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Beneath the hunting grounds of Menhelmacar...

At the very Aust of the Known World in the Seventh Age of n, the great Sea Mountain lies ever-shrouded in swirling mist, rising out of Atalantean deeps to form the perilous island chain of Tormentosa. The nordh-isle, the Horror Crag, rises into the grey unknown, and austward the Storm Finger points to The Ice...

True name long forgotten, this tall and thickly forested island chain looms large just a few miles off the mainland coasts of the great continent of Hithervard, where sea-wary inhabitants of many stout races are born and grow, love and die. Before coming of age, the children dwelling in coastal settlements within sight of the misty and mysterious island cliffs are at bed-time likely to hear many a fanciful tale of the Island of the "Crag of Horrors" - that so-called Devil Peak - a wild and savage land of fell creatures and angry jungles sundered from homely reality by a short stretch of dark and writhing water. Until recent days, the islands have been nothing more than a spectre of mystery and rumour, an endless source of ale-house debates, campfire tales and spook stories, and it's probably no coincidence that the dark and foamy strait between the mainland and the island chain is named the Sound of Lies. Information about the islands has always been lacking for those with serious inquiry; and what connection that untrodden place has to the fate of the Austfolk is still to be told...

It is a time of rebuilding after The Wrath, a disaster thought to have brought humanity almost to it's end; A forgotten calamity that destroyed a once great and powerful realm, the details of which are lost to a scattered past.

Loremasters tell of surviving pockets of community, cut off from a failing society at large - those people who avoided destruction due to their remoteness, toughness, ingenuity or sheer dumb luck - who after a time began to come together; the germ of a future civilization. Slowly, and not without violence and loss, the scraps of a shattered people consolidated. Small families turned into large families, remote tribal neighbours became trusted trading partners, and as is the wont of those with wealth and power, petty lords began to assert their claims, and divided up the lands between themselves.

The multifarious peoples of the Known World, the Austfolk, are still relatively few and scattered, but civilization has clawed it's way back from the brink. Silent speaking Elves have built a shining forest garden in the East, and closer to home in the West, the Indnas are once again reigning over a prosperous little kingdom of men, wrapped in the valleys amongst the high and ancient mountains of the Westfold.

Historic accounts of the past centuries show a slow but steady building up of society. Nobody can say for sure what things were like in past days and ages out-of-mind, and thus no-one can say how far things have really come, or what man-made marvels might in truth have been wrought by a fallen greatness of long years ago, but today the average man is a busy, reasonably contented soul. He has an occupation to keep him out of trouble during the day, an inn to frequent at eve, and a roof over his head. The picked fighting men of the Kraal-masters, the Knights of the Guard, keep fell creatures of the wilds out of the fields, and letters from distant relatives arrive every few months via messengers on horseback. In actual fact, several large towns are verging on becoming cities: Pearl, the capital city of the Westfold Sovereignty and Eisenor of the Kingdom of Eden in the East boast large populations, each case the result of the merging of several nearby growing villages into one. The more powerful rulers of the Known World hold stately court in towering palaces, and retreat to private mansions on estates of choice land.

But lo! beyond the borders of these little kingdoms, the perilous realm of the Hitherlands asserts it's primacy.

The world has grown hot, and the lands have grown wild. The rule of law does not extend very far beyond town borders - no law can pacify the hideous and hungry creatures that walk in dark forests, or the violent bandits that roam the lonely highways, harrying trade caravans and looting isolated farms or inns. Oceans writhing in heat have spawned monsters and hunting beasts that haunt the dreams of anyone who lives within sight of water. No doubt then, that the art of boat-building was lost...almost.

It appears that Nature took full advantage of the retreat of the dominion of man. Creatures of the sea, denizens of the forests and swamps, fell birds and beasts of the air have grown large and ravenous, gorging themselves on the bounty of a planet recovering from the natural debt borrowed by the fallen rulers of the world.

Elsewhere, in regions new-tamed by burgeoning civilization, the arts of farming, education and trade are growing too, with all the pleasures, politics and pettiness that arise with them. News-scrolls make their way across the lands, bringing good news and bad to the varied citizens of the Ever-end of the World. People are working together to build communities and families, to start businesses. But not everything is rosy: there are still deep divisions within this nascent society, and a regretful lack of understanding and patience. There is also much fear.

This fear is easily understood: life is still very dangerous. Apart from the shadowy terror of the Wild, of black vale and dappled forest, even the trust of one's kin is something earned rather than given. There are those with power who would wield it, tyrants barren of empathy, concerning themselves little or not at all with the interests of his fellow man. Sorcerors, witch-doctors and fearful night-walkers wander the land, bringing magical boon and bane to many. Superstition, ritual and religion lay out the template for the lives of all, directing hopes, sorrows and fears.

As with all sensible folk, what the people of the Aust fear most of all is the unknown. And in this world, much remains unknown. The best map yet made of the Known World, the combined result of the blood, sweat and sorrow of many great explorers and lore-masters, covers only a very humble portion of the continent of Hithervard upon Aarde.

...But what of the spectre on the Aust horizon? What of those precipitous and storm-wreathed islands that lie beyond the tide-swept Sound of Lies?

Due to a scandalous public leak of privileged royal documents (an academic report about gradually lowering sea-levels prepared, and apparently illegally disclosed, by the Society of Metric Sages? based in the Academy town of Stl), the eyes and ears of the profiteering rumour-mungors and the conclusion-jumping common folk alike are turned to the Royal House of Thane to see how Authority will deal with the brewing mystery and threat of the uncharted Tormentosa Isles. These rocky crags, only a few miles off the aust-west coast of the Realm of Men, are visible with the naked eye from several coastal villages, and weigh heavily on the minds of anxious types who dwell therein. The inns and drinking houses of Stl, reverberating with the clamour of students carousing at eve, are an eternal source of creepy fire-side tales (and a fair share too of reasonable academic debate) featuring the islands. These rowdy establishments are now the source of murmurs heard far and wide: ponderings of the ignorant as to the consequences of the isles becoming accessible by land-bridge? if sea levels fall much further, and allowing whatever perilous dangers that lurk there to cross over to the mainland...

Due to recent innovations in ocean-ready ship-craft by a skilled Gnome of mysterious ancestry, and the surge in roguish piracy that followed shortly after along the Hermes trail, it has only been in the last three years that the practical thought of building a ship and sailing across to the Horn of Tempests might answer a lot of pertinent questions.

And so it has come to pass that our heroes, the adventurous freelancing rogues of McKracken's Band, have been chartered by the high court of the lands ruled by Thane Ilthor, High Indna and Lord of the West, to embark on a secret mission to investigate the ominous and uncharted Tormentosa Isles that lurk just across the much-feared, untravelled Sound of Lies. The party will be delivered by the first ocean-going vessel, the Challenger? of Captain McKracken (a pirate? Rogue and prime innovator of the newly revived art of boating).

The party will will rendezvous with a contingent of the Knights of the Guard before venturing into the dark forests under the shadow of the Sea Mountain.

The Royal Charter of McKracken's Band

Thane Ilthor's Charter of Exploration bestowed upon McKracken's Band:

Captain McKracken, appointed leader of the exploration party to the unmapped islands of Tormentosa, has been given a Scroll of Royal Charter that details their mission and declares their intentions to those they may meet and whose lands upon which they may trespass on their journeys. The Thane is widely considered by the gossips of the mainland public to envision the island as a conquest or sea-colony (presuming it's perils can be overmastered), but the charter itself is as humble as could be fashioned by the Royal Scribes, in order to avert any hostility which might arise from overt possessive claims.

Royal Charter of the Westfold

Ego, Let It Be So Known, That McKracken's Band, Bearers of This Royal Charter of the Thanes, Under Leadership While the Party Lasts of Captain McKracken of the Erstwhile Vessel Challenger, And Charged With The Quest of Exploration And Discovery Upon the Fair Isles of Tormentosa, Acting Upon The Greater Good and Authority of the Lords of the West, Shall Endeavour To Discover And Greet The Peoples of the Islands, And In Peaceful Accord Begin An Intercourse of Knowledge and Shared Wisdom.

This Charter Of Exploration Bestows Limits of Free Ranging To Those Shores And Inland Regions Of The Tormentosa Islands beyond the Ever-end of the World, Austlands of Hithervard, Where Permission Be Granted By The Rulers Of The Islands Hitherto Unknown To The West. In Addition, If By The Grace of Un And Adamastor It Is Made Possible, Further Exploration Of The Tumultuous Seas Around Shall Be A Secondary Priority Upon Return.

The Bearer of This Charter And His Party Shall Be Wards Against Banditry and Unlawful Dealings As Judged Under The Law of The Realm of the Westfold Sovereignty, And Bowing To The Graces Of The Law of The Island Realms, Where Conformance With Respect To Common Moral Good Can Be Found.

So Witnessed On This Day, The First Of April, 844AW, Under The Watchful Eye of Thane Ilthor, King And Lord of the Westfold Sovereignty and His Hallowed Court, And Under Authority Granted By The Regent of the West, Brantlin Elgever, Captain McKracken Here Signs His Sign:

In addition to the details stated above, further documents and binding contracts between the party and the Royal Court include the instructions and agreements that McKracken's Band will:

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