Rumors of the Western Island date back centuries. As with any rumor, there is some foundation of truth. The Elves, one of the ancient world’s most proficient seafaring people, tell legends of a ship that discovered the land nearly eighteen hundred years ago. Some accounts claim sightings of great monsters that roam the depths of the ocean in search of ships to devour. Others tell of strange lights in the northern skies that mariners claim are energies expended by the gods in their warring with one another. Taken alone, many of these fantastic stories can be discounted. But this story of a western land is not alone.
A log kept by the first officer of a human vessel, called The Wind’s Desire, over eight hundred fifty years ago tells a sad tale of a captain gone mad who took his ship and crew due west into the violent Baratic Sea. At the outset, the captain’s madness was not apparent, so the crew followed his orders, unusual though they were. There were no known trade routes to the west, but a veteran captain must know something they did not, so the ship and her crew continued west. The sea quickly grew rough and the skies heavy. After the fourth day, the crew started to become nervous. The thick clouds rarely broke allowing only brief glimpses of the sun and just a few hurried readings could be taken by the partially obscured stars to confirm that they were still on their westerly course. The captain’s resolve, however was so solid that the crew rallied their courage and continued into the unknown. Their spirits were upheld by the captain’s promise that they would soon reach their destination. It was only after eleven days on the water, shrouded in fog, rain, and fear that signs of the captain’s mental collapse began to show. At first it was just mumbled ramblings that were virtually impossible to understand, but soon his condition became fully apparent. One evening, while taking seemingly arbitrary readings, he declared that they would soon arrive at their ultimate destination, which he referred to as Kishar’s bedchamber.
Late the next evening a lookout spotted a furious storm brewing on the horizon. Soon afterward, the Captain burst out of his cabin. Dressed only in his bedclothes and brandishing a cutlass, he strode to the bow of his ship, flung his arms wide and ordered full sail into the maelstrom. He called out, “Kishar, my love, I have returned to you! No longer shall you mourn my absence! We will entwine ourselves in eternal passion!” In short order, he was bound and locked below deck where he could do no more harm. The Wind’s Desire, however, was quickly being sucked into the storm. The crew could do nothing but trim the sails and brace for what promised to be a frightful ride. The unfortunate vessel was battered for a full five days before the storm subsided. Though the ship seemed to have taken minimal damage, they were hopelessly lost. It was another two days before the clouds broke and the sky cleared enough to even attempt to discern their position by the stars. They knew they had been pushed further west by the storm, but it was nearly impossible to know just how far. With provisions nearly depleted, their condition was grave. Then, the deities smiled upon them. The third day after the great storm was clear and bright. Just off the starboard quarter was land, closer than they could have imagined. There loomed before them a coastline of tall jagged cliffs and great rocks that split the waves as they charged the sheer walls. Had the storm persisted for even one more day, they could have been smashed against rocky teeth and consumed by a hungry ocean. The land near the cliffs appeared barren except for a few defiant scrub bushes and it was another day before they found a tiny inlet that offered some minimal shelter from the turbulent sea. Further inland seemed promising. Tall mountains with forested slopes offered an opportunity to replenish their dwindling supplies and collect lumber for repairs. The first officer, now commanding the ship, ordered the anchor be set and foraging parties sent ashore. The log records that the crew spent four days gathering food and fresh water. The officer notes that game was plentiful.
“One need not traverse far to find large herds of game. The hart here are of a different variety from our own. They are somewhat larger and many bear spots upon their backs much like a leopard…It is a curious thing that men of more wisdom than ourselves should wish to wonder at. They serve our purposes well enough in that the meat is of good taste and pleasing to the jaw. I ordered six of the beasts slaughtered and cooked for the men to enjoy…It has much roused their spirits.”
The ship returned by way of a more southerly route and fought for every yard of sea as she went. According to the first officer’s accounts, it was only by the crew’s dauntless determination that they were able to return safely. The homeward journey took nearly two months. The captain died en route.
There are other tales of the western isle as well, but this was the most detailed of its time. Some stories circulated of particularly brave men, who claim to have visited the mysterious land. Others tell of vessels lost in great storms that rage for days or weeks that by skill or luck survived to be thrown toward the shore of a land far to the west. On occasion some people, probably driven by lunacy, intentionally set out in search of what they believed to be an eden in the west. Most were never heard from again.
The world has changed much since those times. Great men have lived and died; wars were fought; new peoples appeared; kingdoms rose and fell. One of the most influential events of recent centuries was the emergence of the Sethen. This reptilian race appeared from the South-lands 240 years ago. They claim to have migrated for nearly a century until they encountered Humans. They conquered the Human Kingdom of Derthaven and claimed those lands as their new home. They were followed sometime later by the Oelytes, who also came from the south. A very intelligent and seemingly passive race, the avian Oelytes have dispersed and settled among all the kingdoms of Merdensa. In time, both of these new races were accepted by the Humans, Elves, and Dwarves. In fact, these five races have become sufficiently receptive of one another that they have created a common assembly to discuss important issues. This Peace Council, as it has come to be called, was originally proposed by the Oelytes. Created 80 years ago, the Peace Council has three representatives from each race and has thus far been able to defuse and resolve any disputes that have arisen. The establishment of the Council was such a significant event that modern dates are determined from its year of inception. Thus, we today live in the 80th year of the Age of Council. The Orcs, the sea-raiders of Hannabelg, have shown no interest in participating in such a gathering. And the extreme animosity that exists between the Caitiff and all other races precludes their participation.
It was a mere 21 years ago that credible evidence of the western continent was produced. Intrigued by the legends of the unknown virgin land, the explorer and master seaman, Konstantin Von Engelhardt sought to undertake an expedition to chart the legendary land. He petitioned the King of Alessandria to supply his expedition and in return Von Engelhardt would dedicate the land, if it were really there, to the King. King Gordion could hardly resist such an offer. He was an astute man who realized that the return on his investment in ships and supplies could be multiplied ten or even a hundred fold if the expedition were successful.
However, Von Engelhardt’s first expedition went far over budget, much to the King’s dismay. He set sail in the late summer of the 41st year in the Age of Council with six ships at his command. The same violent storms that plagued The Wind’s Desire centuries ago also reared tormented Von Engelhardt’s fleet. He lost three ships on the westward journey. One of the lost vessels carried a contingent of nine Dwarves, the only non-humans in the entire company. Throughout most of the endeavor, they were uncertain of their position or heading. The sky was constantly overcast and little or no celestial readings could be taken to chart their course. The remaining ships eventually found the mysterious land, and it was very much like the ancient journal described. In all, the journey took seven weeks. The expedition stayed only long enough to make repairs and collect a few plant and mineral samples. Von Engelhardt created crude (by his standards) maps of the short length of coastline they were able to explore, and then prepared for the return voyage. He was determined to report his findings and return again with a larger expedition for a longer stay. During the return trip they once again encountered adverse winds and wild seas. They completed the voyage in just four weeks, but the hunger of the Baratic Ocean consumed another ship and her crew in the process.
Upon their return to Alessandria they were welcomed by King Gordion and treated like heroes. Plans were quickly made for a second expedition to carry more men and equipment and establish a semi-permanent outpost from which to conduct inland exploration. Word spread quickly and in two years von Engelhardt was ready to sail again. This time he would be taking eleven ships including two vessels provided and crewed by Elves.
His second expedition sailed in the early spring of AoC 44. Nine days into the journey the fleet was struck by an unexpected storm that sank two ships and scattered the rest. When they regrouped three days later they found that one of the other vessels was damaged beyond repair and had to be abandoned. It was less than two weeks into the journey and Von Engelhardt had already lost a quarter of his ships. Adversity struck again in the following week when two ships collided in a dense fog. Both vessels remained afloat but the damage was considerable. They opted to turn the crippled ships toward home. The remaining ships sailed on, but due to thick clouds, rain, and fog, they were unable to confirm their course or position. The sighting of ice floes soon made it clear that they had made a grievous error in judgment. They came about immediately, but the unforgiving sea had her way again. The hull of one of the Elven vessels was torn open by submerged ice. Ship and crew succumbed to the cold ocean. Now, with more than half of his expedition lost and uncertain of his position, Von Engelhardt set his remaining ships on what his intuition told him was an easterly course toward home. Before they reached port however, another ship was swallowed by the treacherous waters. This second expedition was a disastrous failure.
People began to believe the cause was hopeless and quickly withdrew their support and their interest. Von Engelhardt, however, was determined. He tried again and again to find someone who would fund another venture but no one was willing to forfeit more money and lives. His hopes had begun to fade when, six years after his second expedition, a development occurred that caused Von Engelhardt to immediately resumed his plans for a third journey. A new technology was invented – the magnetic compass. With this new tool he would no longer have to rely solely on celestial readings to determine his course. Now he was certain another attempt had to be made. Still unable to gather much financial backing, Von Engelhardt was able to muster only three ships and crews. With limited provisions, they sailed west. The Baratic Ocean was just as violent as ever but, with the assistance of the compass, they were able to make a more direct crossing and reach the elusive land. The trip took only four and a half weeks. However, one ship was severely damaged and was unable to make the return voyage. The two remaining ships, crammed with excess crew, stuck for home. After another five weeks of fighting a stalwart headwind, Von Engelhardt and his men arrived on the coast of Alessandria having finally been vindicated.
Having proved himself a second time, he again approached the King to request money, men, and supplies for an outpost. He received all that he asked for. Four years later, in AoC 55, Von Engelhardt left again, this time at the head of twelve ships laden with supplies and men prepared for an extended stay. Two weeks after his departure another support squadron of eight vessels followed him to the west. They could not avoid misfortune though, for out of the twenty ships that sailed that year, four were sunk on the journey. It seemed there was nothing they could do to tame the ocean.
The first outpost was set up near the coast. But within the first year frequent strong storms forced them to move further inland. This first permanent community was called Vonenburg in tribute to the man who had founded it. During this first year there was little actual exploration conducted. Von Engelhardt did scout the coastline and found a better harbor that was somewhat sheltered from the notorious sea. They called this new harbor simply Anchor Point. Aside from this, most of their time and resources were expended in the construction of roads and buildings. In the following years regular convoys were established to relieve and re-supply the inhabitants of the new land. It was sometime during this period that the new continent acquired the name Feragothe, which appropriately meant ‘rugged wilds’. Over the next few years, increasing numbers of enterprising or adventurous individuals of all races booked passage to the west. The trip was risky however, as each convoy continued to lose ten to twenty per cent of its ships due to the forever violent Baratic.
In AoC 56, the year after the outpost was established, the explorers encountered the sentient humanoids that have come to be called Barbarians. At first the men thought they had found a lost tribe of humans and, indeed, the Barbarians do very much resemble the race of Men. But they soon discovered that their body structure was significantly different, enough at least to consider them a separate race. The Barbarians tend to be larger than humans, more muscular, and with a heavier bone structure. Aside from their ‘primitive’ culture and brutish nature, (hence their name) the Barbarians were generally receptive of the newcomers.
The following year another amazing event occurred. A second new race revealed itself. This was a race of Elves who had apparently been watching the progress of the explorers since their arrival. Though they probably could have kept their presence concealed for much longer, they chose to greet the newcomers in as peaceful and non-threatening way as possible, before an unexpected encounter could occur. Physically, these Elves were virtually identical to their Merdensan cousins, but their culture was vastly different. The Feragothian Elves lived in a society who exult their close connections to the natural world. While they acknowledge some biological connection, the Elves of Merdensa consider the ways of their kin to be primitive and archaic. Thus they have deemed themselves the True Elves and their Feragothian counterparts as Wild Elves.
The number and size of the shipping convoys continued to grow and a significant community took hold. Though the land was technically claimed as a dominion of Alessandria, peoples of all races were traveling and settling in Feragothe. King Gordion saw the need to act quickly to enforce his authority. Maintaining control of a land so remote, however, would be a difficult task. Additionally, the other kingdoms were claiming authority over their citizens who were taking up residence. A compromise was reached in the Peace Council. The new land would become a principality with complete autonomy, but under the suzerainty of the King of Alessandria. It was confirmed that King Gordion had the right to select the individual who would rule the land. The Prince would be supported and advised by a council consisting of two representatives from each kingdom. The King selected one of his most powerful lords and trusted advisors – Nikolai Llewellyn Galt-Haldane, Duke of Vosburg. King Gordion and Duke, now Prince, Nikolai laid plans for coordinated colonization. They enticed families, craftsmen, and merchants by offering free passage to Feragothe. The other kingdoms of Merdensa made similar efforts. In AoC 60 the first colony fleets began to sail. Prince Nikolai and his capable adjutant, Lord Jon Kendall, were among the first to depart. The Prince was nearly killed on the crossing when his ship was capsized by a rogue wave, but he was rescued by a nearby vessel bearing Dwarven colonists. In the Autumn of AoC 60 the Prince issued a proclamation outlining the creation of the Principality of Haldenweald. The new settlement of Corsotha was founded and now serves as a central community for the new world.
For these past years since the establishment of the Principality, the colonists’ hold on the land has been tenacious. Beasts, monsters, and abominations of sorts never dreamed of inhabit the new continent. Each day brings a new challenge to overcome and a new struggle for survival. Thus we have arrived at our current day. There still remain obstacles to overcome, unknown enemies to face, famous names yet to be remembered. What follows is future history…