if their lives depended on it, so they did nothing, as is their way."
"So the kingdom fell to the Northern Empire then," states Thengel in a matter of fact voice.
Balindar replies, "Yes. And things have never been the same since. Some say that the newest Governor is different from the previous 5 governors, in that he is slowly easing up on the people, but it is not overly apparent as of yet. Then again, if he eases up too much, the people are likely to rise up in revolt or even try to assassinate him as they did with two of his predecessors."
"Martelain is one of the oldest of the Channel Cities then?" Asks Thengel.
"Yup, it was founded shortly after Argentum was founded as a port town by the Ruglund Empire to carry on trade with the Gambed and Balmast peoples that resided on either shore of the channel. At that time they were a barbaric people, that relied on hunting and gathering for most of their needs, with a few tilled farms starting to develop. It did not take the Aquiladi long to realize that the metals that the Balmast peoples were trading to them for trinkets was superior to that turned out by their own mines in the far west. So it was the second of the five channel cities that now exist here.
In 1142 Third Age, the people of the region rebelled against the waning Ruglund Empire and broke free from their control. The leader of this rebellion was Vraingar VanDenlendesor, and was chosen by the people as king of the new independent lands. His descendants ruled the Martelain Kingdom for over 1,400 years before the Northerners seized control."
Thengel places the first of the fresh mugs full of brandy in front of Balindar, as he asks, "I have heard the mountains to the east referred to as the Iron Mountains, but you called them the Red Mountains. Am I missing something here?"
Alerelean speaks up as she accepts the second mug of brandy from Thengel, "The Iron mountains are the westernmost range of the Red Mountains. Different names used by different people, but they're the same mountains."
Thengel takes a drink from the third mug as he sets the bottle down. "So what should I watch out for when I visit Martelain in the morning?"
Balindar says with a chuckle, "Stay clear of any mobs of people. Riots can and sometimes do erupt from thin air among the streets of Martelain. Whenever a riot starts, the troops grab and imprison anyone near the fray, regardless of involvement. Many people have lost their lives by being in the wrong place at the wrong time in that wretched city.
Some say that the tide is changing and that the rebellion is gaining strength again. Others claim that the only living heir to the Martelain throne is coming out of hiding. Still others say that the last of the VanDenlendesor family was taken back to Gasran-Nogal, the capital city and executed shortly after the Northerners seized control. "
Alerelean says, "It's not such a bad place. I have a friend who works at the Red Hooded Traveler and another that works in the kitchens at the Grey Tortoise. She says that the rumors about an heir have really been flying around there. She says that supposedly, when the VanDenlendesors were taken into the heart of the Northern Empire, that the Emperor's younger brother, who was one of the generals in the battle, claimed the King's daughter as his. This was supposed to have lead to a long and drawn out feud between the two, as the Emperor wanted the entire family put to death, but his brother wanted her spared as his personal play thing. Well, she was supposed to have been hid away at the brother's fortress for several years. Eventually the brother died in a battle to the east, and the Emperor had the girl found and executed immediately. Rumor has it though that the Emperor's brother and the former king’s daughter had a son, and that this information was kept quiet from the Emperor. Supposedly, he was raised along with the other children that where born to the general's concubines. Of course there is no way of knowing the truth."
"There is no telling," says Balindar. "Rumors always surround anything that is at the center of peoples minds, and the rulership of Martelain is no exception."
Thengel says, "I will have to check this city out. Sounds like the kind of place where my services might be of use. Is there anything else that I should watch out for there?"
The old man laughs and says, "Yes, the beggars, street urchins, and of course with the narrow streets that are common in all the cities of the channel area, you need to be very careful not to get caught between a wagon cart and the wall. I've seen many an unwary person injured or maimed. Then there are the Terrambours, you have to watch out around them."
"What are Terrambours?" asks Thengel.
"They are a group of people that wander the city playing various make-shift instruments, such as tambourines, drums, and other strange things. The problem is that as they pass through an area, people's pockets seem to get lighter. I'm not sure if they actually perform the deeds themselves or if they have others who wander through the crowd and pick items off of the unwary as they are being entertained or mesmerized by the sounds. They wander all five of the cities, so keep both eyes open when they are near."
"I'll try to remember that. Anything else?"
Alerelean replies, "Of course you will have to at least walk past the old Martelain Castle. It is one of the most amazing structures in the entire area. Dozens of towers, huge double walls, with each courtyard rising up to the palace proper. I have heard that it has over 800 rooms within its walls and several hundred more below in the dungeons. As well as enough out buildings to make a small town all its own."
"If you do though, don't hang around the gates too long or they will get suspicious of you. In which case you would likely see the inside of the castle dungeons in person."
Thengel shakes his head, then asks, "So what is coming for dinner?"
Alerelean replies, "Smoked fish, berries, vegetable stew and of course bread and cheese. I should probably go see if it is nearly done yet. Mabbel is a wonder in the kitchen, she even cooks for the owner at his manor house when he has his big yearly parties." She stands and heads for the inn's kitchens again.
"So which city do you want to hear about next?" asks Balindar.
"I don't know. You’re the expert on history and culture in the area, what do you think should be next?" answers Thengel, taking a long slow sip of his brandy afterwards.