A Brief History

Most inhabitants of Mystwood know that they dwell in the Duchy of Eastmarch, and that Eastmarch is part of the larger Kingdom of Navarre. But Navarre, like most lands in the Known World, is a weak and fragmented land, and the Duke of Eastmarch is the greatest power most will ever know. It is the local barons and knights, who represent the power of Eastmarch, that matter. Most folk could not tell you the King’s name, or that Navarre has long been at war with Albion, or the reasons for that war. The enemies of Eastmarch are many and better known- the cruel Norse of Skandia, the Chaos Marauders of Teutonia and Thule, the Goblins of the mountains to the south, and above all the Dragon. That the sea lies to the North, settled lands to the south and west, and the unknown forest to the east is the extent of most people’s geography.

History, for most, is equally vague.

Local legend tells that Mystwood was once the edge of the great Empire now embodied in Byzantium, the City of Wonders. Brave Imperial soldiers drove back the Beastmen and other denizens of the forest and built roads, wall, forts and towns. The greatest of these was the city of Aquila, which long stood as bulwark against monsters and barbarian hordes as the Empire collapsed, besieged from without and gnawed from within by the insidious forces of Chaos.

Alas, Aquila fell, so the stories say, when the last Emperor, whom some name Romulous and some call Augustus, fled there with a great horde of treasure. The power of Chaos corrupted him through his greed and fear, and he was transformed into the great Dragon that plagues the land to this day. Brave Aquila and her legion perished in flame, and to this day her ruins, fused to blackened glass, still rise among the trees of Mystwood.

After that, the learned know dates and perhaps the names of great Monarchs, but little more. They know that the year is 967 (our real world year, minus 1050) after the Unification of the Church (967 AU), when the three faiths of Justice, Wild, and Mercy were brought together in Byzantium, and the Doctrine of the Saints codified.

Living memory extends back only about fifty years. Around 910, hordes of Chaos swept through the League to Eastmarch, pillaging and burning. The baronies that are now Mystwood were all but deserted, and the border barons moved further west, abandoning their holdings and castles to the wood. As uninhabited land, Mystwood fell under the direct control of the Duke of Eastmarch, to do with as he would. The Dukes past and present doubtless wished to profit from their new acquisition, but for many years it remained a lawless wilderness.

All that changed with the coming of Saint Siventus, a questing Knight. In 950, visions led him to a hidden chamber within the ruins of Aquila, and there he found a treasure greater than gold- tomes from the Library of Alexapolis, a center of learning in distant Aegyptus founded by Alexa the Great, the most powerful conqueror the world has ever known. Among those Tomes was the Book of Life, a blessed volume that would preserve all those who wrote their name within it from violence and misfortune.

Alas, its protection was not sufficient to save Siventus when he took up arms against the Dragon, and the brave knight perished and ascended to sainthood. St. Siventus had wounded the Dragon sorely, however. Though it has not been seen in the sky for years, the folk of Mystwood take no chances, keeping their green roofed homes well hidden beneath the trees.

With the Dragon absent, folk were drawn to the riches of Mystwood, and they cleared land and built homes. Yet now those homes and fields lie vacant, for in 960 a deadly plague swept through Navarre and into the Mystwood, where it lay low nine out of ten inhabitants.

In 961, the Duke began to offer coin to those brave and learned enough to write their names in the Book of Life and resettle the Mystwood, and in 964 he extended this offer to those willing to settle in his newly acquired holding of Burgundar.

Astute readers will notice many similarities between Historical Europe and the Known World of Mystwood, but it would be a mistake to assume too much. Mystwood is a place interwoven with Magic and the threat of Chaos, with its own past, religion and culture. Though we have used some of the history of Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire, and elements of its culture (circa 1300) to help build Mystwood and to give players a reference point to help them understand the world they will inhabit, we have not followed it strictly, and while some historical figures, names, and place names are similar or identical, they may be used in wildly different ways. As the wise say, “Expect only what occurs”.