West Athens Marches
Westmarch – Overview
Some dozens or possibly hundreds of years prior – many records were lost and precise dates are not known – the continent-spanning human/tiefling Empire of Nerath collapsed, taking with it most of the non-human kingdoms into a Dark Age. Decadence, decay, and barbarians at the gate all played a part in the collapse of the Empire.
About forty years ago, several young, vibrant Kingdoms arose in the east and quickly began to expand, pushing the borders of the wilderness back. Old Imperial areas were reclaimed after numerous military campaigns and considerable bloodshed by adventurers and their ilk to drive out the various Things that had moved in to what had once been civilization.
Today, the Young Kingdoms are a stable, if slightly stagnant Empire. Trade and commerce thrive in the civilized Heartlands, and ships from the Kingdoms carry goods, ideas and people up and down the coastline to the re-emergent elven and eladrin enclaves, while to the north, the dwarves have emerged from their long-sealed mountain strongholds to deal with Men once more. All is peaceful, harmonious and civilized – except the West.
There, many long, hard leagues of unsettled, unconquered land lay between the Barony of Westmarch and the long-forgotten and distant far shores of the Western Ocean, unseen by humans since the days of the Old Empire. The Young Kingdoms have become complacent and decadent. No political will for conquest remains, and it seems likely that the last of the West will never be tamed.
No one lives to the west, and the few foresters and hardy explorers who venture into the Wild report tales almost too fantastic to believe, stories of high-soaring dragons, crumbling towers inhabited by inhuman things, and deep underground lairs filled with treasures of the Old Empire guarded by creatures out of nightmare.
Over a decade ago, groups of adventurers came to Westmarch intent on gaining the riches and fame that could be had in the wilderness. For a while, the westernmost village of the Barony became a hub of activity as enterprising craftsmen set up shop to supply the newcomers with the tools of their trade. Many who ventured west failed to return, and many who did return came back with nothing but harrowing tales and scars to show for the effort. But a few became rich.
After a while, this “gold rush” died out – too many who headed into the Wild failed to return, and the most successful knew enough to retire from the adventuring life while they still could. For a dozen years or so, Westmarch was once again the quiet, pastoral place it had been before. Aside from the occasional kobold or goblin raid across the River Wide to steal sheep or chickens, the Wild might as well not be there.
Six months ago, however, a small band of adventurers became the first folk to head into the Wild in ages – and they came back with the same fantastic tales that others had – as well as many a gold coin. Today, a slow but steady stream of like-minded folk have once more headed from the interior of the Young Kingdoms to find a fortune in the West.