The Sunless Dawn

Chapter 1 - Welcome to Eichenstark

Trouble on the North Road

The hamlet of Eichenstark is a crossroads, being neither here nor there, but the join that connects the two.  For the Kingdom of Wuslireich (perhaps the most powerful of the so-called “Western Lands”), the town has long been a bridge between North and South, East and West, civilization and wilderness, and an easy stepping stone from the mundane to realms of adventure, riches, and danger.   Few come to Eichenstark for its own merits, but at the same time, it is valued as a hospitable place for outgoing travelers and merchants to rest and refuel at a last comfortable inn before the long road ahead.  And for those who return from such journeys, the town is quite a suitable place for the reckoning of one’s riches…or for the mourning of one’s losses…

Truth be told, though, the terrain that Eichenstark clings to has few merits except but for its strategic placement.  The few year-round residents are amicable…but generally crusty, hardened folk, used to scraping a meager living from the marginal, windswept soils of the surrounding highland forests and bearing the brunt of long, cold, gray winters.  Many have found providing services to the towns many visitors to be a far easier way to make a (mostly) honest living.  For a town of its small size, Eichenstark’s narrow streets are surprisingly well-equipped with a variety of shops, inns, and services that would be of interest to most travelers.  On the outskirts of town are the warehouses that store the goods that are ready to go from here to there…but haven’t quite found somebody to take them yet.

Most notably, perhaps, the locals have found renown throughout the known lands for being particularly exceptional mountain guides.  The town lies in the Western foothills of the towering and continent-splitting Alderlich Mountains, just below the entrance to the only known pass across the mountains even remotely suitable for large-scale commercial traffic.  Even during the summer months, the only time when the road is passable, it is a well-known fact among merchants that hiring good local guide is a particularly sound investment.  But as the season turns, even this pass quickly closes off, leaving a long trek to the West Coast and a months-long sea journey as the simplest and safest route of contact with the East.  As is heard in the lines of a local song: 

“The one who crosses past oak leaf fall,
 
by triumph, wealth, or idiocy must be called

For many, like you, who seek adventure, Eichenstark is the place to begin.  When the time is right, as it often is, an opportunity arises for the extraordinary to distinguish themselves from the common chaff.  It is late in the trading season, a call has gone out from the town council to deal with some ‘disruptions’ that have recently arisen on the main road heading North.  Several trade caravans have been attacked by unknown raiders, and it is certainly not in the best interests of the the town or the local guilds to allow these attacks to continue.  The call has gone out for people willing to set forth and stop the attacks.  You have decided to answer that call…

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