Ashes of Empires
Two centuries ago, explorers seeking a route through the imposing Godsteeth Mountains discovered a narrow valley that formed a pass between two of the range’s mighty summits, Mount Thistera and the Iron Peak. Following a series of trails winding through the valley, they came upon a dwarven mining outpost whose inhabitants were busy extracting iron and other ores from a series of mines cut into the flinty flanks of the mountains.
Striking a bargain to exchange the valuable metals for food and provisions, the explorers decided to establish a trade route between the valley and the cities of Arnassus to the east. In time a small community formed around the trading post, eventually growing to the size of a small city.
The good fortune of the traders did not go unnoticed, and before long raiding parties from the badlands to the west and Arnassus to the east began plaguing the thriving settlement. To better protect the valley and its burgeoning center of commerce, immense walls were raised on either end of the valley. All travel into or out of the gates was strictly regulated. The taxes collected on incoming and outbound shipments helped to fund the construction of the city as it continued to grow.
Immense towers were raised along the mountainsides between the mines and the city proper, between which were strung masses of thick cables. Specially designed carts were then suspended from the cables, using the network of cables as a system of transporting people and materials up or down the mountains, avoiding the treacherous and winding paths that threaded them.
With the rush of eager prospectors there came a tide of those interested in separating them from their coins, either before or after they became wealthy. An entertainment district, the Fullheart Vale, sprang up on the western border of the city, serving its clientele with whatever entertainment they most desired. Mining suppliers, blacksmiths, and other tradesmen also found a good living in Tilian serving the more mundane needs of the miners.
In time, the dwarves who originally dwelt in the valley grew tired of their raucous neighbors and moved deeper into the range to pursue their operations. Having made little impact on the culture of Tilian, most of the humans dwelling in the city didn’t mind or even notice the departure of their dour cousins.
In a few short decades Tilian became a major commercial force, attracting merchants from across Arnassus and even nomadic traders from the badlands on the other side of the Godsteeth. People flocked to the city in pursuit of riches and opportunity discovering and working the mines. Claims often came into dispute, which led to the formation of a central mining authority responsible for overseeing all operations and issuing licenses to would-be prospectors.
Some years after the city’s founding it faced a new challenge, coming this time not from raiders from the steppes or Arnassus but from deep in the mountains themselves. A band of giants stumbled upon the city and, enraged at the presence of the foreign humans they found there, went on a bloody rampage, destroying everything that stood in their path. The city watch was no match for them, and panic spread throughout the city. Luckily, a band of adventurers happened to be passing through Tilian during the giants’ attack, and together they were able to fend off the brutes and drive them back into the mountains. The heroes were lauded and presented with every honor the grateful citizens could think to bestow upon them, and in return pledged to return to help the city should it ever find itself in danger again. The people of the city had but to light the signal fires at the top of Mount Thistera and the heroes promised to return wilth all due haste.
Today, Tilian suffers like the rest of Arnassus under the oppressive rule of the Hand. The drinking halls of the Fullheart Vale are strangely silent, and while mining operations continue, the ore that the mountains deliver is used by the city’s blacksmiths to forge new weapons for the oppressors. Gone too is the spirit of self-determination and self-reliance that once defined the life of the city; its people go about their everyday lives now under the cloud of defeat. The walls that for so long defended the city are breached, and the enemy is among them. Where are the new heroes that the city needs so badly?