In the early 14th century after Avard's coming, there existed a city-state known as Giranhad on the edge of the Aboriac Sea. The city-state would have remained unremarkable and obscure except for its sinking beneath the waves, had not the Inquisition become involved in its history. Every century or so, the great nations and churches of the Inquisition would launch a crusade west into the 'uncivilized' lands in order to wipe out magic and evil. Giranhad was chosen as the focus of the Fourth Crusades, and so an entire generation's worth of paladins, crusaders, priests, inquisitors, and other pious warriors gathered at Giranhad. And then word came from a priest of Galgiran that Giranhad would plunge into the sea, and was doomed to destruction.
The Inquisition had been constructing vast fleets of triremes and galleys to launch the Fourth Crusades with. Rather than launch en masse as they had planned, they began evacuating Giranhad's people and the women and children of the Fourth Crusades, along with what protective forces they could send. Many were sent back overland away from Giranhad, but the lead Inquisitors of the time were focused so intently on the crusades that they forbade fleeing east or north across the land. In the end, many brave men and women of the crusades remained in Giranhad to make room on the ships going west for those less fortunate than themselves.
The first target of the Fourth Crusades had been planned as being the Heart of Darkness, Kur Maeth, scourge of the west where mages still practiced their evil trade. Despite Giranhad – brave Giranhad – the crusades carried on. After a four month long journey of continual hunger and thirst, the crusaders arrived in Kur Maeth to find that evil had turned on evil, and the Mad God Nabrol had escaped his chains and loosed his forces on Kur Maeth. The Nabrolians had nearly expended themselves taking the city state of Kur Maeth, and so even the weakened crusaders had a chance at taking the city state, in their turn. Holy forces were unleashed, some by the Inquisition, others by the Mad God and his minions, but in the end, the Inquisition triumphed.
And then began the War of the Undead in earnest. Dead Kur Maens, dead Nabrolians, dead from centuries' past, dead mages and dead creatures of the night rose. Kur Maeth sits on a great island in the middle of the mighty Dreneb River. The holy knights of the crusades knew how to battle the undead, and so Kur Maeth rode out the War of the Undead with ease. And afterwards, there was a peace, for a time, beginning in 1320 Avard.
Mages still lingered in the west, in a newly-founded nation calling itself Rakore. The crusaders, gathering their breath and preparing to reimbark upon the Fourth Crusades, rallied its strength. Crusades came once in a century; once begun, they could not end. The First Crusades had destroyed the dragons, after all. Only dragons still existed, and arose with a nation all their own, defying the Inquisition to strike at them. But the dragon nation lay to the east, well away from Kur Maeth and the Fourth Crusaders. The leaders in Kur Maeth began to fracture, calling for the fight to go on in a myriad of directions, yet stymied by the loss of so many good soldiers in Giranhad.
The day came when the clarion call of battle sounded, and the Fourth Crusades was launched against Rakore in 1329 Avard. In one thrust they would wipe out a nation of mages, as well as orcs and their ogre magi lords. But in the midst of the fighting, those hand-picked men of the ArchPrelate Talon Bhramord realized that the true enemy was not the mages, but the ogre magi lords. The mages were proscribed by the Inquisition – but the proscription had been to preven the War of the Undead, and the proscription had failed. The Inquisition was at an end, and the ArchPrelate and many of his trusted men knew it and believed in it. The Inquisition had done terrible things to the mages in the name of the ages-old prophecy. And the prophecy had already come and gone, leaving the ArchPrelate and his men without faith in the Inquisition.
The new nation accepted the ArchPrelate, entitling him also 'Duke'. The nation's mages managed to beat back the orcs and their ogre magi lords, though the ArchPrelate's men helped considerably. ArchPrelate Talon was excommunicated from the Inquisition, yet his church still held him in high regards, and his god still granted him the powers of a holy paladin. As such, the ArchPrelate and his men could not return to Kur Maeth or to the east without touching off a war within the churches. And so he opted to remain in the nation of Rakore. His men remained with him, bringing their families from Kur Maeth in quiet arrangements with the leaders there.
In the spring of 1330 in the nation of Rakore, the ArchPrelate and Duke's men spread out across the fertile Janis Plains, marking farm-holds and sewing the season's first crops. The duke chose a location where the West and East Cold Rivers joined as the future seat of his duchy, and named the future city Fasra. The mouth of the combined Cold Rivers was named Chasadan. Other small towns and villages sprung up across the fertile plains, though people were truly few and far between. Some took up residence in the mountains surrounding the plains, establishing mining towns or trade outposts, but most took to the simple life of farming.
Near the headwaters of the West Cold River was established the farm-hold of Sir Tyrne le Boeuf, Banner Paladin of Whalin, God of Compassion and Healing. Sir Tyrne named his farm-hold River Crown, and hoped to make it a way-stop for travel over the mountains from Rakore's capital to the river. Sir Tyrne's people established several other farm-holds in the region, including one known simply as Caerne's Place, located several miles west of River Crown.
Caerne's Place was named by Caerne of Giranhad, a strong worker in his youth that had become a grandfather towards his later years. Caerne and his extended family established an independant, proud farm-hold of their own. Caerne had three sons by his first wife and two daughters by his second, and all five children and their spouses and their children worked Caerne's Place. The thirty or so of them crafted an unwalled compound of stone and earth and precious wood near a small tributary creek of the West Cold River Caerne named the Mud Snake. The crops the first year were good, and so, too, were the crops of the second year.
Caerne himself had been a follower of the Architect God, Mikindim, most of his youth. He flirted briefly with the Inquisitor God, Yatindar, after being in Kur Maeth for some years, before finally switching to the Harvest God, Barith. Caerne let his children decide their own faiths, and they tended to follow a pantheon of Mikindim, Barith, and the Healing God, Whalin.
Caerne, like many of the farmers near River Crown, grew a *wide* variety of crops: barley, maize, wheat, sorghum, (sweet & ) potatoes, and even cassava for fuel; beans of many varieties for protein and soil maintenance; and a great variety of herbs, squashes, and other plants. Animal protein was likely supplied primarily by chickens and geese and occasionally pork, with some hairy cattle free-ranging on the plains away from the farms. Caerne, his five children and their spouses, and his grandchildren, likely worked some 50 acres of active farmland and another few hundred acres of cattle and hay and fallow. Cattle estimate at 40 head.
Late in 1331, the younger children began to cry at night, and the elders remembered terrors of the War of the Undead. Things unseen stalked the night – and William Caernson never returned one night when he was late bringing in a load of goods from River Crown. The situation continued to spiral out of control until the first snow of fall – when a battle took place at Caerne's Place, and Caerne of Giranhad and all his children died protecting the grandchildren.
Sir Tyrne arrived early the next morning with a troop of mounted men. They were too late, and there was little enough time to do anything but burn the remains of Caerne and his fallen family, and move the suriving grandchildren to River Crown, a town of only 150 souls and yet massive to the survivors of Caerne.