Adventures in the Salian Empire
The Empire of Salia is in turmoil. Rebellious princes clamor for their ancient rights; would-be conquerors march from the South, intent on claiming all in their path; the forces of magic and technology struggle against each other in a conflict that will change the face of the empire; and from the barbaric East, strange rumors of doom are whispered on the chill autumn winds. Into this story steps an unlikely band of adventurers – some might call them heroes, but most would call them mercenaries, or worse. Whether they serve gods, glory, or gold, though, they will turn the course of history… but at what cost?
As with all great tales, this one begins in the simplest of places: a small town on the frontier… in a tavern.
The winds of autumn have begun to blow in the East Marches, promising a bitter winter in the months ahead. Farmers are conducting their final business in the town of Norton, hoping to lay in the supplies and tools they will need when the long snows come. Merchants are haggling fiercely for every last kernel of grain, knowing that there’s precious little time left to send their trade wagons to the bustling cities in the west and the sprawling army camps in the south. Night comes early now, and men gather in public houses to drink and share dark rumors of the world’s troubles.
The small town of Norton is no exception, and there are rumors enough to fill an entire winter’s worth of nights, especially at one disreputable inn with a sign bearing the image of a man with a sword in one hand and a frothing mug of beer in the other:
“This will be a colder winter than ever, I can feel it in my bones. My old gaffer used to say that meant that the Frost Queen was stirring in her Palace of Ice.”
“Your old gaffer never met a cup that he couldn’t find the bottom of. Weather like this means that the faerie-folk are waking in the Black Forest – they’ll be here to steal our children soon enough.”
“You hayseeds have been listening to too many campfire stories. If anyone steals our children, it will be the Knights of the Red Star. Did you see that troop of them ride into town the other day? I hear they’re setting up camp here for a while. Before we know it, all of our sons will be shirking their work to go play Sir Busybody and swing a shiny sword.”
“Not likely to find too many shiny swords around here these days. The Lord-Mayor keeps putting off Sir Ulrich and the garrison every time they ask for new arms. My cousin said they’re using rusty pikes and dull axes these days.”
“Why should the Lord-Mayor spend any more money on those lazy thugs? They’re nothing more than upjumped peasants, anyway. We haven’t heard so much as a whisper of barbarians in years now. They’ve probably all turned on each other, the dumb savages. I’m amazed they don’t all catch sick and die, living in filth the way they do.”
These stories circulate through the Hero’s Welcome, easy enough to overhear by any of its patrons. Amongst those patrons are:
A stoic ranger and his equally serious-looking dwarven companion.
A pair of half-elves who bear a striking resemblance to each other.
A pair of well-dressed travelers; one a wood elf with a quiet dignity, and the other an awkward, gangly young man in fine clothes.