The Town of Dawnstride
Dawnstride lies deep in the northern reaches of Forest Dawnbreak on the banks of the Red River. Travelers and traders seek out Dawnstride to get access to the high-quality elven goods that frequently appear in its markets. Despite its remote location, Dawnstride is relatively accessible from much of the Heartlands. To the west, the Red River connects the town to the halfling markets in Wavecrest and to the fortified dwarven city of Freehold. The Empire Road runs north to Hillcrest and across the Tempah Plains beyond, to the notorious Empire on the Steppes. Old King’s Road runs east to the royal seat of Blackgriffin Kingdom.
The surrounding forest contains several glades and coppices where farmers, woodsfolk, and hunters live (most within 6 or 7 miles of the town). Fisherfolk dot the river banks as far as 10 miles away. In general the people outside Dawnstride’s pallisades earn their living by fishing, farming, keeping, or hunting, and the people inside the walls are artisans, laborers, or merchants. Unskilled laborers inside Dawnstride can earn a hard living in the Thorndike Mines or assisting the half-dozen colliers.
Dawnstride imports finished goods from Wavecrest, Rivercity, and the larger cities to the east; ironwork from Freehold; and leather and fabrics from Hillcrest. In return, Dawnstride exports smoked fish, fish oil (for lamps), charcoal, dried forest herbs, and truffles. It also trades with the nearby towns of Whitecrystal Dell and Co’amenel, and several small villages along the northern borders of the forest. The vast old-growth sections of Forest Dawnbreak (south of Red River) hide myriad plants and animals with magical properties, but the Riverhedge Treaty forbids non-fae settlement and cultivation south of the river.
The history of the Heartlands is heavily spotted with the exploits and treachery of the fae inhabitants of Forest Dawnbreak, dating back before the [[Turath-Arkhosian War]]. Dawnstride’s history is much briefer but equally entangled with the fae folk.
Up until about 200 years ago, all of Forest Dawnbreak was virgin forest, unaltered by man. A handful of elven tribes made their home in the north of the forest, magically coaxing the vegetation to form living villages. The southern forest was more wild, boasting only a couple gnomish clans and the great eladrin city Dawn. In between these scattered refuges, escaped creatures from the Feywild and the strongest of the mortal realm’s beasts populated the forest. From time to time an orc or goblin chieftain would raise a small army and try to claim the forest for herself.
In 780 AR, the new king Shandon Blackgriffin had the good sense to re-establish trade relations with the distant elves and dwarves a mere 2 years after he vanquished the Crag Giants and united the human provinces under a single banner. Shandon sent Warford Thorndike, a trusted knight from the giant campaign, to establish a trading post near the elves and eladrin in Forest Dawnbreak.
According to his first report to King Shandon, Sir Warford established his trading post “just a few strides from Dawn”, and named it Riverpost. Traders and settlers eager to get access to the fabled eladrin goods flocked to Riverpost . . . where they discovered that “a few strides” really meant a full-day’s travel through a dense and dangerous forest. Sir Warford somehow succeeded in convincing all the visiting traders to turn “a few strides” into a giant running joke. Couriers and traders competed in the outlandishness of their descriptions of the trading post. Soon the whole Blackgriffin kingdom believed one could take a single stride out of the post and practically knock on an eladrin door in Dawn. The halfling bard DairOpee, upon arriving at the trading post and discovering the truth, fell into laughing hysterics and rolled on the ground for a good 20 minutes while only managing to say “Dawn” and “stride”. By the end of the week all the traders were calling the post Dawnstride. DairOpee made sure the name stuck by writing and spreading the rollicking tavern song “Walking Dawnstride”.
The rapidly growing influx of traders and settlers led predictably to land clearing and organized hunts. At first the eladrin accepted that their new neighbors needed to carve out their new homes in their own barbaric way. Soon, however, many elves and eladrin tired of the humans’ seemingly endless hunger for land. Only 10 years into its existence, Dawnstride found itself in a guerrilla war with radical fae. After a few months of skirmishing, Sir Warford decided to settle the matter and marched his militia south to conquer Dawn, forcing Dawn’s rulers to side with the extremists.
Warford badly underestimated his foe, and was soundly beaten. The humans were forced to sign the Riverhedge Treaty, agreeing to limit their settlement to the north side of the river and become good stewards of the forest. In exchange, the eladrin released the militia members they had captured, but executed Warford to show they were serious. The final stipulation of the treaty was that eladrin merchants would bring their goods to Dawnstride for trading once a month; human traders would no longer be welcome in Dawn.
The elves were less forgiving: Lord Simlashel forbid the battered and beaten humans from trading with the elvish villages in the forest, believing that the isolation would push the settlement to extinction. He was nearly correct. Lacking virtually all access to the markets in the Forest, traders stopped visiting Dawnstride’s markets and the once-growing town became a struggling and isolated outland village.
Isolation was a blessing in disguise. Warford’s wife Cleva turned the trading town into a humble but self-sufficient outpost in the wilderness, mainly through grit and determination. When the Lycanthrope Plague wiped out the Blackgriffin Kingdom in 834 AR, Dawnstride was spared.
The uneasy but peaceful co-existence lasted until 847 when Tallara’baste and her drow army swarmed to the forest surface from myriad caves. Under pressure of the siege, the eladrin lords pulled Dawn further into the forest mists until the city disappeared completely. Simultaneously, all but one of the elven villages in the north forest were wiped out or evacuated; survivors fled to the remaining village of Co’amenel, the distant Empire on the Steppes, and most of all, Thorndike Castle in Dawnstride. Lord Simlashel formed an alliance with Duke Latimer Thorndike out of a need for mutual survival. While Co’amenel and Dawnstride fought off the besieging drow and driders as best they could, the elven priest Selinor and human witch Unita successfully slipped past the siege lines to a glade northwest of Dawnstride containing a small spring and a node. There they combined mystic ritual and the holy power of Sehanine to cast a powerful mythal protecting Forest Dawnbreak from drow. The invading army faded out of time and space, leaving the broken husks of Co’amenel and Dawnstride behind. Ever since, the Glade of Peace has been a holy place of worship to Sehanine and the Saints Selinor and Unita, and a symbol of the lasting peace between elves and man.
Today the forest is a wild place; Co’amenel and Dawnstride are the only settlements of any size in the north forest. Over several generations the two settlements have been rebuilt, and their people have freely intermingled. The current Duke of Dawnstride, Aston Thorndyke, reconnected the forest with the outside world 15 years ago and helped found the Freehold Council. Trade comes anew to Dawnstride and with it rumors of increased goblin raiding, bandits preying on merchant caravans, and a dark shadow over the elven Empire on the Steppes. This is a place in need of a few heroes.