As spring shades into summer on odd-numbered years, Aquitaine hosts a five-week Great Fair. People spend the summer months recovering. They spend the next six seasons preparing their crafts or their produce, their wardrobes, and their savings. Many spend the spring leading up to the Great Fair working as fast as they can to get ahead of normal duties, to give themselves plenty of free time.
Visitors travel from as far away as Thysbee or Lakefell. Some are part of a regular merchant caravan, accustomed to travel on the Warden Road. Others travel only for emergencies, or to compete and sell and shop at a Fair such as this.
And then, there are the orcs of the Longgrass Plains. Sometimes no orc presence appears at all. Sometimes a hunting party or three will camp out in the wild grassland outside the western border of the city; they might stay a few days, or ten. Their visits might overlap, one hunting party leaving the morning after another one arrived. Rarely, an entire tribe shows up one morning while the Fairgrounds are being set up. That usually means some sort of political negotiation will be happening between the leaders of that tribe and the heads of more “civilized” nations.
This is a “political negotiation” year!
This year’s Great Fair is mostly complete. Some of the merchants are already packing up. They figure that most of the big spending has been done.
Anyway, it’s been raining for a day and a half. It does not look to let up soon. Best get down the road before things start to rot!
A man named John Shire is the spokesperson for one of the caravans. He has a regular route that he travels about four times a year, so he has exchanged friendly nods with the local adventurer guild before.
On even-numbered years, or in the latter half of an odd-numbered year, Shire Merchant Company normally heads north to the Geldar Republic trade city of Morodar. So many merchants head straight there from the Aquitaine Great Fair, however, that Shire’s caravan instead heads east, toward Lakefell. He goes south on the Warden Road first, to get around the bulk of Sog’s Lake. That gives him a mostly straight shot across wild grasslands, south of Thistletop Keep.
“Here’s the problem,” John Shire is lamenting: “I can’t be taking some of these wagons through the Devil’s Platter. I have to use the milder land of the Longgrass. But if this is one of those years-” he waves a tankard roughly westward. “Most likely, safety on the trade routes is the topic of all that bother. I got a daughter! I can’t be having orcs attack my caravan. I’ll be fine once I pass Quilton’s Rise, but until then?”
The captain of the guard for the Shire Merchant Company, one Lawrence Smith, suggests that John hire the adventurers for security. They’ll be more interested, belike, if you tell ’em about Earthshield!
This is an idea that had not occurred to John Shire. He sets out to do exactly that!