Coldforged: A Brief History of Tysis Part 7 – Jeslith and Brokensail

https://www.deviantart.com/balaskas/art/Twisted-Mountain-Valley-337950398

Each Thursday this year, I focus on a different aspect of the world I’ve created and played D&D in for over 20 years, in the hopes of honing the ideas and cementing enough in place to settle the world in my own mind. I’m fleshing out the history of the continent. This time, it is the County of Jeslith.

Each Thursday this year, I focus on a different aspect of the world I’ve created and played D&D in for over 20 years, in the hopes of honing the ideas and cementing enough in place to settle the world in my own mind. I’m fleshing out the history of the continent. This time, it is the County of Jeslith.

Before the Sundering

The rolling hills of what became Jeslith, before the sundering, also were then rolling hills, according to the tales told down through the histories. They lived on the ruins of a dreadful and once-powerful nation that was overrun by some unknown forces years in the past, on the outskirts of a prosperous and influential kingdom. There the inhabitants; halflings, goblins, elves, gnomes, and humans among others, farmed the land and provided a bounty of grain and goods to the people of the nearby city.

The County Seat

With the sundering, the city, located in a majestic valley, was washed away along with most of the Kingdom that housed the city, leaving County Jeslith alone and abandoned, without direction for the first time in known history.

Once the lands settled and the cliffs along the edge of Jeslith no longer collapsed, the people continued as they once had. They grew grain and vegetables, they brewed their beers and built their new houses. Being independent folk, they decided that they would not be ruled by a king, but would keep the tradition that they had had under the kingdom of electing a High Sheriff who was the embodiment of the law within the County.

For decades the County of Jeslith existed alone within their rolling hills, content to make the best of the ever-shortening growing season and the increasingly harsh winters. They developed darker and stronger beers to help pass the days and reached into the nearby ocean to harvest its bounty of fish and clams.

The Levishans

It was with great surprise that they encountered their first outsider. The troupe of scouts from the Levishan forest to the north stumbled upon a secluded hamlet in the hollow between two large hills and was as surprised as the Jeslith to learn that there were other people here, both having assumed that they were the only ones left on the continent. The exchange was pleasant, with the Levishans trading some cheeses, wine and smoked meat in exchange for a strong beer, their first potatoes, and salted fish. Both groups parted ways amicably, and a small trading partnership developed and grew slowly into amicable commerce.

When the Levishans went to war against the Morestii, they asked the aid of Jeslith. Though there were a number of border guards who watched for marauding beasts and monsters who wished no more than to gobble down the inhabitants, they largely declined to participate in the war, though there was the legendary exception of the Greencloaks, a group of young rangers who impressed even the Levishans with their prowess in stealth, reconnaissance, and ranged combat. Tales are told of the unit’s bravery and prowess in Lev to this day.

After Lev lost the war and the return of the Greencloaks, Jeslith maintained its idyllic life. The veteran Greencloaks were elected town leaders and a number of them became Sheriff, becoming not only heroes of Lev, but of Jeslith as well.

For the ensuing two centuries, Jeslith encountered some small skirmishes with both Killbaran and Levishan forces over small border issues, and the occasional monster raid, but maintained a fairly peaceful interior, where the folk were able to live, have families and die for generations without experiencing much more excitement than lavish birthday parties.

The Bramblethorn

This all started to crumble with the first encounter with the Thraxians. Even the Killbarans were passive compared to the destruction that these new invaders wreaked. They sacked and burned no less than a dozen hamlets and townships in the first spring and summer, only stopping with the coming winter. During that long, cold and harsh winter, the Deputies sent out emissaries to Levisha, to request aid. The Levishans, however, had been defeated by the Thraxian forces previously and felt unable to assist with the defense of the County. Instead, the Levishan Druids and Nature Mages trained the Jelsith who had journeyed in some of the most powerful magic’s they had learned, defensive spells that would prevent destruction and death on a massive scale. Having learned what they could from their Levishan mentors, they made their way back home, accompanied by a few of those Levishans who personally wished to help.

It was these people who were able to erect the Bramblethorn around a greater portion of the County. The aid of the elder Levishan arcanists and the combined power of the Jeslith students allowed the growth of a huge barrier of brambles, some 40 feet high and 15 feet thick. These brambles were of a thick and stout type, clearly enhanced by magic, with vines as great as a foot across and thorns ranging from 5 inches to over 2 feet and all razor-sharp. Though the barrier they grew was immense, some towns and villages were abandoned to the predation of the outside world. These were all given the notice to retreat behind the great edifice that was being grown, and all who were able to do so did.

The next spring, the Thraxians were greeted to a daunting wall of thorns. Unable to conceive of how to mount an attack against it and succeed, and without a true desire to besiege such a wall and take it down, the Thraxiens went south to softer, gentler targets, securing those behind it their desired relief.

The Last Days of Jeslith

This defensive structure ensured the peace of Jeslith for nearly a thousand years. Walled off and secluded from the world, they were able to pursue their peaceful and pleasant lives for generations. Wars between nations beyond the Bramblethorn were as legend, told by wandering bards invited inside to thrill the listeners to tales beyond their homes. Some adventurous individuals would leave for a time, exploring the greater lands of Tysis, and some would even stay and live out their lives, creating families and enclaves within their respective adopted lands.

The inhabitants of Jeslith live the best lives, the most pleasant lives, envied by all others on the continent. Those lives could not last forever, though, and in 629 AR, the General of Killbar, struggling to maintain his power and in need of conquest that he could not find elsewhere, marched north.

The General led the Killbaran Legions to the gates of the Bramblethorn, and demanded to be accepted as their lord and leader. Those behind the wall, having trusted in it for centuries, denied the General his demands.

The general laid siege to Jeslith, and using his enslaved mages, those few who had shown that they were useful, assaulted the wall with a barrage of magical fire unseen both before and after. Hundreds of mages poured constant fire into a space no more than a few hundred feet across for hours. Finally, the magical wards were overcome, and small portions of the wall started to smolder. It only took this small spark, and once started, the conflagration was unstoppable.

The Bramblethorn burned for months, miles of its vines smoldering and billowing black smoke into the sky. Those behind the walls began to evacuate via the only route left to them: the sea. Hoisting the sail and pushing off into the waters offshore was the only way to ensure survival, as the Killbaran legions had breached the walls and were marching across the County, subjugating every town and village they came across, and slaughtering anyone who put up the smallest defense.

Brokensail

The vast majority of the inhabitants of Jeslith were able to flee, but the creation of the Killbaran Empire was proclaimed, the combined rulership of Jeslith and Killbar under one Emperor. Those who were left in the land were eventually relocated to other parts of the empire, and within just a few years, the county was a desolate wasteland inhabited by bandits, thieves, and warlords that was exacerbated by the fall of Killbar and the lack of any leadership to fill the vacuum in 635.

Those who fled the destruction of their land were unguided, and made their way south, past the Killbaran coast, but unprepared as they were, they were unable to sail for long. They came ashore at the edge of the Great Swamp, Jet’s swamp, knowing that they had to salvage and survive for some time before continuing onward.

Just a few days into their expedition, a great shadow appeared over the down, and a massive pitch-black shadow descended on the town. Multiple vessels were destroyed in the initial assault, but Jet detected little resistance and no will to fight from the invaders and landed near their largest ship, demanding to speak to the leaders.

After hours of talking with the dragon, the leaders of the small landing approached those who remained, huddled in fear of the indomitable figure. This dragon, they proposed, would provide them protection and a place to live. This spot here would be their home. They could build a new life here, one where they could once again survive. However, the dragon demanded tribute, and each year, on this day, could come to collect it. If he deemed the tribute unworthy his stature, the town would be destroyed. If the tribute was worthy, another year would be had under his protection.

The survivors felt they had no choice, and agreed to the dragon’s demands. One year, he gave them, to procure a tribute worthy of him.

Quickly, the survivors built a settlement, lashing boats together and creating bridges between the swamps natural high ground. The industry and determination of the new inhabitants were on display and the foundations of the city of Brokensail were laid. Over the coming months and years, in order to provide the greedy dragon with a worthy bounty, the inhabitants turned to piracy and raiding, becoming extremely proficient in its application and execution. They swiftly evolved into a feared presence along every coast, and flying the flag of a Brokensail Pirate Company was known to bring a town to its knees simply by its presence. The once peaceful and quiet inhabitants of a County hidden behind a great defensive structure are now one of the most feared and intimidating seafarers, hunting down merchant ships from all other lands without fear or hesitation. They fear their assured destruction if their tribute is unsatisfactory, and work every day to make it so.

That brings us to the present, unlike many of the other articles I’ve done, because the people of Jeslith/Brokensail had a pretty uneventful stretch of time. This is the last of the “Great Kingdoms” of the Island, and I think I should keep doing histories, so I’ll likely try and do multiple other histories here for a bit. The history of Occurus, Alora, Eshkin, and others could absolutely be worth the time.

Until next time!