High Pass - Humble Beginnings
Nestled deep in the Toraxxe Peaks, some 500 miles southeast of the city of Valuun in Peletrimor, lies a small fortification known as High Pass. This small fort lies at the top of a mountain pass separating the “civilized” regions from the monsters and savage humanoids that populate the regions to the southeast. For as long as you all can remember, life in and around the mountain fort was difficult, yet simple; the small village you called home as small children was responsible for growing certain foods necessary to the survival of the troops stationed at High Pass, and the people were hardy, straight-forward folk that knew that one day their children would be given the choice of being taken to the surrounding Keeps to act as servants (little more than slaves in some regards, really), or be taken to the mountain fort to be tested for their merit as potential candidates as soldiers of High Pass.
Once you all reached the time of choosing, your parents each decided to take you all to the fort instead of allowing you all to seek out possible service to the throne as artisans, farmers, or other duties that would be assigned to you for the next 10 years. Having high hopes for you all, your parents instead trudged up the steep, winding roads to High Pass and presented you to the knight who served as lord and master of High Pass, Sir Barrister Von Gillar. Sir Barrister was known to the people of the village of Rojon to be a stern but fair master, with a keen eye for talent and a strict devotion to his duty as well as his people. And so it was; you all found yourselves standing in the center of the fort grounds with a bunch of other friends and strangers, sons of noblemen and commoners alike, all being treated as equals in the eyes of Sir Barrister and his gaze.
As time wore on and more and more of the boys and girls were separated from the rest of the dwindling pack, you all found yourselves standing with a group of roughly a dozen others who apparently had managed to pass the test. Tears were shed on both sides on the line as children were led away and parents filed back to their homes to leave you all to your new lives. In turn, you all were brought to stand before a larger building in the center of the fort where already a large gathering of rough-looking youths and grizzled men stood with hard eyes and grim smiles at your arrival.
Sir Barrister stood the group of you in front of the current warriors and trainees that currently called High Pass home and explained the rules to you all in a loud voice. You would live here at High Pass with the rest of the warriors in the common room, learning the standard fare of duty and service until you all were deemed worthy of moving onto the next step of training. Once you all started combat training, you all would be expected to learn a variety of lessons including basic weaponry, tactics, rules of engagement, and so on. And finally, once you all were deemed worthy enough to move on to the final stage of training, you all would be brought before the head instructor of each group of warriors and taught the advanced lessons that would turn you into the proven defenders of High Pass.
For those that chose the warriors path, there were plenty of soldiers willing to impart training with a variety of weapons and armor; for those that chose to train for a more mobile profession, there were both the scouts – who ranged far and wide into the unexplored regions and kept an eye on the dangers to High Pass, and the spies – those secretive few who were trained in the art of moving through the shadows and striking when least expected; and finally, for those that showed aptitude in the magical arts, High Pass had both a master wizard and a priest who called the fort home who would see to the training in either the arcane or the divine arts. Also, for those very few who might be deemed worthy of a more selective duty, Sir Barrister himself would see to their rigid training in both the proper service to the gods as well as the righteous ways of defense and protection.
The next few years passed swiftly as each of you grew in both size and reputation, earning top spots in the ranks of the recruits until you all were ready to move to the final stage of training. While some might have been jealous of your stature, none could say that you didn’t earn your positions through merit regardless of your backgrounds. Each of you were all treated the same, and as you all came to stand with your new instructors, the wide smiles and congratulations made way for the harsh realization that – while you all had move on to become real soldiers and protectors of High Pass – the past lessons had only been a precursor to the life that awaited you all. For the next three years, you all spent nearly every waking moment standing guard duty at the Gate, when you weren’t busy being beat into the ground by experienced warriors or nearly burnt alive by the elder practitioners, or walking the entirety of the fort until you felt as if your feet would fall off, or running messages back and forth on horseback between High Pass and Rostov Keep and then High Pass and Pisqual Keep and then Rostov Keep and Pisqual Keep. You learned to almost hate life in the saddle almost as much as life standing post at the Gate watching and waiting for nothing to happen, or wandering far and wide and sleeping on tree roots and eating cold food in the rain while following unfamiliar tracks through the mountains and valleys.
And so it had been for the past three years, until one morning you all were woken up by the familiar sounds of shouting in the yard as you realized that it was finally your turn to go out and meet with some of the new recruits and perhaps pass along some of what you all had learned to those deemed worthy – and maybe in turn be noticed enough by Sir Barrister to be promoted to his squires or be considered veterans of High Pass.