The Lands of Tolrea

Most travelers in Tolrea get where they are going by walking, even over long distances. Coach fare is too expensive for any but wealthy passengers, and the ongoing expenses from owning an actual carriage and team of horses are too high for any but a nobleman or affluent merchant. Thus, overland travel remains, for most people, a time-consuming and tiresome affair.

Moreover, wilderness areas are plentifully supplied with monsters, bandits, slavers, and dangerous weather, all of which make it extremely dangerous to travel alone. When embarking on a journey, most people try to have several companions with them to help them cope with the hardships they’re likely to encounter on the way. Most just seek permission to accompany a caravan headed for the same destination that they have in mind, so as to benefit from guards and other companions who can help fend off marauding bandits or monsters, as well as from the expertise of the caravan master as an aid in avoiding getting lost. There is usually a small fee for such an arrangement, usually to the tune of a copper piece or two for every day the caravan master expects the trip to take. Most travelers consider this an excellent investment, although it is important to make sure that one chooses the company of a reputable caravan master. Carelessness in such matters can end by finding oneself sold into slavery or worse. It is also important to remember that the fee to accompany a caravan may be considerably higher if the caravan master’s route leads through a dangerous or inhospitable area in which extra people are a liability.

Noblemen and wealthy merchants often ride on horseback or in a carriage to travel large distances on land; for dangerous or extremely long trips they also prefer to hire guards to provide added security. Like other travelers, however, many well-to-do travelers arrange to accompany merchant caravans when possible, often agreeing to provide extra security to help persuade the caravan master to accept their presence.

Sea travel is considerably faster than overland transportation, but passage on a ship is several times more expensive than the fare charged for stagecoach service, when it is even available. Many ships’ captains and crews prefer not to carry passengers at all, in order to avoid the annoyance and potential danger of having an outsider blundering around and getting in the way as they tend to the vessel. Additionally, sea travel is at least as dangerous as overland transit, since monsters, pirates, and foul weather can all represent a significant hazard to the ship. It is easier to get around by ship if you know enough about sailing to be useful at sea, since this opens up the possibility of working to pay for your passage.

Truly desperate or extravagant travelers in major cities can sometimes (with the right connections and for a substantial price) arrange to travel by magic through the aid of a powerful wizard or sorcerer who is able to cast spells like teleport. Magical travel is uncommon, however, and tends to cause a stir unless employed with great discretion, relegating it to the use of adventurers and other eccentric or flamboyant folk.

As a natural outgrowth of the hazards involved in travel, news from afar is always the topic of much interest, and it helps to make travelers welcome even in otherwise isolated and xenophobic communities. Within a town or city, innkeepers, taverners, and others who provide lodging, food, and entertainment to transients tend to be up to date on the most current gossip about what’s happening in the outside world; on the other hand, the barkeeps of those establishments patronized by locals are typically well versed in local rumor but often know little more than their patrons about what goes on outside the boundaries of the community and its outlying countryside. Since nautical travel is faster and tends to cover longer distances than land travel, it is usually the case that seafarers have the best and most current news of all. Those who deal with them, such as ropers, shipwrights, and chandlers, get the best gossip first. Along land-based trading routes, farriers, blacksmiths, cartwrights, wheelwrights, and other tradesmen serving the caravans that ply their way across the wilderness are similarly well connected in terms of rumor and news.

In any settlement, regardless of size, gossip is both news and entertainment, and knowledge of new developments within a community normally spreads rapidly. But gossip and rumor has a tendency to take on a life of its own, so people who want a specific piece of news to spread the chance of being mangled in the rumor mill customarily pay for criers to shout it aloud in a public place such as a market square. Government bodies make the most frequent use of such criers, often retaining the services of several in order to make sure that any changes or additions to the standing body of policy or law are well publicized, but anyone who wishes to spread news quickly and accurately might pay for a town crier’s services.

Travelers can pick up about local events and opportunities in a variety of ways; one of the best is to find a good inn, slip the innkeeper a little extra money, and ask a few questions over a mug of ale. But for those on a tighter budget or in a hurry, other customs exist to help smooth the way. Most towns in the Aureshan Empire and the Mereflow Valley feature at least one shrine to Agon, usually at their outskirts or near a gate in the walls. The simplest such shrines are crude affairs: typically, a small altar at which travelers offer hard bread and water in the god’s honor, and as a form of alms (beggars often accept such sacrifices in the god’s stead), with a roof and three wooden walls to keep off the rain, and they are maintained and kept in repair by priests of Agon. The interior walls of the shrines are considered public space, and a custom has developed in which local opportunities for employment, lodging, food, provisions, and other such news are posted as bills. Larger temples of Agon discourage this practice, except that they allow the use of their wooden exterior doors as a place to nail up similar notices.

Adventurers, mercenaries, and other such folk often look to these shrines and temple doors to find offers of work, and mundane travelers and itinerant laborers likewise use them to learn whether there are jobs or services in the area. Because these notices are highly public, however, the work advertised through them usually is honest and legal, but there is concomitantly a great deal of competition for it.