The Grey Marches is the name given to a country in the far north of the known world, west of Eriabourne and south of the Northern Wilds. It is well known for its untamed landscape, ancient ruins and rugged terrain.
History and CultureEditThe Grey Marches were originally occupied by an ancient people known as the Profane, although little of this culture survives today. The Profane were master builders, both above and below ground, but most of their surface ruins have long since been destroyed over time. Their language is guttural and hard for even great scholars to master, though it has been preserved over the thousands of years since the culture was wiped out. The Profane were a brutal and vengeful society dominated by spellcasters and sages, and they are infamous for their cruelty to their enemies and their oppression of the common folk. When armies of the more southern Andrean culture moved north from the Dales, the Profane responded with hostility and violence, resulting in a war which lasted over fifty years. However, eventually the Andreans were victorious, and they constructed a new capital (Caer Andros) and opened trade agreements with the rest of the world. Under their control, other great cities were built, such as Highmoon, Castaport and Waymeet. The Andrean culture diminished over time, or rather adapted to form the modern culture of the Marches, which proves to be far more of a racial melting pot, due largely to the prominence of non-humans in parts of the Marches. In more recent history, the last emperor of the Old Empire fled north to the Grey Marches after Easthaven fell to Kuldan, where he built a fortress in the Lost Hills and died in seclusion. His son, a warrior and thinker, was seldom seen by the people of the Marches, but was rumoured to be planning a return to the Imperial Heartlands. However, he became very sick and perished before any plans could be brought to fruition, and his remaining followers buried him and fled.
Today, the Grey Marches are seen as a relatively wild region of the world, despite a well-maintained road network, and are ruled from Caer Andros by King Valdemar. The culture resembles that of the Dales and parts of Eriabourne, with emphasis put on internal trade, self-sufficiency, military strength and a wealthy nobility. The villages of the Marches are generally run by a lord or lady, as well as the land around, and the larger cities by a duke or duchess. The western and southern lands are extremely fertile, so there are many farms around the Greenlands, Waymeet, Highmoon, Tommen's Crossing, Liramar and Goodferry. However, further north the lands are more rugged and dangerous (commonly known as bandit country) and towards the east, the lands become swampy and unfit for even modest farms. However, the mineral wealth of the Silverpeak Mountains and the Ironwall Mountains make this region more valuable than any other.
In the far north of the country lies the Valley of the Fallen Kings, wherein the last ruins of the Profane culture can be found. However, few dare to make the journey, for in addition to the monsters and rugged terrain, the valley is rumoured to be haunted. The Forgotten Road winds its way north through the Twilight Forest and into the Northern Wilds, where only the hardiest barbarians and rangers set foot. Most of the settlements of the Marches lie within the High Forest, along the Lhuin and Loudwater, or in the fertile Greenlands. There is one colony of the Grey Marches, the prison island of Stormstone.There are a number of cultures within the Grey Marches aside from the governing Andrean descendants. Most notable is the High Circle of Magi, which occupies the city of Calenhad in Summervale and is led by Lady Cassandra. The dwarves of Husk near the southeast border mine for iron and nickel in the Ironwall Mountains (named after the mountains bordering their former homeland of Dura). Within the High Forest, elves and halflings occupy the trading towns of Liramar and Goodferry respectively, while in the Greenlands, military clans of hobgoblins are scattered around the lands near to their meeting place, Council Rock. Illegal organisations such as the Blood of Vecna, the Order of the Crimson Sun and the Grey Marches Thieves' Guild operate aswell, but only in the shadows and away from the prying eyes of the civil guards.
The Grey Marches make up a notably dangerous country to travel in due to the sheer number of monsters and brigands which inhabit it. The gnolls and orcs which live in the forests and hills make travel offroad dangerous, while the bandits in the King's Wood and the roads throughout the country harass the merchants and travellers. There are confirmed sightings of dragons now sprouting up throughout the Marches, which were supposedly driven out long ago. There are also a number of other rare creatures which hunt throughout the Marches, such as the fiendish and numerous gibberlings, the ferocious clawbeasts, or the subterranean devourers. The safest roads are the Wine Road, the Green Road, the Wet Road and the Iron Road, as the Gold Road and Trade Road are frequented by bandits.
Locations in the Grey MarchesEdit
- Caer Andros - The capital city of the Grey Marches, and the seat of King Valdemar. Valdemar recently issued a bounty for the death of each dragon as well as a bounty for every bandit leader killed. The captain of the guard, Marcus Roswell, ensures that the rich quarter is well garrisoned, although in the slums, the local militia (the Gutterfish) is thoroughly inefficient and corrupt. Caer Andros is the oldest fully functional city in the Grey Marches, though it is not as populous as Castaport.
- Castaport - A city out of its element in the bleak expanse of the Grey Marches, Castaport draws its influences from the cities of Southmark and Passage, to the South and West across the Sea of Stars. The largest city in the region, Castaport acts as a trade centre and political seat of power internationally, with significant wealth and goods being moved through the docks every day. The noble houses of this cobbled stone city are constantly feuding over trade, alliances, assassinations and gold. The city is ruled by a Council of Twelve, mostly merchant lords and heads of family.
- Highmoon - A large trading town in the south of the Marches, famous for its production of wine, cloth, and art. The city has a large elven population and is also noted for its bath houses and gardens.
- Calenhad - The seat of the High Circle of Magi, a large city in the Summervale area.
- Waymeet - A small town built around the intersection of the Green Road, the Gold Road, the Forgotten Road and the Trade Road, noted for its large population and number of merchants.
- Tommen's Crossing - A small village in the south of the Grey Marches, defended by guard captain D'Val.
- Liramar - An elven town in the High Forest.
- Goodferry - A halfling town in the High Forest.
- Husk - A dwarven mining town on the border of Eriabourne.
- Highmarket - A trading village on the cliffs above Castaport.
- Fenmarch - A small village in the swamps along the Wet Road.
- Widow's Gate - A small holdfast in King's Wood.
- Mazrukal's Tower - A wizard's tower in the east of the Grey Marches.
- Twilight Forest - An ancient and expansive forest in the northwest of the Grey Marches.
- Lost Hills - Craggy, winding and forbidding, the Lost Hills act as the gateway to the ancient Valley of the Fallen Kings. Also the location of the Tomb of Kerraz.
- Hills of Mist - Bandit-infested hills in the north of the Grey Marches.
- King's Wood - A large forest south of the River Loudwater and east of the River Lhuin.
- Ruby Lake - A large lake in the eastern swamps, west of the River Maeru.
- The High Forest - A massive ancient forest in the southern region of the Marches.
- The Greenlands - Expansive grasslands in the west of the Grey Marches.
- Silverpeak Mountains - High mountains in the northeast of the Grey Marches.
- Ironwall Mountains - High mountains in the southeast of the Grey Marches, named after the mountains bordering Dura and Bruanon.