The streets of Ambra are alive with people. Sometimes, you have to remind yourself where you are, what sort of situation we find ourselves in. You can feel too secure, too comfortable. Feeling that way isn’t healthy. When you roam the streets, you pass amongst the traffic of people going about their activities. The busy market place. People chatting, sitting in idle discussion. Children are playing. Those with livelihoods in the crafts go about their day; creating, mending, fulfilling.
And then you pause for breath and you feel the chill in your bones. In moments of silence, when the conversation lulls or in the middle of the night, you can hear it. Above the crash of the waves. You hear the voices. Worse, you can hear them call your name. In some places, they have breached the walls – but the defenders push them back and the mystics bolster the defences. When you investigate in the light of the new morning, you find battered buildings awash in dust and rubble; sometimes, you don’t even find a building, the site a flattened mess of crushed stone and shattered bone.
It’s a struggle; so, we all fight. For some, they fight just to keep food on the table and fresh water in the well. For others, the battle comes in harder, more visceral – but it all boils down to survival at some level. For the moment, the Ordo Magica remain in charge here, but they’ve delegated much of the responsibility of security to the Seekers. Funny that the people who came here out of greed now fight for the ordinary people.
Once the Seekers would have been a source of gossip, but now the people seem to trust them. Inevitably, there is always grumbling, complaining and discontent, but competition? Not so much anymore, because everyone realises that if we don’t work together, if we don’t muster the effort to create a patchwork of our forces, expertise and faith – we won’t live to see another morning.
Welcome to Ambra, the most northerly colony of Queen Korinthea’s dominion. Stranded on the coast at what must feel like the edge of the world, with the domain of the Saar-Kahn to the south, the barren Skräll Vägg to the west and the darkest fringe of Davokar to the east. Northward lies the spume-crested ocean, grey as iron and cold as a Lindworm’s heart.
The population of Ambra numbers in the thousands, a mix of hardy free colonists, eager tradespeople, greedy ‘seekers and a scattering of mystics. The church of Prios has no official presence here, as the members of the Ordo Septimus led the expedition that first landed on the northern shore and the First Father prescient patience. Those without suspicion would figure the act one of wisdom, as serving the bulk of Ambria and shaping the Prios Domain already stretched the Church to the limits. Those with a ken for conspiracy might have other thoughts.
The first landing brought Master Tures, several lesser chapter members, and a band of Seekers from the Hall of Long Doors in Yndaros to the outermost limits of the Great Thorn Sea that entwines the dominions of Gaoia. With grace and silver-tongued diplomacy they bartered free passage to the limits of land and forest and discovered the great ruin that would become Ambra. A walled settlement of significant size and impressive repair, Master Tures was reminded of the the capital itself; aside from the barbarian stench, that great city had come into Ambrian hands in a fine state. It seemed that the great empire, to which Queen Korinthea herself could claim bloodline, had mastered arts of stone and iron-timber second-to-none.
Over the coming months, Tures established communications with the great masters of the Ordo Magica and managed a grand progress of colonists, crafters, and resources. As the free colonists made Ambra their home and farmers broke first ground planting crops, ‘seekers set to their task of taming the forest edge, savouring the dangers of the darkest reaches. Ambra offered rich prospects, soil, and treasures for those willing to set their backs to the task, a settlement fit to be envied.
What happened a year ago remains a matter of contention and none can explain the transition that beset the town. Overnight, great storms boiled from nothing and lashed the lands all about. Clamorous waves battered the northern walls, as the storm threatened to shatter roof and battlement. Then from out of the curtain of rain stepped trudged the Faceless Horde. The great stones groaned beneath their hammering fists, while the iron-timber gates creaked even as the keepers bolstered them. Those taken unawares in the fields or along the roads to the south vanished, never to return; while some ‘seekers sought sanctuary Underneath.
Without the word and support of Prios at hand, those with faith conjured what wisdom they could to provide some flickering candle glow of hope. The storm has not ceased in the twelve months since, though it varies in strength. Master Tures has reluctantly commanded the rationing of all supplies and given open permissions for ‘seekers to cross the threshold to gather more from the forest or the nearest barbarian camps. Alas, the nearest lie to the south, the most savage and debased of the Saar-Kahn, who pledge their loyalty to the Blood-Daughter in the viscera of their enemies.
Yet, perhaps hope lies beneath and beyond – in the Underneath that touches on the ancient realm of Symbaroum and the dark fastings of the Trolls. Or, in those who have found solace in dreams and fancy, though cynics would point at the trickle of illicit substances made by alchemists in the pay of thieves and ne’er-do-wells (who came to Ambra to escape certain death in Thistle Hold, Kastor, or Yndaros). It seems Korinthea’s People always find a way, given even a sliver of hope – but does the storm herald an ending, or a new beginning?
Image: The Northern Hillock by Alyn Spiller, with kind permission for use.
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