The World of Dragonsgate
History of Dragonsgate
A Brief History of Dragonsgate
In the lost ages of the world, before the War of Ruin, the Dragonsgate region was part of a mighty Giant empire that extended both under the mountains and into the clouds. All lesser races were subjects to the giants, including the dwarves, who did much of the work constructing their strongholds and effigies. Some of these ruins survive today, including the Tower Overlook itself, which was once a watchtower along the Truin River guarding the empire’s western flank. Other remains are scattered across the region, from the Deep Forest to the Stonespire Mountains, attesting to the glory and grandeur of this ancient kingdom.
Despite the presence of such ruins, little is known about the kingdom itself. The names of its rulers have been lost. No one remembers what wars they may have fought, what magic they wielded, or what technology they developed before their kingdom fell, and no one knows what disaster or force brought the kingdom down. Lord Caes of Dragonsgate, who has a keen interest in history, often hires adventurers through his interests at the Banker’s Guild to explore and claim these ruins and any clues they may hold to the region’s storied past.
The region lay fallow for centuries after the fall of the Giants’ Empire. During this period Seaport was reclaimed from the ruins and used as a free port by the growing Arkhosian Empire. The dragons and their servants began to slowly settle the coast, but made no serious inroads into the continent at the time.
When the War of Ruin began, the Dragonsgate region was still unsettled territory, but as the legions of Bael Turath swept across the continent fortresses were hastily built, strongholds erected, watchtowers propped against the trees, ponds drained and rivers diverted in order to shore up Arkhosia’s defense and power their war machines. The western plains, where Kingshold now lies, saw the most battles as the Deep Wood proved inconvenient to massive troop movement and the transport of catapults and other engines of destruction. Finding the defenses in the Deep Wood impassable, the legions of Bael Turath and Arkhosia continued to slaughter one another in the west until both empires fell, leaving their ruins behind. These ruins still lie scattered throughout the Deep Wood. In the cradle of this destruction, Kingshold arose congruent with the human empire of Nerath in the far west, and continued to dominate the near-west for several centuries. Much of that kingdom is built of what Arkhosia and Bael Turath left behind.
Most of the Arkhosian ruins in the Deep Wood remain unexplored by any but low humanoids who have come to roost in the shelter of those ancient stones. These sites are of great interest to Lord Caes, who commonly contracts with adventurers and archeologists to clear and study the remnants of the past. Secrets of the War of Ruin, ancient artifacts, and other treasures could still lurk within the ruins for those bold enough to seize them.
Approximately five centuries after the War of Ruin, the entity now known as Lord Caes claimed an ancient Giant watchtower set into the cliff side of Greencleft Mountain, overlooking the River Truin, as his home. Records from this time are almost nonexistent, save for what Lord Caes himself has said about the time period, which is very little. According to the official stories, Lord Caes initially began to reclaim the Tower Overlook on his own, rechristening it and clearing the rubble with the intent to eventually make something grand of the remains. However, he found the task too daunting for an individual, even a resourceful one. In order to secure and protect his new home, he began clearing the mountain and nearby forest of the worst of the monsters, goblins, and other vermin that infested it.
There are many rumors about Lord Caes and his origins, most of which have no basis in fact. Many believe Lord Caes is an immortal, a True Fey of the Courts of the Feywild, who came to the mortal plane and settled in the Tower. Was he exiled? Was he adventuring? What plans does he have for his mortal subjects? What secrets does the Tower Overlook hide? Most residents of Dragonsgate can do no more than speculate, but Lord Caes’ actions and the residents of the Overlook are always the subject of gossip and tale-spinning.
A tale better-known, and much more grounded in truth, is that of the founding of Dragonsgate by the Rustfell clan.
The Rustfell Clan once lived under the Stonespire Mountains in the north where the River Truin has its source. They were part of a kingdom made up of many dwarven clans brought together under one king, Belnor Ironshadow, who was king under the mountain. The dwarves traded with others who dwelt in the high mountains or in the Underdark, and sometimes used the river to trade south with Seaport, which by now had been rebuilt atop its own ruins for the third time. According to the history set down by Torrald Rustfell, the Stonespire Kingdom was grand and wondrous, prosperous beyond belief, and secure from all its enemies under the guidance of a good and able king and wise chieftains. The dwarves there lived happily and traded shrewdly until a conqueror called Kulvvor Blackgullet began to unite the deep-dwelling clans of hobgoblins under his rule.
The first sorties with the dwarves were easily turned back, but Kulvvor’s legions grew in number and scored several strategic victories early on, before the dwarves had fully realized what they were dealing with. By the time they perceived the threat Kulvvor posed and King Ironshadow summoned his banners, the kingdom was already sorely beset fighting a war on several fronts. According to written history, Torrald attested that there were rumors of fiendish creatures among the ranks of the enemy, though he never personally saw them. Whatever terrible strength Kulvvor brought with him, his legions overran the dwarves’ dwellings and forges and drove several clans from their ancestral homes. King Ironshadow mustered his forces for a sortie he hoped would turn the tide, but was betrayed by Kulvvor’s engineers, which dropped the cavern roof on the battlefield after Ironshadow’s troops had fully committed. The king fell, and after that, the remaining clans were swiftly overrun and forced to flee.
Led by their patriarch, Torrald, Clan Rustfell made their way free of the Stonespires and escaped into the foothills and the Deep Wood. They followed the Truin south, experiencing great hardship and losing many of their number to hungry forest beasts and hunger. When they came to the Tower Overlook they were exhausted, and sent scouts to climb Greencleft Mountain in search of shelter. What they found was Lord Caes.
Rather than driving the dwarves off, Lord Caes offered them his hospitality and listened to their story. After showing the dwarves great generosity in caring for their sick and injured and giving them such food as he had on hand, Lord Caes and Torrald Rustfell and three of the clans elders, who are named in the histories, engaged in private parlay deep into the night. By morning, a treaty had been drawn up, and Clan Rustfell was under Lord Caes’ protection.
The Dwarves began to build at the foot of the mountain as soon as they were able. Living quarters, forges, and other necessities were established quickly and temporarily, because Torrald had a bigger project in mind. There are many records from this time of criticisms of Torrald as a leader, even accusations of madness stemming from the trauma he had endured, but none the less his clan was faithful and helped him to achieve his dream – the greatest engineering project of the modern world, a bridge over the River Truin at Tower Overlook. For many decades the dwarves labored to cross the river’s span, aided by Lord Caes. The bare bones of the bridge went up in a year, and allowed the Dwarves to begin charging tolls of those sailing north and south along the river. Initially travelers were reluctant to pay to use the riverway, but with Lord Caes’ backing the bridge began to generate revenue.
As money rolled in, the dwarves established another source of revenue – fields of hops, thriving in some of the marshy lowlands surrounding the river, proved fertile enough to support a brewery. Dragonsgate mead, beer, and ale soon became famous along the more-developed coast, increasing shipping along the river as demand grew.
The bridge was finished, made to look like a prowling dragon astride the river, with burning green fires in the eyes and mouth to warn and guide the barges. Folk seeking their fortunes traveled to Dragonsgate and built homes, workshops, taverns, stores, and temples.
During this time, Dragonsgate experienced major problems from halfling riverfolk, who believed the river belonged to no one and ought to always be free. As Dragonsgate expanded and began to claim the outlying land, secretive halfling villages were disturbed and left abandoned. The halflings retaliated by stealing from and sabotaging the dwarves. Their activities were mostly a nuisance until their sabotage caused an accident at a construction site that resulted in a death, at which point the dwarves insisted Lord Caes take action against the halflings.
Lord Caes obligingly took charge of negotiations. One clan of halflings, the most troublesome, was driven out of the area and has not since returned or been seen. Two other clans were given resident status, exempting them from the tolls, and new bylaws were written to protect their settlements and their trading privileges along the river as long as they consented to be taxed as vassals to Lord Caes. The Haflings felt a twice-yearly tax was much preferred to a case-by-case toll and accepted the offer. Now Haflings are a large and welcome part of most major settlements along the River Truin, and Halfling Riverfolk are still the best sailors and navigators any shipping concern could wish to hire.
The Watch was established shortly after the Riverfolk Contract was finalized, as the need for a dedicated peacekeeping force became apparent. As more and more non-dwarves settled in Dragonsgate, bringing their quarrels with them, a final council was held between Lord Caes, Torrald, and the elders of the town. During this council, the first draft of the Code of Law was completed in Lord Caes’ own hand, apparently owing to his superior penmanship. Pages of this codex are on display as historical artifacts, pressed between glass in the Mayoral Estate. The Code would undergo a number of revisions as Dragonsgate grew and expanded, but the basic structure of the law – the rights of citizens, traders, and artisans, the system of government (a mayor served by a council of masters, under Lord Caes as feudal liege), system of taxation, guild rights, and other vital precedents – were set down in that council meeting which lasted several weeks. Torrald was unanimously elected as Dragonsgate’s first Mayor despite his advanced age, and held the post until he passed away peacefully almost a century after the town’s founding. His son, Tormhald, was elected Mayor in his stead, and has held the post since that day.
Enforcement of the law was given over to The Watch, for which Tormhald was the first Captain, leaving that post only when he was called to the mayoral spot. Regulatory control and enforcement was given over to the Council of Master Artisans, who had the power to raise new Masters to their own body by popular vote. Control of taxation, tariffs, legal documentation, and money-changing was given over to a chapter of the Banker’s Guild which established a guildhouse to be mate to the motherhouse in Seaport.
Tormhald Rustfell’s first act as mayor was unglamorous, but significant- he commissioned flagstone paving for the streets of Dragonsgate, to ease the movement of goods. A new city plan was made, and several structures were deconstructed and moved to new areas in order to ensure the city lay-out was neat, organized, and intuitive. These public works projects, including the installation of the fountains and street lanterns and the cultivation of a Bureau of Public Works to see to cleanliness and repair, marked the transition of Dragonsgate from a bustling trade town to a real city, and one of the most significant powers in the region.
Today, Dragonsgate is a lively, orderly, and vivacious city-state whose influence, under the lordship of Caes of Tower Overlook, extends hundreds of miles north, west, and south. Supporting towns, such as Rushwater and Freewater, have sprung up along the Truin as trade continues to grow, enabling more expansion and civilization of the region. Lord Caes still rules from his Tower, and Mayor Tormhald still runs the city from the Mayoral Estate in the center of town, though he is aging and will soon step down. Business thrives under the guidance of the Council of Artisans. Thanks to a streamlined public works system, Dragonsgate is unusually clean, all the streets and buildings in good repair, and the bureaucracy runs with dwarven efficiency. As new settlements are established and supported by Lord Caes’ protection, the River Truin continues to be a major trade route. Strict laws regarding the cultivation of farmland and the practices of logging and deforestation keep the Deep Wood healthy and thriving even as the city’s holdings expand, helping Dragonsgate to continue to exist in relative harmony with the natural forces that ruled the region for so many centuries.
The year in Dragonsgate is marked by festivals, such as the Brewers & Bakers festival in the autumn (which is basically Oktoberfest), the Winter Crafts Regalia, an indoor market for craftsmen and artisans held in late winter, the Midsummer Fire Festival, which features colorful entertainment, games of skill, strength, and chance, literal faery tales and displays of magic, and the somber Festival of Lights on midwinter’s night, paying dues to the Shadowfell and the honored dead.
Temples to all the major gods can be found in Dragonsgate, though Moradin is particularly popular as Dwarves are still the most numerous demographic. Even minor gods often have shrines attached to temples of major gods with whom they are allied, though these temples aren’t nearly so large and ornate as those in the south, favoring Dwarven sensibility over all. Free worship of good and neutral gods is legally protected as long as the Code is adhered to. Worshippers of evil gods usually find themselves more welcome in Freewater, where temples are few but people mind their own business.
Recent rumor has it that Lord Caes is looking for adventurers to explore ruins hidden in the Deep Wood, for historical and resettlement reasons. If this is true, then Dragonsgate has only begun to reach its full potential, and there is no telling what marvels future expansion will bring.