Welcome to the third 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 it's 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.
"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.
"How about I tell you about Gorled? And of course you can't talk about the history of Gorled without also talking about Dorgard." Balindar then takes another long draw off of his hand carved pipe.
"Now that is the big city on the west side of the channel, right?" Asks Thengel, as he takes another sip of brandy from his mug.
"Right you are, my friend," replies Balindar as he removes the pipe from his lips and takes a drink of brandy. Setting the mug back down he then continues with the history lesson for the foreigner from the east, "Gorled was founded about the same time as Martelain, and not long after Argentum. It was started by one of the Masgand clan Chieftains, Flaid Gorled was his name, if my memory serves me correctly, or maybe it was one of his children or grandchildren, I don't recall off hand. Anyway, he united several of the Masgand tribes, and later brought most of the Gambed tribes under his control as well. They quickly founded the town that now bears their name. They utilized this village as a trading center with the Aquilai peoples, thus increasing their wealth and power by controlling the flow of wealth upon the western shore of the channel, and becoming a military power to be reckoned with within two centuries."
Thengel says as he sets his mug down and wipes the brandy from his chin with his hand, "Guess I better slow down, getting a little messy here... So the Gorled kingdom formed pretty quick then?"
"Yes it did," continues Balindar as his eyes light up at the sight of Alerelean walking through the kitchen door balancing a large tray in her right hand and carrying a small iron pot by it's wooden handle in her left hand. "It didn't take long before those who where not part of the kingdom on the west side of the channel, came to fear being forced into fealty under the ruler of the Gorled Kingdom."
"It sounded like the kingdom got started with good intentions, what happened to cause this fear," asks Thengel?
Alerelean sets the kettle down in the middle of the table as the smell of hot stew permeates the air and smothers the aroma of the fine brandy. She then places a large wooden bowl in front of each of the three occupied seats, along with three wooden plates, and bronze spoons. Then a large tarnished silver platter with several smoked trout, with the charred eyes looking out of the now motionless sockets is set down next to the stew. Then with a quick move a large wooden bowl of fruit and fresh baked bread is tossed into the air with a flip of the large tray, and caught with the other hand and place on the table as the large serving tray is placed on the floor against the wall with a graceful motion.
Thengel dishes up three bowls of the stew, giving the first to Balindar, the second to Alerelean as she sits down at the table, and taking the third for himself. He then takes one of the smoked fish from the platter and starts to eat.
Balindar takes a spoonful of the stew, "Whoahhh, hot, hot!" then quickly takes a drink of his brandy when he realizes that it is still too hot to eat yet. "While the early rulers of the Gorled Kingdom watched out for those they ruled over, it did not take long before either greed got the better of them. The Gorled Kingdom with its large feudal military started a campaign of expansion that has lasted several centuries. This expansion results in 19 separate wars, the second of which sparked the numerous petty kingdoms to the south to join together to try and fend off the onslaught of the Gorled forces. It also resulted in the destruction of four of the petty kingdoms that had originally existed on the west side of the channel."
"The first of these wars saw the fall of the Hasthinol Petty Kingdom that had existed where the present village of Border Town sits in the river valleys that run just north of the Black Hills and Mangor Hills. The second, about 18 years later, was when the Gorled army crossed the river from the city into what is now Dorgard, capturing and executing the Dorhain family's small kingdom. It was at this point that the other Petty kingdoms realized what the future held if they did not react, so they joined together to form the Dorgard Alliance, to guard against what had befallen the Dorhain kingdom." Balindar pauses for a moment and dips his bread into the stew again to soak up the thick broth, taking a bite and then takes a drink of brandy. "With their combined forces, they where able to push the Gorled forces back across the river and set up the former Dorhain lands as the Dorgard Commons, to be ruled by the remaining kingdoms jointly. Thus was formed the city of Dorgard, from the ashes of the second petty kingdom to fall. It was not long before they decided that it would be best to elect a Margrave to rule over the Dorgard Commons, in the best interests of the remaining kingdoms."
Thengel pauses eating a piece of smoked fish long enough to ask, "But this didn't stop the Gorled Kingdom from attacking?"
"Right you are, my friend," says Balindar. "This did not deter them from further attacks. They again attacked 24 years later, but where repelled with out too much difficulty. Battles between the Petty Kingdoms of Dorgard Alliance and Gorled have flared up every generation or two since then."
Thengel asks with a puzzled look while refilling his mug with brandy, "You had said that four of these Petty Kingdoms fell to Gorled, but you only told me about two of them. There were another two after the Dorgard Alliance was formed?"
"Yes, after several wars over the river between the cities themselves, that never gained Gorled any more land, they decided to take a different approach. Two wars ago they attacked the Kaseldorn Petty Kingdom, which fell quickly due to its remote location along the mountains. By this time, the city of Gorled had overgrown it's walls that had been constructed right after the Dorgard Alliance was formed, so the city walls were expanded to the north along the coast, thus when you visit you will see what are known as New Gorled and Old Gorled. The most recent war was only 19 years ago, and saw the fall of the next line of defense for the Dorgard Alliance along the foothills of the mountains, the Windyvale Petty Kingdom. Most of the royal family was able to escape, and they now reside in the city of Dorgard. They have sworn to avenge the deaths of their family members, and their troops that perished in the war. Some say that they are waiting and plotting for the appropriate time to attack and wrest their lands back from Gorled."
"You will also likely notice that Dorgard is the only one of the main land cities that is not surrounded by a high stone wall. After the ninth war between the cities, Dorgard constructed several small stonework towers and built a large log palisade on the top of an earthen rampart made from the dirt that was dug to form a trench all the way around the outside of it. During the rainy season late in the fall and early winter, as well as during the spring melt up in the mountains, the trench has a tendency to become very muddy due to the water level in the river rising slightly. Sometimes it even rises enough to flood the trench, making the city of Dorgard an island of sorts for a week or two. After the eleventh war, the trench was deepened and lined with wooden spikes. There has been talk lately about building a stone wall around the city, or at least separating it from the mainland and along the river edge."
Thengel then asks, "So how did the Great Cathedral of the All Father come to be in Gorled?"
Balindar laughs a little and says, "One of the most outspoken and convincing of the followers of the Church of the All Father managed to convert the king to his beliefs and convinced him that it was his duty to see to the building of a temple to rival the greatest structures of the worlds other leading religions, and to dedicate it to the All Father. Unlike most of the other religions that exist in the world, their religion believes that a single deity created the entire world. The king commissioned the finest stone masons in the world to design and construct it, and he covered the costs with the taxes of the people of the kingdom. It took several years to complete, and cost many lives due to the intricacies and massiveness of the structure. Now it is the center of world that the All Father was supposed to have created, but as you can tell, I do not agree with this view. All these different religions bickering back and forth, the only one that seems to avoid getting embroiled in the problems is the Druids, but then they have a different twist to their beliefs."
Alerelean says, "I didn't realize that it was the center of the religious activities of the Church of the All Father."
"Yup, when the king gave up his supposedly heretical ways, he then made it the law of the land that all who reside in the Gorled Kingdom, either convert and submit to the Church of the All Father, or be cleansed of their sins through pain and penitence. So over night it became the second most powerful religion in the channel cities, and the third most powerful in the world," replies Balindar, taking another draw from his pipe. He then taps it out on the side of the hearth next to his seat, before placing it into his tobacco sack, and tears a piece of bread from the loaf and dips it into the stew. "And to this day, The Great Cathedral of the All Father in Gorled has been the center of that religion."
"The other major religions do not have that strong of a presence in the channel cities any more, the center of the Druidical society is on a remote island in the middle of Clearwater Lake, over the mountains to the west. The Jailsahaim religion is centered to the east, near your homeland Thengel."
Thengel adds, "Yes, it's to the north of my homeland a few days travel."
Balindar smiles and says, "Another part of the story that is quite interesting is the building of the High Tower of Magic, in Dorgard."
Alerelean replies, "I've never heard that story."
"Please tell us then," adds Thengel.
Balindar smiles and continues, "Well, after the first two wars after the forming of the Dorgard Alliance and the retaking of the Dorgard Commons by the Alliance, Gorled realized that they would have to try something different. Since the 17 Petty Kingdoms that existed at that time, could raise enough troops to fend off the Gorled army, they began to stockpile siege equipment, such as catapults and ballistae and so forth. The most prominent of the guilds that magic wielders belonged to at that time was the Inner Circle of Magi. And they had been using a large old building in Argentum as their base of operations, but in..." Balindar strokes his beard for a moment as he thinks, then continues, "...in 1897 of the Third Age this building was severely damaged by fire. Some say that it was an apprentice trying to utilize more of the Essence than he had the training to safely use, and it caused the fire to sweep through the building to quickly for anyone to stop. The Dorgard Alliance saw an opportunity to take advantage of this situation and offered to allow the guild to build a new and larger structure within their lands, and that they would be free of any form of taxation as long as they stayed there. But this offer did not come without a price; they had to help with the defense of Dorgard against Gorled. The Dorgard Alliance offered a very large piece of land right across the river from the most fabulous building in Gorled, the Great Cathedral of the All Father. They jumped at the chance, not only because of what Dorgard offered, but also because of the trouble that the Church of the All Father was causing for any wielders of the magical realms that were not affiliated with them directly. The Church had been claiming that these 'renegade spell casters where under the influence of demons and needed to be eradicated. As you can now see from anywhere in the channel region, the High Tower of Magic was built to cast a shadow over the Great Cathedral during the setting sun, and towers over everything in the five cities."
"No one believed that such a tall building could be made, but it was completed in less than a year. Some say that it is larger inside than it is outside, but who is to say what is possible when the greatest magic using minds of the world come together for a single project. Anyway, it was not long after that when the Fathers of the Church of the All Father, decided that they could not be out done. They planned to build the Great Bell Tower to a height above the High Tower, but no stone mason in the world was willing to undertake such a project due to the height of the work. Then the Church said that the Tower would be smitted down by the Hand of the All Father one day since it was an obvious insult to him, buy humans claiming to be able to reach so close to heaven. But, as you can see, this has not happened as of yet."
Alerelean then adds, "There is also the bridge. The start of the more recent wars has been signaled by the burning of the bridge that ties the two cities together over some disagreement or incident."
Balindar continues, "This is true. The only bridge between any of the channel cities is between the two cities that are at war with each other the most often. But then that is why neither side wants to build a more permanent stone bridge. All the other cities are separated by too much water to build bridges, except for maybe Martelain and South Shore. Then again, there is a lot of boat traffic that goes up and down the Silver River, and a bridge would interfere with this, so they have been content to use ferries."
Thengel says, "This has been interesting and entertaining so far."
Balindar replies, "Thanks. And thank you for the meal. This is a perfect
time to tell you about the longest ferry between South Shore and Gorled,
crossing one of the several islands in the channel. Then on to the history
of South Shore and then to the most intriguing and mysterious part of the
channel cities, the Isle's of Stars. But first, let me enjoy this dinner,
then I will continue."