A grand manor house stood amongst the trees. Through its windows wound long carpets of ivy and branches poked through gaps in the tiles. Thick moss grew along the paths and window ledges. The great double door had fallen inwards from its hinges and mice scurried across the cracked mosaic beyond.
Beyond the house the valley continued down to the water’s edge and there stood a great seagoing ship with two tall masts. It was rotted and ruined, its deck thick with plants and broad fungi crusting its hull. The ship’s cargo of bottles had spilled out into the shallows and between them weed and rushes grew.
Upon one of the bottles the wax seal was still visible bearing the crest of the Aeltrusian Principality, but so many years had passed that not one of them knew it nor had heard tell of such a place.
The Aeltrusian Principality, more commonly known as ‘Aeltrusia’, was a province of the same great kingdom of which the County of Narthul was once a part. Little is known of that kingdom, since it was destroyed by powers unknown during the mythic epoch.
For the first half of the age of wars, Aeltrusia was by most measures the greatest naval power of the world. Having always relied heavily on fishing as a food source they began to range farther North and West before eventually discovering the amethyst mines which once belonged to Gurak Vaught. This led to the establishment of a trade route, but its great length made it impractical and dangerous. Consequently a chain of small towns was founded along the coasts and islands of the route.
Over time, these trade towns came to the attention of the peoples whose lands they stood upon and many were raided or even conquered. The Aeltrusian princes fought a series of wars struggling to secure these towns before troubles closer to home forced them to rein in their ambitions. However, as it transpired this was a great blessing to Aeltrusia since the towns remained standing under the control of their home nations and consequently became trade destinations in their own right, bringing great wealth to Aeltrusia.
Following a fierce and protracted war with the County of Narthul, the Aeltrusian Principality was ultimately destroyed. Initially a governor was appointed by the Count, but Aeltrusia proved increasingly difficult to govern as constant guerilla attacks, raids and revolts occupied the attentions of its new rulers. Eventually it was allowed to lapse into anarchy, with armed garrisons from Narthul ensuring that it could not resume independence.
Those of the Aeltrusian population who were able to leave did so, taking ships to the trade towns and starting new lives there.
Aeltrusia itself ultimately became a dangerous and lawless place. The Narthul garrisons were extremely corrupt and routinely augmented their meagre wages through looting and protection rackets. The nobility of Aeltrusia hid a great deal of their treasure during the final years of the war and because many died before they could escape, much of it remained hidden. Because of this, both the soldiers of the garrisons and adventurers from across the borders frequently roamed the forgotten estates hunting for hidden fortunes.