Of the mysterious kingdoms of the West.
Past the border forts of Gandhara and across the land of fire, on the other side of the ash steppes, begin the uncharted lands. Only a single path travels to the occident, known by many names but most commonly as the western road. It starts in the spice markets of Taxila and runs through the untamed wastes until its destination, the fabled kingdoms of the occident. The lure of the western road is great to the merchant caste, as well as to any man dreaming of travel and knowledge. But the road is far from safe: roving bandits, cannibal nomads and the slavers’ hordes, not to forget the land itself, are an ever-present threat that cannot be lightly dismissed. Only one caravan in ten makes the trip safely, but from the testimonies they bring back, some might say it is a small price to pay.
The travelers that return from the west tell tales of a vast and fertile land blessed with a mountain range that scratches the stars, high enough to shield it from the dangers of the fire wastes. So protected, the men of the west have created many kingdoms that trade and fight each other with abandon, although none can compete with the might of the legendary Empire of the Hammer. Travelers tell of its numerous and prosperous cities, its great marble temples and the inexhaustible armies of the western lords. Merchants bring back products like furs from lands were cold never abates, steel weapons and gunpowder of superlative quality, rare timbers from forests never settled by men, wondrous clockwork machines that no man can replicate, and other exotic items, small glimpses of the mysterious glory of the distant and rich occident. Many marvelous creatures are said to live in that land, from fire breathing dragons to lions with heads of eagles, flying horses and walking trees.
But this land is apparently beset by many foes. Even as they battle each other, the men of the west fight an unending battle against savage beasts and the very woods that would choke their cities if they could. Inside castles of grey stone, gathering around roaring fires to keep the eternal cold at bay, the lords of the western lands scheme and plan wars against their neighbors and their multifarious enemies, for the glory of savage gods.
Although the western lords rule their lands like despots, all must answer the call of the emperor when war calls. Records tell of the thousand thousand foot soldiers of the Empire of the Hammer, of their mystical acolytes, and of warrior brotherhoods covered from head to toe in heavy armors. Riding the strongest horses ever seen, their charges are said to shake the ground like an earth tremor. Even less is known about an enigmatic race that honeycombed the mountains and only comes down the summits in times of conflict, armed with a machinery of death legendary even amongst the men of the west. The emperor himself is said to never leave his capital, except when his realm his beset from the north by a mysterious enemy no one talks about.
Many of this tales are fanciful and no doubt false, but certainly the Empire of the Hammer must be a mighty and wealthy place. Unfortunately, as long as the trade routes to the west aren’t made safe, it will remain a realm of legends.