We found the inn to be in similarly fine condition. The pewter tankards were polished to a shine as was the wooden bar. The staff there were friendly and all smiles for our crew, who were plied with fine food and ales for a price that would not have been dear for far simpler fare. We took four rooms and found the beds to be clean and soft. I had expected the men to grumble that there was no nocturnal company to be found in exchange for their fresh-paid bonuses, but they were content to sing songs, play at cards and enjoy the company of the establishment’s plump cat.
My good mood at all this was soured when I spoke to the barkeeper. He was genial enough, but when I asked of the pikes he cautioned me to keep away from such business. The mayor of the adjacent town had displeased the Emperor, it was said. An example was being made and it would not go well for the folk there. We were advised to change our route in the morning and to cut further East and, upon our arrival, to say nothing of such matters. I thanked him for his confidence, gave him a spare coin I had about my person, then went to speak to my roadsman. I did not sleep well that night and the following morning as we left early upon the road I fancied I could smell smoke on the Westerly wind.
Of all the many nations which rose and fell during the age of wars, the Gymondan Empire was both the largest and the wealthiest. Its origins lay in the Peace of Gymonda, a treaty signed between warring mercantile groups at a small town that lay on either side of an important bridge across one of the many small rivers that divided what was then the Plain of Weeds. This treaty enabled the merchants of the land to begin concentrating their efforts towards making trade safer for all rather than fighting one another. Better roads were built, many villages near to the roads became thriving market towns and over time the fertile plains became farmlands.
All of this might have ended a few decades later as the two kingdoms upon whose borders these lands lay began to prepare for war with one another. However, a plague swept the land and both were hit hard. With neither any longer having much appetite for war, a marriage was arranged to seal an alliance between their two ruling houses. The daughter of the king of Seromeer was surprised to discover that the young king of Haelnost was far from the incapable and sickly prince of whom she had heard tell. He did not share his late father’s taste of war and spent as much time as he could talking with the elders on matters of philosophy and with the merchants concerning trade. The two of them quickly made plans to merge their two nations without need for war. Key figures on both sides were bribed or persuaded behind the scenes. Neither kingdom was dissolved. Rather, they were both subsumed into a new nation named the Gymondan Empire, which the two young monarchs jointly ruled. When their first child was born, they declared that at her coming of age she would become the first Empress.
Travel in the Gymondan Empire was easier and safer than almost anywhere else in the world for most of its history. A network of both roads and rivers spanned the Empire, well patrolled by the mercenary guard of the trading houses, subsidised by the Emperor’s gold. This kept trade revenues high, which more than paid back the Emperor’s investment.
The fall of the Empire when it came was not to invasion, but to its own internal troubles. It spanned such a large territory - from Skasport in the Southwest to Guenkhan in the North - that regional rulers and even city mayors wielded a great deal of power. Many of these territories were under hereditary rule. Over time their ruling class changed from practical-minded warriors and traders to voluptuaries concerned with little more than their own entertainment. The Empire kept them secure and their holdings and trade interests kept them wealthy. This situation led to a great deal of plotting and intrigue from lesser nobility of a more predatory disposition seeing opportunities.
Following the fall of Guenkhan to the consequences of their own experiments in demonology the Emperor made the mistake of imposing a new set of laws upon all Imperial territories, to be centrally enforced by his courts and - if necessary - his armies. Civil war quickly followed as ambitious local rulers seized this as a pretext for a coup. However, the new regime never achieved stability and the land dissolved into distinct warring nations before the beginning of the age of exploration.