The Hero's Journey

Life on the frontier

In the three and a half centuries since the Qeryon Intervention, the borders of Imperial territory on Feloria Major have remained almost static. Even as late as a century after the Intervention, the frontier was repeatedly tested by the remnants of the Kadeshi Autarchate and the elves, their own lines from Qeryos overextended and the infrastructure of the Dresdan Empire in ruins, were often hard-pressed to repel these assaults. Consequently, they focused their efforts upon establishing a strong defensive cordon while pouring resources into rebuilding the West, a strategy which performed double service as it did much to erode support for anti-Qeryon elements within the former Dresdan territories over time.

By the time of the final collapse of Autarchate power in central Feloria, the Empire’s attention had largely turned south to the rich resources of Feloria Minor and west across the ocean to new colonies on Orias, and successive Imperial Governors chose to continue to build on what previous policies had established. Over the next hundred and fifty years a number of attempts were made to establish new settlements to the east of the Imperial perimeter, made without formal Imperial support and meeting with little success.

In IR951 Imperial policy shifted once more, the Ordinatus announcing substantial financial and capital incentives to any citizen or group willing to participate in a renewed eastward colonization effort. The response was tremendous, tens of thousands of eager hopefuls making their way to the frontier in anticipation of the announced date.

While at first appearing successful, the event ultimately proved a bloody disaster. More than half of the participants fell victim to bandits, hostile natives and monsters within the year, and most of the survivors were forced to retire to the protection of the Imperial border fortresses. Only the town of Marr’s Hill survives from that expansion, a lonely beacon of civilization almost two hundred miles beyond the border cordon.

In the wake of the debacle the Empire once again suspended eastward expansion for almost a decade while the Ordinatus examined the cause for its failure and established a chain of military outposts protecting the lines of communication and supply to Marr’s Hill. Noting that new settlements invariably sprung up around these outposts, it was determined that it would be the Imperial military rather than its citizenry that would take the lead in the next attempt at expansion. Seven years ago over a dozen expeditionary forces were dispatched to establish footholds in the wilds.

Four of these expeditions set out from Marr’s Hill. One had the misfortune to encounter a sizeable raiding party bound for the town, and although successful in repulsing the attack was forced to abort its mission. The remaining three were able to establish and hold their fortifications as planned.

The boldest of these expeditions established Fort Merrick some seventy miles east of Marr’s Hill. Nine years later the town of Fairloch which has sprung up under the fort’s aegis has a population of almost a thousand and is growing steadily as the productivity of the nearby mines continues to rise. Fairloch is the most isolated outpost of civilization on Feloria, and although its situation is now at least somewhat stable there is no question that it remains vulnerable.

The town of Fairloch is situated in the foothills of the mountain range called the Halls of the Mountain King, on the southern shore of a long, winding lake named the Serpent. It lies on the approach to the only major pass through the mountain range, the location of one of the most brutal military assaults of the Kadeshi Wars. The ruins of Uldheim, one of the greatest cities of the old Empire, lie only a few miles north-east across the lake. The original plan for the settlement was that it be established within those ruins, but when scouting parties found the old city infested with monsters the expedition’s commander opted for one of the secondary sites instead.

The site ultimately chosen for Fort Merrick was atop a steep, rocky hill at the southern tip of the Serpent, an easily defensible location affording excellent views of the surrounding lands. Construction of the central keep was completed ahead of schedule, but with the garrison spread increasingly thin as the town below has burgeoned progress slowed and the main curtain wall was only completed a little over a year ago.

The current garrison strength is a single Banner (company) made up of three Marks (platoons), a total of a hundred and twenty troops. One Mark is assigned to garrison the fort, the others sharing patrol and civil works duties. In the event of a major attack, it is expected of every able-bodied civilian that they serve as auxiliaries under the garrison commander’s authority.

Command of the garrison would normally be handled by a Banner Captain, but Fort Merrick’s Captain Eric Scharnvonn was severely wounded in a skirmish two months ago and his duties are currently being shared by his adjutant, Subaltern Vari Havelock, and the bailiff-commander of the town militia, Sir Eamon Malory. Popular opinion suggests that the relationship is not harmonious, but functional. The two are subordinate to the town’s Magistrate, Leopold Marr, the second son of Baron Viktor of Marr’s Hill.

Construction of the town of Fairloch began only weeks after work began on the fort with construction of a shrine to Calenard, the Qeryon god of Public Works, Civil Engineering and Siege Warfare, laid down at the foot of Garrison Hill. This was swiftly followed by the clearing of the nearby woods and construction of a wooden palisade, sewer network and plank roads thus establishing the layout of the town in accordance with pre-laid plans.

Over the past decade the town has grown beyond its original perimeter and plans have been laid for a second palisade roughly a half-mile beyond the original. Beyond even this expanded perimeter lie the farmlands which have expanded north- and westwards, and the satellite town of Three Oaks some ten miles south which serves primarily as the bunk town for miners working in the four operating iron mines which are currently the cornerstone of Fairloch’s economy.

The town’s most distinctive landmark is Hilda, the centuries-old hulk of a Kadeshi war-golem that lends its (nick)name to the main square in which it stands. The Hall of Law and the Bell and Bird Tavern – widely acknowledged as Fairloch’s most important civil facilities – front onto Hilda’s Court. The Bell was the first private building completed in Fairloch and has served as the town’s primary social hub ever since.

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valensonek Gehrigan

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