Dearest Mother and Father,
The journey has been long, but my feet have now touched ground in the Northlands. We saw what remained of a ship, abandoned in the water. A crewmember explained it had likely been set upon by pirates. It had sustained some damage, and the captain gave it a wide berth. Once, the barrelman said he saw something in the distance and claimed it to be a kraken, but we never saw it up close.
The port city of Stannasgard has the most easily accessible docks in the Northlands for Southlands ships to reach. Vessels leave the south from the port in Jelle-Anda, stop in Barsella and Bemea to take on provisions and additional passengers, and finally reach their northern destination nearly three months later. The total trip length is approximately 1,400 miles.
On their journey, travelers from the south potentially face a number of hazards. Slavers and pirates prowl the waters from Jelle-Anda to Bemea, and northern reavers trawl the ocean from Bemea to Stannasgard. These man-made dangers are in addition to the threats posed by nature. Vicious storms wrack the southern waters in the summer and the northern ones in the winter. Of course, monstrous seaborne threats as varied as sirens, kraken, and vent linnorms can strike at ocean-going vessels and their crews at any time.
Summer in the North
Temperatures in Stannasgard average 54 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, dropping to around 39 degrees at night. Weather tends to be mild during the summer months, though it still rains one out of three days, and gusting winds are the norm. When it isn’t raining, the skies are brilliant blue to the horizon with occasional large cumulus clouds drifting across. Given the vastness of the wilds and the enormousness of the skies, many visitors to the north feel a sensation of openness when they venture outside the cities.
I imagined the docks of Stannasgard would be majestic, and they are in their own way, though mostly they stand as evidence of a great power in the region: a red dragon. I should like very much to see it but from as far away as possible.
The docks in Stannasgard remain a charred ruin from an attack by the legendary red dragon Visandred the Horse Eater. The burned-out hulks of a few ships still pose a hazard to vessels wishing to dock. The loss of most of the waterfront to this attack has led to a scarcity of affordable lodgings for travelers in the city. Travelers of meagre means often group together to rent rooms, choosing to sleep uncomfortably under a roof rather than tenting outside the city. Merchants are experiencing some difficulty in locating warehouse spaces for the same reason, making the price of goods in the city somewhat higher than they would be in other cities. The constabulary does a good job keeping thieves and ne’er do wells in line, but like in any city, unwary travelers are easy marks for skilled rogues.
Most traffic leaves Stannasgard through its West Gate. While the gate is guarded around the clock by no fewer than eight dwarf constables led by a sergeant, most merchants and travelers are allowed to leave the gate unmolested. Those who aren’t attached to a merchant caravan or military troupe often purchase horses, riding goats, and mules from Brunnik’s Horseflesh and Hostling, conveniently located just steps from the gate. Brunnik, easy to recognize with his short golden hair and trim beard, has a perpetual smile on his face, though his eyes are as cold and blue as a glacier. His mounts are of good quality, though they are priced at 20 percent, or more if he feels he can get away with it, above standard market value.
They have deep forests of pine trees. I was eager to explore them, despite the warnings. The smell is earthy and crisp. I breathe it in deeply. This morning, I breathed in the chilly morning air so deeply I could feel it stinging my lungs. While I have not yet seen any fey creatures, I sometimes feel I am being watched. My companion, Aksel, says it could be any number of beings, and he is encouraging me to return to more populated areas. He found me yesterday when I stumbled upon a bear. It was huge and terrifying, but Aksel arrived in time to drive it away with a good deal of noise. I asked him to accompany me on my journey, but he explained he is an outlaw, banished for another year for refusing to duel with his brother-in-law.
Stannasgard ’s terrain is largely mountainous with thick coniferous forests encompassing the lowlands. Fjords cut wide, deep passageways into the landscape, offering breathtaking views to travelers willing to brave the local dangers to see them. Merchants tend to keep to the mountains, traveling from Stannasgard to Thunder Mountain by the main road. The forests are largely comprised of spruce and pine trees, growing so closely together that even patches of light on the forest floor are rare at high sun. Trails and roads must be constantly maintained lest the forests rapidly grow over them. Stannasgard residents caution travelers to stay out of the forests lest the huldra get them, but fey creatures are just one of the many dangers that travelers might come across in the trees. Trolls, worgs, and owlbears haunt the pines near Stannasgard as well as more mundane threats such as wolves and bears, not to mention outlaws.
More as I can…!
Your loving daughter,