the wolf and the sword
Chapter i preview
The Old Realm stretched over the entire southern part of the continent, from the great marshlands in the east to the rocky and savage oceans on the west coast. The southern border was blocked by an impassable freezing mountain range, stories of a strange and savage tribal people that lived in the snow who would steal naughty children was a favourite story among The Old Realm’s mothers. The Old Realm’s largest city, Alder, was housed in the south-west corner, its west side protected by a wall of cliff-faces that bottomed out into rough seas, and by its southern side by the mountains and the snow. The city was massive, home to a hundred thousand Old Realm citizens. The people who lived in the city were artisans of some kind, those who could bake, sew, paint, build or smith all lived within the safety of the city walls. But there was also a sizeable population of thieves, beggars, pick-pockets and swindlers in the poorer parts of the city. A small garrison attached to the northern wall housed enough soldiers to guard the walls but no more than that. No substantial army had ever made it that far south and the garrison was mostly old soldiers looking to retire in peace, or those soldiers not deemed fit to serve in the main army, cowards mostly.
Because of the rocky cliffs, Alder was unsuitable for ship-trade. This meant there was always a small army of merchants and traders camped outside the city walls. There to trade the artwork, food, weapons, armor, tools, leather goods and anything else they could lay their hands on, for the raw materials they collected from the smaller villages around The Old Realm, or the imported goods from the northern shipping port of Beechwood. The goods bought in Alder were taken north to Beechwood and to the towns and villages that littered The Old Realm. Beechwood was a popular port of call for traders everywhere, and as such housed the greatest market place in the land. It was also unofficially the only place where trade happened with The Unified Territories, although it was never done directly and certainly never acknowledged. A foreign merchant always acted as a middle man and no citizen of Beechwod would ever admit to it happening. The Warrior Faction may have lost a significant amount of their power and influence in the recent years of peace, but they were still feared enough for some of their more central rules to be followed. Beechwood did not have a garrison, a small force of guardsmen patrolled the streets and kept the peace, but none were soldiers. Greywatch, the Old Realm’s largest garrison was only a day’s ride to the east so the citizens of Beechwood never need fear an enemy force.
Greywatch was situated a day’s march south of Eldritch forest, more or less in the dead center of The Realm. During their more powerful years, The Warrior Faction had run the country from this garrison. But now it held only a few thousand men and women. Who, despite the peacetime, always kept an eye on the northern border, eager for blood, and wary of attack.
The Old Realm’s northern border was the southern border of The Unified Territories. The Eldritch forest guarded the western part of their shared border and no army had ever used it as a point of invasion. To the east of the forest was a great sea. The sea was largely empty except for fishing vessels and the small, fast scouting ships that each country used to patrol their borders. Each country had long ago lined their coast with guard towers and cannon-like weapons that fired great jets of sticky-fire that obliterated any ship that ventured too close. The sea rarely saw naval battles, a cannon or two fired from one of the scouting ships as a warning was the most fighting the sea had seen for years. Fisherman were known to attack and sink any boat that came too near their territory, but most knew that the stories they hear were nothing more than the exaggerated showing off of drunk men in taverns.
The south-eastern part of the sea was home to the only other major city in The Old Realm, Port Thomas, named after the man who founded it. Port Thomas was a large fishing port, trading their catches all across The Old Realm. It was a simple city of simple people. But the people of Port Thomas were a proud and hard people and their populous had acted as a small militia force when needed, bandits and brigands gave Port Thomas a wide berth. They were famously unforgiving of those who tried to steal from their honest town. They offered no loyalty to the Old Realm, but made no effort to wage war either. Many attempts had been made to bring them to their knees but in the end, they were left to live independently. Their trade within the Old Realm was a valuable source of revenue.
At the far eastern coast of the continent was The Neck. A narrow strip of land between the ocean and the sea. After centuries of opposing armies using it as it’s main target for invasions, the neck had miles of trenches and defensive fortifications on both sides, rendering it nearly as impossible to cross as the forest and the sea. Because of these impassable obstacles, there had been no substantial armies crossing into their enemy’s lands for two hundred years. The peace was fragile and unofficial. But it had lasted and both countries had thrived because of it.